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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

God Told Me To (#20)

I was happy to see a Larry Cohen film on the Time Out Best 100 Horror List, but was initially surprised that the film they picked was God Told Me To. Though I'd never seen it, I thought something more mainstream like The Stuff, It's Alive or even Q: The Winged Serpent would've been a more obvious choice. Well, discovery is what this list is all about, so this 1976 flick was the next entry that I watched.

A New York detective (Tony Lo Bianco) investigates a string of murders committed by random individuals who insist that God told them to.

This is a good little film with a unique idea behind it. I can see now why it was singled out for the list. Its subject matter is played dead straight which lends itself to being taken a little more seriously among cinephiles. There is an element of cheesy fun in the aforementioned Cohen films above – although that could just due to the inclusion of Michael Moriarty – which is probably why I gravitated to those titles as a kid. They are creature features all, whereas God Told Me To is a religious thriller with dramatic overtones.

Yet it is still a Cohen movie through and through. It is a character driven piece that is also another love letter to New York. By weaving in footage of the St. Patty's Day parade and San Gennaro festivities, production values soar, making it look like it cost way more than it actually did. Seeing the late Andy Kaufman show up as a cop who goes berserk was also a bizarre treat.

I have to give points to Cohen for being able successfully pull off a one-eighty halfway through the picture. There were elements of alien abduction and body horror that had me scratching my head at the film's end, but a listen to the accompanying commentary – which is excellent by the way – put everything into perspective.


God Told Me To is another example of the great American horror films that populated the seventies, and is definitely among the best of Cohen's filmography.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Location. Location. Location.

I took sometime this weekend to check out Oren Peli's new project The Chernobyl Diaries.

Six tourists travelling around Europe take an extreme tour to the abandoned city of Prypiat, Ukraine. When their bus breaks down and they have to spend the night, they quickly discover they are not alone.

I didn't have such a bad time with The Chernobyl Diaries. Usually it does not bode well when I start hearing about a film three weeks before it is released, so maybe it was my lowered expectations that facilitated that. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of standard stuff here and the third act doesn't really pay off, but there were a couple of things that stood out to me.

The first thing is as, I alluded to in my post title, is the setting. The city of Prypiat is an intriguing place to set of horror film. The abandoned buildings and eerie ferris wheel really added to the atmosphere. I actually had a flashback to playing Call of Duty, as there was a mission that took place there, as well. When I researched the filming, I was absolutely floored to learn they didn't actually shoot there. Could have fooled me?

Did you guys learn nothing from Hostel???

Knowing this was Oren Peli, I was fully expecting this to be a found footage movie. Fortunately, except for the opening credits, which have our protagonists filming themselves travelling around Europe, this was not the case. While it is true the movie is still shot in that cinéma vérité style – with lots of prolonged handheld shots and shaky-cam action – I didn't have to spend half the movie thinking 'why are they still filming?'

The Chernobyl Diaries is largely paint-by-numbers, but some amazing production values, an idea that, save for The Hills Have Eyes, is fairly original and some decent performances make it a serviceable genre flick.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

DKTM 144

Good morning all.  I'm a little shell-shocked from last night's midnight Vagrancy screening of old 35mm trailers - which actually amounted to about forty per cent vintage refreshment ads and German porn - so let's get right to it.

Kick It!

Here's are a couple of Kickstarter campaigns that came to my attention this week.  You remember that really cool print of the kids battling zombies on a school playground?  Well, artist Jason Chan has teamed up with Massive Black Games to bring that image to life in the form of a video game!  Check out the pitch below.

Next, is a zombie-based school curriculum designed by David Hunter, a Social Studies teacher in Seattle.

I wish I had something like this when I was in school, as I might have paid attention.  These are real life skills, people!

Lastly, I wanted to remind you that the VHS documentary Adjust Your Tracking still has a few more weeks left on its Kickstarter campaign, if you'd like to donate.

The New Flesh Comes Back To Toronto.

I was extremely excited to hear there will be a David Cronenberg exhibit coming to the TIFF Lightbox next year.  If there was ever an oeuvre that has cool props aplenty, it's Cronenberg's.

