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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!!

Whatever your plans for tonight's Halloween festivities, I hope you all have a blast. If you're looking for some fun, try and figure out which film posters the letters in the above banner were culled from. A lot of them are no-brainers, but I threw a few obscure ones in there too. If you get stumped, try looking in the Coverbox Wednesday archives in the right sidebar. Have fun and stay safe, kids!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shorts After Dark 2011

It was a really strong year for shorts at this year's Toronto After Dark. I am still recouperating from eight days of concentrated movie-going, but managed to cull together a list of the ones that most impressed me. And fortunately for you, several of them are currently online!

1. My Main Squeeze/Lip Lock – The pair of shorts served up by local filmmaker Chris Nash were among the best this year. I may be biased having just worked with him, but there's no denying the hugely positive reaction from all in attendance. And if Nash wasn't busy enough, he also provided six bumpers for this year's fest, as well. His talent is only matched by his resourcefulness, so if he ever decides to make the leap to feature films; look out!

2. Dirty Silverware – The idea for this short is absolulely brilliant, as it manages to build a wonderful mythology in such a short amount of time. The cinematography, music and the final creature design are all superb. Here is the trailer below. Coincidentally, director Steve Daniels is also ABC's of Death alumni, having made T is for Termite.

3. Brutal Relax – This one is a fiesta of gore. It has been a while since I've seen something that approaches the splatter standard set by Peter Jackson's Braindead. If you enjoy seeing people - and monsters alike - ripped to pieces in every manner possible, then this Spanish offering from directors Adrián Cardona & Rafa Dengrá is for you!

4. Blind Spot – I love this short. To take something as mundane as being on hold, and use it as a backdrop for something epic is so deliciously clever. The pacing is great, and the visual effects are subtly executed to perfection.

5. Once It Started It Could Not End Otherwise – TAD alumni Kelly Sears returns with another still photography conspiracy this year. I adore this woman's eerie style. She is able to manufacture dread so effortlessly. Click here to watch it, and you can also view her 2007 short, The Drift by clicking here.

Some honourable mentions:

I had seen the excellent short The Legend of Beaver Dam a few times before, and it went over like gangbusters here, like it always does. It was also cool to see Adder's Bite again, though I still don't understand what the bookends are supposed to mean. Don't use public washrooms perhaps?

Play Dead - During the Zombie Day festivities, there was this cute short. It was basically a zombie apocalypse from the perspective of several dogs. I found it miraculous how they were able to get all those canines to do some of the stuff they did.

Rosa – This was a beautifully rendered computer animated short. If they made a video game out of this universe, I would be first in line to play it. Check out the trailer here.

Anamnesis – There are three things that make this short standout. The first is that director Brendon Foster-Algoo made it for a 48-hour film challenge. The second is that he not only went for scares instead of humour, but also that he succeeded in doing so. The third was the wonderful in-camera effects that I'm not even sure how he did.

Ethereal Chyrsalis – It would make sense that the short playing in front of Manborg would be over-the-top and bizarre. Where else would you see a severed head zooming skyward toward a giant turtle creature? Click here for the trailer.

So, there you go. As you can see, a pretty strong lineup, wouldn't you say? Check back later in the week for the TAD awards.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Welcome To The Yankee Pedlar.

The closing Gala for this year's Toronto After Dark was Ti West's newest The Innkeepers. I knew very little about this since, up until Friday, not even a trailer had been released, but was pretty sure it would be my cup of tea.

The last two employees of an old hotel that is going out of business, decide to do some amateur ghost hunting.

What a fun movie this was, and a fine example of doing a lot with a little. West is such a refreshing filmmaker because he understands the form of the ghost story so well. He is not interested in rushing to the next gag, as is the case with most horror films these days. He takes his time building atmosphere and keeps the gore very sparse, so it really makes an impact when it hits. Together with another strong, string-heavy score from Graham Reznick, West puts us through another solid ride.

