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.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Shorts

Hello again. Now I know yesterday I said I was done with Best of lists, but short films have become such a big part of my life in the last few years that I would be remiss not to showcase the ones that really stood to me in 2018. While some of them may have premiered in 2016-17, they came to my attention this year so I'm treating them as such.

The first half-dozen I saw while screening shorts for Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival and were subsequently programmed. The next pair I watched during my visit to Calgary Underground Film Festival. Fauve screened in front of Summer of '84 at Fantasia in July and last, but not least was my favourite short at this year's Blood In The Snow Canadian Film Festival.

Directed by Santiago Menghini.
Directed by Heath C. Michaels
Directed by Ian Hunt Duffy
Directed by Astron 6
Directed by Teal Greyhavens
Directed by Joshua Long
Directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen.
Directed by Gonçalo Almeida.
Directed by Jeremy Comte
Directed by Robert Deleskie

Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 Wrap-up

Hey all! Let me just start off by saying thank you to all those that have stopped by over the last eleven years. Though this humble blog was mainly meant for me to a) wax nostalgic about the VHS age and b) to stave off writing atrophy, it warms my blackened heart to know that a few of you out there care enough to keep looking in.

2018 was a pretty decent year for me. I picked up two new gigs, one as head programmer at the Toronto Smartphone Film Festival and one as a shorts screener for Fantasia, the latter of which brings the relief of not begging for a pass every year. I have further ingratiated myself into the short film community and even printed up some new business cards!

On the writing side of things, I'm also proud of the anniversary article I wrote for Delirium magazine about Bernard Rose's underseen gem Paperhouse. It's a pretty sweet issue, you should pick it up.

I was also glad to visit Calgary this year and check out CUFF. Frankly, I was enamoured with this fest, and not just by how brilliantly they treat their guests – I was there screening The Good Samaritan – but by how well it is run.

Lastly, Blood, Sweat & Terrors, the third Little Terrors compilation I helped put together is now available on almost every platform out there. This one is action oriented and it's pretty crackin'.

So now we're done with all the sappy stuff, things are going to be a little different at this year's end. No more calculated top five lists. I decided this for two reasons. First, having now shifted my focus to old VHS titles, I realized there was no yearly archive of posts I could go back and refer to when compiling my Best/Worst of 2018. Second, I finally came to the conclusion...

That being said, I am still compelled to briefly touch on the media that enraptured me over this past year.

That was my 2018 in a nutshell. You may have noticed that there were no short films in that list above. Well, that's because I'm going to dedicate a special post to those tomorrow. Check back then, kiddies!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Auld Lang Zzzzzzz

To usher in 2019, I watched my VHS of Norman J. Warren's 1987 holiday horror Bloody New Year.

When a group of teens get stranded on a island, they realize they may not be alone.

Yeah, there's no way around it, Bloody New Year was a fucking dud. I was expecting a run-of-the-mill slasher in the vein of New's Year Evil, but this movie had more in common with The Shining or Evil Dead, with one-thousandth the entertainment value.

Perhaps the paramount issue was that this movie made no fucking sense. It's like the trio of writers – really, it took three of you to come up with this? – all had separate ideas and couldn't decide which one to go with so they haphazardly shoe-horned in each one. I'm all for keeping the viewer confounded, but it has to eventually go somewhere interesting. This did not.

Additionally, Bloody New Year actually took place in July, so its connection to the holiday was dubious at best. At a few points there was mention of a crashed experimental plane caused the ensuing shenanigans, but this random sci-fi element didn't explain the lion's share of what went on.

You look just like I feel.

I really can't overstate how muddled this movie was, as it had weird creatures, zombies, ghosts and even one scene where one couple were chased by “laughter”. I shit you not. It also didn't help that the characters were mainly a bunch of insipid idiots that I couldn't wait to get offed.

