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, September 29, 2016

Netflix Pix 11.0

While bouncing back and forth between BoJack Horseman Season 3 and Dragon's Den Season 9, I realized that Netflix Canada had recently added some really great horror titles from the last six to twelve months. It's been a while since I've done one of these, so here are some solid titles to get your October started.

You know doubt heard about The Witch when it hit theaters earlier this year. I think it is a fantastic film. It is not only incredibly well acted, but I love that everyone involved was one-hundred-per-cent invested in inhabiting the time and place of the film. While I admit the pace and language may not appeal to everyone, there is no denying this was an effort at the top of its craft.

Mike Flanagan (Absentia, Oculus) has recently switched gears from the supernatural to something more grounded (but no less terrifying) with Hush. It starts out as a fairly simple home invasion film, but I was surprised by how much the protagonist's disability added to the narrative. It was also rather chilling to see quintessential nice guy John Gallagher Jr. play a villain for once.

I saw this indie at Tribeca last year and was very glad to see this one pop up on Netflix. As you know, I love babysitter flicks, and Sarah Bolger plays one of the most unpredictable and unhinged child minders to ever hit the small screen. I was also pretty impressed with the child talent, as well, especially since, if I recall correctly, one or more of them had to be replaced last minute. I think this one is a hidden gem.

This one about night terrors made a splash on the festival circuit last year and it's quite good. Though its execution and “science” can be a little wonky, some of the re-enactments are genuinely creepy, as are some of its assertions about the very nature of sleep paralysis.

For those who grew up in the nineties, I noticed that five seasons of Goosebumps are now on Netflix. This stuff was a bit after my time, but I did ingest my fair share of Stine & Christopher Pike while working at a local book store.

There! I dare say these should keep you busy for a while. Enjoy your weekend, folks!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

R.I.P. Herschell Gordon Lewis 1929-2016

I was absolutely gutted to hear about the passing of H.G. Lewis yesterday. He was 87.

Herschell Gordon Lewis 1929-2016.

Affectionately known as “The Godfather of Gore” by his fans and peers alike, his contribution to horror is immeasurable. The nineteen-sixties were painted scarlet with his Blood Trilogy that consisted of Blood Feast (1963), Two Thousand Maniacs (1964) and Color Me Blood Red (1965). His work was crucial in feeding my love of gore, as seeing Two Thousand Maniacs as a kid was revelatory. 

Man. This cover. Says everything.

It wasn't just the copious amounts of red stuff, but also just how much the filmmakers seemed to relish it. There was an over-the-top ingenuity to how the unfortunate Northerners were dispatched in that movie. H.G. Lewis' debut Blood Feast was brazen in how far they went, but the set pieces in Two Thousand Maniacs were just insanity.

Later on, while working at the video store, I remember that I was gifted our rental copy of Color Me Blood Red after too many parents complained about the cover being in plain sight. Their loss was my gain. As a matter of fact, that very copy greets you every time you visit my site, right up there in the banner.

Shortly thereafter, I would see the man himself in person at Fangoria's only convention stop in Toronto in 1991.

In 2010, I saw him honoured at Fantasia with a screening of his biopic as well as Blood Feast on 35mm. See Lewis belt out “The South Shall Rise Again” in its entirety was a highlight to be sure.

H.G. Lewis in 2010.

Lewis paved the way for the generations of gorehounds that came after him, and he will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Mr. Lewis.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Boy Oh Boooooooooy!

Last weekend, I checked out the new 4K restoration of Don Coscarelli's 1979 film Phantasm.

Restoration poster art by Aaron Lea.

Coscarelli's classic sees the a small town thrown into chaos when an otherworldly being called The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) sets up shop at the local mortuary.

Like many who came of age in the eighties, I discovered the Phantasm series by way of the sequel Phantasm II. It wasn't until several years later when I was able to actually able to track down a copy of the first film that I was able to watch. It was very much how I experienced Evil Dead 1 & 2, which is fitting as both their sequels feature an extremely accelerated & kinetic visual style from their predecessors. For years, I viewed the originals as lesser versions of their do-overs.

