It may be a little rough around the edges (and painfully nineties), but it's hard not to be a little charmed when you see Canadian film staples like David Cronenberg and Louis Ferreira pop up. Dale went onto have a prolific career in television that continues to this day.
Last week saw the release of Jordan Peele's horror debut, Get Out.
While meeting his girlfriend's family for the first time, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) realizes there is something strange going on at their estate.
Even going in with high expectations from all the positive buzz (the 100% on RT included) I was still extremely impressed by this movie. Get Out was a success in every regard. I am literally still in shock from how well put together this movie was.
Daniel Kaluuya as Chris in Get Out.
This is a movie that is so well balanced. It has both horror and comedy, but it is not a horror comedy. In less capable hands, Get Out could have been Scary Movie 6, but Peele not only understands both genres, but also has the chops to execute. This was a veritable clinic on pacing and storytelling, as well as mining tension from even the most innocuous situations. The use of sound design during that hypnotism scene - one of the most off-putting sequences I've seen in ages - was absolutely brilliant.
I think the most striking thing about the movie was just how well acted it was. You really notice the difference when you see a horror project where everyone is giving one-hundred per cent. There is not a weak link in this entire piece. When you are dealing with high-caliber talent like this, you can't help but get invested in the proceedings.
The always terrific Bradley Whitford & Catherine Keener in Get Out.
We all know horror is subjective. Now matter how popular a new horror movie gets, there are always detractors. You're Next and Cabin in The Woods may have been too cheeky for you. It Follows' plot holes may have been too problematic and The Witch's commitment to authenticity may have made it inaccessible to some. I can understand that. However, if you didn't like Get Out, maybe you just don't like horror movies or - dare I say - movies in general.
I think this movie is going to do well and that is a very exciting prospect. It means the bean-counters may decide that fresh-takes are worth a second look over remakes and rehashes. Hell, let those Pineapple Express guys make a horror movie, but don't shoehorn them into a new Halloween title that no one needs. Let them run wild without constraints. This may be the very thing that brings about the next cycle of horror.
I woke up to the terrible news that actor Bill Paxton has passed away at 61.
R.I.P. Bill Paxton (1955-2017)
This one really stings, as I grew up on his films. Weird Science, Aliens, Near Dark, One False Move, Trespass, True Lies, A Simple Plan, Frailty... the list goes on.
He was one of those guys who if you saw their name in the credits, it immediately elevated the picture's credibility. I doubt I ever would've watched 1991's The Vagrant if his face hadn't been on the coverbox.
Bill Paxton as Chet in Weird Science and as Pvt. Hudson in Aliens. Talk about symmetry!
I was glad he was still working up until his untimely death due to complications from surgery, with great performances in films such as Haywire, Edge of Tomorrow and Nightcrawler as well as television shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Training Day.
I'm fucking gutted. It's been a while since I've watched the criminally underrated Frailty (which Paxton also directed) so I think I may have to watch that this afternoon.
One of my most anticipated horrors for
2017, the female-directed anthology XX, had its release on VOD last
Friday. Fortunately, Toronto was one of a handful of cities that saw
a theatrical run for which you can be sure I took advantage.
Five female filmmakers. Five tales of
XX was a strange beast. I find myself at
odds trying to decide how important it is for a film like this to
deliver as an anthology. Are the filmmakers obligated to carry theme
and tone throughout, or is performing the difficult enough task of
telling a good tale enough? Let's think on that for a bit and I'll
just get into the meat – the individual stories.
The opening short by Jovanka Vuckovic
(the Canuck of the bunch) entitled The Box was pretty strong. Based
on an old short story written by Jack Ketchum, this packs a Twilight
Zone-style punch that is exactly the kind of self contained piece I
like to see in anthologies. I felt it served Vuckovic very well, as I've always liked the visual style of her previous work, but found her
stories lacking. This was a nice solution. It was also refreshing to
see a Ketchum work that wasn't entirely abhorrent.
The next short by Annie Clark (aka
musician St. Vincent) was more puzzling, as it possessed a more
comedic tone. The Birthday Party was probably the most visually
interesting segment, so I could have got on board the tone shift if it
wasn't for the overbearing music cues. Even if there was one beat
where it was quite effective, most of the time it was very
distracting. Perhaps Clark's background in music made her feel the
need to overcompensate with sound. After all, it's a balance even
some of the best filmmakers have trouble with.
