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.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stalking Pumpkin!

Note: In case you've never seen Stalking Cat, the web video I riffed on above, you can click here for context.

Stay safe kids!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

VHS Theatre!

Considering it's Devil’s Night this eve, it seems the perfect time to tell you about my recent trip to the Toronto Underground Cinema.

Once a month, a Toronto-based cinephile named Dion Conflict runs an event called Bargain Basement VHS Theatre, where he screens a title from his collection. Seeing crusty hard-to-find VHS titles on the big screen is something you can imagine doesn't happen every day, so I make it a point to go as frequently as I can. Seeing Continental's Terror On Tape at the inaugural show was a delightful blast from the past and more than enough to tell me these little screenings were worth my while. Oh, I forgot to mention that he doesn't tell you what you're going to be watching until you are sitting in your seat. This time around it was the 1984 slasher Satan’s Blade, for which my only knowledge was the colourful coverbox below. That, of course, made me more than willing to dig in.

Vacationers at a ski resort are terrorized by a knife-wielding maniac.

Yeah, so Satan's Blade is pretty terrible. First off, the title is kind of misleading. It should really be Disgruntled Mountain Man Ghost's Blade, but I guess that probably wouldn't have fit on the box. As a movie, it is rife with long drawn out scenes of 'actors' stiffly delivering even stiffer dialogue. This obviously lends itself to unintentional humour, but alas, I was alone. Snickering to yourself is not nearly as fun as having friends there to share the experience. Satan's Blade is far from technically sound either. There are some nice shots here and there, so whoever was working the camera must have had some talent, but everything else is a mess. You can't even blame it on the low budget, as apparently the film cost somewhere approaching a cool million. I can tell you that it looks like very little of that ended up onscreen.

This movie is bad. I can accept that, but my only real complaint is the laughable gore. I mean, this is supposed to be a slasher movie and it looks like their total effects budget was a dollar-fifty. And they don't even try to hide it! There were countless scenes of ladies in various states of undress writhing in pain and it looked like they'd been doused with ketchup packets leftover from craft services. Take some pride in your work, guys!

Not to worry, a little club soda'll get that out.

The weirdest thing about all this is that Dion told me that Satan's Blade has a fairly sizable following online, with copies having sold for upwards of a hundred bones. That seems odd to me. Sure, there's a modicum of good-bad appeal here, but come on, there's far better eighties fare out there you could be spending your duckets on. It's a shame because if they hadn't skimped on the effects, this movie could of at least attained a level of infamy similar to that of second-tier slashers like The Prowler or Juan Piquer Simón's Pieces.

Perhaps weirder still, is that even after all the negative comments I made above, I would still considering watching Satan's Blade a positive experience. Could there be some intangible power to it that borders on the supernatural? It would explain the Internet following. Nah, it's more likely that I just like watching shitty horror flicks.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bite-Sized Treats.

I came across a great link on Twitter that I wanted to share with you all today. Over at their website, The National Film Board of Canada put together a collection of shorts to regale you this Halloween.

The first is the 1988 short, The Wanderer by George Ungar. Anytime I see sand animation, it reminds me of my childhood, as many old NFB joints employed this visual style. I could almost hear the old classroom projector clacking away in the distance, as I watched this.

As a kid, I loved Richard Condie. His 1985 short The Big Snit would make my brother & I laugh everytime we watched it on TV. The short below, The Apprentice from 1991, is just as hilariously absurd.

Here’s one I hadn’t seen before, Chris Lavis & Maciek Szczerbowski’s stop-motion short from 2007, Madame Tutli-Putli.

This short blew my mind. I’ve never seen such life in an inanimate objects before and I think the thing that really got me were the eyes. Halfway through this short, I thought to myself, ‘this MUST have been at least nominated for an Oscar.’ I then looked it up and sure enough; it was. Just fuckin’ stellar work, guys!

Here’s a highly creative work from a gentleman named Patrick Bouchard called The Brainwashers.

You can also see a later work of his called Subservience by clicking here.

Lastly, is a hand-drawn animated short by Peter Foldès from 1973 called Hunger about greed and gluttony. It seems somehow appropriate since we’ll all likely be stuffing our faces with candy this weekend. I also really dig the music in this one.

These were just a few of the great titles offered up by the NFB. To go to the full list, click here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Camera Obscura #12-17

Drew Daywalt's creepy web series Camera Obscura continues with the next six episodes courtesy of Daily Motion & Dread Central. For the previous episodes, click here and here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Blu-es 2010

Just a few more days until All Hallow’s Eve is on us once again, so here are some cool Blu-rays to keep you occupied in the dark.

