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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween, Pumpkin Man.

Happy Halloween everyone! From my VHS archives I give you this gift, a news story from 1986 about a Brit who grows pumpkins using beer and rock n' roll. I assure you this is NOT a Monty Python skit.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Short of the Week #41: The Good Samaritan

I'm going to bend the rules a little bit this week and post one of my own projects. Just in time for Halloween, the short film Darrin Suzuki & I made last year is now online. Here for your viewing (dis)pleasure is The Good Samaritan.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Looking In.

While this isn't technically a DKTM post, I was awash with so much crazy horror stuff going on around the Web that I couldn't resist throwing some vids up here.

First, Rue Morgue TV launched last week. You can check out the channel here for all things horror, including some Halloween night movie recommendations.

Those in the know maybe aware of Chris LaMartina's brilliant cable access homage WNUF Halloween Special, but you may not know that the director is currently trying to get a sequel off the ground.

If this interests you at all, please give generously. In the meantime, check out this absolutely fantastic compilation of old Halloween commercials, movie trailers and station identifiers. A few favourites of mine were a Fangoria ad featuring Angus Scrimm and an Eyewitness News message rocking the JM Jarre.

Also, did you know that one of my all-time favourite pieces of media is returning this Halloween? Yes, the second season of Limetown drops on the 31st. I can't wait to hear the future!!!

Lastly, do you like to watch women drink beer and talk about Full Moon horror movies? If so, have I got a web series for you... Sin & Tonic's first episode featuring Ali Chappell & Kelly Gredner hit the Web a little bit ago.

Okay, I think that's the majority of it, but definitely check back during Halloween week as I've got a few more things up my blood-soaked sleeve. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Jack-O aka “We Did The Best We Could”

With Halloween being less than a week away, watching my VHS of Steve Latshaw's Jack-O seemed like a no-brainer.

Many generations after the Kelly family executed an evil wizard (from Florida?!), a curse resurrects Jack-O to take down the rest of the bloodline namely mild mannered trick or treater Sean (Ryan Latshaw).

I'd heard rumblings about this movie not being the greatest, and they were all true. Though it was a bit of a bore, I still managed to get some joy out of it. When looking at it from a filmmaker's perspective, it's actually a pretty good clinic on the trials of low budget genre filmmaking and coincidentally shares a lot of similarities with Gary Graver's Trick or Treats, which I posted about a few weeks ago.

In addition to them using their own houses to shoot, Latshaw used his own son, Ryan as the lead. Also like Treats, Jack-O featured a ton of genre cameos, this time mainly sourced from abandoned projects. John Carradine appears almost nine years after his death in bits originally meant for a picture called Cannibal Church and Cameron Mitchell shows up as a TV host, by way of dead anthology piece Terminal Shock. Rounding things out was footage of Brinke Stevens running through a graveyard that producer Fred Olen Ray shot while vacationing in Salem, Mass.

Ryan Latshaw as Sean in Jack-O

So after an incredibly convoluted set-up, Jack-O rises from the grave to lumber around and dispatch largely random characters. The creature design was kinda cool, but the budget kind of limited what he could do and we rarely got a good look at him. I have to say that even though this movie was made in 1995, it felt much more like an eighties film in tone and structure. I guess the Rush Limbaugh-like character that keeps appearing on TV was really the only thing that rooted it in the decade it was actually made in.

Jack-O was largely off-kilter, but not in the same way that Trick or Treats was. I found it odd that the kid's family just immediately welcomed a complete stranger into their home. Sean was hanging out with this woman in his bedroom and even sitting on her lap within hours of meeting her. And don't get me started on the Kelly's janky haunted hou-- garage that the father managed to accidentally trash after just two kids had gone inside it. Jack-O did have the saving grace of having Linnea Quigley in it – naked within two seconds of being onscreen of course – though. I was shocked to see that she actually survived too, especially since there was a moment I was sure she was going to get cleaved in two.

Linnea Quigley (right) & Rachel Miller in Jack-O.

Before signing off I do have to mention the commentary track – that I subsequently watched on YouTube – because it was better than the actual movie. I wager you too will awkwardly laugh as the banter between producer & director goes from sarcasm and jovial ball busting to full-on arguing and resentment. I'm not one-hundred per cent sure it wasn't scripted to make things more interesting, but it sounded pretty real to me.

At the end of the day, Jack-O was a low-budget throwaway that had its moments. It's certainly no Satan's Little Helper, but it could still be a hoot to watch with some pals while throwing back a few.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Shorts After Dark 2018

For its thirteenth edition, Toronto After Dark actually added more short films to their numbers this year. While we are usually treated to an International Programme and homegrown efforts before each feature, programmer Shannon Hanmer premiered an additional Canadian shorts block. As a programmer myself, I know that time restraints can often make you leave some solid stuff off the line-up so creating a separate program for longer form short films is a perfect solution.

