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.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Best Horror of 2016

Here we are at the finish line of a year that if you're like me probably glad to see the ass-end of. So many shitty things in the news that it's hard to comprehend them all. I wish things had been better because for me personally, it was a pretty good year. My second short film Lively scored Canadian distribution and I produced two more that will hopefully see the light of day in 2017. I finished my long-gestating feature script and joined the programming teams of three different film festivals. Not too shabby. But we're here to talk movies...

It has been an up-and-down year and if I'm honest, a lot of the most resonant pieces of genre I've ingested have been outside of film (Limetown, Life Is Strange, Inside, Black Mirror, Channel Zero), but that's not to say there weren't some fantastic horror movies released. I would normally offer up five titles, but since I put The Witch on 2015's list, I can only nominate four that went above and beyond.

France, Dir: Julia Ducournau

Bold and veracious, this deserved every bit of praise it received at this year's Midnight Madness. Putting aside the circus of the premiere's “medical emergencies” its importance to the genre should not be overlooked. Using the platform of a coming-of-age film, Raw is every bit as evocative as modern classics Let The Right One In and Ginger Snaps.

Under The Shadow
Iranian/UK, Dir: Babak Anvari

This Persian powerhouse really took me by surprise when I saw it back in April. The comparisons to Jennifer Kent's The Babadook are valid, but I would propose that Anvari's film is even better pound-for-pound as it relies less on its production design to deliver the creeps. As if the backdrop of war-torn Iran wasn't unsettling enough, the addition of a supernatural element leads to almost unbearable amounts of tension. This is a terrific piece of horror filmmaking.

The Invitation
USA, Dir: Karyn Kusama

I adore this movie and have not seen suspense this well utilized in a long time. This movie took something as benign as a dinner party and through sharp writing and pace managed to keep me on the edge of my seat. I knew the what, but my anticipation of the when, why and how kept me razor focused. I'm so impressed by how well this movie is put together, as even something as small as where someone stood during a scene caused me so much anxiety.

Train To Busan
South Korea, Dir: Yeon Sang-ho

Let's all admit it. We're all a little bored of zombies now that they've passed their saturation point. Yet even despite this, Train To Busan still manages to be all kinds of awesome. There's an energy to this movie that you can feel when you watch it with a crowd. While it's true that the unique location provides some freshness, it's also the colourful characters (and there are a lot of them) that really give life to this movie. I think you may be as surprised as I was by how much heart it has -- where did all these feels come from???

Honourable Mentions

If you had said to me a year ago, “Hey Jay, your best of list next year is going to include a Polish musical adaptation of The Little Mermaid” I'd have asked what you were smoking and if I could have some. However, that is absolutely the case. Agnieszka Smoczynska's The Lure is tremendous. Even on a second viewing I was amazed by how much confidence and swagger Smoczynska shows in her debut! The Lure is an absolute joy!

This year, I finally got to see The Void. It was thankfully exactly what I was hoping for. It rose beyond homage to actually exist as one of those crazy creature fests we grew up watching in the eighties. I'm extremely proud of Steve Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie for what they accomplished here.

I was glad to lay my eyeballs on some cool indies this year, most notably Perry Blackshear's They Look Like People and Billy O'Brien's I Am Not A Serial Killer. Both were able to portray mental illness in a tangible and non-sensationalized way while weaving some fine storytelling.

I was also really impressed with 10 Cloverfield Lane. Dan Trachtenberg directed the shit out of this movie. His three leads (John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. - what a year for that guy with Hush and The Belko Experiment also on his 2016 resume) put in some of the best performances this year in my opinion. Say what you want about where the movie eventually goes, but this was a super taut thriller.

Lastly, I just wanted to bring up what a solid year it was for genre-related documentaries. In addition to the uber-creepy Beware the Slenderman, we also had a pair of great docs about the medium itself in The Frankenstein Complex and 24 x 36.

Moving onto the negative side of things, I am afraid I saw an unusually large number of things I didn't care for this year like the mind-numbingly dumb Yoga Hosers, the mind-numbingly gross The Greasy Strangler and that unconvincing not-as-clever-as-it-thinks-it-is bore Safe Neighbourhood. For the latter, I'm not usually in the minority when it comes to these things, but now I get the mindset of those people who sat in the corner and rolled their eyes at the praise heaped on Cabin In The Woods and You're Next. Except those two movies were awesome. Safe 'Hood can ess a dee.