The Evil Dead recently got its day on Blu-ray. If you’re like me, you probably already have like five editions of this movie, so you might be wondering if you really need another. Well, all I can say is the Hi-Def transfer is pretty awesome. It’s so clean you can’t even see the edges of the moon mattes in the exterior shots anymore! There is also a new commentary with Sam, Bruce & Bob Tapert, which is also solid. It’s actually more of a round table discussion than a commentary, but I found there were a lot of new insights shared, since much time has passed since they got together last. All the previous featurettes from the 2008 DVD release have been carried over as well, which is a nice bonus.

I was pretty sweet on Frozen when I saw it earlier this year and this Blu-ray has only solidified my opinion. This is a stellar package with supplementals that all shot all in HD and made with a great amount of foresight. In the four featurettes, a lot of attention is paid on the challenges of using real wolves on set and how much director Adam Green pushed his actors for believable performances. You really get a sense of how difficult – yet equally rewarding – this film must have been to shoot. You add two commentaries and some deleted scenes and you’ve got yourself a must buy in my opinion.

The Girl Who Played With Fire released yesterday on Blu-ray, so coupled with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, you can have yourself an awesome double bill before the final installment The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest releases theatrically this weekend. This series is excellent stuff that is required viewing for anyone who digs jet black crime thrillers. Some people grumble about DVD/Blu-ray combos, but I kinda like the idea because I get a DVD that I can then lend out to people who haven’t yet made the leap to HD. Though I do hate when they're packed in a DVD case, as it fucks up the feng shui of my Blu-ray shelf.

Last up, is the fantastic Blu-ray package for the first season of the classic television show The Twilight Zone. Not only do you get thirty-six remastered episodes, but also a staggering amount of special features. I wasn’t even able to get halfway through them all before writing this, and I’ve had it over a month! It has commentaries with historians, interviews with cast members, old audio lectures with creator Rod Serling himself, radio plays, isolated scores; the list goes on. This is the ultimate collection of one of the greatest shows to ever grace the small screen.

So, that should keep you busy this Halloween. Enjoy yourself kiddies and play safe!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Second Go-Round

Needing some lighter fare to cleanse the palette after A Serbian Film, I took in Paranormal Activity 2 on Friday night.

Shortly after the Rey family bring home their newborn child, strange occurences start happening around the house. When they install security cameras to keep an eye on things, it starts to become apparent their problems may be of a paranormal nature.

I liked this movie quite a bit. Being a fan of the first one, I didn't really know what they were going to do to up the ante, but I think they succeeded in doing just that. There are a few reasons for this, the first of which being a much better flow to the piece. While it is true there is still a very slow progression that involves a lot of static camera footage that has you waiting for something – anything – to happen, there are more characters involved, so there is more going on in the daytime scenes. The acting is again pretty natural, at least as good as to never pull me out of the illusion that this was a real, functioning family. I'd say the escalation of things is also done a lot better here as well, cresting with an impressive “action” sequence involving Kristi (Sprague Graydon). The crowd seemed to be pretty into it, with a lot of “Ohhh shit” being uttered throughout. Yet even though I'd say Paranormal Activity 2 is technically superior to its predecessor, I don't if I would say it is scarier. After all, the filmmakers are essentially treading the same ground here.

Going in, I was expecting this to be a completely different story, but it is connected to the first movie. I thought it was quite clever how they wrapped things together, especially considering it was likely conceived after the fact. Curiously, the issues that come into play with these types of films, including the first Paranormal Activity, didn't bother me at all. The reason the characters don't pack up & leave is addressed with one throwaway line and why the camera would be filming at some points didn't enter into my head much for some reason.

If you didn't get anything out of the first Paranormal Activity, then this isn't going to convert you. However, if you dug it, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't check it out.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Don't Kill The Messenger 79

How's everyone doin' today? Good stuff. Well, I'm a little behind here, so I'll get things going.

New Horror From Down Under.

Here's a new trailer for an upcoming Aussie horror called Primal that looks fairly promising.

A Double Shot of Shorts.

Here just in time for Halloween are two shorts. The first is Greg Nicotero's love letter to Universal monsters called United Monster Talent Agency, which premiered at Toronto After Dark back in August. You'll need a scorecard to keep track of all the cameos.

Next, is Adam Green's Halloween follow-up to last year's Jack Chop, entitled Just Take One. This time, Green brings along his buddy, director Joe Lynch.

Canadian Grindhouse.

