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CanFilm Five: Horror Writer and Playwright Alexandra West

“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.

Alexandra West is a freelance horror journalist who lives, works and survives in Toronto. Her work has appeared in the Toronto Star, Rue Morgue and Post City Magazine among others. She is a regular contributor at Famous Monsters of Filmland and you can find more of her horror ramblings and reviews at her blog, Scare Tactic. Aside from her work in horror criticism, Alexandra’s play, FINAL GIRL, is running in Montreal from October 26 to 28th at 11pm.

Taking place at Freestanding Room (3rd floor at 4324 Boulevard Saint-Laurent), FINAL GIRL stems from West’ theatre background and her love of horror. The play uses a slasher film structure to explore the nature of the killers and victims within your typical slice-and-dice film. Using Carol Clover’s writing in Men, Women and Chainsaws as framework and with a childhood spent watching the best horror films Rogers Video would rent to a minor, FINAL GIRL is an intimate look at a beloved genre that’s fun for the whole family, if the family is all over 18 and doesn’t mind some graphic language.

For this seasonally appropriate edition of CanFilm Five, Alexandra takes a look at the five awesomest women in Canadian horror.

Sarah, MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)
From one of the best slashers ever made, Sarah is one cool cucumber. When she and her friends get trapped in a mine during the Valentine’s Day dance with a killer on the loose she is the only one to keep it together and think logically about getting out of there with losing her head, unlike some other people. When you watch more than your fair share of slasher movies involving teenagers doing silly things, it’s so refreshing to see an adult woman, in peril, but keeping it together that it’s hard to go back to over-the-top silliness. She is my slasher role model.

Nola, THE BROOD (1979)
Nola may be a contentious choice, as critic Robin Wood called THE BROOD a reactionary film that shone a negative light on the womens’ liberation movement, but for me it draws attention to furious nature that repression breeds. Nola is both a mother trying to save herself and a dangerous force of nature that attacks all those that would stand in her way. She is the lady version of the Queen Alien and just as bad ass.

Ginny, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981)
Being popular is hard. It’s even harder when there’s a killer on the loose.  Melissa Sue Anderson (yup, the daughter from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE) is fantastic as Ginny, our Final Girl in this ’80s-tastic slasher, but she’s all the more impressive against the winding plot that would give John Grisham a headache. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME plays out like the best surprise party ever because the ending is such a kicker, and Ginny and is the perfect vessel to discover this horror gem.

Barb, BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)
Canadians make the best slashers, if evidenced only by this list. Forget affecting, subdued, Egoyan-esque dramas– Canadians defined, broke and remade the slasher genre starting with this classic. BLACK CHRISTMAS is my favourite slasher. It’s creepy, funny and unforgettable. Seriously, I haven’t been able to look at a dry cleaning bag without seeing an instrument for my imminent destruction since I fist saw this movie. For all of the wonder that this film gives me, Barb may be my favourite part. While she’s no Final Girl, she’s one of the most entertaining characters in horror and every time I watch BLACK CHRISTMAS I’ll root for her ’til the end.

Brigitte, GINGER SNAPS (2000)
I love an awesome good girl. And Brigitte is not only an awesome good girl, but an awesome sister. While she fights to save her sister Ginger from turning into a werewolf, she also has to define herself against Ginger’s evolution. Brigitte is an excellent rendering of a young woman trying to find herself and break away from a toxic relationship. It’s a remarkably identifiable movie for any young woman, not just the hairy ones.

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Q&A — GAME Writer/Director Josh MacDonald

Although we don’t usually cover short films here at Canuxploitation, our curiousity was piqued  last month when we heard Josh MacDonald, writer of one of our favourite Canadian horror films from last year, THE CORRIDOR, had taken a seat in the directors chair for a brand new horror short. GAME debuted at this year’s Fantastic Fest, and not only does the East coast-shot film deliver the gruesome goods, it also features a piece of winking Canadiana–the immediately recognizable theme song from the Hinterland Who’s Who films.

Torontonians will have a chance to see GAME  playing before Toronto After Dark’s Closing Night Film on  October 26. In fact, in the week before Halloween, GAME will play genre festivals on four different continents. See the film’s website and Facebook page  for more news and screening info. (Also keep an eye out for GAME producer Angus Swantee’s own short film TORTUROUS at many of the same fests!)

We talked to Josh about the stupidest lines he ever wrote, why Nova Scotia is still a hotbed of film talent and generally messing with audiences’ heads.

How did the short come about?

Even the title of GAME is meant to be something of a declaration of purpose — it definitely has meaning within the story (as in the hunter-hunted relationship between the characters)—but in a wider view it’s meant to imply I’m just “playing in a sandbox” here, goofing around with a new set of tools. After writing a couple of features, I was encouraged by my collaborators to try directing something for the first time.

