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.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Welcome To Potter's Bluff

This week it's Gary Sherman's 1981 horror film Dead & Buried.

I have to admit that I cheated this week. I did not watch a VHS, but rather attended a special screening of the film at The Royal with Sherman himself in attendance. Considering I've spent almost every night this week at that theatre, there's been no time for anything else.

It had been about twenty-five years since I'd seen this movie, so it really was like watching it for the first time. And it's great. Dead & Buried is a really well put together film with good pacing and lively performances. I was a little awestruck by the large number of character actors that included the likes of James Farentino and Jack Albertson in his last onscreen role, as well as Melody Anderson (fresh off her role in Flash Gordon), Lisa Blount and Robert Englund three full years before putting on the Freddy glove.

Dead & Buried was based on a novel by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and adapted by Dan O' Bannon & Ronald Shusett. Even though O'Bannon later disowned the film when he stated his contributions were cast aside, I can't help but see the shared sensibilities between Sherman & O'Bannon. Sherman's previous horror effort Death Line had a wonderful balance of horror and humour, as did O'Bannon's 1985 classic, Return of the Living Dead.

Sherman is a rare breed of filmmaker and part of the movement that began with George Romero in 1968 where the work can viewed on two levels. Dead & Buried was a deliberate attempt at political subtext (specifically totalitarianism), but it can also just be viewed as a straight up horror film, as well. I also really love that EC Comics style ending. It contributed to the feeling that though this movie may have been contemporary, its themes and lore were from a much older era.

Lastly, I must comment on the top notch special effects supplied by Stan Winston. Sherman has long had a love for in-camera effects – crescendoing in 1988's Poltergeist III but more on that later – and he paired up perfectly with a guru like Winston. The eyeball insertion involving Lisa Marie was so seamless, I actually had to ask Sherman himself how it was achieved. And yet despite all the effects, in a feat of clever foreshadowing, there is a deliberate lack of red throughout the film.

Dead & Buried was a solid film. It may not be as well known as some of the horror flicks from that era, but it should be. If you haven't taken the trip to Potter's Bluff, there's no time like the present. Especially when a little birdie told me there is a newly-minted 4K resto coming soon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Short of the Week #12: Junk Head

I mentioned a film yesterday that played What the Film Fest called Junk Head. It is a stop-motion animated opus from Japanese filmmaker Takahide Hori. Essentially made by just Hori himself over the course of five years, it is an amazing achievement of dark wonder and whimsy. Below is the 2014 short that started it all and became the first chapter of his two-hour epic. Enjoy!

Monday, March 26, 2018

What The Weekend!

Over the last few days, I've had an extremely busy and fruitful weekend splitting my time between two festivals. The inaugural Hexploitation Film Festival in Hamilton and the fourth edition of What the Film Fest in Toronto. All told I saw seven features and fifteen shorts. 

At Hexfest, we got some great feedback this year, especially for the shorts programme that made me very happy. It was great to see one of my current faves, Asaf Livni's My First Time, flourish on the big screen as well as screening the world premiere of Niall Shukla's trippy nightmare A Doll Distorted

As for features, I really responded to Eduardo Clorio's I Wish I Wish which is basically what you would get if the Monkey's Paw was an eighties style board game. Clorio even made the trip up from Mexico and was humbled by the overwhelmingly positive reception. 

I also like Chad Archibald's The Heretics. The trio of actors in the piece (Nina Kiri, Jorja Cadence & Ry Barrett) really brought it, as well as some fantastic effects work. I've been saying for a while that each subsequent Black Fawn title increases in quality and this one is no different.

The second half of my weekend was taken up by Peter Kuplowsky's WTF Fest. His showcasing of weird, offbeat cinema continued with the likes of Terry Chiu's Mangoshake, Armando Lamberti's Green House and Takehide Hori's Junk Head.

It was a terrific three days of fringe cinema.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Shake Him Down, Shake Him Down

This week I watched the Dean Crow's Indianian import Backwoods (aka Geek) from 1987.

A couple biking across America run afoul of a family living deep in the woods.

