In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Shorts Fantasia


As with previous years, I am wrapping up my Fantasia coverage with a rundown of the best shorts I saw while at the fest. This year was particularly strong and I wish I could have seen all of them, instead of just a sampling. Fortunately, I was there for not one, but two short programmes (Small Gauge Trauma & Born of Woman) so I did get the catch more than usual.

I saw a pair of creepers that really impressed me this year in Nico Van den Brink's Sweet Tooth and Adam O'Brien's Banshee. The former was super tight, had a brilliant setup and utilized some chilling beats involving technology. Banshee had some awesome effects and a conclusion where I was actually glad it went on after I thought it had ended. Scary shorts are the hardest to pull off and both these guys did some great work.


A short I saw a few months ago and was glad to see play here was Amelia Moses' Undress Me. With its university coming-of-age backdrop, it reminded me of Julia Ducournau's Raw and its university, only leaning more toward body horror than cannibalism. It ended rather abruptly (Moses revealed at the screening she only had ten minutes to get the last shot), but I think she got her point across.


A couple of films that featured great performances from young leads were Andrea Naida's Home Education and William Boodell's Born of Sin. Naida's piece takes the title's idea to the next level and, whether intentional or not, becomes a comment on the dangers of ignorance. Born of Sin took the mundane situation of a child waiting for their neglectful parent and turned it into something darkly whimsical.

On the animation side of things, there was the pitch black awesomeness of Marc Riba & Anna Solanas' Dead Horses. I loved the little creative touches in the stop-motion, like the shimmering of the boy's eyes and the look of the explosions. This was one that stuck with me.


Short films often offer glimpses into worlds that would make interesting features, as was the case with Santiago C. Tapia & Jessica Curtright's It Began Without Warning. Its Who Can Kill A Child? vibe packed a lot of madness into six minutes.

Lastly, my favourite short film of my trip was definitely Natalie Erika James' Creswick. It had pitch perfect tone, great performances and the best use of sound design I've seen in ages. Toward the end, there was a sequence in a workshed that was just terrific. Hopefully, you will get to catch this - and all those aforementioned - at a festival near you, or at least eventually online.


So, that's another year in Ol' Montreal done. Hope you have earmarked some of the titles I wrote about for future reference, as there were some corkers. I'll be taking a little break, but see you back here next week.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Double Docs


I caught a pair of terrific documentaries while at Fantasia this week.


I wasn't able to see Alex Phillipe's 78/52 during its run in Toronto, but it was fortuitous because the filmmakers were in attendance for this screening in Montreal. This doc examines one of the most infamous scenes in all of cinema - the shower sequence from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. So named for the seventy-eight cuts and fifty-two second run time, this doc is extremely comprehensive, almost breaking the material down frame by frame with the help of filmmakers and scholars alike.

I loved this documentary because it concentrated on the pathos of the film and how much of an influence it had on cinema as well as the public at large. In doing so, 78/52 was not only a film about film, but also pop culture itself. I also really liked the range of subjects they brought in for the film that included the old guard like Peter Bogdonavich, the new blood like Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead & Oz Perkins (who has an obvious connection with the material) as well as denizens in between like Mick Garris and Guillermo del Toro.


The crowd was also riled up when the filmmakers announced their next project. I haven't seen it announced online yet, so I won't keep quiet, but they are planning on giving the same treatment to equally iconic moment from late-seventies science fiction.

The second documentary, Steve Mitchell's King Cohen was a deep dive into the world of maverick filmmaker Larry Cohen. It was extra special to not only have him there, but also his long-time collaborator Michael Moriarty to present him with a lifetime achievement award. These two were a dynamic duo and wasted no time hamming it up with each other.

Photo courtesy of Kurt Halfyard.

I've always said that Larry Cohen is one of the purest horror filmmaker out there. His oeuvre is not only extremely vibrant and unique, but also uncompromising. Q: The Winged Serpent, It's Alive, God Told Me To, The Stuff, I mean the list goes on. As does the list of filmmakers that sing his praised within like Martin Scorsese, John Landis & Joe Dante. Cohen is also a prolific writer, having penned over a hundred pieces of work for film and television. I was honoured to be in his presence.

If you are into documentaries about the craft of film, then I highly encourage you to seek out this pair of docs. You'll learn a lot, and do it with a grin.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hells Yeah!


Moving now to across the pond, I checked out Cold Hell, the new thriller from German director Stefan Ruzowitzky.


A Muslim taxi driver named Özge (Violetta Schurawlow) becomes the target of a serial killer after she witnesses him disposing of his latest victim.

