Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – The Gate

12-year-old Glen (Stephen Dorff) has discovered a geode in his backyard after workers remove a tree. Glen’s friend Terry (Louis Tripp) comes over and they find an even bigger geode.

Glen’s parents go away for a couple of days and leave Glen’s older sister Al (Christa Denton) in charge. She quickly throws a party at the house. While the party is going on Glen and Terry crack open the geode and find a note with an incantation on it which they read. Unbeknownst to them they have opened up a portal or “gate” if you will where little demons have escaped. The creatures slowly start messing with Glen, Terry and Al.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – My Bloody Valentine

It’s the early 1980s and slasher movies are all the craze. In particular seems to be a trend of having the killer murder folks on a holiday. The producers of what was originally titled The Secret decide to try and cash in on the trend and The Secret becomes My Bloody Valentine.

Set in a mining town called Valentine Bluffs where during a Valentine’s Day dance 20 years ago several miners got trapped in the mine due to the negligence of a couple of supervisors who went to the dance. Only one miner survived, Harry Warden, who had to resort to cannibalism to survive and went mad and murdered the supervisors he felt were responsible for the accident. The town hasn’t had a dance until now but someone remembers the horror and Harry Warden might be on the loose.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Splice

After making Cube director Vincenzo Natali wanted to make Splice as his next film but budget and effects restraints forced him to wait until he felt the time was right.

Genetic engineers Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) work for a company called N.E.R.D. (Nucleic Exchange Research and Development) that wants them to create creatures that they want to use for medical purposes. Clive and Elsa have created a couple of weird creatures called Fred and Ginger which they hope to mate and use create all sorts of proteins for medicine but it’s not enough for them. They want to create a hybrid using human DNA.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Prom Night

The success of John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween created a surge of slasher films in the 1980s. In 1980 two slasher films hit the big screen only a few months apart. The first was Friday the 13th and second is today’s 31 Days of Horror feature – Prom Night.

Prom Night starts with a group of 11 year kids playing hide and seek in an abandoned convent. Young Robin wants to play too but the other kids scare her and she falls to her death. The kids promise each other never to tell anyone.
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REVIEW: The Meyerowitz Stories Acknowledges Lives of Unfulfilled Potential

Dustin Hoffman and Ben Stiller in The Meyerowitz Stories.

The easiest way to approach Noah Baumbach’s latest movie The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) would be to talk about Adam Sandler’s performance. Sure, Sandler’s work is way above average, but it’s hardly news that the low-brow comedian can act. He just chooses not to.

The real headline here should be that the film features Dustin Hoffman’s finest work in nearly two decades. The two-time Oscar winner is Harold Meyerowitz, the patriarch of a balkanized family with an artistic streak. Harold has three kids: Danny (Sandler), Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) and Matthew (Ben Stiller). Despite the fact Harold wasn’t a constant presence in their lives, Danny and Jean fuss over him. Alas, their father takes them for granted and seem to care only for Matthew, who lives in the West Coast.

The film is episodic by design, focusing alternatively on a different family member. Outside a considerable level of unhappiness, the Meyerowitzes share the feeling none of them lived up to their potential. Harold, a sculpting teacher, has problems accepting the fact a contemporary of his (Judd Hirsch) racked fame and fortune and he didn’t. Danny finds himself divorced, jobless and nearly fifty. Matthew is successful just on paper, while Jean goes through life unappreciated and lonely.

Location is fundamental for The Meyerowitz Stories. The film attempts to capture the artistic New York, the one slowly fading away due to gentrification. As it’s traditional with Baumbach, the script is impeccably written, and the filmmaker’s ability to capture difficult family dynamics (see The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding) is in full display. Their pathos and manias lead to several explosive combinations, without forgetting the underlying affection the characters feel for each other.

Long-standing feuds and petty squabbles often ring true and when they don’t, they are entertaining enough to keep the audience invested. Think of The Meyerowitz Stories as Woody Allen on steroids. Three and a half prairie dogs.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) premieres on Netflix this Friday, October 13th.

Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Shivers

It took Canada a long time to start trying to support a film industry but in the late 1960s the Canadian government started the Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC) which would later become Telefilm Canada. The vast majority of Canadian movies made since then have been with the help of Telefilm. Most of the films I have talked about so far have had some help from Telefilm.

In 1975 David Cronenberg finally got funding from CFDC aka Telefilm to finance his first feature film. Originally titled Orgy of the Blood Parasites, the title was soon changed to Shivers. In the U.S. it was changed to They Came from Within.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Ginger Snaps

Two teenage sisters have a huge fascination with death and have sworn an oath that they will die together. The community has been besieged with dog deaths lately, something has been stalking and feeding on them.