I feel like this film has been slightly misrepresented by both its coverbox and Imdb. The cover above says “direct from theatrical release”, but I wager that is inaccurate. Sure, it may have played a few fests, but the number of slow zooms in this movie screamed direct-to-video. Also, Imdb makes it sound like a carbon copy of American Gothic (the movie I watched last week) but that isn't the case either.

Imdb states that the family patriarch was in on it, but that's not the case. He's not homicidal, he's just cantankerous. And when he gets into the moonshine, he warms right up imparting such pearls of wisdom like “the woman warms the bed in these parts!”

Brad Armacost (left) Dick Kruesser & Christine Noonan in Backwoods.

Backwoods took a while to get going, like people biking across the Mid West? Who does that? If I got roped into that bullshit activity, I would bitch about it as much as Jamie (Brad Armacost) does in this movie. So when old man Eben (Dick Kruesser) showed up and invited the couple to dinner, I actually started to find his performance endearing. Like Jamie, Eben & Karen (Christine Noonan) might all end up being pals. Then Willie the Geek (Jack O'Hara) showed up and ruined everything.

Like American Gothic, the dangerous offspring didn't show up until over a half-hour in. I do have to commend O'Hara because he's all in on this role. Considering the lack of a “no animals were harmed” banner in the end credits, I wouldn't be surprised if he was pulling the heads off real chickens.

Jack O' Hara geekin' it up.

It was right about here that the protagonists' motivations became idiotic. Like, who would leave their significant other alone with someone who is clearly unstable. Get the fuck out of there, guys! Oh, things went awry! Who would've thought? This whole section was real clumsy to the point that I had to guess what happened to one of the characters.

Backwoods brought me back in when the heroine had to bust out some Just Before Dawn-esque resourcefulness that resulted in some glorious overkill. Then it kind of killed that buzz with an ending that made no sense whatsoever. This movie just wasn't that well shot and the set pieces are haphazardly edited together. I also think that a better score could have done wonders, as this one, supplied by Skeet Bushor, was as cheesy and repetitive as they come.

Apart from some flavour added by Kruesser & O'Hara and a decent climax, there really isn't much to write home about here. This alternate UK poster is pretty bad-ass though.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Go West!

I have some great news. My latest short The Good Samaritan will be playing the 15th edition of the Calgary Underground Film Festival next month.

I was lucky enough to have The Monitor play there in 2015, but this time I'm going to fly out there to be part of the festivities. I'll get to partake in another one of Kier-La Janisse's Saturday Morning Cartoon Cereal parties, as well as some other great programming, including a probable re-watch of one of my 2017 faves Tigers Are Not Afraid.

I'll also get to sample Alberta beef right from the source! Excited!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Short of the Week #11: The Itching

This week is Dianne Bellino's terrific 2016 stop-motion animated short film The Itching. While not horror persay, I think it is one of the best visual representations of social anxiety I've ever seen put to screen. Have a watch and see.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Gacha Gacha

Here's another Kickstarter worth taking a gander at if you're into either black humour and/or weird indie cinema. Last year you may recall an Australian film called Cat Sick Blues getting under my skin. Well, director Dave Jackson (who is now calling Japan his home) is campaigning funds for his new short, Gacha Gacha. Check out the pitch video below.

As troubling as Cat Sick Blues was I can't help but support fresh new voices in genre cinema, now matter how perverse they may be. Click here for more info.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Ma & Pa Death

This week’s VHS is the instantly recognizable 1987 John Hough joint, American Gothic.

A group of vacationers end up stranded on an island inhabited by a family of psychos.

I have no real excuse as to why I hadn’t watched American Gothic until now. I guess I just got distracted by flashier stuff I suppose. The movie isn’t anything special, but the fact it was directed by John Hough is significant. His earlier works for Disney, The Watcher in the Woods and both Witch Mountain flicks, were some of my first encounters with the fantastical as a kid. I owe him a debt for his contribution to my love of genre film for sure.