I loved this film. Thrillers are a dime-a-dozen, but it is rare where all of its components come together as well as they did here. Cold Hell was the perhaps the closest thing to a giallo I've seen in quite some time. It has several elements, including the mysterious serial killer, a protagonist that is unwittingly brought into the investigation and the cat-and-mouse game that ensues.

This time however, the formula was cleverly subverted by flipping the gender roles. Usually, the female is a companion to the main character that helps to a certain degree, but often ends up needing to be rescued (Daria Nicolodi in some of Dario Argento's films for instance). In Cold Hell, Özge was the main character who was not only strong, but also took no shit and never let herself be a victim. It's also important for me to point out that her strength felt well established and organic. It wasn't an empty plot device, her actions were spurred on by years of being trodden on by the world.


Which brings me to Schurawlow, who was just fantastic. I could see the weight of the rage she carried around inside her quiet demeanor. It was almost as if she had been waiting for someone to come along she could unleash all her anger onto. I never once thought Özge couldn't do all of the kick-ass stuff Schurawlow did in this film. On top of that though, there were a lot of other moments like altercations with her estranged family and the socio-political hurdles of xenophobia that really added to her character. Ruzowitzky made a perfect casting choice here I can only hope that Schurawlow's career skyrockets like Franke Potente's did after he put her in his 2000 flick, Anatomy.

Violetta Schurawlow as Özge in Cold Hell.

Cold Hell was a well paced thriller, but it also had its share of really kinetic action sequences. Özge was a trained Thai boxer and I really liked the true-to-life nature of the fight sequences. They were not the highly choreographed bouts we see from Hollywood and the Far East, but realistic get-them-down-and-hit-them-in-the-face-as-many-times-as-possible affairs. It was extremely visceral and I was super pumped after the credits rolled.

Cold Hell will likely be my favourite film at the festival this year. It was a very well executed thriller anchored by a complex and spirited female lead. We need more thrillers (and lead characters) like this one.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mind The Doors!


One of my most anticipated screenings at this year's Fantasia was the new Blue Underground restoration of Gary Sherman's 1972 horror Death Line.


This screening was a treat for a number of reasons. First off, the transfer (which was struck from the original camera negative) was wonderful. Up until this point, Death Line, under its alternate title Raw Meat, was only available through a dark and muddy release from MGM. It was so great to able to actually see the inside of the underground lair during that lengthy tracking shot toward the beginning of the film. Also, Death Line still remains one of my favourite performances by Donald Pleasance. He was clearly having so much fun in this.

The biggest draw of this event though, was that director Gary Sherman was in attendance and sat down with filmmaker Bill Lustig for a lengthy discussion about the film. Here below is audio from that night, where he talks about working with Pleasance & Christopher Lee, the lamented A.I.P. release and exploring subtext within genre film. Enjoy!


Friday, July 21, 2017

Initiate Sequence.


Next up on the Fantasia docket was Graham Skipper's Sequence Break.


After playing an old arcade game that mysteriously shows up at his repair shop, Oz's (Chase Williamson) hold on reality begins to slip.

Skipper is part of a collective of filmmakers that have made several indie horrors (Almost Human, The Mind's Eye) in the last few years that I wasn't struck by, but this premise was just too intriguing to pass up. I'm glad I did because I liked this one quite a bit. When the instantly recognizable ships from Galaga flashed across the opening credits, I was like, okay I'm in, whatcha got?

If 2015's The Mind's Eye was a take on David Cronenberg's Scanners, then Sequence Break was Skipper's interpretation of Videodrome, switching out VHS & TV's with arcade games. However, I believe that this piece succeeded where the former failed. Even with some Lovecraftian and cyberpunk elements mixed in with the Cronenberg, Sequence Break did not overextend itself past its means. Boasting only five characters and largely one location, it allowed itself to be intimate, yet visually stimulating at the same time.


The practical effects (once again recalling Videodrome) were well executed and tactile and the synth score by Van Hughes was perfect. The indie horror scene has been saturated with eighties homages, but this one came off to me, as one of the most sincere. These retro efforts largely tend to rely on nostalgia and while they are often fun, do come off a bit surface-y. In Sequence Break, those aforementioned elements were complimentary, but it was the relationship between Oz and Tess (Fabienne Therese) that kept me invested.

Chase Williamson as Oz in Sequence Break

Which leads me to Williamson and Therese, reunited after working together in 2012's John Dies at the End. I thought their chemistry here was fierce and their relationship endearing. Maybe it was just the hope that someone like Tess exists in the world. I'm not necessarily convinced of that. My friend tells me I don't know enough women. Perhaps that is true. All I do know is that Therese is racking up an impressive list of genre credits so a breakout role is surely imminent.