The exhibit will be accompanied by a programme of film screenings, as well as a intriguing interactive video game, the details of which are TBD.  I can't wait!  Click here for the full press release.

A Nice Piece of Tail.

Here's a cool trailer for the upcoming Norwegian flick Thale that I came across last week.  

We all know that Scandinavian horror rocks, so hopefully this one rolls around soon.

Friday, May 25, 2012


As I said I would, I ordered Kane Hodder's memoir, Unmasked off Amazon the week after seeing him at Shock Stock last month.

I highly recommend giving this a read. Not only is it packed with stories about some of your favourite horror flicks, but also lets you into a profession you don't really hear much about – the professional stuntman.

It might be easy to think, how can he write an entire book about playing Jason? Well, this was but one – albeit the most famous – part of a very storied career. In fact, it is a full two-hundred pages before he even talks about getting the role of everyone's favourite hockey mask-wearing killer. I knew about a lot of his other work like Prison, Texas Chainsaw 3 and The Last Boy Scout, but was not aware he was in a lot of the martial arts movies I watched as a kid, like Lone Wolf McQuade, Avenging Force and American Ninja. He was also the person rustling around in the garbage bag that William Katt beats with a shovel in House!

Kane Hodder as Jason in Friday the 13th Part VII.

There is also a good chunk of Unmasked dedicated to when he was unceremoniously passed over for Freddy vs. Jason. You can tell that whole thing crushed him, but says that being able to later play a new character in Victor Crowley (of the Hatchet series) went a long way toward healing that wound.

Even though all this stuff is great, the meat of the book is what lead up to his successful character as a stuntman. Hodder wasn't lying when he said this is an extremely personal book. He lays everything – the good, the bad and the very, very ugly – out on the page here. I've seen Kane Hodder in person three times now and I could always sense there was something different about him. 

Me with Kane at Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors circa 1991.

I always chalked it up to his wry sense of humour (like how he straightfacedly states that at conventions he likes to brutally mutilate every thirteenth person in line), but it turns out that, by his own admission, he is a little fucked up. It started with the bullying he received as a youngster that fostered an uncontrollable rage which, even to this day, he finds difficult to curtail. He mentions several times in the book that if he wasn't able to channel this aggression into his film roles, he would almost definitely be behind bars.

The most disturbing passages in Unmasked are about the burn injury he suffered in his twenties. He was severly burned on over fifty percent of his body while doing a publicity stunt early in his career. The suffering Hodder endured, not only from his burns, but also the botched rehabilitation carried out by an inept hospital staff was immeasurable. When director Adam Green (who provides the foreward) said that some passages within are so gruelling you may have to take a break, I thought he was exaggerating for effect. He wasn't. Hodder's recollections during that time of his life got more harrowing with every page turn. It is truly a miracle that he got through that with any shred of his sanity left intact. Even after leaving the confines of the hospital, he still carries both physical and mental scars with him to this day.

Kane at Shock Stock last month.

I was a big fan of Kane Hodder before I read Unmasked. Now, after reading it, I cannot properly express the mad respect I have for this man. He overcame extreme adversity and never settled for anything less than achieving his dreams of becoming a stuntman. Even though he has killed over a hundred people onscreen, I can think of no better role model than Kane Hodder.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Innocents (#21)

The next film on the Time Out London list that I watched was Jack Clayton's 1961 film The Innocents.

Governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) travels to a remote estate to take charge of two orphans named Miles & Flora (Martin Stephens & Pamela Franklin). After several odd experiences, she starts to suspect there may be something supernatural afoot.

Going into this film, I knew almost nothing about it. I'd seen the 1992 version of The Turn of the Screw, but it was so long ago, that I only remembered it starred Patsy Kensit. So basically, I was going in blind. I liked this movie a lot. It makes sense that Guillermo del Toro holds it in such regard, as I can see flashes of The Innocents in some of his work.

