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CanFilm Five: MONSTER BRAWL Director Jesse Thomas Cook

“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.

Jesse Thomas Cook is a Collingwood, Ontario-based writer, director and producer of independent horror films, including SCARCE, MONSTER BRAWL and EXIT HUMANITY. For this instalment of CanFilm Five, Jesse offers up his top five Canuxploitation films shot in the Georgian Bay region:

I live in Collingwood, Ontario – formerly a sleepy manufacturing hamlet that has now transformed into a bustling sea and ski resort town of 20,000 people. It is a Great Lakes community situated on the shores of Georgian Bay and shadowed by Blue Mountain and the Niagara Escarpment. And ever since Renny Harlin and Geena Davis stormed into town in 1996 to shoot scenes from their follow-up to CUTTHROAT ISLAND, a deplorable Hollywood action film called A LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (that would even make Canadian trash cinema blush), I was hooked on making movies in the local area. Nearly half the town was cast as extras in a Santa Claus parade scene, in what amounted to millions senselessly spent for just under 30 seconds of footage that made the final cut. Needless to say Mr. Harlin showed us firsthand the virtues of going ultra-low budget for genre filmmaking.

Our history of shooting in the area began with a slasher short called FORLORN (2005) and has since spanned three features with three more on the way. A little research into local film lore and we find that Georgian Bay and the towns and wilderness that dot its coastline have been used as locations for several piles of Canadiana film trash, including our very own 2007 abominable cannibal-torture porn effort SCARCE (shameless plug).

From Hollywood genre tripe like SKINWALKERS, which turned the nearby brew-town of Creemore, Ontario into the site of a werewolf turf-war, to Disney holiday dud ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS, which showcased Meaford, Ontario as the stomping ground for the creepiest angel ever (Harry Dean Stanton, who haunts kids in their bedrooms wearing a cowboy hat and a big ’80s duster), to more epic regional portrayals like the use of the Bruce Peninsula for scenes from the Oscar-winning film QUEST FOR FIRE, Georgian Bay and its surrounding terrain have been featured in a variety of films, but mostly Canadian schlock.

1. ABRAXAS, GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE (1990)
With an IMDB rating of 2/10, this is perhaps the trashiest film ever made in the local area. Somehow Canuck B-film veterans David Mitchell and Damian Lee were able to procure former wrestler and governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura, fresh off the heels of his turns in PREDATOR and THE RUNNING MAN. It also inexplicably had Jim Belushi in a cameo appearance and landed a coup by casting Canadian media mogul Moses Znaimer in a voice-over role. Ventura portrays an alien policeman sent to Earth to capture a fellow alien who has impregnated a woman with an evil mutant embryo. Most of the film was shot in the condemned Thornbury apple cider mill, a site I drive by on a daily basis.

2. CORPSE EATERS (1974)
Donald Passmore was fired as director just four days into this Sudbury-based orgy of cannibalism and was replaced by Klaus Vetter. CORPSE EATERS was funded by the Route 69 Drive-In (where it later premiered), and the driving force behind this Canadian cult favorite was Lawrence Zazelenchuk. This film was produced for a scanty $36,000 and marks the first zombie movie in Canada.

3. ZOMBIE BEACH PARTY (2003) (aka ENTER… ZOMBIE KING)
Another classic piece of Canadian cinematic rubbish that tried to gain notoriety by combining wrestling elements and horror (see ABRAXAS, above, BOUNTY HUNTERS and MONSTER BRAWL). Although parts of this film were shot on Toronto’s kooky Centre Island, the majority of it was produced in Wasaga Beach, Ontario. Keeping with the absurd tradition of Canadian nonsensical production decisions, the beach party was shot during a chilly February on Georgian Bay. The only crew members that came out of this disaster unscathed appear to be SPX artist David Scott who would go on to do handle effects work on JACK BROOKS: MONSTER SLAYER, among other Canadian horror films, and producer Bill Marks, who went on to produce CASINO JACK!?!?

4. PONTYPOOL (2008)
The third zombie flick on the list is more of a highbrow intellectual zombie film, directed by cowboy hat-wearing beardsman Bruce McDonald, and probably doesn’t qualify as a Canuxploitation movie, nor does it necessary have much to do with Georgian Bay, although some exterior scenes were shot in Stayner, Ontario, about 10kms from the shoreline. But McDonald is no stranger to Great Lakes filmmaking, having filmed ROADKILL  in Sudbury and HIGHWAY 61 near Lake Superior, and screenwriter Tony Burgess lives in the local area, and there are several references in the film to the Georgian Bay area, including a mention of Highway 26, which is the main thruway between Collingwood and Owen Sound and hugs the coast of the bay. Also, as Mr. Burgess is a good friend of ours and has cameos in our last two films, I would be remiss to not include his zombie film that features no zombies. Tony is also a big fan of schlock cinema and has introduced us to a number of doozies from the trash pile.

5. RITUALS (1977) (aka THE CREEPER)
Okay, now I’m stretching this list a little bit, but one of my favorite unknown Canadian cult films is RITUALS, directed by Peter Carter and starring a grizzled Hal Holbrook, who leads a group of doctors on a wilderness adventure, only to wake up in the morning to find that someone stole all their shoes in the night, and that they are being stalked by a disfigured killer. RITUALS was filmed a mere 50kms from the northern coast of Georgian Bay, on Lake Superior, and its iconic use of the severed head on a pike inspired us to use the same gag in our winter survival schlock-fest SCARCE.

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  1. George White says:

    There seems to be a tradition of cancon wrestling, ie http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1104079/companycredits?ref_=tt_dt_co