In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Festival Of Fear '08

I was going to split this up, but for the sake of continuity, I’m just going to do one long post. Enjoy!


After failing in my quest to not get raped for parking downtown, I finally walked though the Convention Centre doors into the expected bedlam. I met up with two friends and we walked around a bit. The goal is to get all shopping done as early as possible before it gets really crazy on Saturday, but it never ends up working out that way.

I made the rounds and dropped in on Colin at the Midnight Madness booth and Adam and Thea at Toronto After Dark. I think Adam might actually recognize me the next time we cross paths now. Speaking of After Dark, what a friggin’ impressive line-up this year. They announced the first eight titles of the fest that day and it reads like a want list of all the films I couldn’t see at Fantasia, including Let The Right One In and Trailer Park Of Terror. AND I get to see Tokyo Gore Police again. JOY UNLIMITED!

The only downer of the day was that Linnea Quigley cancelled last minute. Whenever this happens, rumours abound. Over the course of the weekend I heard everything from her boycotting due to Ruggero Deodato’s appearance, to her doctor advising her not to fly. Oh well, that freed up more time for shopping. I have a shit-ton of reading to do now.

I was hoping I might come across a Machine Girl T-shirt, but no such luck. The most hilarious T-shirt I saw was the Shit Wizard. It was a powder blue shirt with a drawing of a mage shooting feces from his fingertips. Tremendous!

I did also manage to catch some shorts. The DVD player started acting up after a while, so I only saw a few, but my favourite was Matt Day’s UK short 'Wish'.


It was an early start and my first Q&A was Kristy Swanson. It’s very surreal when you see a childhood crush in the flesh (I was about thirteen when I first saw Deadly Friend). She's an extremely lovely woman. I had a clip I wanted to put on here, but the file is too big, so if I can figure out a way to post it, I will. In the meantime, here's a pic.

Over the course of the Q&A, I’d forgotten about some of the stuff she had been in, like Higher Learning (right, I know, how could I have possibly forgotten about that?) and Flowers In The Attic. There was quite a mix of fans there, even a few ladies asking about her little Web series called 3Way and, of course, Skating With The Stars. It was a great way to start the day.

It was awesome hangin' with my buddy Schwartz at length. We can talk movies all day long. Not so much with our other companion for the weekend, Berge. What can I say about Berge? I could relate some of the amusing things that came out his mouth over the last three days, but you really had to be there to fully appreciate it. For some reason, he was obsessed with getting Ruggero Deodato’s autograph, even though he had never heard of the man before that day and never seen any of his films. Needless to say, Schwartz and I took great pleasure in busting his balls all weekend. It’s tough being the newb.

We wandered around for a bit. Schwartz was telling me about this booth selling books about the history of death photography. He was fascinated by it. Did you know that, even to this day, ninety percent of parents still get a photograph taken of their dead child? The only difference now is that it is kept private as apposed to at the turn of the century when said pictures were displayed as you would any other family portrait. Morbiiid. For more info on this grim topic, click here.

Trash Palace was there. Stacey had set up this curtained four-seat theatre where you could watch selected shorts for two bucks. Always the showman, that guy.

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer had a large presence at the Expo, as you can see. They are really promoting the hell out of it. Good for them.

Here are some more random pictures from the floor.

A remake I'm actually looking forward to. Incroyable!

Review upcoming!

Lara Croft AND Catwoman?! Now, that's a crossover I'd like to see!

What would a convention be without a little Star Wars?

When three o’clock rolled around, it was time for the guest of honour Wes Craven to appear. I’m interested to know why people ask questions at Q&A’s that they would (and should) already know the answer to if they ever watched a DVD special feature, read a book or spent anytime online. I shit you not, “Where did the look of Freddy Krueger come from?” was asked TWICE! I’m not trying to be an asshole, but come on man, ninety-nine percent of the audience already knows the answer and I’m sure he’s sick of telling the story. Unfortunately, that’s how most of the Q&A unfolded. Apart from a talking a little bit about Last House On The Left’s rocky initial release, there was a lot of stuff we already knew.

I joked beforehand about mentioning Music Of The Heart and then someone actually DID. To which Craven replied, “oh you terrible man...” Apparently, Madonna was originally up for the Meryl Streep role. Take from that what you will. He also talked a bit about the upcoming Last House remake and his new film 25/8. If you can stand the bootleg-y nature of it (it's a lot darker here than it is on my camera unfortunately), here’s the little clip he played for us.

RIGHT after Wes Craven, due to boneheaded scheduling, was Brad Dourif. He’s a sedate fellow. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much talk of Chucky, other than that he is attached to the supposed remake. He told a variety of anecdotes about Deadwood, his love of ensembles and working with Miranda Otto and Werner Herzog. He also does a killer Christopher Lee impression.


This was the best day overall I think. The first order of the day was the Q&A with Mr. Cannibal Holocaust himself, Ruggero Deodato. Berge had finally managed to procure himself a copy of it to get signed. He then proceeded to tell a dumbfounded Schwartz and I that after he had watched it the previous night, he couldn’t understand what the big deal was about.

