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

Published November 8, 2016 by rmpixie

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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

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!

 

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

Published December 22, 2014 by rmpixie

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.  

Horror-Rama 2014-Toronto’s First Annual Horror Convention

Published November 7, 2014 by rmpixie

horror-rama

Horror-Rama, Toronto Ontario, Canada, November 1-2, 2014

 

I wasn’t sure I would even get to Horror-Rama due to my work schedule, but a week before the event, I learned that I would be free for an afternoon, so I bought my one-day $25 ticket not sure what to expect.  After checking out the website, I was prepared to part with some of my hard-earned money to get some stuff.  Horror stuff.  Little did I know that stuff was just the gory icing on the horror cake!

Let me back track a little.  You might be wondering what Horror-Rama is.  Put on by Suspect Video owner Luis Ceriz (one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in Toronto who runs one of the coolest movie rental and rare finds stores around) and Fangoria Magazine’s editor-in-chief Chris Alexander, it is Toronto’s first ever horror only convention, and it was a blast!  Catering to the horror fan who loves rare finds and weird stuff, there were many vendors selling DVDs and rare VHS horror films, as well as gifts, t-shirts, and original poster art and illustrations, but I suspect the biggest draw was the celebrity line-up.  Boasting such stars as Barbie Wilde mostly know as the female Cenobite from Hellraiser, Michael Slade author of Headhunter and Ghoul, Nivek Ogre of Industrial band Skinny Puppy (who I listened to endlessly in high school), and Lisa Marie of Mars Attacks, it was a veritable wonderland for fans of all things dark and diabolical.  Tom Savini was also there.  From special effects, to directing and acting, this horror dynamo was a revered name in the line-up.

I at first wasn’t going to attempt meeting him, for one because I thought it would be rammed and kind of like FanExpo, and secondly because I am an introvert by nature with awkward bursts of nuttiness.  I don’t know what to say to celebrities because after all, they are people just like me, and I don’t want to sound like a dork.  What was pleasantly surprising was the celebrity meet and greet area.  It was quite intimate, and it wasn’t crowded when I arrived, so I gave it a shot.  I mean, he was right there. Like, right there!  So I took the plunge, got an autographed photo of Savini and Danny Trejo in Machete Kills, a handshake and a picture taken with him for $30.  Unfortunately, I had nothing witty to say; the nuttiness crawled away and hid, and I didn’t bother to hand him my Rosemary’s Pixie card, even though he does follow me on the twitter (just sayin’).  I just smiled and said thank you.  In my defense, some dude would not stop talking to Savini while I was there, so I think that chatty dude owes me at least $15 for my troubles.  And I will find him…anyway, here is my photo-op with Tom Savini, who was really nice and called me sweetheart, and my weird hair (I swear it looked better in person):

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Pixie and Savini, just hanging out…

As for any other pictures, I didn’t take any at the event because I was there to buy stuff, and kind of forgot in my shopping frenzy.  I can however show you all the loot I got, including a rare find of Henry:  A Portrait of a Serial Killer for $12, and some top-secret but awesome gifts for my salt-of-the-earth-and-weird-like-me friend T-Bone:

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My loot. For obvious reasons, the top-secret gifts are absent because my friend is one of the 3 people that reads my blog…bah ha ha ha! I kid, folks, I kid…

I also wanted to pick up my pass for The Blood In The Snow Film Festival, happening from November 28th-30th at the Carlton Cinemas here in Toronto.  It’s a 3 day festival of 100 % Canadian horror, and it is always a good time. There was an Anchor Bay Screaming Lounge where a preview of the festival was screened, as well as indie horror movies Avenged (2014) and The Devil Incarnate (2014).  Check out the films and tickets for this year’s BITS fest here.  The convention also had a Horror-Rama Hangout, where you could attend Q & A sessions with some of the headliner guests.

I also hit the Black Fawn Distribution booth where there was a bunch of great Canadian independent film for sale.  Better known for films like festival hits Silent Retreat and Discopath, they were promoting a new horror called The Door.  I picked it up and was treated to an autographed copy by one of the film’s stars, Alys Crocker.  I also got a photo-op with her and had a quick chat with the film’s director, Patrick McBrearty.  They were both lovely and I can’t wait to watch this creepy film which caught my eye a few weeks ago on my twitter feed.

I wrapped my visit up somewhat early because plain and simple, I ran out of ducats.  I didn’t want to sell the farm for more memorabilia and movies, so after tracking Luis down to thank him for a great event, I took myself and my horror horde home.  I will definitely go back next year.  Horror-Rama fills a void for those of us that want a more specialized type of convention with all things horror for the die-hard fan and collector.  Go Horror!

 

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