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Pixie’s Day at FanExpo 2013

Published August 27, 2013 by rmpixie

So this weekend, I decided to check out the 2013 FanExpo.  Why, you ask? Because I am a nerd? Well, yes, there’s that, but also because even though I am not exactly a groupie, I thought I’d come out of my shell and head out to meet a couple of people, one of whom I might not get a chance to see again, perhaps ever, but more on that later.

I was originally going on my own, as most of my friends aren’t interested in horror or live out-of-town, when I found out that my good friend Nicole’s brother-in-law Henry Shel had a booth there and was promoting his books.  She wanted to go and lend her support,  so I ended up having company, and since she gets a kick out of anything against the norm, away we went!

Let me first say that I wished I had eaten a high calorie breakfast of eggs, waffles, pancakes, whipped cream, and syrup, because the amount of walking we did was insane.  We walked a couple of blocks from the subway to be ushered into a tunnel, (reminiscent of some sort of disaster movie where we line up to enter a bomb shelter) and waited in a four person deep line to buy tickets.  It moved fairly quickly and once inside, we meandered past cosplay enthusiasts, fellow nerds, and giant strollers filled with costumed babies.  Bumping into Henry Shel, we headed to his booth where he was promoting his books Space, Love, Superheros:  The Chronicles of My Secret Identity Crisis on Infinite Earths  and Operation:  DREAMGIRL (The Reluctant Diary of a Lovesick Average Joe).  pretty cool guy and definitely worth taking a look:  www.lulu.com/henryshel  Click on either of the 2 books to see a 10 page preview, or just buy em’!

Since we were in the artist section, where there were scads of talented artists signing and selling their work, I realized that Steve Niles was in the area.  I am a big fan of his and he was one of the two people I really wanted to meet. 30 Days of Night is an incredibly crafted story, and was my introduction to his talent.  I have since followed his work, the latest being Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem (which I plan to devour this Labour Day weekend as a treat), and was really jazzed to meet him and get him to sign a copy of my 30 Days of Nights graphic novel.  I would just like to add that I had a Starbucks coffee that morning.  For most, this is not an issue, but for this pixie, it’s a problem.  I just needed a boost, see?  To get me through a long day of walking around.  So I was kind of, um, supercharged.  When I found his booth, I was ecstatic!  Steve Niles!  Creator of the best vampire story around!  Eek!  Well, I really nerded out, spouting coffee fueled babble about the film adaptation of 30 Days, my 30 Days of Night manicure, Danny Huston as the best vampire ever, and turtles, but he was just lovely!  He signed my copy, and took a picture with me.  Worth the sore feet for sure, and who knows if I will ever get the chance to chat with him in person again!  http://www.steveniles.com/

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Pixie and Steve Niles!!

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My 30 Days of Night manicure. Inspired and yes, obsessed!

Other highlights included seeing  Luis the Suspect Guy from Suspect Video, some of the cast of Bitten and the hosts from InnerSpace, and ridiculous cackling over complete nonsense Nicole and I were prone to as we dodged the crowds.  We also stopped to check out a unique comic called The Black Bastard.  I was familiar with this one because I had met the creator, Matthew Mohammed, a few years ago at a previous FanExpo.  He was cool then and is still just as cool with his satirical take on racial stereotypes.  That site is currently under construction, so check your local comic book store for copies.

