Canuxploitation on DVD: Fall 2012 Preview

Halloween means horror and that means it’s the perfect time for DVD companies to finally get around to releasing some of those creepy Canadian masterpieces they’ve kept under wraps for months. This year is no different, as we see another handful of titles hitting shelves including more releases hitting Blu-ray than ever before.

TERROR TRAIN (Shout Factory)
Release Date: October 16
Read Our Review

Fox didn’t do much with the original barebones DVD release of the seminal CanSlasher TERROR TRAIN, and even though it’s not a personal favourite around these parts, it’s hard to deny its rightful place in the tax shelter boom. If you missed it the first time, now’s your opportunity to get all abroad for Shout Factory’s bang up special edition DVD/Blu-ray.

DEATH SHIP (Scorpion) + Blu-ray
Release Date: November 6

Read Our Review

This classic, underrated Canadian shocker makes its R1 DVD (and Blu-ray!) debut courtesy of Scorpion–it’s definitely our pick if you’re looking to grab a Canadian cult film to curl up with on Halloween. Creepy boats, Saul Rubinek, George Kennedy going nuts–this one really has it all.

Release Date: November 6
Read Our Review

Scorpion continues to impress with a release of this tax shelter obscurity. Though the company has cautioned that the DVD was sourced from a video master–apparently all that was avaialble–they’ve made it available for a decent price. Either way it’s great to have this rarity back in circulation.


Barry J. Gillis’ THE KILLING GAMES Hits Calgary

Good news for “THINGS-ites,” genre addicts and other fans of outré offerings–THINGS star and WICKED WORLD director Barry J. Gillis’ newest cinema experience will receive a midnight screening The Calgary International Film Festival on September 22, 2012. Fans of Gillis’ earlier films will definitely be excited to check out the world premiere of THE KILLING GAMES, which involves a would-be vigilante whose daughter is repeatedly attacked after she witnesses a murder. Gillis is no stranger to portraying brutality on film and this may be his most intense work yet, as the film was previously turned down by Edmonton International Film Festival for its excessive violence.

Tickets are already on sale, so check out the trailer:


CanHorror Lectures Live at The Black Museum

By now, anyone keeping up with us on social media probably has heard of The Black Museum, a new Toronto-based lecture series that we are launching this fall with horror writer and zombie expert Andrea Subissati. Taking place at the Projection Booth – East, we have put together a program that features several lectures that should be of interest to Canadian horror film fans.

Two celebrated Toronto-based directors will be appearing. Our debut event on September 27 will feature CUBE and SPLICE director Vincenzo Natali discussing the use of architecture and space in horror films, while Astron-6 animator/director Steve Kostanski, a relatively fresh transplant from Winnipeg, is slated to talk on stop motion nightmares on October 25. In addition, I’m going to be delivering a modified version of a course I taught last year at the Miskatonic Institute in Montreal on how real-life medical atrocities in Canada have had a profound effect on the themes of Canadian horror films. November 22 will be the first time I will be presenting the course in Toronto.

Here’s a still-relevant trailer for last year’s event, created by Blue Sunshine:

And while not explicitly Canadian in content, you should also check out the rest of the series, including Andrea’s own presentation, “Unearthed: A Cultural History of the Zombie” on October 11 and Rue Morgue podcast guru Stuart Feedback Andrews’ look at WHITE ZOMBIE as the birth of zombie cinema, including a screening of the essential 1930s classic.

Tickets will be available at the door for $15 each, but you can also grab them online now for  $12 apiece or just $50 for a “membership” that gives you access to all five lectures.


Festival of Fear’s Canadian Horror Panel — Details

I’ll be speaking on the past and future of Canadian horror at FanExpo’s Festival of Fear this upcoming Saturday as part of a new project launching this fall. If you’ve been following us on Facebook or Twitter, you may be aware of  The Black Museum, a new Toronto horror film lecture series I’m collaborating on with horror author Andrea Subissati.

On Saturday, August 25, join us at 2pm in room 717 for a presentation and panel discussion that offers a glimpse at the past, present and future of Canada’s love affair with homegrown horror cinema. Andrea will be moderating this session that will kick off with an overview of the last 50 years of Canadian horror film, followed by a discussion of what we might see in the future, featuring myself and Rue Morgue Magazine scribe Jim Burrell and Rue Morgue Editor-in-Chief Dave Alexander.


The Staff Picks Shelf — Summer of VHS

As every movie buff knows, the best way to enjoy a season of beautiful weather is to hide in the basement with the drapes shut, popping VHS tape after VHS tape into an ancient top-loading VCR. In celebration of this special, especially sweaty time of the year, we asked some of our resident contributors here at Canuxploitation.com to tell us what their favourite tape is to curl up with on an uncomfortably humid summer evening.