The thing that struck me almost immediately – and often does when I watch silver screen era horror films, especially British ones – was the vernacular. I always forget how much language has changed (likely not for the better) over the years. This film is told almost exclusively through dialogue, which makes for an extremely nourishing experience and brings a certain weight to the proceedings. This is anchored by excellent performances spearheaded by Kerr, in what she described as her favourite role. The children were also very competent, both possessing an impressive emotional range. I also love movies where an inanimate object, in this case the mansion, is a character in itself. It was almost like when Miss Giddens first steps onto the estate, the rest of the world falls away.

I also found the ghost sequences to be very powerful stuff. I'd go so far as to say that this film and Mario Bava's Kill Baby, Kill were the catalysts for what we now know as the modern ghost story, as the number of filmmakers influenced by these two films is immeasurable. To add to my praise, I was also not expecting the ending. Perhaps because of a similar structure, I was expecting something more along the lines of The Others.

The Innocents is a great film and definitely deserves its spot on the Time Out Best 100 Horror List.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Man Cave 2.0

With the extra day off this week, I was finally able to put the finishing touches on my new abode. Here's what my "2nd bedroom" looks like.

Viddy well!

I'm picking up my Thing print from the framers this evening - which will go on the wall directly to the right of the pic above - and then I'm ready to rock!  Now all I need to do is decide what to screen for my first movie night.  Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

DKTM 143

Good morning everyone. I hope you are all enjoying your May two-four festivities.  Here's what I've got for you today.

Festival Of Fear Adds Three More.

Last week, Rue Morgue announced three more guests that will be appearing in August at their annual Festival of Fear event.

Rose McGowan (Doom Generation, Scream & Grindhouse)

Tony Todd (Candyman, Hatchet)

Chris Sarandon (Fright Night, Child's Play)

This trio was announced on the heels of previous news of Juliet Landau & James Marsters (Spike & Drusilla from TV's Buffy), Norman Reedus & Jon Bernthal (from TV's The Walking Dead) and the True Blood trio of Sam Trammell, Denis O’Hare & Nelsan Ellis would also be appearing.  And let's not forget the guest of honour, John Carpenter! Oh yes, it is shaping up to be a great August indeed. For more info on the Toronto Fan Expo, go here.

He's A Maniac.

Playing at Cannes this week is French director Franck Khalfoun's remake of Bill Lustig's seminal 1980 slasher Maniac.  Before my knee-jerk reaction to remakes when into effect, I decided to research who was actually behind this and was excited to find it was one of my favourite partnerships, Alex AjaGrég Levasseur. You know of my well represented love for High Tension and Piranha 3D, but I also quite enjoyed P2 and happen to think that The Hills Have Eyes is one of the best examples that not all remakes blow.  The three of them together have a wonderful visual palette that is fully on display in the newly released trailer below.

So, let me be clear. Joe Spinnell cannot be replaced.  And neither can the gritty and sleazy ambience of late-seventies NYC. However, I have faith that this iteration will have merit and stand next to it proudly as a modern companion piece.

American Mary.

Also making its way around the Cannes film market last week was the Soska Sisters newest effort, American Mary starring Katherine Isabelle. Here below are two posters that surfaced on the Net this week.

A cautionary tale about the perils of plastic surgery, I'm very curious to see how much the Soskas have grown as filmmakers since their 2009 debut Dead Hooker In A Trunk. For more info on American Mary, go here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Time Out List (#22)

A while back, Time Out London posted a list of the 100 Best Horror Films, compiled by polling some of the biggest names in the industry, including Roger Corman, Guillermo del Toro and Clive Barker. The list was set up, so you could check off how many you had seen and forward it to all of your social networking sites. Thus, for the next few days, my Facebook feed was inundated with “I've seen XX of the Best 100 Horror Films, how many have you seen?” updates. I subsequently checked it out myself and was frankly surprised – and a lot more disappointed – that I only scored a seventy-eight. 

How many have you seen?

Granted, there were several incredibly obscure and downright puzzling films on their list, but I would have thought, with my thirty-plus years of experience, I'd at least gotten an A.  After stewing about it for a bit, I vowed to track down the remaining twenty-two titles on the Time Out List. Starting now, I hope to bang one off each week, which would mean by Christmas I'll be sporting a perfect score. First up, is Let's Scare Jessica To Death.

