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.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Horror On The Tube: Summer 2010

There were several genre offerings on the old idiot box this summer, so here’s a rundown of what I was watching.

The third season of True Blood was excellent. They really expanded on the universe set up in the first two seasons and the power struggle between the duelling vampire courts of Mississippi and Louisiana was awesome. We also got more back story on the origin of Eric and just what the hell Sookie really is. It was great stuff this year with some solid cliffhangers leading into next season.

I pretty much said goodbye to reality television a long time ago, but Scream Queens is my one last vice. I looooooooooove this show. The second season just wrapped up a few days ago, with the victor winning a role in Saw 3D. I was upset that James Gunn didn’t come back for the second season – I actually got to tell him this when I met him & his lovely girlfriend Mia at a party during TIFF – but at least his conflict, the fantastic pseudo-superhero flick SUPER, was well worth it. Director Tim Sullivan did fill Gunn’s shoes admirably though. Replacing Shawnee Smith with actress Jaime King was a good idea too, as I thought she brought more personality to the show. She could be the ice queen in the Grand Ballroom, but still be helpful and articulate during the challenges. I don’t think, as a whole, I liked this crop of contestants quite as much as first season’s, but the challenges were certainly as entertaining. The best thing about this season was that my favourite actually ended up winning this time around.

This summer also had its share of duds. Persons Unknown started really strong with a compelling mystery, but the more they revealed, the less interesting it became. I couldn’t even make it through the entirety of its limited run before I tuned out. I think the only reason I stuck around as long as I did was that I got a kick out of seeing Kandyse McClure (Duala from BSG) playing a tatted-up lesbian death row inmate.

Happy Town was a disaster that pretty much disappeared after only a few episodes. I didn’t even get the make a call on whether to continue watching that one. I’m sure the appeal of Amy Acker & Sam Neill would have kept me around for at least half-a-season.

I gave Haven three episodes and then had to move on. I really wanted to support Emily Rose, as I love her as her virtual counterpart Elena Fisher in the Uncharted games, but I just couldn’t do it. The atrocious CG in the second episode just had me shaking my head. I think if this show was on ten years ago, I probably would’ve still been watching it, but I feel television – or at least my tastes – has moved on since then.

So, summer had its moments, but fall looks to be epic. Not only do we have the much-awaited fifth season of Dexter, but also the premiere of The Walking Dead on Halloween! Ah-mazing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back At It!

Okay, so now that the busy season is in the rearview, I can get back to throwing my poster collection up here. Since my compatriot Schwartz over at Cartoon And Horror has begun showcasing his collection - which truth be told, kind of puts mine to shame - I feel I need to keep pace. Here are letters E through K. As always, you can click for a closer look.

Anything Evil Dead is well worn from years of wall-time.

Julie Carmen FTW!

Ahh, memories.

This one kind of reminds me of Cave Alien for some reason.

Hey, Jack wasn't a rapist. How dare you!

Two Lance flicks in a row, although I'm sure even he would say that last one probably wasn't one of his high points.

That's it for today. For previous posts about my archives, click here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Don't Kill The Messenger 75

Well, that was a nice break after all that craziness. I certainly needed it. Let's see what been going on over the last week or so.

Ads of the Dead.

The other day Schwartz, of, sent me this awesome vintage advertisement that he found on a horrordvds forum.

A 1987 AFM ad for The Video Dead, how epic is that?!

Nice Lid, Squid.

You might remember me talking about Squid Lid, a local band that played Rue Morgue's 100th Issue party back in May. Well, a video has appeared on the 'Net for their single Tongue Sandwich, which includes footage from that evening. See it below.


It looks like Michael Paul Stephenson's amazing documentary Best Worst Movie is coming to DVD through New World's Docurama Films. It is scheduled to hit shelves this November 16th. It looks like their really pushing it too, as evidenced by this little trinket I was handed while standing in line for Stake Land last week.

It looks like the little doc that could will continue to live on DVD, much like its subject Troll 2 has.

More Daywalt Cometh.

I've showcased many of indie filmmaker Drew Daywalt's shorts here, as they are some of the best bite-sized horror you can find on the Web. Daywalt is soon expanding his universe with the help of Fangoria and Dread Central. The legendary horror mag is facilitating his first foray into full-length feature terrortory with a vampire project called The Ringbearer. Also, his much anticipated web series Camera Obscura begins this Saturday, through Dread Central & Dailymotion and runs for twenty episodes. Here's the trailer and a sneek peek below.

