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.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Na zdorovje

Brad Anderson is a director that came to my attention in 2001, when I first saw his creepy-as-hell horror flick Session 9. He then followed that up with the dark and moody thriller The Machinist in 2004. Anderson currently works outside the mainstream, producing his films overseas – the last two partnered with Spanish company Filmax (which also brought us one of my current horror faves REC). The by-product of that partnership is that his films are often not released here theatrically. The Blu-ray for his newest film Transsiberian is now available and is this month’s Non-Horror Selection.

Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer) meet young couple Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) & Abby (Kate Mara) while on a train travelling through Russia. When Roy gets left behind at a stop, things get a little more complicated for Jessie when, after a disastrous event, she catches the attention of a local detective (Ben Kingsley).

I have to say that I found writing a review for Transsiberian a little bit more difficult that usual. I enjoyed it a lot, but it didn’t really pack the punch I was hoping for. The film had several plot points that seemed a little hackneyed to me. It may be that I was just expecting something else, as it appears that Anderson is getting away from the horror genre and exploring other avenues. I don’t have any problems with that, per say, I was just surprised. What I most want to point out about this movie are the visuals. Transsiberian has some exceptional cinematography that absolutely sings on Blu-ray.

The cool, crisp long shots of the Russian landscape will have you reaching for your coat. And speaking of eye candy, who is this Kate Mara?! I mean she is just smokin' in this movie!

'Told you.

I think I fell for her almost instantly – maybe I'll have to seek out Urban Legends 3 now, or Shooter for that matter – which made some of the events later on in the movie all that more unpleasant.

(long pause)

Sorry, I was thinking about that Shooter image again. Ummm… the rest of the cast is solid and is another reason why the movie is much better than its script.

Transsiberian is a film that really benefits from its locale. It’s a fairly standard thriller, but the foreign environment creates a tension that wouldn’t be there otherwise. I would definitely urge you to seek out the Hi-Def version if you want to check out a beautifully shot film that is off the beaten track.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Toby Wilkins’ Splinter was a flick that had been on my list for quite some time and I finally got to check it out. It just came out on DVD and that qualifies it as this week’s On The Shelf.

Seth (Paulo Costanzo) & Polly (Jill Wagner) have their camping trip plans altered when they are taken hostage by a couple on the run from the cops. When they all take refuge at a gas station, they find that there is something deadly lurking in the nearby woods.

Splinter is a cool horror yarn. Even though it has an extremely simple plot with few characters, there is something very fresh about it. It is full of clever ideas and serves up some tense moments. It does borrow liberally from classics like The Thing and The Blob, but they are stirred up enough to make those ingredients their own. What makes Splinter most worth watching is the nasty antagonist. It is a strange parasitic organism that infects you with its porcupine-like spines, yet there’s never really much explanation given as to what it actually is. I mean, you can speculate based on the info presented, but it’s never really spelled out for you and I kind of like it that way.

Someone's having a bad day.

Unfortunately, you never really do get a good look at this very fascinating creature and that leads me to my only negative point about the movie – its obvious budget constraints. Now, I don’t mind a slow reveal when you are pinching pennies, this worked well in flicks like Rogue, but you eventually SHOULD show it. Splinter’s reluctance to actually focus on its creature gets more frustrating as the movie goes on. This is a small gripe. It’s a really cool frickin’ monster (just the way it moves makes you do a double take and say ‘whoa, what the fuck IS that thing?’) and a lot of the gore effects are well executed. The quick cutting would have been a bigger problem if the rest of its parts didn’t fit together so well. I found it was well acted, with the just the right amount of set-up. It reminded me of Mulberry Street in that regard, where solid performances and character development elevated it beyond its budgetary shortcomings. The actors/characters in Splinter are fully invested and that makes some of the more borderline laughable effects (Costanzo wrestling with a severed hand comes to mind) easier to accept. And, I’m still not sure why, toward the end, one character was walking around almost completely oblivious to the fact he had lost his arm in the second act. Again, small gripes.

Splinter is a great little movie and well worth checking out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Challenge... Accepted.

Dirtyrobot over at Filmopia dropped this devilish meme on me last night and I felt compelled to comply, so as not to enrage the Internet Gods. You can see how this all started by going here, but the jist is…

You make nine movie-related New Year’s resolutions (yes, I know it’s late, but at least CHINESE New Year was this week) and then do a follow-up post in December, patting yourself on the back for the ones you kept and making excuses for the ones you didn’t. I’m not usually one for resolutions - I figure there are so many disappointments that happen during the year why add to it? – but this does sound kind of fun, so here goes!

