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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Taking A Stand.

My favourite novel of all time – and coincidentally the first I ever read - is Stephen King’s The Stand. I still remember that evening, when I opened up that eight-hundred-plus page opus (this was before the unedited edition had been released) and was instantly transported to Arnette, Texas. It became a ‘bible’ of sorts in my teenage years, my weathered copy never far from hand. I’ve read many other books, by King and others, but none have ever matched its unadulterated magic.

Fast forward to 2008, when I heard Marvel was doing a comic series adaptation. After having been stung by the sanitized miniseries in the mid-nineties, I was skeptical, but the first few covers were very promising.

I, as with pretty much every comic series that peaks my interest, decided to wait for the trade editions. However, this was a poor decision on my part, as I forgot that Marvel tends to favour hardcovers, which I dislike due to their uncomfortable bulkiness. After several years of waiting, I discovered that my brother had, in fact, collected the entire 31-issue run, which I subsequently borrowed and tore through in a week.

This comic adaptation is fantastic. I first have to hand it to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa for how well he scripted everything out. It was a Herculean task, and he performed brilliantly. Broken down into six arcs – starting with “Captain Trips”, where the population of the United States (and presumably the world) is decimated by a deadly plague – almost every single beat of the novel is represented here in some capacity. I especially liked the montage that showed the second wave of deaths that came shortly after the flu had run its course. That section was one of my favourite parts of the 1990 unedited edition of The Stand, and was glad to see it made it in.

Using Aguirre-Sacasa's wonderful framework, it is then beautifully illustrated by Mike Perkins, Laura Martin & Lee Bermejo. I found myself being continually blown away by their art. They tell King’s tale just as well, and I fully appreciated the occasional nods to Bernie Wrightson’s previous drawings from the novel.

Mother Abagail vs. the weasels.

But let’s face it, the reason The Stand has endured as King’s most revered novel is due to its characters and they are all rendered here in precise detail. Pinnacle characters like Stuart Redman and Frannie Goldsmith are bang-on, as are Tom Cullen and Nick Andros. I initially thought that Larry Underwood looked a tad older than I would've expected, but I warmed up after a few issues.

Fran, Stu, Tom & Nick.

I think where this adaptation really shines though, is with its darker characters. Nadine Cross is the epitome of forbidden fruit and the feral nature of Leo “Joe” Rockway is perfectly captured here.

Larry meets Joe & Nadine.

This razor sharp accuracy trickles down to even the smallest characters, like this variant cover introducing the petulant and venomous Julie Lawry.

However, nothing compares to how wonderfully realized The Dark Man Randall Flagg is in this comic, though. None of this rub-a-dub-dub bullshit of the miniseries here, Flagg is a force of nature, representing the evil and dark desires of mankind.

While experiencing this story again – for the first time in a good ten years – I was struck by how perceptions change. When I first read this in my mid-teens, characters like Frannie and Nick seemed so much older, but now I realize they were just kids. Imagine having to take on the fate of the world at twenty-two! The character that I most identified with on that inaugural read was, maybe a little unfortunately, Harold Lauder. At the time, I too was an outcast, with a quiet intelligence that could’ve very easily spiralled into uncontrollable anger. I’d like to say with certainty, now twenty years on, that I would do things differently if I was in Harold's shoes, but sadly I still cannot.

The Stand comic is an extreme success for the medium. I would love to see more King works adapted in this fashion, as we all know there is a mountain of literature to pull from. And that mountain continues to grow taller each day.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

DKTM 137

I'm off to take in a matinee soon, so I'll keep this brief. Here's what happened this week.

JC Comes To Toronto.

This week Rue Morgue announced the guest of honour at this year's Festival of Fear would be none other than horror master John Carpenter.

We've been kind of waiting for this for a few years now, as Carpenter is the last marquee name left to visit The Big Smoke in August. Let's just hope he doesn't cancel like he "had to", when his last film The Ward screened TIFF's Midnight Madness in 2010. With Gillian Anderson also appearing at Fan Expo this year, this could be one for the ages!

The Host.

Walking through bookstores circa 2009, I would invariably see this cover staring back at me from the shelves.

It always struck me, yet, for some reason, I never investigated further. What was it about? Did the title refer to some sort of parasite, or a sinister dinner party? Anyway, I eventually forgot about it until I saw the teaser for the upcoming movie adaptation on Twitch.

I did not even realize it was Stephenie "Twilight" Meyer until I saw that. Partnering her with the director of In Time does not scream something that should interest me, but that teaser is a pretty awesome realization of what made that book cover so entrancing in the first place.