The main draw of The Innkeepers though, is Sara Paxton. She, as Claire, is absolutely adorable in this. She puts forth a kooky innocence that comes off so genuine, that you fall in love with her almost immediately. Her co-worker Luke (Pat Healy) is also great, and the two of them together make a great pair. Through West's dialogue, they absolutely nail the mediocrity of working in the service industry, with pitch perfect disdain and sarcasm. I also thought Kelly McGillis, as a TV-star-turned-faith-healer was also very good, as well. At first, it seemed she was just spouting clunky exposition, but she won me over pretty quickly after that. However, let's not forget the real star of the film; The Yankee Pedlar. West said at the Q&A that this was the hotel the crew stayed at while they were shooting House of the Devil, so I think it's pretty awesome that he was able to incorporate it into a future project. This modest little inn looked like it was destined to be in a film.

Director Ti West.

I am kind of fascinated by the presentation of this movie. As I said before, West leans towards an older school of filmmaking, but I don't think I've ever seen retro-horror sensibilities meshed so well with modern dialogue and milieu before. That is what might make this an even more impressive effort than his previous work House of the Devil, as that was actually set in the eighties. The Innkeepers does however, share the same problem of an anti-climactic ending, but I don't think it's as much of a detriment this time around.

The Innkeepers is a very enjoyable movie. In this world of sensory overload, I'm very grateful there are still genre filmmakers out there that still believe in the slow burn.

So, that's a wrap on the sixth edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Congratulations to the organizers on another successful year! I'll be back tomorrow with a rundown of my favourite shorts from the fest, and I'll also update you when the official TAD awards are announced. Till then, bedways is rightways now.

Hear Me Roar.

The Woman first came onto the radar at Sundance last January, when a certain patron took exception to the subject matter and inadvertently gave the production the best press money could by. This did not bode well for me, as I already had a strong aversion to the adaptations of Jack Ketchum. However, I do like director Lucky McKee, trust the Toronto After Dark programmers and was already downtown for the closing Gala of Ti West's The Innkeepers, so I figured what the hell, right?

A lawyer (Sean Bridgers) captures a feral woman he discovers living in the woods by his property and attempts to civilize her, pushing his already strained family dynamic to the breaking point.

I'm going to keep this brief because I'd really like to just put this one behind me. I actively disliked The Woman. What is it about Ketchum that I just find so appallingly unimpressive? That's a tough one. I can't pin it on the subject matter, because there are other films that I have liked – or at least appreciated – that deal with similar stuff, so I guess it has to be the presentation. I get this is supposed to be satire, but aren't satires supposed to be funny? At no point did I ever find anything in The Woman amusing. I guess I also have little patience for how the abuse to the female characters of his works is supposed to be empowering. That is, in part, likely why Red is the only Kethcum work that elicited a postive response from me.

But, it is more than that. Due to Ketchum seemingly telling the same ugly story over and over again, I've gotten to the point where I can see every beat coming. So, now I'm not even surprised by how detestable things become. Yes, suburbia is hell with a picket fence; I GET IT! Do you have to be so on-the-nose about it? And as if to accentuate this already bold point, the music choices were often very jolting and fractured. The music itself was good, but its placement left something to be desired in my opinion.

Actors Bridgers & Marcia Bennett and producer Andrew van den Houten.

As for the production itself, I can't really fault it. It was well made, and the performances were all very strong. The very brave Pollyanna McIntosh, disappears into the role of the feral captive, and Bridgers is front runner for villain of the year, as family patriarch, Chris Cleek. All the other family roles are solidly portrayed, but all characters I've seen before. Angela Bettis doesn't really get her moment to shine, until the climax when she finally rebels. McKee is certainly the most gifted filmmaker that has tackled Ketchum's universe, but somehow I don't think anyone could make this stuff palatable to me.

The bottom line is, I'm done with Ketchum. I get nothing out of it. I no longer want to spend the time watching them, nor the brain power – which is already in short supply – trying to dissect why I dislike them so much.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Divided We Fall.

After French director Xavier Gens burst onto the scene in 2007 with Frontiers, it seemed like, for him, the sky was the limit. But after his subsequently unfortunate brush with Hollywood, horror fans have eagerly awaited his bounce back project, which this year came in the form of a post apocalyptic film called The Divide.

When New York is hit by a nuclear attack, nine residents of an apartment complex escape into the bowels of an underground bunker. As time passes and their supplies dwindle, they begin to turn on each other.

