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, September 25, 2018

Short of the Week #37: N

It was Stephen King's seventy-first birthday last Friday. I wanted to celebrate by posting one of his dollar babies, but unfortunately none of the good ones I've seen recently (Robin Kasparik's I Am The Doorway or Julien Homsy's Popsy for instance) are online yet. In their absence, I'm embedding the motion comic series for N from 2013. Enjoy!



Friday, September 21, 2018

3:15


Now that the kiddies are back in class, I thought it fitting to pull out a lesser known 1986 chalkboard exploitation flick called 3:15 from director & frequent Walter Hill collaborator, Larry Gross.


After Jeff Hannah (Adam Baldwin) walks away from his street gang, he soon realizes that the “Cobras” won’t let him leave so easily.

So the first thing that struck me here was how not teenage everyone looked in this movie. After the initial scuffle that sees Baldwin leave the Cobras, we leap forward in time one year to a high school exterior and I scoffed that he had somehow gotten a teaching job in that amount of time. I then realized no, he was actually a student. It’s funny to me that Baldwin actually looked older here than he did in The Chocolate War shot several years later. Only the extras, who actually went to the school used in the movie – and were given pizza & t-shirts for their participation according to Imdb – look even close to high school age.

Adam Baldwin (right) and Danny De La Paz in 3:15.

Apart from that, you really have to suspend your disbelief toward a situation being this out of hand. Parents and teachers alike, save a frothing Rene Auberjonois as the school principal are so completely inconsequential and passive, it’s almost comical. I feel like you could’ve taken the school right out of this and just made it about street gangs and not missed a beat – they just would’ve had to change the title.

That said, even the other gangs in the school are just window dressing. Mario Van Peebles leads a Black Panther-esque group called the M-16’s, but don’t do more than hold up the scenery and, for some reason, Lincoln High sports a karate class that is featured for nothing more than a glorified cutaway. In addition to Peebles though, there were a ton of familiar faces, including an always smoking Gina Gershon as one of the “Cobrettes” and Wings Hauser – with real-life wife at the time Nancy Locke – playing parents to Baldwin’s love interest Deborah Foreman.

Deborah Foreman as Sherry in 3:15

Speaking of the Cobrettes, they turned out to be the most malicious out of all of the gangs in the movie, roughing up their competition with nifty makeshift weapons, including lipstick blades(!)


At the end of the day, 3:15 was mildly interesting as a throwaway exploitation flick, but the similarly constructed “meet you after school” effort Three O Clock High (released the next year) was far more substantial and rooted in its heightened reality.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

redruM

Hey all. Since ceasing my Don't Kill the Messenger weeklies, I don't really post about cool stuff on the Net anymore, but I couldn't pass this one up. Here's the new video from Australian artist Pogo aka Nick Bertke where he makes music with sounds from Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining.



I've literally watched this thing a dozen times since I discovered it last week. I wish I had the equipment/time/inspiration to do shit like this. For more of Pogo's videos, check out his YT channel here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Short of the Week #36: Off Season

Getting back to regularly scheduled programming, here's a moody and atmospheric short called Off Season from 2009.



They don't get much better than this, as this piece is well shot, well paced and maintains an air of dread and isolation throughout. Director Jonathan van Tulleken has since kept himself busy in television and most recently has been prepping a feature version of Off Season. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

TIFF Vids 2018

TIFF videographer Robert A. Mitchell was once again on hand to capture red carpet interviews at this year's Midnight Madness. Said “madness” was in full effect for the Halloween screenings and below are the resulting interviews.



Additionally, here are the intro and post-screening Q&A, so naturally spoilers have been warned.



For the rest of Mitchell's videos that week, check out his YouTube channel here.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

H40

It has taken me a week to let things percolate and now that this year's TIFF is behind me, here's what I thought of David Gordon Green's interpretation of the Halloween mythos.


Set forty years after the events of the first film, a re-incarcerated Michael Myers escapes to Haddonfield to finish what he started. In the meantime, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) has sacrificed living a normal life with her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak) in order to prepare for his inevitable return.

