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, July 31, 2011

DKTM 112

Hey everyone. Here's a quick rundown of some cool things from this week before I take off for a lunch meeting.

Action Figure Madness.

As you know Comic-Con was last week, and with it came boatloads of new figures. My buddy Schwartz (of Cartoon and Horror) is always on the ball when it comes to this stuff and posted a hefty sample of what was unveiled. Here below are the groovy NECA Evil Dead figures.

Click here to see the rest.

Go Inside.

Last week, I came across this new web project, called The Inside Experience, an interactive experiment directed by DJ Caruso (Disturbia) and starring Emmy Rossum (Shameless). Rather than me trying to explain, it is probably best they tell you about it.

Here below, is the first episode from July 25th.

I'm interested to see how this all plays out. For more episodes and info, click here.

Giallos, Old & New.

Sergio Martino's awesomely sleazy giallo Torso is getting the Blu-Ray treatment from Blue Underground.

Available August 30th, it will also be packed with special features, including Murders in Perugia: An Interview with Sergio Martino.

I also wanted to mention a project called Blind Alley. Antonio Trashorras, writer of such films as The Devil's Backbone, has his own giallo-inspired film in the works. Twitch posted some stills & artwork and now I'm all excited to see it.

For more info on Blind Alley, click here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Saturday Night At The Movies!

You may have noticed in my previous post that one of the films playing in town last weekend was Romano Scavolini’s infamous Video Nasty, Nightmare In A Damaged Brain aka Nightmare.

I’d been looking for this movie for over twenty years – Code Red’s long delayed release is still MIA and VHS copies sell on Ebay for upwards of a hundred dollars – so I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to see it. The Projection Booth is a nice little theatre, with ample capacity, a solid sound system and, perhaps most importantly, working air conditioning.

Before the screening, the programmer told us we’d be watching a DigiBeta, for which I wasn’t surprised because I'm not sure if a 35mm print of Nightmare even exists. The Projection Booth had been fortunate enough to have a duplicate made of one of the last remaining copies, as the master was apparently destroyed in a warehouse fire.

As expected, it looked pretty rough, but I what I wasn't counting on was seeing a hacked-up version. Even if I hadn’t previously seen the absent shots in Continental’s 1983 release Terror on Tape, I would’ve been tipped off by the fractured audio whenever things got bloody. It was troubling to be sure, but on the other hand; what’s my alternative? Watch it in pieces on YouTube? I don’t think so.

As for the movie itself, I’d say it fits nicely into the gore-centric slashers of that era, like Maniac and The Prowler. Although, by lacking the presence of someone like Joe Spinnell and any actual plot, Nightmare managed to be even more ghetto than its contemporaries. I also found it bore a strong resemblance to 1982’s Trick or Treats, or I guess technically vice versa. Perhaps Treats director Gary Graver was a fan and attempted to make a less sleazy, more coherent version the following year. Anyway, Nightmare’s threadbare story aside, it was still fun to chuckle to myself between all the gore set pieces.

I'm not sure this computer understands how percentages work.

This is his killing face.

In case of masked killer; break glass.

On the subject of the gore, there has always been a lot of speculation about whether or not effects guru Tom Savini worked on this movie. His name appears in the credits, but he has denied on many occasions that he was anything more than a consultant on the project. Whatever story you believe, you can’t deny that the gore onscreen – the beheading especially – is very much his style.

So, even in its diminished capacity, I am still glad I finally got to see Nightmare and can cross it off my Video Nasty list. Now moving forward, anyone happen to have a copy of Axe they can send me?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Attack Of The Reps!

It is a pretty exciting time to be a genre fan in Toronto, but things weren’t always so rosy. In fact, about six years ago, the future looked downright grim. It seemed that repertoire theatres were on their way out. The York & Uptown theatres had been closed down, with several others like The Paradise and The Kingsway right behind them. The big multiplexes were apparently winning the battle for screen domination.