1) Uphold my boycott of the Friday the 13th remake. The time for bitching and yawing about unnecessary remakes has long past, so I just don’t see them. This goes especially the ones perpetrated by Michael Bay and Platinum Dunes. Alas, I usually get talked into watching them eventually. Mikey talked me into seeing the TCM remake on DVD (big mistake!) and Serena almost had to drag me to Rob Zombie’s Halloween. This time, I hope I can be stronger. I sense it may be difficult because the Friday movies have such a simple formula that even Ze Dunes might not be able to fuck up. In the interest of solidarity though, I’ve got stick to my guns.

2) Schwartz and I have to get our ‘secret project’ going. In the fall, while waiting to get into The Bloor for a screening, we came up with an idea. We’ve talked much about this idea, but for one reason or another, haven’t actually DONE anything about it. Well, come February, it’ll be time to shit or get off the pot.

3) Go to Fantasia again. Last year, I got my ass out to Montreal for a weekend to take in the Fantasia Film Festival. It was an amazing experience that I am hoping to repeat. The city is great, the festival is well organized (with all the theatres being within a block of each other) and the venues are superb. Plus, it’s another reason to get pissed with likeminded individuals.

4) Read more. Now, I know that is not particularly movie related, but considering I have stuff like The Watchmen, Black Hole & Whiteout on my shelf – all of which have been or will be made into big budget blockbusters – it does fit. It is a well-known fact that reading helps your writing, so I have to get into the habit of doing it more.

5) Like Dirtyrobot’s number five, I also have an unfinished screenplay. Altercation came into being as a short story, conceived while sitting in eleventh grade Math – an apt pupil I wasn’t – and only recently evolved into a screenplay. Surprisingly, it’s not horror, more of a crime thriller (and I use the term ‘thriller’ loosely) set in a small town. The most recent writer’s block has come from trying to incorporate an additional thread to make it feature length. We’ll see if inspiration hits in 2009.

6) Watch The Wizard Of Gore. As I’ve said before, I am a long time user of, the Canadian equivalent of Netflix. Because there is no set length you can have a DVD, I tend to hang onto them for a while… A LONG While. Wizard has been on my coffee table since February 2008! I have been meaning to do a double bill with The Gruesome Twosome (which has been on my DVR for almost as long) and then review them, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Montag the Magnificent mocks me from his waterproof sleeve every time I sit down on my couch. I must get this done!

7) Plan for the future. As much as I love doing the Coverbox Wednesdays, there will come a day when I have run through the titles that I carried at my store. It will then be time to move onto something else. I have an extensive collection of posters, but they are all buried in my parent’s crawlspace. Excavating and then sorting out said posters will be a Herculean undertaking, but I’m game if you are.

I think I can see Narnia!

8) Get Shaye to watch The Usual Suspects. I have a friend who has some sizable gaps in his repertoire. I’m not only flabbergasted that he made it through the nineties without seeing this, but also that no one has blown the experience for him up to this point. I think Donnie Darko is up first, but I have to make Singer & McQuarrie’s crime masterpiece a priority.

9) Orchestrate a movie night. This is one of the hardest to accomplish on the list and probably won’t happen, but I figured I’d put it on because I’m out of ideas. The main problem is that I live an hour away from the people I would invite and none of them have cars. It’s a shame because I already have the first event all dreamed up… a celebration of VHS featuring my man Sam.

PLUS some choice selections from the Renaissance Boys early shorts including Cleveland Smith: Bounty Hunter and Attack Of The Helping Hand!

Okay, done. We’ll see how this goes. I figure it’s a bit late to be tagging other people at this point, but I’m going to do it anyway. Serena Whitney at Killerfilm and Mermaid Heather, you’re it!

More on Mr. King

Carrying on from Monday’s post, it seems fitting to continue on with the Stephen King theme for this week’s Coverbox Wednesday. I showcased covers from his early works last year and stated then that it would likely be the first of many, considering how many of his stories have been adapted for the silver screen. To see the first edition, click here. Okay, here we go.

Technically the last two were TV movies, but we had 'em, so they're up there. See that? Twenty titles in and we barely cracked the nineties. I sense a three-peat in the future.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Just After Sunset

I’ve always got some reading material on the go, but with all the other media available to me, it does tend to spend more time on my bedside table than in my hands. Recently though, I did manage to absorb Stephen King’s new short story collection Just After Sunset.

