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, January 30, 2018

Short of the Week #4: Day of John

Going back in time to 2005, here is Chris Nash's debut short film Day of John.

I first met Nash at a Rue Morgue event back in 2004 and we became fast friends. Over the years, we've been involved in several projects together and I still marvel at his morose, yet often humorous take on the world. Nash is currently working at a prominent F/X house in Toronto while prepping his debut feature Dirt Eaters.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Still Death.

Hey there! I hope this weekend is treating you kindly. I've been revelling in the work of Dave Pollot recently. He's the artist who inserts pop culture icons into thrift store paintings. Here below are some of his horror-themed pieces.

He has done over two-hundred paintings, so be sure to check out his Etsy page as I'm sure something will strike your fancy.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Don't Take No Shit From A Machine!

This week I took a trip into space with Robert Dyke's eighties sci-fi actioner Moontrap starring Walter “Chekov” Keonig and Bruce Campbell.

A pair of astronauts (Koenig & Campbell) embark on a desperate mission when it is discovered there may be hostile alien life on the moon.

I had seen every one of the B-movies Bruce Campbell made in between Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness except this one. I guess I had unconsciously been saving it for a rainy day, or in this case, snowy. Anyhoo, Moontrap was a lot better than I was expecting. I keep having to remind myself that this movie was made in 1989 because it feels fundamentally like the stuff that was being cranked out in the early nineties by Full Moon and the like.

When the movie started up, it basically seemed like a cross between Alien & Lifeforce, except instead of finding a hot naked space vampire chick, Keonig & Campbell bring back a fourteen-thousand-year-old corpse and a weird leathery egg-shaped thing. Naturally, I thought they lost out on the deal, but then the egg cracked open and fashioned itself a body out of parts - both metal and human! Okay, I'm in. Sure, it might not do much more than shoot electricity, but hey still better than Alien: Covenant.

Getting back to Campbell for a second, can I just acknowledge that he played an ex-fighter pilot nicknamed The Penetrator? Despite that, Campbell was not the star of this film, as this was before Evil Dead became the iconic franchise it is today. No, based on the cache of Star Trek, the leading man is fifty-odd Walter Koenig and he's giving it one-hundred per cent. He even does push-ups in one scene to prove he's got the goods. In MoonTrap, Koenig's the hero, saves the day and even gets the girl. And yet, still more plausible than Alien: Covenant.

Bruce Campbell & Walter Koenig in Moontrap

Moontrap does wear its budget on its sleeve, but it's rather endearing in the way of lot of the sci-fi flicks of this period (i.e. Empire & Full Moon's giant robot flicks) were. Moontrap may belong to an alternate universe where the nineties saw many impossible technological advances, but hey, again, still more plausible than Alien: Covenant.

I had to appreciate the ample practical effects here. When Koenig & Campbell return to the moon later, they spend a lot of time cruising around their little miniature moon buggy – and it is adorable. Director Dyke worked on the miniatures used on Evil Dead II, so I would assume the genesis of this project - and Campbell's involvement - started there. Also, when they find a lost city on the dark side of the moon they soon discover... hey whaddaya know, a frozen space babe! Now it's way better than Alien: Covenant.

Moontrap was a nice surprise. Keonig & Campbell played off each other well and though it felt like a lot of it was made out of spare parts – much like its antagonists – it was still an entertaining yarn that didn't overreach. Unlike well, you know...

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Short of the Week #3: Heart of Karl

I'm gonna throw up some CanCon this week. This year marks the tenth anniversary of me discovering the work of Winnipeg collective Astron 6. These guys made many great shorts over the years, but my favourite still remains Steve Kostanski's Heart of Karl.

I love the world building - that he would later employ in his 2011 debut feature Manborg - and inherent weirdness of this piece. Several A-6 members now live & work in Toronto, so it's definitely cool seeing them around town at different events and involved in various projects.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Video Hoarders!

By the grace of YouTube, I came across a great little web series called Video Hoarders. Hosted by collector Rob Taylor, he travels across his native Australia meeting up with the most fanatical who worship at the altar of VHS. Here are the first eight episodes.

I'm in awe. It is somewhat euphoric to look at collections way more vast and well organized than my own. It's also weird that I've never met Yasmina Ketita (from Episode 8) considering how many times we must have crossed paths over the years at Shock Stock. I'll have to check out her podcast Witch Finger.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Fight the Power!

This week's title is Paul Golding's 1988 “shocker” Pulse.

When David (Joey Lawrence) comes to stay with his father and stepmother, he starts to suspect something dangerous is going on with the power on his street.