I thought Roxanne Benjamin's short
Don't Fall was the most thematically problematic. If I had seen it as
a stand-alone short, I would've been all “yes this is some decent straight-up horror”, but as part of XX it seems glaringly out of
place. With all the other shorts fitting together as representations
of motherhood and/or family, this one couldn't be further away from
that. So getting back to my initial dilemma, do I scold someone for
going against their mandate and creating something that is inherently
not about gender? I mean, that is invariably where we should be
heading, right? Within the context of XX and how it was marketed
though, that seems counter-intuitive. Am I crazy?
Karyn Kasuma's Her Only Living
Son was the one that, not surprisingly, features the best
performances. Acting almost as a psuedo-sequel to Rosemary's Baby, I
thought this one was pretty solid. Kasuma has a real knack (as
evidenced last year in The Invitation) for creating tension through
dialogue and this piece is now different. I thought the conclusion
was a bit abrupt and one of the few times I wished a short existed as
a longer work.
Wrapping everything together were the
beautifully grotesque stop-motion animation sequences created by
Sofia Carillo. Even if they didn't really serve to connect the
stories, I felt they themselves came to a satisfying conclusion at
So, very much like Benjamin's other
anthology Southbound, XX is very consistent, although without a truly
exceptional segment to latch onto, breaking into the mass consciousness may be a tall order. Despite its
problems as an anthology though, I think this was a win for the
individual filmmakers and hopefully they are able to springboard to
bigger projects from this.
Hey all. I hope you are enjoying your long weekend. I know I'm going to make good use of my extra time. For now, here's what I've got for you today.
We got a couple of doozies this week. First, the rumour dropped that Sam Raimi is in talks to possibly produce and direct a film featuring The Bermuda Triangle. Now I know it's not official, but I would love this not only due to Raimi's involvement, but also because that particular phenomenon is so underutilized in film. I'll take this news with a grain of salt, but hey, Evil Dead 4 did finally end up happening in the form of a television show, so hey, anything is possible now right?
The second was the announcement of Stephen King & JJ Abrams teaming up with Hulu to make an anthology featuring King mainstay Castle Rock.
I mean, Stranger Things might have had something to do with it, but I can't believe no one thought to do this before! This has so many wonderful possibilities, and I can't wait to see how this plays out.
The artist collective Mondo announced this week that they are getting into the board game business. First up, a board game called Infection at Outpost 31 based on the events of John Carpenter's The Thing.
Come to think of it, The Thing would work as a Werewolves type party game, as well. This isn't the first time that The Thing has been adapted, as I fondly remember playing a pseudo-sequel on the PS2.
Hopefully, this game isn't as elusive as their prints and I can actually get my hands on a reasonably priced package.
Dead By Dawn.
The 2017 New York Toy Fair is on right now, and NECA dropped these beauties for the 30th anniversary of Evil Dead 2.
Man, the likenesses on these are terrific. I so want that Deadite dear head! As if I don't already have enough Evil Dead stuff!
This is The Horror Section's TWO THOUSANDTH POST, guys! I had to think on how to best memorialize this one. I certainly didn't want to do anything as laborious as that VHS Covers video I did when I hit the one-grand marker back in 2012, but I still felt it needed to be significant.
I'd been thinking about doing a compilation of horror movies where the title is spoken within, but when I saw just how many there were, it became a pretty hefty task. I then discovered that a surprising number of those films were Stephen King adaptations. Considering that the man is perhaps my biggest inspiration, it seemed fitting that this two-thousandth post video be dedicated to horror's favourite son.
Now for those who don't know, Phantasmagoria was a pair of adventure games from the mid-nineties put out by Sierra On-Line. Unlike most video games, these featured full-motion-video sequences. They may ring a bell as games like this (most notably Sega's Night Trap) were the center of the video game violence Congressional hearings of 1993.
I had little access to FMV games back in the day (1993's Dracula Unleashed and the Sega CD titles I sampled on the display console at my video store were the extent of it), but I always found them an interesting medium. I watched a walkthrough of the first Phantasmagoria a while back, but I didn't even know there was a sequel until a few weeks ago when I learned of this event.
