Canadian horror

All posts tagged Canadian horror

Book Review: Family Ties and Gothic Horror in The Only Child

Published June 19, 2017 by rmpixie

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (Simon & Schuster, 2017)

 

Canadian horror author Andrew Pyper has his finger on the pulse of the family. His previous works cover a father looking for his child in the best-selling The Demonologist to a twin haunted by his sister in The Damned, and now, another family dynamic in The Only Child. With his dark approach to family and psychology, he brings us to world where literature, personal demons and reality collide.

Lily Dominick is a forensic psychiatrist who is brilliant at what she does because it’s all she does. Throwing herself into her work with the criminally insane, she is driven and stoic-the result of a tragic family and personal history. Her usual day at the forensic psychiatric center is changed when she is alerted to a patient who has committed a violent crime and awaits her assessment. This patient, known only as client 46874-A, reveals to her that not only did he know her dead mother, but he is also her father. This is alarming to Lily since her mother fell to a violent death, the details of which escaped her for years as well as no memory of her absent father. When this strange patient escapes and starts to pick off people in Lily’s life, she embarks on a global journey where she finds out more about this mysterious man we come to know as Michael and his outrageous claims to be the inspiration for classic horror writers and their creations. Compelled by this menace she tries to stay ahead of his terrifying abilities while seeking the truth about his connection to her, and stop his mad killing spree.

Pyper has created an interesting mythology with the character of Michael. He is a combination of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula, with a demonic element that overrides the romantic aspect of these tortured monsters. It’s certainly a different approach to appreciating the classics. He reminded me of the HBO series Penny Dreadful, but with a modern twist, especially with the steam punk inspired accoutrements that Michael uses to drain his prey of blood. He’s a character you at times sympathize with as he recounts battles with his evil nature, but his ultimate arrogance becomes his worst burden. Snippets of his journals are fascinating and I had hopes that his back story would play more center stage, but that was left to our main character, Lily.

Lily’s is independent and strong which I enjoyed about her, but she was also my least favourite of Pyper’s characters. Her judgement was questionable and her sexual impulses were at times unwarranted and hollow in most situations, especially as she envisaged having sex with almost all the men she met, including Michael. This was a little surprising as Pyper’s female characters have been more well-rounded in the past. I’m not sure if it was his intention to show Michael’s supernatural power over her, or some sort of sexual dysfunction, or to show her sexual freedom as a modern woman, but I can’t imagine sexual encounters would be on the mind of a woman running for her life. He did however, succeed with her emotional turmoil, her memories of her mother’s death and her coping mechanism of being a workaholic. Between Michael and Lily, you may find yourself hoping the monster prevails instead of his prey since sadly, he is far more interesting.

While it may not find a firm footing, The Only Child is still within the literary realm that Pyper enjoys exploring. With a gothic/modern espionage feel that may not be a familiar place for his readers, it’s still worth checking out for an interesting villain brought to life from the pages of Shelley, Stoker and Stevenson. Here’s hoping there’s a compelling prequel in store.

The Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival: Why Toronto Horror Fans Need to Go

Published November 8, 2016 by rmpixie

bits2016_horz_banner

 

This November 24th-27th, the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival kicks off it’s 5th year. Why is this important? Because it’s Toronto’s only festival dedicated to Canadian genre film. And why is that important? Well, Canadian film, while it’s gaining in popularity, generally doesn’t get a lot of focus, often being overshadowed by big ticket blockbusters. Independent genre film gets even less attention. It’s difficult to see Canadian genre film on the big screen, and that’s where the Blood in the Snow comes in. Festival director Kelly Michael Stewart created the event to showcase Canadian horror, genre and underground film to make sure talented filmmakers get a chance to show their original films in a theatre to genre-loving fans.

This year there will be 33 films which is a record number for the festival. With 9 feature films and 24 shorts, you’ll find everything from documentary (another first for BITS!) to the supernatural; sci-fi and silent film to grindhouse (see below for some of titles playing). All of the films will either be a Toronto or world premiere, making the festival the first stop for anyone looking to see fresh or buzzed-about films that you may not see in wide distribution.

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The festival will also be held in a new venue. After several years at the beloved Carlton Cinema, there was a need to accommodate more people after sell out and encore screenings pushed the theatre to capacity. This can now happen at the Cineplex Cinemas-Yonge Dundas with more available seating as well as the same convenience of transit at the theatre’s doorstep.

BITS is there for horror fans of course, but it also serves the very people they showcase. Industry panels on Friday November 25th will bring you experts in the legal, distribution and funding areas of the film industry who will share valuable advice. It will be a day of insight that everyone who is interested in or already involved in the film industry needs to attend. Separate industry passes are available for the panels and will also get you into 3 screenings of your choice.