Unlike many instances of coverbox art, you actually get what is advertised. Well, sort of. No one gets electrocuted onscreen, but we do get a lot of electricity. Like a lot, lot. And I hope you like extended shots of electronics because we get to see inside, outside, close-up and far away. It's like electronics porn actually.

Aside from that the pace is pretty deliberate, but the acting is good all around with both Joey and Matthew Lawrence are in this movie. I never watched Blossom, Boy Meets World or any of the other shows they were in, but here they were solid little kid actors.

New from Hasbro!

So, Pulse was a bit weird for a few reasons. First, the ambiguity of the antagonist was a little off-putting. Electricity was out to get people, but there's no concrete how or why to it. In Maximum Overdrive, it was a comet and in Ghost in the Machine it was a short circuited serial killer – which coincidentally starred Karen Allen who appears on the TV during this movie – but apart from Crazy Ralph's brother rambling out about a “pulse”, there's really no rhyme or reason for things to going haywire. It's kind of like when the sleazy guy from Fast Times in Ridgemont High showed up to fix the television, but seemed to have no idea how electricity even worked. But whatever, I'm game. I guess I'm just used to Horace Pinker crackling out the wall sockets, ya know?

Your toaster's got a death curse!

Secondly, Pulse actually functioned more like a family drama than a horror film, as the main push of the story was a kid adjusting to splitting time between two divorced parents. Obviously, there were a lot of cliches at work here, like David's crazy stories about killer electricity being perceived as him acting out, but there were actually some sincere interactions throughout. Pulse would have been fairly straightforward if not for the garbage disposal occasionally trying to kill someone. And I do have to admit, this movie did feature one of the most painful looking “locked in the shower” scene that I've seen.

Pulse was a solid movie, but it's PG-13 nature's probably the reason that it doesn't end up on too many “best of” or “you've never seen” lists.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Coupla Things!

I'm just dropping in with a few announcements. The 58th edition of Little Terrors will be happening January 31st and has a ton of great shorts, including my latest project, The Good Samaritan!

Art by Darryl Shaw

Also, HexFest unveiled the new poster for this year's event and it is pretty, pretty, pretty... pretty sweet!

Art by Susana Vilchez.

For info on HXFF, click here. See you tomorrow for a new VHS Friday.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Short of the Week #2: Bobby Yeah

This week I'm talking about UK-based animator Robert Morgan. I first became aware of his work when his 2003 short The Separation appeared on Fantasia's short film compilation DVD Small Gauge Trauma and since then he has amassed an impressive library of stop-motion joints. It was at an all-night short film marathon in 2012 that I first laid eyes on his Morgan's twenty-three minute opus, Bobby Yeah

So captured was my imagination afterward that Bobby ended up being that year's Halloween costume. I can't imagine a short film will ever win that honour again. I haven't seen his latest Belial's Dream yet, but I hope to soon.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Return of the Crites.

There was some very exciting news this week that one of my favourite horror franchises is being resurrected. Blue Ribbon Content, the digital television arm of Warner Brothers is producing a Critters television series for Verizon's go90.

As we know, horror is cyclical and I have been anticipating the resurgence of creature features as fans and emerging filmmakers pine for a return to practical effects. I hope this is a step in the right direction.

BRC is also producing a comedy series called Golden Revenge that has an intriguing premise that sees discarded pets seek vengeance against the owners who abandoned them. Both projects are expected to go into production this year. I have no idea how I'll be able to watch these, but I will certainly be keeping an eye out.

Friday, January 12, 2018

So Hip It Hurts.

This week's VHS pick is Dominique Othenin-Girard's 1990 horror flick Night Angel.

The ancient spirit Lilith (played by German actress Isa Jank) infiltrates the fashion industry in order to seduce the masses.

Wedged in Girard's filmography, between two best forgotten sequels (Halloween 5 & Omen IV) is this little under-seen oddity. You would never know from its innocuous coverbox, but this movie contains all manner of treasures. I really have to thank my buddy Justin Decloux for bringing this to my attention because it's chock full of all the insanity that made movies from this era truly great.

Isa Jank as Lilith in Night Angel

I'm not sure where to start. Night Angel is like a fever dream and one has to wonder if not only Joe Augustyn & Walter Josten were high when they wrote it, but if everybody involved was, as well. Litith causes everyone around her to lose control, but the decadence seems to be on full display before she even arrives on the scene – as in this movie was already a souped-up Trans-Am version of the eighties and Lilith just drives it off a cliff. This movie keeps on giving. Karen Black appears as the magazine editor and even has a young Doug Jones, as the biggest nerd who ever nerded - I believe the phrase “I just want to tickle her tonsils with my meat puppet” may have come out of his mouth.

