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, December 30, 2015

Best Horror of 2015

Another year, another slew of horror titles come and gone. It took a bit more thought to come up with a top five this year, as not only did nothing really “knock my socks off”, I also spent a good amount of time catching up on the titles I missed in 2014, the best of which being The Borderlands, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Starry Eyes & Berkshire County.

I do want to start off by saying that if I hadn’t seen it last year at TIFF, It Follows would top my list for 2015. Subsequent viewings have peeled back layers of subtext – whether intentional or imagined – and that’s something that is severely lacking from its contemporaries.

Although, considering the widening berth I am giving mainstream horror these days, I might not be qualified to even make such a statement. I don’t generally seek them out unless someone I really like is involved (January's The Forest with Natalie Dormer for example.)

That said, I did highly enjoy a handful of titles this year. Here they are below in no particular order.

USA, Dir: Ted Geoghegan

This haunted house horror and loving homage to the works of Lucio Fulci was exactly what I hoping for. It was incredibly atmospheric, but also built to a satisfying climax, which is where a lot of the current wave of retro-horrors inevitably fail. The film was also anchored by some great visuals, sound and spectral designs.

Canada/USA, Dir: Robert Eggers

The award for most authentic horror film would no doubt go to this film. Everyone involved was one-hundred per cent invested in recreating the hardships and paranoia of this time period. The performances were top notch, most notably the youngsters Anya Taylor-Joy & Harvey Scrimshaw, as was the direction executed by first time director Eggers.

USA/Canada, Dir: Oz Perkins

As I said in my original review, I had low expectations for this film because I did not like the script when I read it a few months earlier. However, the cold, calculated cinematography, the life breathed into the characters by Emma Roberts, Keirnan Shipka & Lucy Boynton and the theme of dealing with loss - that came across much more effectively than in the script - really stuck with me.

USA, Dir: Todd Strauss-Schulson

This one was another I expected to not like due to negative rumblings from some peers. To be fair, their criticisms are valid, but they did not make one lick of difference to my enjoyment of the picture. I felt there was something really sincere about the central relationship between mother and daughter (Malin Ackerman and Taissa Farrow respectively) that kind of made it impossible for me to not like it.

UK, Dir: Ross Sutherland

This isn’t a horror movie, but it is related to VHS so I’m putting it on here. Forget what I said before, this part spoken word performance and part experimental art piece did “knock my socks off.” I urge everyone to seek it out. It is amazing how a random collection of sequences can be nostalgic, profound, hilarious, haunting and beautiful all at the same time. This was a gift.

Honourable Mentions

Though I was too lazy to actually type up a review earlier this year, I dug Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak. A visually driven gothic romance of this nature is just not the type of thing that is attempted anymore. Though it was a shame they decided to CG over the practical creatures designed for the film (The Thing remake all over again!), Peak was definitely the prettiest horror film I saw this year, especially the breathtaking blood-soaked climax in the snow.

I think the movie that most surprised me this year was M. Night’s The Visit. Perhaps I had low expectations being that Shamaladingdong had about five strikes against him, but I thought it was a simple, yet really effective piece. Imagine, all he had to do to get back on track was drop the convoluted pretension. Although, I am aware that the movie's enjoyment is probably equal to the number of minutes it took to figure out the “twist”, as that was certainly true with Goodnight Mommy. Why on Earth did they make that one so obvious? Barely ten minutes in and it basically became a game of “how much torture will I have to endure before they finally get to it.”

Thanks to Toronto After Dark and Blood In The Snow, I was also able to catch some great homegrown indies. Trevor JurasThe Interior and Andrew Moxham's White Raven were both effectively visceral tales about being lost in the woods.

On the dumb fun front, Cooties and Deathgasm were both a barrel of laughs. The former had a wonderful ensemble cast that somehow got away with gleefully dispatching busloads of children, and the latter was the best hybrid of Raimi & Jackson's sensibilities I’d seen since 2003's Undead.

Disappointments? Well, apart from the aforementioned Mommy, I was also underwhelmed by Can Evrenol's Baskin. It brought forth the nightmarish visuals from the original short film, but didn’t really translate into the feature length format for me. I’d say The Girl In The Photographs was the biggest offender though. How could something with such great pedigree behind it turn out to be so maddeningly unremarkable?

Again, this is at least the third year in a row where my top five titles have been largely from this side of the pond. So, I have to ask. Has the rest of the world been slacking off, or am I just not looking hard enough? Where are those wonderfully wicked titles from the French? The Japanese? The Spaniards?

I guess we’ll just have to see what 2016 brings…

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Trailer Tuesdays: Child's Play.

When you think about it, there are so many horror films that take place during winter. Although, being from Canada, I guess I shouldn't be surprised considering when most of our classics (The Changeling, The Brood, Curtains, Black Christmas et al) were made, the snow hung around here for six months of the year. They don't call us The Great White North for nuthin'.

Anyway, I thought about it a bit and remembered an obvious one, Tom Holland's 1988 flick Child's Play.