I mean, after the full throttle road movie that is Phantasm II, the first film seemed decidedly sedate by comparison. It was not until seeing again in this gorgeously restored version that I discovered there was a lot more going on than I originally thought. Even the rather obvious themes of loss and the manifestation of death went way over my head upon my first viewing many years ago.

The American horror films of the seventies were largely grounded in realism, but Phantasm brought in a fantasy element that I have since learned was influenced by Star Wars, which at that time had just recently warped into the public consciousness. This has since led to cross-pollination as current Star Wars engineer J.J. Abrams not only spearheaded the 4K restoration, but also named Captain Phasma after the franchise. No accident either, was the character's chrome armour.

With Phantasm's colour palette fully restored, it was not a stretch to see how Dario Argento's output (namely Suspiria) influenced the visuals and audio of Phantasm, as well. There was also a dream logic to the piece that justified the often disjointed narrative and off-kilter character behaviour. These were all things I never picked up on when I first saw it some twenty years ago, but fully appreciate now.

If this restoration happens to play your city, I fully recommend you check it out.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

DKTM 314

Hey all. With some time now between festivals, I can catch a breather and touch on some cool things from around the Web.

Stay Tuned.

SyFy recently aired some promos for their upcoming anthology horror show, Channel Zero.

Based on stories that originated from Creepypasta (for those who don't know they are essentially online urban legends), I love that this show was filmed in Canada, since there a few popular Creepypasta tales set in the Great White North. I'd love to see an adaptation of '1999' in the future.

Mr. Bear wants to play with you.

Channel Zero, consisting of a six-episode arc entitled Candle Cove, premieres on October 11th.

My Kind of Art!

The poster documentary Twenty-Four By Thirty-Six had its premiere at Fantastic Fest a few days ago and to mark the occasion, the production released this fabulous new poster.

Artists Paul Ainsworth, Joshua Budich, Sara Deck, Gary Pullin and Matt Ryan Tobin all contributed to the above poster. I cannot wait to see it when it finally screens here in Toronto.

Good Advice.

I recently came across this Kickstarter for a Friday the 13th fan film, Never Hike Alone. While fan films are largely tedious affairs - I posted about one for Halloween that was less than ideal a few months ago - I have to admit that the teaser trailer (that originally hit the Web back in May) was impressively well shot. Take a look for yourself below.

If you'd like to contribute, check out the campaign page here

Thursday, September 22, 2016

TIFF Vids 2016

Videographer Robert Mitchell was once again a fixture on the Ryerson red carpet at this year's Midnight Madness. Here's a sampling of some of the interviews he was able to snag during the fest.

If you'd like to see the rest, check out his channel by going here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Trailer Tuesdays: Theatre of Blood

Now that all of that festival excitement is behind us, I'll cap off this year's festivities with some theatre mayhem from 1973.

So much going on in this trailer, and you can be sure Vincent Price had a hand in all of it. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

J-Horror Showdown

This year's Midnight Madness concluded on Saturday with a classic confrontation between the two horror icons from The Ring and The Grudge franchises, Sadako vs. Kayako.

After a pair of young women discover and watch the cursed video tape, they seek the help of a pair of ghost hunters who hatch a scheme to pit Sadako against another local vengeful spirit, Kayako.

These type of event pictures are nothing new, as its been almost seventy years since Abbott & Costello first met Frankenstein. Even in Japanese cinema, Godzilla once fought King Kong, so I suppose that now that Sadako & Kayako are now pop culture icons (they even recently threw out the first pitch at a Japanese baseball game) its seems this match-up was inevitable in much the same way as Freddy vs. Jason was in this neck of the woods.

I have to say Sadako vs. Kayako was surprisingly entertaining. For what could have been a cheap gimmick, it was actually pretty well put together. Director Kôji Shiraishi (of Noroi: The Curse fame) was in on the joke and made this effort incredibly easy to digest. I liked the evolution of the lore surrounding the cursed video tape in that it had become a well known urban legend, to the point that one character had become so obsessed with Sadako that he was offering a reward to anyone who could acquire it for him. I'm not sure why the death countdown was inexplicably changed from the seven days to two, but I can assume it just better served the script.

