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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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ABCs of Canadian Horror

Ever since the Canuxploitation blog kicked off last July, we’ve always wanted to put together one of those fun alphabetical lists that occasionally make the rounds–in fact, seeing everyone have fun with that meme last year was part of the reason this blog was born.

Well, kudos to the NFB’s crackerjack Community Manager Kate Ruscito, who first came up with the idea for an alphabetical listing of Canadian horror and then assembled this incredible little tribute to Canadian horror film for us. Not only has she put our Photoshop skills to shame, she’s selected some suitably NSFW stills that really give a flavour for the diversity and transgressive quality of much of our horror cinema. Enjoy!

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CanFilm Five: Fangoria Editor-in-Chief Chris Alexander

“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.

Ooh, it’s scary, kids! Our guest for this special spooky Halloween edition of CanFilm Five is Editor-in-Chief of Fangoria magazine Chris Alexander. A former columnist for Rue Morgue magazine, Chris is one of the busiest and most passionate voices in horror, teaching film history, curating film nights, composing for movies, making films and writing about the genre that means so much to him.  For this CanFilm Five, Chris offers up his five essential Canadian horror films.

1. SHIVERS
Every David Cronenberg film should be on this list, of course–that’s just the way it is. But for the sake of space I will forever stick with his first two features, produced by Don Carmody and Ivan Reitman for Cinepix. Though thin on budget and almost jazz-like with the looseness and slipshod quality of its performances, SHIVERS simply IS David Cronenberg. All those ideas about sexual plagues, body betrayal, conspiracy and disgusting, fascinating visuals are splattered over every second of this one, unrefined, gloriously energetic and genuinely scary…and dirty. SHIVERS has that unique ’70s Cinepix  feel, like chilly death porn. I worship this film.

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Canadian Horror at 50 — CanCult’s Greatest Hits

Couldn’t resist sharing this fun two-minute video put together by Eyesore Cinema’s Justin Decloux for Astron-6‘s MANBORG screening at Toronto After Dark a few days ago. Set to the National Anthem, it’s a great, eye-popping overview of Canadian genre filmmaking that collects some of the most memorable moments from the last 50 years.

 

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Happy Birthday, Canadian Horror!

Canadian horror cinema hits a major landmark this month. It was exactly 50 years ago that the first feature-length Canadian horror film first hit theaters, kicking off a wave of brutal, bloody and brilliant genre film from north of the 49th. When Julian Roffman concieved the 3-D spookshow THE MASK, it’s doubtful that he could realize the influence and longevity his film would have–he simply wanted to show that a film shot in Canada could achieve U.S. distribution and compete with American films. And it did–THE MASK made it’s U.S. debut on October 27, 1961 in New York City, unnerving Halloween moviegoers with bizarre Freudian visions of ritual sacrifice (as witnessed in the following dream sequence).

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