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, January 31, 2011


It’s funny the things you come upon by complete chance.

Last weekend, I was doing a DVR title search for Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon and something called Whitechapel popped up in the list. I was obviously intrigued by this and looked it up. It was a UK miniseries about East End detectives trying to track down a modern day Jack the Ripper. Sort of a no-brainer for my attention, wouldn’t you say? By that time the following eve, I had already watched the whole thing.

I ended up liking this show very much. I was a little undecided at first, as it did very little to distinguish itself from all the other cop shows cloned from the CSI explosion of the late 2000’s. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A young fast-tracking, by-the-book inspector gets assigned to an undesirable district looked after by a bunch of rough-around-the-edges detectives. They don’t accept him initially but eventually he earns their respect. Whitechapel’s bizarre visual choices didn’t help either. It was very transition heavy, alternating between blurry, double vision long shots of city streets and shadowy flashes of the original Jack. It was a little distracting, but like my experience watching Burn Notice for four seasons, you just sort of get used to that kind of freaky-deaky editing.

However, for every cliché, there was something engaging about it. I could literally feel myself being won over as it went along. The characters became more fleshed out and I began to like them, especially the salty Sergeant Miles, played by British veteran Philip Davis. To be honest, I am surprised that he’s never turned up in a Guy Ritchie flick. Rupert Penry-Jones is also good as Detective Inspector Chandler. He reminded me a little of Paul Bettany and gave a very layered performance.

Though, it should be no surprise that what kept me most interested was the investigation of the Ripper copycat murders. There was a real attempt made for accuracy, which I appreciated. Many theories are entertained during, even one I hadn’t heard before. A Ripperologist named Buchan, played with verve by Steve Pemberton, surmises that Elizabeth Stride, Jack’s fourth canonical victim, was a coincidental murder and not a victim of Jack’s at all. I have to say I was a little disappointed that Aaron Kosminski – who I’ve always thought was the most likely culprit – didn’t get a mention though.

So, all in all, Whitechapel was a very pleasant surprise for me. It appears there was a second season made last year centering around the infamous Krays, so I shall be looking that up, as well. If you are a Ripper enthusiast or just can’t get enough of police procedural dramas, then I recommend you to take a trip to this rough and tumble section of the East End.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Don't Kill The Messenger 89

Hello everyone. I can't talk for long, must play more Dead Space 2. Here's what I've got for ya.

Paying Tribute.

I'll lead with two videos I came across in my Web travels this week. The first is a loving tribute by YouTube user zombiecallum to my favourite puppet, Blade.

The second is an awesome short film by Brian Curtin called Beyond Black Mesa, based in the universe of the video game Half Life.

On this subject, fans of the Call of Duty series should also check out the wicked Frozen Crossing short films by Niko Pueringer & Sam Gorski, by clicking here.

VHS Is The New Vinyl.

I found this great article from the Boston Phoenix about the VHS movement this week. Writer Michael Neel interviews several people who still have an affinity for the long abandoned format. Here's a snip that beautifully articulates why The Horror Section exists in the first place.

"The search for these hidden gems are part of the allure of collecting videocassettes," (Michael) Monterastelli says: "We're still hanging on to the format of our youth, and we're looking for shit that nobody else has. We go from flea markets to used-video-store bins, sorting through beat-up, dusty copies of former rentals, searching for the really rare, hard-to-find stuff, like nerd archaeologists trying to uncover some buried treasure of ancient exploitation cinema." But the abundance of deep cuts alone is not why horror fans are flocking to VHS - they're also in love with the battered beauty of this analog medium. Many collectors would rather experience a film on a de-rezzed, blip-filled VHS tape than a pristine 30th-anniversary edition Blu-Ray DVD."

That is precisely why I spent an hour in a smelly flea market just yesterday. I did however, come away with a battered copy of Evilspeak for one dollar, so it was all worth it. For the full article, click here.

After Dark Is Nigh.

This Friday marked the release of After Dark Originals. Much like Horrorfest, this is a theatrical run of eight features celebrating independent horror. These include such titles as Husk, Fertile Ground and The Task, but it should be no surprise that the one that most captured my attention was--

Is it me, or has that Irish spectre had some work done? Since we canucks get shafted from seeing After Dark's wares up here, please let me know if any of this year's crop is worth checking out.