Doug Jones & Linden Ashby in Night Angel

However, it is the abundance of special effects that are the highlight of this movie. Night Angel was in that sweet spot where practical effects were at their peak. Touchstone pictures like Society and Nightbreed were out and Dead Alive was not far off. To give you an idea of the pedigree involved here, not only did Steve Johnson work on Night Angel, but also the legendary KNB trio. I feel there must have been a carte blanche directive at play here because the sheer quantity of gags is astonishing. There's a character named Woman with Faces under Breasts for Christ's sake as well as a full body creature suit (and Jones isn't wearing it!) at the end for good measure. Man, those were the days!

Night Angel at its most subtle.

It is very difficult to quantify why this movie isn't better known, as it is so loud and abstract I can't imagine it being easily forgotten by anyone who watches it. Thankfully, Kino Lorber's recent Blu-ray release may get it in front of more eyeballs. In a decade marked by its excesses, Night Angel seeks to make you wonder how any of us made it through the eighties without bursting into flames.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

THS's Short Of The Week

Probably not the most clever of names to be sure, but call it a work in progress. I wanted to kick off the first month of this by showcasing some of my favourite short films of all time. First is Spencer Susser's I Love Sarah Jane from 2008 - holy smokes this thing is ten years old now!

I'm a big fan of horror films that also explore coming-of-age themes and there are few that do it better than this. It's also an opportunity to see Mia Wasikowska before her rise to the Hollywood A-list. Enjoy!

Monday, January 8, 2018

The New Regimen

Hey all! I hope you are managing to stay warm during the deep freeze. I am just popping in to announce some changes around here. In 2018, I have plans for some fairly substantial projects unrelated to THS - plus four fests worth of programming duties - so I have to scale things back here a bit. 

I stated before that I was shutting down my weekly news and trailer posts, but I'll still be doing VHS Fridays, hopefully with more regularity. In place of the stuff I've shit-canned, starting tomorrow I'll be showcasing horror short films as a weekly feature called... well I haven't thought of a name yet. Any ideas?

But don't you fret, I'll still be covering the usual film festivals when they come around because you know... free movies. I'm sure my output will decrease somewhat, but I'm dedicated to keeping up with the two-posts-per-week thing going forward.

See you back here tomorrow!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018 Preview

It's 2018 folks! Not the greatest start considering man baby numero uno just basically tweeted “my missiles are bigger than yours”, but let's try and forget we're a button push away from living post-apocalypse Bruno Mattei style and talk about some upcoming horror flicks, shall we?

I'm happy that two of genre's hottest directors, Robert Eggers and Jeremy Saulnier, have projects coming out this year. Eggers is following up his brilliant 2015 debut The Witch with an ambitious retelling of Nosferatu. I wouldn't blame you for being skeptical, but if there is anyone who can do justice to this vampire touchstone, it's him.

On the strength of Blue Ruin (2013) and Green Room (2015), we should all be very excited about Saulnier's newest project Hold the Dark. Adapted from the William Giraldi book, it stars Riley Keough & Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd and takes place in the Alaskan wilderness.

I'm going to offer the theory that due to the strength of TV's Legion and last year's mega-hit It, horror has bled into the superhero genre and given us The New Mutants. Not that I wouldn't have seen this already with Anya Taylor-Joy & Maisie Williams in the cast, but with a trailer like this, I'm so in.

It looks like we get some promising giant monster movies this year - and I'm not talking Jurassic whatever. After almost two decades of attempts, the giant shark flick The Meg is finally coming to fruition as a Jason Statham action vehicle. Any port in a storm I say.

Perhaps a little bit more respectable is Alex Garland's Annihilation with Natalie Portman & Jennifer Jason Leigh. I like the trailer, even though it does have that whiff of disposable sci-fi. However, some of us probably thought the same way about Ex Machina at first glance.

Then there is A Quiet Place. I find the “silence is survival” hook really intriguing, but it's heartbreaking that the first thing I thought about after seeing the trailer was not “man that is going to be intense” but “all I'll be able to hear during the tense bits is fucking mouth breathers chewing their popcorn”.

In terms of the A-list creepers, Winchester has potential. The scares in the trailer look old hat, but I'm counting on the production design of the house and Helen Mirren and company to add the necessary gravitas.

Out of the sea of sequels, two stick out as promising. Even though I don't really need it, I'll check out Strangers 2. They've had a decade to work on it, so hopefully it's good.

Then there's Halloween. I'm gonna give it a chance for three reasons - John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jordan Peele. No, I know Peele isn't involved, but when I heard about who was doing this new iteration of Halloween - or the Pumpkin Express I remember calling it - I thought what the fuck do these comedy guys know about horror? Then Get Out dropped like a fucking culture bomb. 

So okay guys. Thrill me.