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.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Short of the Week #44: The 7 Sevens

This week's short is a terrific little tale I saw my first year as a festival screener. I've always found the phenomena of number stations to be extremely interesting and I love Lane & Ruckus Skye's take on it. Below is their 2015 short, The 7 Sevens.

The 7 Sevens is a perfect example of all you need to make a great film is a solid idea and a pair of really talented actors. The Skye's are currently finishing up post on the debut feature, The Reckoning

Friday, November 16, 2018

Moon Jockeys.

Freshly acquired from this year’s Horror-Rama, this week’s VHS is Roland Emmerich’s 1990 sci-fi flick Moon 44.

Set in 2038, IA agent Felix Stone (Michael Paré) is sent undercover to a remote mining colony with a bunch of convicts to investigate some stolen shuttles filled with precious ore.

After watching Emmerich’s 1985 effort Making Contact this summer I was kind of hoping for something equally bonkers, but somewhat disappointingly Moon 44 was a fairly standard representation of the nineties sci-fi that populated video store shelves around that time. I mean, the ambition was there as the first act saw Emmerich reach for the lofty world building heights of Blade Runner and Aliens, but it gets bogged down in its plot. I found it often took itself too seriously, as well.

As with most direct-to-video sci-fi (it did play theatrically overseas) it had a pretty solid cast in Paré, along with Brian Thompson, Stephen Geoffreys (basically playing a drug dealing Evil Ed) and Malcolm McDowell, who despite having gone grey by then still looked young as fuck. Also, was it just me or was Leon Rippy the only one sweating profusely throughout this movie?

Fundamentally, I thought this movie needed more dog-fighting. By utilizing sweet practical effects, they definitely made up the best parts of the movie. Moon 44 built to a climax where convicts were being trained to fight incoming robot pirates and when they arrived, only Paré and Thompson fought them – and not even together! I know I know, budgets, but imagine if at the end of The Magnificent Seven, five of them decided to stay at the saloon.

Michael Paré as Felix Stone in Moon 44. 

Perhaps the most distressing and ill-advised part of the movie was when it's implied that one of the navigators was raped in the shower by a pilot. Considering that when the pilots are actually in the air, their lives are in the hands of their navigator – in a tandem even more unclear than the one in Pacific Rim – I really don’t think the assaulter really thought things through. Things don’t end up well for either of them.

As far as sci-fi space mining movies go, I have to say – and I can’t believe I am – Gary S. Tunnicliffe’s Within The Rock is the more entertaining joint. Moon 44 was certainly watchable fare, but it’s just a hair before Emmerich started positioning himself as the filmmaker we all know and love/hate.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Short of the Week #43: Black Eyes

This week I'm posting one of my favourite shorts from 2015 in Rick Spears' Black Eyes.

If you know anything about me at all, you know that this kind of stuff is my bag. Sadly, Spears has been quiet (at least according to Imdb) but at least two members of the team, Michelle Lombardi & Drew Bolduc - whom I had the pleasure of meeting during one of my trips to Bloomington - are in post production on their newest project, Assassinaut.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Friday, November 9, 2018

She Came From Within.

Carrying over the Montreal locale, this week’s VHS is David Cronenberg’s 1977 effort, Rabid.

After undergoing experimental surgery, Rose (Marilyn Chambers) acquires a taste for human blood for which her victims subsequently become violent zombies.

Rabid is one of those films that so much time has passed from when I would have first seen it that I can’t remember if I actually watched it, or just manufactured an idea of it from seeing the coverbox so much as a kid. Considering I recalled almost nothing, I wager the latter is true. Though Rabid is one of Cronenberg’s least talked about works, I think it’s still a solid piece of work.

Obviously, the main talking point was the casting of porn star Marilyn Chambers (apparently a suggestion by Ivan Reitman after the studio balked at their first choice in Texan Sissy Spacek) that I think was as bold as it was perfect. I felt she had real screen presence in this film, switching back and forth between innocent and predatory with ease. Her comfort level with the nudity was to be expected I suppose, but I also got the sense she really trusted her director. I mean, can you imagine her reading the script, “soooo I have a parasite that comes out my armpit???” 

Marilyn Chambers as Rose in Rabid.

After watching Strange Shadows last week, I was surprised by how different Montreal looked even though both these movies were filmed around the same time. Granted, a lot of Rabid was shot at night, but I definitely felt there was more grittiness to this one. As with most of Cronenberg joints, this had so many recognizable locations. If there’s ever a Montreal edition of Horror Express, I hope that at least the mall and apartment complex are on the list.