However, nothing came close to my dislike for Mickey Keating's Darling. It is a mess in concept, in tone and almost everything else. It has been a while since I've seen something so unapologetically pretentious and I'm not having any of it.

So, that's another three-sixty-five down. Have a great New Year and I'll see you back here next week to rundown all the horror goodies coming up in 2017. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Trailer Tuesdays: Home For The Holidays

Hey all. I hope your holiday festivities were as low-key and relaxing as mine. Here's a old TV spot for the 1972 teleplay Home For The Holidays.

I had not heard of this before I did a Xmas Horror search this morning, but considering that it starred Julie Harris and a young Sally Field it certainly has some cachet. I love the super breezy tone of the ad, like it's about unicorns and daisies rather than cold blooded murder.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Crite-Mas!

The Horror Section wishes you a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Shudder Canada

I know this post is long overdue, but I finally wanted to weigh on the recent Canadian launch of Shudder. For those who don't know, Shudder is a streaming service similar to Netflix, but exclusively horror. I've been in since the Halloween beta and I have nothing but nice things to say about it.

The first time I took it for a spin, I could immediately see that there was some significant curation going on. Unlike Big Red, where the majority of its horror titles are direct-to-video shovelware, Shudder has many different flavours from many different eras. My eyes immediately latched onto the bevy of older Italian titles (The Bloodstained Butterfly, Death Walks In High Heels, Don't Torture A Duckling) as well as several underrated festival titles (Citadel, S&Man & Sauna) that have hopefully been rescued from obscurity by their inclusion. It did not take me long to fill up a queue with things to watch. Netflix Canada's launch catalogue back in 2010 was a little anemic, but that definitely isn't the case here. 

Shudder has also followed Netflix's lead and started producing their own content. I haven't dived into the French mini-series Beyond The Walls yet, but I certainly intend to in the New Year.

What most impresses me about Shudder is that they are actively providing different kinds of experiences. I have noticed some short films sprinkled in with their content like Izzy Lee's Innsmouth and Jill Gevargizian's The Stylist, as well as the No Sleep produced audio drama Darknest Night, the latter of which I am really enjoying. I also observed that when Rob Zombie's 31 premiered this month, they also included a bunch of behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Shudder offers high value for the money and considering it is half the price of Netflix per month, this is a no-brainer for horror fans. It's kind of a drag that I have to watch it on my laptop because there is no Playstation app yet, but I'm sure they're working to rectify that. As for any horror fans that haven't tried it out yet. Get on that!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Texas Einstein Massacre

Despite being hungover as fuck on Tuesday, I dragged my ass to Hamilton's Trash Cinema (not to be confused with Trash Palace) to see a super obscure slasher from 1988 called Carnage Hall.

A killer in an Albert Einstein mask dispatches the residents of university dorm during an all-night horror movie marathon.

Filmed on video by a group of students attending Texas Christian University, this is the kind of stuff for which the term “z-grade” was coined. However, that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy myself considerably, even if I was laughing at it as much as I was with it. I feel like the filmmakers were in on the joke though. 

The whole retro/self aware horror movement is all the rage today, so it was a little surreal to see a similarly minded movie of that time. While Carnage Hall isn't a full-on parody, like say 1981's Student Bodies, it does have a good deal of referential comedy. It's completely possible those movie posters and paraphernalia that littered the sets may have already been there before the cameras started shooting. Those trivia game show scenes were certainly pushing it though.

There are RELATIVELY no images of this movie online.

I can't say there was much attempt made at a story here. It was basically just a bunch of scenes and gags strung together, but it did boast a high body count even if the gore was somewhat rudimentary. If this movie had been feature length, it may have been less palatable, but at a scant hour-long I felt it entertained me throughout.

I was surprised that I hadn't at least heard about this movie previously, but then realized while watching why it never got any sort of release. Apart from the pretty snazzy music in the opening credits provided by Jim Wilson, the rest featured instantly recognizable riffs from John Carpenter, John Williams and Danny Elfman. They could've been there for comedic effect, but it's just as likely that is was temp music they never bothered to replace.