What better Canuxploitation flick to celebrate 2012’s sweltering summer than THE HEATWAVE LASTED FOUR DAYS? Riding a wave of rear-guard feature film investment by the National Film Board in the pivotal tax shelter year of 1974, Doug Jackson’s film achieves a fascinating balance of old-school social realist values and film noir cynicism. Heading an archetypal Canadian cast, Gordon Pinsent’s rowdy cameraman is a perfect noir shmoe — cynical, greedy, philandering, and in way over his head as he tangles with ulcerous escaped con Lawrence Dane, down-to-earth femme fatale Alexandra Stewart, nice guy boss Al Waxman, and the great Jon Granik as the elusive Mr. Big.

Set in the thick of another seasonal scorcher, Jackson’s script is terse and compact, and his direction teases some impressive details out of an entertainingly cheesy, macramé-owl 1970s milieu. And yet, the film’s flat documentary-style cinematography, plus the laid-back performance habits of the cast, turn this into a viewing experience more DRYLANDERS than DETOUR — human-scale not mythic, trading in existential despair for a stealth moralism. And speaking of cheese, how about Ben Low’s folkie-strummy Greek chorus of a soundtrack, too Canadian by half. Out of such cultural conundrums, in this case, arises a very fun night of summer cinema, perfect backyard fare for the slumming cultural nationalist.

During summers in the Mott household, I did everything I could to avoid going outside and begged and borrowed (but never stole—that would be bad) to get the cash I needed to rent tapes from the local Video Station. At a certain point (which—purely coincidentally—occurred at the same time the family’s old VCR found its way into my bedroom) my selection criteria had less and less to do with finding quality entertainment, as it did find anything that might prominently feature naked ladies in it.

In those pre-Internet days, this was often a crapshoot, so certain tapes that delivered in this area were rented more than once. Of these, none was rented more than SCREWBALLS—the Roger Corman produced PORKY’S rip-off that I vastly preferred over the original. Even at that age, I recognized it as being highly dubious in actual entertainment value, but in terms of naked ladies, it delivered in ways that made my heart soar (among other physical reactions). Though I probably only actually watched it all the way through once during all that time, I found that I remembered it virtually scene-for-scene when I picked up the DVD a couple years back.

Now, that’s my idea of a perfect Canadian summer VHS title.

As a Texan there are few things I dread more than the brutal Summer heat. When this time rolls around, I usually cool off with a cold brew and my favorite Canadian slice of incomprehensibility, SCIENCE CRAZED. There are few experiences more refreshing than sitting in an air-conditioned room and watching legs move through a hallway for 45 minutes. Many VHS-era titles specialized in the “all filler, no killer” approach to filmmaking, but SCIENCE CRAZED elevates it to an art in a way that will redefine all your accepted notions of what is/isn’t a movie. In place of character development or complex plotting we are given a mix of slasher conventions, indelicately recycled footage, and otherworldly post-dubbed dialogue. The result is the most singular and fascinating motion picture I’ve ever had the opportunity to lay eyes on. Other recommended seasons for viewing SCIENCE CRAZED: Spring, Autumn, Winter.

Having myself just returned from a mini mid-summer departure where I spent plenty time being the ball and put up the Donkey Kong high score at a Regina Saskatchewan arcade, PINBALL SUMMER hits the nostalgic bull’s-eye and wins my Summer of VHS trophy. The only thing that could (and still can) tear me away from those ol’ horror or raunchy comedy video store value racks in the middle of the sweltering prairie sun would be a trip to the corner store for a little Double Dragon action.

When pretty cheerleaders, delicious, unhealthy grub, campfire light and an authentic combo of all my favourite hobbies isn’t even enough; Germain Gauthier’s iconic synthesized rock masterpiece theme song brings the film full circle with the catchiest tune ever to roll during the opening credits of a teen comedy. While modern home video hasn’t been kind to this upbeat summer pinball tournament adventure, I always welcome my worn tape-quality copy to “just come as you are” and remind me exactly what the true spirit of summer is all about!

For me, summer isn’t complete without a viewing of the 1980 slasher, PROM NIGHT. Starring a pre-NAKED GUN Leslie Nielsen and scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis, the film is a great summer fright flick in that it takes one of the pivotal summer experiences for North American teenagers, the high school prom, and turns it into a night of terror.

The first time I saw PROM NIGHT was in February 1981, when it made its network television debut. The broadcast premieres of HALLOWEEN and THE FOG were still several months away, so it was PROM NIGHT that put me on the road to becoming a big Jamie Lee Curtis fan. The film would be a television staple during the ’80s, and I’d find myself watching it whenever stations like WUTV Buffalo 29 would show it. Later, I’d go on to buy it on VHS, then DVD, where I’d play it once a year on a warm, summer night. I still find myself doing that.

Over the years, PROM NIGHT has been referred to a HALLOWEEN rip-off and criticized for its polyester fashions and disco music (some of which I quite happen to like, by the way). It may not be the best movie ever made, but I love it to death. And the fact that it’s still one of the better-known Canuck horrors is a testament to how entertaining it is.

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