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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

DKTM 155

Hello all.  It's been a blur of movie sets and crazy-ass film equipment over the last week, so I'm looking forward to some couch time - and hopefully the new RE6 demo - today, so I'll get right to it.  I got some great stuff for you today.

The Rest.

On Friday, Toronto After Dark revealed the rest of their line-up. Unfortunately, due to a mix-up with the Canadian release date, Excision had to be pulled, so that is why you see eleven titles below. You can click on the images to find out more about the films, or visit TAD's YouTube channel for all your trailer needs.

Also, I should mention that a good many of last year's TAD selections have enjoyed recent DVD releases. If you haven't checked out Absentia, Midnight Son and Some Guy Who Kills People already, please do so, as they are all great indicators that indie genre film is alive and well.

For ticket info, please click here.

Bon Nuit.

Last night, Toronto came alive with the random artisitic stylings of Nuit Blanche, an annual art fair that happens throughout the city around this time each year. Even if it is just something as simple as laying down a long line of bubble wrap down Queen St, the city is transformed into a creative playground.  When I was in town last night, I made a beeline for the Lightbox, which had a special fourty-two minute reel showing on a loop in Cinema 1.  Cent une tueries de zombies, or 101 Zombie Kills, curated by Mike Lane & Colin Geddes left me with a huge smile on my face. Taking from countless sources, including the classic Romero Dead Trilogy and Return of the Livind Dead, as well as some lesser travelled entries like Burial Ground and Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, it weaved a very entertaining narrative. Click the image below to see a peek at what it was all about.  Even sped up twenty-times, I'm sure you can still pick out quite a few of the films that were used.

Coming Thru Your TV.

Perhaps the best news I've heard in several months, is that fantastic distribution company Scream Factory will be releasing the eighties SOV classic The Video Dead. HALLELUJAH!!!  There has been a growing movement over the last few years that has been trying to get this movie re-released - it has still not even had an official release of DVD! - so it looks like we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.  There is no official release date yet, but Scream Factory announced on their Facebook page that we can expect it sometime in 2013. I am, of course, ecstatic.  The Video Dead is one of the movies that this blog was indoctrinated to preserve.  Have you ever seen a better coverbox than this?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Black Museum Awaits.

The first Black Museum lecture kicks off this evening in Toronto. Curated by Toronto scribes Paul Corupe and Andrea Subissati, the Black Museum will be holding a series of talks on genre cimena over the next few months.  Here’s what we have to look forward to.

Canadian director Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice) will explore the use of architecture in horror films such as Frankenstein, The Shining and Suspiria.

Andrea Subissati takes a look at the origins of horror’s favourite flesheaters, from Haitian myth to their current media saturation in North America.

Astron 6 alum Steve Kostanski (Heart of Karl, Manborg) covers the history of stop-motion animation in genre film, including the works of  Shinya Tsukamoto & Jan Švankmajer.

Rue Morgue writer Stuart Andrews hosts a screening of the first zombie film, 1932’s White Zombie.

Canuck horror historian Paul Corupe explores the correlation between Canadian genre film and the allegations of scientific experiments conducted on children and unsuspecting volunteers during the fifties and sixties.

All of these lectures will take place at the Projection Booth East.  Admission is $12 in advance, $15 at the door.  For more info about the Black Museum, click here.

As a bonus, here is the lecture Paul Corupe conducted at this year’s Fan Expo on the history of Canadian cinema.  Enjoy!.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

DKTM 154

This weekend, I'm helping out on a friend's shoot, but it's been a long time since I've done a news post, so this one's coming to you retroactively.  Enjoy your Sunday!

TIFF Videos.

Here's a roundup of video footage shot by my buddy Rob Mitchell during TIFF.  The Q&A's may have some spoilers, but there should be something below for everyone.

No One Lives Red Carpet Interviews.
No One Lives Q&A.
Hellbenders Red Carpet Interviews.
Hellbenders Q&A.
The Lords of Salem Red Carpet Interviews.
The Lords of Salem Q&A.
The ABC's of Death Red Carpet Interviews.
John Dies at the End Red Carpet Interviews.
John Dies at the End Q&A.

Mr. Fantastic.

My friend Chris Nash has three of his shorts playing this year's Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX.  We here in Toronto have been aware of his unique brand of insanity for many years now - I worked on his ABC's of Death contest entry T is for Thread - so I couldn't be happier to see his handiwork spreading outwards. Here is a trailer for the trio, collectively known as The Skinfection Trilogy.

