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, May 29, 2018

Short of the Week #21: The Sun Has Died

Having spent a lot of time in VR of late, I was reminded of one of my favourite POV horror short films, Daniel Bødker Sørensen's The Sun Has Died from 2015. 

I love the tension built in this piece. The Sun Has Died not only escalates to a satisfying conclusion, but its arc justifies the eighteen-minute run time. Imdb has no new projects listed for Sørensen at present, but I hope he resurfaces because he's got some serious chops.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Evil Shed.

This week it’s Charles Philip Moore’s 1990 effort Demon Wind.

After the death of his father, Cory (Eric Larson) is beckoned to his ancestral home only to find that it is cursed by demonic forces.

I have to admit that I cheated this week and watched my recently acquired Vinegar Syndrome Blu of this movie. With its snazzy lenticular cover, you can imagine it is not particularly easy to find a VHS copy in the wild. Oh well, at least they recreated the cover for this release. Anyhoo, let's dig in.

It didn't take me long to clock into this movie's Evil Dead vibe. You’ve got the rundown cabin – or farmhouse – the demons, the book of incantations and even the ceremonial dagger. When you think about it, I guess Sam Raimi’s Ram-O-Cam effect was technically a demon wind. There’s not much wind in this one though, save a few fog banks, as it's mainly demons shambling and cracking wise.

Demon Wind was a lot less fun than its influences that also likely included Prince of Darkness and Fulci’s Zombi, but Moore did manage to throw in a WTF moment every few scenes to keep me entertained. Like when those two guys – one of whom is a magician for some reason – show up blaring classical music out of their Buick. To be fair, those two dudes’ bro-mance was one of the more interesting things about Demon Wind.

Stacy (Jack Vogel) & Chuck (Stephen Quadros) together 4ever!

Not to say logic was particularly important here, but there was a severe lack of it present. Once inside the farmhouse, which I might add looks like ruins from the outside and fine on the inside, Cory is like, “I think it's gonna be okay”. Oh really guy? Need I remind you that five minutes ago your friend got turned into a doll and burst into flames. That sounds pretty fucking far from okay to me. But what do I know, I haven't inherited a cursed family plot. Not yet anyway.

Perhaps the most noticeable flaw was the foley. Holy balls, did this guy only have access to like three or four sounds? I swear, if you took a drink every time you hear that canned “falling to the ground” noise, you’d be hospitalized by the climax. In all fairness though, this movie was shot on short ends by a second-unit crew from a picture that it was being shot back-to-back with. I suppose we should be glad it was watchable at all.

Having said that, there were things to appreciate here. Though the gooey make-up effects were a mixed bag, F/X artist Lance Anderson really went for it. A dozen demon make-up extras (of which Lou Diamond Phillips was apparently one)? No problem. Huge son-of-Satan full body prosthetic? Sure, we can do that. Full body burn? Easy peasy! Plus, I feel I need to re-iterate those WTF moments.

If that gif were to play on, you'd see this guy regress back into a baby and then... a dove. Because why not, right?

Moore went onto have a decent career doing action movies, including Angel of Destruction and Dance with Death, which has perhaps the most nineties coverbox you have ever seen in your life. Demon Wind was a so-so affair, but at least it delivered on the promise of its coverbox.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Short of the Week #20: Violeta

I wanted to go back in time a bit for this week's entry. One of the first short films I reviewed here was Marc Riba & Anna Solanas' 2006 short, Violeta. With its disturbing visuals and almost unbearably squishy sound design, this short has stuck with me for over a decade.

Watching this again, I realized that this duo was also responsible for one of my recent favourites, Dead Horses. I'm thrilled that these two are still unleashing their stop-motion nightmares onto the world.

Friday, May 18, 2018

That Ain't Smokey...

This week I watched my recently acquired VHS of John Frankenheimer's 1979 environmental horror Prophecy.

The waste from a lumber mill causes mutations in the surrounding inhabitants, the most dangerous of which being a giant bear monster.

I came into this unsure about whether I'd actually seen it. I'm pretty sure this movie was melded together in my mind with others of this era (1977's The Deep and 1980's The Island for instance) that I may have caught bits & pieces of on television before being whisked away to bed. Having said that, I recalled pretty much nothing of Prophecy and enjoyed it much more than I was expecting to. This was like, a legitimate movie, especially when you put it up against the trash I watched last week.

