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, August 30, 2017

Hex Rex

Last Friday, The Hexploitation Film Festival (previously Fright Night Theatre) held its first event under its new banner, a screening of Kino Lorber's restoration of Clive Barker's Rawhead Rex.

This was a movie I hadn't seen in upwards of twenty-five years (I honestly couldn't remember a single thing about it past the image of the coverbox) so I was interested to revisit it. After seeing it though, I realized I wasn't able to remember it because it's not particularly memorable. Time has not been kind to this movie.

The creature design of Rawhead Rex looks good in photographs, but onscreen he's not quite as magical. There's not a lot of articulation in the face, so the roaring seems almost disembodied at points. Presumably the actor Heinrich von Schellendorf was looking through the neck (if he could see at all) so when he rushed forward the head would ride up. It would be endearing if it wasn't so comical, but the issue is that under the close scrutiny of 4K I can really see how much more personality the designs of Rex's contemporaries, namely The Predator and Pumpkinhead, had. Though in Rex's defense, those other creatures had way better films built around them.

Rawhead Rex is certainly not the worst Barker adaptation out there – we can give that distinction to director George Pavlou's other Barker adaptation Transmutations – but it is certainly rife with miscues. I can see why Barker made sure he got behind the camera for subsequent adaptations of his more signature properties like Hellraiser and Nightbreed. I mean, the movie did have its moments. The rural Irish location set the mood and that stained glass window with the red eyes was pretty bad-ass. Though it seems odd that no one in the parish ever inquired about it. Oh, and Rex pees on a priest.

In addition to the movie, the event had some awesome pre-show vids, including trailers and vintage video from Barker's appearance on the UK talk show Open To Question.

Barker was a boss in this. He spent thirty minutes being grilled by people who just didn't get it, yet remained composed and offered up intelligent and well-thought out responses for every grenade lobbed his way. This was during a pretty volatile time in the UK and he unapologetically stands up for his brand of fiction.

Director Greg Lamberson was also in attendance to give us some insights about independent filmmaking during the eighties. It was a fun night and many more will follow in the Hammer and the HXFF. Stay tuned for more updates as the festival nears.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Sunday, August 27, 2017

R.I.P. Tobe Hooper 1943-2017

Here I was about to attack the day with a news post, but then woke up to some terrible news. Iconic filmmaker Tobe Hooper passed away yesterday. He was 74. I was just getting over Romero, and now we've lost another genre giant.

Tobe Hooper 1943-2017

The legacy of Hooper's crowing achievement The Texas Chain Saw Massacre cannot be understated. It is a landmark film and much like Romero's Night of the Living Dead changed the landscape of what was possible in horror cinema. I first saw TCM projected in 2008 with Hooper in attendance. He was such a quiet and humble guy, not at all what you would expect from a storied purveyor of nightmares.

Tobe Hooper at The Bloor, 2008.

I've said this before, but when seen on a big screen TCM has real power, perhaps more than any horror film ever made. The imagery is stark, the Texas sun seems to beam through the screen and the last act is unrelenting. If someone in the seat next to you were to fire up a chainsaw, you might not even notice due to the loud and entrancing nightmare unfolding onscreen.

Beyond TCM, Hooper also has a large range of crazy and uncompromising titles, such as Eaten Alive (1976), Lifeforce (1985) and his about-face sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. That is not even mentioning his role in one of the seminal titles of the early-eighties, Poltergeist.

Hooper was also very active in television. Not only did he direct arguably one of the best Stephen King adaptations in Salem's Lot, he also had many stints in episodic television, including three of my favourite nineties shows, Nowhere Man, Dark Skies and Tales from the Crypt and a pair of entries in Mick Garris' Masters of Horror.

We've lost another figure of horror royalty yesterday, so let's all honour him with a watch of one of his films today whether it be the staples, or one of his lesser known titles like The Mangler or Spontaneous Combustion. Rest in peace, Mr. Hooper. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Computer Scorned...

A group of scientists head out into space to investigate a strange signal. When the onboard computer starts getting jealous over Captain Royd's (Michael Praed) flirtations with one of the crew, things go south quickly.

Nightflyers is one of those films that was incredibly mis-marketed, as I had no idea what this movie was even about until I saw that trailer a few weeks ago. I'm still not sure what the title had to do with the movie. I mean, I suppose it could be the name of the ship, but wouldn't it be singular? Since 1997, the name has more recognition with the Stephen King property The Night Flier now, anyway.

All that aside, with some concessions, this was a fairly decent affair. Based on a short story by George R.R. Martin (yes, that one), this production was really ambitious for their super low budget, at least for what they were trying to do. I loved all the model work in this. It took my mind away from the fact that though it was supposed to the future, everyone was still dressed like it was the eighties. I guess it is true what they say. Fashion is cyclical! I also have to mention that the lengthy voice-over throughout (in tandem with a Vangelis-y score by Doug Timm) the movie reminded me of the theatrical cut of Blade Runner.