You know, when you think about it, if Catherine Hicks hadn't been caught up in all the marketing hoopla and gone to weird - and frankly creepy - means to acquire Andy's most coveted toy, they could've saved their family years of grief. That being said, I think the real evil here is... consumerism!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

DKTM 288

Greetings all. I hope all your holiday festivities went well and you've recovered from your turkey comas. Here's some more horror morsels to ring in the New Year.

Gingerbread Hotel.

Here's something truly remarkable. This year, the Keeling family painstakingly recreated the Overlook Hotel from The Shining in gingerbread! It even came complete with the hedge maze and accompanying scenes from the film.

For the rest of the pictures, click here.

It Was A Dark & Wintery Night.

Here is a short film I wanted to share from Canadian filmmaker Santiago Menghini. This short tore up the short film circuit last year, but has just recently been put online. An amalgamation of two short comics by Al Columbia & Uno Moralez respectively, I love the tone of this piece.

Menghini was able to create a world that was both ominous and gorgeous at the same time. Tremendous work!

The Forest Is Real.

A movie I am looking forward to in 2016 is Jason Zada's The Forest. Initially, my interest for this project lay only with its star Natalie Dormer, but the story behind the Aokigahara Forest is a fascinating one. The marketing recently has also gone beyond what is usually provided for January's shovel-fare. Check out this cool interactive adventure Enter The Suicide Forest.

It's fairly simple, but the atmosphere is there and you can even visit the real place via Google Street Maps afterwards. As for the movie, I'll try to remain optimistic. If someone spent more than an afternoon on the script, it might surprise. I guess we'll see when it releases January 7th.

Friday, December 25, 2015

I Love Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! However you plan on celebrating, hope it's full of cheer! For now, enjoy this Canadian holiday classic from the boys at Astron 6.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Seul à la Maison

Merry Christmas Eve everyone! Let me tell you all about a fantastic Christmas movie that not a lot of people know about - I sure didn't until recently by way of the LBFS. Behold, the 1989 French film 3615 Code Père Noël.

I'm here to tell you that when I saw this screened downtown last week, everyone was a little floored by it. It wasn't just the insane subject matter, but also that the movie was actually as good as that f*cking trailer.

Père Noël aka Game Over is an exceptionally well made movie. The marvellous production design and the kinetic way in which director René Manzor films it is really something. The world created is at times fantastical - you will wonder how such a house could exist - but the relationship between Thomas (Alain Lalanne) and his grandfather (Louis Ducreux) keeps the movie well grounded. And due to its European origins, it is not shackled by the usual Hollywood conventions. Bad things happen, and the best case scenario for our little protagonist is a wicked case of PTSD.

Thomas (Alain Lalanne) ready for action in Game Over.

One might ask how a film like this could've been made considering the amount of peril Thomas (the character and the actor portraying him) is exposed to here. Well, it becomes clearer when you learn said actor is the director's son. I wonder how many times the words, “don't worry, he's fine” were uttered on set. Hell, man. I say we need to be getting back to these kind of narratives, like the awesome stuff Henry Thomas was doing in the mid-eighties like Cloak & Dagger and The Quest. The only good example of this I've seen recently was Cop Car.

But anyway, if this premise seems familiar to you, you're not alone. I believe the filmmakers tried to sue the makers of Home Alone when it was released just a year later. I think the crux of their argument was that Home Alone writer John Hughes had been vacationing in Paris during Game Over's theatrical run. Who can say? Regardless, I'm so glad there's a French R-rated version of Home Alone out there. It warms the cockles of my black, black heart.

Art by Sagan Lee.

Sadly, there hasn't been a release of this - maybe 20th Century Fox had it buried! - which is a damn shame. This movie not only deserves to be seen, but also cleaned up to fully show off its great cinematography and set design. Are you listening Scream Factory???

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Trailer Tuesdays: Silent Night, Bloody Night.

Being that it is the week of Christmas, I'll make with the yuletide.

There's so many Christmas horrors out there, I don't think I'll ever run out. I think I have this one on several of those multi-disc horror collections, and Mary Woronov alone does warrant it a look. My current traditions do make it hard to fit in new ones though.

Anyhoo, see you back here on Christmas Eve for a special treat.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

DKTM 287

Morning all! Sorry I've been slacking off this week, but I really couldn't do much of anything until that “little movie” was on the other side of me.

As per usual with big event films, there was the initial hyperbole followed by the naysayers beating their drums loudly to be heard in the din. I myself, enjoyed it a lot. It had a good mix of new and old, and my minor nitpicks were just that. Elated as I was though, I did feel there was something missing that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

Subsequent to my viewing of the film, a friend of mine posted a comment on Facebook that I think hit the nail on the head.

“I thought it was a very good Star wars film, but also knew within ten minutes that I didn't need it.”

And there's the rub. The prequels were shit, there's really no denying that, but I have realized that no new Star Wars movie is ever going to approach the Original Trilogy - yes, even ROTJ. It's not only because of the age I was when I saw them, but also the environment in which they were made. As a person who is by nature nostalgic, it's been a sobering last few days.

But, enough of this foolishness, on with the news...

The Simpsons Get Hardcastled.

Check out this awesome rejected Simpsons couch gag made by claymation guru Lee Hardcastle.