Then, a funny thing happened. The community fought back. Toronto’s flagship movie houses like The Bloor began to flourish and The Royal, Kingsway & Revue cinemas were reopened due to popular demand. What made them unique from their bloated and overpriced brethren was that they often catered to the fringe. By the time Grindhouse hit screens in 2007, the exploitation revival was in full swing and everything old was new again. This led to increased interest, and a burgeoning market.

Now, four years later, Toronto is thriving with alternative movie-going options. The Toronto Underground Cinema and the newly re-opened Gerrard Cinema are brimming with tasty offerings, as well as weekly screenings at unconventional spaces like Trash Palace and CineCycle. Here’s just a sample of what happened here in town last weekend.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

DKTM 111

Okay, let's get back on track here. I'm just going to quickly run through a bunch of recent news because I'm a little burnt out after all these Fantasia reviews.

The Thing prequel trailer popped up online a week or so ago.

Am I the only one getting a sense of deja vu here? This looks far less like a prequel than it does just a straight up remake. I am quite fond of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, so I will be seeing this regardless, but I can't deny my "why bother" sense is tingling. The good news is that this won't be a CG wankfest, as I've heard from reliable sources that there was a real attempt to keep the effects as practical as possible.

Every year, there is a new Evil Dead remake/sequel rumour that makes the rounds, and the latest has clawed its way to the surface just in time for Comic-Con. This newest incarnation will be helmed by filmmaker Federico Alvarez, whose short film Panic Attack tore up the Internet a few years ago. Raimi will on board to produce and Diablo Cody is apparently the latest in a long line of scribes to tackle the script. I'm of the opinion that they should just let sleeping Candarian demons lie, but at least it is Sam pulling the strings, and not those mouth breathers over at Platinum Dunes.

The trailer for the second season of AMC's The Walking Dead was unveiled at Comic-Con this week.

Man oh man, are they dragging things out here? At this rate, they are going to be in season four by the time the big shit starts happening. It really doesn't need to be such a slow burn.

Speaking of TV, I heard Alex Aja is working on a Scanners series. I'm skeptical that I'm going to be seeing any exploding heads on the airwaves anytime soon, but the idea of Aja doing Cronenberg does intrigue me.

funny gifs

In random video game news, Mortal Kombat announced some DLC which would enable you to play as Freddy Krueger.

A cool idea, but I kind of lost interest when I saw the character model was not Robert Englund, but Platinum Dunes' remake imposter. Plus, why exactly does he have TWO gloves?

In Los Angeles, Crazy 4 Cult 5 is showing now at Gallery1988. An artist who caught my eye was Robert Brandenburg, who adds his own unique flourish to existing art and print advertising. Take this old Pan Am ad for instance.

Lastly, I want to wrap up my Fantasia coverage this year, by pointing out their Vimeo site, which has tons of archived interviews with the filmmakers and talent from the festival. I didn't mention in my The Theatre Bizarre review that it also features the lovely Lynn Lowry. Below, is an interview where she talks about her experiences on David Cronenberg's debut Shivers, which also had a retrospective screening this year.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fantasia Twofer

I'm going to finish off my Fantasia reviews with the pair of British thrillers I caught during the tail end of my stay.

The first film was Julian Gilbey's A Lonely Place To Die, which is about a group of five friends mountain climbing in Scotland discover a young Serbian girl buried alive in the wilderness.

The first half of this movie really had me. It features some fantastic climbing sequences, well-executed stunts and a real desire to make the action as authentic as possible. Technically, this movie is a marvel, with sound design that augments everything onscreen. Unfortunately, about halfway through the movie, it morphed from a solid survival flick to a fairly standard crime film that wasn't nearly as engaging. A whole whack of characters were quickly introduced and suddenly this thriller with a delicious premise became way overcomplicated, and everything suffered as a result.

At the Q&A, Gilbey made a point of mentioning that he wanted to root his story in logic because too many action movies downplayed the importance of realism and yet he still managed to fall into many of the same pitfalls, including supposed professional killers who can't hit a barn with high powered rifles and a broken leg that seems to miraculously heal itself.

I don't want to be too hard on the movie, as I do like Melissa George and she certainly seemed up to the challenge of the very physical role, but A Lonely Place To Die ultimately struggles to sustain the quality of its strong setup.

