Blizzard of Gore: A Q&A With Blood in the Snow Programmer Kelly Michael Stewart

While it’s becoming more common to see retrospective screenings of classic Canadian horror and cult films, the options for seeing contemporary Canadian horror in a theatre setting are few and far between. Fright Nights film programmer and Fangoria writer Kelly Michael Stewart is trying to change that with his latest screening series, The Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival. This three-day festival, happening this weekend at the Projection Booth-East, celebrates the best of today’s Canadian horror filmmaking, and will feature many directors and cast members in attendance. More details and advance tickets are available online. To get the lowdown on this new series, we talked to Kelly about getting local recognition for our homegrown talent, the importance of seeing these films in a theatre, and why Toronto is about to explode as a horror film capital of North America.

Why did you decide to start this series?

The Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival evolved out of my monthly Fright Nights film series that I’ve been hosting and programming at the Projection Booth for the past year. Fright Nights focuses on all types of horror films, but there has been amazing amount of genre/horror filmmaking to come out of Canada in the past few years. The feedback I received from filmmakers was that they were getting plenty of attention all around the world, but that they tended to be overlooked by the Canadian film festivals. This was interesting to me, because whenever I showed a Canadian film at Fright Nights it always drew bigger crowds than my non-Canadian programming.

So Blood in the Snow really came about from seeing a large hole in the marketplace that needed to be filled. Toronto in particular is a hotbed for horror talent right now. It reminds me very much of the Seattle music scene 20 years ago where it feels like things are about to explode.

… Continue Reading


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


Cinepix’s Unseen Poster Collection Going On Display

Dave Alexander’s “If They Came From Within” art show isn’t the only movie poster exhibit happening right now at Fantasia–when you finish checking out fictional Canadian horror films at Cinematheque Quebecoise, head over to BBAM! Gallery for a glimpse at the real deal, on display now through August 20. BBAM! curator Ralph Alfonso, in partnership with Greg Dunning, Cinepix founder John Dunning’s son, have put together a unique look at some of the movie memorabilia treasures in Dunning’s vast archives. Featuring rare posters including B-movie gems from around the globe, Cinepix’s own cult classics and even commissioned artwork  for films that Dunning never managed to make, it’s a wonderful chance to take a look at some of our genre film roots and support a great cause. 

In anticipation of the exhibition’s opening party at 4pm on July 27 at BBAM!, We talked to Ralph Alfonso and Greg Dunning about what to expect.

How did this exhibit come together?

RA: The exhibit came about because we have the late John Dunning’s vinyl LP collection for sale on consignment on behalf of his estate. Greg and I were going over those details and started talking, and I asked about posters and memorabilia. Greg said that although a lot of material had gone to the Cinematheque Quebecoise and other archives, there was still a lot of personal stuff from his dad’s collection. John kept copies of everything so it’s astounding just how much material there is and how extensive Cinepix was in its distribution.

We agreed having a cool exhibition would be a great fit for us since we’re a rock ‘n’ roll pop culture gallery. When I contacted Kier-la Janisse to talk about getting her involved, I mentioned that there were also some posters available for movies that Cinepix never made. She then turned me on to the Fantasia Festival and “If They Came From Within.” After some back and forth and meeting Dave Alexander in Toronto at NXNE  it all came together. It’s amazing how it all worked out. I owe it all to Kier-la for connecting us — it was really fortuitous timing!


Do you have any insight as to why John Dunning kept this wealth of movie memorabilia over the years?

GD: My dad was a packrat, but there’s another, more interesting reason. John’s father (Samuel John, but known as “Micky” in the biz) was owner/operator of the Park, 5th Avenue, and Century theatres in Verdun. S.J. died unexpectedly in 1944 and my dad, at 17, had to take over the running of the three theatres–this was his “official” baptism by fire in the business, starting in exhibition. In the early ’50s when TV came, grosses at the theatres dropped cataclysmically, and ultimately my dad repurposed the buildings or sold them.

