Pixie’s Year in Review: Turning 4 with Ghouls, Growth and Good Times!

Published October 13, 2016 by rmpixie

Looks like it’s that time of year again! With Halloween just around the corner, and since I’ll be a busy bee the next week and a half, I’m posting an early shout-out for a couple of anniversaries I’ll be celebrating this year.

Rosemary’s Pixie turns 4 this October 17th. I’ve toughed it out for another year, growing as both a writer and film reviewer.  There were fewer reviews on the blog this time around due to some other writing projects I’ve been up to, as well as my contributions to Cinema Axis, that you can check out here.  Browse the site for a ton of other reviews on almost every film genre out there by the always prolific founder, Courtney Small.

There have been some really big highlights of the past year as well:

Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival a.k.a. BITS…and me!

One of the biggest changes for me is that I can now call myself a Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival programmer. Who knew?!!! I had to take a moment when Kelly Michael Stewart, the festival director offered me the position. I was surprised but SO stoked and honoured because I really love the BITS fest. It’s a great way to showcase fantastic talent and Canadian genre film, meet filmmakers, cast and crew, and it’s one of the few festivals out there that focuses on the business side of things as well. I feel so lucky to be a part of the BITS team.  They’re a group of great people who are just as passionate about film as I am.  All the screenings will be at Cineplex Yonge/Dundas Cinemas, which is a bigger venue this year.   This Saturday October 15th  at noon, we’ll be announcing the BITS lineup and schedule at Horror-Rama in Toronto. Come on out and say hi, enjoy all the fun at Horror-Rama, and get your passes for what’s going to be a great festival this year.

I also got a chance to interview Michael Dickson, a great Canadian actor who starred in one of the fan favourites at BITS 2014, Black Mountain Side.  He was a great interview, and the last time he was in Toronto, we caught up and talked about the film business, The West Coast and his brain-freeze cute dog.

Meeting Lizzie

I wrote an article on Adelaide Norris, a character in the 80’s indie feminist sci-fi classic, Born In Flames, for the website http://www.graveyardshiftsisters.com (run by my girl Ashlee Blackwell) last year. Little did I know that the director herself, Lizzie Borden, would find that article, and that she would be coming to Toronto for a free screening of the restored film at TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre this past July. She contacted me out of the blue and it took me a minute to realize it was THE director of a film that moved me so much. Several emails and a few weeks later, I was sitting at an intimate dinner with Lizzie, myself and 3 other women who have supported or screened her film in the past, courtesy of TIFF and Chris Kennedy, programmer for The Free Screen. Lizzie talked about her experiences in the film industry, and wanted to know more about about us, the people who felt so strongly about her film. It was a night that I will always remember because Lizzie Borden is one of the warmest, loveliest people in the industry that I have ever met. (My apologies for no photos.  We were so engrossed in conversation that not one person pulled out their phone for a picture.  How old school is that?)


I’m a Published Author!


Women in Horror Annual (WHA, 2016)

The first Women in Horror Annual came out in February, including fiction and non-fiction works from women horror writers. I was lucky to be a part of this group of great writers and I had a book signing in July with one of the editors, Rachel Katz. It was a great night, with friends, family and fellow horror lovers coming out to support the book. There will be another signing coming soon at the end of the month to celebrate Halloween, so stay tuned for details. Can’t make the signing? Then pick up a copy here! I also contributed to The Encyclopedia of Japanese Horror Films. That came out a few months ago, and I’m proud to say that I’m a part of an academic tome on horror.


The Encyclopedia of Japanese Horror Films (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016)


Last but definitely not least, is the Toronto After Dark Film Festival that starts today! My top picks are :  Under the Shadow, Train to Busan, As The Gods Will, Creepy, Antibirth, The Stakelander and The Void. You can read about all of the films here.  I’m as excited as ever, but more so because I’m celebrating the second anniversary I mentioned earlier.  It will be about 2 years since I met the love of my life at After Dark. I admit I had my eye on him for a few years (yes, years. I’m a chicken when it comes to approaching men), so it took a lot of courage to talk to him. Luckily, he was as sweet as pie (and still is!).  We’re both diehard fans of Toronto After Dark, so after some time as acquaintances, then friends, we finally realized it was a match made in horror. Even though we’re both older, slow and steady does win the race!