Talia Shire & Robert Foxworth in Prophecy.

Prophecy has some solid talent in it, including Talia Shire (right before reprising her role as Adrian in Rocky II), Robert Foxworth and Armand Assante. Playing the role of the shifty lumber foreman was Richard Dysart and when he was confronted with the mutated horrors his plant had wrought, I couldn't help but think, “buddy, you ain't seen no-thing yet.

I hear that some people like to take the piss out of the effects – Imdb says that uber-dweeb Leonard Maltin described the creature a “walking salami.” - but I thought it looked pretty bad ass. Even though Frankenheimer & f/x house Burman Studios had initially conceived something quite a bit different, I thought the mutated bear-thing was a good way to go. Though I'm willing to admit that viewing it on a muddy VHS may have been ideal, as a hi-def transfer may not do it any favours.

It's a shame they couldn't get a bit gorier with it – Frankenheimer had his original vision of an R rating cut back to a PG – as I think it could've really taken it to another level. As it stands now, I can't really take something like that seminal scene where the bear swats a kid in a banana sleeping bag thirty feet to his feathery death as anything except incredibly amusing.

Environmental horrors were popular during this era and this one ranks in the upper echelon. The concerns raised are just as relevant now as they were then. I always wondered about the cover (and title for that matter) when I knew in my head it was about a killer bear and now I know the significance of it. I think my only gripe is that thread never gets resolved. I was hoping for a Humanoids From The Deep style outro, but alas it was not to be.

As far as studio pictures featuring ten-foot tall bear monsters go, this one is pretty ace.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Short of the Week #19: Fun

One of my favourite shorts last year was Greg Kovacs' Fun. Recalling the children show puppetry of his 2013 effort Tasha & Friends, this will surely win you over. Check it out below.

Wasn't that fun?! And at three-and-a-half minutes completely economical too. Recently, Kovacs revealed that this short was actually the pilot episode for his new web series called Poppy Seed Place. Who knows what depravity these little rascals are going to get up to! 

For more episodes of PSP, CLICK HERE.

Monday, May 14, 2018

R.I.P. Margot Kidder 1948-2018

My crappy Monday got even crappier when I heard about the passing of actress Margot Kidder. Kidder died in her sleep yesterday at her home in Montana. She was 69.

R.I.P. Margot Kidder 1948-2018

I was maybe six or seven when I got my first introduction to Kidder with her turn as Lois Lane in the Superman movies. Apart from that, her career spanned over five decades. For me though, it was work in three iconic horrors, Sisters, The Amityville Horror and Black Christmas, that have resonated with me through the years.

I was lucky enough to see her in person at the 2005 Festival of Fear and she was incredibly affable and also very candid about her ongoing troubles with mental illness. Rest in peace, Margot.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Doctor Snore

In an attempt to continue a theme started with last weekend's Tex-a-Thon, I pulled J.G. Patterson's 1972 flick The Body Shop off the shelf.

A grieving mad scientist (also Patterson) and his hunchbacked assistant Gregory (Roy Mehaffy) dismember young women to assemble his perfect mate.

I fully admit I got duped here. Within five minutes of putting this on, I was like, “uh-oh I think I've made a terrible mistake.” I was expecting a low-rent cannibal slasher, but I wasn't even in the right decade. This is a baaaad movie, folks.

The Body Shop aka Doctor Gore was basically what it would look like if Herschell Gordon Lewis had made a Bride of Frankenstein movie. Except worse. Much, much worse. Every facet of this production is Z-grade. I'm not sure if it was my VHS transfer, but it often seemed like the camera was off center (like the DP fell asleep or something) and location sound was definitely an afterthought. I could see people's mouth's moving, but nothing was coming out. Don't worry, I'm sure those incessant voice overs and musical interludes that kept playing over and over will distract from that, right?

Looking up Patterson I saw that he had worked on a few of H.G. Lewis' pictures, which makes a lot of sense. He must have been like, “well if H.G can do it, so can I!” No. No you can't buddy. Lewis was a showman and knew what the people wanted. He knew to fill time with badly overacted dialogue, not long drawn out montages of nothing. It looks like they were pretty tight though as evidenced by Lewis' touching introduction for its home video release.

For real though, so much of The Body Shop is filler that it is barely a movie. There's no flow and there were times when I thought I had missed a scene. There's like no exposition as to why a surgeon also happened to be a master hypnotist. Chicks would follow this guy to the slaughter for no other reason than Patterson couldn't think of one.