I always try to write my screenplays in a really visual manner anyway, hoping readers will be able to conjure a “mind movie” for themselves while flipping those pages. My friends suggested I try, at least once, to realize that “mind movie” for myself in full, without passing over the baton (to totally mix my metaphors).

It was around this time that I was approached by local producer Angus Swantee, who wanted to apply for CBC-TV / Film Nova Scotia’s Bridge Award. The award gives an emerging team an opportunity to make a short film, and we eventually got selected to make GAME. In the history of the award this piece is something of a risk, I figure, because it’s genre filmmaking (and a piece particularly front-loaded with “Woman In Peril” imagery), so I’d totally like to thank the Bridge for their belief in us, and for the opportunity. To a degree, I think our local timing was right, applying on the heels of THE CORRIDOR and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN.

… Continue Reading

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Contest: Attend Astron-6 Director Steve Kostanski’s Stop-Motion Lecture!

Toronto film fans, horror buffs and animation junkies! We have two double passes to give away to the next event in the Black Museum lecture series that we’re sponsoring and co-curating at Toronto’s Projection Booth – East. Astron-6’s Steve Kostanski, the Toronto-based director of FATHER’S DAY and BIO-COP, is presenting “Terror Frame by Frame: Stop Motion Nightmares on Film,” featuring some of the stop-motion films that have inspired his own work. It promises to be a memorable event, with beer and prizes available as well as all kinds of clips of crazy stop motion monsters, gore and general mayhem.

To win one of the double passes,  all you have to do is answer the following question to contest@canuxploitation.com

Which of Steve’s films will be playing at The Royal Theater in Toronto starting in November?

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Motion Picture Purgatory: Mondo Nude

We’re pleased to offer the first post in a new ongoing series by legendary Montreal cartoonist Rick Trembles exclusive to Canuxploitation! Twice a month we’ll be featuring an all new strip/movie review by Rick focusing on Canadian exploitation and B-films done in his usual unique style.

For this debut instalment, Rick looks at the Anthony Kramreither-backed feast of flesh, the always sleazy doc MONDO NUDE.

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CanFilm Five: Black Museum Curator Andrea Subissati

“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.

Along with Canuxploitation.com founder Paul Corupe,  Andrea “ Lady Hellbat” Subissati is a curator for The Black Museum, a limited engagement of horror lectures and screenings based out of Toronto’s Projection Booth East theatre. Taking place throughout the fall, this event offers the chance for horror professionals of all kinds to share their experience, knowledge and love of the genre in a casual and interactive atmosphere.

Andrea is also a sociologist and writer on cultural studies and the horror film genre. In 2010, her first book on the social impact of zombie cinema was published under the title When There’s No More Room In Hell: The Sociology of the Living Dead. The book has been reviewed in Rue Morgue and Fangoria magazines, and Lady Hellbat has become a voice in horror journalism thanks to her well-received guest spots on the Rue Morgue podcast. She has also appeared on Lianne Spiderbaby‘s Fright Bytes webcast series, as featured on the Fangoria site.

In preparation for her  upcoming Black Museum lecture, “Unearthed: A Cultural History of the Zombie,” (get tickets now!) Andrea offers something a little different from our usual CanFilm Five lists — the top five reasons Toronto is a great place to live for horror fans.

Filming destination
Toronto is now home to horror royalty George A. Romero, and sightings of genre directors Eli Roth, Paul WS Anderson and Guillermo Del Toro are not uncommon. In fact, Mr. Del Toro has such a soft spot for the big smoke that he treated the city to a four-course master class on a selection of Hitchcock films last year and he even hinted that he’d love to do it again. Lucky us!

The Toronto Zombie Walk
Toronto did it first, and 2012 marks the TZW’s 10th anniversary. With special guests John A. Russo and Russ Streiner in attendance, this year’s march of the undead is sure to be the biggest and the best one yet.

Rue Morgue Magazine
The home office of the most established and respected genre publication is located in the West end of the city. Formerly a funeral home, the office kept the chapel to use as a screening room and the whole place is so cool they should really charge admission for tours… but they do it for free. Another perk of Rue Morgue being in the ‘hood is Cinemacabre (the Rue’s monthly horror screenings) and the best Halloween party around.

Toronto After Dark Film Festival
TAD is only seven years old but you wouldn’t know it to see the lineups encircling local cinemas every October. What started as four days of screenings has since expanded to “Nine Nights of Cinematic Mayhem”, where the indie and international horror, sci-fi and cult films receive red carpet treatment, with an added emphasis on integrating the local horror community. Great movies, guaranteed.

The Black Museum
OK, so we’re not as big as Rue Morgue or TAD (yet) and, if you’ve been paying close attention, maybe the writer of this list is a wee bit biased. But you’ve got to admit, The Black Museum is a worthy addition to the pantheon of horror events and institutions listed above. For the price of a night at the movies, Black Museum guests take a tour into the blood and guts of movies with courses led by some of the biggest names in the biz.

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