For a recent interview with Daywalt about all his upcoming projects, click here. You can also check out his library of chilling shorts, over at his YouTube channel.

The Next Sequence.

Get your gag reflex ready because Tom Six is about to give you another helping of his scientific abomination with The Human Centipede: Full Sequence. Here's the teaser below.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Damn, That's Cold!

The last film I’d like to talk about, as part of my TIFF coverage is Sion Sono’s newest Cold Fish.

Timid tropical fish storeowner Shamoto’s (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) life is shattered when he meets fellow storeowner Murata (DenDen) and unwittingly pulled into his criminal activities. Shamoto remains obedient for the sake of his wife and daughter, but as things escalate, his sanity begins to wane.

Sion Sono is a rare breed of filmmaker, whose works absolutely fascinate me. His films take their time and possess a unique rhythm. Even if it's a film like Noriko’s Dinner Table where it seems like not a lot happens, I still remain captivated. His films are organic, dense and intricate, managing to maintain a sense of realism, even when they veer off into the absurd.

Sono likes to make broad statements about Japanese culture in his films and Cold Fish is no exception. It is difficult for me, as someone on the outside looking in, to know how much of an exaggeration his bleak vision of Japan actually is. Considering the jumping off point of Cold Fish is based on an actual event, I would gather the truth and the fiction meet somewhere in the middle. It is a deep character study that offers up a mild mannered individual driven to his breaking point and consequently things go from bad to worse. Sono then puts an exclamation point on his views on life in modern society by delivering a climax that explodes into a symphony of gore.

While still a strong effort, I don't know if I got as much out of Cold Fish, as I have Sono’s previous films – Love Exposure was almost revelatory in its epicness and the double shot of Suicide Club & Noriko's Dinner Table made for one delightfully morose universe – but I’m glad I finally got to see one of his films on the big screen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Bloody Good Show.

Rounding out my Midnight Madness viewing this year was Jim Mickle’s new film Stake Land.

Set in a post-apocalyptic America overrun by vampires, a group of survivors head North in search of a rumoured sanctuary called New Eden.

Stake Land was awesome and far and away my favourite Midnight film this year. I couldn’t have imagined a better follow-up to Mickle’s 2006 debut Mulberry Street than what he’s brought us here. His partnership with Glass Eye Pix, a company that knows how to stretch a dollar, has proven extremely fortuitous, as everything about this picture screams quality. The vampire designs are fresh and interesting, the gore is top notch and the wonderful old-timey score seems pulled right out of a classic western. The beautifully stark locales and set design also make this film look like it costs a lot more than I wager it actually did.

The best two elements of Mulberry Street have been carried over to this film. The first is Mickle’s emphasis on character. In Mulberry Street, we spent a significant amount of time getting to know the characters, so when the shit hit the fan, we actually cared what happened to them. The same goes for Stake Land. For every scene of ugliness, Mickle manages to somehow inject an opposite flash of humanity. The other element is Nick Damici, who plays the tough-as-nails vampire killer known only as Mister. He makes this role even more memorable than his turn as the shy, ex-boxer Clutch in Mulberry Street. I applaud Mickle for sticking to his guns and insisting that Damici play the lead, although I don’t think it took much convincing. What makes Mister stand out is that even though he is a badass, he’s also a good person. He’s not a jaded asshole, which is a common trend with male heroes these days. Mister may be gruff, but he actually cares about his fellow man. Backing up Damici is a solid supporting cast, including Connor Paolo, Danielle Harris and Kelly McGillis, who makes a return to the big screen after almost a decade absence.

Star Nick Damici and director Jim Mickle.

Danielle Harris, Sean Nelson & Connor Paolo.

Some had been quick to compare this to last year’s Zombieland, but within the first five minutes, you realize these two are alike in name only. A film it does resemble however, is John Hillcoat’s recent adaptation of The Road. It follows the same template of post-apocalyptic road movie, but Stake Land is not nearly as depressing or one-note. It is clear now that Jim Mickle is not only a talented filmmaker, but also one that excels at bringing new ideas to tired genres.

I’m not the only one who felt this way either, as I just found out yesterday that Stake Land won the People’s Choice Award for best Midnight Madness film. Congrats, Mr. Mickle, it is well deserved.