Okay, back to stomping Necromorphs!

Friday, January 28, 2011

It Came From The Archives 8!

I've been to England, my ancestral home, three times in my life. The first was with my father in 1985. The highlight of the trip – apart from a three-day jaunt to Paris – was visiting The London Dungeon. It was, in a word, brilliant. Back around that time, I was not only a burgeoning horror fan, but also really into Medieval history, so this was a double shot of awesome. The reason I bring this up is due to what I uncovered during my last excursion into the archives.

Even when procuring this at the tender age of ten, I knew how absurd it was. Let’s talk this out, shall we? Who uses colouring books? Children, right? Okay little ones, I hope you've got your red crayons ready!

I wasn't really much of a colourer as a kid. I liked to draw. Not well, of course, but I enjoyed me some scribbling. That is probably why this book is still unmarked, save for the last page below.

I also found some photos from the trip. The first two are shots of the exhibits detailed in pages six and seven of the book, and the last one is my favourite.

The knife was on a motor, which made the figure make a slow stabbing motion. I have a vivid memory of asking my dad to wait until the blade was in the kid's neck before snapping the picture. Ah… Good times.

These last few pictures are from my second trip to England in 1990.

I think those may have been from a Medieval exhibit at Madame Tussauds or something because I'm pretty sure I didn't get to The London Dungeon then. However, I did get back there on my next trip in 1996. I took a one-day excursion to London by myself, and made a beeline for it. This time I was ecstatic because there was a Jack the Ripper exhibit. A tour guide walked us through recreations of the five crime scenes and recited all the gory details from those dark days of late nineteenth-century Whitechapel. Sadly, I don’t have any pictures from the tour. It wasn’t the same attraction they have there now, as I don't recall there being any of the theatrics described on Wikipedia.

Who knows when I get back there again. From what I hear, The London Dungeon has become quite the tourist trap. Maybe it always was and I was just too young to realize it. Regardless, I had a blast and hope you enjoyed this look back at what once was.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Killer Pad

Thanks to Eyesore Cinema, I got my hands on the newly released Hong Kong slasher Dream Home last weekend.

Sheng (Josie Ho) has been saving her entire life to buy her own home with a view of the sea. When the deal falls through, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

Dream Home wastes no time, bursting out of the gate with one hell of an opening. During the title sequence immediately following, all I could think was, ‘if the rest of the movie is like this, then I’m really going to dig it.’

It was, and I did.

I mean I’d heard Dream Home was bloody, but holy moly there is a staggering amount of over-the-top violence in this. In fact, I don't think I've seen anything on par in that regard since Bustillo & Maury's Inside. I've had other films savage my eyeballs since then of course – Martyrs & A Serbian Film are two that come to mind with a shudder – but there was very little ‘fun’ to be had in those. Dream Home's similarities to Inside don't stop there either. Aside from the unhinged protagonist (or is it antagonist?), neither are professional killers, so things start out well, but get progressively messier as the body count grows. The gore is really well done, with excellent use of practical effects. There is some CG augmentation used with mixed results, but when it works, it works.

The narrative jumps around a bit, but it isn't too hard to follow. We skip back and forth between the killing spree and flashbacks showing the events that led up to it. Ho-Cheng Pang is a director to watch, as he seems to have a very good handle on addressing social issues in his native Hong Kong. Even when taking the ‘based on true events’ banner at the film’s onset with a grain of salt, it is still plain to see that Dream Home is a comment on his homeland’s housing market woes. Pang’s next film is a romantic comedy entitled Love In A Puff, which explores a relationship facilitated by Hong Kong's stringent no smoking laws.

So, here we are only three weeks into January and I've already crossed off one title on my horrors-to-see-this-year list. If the rest are as gloriously bloody and entertaining as Dream Home was, then 2011 will be a very good year indeed.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Don't Kill The Messenger 88

Wow, eighty-eight of these things. Here's what struck my fancy on the Web this week.