Also while watching Rabid, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to George A. Romero’s The Crazies released a few years earlier. Not that there was any intentional aping going on, but they did share similarities in both pathology and escalation. It’s also clear the pair shared the nihilistic streak that was so common during that decade, it was almost a badge of honour.

I mentioned Rabid wasn’t as popular as some of the Baron of Body Horror's other efforts, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its moments. It played to me as an extension of Shivers, moving beyond the confined space of Starliner Island and sweeping into the entire city of Montreal where truck drivers, pervy moviegoers and mall Santas were all caught in the crossfire. Not to fear though, as Cronenberg’s version of squeegee kids were there to clean up the mess.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Short of the Week #42: Latched

Last week, Canadian filmmaker Justin Harding posted his award winning short filmography on his website. I have posted his 2017 opus Latched below, but afterwards you should definitely go check out his earlier work.

I stand by my past declaration that Harding is currently the top hombre working in this medium. He has fantastic ideas, the resources and skills to execute them and his many years working in the television industry have given him to chops to churn out his projects at a break-neck pace. I have no doubts Harding will soon become a major player in the horror industry.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Horror-Rama Haul!

Hey all. Last weekend was Horror-Rama and it was a blast, as always. In addition to sharing air with genre celebrities such as Linnea Quigley, Lynn Lowry and Dee Wallace, I also came away with a pretty sweet haul.

And since it was staring me in the face all weekend, I finally broke and picked up Matthew Therrien gorgeous Suspiria print.

I'm afraid I don't have the faculties to go into depth as much as I usually would, but I can assure you that if you can make it out next year, you will not be disappointed.

Friday, November 2, 2018

I Thought Canadians Were Supposed To Be Friendly!

This week’s VHS was my recently acquired tape of Alberto De Martino’s 1976 Euro-crime joint Strange Shadows in an Empty Room.

A grizzled Ottawa police captain (Stuart Whitman) travels to Montreal to investigate the death of his sister.

I first saw this film at Trash Palace many years ago, but likely due to the PBR-induced haze remembered almost none of it. Strange Shadows is a fascinating anomaly as it was shot in Montreal by an Italian (known for spaghetti westerns & sword of sandal pictures) aping the gritty American cop efforts of this era. If you then throw in some giallo elements you have yourself quite a stew.

Right of the bat I noticed the fantastic cast assembled for this movie. In addition to Whitman, you also have Martin Landau, Tisa Farrow and Italian production staple John Saxon, among others. While the cover may have you believe you're in for a Wait Until Dark-style thriller, the blind girl only briefly factors into the story. It’s actually more of an ensemble murder mystery that in true Italian genre fashion features a revolving door of quirky characters that come fast and furious throughout the run time.

Stuart Whitman (left), John Saxon & Martin Landau in Strange Shadows...

In some markets this movie was known as Blazing Magnum, but more apt might have been Excessive Force based on main character Tony Siatta’s policing methods. He was Dirty Harry on crack, as literally every interaction with a suspect concluded with him pulling his badge after an obligatory chase or fisticuffs. Perhaps the most problematic bit was when he brawled a group of transvestites during which I’m pretty sure Siatta went all Sleepaway Camp and shoved a curling iron where the sun don’t shine.

It was this behaviour that led to the car chase scene that this movie is best known for. It’s pretty awesome and definitely De Martino’s attempt to one-up Bill Friedkin's The French Connection. They even did a three-car stunt that’s so cool they showed it FOUR times!

Hilariously though, the suspect Siatti was chasing had barely any useful information and was basically one of a bunch of guys he shook down looking for a stolen necklace.

I’m not going to lie though, the fact this was shot in Canada was of endless amusement to me. For some reason, half of Montreal looked like it was under construction and the Toronto police crime re-enactment video was a real gut-buster. And I have to must admit the climax at the hospital was pretty satisfying.

Shoot first...

So yeah, get past the fact that Siatta was a pretty terrible person and this was some solid Euro-crime featuring a lot of familiar faces.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween, Pumpkin Man.

Happy Halloween everyone! From my VHS archives I give you this gift, a news story from 1986 about a Brit who grows pumpkins using beer and rock n' roll. I assure you this is NOT a Monty Python skit.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Short of the Week #41: The Good Samaritan

I'm going to bend the rules a little bit this week and post one of my own projects. Just in time for Halloween, the short film Darrin Suzuki & I made last year is now online. Here for your viewing (dis)pleasure is The Good Samaritan.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Looking In.