Here were some of my faves from the week.

On the international side of the things were some really solid creepers, including 9 Steps from Marisa Crespo & Moises Romera and Paul Taylor's The Blue Door starring GoT's Gemma Whelan

The short film world is rife with clever sci-fi concepts, but very few are as well conceived as Heath Michaels' The World Over. I immediately dialed into the universe built here and the connection between the two leads, Tess Granfield & Brett Keating. That's a tall order when you only have fifteen minutes to work with.

The programme's only source of levity - the world is angry folks - was Sam KJ's PvP, a fun portrait of video game competitiveness with a nice homage to The Raid 2 thrown in.

It was unfortunate that a technical glitch caused the most traumatizing short - Alezandro Rios' Los Gatos - to be played last, leaving the audience completely reeling when the lights came up. I heard several stories of attendees rushing home to hug their pets afterwards.

Moving on to the Canadian shorts, I actually felt that they were the stronger offerings this year and Shannon made sure to run the gamut.

Coming off her short Ink last year, Ashlea Wessel stepped up her game with the fairly ambitious Tick that was not only larger in scope, but also took the opportunity to tackle long gestating social issues.

I mentioned sci-fi earlier and James Villenueve's The Ticket was likely the best POC I've seen in a while. Channeling V with a little Willy Wonka, it's definitely a concept I'd like to see more of.

Winnipeg native BJ Verot had not one, but two solid works in the fest with After The Rain and Echoes in The Ice, the latter of which being a terrific hybrid between Carpenter and Lovecraft.

I really dug Scott Riopelle's Split Decision, as it was a well executed piece using the urban legend setup of a stranger appearing on your doorstep at night as a starting point. Things got gorier from there.

Quang Ngo-Trong's The Windmill Man and Roney's Glitter's Wild Women also got some good laughs from the audience and music videos Death Van and Space Hustler (from Michael Enzbrunner & Carlo Schefter respectively) had me tapping my foot in the aisle.

My favourite short so far this year though has been Santiago Menghini's Milk. This is the kind of shit that makes my eyes water. Perhaps most impressive is that he takes an idea reminiscent of a two-sentence horror and keeps ramping it up. It doesn't hurt that his shorts are always soaked in atmosphere, as anyone who saw his 2014 effort Intruders will attest. Someone give this guy a feature!

Yes, the future is bright (and dark) ladies and germs.

Monday, October 22, 2018

TAD 2018

Hey all. The thirteenth edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival wrapped up last Friday. Though I wasn't able to attend as much as previous years, it was a strong line-up that seemed to be well received by the October faithful.

Not only were they able to bring some great films from Fantasia to the Big Smoke, including Tigers Are Not Afraid (one of my faves from last year that you can read about here), The Dark and Mega Time Squad, but they also brought in some real crowd pleasers making the rounds, like The Ranger and Anna & The Apocalypse.

Today though, I'd just like to highlight three titles I was impressed with during the fest.

This sci-fi western from Chris Caldwell & Zeek Earl was some really great stuff. I appreciated that Prospect's universe was literally built from scratch and was surprised by how much of it struck me as fresh and original. Buoyed by terrific performances by Sophie Thatcher and Prince Oberyn himself Pablo Pascal, I was completely immersed in this world.

The easiest way to describe Overlord is Band of Brothers crossed with the Resident Evil video games. JJ Abrams threw a lot of money at this movie and it showed from the opening seconds. This was also a movie that moved, as there's not an ounce of fat on this picture. Like Prospect, it also had some recognizable faces in Wyatt Russell (channeling a bit of his father as MacReady at points), Pilou AsbækJovan Adepo. For those who think zombies have been done to death, I think Julius Avery may have given it another stay of execution.

Infamously known as the first movie to be conceived from a Twitter conversation between two writers, You Might Be The Killer was a really fun time. Seeing Fran Kranz again reminded me of Cabin In The Woods and just how much fun it is for horror fans to get together and gleefully deconstruct the genre we all love. There's also gore, some entertaining physical comedy, as well as the always delightful Alyson Hannigan

Drop by tomorrow for my first of two posts on TAD's selection of short films.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Analog Archaeology Part III

Hey everyone! Video Store Day is once again upon us!

Be sure to hit up your local independent store today for some good old fashioned curation. It's not all about algorithms folks! In the meantime, I figured this would be the perfect occasion to wrap up my VHS tags posts. Enjoy!

For Part I, click here.
For Part II, click here.

Video Giant was not fucking around!

Can't imagine why this business failed.

The ever helpful elephant.

Ever the wordsmiths...

Friday, October 19, 2018

Phone Sex.

This week’s title is Ruggero Deodato’s 1988 thriller Dial: Help.