Even though the tone of the movie was rather light and comedic, there was still room for some fun scares as Sadako and Kayako continued their modus operandi of being able to strike from anywhere. It is a testament to their design that no matter how ridiculous they become (they spent their time in Toronto getting their hair done, and visiting the candy store Sweet Jesus), their appearance and accompanying audio cues still manage to put people on edge.

The highlight of the movie for me were the pair of ghost hunters that come onto the scene when all seems lost. I immediately recognized Masanobu Ando from his appearance as the psychotic Kazuo in 2000's Battle Royale and he and his young blind sidekick Tamao's (Mai Kikuchi) blunt force humour were pretty great. The ending of the movie was rather abrupt, but the aftermath of what happened when Sadako and Kayako were pitted against each other made for some crazy visuals.

Sadako (Runa Endo) & Kayako (Elly Namani) haunt the Ryerson Theatre.

It was a solid year at Midnight Madness with some real crowd pleasers in Free Fire and The Belko Experiment, as well as those that revitalized their respective subgenres like Raw and The Girl With All the Gifts.

Friday, September 16, 2016

It's Not Just For The Japanese Anymore.

To add to this year's docket of TIFF films, I was able to score a ticket to Amat Escalante's The Untamed.

This Mexican-Danish-French-German-Norwegian-Swiss co-production was a complete question mark for me and gave me no indication of what to expect. Although, its placement in the Vanguard programme did imply there would be some edge. And that it had.

I think that mystery was a large part of its strength. Only adding to this was the prolonged opening shot of an asteroid floating in space. Then the first scene hit, and I was like, ohhhh, I was not expecting this! The Untamed exists in a space of which I have rarely seen – well, in live action anyway. I think the closest reference would be Andrzej Zulawski's Possession, as they both feature domestic turmoil and otherworldly external forces. I would also offer that The Untamed's deliberate pace and abundance of beautiful cinematography recalled Jonathan Glazer's Under The Skin.

Simone Bucio (left) and Ruth Ramos in The Untamed.

This film's ingredients of family drama and science fiction made for a singular vision and I expect its exploration of sexual desires will confound many a viewer. I guarantee some of the blue-hairs that wandered into the theatre had never seen anything like this before. Despite its more shocking material though, the majority of The Untamed operated like your average art-house film. It was quiet, brooding and concentrated on humanity's baser natures.

I think I'd classify The Untamed as more of a film with genre elements, rather than a genre film, but it was a well executed example of how some provocative imagery can leave a mark on your psyche. If you dig films of a deeply sexual nature, then give this a whirl. I'll leave the cabin door open for you.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

They're Back, Baby!

Midnight Madness continued on Monday with Julia Ducournau's first solo effort, Raw.

After being forced to eat meat during a hazing ritual at her first week at veterinary school, vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) begins developing deep carnivorous urges.

During the 00's, horror fans were blessed with a series of films collectively referred to as The New French Extremity that included such nerve-shredding titles as High Tension (2003), Inside (2007) and Martyrs (2008). Then they seemed to fall away, just as the Spaniards took their turn as the darlings of modern horror. Well, after seeing Raw, I can say the French are now back with a vengeance.

Raw has been described as both feminist and veganist, but I feel those labels are too narrow. This is a coming of age film. Much like films such as We Are What We Are and Ginger Snaps, Raw had a grounded and introspective quality to it that was so incredibly well orchestrated. The subject matter was both primal and sexual, which elicited genuine reactions from the crowd. You could feel it in the air and it gave the film's title all that much more meaning.

Garance Marillier as Justine in Raw.

Some viewers may have felt a little too much, as I'm sure you all heard about the pass-outs and ambulances. The PR was quick to jump on that and I can corroborate, as one of the affected was sitting a few seats over from me. Raw was gory and gross, with many wince-tastic moments, but I'd be surprised if it was the visuals alone that caused the kind of thing I saw – they were more like seizures than pass-outs. I can't explain it, but it was like there was some other variable at play that night. It was a very strange experience.

The highlight of Raw – apart from the awesomely tactile F/X work by Olivier Afonso, the man responsible for Inside's nightmarish splatter – was the fantastic and fully committed performance by Garance Marillier. Ducournau said during the Q&A that she has been working with Marillier for several years now and they have developed a creative shorthand. This was immediately evident onscreen, as Marillier was fearless and brilliantly calculated in every stage of her character's evolution.