Berge: I was expecting more gore.
Schwartz: It has people being impaled through the anus, man.
Berge: No big deal.
Me: Oh, you see that everyday, do you? Like, on your way to work?
Berge: I’ve seen better, it wasn’t as gory as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Schwartz and I share a knowing look, one of many that weekend. He doesn’t believe us when we tell him there is barely a drop of blood in TCM.

We get into the Deodato’s Q&A and it was perhaps the most fascinating of the fest. Like Argento last year, he spoke in broken English, so there was an interpreter there to fill in the gaps. There were no angry animal activists after all, but the moderator did get the issue out in the open by promptly asking if he were to remake Cannibal Holocaust today, would he still have the animal footage? Deodato said he wouldn’t, but not based on any moral grounds. It would just be simpler to sell to other markets without all the animal slaughter. The stuff he captured in Holocaust was not anything that hadn’t been going on in that area of the world for hundreds of years. His motto?

"They kill, I shoot."

Someone asked a good question about the state of Italian horror, to which he aptly replied, “What state?” He said that he blamed the Americanization of Italian cinema for the decline of good genre products and that Italy needs to stop trying to imitate the stuff coming out of Hollywood and get back to the ‘near-realism’ of their heyday. He did say there was a promising new film called Gomorra, which had a great showing at Cannes this year that may pave the way toward worldwide respect once again. He also mentioned there is a four-director anthology in the works, including the likes of himself and Lamberto Bava (Demons). He described it as an Italian Masters Of Horror, except the installments will all be feature length. Deodato’s piece is entitled NATAS and is about two friends who torment a third.

When asked about his thoughts The Blair Witch Project (Holocaust was clearly a direct influence), he said at first he was pissed, but soon realized it was a blessing because Project’s massive success threw light on his own work. The true film scholars were quick to point out where the ‘fresh’ new technique utilized in Blair Witch Project came from, thus opening a whole new audience to the Deodato’s signature work.

The last Q&A of the convention was the unmistakable Sid Haig. I had a feeling that from the energy he brings to his roles – namely Captain Spaulding – he was going to be a good storyteller and I was not wrong. Haig is another one of those actors that you don’t realize how much stuff they have been in until they start talking about their experiences. He is definitely one of those ‘oh, I forgot he was in that’ kind of guys.

His Pulp Fiction story was great. His agent said Tarantino had a part for him in his new movie and sent him over the info. After reading that his call involved four locations in one day, something seemed off. It seemed very rushed and "TV" so Haig washed his hands of it. He didn’t know at the time that was how the big Q operated. It might say one thing on the call sheet, but when he shoots a scene, it takes as long as it takes. It could be one day or it could be three. “So” Sid sighed, “Ving Rhames ended up playing the Marcellus Wallace character.” Ouch. But, as we all know, Tarantino was persistent and later cast him in Jackie Brown (a reunion with his old co-star Pam Grier) and Kill Bill Vol. 2.

The Q&A ended on an emotional note when Sid spoke of his charity Habitat For Humanity. He was close to tears as he told the story of how his Armenian grandparents worked their fingers to the bone to establish themselves in America. He has great respect for people who want to work hard to make a better life for themselves and nothing but contempt for “those motherfuckers who stand around with their hand out.” Linda Blair could learn a lot from Sid Haig because he did in two minutes what she couldn’t do in an hour in 2006, which is sincerely bring attention to a noble charity without ramming it down our throats.

Now the fest was winding down. Sliding briskly through the aisles, I suddenly came face-to-face with an Asian cutie dressed up as Gogo Yubari. And OF COURSE I was in hurry to get somewhere else and had to make a tough decision. Do you think I could find her a few minutes later for a photo op? She was the one that got away, folks.

My last purchase of the weekend was this sweet Twin Peaks print. Fucking sweet.

The final event on the agenda was a screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with director Tobe Hooper in attendance. Seeing Chainsaw on the big screen was amazing. It has real power in that environment. I could tell I was in the presence of a lot of people who just really adore the film and Hooper got a standing ovation when he came on stage. I get the feeling this interview will end up on a DVD somewhere, judging from the amount of camera crews that were milling about all night.

Hooper commented a lot on the stagnant remake-heavy state of American horror and expects the next cycle to be extremely angry, based on the political climate being similar now as it was when Hooper and his contemporaries Wes Craven and George Romero made their groundbreaking films. Hooper mentioned a few times – and I am in complete agreement having said it here on many occasions – that the French are really the ones in horror’s drivers seat right now. Even though I ended up going by myself, it started late and I encountered more than a few jackasses during the course of the evening, it was a great time. If you ever get the chance to see Chainsaw on the big screen, do yourself a favour and make an effort to be there.

That’s another Festival Of Fear/Fan Expo in the books. It was another fantastic year with a good mix of guests and a great trade show floor. Talk to ya soon.

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