Earlier this week, my brother sent me an awesome link to the work of sculptor Jessica Harrison. Check some of them out below.

That last one has been my Facebook profile pic for like, the last week. Harrison's earlier works have included pieces centered on parts of the body, such as the mouth and the skin, but it looks like she has moved on to exploring the body as a whole. Here's a clip from an interview over at Don't Panic.

"They are mass produced ceramics that I select and modify. I usually buy them at auctions or online, always second hand and usually already damaged. My selection of the ceramic usually depends on the pose and the facial expression of the figure – I want to work with the original shape and style of the piece, to work from that element that made it stand out to me. I usually know within less than a minute of looking at and handling a figure what I would like to do to it, and if not, I am usually not interested, put it down and hunt for the next one."

For the full interview, click here. To visit Harrison's website, click here. However, I take no responsibility for any nightmares incurred as a result.

There Will Be Blood... On My Console.

Since Dead Space 2 will be in my hands in a few days, I thought I'd link to this article on Bloody-Disgusting called "The 13 Most Anticipated Horror Games of 2011." I had no idea that there were so many coming out this year, but apparently so. Aside from Isaac Clarke's return, here are some of the others that I'll likely be booting up when they drop.

For the rest of Adam Dodd's list, click here.

Un Fantasma.

Here below, via Twitch, is a trailer for a new Mexican horror flick called El Sanatorio (The Sanatorium) from director Miguel Gomez.

You can obviously make easy comparisons to [REC] & Paranormal Activity, but having liked both of those, I'm sure I'll enjoy this if it is well executed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

He Wasn't Kidding.

I had a modest nine days off during the holidays, so I was able to finally sit my ass down and read Stephen King’s latest collection of four novellas, Full Dark, No Stars.

I thought Full Dark, No Stars was an excellent read. Not that I ever have a bad time reading King’s fiction, but these tales were especially engaging. The first story is called 1922 and a wise one to start off with, as it sets a tone that I will elaborate on later. A rich world populated with the realistic characters we have come to expect from King is there on the page, but this time there is a lingering sense of dread from the get-go. It also features giant rats, which is always a plus!

Big Driver is an extremely dark tale of revenge and reveals a side of King that we have rarely seen. It was about halfway through this story, that I realized the significance of this collection’s title. This motif continues in Fair Extension, where though it has its share of levity, it actually might be the most sinister due to how much the main character revels in the suffering he causes in the name of his own happiness. The last and my personal favourite, A Good Marriage is powerful stuff. The build-up gave me chills, which is something the written word has not done to me in a very long time.

In the afterword, King confirmed what I already knew with the statement—

“The stories in this book are harsh.”

No kiddin’. I have to admire the man for not being complacent and really going beyond his comfort zone here. King himself says that he usually, with the use of deflection and humour, shies away from going too far. Even his Bachman Books’ novella Rage, a story that King says he now regrets publishing, had a good amount of black humour in it. My friend and I still on occasion quote the phrase “It’s a treat to beat your meat in the Mississippi mud” to each other in jest. Full Dark, No Stars does not turn away from the ugliness and it makes for some very potent stuff.

King is doing what he always has, which is put ordinary people in extraordinary situations, but the thread that connects each protagonist here, is that they all make one decision that sends them down a very shadowy path. And it is down these paths that King can freely show us man’s (and woman’s) more appalling traits, like greed, wrath and envy. Full Dark, No Stars proves that King is as sharp as ever and still has many more stories to tell.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Going Back To Church.

The Final Girl Film Club selection this month is Michele Soavi's The Church. This was a flick I hadn't seen since my video store days, so I was more than happy to revisit it.

In 12th century Italy, an entire village is massacred after being accused of witchcraft. They are buried in a mass grave and a church is built over it to imprison their souls. Seven hundred years later, the seal is broken, releasing the angry spirits onto the unsuspecting congregation above.