Just After Sunset is a collection of thirteen stories, most of which were written in the last five years or so. Here’s a rundown of some of the more notable ones.

My favourite is still The Gingerbread Girl. I read it in its original form in the July 2007 issue of Esquire and it is a true page turner; definitely up there with some of his best short fiction. There’s a woman… running… from a maniac. That’s all you need to know.

Stationary Bike is one of those stories where you read it and think ‘Man, this is an idea only ol’ Steve could come up with.’ Everything about it, from the characters – real and imagined – to the narrative just screams King. This tale, about a man’s daydreams while riding his exercise bike, left me as hypnotised as the protagonist within.

Even armed with his magical imagination, King is still just an ordinary man and was affected as much as anyone by the events of 9/11. The Things They Left Behind is perhaps his way of dealing with that emotional baggage. It tells the story of a man who played hookie from work that day thus surviving the tragedy. However, in doing so, he becomes the bearer of an unwanted responsibility. Another shorter story in Sunset called Graduation Afternoon shares a similar theme of mass destruction, as well.

The story N, previously unpublished, is probably the most eerie of the bunch. Using some elements from his previous works, the format of Skeleton Crew’s Survivor Type (except instead of diary entries, the narrative is made up of correspondence and transcribed psychiatric sessions) and the spellbinding essence of Everything's Eventual's 1408, it tells of an acute and obsessive descent into madness.

There are a few ones I didn’t care for, however. Willa I pretty much had figured out five pages in – which is a rarity with King’s work – and A Very Tight Place was kind of an excessively gross retelling of Night Shift’s The Ledge, but not nearly as engaging. Overall though, Just After Sunset is a solid read, with quality bite-sized pieces of King that can be easily consumed in multiple sittings. An an aside, for the release of the book, the publishers ran an online competition. They asked for a trailer for the story The Gingerbread Girl and the winner is below. Congrats be to Red Clark; this is great stuff.

Oh, and there is one last thing I’d like to address while on the subject of Stephen King. Last year, I had made allusions to the fact I was making my way through The Dark Tower series. Well, I did and it was great, but I found it difficult to post something about it when I was finally at the other end of the tunnel. It’s a fantastic series that even gets meta-physical toward its conclusion and makes you think about how real world events (namely King’s accident in 1999) affected the outcome of his ‘white whale’ epic. It is truly mind-boggling how he worked in almost every single one of his books into the Dark Tower universe. I heard some people hated the ending, but I had a problem with neither (because there are actually two) of them. I just wanted to mention that I did get through it and it was immensely fulfilling. It was extremely cumbersome at some points, but well worth the time and effort. Hile gunslinger!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Don't Kill The Messenger III

Motherly Love

Sundance wraps up today and there has been sizable buzz about a few genre picks in the last ten days or so. Last week, new stuff was released about Paul Solet’s new flick Grace starring Jordan Ladd. This movie, about a mother and her unusual child, sounds pretty effed up. And why not? Is there any stronger bond than a lioness for her cub? Consider this and Dead Snow now on my short list. Check out the new Grace teaser below.

Happy Birthday John

Something I forgot to mention last week was that it was John Carpenter’s birthday on the 16th. Mr. Carpenter has been pretty quiet of late. Apart from a couple of Masters of Horror episodes, it’s been almost ten years since we’ve seen anything from the man. His next project Riot – which I believe has recently been renamed Scared Straight – about a bunch of juvenile delinquents trapped inside a prison during a riot, is in production now. From what I’ve heard it definitely has a Precinct 13/Escape From New York vibe to it, so that is reason enough to get excited. Happy 61st John!

He’s right. I Don’t Hate This.

Oh My!

Courtesy of

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rue Morgue On CSI

I hadn’t watched CSI for a while because I guess I’d sort of got out of the habit of DVR-ing it. Maybe it was getting a little stale; maybe I was miffed they got rid of Jessica Lucas, who appeared in a few episodes as newbie Ronnie Lake (as a replacement for Jorja Fox - they ended up bringing in Lauren Lee Smith instead though). Last week was the big Grissom’s exit episode, so I tuned in for that (which also had an appearance by Katheryn Winnick) and got hooked in again.

So, Langston (played by new cast member Laurence Fishburne) and Adams are searching this teenager’s room for stolen property and what catches my eye?

There’s Rue Morgue stuff plastered all over the walls.