Jenny Driggers & J.G. Patterson in The Body Shop.

Most of this would have been forgivable if it delivered on the gore, but it doesn't. When these repetitive sequences finally came around, they were fairly rudimentary. When you compare this to Lewis' pictures like 2000 Maniacs, Wizard of Gore and Gore Gore Girls (released '64,'70 and '72 respectively) there's really no comparison. The set pieces in those movies were not only better executed, but wildly grotesque and unique.

And all this trouble for a living sex doll? Seems like a lot of work. And I wager that Doctor Gore may have been the first horror baddie with a hand fetish. “Hands on a woman are the most important. Delicate hands bring out the true femininity!”

I'm a breast man myself.

The Body Shop is the perfect example of a movie that you would rent by accident at the video store and immediately regret your decision. It's shoddily made, threadbare and mainly just boring. If you're going to fail, at least fail upwards and make it entertaining.

Thursday, May 10, 2018


Last weekend, I partook in the latest marathon at my friend Serena’s place which consisted of watching all the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. Out of all these events I have participated in (Scream, Chucky, Hellraiser, NOES & Halloween) this was definitely the one I had reservations about.

While the first two films are horror royalty – it can be argued that Tobe Hooper’s 1974 masterpiece is the GOAT and certainly the most intense and unrelenting when viewed on the big screen – but beyond that there are some serious diminishing returns. I had not seen the third & fourth installments in over twenty years and I was even more apprehensive about enduring the back half. I was not a fan of the 2003 remake and I wasn’t expecting the trio that came after it to be any better. Let’s see how we fared.

It was about noon when I rolled in with the first film underway at the point just before Jerry (Allen Danziger) meets his end. I have seen this movie countless times – I can tell you it was refreshing to watch it now without a debate weighing on my mind – and it never ceases to impress me. It is something that shouldn’t exist, but does. A celluloid nightmare that captured a moment in time and influenced filmmakers for years to come.

But enough gushing, you’re reading this so you know all this.

For the sequel, Hooper took a left turn at Crazytown. In response to audiences not catching onto the fact that there was actually an element of comedy to TCM, he doubled down on the camp for Part 2. Everything is amplified here. I wager that Jim Siedow (returning as the eldest Sawyer brother), Bill Moseley and Dennis Hopper were all competing to see who could chew the most scenery – Hopper’s double chainsaws probably wins that one.

And just in case you hadn’t picked up on the chainsaw as phallic symbol, Hooper smashes that point home, as well. Even this iteration’s Final Girl, record jockey Stretch (an extremely game Caroline Williams) while imperiled most of the picture does find the courage to fight back in the last reel.

Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III was a decidedly dry affair. Even with Ken Foree and the trivia factor of it starring a young Viggo Mortensen, there’s not much to this movie. In fact, I’ve forgotten a lot of it already other than one of the family members was a Patty McCormack-esque little girl and Leatherface gets an engraved gold-plated chainsaw. Which reminds me, this Excalibur trailer really is the best thing about this movie.

The Next Generation is a train wreck, but at least it’s a somewhat entertaining one.

There’s something about the “anything goes” attitude of director Kim Henkel that makes it palatable. In terms of subject matter, it’s a carbon copy of what came before, but Matthew McConaughey’s untethered performance is something to behold. This was also Renee Zellweger’s first leading role and she takes it like a champ.

So much of this movie makes no sense, but four movies in I found I didn’t much care.

Then it was time for the modern era of TCM. Fifteen years on from my first impressions, I can relent that Marcus Nispel’s 2003 incarnation is a well made movie. I still don’t like it, chiefly because it’s everything that the original is not. It’s slick and overproduced, leaving nothing to the imagination, but it does resemble the first film in that they are both acutely representative of horror filmmaking from their respective eras.

I always found a whole town seemingly being in on it a little more implausible than just one killer family in the middle of nowhere. Just a sign of the times I guess. At the very least though, I thought Jessica Biel made a decent Final Girl. I feel she’s an actress who’s put in some really great performances since her time at Platinum Dunes that have sadly gone unrecognized.

TCM: The Beginning was definitely the most joyless of the series. It’s dirty and gross and feels like a lesser version of Nispel’s picture. It’s also kind of unnecessary. Were how R. Lee Ermey became Sherriff and how the gropey guy in the wheelchair lost his legs really burning questions we needed answered? I don’t think so.