On to the “stars” as we kept putting it.  Where were they?  Way over in the North building.  Which meant around 5 escalator rides combined with a fair bit of walking to the main exhibition area.  Just before that was a walkway above the action.  It was here we could look down and see the tables where celebrities were signing autographs and posing for pictures.  However, we were promptly told to move as we were obstructing the flow of traffic, which was moving quite smoothly past us.  Whatever.  As we made our way down, I felt this side of the expo had a weird vibe.  We walked past different booths selling their wares, huge models of Daleks, K.I.T.T. the car from Knight Rider and then past the autograph areas.  Michael Rooker (Merle of The Walking Dead), Ron Perleman (Clay of The Sons of Anarchy and star of freakin’ Hellboy!), Dean Cain (Lois and Clark), Shawn Ashmore of X-Men fame, Laurie Holden (Andrea of The Walking Dead), George Takei (Sulu of Star Trek), and Linda Hamilton of Terminator fame were all graciously signing autographs that you basically had to pay for.  I don’t know the ins and outs of this fan expo business, and I’m aware everyone has to make a buck and bills have to be paid, but a lot of the costs for pictures and autographs were a bit steep.  I would have liked to have seen Norman Reedus (Darryl of The Walking Dead) but a) he was on a 30 minute break, and b) my sixty dollar photo fee did not include a foot massage from him.  Because for sixty of my hard-earned dollars, that’s what I would have wanted, if not more.  I also couldn’t be bothered to do any stealth photos liked I planned.  My contacts were drying out and the vibe was like a party that hadn’t quite taken off yet, with people milling around awkwardly watching the celebrities.

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Trust me, there are “stars” down there. Right Nicole?

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Exterminate! Exterminate!

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Some sort of K.I.T.T hybrid car thingy

great cosplay of Dr. Who's Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint

great cosplay of Dr. Who’s Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint

Anyhoo, after some lunch and a great bevvy, we returned to the fun South Building so I could meet Adam Lopez, founder and director of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.  I’ve corresponded with him via Facebook and email, so it was finally time to meet face to face.  Greeted with a lovely and warm welcome, Adam told me about some of the exciting sneak peeks coming up in the next few weeks.  He was super nice and super excited about the Spotlight Screening Nights-films being shown before the actual festival to get fans revved up for October.  Check out this link for show times and info.  The cost for tickets are really reasonable, and it’s obvious that Adam and his crew put a lot of effort into this event every year.  Because the festival is being held at the Scotiabank Theatre for the first time, it should be an awesome venue to pack in rabid horror fans.  I can’t wait!!

http://torontoafterdark.com/2013/

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TADFF founder and director Adam Lopez and Pixie!

There were plenty of seminars on writing, gaming, larping, cosplay  and screenings which we unfortunately missed, along with a David “The Hoff” Hasslehoff sighting, but all in all, this pixie had a great time.  FanExpo is a place where all the weird and woolly folk can go to express themselves as their favourite characters, buy all kinds of weird stuff, see their favourite stars, and feel like they belong.  Hope to attend next year!

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The Pyx: An Eerie Postcard From The Past

Published July 19, 2013 by rmpixie

 

the pyx

The Pyx (1973, 1 hr 48 mins)

After a brief and tipsy jaunt in Montreal, I thought it only fitting that I write about a 1973 classic that I stumble upon at Suspect Video.  Filmed in Montreal, and based on a novel by John Buell, The Pyx is a trippy, time jumping story that showcases a very young Christopher Plummer and the striking Karen Black in some lesser known roles.

Elizabeth Lucy (Karen Black) falls to her death from the penthouse of a posh apartment complex, adorned with an inverted crucifix and a pyx (a vessel used to transport the Catholic Host outside the church).  Detective Jim Henderson (Christopher Plummer) is assigned to the case; a sarcastic, hard-nosed but thoughtful cop who’s been around the block.  His partner, Detective Pierre Paquette (Donald Pilon) realizes that she was a prostitute, and piece by piece, Henderson uncovers a mysterious plot where no one is as they seem, and fear and the occult fuels everyone’s motives.

The story is revealed through two parallel timelines:  Henderson’s present investigation, and events in the past that lead up to Elizabeth’s death.  In my opinion, it is actually two films; a complex weaving of both characters’ race against time.  I found the film to be good, but I would have liked to have seen Henderson’s character expanded just a touch more.  We get to see Karen Black’s great performance of Elizabeth as a world-weary addict/sacrificial lamb (literally), but just a glimpse of Christopher Plummer’s brilliance as the tough cop with a haunting secret.  And when he spoke French in that pseudo-French/British accent, I fell in love with him all over again!  A nod also goes to Jean-Louis Roux, who played Elizabeth’s mysterious client Keerson.  He had very little screen time, but was effectively creepy!