Bloody New Year was frankly, a chore to get through. I was looking through Warrren's other movies and it seems I may have picked the wrong title, as Prey, Horror Planet and Spaced Out all sound like more appealing watches than this boring yule log.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Short of the Week #48: Treevenge

Merry Christmas everyone! You know it wouldn't be the holidays around here without posting Jason Eisener's seminal short film, Treevenge. Have a great one kiddies.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Ten Little Santas

In the spirit of the season, I watched my VHS of Edmond Purdom's 1984 UK slasher Don't Open Till Christmas.

A killer targeting men dressed as Santa terrorizes London during the holiday season.

Damn this movie packs a lot into its eighty-six minutes. Being from across the pond, it is less known than some of the more infamous Xmas slashers like Silent Night, Deadly Night and Christmas Evil, but I feel this one just has as much to offer. As a movie, it's a schizophrenic mess that hops from protagonist to protagonist like an advent calendar, but if murder set pieces and high body counts are your game, then this one is for you.

Something that struck me right away was how similar the opening sequence was to the original Friday the 13th. If you were to put them side-by-side, I bet the beats line-up almost exactly. I wonder if it was intentional, or by 1984 just a by-product of an over-saturated subgenre. I was also reminded of Juan Simón's Pieces, as these two – in addition to sharing star Purdom – have like-minded structures and endings. While no one got their junk squeezed in the final frames, Don't Open ended just as abruptly. I will say that Purdom's picture was much more outwardly dour and nihilistic though.

Director & Star Edmond Purdom in Don't Open Till Xmas.

This slasher REALLY hated Santa Claus, as a whopping ten were dispatched in all manner of gruesome ways in this. You may wonder how they could pack that many into ninety minutes and still have some semblance of story. Well, the answer is... it doesn't, a coherent one anyway. Don't Open sure got access to a lot of cool locations though and they made the most of them, my favourite being The London Dungeon – probably within a year of when I'd have been there! Lastly, and perhaps most head scratching was the random cameo from Caroline Munro, as herself.

Don't Open was far from perfect, but I have to admire the effort to cram in as many beloved genre elements into one movie as possible. I imagine a lot of this was unintentional – rumour has it there were as many as four directors used and extensive reshoots – but the result still kept me more than entertained. By the end, I was just left to exclaim, “man, these guys just don't give a FUUUUCK!”

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Short of the Week #47: We Summoned A Demon

After tearing up the festival circuit for the last eighteen months, Chris McInroy's hilariously gory short film We Summoned A Demon is now online. Enjoy!

Friday, December 14, 2018

GM uh-Oh.

This week’s VHS is Hal Barwood’s 1985 thriller Warning Sign.

When a deadly virus is accidentally released inside an agricultural facility, all those locked inside must fight for their lives.

Warning Sign was the second in my double header of virus flicks and it couldn’t be more opposite from last week’s The Alpha Incident. Granted, this one was a wholly legitimate production from Twentieth Centuty Fox, but man was it solid. Not only was it shot by legend Dean Cundey, but also featured a veritable parade of character actors, including Sam Waterston, Kathleen Quinlan, Yaphet Kotto, Richard Dysart and Jeffrey De Munn as well as familiar faces G.W. Bailey, Jerry Hardin and Rick Rossovich.

Sam Waterston (right) & Jeffrey De Munn in Warning Sign.

This was director Barwood’s only kick at the can – after rubbing elbows with George Lucas at Fox and later moving into the video game industry – and he made it count. Warning Sign was an engaging thriller that had the gravitas of a studio picture, but sadly got buried in the avalanche of the decade’s flashier and more celebrated offerings.

What I found most intriguing were the similarities it shared with two iconic genre pictures, Aliens and 28 Days Later. It’s impossible not to watch the scene where a cammed-up science team descend into Bio-Tek’s lower levels and not think of the sequence where James Cameron’s colonial marines had their disastrous first engagement with the aliens.

Come for the virus, stay for the arcade games!