The Bloor Is Back!

Almost a year ago, Toronto's flagship's rep cinema The Bloor closed its doors for lengthy renovations. Now owned by Hot Docs, it officially opened its doors on Mar 16th. As you can see for the pics below, there have been some major changes and a huge technological upgrade - no more shitty sound in the balcony!

The most notable change is that strange window to the lobby seen in that last picture, courtesy of Row Three. I think it is a callback to an older architectural style, but fortunately there is a curtain that is pulled across during showtimes. The screen has also been raised substantially, which presents a problem for the first half-dozen rows on the floor, but the trade-off is that subtitle sightlines have now been dramatically improved. This may be one of the only theatres where the balcony has the best seats in the house.

The film I took in while I was there was the documentary Corman's World about the film career of schlockmeister and consummate businessman Roger Corman. While it lacks the personality of the likeminded docs of Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood, Machete Maidens Unleashed), Corman's World is still a great peek into the world of a filmmaking icon. It was really great to see Hollywood's elite, like Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson and Ron Howard - all of whom owe a huge debt to Corman for jump-starting their careers - talk so highly of him. Even at eighty-three, we see him hard at work on the set of the SyFy production Dinoshark. Here's the trailer for Corman's World below.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I finally got my Battle Royale Blu-ray on Monday and it is just as spectacular as I had hoped. My hat is off to Anchor Bay for the beautiful packaging job.

As for content, the four-disc set is as complete a package as I could hope for. The only way Anchor Bay could have topped this is if they had somehow bundled a motion-comic manga with it or something.

Hey, not that Disc 3 will get much use - or 1 for that matter, after seeing the Director's Cut twice on the big screen recently I think I've had my fill of extra basketball and requiems - but it makes the completist in me happy.

I was like a pig in shit pouring over all the bonus materials last night. The extras on the disc I've been spinning all these years lacked subtitles, so it was great to finally watch all the making-of featurettes. There is some really candid stuff with its young actors and you really get the sense they were feeding off the limitless energy of their seventy-year old director. Even sixty films into his directing career, Kinji Fukasaku was still as sharp as ever, knowing exactly what he wanted right down to the smallest things, like line delivery and facial expressions. I think the only thing the making-of needed was more Kou Shibasaki.

So, if it's not already abundantly clear, I'm extremely pleased with this set.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Battle Royale: From Page to Screen.

Reading is something I don’t do nearly enough. There are always so many things nipping at my free time, and since I’m such a slow reader – and not the kind of person who can retain info by just reading a few pages at a time – it is a practice that is often bumped for something else. So, like the pile of DVD’s on my coffee table, I also have a shelf of unread books. Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale is a novel I’ve had for a while, but its hefty size has always shifted it in the order. However, because of the impending Blu-ray release of its movie counterpart, I vowed to finally dig into it.

We all have films from our childhood that inspire us. Then, there are those special films that we pick up as adults, when we are far more jaded. For me, Battle Royale was one of those films. It’s an idea so simple, yet so subversive.

For the few people reading this who aren’t familiar with Battle Royale – and that number is rapidly dwindling with it now being incessantly compared to the popular Hunger Games series – it is a Japanese tale set in a dystopian future where a random class of school children are subjected to a yearly competition where they must kill each other off until one remains.

Comparing the book to the movie is a fascinating affair, as they both have their strengths. Obviously, the page has the advantage of going into detail about more than just the main characters. The book gives us a lot of background on some of the more interesting secondary players like computer-whiz Shinji Mimura and martial artist Hiroki Sugimura, who spends the entire game looking for his longtime crush Kayoko Kotohiki. There is also a lot of time devoted to my personal favourite, the devilish Mitsuko Souma. The movie does flash briefly on what spurred her psychosis, but Mitsuko is not a maligned outcast in the book, but rather the merciless leader of a female gang.

In the film, the dangerous “wild cards” Shogo Kawada and Kazuo Kiriyama are not exchange students that just appear in their classroom, but regular classmates. Although Shogo is a recent transfer to their class, he isn’t a stranger, and Kazuo is a feared gang leader and basically the male version of Mitsuko. I also feel the ending of the book is better, or at least less cheesy than the movie. The film’s conclusion was easier to shoot and better utilized its star, Beat Takeshi though.

On the flip side, there are a good number of things about the movie that bettered the book though. I think the setup of Kinji Fukasaku’s film is flawless and still remains one of my favourite openings of all-time.