On last week, Lianne Spiderbaby profiled theatres that exist on the fringe beyond the homogenized multiplexes, specifically the ones in our neck of the woods, Toronto, Ontario. Here's a snip, where she talks about the new kid on the block, The Toronto Underground Cinema;

"My favorite new Toronto venue, The Toronto Underground Cinema, screens exploitation, horror and cult classics every week, Thursday through Sunday. Charlie Lawton, Nigel Agnew and Alex Woodside reinvented the place in early 2010 because they felt there was a void in the city’s cinema scene, and that local cinephiles needed a place to watch their favorite films in a theatrical setting. Lawton states that the audiences who come out to their screenings are very diverse; when the Underground showed ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS, one patron told Lawton he hadn’t seen the film since it played at a 1970s drive-in. There are also many younger film fans who are nostalgic for a period in film history that took place before they were born; many have heard about the grindhouses of the ’70s and want to experience something similar for themselves. It’s a luxury to be able to watch these films on the big screen, with an audience, and lose yourself in the entrancing experience of the theater, Lawton notes. The biggest crowds at the Toronto Underground so far have been BATMAN (the 1966 feature, for which actor Adam West was present), and EASY RIDER."

For the rest of the article, click here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

One Angry Serbian

I guess watching so much snuff-centric cinema lately was my way of unconsciously preparing for Thursday’s screening of A Serbian Film at The Bloor Cinema.

Before the screening, I asked my buddy Mitchell – who’d seen it back in April at SXSW – what he thought the over/under would be on walkouts and he replied,

“10% of the audience will walk out of this and about 70% will wish they had.”

Well, everything you’ve heard about A Serbian Film is true. It is merciless, relentless and uncompromising. Whereas the shocking films of recent years (like the French new wave titles Inside & Martyrs and gross-out flick The Human Centipede) always had a layer of entertainment mixed in, A Serbian Film has no time for any of that. This is dead fucking serious shit. Director Srdjan Spasojevic does not come from a nice place and with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face; he wants you to know it.

This is not an enjoyable film to watch, yet it is so well made that it cannot be dismissed as just another empty shock film. I could not, save maybe its overt repugnance, find a single flaw in A Serbian Film. The two leads, Srdjan Todorovic & Sergej Trifunovic give harrowing performances and fully commit to their roles. They are very well known actors in their native lands, so this is a brave choice for both of them. It would be like if Kevin Bacon & Brad Pitt decided to a star in a film that smashed all boundaries of sex and violence. I can only imagine the uproar. Furthermore, the film itself looks amazing. The set design and cinematography are top notch and the gore rivals anything served up by the best in the business. And on top of all that, perhaps the biggest surprise was the fantastic score. I would totally buy the soundtrack, if not for the visual associations that would resurface every time I put it on.

I’ve talked before about the stuff that really gets under my skin, so thankfully I managed to get through it relatively unscathed. I wilfully subjected myself to A Serbian Film, but you’d have to strap me down to watch Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me. No matter how thick your armour though, the sheer volume of ugliness will eventually overwhelm you. Once it gets to the infamous scene that everyone talks about, it is non-stop depravity from there on in. You rarely get a breath before another nightmare is assaulting your eyeballs. Films can become legend when they have just one unforgettably disturbing scene in them. A Serbian Film offers up half-a-dozen in its hundred-minute running time. They will stick to you, seer into your brain and make you question how anyone could’ve gotten away with filming such things.

And that’s just it. A Serbian Film is the kind of work that could have only come out of the unpleasant environment from which it was birthed. You take the same story, give it to any other director in the world and I guarantee they would’ve never even approached the lines that get crossed here. They would have diluted it with humour, cut it down or sugarcoated it for fear of being persecuted or ostracized. But Spasojevic doesn’t care. He wants you to be shocked, to feel helpless and hopeless. He demands it because as far as he’s concerned, this is his reality.

I can’t recommend a film this volatile to anyone, but for those who seek out subversive cinema, rest assured, this is the one you have been looking for. The only thing more disturbing than the images within A Serbian Film is what Spasojevic could possibly be planning for his next project.

To hear the filmmakers talk about their film, check out Rob Mitchell’s video from SXSW below.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Enter S& Man

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I had to bring attention to a title that has finally been released after suffering a four-year stint in distribution hell.

I first saw S&Man way back in 2006 at Midnight Madness. It was a curious little documentary by a young filmmaker named J.T. Petty.

What begins as an exploration of voyeurism and the connection film (specifically the horror genre) has to it soon becomes increasingly more focused on one of its subjects, a filmmaker named Eric Rost aka S&Man. Eric’s series of self-produced short films all follow the same narrative. They begin with a woman being filmed in public without her knowlegde and then escalate to her violent murder onscreen. Each S&Man film is numbered and identified only by the woman’s name, her hair colour and the way she is killed.