While this isn't technically a DKTM post, I was awash with so much crazy horror stuff going on around the Web that I couldn't resist throwing some vids up here.

First, Rue Morgue TV launched last week. You can check out the channel here for all things horror, including some Halloween night movie recommendations.

Those in the know maybe aware of Chris LaMartina's brilliant cable access homage WNUF Halloween Special, but you may not know that the director is currently trying to get a sequel off the ground.

If this interests you at all, please give generously. In the meantime, check out this absolutely fantastic compilation of old Halloween commercials, movie trailers and station identifiers. A few favourites of mine were a Fangoria ad featuring Angus Scrimm and an Eyewitness News message rocking the JM Jarre.

Also, did you know that one of my all-time favourite pieces of media is returning this Halloween? Yes, the second season of Limetown drops on the 31st. I can't wait to hear the future!!!

Lastly, do you like to watch women drink beer and talk about Full Moon horror movies? If so, have I got a web series for you... Sin & Tonic's first episode featuring Ali Chappell & Kelly Gredner hit the Web a little bit ago.

Okay, I think that's the majority of it, but definitely check back during Halloween week as I've got a few more things up my blood-soaked sleeve. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Jack-O aka “We Did The Best We Could”

With Halloween being less than a week away, watching my VHS of Steve Latshaw's Jack-O seemed like a no-brainer.

Many generations after the Kelly family executed an evil wizard (from Florida?!), a curse resurrects Jack-O to take down the rest of the bloodline namely mild mannered trick or treater Sean (Ryan Latshaw).

I'd heard rumblings about this movie not being the greatest, and they were all true. Though it was a bit of a bore, I still managed to get some joy out of it. When looking at it from a filmmaker's perspective, it's actually a pretty good clinic on the trials of low budget genre filmmaking and coincidentally shares a lot of similarities with Gary Graver's Trick or Treats, which I posted about a few weeks ago.

In addition to them using their own houses to shoot, Latshaw used his own son, Ryan as the lead. Also like Treats, Jack-O featured a ton of genre cameos, this time mainly sourced from abandoned projects. John Carradine appears almost nine years after his death in bits originally meant for a picture called Cannibal Church and Cameron Mitchell shows up as a TV host, by way of dead anthology piece Terminal Shock. Rounding things out was footage of Brinke Stevens running through a graveyard that producer Fred Olen Ray shot while vacationing in Salem, Mass.

Ryan Latshaw as Sean in Jack-O

So after an incredibly convoluted set-up, Jack-O rises from the grave to lumber around and dispatch largely random characters. The creature design was kinda cool, but the budget kind of limited what he could do and we rarely got a good look at him. I have to say that even though this movie was made in 1995, it felt much more like an eighties film in tone and structure. I guess the Rush Limbaugh-like character that keeps appearing on TV was really the only thing that rooted it in the decade it was actually made in.

Jack-O was largely off-kilter, but not in the same way that Trick or Treats was. I found it odd that the kid's family just immediately welcomed a complete stranger into their home. Sean was hanging out with this woman in his bedroom and even sitting on her lap within hours of meeting her. And don't get me started on the Kelly's janky haunted hou-- garage that the father managed to accidentally trash after just two kids had gone inside it. Jack-O did have the saving grace of having Linnea Quigley in it – naked within two seconds of being onscreen of course – though. I was shocked to see that she actually survived too, especially since there was a moment I was sure she was going to get cleaved in two.

Linnea Quigley (right) & Rachel Miller in Jack-O.

Before signing off I do have to mention the commentary track – that I subsequently watched on YouTube – because it was better than the actual movie. I wager you too will awkwardly laugh as the banter between producer & director goes from sarcasm and jovial ball busting to full-on arguing and resentment. I'm not one-hundred per cent sure it wasn't scripted to make things more interesting, but it sounded pretty real to me.

At the end of the day, Jack-O was a low-budget throwaway that had its moments. It's certainly no Satan's Little Helper, but it could still be a hoot to watch with some pals while throwing back a few.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Shorts After Dark 2018

For its thirteenth edition, Toronto After Dark actually added more short films to their numbers this year. While we are usually treated to an International Programme and homegrown efforts before each feature, programmer Shannon Hanmer premiered an additional Canadian shorts block. As a programmer myself, I know that time restraints can often make you leave some solid stuff off the line-up so creating a separate program for longer form short films is a perfect solution.

Here were some of my faves from the week.