Sequence Break was a solid indie sci-fi romance that is by far the best thing his crew have put out into the world. It rose beyond mere homage where retro-gaming was an entry point, but not the only driving force of the story. If Skipper's compatriots are smart, they will follow his lead going forward.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Only Skin Deep.


Fantasia continued with a screening of Norbert Keil's body horror piece, Replace.


When Kira's (Rebecca Forsythe) skin starts to inexplicably decay and flake off, she discovers she can replenish it with that of other women.

I wasn't crazy about this movie, but I'll start with the positive. I was really impressed with the look of this movie and how it visually represented Toronto. Kira's apartment had this really strange layout that could only exist in a movie and I kind of dug that. Odd at first was the relationship between Kira & her neighbour Sophia (Lucie Aron), actually reminding me of those awkward dubbed conversations you see in old gialli, but even that kind of grew on me after a while. It could also be that Aron reminded me of Asia Argento.

The Big Smoke.

I think scene to scene, Replace just felt uneven to me. I was slightly confused in that it seemed to exist out of time. Kira rocked an ancient flip phone, yet Sophia busted out a futuristic projection screen. As soon as the movie started escalating, it didn't really flow together as well as it should have. A few revelations toward the end helped to alleviate some of my grievances, but not all. I would wager that the more surrealist qualities of the movie were perhaps the contribution of co-writer Richard Stanley, but I was lukewarm on how that mixed with the science here.

Due to these distractions, I didn't feel nearly as connected to the characters as I was supposed to. That's a problem because body horror is all about its visceral nature and response. The special effects were solid, but even with those I often experienced a strange disconnect. Barbara Crampton showed up and gave the project some gravitas, but not enough to anchor the movie down once it started meandering in the middle.

Rebecca Forsythe (left) & Barbara Crampton in Replace

Visually I thought Replace was a success, but I just wish the other elements came together as well.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dying To Play.


Starting off my Fantasia coverage this year was a homegrown effort by Sebastien Landry & Laurence Morais-Lagace called Game of Death.


A group of friends unknowingly enter into a bout of kill-or-be-killed after uncovering an old board game.

I'd been looking forward to this title since it played SXSW in March, so I was very glad to hear it was playing Fantasia. Game of Death was a fun ride that basically succeeded on the strength of its premise. It may have leant on it a little too much, but I cannot deny that the game board was one of the most distinctive props I've seen in some time.

Originally envisioned as a web series, I think the creators were wise to cut into a feature, as it works much better as a one-shot. I don't think it would have had nearly as much punch if it had been broken up into bits. As a feature, the mix of traditional and video formats felt a little disjointed, but within the context of the chaotic subject matter I was able to cut it some slack.


The main draw was the gore and with Rémy Couture at the helm it was premiere stuff. If you like head explosions, then Game of Death is veritable pornography. And the crowd appreciated it I can tell you, even if it did admittedly have a home field advantage. I sometimes forget how much of a blood lust Montreal horror fans have here.

With gaming being a prevalent theme, there were a lot of callbacks to retro gaming, including a neat animated credit sequence. Landry & Morais-Lagace used this technique a few times throughout the movie and though I welcomed it, I don't believe it worked as well as it did at the onset.


Game of Death would have likely had more resonance if any of the characters were actually likable (Beth, played by Victoria Diamond, was the only one I was invested in and she was no saint), but it was easy to not really give a shit because it was the spectacle that drove things forward. And with a running time of under eighty minutes it didn't have time to overstay its welcome. It did still tend to meander at points, most notably with the inclusion of a Fargo-esque park ranger that began to grate on me, but it never went off the rails.

I was into this film though, only bumping on tiny, inane things like a couple having oral sex while wearing their underwear and the filmmakers not seeming to know (or care) what actually comes out of a shotgun. Game of Death was a simple and fun ride that will satisfy the gore hounds, but perhaps leave the more discerning a little wanting.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trailer Tuesdays: Alone in the Dark

In addition to George A. Romero, we also lost another icon in Martin Landau who passed away on Saturday. He was 89. His career spanned seven decades and included all forms of media. His favourite role of mine (and I'm sure for many) was his turn as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's 1993 film Ed Wood

R.I.P. Martin Landau 1928-2017

I'll also remember him from Jack Sholder's 1982 thriller Alone In The Dark where he shared the screen with Donald Pleasance and Jack Palance.



Rest in peace, Mr. Landau. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

R.I.P. George A. Romero 1940-2017

We lost a giant, figuratively and literally, yesterday. Filmmaker George A. Romero has passed away after a brief battle with lung cancer. He was 77. 