The Divide is one of those movies that you don't really enjoy, as much as you do endure. It was pretty ugly stuff, held together by strong performances. Genre icon Michael Biehn eschewed bitter rage through a half-smoked cigar as building superintendant Mickey, and Lauren German had a thousand-yard stare that completely captivated me. I'd almost forgotten that she was one of the few bright spots of Hostel Part II. Milo Ventimiglia was boldly cast against type and completely lost himself in the role of Josh, as did Michael Eklund, who played his compatriot Bobby.

Director Xavier Gens, actors Jennifer Blanc, Ventimiglia, Eklund, Biehn & Festival director Adam Lopez.

I did find The Divide’s setup a little clunky though. I would have preferred it be more like The Mist, where we get some time with the characters before it all goes to hell, but it hit its stride soon enough. It also took an unexpected turn early on, that I would’ve liked explored a little more, as well. There is no knocking the effects though, which are quite visceral and well executed, including a refreshingly CG-free body burn.

Some may argue that the escalation of violence in The Divide is a tad far-fetched. I wish I could agree, but I'm not that optimistic. We've seen on several occasions what can happen when people are confined and society's rules are taken away. It is a sad truth that Gens was not afraid to shine a light on. Under his darkly poetic eye, his fully committed cast brought forth a grim and entirely possible scenario.

Photo courtesy of Scott Chalmers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


This year, Toronto After Dark’s designated chiller was the festival circuit darling Absentia. I remember its extremely strong buzz at Fantasia in July – its screening sold out faster than high profile titles like John Landis' Burke and Hare - so I was really glad TAD was able to snag it.

Seven years after her husband went missing, Tricia (Courtney Bell) finally begins the process of declaring him dead. Her sister Callie (Katie Parker) arrives to help out and soon discovers a mysterious tunnel near the house. Could there be a connection?

I really dug this. I love movies that seem spawned from urban legends. It came as no surprise to me that the idea sprung from a creepy tunnel across the street from writer/director Mike Flanagan's house, as I've had aspirations of using a similar location in my hometown for years.

It’s really impressive to me how simple an execution could bring forth so much dread. Obviously, some of it was due to the effective score and the excellent use of misdirection before some of the jump scares, but nothing contributed to the film more than the pitch perfect performances of the two leads. The film began with an extended dialogue scene, and their banter was so natural and genuine that I felt like I knew so much about them in just a small amount of time. So, now that he had me invested, Flanagan was in perfect position to put them in peril and have me care about it.

The most important thing to me however, was that Flanagan had the integrity to play out the third act like he did. Not to be spoiler-y, but once the antagonist is revealed, Absentia stays the course and doesn't go down the road that so many others have – much to their detriment. I tip my hat to him for having the courage to trust his audience. I also appreciated that the film wasn't ambiguous. Flanagan does allude to alternate scenarios, but the actual outcome is pretty clear. I think it needed to go down that way, for it to be as powerful as it was.

Absentia was exactly the kind of film I was hoping it would be and it deserves all the awards it has received on the festival circuit. It is a tight story, populated with real characters and soaked in atmosphere.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tapping The Vein.

A little after Some Guy Who Kills People, I was right back in the same seat for a flick called Midnight Son.

Midnight Son tells the story of Jacob (Zak Kilberg), a man dealing with vampirism in modern day Los Angeles.

Man, Toronto After Dark is really on a roll with indie character pieces this year, as Midnight Son is an extremely refreshing take on the vampire genre. By avoiding grandiose conventions and taking a more biological approach to the lore, director Scott Leberecht effectively grounds the piece in reality. In the following Q&A, he said that was wholly intentional.

“I wanted to take out all the silliness and just keep the two things that would make living as a vampire difficult – having to drink blood and an aversion to sunlight.”

Producer Matt Compton, actor Zak Kilberg & director Scott Leberecht.

Also, by stripping away a lot of the fanfare, Leberecht could concentrate on the more intimate details. Granted, the easy metaphors of body transformation and drug addiction are present, but I think the movie goes a little deeper than that. It is equal parts connection and isolation, escalation and acceptance. However, the main reason Midnight Son succeeds – as was the case with the aforementioned Some Guy Who Kills People – is because of its lead. Kilberg offers up a fine performance and is well backed up by the striking Maya Parish, as Mary, and the sleazy Jo D. Jonz, as Jacob's 'dealer', Marcus. The latter was a nice addition, as it provided that extra bit of conflict needed for the movie to ascend to the next level.