On the international side of the things were some really solid creepers, including 9 Steps from Marisa Crespo & Moises Romera and Paul Taylor's The Blue Door starring GoT's Gemma Whelan

The short film world is rife with clever sci-fi concepts, but very few are as well conceived as Heath Michaels' The World Over. I immediately dialed into the universe built here and the connection between the two leads, Tess Granfield & Brett Keating. That's a tall order when you only have fifteen minutes to work with.

The programme's only source of levity - the world is angry folks - was Sam KJ's PvP, a fun portrait of video game competitiveness with a nice homage to The Raid 2 thrown in.

It was unfortunate that a technical glitch caused the most traumatizing short - Alezandro Rios' Los Gatos - to be played last, leaving the audience completely reeling when the lights came up. I heard several stories of attendees rushing home to hug their pets afterwards.

Moving on to the Canadian shorts, I actually felt that they were the stronger offerings this year and Shannon made sure to run the gamut.

Coming off her short Ink last year, Ashlea Wessel stepped up her game with the fairly ambitious Tick that was not only larger in scope, but also took the opportunity to tackle long gestating social issues.

I mentioned sci-fi earlier and James Villenueve's The Ticket was likely the best POC I've seen in a while. Channeling V with a little Willy Wonka, it's definitely a concept I'd like to see more of.

Winnipeg native BJ Verot had not one, but two solid works in the fest with After The Rain and Echoes in The Ice, the latter of which being a terrific hybrid between Carpenter and Lovecraft.

I really dug Scott Riopelle's Split Decision, as it was a well executed piece using the urban legend setup of a stranger appearing on your doorstep at night as a starting point. Things got gorier from there.

Quang Ngo-Trong's The Windmill Man and Roney's Glitter's Wild Women also got some good laughs from the audience and music videos Death Van and Space Hustler (from Michael Enzbrunner & Carlo Schefter respectively) had me tapping my foot in the aisle.

My favourite short so far this year though has been Santiago Menghini's Milk. This is the kind of shit that makes my eyes water. Perhaps most impressive is that he takes an idea reminiscent of a two-sentence horror and keeps ramping it up. It doesn't hurt that his shorts are always soaked in atmosphere, as anyone who saw his 2014 effort Intruders will attest. Someone give this guy a feature!

Yes, the future is bright (and dark) ladies and germs.

Monday, October 22, 2018

TAD 2018

Hey all. The thirteenth edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival wrapped up last Friday. Though I wasn't able to attend as much as previous years, it was a strong line-up that seemed to be well received by the October faithful.

Not only were they able to bring some great films from Fantasia to the Big Smoke, including Tigers Are Not Afraid (one of my faves from last year that you can read about here), The Dark and Mega Time Squad, but they also brought in some real crowd pleasers making the rounds, like The Ranger and Anna & The Apocalypse.

Today though, I'd just like to highlight three titles I was impressed with during the fest.

This sci-fi western from Chris Caldwell & Zeek Earl was some really great stuff. I appreciated that Prospect's universe was literally built from scratch and was surprised by how much of it struck me as fresh and original. Buoyed by terrific performances by Sophie Thatcher and Prince Oberyn himself Pablo Pascal, I was completely immersed in this world.

The easiest way to describe Overlord is Band of Brothers crossed with the Resident Evil video games. JJ Abrams threw a lot of money at this movie and it showed from the opening seconds. This was also a movie that moved, as there's not an ounce of fat on this picture. Like Prospect, it also had some recognizable faces in Wyatt Russell (channeling a bit of his father as MacReady at points), Pilou AsbækJovan Adepo. For those who think zombies have been done to death, I think Julius Avery may have given it another stay of execution.

Infamously known as the first movie to be conceived from a Twitter conversation between two writers, You Might Be The Killer was a really fun time. Seeing Fran Kranz again reminded me of Cabin In The Woods and just how much fun it is for horror fans to get together and gleefully deconstruct the genre we all love. There's also gore, some entertaining physical comedy, as well as the always delightful Alyson Hannigan

Drop by tomorrow for my first of two posts on TAD's selection of short films.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Analog Archaeology Part III

Hey everyone! Video Store Day is once again upon us!

Be sure to hit up your local independent store today for some good old fashioned curation. It's not all about algorithms folks! In the meantime, I figured this would be the perfect occasion to wrap up my VHS tags posts. Enjoy!

For Part I, click here.
For Part II, click here.

Video Giant was not fucking around!

Can't imagine why this business failed.

The ever helpful elephant.

Ever the wordsmiths...