I was happy to see a trio of recognizable genre actresses Catherine Mary Stewart (Night of the Comet) Lisa Blount (Prince of Darkness) & Helene Udy (My Bloody Valentine, Pin) punching up the cast. Though its not fully touched on, I think the latter two characters may have been together, but it was pretty vague. Hooray for progress though.

Nightflyers never really kicked into high gear for me though. It didn't have that extra thing to put it over the top, like the unabashed sleaziness of 1982's Forbidden World or a batshit co-star like Klaus Kinski in 1985's Creature. But, then again, Nightflyers doesn't have a big bad monster like those two did. A better comparison would be if the Alien never got on board the Nostromo and Mother went ape-shit as a result. However, I have to admit the scene with the surgical laser was pretty awesome. Why wasn't THAT on the coverbox??? Oh wait, it's on the back!

Nightflyers ain't the best, but I do have to give props to director Robert Collector (credited as T.C. Blake after asking to have his name removed during post production) for getting as much as he did from what he had. Apparently, the Nightflyers story is currently being developed as a television series. They'll have to pad it out because I think Westworld now has the malfunctioning artificial intelligence market cornered. Just make sure it has lasers.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Trailer Tuesdays: The Hunger

With the character of Philip Jeffries being at the fore in the last few episodes of Twin Peaks - The Return I felt it appropriate to showcase one of David Bowie's other iconic roles, as the vampire John Blaylock in 1983's The Hunger.

I am due for a revisit of this film, as I haven't seen it since back in the First Choice/Superchannel days. Add it to the list I guess.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

DKTM 351

Hello all. I hope you're weekend is going well. Mine has been a super quiet one in front of the various screens. I do have some interesting stuff to post about this week, so let's get right to it.

OMG Yes.

The creators of the burgeoning Wyrmwood franchise dropped a concept trailer this week for their other project, Daemonrunner.

I loved that. This is an infinitely more interesting world to me than their other IP, so I hope they bring this to fruition at some point.

Deja Vampire.

You know of my disdain of remakes, but I heard of one this week that actually made some kind of sense. Robert Eggers, the main behind 2015's terrific film The Witch is going to tackle the 1922 classic Nosferatu

This seems like a perfect fit for him as he has proven his dedication to detail and world building is second to none. Furthermore, Eggers is reuniting with Ana Taylor-Joy, one of the most exciting actresses working in the genre today in my opinion. I mean, how can this go wrong, right?

Art & Hammer.

I was ecstatic to hear this week that Gary Pullin & Sara Deck's art exhibition series Below The Line is returning to Hamilton next month. Below The Line 2 will feature not only new artwork from Pullin & Deck, but also Jason Edmiston, Justin Erickson, Paige Reynolds, Matty Ryan Tobin & Kevin Tong. Check out some of what's in store below.

Art by Gary Pullin.

Art by Paul Jackson.

Art by Jason Edmiston.

Art by Jason Edmiston.

The show opens September 8th at Mills Hardware as part of Hamiton's Supercrawl Weekend. For more details, click here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Hail To The Chin.

This week saw the release of Bruce Campbell’s third book, Hail To The Chin: Further Confessions of a B-Movie Actor. Campbell describes this autobiography as “Act Two” and picks up where his first one left off at the onset of the 2000's.

While I think his debut If Chins Could Kill was a little more engaging, as it went into details about his early days with the Renaissance Boys and his rise to B-movie icon, Campbell has much to regale us with from the past fifteen years. I am an avid fan and even I had forgotten just how busy he’d been over the last decade or so when it was all laid out in print. I think my only glaring disappointment was that there were significantly less photos and visual aids compared to his first book. 

Hail To The King begins with Campbell's short lived action show Jack of all Trades and then he takes us through the aughts, including his turn as Elvis in Don Coscarelli’s beloved Bubba Ho-Tep, his adventures shooting The Man with the Screaming Brain and Alien Apocalypse in Bulgaria and his extended run as Sam Axe on the USA Network’s spy show Burn Notice.

Aside from the broad stokes, he also delves into his continuing cameo work in Sam Raimi joints, using his own property to film My Name Is Bruce and the whack of failed pilots he did in between Burn Notice and Ash Vs. Evil Dead.

I found that Campbell revealed more about his private life in this book. While not all of it is particularly exciting – get ready to discover more than you ever wanted about Oregon – I learned quite a bit about the man. Did you know that he has once arrested for DUI or that he has a side business with his wife harvesting lavender? Me either!

Campbell at Fan Expo Toronto in 2009.