To read a cool interview with Mickle & Damici from the official Midnight Madness blog, click here, and here below is Robert Mitchell's video from the red carpet.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thank The Writer.

Friday afternoon, I managed to squeeze in a screening of the American low-budget indie A Horrible Way To Die.

An escaped serial killer (AJ Bowen) tries to track down his former girlfriend, who has since moved to a small town to start a new life.

After seeing director Adam Wingard's earlier film Pop Skull and now this, I have come to the conclusion that I just don't like his filmmaking style. I found myself tiring of the shaky-cam and out of focus meandering almost immediately. It was difficult for me to be involved in the dialogue, when it seemed like the person working the camera was drunk. Though I have blotted out a lot of Pop Skull from my memory, I do still recall the droning soundtrack. A similar motif is used here as well, but it didn't seem nearly as intrusive this time around.

I did however, like the story. Simon Barrett, who also penned the solid 2004 chiller Dead Birds, weaves an compelling tale here. The choppy narrative was a little disorienting at first, but with the help of some visual cues, I was able to keep things straight. His comment on the nature of addiction added a layer that I was not expecting at all. What I think redeems A Horrible Way To Die, is the ending. As late as five minutes before the conclusion, my feelings were bordering on hatred, but somehow they managed to bring it back from the brink.

AJ Bowen, who is racking up the genre credits with appearances in such notable flicks as House of the Devil and The Signal, is great as Garrick. He is clearly a psychopath, but somehow maintains a level of charm while doing it. Amy Seimetz also does a fine job playing the emotionally scarred Sarah, finding just the right amount of quiet vulnerability.

Barrett was in attendance at the screening and talked with the audience at length after the screening. His intention was to tell a serial killer story from a unique perspective; the one of the ex-girlfriend. While he was talking, you really got a sense of how little money was spent on the project. They were expecting to take a loss, but Barrett was delighted to announce that they had just signed a deal with Anchor Bay, so things are looking bright for the Horrible crew right now.

Writer Simon Barrett.

To be honest, I'm much more interested in seeing what Barrett does next, than Wingard. I'm impressed with what they managed to accomplish with their budget, but was way more engaged by the story, and not how it was told.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Beware The Dragon Lady.

The wild card of this year's Midnight Madness programme was the French/Hong Kong co-production Red Nights.

Hong Kong provides a stunning back drop for this crime thriller about a wealthy sadist named Carrie (Carrie Ng) who will stop at nothing to possess an ancient treasure that has recently surfaced in the hands of a mysterious woman named Catherine (Frédérique Bel).

Red Nights is like a modern giallo. It is absolutely gorgeous to the point where every frame could be considered a piece of art. It is defintely the best use of the Red One camera I've seen so far.

Directors Julien Carbon & Laurent Courtiaud keep the tone largely somber, but every once and a while hit you with extreme violence. These sequences don't happen very often, but when they do, they have tremendous impact. I was reminded of Audition during one particular scene. I think the real star of this picture though, is the score. I remember thinking on several occasions that I had to track down the soundtrack after. It shouldn't be any surprise, as French composers Seppuku Paradigm are already known for thrusting notable scores for such films as Martyrs and Eden Log on festival audiences.


On a surface level, Red Nights is spectacular, but I was let down by the story. I was anticipating a climax that I felt the narrative had promised me, but when it went somewhere else, I was left unsatisfied. In retrospect, I'm aware that the film was about something else, but that still isn't much consolation to me. I do, however, think that Red Night's exploration of villain – or a character that would generally be considered the antagonist – as protagonist was very bold and innovative. Carrie Ng – returning to the screen after a long hiatus – does an excellent job as Chan, a psychotic sadist that still manages to ooze sexuality through every pore.

I can see Red Nights being a film that I come back to in a few years and then appreciate a lot more. Though the story left me wanting, there is no denying the excellent filmmaking on display here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Well Done, Boys. Well Done.

On midnight Tuesday, Madness alumni James Wan & Leigh Whannell showed off their newest flick, Insidious.

Josh (Patrick Wilson) & Renai (Rose Byrne) have just moved into their new home, when one of their children suddenly slips into a coma. Soon, Renai begins to suspect there are evil forces in the house.

