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.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

B is for Beyond the Darkness


This viewing was a long time coming. This 88 Films release of Beyond the Darkness has been sitting on my shelf for a decade after being brought over from the UK. Anytime my parents would visit relatives overseas, my Mom would always bring me back something horror related. Only she's horror averse so it would inevitably be something random that she thought I'd like. When I was younger it was easy because she'd grab me the latest James Herbert novel (which were never available on this side of the pond), but since he's no longer with us this particular time she just picked a DVD with the most striking cover. And to her credit, it does have some pretty bad-ass artwork. 

A taxidermist named Francesco (Kieran Canter) digs up his dead lover and brings her home.

Beyond the Darkness was Joe D'Amato's 1979 remake of I imagine a lot less sleazy Franco Nero picture called The Third Eye. It's a bit hard to nail down this movie in that I spent the first half wondering what the fuck was going on. I get Francesco is a weirdo and wants to Gein his girlfriend, but why bring all these random ladies back to his place for no other reason than to quench D'Amato's insatiable urge for boobs and bush.


I believe that it had something to do with his housekeeper/milkmaid Iris (Franca Stoppi) - it's all very vague - as she seemed to pulling the strings based on the one voodoo ritual she performed after the opening credits. There's so little dialogue at the onset, I kind of had to infer a lot. Then, to be honest, the further it went along, the harder it was to stay conscious. 

I feel you...

I do know one thing... THE SOUNDTRACK SLAPS! Provided by Goblin (credited here as The Goblins) it is definitely the best part of the movie. Unless you're into necrophilia...

Overall, I've seen better D'Amato and I've seen worse. I do have to say I think I made the rare mistake of watching the subtitled version over the dubbed. While I was on YT pulling the pictures/gifs I could see that the latter was much more of a hoot. Oh well, live and learn. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Alphabet Slop!

I'm gonna try a new experiment here for the month of October. It's called Alphabet Slop. A review a day for the remainder of the month going from A to Z.




I thought about doing that 31 days of Halloween thing, but they're so complicated. Hey, today watch a movie you saw when you were six, now watch a movie standing on one foot, now watch a movie that will make you piss yourself. So, yeah decided to keep it simple. It also gives me a chance to watch some random tapes & discs that have been sitting on my shelf for years. All twenty-six movies to come will either be first watches or at least ones I haven't seen in decades. Here we go... A is for Are You In the House Alone?


High schooler Gail (Kathleen Beller) is receiving threatening notes and phone calls, but by who?

The first thing that struck me, from the antagonist POV camera and Carpenter-esque musical sting was, man this guy loves Halloween, amirite? Then I realized this movie actually played on television a month before Halloween came out. In fact, if Imdb is to be believed Dennis Quaid was originally supposed to play Bob, but said no to do this film. Eep! Although I guess it worked out for him regardless.

So, what I should be saying is, man this guy loves Black Christmas, amirite? You throw in the fact that the antagonist keeps crank calling Gail, the influence becomes all the more glaring. But to be honest, this movie is all over the map, shifting back and forth between horror and straight up drama. It even turns into fucking Grease for a second.


The aftermath of Gail's rape is dealt with seriously and her parents talk at length about their own problems. Blythe Danner (who God damn looks like her daughter Gwyneth in this) is especially strong. The cast is actually quite stacked, with the aforementioned Quaid - who is pretty fucking lucky he didn't get typecast after this role - and Tony Bill who later went on become an accomplished director.

Sprinkled in are the horror tropes, Gail is receiving obscene phone calls asking if she is alone - Spoiler, she never is so the title is BS - and notes with questionable punctuation are being left in her locker. 


Red herrings abound, as her old boyfriend is a douche, her new one seems to have intermittent fits of jealousy and her photography teacher is all kinds of ick.
 

The oddest part of the movie is at the climax where it utilizes this giallo-style conceit where Gail sets up her camera take a picture every few seconds to catch who is leaving notes in someone's locker. Now, I'm not up on my seventies photo-tech, but wouldn't that require a shit-ton of film, like thousands of photos that would then have to be individually developed???

