Canadian film

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Horror on National Canadian Film Day

Published April 29, 2015 by vfdpixie

Today is National Canadian Film Day, where we celebrate Canadian film and the talented people who create them.  Known for our legendary politeness, the letter “u” in some of our words, and hockey (not true for me, although I’d rather go to a hockey game than a basketball game any day-gasp!!), we are also pretty handy with a moving picture camera.

Some of those moving pictures involve gallons of blood and gore.  Canadian horror has a strong foothold in Movieland, with a lot of them becoming classics, and I am proud to say that there are way too many to include here, so I will focus on a few of my favourites (see, there’s that pesky “u”).

 

One of my favourite directors is David Cronenberg.  He has the best recipe for weirdness and mood, and coupled with his talent and incredible style, creates horror that will make you cringe and marvel at the grotesque beauty he shows you.  It’s hard to choose, but the film that creeps me out every time is Dead Ringers.  This twisted story of twin gynecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle and their deception of a troubled woman makes me shiver.  The bizarre instruments twin Beverly creates are a nightmare for any woman that’s been laid out and vulnerable in a doctor’s stirrups.

 

 

 

 

Plain and simple, Martyrs will scar you forever.  This revenge film with a twist leaves you reeling as you watch Lucie and Anna struggle for the truth, and when they do, it leads to gruesome and deadly results.

 

 

 

 

Silent Retreat has been on the Canadian horror radar since it’s premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival in 2013.  One of the more unique films out there, it follows Janey as she is forced to stay at a retreat for wayward girls that becomes truly sinister.

 

 

Director Tricia Lee is hard at work on her next feature, One Drop, expected to be released in late 2016.  It is another female driven horror, where a single mother wakes up to find herself pregnant, surrounded by dead bodies and “something not-quite-human” in the basement of a medical facility.  Check out the indigogo campaign to contribute to what sounds like another unique and thrilling Canadian horror story.

 

 

 

Of Unknown Origin is straight up cheesy horror, but Peter Weller does a great job trying to kick a giant rat’s ass.  Definitely a late night treasure.

 

 

 

 

Of course, I have to mention the Soska Twins.  Jen and Sylvia have become horror darlings because they create gory films like Dead Hooker in a Trunk that become fan favourites, and mine is probably American Mary.  Stylish and dark, this revenge flick follows a medical student who provides back room body modification for extra money.  After a horrible violation, she creates her own unique way of punishing those that cross her.

 

 

 

 

For pure weirdness and the special effects, check out Thanatomorphose.  It is body horror at its best (or worst, you’ll have to decide), and it is truly a must see, but don’t eat dinner while watching.

 

 

 

Check out Ejecta for a cool alien/conspiracy/found footage movie.  Written by Canadian author Tony Burgess, who also wrote and (acted in) Hellmouth, Septic Man, and Pontypool, it is dark, jarring and has some really mean aliens.

 

 

 

 

Just recently I went to a screening of Late Night Double Feature.  For a low-budget film, it is full of fun and schlock and most importantly, homegrown!

 

 

 

Lastly, a new film in production called The Void looks pretty amazing.  The creators Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie are striving for great practical effects, and the trailer is really eerie with all kinds of gory goodness!  Check out their indiegogo campaign for more info and a chance to contribute.

 

 

 

Let me know what some of your favourite Canadian horror films are!

 

 

The 2015 Canadian Film Fest: Late Night Double Feature

Published March 27, 2015 by vfdpixie

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Late Night Double Feature (2014, 89 mins.)

I like a good horror anthology.  Where else can you get more bang for your buck, more gore, and more monsters all in one horror package?  Films from my horror education like The Trilogy of Terror (1975) and the golden prize in my movie collection The Monster Club (1981) provided more campy scares than I could ever ask for, and while some were cheesier than others, they all gave me a sense of joy when I found them on T.V. in the wee hours.  The latest addition to this genre, embracing the iconic old-school cable show, is Late Night Double Feature, the brain child of The Blood in the Snow Festival founder Kelly Michael Stewart that had its Canadian premiere at the 2015 Canadian Film Fest last night.