The premiere was last Friday, but if you are in the Austin area, they are being screened again as part of the Severe Fantastic Fest Shorts programme on Tuesday evening.  You can also check out his Vimeo account for more videos, including his debut Day of John.

Tokyo Swag.

I posted some Japanese swag from the new Resident Evil movie on Friday, now here's the rest of the stuff Darryl brought me back from his trip.


On the videogame side of things...

Wait, what??? How'd this get in here?

Ah, now I know the Japanese word for 'disappointment'.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Alice, Sweet Alice.

Now that TIFF is out of the way, time to get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

After being recaptured, Alice (Milla Jovovich) must fight her way out of an underground Umbrella facility with the help of some old friends – and enemies.

Retribution doesn’t waste any time, coming out of the gate cranked at eleven and hovering there for a good stretch. Since anyone coming into this without seeing any of the previous installments would be completely lost, Alice gives us a montage-laden recap of the previous four movies up front. And that’s what Retribution feels like, an amped-up greatest hits of the series, as there are several returning characters and creatures crammed in here. Although Chris & Claire Redfield (Wentworth Miller & Ali Larter respectively) are conspicuously absent, they are replaced with franchise favourites Leon S. Kennedy (Johann Urb), Ada Wong (Li Bingbing) and Barry Burton (Kevin Durand).

But, let's face it, the main reason these movies keep us coming back is Milla, and once again, she is in top form. She is always gives one-hundred per cent and is the anchor of this franchise. I was very glad to see Michelle Rodriguez back, as well. She is another of a rare breed of actresses that always seems at home in these high-octane actioners. Amazingly, she even finds time to smile.

All in a day's work.

Retribution, arguably to its detriment, is the one that plays most like a video game. When Resident Evil debuted in 2002, it was critcized for straying too far from its source material, so this may be a case of “be careful what you wish for.” Following Afterlife, which I now feel was the best installment in terms of incorporating the games into a cinematic medium, it appears the pendulum has swung back the other way. The movie progresses much like the game, with levels and bosses that must be traversed by our heroes. The dialogue, which mainly served to package exposition, often sounded like it was from the earlier games as well. I kept expecting someone to offer Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) a lock pick.

However, because the action sequences were so awesomely executed and fun to watch, it kept me from worrying about it. I don't know if the fight choreographers have been the same throughout the series, but whoever has been running the show for the last two movies; you've been doing a fantastic job.

Whether you like this series or not, it has always seemed like it was of its own universe. Unfortunately, Retribution has sections that pull from other works, namely the Dawn of the Dead remake and Aliens. I can accept Resident Evil's ridiculous action tropes and anemic storylines, but that – when the game franchise itself has almost twenty years of material – was a bitter pill to swallow.

Li Bingbing as Ada Wong.

As with Afterlife, the 3D here was really well implemented. I think Anderson is one of the few directors that really understands what this technology brings to the table. He excels at giving us both the thrilling pop-out moments as well as depth of field. It really adds to the experience when done right.

Retribution, not surprisingly, ends on another cliffhanger and though my excitement may have cooled somewhat, I doubt I'll ever tire of this franchise. The Resident Evil movies are like sugary junk food to me, and Milla just makes them all that much sweeter.

Oh, by the way. As a bonus, here's some Japanese promotion material from the movie that my buddy Darryl brought me back from Japan.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

John Dies At Midnight.

The Midnight Madness closer this year at TIFF was Don Coscarelli's adaptation of David Wong's novel John Dies At The End.

After taking a weird drug called Soy Sauce, slackers Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) discover they can manipulate time and reality. Unfortunately, they also find out their world is under attack by inter-dimensional beings, and they're the only one who can stop it.

I can't speak to how successful an adaptation this is, as I haven't read the book, but as a movie, John Dies at the End is a fun ride. It is bristling with originality and unpredictability, which are both valuble commodities these days. I think Coscarelli was a good fit for this material. It is of a similar tone to that of his last feature, Bubba Ho-Tep and the dimensional shenanigans and buddy demon-killer dynamic mirrors his Phantasm franchise. The first-person narrative was no doubt challenging to adapt, but Coscarelli uses it well here.