Carnage Hall is an amusing little oddity that's definitely worth watching if you are a slasher completist or just get off on silly DIY shot-on-video fare. Just know that you not watching something with any degree of polish. Fortunately, that happens to be my jam! 

Perhaps more importantly, I discovered a new screening series and they've already announced next month's flick -- Hellroller

Not only is it about a wheelchair-bound serial killer, but Hellroller also features the trifecta of Mary Woronov, Michelle Bauer AND Elizabeth Kaitan. Try and keep me away!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Trailer Tuesdays: Scream

Good afternoon! Since Wes Craven's classic nineties slasher Scream turned twenty a few days ago, it makes sense to mark the anniversary here on ye olde Trailer Tuesdays.

As you may remember, the coming of Scream was a much needed shot in the arm for the horror industry. Though there were some very cool genre pictures made in the early nineties it was a somewhat stagnated time and Scream brought horror back to the forefront. That is why I can forgive them for bringing the floating heads coverbox art trend with them.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Here's Blood In Your Egg Nog!

Hey all! You may recall that last year I worked on a little holiday short film for my good friends Serena Whitney and Justin McConnell called Do You See What I See?.

Well, Christmas comes early this year as, after a successful tour of the festival circuit, this short is now available to watch online. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

It's Everything I've Ever Wanted!

After a super busy Friday & Saturday, I'm being extremely lazy today and all I could find to post is this wonderfully Japanese gameplay trailer for School Girl Zombie Hunter. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Revisiting The Brain.

This is a post I've been meaning to do for quite some time now, and the Laser Blast screening tonight at The Royal was the kick-in-the-pants I needed to finally get it done.

Event poster by Leigh Young

Six years ago, I did a post gushing over how much I loved Ed Hunt's 1988 creature feature The Brain. Part of the movie's appeal is that it (like many of Hunt's pictures) was shot in my area. So, since then I've been tracking down a lot of the locations used in the movie.

The most striking location in the film is obviously that of the Psychological Research Institute

This site is actually the Xerox Research Centre of Canada in Mississauga, Ontario. Those trees in the foreground have all grown in thirty years, so it's now basically obscured from this angle. 

By ridiculous coincidence, my friend Kurt works there and last year he gave me a tour of the place. We walked around the perimeter looking for some of the places used in the film. The doorway and glass panel facade is still the same.

This shot is from where the paper box in the above still was.

Sadly, the area where Willie (Bret Pearson) & Janet (Cynthia Preston) enter the facility, and the parking lot where Verna (George Buza) chases her and Jim (Tom Bresnahan) down were built over when the building was extended sometime in the nineties.

Gone forever :(

Even though some commercials and TV (most notably the pilot for Bill Shatner's TekWar) were shot inside the XRCC, it was not used for The Brain. The interiors of the Institute hallways, front desk and the television studio were shot inside the Ontario Science Centre in North York, Ontario.

All of the industrial interiors were shot at the Canadian General Electric plant in the West End of Toronto. Several sets, including the opening bedroom scene, the Brain control room and the warehouse climax were built in one of the buildings on the CGE site. (Ed - The Brain's assistant art director Michael Borthwick informs me that the shooting took place in a smaller building that was behind the one pictured.)

Meadowvale High School was pretty easy to find, as it is in fact, Meadowvale Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario.

The exterior has changed a lot in thirty years, so much that if it wasn't for its close proximity to the XRCC, I'd wonder if it was in fact the actual location. I did go inside, but unfortunately the library isn't public, so it's only open during school hours. 

The only two sequences that weren't shot in the Toronto/Mississauga area were done around Dundas, Ontario. The scene where Jim pushes his car off the cliff is at the quarry there, and the shot where he looks out at the city at night was no doubt Dundas Peak. (Ed. - a helpful reader in the comments let me know that cliff is actually the Devil's Punchbowl in Stoney Creek, Ontario.)

The other location I was able to track down was the used car lot Jim walks through toward the end of the movie. It is now a strip mall, but I was able to find it because of the Red Lobster/McDonalds in the background.

As with the XRCC, tree growth has obscured the original angle, but you can see that this is likely the location.

