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.

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.

More controlled than its predecessor and a shade or two less effecvtive because of it, RABID is still a great big burst of Cronenberg psychosis and cold Cinepix trash. I love the opening pan, I love the silly science, the literal porn star acting (Marilyn Chambers is perfect), love the sensationalism of it and the cheap poetry…and complete lack of sentimentality. But most of all I love the glut of library music that make up the score including cues that were used in ILSA, TIGRESS OF SIBERIA and in a really haunting WWF commercial from years back that saw a big wooden ark spill out wooden animals onto the ground. Cronenberg became a much better filmmaker but nowhere in his repertoire is his message more honestly lurid than in SHIVERS and RABID.

An obvious choice as well, I’m sure–but who cares? This film has such a strange energy, is so funny and arch and jittery and even disturbing that I still get a kick out of it. A good movie? What does that even mean when it comes to horror. It works and I love it.

A terrible horror movie but a fantastic Canadian cult film, this is to many a secret handshake of Northern nonsense, with future TV weatherman Robin Ward essaying the role of delusional European mad doctor in training using mind control experiments on his peers and having psychedelic sex with co-eds. Cheap, trashy and deeply weird, the Toronto band Lighthouse is in this and the original title ‘FLICK’ is stamped in the corner of the screen over the opening credits. Weird. REALLY fucking weird. Plus my uncle’s old Boris Karloff model gets smashed at the end and that makes me have a deeper connection to it. Good luck finding it and if you do, good luck not loving the hell out of it.

The director took a pseudonym, the producers disown it and it’s never had a legit domestic DVD release but man, CURTAINS is my favorite slasher of all time. And its Canadian-ess makes it even creepier. The opening bits where Sam Eggar checks herself into an insane asylum are like SHOCK CORRIDOR meets THE SNAKE PIT with a dash of Herzogian oddness and it scared the tar out of me when I caught this one on Toronto TV station CFTO at 1am one night as a kid. The rest of it is somber, strange–that damned doll in the road!–and really creepy, especially the hag mask wearing, scythe wielding killer who ice skates to Burton Cummings music! Add in John Vernon and a crazy tense climax (and a weird hacking hiss when the killer strikes) and you have an unsung masterpiece of CanCon slasher gold.

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