SD card by Kodak.

Are You In The House Alone? was half of a Shout Factory TV Terrors double bill disc with The Initiation of Sarah (which may or may not come up later) and I can't help but feel this was a weird pairing.  Even though it is a decent enough movie, I still feel a bit duped. I was expecting a movie of the week version of When A Stranger Calls, but instead got a glorified after school special about how the system fails rape victims. Fun times.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Horror-Rama 2022!



Horror-Rama was back this year and I had an absolute blast. You never know how these events are gonna go in these uncertain times, but the turnout was great and people looked thrilled to be mingling again. On the Friday night, there was an extra special 40th anniversary screening of a film you know is very near and dear to my heart.



This was the very same Deadly Eyes print that used to play at Trash Palace back in the day. It has changed hands, but it still looks as hairy as ever. However, THIS time I was tapped to moderate the Q&A with special guests Lisa Langlois and Lesleh Donaldson. I'd never done one before, but confidence in the fact I knew the movie inside and out helped combat the nerves.

It went really well. I was amazed and excited that so many in attendance hadn't seen it. I thought that with the Shout Factory Blu-ray, it might have got more eyeballs on it, but I've come to find that was only a small run and now out-of-print. 

For the Q&A, because it was a two-reel, one-projector affair, we did it in three parts - intro, intermission and audience questions at the end. We talked about how they both came to work on the film, the various Toronto locations and just how God damn cold it was that winter.

Lisa Langlois, Lesleh Donaldsen and some schmo.


 

Someone brought up the Imdb trivia (that I'm currently trying to get removed) about a dog suffocating in his rat suit. I'd been preparing for this eventuality and we all had a lengthy discussion about it. I believe it untrue for not only the fact that the dogs were trained for months in LA to wear the rat suits, the headpieces had the jaws cut out of them. Tell me how a dog suffocates when its mouth isn't covered...

Lisa has said on several occasions that someone on the crew told her a dog had a heart attack from the anxiety of wearing the suit, but others state the opposite. If you listen to Al Apone (the FX supervisor for the suits on set) on the Blu-ray supplemental, he maintains that apart from one dog getting hospitalized from something it ate at the kennel they were being kept, no harm came to any of them. I also contacted the film's production manager (whom I met many years ago at TIFF and also worked on The Brain) and he corroborated this story.

But anyway, the night was awesome and it was just the first day of three! Saturday, I was basically there the entire day. There was a bunch of great Q&A's and I got to see people I hadn't seen in ages like Stacey from the OG Trash Palace, Brad from Poster-Mortem and Chris from Little Ghosts.

The Q&A with Thom Matthews was great and thankfully went beyond just his work on Friday 6 and ROTLD. There were actually multiple questions about his many films with Albert Pyun and how his contracting business led him to renovate Ozzy Osbourne's house, much of it while there were shooting their reality show.

Thom Matthews

The big get was Caroline Munro, who was absolutely lovely, an English rose of the highest order. Super humble and eager to talk about her experiences working with likes of Christopher Lee, Roger Moore and Joe Spinnell. Both her Q&A and screening event at the end of the day were fantastic fun.

Throw in the Adventures in Canadian Cinema with Langlois, Donaldsen, Lynne Griffin and Sean Sullivan and you have yourself some CanCon overload. I also got to catch up with Kier-La Janisse who was in town for the event. 

Lesleh Donaldson, Sean Sullivan, Lynne Griffin & Lisa Langlois

In terms of loot, it is true that was wallet was rendered significantly lighter come Monday. Not only did I get my hands on Vinegar Syndrome's Thriller release (which had eluded me at Fantasia), but also this random Beta tape.



I mean it was in such good condition, I couldn't let the fact I don't have a player stop me. I also got a Deadly Eyes long print from the only one of TP's four screenings that I missed, as well as a piece of art I first saw online many years ago and always wanted to own.

It really was a terrific weekend and totally worth battling the horrendous traffic both days. Congrats to Chris, Ali & Luis for putting on such a great show.

