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, September 28, 2018

Rock Like It's 2019!

This week's VHS is Gary J. Tunnicliffe's sci-fi actioner Within The Rock from 1996.

A mining team is sent to divert the course of an incoming asteroid only to uncover a fossilized alien that soon wakes up and starts tearing through the crew. Will they survive long enough to complete their mission and save Earth?

Considering Tunnicliffe's output over the years – namely his hot garbage takes on Hellraiser – I was not expecting much from this, but I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it's a thinly disguised Alien rip-off (I think there are enough of those now that we can accept them as a thing), but it's competent enough and the stuff that isn't is almost charming at this point.

Set in the year 2019 (I should have waited a few months to post about this, oh well), we have another “aww that's cute” look at the future where mankind has mastered space exploration, yet media is still stored on floppies and mini-discs. And in case you're wondering, the most popular video game at this time is not Fortnite, but something called Battle Scars that of course looks like something off the Sega Saturn.

So the movie starts off with Dale Dye, as a military type (shocking) sending Dr. Shaw (Caroline Barclay) off into space to lead the mission to re-route the asteroid by drilling into it. Then, within the first five minutes I see both Earl Boen & Xander Berkeley which made me think this cast might just be made up supporting actors from Terminator 2. The aforementioned Alien parallels began with the blue collar crew of the mining operation and their relations between their corporate employers. It's kind of a mix of the peeps from Alien & Aliens and their interactions may be the best thing about this movie.

There was even a Vasquez! Except she's called “Nuke em” (Barbara Patrick) you know, to fit in with the guys. And she's pretty bad ass... until she gets offed Three Stooges-style. Which leads me to another point of prophecy in this movie. It's good to see gender relations have improved about as much here as they have IRL soon-to-be 2019. As far as the rest of the Alien stuff goes, composers Tony Fennell & Rod Gammons tried their hardest to not copy James Horner's iconic score, but I heard them falter once or twice during the proceedings.

Being rooted in mid-nineties, the movie was of course in a tug-of-war between practical and CG. Comical of course is the latter and every time it came onscreen I found myself saying “you should be using this less”. Due to Tunnicliffe's F/X background, the practical stuff is unsurprisingly solid, although I wish the alien looked less like a guy in a rubber suit as it did. I would have preferred a design a little more monstrous, like Bill Malone's Creature or Metamorphosis' “Deadly Spawn”.

I had to laugh at the meteor storyline though, as it sounded quite familiar. I wonder if Michael Bay saw this on video and went, “I'm going to remake this, but with more explosions... and Aerosmith!” Seriously though, Within The Rock was watchable sci-fi fare with good actors, a solid pace and is pretty much the best anything that says “Directed by Gary J. Tunnicliffe” on the cover has to offer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Analog Archaeology Part II

Last month, I posted a bunch of VHS tags - the identification stickers applied by home video retailers back in the day - from various tapes in my collection. Here now is the continuation of said stickers. Enjoy!


This one came with its own instruction manual!

An old favourite!

I wonder if they answered the phone “it's party time, it's excellent!”

I'm still not done so expect a third post at some point in the future. Also, if you'd like to see some old membership cards for shits and giggs, click here.

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


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


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


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.