Tony Burgess

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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!

 

 

Ejecta BITS 2014

Published December 3, 2014 by vfdpixie

Ejecta

Ejecta (2014, 1 hr 27 mins)

I would love to get inside writer Tony Burgess’s head.  I am sure it is a place of wonder and intrigue, a place where festival hits Pontypool and Hellmouth were born.  His latest brainchild, BITS Fest selection Ejecta, tackles some pretty mean aliens.

William Cassidy is a tormented man.  After being abducted, or as he put it “meeting” with “an advance life form”, he has been under their watch and control for 39 years.  His reports and theories on his alien captors have made him something of a mysterious legend online under the name Spider Nevi, and when he contacts an eager filmmaker Joe (Adam Seybold) to finally tell his story, things hit the fan as an anticipated solar event serves as a backdrop to an insane alien cat and mouse chase and interrogation by a secret military operation.

This is definitely more mainstream for Burgess, and refreshing.   I could see the Burgess substance as William waxed poetically about his alien experiences, but there was an overall popcorn movie feel that I enjoyed.  Directing team Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele (winners of a Best Director Bloodies award at the fest) created a found footage/real-time combo that didn’t confuse the story.  There was a fair amount of terror in this sci-fi gem, and the aliens were filmed in true found footage style, with glimpses of their angry, saw-toothed faces and low lit alien autopsy-like shots.  Plenty of frantic shaky camera chases kept a frenzied pace, but it was a step above many found footage films with some great performances.

Julian Richings, who is literally everywhere from the Canadian sci-fi classic Cube to the super popular Orphan Black and a Bloodies Best Actor winner, delivered as the tortured William.  His expressive, angular face captivated like no other, and Lisa Houle as the intense Dr. Tobin was equally engaging with her steely and villainous resolve to find the aliens by any means necessary; and Adam Seybold was believable as the eager Joe, who exuded a certain innocence that would be lost as the aliens took charge.  Also look for another cameo by director Bruce McDonald that provides some nutty comic relief with a touch of menace.

Burgess, Wiele, Richings and Houle were all in attendance to give us more insider tidbits that I love to hear about!  Ejecta was shot the same time as Hellmouth and Septic Man 2 years ago.  When the directors saw what they had, they decided it wasn’t what they wanted, with Wiele calling the found footage genre the “bastard child of horror” and basically shot another movie.  The incorporation of the 2 films was actually pretty seamless, making a better overall presentation.  When Burgess was asked if he thought about the genre of film while he wrote, he revealed that he didn’t and the story just comes regardless of the genre.  What is consistent with him is a guaranteed surreal world that has been respected by his directors.

I have seen enough films with the common denominator of Tony Burgess to know that I am rarely disappointed, and Ejecta is no exception.  If you want some mystery and mean, determined aliens, check it out!

(As an aside, I had a cool experience that night.  As you all know, I love Stephen McHattie, Canadian actor extraordinaire.  He showed up to the Ejecta screening to support his friends, and I got a chance to say hello.  There is always a fear that someone you hold in high regard will disappoint you, but he was so nice!  We shook hands, had a laugh and I gave him my card so he could read my “love letter” to him.  One thing off of my bucket list!)

 

Hellmouth TADFF 2014

Published October 27, 2014 by vfdpixie

hellmouth

Hellmouth (2014, 1 hr 35 mins)

 

The trailer for Hellmouth was exciting.  It had a definite retro feel, and there was a campiness that lead me to believe that there were some laughs to be had.  What I came to realize is that it is an unexpectedly beautiful surrealist horror; a swirling combination of both modern and classic influences.

Charlie Baker is retiring.  After many years of working as a grave-digger and tending to a bleak, solitary environment, he is going to pack up his bags and head to Miami where he can actually talk to people, and not be tormented by the local kids.  He is also ill, a husk of a man, battling an episodic brain disorder that will eventually kill him.  Definitely time served, but an unexpected visit from Mr. Whinny (Boyd Banks), his supervisor, presents a 6 month, non-negotiable extension that crushes Charlie to the core.  He must travel to the Forks of Heaven Cemetery, possibly the creepiest final resting place ever, where his grave tending duties take a nightmarish turn.  His journey becomes one of life-changing proportions, and with the help of a mysterious woman Fay, he will battle demons, beasties, convicts and his own limitations to save himself and the woman he grows to love.

I was completely drawn in by the visuals of this film.  The effects created by Nick Flook were really beautiful; black and white with pops of colour that to me, indicated glimmers of hope in such a bleak world.  During the Q & A after the film, director John Geddes was asked about whether Sin City was an influence.  He definitely acknowledged the influence, but wanted Hellmouth to have more of an Ed Wood feel.  I saw the obvious similarities with the Frank Miller film, but you will quickly realize that aside from being technically and visually similar, this film’s story makes you forget any Sin City reference.  Other references you may notice are of course Dante’s Inferno as well as a touch of Samuel Beckett’s absurdism and Lynchian surrealism that created a great visual and cerebral package.

The performances were fantastic.  As you may know, I love Stephen McHattie.  He can do no wrong in my eyes.  His portrayal of a broken and weary Charlie was spot on; a perfect conduit for this character which was a custom fit.  I will echo the sentiment from the crew that without Mr. McHattie, there would be no film.  Siobhan Murphy was gorgeous as the mysterious femme fatale and guide for Charlie, and it was great to see Canadian indie directing great Bruce McDonald play a cameo role in what was probably my favourite part of the film in which creepy detective Cliff Ryan (Mark Gibson) recounts the fates of doomed cemetery staff before Charlie.

Writer Tony Burgess, who also wrote Pontypool and Septic Man, was also at the screening.  Always entertaining, he told the audience that he at first balked at the story Geddes brought to him.  The world as a cemetery?  He thought it was “bat shit crazy”, but committed to it anyway.  What looked crazy on paper ended up being a great story, examining one man’s relationship with his mortality and love to become an unlikely, but worthy hero.  This team of Geddes, Burgess, McHattie et al can stay together if they are going to bring us thoughtful and beautiful films like Hellmouth.  Treat yourself and go see this weird and exciting marriage of retro-stylized horror and technology.

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