Well, that’s my year in review.  As always, I thank you, dear reader, for checking in with me as I write about films, books, and TV that I love. It’s been a great journey filled with many surprises, and one that I plan to continue with you because it’s truly been a good time!

Book Review: Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity

Published September 19, 2016 by rmpixie

Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity McFarland & Company Inc., 2016

 Films of the New French Extremity:  Visceral Horror and National Identity by Alexandra West ( McFarland & Company Inc., 2016)

Scholars and journalists Alexandra West and Andrea Subissati, hosts of the Faculty of Horror podcast, focus on in-depth analysis of the horror genre with a feminist approach that would sway the staunchest naysayer.  With their knowledge and background, it’s no surprise that West has recently written a book entitled Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity and after getting to meet the author herself, I had to buy a copy. Once I flipped past the first page I was hooked.

Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity came from a lecture West presented in 2014 for The Black Museum, a series put on by Subissati and Toronto-based writer and editor Paul Corupe where seasoned speakers and professionals in the horror genre present on various topics “from film theory to genre studies”.  It was here that her academic but extremely accessible book was born, and West successfully tracks the transition “from art-house films to full-fledged horror films” that came out of France from the early 90’s to the mid 2000’s.

The genre of New French Extremity is something that for a long time only a few could stomach or relate to. It is brutal, bloody and in your face, but West eases the reader in by giving you a solid base of French history and politics, along with the violence it spawned, in order to help you understand the environment these directors were coming from and the genesis of their films. In essence, French society tended to put a shiny veneer over the ills and wrongs of their actions, turning a blind eye to it all. These films attempt to peel back the shiny exterior of a country celebrated for its culture to show the societal warts that got bigger over centuries. While some of the filmmakers may have different approaches to their subject matter, be it murderous country folk, abused women, self-destructive characters or relentless serial killers, West brings them together to map their contributions to pushing societal, sexual and political boundaries, showing how their films soon became cinematic earmarks as well as social commentaries in the history of horror cinema and what is now considered a critical part of the genre.

Most horror critics and writers like myself have seen many of the films West writes about. I saw them because they were a) French and b) horror or taboo; things I love unconditionally, with Martyrs and High Tension sitting in prime positions on my shelves. They were terrifying films yet I was drawn to them. I couldn’t make connections other than they were all French and showed a darker side to the country I romanticized so much; dots on the same page without the lines to connect them. West is able to create threads of similarities with such coherence and logic, that any French extreme enthusiast feels a sense of almost relief as her analysis pinpoints characters, motivations and plotlines to make sense of the chaos you witness on-screen. All the chapters are riveting, but for those of you who search for some meaning from Martyrs as much as I have, West’s dissection and interpretation of the film comes very near to perfection.

Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity will resonate with those who love French Extreme cinema and those who have visited (and fallen in love with) France like myself; becoming lured by the romantic façade of an aloof yet beautiful country, only to scratch the surface revealing the grimy reality underneath.  Steeped in the history and culture of France, West’s book makes these admittedly horrifying films accessible and convey an understanding much like one would study a terrifying beast for meaning. It is truly a must read for any and all horror fans and academics out there looking for a comprehensive guide to the beginnings of French Extreme cinema.

This Wednesday September 21st, The Black Museum will hold a book launch for Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity in Toronto where West will do a reading. Check out the details here. Come out to support great Canadian talent!


Debunker’s Delight: Ghostly Goings-on

Published September 4, 2016 by rmpixie


Since I’ve mentally checked out the last few weeks, I thought I would do a post about more paranormal, weird stuff, and what better source to access that than good ol’ YouTube?

I’ve been a fan of paranormal investigative shows and re-enactments for a long time, due to the fact that I’ve been surrounded by believers all my life. Ghost stories from the old country, a family member who refuses to buy antiques, especially those made out of wood since natural materials are known to hold energy, and inklings that my childhood home had a tiny bit of activity has left me with a somewhat accepted view of the supernatural. While I’m not 100% sold, I’m certainly not putting myself in a position to deliberately and knowingly visit a haunted place. So I leave that to all the eager paranormal teams ready to put themselves in smelly, dank buildings in search of chatty ghosts. Most of the time I watch for the hopes of seeing a real ghost from the safety of my sofa, but often I just roll my eyes at the histrionics.   There have been a few things, however, I can’t quite explain that have been captured on film. The most recent comes from a new addition to the paranormal TV lineup, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

A lot of the shows are a lesson in frustration. From shrieking paranormal team members (see the long-running Most Haunted for some scares and giggles when host Yvette Fielding clutches her makeup artist and screams bloody murder when something, anything, happens), to shaky, grainy camera work, to pitch black shots that are impossible to decipher what’s going on.  I know these researchers put themselves in scary and sometimes dangerous positions, but the antics can make it less believable and more fodder for scoffing.