Recently released from an institution, Jessica (Zohra Lampert) and her husband (Barton Heyman) move to the countryside for a fresh start. Almost immediately though, her mental state begins to unravel. Is she really crazy? Or is there something supernatural afoot?

Let's Scare Jessica To Death is a title I've always been aware of, but never got around to watching, so it seemed the perfect place to start.

Overall, I liked this film. It has a simplistic nature, that was very easy for me to latch onto. I think the promise of the first act wasn't completely realized, but I was always invested and interested to see where it went. Jessica is a movie that is really of its time. I could see the establishment vs. hippies underpinnings that were popular with American movies during that era. I had to laugh at just how trusting the three main characters were. They show up at their newly purchased estate, find a squatter inside and then precede to walk around the house looking for said intruder, nonchalantly smiling all the while.

I found Lampert's performance as the title character fascinating. She has this fragile demeanor, which is obviously necessary to convey her mental state, but there's also a very child-like free spiritedness shining through, as well. Even though she's clearly on the verge of going off the deep end at any moment, she's determined to prove that she's not crazy. I found Mariclare Costello to be quite striking, but, with her being a redhead, that should come as no surprise to my regular readership.

Mariclare Costello as Emily.

I think what makes this film differ from its contemporaries, is how it detours at the midway point. It ditches its American flavour and actually becomes something more akin to a Hammer film. This was unexpected, yet not unwelcome. It relies heavily on atmosphere, yet unlike my recent experience with The Survivor, it doesn't draw things out excessively.

There were some strange goofs that kept popping up throughout the movie that I found a little distracting. I don't know why Jessica little pet kept being referred to as a mole, when it was clearly a mouse and the farmer in town selling fresh eggs with a coup full of roosters was pretty impressive, as well. I was a little disappointed with the ambiguous nature of the ending, but it didn't ruin the experience. Maybe I was misled by the title. I guess I'd always pictured a conclusion that involved a plot to get Jessica's inheritance, or something to that effect.

Let's Scare Jessica To Death has just enough good stuff to warrant its spot on the list and am glad I can now cross it off. Oh, and I kind of want to buy a hearse now, just so I can paint “love” on the side.   

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

M-M-M-Maniac Cop!

Here below is the latest edition of the Laser Blast Podcast.  This time the gang & I discuss the preceding Maniac Cop double bill, as well as the work of Rob Zombie, Darren Lynn Bousman and Troma.  I also successfully increase the total number of LB podcasts where we talk about Bruno Mattei’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece Rats: Night of Terror to three.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Little Terrors.

I screened my newest short Orange this past weekend at a short film showcase in Toronto and it went pretty well.  It was a small turnout with it being Saturday and all – and worse, a beautiful night not to be indoors – but those in attendance seemed to like it.  I was fortunate to have my two stars, Jeff & Tonya with me to keep my nerves in check. Two of Jeff’s co-stars from his web series Clutch showed up, as well, which was nice.  It was fun night, which included my first Q&A.  Whenever I go to small indie premieres, there is always that moment when the emcee turns it over to the audience.  I’m always terrified there will just be crickets & tumbleweeds and I’ll feel so bad for the filmmaker. Fortunately, that has never happened and didn’t here either.

Little Terrors curator Justin McConnell put together a solid collection of shorts that evening, chief among them the British uber-short Zomblies.  It was a little light on story, cribbing a lot from films like Dog Soldiers, Doomsday and 28 Days Later, but the production values were extremely impressive considering it apparently only cost about fifty grand to produce.

So, where do I go from here?  Well, I’ll likely submit Orange to a few places over the next few months and then eventually put it online for everyone to gander.  Thanks again to my wonderful cast and crew, Justin McConnell for being gracious enough to program it, Jonathan Hlibka over at The Projection Booth for housing the event, and everyone who came out.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Console Carnage: Spring '12

When I saw The Walking Dead video game pop up on my PSN dashboard, I was skeptical. I figured it was sure to be shovel ware, but downloaded the demo anyway. A short time later, I was shelling out twenty bones for a season pass.