You know, it's been such a long time since I've watched The Simpsons, that it actually took me about halfway through to realize the “animals” were the school bullies. Great mash-up, if not a little disturbing.

Monster Wearables.

I found these awesome pins from artist Gargledmesh on Big Cartel this week.

There's a holiday sale on right now, in which you can Buy 2 and Get 1 Free. For eight bucks each, I am finding them really difficult to resist. For more info, click here.

You Are What You Eat.

I saw this great Staff Pick video on Vimeo this week called Insect Bite.

Made by Grace Nayoon Rhee, it's like a weird hybrid between Robert Morgan & Don Hertzfeldt. Love it. For more of her work, click here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Trailer Tuesdays: Alien

So, the big day is almost upon us. Only a few more sleeps until we finally get Episode VII into our eye holes. I was thinking about horror's equivalent in this realm, I guess it would have to be Ridley Scott's 1979 classic Alien.

I mean, apart from practical heavy space tales from the late seventies, Star Wars & Alien do share a bunch of parallels. First, you have strong females that now when to take charge.

Warrant Officer Ripley & Princess Leia

You've got tall, dark and “handsome” antagonists.

The Xenomorph & Darth Vader

You've got slippery, worm-like creatures.

Chest burster & Death Star Dainoga

Hell, there's a lot more too. Both films open with massive space ships, both have twitch robots, both were made by 20th Century Fox, both focus on blue-collar workers of the time... Wow, someone should write a paper on this!

Anytime, however or whenever you plan on seeing Episode VII this weekend. Enjoy, and may the force be with you! 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

DKTM 286

Hello all! I'm spending today watching another friend playthrough Until Dawn, so pardon me for another pre-arranged news post. Here's what I have for you today.

Casting The Void.

The upcoming horror film The Void, directed by Steve Kostanski & Jeremy Gillespie, two members of the Canadian collective Astron 6, has been filming in Ontario for several weeks now and just a few days ago came word of the cast assembled for this ambitious project.

Aaron Poole (The Last Will & Testament of Rosalind Leigh) plays Daniel Carter, a lone police officer who finds himself caught in the throes of The Void.

Daniel Fathers (Pontypool) plays Vincent, a mysterious man with his own reasons for seeking the void.

Kenneth Welsh (Twin Peaks) portrays Dr, Powell, the head of the hospital in which the story takes place.

Kathleen Monroe (Survival of the Dead) is Alison, the hospital's head nurse who shares a checkered past with Daniel.

Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) plays Kim, a spunky nurse in training at the hospital.

With production now well underway, I hope we will all get to see the horrific secrets within The Void sometime next year.

Negan Speaks.

A while ago, it was revealed that Jeffrey Dean Morgan would be filling the very large shoes of infamous Walking Dead villain Negan. This week, Morgan sat down with EW to talk about what we have to look forward to. Here's a sample from the interview;

On getting the part;

“So a couple of years ago people started saying, “Hey, man, you should be Negan in The Walking Dead.” So I started reading the comic books just because I’m a fan and I love what Kirkman is doing and so I was very aware of Negan and had read quite a bit of the comic books. So my agent and manager were on the phone and said, “The Walking Dead have offered you this thing,” but they didn’t have any information. It was all a big secret. And they sort of got halfway through the sentence saying “We don’t know the character’s name, he’s the new big bad…” and I knew immediately who they were talking about. They just got halfway through and I knew immediately who it was. It was no question. I was like, “Absolutely. We’re going to f—ing do it!” And that was it. And literally a week later I was in Atlanta talking with the cast and hanging out.”

On how close the character will be the comic;

“The character itself is going to be as close as humanly possible. The foul language is a speed bump, I’m not going to say it’s an issue because they’re working on it. We’re going to push AMC — the plan is to push them as far as they can because it’s who Negan is. He uses some colorful language. And reading the comic, it’s important. It’s our intention that this character is going to leap off the pages of the comic book. Some of the characters there’s much more leeway, but Negan is a guy that you want to keep as true as possible, and that would be how I want to play him as well.”

On whether he has seen Lucille (Negan's trusty bat);

“Yes I have. She is gorgeous. A beautiful girl.”

For the rest of the interview, click here.

Handmade Horrors.

I found an awesome site called Clay Disarray the other day. UK artist Lizzie Campbell uses clay to reenact some of horror's most celebrated posters. Check out some of these.

There are many other great ones at her site, which you can check out here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

It Came From The Archives 26.2!

Continuing with the anniversary festivities, here are the remainder of the horror pin-ups I found in my most recent decent into the Archives. The fourty or so I posted yesterday were from Fangoria's Poster Magazines, but these ones below I am not as certain as to their origins. I am pretty sure these four Freddy posters were from a one-off magazine for Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5 though.

Click to enlarge

The rest I assume are from various Fangoria & Gorezones from the late eighties & early nineties. I'll start with the quad panels and work my way down.

Next up, a couple of four panels.

No matter how much time passes, I will always marvel at Mindy Clarke's get-up in ROTLD3 as a thing of beauty. Moving onto the three panel posters...

Finishing things off are a couple of two pagers.

Have a great weekend everybody!