I was also reminded of Ripley when Quinlan’s character had to turn into a reluctant bad-ass in the second act. Even more interesting is that Aliens came out a year later, yet they were both pictures at Fox. You can even hear James Horner’s score in the Warning Sign trailer, though if I had a nickel for every time that was pilfered for an ad I’d be as rich as Cameron.

As for 28 Days Later, I have to wonder if writer Alex Garland didn’t see this movie. While it’s true both viruses shared a similar pathology, my eyebrows didn’t raise until the word “rage” was used more than once. Very curious indeed.

I think what most surprised me about Warning Sign was the ending. It was very unexpected and not at all how these movies usually go. It was kind of refreshing actually. Not particularly realistic, but it was a studio picture, after all. Considering I hadn’t heard thing one about this film before watching it, I feel it’s an underappreciated gem. I understand that the mid-eighties were crammed with pop culture mainstays, but if you dig a little deeper there are a ton of other fine titles like this one to be found, as well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Short of the Week #46: The Ten Steps

Going way back to 2004, here's one of my favourite all-time short films, Brendan Muldowney's The Ten Steps.

Putting aside my penchant for babysitter stories, I've always thought the payoff in this short was exceptional. Muldowney has since gone on to direct three features, Savage (2009), Love Eternal (2013) and Pilgrimage last year starring Tom Holland and Jon Bernthal.

Sunday, December 9, 2018


No fanfare. Just another milestone.

Friday, December 7, 2018

You Snooze, You Lose.

This week's VHS is Bill Rebane's 1978 killer virus flick The Alpha Incident.

An organism brought back from Mars infects a group of people in a railway station.

With flu season upon us, I thought it fitting to revisit a movie I haven't seen since my Major Video days. I pretty much only remembered the big effects piece in the movie and it didn't even go down how I recalled it. As a movie, The Alpha Incident wears its lack of budget on its sleeve as the majority of the movie takes place in one room, as faraway scientists search for a cure.


I found myself frustrated with the characterizations here, as apart from straight arrow Dr. Sorensen (Stafford Morgan), everyone is rather insipid or exaggerated and certainly not the kind of folks you'd want to spend your last moments with. Perhaps most disappointing was how useless the only female character was, as Jenny (Carol Irene Newell) goes from fairly meek to sneaking off to snog the wholly unappealing Jack (John Goff) for no real reason other than perhaps the filmmakers needed a flash of skin.

If you look up LEER in the dictionary...

I've always found the movie's hook of a virus that only kills you once you fall asleep really interesting – it was most of the reason I wanted to re-watch it – but I sure wish they'd had the funds to fully realize this idea. You only get to see the effects once, well twice if you count the poor lab rat earlier in the movie. The Alpha Incident also concludes how you would expect though I did have to rewind it because it's executed very strangely. I couldn't tell if the production just couldn't afford squibs or they were inferring that they also brought back ray guns from Mars, as well.

If Don Draper had been a bio-chemist...

As you know, I'm not one for remakes, but if there's one that could use a second go-round it's this one. I assume The Alpha Incident was a low budget riff on Robert Wise's The Andromeda Strain, but if you happen to be looking for alternate seventies virus-on-the-loose yarns, I'd go with George A. Romero's 1973 picture The Crazies, or even Ed Hunt's Canadian tax shelter effort Plague from 1978.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Short BITS 2018

The seventh edition of the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival wrapped up early last week and was, by all accounts, a rousing success. Expanding to six days and adding several more panels and a new spotlight of genre web series, the fest showed that the future here is bright. Though I took in a few features (the highlight of which being Danishka Esterhazy's Level 16), I will be concentrating on the short films screened at the fest.

It was a strong year that ran the gamut, whether it was the adorable middle-school produced Frostbite from the North West Territories, or the all-too-real tragic scenario of Daumoun Khakpour's Standby, there was something for every horrorphile throughout the weekend.

Nelson Dunk's The Devil You Know was a piece I had seen a few times while screening shorts for festivals this year and I am glad it found a place here. It's an interesting concept that flourishes on the strength of its two leads Courtney Hecktus & Aubree Erickson.

