CanFilm Five: Bad Monster Films Programmer Tyler Baptist

CanFilm Five” is the Canuxploitation blog’s ongoing guest column, which brings together prominent filmmakers, bloggers, critics and programmers to discuss their most loved offbeat Canadian films.

A Saskatoon-based film aficionado, filmmaker, reviewer, and film programmer, Tyler Baptist has curated Bad Monster Films’ monthly midnight screenings for the last four years. Described as “The Little Grindhouse on the Prairie,” Bad Monster Films brings revival cinema to the Broadway Theatre, Saskatoon’s only community owned and operated events centre, showcasing the very best and worst in cult/horror/exploitation cinema — including such Canadian classics as SCANNERS, THE BROOD, and CURTAINS  always in 35mm, the way they were meant to be seen.

For this CanFilm Five, Tyler offers up his five “baddest monsters” that roam the chilly corridors of Canuxplotation cinema.

Tyler: First off, I must confess that, if I didn’t obey to the rules of the CanFilm Five, “The Fiend” from SCIENCE CRAZED would take up this entire list. It is the ultimate “baddest monster” in Canadian film history, in every sense of the word “bad.” For that very reason (and since the movie itself is the most amazing experience I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing), it would only be fair to exclude it from this list. But do seek SCIENCE CRAZED out any way you can! However, I still plan on breaking the rules a bit and instead I am presenting my CanFilm 5 “baddest monster” types and their film counterparts. Their baddassery ranges from pure awesome and frightening to unbelievably hokey. (Please note: A few spoilers below.)

David Cronenberg tackled the effects of TV signals with hallucinatory perversion in VIDEODROME, but director Ed Hunt takes it even further in THE BRAIN by having Dr. Anthony Blake (David Gale) control human thought via a TV show and a giant telepathic hovering brain, which brainwashes people into a dreamlike trance where they kill for no reason at all. The opening sequence of this film is worth the admission alone, but once the brain in question has grown a face(!) after a savoury human meal it takes on the look of a giant Madballs toy and is hungrier than ever! Now that’s food for thought! Hilarity and chaos ensues. And speaking of big, how about a giant insect in William Fruet’s BLUE MONKEY? Steve Railsback and the hospital staff won’t be monkeying around when they run into this big bug who wants nothing more than to plant 500 to 600 insect eggs inside you and let them hatch while you’re still alive! Joe Flaherty—Count Floyd himself!—shows up in a a small, but wacky, role. Not Fruet’s best effort, but this practically-created giant bug flick is still worth checking out.

Intense, realistic, and seriously harrowing, RITUALS follows a group of doctors and good friends (including Hal Holbrook and Lawrence Dane) set out on their yearly get-together by backpacking in the Northern Ontario woods. But their trip is far from ideal as they are being taunted and picked off one by one by an unknown enemy who doesn’t appreciate medical science. RITUALS’ featured crazed and disfigured madman is one ex-army hermit you do not want to come across on your own adventures in the Canadian wilderness! And speaking of avoiding face-to-face conforntations with beast-men in the wilds, steer clear of HUMONGOUS. This dog eating bastard child knows not of human company and has run out of dogs to eat when he spots a group of teens shipwrecked on the urban legend-bearing St. Martin’s Island where he lives. Hidden in the shadows of the estate, which is long overdue for renovations, this big, hairy, bulbous-headed brute just wants to be left alone. My friend’s father was actually in the military with Gary Robbins, who played the deformed brute, and he can attest he was indeed humongous!

