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, May 31, 2024

We LOVE It When Our Friends Become Successful

Hey all! I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to my buddy Chris Nash. His debut feature In A Violent Nature is hitting screens this weekend. You should go see it!

I've known Nash for close to two decades and after having worked on a half-dozen projects with him, I know what a talented and driven guy he is. He deserves the spotlight. I urge you to support indie films like this, so Shudder and other companies continue to foster unique voices like Nash, Kyle Edward Ball & Robert Morgan.

If you are a fan of slashers, this should be a no-brainer, as even if you're not down with ambient and deliberate narrative of IAVN, you'll at least be thrilled by the visceral kills. That's basically what I told Nash after I saw it, “Man, sure there's gonna be a bunch of people that say, this is fucking boring, but there's also gonna be sizable subset that really dig and appreciate what you were trying to do here.”

If you're the latter, make your voice heard!

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

May 29th Horror Trivia Screening Guide

To all those who came here from the event or Storm Crow's FB page, welcome! I am Jay, one half of the horror trivia quizmasters and this is my humble blog. Here's the selected list of titles mentioned at the last event. Click on the titles to be redirected to their Imdb listing.

Horror Trivia Night happens at Storm Crow Manor in Toronto. If you're in the area, come on down! Register here. If you're not local, we do occasionally stream the event on @ruemorguemag Instagram.

The Witch (2015)

Body Count (1986)
Pyewacket (2017)
The Ritual (2017)

Shakma (1990)
Stopmotion (2023)
Dead Snow (2009)
Nocturne (2020)

The Terror (1963)
Piranha (1978)

Monday, May 27, 2024

Horror Movie Guide: Brainwaves

It's been a while I know, but I managed to hit up the next movie in the Guide this week. It was Ulli Lommel's 1982 movie Brainwaves, which I may have actually thought was the Chris Walken movie Brainstorm. But no, different brain movie for which I had no reference, except it was what Lommel made between The Boogeyman and Boogeyman II.

After suffering severe head trauma, Kaylie (Susannah Love) undergoes an experimental procedure to repair the damaged synapses in her brain, only to have her recovery complicated by memories of a murdered woman.

Brainwaves is a coherent thriller. If you detect surprise in my text, it is because I wasn't sure Lommel was up to such a task. My prior experiences with his work range from the ridiculous to the unbearable so colour me impressed. It did take a while to get going, as save for the bathtub electrocution at the hop, it seemed like I was watching some sort of Regarding Henry-esque family drama. But, then the unseen reject from the Cult of Thorn re-emerged and I just waited patiently for the two stories to connect.

Keir Dullea & Susannah Love in Brainwaves

Keir Dullea plays the beleaguered father and husband and has the acting chops to hide his no-doubt recurring thoughts of “I went from Kubrick to Clark to this??? The rest of the cast is solid, with Lommel filling it out with players from his previous movie and distinguished character actors like Vera Miles and Tony Curtis - who after The Manitou probably thought this set was sedate by comparison. 

I'm going to take a leap that this movie was made to cash in on the coma fiction that was happening around that time with movies like Coma and Patrick. While it does seem more fiction than science, patients who receive life saving assistance from donors have always been fertile ground for horror movies.

I did notice the score from journeyman Robert O. Ragland seemed to be melding of Psycho & Friday the 13th though I'm not going to complain about that. My only other comment is that I'm not quite sure how Dullea was able to unravel the mystery by just writing a bunch of XX's on a whiteboard, but then again, it was a muddy rip and he did once outsmart HAL.

The Guide certainly seemed to agree with my opinion that this was a significant step up for Lommel, as well.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Friday, May 17, 2024

Northern Exposure

The next VHS out of the pile was my recent acquisition of James Makichuk's Ghostkeeper, a Canadian joint from 1981. Having my finger on the pulse of tax shelter era Canuck flicks, I was aware of this movie, but was never able to get my hands on it until now.

Three snowmobilers in the Canadian Rockies have the bright idea to blaze their own trail and end up at a secluded hotel. Northern inhospitality ensues.

Sadly, this one was a bit of a bloodless bore. I mean, there was potential, as Makichuk had a terrifically rustic location in the Deer Lodge in Banff, Alberta (hey, I wonder if this was near where Until Dawn takes place), but even that can't save it. The dynamic of the trio is immediately awkward, as Jenny (Riva Spier) and Marty (Murray Ord) are presumably together, but when he's not being entirely insufferable as a character, he's hitting on Chrissy (Sheri McFadden). I wanted to like Jenny as the Final Girl, but it's really hard to look badass while wearing snow pants.

Riva Spier as Jenny in Ghostkeeper.

Also, I was promised a "Windigo". A hairy man locked in a room does not a Wendigo make, good sir. I understand that this was a tax shelter film and the money ran dry (good on you for finishing), but there's only so much time I can watch people wander around dimly lit corridors, before I begin to lament the time ticking by. It's like even stalwart composer Paul Zaza knew this wasn't worth the effort because he basically just gussied up his score for Prom Night and called it a day.