Moving on, the last film I saw while in Montreal was Carl Tibbett's Retreat.

Kate & Martin (Thandie Newton & Cillian Murphy) travel to a remote island cottage to try and heal their troubled marriage. One morning, an injured man (Jamie Bell) appears bearing news of a catastrophic event on the mainland.

Retreat had a promising premise very much like 1989's Dead Calm, with the isolating agent being an island instead of a boat. Unfortunately, I found the movie as a whole to be kind of flat. Like A Lonely Place To Die, Retreat has a fine first half, but then fizzles, albeit, this time for a different reason. While Gilbey's film turned into in an undesirable direction, Retreat seemed to stay at the same tempo for the duration. And when it had all played out, I found myself looking back and puzzling at a lot of the character's actions.

Tibbetts assembled a solid trio of talent for his project – and I do commend him for casting them against type - but it is a shame that he couldn't get them something a little more interesting to do. It is not a total waste, but this movie has been done better on more than one occasion. Even going beyond Dead Calm, J Blakeson's 2009 film The Disappearance of Alice Creed was far superior in almost every way. It had an energy that seemed to grow with each new reveal. While it is true that Retreat had its fair share of twists, they never seemed as satisfying. I think my biggest issue, especially toward the end, was the overbearing score. I have no idea why Tibbetts chose to be so on-the-nose with it, but it made the last few dramatic moments almost comical.

Retreat is a serviceable thriller, but I just wish it was something else and not a mash up of better films.

So, not an ideal finish to the trip, but my 2011 Montreal excursion was still a blast. Fantasia is a great festival environment, where you can rub elbows with filmmakers, actors and other attendees. My favourite moment was sitting with Richard Stanley on The Irish Embassy patio as he performed tarot card readings. It was amazing to be in the presence of such a born storyteller.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Sunday night I finally got to see Troll Hunter, a Norwegian flick I'd been hearing about for quite some time.

A camera crew investigating local bear attacks come across a hunter (Otto Jespersen) who takes them under his wing and shows them some bigger game.

Troll Hunter is a humongous amount of fun. I was under the impression that André Øvredal's movie was just a quirky Blair Witch Project clone, but it is more than that. While it employs the same “found footage” conceit, the tone is vastly different. Its goal is not to necessarily scare the audience, just keep them wholly entertained. The lore put forth in Troll Hunter is actually very clever and intricate. The heart of this movie is Hans, the title character. I listened eagerly as he revealed the secrets of his employers, the Troll Security Service and later saw him in action, as he dispatched many different species of troll. This made for several laugh out loud moments, as everything was always kept light throughout.

I was initially apprehensive about the extensive CG I knew would be in Troll Hunter, but it turned out not to be an issue. Not only did it look good, but as they weren't aiming to frighten, I was never taken out the experience. And like I said, because so many different creatures appear, it always seemed fresh and easy to swallow. It also didn't hurt that the sound design was absolutely superb. Every time a troll roared, it rocked the Hall Concordia.

The conclusion was somewhat abrupt, but movies of this type always seem to end the same way. Even with all the praise I'd been hearing from the festival circuit, I was surprised by how much I liked Troll Hunter. It is silly, yet smart and most importantly, never takes itself too seriously.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Grand Guignol Reborn!

A project that popped up on my radar a few months ago was the horror omnibus The Theatre Bizarre.

The project was conceived when director and Severin Films founder David Gregory (Plague Town) decided there was a distressing lack of horror anthologies being produced of late. He then corralled six other directors and had them contribute something that upheld the macabre tradition of the Grand Guignol.

The production design of the opening is immediately eye-catching. After all the segments were filmed, Gregory brought in Jeremy Kasten (2007’s Wizard of Gore) to produce a wraparound story, which features Udo Kier as an automatonic theatre owner. This makes for some wonderfully striking set pieces throughout the movie.