Some are better (or just more entertaining) than others, like Ghost Adventures. Led by Zak Bagans, this team of “ghost bros” travel the U.S. in the hopes of finding haunted activity in some of the most notorious locations. Aaron Goodwin, the team’s resident “Shaggy”, is often targeted by spirits, eliciting a “Duuuude!” and a “Whooooa!” when those spectres whisper his name. Nick Groff, who left the show in 2015, directed many episodes and was often the one that felt the physical effects of ghostly activity.

Groff now stars in his own paranormal sleuthing spectacular called Paranormal Lockdown, where he and Katrina Weidman (formerly of the TV show Paranormal State) stay locked in an allegedly haunted location to witness those on the other side. It’s here I saw something pretty hair-raising that I think will stump the staunchest skeptic. But before I get to the evidence, here are some YouTube videos of alleged paranormal activity caught on-you guessed it-blurry, shaky video! (add grains of salt here).

The U.K seems to corner the market with ghosts, so this fella who narrates for the U.K. site Top 5s not only has a nice accent, but has some cool historical info, and a piece on the Ghost Adventure dudes.

More “ghosts”…


…and this mysterious creatures video is interesting and hilarious at the same time, so it’s worth the 35 minutes. I believe in #20 because I worked for a cross between a  pterodactyl and Skeletor, so that ‘ish is real.  Also, #13, #12, #9, #8 (It’s a bear… or Black Phillip), #5 and #3 are just ridiculous.



I like this dude’s accent too.  Also, the ghosts…


And here’s another video from Top 5s:


Now for the pièce de resistance.  The full episode of Paranormal Lockdown that gave me the willies.  It’s the usual fare for most of the show, but I encourage you to watch the first bit for some interesting and disturbing history about this asylum.  If the suspense is killing you, head straight to the 36 minute mark to see the weirdness.


And here’s a bit of speculation about the actual sighting.  This dude actually gives you a good view of what they saw at the asylum, and he’s pretty stumped too!  What do you think?






Ek Thi Dayaan: Bollywood’s Modern Witch Myth

Published August 16, 2016 by rmpixie


Ek Thi Dayaan (2013, 2 hrs, 15 mins)

I haven’t seen a Bollywood film for quite some time now.  I used to work in a library situated in Toronto’s Little India, where I would come across a heavy rotation of Bollywood DVDs, magazines and TV series.  I finally took the plunge one day after asking a co-worker what she would recommend and was seduced right away.  From comedies like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), to traditional love stories like my all time favourite Taal (1999) and yes, the songs still make me cry, those colourful cinematic smorgasbords with dancing and singing interjected into the meat of the film worked their way into my heart.

Bollywood has been throwing its hat into the horror ring for decades too, with 1949’s Mahal, said to be the first true Hindi horror film, the ghostly comedy Bhoot Bungla from 1965, and coming to the forefront in the 70’s with the Ramsay Brothers fun and schlocky low-budget horror films.  There are a couple of cool short YouTube clips about the brothers and their impact on the horror genre in India: Part One and Part Two.  They opened the floodgates for modern horror, and now there are many, many films drawing on things that go bump in the night Bollywood style.



(Unfortunately, Bhoot doesn’t seem to have a proper trailer with subtitles, but watch this one for the feel of the film.)


One of the more memorable films for me is Bhoot (Ghost). Directed by Bollywood’s controversial horror maverick Ram Gopal Varma, this 2003 multiple award winner tells the story of a man who scores an apartment for a steal due to its previous resident’s suicide.  Things get weird when his wife is tormented by the former resident’s ghost.  It impressed me with the creepy atmosphere, nary a traditional musical number, and could stand up to any J-horror at the time.  Unfortunately, I would soon change jobs, and access to films weren’t as easy as sifting through returned items.  I fell off the Bollywood bandwagon until my sister, who still has her finger on the Bollywood pulse, recently passed 2013’s  Ek Thi Dayaan (There Was A Witch) my way.  She swore up and down that it was one of the better, less schlocky horrors she’s seen in a long time, so the horror boyfriend and I settled in for the 2 hours and 15 minutes of foreign horror fun.