First I'd like to say that evening spent at the Elgin was a one-of-a-kind experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. As cliché as it sounds, there was a palpable energy in the air, as everyone awaited the first first few bars of horror's greatest piece of music.



I wanted to love Halloween 2018, and there a plenty of people online doing that – I'm glad they are excited – but I had some issues that kept me from being one of them. This film felt very disjointed to me, like it was originally a longer movie and was subsequently cut down. I obviously have no proof of this, but when characters are dropped without warning – and by dropped I don't mean offed by Myers, I mean they just literally disappear – I have to wonder if something got lost in the edit.


For me, this caused an identity crisis within the film that certainly did not speak to a singular vision. I saw Gordon & Danny McBride's voice, but I also saw the Blumhouse stamp, as well. Most of the time, they worked in tandem, but sometimes also at odds. When it was neither, Halloween 2018 cherry picked the best bits from other installments, sequences from the first sequel, H20's motif and the high body counts from the entries of the late eighties. I can't really fault them for the latter though, as I feel like they were making up for what they couldn't get away with then.

I think the fundamental problem was that the heart of the picture should have been Laurie vs. Michael, that is what made H20 – despite all its production foibles – successful, but here this theme got bogged down in its ensemble. Laurie barely felt like a main character until the third act and the super-intriguing thread of three generations coming together to destroy their inherited evil didn't feel earned until the movie's final moments. For instance, I cared more about the babysitter character than I did Laurie's actual granddaughter and that's troublesome.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in Halloween.

All that said, I by no means think Halloween 2018 was a bad movie, as there were a ton of solid set pieces that went way beyond simple homage – the Halloween II-esque tracking shot from the trailer notwithstanding. I really liked the physicality of Myers with the original Shape Nick Castle doing double duty with James Jude Courtney. And as one would assume, the music provided by Carpenter and his son, Cody was superb and included several new movements with Myers' departure from Smith's Grove being a real highlight.

I've heard some rumblings about fans not being on board with the comedic undertones, but I wasn't bothered. There's always been room for that in the Halloween series and 2018 offered up one of the best lines since Bud's Amazing Grace serenade.

The Shape returns.

I have to admit that after Get Out, I was hoping this pair of outsiders would offer up something special. I hate the term “elevated genre” as much as any horrorphile, but I'd be lying if the seed wasn't planted leading up to the screening. Truthfully though, Halloween 2018 was just another sequel in a long line of redos and revisionism. I'd put it somewhere in the middle, miles above the maligned sequels and Zombie's canon, but it just didn't resonate with me like the first four & H20 do.

I feel like the Twitter love-fest isn't really doing the rest who have to wait a month any favours. Hype is good, but OVERhype can be a movie's worst enemy. My message would be not to expect anything more than an entertaining sequel revisiting two of your favourite horror avatars and you'll have some good fun in the dark.

Monday, September 10, 2018

100 Midnights!

I'm hitting a milestone tonight folks. This evening's TIFF premiere of Emma Tammi's The Wind will be my one-hundredth Midnight Madness screening. The amount of memories I have amassed over the last eighteen years are innumerable, whether it be the weirdo who inexplicably yelled “Get a Job!” at the screen during Ong Bak 2 or the absolute chaos that transpired when Megan Fox & Adam Brody showed up for Jennifer's Body or the dude that took at header down the escalator at the premiere of Hostel - which you can be sure they then used in their marketing. In celebration, I cooked up this little video which chronicles all the films I have seen at Midnight.



Looking back, it is interesting to see which ones have become genre classics and those which have faded into obscurity. I think the only two glaring omissions from the vid would be 2009's The Loved Ones & 2014's It Follows and that's because I caught afternoon screenings of both the following day. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

TIFF 2018!


Hey everyone, it's TIFF time again. I don't know how many films I'll be posting about in the coming week, but I'd be surprised if I don't have at least a few thoughts on the new Halloween film. I'll guess we'll see!


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Short of the Week #35: Harvey's Dream

With Castle Rock now well into his first season, I thought I'd post of my favourite Stephen King dollar baby short films, Alex Von Hoffman's Harvey's Dream.