Directed by Navin Ramaswaran, Dr. Nasty’s Cavalcade of Horror is just that.  Amidst shoddy sets and props, Dr. Nasty (Brian Scott Carleton) is a “mad scientist” late night host with a penchant for booze and pretty young interns.  His co-host, Nurse Nasty (Jamie Elizabeth Sampson), is an aspiring actress and tired of his antics that go un-punished by the show’s indifferent director and her boyfriend, Shawn (Mike Donis). As the studio drama goes on, Dr. Nasty shows two films, Dinner for Monsters and Slit, giving us 3 stories of horror in total, complete with some goofy laughs, a bit of shock, and schlocky fun.

It’s difficult to do tongue-in-cheek without it going the route of overly silly, and Late Night Double Feature actually delivers because of some great performances and good control of the mood and audience reaction.  With Dinner for Monsters, directed by Zachary Ramelan, a young chef (Nick Smyth) struggling to keep his dead father’s restaurant afloat gets a chance to cook for a private party that ends up having a gruesome main course.  The comedy was groan-inducing but made you laugh all the same, using lots of camp and a B-movie reveal that hit all the right notes.  Jeff Sinasac as the wealthy party host Vincent Dubuc has a stage actor’s presence, and brought a classic maniac vibe to the mix.

In Slit, Brad (Colin Price) is a cutter for hire.  He services clients who like to be strategically sliced up for pleasure.  He is void of feeling, creepy and likes to keep his client list private.  When he gets a new referral in Brii (Caleigh Le Grand), he reluctantly agrees to take her on, only to find she has lost her mind.  Escaping her attack, he rushes out, losing his little black client book that has his address in it; a perfect opportunity for Brii to find him and exact revenge.  I give Slit marks for intensity and a great villain in Brii.  I actually want to see more of her exploits and hope there is something in the works for the future.  Directed by Torin Langen, Slit reminds you that this is in fact a horror movie, and we shouldn’t get too comfortable with laughing, even though there is some comic relief with the kooky homeless guy played by Kirk Haviland.  It leaves you hanging, wondering where the rest of the film will go, which is exactly what creator Stewart wanted to do.  The flow eases the viewer out of the shock of Slit and back into the melodrama with Nurse Nasty, her predicament, and its bloody, climatic conclusion.

After the screening, the entire (read gigantic) cast and crew came up for a quick Q & A.  We learned that this production was realized by their determination and the good will of many friends and family.  Set in and around Toronto, and despite shooting delays and a flood, the film was shot in 15 days, and the idea that was spawned in 2013 came to fruition due to careful pre and post-production.

It looks like the cast and crew really enjoyed themselves making a true B-movie winner, and if you get a chance to see it, you’ll have a good laugh.  Honourable mention goes to the movie trailers of Night Klown and Encephatopithecus which were hilarious; and the moody, dark opening short, Burn the Tapes by Nick and Brit Kewin.  It was a fun night and I am glad I was able to check it out.  You can follow the film on Twitter for updates:  @LATENIGHTDOUBLE; and the Canadian Film Fest wraps up tonight, so check out the final films here.

Pixie’s Cabin Fever!

Published March 2, 2015 by vfdpixie

So once again I find myself unemployed and isolated.  This horribly cold winter and my job search has kept me indoors, inactive and a little insane, truth be told.  Case in point:  a knock on my apartment door last week prompted me to tip-toe barefoot, Mission Impossible style, to the peep-hole of my front door.  Who was this intruder, this interloper who dared to knock at my door, bypassing our lame security buzz code system?!! I saw a small being, hobbit-like, hover by my door, and I heard what sounded like a photo being taken.  That was beyond weird.  Was it a serial killer taking a trophy photo of their victim’s front door? Was it the Tall Man’s minion, come to take me to another dimension? I wasn’t about to find out and crept slowly away from the door.  When my sister came home, she announced that there was a jumbo box of cat litter left at our door.  My interloper was the delivery hobbit from Walmart, and the photo was probably them scanning their delivery.