Petty talks to several filmmakers in his doc, including Bill Zebub (Jesus Christ Serial Rapist) and Fred Vogel (August Underground) and they speak very matter-of-factly about their craft. Bill Zebub, who I don’t think is seen without a beer in his hand, makes horror-themed spank movies for perverts and Vogel shoots films as near to snuff as possible. What makes Eric stick out is his envasiveness when pressed about his creative process. To go into too much detail would take away from the unique experience the documentary offers though.

S&Man does have an air of being thrown together at points, with jarring cuts and overlong shots, but what makes this far superior to something similar like Snuff: A Documentary About Killing on Camera is that S&Man has someone to identify with. Whereas Snuff was a bunch of talking heads, Petty is always there with us, sometimes even getting on camera with his interviewees. We take this journey into the dark corners of cinema with him.

There are plenty of special features on the disc to offer some much needed context, which trust me, you will want after witnessing the final sequence of this movie. I know that everyone in attendance at the Q&A following the 2006 screening left that theatre very relieved.

I am so glad Magnet Releasing rescued this little movie from obscurity because it’s a very compelling watch.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It Came From The Archives 6!

For this trip into the archives, since we’re on the subject of music, I’m going to (probably against my better judgment) tell you about Otto Erotik.

Back in the mid-nineties, my crew & I were heavily into industrial music. It seemed like every night of the week we were hanging out in some dark and smoky dungeon somewhere. We also spent a lot of time screwing around with our cassette decks, inserting movie samples into our favourite songs and then playing them for each other on our way to the clubs.

Then, a funny thing happened. A friend of mine, spurred on by an encounter with a mentally-challenged person during a snowstorm, decided to record a song. He adlibbed some lyrics over an old KLF instrumental track and “Stab You In The Face” was born. A classic to be sure that has unfortunately since been lost for all time, but still lives on in memory.

Not long after that, using some of my brother’s old equipment, left over from his days playing in a band, I went about composing some stuff of my own. At my disposal was a Roland Juno-106 synthesizer, a Dr. Rhythm drum machine and a BOSS Digital Delay pedal. Also using an Emerson VCR for inputting samples, I then edited everything together on an IBM 486 with Windows Sound Recorder. Being that I was WAY into bands like Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly and The Severed Heads, that was the kind of stuff I tried to emulate. Under the name Otto Erotik, I recorded about fifteen tracks over the next two years and the some of the least embarrassing are below. I do not profess there to be any level of quality or merit in these recordings, but I do know that it was a hell of a lot of fun making them.

The first single was a track called Seklut Poison, but here below is the B-side, which was a little ode to the cult TV show The Prisoner called The Village.

The first ‘album’, as it were, was entitled Camino Complex – so named after a go-go dancer that used to go to all the same clubs we frequented – and featured the two tracks below. Without Emotion was based around samples taken from Dawn of the Dead and Sea of Midnight was inspired by the work of composer Jean Michel Jarre.

Camino Complex was followed by another single called Sects & Violets and then shortly after came The Strange Case of Phineas Gage, which included this track.

So, there you have it, the ‘musical stylings’ of Otto Erotik. There were some tracks where I actually picked up a microphone, but I’d prefer those not be floating around the Web. The last thing I need is to become the next Star Wars Kid or Grape Lady.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Music In Horror.

Okay, here’s a post I’ve had in my brain for a dog’s age. I imagine my procrastination was due to it being a lot of work, but with Halloween coming around, this was as perfect a time as any.

We all know how important music is in a film. Not only the score, but also the songs which, when done right, become intrinsically linked with their visual accompaniment forever. Over the years, there have been filmmakers like Coppola, Scorsese & Tarantino among others that have turned this practice into an art form. Horror films are no different and here below are my ten favourite examples that have stuck with me though the years.

Hip To Be Square by Huey Lewis & The News; American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho is a film I’ve learned to appreciate a bit more over time, after disliking it on my first watch. After reading the book, I think I was turned off by director Mary Harron’s more sensationalist interpretation of the subject matter. However, one thing I was very happy with was that they kept Patrick Bateman’s obsession with music. In the book, there are entire chapters of him rambling on about his love for certain artists and this was carried over into the film adaptation. All are given mention, the best of which being when Bateman dispatches his rival Paul Allen to the tune of Huey Lewis.

Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus; The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Ted Levine put the exclamation point on his creepy portrayal of Buffalo Bill by performing his little hide-the-salami dance towards the end of The Silence of the Lambs.

This eighties pop song made an impression on me, as it clearly did on director Kevin Smith as he later riffed on it in Clerks 2.

Peep Show by Miranda Sex Garden; Hideaway (1995)

The best thing about featuring songs in films is you often discover new bands as a result. Hideaway had a few things going for it, but what I liked the most was the awesome music in it. A British band called Miranda Sex Garden had a few songs in Hideaway, including the one below.