Director Julia Ducournau.

It is one thing to say that a movie was made for the Midnight Madness audience, as was the case with this year's opener, The Belko Experiment, but it's another thing entirely to make a film that defines the programme. Raw is the kind of work that keeps the spirit of Midnight Madness alive and away from marginalization and mediocrity. Ducournau's film is bold and veracious, possessing an energy that is unique to the cinema from her corner of the globe. Don't ever change!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Lady In The Walls.

My first non-midnight screening of this year's TIFF was Osgood Perkins' newest I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House aka The Movie With the Ridiculously Long Title.

A hospice nurse (Ruth Wilson) takes a job caring for an elderly author (Paula Prentiss) only to find the house is haunted.

As evidenced in his previous film February – now known as The Blackcoat's Daughter – Osgood Perkins' sensibilities lie with an older era of cinema. He exists in a place where films took their time, lingered on shadows and cricked their ears at the sounds in the walls. That is why I feel very few people will have the patience for this effort. Programmer Colin Geddes used the word “literary” to describe it and I think that was apt, as history and the written word played a large part in the story.

Ruth Wilson as Lily in I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House.

Regrettably, much like what I said of Blair Witch, the genre has moved on, for better or worse, from this kind of filmmaking. The pace and payoff were not in-your-face and Perkins' interpretation of the ghost was more A&E than MTV. That said, I'm grateful that at least Perkins has a voice. Pretty Thing is not insipid emulation. We have titles like last year's Darling if that's your bag. Actually, these two titles share very little, I just wanted to reiterate how much of a garbage pile that movie was.

As for me, I think February had more to offer. I do have to say thank God for Ruth Wilson though, as her awkward and skittish, yet endearing character, was easy for me to get behind when she used phrases like “silly billy” and “heavens to Betsy.” Since there really wasn't much else going on here, I was glad to have something to latch onto. Although, I was admittedly intrigued by the philosophy of the piece that you cannot own a house that suffered a death in it, only borrow it.

Director Osgood Perkins

Overall, I think I appreciated Pretty Thing more than I liked it. It's probably not a film I would ever revisit, but I still think it was a competently told haunted house tale.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back Into The Woods.

A few months ago, Lionsgate dropped the bomb at Comic-Con that their upcoming horror flick The Woods from the dynamic duo of Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett, was actually a sequel to the legendary 1999 movie, The Blair Witch Project.

Twenty years later, Heather's brother ventures into the Black Hills Forest with his own crew looking for answers in her disappearance. Will they suffer the same fate?

It took some major cajones for Wingard & Barrett to take on this project. When it was released, The Blair Witch Project was an international phenomenon that had a real effect on some people. It was the nineties version of Jaws and Psycho in that it was able to actually impact the behaviour of a good number who saw it. Overall, I think Wingard & Barrett were successful in capturing some of that previous magic.

I was initially skeptical because the first half was rife with easy and increasingly annoying jump scares, as well as just rehashing the setup of the original. I, at one point, actually wondered to myself, wait, is this just going to be the same movie again with more characters and better tech? The answer is yes, and no, but I'll get back to that.

Technically, no “exit” after nightfall.

If there was one disappointment, it was that I didn't see much of Wingard and Barrett in this movie. They were hired guns, plain and simple. Highly competent hired guns who Lionsgate had been courting for three years, but they were still working from a template. Say what you want about You're Next and The Guest, but they had lots of personality and were undoubtedly their own. Wingard & Barrett expanded on the scare mechanics of Blair Witch, but they didn't expand on the lore, which is what I think really needed to happen to make this a complete win.

That said, I thought the climax of the film was effective and unrelenting. There were some really well realized set pieces in the back-half of this movie that really wound up the audience in attendance. I also appreciated that there were more night scenes. When people speak about the original, they often say they looked forward to the day scenes, so they could relax and catch their breaths. No such luck here. After one day scene, the darkness latches on and doesn't let go.

Lisa (Callie Hernandez) is full of regret.