Plus, unlike Biel and the next movie’s heroine Alexandra Daddario who both filled their roles with gusto, something about Jordana Brewster felt a bit out of place here. I guess the fact that it was a prequel sort of self-spoiled the ending, as well.

Midnight was fast approaching so it could be that I was a little punch drunk by this point – I believe it was only Serena & I that were still up by the seventh stanza – but Texas 3D was not terrible. It’s ridiculously stupid – the whole movie hinges on the main character not opening a letter she receives at the onset – but like I said, Daddario made a fine Final Girl even if she was fifteen years younger than the character she was supposed to be playing. This installment offers up some (quite possibly unintentional) dumb fun, something painfully lacking from the previous two movies.

Sadly, we obviously weren’t watching it in 3D, as that could’ve made for some Bloody Valentine shits and giggs too. I was also surprised to find I didn’t hate the fact that “Old Man Leatherface” (played this time by Dan Yeager) and Dadarrio become best buds at the end ala AvP. Hey, at least it’s something different.
And that is what I came away with when all was said and done. Everything past Part 2 was basically the same movie over and over with the same beats.

-People run afoul of the family deep in the heart of Texas.
-Someone gets hung on a hook.
-Girl gets tied to a chair.
-Girl screams while getting chased with a chainsaw.
-Girl thinks she’s saved but really isn’t.

And I lost count of how many recreations of the famed “dinner scene” there were. It was a lot. Considering how many other films (and video games) have aped this sequence, you’d think the home team might move onto bloodier pastures. I guess 3D did somewhat, as that carnival sequence was the closest thing to a set piece the series has ever had, apart from perhaps the motorcycle chase in The Beginning.

Now I am well aware there are those who might say “well that’s what slasher franchises are by design, making the same movie over and over” and I don't I agree with that. Nightmare, Friday and Halloween had differences from movie to movie, involving progression of characters and story – even if they were rudimentary and often ret-conned. I realize that the bulk of these series’ happened during my formative years so nostalgia plays a large part of my perception of them, but I honestly think each Friday movie has its own distinct flavour.

As you may have noticed, I am one movie short. Yes, it is with a heavy heart (not really, like at all) that we failed to complete the task at hand. After 3D, we called it a night. I’m pretty sure we weren’t missing much. I read the script for Leatherface a few years back and I’m morbidly curious to see if the twist turned out to be as outlandishly absurd onscreen as it was on the page, but I’m in no hurry to find out.

Oh well, seven out of eight ain’t bad. With a belly full of Serena’s homemade chili and the sound of chainsaws still ringing in my ears, I can think of worse ways to spend a Saturday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Short of the Week #18: Dirty Silverware

This week's short is Steve Daniels' whimsical 2011 effort entitled Dirty Silverware. I've always loved this short because it is a perfect example of a great concept fleshed out into a well executed final product.

Daniels went on to compete in both ABC's of Death contests, with his M is For Marauder making it into ABC's 2.5. Most recently he directed a short last year called Blood Spook starring indie staple A.J. Bowen.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Big Snake On Campus.

This week I watched one of my recent Shock Stock acquisitions, 1983's Spasms.

A British millionaire (Oliver Reed) gains a telepathic connection with a snake demon after being bitten while hunting in New Guinea. He later has it captured and shipped to America where chaos ensues.

Yes, you read that right. This movie was fuckin' wild, man. Much like my experience with Killer Party a few months ago, I had no idea going in that this movie was directed by Canuxploitation icon William Fruet. I always thought Spasms was Italian, but now I see I was confusing it with Lenzi's Spasmo. The more Fruet films I see, the more I realize just how much of a maverick this guy is.

So right up front, Fruet doesn't even try to hide this movie was shot in Toronto. It's supposed to be San Diego, but the CN Tower can clearly be seen in one shot. He really gets some mileage out of Soldier's Tower, staging a scene that's basically a snowball's throw from the one in Black Christmas. My favourite for sure though is how Fruet used the Scarborough Bluffs to double as New Guinea.

The Scarboro Tribe.