I not only picked up the soundtrack shortly after, but also the band’s album Fairytales of Slavery. It’s fantastic and something I still revisit every once in a while.

Superstition by Stevie Wonder; The Thing (1982)

There was no better way to break up Ennio Morricone’s fantastic score than with this hit from the seventies.

I love that sequence. There’s not a wasted frame. Even something as simple as a shadow on a wall can spark debate among cinephiles when dealing with a film as perfect as The Thing is.

You’re No Good by Linda Ronstadt & Dedicated to the One I Love by The Shirelles; House (1986)

Everyone has those songs from your past that, brought on by some unknown trigger, regularly resurface in your mind. I'm guessing that watching the shit out of House as a kid is the reason why these two ditties are still clanging around in the old noggin.

Midnight Rider by The Allman Brothers Band; The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

Coming from a musical background, it is no surprise that Rob Zombie has a knack for putting the right track (the Love Hurts sequence in Halloween not withstanding) in the right place. The track below, inserted over the opening credits of The Devil’s Rejects, coincidentally the only one of Zombie’s works I actually like, synchs up perfectly and is likely one of the best homages to seventies horror ever lensed.

I also can't forget to mention Zombie's epic use of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird at the end, either.

New Born by Muse; Haute Tension (2003)

Like Miranda Sex Garden, Muse was another band I discovered due to my love of horror films. In amongst the screeching score of Haute Tension was this song.

I initially thought it was Radiohead – and I wasn’t the only one, as two other people I later showed the film to asked the same thing – but since I was familiar with their work I figured it couldn’t be. It turned out to be a British band called Muse and I’ve since picked up a few of their albums. Every time I put on Origin of Symmetry, of which New Born is the opening track, it’s like I’m back at The Uptown in 2003. Haute Tension was one of the last films to ever screen there before it regrettably closed down forever. It had its revenge though.

Cry Little Sister by Gerard McMann; The Lost Boys (1987)

Oh boy, did I love this song when I was a teen.

I think this soundtrack was the first CD I ever owned and that was because I’d worn out my cassette tape.

Mr. Sandman by The Chordettes; Halloween II (1981)

The follow-up to John Carpenter’s classic Halloween opens up with this song.

Halloween II was the soundtrack I listened to the most growing up. I remember lending it to a friend and him being a little freaked out. Not by the music so much as him realizing that this was the kind of music to which I listened to unwind.

Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival; An American Werewolf In London (1981)

Director John Landis decided to add to the already abundant quirk of his film by having all the songs share the common theme of the moon. Probably more memorable than CCR’s sequence is of course what goes on during Van Morrison’s Moondance, but in the interest of keeping this post PG, the former is below.

The reason the music of An American Werewolf In London ended up being number one was a matter of frequency. The radio at my work is always tuned to classic rock and I hear those two aforementioned tracks on a weekly basis. I can be typing along at my desk and then suddenly find myself transported to the English moors. That’s the power of a perfectly placed song in a movie.

Certain videos sourced from YouTube users MortimerVonKraus, Arcturo767, NightHeCameHomeFilm2, JoFission, Kanitarium, ScottYancy, 90sHorrorRealm & AmyDarcy088Channel.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Don't Kill The Messenger 78

Two more weeks until the big day! Here's some weekly tidbits for your goodie bag as we all wait for All Hallow's Eve.

31st, Get Here Aleady!

Speaking of Halloween, we're all awaiting it for an additional reason this year. It is the day that AMC's The Walking Dead is finally unleashed on us all. Here below is an astonishing seventeen-minute making of that was recently released online.

We're getting more of a sense of how Darabont and company have tinkered with some things now. I'm interested to see how the Dixon brothers (played by Michael Rooker & Norman Reedus) figure into things. There are also lots of shots of the characters in some kind of mall complex. An ode to Dawn of the Dead perhaps? Regardless, it can't get here fast enough.

The Halloween Spirit.

This new store opened up by place called Spirit Halloween. Apparently, it's a big chain, but it's the first I've heard of it. Anyway, they've got all kinds of cool stuff in there, including six-foot animatronics of your favourite movie baddies.

Only three hundred bones each! Soooo tempting. Here's a shot of their zombie babies display.

And I couldn't leave without picking something up, so now this little guy is keeping a watchful eye on my front door.

Yes, Please.

Killerfilm was kind enough to add another film to my radar a few days ago. Jon had the perfect description for Parasitic when he called it 'boob-tastic'.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Camera Obscura #6-11

Here, courtesy of Daily Motion & Dread Central, are the next six episodes of Drew Daywalt's awesome web-series Camera Obscura. For the previous five episodes, click here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Poster Collection: L-M.