One night Ginger (Katharine Isabelle), the oldest of the sisters and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) go out to prank a girl who is bullying them at school. On their way Ginger gets her first period and the blood draws the creature that has stalking the neighbourhood to them and attacks Ginger.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Deranged

The story of Ed Gein, the notorious killer and body snatcher, has been the subject and inspiration of many horror movies. Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho was inspired by Ed Gein as was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and this 1974 Canadian horror film Deranged.

This movie tries to be a little more accurate to the tale of Ed Gein although the names have all been changed.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Pin

Leon (David Hewlett) and Ursula Linden (Cynthia Preston) grow up in a cold household where their father Dr. Frank Linden (Terry O’Quinn) uses a life-size, anatomically correct medical dummy called Pin to teach the children about life and their bodies while using ventriloquism to give the doll a voice.

Their mother dislikes the children going outside and also discourages them from having friends. Leon ends up befriending Pin as a resulting, believing the dummy to be real.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Happy Birthday To Me

After the success of slasher movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th, the screens were filled with movies about mysterious killers stalking and brutally killing teenagers. And several Canadian movies followed suit. 1981’s Happy Birthday to Me is one of the more interesting ones.

Directed by British director J. Lee Thompson who made such films as the original Cape Fear, The Guns of Navarone, two Planet of the Apes sequels and a really bad Casablanca remake called Cabo Blanco the movie follows an elite group of teenagers as someone starts to kill them off one by one.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane

“She was only a little girl. She lived in a great big house… all alone. Where is her mother? Where is her father? Where are all the people who went to visit her? What is her unspeakable secret? Everyone who knows is dead”.

It’s Halloween and Rynn Jacobs (Jodie Foster) is a 13-year-old that is seemingly living on her on in a big old house. People keep looking for her father but he always seems to be away. Naturally people are starting to become suspicious.

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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Pontypool

It’s winter and the snow is falling. A blizzard is upon the town of Pontypool, Ontario and shock jock radio personality Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) is on his way to work. While stopped Mazzy has a woman smack against his car window repeating the word blood over and over.

Mazzy makes it into the radio station and gets to work. His co-workers technical assistant Laurel-Ann Drummond (Georgina Reilly) and station manager Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) are the only other people at the station. Things move along like normal until Grant contacts the station’s helicopter reporter Ken Loney (Rick Roberts) who reports a group of people attacking other people. He is cut off and Grant and the rest of the station are shocked.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Terror Train

It’s New Year’s Eve at a frat house and the local medical students are playing a prank on freshman named Kenny Hampson (Derek MacKinnon). Alana Maxwell (Jamie Lee Curtis) lures poor Kenny into a room with the promise of sex and instead helps trick into almost making out with a corpse. The trauma from the incident sends Kenny to psychiatric hospital.

Three years later on New Year’s Eve, the students are having a party on a train. It’s a costume party but there is someone else on the train. Someone bent on killing the people responsible for the prank.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Cube

Five people wake up in a room. There’s door/panels in the centre of each of four walls as well as the ceiling and the floor. Each hatch leads to another identical room. Sometimes the rooms are booby trapped. Sometimes there not.

Nobody knows each other or knows how they got into the room. The group slowly starts moving from room to room using a boot to test for traps. Which works for awhile.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Dead Of Night

Andy Brooks (Richard Backus) is fighting in Vietnam when he’s shot by a sniper. As he falls, he hears his mother’s voice telling him to come home.

The Brooks family — father Charles (John Marley), mother Christine (Lynn Carlin) and daughter Cathy (Anya Ormsby) — receive a notice that Andy has died. Christine refuses to believe it.

Then Andy knocks on the door.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days Of Horror – The Brood

Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) is going through a tough divorce. She’s in a custody battle with her husband, Frank (Art Hindle) for their daughter Candace (Cindy Hinds). At the same time, she’s been seeing psychotherapist Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) at the Somafree Institute. Raglan uses a treatment he calls “psychoplasmics”, where patients let go of their emotions through changes in their bodies. And Nola definitely has some emotions she needs to release: urns tout she’s a very disturbed woman who was abused as a child by her mother.

Then Nola’s mother is murdered by a disturbing, goblin-looking thing while she’s looking after Candice for Frank. Next, Nola’s father is killed–also by a little strange creature.