Adapted from a short story Mobius Trips by Mukul Sharma, Ek Thi Dayaan tells the tale of celebrity magician Bobo the Baffler (Emraan Hashmi), India’s answer to Criss Angel and David Blaine, who has a dark past.  He’s haunted by his sister Misha who died when he was just a boy, but he can’t remember any details of her death.  His doting girlfriend Tamara (Huma Qureshi) wants to get married and adopt Zubin (Bhavesh Balchandani), a boy they befriended at a nearby school, but his distant demeanor and jumpy nature puts a damper on their plans for the future.  To move forward, Bobo decides to get to the bottom of his fears.  Visiting his childhood psychiatrist, he succumbs to a hypnotic trance to access those memories.

Those memories leave him even more confused than before, but he pieces enough together from his buried past.  After losing their mother, 11-year-old Bobo and his younger sister (Sara Arjun) try to make a life for themselves with their doting father Sharan (Pawan Malhotra).  Bobo is preoccupied with a book on the occult, and decides that a finicky elevator in his building is a direct ride to Hell.  When he and his sister fool with the elevator, a mysterious woman named Diana (Konkona Sen Sharma) appears.  She immediately charms his father who invites her to be their governess, and soon his wife.  Bobo is determined not to like her, and mistrusts her to the point where he believes she is a witch and out to sacrifice them.  When a double tragedy destroys the family forever, Bobo has to face his childhood delusions and trust that the deaths that stole his innocence and family wasn’t the end result of supernatural forces.

That’s the film in a spoiler-free nutshell, but there are plenty of juicy details in between.  Being a Bollywood film, there’s a quick interval between the first and second hours (which is actually a shorter film than usual.  Most clock in at 2 ½ to 3 hours).  In this case, it’s as if director Kannan Iyer presents 2 different films.  Bobo’s recounting of his childhood has a Harry Potter-esque feel to it, while the second half embraces a more traditional horror film, bringing up distant comparisons to Rosemary’s Baby, and even Anabelle.  Once you get past the slightly ridiculous name of the main character and focus on the musical numbers (of course!), some cool special effects and fun jump scares, you’ll find yourself with a great contemporary South Asian horror film.

While the story gets a bit patchy from time to time, the production value is fantastic, and the performances aren’t of the usual Bollywood fare; bringing a touch more substance than you would expect.  It seems that the horror genre gives a lot of theatrical wiggle room for the performers to explore. The kids in the first half were quite good, and there’s some great possession performances later on in the film.

One fun fact that caught my eye was the disclaimer at the beginning of the film stating that the filmmakers don’t stereotype women as witches.  This strikes me as a really interesting angle.  Even though the witch myth has been used to keep women’s power at bay, from a feminist view, the disclaimer actually acknowledges the mistreatment of women throughout the ages globally, and specifically in India, that have been ostracized or accused of being witches for being childless, widowed or single.  In a 2013 interview, Iyer mentions that he went to great lengths to avoid the typical village dayaan or witch folklore, and the disclaimer also puts an enlightened spin on it as well.

While Robert Egger’s The Witch (2015) divided a whole legion of horror fans, I think Ek Thi Dayaan is a supernatural crowd pleaser that bypasses the usual Bollywood melodramatic themes and gives you lots of witchy chills.  It’s got some decent horror aspects, a great plot twist and a haunting theme song you’ll catch yourself humming as the end credits roll.



*I mentioned the singing and dancing in Bollywood films, but movie music is actually a huge industry in India.  In most of the films, the songs are sung by “playback artists”, or  professional session singers while the movie stars lip sync the lyrics.  The songs are just as important as the film itself, with a soundtrack often being the driving force for making a film a box office hit.  Composers and singers like legendary A. R. Rahman, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bosle created memorable melodies marking a film’s time in the spotlight.  Ek Thi Dayaan is no exception.  Here’s that haunting theme song Kaali Kaali sung by Clinton Cerejo and written by well-known composer and director Gulzar.  It basically talks about the magic a man finds in his lover’s eyes and how he’s bewitched by her and the treasures she hides there.  It’s actually much more romantic with the full translation, which you can find here.



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