As Ghostkeeper plods on, it's impossible to ignore that this movie is aping The Shining. Marty goes from douche to psycho in no time flat, The Deer Lodge is a serviceable stand-in for the Overlook, and there's even an old dude who comes to save the day that is offed the same as Scatman Crothers. I'd like to give Makichuk & Doug McLeod the benefit of the doubt (Kubrick's opus hit screens six months before this movie went to camera) but the evidence in onscreen.

I have to point something out I've clocked into recently. Jack Torrance has to be one of the most copied characters in horror. And I'm not just talking back-in-the-day, filmmakers are still doing it now. Recent offerings like Bo Mirosseni's History of Evil and Mike Bafaro's Don't Look Away both went sideways by shoehorning Torrance into their leads.

But I digress. You know, I probably should've waited until New Year's to watch this, as that's when it takes place. In fact, with the hotel location and (relatively) young folks, it shares a lot in common with 1987's Bloody New Year. How is it possible that BNY is the more exciting and palatable of these two options??? At least that one had actual ghosts...

Friday, May 10, 2024

Christ on a (Ben) Cross!

With all these religious horror movies coming out recently, it seems like a good time to pick out 1988's The Unholy from the pile and give it a go. This was another one that I have no explanation for never watching back in the day, as it was a video store mainstay. Let's chomp that wafer and get down to business.

Shortly after arriving at his new parish, Father Michael (Ben Cross) discovers that the last two priests who held his position were brutally murdered at his altar. Will he be next?

Yeah, this one isn't bad. I learned that this script was originally written in the seventies to capitalize on the success of The Exorcist and The Omen, but was then shelved. I can see that, as the characters and societal underbelly that Father Michael encounters does feel more of that decade.

Ben Cross - who would have made one of my faves Paperhouse around this time - is solid here and a good sport about having his junk covered in snakes. He's also surrounded by a bevy of character actors in this including Ned Beatty, Hal Holbrook, Peter (Profiler FTW!) Frechette and Will Russ. The score by Roger Bellon is terrific, even by eighties standards.

Ben Cross as Father Michael in The Unholy.

I found it amusing how nonchalantly the clergy talk about Church cover-ups in this movie when in hindsight, a few dead bodies and some indiscretions with the opposite sex were the least of their dirty laundry. Just another indication of how different things were some fourty years ago.

Can you keep a secret?

I do have to admit, The Unholy does get a bit bogged down with exposition and I found myself nodding off in the middle. However I perked up for the finale which is definitely worth the price of admission. The effects provided by Bob Keen, who worked on Clive Barker's films among others, fucking brings his A-game. Full creature suits, giant animatronics, exploding midgets, you name it!

In fact, I'd say that guy looks like the love child of The Brain and Syngenor. Oh, I didn't even mention the sexy negligee-d demon played by Nicole Fortier. Let's just say that ol' Father Michael was made of stronger rosary than I. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Shock Stock 2024!

After a five-year absence I finally got my self up the 401 to London last weekend to re-acquaint myself with Shock Stock. I was glad to find that it is still as crazy and greasy as ever. I got there around noon on Saturday and said my hellos to all the usual suspects - James, Jake, Carlos, Luis, Brett, Brad et al. 

True to form, I walked out with a haul VHS tapes.

AND this cool little piece of art, from whom I do not know as the floor map isn't online anymore. Dang!

I sadly didn't realize the white was on the outside of the glass so I scuffed it up a bit in transport. Lesson learned!

During the afternoon, I sat in on the Q&A's Italian actress Silvia Collatina (House by the Cemetery, Murder Rock). She was delightful, and one of the last people standing who can talk about what Lucio Fulci was actually like. I also learned that I need to watch Sergio Martino's The Great Alligator.

Actress Silvia Collatina

Then, it was time for the always affable and entertaining Bill Moseley. This guy has had a career! And is apparently a hockey fan. Who knew?

Actor Bill Moseley

The real reason I was there was the Joe Bob Briggs live show that ended up being a 16mm screening of Just Before Dawn with director Jeff Lieberman Q&A following the show. Both Joe Bob and Leiberman didn't seem too thrilled about the presentation considering there is a restored Blu-ray available, but hey, that's the Shock Stock way!

Darcy & Joe Bob with director Jeff Lieberman

There was a debate about whether Just Before Dawn is a slasher, because it was made in 1979 before the term and tropes were coined, but, much to the chagrin of Lieberman, the consensus was, if it walks like a slasher and talks like a slasher - it's a slasher.

I met Lieberman many years ago at a TIFF party after complimenting him on his Satan's Little Helper and talked to him at length (mostly about of all things, UFC) and I was glad to see he had remained his usual acerbic self.

And then we partied the night away. I was happy to have spent my evening with Joe, Darcy and Jeff and not that pitiful excuse for a Game 7. I'm learning.  So, until next year... keep it greasy!