To use a phrase that Reed's co-star Peter Fonda may have said, this movie is far out. The snake attack scenes were absolute gold with the two highlights being the raid on the girl's dorm and the final showdown against a knife wielding Reed. Fruet must have liked his attack footage because he reused it at the climax to fill time when the production ran out of money. The snake's death scene was the only anti-climactic thing about this movie though. I really dug the snake bite bloating effects by Carl Fullerton & Dick Smith among others. Tangerine Dream did a track on this movie, as well!

The cast is peppered with Canadians, including Angus MacInnesAl Waxman doing a cross between Joseph Larch and George Costanza. Funny thing about MacInnes, he has been in countless movies (he was Gold Leader for Christ sakes) but he'll always be Jean LaRose from Strange Brew to me.

I live for this shit, man!

You know what's weird? This movie was filmed in 1981, the same year Reed did Venom with Klaus Kinski about another venomous snake. Who else can say that? I wonder if he was even sober enough at the time to tell the difference. Ollie, why you kiss your niece?

So bottom line, if you ever see an old movie that says “Directed by William Fruet” on it -- watch it! It may not be the best, but you'll never be bored.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Shock Stock 2018!

Last weekend was yet another greasy edition of Shock Stock. I barely had time to recover from the Carpenter Brut show the night before I was speeding down the 401 to London, Ontario.

It was once again at the Ramada this year - I have no idea the Vagrancy Brothers convinced the hotel to have us all back – black magic perhaps – and the party spread out over the entire grounds. I found out that everyone staying there this weekend was involved with the Con, except five or six long-term guests and I'm sure they were warned. Shock Stock even had its own beer this year.

The Good Samaritan screened on the night before I arrived, but I hear it went over well. When I got there Saturday morning, the place was already hopping. I met up with Schwartz and we picked through the VHS. I have to say I was very good this year, only coming away with one poster and three tapes.

I don't speak Italian, but I love that it appears someone is comparing Mattei to Hitchcock in that poster. Plus, I also couldn't resist picking up this Phantasm magnet from The Butcher Shop that I've walked by year after year.

Effects guru Carlos Henriques was showing off his Jason Part 7 bust at the show which was pretty fucking sweet.

Ok, I'm lying. I'll be spending more money at the Twisted T's online store, as they have some new designs available there that weren't at the show. There were some new vendors this year that had some cool stuff. Hipster Lasers in particular caught my eye with their custom cutting boards.

There were several panels over the course of the weekend, but I only made it to two. The first was Kane Hodder with two of his onscreen rivals Lar Park Lincoln (from Friday Part 7) and Parry Chen (from the Hatchet series). This was a fantastic time with lots of great stories. I was especially happy Hodder got to talk about his experience working on the video game. Check out the audio from the Q&A below.

The second was a live recording of The Witch Finger Podcast. You may remember I mentioned that I was surprised that I had never run into Yasmina Ketita at Shock Stock before. Well, lo and behold, she and her two podcast sisters had a booth this year.

The live show was really fun and I think it improves the experience when you can actually watch along with the movie that they are covering. It also has nothing to do with me winning trivia at their show. My knowledge of fictional character Bennett Tramer netted me this sweet VHS board game.

As with last year, the dining area gave way later in the night for some live entertainment, including a pretty lively performance from Blood Opera.

Sunday was pretty low key. I took in an entertaining documentary about Lloyd Kaufman & the history of Troma called Greetings from Tromaville and walked the show floor one last time. The day ended with The Crystal Shockers, the awards ceremony for which two of my compatriots won honours – Mike Pereira for Best Director (Zandavi Lives) and Ry Barrett for Best Actor (The Heretics, Zandavi Lives & The Good Samaritan)

And then I was heading back home. I've been away from home the last two weekends, so I'm looking forward to some R&R thi-- Texas Chainsaw Marathon?! Awww maaaan.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Short of the Week #17: The Armoire

I was glad to see one of my favourite shorts from last year show up on recently show up on YouTube. Evan Cooper's The Armoire is everything you want in a creeper. The page proclaims “FOR BEST VIEWING EXPERIENCE, WATCH IN THE DARK WITH THE VOLUME TURNED UP” and I completely concur. Enjoy!

For those more keen-eyed cinephiles, you'll notice that the older actor in this short is Kirk Baltz, the dude who famously lost his ear in Reservoir Dogs. I reckon things didn't go much better for him here either. What I love about this film, apart from the look of its antagonist, is the wonderful sound design. So simple, but so pants-fillingly effective.