Harvey's Dream first appeared in The New Yorker in 2003 and later included in his collection Just After Sunset. If you are not aware of the term Dollar Baby, Stephen King notoriously grants permission to adapt his short works at the cost of one dollar. There have been dozens, perhaps hundreds of these by now, and Hoffman's (since I discovered it while screening shorts last year) version still chills me to the bone.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Don't. Just Don't.


This week I reached for one of my clamshells, my VHS of Carlo Ausino’s Don’t Look in the Attic from 1982.


Several inheritants of an old mansion in Turin arrive only to realize that it includes a curse that has plagued their family for generations.

No matter how deep I dig into the annals of Italian film I can usually count on them to at least be interesting, but sadly Don’t Look in the Attic was the exception to this rule. This movie was dull as dirt. That said, I must concede that it was not helped by the hilarious dubbing that had characters speaking at what seemed like one-point-five speed. It gave me a wave of nostalgia from when I was renting bootlegs in the late nineties.

Seriously though, was there ever a lot of talking in this movie. I swear it was an hour before the protagonist Martha (Beba Loncar) even looked in the attic. I couldn’t understand what the hell she was doing there in the first place, as the movie previously had her dead mother calling to her from the other side “Don’t go to Turin! Don’t go to the villa!” Then cut to the next scene where Martha's mumbling “I wonder what she was trying to tell me… One ticket to Turin please!”

Beba Loncar as Martha in Don't Look in the Attic.

Again, full disclosure, this was another title that I found myself fighting sleep in the middle of. Maybe it's this long stretch of humidity we’ve been having lately. Yeah, that’s the ticket! Don’t Look in the Attic was not a total wash, as it did have two redeeming qualities.

First, everyone who ever rented a movie in the eighties knows that the coverbox was often a ruse to get your dollars, but surprisingly Ausino actually delivered the action on his - and in the opening sequence, no less. Second, the cinematography was decent, helped largely by the eerie mansion location. Though to be fair, a filmmaker friend of mine once made the valid point that you could point the camera anywhere in Italy and it'd look like the best movie ever made.


Don’t Look in the Attic was not a high point in the history of Italian horror, but I guess they can’t all be-llissima. At least I got to cross another film off my “Don’t!” list.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Short of the Week #34: The Lamp

This week I'm posting a homegrown effort from 2013 in Trevor Juras' The Lamp.



I really love how the tension builds in this piece, as even something as innocuous and seemingly non-threatening as a shared cab ride can be fertile ground for escalating awkwardness. Juras followed up The Lamp with his debut feature The Interior two years later. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Dead On Arrival.


I've been on a pretty solid run of VHS titles recently so this time I picked something that was almost surely to be of questionable quality – Juan Mas' The Coroner from 1999.


After narrowly escaping from a serial killer (Dean St. Louis) – who just happens to be the city's chief coroner – Emma (Jane Longenecker) sets out to prove his guilt at all costs.

The Coroner totally reeked of the trash that was populating video store shelves in the early 2000's. I'd forgotten how wretched some of this stuff was. From the first few scenes, I had several uh-oh moments that made me thanking God that it was only seventy-five minutes. Fortunately, it became less terrible as it went on, as it turned out to not just be ladies being chained up and tortured for the entire run time.

Jane Longenecker & Dean St. Louis in The Coroner.

Actually, it was quite the opposite, as there was barely any gore at all. You would think a movie about a serial killer would have some actual kills, but no. In fact, pretty much the only thing I recall was nonsense cutaways and flashbacks, some pilfered from other (better) movies. I could've sworn I saw a bit of Slumber Party Massacre flash onscreen at one point. That's super lazy, guys.

I will give it up to Longenecker though, as she was giving it her all. She had a Bridget Fonda-like quality that kept me at least semi-interested. The Coroner was really all over the place, with random sex scenes that sometimes made me wonder if I was watching a horror movie or a soft core porn. With wonderful nuggets of dialogue like Exhibit A below, I tend to lean toward the latter...


It's just a weird mixed bag, including cops that even for movie cops were way too mistrusting, a killer who used blow darts of all things to subdue his victims and that Emma, a defense lawyer, somehow had access to C4 explosives. It all added up to an ending that made no sense, especially considering the scene that proceeded it.