Your treehouse has fallen over creating a gaping pit in your backyard, your sister’s friends have levitated you at a party causing you to cry in front of them, and the boy who has a crush on your sister has just buried your dead pet dog in said pit. Talk about pre-teen troubles! But that’s the least of your worries now that these events, as recounted in the liner notes of a heavy metal album, have opened up a gate to hell from which tiny demon minions and the Demon Lord will arise to take over the world! In my opinion, THE GATE features the greatest stop-motion animation sequences in any movie—those little evil minions are badass! They can turn into zombies or evil versions of your parents, and even grant wishes that after a period of time literally turn to shit (as discovered in the sequel GATE II)! All hail Sacrifyx! While not nearly as cool as the minions in THE GATE, some nasty little dudes known as Trogs or Tra-la-logs are also set to emerge from yet another hole in the ground somewhere in Canada. In THE PIT, Jamie Benjamin (Sammy Snyders) doesn’t have any friends but he’s the only one who knows of the mythical Tra-la-logs that live in a pit a mile from his house. Confiding in his stuffed bear Teddy, the disturbed Jamie decides the Tra-la-logs are hungry and what better food to feed them than the bullies who always pick on him. The Tra-la-logs are yellow-eyed shaggy prehistoric pygmies that deserve their place on the Canadian cult creatures list as both campy and creepy.

Can you believe Canada has produced not two, but three(!) giant rat pictures!? Neither can I! First up, and the best of its kind, is DEADLY EYES (aka THE RATS). After munching down some steroid-contaminated corn feed the city’s rat population triples in size, literally, and they go on a rampage craving nothing but human ankles, wrists and hands! DEADLY EYES never lets up its pace and you know the movie isn’t going to disappoint when the first human kill is a freakin’ toddler. Plus, when you see the giant rats running around you will realize they are actually dogs dressed up in costumes! Next up, a single giant rat plays “cat and mouse” with Robocop himself, Peter Weller, in George P. Cosmatos’ OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN. I can assure you he’s not looking forward to having to re-renovate his brownstone after this vicious rat has destroyed it. Also features Shannon Tweed, who grew up in the same city I’m from, in her feature film debut. Finally, even bigger rats invade a college campus after a experimental growth hormone is injected and ingested by a group of test rats in GNAW: FOOD OF THE GODS PART 2. This “sequel” has really nothing to do with the original film or H.G. Wells’ story, but it’s so campy and zany it’s hard not to be entertained by it. Hell, a synchronized swimming team gets attacked and eaten by those oversized vermin—if that’s not entertainment, please tell me what is. This rat trap is loaded with cheese.

John Cassavetes chalked up another supernatural religious thriller on his resume with 1981’s INCUBUS, a heavy horror effort featuring possibly the most violent depictions of rapes ever committed to celluloid. And the cause of these rapes and murders not only involves witchcraft and a town secret, but a real nasty demon within that transforms its hosts to get out. I don’t know what’s more horrifying—the demon itself, or the amount of times Cassavetes says “sperm.” A seriously spooky Canadian gem that also features a few kick ass tracks from Canadian rockers FM used to brilliant effect on the soundtrack. And finally, a David Cronenberg film has to make this list—there is no other way. Cronenberg’s 1979 masterpiece THE BROOD—also my personal favourite of his films—features the most effective monsters in Canadian cinema history, the physical manifestation of our very own rage. The Brood are Canadian snow-suit wearing, belly button-less freakish childish imps that are prepared to bludgeon anyone to death so much as a heated thought exists in their master’s head. That this film was Cronenberg’s own meditation from an ill-fated relationship makes THE BROOD an even more twisted and disturbingly haunting exercise on the shape of rage. I can’t ever look at a snowsuit the same way again.

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  1. Great steaming poutines! The real monster in THE PIT wasn’t the shaggy yellow people eaters, it was Jamie’s bear Teddy. That manipulative creep had more broads naked in the first half of that movie than I saw in real life before college! ( which, BTW, is one .. but that beats my zero)
    I must say I will re-watch THE PIT after reading this article, not only for the creatures but for the greatest dialog ever put to screen.
    “Well; if it isn’t clumsy stupid.”

  2. Allan says:

    The rat in Of UNKNOWN ORIGIN is the only onscreen creature that actually made me jump out of the seat. That nightmare sequence FREAKED me out.

  3. Caelum says:

    Oh man, I wish I could watch The Brain right now. Another undermentioned monster in Canadian cinema is George Buza, who plays the orderly in that movie.

  4. Canuxploitation! says: