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, November 17, 2017

IFFF Shorts 2017

In addition to its well rounded feature film programming, IFFF also showed a robust list of shorts from around the world. Consisting of two dedicated blocks and some pre-feature entertainments, over two dozen were screened over the ten-day festival. Here were some highlights.

Two titles I had seen while screening shorts for other festivals and was very happy to see on the big screen, were Philip McKie's Breaker and Robin Kaspirik's I Am The Doorway.

Filled with spectacular production design, the former was a master class in cyberpunk world building and the latter was one of the trippiest Stephen King adaptations to come down the pike in a long while.

I was pretty taken by Marica Petrey's Zoey and the Wind-up Boy. A partial adaptation of an existing live performance piece, this was a beautifully shot short that included Californian landscapes I never knew existed. It also had some musical accompaniment that was so striking that I couldn't help thinking to myself “remember to look into this soundtrack” while it unspooled. With all the ugliness in the world right now, it was refreshing to see Petrey shining some light into the universe.

I was glad to see a familiar face in Ithaca, as Ashlea Wessel was there representing Toronto with her short, Ink. Her tale about the potentially horrifying prospect of pregnancy played before my fave film of the fest, Tigers Are Not Afraid.

IFFF played several of my current faves circulating the world right now, including William Boodell's Born of SinCarlos G. Gananian's Sol, Olaf Svenson's Olga and Nicholas Santos' Holiday Fear.

One thing I really clocked into about IFFF this year was their active interest in showing films of every flavour, whether it be Jack Warner's twenty-eight minute opus, Jenny Secoma In: The Blind Spot or Kevin Farmini's Super 8 kung-fu joint, Viola vs The Vampire King.

Keep it up, guys. You are doing it right.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Here There Be Tigers.

As I stated yesterday, the programming at this year's IFFF was terrific, running the gamut of modern genre cinema. I took in some solid films last week, but Mexican director Issa López's newest effort, Tigers Are Not Afraid was the standout title.

When her mother goes missing in Mexico City, Estrella (Paola Lara) falls in with a bunch of street kids headed by Shine (Juan Ramón López) and soon find themselves on the run from the local drug cartel.

I hadn't even heard of this film before I opened up the IFFF programme and it took me completely by surprise. López's film reminded me a lot of Guillermo del Toro's ouevre (namely The Devil's Backbone & Pan's Labyrinth) in that it effortlessly combined elements of drama, crime, horror and fantasy. I was not expecting a film to pull me in emotionally as much as The Shape of Water did recently, but Tigers Are Not Afraid came pretty damn close.

I have to say that after subsequently watching the trailer, it doesn't do the film justice. It plays up the supernatural angle, when that doesn't really factor in until well into the film. Leading up to that, I felt I was watching something more akin to 2002's City of God. However, it was the whimsical flourishes, like the animated graffiti and references to fairy tales that really lulled me into a false sense of security.

Tigers Are Not Afraid was layered and almost poetic in its exhibition of the ugliness (and beauty) of life on the streets of Mexico City. López was already an accomplished writer and fairly well known in her native country, but her previous work has been fairly conventional so I'm hoping that the tremendous versatility shown here will launch her career even further.

I cannot, however, heap all the praise onto López because the entire cast of child actors were phenomenal. Considering the subject matter, it was quite remarkable López was able to find two leads in Paola Lara & Juan Ramón López that were able to so naturally pull off such demanding roles.

Paola Lara & Juan Ramón López in Tigers Are Not Afraid.

Tigers Are Not Afraid is a wonderful achievement and should be sought out immediately. This was exactly the kind of genre filmmaking that will make even the most jaded remember why they watch films in the first place. I really can't overstate how well all the bits & pieces meshed together. López has already enjoyed a long and prosperous career in the film industry, but I think she's poised to explode if she's got a few more like this in her.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ithaca IS Fantastik.

I am back and recovered from my little jaunt last week to New York for the sixth edition of the Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival. I really cannot praise this fest enough. It is a well run, well curated festival that cares about film. Hugues Barbier and his team programmed some real gems this year, ranging from current fest faves like The Endless, Tragedy Girls and My Friend Dahmer to more dynamic and challenging titles like November and The Crescent.

This is just one day's programming alone!

There is a real love of the medium at this festival. These guys don't seem concerned whether their selections are playing to one or one hundred people, they just are happy to showcase the strongest voices in genre cinema. Again, as with my experience last year, IFFF's presentation was on point with another beautifully illustrated programme book.