This one, however was a bit problematic mainly due to all the protagonists, save the lead played by Sarah Torgov (she’s got her own problems) were complete fucking assholes. I think that only one character was supposed to be the stereotypical jerk, but they were all fairly unlikable. I mean who walks into someone’s house and starts messing with their shit, even putting on clothes! Considering how homicidal Ma & Pa were, I think they handled that first interaction quite well.

Hicks vs Dicks.

Even the husband (Mark Erickson) – who dragged his wife out into the wilderness right after she was discharged from the loony bin – made some deplorable comment to the effect of, oh yeah my wife, the wet blanket. You brought her here, dude!

The movie was a fairly pedestrian affair until the three “children” showed up (one of whom was consummate character actor Michael J. Pollard) and the killing started. While even that wasn’t particularly bloody, at least it was fulfilling to see all these idiots being punished for their sins. If you’ll indulge me in a completely random observation, two deaths in this movie are almost exactly the same as those in the 2017 video game What Remains of Edith Finch. Totally unrelated of course, it’s just one of those completely inexplicable parallels.

Janet Wright as Fanny in American Gothic.

American Gothic was fairly standard in execution, but did score points for straying into the bizarre. It might not be as entertainingly bonkers as Freddie Francis’ similarly themed 1970 film Girly, but – what is? – its last fifteen minutes did veer in an unexpected direction that elevated it somewhat.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Bad Man Cometh

The Kickstarter campaign for Scott Schirmer's latest opus, The Bad Man launched today. As you can see from the trailer below, it has just the level of depravity you would expect from the director of Found and Harvest Lake. Maybe more!

The Bad Man was a project that had long been in the pipe so it's great to see it finally coming to fruition. As with previous campaigns, The Bad Man is already almost finished and these pre-orders will facilitate the rest of the production.

For more info on the campaign, click here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Short of the Week #10

A short I caught at Fantasia last year has recently found its way online. Without further ado, here is Jessica Curtright & Santiago C. Tapia's short film It Began Without Warning.

There's some definite Who Can Kill A Child? vibes here, but I love the weird turn it takes about halfway through. When you watch as many shorts I as do, you find that more often than not they overstay their welcome. It Began however, is one of those rare instances where I was left wanting more. It was subtitled Phase 1 so who knows? Maybe there is more to come.

Friday, March 9, 2018

It's A Dead Man's Party!

The next VHS off the pile was William Fruet's 1986 effort Killer Party.

A sorority pledge party in an condemned frat house turns bloody when an uninvited guest arrives.

This was another title that I knew nothing of past its familiar coverbox so I had no idea what to expect. I naturally imagined it would be some sort of slasher, but was immediately thrown off by the first few scenes. As those who have watched this movie will know, Killer Party begins rather unconventionally. Then once you think it started, it becomes a music video with a level of eighties I haven't seen since the opening of Night Train To Terror.

Okay so when that is done, we finally get into the real movie. I didn't even know this was Canadian movie until Soldier's Tower appeared in the background just before “Directed by William Fruet” flashed on the screen. While all this was happening, a song called “Best Times” played and it was all good. This thing is as cheesy as it is catchy.

Man, I'd love to hear Freezepop cover that song. It was shortly after this that the movie became the sorority slasher that the back of the box promised. Or did it?

I have to say that Killer Party was fairly schizophrenic in that it's a slasher, haunted house flick and possession joint all at once. I can understand that traditional slashers would've been old hat by eighty-six, but this film's all over the place. Having said that, I thought that the only glaringly dated aspect were the fraternity pranks inflicted on the neighbouring sorority. That stuff isn't as amusing now in light of the whole “no means yes, yes means anal” movement.

Aside from that though, the heart of the movie was the relationship between the three pledges (or “goats”) Phoebe, Vivia & Jennifer (Elaine Wilkes, Sherry Willis-Burch & Joanna Johnson respectively) and that felt pretty sincere. I was especially impressed with Johnson because her performance in the last fifteen minutes was miles from anything that came before it. Who knew she had it in her?