Here are a few more titles from my stash. We're about halfway through now, so it seems appropriate to roll these out on humpday. Enjoy!

As far as I can recall, this was my first. Seen on TV circa 1980, this is where it all began.

I saw this in the theatre, deep in the dank corridors of The Eaton Cetnre Cineplex.

Yep, this one too.

Look at this all-star cast! Click to enlarge and you'll see I'm not being sarcastic.

Yet another Lance title.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Man In A Box.

I only had time to catch one genre film this weekend, so I decided on Rodrigo Cortés’ Sundance sensation Buried. It sounds like I made the right choice.

When Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) a contractor working in Iraq, is buried alive in a coffin, he desperately tries to contact help via his cell phone.

Buried is a great exercise in minimalist filmmaking and kudos to Lionsgate for supporting it all the way, especially since it really is as advertised. It is Ryan Reynolds trapped in a coffin for a hundred minutes. There are no cutaways to his wife frantically calling the embassy, no hostage negotiators spouting clichés like “we’re running out of time!” and not even any shots of his captors sneering maniacally from a secret location. This movie was all Reynolds, which gave him the excellent opportunity to show us how much he is growing as an actor. There are several well-liked A-listers out there that make a living doing the same thing – you could probably name two or three right now without thinking even about it – and even though they are great at doing that one thing, you wonder if that’s it. This is clearly not the case here. Despite having to be at a heightened level of emotion throughout the piece, I found Reynolds’ performance had considerable range. I am so glad he was able to do this intimate little movie before becoming The Green Lantern for x amount of years.

Probably the most impressive thing about Buried is that even though the whole movie takes place in a coffin, Cortés still shoots the shit out of it. He plays with perspective and lights it several different ways, be it organic or artificial. The script, penned by Chris Sparling, was also very tight, flowing from conversation to conversation with ease.

I was there; I believed it and was never, ever bored.

Buried is a solid thriller that gives you all you need; taut storytelling aided by an honest performance. It doesn’t have much rewatchability, but it still stacks up admirably against many of the bloated blockbusters out there and is something both Cortés and Reynolds should be very proud of.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cat Vs Shark!

Last Saturday, I held an event at my place that was a year in the making. I shuttled in a chosen few to my neck of the woods for a diabolical double bill of Greydon Clark's Uninvited aka Cat On A Cruise Ship and Shark In Venice.

First up, was the flick everyone had been waiting for since we first laid eyes on the poster at the Fan Expo in 2009 and, by God was it worth the wait!

Probably the biggest relief about Uninvited was that the YouTube clip bandied about among my friends for the last year was not the only sidesplitting part of the movie. It was chock full of eighties goodness with happy-go-lucky beach bums partying down to a bippity-bop score of pop synth & drum machines. All this while lecherous villain Alex Cord (who was kind of like a poor man's Tom Selleck) tried to snuggle up to the girls and crusty old gangster George Kennedy looked on disapprovingly. And the clothes! I remember them being bad in that decade, but these two girls take it to a whole other level.

Dressed for success!

Jay, you say, this movie sounds fantastic already, how does a cat get on board and wreak havoc? Well, therein lies what had us all on the edge of our seat. You see this was not only a cat, but a lab experiment mutant/muppet inside of a cat, hence this cover.

And damn if that cat wasn't the best ventriloquist you've ever seen. It meowed incessantly, even when its mouth wasn't moving! Within the first few minutes, there was talk among us of a drinking game where we imbibed when the cat meowed, but it was quickly abandoned when we realized said game would have sent us all to the ER by the third act. This cat also had a poisonous bite, which caused your veins to burst almost instantaneously. The effect kind of looked like the chest-bursting scene from Alien, but without the budget to follow through on the actual bursting part. Perhaps the best bit of the movie was the climax though. It was like Titanic, except with a model boat shot in a bathtub.

Uninvited delivered the cheesy goods, which is more than I can say for the second part of our double bill.

Shark In Venice was unfortunately a bit of a letdown. How is that possible, you say? It has action! It has intrigue! It has Stephen Baldwin!

Yes, it has all those things, but somehow it still managed to underwhelm. This movie makes Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus look like Jaws. Of course, my crew and I did have some fun discussing Baldwin's unflattering wardrobe choices and his unexplained ability to respawn limbs, but for the most part there was too much tell and not enough show.

This is Stephen Baldwin's leg. Apparently.

My biggest disappointment with this movie, and I can't believe I'm going to say this, was the lack of CG. I was expecting to be regaled by hilariously bad renderings of sharks attacking gondolas (there is one scene, but it is over too quickly), but all we really get is a lot of stock footage from the Discovery Channel. They must've blown their budget on that one expositional flashback to a battle during The Crusades.