I’d be interested to know the story behind this. Was it a situation where the set dressers were like ‘okay, we need stuff for the walls… let’s make the kid into horror, someone go online and get some.’ Was Rue Morgue the first thing that came up in Google? I find it funny because a lot of these posters (the FOF’08, the Pharaoh party) are for events in Toronto that this character, being in Vegas, would have likely not attended. Regardless, it is pretty sweet to see Rue Morgue exposed to a larger audience. I know that over the last decade RM founder Rod Gudino has built himself a sizable media empire, but to me Rue Morgue is still that little Toronto magazine that could. I’ve been seeing these guys at the same events for years and most of them are pretty cool cats.

It was just a nice little surprise that added an extra element to my evening.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fade To Black

I’ve been talking a lot about movie theatres lately. With the blackout last week, my 3-D experience and yesterday’s movie-within-a-movie slasher, it only makes sense that they have been on my mind. It started me thinking that cinemas are somewhat strange places. They are dark, loud and cramped with limited access points. Things can happen around you and you would not even be aware of it. Having said that, is it no surprise that several horror movies have honed in on that and set themselves – all or in part – within the blackened aisles of the theatre? This Coverbox Wednesday is a selection of such films. Until next time, I’ll be sitting in the back row.

Thanks be to Schwartzy for that last one. I have no idea how it could have slipped my mind. It's not like I haven't seen it several times. Forest for the trees and all that, I guess.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Blood On Your Popcorn

Since My Bloody Valentine week won’t truly be over until I review the new DVD release (hopefully this Friday), I submit to you this semi-related review. This one has stuff coming out of the screen as well, but things decidedly less harmless than 3-D effects. Check it out.

A group of theatregoers, taking in an old seventies-style horror flick, suddenly find they are being offed by the killer from the movie. Inexplicably locked inside the theatre, they must fend for themselves, or end up like their onscreen counterparts.

I had been looking forward to Midnight Movie for a while and it finally released on DVD last month. It’s a great idea, but ultimately falters a bit in its execution. I’ve definitely seen the movie-within-a-movie device handled better in films like Anguish, but what you do get is still a pretty fun slasher. Creators Jack Messitt & Mark Garbett of obvious horrorphiles, as the movie sports numerous references to the era it is aiming to emulate. I counted no less than six such shout-outs without even batting an eyelid – NOTLD, TCM, Psycho, NOES, Alien, plus a little kid who I’m sure was supposed to be Tommy Doyle.

That haircut looks strangely familiar.

This isn’t a knock however, as it was actually kind of fun seeing them pop up. I think a drinking game is in order! The killer’s mask and design were pretty cool, even if he was toting around one of the most impractical weapons ever used in a slasher.

I’m still not really sure how that works exactly.

The gore effects are well done and apart from a few shots here and there, they are top notch. Lastly, I have to say I was quite taken by cutie Rebekah Brandes, who plays Bridget. After looking her up on Imdb, it looks like she has clawed her way up from some pretty questionable fare that even I am in no hurry to seek out. You go girl!

Midnight Movie is a worthwhile venture that mostly succeeds in capturing that ol’ slasher feelin’.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Don't Kill The Messenger II

It's been a busy week around here. Now that all that MBV stuff is out of the way (at least until I can get my hands on the Uncut DVD), let's talk some news.

Canadian Connection

I have a couple of vids to show here. It looks like the defunct Picturehouse's horror project Amusement is finally going to get a release on DVD next week. It stars Canucks Kathryn Winnick (who first caught my eye in a little hidden gem called Satan's Little Helper) and Cloverfield's Jessica Lucas. Here is the trailer below and you can also see a newly released clip over at Bloody Disgusting by clicking here.

Also, a trailer for the Canadian production The Thaw has surfaced recently.

I can see many other films in this trailer, namely Larry Fessenden's The Last Winter. My only hope is that The Thaw's ending doesn't go into the shitter, like Winter's did. I'll defintely keep my eye out for it though. It has a good cast, solid effects and decent productions values. With Splice and Pontypool also coming out in '09, this could be an important year for Canadian horror.

Tokyo Gore Phalice?

Over at Twitch this week, they posted a still from the new Tokyo Gore Police prequel. It is an original short that will be packaged with the upcoming Japanese DVD release. Some I'm looking at this still, and I'm like 'It's kinda dark what is that? Is that? Are those? THEY ARE!'

Only the Japanese would think to replace Medusa's hair with cocks. I love those crazy cats.

Sad News Out of Japan.