Ariel Hansen's Nepenthes upped the ante on the killer house tale, offering up something extra gooey.

It is often hard for festivals to find slots for long form shorts, but fortunately BITS found one for Nicole Goode's Supine. This beautifully shot piece about a lonely taxidermist kept me engaged throughout, largely due to the sullen, yet striking performance from Eva Larvoire.

David J. FernandesBinge offered up an intriguing mystery that would've been at home in an episode of Vincenzo Natali's series DarkNet.

Robert DeLeskie's short film Lay Them Straight was terrific and well deserving of the Best Short Award at this year's fest. It's extremely sedate and introspective, ultimately building to a chilling, yet wholly satisfying conclusion.

For me personally – and for those who know of my penchant for babysitter creepers this should come as no surprise – my fave of the fest was Jenny Stang's The Whistler. It's not only well acted and looked great, it also took the time to create its own lore. I've come to describe it as this year's Banshee, but far superior in my opinion.

So that's my rundown of the BITS bunch. You may or may not have noticed how many of these aforementioned shorts were directed by women. It is actually a promising trend I have noticed while watching hundreds of shorts in 2018. Numbers are definitely up and that's encouraging. Speaking of which, I'd like to give a shout out to Larissa ThomasAlicia Faucher for being nominated for Best Web Series in Allie & Lara Make A Horror Movie. Check it out here if you feel so inclined.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The House of Lords.

This week it's another VHS from my recent Horror-Rama haul in Jim Wynorski's 1988 sci-fi flick Not Of This Earth.

An alien (Arthur Roberts) from a dying planet comes to Earth in search of blood to rejuvenate his race.

When the opening credits first came on, I was like, “wow this is amazing, if the rest of the movie is half this good--” then my eyebrow raised when I saw something very familiar. This being a Roger Corman production, I realized that this opening was a greatest hits reel of some of his most memorable pictures including Humanoids From The Deep and Galaxy of Terror. It's a bit of a cheat, but it also made for one hell of an opening.

It took me a while to clock into this movie because as it felt like two distinct sensibilities mixing together into some kind of primordial soup. First, you had the strange genre picture that would've been camp if it wasn't played so straight. It was like John Waters – though I've only seen like two of his movies so it's more like what I think his movies are like – with tons of random nudity. Then put over top of that was a weird noir where people – especially the exchanges between Nadine (Traci Lords) and her co-worker Jeremy (Lenny Juliano) - talk like they're from the fifties. Imagine if a bunch of topless dancers showed up to the station in the second act of Howard Hawks' The Thing.

Traci Lords as Nadine in Not Of This Earth.

Looking up the movie afterwards – this is definitely one I'd love to hear the commentary track – and seeing it was a remake of Corman's own picture from 1957, it all made sense. He & Wynorski updated the movie with an eighties aesthetic, visual effects and gratuitous T&A, but didn't change the cadence of the dialogue. Now I get it. It's actually kind of a marvel when you take into account that – in regular Corman fashion – the movie was shot in under twelve days. It was also helped by Chuck Cirino's score, even if the best bits sounded like riffs off his earlier score from Chopping Mall.

Arthur Roberts as Mr. Johnson in Not Of This Earth.

Not Of This Earth is also known for being Lords' first non-porn role and the last picture she played in her birthday suit. She's actually pretty good in this, but it is hard to tell sometimes with all the abstract dialogue. Lords isn't the only familiar face either, as Kelli Maroney from Chopping Mall shows up, as does Roger Lodge, the guy from that Blind Date show. I'd also love to know if there is a story why Dick Miller wasn't the vacuum salesman. Michael DeLano did a fine job, but I couldn't help but wonder if he wasn't a last minute replacement.

So, though Not Of This Earth may not be the caliber of Wynorski's more appreciated works, it's still an interesting anomaly. By the third act I was invested enough to want to know how this crazy tale was going to finish up.