George A. Romero 1940-2017.

After bursting onto the scene with Night of the Living Dead in 1968, Romero's contribution to film is beyond compare. His debut ushered in a new era, not only for the zombie genre, but also the idea of using subtext within horror. He may not have been the first to do it, but Night sure inspired a lot of future filmmakers to do the same.

Beyond his influence as a filmmaker, his works had an indelible effect on me growing up. Night, Dawn of the Dead and much later Day of the Dead (once I was actually able to find it outside the limited resources of my Toronto suburb) are the pinnacle of zombie cinema, both in terms of special effects and what can be achieved through genre. His leanings toward the bleak carried onto 1977's The Crazies where he gutted me not once, but twice with the death of Lynn Lowry and the zero-hour loss of the cure. 

Romero then did what he did with ghouls with bloodsuckers in 1978's Martin with his non-sensationalized portrait of modern day vampirism. Later, Creepshow would run through my VCR more times than I can count and that syringe climax in Monkey Shines still remains one of my most intense memories of watching a horror film. I could go on and on.


What makes this even more sad is that Romero had made his home here in Toronto. He was a fixture of this community. You get into that frame of mind that he is always going to be there and it is just a matter of time before his next project would be announced. Then he's gone. I am taking some comfort in that we will get more time with him posthumously when his interview with Guillermo del Toro gets released on the newly announced Between Night and Dawn set from Arrow.

Rest in peace, Mr. Romero. Your legacy, much like some of your film subjects over the years, will never die.  

Sunday, July 16, 2017

If You Want It Done Right...

I'm gallivanting around Montreal right now, so no DKTM today, however I did want to call attention to a web series called Allie & Lara Make A Horror Movie. Created by Toronto-based horror mavens Larissa Thomas & Alicia Faucher, the first episode dropped a few days ago.



I dig how this turned out and the message rings true. When you're a filmmaker (or even a creator of content) it's easy to get bogged down by negativity or discouraged by those who seek to mess with your vision, so the idea that no matter what Allie & Lara (played with gusto by Maddy Foley & Heather Dicke) are going to make their vision - in this case a monster movie called Womantis - a reality is an inspiring one.

If you liked what you saw, why not contribute to their Indiegogo? The production already has a few episodes in the can, but they need some extra cash to bring the rest of their season into the world. Check it out here.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Fantasia Bound.


Hey gang! I'm off to Montreal for a spell, so stay tuned for some Fantasia reviews when I start rolling them out next week. Until then, have a great weekend, guys!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Brian Yuzna in the Flesh!

Last Tuesday was sensational because I got to meet horror maestro Brian Yuzna who The Royal Cinema has managed to corral for their screening of his film Society. I was getting another beer during the show and he was just sitting at concessions hanging out. I introduced myself and he told me I reminded him of Jeffrey Combs. It was pretty awesome. 


Anyway, after the film, there was a lengthy Q&A moderated by Royal programmer Richelle Charkot which you can listen to below. My apologies for the audio, I made the mistake of putting the recorder in my shirt pocket. Enjoy!



Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Trailer Tuesdays: Evil In The Deep

With summer now in full swing, you may be tempted to go into the nearest body of water. I, however, feel it is my duty to remind you of what may be waiting for you... EVIL IN THE DEEP



Holy, that narrator is working overtime. Also, I think the antagonist is a shark, but there's so much else going on in this trailer I cannot be sure. For some reason, this trailer neglects to mention this movie features Chuck “muthafuckin Love Connection” WooleryCheryl Ladd, before making the very wise decision to change her last name from Stoppelmoor, also appears.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

DKTM 347


Hey all. Here's what I've got for you this week.

VHS Love.

I found this great little piece on Bloody Disgusting this week. An artist by the name of Steelberg has made a name for himself by creating retro style VHS coverboxes featuring recent titles and here are some of his latest.





Steelberg is obviously not the only cat who is doing this, but I'd say he is the best and certainly the most authentic right down to the rental stickers. To see the rest of the run, check out the original article here.

Don't Go In The Woods.

Here's the trailer for the David Bruckner's new backwoods horror flick The Ritual.



I read the book this was based on a few years ago so I'm interested to see how this turned out. Hopefully, it comes to my neck of the woods later this year.

...& Ecstacy.

Madmind Studios' Agony, the video that literally takes place in hell, has a new trailer out.



This looks cool. Gameplay-wise it looks pretty standard, but I'm really intrigued by the world. I'm definitely up for trekking around some Hellraiser/Event Horizon-like digs. Agony is scheduled for release later this year on all platforms. You can check out the website here.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Blu Bird Fly.