One thing I found a little curious was that it appeared to be a period piece. References to VHS and America’s Funniest Home Videos suggested that the film was set in the nineties, but an explanation as to why this might be the case was never proffered. Perhaps it was just Leberecht (who also wrote the film) returning to a significant time period in his life, much like Richard Kelly did with his debut masterpiece, Donnie Darko.

I really have to congratulate the filmmakers for mining new material from a tired subgenre. It turns out that Leberecht was just another filmmaker that got frustrated with a system that wasn’t making the movies he wanted to see, so he decided to do one himself. The result is a shining example that brooding character pieces can work if they are well written and have some sort of arc. Oh, it doesn't hurt if your actors have the chops, as well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Killing It.

It seems every year at Toronto After Dark, there is an American indie that comes out of nowhere and wins us over. In 2009, it was the undead buddy flick The Revenant and then a year later, the John Waters-esque All About Evil. This year, even though the festival is only half done, it appears that the current frontrunner for that title is Jack Perez's Some Guy Who Kills People.

Kenny (Kevin Corrigan) is not doing so hot. He's fresh out of the loony bin and is now working a thankless job. Just as he is about to exact revenge on the people he feels wronged him, his long lost daughter Amy (Ariel Gade) shows up at his work.

Some Guy Who Kills People is a delightful character-driven comedy that is chock full of great performances. One needs only look at the cast to see why this would be the case. Karen Black appears as Kenny's mother, and this is seriously the best I have seen her in years. Barry Bostwick is also great as the aloof county Sheriff. The lynch pin of this movie is Corrigan though. After a long career of supporting roles, he finally gets an opportunity to sink his teeth into a meaty role and gives one hundred and ten percent here. Even with the limited dialogue he had in the early going, his expressions spoke volumes.

Perhaps the biggest revelation for me however, was Gade. I thought her performance was fantastic and because of the solid script, she was able to be outspoken, without being cutesy or over-precocious. Diablo Cody wishes she could write characters this genuine. The film covers themes of second chances and letting go of the past, yet somehow sidesteps the usual sugar coated clichés associated with them, while being pretty hilarious to boot. Aside from the slapstick glimpsed in the trailer, the interactions between the characters are where the funniest moments reside. So strong are these relationships, the occasional gore setups are almost completely incidental.

Some Guy Who Kills People has few bells & whistles and frankly, needs none. This is a fine film, with an earnest sincerity fuelled by its wonderful cast and flawless comic timing.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Zombie Day 2011!

On Saturday, it was time once again time for the zombie hordes to descend on Toronto. It was a veritable bloodbath downtown as the undead shambled their way through the crowded streets toward the Toronto Underground Cinema.

As is customary for Toronto After Dark, the fest offered up a zombie double bill for their flesh-eating brethren to feast upon.

First up, was the Pierce Brothers' Deadheads, about a couple of guys named Brent (Ross Kidder) and Mike (Michael McKiddy) who go on a road trip to track down his old flame. Oh yeah, they also just happen to be sentient zombies and are on the run from the government.

I had some fun with this movie. It invests a lot into its main characters, giving it a surprising amount of heart. The movie is really a buddy comedy first, and a zombie movie second. It was certainly a peculiar angle to take and the only reason it works here is due to the great cast, especially Kidder. Brent's energy is infectious and he keeps the movie upbeat, even in the stretches where it should be losing steam. Also of note, is the scenery-chewing Benjamin Webster, who plays McDinkle and is so efficiently distasteful, that by the end you can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance.

Actors Marcus Taylor, Natalie Victoria & director Brett Pierce.

The plot is pretty thin, and the reasons for why Mike & Brent are different from the rest of their kind are kept fairly vague, but in the end I guess it didn’t matter. Deadheads is more Wright than Romero, so as long as you know that going in, you should have a good time. I found it similar to the 2004 German zom-com Night of the Living Dorks, which played TAD's inaugural year. They were both entertaining and titles I'll look back on fondly, but am not likely to revisit.

The second of the two flicks, was the more somber tale War of the Dead.

A band of American & Finnish soldiers on a secret mission behind enemy lines, come across a regiment of enemy troops zombified by the SS.