This year's retrospective was Italiana Psichedeliko, a look at Roma's wacky and wild genre films from the sixties & seventies that included Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik, Corrado Farina's Baba Yaga and the new 4K resto of Dario Argento's 1977 masterpiece Suspiria.

Towards the end of the fest, IFFF also put on screenings of the new restorations of Gary Sherman's Deathline and Bob Clark's Deathdream, with Sherman and Blue Underground's Bill Lustig in attendance.

Perhaps the most unique event was the screening of Jean Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet with live music from local musician Anna Coogan. That was a real treat, as I'd never seen the film before, let alone accompanied by a haunting score.

IFFF doesn't just give festival goers great programming though, they also go out of their way to put on other fine events off-site. After Suspiria, there was a bar meet-up that included a live set by a band called MSZM and on Friday night, there was a horror trivia game that my compatriot & I absolutely crushed. We Canucks took home this sweet poster as a prize, along with bragging rights.

It was a truly amazing five days. I met a lot of new people who I'm sure I'll see again at subsequent festivals for many years to come. In amongst all the IFFF stuff, my travelling companions & I also got to walk some gorge, pay our respects to Rod Serling--

--and I even managed to snag this little treasure from a used bookstore. 

I really love this town. Ithaca is beautiful in the fall and I love its cheesy Dad-joke plays on words everywhere like the local barber shop “Ithacuts” and tourist paraphernalia marked--

Tomorrow, I'll sound off on my favourite film of the fest, followed on Thursday by a rundown of IFFF's varied short film programming. Till then, stay safe kiddies.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

John Carpenter in Toronto.

The maestro John Carpenter brought his Anthology tour to Toronto on Sunday night. I had taken a huge gamble not travelling to NYC when he played there last year in hopes he would eventually come here, and it paid off. What an amazing show!

Looking out at the crowd around me, it was a who's who of the GTA horror community. It was a popular comment on my social media feeds that this show was akin to a religious experience and truth be told, for a bunch of heathens like us, this is about as close as it gets. And pray at the altar we did.

The almost ninety-minute set hit all the greatest scores of Carpenter's illustrious career as well as selections from his Lost Themes album including my favourite track, Wraith. For those who missed it, here's a little taste. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 11, 2017


I'm still in Ithaca, but wanted to post my respects to those who gave their lives so that we can do frivolous things like sit in darkened rooms and watch movies. Have a wonderful weekend everyone and I'll see you back here in a few days.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Del Toro AGO

I am currently attending the Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival so I'll be out of action for until next week, but I did want to post about the Guillermo del Toro exhibit currently showing at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

I knew I was in for something really cool, but I didn't expect At Home With Monsters to be so vast and intricate. Not only does it break down del Toro's career and inspirations, but also showcases objects from his immense personal collection of oddities.

Ray Harryhausen maquettes.

I like penguins!

The exhibit is broken down into eight main sections, including themes that have permeated his work succh as childhood innocence, insects, death and monsters, both literal and metaphorical.

My favourite parts were The Rain Room, a recreation of the one in del Toro’s personal residence  (known as Bleak House after the Charles Dickens novel) where a false window & special effects simulate a perpetual thunderstorm, and the area where comics from every age line the walls from ceiling to floor.

My friend & I stepped in around seven o'clock and I swear we blinked and the loud speaker was announcing the closure of the gallery two hours later. There was just so much to absorb. If you live anywhere near Toronto, you owe it to yourself to check this out before it leaves in the New Year. It is a magical place that will engorge your inspirational monster.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Horror-Rama 2017

The fourth edition of Horror-Rama took place last weekend and I, of course, was there to take in the festivities. 

This year saw the convention move to another venue, an arts & culture space in the Annex. While the last two years at the Hyatt certainly allowed the con to expand, it felt a little constrictive to the vibe that organizers Luis Ceriz and Chris Alexander were trying to create. Spread out over a half-dozen rooms, the venue this year recaptured the essence of year one.

Also, unlike the previous two years when it fell during Toronto After Dark, I was actually able to fully enjoy Horror-Rama, as I was not running back and forth between venues all weekend. As is tradition with horror conventions, I also got to hang with my buddy Schwartz. Our continued failure to keep each other from spending money on horror merch was upheld I can assure you.

All the usual suspects were in attendance, but I felt there was an especially strong showing of VHS & Blu-ray vendors this year, from Arrow to Vinegar Syndrome to Suspect Video. It is always great to catch up with Brad at Poster-Mortem and Rob from the Canadian Cult & Horror Community, as well.