Joanna Johnson, Elaine Wilkes & Sherry Willis-Burch in Killer Party

Perhaps the biggest detriment to the movie was how badly it was hacked to pieces by the MPAA. While watching it, I was quick to notice that pretty much every death blow cut right at the point of impact. A section of the movie even had four of said scenes all lined up in a row. I found out later that it was deliberately edited like that because of how much had to be trimmed. That's a real Goddamn shame. Given all the cuts, I wonder if those first two unrelated scenes were filmed later just to make up the running time.

As gory as it gets, folks!

I marvel at why the killer's costume in this movie – like the bear suit in Girls Nite Out – does not get talked about more by fans. It's a fucking old-timey diver's suit, for Christ's sake! Like if that's not the most cumbersome kill outfit I've ever seen, I don't know what is. It's preposterous, especially considering how random its appearance seemed.

Even at a masquerade party, this seems out of place.

Killer Party was kind of a mish-mash, but even though it lacked cohesion, it was rarely boring and that's mainly due to its eclectic cast – which also included cult hero Paul Bartel. I'd have likely have preferred something more traditional like The Initiation, but I've got to admire Fruet's intent.

Thursday, March 8, 2018


I discovered a cute little game/joke/demo the other day called “David Lynch Teaches Typing”.

It's good for more than a few laughs and, as you would expect, goes to places both wonderful and strange. The “trial” version is available for download here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Short of the Week #9: Apaches

After falling down a YouTube rabbit hole some weeks ago, I discovered this farm safety short film from the UK called Apaches. As was the case with most European public service scare films of the era, this one is as dark, dry and grim as it gets.

After attending Kier-La Janisse's School of Shock lecture some years ago, I thought I'd seen everything, but this one is up there for sure. It kind of makes me wonder how I survived my childhood to be honest.

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Girl & Her Doll

This week I checked out my VHS of Eddy Matalon's 1977 killer kid vehicle Cathy's Curse.

A young girl (Randi Allen) becomes possessed by the ghost of her aunt after her family moves into their ancestral home.

Shot in Quebec, this Canadian-French co-production definitely has a European feel to it that I chalk up to the French-born director Matalon. His influences were apparent, as I could pick out sequences from other movies (The Omen & Don't Look Now being two examples) in amongst his own muddled vision.

I could blame my VHS cut, but it seemed like there were a lot of problems with continuity and editing in this film with scenes often ending just a few shots too soon. Cathy's Curse could also be accused of being a bit lax in the logic department where very obvious supernatural happenings seem to be forgotten by characters from scene to scene. 

Randi Allen in Cathy's Curse.

My daughter just miraculously teleported around the room! Huh. Maybe I'm just not getting enough sleep. Or that doll just ripped up my hand, man I gotta lay off the booze... Speaking of booze, that drinking scene with the “butler” - if you thought the spider attack scene in The Beyond was random, you ain't seen nothing yet!

Cathy's Curse has some serious whiteboard syndrome going on here – meaning creepy scenes were spit-balled and inserted in without any thought given to context or continuity. It worked for Lucio Fulci, but not so much here mainly due to it not being accompanied by buckets of gore. I suppose there was the scene where the kid was wearing the butler's face... I mean, I think she was. It was hard to tell. She looked more like a reject from Lenzi's Nightmare City.

Who wore it better?

All this aside, the cast was pretty decent. Beverly Murray as the mother was supposed to be losing it, so I can forgive her overacting and Alan Scarfe's resemblance to nineties David Hewlett was super distracting to me. Again, it may have been by faded VHS playing tricks on me. Randi Allen was actually very good as the title character. She's got the evil glower down as well as the delivery of some off-colour language. Seeing her call an old woman a “fat dried up whore” was delightful. I admit it's not Regan level nastiness, but we are in Canada after all, gosh darn it.

Overall, Cathy's Curse was a little on the dull side, but it was still mildly amusing CanCon.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Then He's Still There...

This is so freaking badass. A few years ago, someone put a Friday the 13th Part VI era Jason Voorhees statue at the bottom of a lake in Minnesota. That's some fan dedication and next level prankage, man. Respect!