Campbell also spends a few chapters speaking about the business of fan conventions and public appearances. I think this was the part I was most interested in because I wanted to get some insight on just how much of a grind this process can be. I was a party to some really unflattering behaviour toward convention volunteers in the past, so I guess I was hoping for some acknowledgment that it can be tough to always to be “on”. Oh well, maybe he was just having a bad day.

Hail To The Chin was an amusing and brisk read about one of the genre’s most celebrated actors. As his “Act Three” begins, I am interested to see where the Chin grows from here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bava At The Royal!

As I posted about before, due to the much appreciated efforts of Toronto taste-makers David Bertrand and Chris Alexander, The Royal Cinema was able to acquire four of the Mario Bava titles that played NYC's terrific Mondo Bava retrospective last month.

I was able to catch three of the four and I was really happy to see they were all very well attended. To me, the more people that are aware of this Italian maestro, the better. Most horror fans, including myself way back when, come into Italian horror by way of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci – nothing wrong with that, they are giants to be sure – but it is also important to dig into the marrow.

Poster art by Andrew Barr.

The first screening was for Bava's 1965 sci-fi Planet of the Vampires, and the 4K restoration of this film was absolutely gorgeous. Not only does it highlight the wonderful colours and production design, but it does so without taking away from the majesty, as is sometimes the case when you throw light on material that was never intended to be overly scrutinized. While the influence on Ridley Scott's Alien is undeniable – more in story than visual design – I think Planet of the Vampires is the best outer space tale that exists in the span between Forbidden Planet and TV's Star Trek.

Planet of the Vampires

After Vampires, I saw the one film that was playing that weekend that I hadn't seen, 1970's Hatchet For The Honeymoon. While it was not near the top of my favoured Bava's titles, it has all the hallmarks of his oeuvre. I was gobsmacked to learn that the film's star Steven Forsythe actually resides in Toronto and showed up to the screening. How many people are still around that can talk about working with Mario Bava? Hearing him talk about it was a real treat.

I wasn't able to attend the Black Sunday screening, but I'm sure it went over well. I certainly enjoyed it when I watched it during my Time Out countdown. Sunday was screening I was really looking forward to, 1966's Kill Baby Kill...

I adore this film, not only for its influence on scores of filmmakers – the people who are currently ensconced in Twin Peaks should look to this film for a proto-template of The Lodge – but it is also just a incredibly well put together film. Sure, the overuse of the shock zoom may induce a few chuckles, but I think this is Bava at his best. He gives equal measure to story and aesthetics in this one. Contemporary filmmakers who seem in such a rush to get to the jump scare could learn a lot from how the set pieces are paced and constructed in this film. There has to be a build up or who gives a shit, right?

Kill Baby, Kill...

Mario Bava was a master and I was so glad to see some of his finest works on the big screen.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Trailer Tuesdays: Boardinghouse

Here's the trailer for John Wintergate's 1982 shot-on-video opus Boardinghouse.

They certainly packed a lot of gore into that trailer. I haven't seen this one, but should I ever come across it, I'd be willing to give it a whirl.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Peddling of the Dark Wares.

Last weekend was Rue Morgue's inaugural Spooky Flea Market.

Taking place in the lot outside their offices in West Toronto, this was a terrific event that had a real community feel to it. Even though the usual crowd showed up in force, I saw a lot of the curious uninitiated walking up the driveway while I was there, too.

I'm sure they were a little confused when they saw killer clowns rubbing elbows with Jesus as he cooked up burgs and hot dogs on the BBQ, but hopefully they all had a good time.

Photo courtesy of Buni Hiro.

I walked around for a few hours, caught up with some familiar faces and was pretty chuffed that I only spent twenty-five dollars on some really choice acquisitions.

The Funeral Home coverbox - and my pic - don't really do justice to the detailed ink work of this poster. I was pretty smitten when I saw it and the owner, Canuxploitation guru James Burrell, gave me a deal because I had previously written some kind words about one of his publications. Sold. I also picked up a pair of VHS.

One is an old favourite and other is one of the few nineties Bruce Campbell joints I haven't seen. I could tell early on that this venture was going to be a success, so I hope that it becomes a yearly thing in the future. I'll be there for sure.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

DKTM 350

Good afternoon. Here's what I've got for you this week.

Niagara Frights.

There is a new horror convention descending on the Golden Horseshoe come this fall. Frightmare in the Falls will be hitting Niagara this November 11-12th.

There have been conventions out this way before, but this one seems to be more horror-centric - like the short-lived ventures of years past like MacabreCon and Dark Carnival - so let's hope this one sticks. They have certainly got some star power involved with the likes of Kane Hodder and Tom Savini, but the real draw for me is the appearance of Christine herself, the 1958 Plymouth Fury.