However, as well done as the climax to the film was, Blair Witch still had to face the unfortunate reality that fifteen years have passed since the original and the horror genre has evolved, or maybe transformed is a better term, in that time. It was hard not to see key bits here and not think of The Descent, or maybe more esoterically, 2014's Playstation creepfest P.T. And even when we did finally lay eyes on The Blair Witch – and this is not to say that it does not have impact when it appears onscreen – I couldn't help but think of two other entities, whom I won't mention here. You will see it for yourself, or at least Google the screen caps that I'm sure will be hitting the Web within mere days.

Director Adam Wingard & writer Simon Barrett.

In the end, Blair Witch ended up being pretty much what I was expecting. If you liked The Blair Witch Project, you will most likely dig this newest continuation of the story. The setup was nothing new, but the last chunk of its running time still hits those visceral highs that made the original so indelible.

Monday, September 12, 2016

It's A Cutthroat Business.

TIFF is now in full swing and after two banging crime/action pictures (Ben Wheatley's Free Fire & The Mo Brothers Headshot), Midnight Madness saw its first horror picture of the programme, Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment.

Eighty employees of a corporate office in Colombia are locked inside their building and told via an unseen voice that they must kill or be killed.

Midnight is now officially on a roll here. As writer James Gunn said during the intro, this was a script he wrote ten years ago, then put away in a drawer, as he wasn't sure he wanted to make something that dark in tone. More recently, a few producer friends insisted it had to be made, and were fully on board with Gunn's only condition that they did not balk or water-down the material. As programmer Colin Geddes proclaimed, this was a movie that was made for this audience. And boy, was he right!

The easiest way to describe The Belko Experiment would be Office Space meets Battle Royale. If that doesn't sell you, I don't know what will. I think the thing that most stood out to me about this movie (other than the unapologetic violence of course) was how well McLean & Gunn complimented each other. When you mix together Gunn's grasp of character and quirk with McLean's mean and unrelenting sensibilities, you really get the best of both worlds, as no matter how dour the film became, it never missed an opportunity for black humour.

John Gallagher Jr, and Adria Arjona in The Belko Experiment.

The filmmakers could've turned this into a cartoon quite easily, but they knew that keeping it realistic would have much more of an impact. Gunn's assertion was that if he could make you care about the characters, then you'd be much more invested in what happened to them. He was not interested in doing “Saw 27”. And speaking of characters, it really helped that they populated the movie with some solid talent, including Tony Goldwyn, John Gallagher Jr, John C. McGinley and Brent Sexton. Gunn was also able to bring in some familiar faces in his brother Sean and Michael Rooker, as well.

Director Greg McLean (left), writer James Gunn & actor Sean Gunn.

There have been several genre pictures in recent years that concentrate on the de-evolution of human behaviour (Circle and a few re-enactments of The Stanford Experiment), but I think this was my favourite so far. It's well acted, evenly paced and doesn't flinch from the ugliness of its premise. I sincerely hope that McLean and Gunn work together again in the future, because I like where their heads are at.

Friday, September 9, 2016

I Got A Fever!

Hey all. I'll be gone for a few days while I take in some TIFF flicks, but I'll be back next week with some reviews on what I've been catching. In the meantime, here's a great VHS supercut put together by Steven Kostanski & Jeremy Gillespie of Astron 6 fame (and the upcoming horror movie The Void). Some clips you will recognize, some you won't, and some will just confound you, but enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Fan Expo 2016

Toronto's yearly nerd prom, Fan Expo descended on the city last weekend. I had distanced myself from the event since Rue Morgue left, but decided to go one day this year to see the sights and hang out with my buddy Schwartz.

It was a fun time, even if I did find myself looking for things to do by the end of the day. Fan Expo did feature a “horror section” tucked off in the corner, but it was pretty anemic. Aside from stalwarts like Black Fawn and Troma, there were none of the usual players there. Even the one horror panel I was intending to check out, The Blair Witch Reunion got cancelled at the zero hour. That was a bummer. However, there's was some cool genre stuff on display.

Lawn ornaments done right courtesy of Revenant FX

This guy was committed. Dick Warlock would be proud.