Lack of human contact and a schedule, believing your cats can read your mind, plus the ridiculous amounts of snow and cold weather alerts have contributed to this pixie’s descent into Cuckoo Land.  After that delivery incident, I started to think about all the isolation horror films where characters-mostly employed-start to lose it out in space or the elements; battling aliens, themselves and unseen threats.  I thought I would do a Cabin Fever post about my brothers and sisters in arms sacrificing themselves, mostly at work, as they fight various terrors or their own mental states (I will however, make a note of  putting these jobs in my “circular file” as I look for gainful employment, for obvious reasons).

My top film for this sort of mayhem is of course, John Carpenter’s The Thing.  A research team minding their own business out in the Antarctic, is infiltrated by a voracious alien life form that hitches a ride in a cute dog on the run.  Imagine being out there in the cold, maybe more than a touch bored,  only to have your solitude disrupted by an alien threat.  That kind of excitement I can do without!

 

 

Alien is the next film on this list.  A crew on their way back to Earth after their space mission makes a stop due to a potential distress signal where they find a heap of alien trouble awaiting them.  So basically, this lot was on their way home from work only to have another assignment thrown at them and end up being violated by an alien.  Talk about your contractual obligations.  Sheesh!

 

 

Black Mountain Side, inspired by The Thing, is about another set of researchers on the brink of discovering a ground breaking archeological find on an isolated snowy mountain range.  When they start to have psychological problems, things become deadly.  Once again, researchers doing boring researchy things in the middle of nowhere are at the mercy of an unknown threat.

 

 

Mr. Jones is my next pick.  A filmmaker and his girlfriend move to the woods so he can work on a nature documentary and they end up becoming obsessed with a reclusive artist who creates disturbing sculptures. This film got mixed reviews, but I liked it.  A case of recluse vs. recluse, it’s basically a story of one artist seeking the solace of nature interrupting another artist’s solitude and paying the supernatural consequences.  Note to self:  artists who live in the backwoods do so for a reason.

 

 

The Corridor deals with a boy’s weekend deep in a winter wonderland.  Some high school friends try to reconnect years after one of them has had a mental breakdown.  They enjoy a laddish night of drinking and re-establish their footing with one another until an anomaly in the forest sends them into a spiral of violent psychosis.  This time no one is working, merely trying to relax with their friends and they end up getting scalped, among other nasty things.

 

 

To round it all up, I’ll give Mother Nature the final word, because she going to have it whether we like it or not.  The Day After Tomorrow, which sounds like my West Indian uncle’s promise to return a drill, kicks our butts with some hard-core, extreme and devastating weather.  When a paleoclimatologist warns against a catastrophic event caused by global warming, he is at first ignored, but when the snow hits the fan, he races to save his son and other survivors as North America hightails it to Mexico.  While we are not near this type of disaster (yet), it sure as heck feels like Spring has tapped out this year.

 

The moral of this post?  Well, I’m still not answering my door if you haven’t been invited over, but I will take heed when heading out to an isolated cabin in the winter or deep space, maybe just get some fresh air to clear my head and go for a walk in a highly populated area with a decent coffee shop instead, and perhaps apply for a more, um, “people person” job…

 

 

 

Pixie’s Walk Down Memory Lane and the 40th Anniversary of Black Christmas!

Published December 22, 2014 by vfdpixie

Black Christmas

Black Christmas (1974, 1 hr 38 mins)

My Christmas post for 2014 is about a Canadian classic.  Made in 1974 and said to be one of the first slasher films, Black Christmas has a special place in my heart.  It is not only one of my top 5 horror films, but also a favourite of my childhood friends.  As kids, we would discuss it at length and giggle at the scary parts. They have since moved out of town, but when we come across it on T.V. or pop it in the V.C.R. or D.V.D. player, we always text each other.

When I heard that Rue Morgue was putting on a 40th anniversary screening of the film at the Royal Cinema, I had to go.  Imagine seeing it on the big screen as it was intended with fellow fans as we walk down Memory Lane?  With one of the films stars in attendance?  And the option to purchase a limited edition poster?  Yes please!

The story, loosely based on real murders that happened in Montreal, is about a sorority house that is plagued with obscene calls made by a mysterious and murderous nut-job as he kills the girls off one by one.  It has become an iconic Christmas horror movie that, to the trained eye, uses some very familiar locations and is slice of Canadian history.  From the search party scene filmed in the neighbourhood that I grew up in at Grenadier Pond (the source of some historical myths), to University of Toronto where I pursued higher education, Black Christmas is a map of an old Toronto even though it is set in the fictional U.S. town of Bedford.