The big draw of The Theatre Bizarre for me though, was Richard Stanley. I am a big fan of his work and wish he made more films. His segment “The Mother of Toads” has a very Lovecraftian slant to it, thus making it the most supernatural of the bunch. The visual style wasn’t as pronounced as I would have expected from the man who gave us Hardware and Dust Devil, but the remote French locale – which Stanley now calls home – still made for an awesome backdrop.

After seeing this film, there were two things that fascinated me. The first was that even though these segments were created separately, many of them centered on unhealthy relationships. Buddy Giovinazzo’s (Combat Shock) short “I Love You” gave us a horribly acidic exchange between two lovers (André Hennicke & Suzan Anbeh.) It is a solid piece of work that could have doubled as a stage play. Tom Savini’s (1990’s Night of the Living Dead) “Wet Dreams” also had another unhappy couple, as did Gregory’s “Sweets.” The other thing was all the eclectic origins of each director’s stories. Stanley channelled his screenplay through a Ouija board (his guardian demon appears in the credits) and Savini’s was based around a dream he had when he was nine. Montrealer Karim Hussain (Subconscious Cruelty) appropriated a feature script he’d had kicking around for sometime that combined ‘women’ and ‘eyes’, his two obsessions. His “Vision Stains” segment is the most brutal of the group and will more than likely make you cringe on more than one occasion.

The segment that stood out the most for me was Douglas Buck’s (Family Portraits) “The Accident.” Its meditative tone starkly contrasted the bloody chaos of his Bizarre brethren. Buck explained later that because he felt his earlier works were fairly passive in nature, so he consciously attempted to go for something more emotional. I can see the growth here, but he’s always had an effortless grasp of the short film format.

At the Q&A and the subsequent panel, you could see there was a clear camaraderie among the directors. Each director’s piece was his own, but there was also a lot of collaboration involved. Hussain shot a few of the other sections, and Buck took on some editing duties. They all just looked like they were grateful to have had total freedom to express themselves. I can see why that would be, as after that whole Masters of Horror debacle with Takashi Miike, free reign is seemingly hard to come by these days. There was also a lot of talk during the panel about other people who were approached for the project. Gregory did talk to some female genre directors, but was turned down and Kasten originally wanted Skinny Puppy front man Nivek Ogre for the role that eventually went to Kier.

From far left Stanley, Buck, Savini, moderator Jovanka Vuckovic, Gregory, Giovinazzo, Hussain & Kasten.

Overall, I think this anthology was a successful venture. The segments are a bit of a mixed bag, but there are so many visual marvels on display that make it a must-see for genre fans. I hope that Gregory moves forward from here and we haven’t seen the last of The Theatre Bizarre.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shock Value

Shock Value, author Jason Zinoman's study on the transition of what he calls “old horror” to “new horror”, was a fun read. I found the top end a little dry, but it hits its stride when he really gets into the meat of his argument. I mean, clearly the classic films of Universal & Hammer are different from the flicks that terrorized the kids of my generation, but Zinoman pulls out some very precise examples. Perhaps the most telling tale is how the 1968 production of Rosemary's Baby was wrestled from the hands of schlockmeister Bill Castle and given to a young art house darling named Roman Polanski. This led to a shift in attitudes, where the restrained sensibilities of Alfred Hitchcock gave way to Herschell Gordon Lewis, whose motto was to leave nothing to the imagination.

Shock Value does not only chronicle the ascension of “new horror”, but also the dozen or so filmmakers who ushered in the change. Zinoman features the early careers of horror icons like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, Brian De Palma & George Romero. There is obviously a good chunk that is fairly common knowledge, but overall, Zinoman gives us thorough rundowns on how staple productions like Last House on the Left, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Carrie and Halloween came to be. The book also has a few other tangents, as well. The trend of political subtext within the films of “new horror” is explored and I particularly enjoyed the section on the history of horror magazines and how the genre bled into other mediums.

I have to say that I really appreciated that Zinoman made a point to single out Dan O'Bannon as one of his main subjects. He doesn't go so far as to say O'Bannon got a raw deal, but maintains – and rightly so – that he contributed as much to the era as any of the aforementioned, but isn't as highly revered. Shock Value covers O'Bannon's days at USC, where he and his classmate John Carpenter dreamed of pushing the boundaries of sci-fi films, as well as his prepwork for Alejandro Jodorowsky's adaptation of Dune. It may have never been filmed, but O'Bannon met artist H.R. Giger during the process and we all know where that led.