At least it looks like Nola has responded to the treatment well. A little too well. Frank is convinced that something sinister is happening at Somafree.
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Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – The Mask

There’s a chill in the air, the leaves are changing and twilight falls upon us sooner and sooner. That means that it’s time for another 31 Days of Horror, my annual horror movie blog series. In honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary, the theme is Canadian horror movies.

Canada’s film industry has always been overshadowed by the Americans, who dominate screens big and small. That said, we’ve managed to put out some pretty amazing movies, and we’re particularly good at horror. To start things off, we have what’s considered Canada’s first horror movie: 1961’s The Mask, a.k.a. Eyes of Hell.
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Guillermo del Toro’s Monster Celebration

Photos by Suzy Lyster.

Synergy can be a wonderful thing: Guillermo del Toro has made Toronto his base of operations and has a new movie coming (The Shape of Water) awash in critical and commercial buzz. The Art Gallery of Ontario is consistently looking for ways to bring first-timers in and is open to non-traditional exhibitions. Put Del Toro and AGO together and you have “At Home with Monsters”.

The stunning exhibit, organized alongside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, aims to break into the Mexican director’s creative process. Mission accomplished: It actually feels like stepping inside Del Toro’s head.

“At Home with Monsters” features over 500 objects, many from Guillermo del Toro’s personal collection and others selected by the filmmaker from AGO’s storage. The exhibit gives us a glimpse of Del Toro’s Bleak House, his home-studio in L.A. The place is filled with strange art pieces that captured Guillermo’s imagination and inspired him at one time or another.

Most of the rooms in the exhibition are linked to Del Toro’s movies, and grouped according to the director’s favorite authors and subjects. Among them, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, outsiders, insects, Victoriana, death and the afterlife, and a striking corner dedicated to Frankenstein’s monster.

Comfort Creates Fear

Guillermo del Toro was at hand to introduce “At Home with Monsters” to the press alongside co-curator Jim Shedden. In perfect Del Toro form, the director came on defense of genre filmmaking and pre-establishment Disney (“Like Frank Capra, Disney is often misrepresented. Fantasia, Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty contain moments of great darkness.”) In spite of the remarkable collecting items he has lend to the exhibit, he doesn’t think of himself as a hoarder (“I can live without all of this”).

Not one to shy away from sharing his opinion about today’s political climate, Del Toro stated that “comfort creates fear” and brought up Tod Browning’s Freaks: “In the movie, normal people are horrible while the freaks have a cohesive, functional society based on accepting one another. Judging yourself by the standards of perfection is torture.”

“At Home with Monsters” will open to the general public this Saturday, September 30th, and is set to close January 7th, 2018. Del Toro himself will be signing the companion book and related items tomorrow Wednesday 27th from 4pm to 9pm. Some restrictions apply.

Sunday Matinee: The Lodger: A Story Of The London Fog

We’ve almost reached the end of September and that means that Sunday Matinee will be going on hiatus for the month of October as I’ll be doing 31 Days of Horror again. This year’s theme will Canadian horror movies in honour of Canada’s 150 anniversary.

Today’s Sunday Matinee is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 masterpiece The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog. This was Hitchcock’s third movie but his first thriller.
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Bee Nation Hits the Airwaves this Sunday

The definition of a crowd-pleaser, Bee Nation (Sunday, CBC, 9pm) revolves around an event with tension, drama and personal achievement ingrained in its DNA: The First Nations Provincial Spelling Bee competition, the first ever for Saskatchewan’s aboriginal communities.

It’s Documentary 101: Director Lana Slezic pics a handful of kids from the Kahkewistahaw reserve in SK and shows their lives and their preparation for the event. The spelling bee pool consists of 4,000 words and there is no standard training, and the level of parental support fluctuates wildly.

The approach allows some distressing information to seep through, like the fact schools in reserves receive considerable less money per student, forcing administrators to make some hard decisions regarding their institutions’ curriculum.

The children Slezic picks as main subjects are all overachievers, but each has a personality of their own: Mikayla is your traditional good student; For William, the sole idea of failure is devastating; The bullied Savannah is a model of personal drive. In each case, their parental figures see education as a way out, a chance to see a world beyond the reserve.

Heartbreak is unavoidable for the scrappy underdogs (the winners of the provincial chapter get to travel to Toronto to compete against private school kids with tutors), but makes for great cinema. It’s hard not to root for these kids or share the excitement of their first flight.

Bee Nation feels a bit stately (it’s presented under the CBC Docs POV banner and it shows), but the power of the story transcends the format.