Awesome Twin Peaks fan art from Blood Club

Lego Book of the Dead (I think)

I picked up some cool stuff, including the new Creepshow doc Just Desserts on Blu-ray. Also, this amazing card set for five freaking dollars!

Toronto After Dark was there as per usual to announce the first nine titles in their 2016 line-up. Not pictured is the super awesome Polish mermaid musical The Lure.

So glad The Void is playing here in October!

After feeling the absence of horror at this Expo, I realized that it doesn't or didn't really ever need to be there. The emphasis at this type of event should be on comics and cosplay, which was always a big part of it, but it felt even more so now. 

Sorry, couldn't resist!

Horror-themed conventions live on in entities like Horror-Rama, Shock Stock & Dark Carnival and will continue to flourish as attractions and not afterthoughts. That suits me just fine.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Trailer Tuesdays: Friday the 13th Part 2

Seeing that game play trailer for the new Friday the 13th game last week has got me in that kind of mood.

I love those old Friday trailers. How pure they were. And this one even had the added bonus of teaching kids how to count! 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Playdead Does It Again.

Last week, I took a break from exploring the universe of No Man's Sky to check out Playdead's newest Inside, which just dropped on the Playstation Network. I'd been eagerly awaiting this title for ages because their predecessor Limbo was essentially a perfect game.

It's rare, in any media, let alone gaming that a much anticipated follow-up can reach the lofty heights of its predecessor, but Inside did just that. It was another flawless gaming experience that was, in some ways, even better than Limbo. Inside borrows the 2D aesthetic and gameplay elements from Limbo, but goes to places far beyond what came before it. The game play is much more varied, and as soon as you think you've seen all it has to offer, Inside adds another layer. I read an extremely apt quote from Kotaku that said, “a series of escalating 'holy shit' moments.” I couldn't have put it better myself.

The mono-chromatic look may not be as stark and foreboding as Limbo, but it gave the developers an opportunity to do more with the environments. The crash colours of the boy's red shirt, and various mechanisms really pop out at you. While Limbo was a pretty contained story, there is an expanded world to Inside of which it feels you are only seeing a small part. And yet, despite this broadening, the 2D game play always kept you clear on where you were supposed to be going.

As you would expect, the puzzles are devilishly clever and very fun to ponder through. I'd say Inside was not as difficult or punishing as Limbo, which was fine because it made me appear smarter than I actually am. In terms of challenge, if Limbo was a ten, Inside would clock in at around an eight. However, I have to re-iterate that the puzzle variety of Inside over the course of the game was superior.

Another thing I was very appreciative of, and what justified its twenty-seven dollar price tag, was the re-playablility. Now, while it is true that Limbo had those little glow-worms you could step on, Inside's inclusion of the light orbs added much to the experience, as I only found two of the fourteen my first time through. Subsequently, a handful of them were pretty hard to find, and a few of those even had their own puzzles attached to them. I also liked that in addition to gaining trophies, you were also working toward an alternate ending. Pretty awesome stuff.

So, yeah, Inside is another must-play in my opinion, as Playdead are at the forefront when it comes to contained game play experiences. All we can do know is sit back and wait for the trifecta.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

DKTM 313

Hi all! I hope you are all enjoying your Labour Day weekend. Here's what I've got for you today.


It appears that we got another look at the upcoming Friday the 13th video game at PAX last week. Check it out below.

Well, they said it was going to be violent. With Kane Hodder mo-capping, I would expect nothing less. I really like that they have included multiple iterations of Jason, as well. There is still no concrete release date, but it creeps ever closer which each new video.

Love Hurts.

A trailer for Jessica Cameron's newest project Mania hit the Web last week.

So, yeah, this is a pretty easy sell for me. The dynamic duo of Tristan Risk & Ellie Church cutting a bloody path across the countryside? Where do I sign up?

Tony Todd's Dracula.

If you've wanted to hear Tony Todd play eveyone's favourite Count, your wish will soon be coming true. Produced by Canadian media company Bleak December, this audio rendition will soon be available online through Fangoria Musick. Here below is an excerpt.

Dracula is set to release September 30th, with several more classic tales to follow.

Okay, that's it for now, but check back later for my abbreviated rundown of this year's Fan Expo, and my TIFF preview. Talk soon, kiddies.