I was initially going to wait until I played through all five episodes before I talked about this, but it appears there will be a sizable gap between parts, so here goes.

The Walking Dead is, quite simply, a great gaming experience. Telltale Games have melded the dialogue branching of Mass Effect, the immersion and QTE's of Heavy Rain and the mechanics of Sierra's old Quest games into one wonderful gaming stew. I think I've always wanted the latter oeuvre to make a triumphant return. I'm willing to accept the clunkiness of the point & click interface just because it brings with it the joy of nostalgia. Overall though, I think it was the emphasis on dialogue that really pulled me in. How you interact with the characters you meet really matters and the decisions you make have a lasting effect.

Lee (right) and Clementine.

I very much like the cell shaded art style of The Walking Dead, recalling its roots in the comic book. I also like that this game exists within the canon of the source material, with a few familiar characters and locales popping up throughout the episode. The animations are a little clunky at times, but considering these episodes only cost me a mere four dollars each, that is a mere gripe. And though the graphics are lacking, there are infinitely helped by strong voice acting and a story that is on par with the show.

Telltale Games have been knocking it out of the park in regards to episodic DLC – with previous games such as Back to the Future and Jurassic Park – but I don't think it has ever fit as well as it does with The Walking Dead. I'm excited for the next chapter, and hope I don't have to wait too long for it. If you're a fan of the comic or the show, this is a must play. For everyone else, give the demo a try. I'll be surprised if it doesn't sink its teeth into you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Orange Update.

Remember Orange, that little short I mentioned shooting last fall? Well, it's done and now Rue Morgue & Unstable Ground have been gracious enough to screen it at their next Little Terrors short film showcase!

So, if you live in Toronto and have nothing going on this Saturday night, come on by. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

DKTM 142

Hello all. I'm running a bit late today, so here's what I managed to scrape together for you this weekend.

Take A Visit To Scream Park.

I came across a new Kickstarter campaign this week for a movie called Scream Park.  It looks like a throwback horror that takes place in a rundown amusement park, starring Doug Bradley and Ogre of Skinny Puppy.  The good thing about this campaign is that the film is already nearing completion, but the producers just need a few more tokens to finish off the project.  Here's the pitch below.

As of now, it appears that they have reached their goal, but there are still many cool rewards available if you want to contribute.  Visit the Kickstarter page, by going here.

Mondo Frightmare.

Texas Frightmare Weekend wraps up today, and to celebrate the occasion, Mondo did what they do best and made some limited edition posters for the occasion.

Jay Shaw (18 x 24")

Ken Taylor (24 x 36")

Krzysztof Domaradzki (24 x 36")

Jeff Proctor (24 x 36")
Phantom City Creative (24 x 36") 


This Is A Joke, Right?

I found this on Digg this morning, and as far as I can gather, this found footage flick looks to be about a good Christian family torn asunder, when the father finds a box of haunted porn.

WTF??? Okay, let's for the moment assume that this isn't a belated April Fool's vid, or an announcement for  I don't know which is more ridiculous; that the filmmakers seem to be trying to play this material straight, or the idea that porn is bad.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


So, I've been in my new digs for a few months and it's still awesome, but I don't feel I'll be fully settled until the walls are covered.  This is easier said than done because not only do I have to get my collection out of storage, but my vertical surface area has now increased dramatically.  That means the labourious, yet gleeful, process of figuring out what goes where.

Fortunately, an early spate of good weather made transportation relatively painless.

Over the past few weeks, I've been chipping away bit by bit. Then yesterday, “it” finally arrived in the mail.

And off to the framers, you go!

Yeah, I think it's gonna be good summer.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Well, That Was Bizarre.

Last year, there was a little movie called Detention that played SXSW.  This ‘slasher’ – it is many other things, but that’s the easiest way to tag it – got immediately bought by Sony, who promptly realized they had no idea what to do with it.  Flash forward to now, as director Joseph Kahn decided to release it himself to a few select theatres. On Wednesday, a few friends & I took a lengthy subway jaunt north to the strange Escher-like labyrinth that is Empress Walk to check it out.