The Coroner was Z-grade stuff, but considering its merciful length and Longenecker's committed performance, it was still fairly painless.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Analog Archaeology.


The other day fellow cinephile Ryan Fowler from Facebook's Horror VHS Collectors Unite board graciously posted some pictures of his VHS tags - meaning the video store labels that were plastered on the sides of most rental VHS tapes. I had posted my membership card collection almost ten(!) years ago, but never would've thought to do this even though it makes so much sense. With video stores virtually extinct (save for a few brave souls keeping the faith alive) all the tapes that used to populate these establishments have been scattered to the four winds winding up in yard sales and flea markets all across North America. Check out some of mine below.


My alma mater!



“More” you say????



My favourite so far for sure!

Great Kills?!

The one and only!




My copy of Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except! has a history!


These only covered the first three shelves of bookcase #1, so I imagine there will be a few more of these posts in the future. Who knew I had so many of these? Thanks to Ryan for the epiphany.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Short of the Week #33: Vicious

This week, I am posting one of my faves from 2015. Brit director Oliver Park's debut short film Vicious has chills in spades and conveys everything with almost no dialogue. But don't take my word for it, here it is below.



Park later went on to make the even better short Still the next year before following up with a feature entitled Strange Events in 2017.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Eighties Overload.


With my fellow Laser Blasters discovering – much to the adulation of the Web – the secret ending of Mac and Me last week, I decided to dig into my VHS collection and pull out the like-minded kids(?) movie Making Contact from 1985.


After the death of his father, Joey (Joshua Morrell) gains telekinetic powers just as his house is besieged by supernatural forces. Will his abilities be enough to save him and his mother?

This movie is fucking bonkers. That’s really the only way I can put it. It's a good pairing with Mac and Me because it shares equal levels of ridiculousness (coincidentally I also watched 1991’s Motorama this week for the bizarro trifecta) with no regard for reality whatsoever.

So where do I start with this one... An early film from Roland Emmerich, I wager he was a fan of the work of Henry Thomas (E.T., The Quest, Cloak & Dagger et al) and decided to do his own take. So with his Thomas clone Morrell in tow, Emmerich made something that definitely showed the seeds of the blockbusters he'd be making just ten years later. I mean, looking at the monsters in the maze sequence, it's not a surprise that he eventually did a Hollywood Godzilla movie.

Joshua Murrell as Joey in Making Contact.

Making Contact busts at the seams with the decade it was filmed in. Beyond the bombastic score by Paul Gilreath (at least in my version, I can't believe the German cut is twenty minutes longer) and the reckless child endangerment that was a staple of the era, every frame is crammed with eighties ephemera. If Mac and Me had McDonalds, Making Contact heavily leans on Star Wars, having presumably dodged copyright infringement by being a largely German production. I mean Darth Vader shows up for fuck’s sakes!

This movie just kept piling it on, from the kid’s powers (for which nobody seemed to react appropriately I might add) to his sentient robot Charlie and the possessed dummy that just showed up in the second act. In between, it was all about playful emulation as I saw elements of E.T., Poltergeist, Time Bandits and even 2001. It was also chock full of visual and practical effects that filled me with nostalgic glee.


Making Contact is one of those movies where the events and human behaviour depicted were so off-kilter – like when the mother treats a burned hand by putting it not under a tap but in a goldfish bowl then adds ice with the fish STILL IN IT – you wonder whether it was actually made by aliens who had been studying our culture from afar. This was a fun watch where I spent most of the running time slack-jawed in a mix of wonder and bewilderment.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Short of the Week #32: Skin Deep

It's time to jump back into present, as this week's short is Ryan Couldrey's Skin Deep. Featuring some badass gore from f/x artist Sara Feehan and the mother/daughter acting duo of Diana & Ali Chappell, this is definitely worth three minute of your time.



Skin Deep is currently competing in this year's My RØDE Reel contest, so if you feel inclined, Vote Here.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Hangin' Tough.


I think I forgot to mention before that the Horror Express tour ended at The Royal with a screening of Class of 1984 with Lisa Langlois in attendance. Just as an aside, if you ever want to hear an unvarnished account of the film business, go to a Q&A with Langlois. She pulls no punches and gives no shits. Anyhoo, on the heels of that movie, I watched my similarly-themed VHS of The New Kids.