Starring Hollywood heavies such as John Saxon, Olivia Hussey, Andrea Martin and Margot Kidder, the organizers invited Art Hindle, who played the fur-clad Chris, to host the screening.  Hindle is a busy Canadian actor who has worked on shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and the award-winning Canadian series E.N.G.  He has a face that is easily recognizable, and it was great to see him in the flesh, wearing the actual fur coat monstrosity from the film that he kept after all these years as a souvenir.

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Art Hindle, second from the left, in his fur coat, with Rue Morgue’s Dave Alexander and Lee Howard with one of his Quiet Room Bears- The special edition Black Christmas Bear

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Art Hindle in 1974 as Chris in all his furry glory with Olivia Hussey as Jess in tow!

Before the movie started, Hindle answered some questions about his experience being in the film.  He said that he took the role of Chris to make money, plain and simple, because he had to support his family.  A chat with Margot Kidder convinced him to go to Los Angeles to find more work because Toronto at the time was not booming in the entertainment industry.  He also raved about late director Bob Clark’s “consummate craft of filmmaking”.  Hindle felt Clark was a genius and cited the classic teen sex comedy Porky’s as a technically advanced film, despite its subject matter; in fact, Hindle pointed out that the crew would often consult Clark beyond his directorial skills because he was so technically well-rounded.

As I watched the film on the big screen, I realized my favourite aspect of Black Christmas was the deliciously slow camera shots that either panned across rooms or came in for close-ups-the epitome of building tension-as well as the killer’s point of view camera work, which was apparently mounted on camera man Bert Dunk’s shoulder.  Along with the tension came the jarring score by Carl Zittrer.  Christmas carols surrounded by jangling discordant notes, eerie wind mixed with moans, and heavy breathing, all culminating when Jess’s high-strung boyfriend Peter (Keir Dullea) blows a gasket and destroys a perfectly good grand piano.  Those angry sounds resonated throughout the film as things got worse.

Another key element was the well-placed comedy.  Writer Roy Moore, along with script revisions from Clark, incorporated dark humour that punctuated the action so cleverly.  Among the most memorable moments were Kidder’s dry portrayal of the perpetually drunk Barb and the fellatio phone number scene, and Sergeant Nash’s (Doug McGrath) general oblivion.  Add the foreboding old school telephone ring which was central to the film and the truly creepy, rambling phone calls, and you have all the ingredients for an entertaining and well-crafted horror movie that has become a cornerstone of the horror genre.

To mark the anniversary, a limited edition poster was created.  Toronto based artist Ghoulish Gary Pullin, who has had a multitude of clients such as Rue Morgue Magazine, Dread Central, and Anchor Bay Entertainment just to name a few, and won for best movie poster for the documentary Why Horror? at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, was invited to reinterpret the look of the Black Christmas movie poster.  I am not normally a poster type gal, but when I saw it, I needed to have one. Silk-screened and featuring metallic silver inks, it is truly a thing of beauty.  Pullin was actually on site to personally hand out prints and say hello!  He said he was humbled when he was asked to do the poster and was a genuinely nice guy and obviously extremely talented.

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The limited edition poster by Ghoulish Gary Pullin

My first experience with Black Christmas will always be remembered as a popcorn and pyjama movie with close friends, but I had a lot of fun seeing it loud and proud on its historic 40th anniversary.  It was great to sit with an audience as we laughed and shrieked at some old school horror.  Who knew a little film about a crank caller and murdered sorority girls would be such an industry trailblazer!  So glad I made it out to revisit the mystery of Billy, Agnes and the baby!

Merry Christmas, dear reader!

*I would like to dedicate this post to my childhood friends who loved this film as much as I did, and to their loved ones who recently left us.  Terry and Sharon lost their father Desmond on September 3rd, and Tessa and Suzette, Desmond’s nieces, lost their beloved friend Danny December 11th.  May they find solace in the memories and the good times with their friends and family, and here’s to a happier new year for us all.  

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