I am still on the hunt for Jay's Burger Bar.

I know it (or its current incarnation) is somewhere in the Lakeshore/Mimico/Long Branch area, but that is some sizable ground to cover and not something I want to take on while it is minus a million degrees outside.

The Mississauga suburbs are just rows and rows of houses that all look the same, so finding Jim's house is unlikely, but maybe someday I'm come across the one that girl tumbles out of at the beginning.

Anyway, that's the tour. I'm pretty stoked about the screening tonight. It is technically a Christmas movie, so I'm killing two brains here!

*Thanks to Kurt Halfyard and Ken Gord for all their assistance in putting together this post.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trailer Tuesdays: The Silent Partner

This isn't a horror film, and technically not a trailer (because one doesn't exist online apparently) but it is Canadian and of the era I posted about yesterday. Check out this clip from 1978's The Silent Partner starring Elliot Gould & Christopher Plummer.

Yep, that's the Eaton Centre. And I believe this movie featured some of the first footage shot from the then-newly built CN Tower. I've actually seen this movie a few times, and it's bad ass. Track it down if you can.

Monday, December 12, 2016

An Eh-Merican Nightmare.

I took another trip back into the Trash Palace last weekend to watch Don McBearty's 1983 flick American Nightmare.

A man (Lawrence Day) travels into the city's underbelly to find his missing sister.

Trash always announces their lineup ayear at a time, so I've had this date circled on my calendar for at least that long. It did not disappoint. I've heard this movie labelled as a Canadian giallo and that is certainly valid. It has a shadowy gloved killer, copious amounts of sexualized death and is at its core, a murder mystery. That would in itself have been enough for me to latch onto, but being that it was shot in Toronto garnered that extra level of familiarity.

As you know, I love horror films that are shot in Toronto, especially the ones where a half-assed attempt is made to set them in the US and American Nightmare is perhaps the most flagrant example. This was the most sleaziest and grimiest I've ever seen it, particularly the sequences Yonge doubled as 42nd Street. They found that area around the Zanzibar (also featured in the movie) and really ran with it. Also featured are the Channel 47/Cable 4 building, and a rooftop climax that does not even really try to hide The CN Tower.

That ain't the Space Needle!

Being that it was shot locally, there are also a lot of familiar faces, chief among them “Mike” Ironside. This film was shot in 1981, but released in 1983, so by that time he had already appeared in Scanners and Visiting Hours. I imagine his appearance as a detective would have been almost shocking. Conversely, Tom Harvey (who I grew up watching in comedies like Strange Brew and TV's Bizarre) shows up as an incestuous millionaire, so big 'ewwwwww' on that. Most amusing though was seeing now Canadian political figure Lenore Zann perform a strip tease while riding a pitchfork.

This actually makes the NDP seem more legitimate tbh

I was surprised by how much this movie reminded me of The Wizard of Gore in structure. If you replace the magic acts with strip tease numbers, they really are similar pictures. Then I realized that one of the producers on American Nightmare was the Wizard himself, Ray Sager and then it all made sense. -ed while writing my inadvertent 2019 review of this movie, I realized I was confusing Wizard of Gore with Gore Gore Girls. My mistake.

American Nightmare is another title you can add to the list of weird cinematic Canadiana. It is greasy, dark and grim and not generally the kind of fare us Canucks tend to shell out. Yes, even the Great White North can sometimes get the blues.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

DKTM 320

Hello all. Winter has finally arrived here, so naturally I'm now nestled under a million blankets. Here's what I've got for you this week.

Park City At Midnight.

Well, 2017 is almost upon us which means that Sundance is not far away. This week, the Midnight selections for the festival were announced. Here are three for which I am looking forward.

Sundance has played several horror documentaries in the past, and this edition will see the premiere of Alex Phillippe's 78/52, an exhaustive exploration of one of horror's most iconic sequences - the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.

From Australia comes Damien Power's Killing Ground. This flick, about a couple of campers who come across a child wandering in the wilderness, premiered in Melbourne last summer to positive reviews, so colour me intrigued.