I don't know, I kind of remember this movie being... better. I mean, the story is fairly interesting and the gore is there, as well as the effed up imagery we've come to expect from Soavi, but for me there was something missing. I just didn't find it as clever or as enjoyable as some of his other efforts like Dellamorte Dellamorre or Stage Fright. The biggest thing I had forgotten was just how long it takes to get going. After opening strong, it is a full fourty-five minutes before things are firing on all cylinders again. The hallmark of Italian horror is its set pieces and The Church has those in spades, but it doesn't come together as a cohesive whole for me.

The Church is unofficially known as the third entry in the Demons series of films, but Soavi has denounced that in the past. He had loftier ambitions for his film, than just being a trashy sequel. I respect him for that, but in doing so, I think he may have taken some of the fun out of it. I didn't feel that The Church was as entertaining as either of the first two Demons movies. It was technically superior by leaps and bounds, but more enjoyable? No. The Church spends the first half of the movie introducing us to the dozen or so characters who work there, and then in the last thirty minutes, floods the movie with random tourist chaff to be offed in the blink of an eye. Demons at least, gave us all our characters up front, set them up and then got to knocking them off by the second act. Did you care about them more? Not really. But at least we'd been with all of them for a while.

Seeing Asia Argento again at the tender age of thirteen was a hoot, as we all know the smoldering siren she became. The Church is beautiful to look at, has its moments and is unmistakably Soavi, but frankly, I think he's done better.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Don't Kill The Messenger 87

While I am doing a backup for my ailing PS3, let me get to this week's interesting items.

Sonic Gialli

My buddy Darryl sent me a link to a cool musician's site this week. It is shocking to me that I'd never heard of Umberto before, as their stuff is right up my alley. The band, based out of Kansas City, takes the Italian-electro vibe pioneered by Goblin and runs with it. The result is some trippy stuff that would totally seem at home in any Argento film. Check out some samples below.

You can also see some live footage of Umberto from Halloween 2009 by clicking here. To check out Umberto's Myspace (I know, right?) page, you can go here.

Strange New Worlds.

I wanted to pass along something that I found on Rue Morgue's news feed recently. It is a link to the site of graphic artist Sean Hartter, who has a penchant for creating movie posters from alternate realities. By that I mean, what if Alfred Hitchcock had made Halloween? Would its poster have looked something like this?

Neat, eh? Here are some more interesting ones.

To check out the rest of Hartter's stuff, click here.

It's Getting Bigger!

As you may remember me saying, last year's Fan Expo was a logistical clusterfuck. It was a record turnout, held in a smaller space, so egregiously long lines were prevelant all weekend. A lot of people were even turned away at the door! Well, event coordinators Aman Gupta & James Armstrong have seemingly learned from their mistake and have taken strides to rectify the situation. This year, the Fan Expo has not only booked a larger space - the whole Metro Convention Centre South Building - but has also extended the convention an entire day. Fan Expo 2011 will now spread its geekdom over four days, running this August 25-28. It's gonna be huge! For more info on the Expo, click here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Tale Of Three Hotties.

With Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch approaching – in sixty-nine days, nine hours, but who’s counting? – I realized that I knew nothing about the movie’s star Emily Browning. A search on Imdb yielded a few titles, but the one that caught my eye was the 2009 horror flick, The Uninvited. This was, of course the American remake of the 2003 South Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters. I remember The Uninvited being out in theatres, but the combination of its bland trailer and my having had my fill of Asian redos by that point kept me away.

Now I have a good reason to give it a look. Err… Research.

After a stint in a psychiatric ward, Anna (Emily Browning) returns home and begins having visions of her dead mother trying to warn her about her father’s new flame Rachel (Elizabeth Banks). When Anna and her sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) start to investigate, they discover their stepmother-to-be may not be who she appears.

The most obvious thing to do here would be to compare The Guard Brothers’ remake with the original film. However, the funny thing is that I can’t remember Ji-woon Kim’s version. I can recall seeing A Tale of Two Sisters at The Royal circa 2005 and really liking it, but for some reason the only memories I have of the film are the scare set pieces, which were naturally all ported over to the Hollywood incarnation. That said, I feel The Uninvited does work remarkably better than some of the other titles (like Pulse and One Missed Call) that came out during the tail end of the Asian remake free-for-all.