I liked Insidious a lot and think it is the best thing they've done so far. The shift from blood & guts to a more traditional atmosphere-based approach has fostered an astonishing amount of growth in these two as filmmakers. It is amazing to me that these guys, who are barely out of their twenties, managed to outclass John Carpenter (whose new film The Ward played the evening before) in serving up old school horror. Wan's intention was to take the classic haunted house story, in the vein of something like Poltergeist, but make it seem fresh and original by sidestepping a lot of the tropes that usually accompany the genre. In fact, while writing the script, Whannell had a list of clichés, like the fake jump scare, to avoid.

I mentioned before that Wan has never, up to this point, managed to nail that elusive third act. Whether it was Cary Elwes chewing scenery in Saw or Death Sentence's Kevin Bacon transforming from innocuous office drone to invincible killing machine in a matter of minutes, the tail ends of his movies would go down the shitter. This is not the case with Insidious and this is, in no small part, due to his two leads. Patrick Wilson & Rose Byrne are really strong here and portray living, breathing characters in which you are invested. This makes the more supernatural elements of the second half a lot easier to accept.

Perhaps most important was that Insidious was actually scary at some points. There were several pretty chilling set pieces and the ghost designs were particularly creepy. There was a clear escalation of haunts, but it never felt one-note. I know Oren Peli (of Paranormal Activity fame) worked with Wan on this, so I wonder how much input he had, as he knows a thing or two about the subgenre.

Insidious is a very solid effort that is heavily influenced by all that came before it, but still manages to explore new ground. A film with scares is really hard these days, but it succeeds by being as real as possible. I have heard that this film is the first of a proposed trilogy of collaborations between Wan, Whannell & Peli and that makes me excited for the future.

Here below, is some video from the red carpet courtesy of Robert Mitchell.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Welcome Back, John.

On Monday at midnight, the time finally arrived to catch John Carpenter's The Ward. It is his first film in nine years, and it has been even longer since he has done straight-up horror.

When Kristen (Amber Heard) is admitted to a mental asylum after being found outside a burning house, she quickly becomes aware there is a malevolent force in there with her. When her fellow inmates start disappearing, she plans an escape to avoid becoming its next victim.

There is a lot to like in The Ward. It is as Carpenter put it, “an old school horror movie, made by an old school director” and he is still the consummate craftsman. It is very rare, and still frankly refreshing, to see a horror flick with an almost solely female cast. I think 2005's The Descent was the last time and its now legendary status was in no small part due to that. Amber Heard, already Madness alumni after appearing in All The Boys Love Mandy Lane four years ago, does a great job carrying the piece and it was nice to see Lyndsy Fonseca and Mika Boorem appear, as well. We should all be appreciative that Carpenter is of a breed that still favours practical effects. There is very little CG here, and the gore effects are provided by the artisans at KNB EFX.

I'm sure a lot of people will go off on the ending, but it didn't really bother me. Though it may not be entirely original, I think it fit the context of the film. Carpenter went for it and without an exclamation point, the conclusion may have ended up being as dull as Vanishing on 7th Street's a few nights ago. I also might point out that I didn't see it coming, which meant I was in the narrative and not far ahead of it, like my experience with Julia's Eyes.

In the end, I think it may have been a little too old fashioned. Though Carpenter is still adept at what he does, there was not a lot in The Ward that we haven't seen before. I'm just glad it didn't suck, because after Ghosts Of Mars... Who knew? I think my biggest disappointment was that Carpenter was not able to show for the screening, but he did forward a video introduction.

The excuse of jury duty is a hard pill to swallow, but it is what it is. The Ward didn't rock my world, but I would say that it is his best film since 1995's In The Mouth of Madness.

Here below, is some video from the red carpet taken by my friend Robert Mitchell.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What A Relief!

So, I know you're all skeptical of Let Me In. I used to be among you. Why would anyone want to redo Let The Right One In? It is a film regarded by many as perfection, so who would be crazy enough to take the risk of screwing it up? Well, a man by the name of Matt Reeves.

Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a twelve-year-old loner, constantly bullied by the kids at school. One day, a girl named Abby (Chloe Moretz) moves in next door and they become friends. Soon, Owen begins to suspect that Abby might not be what she appears.

My hat goes off to Reeves because he has orchestrated a miracle here. Let Me In is better than I ever could have hoped. Is it as good as the original? Not quite.

But it's pretty fucking close.