A model (Charlotte Lewis) working in Rome starts being stalked by possessed phone system.

I have to admit I cheated this week, as my source was not VHS, but a screening put on at Eyesore Cinema by my friend and purveyor of wacko cinema David Bertrand. As he put it, Deodato took time out from making cannibal and David Hess home invasion pictures to birth this bizarre outing about a horny telephone system.

Dial: Help had my head spinning almost immediately, as it goes from zero to crazy at the drop of a hat. It’s very difficult for me to remember details as I’d had a few wobbly pops, but I do remember a ton of different vintage telephones – some of which actually crept around like prowling animals – a revolving door of quirky supporting characters and a random room right out of a Terry Gilliam picture full of old-timey tape reels and frolicking pigeons.

It wouldn't be Italian horror without red and blue.

Every so often while floating through this eighties Italian film logic, someone would be offed in spectacular fashion, like when a pay phone went all Maximum Overdrive and fired quarters into a would-be rapist’s face or when that innocent professor’s pacemaker exploded in excessively Italian fashion. It all led up to an ending so comical that when I told it to my friend who’d stepped out for a smoke, she thought I was making it up.

I’d be interested to see the script for Dial: Help, if there ever was one. It must read like a fever dream. Fortunately, Deodato had the fantastic talents of Claudio Simonetti to fall back on – as well as that café guy with the flute.

At the center of it all was Lewis, who seemed to be taking everything in stride. I imagine after hanging out with The Golden Child, she probably didn’t expect that a few years later she’d be writhing hlaf-naked in a bathtub and having literal “phone sex”. And what was with all that blowjob art imagery in her apartment? I do have to hand it to her and the rest of the cast though because they were all one-hundred per cent invested in this ridiculous concept.

Charlotte Lewis in Dial: Help

And that’s why it’s kind of impossible to not have a good time watching Dial: Help. It’s one of those technology based movies that could have only existed in the eighties, a certain kind of bonkers reserved for titles like Evilspeak (1981) and Pulse (1988). God bless that decade.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Short of the Week #40: Night of the Slasher

This week's short film is one I've wanted to post for a while, but was waiting until October because it seemed most appropriate. Shant Hamassian's Night of the Slasher has so much going for it--

Even if you take away the technical prowess of its single take conceit, it's still super funny, clever and has one of the best Halloween inside jokes I've seen in years. Since NotS, Hamassian has been involved in a new project called Escape Room.

Friday, October 12, 2018

More Trick Than Treat.

In keeping with the Halloween spirit, this week's VHS is Gary Graver's 1982 flick Trick or Treats.

Linda (Jaqueline Giroux) spends Halloween night babysitting a mischievous ten-year-old (Chris Graver) unaware that his father (Peter Jason) has just escaped from an institution and is making his way back there.

I've seen this movie a few times now and every time I watch it the same questions enter in my mind, how? and why? being chief among them. Trick or Treats is such an enigma to me when I try to pin down where Graver was coming from when he made this. On a surface level, I assume the goal was to make a cheap Halloween ripoff, but very little of Carpenter's classic comes through in the finished product. If anything I'd say Trick or Treats has more in common with Mickey Rose's 1981 spoof Student Bodies, but since Graver never fully commits to comedy within his horror construct you end up with something completely schizophrenic.

Take the opening scene for example, where “millionaire industrialist” Malcolm O' Keefe was carted off to the loony bin in a struggle that took four full minutes to play out. I recall the first time I watched this I was like “this movie is amazing”, until I realized that the whole movie was mainly just absurd, aimless vignettes like this one with very little actual horror to be found. On that note, perhaps the most horrifying thing about this universe is that you could just call up a number and when two dudes showed up with a straitjacket you just pointed and they'd take that person away.

Call 1-800-Got-Crzy

What followed after that was a parade of head shaking scenes with often awkward exchanges designed to fill time rather than forward the threadbare plot. While the meat of the picture was Linda continuously falling for the pranks played on her by her charge, it was kind of hard to tell while being bombarded by visiting trick or treaters, calls from her boyfriend and the B story-line of the husband escaping the asylum in ridiculous fashion and making his way across town.

At one point it seemed like Trick or Treats had completely jumped movies by showing two women editing a bad (worse) horror movie to the point they lamented how editors were not appreciated in the industry. This was an odd declaration considering how poorly paced this movie actually was. But wait, there finally was a connection as one of them showed up at the babysitter's place only to be dispatched for no other reason that to remind us that we're watching a horror movie.

Peter Jason as Malcolm O'Keefe.

Another bizarre thing about this movie was how many character actors Graver was able to get onscreen. While perhaps David Carradine, Paul Bartel and Carrie Snodgrass owed him favours, Steve Railsback and Catherine “Log Lady” Coulson showing up at metered intervals must have just been good luck. Again, I have to wonder why Graver felt so compelled to make this movie. Imdb states he sunk some of his own money into it and employed other cost cutting measures such as using Snodgrass's home to shoot and even cast his own son as the brat.