Monday, October 3, 2022

TIFF 2022

TIFF has come and gone this year. Obviously the last few years have been hybrids, but this edition was as close to being as normal as it could be. The Midnight Madness program itself however, is still in a state of flux after being ousted from its home at the Ryerson Theatre. 

When I heard this year's screenings would take place at the Royal Alex Theatre I was a bit concerned. Not only was it not a movie house (they literally had to install the screen for the fest), but how were the sightlines gonna be? The Bloor was basically ruined after their renovations so how was this going to fare? Add in some Ticketmaster fuckery that led to me not being able to pick seats in anything other than the front row (some TIFF screenings are assigned seating now) and I was downright worried.

It turns out it was much ado about nothing because front row actually worked out great. The screen was placed deep into the stage and was the perfect size for how far I was in relation to it. I can't say the same for the peeps in the back and the balconies, but for me it was all good. It also got me closer to Mia and Ester, but more on that later. I saw a total of five midnights over the course of the fest and here's the skinny;

First up was Tim Story's The Blackening. Based on a popular YouTube sketch, the premise is simply, “If the black character dies first in a slasher movie, what happens when the entire cast is black? This movie was really funny and crowd was into it. It's the kind of comedy where you miss stuff because the ambient laughter is drowning out the subsequent jokes. I definitely recommend for those who like horror spoofs that are a little more refined than the Scary Movie series. 

Next up was Sick. Written by Kevin Williamson, I would definitely say that this is Scream-adjacent. This is the first slasher I've seen to take place during the Covid era and it uses it well. I liked the lead actress Gideon Adlon, she had a Monica Keena-vibe to her. Although this was likely my least favourite of the '22 MM crop, the lengthy chase sequence was a standout. 

Day five of the fest brought my most anticipated screening of Ti West's Pearl. I thought X was a nice surprise - the '22 TCM we deserved - and this was a fitting companion to it. Mia Goth was stellar in this, just completely unhinged and my vote for performance of the year. 

Director Ti West & Actors Mia Goth & Corenswet

I loved how West leaned into the era in which it was set. Where X was a grimy, sweaty love letter to the 70's, Pearl is a boisterous ballad to Hollywood's infancy. Once you clock into the kind of movie West and Goth are making here (much like this year's Orphan: First Kill) you can really revel in the ride. With it being set in 1919, there was also some clever play with our parallel pandemics. And marketing was kind enough to hand us Pearl handkerchiefs on our way out.

And to top it off, after the credits rolled and that MaXXXine stinger played, the crowd lost their fucking shit. 

Later in the week was the dream pair of Jaume Balagueró (REC) & Álex de la Iglesia's (Perdita Durango) newest offering, Venus. Basically part-crime, past-haunted house, part-cosmic horror, I really enjoyed this one. I can admit to having a bias because the lead Ester Expósito was absolutely scorching.

Director Jaume Balagueró & Actress Ester Expósito 

I'm not lying when I said I was actually having trouble reading the subtitles because it meant I had to take my eyes off her. She's just one of those women where it seems like there is a beam of light shining down on them from above. So I'm a fan. Other than that, there is some good gore and a handful of solid set pieces. 

Last on the list was the latest in the V/H/S series, '99. I enjoyed the last iteration and the good thing about anthologies is if you're not digging the story, you got a new one coming up right behind. Fortunately, V/H/S/99 was particularly strong with high points being Flying Lotus' dark and disgusting take on 90's Nickelodeon game shows, Joseph & Vanessa Winter's literal foray into hell and Johannes Robert's entry definitely took home the prize for most intense audience reaction.

It was a fun week and I wouldn't be opposed to MM staying at the RAT (love that acronym!). Stay tuned tomorrow where I run down what happened at this year's Horror-Rama.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

The Summer of Jay! (jk)

So this summer was pretty good all things considered. Sure, we're not fully out of the shadow of the Rona quite yet, but I was able to do enough cool things in the last few months to make it feel like relative normalcy is within reach.