This should’ve been a good movie – I mean, Nazi zombies, right? – but unfortunately, it was not. I’ve never fallen asleep in a theatre, but I must admit I had trouble staying awake through parts of this. Apart from the cool idea, there is very little either fresh or interesting here. The character development is minimal, and the confusing dialogue made it difficult to discern who was actually in charge of the unit. War of the Dead had some decent action in it, but it all got very repetitive after a while. I’d liken it to playing the zombie levels in Call of Duty.

Having said all that though, the movie would've been tolerable if it delivered on the gore, but it didn’t even do that! It's a disappointing waste of an opportunity. It reminded me of the first Underworld movie. You had this awesome dust-up between vampires and werewolves – sorry, Lycans and Death Dealers – and then they spent most of the movie shooting at each other with machine guns. But hey, at least it had Kate Beckinsale.

Cinematographer Hannu-Pekka Vitikainen, actor Jouko Ahola & director Marko Mäkilaakso.

I will say that War of the Dead is at least well made and fully capitalizes on its Lithuanian locale. The film also boasts solid costuming and sets that were all built from scratch. I give props to the filmmakers for sticking with the project through its many years and iterations, but I’m afraid it did very little for me.

Photos courtesy of Scott Chalmers.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lock Up Your Fathers!

Last year, the Winnipeg-based collective Astron 6 offered Toronto After Dark audiences a faux-trailer for a little ditty called Father's Day. It was about psychopath run amok raping & killing Dads, and a ragtag trio determined to destroy him. Known for their wonderful shorts – Lazer Ghosts II and the awesomely bizarre Heart of Karl have played TAD in previous years – they enlisted the help of world infamous production company Troma to get their ambitious first feature off the ground.

But, first things first. Before Father's Day, was my buddy Chris Nash's puss filled short My Main Squeeze and I'd say it went over as well as I expected it would. They ate it up!

I love the Astron 6 guys. They are deeply rooted in their retro sensibilities, yet their irreverent sense of humour always stays fresh. They have this ability to be absurdist, but their characters are completely of the world they inhabit. So, you can see that combining Astron 6's talents with Troma's resources would make for a very organic match-up.

I had a blast with Father's Day. It's totally up my alley, as it has ample gore, T&A and the gags come at a breakneck pace, so I was always laughing. As I've said before, I love their aesthetic and pretty much everything the collective stands for. Their ASTRN-TV framing device was fantastic, transporting me back to my First Choice days of the eighties, and their faux trailers for Star Raiders and Sexy Beach were priceless.

The hundred-minute running time of Father's Day presents an interesting dilemma. Their humour is best suited to shorts and the movie did lag at times while it tried to find its pace, so the decision to add an extra act to venture onto another wild tangent, was a bold one. The thing is, even though it makes Father's Day a lot longer than it should be, this extra twenty minutes totally makes the movie.

(from left) Effects man Steve Kostanski, actress Amy Groening, and Astron 6 members Conor Sweeney, Jeremy Gillespie, Adam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy.

Due to its look and humble beginnings as a faux-trailer, Father's Day is inevitably compared to Hobo With A Shotgun, but I'd say that is where their similarities end. Hobo is more grounded in reality – a heightened reality, but one just the same – whereas the universe of Father's Day is more chaotic. And apart from more nudity and some ghastly penis trauma, I wouldn't say it's particularly more extreme than Hobo either. Also, I don't think Astron can match the skill of Eisener and Hussein, but that didn't make Father's Day any less enjoyable. There is no question that Father's Day will appeal to the same kinds of people though. And can you believe that Troma themselves even had doubts about releasing it? I mean, if Lloyd Kaufman thinks it's too much, you must have a winner on your hands.

Who would have thought a movie about raping Dads could be so much fun? Speaking of which, I had a conversation with a random guy while standing in line for Monster Brawl, who later turned out to be Mackenzie Murdoch, Father's resident sodomite The Fuchman.

Imagine my surprise! I don't want to sound like a neighbour on the nightly news, but he seemed like such a mild mannered individual. Only at After Dark, eh?

Photo courtesy of Scott Chalmers.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

And In This Cornaaa!

The opening night gala for this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival was the Canadian flick Monster Brawl.

We’ve all done it. ‘Sitting around with our friends and coming up with who-would-win-in-a-fight scenarios. A popular one with my posse back in the day was ‘a shark versus an alligator in three feet of water.’ Later, Spike took the ball and ran with it with their wildly popular show The Deadliest Warrior, which used dramatizations & computers to re-enact battles between history’s greatest killers. Monster Brawl is the newest iteration of this, but with a genre twist.