Clowning around with CanMake Productions' Justin Decloux & Emily Milling
and artist Andrew Barr.

I did quite well this year acquiring some interesting VHS titles.

I've never heard of Where Are The Children? but Jack Sholder and a cool cover was worth a two-fifty gamble. I'd been looking Playroom & Pulse for some time, and well, Dream Lover is self explanatory.

On the Blu-ray side, Vinegar Syndrome sold me on a couple of titles. First, was Demon Wind with its recreation of the original lenticular VHS...

The other was one I didn't even know had been released on Blu-ray in Gorman Bechard's Psychos In Love. That had me with its terrific cover art.

I also couldn't resist picking up this little guy either.

Like last year at Horror-Rama, the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival took the opportunity to announce their 2017 line-up at the show.

It looks like a good line-up this year with several colleagues of mine having projects premiering here. I am particularly looking forward to Jeff Sinasac's Red Spring, just because I know how long he's been working on it. I know a handful of people who worked on Ryan M. Andrew's Art of Obsession, so that'll be cool to see, as well.

Some other titles that intrigued me are the faux-doc Fake Blood, Buckout Road and the It's Alive vibe of The Child Remains. I also haven't seen a good chunk of the shorts programme, so I'm always keen to add stuff to my Little Terrors wish list.

Sunday, my only real goal was to talk with visiting Canuxploitation royalty Lesleh Donaldson & Lisa Langlois. I'm not usually one for autographs, but I had to get my Deadly Eyes VHS signed because this seemed like a rare opportunity. Ms. Donaldson is such a nice lady, and I made sure to tell her that I found the theatre used in the movie thanks to her input three years ago

I also never usually bother people for photos, but she was so friendly...

Lesleh Donaldson & I.

This was a happy day. The pair's ensuing Q&A was also very informative. They talked about when they met on Happy Birthday to Me and being surprised that any of these old movies have endured. They also brought up how many of those pictures were involved with some shady characters that to this day have still not paid what was owed. I was shocked to learn that Langlois had made more on residuals from a guest spot on one episode of Murder She Wrote than she did on all of her Canuxploitation work combined.

Actresses Lisa Langlois (left) & Lesleh Donaldson.

Mainly, the talk was a clinic on navigating the film business then and now, touching on everything from the actresses they were always in competition with, to the differences between working in Canada & the US and all the ugliness that is just finally coming to light now. Langlois compared this level of upheaval to when women burned their bras in the sixties, and with a new name seemingly being outed every week, who can argue?

And that was a wrap on Horror-Rama 2017. It definitely felt like a return to the first year and its intimate setting and I'm all for it.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Trailer Tuesdays: Within The Rock

With Hellraiser still on the brain, I discovered this TV movie from 1996 from long-time F/X artist Gary J. Tunnicliffe.

Well, this looks like all kinds of... something. I do not regret picking this up on VHS for two-fifty last weekend, but more on that tomorrow.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

DKTM 356

Hello all. This post is coming to you posthumously, as I am currently taking in the festivities at this year's Horror-Rama. You can expect a full report on that in a few days, but here's what I've got for you right now.


Earlier this year, I posted about a special screening of Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh. Toronto-based filmmaker Pierce Derks had pieced together all the cut-scenes from Lorilei Shannon's 1996 video game oddity into a coherent feature length narrative and it was a sight to behold for many reasons. In celebration of Halloween, Derks posted the full video on his Vimeo page for all to enjoy.

After our Hellraiser marathon last week, we discovered that Puzzle of Flesh shared a lot in common with Hellseeker (the sixth entry in the franchise), but I'm sure you will agree that Shannon's effort bears much more forbidden fruit than that ever did.

Frank's Back.

I discovered that Eibon Press has resurrected Bill Lustig's iconic character Frank Zito for a limited comic series. From the sweat-streaked film reels of 42nd Street and onto the page comes more Maniac for a new crop of degenerates.

Pre-orders are still ongoing for Issue #1 and Eibon just recently teased the second issue, which puts Frank up against another well-known scourge of NYC, Lucio Fulci's New York Ripper!

This artwork is as lewd and provocative as any VHS back in the day, so it's definitely worth a look. To check out more from Eibon press, click here.

Hell Springs Eternal.

Filmmaker & actor Jeff Sinasac, whom I've worked with on many occasions, has for quite sometime been slaving over a passion project of his called Red Spring. Now, it finally looks it is ready to be unleashed. Check out the trailer below.