Weather wise, I think this was one of the most pleasant summers in recent memory. There was little rain and an excessive amount of beautiful days. I really got to explore the walking trails in my 'hood and much patio time was had. And for the real scorchers, I just retreated into the aggressive air conditioning of my basement apartment.

The pinnacle of course, was my trip to Fantasia for which was pretty much back to 100%. Even better, my festival affiliations basically paid for everything except my train ticket. Not a bad deal.



No Embassy, but still plenty of films, food and booze. And even though the market weekend ended up being a super spreader, I managed to get out of Montreal unfettered. I got my dose in May and am in no hurry to double dip.

Anyway, I saw a eight films in Montreal (nine if you include Nope in IMAX) and here were some of the highlights.

This was the first thing I saw and also my favourite. Alexandre O. Philippe, the documentarian who gave us deep dives into PsychoAlien and The Exorcist, takes us on a fantastical journey through David Lynch's filmography and the parallels it shares with Victor Fleming's The Wizard of Oz. Broken up into a half-dozen visual essays presented by such notable figures as John Waters, Karen Kusama and Rodney Ascher, you really get a sense of not just how Oz influenced Lynch, but the very language of cinema. A must-watch for cinephiles!

Part sci-fi, part road movie, part rom-com and part horror movie, this movie wears many hats and wears them well. Directed by Mali Elfman (yes, THAT Elfman) and starring Flanagan mainstays Katie Parker & Rahul Kohli, I found this piece really sincere and affecting.

Andy Mitton (The Witch in the Window, Yellow Brick Road) returns with this really strong quarantine horror. This is definitely the best use of Covid-19 I've seen so far and the lead (Gabby Beans) is terrific. Don't sleep (I keeeeed) on this one.

Neil LaBute is back! You'll watch the trailer and be like “hey this gives everything away” and you'd be right. Even going in blind it was fairly obvious to me where it was headed. However, it kind of didn't matter. This is more of a movie where enjoying how it gets to the end is more important than the end itself. It also had the best jump scare of my fest, as well.

This was the last film I saw at Fantasia and a great one to end on. This four character piece was fantastic low budget/high concept sci-fi in the tradition of Primer and Coherence. Keep your eye out for it!

And that's it! Tomorrow, I'll move onto my experience at this year's TIFF.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

I'm Baaack...

Well that was a sizable hiatus. Longer than I was expecting, but just what I needed. So, I must ask...


I'd been mulling over returning this October and even though I've got a shit-ton of things on the go, I decided to say fuck it and do it anyway. My plan is to use the next few days to catch you up on what I did this summer and then dive into a series I have dubbed “Alphabet Slop”. Essentially talk about a movie a day whilst making my way from A to Z. That's the goal anyway...

See you tomorrow!

Friday, June 10, 2022

Glad + Sad.

A banner weekend is upon me. Not only is The Quarry out, but it's also my niece's 25th birthday as well as the Spooky Flea Market, TSFF, the Sigur Ros show and my gal Valentina is fighting.

However, heard about Julee Cruise and that's a big bummer.

Rest in peace Ms. Cruise, hope you find the White Lodge.


Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Quarry

The trailer for Supermassive's newest CYOD slasher The Quarry just dropped and holy shit I am stoked for this!



I've been enjoying their Dark Anthology games - that last one House Of Ashes was a real nerve-shredder - but this is their first full-fledged title since 2013's Until Dawn. Looks like it's starred up to the tits, as well.

June 10th can't come soon enough!

Monday, February 28, 2022

Sunday, January 30, 2022

The Backrooms

I came across something tearing up the YouTubes that is absolutely ace. Kane Pixel's fan film The Backrooms.



Now, there are three things that stand out to me about this piece. 

First, the fact that this was made by a teenager is extremely impressive. It just goes to show how readily available filmmaking tools are these days and you need only creativity and drive to make something awesome.

Second, I think it's fair to say I see artist Trevor Henderson's influence in the creature designs. This always makes me happy.

Third, I spent the first half of this short wondering how they found this location until it finally dawned on me that it was a CG environment. Absolutely fucking bonkers. 

Saturday, January 22, 2022