I loved the religious aspect of the film.  It is so fitting since, as I learned on my double-decker bus tour, Montreal has churches all over the place.  Like everywhere.  Made my weird phobia of churches and religious statues more evident, by the way.  Hence the tipsiness, but I digress. The director, Harvey Hart, had his pick of gothic looking churches to convey Elizabeth’s personal conflict with her faith and profession.  And the anticipation of finding the villain, supernatural or otherwise, created a decent amount of suspense.  Just to throw in a quick note, another film that comes to mind is the more recent Kill List (2011).  Check it out for a similar feel. I think it’s an homage to the horror films of the 1970’s.

As a good ’70’s supernatural thriller, The Pyx fits the bill.  Weird, and intricate, it’s definitely worth a watch to see Montreal in the old days, the beautiful Karen Black and her folk singing skills, and a debonair Christopher Plummer rocking some sweet ’70’s suits.

Most Memorable Line:  When Henderson investigates the penthouse Elizabeth fell from, he is challenged by the superintendent. “Are you a superintendent or a lawyer?”, he asks.  The super replies, “I’m the superintendent of this building.”  Henderson then quips, “Then be a good superintendent and stay right there, and shut up.”  Said with such a condescending tone.  Taking notes for the next time I’m challenged…

Favourite Scene:  Instead of a chalk outline, Elizabeth’s body is marked by a string, which is then pulled up and used as a skipping rope by the neighbourhood kids as the camera pans upwards. All to the soundtrack of one of the eerie folk songs written and sung by Karen Black herself for the film.  Talk about ’70’s trippyness!!

Karen Black is currently battling cancer.  If you are interested in her progress, there is a crowd funding site that gives official updates on her condition.  Here is the link. Along with all of her fans, I truly wish her all the best.

Dark Shadows and How to Name a Pixie

Published May 25, 2013 by rmpixie

house of dark shadows      night of dark shadows

House of Dark Shadows                                Night of Dark Shadows

(1970 1 hr, 37 mins)                                       (1971 1 hr, 35 mins)

My mom was such a huge fan of the gothic ABC T.V. soap Dark Shadows that she named me after one of the characters.  This is original pixie lore, and I wear it like a badge of honour.  How cool/crazy do you have to be to name your wee pixie child after the daughter of a gothic and ghostly dynasty?  My mom really dug all things supernatural, and she has passed this penchant down to me.  I miss her dearly and I feel that today, on my birthday, it is only fitting that I watch House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows as my birthday double feature.

In House of Dark Shadows, governess Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) looks for her charge, David Collins (David Henesy).  They play a cat and mouse game, while creepy handyman Willie Loomis (John Karlen) who is supposed to help look for David too, decides to instead look for some hidden treasure on the Collins Estate, and gets himself into a spot of trouble as he awakens Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), a vampire and ancient ancestor, and becomes his servant.  Barnabas introduces himself to the Collins clan, Elizabeth (Joan Bennett), Roger (Louis Edmonds), Carolyn (Nancy Barrett) and David, as a distant cousin who just happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to a portrait of Barnabas from the 1700’s.  During a fancy dress ball, Barnabas becomes smitten with Maggie, who looks like his long-lost love Josette.  He is determined to make her his bride, despite Maggie’s attachment to her boyfriend Jeff (Roger Davis).  In the meantime, Barnabas feeds on unsuspecting women, one of them being his cousin Carolyn.  She joins him as an undead and becomes a tad jealous when he reveals that he intends to marry Maggie.  She gets vampy crazy and threatens to reveal Barnabas’ vampire secret.  He confines Carolyn to her crypt, but she escapes and tries to turn her boyfriend Todd (Donald Briscoe).  Sadly, she gets staked.  There is also Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall), who learns of Barnabas’ vampire secret, and she too becomes smitten by his vampire charm.  She creates a cure for him, and he is determined to marry Maggie as he becomes more human-like.  This plan becomes botched by the jealous Dr. Julia, and Maggie’s boyfriend Jeff and creepy Willie have to save the day, but not before Barnabas flits away as a bat.