Outcast Riley Jones (Shanley Caswell) not only has to survive the perils of high school, but also a masked killer who has been killing off the student body.

After having seen the trailer, I was expecting something a little off-kilter, but nothing could’ve prepared me for just how wild Detention gets.  It took me a full half-hour to get a handle on just what I was watching. And even now, I’m still not exactly sure.  Like I said, at its core, I guess Detention is a self-aware slasher in the vein of Scream, but also overtly resembles elements of Breakfast Club, Heathers, Donnie Darko, Back to the Future and Saw.  And that’s not even mentioning the weird tangents that pop up in the second act.  With all of this stuff coming at you at once, it makes for a very unfocused experience for the most part.  There are so many jokes being thrown out that before you can even register the ones that fall flat, there is another one tripping over it.

Since Detention runs at such a redlining level of self-awareness, it feels like it might at any moment explode into a million pieces.  I think the only reason it doesn’t come off the rails – and believe me there were parts where it was two wheeling it Temple of Doom style – is due to the matter-of-fact way it deals with all of its insane side plots.  Kahn’s visual style and soundtrack choices really gel with his movie, as well.

I don’t blame Sony for scratching their heads with this one.  I don’t really know whom this is for.  The infuriating subset that rejected Cabin In The Woods likely won’t get past the opening credits, and many others might be frustrated by its manic storytelling.  I mean, geez, the movie is called Detention, yet time served by the characters is but a small fragment of the movie. My friend Jeff brought up a good point that the movie seems like a good representation – albeit highly stylized – of high school life, but anyone of that age won’t get any of the pointedly nineties pop culture references.  I do have to say that the explanation for the conspicuous amount of said references was kind of brilliant though. 

Overall, there’s a lot to like here, and the rest I can at least appreciate in a good-on-you-for-trying kind of way.  It’s a Catch 22 really, as I’d like to say that a more precise vision would’ve helped, but then again, it is Kahn’s wacky narrative that makes his movie unique. It's quite the dilemma.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Last One Down.

Today’s review for the 1981 flick The Survivor is timely as it is piggybacking on my DKTM post about the upcoming BBC adaptation of another of James Herbert’s works, The Secret of Crickley Hall. 

After surviving a devastating air disaster, pilot David Keller (Robert Powell) is racked with guilt. Shortly after the mass funeral, a medium named Hobbs (Jenny Agutter) contacts him saying she can hear the voices of the dead passengers – and they have a message for him...

Up until a few weeks ago, The Survivor was the last of Herbert’s current quartet of film adaptations that I had yet to see. You all know of my adoration of Deadly Eyes, and Fluke and The Haunted I caught during their initial releases – though with my love of Kate Beckinsale having blossomed in last decade, I believe the latter deserves a rewatch – but The Survivor remained elusive for many, many years. Then, thanks to Katarina's Nightmare Theater and Suspect Video, I managed to snag it on DVD while I was at Shock Stock.

The novel was one of the first of Herbert’s that I read, so my recollections of how close the film stayed to the original material is a little hazy. The broad strokes are there, however I recall the ending being a little bit more dramatic. While director David Hemmings – yes, that David Hemmings – had a decent handle on what it took to keep me interested, it did seem top heavy. I felt the plane crash at the movie's head was a little lacklustre, seemingly spending the majority of their budget on the explosion that immediately followed it.

The Survivor is a film that is ninety-five percent atmosphere, which I can certainly appreciate, but once we get into the meat of the supernatural backbone of the story, the pacing becomes a problem. There are several scenes that are drawn out way too long and dulls the piece as a whole. It also seemed – and this could very well be due to the fact that I knew the endgame – that it took an incredibly long time for the two main characters to finally intersect.

Powell & Agutter amid the wreckage

So, even though my experience of finally watching The Survivor may have been anti-climactic, I never balk at an opportunity to watch Jenny Agutter onscreen. Her character was actually a man in the book, but shockingly this little transgression didn't bother me. Here's one final observation. Anyone else notice that the main character's name was David Keller, which is only one-letter off the name of a backpacker-turned-lycanthrope whom Agutter would soon after share screen time with. How's that for wacky film trivia?