It took me a few weeks, but I finally got a chance to dig into my Arrow Blu-ray of Dario Argento's 1970 film The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.


Bird has special significance to me, as it was the first Argento I ever saw (followed closely by Suspiria and Phenomena in its US incarnation Creepers). I was barely sixteen and just beginning my video store tenure. My horror diet up until that point had consisted mainly of slashers and creature features and it was films like Bird that opened my eyes to the fact that horror could be more than mere entertainment. It could also be artistic.

I adore this film with its quirky characters and meandering tour of the Rome less travelled. Bird was not the first giallo, but it set the template (in much the same way Halloween would kick off the American slasher boom almost a decade later) for what would come later not only in Argento's career, but also that of his contemporaries in Lucio Fulci, Sergio Martino and many others.

Someway, somehow, I will own that painting.

Based on the fourties pulp novel The Screaming Mimi, Argento took the nugget of the story and made it his own. I've always found his exploration of memory (where the protagonist is always chasing that one important detail) fascinating, not only how well he executes it, but also how many times he was able to successfully mine it throughout his career.

As for the Blu-ray, I’ll let the experts talk about the transfer, all I know is it looked as good as it ever has, and I’ve seen it projected on 35mm. Arrow really went to town on the presentation though. I posted Industrial Blue's unboxing video before, but even that doesn’t do justice to how stunning this set is. Perhaps most impressive is the gorgeous sixty-page booklet that dissects the film in many different ways as well as gives a good rundown of the gialli as a whole.

The set includes these six lobby cards.

I was also really impressed with the special features. There are two lengthy talks on the film with scholars Alexandra Heller-Nicolas & Kat Ellinger that were very informative, even for those well versed in the subject. I was not aware that there was another adaptation of The Screaming Mimi out there from 1958! I'll have to track that down. There is also a great commentary by Troy Howarth, as well as a new half-hour interview with Dario Argento himself. It was really refreshing to see him just sit down and talk extensively about his debut.

Big ups to Arrow for this one. There are few horrors that I always get the same amount of enjoyment with each viewing as I do with Argento’s ouevre. A good chunk of his catalogue are masterworks as far as I'm concerned, whether they be of the nail-biting thriller or supernatural fever dream variety.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Trailer Tuesdays: Hotline

Here's a trailer for the Lynda Carter thriller vehicle, Hotline.



I would watch this, however three things jumped out at me while watching this trailer. First, the phrase “crisis worker is being bugged by a crank caller” seems like a weird phrase to use, like he's giving her wet willies instead of harassing her by phone. Second, I somehow immediately identified this as a TV movie. And third, when Carter hits that dude at the end, I'd wager that's where she discovers that her trusted confidant is the killer and makes her escape. Horror 101 peeps!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

DKTM 346


Hello all! I hope you're enjoying your weekend and that sweet spot in between Canada Day and Fourth of July. Here's what I've got for you.

Bava Buffet.

While it is often that I wish I could attend something that is screening in NYC, this takes the torta, so to speak. The Quad Cinema in New York will be celebrating the work of Italian icon Mario Bava in July by playing twenty-one (!) of his classic films.

Mario Bava's Black Sabbath (1963)

Kicking off July. the Mondo Bava series also will play other such titles as Blood & Black Lace, Black Sabbath, Bay of Blood, Shock and a new 4K restoration of his seminal sci-fi title Planet of the Vampires. For the full line-up, click here.

Planet of the Vampires (1965)

I can only pray to any higher power that will listen that some organization in the Big Smoke will bring this series to Toronto. I'm crossing my black gloved fingers.

Trailer Two-Fer.

I have a couple of trailers here, the first of which is for the newest Child's Play movie, Cult of Chucky



I still haven't seen the one from a few years ago yet, but fortunately a friend is having a Chucky marathon this month so I'll be able to catch up soon enough. Second is the trailer for Black Fawn's newest The Heretics.



Each picture these guys make as part of their eight picture deal with Breakthrough is better than the last and having worked with two of the leads (Ry Barrett & Jorja Cadence) in the past, I am expecting good things. Look for both titles later this year.

If Only.

Lastly, since I'm still clocking in nightly sessions with Gun Media's Friday the 13th game, I thought this mock-up was particularly awesome.


I'm afraid I don't know who is responsible for this, but I like to think there is an alternative universe where these titles actually exist. What a childhood that would be!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Canada 150

Hello all! Canada turns 150 today!


If I was better at Photoshop I could have done something really cool like put a Canadian VHS cover in one of each of the thirteen boxes in that maple leaf, but alas I can only rock MS Paint. You'll just have to use your imagination.


Have a great one, guys!