Now when I say “screening”, I mean that Toronto-based filmmaker Pierce Derks painstakingly went through hours and hours of gameplay footage to splice together the cut scenes into a (semi) coherent narrative. A joint effort by the Laser Blast Film and Hand Eye Societies, this little project was glorious.
What to say about A Puzzle of Flesh... Well, I've heard it described as The Office meets Skinemax meets Hellraiser, as well as Zalman King directed by Brian Yuzna. All of these descriptions are accurate. With all of the tedious gameplay removed and the fact that most of the footage was shot on actual sets - as opposed to the bluescreen of most FMV games - Pierce's cut actually plays like a legitimate (well, legitimately fucked up) B-movie.
For 1996, this project was extremely subversive for a video game, not only for its sex and gore, but also its depictions of S&M and bi-sexuality. And in keeping with WIHM, both Phantasmagorias were spearheaded by women, Roberta Williams and Lorilei Shannon, respectively.
This was a fantastically fun event and hopefully Pierce will put his cut online one day for everyone to enjoy.
Holy balls, there was huge news in the Toronto horror scene this week.
The New Regime.
TIFF shocked the horror scene this week by announcing that, after a twenty year run, Colin Geddes, the long-time head of their iconic Midnight Madness programme, will be stepping down. Having been attending since 2000, Midnight Madness has become a highlight of my horror calendar. Geddes introduced me to some of my favourite modern horrors like High Tension, Ju-on, Inside, You're Next and It Follows.
TIFF programmer Colin Geddes
Fortunately, Geddes will still be overseeing the curation of Toronto's Royal Cinema and the online streaming service Shudder. Taking over the reigns of MM is the highly capable Peter Kuplowsky. He has been programming genre events for the better part of a decade, so he knows his shit, trust me. I'm extremely excited to see his brand of Madness in the years to come.
Geddes with protégé Peter Kuplowsky. Photo courtesy Ian Goring.
On the print horror side of things, the Toronto based mag Rue Morgue announced that long-time collaborator Andrea Subissati will be taking over as Executive editor.
Former editor Dave Alexander will be focusing on special projects “involving new partnerships in publishing, merchandising, events and visual media.” Subissati is a fixture in the Toronto horror scene with her involvement in The Black Museum lecture series being of the most interest to me.
Now, onto the sad news that just broke while I was writing this. As of now, it appears that the iconic horror magazine Fangoria has shut its doors. Last night, current editor-in-chief Ken W. Hanley took to Twitter and point blank announced;
“For those wondering: there will likely never be another issue of FANGORIA, especially in print, unless there's new ownership.”
That's a fucking bummer. Hopefully, someone out there recognizes that the Fangoria name has too much brand recognition and history and resurrects it somehow.
You know, just when I was breathing a sigh of relief that Paramount's reboot of Friday the 13thhad been buried, I heard the most recent news about the new Halloween. David Gordon Green and Danny McBride? Seriously? At least I had some interest when Mike Flanagan was involved.
While it is cool that John Carpenter plans on contributing music, instead of just letting a cheque fall into his hand as per usual, I think I'll be sitting out this Pumpkin Express.
A young girl named Celia (Rebecca
Smart) tries to cope with the chaotic world around her after the
death of her grandmother.
This was a title I'd been meaning to
see for some time after reading about in Kid Power! Fortunately, I
remembered very little about it other than it was Australian and
featured a little girl who may or may not be a psychopath.
I was a little blown away by this movie
to be honest. Even though its label as a horror film is not really
accurate– it's actually more of a coming-of-age drama – there are
indeed parts of this movie that are like waking nightmares. Celia may
seem mild at the onset, but I guarantee there were kids in Oz that
saw this in eighty-nine and were scarred for life.
As you know, I gravitate to stuff where the child's perspective blurs the line between fantasy and
reality. It's the crux of Guillermo del Toro's best work and another of my faves, Bernard Rose's Paperhouse. I'm also always
interested in movies that portray places and periods I have little
knowledge of. Nineteen-fifties Melbourne, with its equal intolerance
of communism and the rabbit infestation, is as poignant then as it is
now. It's funny how prejudice and persecution never seem to go out of
The performances are solid top to
bottom, but most of the praise needs to be heaped on the young lead,
Rebecca Smart. There is a tendency in films about off-kilter children
to play the role with a cold and/or sharp malevolence (Patty
McCormack in 1956's The Bad Seed and Isabelle Fuhrmann in 2009's
Orphan are two good examples), but Smart plays it completely
straight. Apart from being understandably withdrawn after the death
of her grandmother, she is pretty normal and even incapable of
lying in the first half of the movie. It seems to me that her darker
actions toward the end were almost reactionary, rather than malicious.