If you're interested in attending, tickets - that are a fraction of what you'd pay at Fan Expo I might add - are available here.

...Sitting In A Tree

With a new Annabelle movie out this weekend, it looks like Full Moon took it upon themselves to riff on it, using one of their most enduring properties.

I have to admit, I am intrigued. For more Blade though, you can check out Puppet Master: Axis Termination Episode One: War Toys over at Full Moon's Amazon Channel.

Dance of the Dead.

I wanted to end of things with a cool little video created by YouTube user Jarvis City. It's a sharp little ditty compiling some dance sequences from various horror films. Enjoy!

If you liked this, you can check out some of his more long-form vids, including ones about slashers and lady killers.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Trailer Tuesdays: Nightflyers

I won a copy of Robert Collector's Nightflyers the other day, so I looked it up.

Well, this is not at all what I was expecting. Sign me up! It's a funny coincidence that it is based on a George R.R. Martin novel, considering how completely Game of Thrones is consuming my soul of late.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

DKTM 349

Hey all! Apart from TIFF's Midnight line-up being announced it's been a pretty quiet week here, so it will be a quick one today. Have a good one!


This week, a film festival I program for in Hamilton, Ontario announced its new name. After much deliberation over the last few months, Fright Night Theatre has now become the Hexploitation Film Festival.

The name didn't wow me right away, but I've warmed to it. I like that it's a combination of Horror and Exploitation - our two biggest programming cornerstones - and the abbreviated moniker of HexFest rolls off the tongue easily.

The festival runs Mar 23-25th, 2018 and we have begun taking submissions for both shorts and features, so if you're a filmmaker or know one, send them here. Hope to see you next year.

122 Nightmares.

I came across this pretty awesome video from last year compiled by Diego Carrerra where he beautifully traces the history of horror from 1895 to 2016. Enjoy!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Eight-Sided Haunts.

Reaching onto my VHS shelf this week, I pulled out Armand Weston's 1981 film The Nesting.

A writer afflicted with agoraphobia named Lauren (Robin Groves) rents an old house in the country only to find that it may be haunted.

I was, of course, very familiar with the coverbox (that's probably what possessed me to pick it up from whatever convention vendor table it came from) but even after all these years I'd never actually seen this movie. I'm glad to say that it turned out to be a pretty decent haunted house flick. I had assumed this was Warner Bros trying to cash in on the success of Amityville, The Changeling and The Shining, but was pleasantly surprised by how well put together it was.

Fairly typical was the setup and I chose to overlook the arbitrary agoraphobia plot device that seemed to come and go whenever it was convenient, but the movie worked for the most part. Fortunately, Weston was able to procure the Armour-Stiner House, an octagonal Victorian-style home from the 1800's that has as much character as the iconic abode in Amityville.

Robin Groves as Lauren with her co-star Armour-Stiner.

The Nesting did feel like a TV movie sometimes, but that went away when the gore showed up. I was beginning to wonder why that sickle had been featured so prominently in both iterations of the coverbox art... and then I finally found out why. The other thing that stuck out to me was just how much of a wise-ass Lauren's friend, Mark (Chris Loomis) was. Almost everything out of his mouth was a sarcastic remark. It got exhausting though I have to admit, during a chunk in the middle where things got a little dry, I kind of missed him.

Shut the fuck up, Mark!

I was rewarded through this stretch with a solid climax though. It does play out like your classic ghost revenge piece, but it was well told and all of the weird dream sequences, flashbacks and fantastical deaths that seemed random before all came together when the full tale was revealed.

Well, that was unexpected.

After digesting almost fourty years of haunted house yarns, I saw the formula within The Nesting, but it had the benefit of a one-of-a-kind location, competent actors and enough gore moments to ensure its escape from obscurity. It is definitely worth a look if you dig the haunted house genre.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

New Blood At Midnight.

Earlier today, this year's crop of titles for TIFF's Midnight Madness lineup were announced. 2017 is particularly significant because this is programmer Peter Kuplowsky's inaugural kick at the can after Colin Geddes - a man who has been Toronto's premiere genre tastemaker since the late nineties - left earlier this year.

Colin Geddes (left) with Peter Kuplowsky at MM 2015.

There are some really awesome looking titles this year, including David Bruckner's adaptation of the Adam Nevill novel, The Ritual and the newest from the celebrated duo of Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani's Let The Corpses Tan.

Canadian surrealism is the order of the day in Seth A. Smith's The Crescent and from France comes a searing debut from Coralie Forgeat named Revenge.

Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz in Revenge.

Midnight also brings the star power with Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair in Mom and Dad and Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter and Don Johnson in Brawl in Cell Block 99.

For the full lineup and a great interview with Kuplowsky about his picks and filling Colin's very large shoes, click here

I am pretty Goddamn excited!!!