The female-centric anthology XX will finally have its premiere in Park City this year. Featuring diabolical tales from Karyn Kusama (Jennifer's Body), Roxanne Benjamin (Southbound), Jovanka Vuckovic (The Captured Bird) & Annie Clark aka St, Vincent, I am really excited to see how this one turned out.

The Kids Aren't All Right.

A solid short I caught at Fantasia this year has made its way online. Here below is Tim Hyten's Snake Bite.

Spicy Meatball.

You know how sometimes you don't realize how much you've missed something, until it shows up again? Well, that's what happened to me when the trailer for Yoshi Nishimura's Kodoku: Meatball Machine arrived this week.

I love this stuff. Always have, always will.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Nine Lives!

Today, The Horror Section turns NINE years old. To celebrate, I made this little video compilation featuring one of the genre's most time-honoured tropes - the cat jump scare. Enjoy!

I'd been cooking that one up for a while. I knew there were some other similar videos out there, so my aim was to just make it as comprehensive as possible. I could've tracked down a few others, but I decided to cap it at thirty for the sake of symmetry.

Anyway, here's to another year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Trailer Tuesdays: Empire of the Ants

In honour of the release of the new book When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Movies About Killer Animals, it seems fitting to play this trailer from 1977.

Empire of the Ants may not carry the weight of a classic like Them! or have the trippy visuals of Phase IV, but damned if that compositing isn't a little freaky.

Monday, December 5, 2016

I Did A Thing!

Many moons ago, I wrote an article on one of my most beloved B-movies Deadly Eyes for a book on Animals Attack flicks. It had been so long that I had almost forgotten about it, but, much to my delight, I have just found out that it is now available.

Check out that bad-ass artwork by Gilles Vranckx! This turned out to be a much larger project than I was expecting with seventy(!) films being covered within, including some of my other favourites like Rats: Night of Terror, Of Unknown Origin, Grizzly and Razorback.

I'll be digging into this imminently, and if this looks like your bag, you can order it here

Sunday, December 4, 2016

DKTM 319

Hey everyone, how's it going out there? I'm just dropping in to post some horror tidbits before getting to work on a project I'll be unveiling this Friday. Enjoy!

Play If You Dare!

Ahead of the theatrical & VOD release of Jackson Stewart's Beyond The Gates on December 9th is this neat faux commercial for the board game featured in the movie.

I love the fact that commercial was practically indiscernible from the real-life ads for Nightmare and their ilk back in the day. To check out the actual trailer for Beyond The Gates, click here.

An Eye-Opening Short.

Calvin Reeder's The Procedure, one of my favourite shorts from this year, just hit the Web this week, so I wanted to share it with you. You know those “Try Not To Laugh” vids that are so popular on YouTube? Well, they should really use this one, cuz...

Is It Live, Or Is It Memorex?

After months of rumour and speculation, Naughty Dog finally released the first teaser trailer for The Last Of Us Part II. And, as expected, it is equal parts gorgeous and bad-ass.

I cannot wait to dive back into this universe. No release has been set yet, but sometime in late 2017 is a good bet.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Bloodies 2016

The awards for this year's Blood In The Snow Canadian Film Festival (fittingly dubbed The Bloodies) were handed out last weekend, with a wide range of titles coming away with honours. Check out the winners below.

Best Poster
Paul Ainsworth, Josh Budich, Sara Deck, Gary Pullin, Matt Tobin

Best Music Score
Stephen Schooley for 3 Dead Trick or Treaters

Best Ensemble

Best Screenplay
Felipe Rodriguez for Kidnap Capital

Best Editing
Kevin Burke for 24 x 36: A Movie About Movie Posters

Best Special Effects
Carolyn Williams for Madre De Dios

Best Director
Kevin Burke for 24 x 36: A Movie About Movie Posters

'Rising Star' Award
Jennifer Fraser for Capture Kill Release

Best Actress
Tianna Nori for The Sublet

Best Actor
Aden Young for The Unseen

Best Short Film
Jean Claude LeBlanc's Cauchemar Capitonne

Best Feature
Geoff Redknap's The Unseen

Lastly, a Vanguard award was presented to Post-Life Productions in honour of being the first filmmakers to have five short films screen at BITS.

So, that's a wrap on the fest. From what I saw, it appeared attendance was way up, so hopefully the BITS crew can take that momentum into 2017.