As a former pass holder (and now BITS programmer), I’ve met the most interesting people who have become friends and colleagues. There will be a chance meet with other festival attendees and staff, plus cast and crew from the films at The Duke’s Refresher & Bar, a nearby pub that will host the 4 nights of schmoozing after screenings.

So why should Toronto genre fans go to the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival? Because you are a genre-loving, discerning bunch celebrating indie horror and genre films by attending screenings and spreading the word. We live in Hollywood North after all, and we need  to make a place for indie film by supporting our local talent.

You can get passes or individual tickets.  The full festival passes come with some great perks (i.e. a fantastic goody bag), and tickets make it easy for you to pick and choose what you want to see, even though you should see every film at the festival. So what are you waiting for?! Get your tickets before they sell out!

Follow this link for your one-stop shop to passes and tickets: http://bloodinthesnow.ca/BITS2016.html

or visit The Cineplex website here (when you go to purchase, you must enter the location “Yonge Dundas”):  https://goo.gl/yy9cTH

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.

japanese-horror-ency

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!

More Horror for National Canadian Film Day 2016!

Published April 20, 2016 by rmpixie

 

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National Canadian Film Day-April 20, 2016

 

It’s that time of year again when we celebrate Canadian Film on National Canadian Film Day!  Good old Hollywood North gets a day to say “Hey, we make great films up here!”  Of course, being the gal that I am, I’ll concentrate on horror made right here on Canadian soil.

First off is a couple of indie slow burners that really resonated with me.  Screened at Toronto After Dark Film Festival and Blood in the Snow Festival last year, these two contributions feature man vs. nature in the most hellish way.

The Interior(2015), directed by Trevor Juras, premiered at Toronto After Dark Film Festival and really needs to be seen on a big screen to experience the overwhelming beauty and psychological terror.  James (Patrick McFadden) is bored with his life and dealing with a gnawing ennui.  When he has to come to terms with his mortality, he escapes to the wilderness to deal with his issues. He soon realizes a mysterious figure is sharing the forest with him, watching and waiting to strike.  See this one for the cinematography and the unravelled performance by McFadden.

 

White Raven (2015), also premiered last year, but this time at The Blood in the Snow Festival (of which I am now a film programmer!  Yay!), also takes place in the wilds of Mother Nature.  Four friends take their annual manly camping trip so they can catch up with each other’s lives and bond.  They soon realize that one of them isn’t doing so well, and his obsession with a past wrong and a Native legend will change their lives forever.  Director Andrew Moxham pulled some really great performances out of the cast.  Definitely worth seeing.

 

Feel like something gory to whet your horror appetite?  Then you’ll want a to check out Bite (2015).  This festival favourite also screened at BITS and includes all kinds of cringe-worthy splatter.  Casey (Elma Begovic) is getting married and goes to Costa Rica for her bachelorette.  When she is bitten by a mysterious bugaboo, she returns home only to find the bug bite has gotten worse and her symptoms have become stranger.  Director Chad Archibald and the crazy kids at Black Fawn Films really went for it and created a fun gooey body horror classic.

 

Heir (2015) is a short that left me feeling really uneasy.  Gordon (Robert Nolan) suppresses an urge and an ailment that he shares with a supposed old college friend Dennis (Bill Oberst Jr.).  He brings his son to meet Dennis, but there is a more sinister reason for their visit.  With creepy undertones and some intense performances, this little film directed by Robert Powell will definitely make your skin crawl.

 

For some classic weirdness, I recommend Pin:  A Plastic Nightmare (1988).  This gem from bizarro-land directed by Sandor Stern, brings us Leon (David Hewlett), an isolated young man who becomes friends with his father’s (Terry O’Quinn) anatomically correct see-through dummy named Pin, used in his father’s medical practice as an educational tool.  This unusual attachment grows as Leon and his sister Ursula (Cynthia Preston), lose their parents in an accident.  What ensues is a weird spiral into obsession and insanity.  This one you’ll just have to see to believe!

 

Seiren (2015) is a short that should be a full-length horror, which is what director Kat Threlkeld intends to do at some point.  When a model (Sayla Vee) gets bitten on a beach photo shoot, she begins to transform into a vicious version of a well-know legend.  Loved this for the special effects and Vee’s blood-thirsty performance.

 

And They Watched (2015), directed by Vivian Lin, is a short with a strong message.  A custodian cleans the execution room of a prison, and disturbs some troubled souls.  Lin got the idea for the film after reading testimony of death row inmates.  It is chilling and the makeup effects are really, really good.

 

So there you have it!  Get out there and freak yourselves out with some great Canadian horror on National Canadian Film Day! Check out my full reviews of the festival films on Cinema Axis here, and be sure to read about other great Canadian films on Cinema Axis too!

 

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