It was just announced yesterday that Red Spring will having its world premiere at this year's Blood in the Snow Fesitval. Hope to see you there!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Pain & Pleasure... Indivisible.

Sometime ago, a member of the Laser Blast Film Society put forth the idea of doing a Hellraiser marathon. Similar endurance tests had been undertaken before with the likes of the Resident Evil and Saw series' - plus that legendary time we watched films for twenty-four hours straight - so no big deal, right? Well, I'm not sure we were all aware - at least I wasn't - when we signed up for this that there were actually nine fucking titles to the Hellraiser franchise. I myself had previously only seen five with vague recollections of three of them.

So last weekend, we did it. We absorbed nine films in fifteen hours and emerged with our souls relatively intact. But we had to get creative. We started with Hellraiser, mainly because not all in attendance had seen it and we wanted to create a base. Going forward though, we decided to watch the rest of them at random - our fate decided by a dice roll.

Whatever number came up, we watched that sequel. In keeping with the theme of hell, we also employed some penalties for various transgressions. For instance;

If you arrived late; PUNISHMENT!
If you looked on your phone for too long; PUNISHMENT!
If the die rolled outside the area; PUNISHMENT!
If you rolled a previously rolled number or a 10; PUNISHMENT!

Punishments involved us watching ten minutes of various terrible Halloween specials, namely the animated David S. Pumpkins' and Michael Jackson ones. Worst of all by a large margin was the Big Bang Theory special. Holy fuck, I'd rather watch all nine Hellraiser films again rather than suffer anymore of that. It is mind boggling how agonizingly unfunny that show is. 

We were also “treated” to the Hellraiser fan film No More Souls featuring a sixty-year-old Pinhead lamenting Shakespearean-style about days gone by. Then the two Cenobites from Hellworld walk out and stab him to death. Hurm. That the director of this (though an accomplished FX artist) was in fact responsible for the upcoming tenth film in the franchise did not instill me with a lot of confidence.

Anyways. The first Hellraiser film.

Where it all began. It is still the best and the make-up effects are straight up terrific. What a breath of fresh air Clive Barker was circa 1987. In a world of slashers and creature features, he brought forth not only iconic imagery, but interesting and provocative themes. I always forget that considering how iconic The Cenobites are, they had very little screen time. I also found it quite funny that Pinhead was, in fact, relatively easy to trick. Kirstie (Ashley Laurence) was super good at it.

Kirstie: Frank escaped you!
Pinhead: No one escapes us!
Kirstie: He did, I've seen him.
Pinhead: ...Suppose he did escape us...

OR in Part II

Pinhead: Time to play.
Kirstie: Wait!
Pinhead: No more deals.
Kirstie: No deals, just information.
Pinhead: ...Go on.

We were watching the Arrow Blu-ray release of the film and as a result I noticed for the first time there were a couple of dicks nailed to that turning pillar of carnage at the onset. 

So now that we had a good foundation, the first die roll was a 9. Yes folks, we went right to the shit.

Revelations, the super cheap flick from 2011 that was seemingly made just to keep the rights. The movie is by far the worst out of the bunch and thank God we got it out of the way early. I am one-hundred percent sure we would have not finished if we watched them in numerical order.

I don't even know where to begin with this. The shitty found footage setup? The fat Will Forte looking mofo playing Pinhead? The boring family stuff which played out like a porno with the sex scenes cut out? The characters yelling Tijuana! to remind us that's where they were supposed to be?

The horror. The horror.

I think the worst thing was that, unlike parts 5-8 which put on different skins, Revelations just aped the first movie. It was more like a really shitty reboot of Hellraiser, than a sequel. It was painful, but thankfully only seventy-five minutes - trust me we checked to see how much time was left on several occasions.

The next dice roll was 8. Hellworld

Not a Matrix sequel.

Hellworld was released in 2005, and the third and last Hellraiser sequel directed by Rick Bota. I knew nothing about it, except it had something to do with a Hellraiser-themed MMO. From what I understand, a good number of these Hellraiser sequels were unrelated horror scripts with some Pinhead shoe-horned in at metered intervals. I can see that. This movie was definitely made in the wake of Saw. There's a scene you could have stuck in one of those movies and you wouldn't know the difference. Also, it had this veneer of self awareness where the franchise existed in this world so characters wore Pinhead apparel and used terms like “the Lament Configuration” and “wall-walker”.

Kathryn Winnick in Hellworld.