O'Bannon & Giger; the men behind the Alien.

There were several very interesting stories within about how certain life-changing events shaped a director's art. Why was Brian De Palma so fixated on voyeurism in his films? Where did O'Bannon come up with that unforgettable scene in Alien? Shock Value answers those questions and reinforces the old adage, “write what you know.” Do that, and it will always be true. I would have liked more photos in the book, and I did find a few distracting inaccuracies within, but I'm just nitpicking at this point.

Shock Value is a decent read, that informs and entertains for the most part. It can be a tad clinical at points, but it is well worth your time if you are a fan of the genre. But, it begs the question; when will the next era emerge? The kids who cut their teeth on “new horror” are all grown up now and making their own nightmares, but I'm not convinced that the work of men like Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Adam Green will be anywhere near as revered in thirty years time. I guess we'll just have to see what claws its way to the surface.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pray You Drown First.

Next up in my Fantasia lineup was Andrew Trauki’s The Reef. I had previously raved about his 2007 film Black Water and anticipating his follow-up for quite some time.

A Great White shark stalks a group of friends shipwrecked off the Great Barrier Reef.

I have mentioned before that there is nothing more frightening to me than sharks. When I saw 2003’s Open Water, I was catatonic for a good number of hours afterwards. The idea of being out in the ocean helpless, with those things swimming around… well… Anyway, that fear, that tension, that rush, if you will, is the reason I watch horror movies in the first place. There are so few genuine scares out there, but I know killer shark flicks will almost always deliver. Some people might say, “Oh, I couldn’t watch that.” I say, “I have to watch that!”


The Reef plays out very much the same way as the aforementioned Open Water, but is a little more theatrical in its presentation. Leaving the plot threadbare, Trauki concentrates all his energy on feasting on our primal fears, and he is very, very good at it. He holds onto the tension for as long as humanly possible, with ocean level angles and sustained underwater shots looking out into the murky depths. It made me want to lose my mind at times. Granted, this causes long periods of time where nothing much happens – which bored my cohorts to tears – but all I had to do was imagine myself in that situation and I’d break out into a cold sweat. I know I'd side with ol' Warren on this one;

“I'm not gettin’ in that water.”

When the shark does show up, it is a malevolent beast. The shots where it slowly turns toward the viewer made me tense every muscle in my body. Technically, I didn’t think the effects – a very advanced style of compositing – were quite as seamless as they were in Black Water, but considering this was a step up in concept, they were still pretty awesome.

I found this movie terrifying, but it is also a visual representation of my worst nightmare. If swimming with sharks is on your bucket list – hope it’s the last thing to cross off – then I suppose The Reef may seem pedestrian to you. All I know is that I will be surprised if there’s a horror film this year that affects me as much as this one did.

This post can also double as an “On The Shelf” entry, as The Reef releases on video this week. Go check it out!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Those Crazy Christians!

Okay, I guess I should get my ass in gear and start posting these Fantasia reviews. Barely having enough time to drop my stuff off at the hotel, me and my crew headed out to the opening film, the Canadian premiere of Red State.

Three high schoolers (Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun & Ronnie Connell) hook up with an older woman they met online and consequently run afoul of a group of Christian fundamentalists.

Contrary to what the bylines would have you believe, Red State is not a horror movie. It is... well... I'm not sure what it's supposed to be, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I actually liked this movie quite a bit. I respect Kevin Smith for trying to spread his wings. He has essentially been making the same movie his entire career, and yes, there are times where his more familiar traits peek out from behind the curtain here, but Red State is something new for him.

I think what surprised me the most was just how unconventional it was. I was expecting it to be a fairly standard piece about religious fundamentalists, filtered through Smith's wry sense of humour, but it is more than that. Red State is one of those movies where just when you think you have it pegged, it veers off in an unexpected direction. This is very difficult to do in this day and age, but this movie accomplished it on at least four different occasions during its running time. This does cause a lack of focus that I can fully relent will turn off a good amount of viewers - and I would usually be among them - but here, I found it exciting.