I have to applaud Coscarelli's choice to cast a pair of relative unknowns in the lead roles. Williamson & Mayes work well together and the former even manages to hold his own in the restaurant scenes with consumate character actor Paul Giamatti. Also showing up in delightful supporting roles are Doug Jones and Clancy Brown, who as Vegas psychic Dr. Marconi is the exact opposite of his other Midnight appearance in Hellbenders.

Chase Williamson as David Wong in John Dies at the End.

John Dies at the End is the latest in a popular trend that hit its peak with Edgar Wright's 2004 classic zom-rom-com Shaun of the Dead. There have been several over the last few years, but most have been micro-budget indies only seen by people who frequent underground film festivals. Past titles like The Last Lovecraft, The Revenant and, to a lesser extent, Deadheads all center around friends who encounter the supernatural, resulting in comedic hijinks. It has been a while since it's been tackled by this high profile a genre director though. I like this subgenre, so I hope John Dies at the End gives the movement the shot in the arm it needs to continue.

I really liked the practical effects, provided by gore guru Bob Kurtzman. There were some inspired designs here, especially the meat monster that shows up early in the film. I think the movie overreaches its budget in some of the CG heavy sequences, but, for the most part, the awesome creature designs provide a nice balance to the project.

Director Don Coscarelli.

Even with its reality bending predisposition, John Dies at the End is a well-told story with a solid cast and numerous laugh-out loud moments. Coscarelli owns the material, which ultimately makes me sad that he doesn't spend more time in the director's chair.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Now I Know My ABC's...

After being part of the “T” competition last year, I was extremely excited that Drafthouse Films' uber-anthology The ABC's of Death had its world premiere here at Midnight Madness last Friday.

The ABC's of Death was a passion project started by producers Ant Timpson and Tim League. They brought together twenty-six of the hottest genre directors and had them each film a four-minute short tied to a designated letter of the alphabet.

I thought the ABC's of Death turned out well. It was pretty consistent with only a few duds in the bunch. I was also surprised that for being over two hours long, how quickly it went by. I believe we were past the halfway mark before I even realized it.

I think there were about a dozen I really liked, but the real standout was “D is for Dogfight” by Marcel Sarmiento. I thought it topped the roster by a fair margin and that's coming from someone who detested his feature Deadgirl. Dogfight was superb and slick filmmaking where not one frame was wasted.

Visually, I also dug Ben Wheatley's (whose newest Sightseers also played TIFF this year) “U is for Unearthed” and Bruno Forzani & Helene Cattet's “O is for Orgasm”, even it did just look like extra footage from their debut Amer. The winner for best concept would likely be Kaare Andrews' “V is for Vagitus.” It was also one of the few that actually looked like it cost the alloted five thousand dollars to produce. I was also glad to see that contest winner Lee Hardcastle's “T is for Toilet” ended up being one of the strongest in the bunch. There's something very satisfying about the people's choice being able to stand toe to toe with the elite. Here below, is footage of the Midnight Madness festivities, shot by my friend Robert Mitchell.

There were sadly some lowlights, as well. I won't dwell on them, but it was clear that a few filmmakers (namely Ti West and Andrew Traucki) took the money and ran, likely shooting their paper-thin concepts in an afternoon. It's a shame, but hey, if they can live with the embarrassment of being stacked up against everyone else's superior submissions, then more power to them.

The ABC's of Death was a fun experiment that included a public element which inspired a lot of filmmaker camaraderie. Not bad for a little idea that came to Timpson after reading a bedtime story to his kids. It just goes to show you that sometimes the grisliest ideas come from the most innocuous of places.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Norwegian Tail.

The last film I took in from at year's TIFF Vanguard series was Aleksander L. Nordaas' Thale.

While on a job cleaning up a remote cabin, Elvis (Erlend Nervold) and Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) stumble upon a hidden chamber inhabited by a “huldra”. Before they can even wrap their heads around their discovery, something even more dangerous comes calling.

I quite liked this little film from Norway. While I admit that a good chunk of my admiration comes from what the filmmakers managed to do on a micro-budget of ten thousand dollars, there are other things I really dug about this piece, as well. The production design was excellent and the various gadgets seen throughout the film looked they actually worked within the universe – and weren't just culled together from stuff found in a junkyard which I later learned was the case.