Festival director Adam Lopez took to the Toronto Underground Cinema stage to introduce the film and in appropriate fashion, a heated confrontation emerged.

Director Jesse T. Cook, RJ Skinner (Werewolf/Mummy) & Robert Maillet (Frankenstein)

These onstage shenanigans set the tone for the good time we'd have with this movie. Melding the most ferocious figures in horror with a wrestling pay-per-view, director Jesse T. Cook fashioned a really fun event flick here. Granted, it is more of a concept than a functional movie, but that didn’t stop me and my friends from belly laughing through most of it. Monster Brawl wears its ripped-out heart on its sleeve. If you watch the trailer and it looks like something you’d be into, then you’re going to enjoy yourself. If not, then you should probably steer clear.

The movie is split up into five matches, which consist of two undercards and then two more matchups, with those combatants all vying for the final Championship deathmatch. I was expecting just a bunch of fights, but the movie is also broken up by entertaining origin vignettes, the best of which being the one for the marsh creature, Swamp Gut.

Cook again utilized the talents of The Brothers Gore, and their work is expectedly top notch, as the eight monsters all have their own distinct look.

And what pay-per-view style fight event would be complete without colour commentary! Dave Foley & Art Hindle were ringside throughout and miraculously the cheesier they got, the more it worked in the movie’s favour.

“Making his way to the ring is Frankenstein, or technically Frankenstein’s Monster… if you want to be a dick about it.”

Also, on hand, playing himself, was WWE icon Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart and he hasn’t changed a bit. Perhaps my favourite addition was Lance Henriksen’s Mortal Kombat-style narrations, like when a particularly vicious move was met with a disembodied “Sen-sational!”

Monster Brawl was made for a very specific audience, but should appeal to anyone who has ever pondered those ‘what-if’ scenarios. Fans of wrestling and pay-per-view fights should also get a kick out of the proceedings, as well. Though it did overstay its welcome a tad, it’s still a silly and fun romp that put a big smile on my face. Monster Brawl… Wins!

Photo courtesy of Scott Chalmers.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

See You After Dark!

The 6th edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival kicks off tonight, with Jesse T. Cook's creature battle royale flick Monster Brawl! Between this, work & sleep there will be very little time for blogging, but I will be as diligent as possible.

For ticket info on the fest, visit the website by going here. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

DKTM 121

As you know, I usually do my Messenger posts on Sundays, but with Video Store Day last weekend and the impending craziness of Toronto After Dark, there might not be one for a while; if not now. Here's what's been going on.


Here's a bit of awesome news revealed by Bloody Disgusting. Their inaugural foray into feature film production is an anthology entitled V/H/S. As if this wasn't enough to hook me, they have also lined up some great directors, including Adam Wingard (You're Next), Ti West (House of the Devil) and Glenn McQuaid (I Sell The Dead). Not much is known at this point, except that it involves some sort of 'found footage' inside a creepy old house. Click here for the full announcement.

Arrow, You Complete Me.

I just wanted to draw attention to another beautiful Arrow Films release, this one for Juan Piquer Simón's 1982 flick Pieces. I don't know who does the artwork for them, but they deserve some kind of award. I mean, LOOK!

For more info on the DVD, click here.

Dead Bits.

The Walking Dead started up again last Sunday and leading up to it, AMC produced six webisodes. Directed by series effects guru Greg Nicotero, the episodes focus on the origin of Hannah, the half-zombie featured in the series premiere. Here they are below.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Thing That Wasn't There.

My knee-jerk reaction when The Thing remake was announced, was, of course, disgust. However, when I later heard that it was going to be a prequel of sorts, covering what happened to the Swedes... er... Norwegian camp, I thought it could be interesting. But, was it just going to be a bunch of Hollywood actors with faux accents? Apparently not. Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. went out and cast a bunch of Norwegian actors to compliment the American researchers in the film. The casting of Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the lead was no problem for me either, because well... I kind of love her.