Someone's been watching Shark Week.

Despite one of our party insisting we turn off the movie and play video games instead, we powered through it, if only to see if Stephen Baldwin's erect nipples would indeed save the day.

So, clearly the unanimous victor of Cat Vs Shark was...

Now, how the hell am I going to top that?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Don't Kill The Messenger 77

It's Turkey Day for us here in the Great White North, so here's some meaty morsels to mull over.

More Gore To Come.

A trailer recently released on Twitch for Yoshihiro Nishimura's new gore opera Helldriver. Here it is below in all its blood drenched glory.

Released under the newly-formed banner Sushi Typhoon (which has already unleashed solid offerings such as Alien vs Ninja and Cold Fish), Nishimura has stated that Helldriver is the spiritual sequel to Tokyo Gore Police. Not that I would need any convincing to see this, but you say something like that and my pace quickens from a jog to a sprint.

Red Undead.

Just when you thought Rockstar's open-world western Red Dead Redemption couldn't get any better, they announce some DLC, that is chock-full of zombies. Here's the announcement trailer below.

Two words: Zombie bears.

Netflix Pix.

So, after what has seemed like an eternity, Netflix's streaming service has finally launched in Canada. How the fuck did we ever survive without this? A library of films to watch instantly for eight bucks a month? Magical. Anyway, there's a ton of shit on there - and by shit, I mean dreck - so I wanted to take some time to pick out a few obscure titles available on the site that I think are worth a look.

This is one I saw a few months ago. A simple Aussie thriller that has a solid narrative that keeps its card close to its chest. It requires some patience, but I thought it was quite a satisfying watch. For my full review, click here.

This was a 2005 Midnight Madness entry that I was sad to see get swept under the rug. It's an Irish creature feature, absolutely dripping with atmosphere. Its low budget hampers it a tad, but I think great performances and its dark and moody aesthetic more than make up for it.

With Halloween coming up and it now available via this service, this is the perfect time to check out what I've been raving about for ages. Charm and quirk are terms that get thrown about a lot, but they're really the only words I can use to describe a movie that I probably shouldn't like as I much as I do. For my full review from back in 2008, click here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's Not Real. But It Could Be.

Anyone remember The Poughkeepsie Tapes? Before John Erick Dowdle directed Quarantine & Devil, he made a faux-documentary with his brother Drew Dowdle. It made a splash at Tribeca in 2007, but then fell off the radar.

When police raid the house of a suspected serial killer, they instead find only boxes of video tapes, which feature some of the most gruesome acts of torture, murder and mutilation that law enforcement have ever seen.

There are several movies of this nature out in the world now, but rarely have they affected me like this one did. Sure, the August Underground flicks are shocking and repulsive, but they have no depth. The Poughkeepsie Tapes succeeded where those didn't because it didn’t show me everything. I suspect this choice was brought on by lack of funds – as opposed to lack of skill, as in Dowdle's later effort Quarantine – but the result remains the same. The shaky camera and poor video quality showcased in the trailer wasn’t nearly as annoying as I was expecting, as the ‘found footage’ bits were broken up by more static interview segments. Also, by having it be the killer filming all his transgressions, the movie sidestepped the common pitfall of ‘why is the camera still running?’ The Poughkeepsie Tapes didn't have me at first, but the further it went down the rabbit hole, revealing just how diabolical – and equally intelligent & meticulous – the killer was, the more it got its hooks into me. Even the idea that someone like this could really exist is troubling to say the least.

Obviously, the meat of this movie is the ‘found footage’ and lot of it is quite effective. I recently watched Snuff: A Documentary About Killing on Camera – that may have been half-decent if not for the inclusion of gaffawing buffoon R.P. Whalen – which showed archived video taken by serial killing partners Leonard Lake & Charles Ng. If you take away the costumed theatrics of the killer in The Poughkeepsie Tapes, both collections appear eerily similar. It is in this area, just on the fringe of reality, that this movie treads.

You have to at least commend the Dowdles for their commitment to playing this unrelentingly and unapologectically straight, going so far as to reference 9/11 and Stockholm symdrome to further off-put the viewer. Some uneven acting briefly messes with the illusion, but even through the credits it is presented as one-hundred percent fact, by excluding the trademark 'this motion picture is entirely fictional' tag. Not even The Blair Witch Project went that far with their ruse.

Perhaps the most shocking thing is that this movie almost got a theatrical release. I distinctly recall seeing a trailer for this at my local multiplex circa 2008 and thinking, ‘wow they are actually releasing this?’ Without even seeing the movie I knew that was a bold move. So, why did this film disappear?