In addition to Smith getting more adventurous with his subject matter, the same is also true with his camerawork. There may have been one too many indulgences with the SnorriCam, but that was probably just a case of a kid wanting to show off his new toy. Red State is a well shot film, going far beyond the scope of the static leanings we've come to expect from him.

Lastly, Red State is anchored by some excellent performances. Michael Parks, as Pastor Abin Cooper, really gets a hold of this role. His ten-minute long church sermon sequence rolls off his tongue effortlessly. John Goodman appears as an seen-it-all federal agent and received a round of applause at the screening when he first came onscreen. Red State is also chock full of cameos, including Kevin Pollack, Stephen Root, Marc Blucas & Patrick Fischler.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with this movie, but I can see why it may be a little difficult to market. It is not as clean cut a picture as the advertising would have you believe.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Next Stop, Montreal!

Okay, I'm off on my yearly jaunt to the Fantasia Film Festival, so these hallowed halls will be dormant for the next few days. I am hoping to start rolling out posts by the beginning of next week, but it all depends on how much down time I have while I'm there. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to Red State before it sold out (in two hours!) as well as The Theatre Bizarre premiere. Everything else is just gravy & cheese curd covered fries. In the meantime, check out the festival's sizzle reel below. Talk soon!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dark Tower Fajitas!

I was perusing Ebay for vintage VHS a few weeks ago, when I came across a listing for a movie called Dark Tower. It wasn’t an adaptation of Stephen King’s sprawling saga, but rather a cheesy 1987 horror flick about a haunted skyscraper, shot in Barcelona. Upon further inspection I saw that the movie starred Jenny Agutter and Michael Moriarty. Uhh… Sold! Five dollars later, it was soon on my doorstep.

After seeing Moriarty in flicks like The Stuff and Q: The Winged Serpent, he has made loyal fans out of me and my small group of Toronto cinephiles. Dark Tower seemed like the perfect opportunity to meet up at DirtyRobot’s and see if this late-eighties offering was as good as its premise. Since he and I grew up watching films like Logan’s Run and An American Werewolf In London, there is a special place in our hearts for Ms. Agutter, as well. And in what seems to be becoming a welcome trend, DirtyRobot also cooked up a delicious meal for us. This time, it was chicken fajitas!

The movie was all right. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity, but it had its moments. Dark Tower has a very bizarre and stilted tone that often seems a little muddled. It is not particularly well shot, and it felt like a good deal of it took place inside an elevator shaft. And by that I mean, ample coverage of the elevator going up and down. When finally some poor sap did die in there, the editing left us wondering what the fuck happened?

Is that blood or did someone spill their strawberry jam?

In all fairness though, according to Imdb, the director was replaced halfway through the shoot, so that might be the reason for all the head scratching. I will say that the score, provided by Stacy Widelitz, helps the movie considerably though. It has a very cool Prince of Darkness vibe to it.

Moriarty was still fun to watch, again walking into scenes like he’s in his own movie. It always seems like the other actors are following his lead, likely because they don’t know what the hell he’s going to do until the camera rolls. There was unfortunately a disappointing lack of him in Dark Tower though. Larry Cohen was aware of how much he brought to his films, so he used Moriarty liberally, but here his scenes seem dialed back. To the film’s advantage, he isn’t the only one yukkin’ it up in Dark Tower. Kevin McCarthy shows up toward the end as a beret-wearing quack named Sergie and Theodore Bikel, as Dr. Max Gold, has entire dialogues (or rather monologues) with thin air, trying to get El Poltergeisto to show itself. However, it is Agutter’s assistant who spouts the best line of the movie, when asked if she is married;

“No. I prefer to drink instead.”

So, Dark Tower wasn’t anything to write home about, but hey - it was five bucks! It may not have been a five star experience, but the aforementioned fajitas sure were! Another successful movie night, if I do say so myself.