Despite its many flaws, Trick or Treats has significance to me because the dynamic between Linda & Christopher was one of the main inspirations behind my second short film, Lively. As meandering as the plot was, I still can't help but laugh at all the improv, miscues and random ADR. I have no idea what Graver originally intended, but the result is a glorious mess.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

TAD 2018

The 13th edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival kicks off today with a solid nine days slate of features and shorts to satiate even the most hungry genre fan. While I won't be there as much as previous years this time around, I'm sure I'll check in with a round-up after all the dust has settled. Until then, see you... After Dark!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Short of the Week #39: Carved

Today's short is local boy Justin Harding's newest short, Carved.

Carved is part of the Huluween Film Fest which features eight short films from up-and-coming directors, the best of which will receive $10,000. All the entries are pretty strong, so if you'd like to check them out you can do so here.

Monday, October 8, 2018

100 Fathoms Below

Today, I give you a rare book review (yes, I still read sometimes). Several months ago, Blackstone Publishing was kind enough to send me a copy of Steven L. Kent & Nicholas Kaufmann's new book 100 Fathoms Below with a premise so intriguing I couldn't say no.

Deep under enemy waters during the Cold War, the crew of the USS Roanoke realize that a vampire has slipped aboard. With no sunlight to protect them, how long can they survive?

The first thing I noticed when reading 100 Fathoms Below was how cinematic it felt. Kent & Kaufmann's descriptive voice facilitated a world that required very little effort on my part. I would not be surprised if this were adapted at some point because most of the heavy lifting's already done. Despite vampires being the most prolific baddie in movie history, this story was rather unique, the closest thing I can recall being David Twohy's underrated 2002 effort Below.

As cool as the “vampires on a submarine” tagline is, there's actually more to the book than just bloodsuckers. Kent & Kaufmann must have done exhaustive research about submarines, as you get really got a sense of the confined spaces and routines. In fact, so well studied were they that I actually found the parts where the USS Roanoke attempted to stay undetected by Soviet vessels even more intense than the stuff that comes later.

100 Fathoms Below also has a large cast of characters made of up of officers and enlisted men that was balanced in such a way that you didn't immediately know who was going to make it to the end, if any. Jacket comparisons to The Thing were somewhat apt, although I felt like there could've been more mystery involved in who was turned and who wasn't. It's not really a complaint, just more of an acknowledgment of a missed opportunity. 100 Fathoms Below's back half played out more like a zombie plague than John Campbell's Who Goes There?

100 Fathoms Below was an extremely brisk and entertaining read that delivered on its delicious premise. For those looking to dive in, the book releases tomorrow (Oct 9th) through Blackstone Publishing.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Happy Thx

To all my Canadian brethren I say Happy

Friday, October 5, 2018

Lost in Paradise.

This week’s VHS, the 1992 TV movie The Presence, has a roundabout Halloween connection in that it was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace. Let’s dive right in.

Survivors marooned on a tropical island after a plane crash soon find they may not be alone.

So yeah, watching the Presence made me think that by ’92, after such solid efforts as Halloween III and Fright Night 2, Wallace’s best years may have been behind him. I wouldn’t call this bad per say, but I wager that if there were ever any sharp edges to William Bleich’s script they were smoothed out for broadcast on NBC. Imdb tells me that this project was first meant to be a series pilot, which is coincidental considering a thought I couldn’t help but come back to again and again.

Michael Caine's in this??? :P

I can’t imagine Abrams, Lieber & Lindeloff would’ve seen this when it aired, but holy cow are there tons of parallels to the show Lost. Throwing out the plane crash and the mysterious island motif, you still have the Hawaiian locale, the secret lab – I thought the characters had found a “hatch” at one point and I almost lost my shit – the introduction of one monster that turns out to be something else and both had lazy, non-committal endings -- ZING!

The cast was solid and made up of veteran actors from film and television, the most visible being Richard Beymer as John Loc– I mean a CIA spook named Ben (wink wink), Gary Graham (Achilles from Robot Jox!) and Kathy Ireland as a model/accountant/tracker.

Little River Montana Girl Scout Troop 94 represent!

Most of the movie was just the characters wandering around until they finally ran into a creature of mildly interesting design. Oh, and there's also a primitive tribe on the island that seemingly only appeared so the filmmakers could bust out some of that nineties face change shit.

The Presence was serviceable TV trash, but it had no real stakes. I found last week’s VHS Within The Rock more captivating as far as “marooned people survive against monster” movies go. I think its only relevance now is that it really does feel like a dry run for Lost. Except you only have to waste ninety minutes and not a hundred and twenty hours -- DOUBLE ZING!