The three leads interacted well with each other, especially Silje Reinåmo as the title character, Thale. It must have been physically demanding role and she pulled it off beautifully. Like many non-human characters in genre films before her, Reinåmo was able to convey much without dialogue and convincingly straddled that line between angelic and deadly.

Nervold (left) and Reinåmo in Thale.

Scandinavians have such a rich lore, so it is always great to see it mined for theatrical effect (like 2010's Troll Hunter) and Thale is a wonderfully modern interpretation of one of their most common stories. The film was also complimented with an ethereal cello-based score which created a nice bridge between reality and myth.

I had been warned about the bad CG in the film, and it was troublesome, but I've seen worse and it wasn't as predominant as I was led to believe. I'd have preferred a little more restraint to fit their budget, but it surprisingly wasn't a deal breaker for me.

Director Aleksander L. Nordaas.

At seventy-some minutes, the pace was brisk and didn't overstay its welcome. Thale is a solid fairy tale made flesh, and it is clear that Nordaas already possesses the storytelling skills of a seasoned pro.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What Is In Room 237?

The film I was most looking forward to at TIFF this year, was the documentary Room 237.

Documentarian Rodney Ascher tumbles down the rabbit hole to investigate the numerous deconstructions of Stanley Kubrick's 1980 adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining.

This documentary is infinitely fascinating. I spent some time beforehand seeking out some of the source material that Room 237 would be covering, and it was quite mind blowing. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

As far as docs go, this is a pretty good one. The format is quite unusual in that there are no “talking heads.” All the interviews are done via phone or voice recorders, and visually represented onscreen through film clips. The Shining is used liberally of course, as well as most of Kubrick's filmography, in addition to other works. I have to say I was quite happy to see numerous clips from classic horror films like American Werewolf In London and Demons during the proceedings. I applaud Ascher for trying to get away from convention, as it probably works in favour of the credibility of the interviewees as the theories range from reasonably sound to downright ridiculous.

Initially, you'll probably start out laughing at the insanity of it all, but as some of the theories come together piece by piece, they become more plausible. I liken it to the famous Dark Side of Oz urban legend. The more it lines up over the course of the film, the less it seems like it can be coincidence. The three strongest positions in Room 237 are Bill Blakemoor, who poses that the film is about past injustices done to the Native American Indians, Geoffrey Cocks, who says The Shining represents the Holocaust and Jay Weidner, who alleges a purging of guilt by Kubrick himself for orchestrating the Apollo 11 moon landings. The latter one in particular is so well thought out, you really have to wonder if he's not onto something.

Sure, with the twenty or so minutes Weidner is given in the film, he may seem like a crackpot, but I implore you to check out his doc, “Kubrick's Odyssey” and then not tell me it is at least a well constructed position. I should also point out that he doesn't propose that the U.S. didn't go to the moon, just that the landings were faked to keep the Russians from learning NASA secrets. What I find the most interesting about Weidner's theory is that he has a reason for every perplexing change that Kubrick made to the source material.

Pic taken at Room 237 party at a “secret” location.

My only real criticism of the doc is that it is almost fourty minutes before it gets to Weidner. I might have brought out the “big guns” sooner. While it is true that being inundated with several theories in such a disembodied nature can seem a little fragmented, there is plenty of variety in the nature of each interviewee. In edition to the more academic pontifications, there is Juli Kearns taking on the impossible task of mapping out The Overlook, the hotel featured in the film. Through several onscreen maps, you are shown that the geography of the hotel seems to defy logic.

There is also John Fell Ryan who conducted an experiment where he projected The Shining both backwards and forwards at the same time. Though this does make for some interesting visuals, anyone who knows Kubrick is aware that he loves one point perspectives, so it shouldn't be a shock that a lot lines up.

At the end of the day, some theories are better than others, but together they solidify that The Shining is more than just a moody horror film. Kubrick was not the kind of man that left anything to chance, so that makes his films ripe for interpretation.

I guess the greatest thing I'll take away from this experience is the strong urge to rewatch not just The Shining, but all of Kubrick's films, especially Eyes Wide Shut. Considering its secret societal subject matter, it is likely teeming with possible subtext. I wonder if that'll be Ascher's next project. Here's hoping.

For an interview with Blakemoor, click here.
For Weidner's doc Kubrick's Odyssey, click here.
For Kearns' Overlook maps, click here.
For more info on the Fell's dual projection project, click here.