I feel you, kid.
Director Ann Turner's confident direction is
exceptional and her characters well written with equal importance
given to both genders, even in a time when that wasn't the case. I
was incredibly impressed with this movie and the more tragic
sequences hit me like a ton of bricks. Celia may not be a horror
film, but it affected me more than most straight up genre flicks made these days.
Hey all. Today is the big day if you're a sports fan. For myself, it's just another reason to sit on the couch and drink beer. Before that though, here's some stuff to chew on.
In Funko's bid for world domination, they recently announced a line of Twin Peaks Pops for release in time for the new season in May.
I myself am trying to quietly rationalize that I just pre-ordered cute toys based on a show about the brutal murder of a teen girl. If you share the same moral flexibility, you can check out the whole line here.
With the Super Bowl comes big movie trailers. In addition to Ghost In The Shell and another one of those Michael Bay movies, we've also got a new look at the upcoming space thriller Life.
I have to chuckle about all the fan backlash of this being another “Alien rip-off”. First of all, this looks way more palatable than the actualAlien movie we're getting this year and secondly, these naysayers are off base. I've read the script and it's actually much closer to being The Blob in space. Does that not sound like something you would want to watch? Because for me it does. Life actually has some decent set pieces and it looks like they spent the money to properly realize them. But what can you do, right? Haters gonna hate.
Ahead of its upcoming release (Feb 16th on DirecTV and Mar 31st in theatres) The Blackcoat's Daughter has a new trailer.
I like this trailer a lot. It captures the atmospheric tone of the piece, but is cut in such a way that you don't really know what it's about. It has been almost a year-and-a-half since I watched this at TIFF and I'm very much looking forward to seeing it again.
I happened to watch Gary J. Levinson's 1992 flick Hellroller earlier this week. It was an atrocious piece of shit, but it was later involved in a court case that was ultimately settled on The People's Court.
I love everything about this. The fact that the producers thought that explaining the plot of the movie to Judge Wapner would somehow help their case made me laugh out loud. God bless VHShitfest for uploading this wonderful piece of horror history to YouTube.
Last week, Capcom released the newest
incarnation of its flagship franchise, Resident Evil.
Ethan travels deep into the Bayou to
track down his missing wife, Mia who disappeared three years earlier.
It is not long before he runs afoul of the Baker family.
After its marquee fourth title,
Resident Evil had seen diminishing returns so it was very proactive
of Capcom to shift the gameplay to a first-person perspective. This
change was immediately immersive and made for a more visceral
experience. In previous iterations, I felt like I was hanging with
Jill or Leon, but here it definitely felt more like it was me that
was on the wrong end of a chainsaw. I can only imagine how much
exponentially more terrifying this game is in VR.
I was struck right away by the obvious
influence of Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it was
over an hour before the game settled into something that resembled
Resident Evil. Capcom's efforts to emulate American horror classics
have made the subject matter a tad more familiar, as the whacked out
and weirdo characters of Resident Evil 4 have been replaced by
denizens closer to home. That being said, the environments
were terrific and meshed really well with the excellent sound design.
At first I found the combat a little
frustrating, but then realized it had just been a while since I'd
played a RE title. Constantly killing the same boss multiple times is
par for the course in this universe, but I guess it was easier to
swallow when it was a Tyrant or Nemesis rather than some old hick. I
got into it eventually because it did open up a bit more as the
story went along. I do have to say that the defense mechanic still
seems a bit ridiculous to me. I can block anything with my bare
Hands up, baby hands up!
I applaud Capcom's decision to bring
the emphasis back to horror. While the game isn't as revolutionary as
Resident Evil 4 was – RE7 definitely shares some DNA with previous
titles like Dead Space, F.E.A.R and Alien: Isolation – it's still,
at its core, a welcome return to the origins of the franchise.
Resident Evil 7 was a highly
entertaining carnival of horrors made even more affecting by its new
format. Let's see where they take it from here. To check out a cool
mini-doc about the evolution of the franchise, click here.