In the second film, Night of Dark Shadows, we meet artist Quentin Collins (David Selby) and his wife Tracy ( played by the stunning Kate Jackson in her first feature film), who have inherited the Collinwood Estate. It is run by creepy housekeeper Carlotta Drake (Grayson Hall) and Gerrard (James Storm) the stable hand. Quentin is haunted by dream memories of an Angelique Collins (Lara Parker), a woman who was accused, tried and hanged as a witch. She was also having an affair with her husband’s brother, Charles Collins.  Carlotta reveals to Quentin that he is the reincarnated Charles and he must get rid of his wife for the spirit of Angelique, who vowed to return one day.  Quentin becomes lured by the spell of Angelique and the influence of Carlotta.  He also becomes more and more like Charles, Angelique’s lover and more contemptuous towards his wife Tracy.  Their worried friends, Alex (John Karlen) and Claire (Nancy Barrett), intervene when Quentin becomes violent.  Apparently, director Dan Curtis had to edit out several minutes from the film, so it lost some coherency towards the end.  The plot quickly dissolves into Team Carlotta vs. Team Tracy, then Team Quentin & Tracy vs. Team Carlotta & Gerard, and some crazy bongo punctuated fights.

Both films were a lot of campy gothic fun for me.  If I had to pick a favourite though, it would have to be House of Dark Shadows, simply because of my huge inflated ego.  Yes folks, pixie was named after Carolyn Stoddard.  It’s not often these days that I hear a man sigh “Ohhh, Carolyn!!” as he is being fed on by a vampire, or scream, “Carolyn!!” in a vampiric, fevered trance.  Hey, I’ll take what I can get (and no, I’m not skipping back to those scenes continually just to hear my name…I’m not!…really!).  The groovy camera angles and blurred kill shots are things of beauty, as well as the delicious, bright red ’70’s blood.  It’s interesting to see that some of the actors in the first film played completely different characters in the second film, a practice that is most currently seen in American Horror Story.  In the original Dark Shadows T.V. series, there were several story arcs that got a tad confusing as parallel times and storylines occurred with different outcomes.  Check out http://www.collinwood.net/ for detailed episode synopsis and great information on the series, cast and crew.

I was excited to see the 2012 remake by Tim Burton.  I’m a huge fan of his, and couldn’t wait to see what he would bring.  He combined storylines from the 2 films to create campy visual eye candy.  I loved the sets and costuming, and Johnny Depp brought his own unique interpretation of Barnabas.  Helena Bonham Carter was perfectly cast as Dr. Julia Hoffman,  but I was disappointed with the liberties taken with Carolyn’s character.  He stayed true to her being a teen in the original series, but a werewolf?  That blended part of Quentin’s lineage put me off, but then again, the Collins lineage itself is quite a trip.

Of course these two vintage horror films are part of my collection, courtesy of Suspect Video.  So glad I have them as I feel they are a part of my crazy, personal history. Happy Birthday to me!!

Favourite Scenes:  Anything with Barnabas Collins.  Jonathan Frid’s face was so interesting and charismatic, despite not being conventionally handsome.  The same goes for David Selby as Quentin Collins.  I also loved the scene in House of Dark Shadows when the vampire cure goes wrong. The close-ups were kind of revolting and actually scary. Oh, and the slo-mo staking.  Just has to be seen.

Most Memorable Lines:  when Carolyn says to Barnabas, “There’s so much about you that I’m dying to know.”  Um, yeah, you bet sister!

Half Man + Half Ape= All Trog!

Published May 2, 2013 by rmpixie

Trog

Trog  (1970, 1hr 33 mins.)