The setup in the classroom is slightly different as well, but for the better. The main female character Noriko Nakagawa isn’t shot in the leg, like in the book, which makes her running around an island for the next few days a little more believable. Also, Yoshitoki Kuninobu’s death is a very dramatic demonstration of their explosive collars, which are all but absent from the literary version. Also, surprising as it may seem, there are far less gunfights in the movie. The amount of rounds fired off by Kazuo in the book is ridiculous.

As is the case with any screen adaptation, there is some stuff that didn’t make the film, but a lot did in some capacity. There are several things that are cleverly combined, so very little is lost. Lastly, I think the overall picture of a futuristic Japan in ruin is a lot easier to ingest conceptually than the book’s Greater East Empire dictatorship.

So, whether you watch the movie, read the book or even the accompanying manga, you really can’t go wrong here. Each all take advantage of their mediums to showcase a definite highlight in Japanese fiction.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

DKTM 136

Good morning everyone. I've got a fistful of nostalgia for you today, so let's get right into it.

6 & Seventh.

The Seventh Art recently met up with filmmaker & member of Canadian collective Astron-6, Steve Kostanski at Toronto's Queen Video to talk shop. Here is the interview below.

For more Kostanski, check out the Laser Focus podcast he guested on last December, where we talked about our fondest VHS memories.


Scott Glosserman's follow-up to his 2006 debut Behind The Mask has been gaining traction over the last few months and I've been waiting for the right time to draw attention to it. Aptly titled Before The Mask: The Return of Leslie Vernon, Glosserman has been diligently acquiring funds from a rather unique source - the very fans who'd like to see it made. What put me over the edge though, was this recently released limited edition poster.

Needless to say, this is already on its way to me - even if he did borrow the tagline from The Mutilator. For more information on how you can help, click here.

Traces of Analog.

As you know, I love VHS. And likely so do you, or you wouldn't be here. Filmmaker Eileen Smith also loves VHS, and made this short documentary on the subject.

Talk about hitting the nail on the head, right?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Goin' Green.

I've spoken of Drew Daywalt many times here on THS, and with good reason. His horror shorts are some of the best on the 'Net, and tonight the SyFy network is premiering his first feature effort since 2002.

Happy St. Patrick's everyone!

Friday, March 16, 2012

It Came From The Archives 14!

Children of the eighties who spent anytime playing role-playing games may remember the names Ian Livingstone & Steve Jackson. They were the co-creators of Fighting Fantasy, a popular series of books that I loved as a kid. Fighting Fantasy was a hybrid between Choose-Your-Own-Adventure and Dungeons & Dragons that only required two dice, a pencil and your wits! I collected the first thirty or so of these books, but the one I'd like to focus on now was the tenth release called House of Hell.

House of Hell was unique in that it was the only Fighting Fantasy book that took place in present day, and had a story rooted in the horror genre. This, of course, appealed to me greatly. It starts with a familiar scenario with your car breaking down in a storm and thus seek shelter at a nearby estate.

The house's occupant, a shady character named Drumer, welcomes you in, but things almost immediately go bad.

You then spend the rest of your adventure trying to avoid a grisly death at the hands of Drumer, his cult of Satanists and the many other ghastly creatures that inhabit the house.

For shits and giggles, I decided to play through it and see if it was as difficult as I remember it being. It was, and gave up after dying about a dozen times. What makes House of Hell tougher than other FF books is that not only do you have to fight your way through all manner of dark adversaries - at a disadvantage I might add, as it is some time before you even find a weapon with which to defend yourself - but it also hits you with a fear meter. If you are not careful, you can literally be scared to death! This is on top of the countless fatal dead ends you are faced with along the way.

The thing I really dig about House of Hell is the art provided by Tim Sell. I love how many of his abominations seem to be bursting out of their frames, as if even the page cannot confine them.

I tried to find something online about the controversy surrounding this book when I was young. I seem to remember seeing a news story about how this book was apparently cursed, and had caused a kid who read it to commit suicide. Maybe that was why House of Hell was later reissued as House of Hades. Because that's less real, somehow. Circa 1984, it was the RPG's turn to be blamed for all the world's problems.

That one above was actually removed from later editions for being too risqué.

Livingstone & Jackson kept my imagination flourishing for many, many years and their fantasy empire continues to this day. There has also been a House of Hell movie in the works for quite sometime, but it, at this point, still remains in development hell. You can get more info on that, by going here.

Also, for those who'd like to try their hand at some online Fighting Fantasy-inspired CYOA's, click here.