Well, the logical conclusion lies with the rights holder, MGM. Their financial problems are well known and if they can’t afford to film – let alone release – big tentpole pictures like Bond 23 and the Red Dawn remake, they are certainly not going to sink money into putting out an obscure title like The Poughkeepsie Tapes. There is also the simple fact that the market for this type of movie is beyond niche at this point, so who knows when this movie will see the light of day.

Despite its technical limitations, there were several moments in The Poughkeepsie Tapes that stuck with me. I feel it rises above a lot of the torture video fare that it, should it ever get any sort of release, will be inevitably be lumped in with, by showing us a monster that could very well exist in our world.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Camera Obscura

Drew Daywalt's long awaited web-series Camera Obscura began airing online last week and here below are the first five episodes, courtesy of Daily Motion & Dread Central.

For more info on the series, click here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Don't Kill The Messenger 76

I had a late night last eve, and the couch beckons. Here's some tasty bits of meat from around the 'Net.

Fresh Blood.

Here below, is an amazing fan-made opening credit sequence by Daniel Kanemoto for the upcoming AMC show The Walking Dead.

If the actual credits can top that, then Frank Darabont & company truly are geniuses.

Axelle's Ghost Inches Closer.

If you do not know the name Axelle Carolyn, I wager you soon will. She is a writer and actress whose credits include the shorts I lOVE YOU and Vision, as well as her recent turn as the vicious Pict warrior Aeron in Centurion. She is currently working on an intriguing passion project called The Ghost of Slaughterford. This week she dropped this concept art via her Twitter feed.

Some pretty creepy stuff to be sure. She has cited The Devil's Backbone and The Others as influences, so I'm expecting good things.

del Toro Speaks.

I was emailed a cool little interview with director Guillermo del Toro this week. In it, he talks about his favourite books on vampire lore, which were indespensible while creating The Strain Trilogy, a series of novels he is co-writing with Chuck Hogan.

It's good to know there are people out there who aim to take vampires back from the 'tweens.


Here is a bizarre little invention that popped up on Boingboing a few days ago. Someone clearly took their love of David Cronenberg and channeled it into something practical.

What happens when it's done charging?

A Night On The Town.

I was out of with some friends last night, taking in the sites of Nuit Blanche around town. Most of the time was spent at the newly built Lightbox though, as Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes had commandeered one of the theatres to spool a two-hour reel of old vintage trailers. Here below were some of the gems that screened, but for the full list, click here.

Afterwards, we took a run around the attached gallery celebrating The Essential 100. On display inside, were some wicked items like--

The headpiece from Videodrome.

The eye of HAL9000 from 2001.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Back To The Swamp.

After surviving her first encounter with Victor Crowley, Marybeth (Danielle Harris) re-enters the swamp with local tour boat owner Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) and a group of hunters to seek revenge for the death of her family.

Going into Hatchet II, I was expecting at least something on par with the original, but unfortunately, this was not the case. On the surface, it seems the offers the same goods, but there are several things missing. It does deliver on the gore set pieces - and director Adam Green should be applauded for releasing this movie unrated - but the effects themselves are not of the same quality and this is no doubt due to the absence of makeup man John Carl Buechler. He reprises his role in the film's opening as pee-drinking hermit Jack Cracker, but that is as far as his involvement goes and that is a big loss. Even Victor Crowley's look seems inferior this time around. Though this sequel apparently cost more, it somehow looks a little cheaper than its 2007 predecessor.

Hatchet II takes a really long time to get going. After the opening credits – which feature the classic track Just One Fix by Ministry – there is a lot of setup before we get back to the swamp. If there had not been a flashback scene of Crowley dispatching random victims, it probably would have been a good thirty minutes without any blood at all. I wasn't bored during this build-up, but I was definitely aware of it. Looking back at Hatchet, the pace is actually similar, but the combination of better dialogue and actually caring about the characters made that preamble a lot more enjoyable. The back story of Hatchet II was at least interesting and let Kane Hodder flex his acting muscles more than I think we've ever seen before, which was a nice surprise. There is also some fun to be had picking out all the references that Green cleverly laces into the film throughout.

I think the biggest problem here is that Hatchet II serves up very few likable characters. I can guarantee you will be counting the minutes until Vernon (Colton Dunn) meets his inevitable end. Danielle Harris (replacing Tamara Feldman from the first movie) is fine, but her character is just not as strong as the one I saw her play just a few weeks ago in Stake Land. AJ Bowen adds another horror credit to his résumé and director Tom Holland appears as Marybeth's Uncle Bob.

Ultimately, slashers are my bag, so as with zombie flicks, I'll always enjoy them on a base level, but the magic I experienced with the first Hatchet was just not present here. After Green's solid effort Frozen, I can't help but feel this is a step back.