This film was Joan Crawford’s last before she disappeared into a reclusive life.  From what I know, this famous actress had quite a turbulent life, and was said to be a bit of a pill, seasoned with good old-fashioned booze.  I’m not here to judge the lady, since life can be a shit show a lot of the time, but for her last film, Trog is definitely going into this pixie’s lovablely stinky files.

Crawford plays the verbose Dr. Brockton, a learned anthropologist who is tending to a hiker that has been traumatized.  You see, Cliff (John Hamill) had been exploring a cave with his two colleagues and happened upon a caveman.  A real live caveman who beats the living crap out of one hiker and scares the bejesus out of Cliff.  The good doctor is intrigued by what terrified Cliff, and wants to get the jump on the local police to find this animal, this thing that had “That face…those eyes!”  When she does find her troglodyte or trog, she is determined to study him for the good of all mankind.  It just takes like, three shots from a tranquilizer gun to nab Trog (Joe Cornelius) after he kicks the crap out of a film crew documenting the discovery and surrounding officials.  Clearly, Trog just wants to be left alone in his dark, damp cave.  Don’t we all?  But despite major opposition from the police, a local rabble-rouser named Murdock (Michael Gough) and her disgruntled colleague Dr. Selbourne (Jack May), Dr. Brockton carries on her research.  She teaches Trog how to be a kinder, gentler caveman by playing with dolls and learning colours, fueled by a strict diet of “fish and lizards”, which incidentally, will the be name of my psychedelic 70’s rock band.  She makes some decent headway with Trog, as he undergoes surgery to help him talk.  He also trips out with some solid dinosaur memories that I will describe later in the Favourite Scene section.

Unfortunately, the rabble-rouser Murdock feels differently and still thinks Trog is a murderer.  He sets Trog free, and provokes him to go berserk; undoing all of Dr. Brockton’s hard work.   He is the only Trog in the village, so it’s easy to figure out who opens a can of caveman whoop-ass by throwing the green grocer through his shop window and hanging the butcher on his own meat hook.  Then he takes a kid, who he thinks is a doll.  From here on in, things don’t bode well for our caveman friend, and well, you can probably guess the outcome.

So, a few things come to mind after watching Trog.  First off, just wondering if the makers of this film had heard of editing.  The opening scene of the cave exploring hikers was painfully long.  And remember when I described Dr. Brockton as verbose?  I wasn’t kidding.  I totally see the point of the film with the whole science vs. nature vs. ignorant townsfolk and society at large, but the speechifying was a bit much.  “Blah, blah, blah,…blah, blah, blah…the missing link!”  How about editing the script too?  Joan Crawford gave a decent, if somewhat hammy performance, but Cornelius who played Trog, really trogged out man.  What a blast to run around in furry shoes and a loincloth grunting and kicking ass!!  Where do I sign up?!!

I am certainly not going to hate too hard on this cheesy, melodramatic sci-fi gem, and I’m glad I was able to get it through the folks at Suspect Video.  It was a tad too long, but definitely worth a watch, if only for Trog beating everyone to a pulp and his trip down memory lane.

Most Memorable Line and Favourite Scene:  This, for me, is the surgery/memory jogging scene.  Trog is being microchipped and while he is still groggy, the scientists do some weird surgery to help him talk.  First off, they all don these Marilyn Manson worthy rubber face masks that look like fetish wear.  Bet they regret eating onions for lunch that day.  Trog is shown some slides of dinosaur skeletons that triggers a blue swirly and a crazy sequence that was part of a 1956 film called The Animal World.  With stop-motion animation done by my fave Ray Harryhausen, it shows how dinosaurs fought, hatched from eggs, and ran from hot poopy looking lava.  Of course these are all misty memories for Trog.  And then…he speaks! When Dr. Brockton’s assistant and daughter Anne (Kim Braden) looks into Trog’s caveman eyes, he utters, “Anne…Red…Green…Blue…Anne.” definitely my favourite line amidst all the talking!

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