After their parents' deaths, Loren & Abby (Shannon Presby & Lori Loughlin) move to Florida to live with relatives, but almost immediately clash with a gang of thugs at their new school led by Dutra (James Spader).

Made five years after his seminal slasher Friday the 13th, Sean S. Cunningham put together a pretty impressive cast of up-and-comers for this movie, not only featuring the likes of Loughlin and Spader, but also Eric Stoltz (presumably right after his time on Back to the Future) & John Philbin in supporting roles.

It was pretty amazing to see how closely Class of 1984 and The New Kids lined up together. You switch out the teacher with the two teens and they follow the same beats, especially in terms of the escalation. Of course, this could be said for a lot of other eighties flicks as I guess there was a template.

Shannon Presby (right) & John Philbin in The New Kids.

Spader was unhinged in this role. Him and his crew were some of the most unpleasant characters I've seen in a while. I found the way he and Gideon (Philbin) carried themselves especially vile because it reeked of an energy that is still ever present today. I read an article earlier this week about how Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver was an early figure of the “in-cel” movement. I put forth that Dutra & Gideon are two more. While the ideology may not entirely match up, their interactions with Abby certainly support this idea.

James Spader & Lori Loughlin in The New Kids.

As you might expect, this was an ugly film. People were assholes, just because they could be. Dutra and his gang were the king shits and things got out of hand when the “new kids” not only wouldn't back down, but actively pushed back. It all led to a pretty bloody climax at an amusement park. Spader shot his own attack dog in the face with a shotgun!

All in all, though formulaic, Cunningham's The New Kids was pretty solid. Plus, seeing Tom Atkins run in slow motion was worth the price of admission alone.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

All Aboard The Horror Express!

Last Saturday I took part in something really special, the inaugural voyage of The Horror Express. The brainchild of author, programmer & cinephile Kier-La Janisse and named after the 1972 film of the same name, The Horror Express was a bus trip that toured around eighteen Toronto locations used in classic horror films. It was an idea that she'd had for a long time, but was finally executed on the realization that if she didn't do it, eventually somebody else would.


That morning we met at Central Tech, the school used in Mark Lester's 1982 flick Class of 1984 and then all two-dozen of us piled on the bus for which we would be riding around on for the next seven hours. 

No flagpole, but still pretty recognizable.

Hosted by Chris Alexander, we listened to trivia about the film industry in The Big Smoke (which has been booming since the tax shelter era of the late seventies) and watched clips of the approaching locations for comparison.


While there were several I was aware of - as some are the stuff of legend - there were also ones that I had no idea about. Like the Curious Goods shop from the Friday the 13th television series was in the Distillery District!


As you might imagine, the works of David Cronenberg featured largely on the tour including locations from Videodrome, The Fly, Crash and The Brood.

Spectacular Optical!

Unfortunately, due to a wedding we were shut out of the location used as the Somafree Institute from the Brood, but we did later get up close and personal with the grade school in the film.

They're hurting Miss Mayer!!!

Actress (and now real estate agent) Cindy Hinds came along with us on the tour and gave us more than a few tales about working on the film. Being eight when she shot The Brood, her memories are still very vivid.

There was one more school on the tour, as we also went to Hamilton High from Prom Night.


Perhaps the most majestic location on the trip - way out past Canada's Wonderland - was the Black Church from John Carpenter's In The Mouth of Madness.


Of course, no tour of Canadian horror locations would be complete without Black Christmas. We checked out a pair of sites from the film, the police station and the iconic sorority house.

It's a new exchange... F E.

The house is now buried behind trees and a wrought iron fence, I wager to keep out rubberneckers like us. Thankfully, my friend Melanie has a much longer reach than I do.


This was a fantastic day and the first of many I expect, as Kier-La is already planning more, here and perhaps even in other cities. It was not only cool to visit so many locations (there were several I didn't even mention) but the camaraderie and shared experience among all of us on the bus was enjoyable, as well. If you able to attend a future Horror Express event, I highly encourage you to do so. Stay tuned to the Facebook page for more details.