Please be assured that this is not a shot-for-shot redo of Let The Right One In. While a lot has remained the same, there are some differences here. Since it has only been two years, it is easy to forget that Let Me In is actually another adaptation of the original book, rather than the film. Reeves has made some exceptional choices on what to focus on and what to leave out and I would certainly argue that some sequences are handled even better than its 2008 counterpart. You'll also be happy to know that Reeves has shied away from very little here.

Both Chloe Moretz & Kodi Smit-McPhee are phenomenal, but to be honest they were the thing I was least worried about. Those two have already proven they have chops way beyond their years and the only question was whether they'd click together. They do. You throw in great supporting performances from Elias Koteas and Richard Jenkins and you really have something here.

One more thing I love about Let Me In is how natural the Americanization of the film is. It is not set stateside just for the sake of familiarity. Just like the book was an exploration of author John Ajvide Lindqvist's childhood, Reeves has inserted his memories of growing up in the eighties to make it an even more organic experience. The reason this story resonates with me so much is that I lived Oscar/Owen's life. I went through what he did at that age and often wished someone had my back. Now, Reeves adds the exact environment I was living in when this was happening to me? It was like almost stepping into a time machine.

My only real problem was some dodgy CGI, but if you recall, Alfredson's version had a weird out-of-place sequence, as well. Did that affect your enjoyment of that film? Considering how much quality you are getting here, I was like 'okay, that was an unfortunate decision, moving on.' Don't let that make you think that this production skimped on the practical effects though, as it is wonderfully gory when it needs to be. And let's not forget how beautifully shot it is. Right from the opening long shot of the snowy New Mexican landscape at night, Reeves utilizes a masterful eye.

To everyone who dismisses Let Me In as unnecessary, I say that when a film is this good, it becomes necessary. It earns its right to exist. There is nothing wrong with bringing a film to the masses – and by masses, I mean the percentage of filmgoers who won't read subtitles – if none of its subject matter has been diluted. Just think of how many people this amazing story is going to reach now.

Director Matt Reeves & star Kodi Smit-McPhee.

I know it sounds like I've been on the defensive, but I just really want people to see this. If anyone decides not to see Let Me In based on principle, I don't blame you. It's understandable. All I can say is that you will be doing yourself a disservice.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ya Win Some...

I caught Brad Anderson's new film Vanishing on 7th Street on Sunday night. Here's what I thought.

When almost the entire population of New York [Ed. actually Detroit, my bad] inexplicably disappears into thin air after a sudden blackout, the few survivors left behind hole up in a bar. It doesn't take them long to realize that something is waiting for them in the darkness.

Yeah, I was pretty disappointed with this movie. It has a great premise, molded from that great Twilight Zone tradition, but the problem is the bland script. It doesn't sustain itself throughout, and unlike Rod Serling's legendary property, it doesn't deliver on a payoff. I appreciate the choice to be ambiguous, but in the end, it would have been nice to see some direction.

I will say the best part of the movie is the antagonist. The darkness effect is pretty creepy, handled very well and one of the only elements that kept me interested throughout. Considering how much of it you see, I was expecting it to get old as the film wore on, but it didn't. It certainly held a sense of dread far superior to the previous 'darkness is death' effort Darkness Falls. It was also cool to see how the dark got more aggressive over the course of the movie, as well.

My main fear going into 7th Street was the casting of Hayden Christensen and I can't say his performance allayed those fears. The guy just has no charisma onscreen. He did get less grating toward the end, but I don't think he was the right choice. Thandie Newton & John Leguizamo were both fine in their roles, but it seemed like they were just playing degrees of crazy. Young newcomer Jacob Latimore is probably the strongest, but his character is such that he will be the one you end up liking the least.

Director Brad Anderson and stars Jacob Latimore, Thandie Newton & Hayden Christensen.

I also found some of the character motivations irksome. In a genre film, you obviously have to let some things go, but there are fundamental problems here, especially with the sharing of information. One character finds out a vital tidbit early on that they might have wanted to share with the rest of the class. Nope.

Oh well. Like I said, you win some, you lose some. After three awesome projects in a row, maybe Anderson just chose the wrong script to work with. I don't really blame him, for on paper, the premise does sound quite intriguing. In reality, I don't think any director, with any cast could have made it pop.

Vanishing on 7th Street is certainly watchable fare, but there is just not a lot here once you get past the first act.