It is a shame that the marketing did nothing to distinguish The Uninvited from the status quo of languid PG-13 remakes like Prom Night and When A Stranger Calls because I think it has more to offer. The performances are good across the board and though the narrative is fairly by the numbers, it all functions as it should. I also found the score to be a lot more memorable than is often thrust out with standard Hollywood machinations. The movie is ultimately still middle of the road, but at least I – due to my Tale of Two Sisters memory blockage – didn’t see the ending coming. I generally have to tip my hat to any movie that can dupe me, unless it’s something like The Perfect Getaway, where the twist was completely disingenuous.

The Uninvited didn’t knock my socks off, but it is definitely watchable fare. I wonder if Zack Snyder casting Browning as Babydoll had anything to do with her performance as a mental patient here. If so, had Sucker Punch come a tad later, I wonder if Synder’s gaze would’ve shifted to it-girl-of-the-moment Amber Heard, after seeing her in John Carpenter’s upcoming film The Ward.

I would have no complaints either way.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Well, What Can You Say?

Anyone who grew up in the eighties will no doubt remember that going to the video store was a treat and akin to visiting the arcade or your favourite restaurant. Now I'm talking about the early eighties here, before Cockbuster came in and homogenized the market. It should not surprise you in the least – this very blog being proof positive – that once inside those vintage video libraries, I would make a beeline for the most colourful in the store. Well, the ones that weren't hidden behind a curtain anyway. I absorbed all those wonderfully decadent coverboxes and locked them away in my mind for future reference. Unfortunately, as the mom & pop stores dried up, so did my access to the more obscure horror titles, at least in the burb I was living in. I didn't see what was behind the bloody covers of Maniac, Cannibal Holocaust and Deep Red until I was well into my twenties, after finally discovering the giant big city archives of Queen and Suspect Video.

Misspent youth? I think not.

Then there was David Durston's 1970 horror I Drink Your Blood. Its coverbox stood out when I first eyed it. The marketers, at least for this particular edition, decided, instead of art, to just slap a shot from the movie on the cover. A shot which just happened to be someone in mid-decapitation! I'd love to show you this cover, but it seems to have disappeared off the face of the 'Net – much like the movie soon did from video store shelves. The only cover I can find now is this--

Not really as schlockly as an actual head in flight now, is it?

Fast forward almost twenty-five years, and what does The Bloor announce as its inaugural title in its new B-Movie Fest programme? Why, I Drink Your Blood, of course. This was fate telling me it was finally time to cross this one off the master list.

The inhabitants of a small town are set upon by a band of hippie Satanists. Things only get worse when they are subsequently infected with rabies and start thirsting for blood.

I Drink Your Blood was pretty much what I was expecting. It was good for a few laughs, though I have to admit I was expecting a little more gore. Considering it was made during the heyday of H.G. Lewis, I figured there would be some one-upmanship going on, but I Drink Your Blood rarely reaches those lofty blood-soaked heights. I was surprised however about how dialogue heavy the movie's top half was. I was like, 'wow, they're actually trying to tell a story here, good for them.' Then the shit hit the fan and it fell into chaos with countless characters running every which way.

It may shock you to learn this, but I don’t think the creators of I Drink Your Blood were too concerned about the science of their plot devices. I'm pretty sure rabies isn't an STD, or STI as the kids are calling them these days. However, I do have to relent on the whole hydrophobia thing. Apparently, fear of water is a legitimate symptom of rabies. Who knew?

And just what is up with this scene?

I'd say I Drink Your Blood is worth seeing, if only for super-cute Lynn Lowry in her first film role. Her mute character doesn't have much to do, but does at least get to have some fun with an electric knife before inexplicably disappearing from the film completely.

Really though, it is the little kid Pete (Riley Mills) who owns this movie. Never mind the fact he’s the one who cooks up the whole rabies-in-the-meat-pies plan in the first place, he’s just always got a “Gee Grampaw” response for everything.

What could possibly go wrong?

I think my only major disappointment with I Drink Your Blood was that the shot from the aforementioned coverbox wasn't in the movie. I was subconsciously awaiting that bit the entire time and then... what the deuce?! I couldn't help but feel a little robbed. But I think I'll live.