However, despite that this movie ended up being my favourite of the post-canon sequels for two reasons. First, it starred, unbeknownst to me until the opening credits, both Lance Henriksen and Kathryn Winnick. Secondly, in Saw-like fashion, Hellworld had a ridiculous hail Mary plot twist that made no sense that somehow made the movie infinitely more entertaining. We were all confused as to why Pinhead - when he was in it - had become a stock slasher villain and said twist explained that. I'm pretty sure it was unintentionally clever on the filmmaker's part, but I'll take it!

The next roll was 4. Bloodline.

Bloodline was the last true Hellraiser movie and also the last theatrical release - which I saw in its original run. I remembered very little, except that it was in space - a trend popular with fourth installments. I appreciated that director Kevin Yagher attempted something a little higher concept with the multiple time periods, but it was a little dry and I don't think that was all due to studio tampering. Even though the series was getting stale, there were still a lot of great effects in this with two practical explosions - one you get to see twice!

But, getting back on the subject of tricking Pinhead, the best part in the movie is the priceless look on Pinhead's face when he gets duped by a hologram.

I think by this time my brain was starting to short circuit because I only remember bits and pieces of this one. Adam Scott in his period getup, the cool Cenobite design of Angelique, that Kim Myers - the Meryl Streep lookalike from NOES 2 - was in this one and the entertaining space station effects.

The next roll on the d10 was 5. Inferno.

Inferno was the first direct-to-video title and also the first re-appropriated script - a detective noir thriller. The influences are many, but Lost Highway, The Bad Lieutenant and the stuff David Fincher was doing in the last-half of the nineties are right up front. It has a few interesting sequences, namely the cowboy poker game, but it - like many of these middle sequels - often meandered into watch glancing territory. The ending was pretty pedestrian and has been done better on a least half-a-dozen occasions.

The next roll was lucky. Number 2. Hellbound.

We were getting into a rut, so it was fortunate that Hellbound came up at this point. This is a lot of people's favourite and I'd agree the most visually interesting. It brought back the characters from the first movie and successfully expanded the universe. The effects built upon the grotesqueness and even marched into cringe-worthy territory. It even has some sweet stop-motion stuff in it, as well. Hellbound was just the pick up we needed, before falling off the ensuing cliff.

The next roll was 7. Deader.

This one was a slog that starred Kari Wuhrer as an investigative reporter tracking down a death cult of people called Deaders. It was shot back-to-back with Hellworld in Romania. It was a pretty dull affair, but I'll take Wuhrer over Inferno's Craig Sheffer any day of the week. I do recall two memorable things, the first being two sequences that took place in a club that happened to be on a running subway car and the other involved a bloody scene where Wuhrer tries to pull a knife out of her back. It was oddly arousing -- oops did I type that aloud?

Kari Wuhrer in Deader.

Almost there. The next roll was 6. Hellseeker.

We were pretty happy with this roll, because it meant we got to end on something fun with Hell on Earth. Hellseeker was the only non-canon sequel I had previously seen. I remembered it being pretty good. My memory lied to me. This was even more of a chore than Deader. And it even had Ashley Laurence back as Kirstie! It was another uninteresting noir that couldn't even be saved by the talents of Dean Winters

I feel ya, bro.

I realized that for some reason this series seemed better suited to female protagonists. Someone brought up the point that many of these sequels are even Bechdel approved, as there are several women team-ups over the course of the series (Kirstie/Tiffany in 2, Joey/Terry in 3 and Amy/Marla in 7). Equality shows up in the weirdest places it seems.

Last, but not least was part 3. Hell on Earth.

While I still maintain that the scene where Pinhead and company march down the street while dispatching cops was the point-of-no-return moment of the Hellraiser series, after watching all the non-canon entries Hell on Earth was a helluva lot of fun. I think the theatrical version I saw might have been cut because I didn't remember a lot of the gore in this. I believe this one has the most Cenobites per capita, as well. Even if Pinhead was pretty much doing his best Freddy Krueger impression by the end, I can still appreciate it.

Hell on Earth came out in 1992, right when mainstream horror was in its death throes before being revitalized by Scream a few years later. This movie had a decent start, but by the third act, director Anthony Hickox was basically throwing everything at the screen and just hoping something would stick.

And then we were done! This marathon was not nearly as painful as I was expecting. Hellseeker & Deader weren't great, but still miles better than Revelations. I think that was the only one that really tested our mettle and, as I said, it was a Godsend that we got that over with quickly. Should you ever attempt to do this yourself, know that it is possible.

Not advisable. But possible.