But most important were the effects. John Carpenter's The Thing is basically the pinnacle of practical effects and even after all these years, they still hold up. What would be the point of making another Thing movie if you're just going to sully it with computers? But, Heijningen insisted that with the help of effects company Amalgamated Dynamics, The Thing 2011 would have as many make-up effects and animatronics as possible. This made me happy.

So, going in I was cautiously optimistic. It could never top the perfection of the original, but if done right, it could at least be a good companion piece or a solid bit of fan service, like Computer Artworks' 2002 video game was.

So, yeah, they lied. I don't how much of the old fashioned stuff was used on set, but a lot of it got replaced with CG in post. And it only gets progressively worse as the movie goes on. So, what happened here? Someone decided that they weren't good enough? Even if that was the case, are you telling me that the best & brightest couldn't come up with something that at least approached what Rob Bottin and his team came up with THIRTY years ago??? Universal surely could've thrown some money at this to get it done right and it would have still been half the cost of The Wolfman.

A familiar face (to two)

You know what the real shame is though? The Thing 2011 is what I would categorize as being 'almost great.' Despite all the buzz-killing CGI, I actually liked this movie. I really got the sense that they were genuinely trying to make a good film here. Heijningen meticulously recreated the Norwegian camp glimpsed in the 1982 film and made sure everything matched up to what Carpenter's crew found during their visit. A lot of the nagging questions that I brought into the theater with me were explained away early and I was in it.

A lot of people were put off by the announcement of a female lead – a move in direct contrast to the boy's club of the original – but I felt the role of Kate Lloyd was not only justified, but Winstead also put in a strong performance. I had heard that Kate's character was modelled after Ripley of the Alien franchise and I can see that. The influence of Aliens was also present in other areas, as well. The character of Sander (Ulrich Thomsen) had shades of Paul Reiser's Carter Burke and there was a shot during the climax reminiscent of the Alien Queen's first appearance.

The ensemble as a whole was nowhere near as dense and fleshed out as the original though. You get very little interaction with some of them before shit goes down and since many of them are bearded men with Norwegian accents, it's sometimes a little hard to tell them apart. The underlying sense of paranoia was still present, but I didn't think the language barrier was mined as effectively as it could have been. The story was still slick enough to keep me invested though.

The Thing was a frustrating experience, but still a somewhat rewarding one. I couldn't ignore the voice in the back of my mind constantly droning 'cee-gee-cee-gee-cee-gee', but at the same time, that was pretty much the only substantial misstep here. Now, if you'll excuse me I think I'm going to go watch Terror Takes Shape and revel in the good old days before Hollywood's digital crutch.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

VSD Acquistions!

Hello all. I hope you had a fine Video Store Day yesterday, and we're able to pop round your local retailer. I was able to visit a quartet of fine establishments and here are the ghoulish delights I came away with.

First, I took a little drive out to Kitchener to a place called Far Out Flicks.

It was a bit of a trek in shitty weather, but hey, it was for a good cause. To my delight, they had a lot of VHS kickin' around their sizable space. I picked up the original - and most importantly unaltered - Star Wars Trilogy for eight bucks as well as these...

Next, it was a hop, skip and a jump to Hespeler, to visit Zack at The Vault. He had moved locations since I'd last been there, so I got turned around for a bit, but finally managed to find it.

His store still has as much character as it always did, with the best collection of horror VHS this side of the eighties.

He had a sweet 5-for-20 sale going on, so I made sure to take advantage.

I also picked up Bloody Moon on DVD. That's one I've always meant to see, and after recently seeing the trailer, it made eventually adding it to my collection inevitable.

Then, it was time to go back to the familiar stomping grounds of The Big Smoke. What Video Store Day would be complete without visiting the city's flagship independent Suspect Video.

After talking with Eastern (perhaps the most enthusiastic video store clerk you will ever meet) at length about The Thing prequel, the ABC's of Death and the intricacies of Oldboy, I picked up the newest issue of HorrorHound and...

Last on the tour was, of course Eyesore Cinema.

Dan, the owner was the mastermind behind this whole event in the first place. The store was hopping and he said, "If every day was like this, I would rent my movies for a dollar!" I quickly snagged these goodies.

I have to admit, grabbing the one on the left, I felt like a housewife seeing a tabloid in a grocery store checkout line. I couldn't resist.

So, that was my haul. It looks like 'the pile' just got a little taller. And I'm okay with that. Viva la Video Store Day!