S.J. kept all the original posters that came from MGM (directly from Louis B. Mayer himself, since he had Norma Shearer on contract and the actress lived across the street from S.J. on Roslyn, in Westmount) and the other studios that would provide him with product. These were not cheap reproductions since the technology didn’t at the time for mass printing. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of silent film posters (Chaplin, DW Griffiths, Fritz Lang, etc.), posters from the first talkies, and more. Well, when the theatres were being closed and the basements had to be cleaned out, John’s mother just threw everything out and had everything burned. Today, what was in that basement would be worth millions today. My dad never forgot that incident and he still could barely talk about even last year without getting emotional. So from that day on, he kept everything–and I mean everything. My new job is inventorying, cataloging, and finding a new home for his archive.

What’s the your favourite poster for a Canadian film that you’ll be displaying?

RA: Absolutely EAST END HUSTLE — it’s the quintessential 1970s exploitation poster. It’s pretty much perfect in every way: tag line, fonts, design, photo (yay! Montreal streets and skyline). It was in a special container that John Dunning had marked as “historical”.

What did you give to the “If They Came From Within” show?

RA: Again, this was hooked up and facilitated via Kier-la. We contributed seven posters to the show, the centrepiece of which is an amazing original painting by the same artist who did all the ILSA posters (Alain Thomas, although at the time I submitted the poster, I thought it was either Basil Gogos or John Duilio). The painting was originally commissioned for a movie called THE JECKYLL LIGHT (never made) and showed a ship run aground and a bikini clad woman and ship’s crew being attacked by baboon men! The painting was then revised to change the baboons into zombies for a new project called FLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (also never made). That painting was framed and hung in John Dunning’s office alongside all the ILSA paintings.

The other posters for unmade Cinepix films we found in a promo book that was sent to studios and investors in hopes of raising money and partnerships to finance a series of horror/SF features: VORTEX, ALIEN ASSAULT, ERUPTION, and my personal favourite… VAMPIRE BIKERS.

These were mini glossy posters with a plot outline and “film stills” on the other side. The original files can’t be found so we scanned these professionally and blew them up to mini-poster size. Final scripts exist for all of these porjects and I believe Greg is still pursuing trying to get these made or maybe create graphic novels. We will have mini-posters for sale at BBAM! Gallery of all of these unmade films.

I understand the posters on display are going to be available for sale, correct?

RA: Every single poster is for sale and in many instances we have multiple copies. There are some really amazing things: Russ Meyer’s MOTORPSYCHO, DEEP THROAT II, WRESTLING QUEEN, CANNIBAL GIRLS, EUGENIE DE SADE. A lot are European (German, Italian, French) and gigantic (63″ x 47″). This show is obviously geared for the Fantasia crowd but the archives are vast and there is lots we aren’t showing including a trove of press books (both domestic and foreign), and a ton of  humorous  ’70s  porno posters. Maybe in the spring or later in the fall we can do another show.

I understand that the money raised in the show will be used to establish a trust for filmmakers. Can you tell me a little more about that?

GD: When you talk to anyone that worked with my father they will tell you that he was nice, honest, generous, and inspirational. He was twice that as a father. He believed that if you are not forgotten then your life was not wasted. I met recently with Fantasia president Pierre Corbeil and mentioned this objective. We both agreed that the best way to create a legacy for John would be to sponsor a meaningful annual cash award at Fantasia. I think that if Fantasia had existed during the Cinepix production years that it would have been the natural venue for Cinepix premieres. Secondly, Cinepix was a Montreal institution, like Fantasia has become, so it is the right place for his legacy to reside.




Blue Sunset: A Q&A With Programmers Dave Bertrand and Kier-La Janisse

After just two years, Montreal’s premiere screening space Blue Sunshine will officially dim its 16mm projector bulb on May 18, 2012. More than just a screening venue with some of the most eclectic cult programming this side of the border, co-founders Dave Bertrand and Kier-La Janisse ‘s focus on all strains of Canada’s filmmaking past made Blue Sunshine one of the best places to catch everything from pioneering Montreal gay classics of the 1970s to vintage local ephemera, forgotten maple syrup porn and just plain ol’ sleazy tax shelter trash.

It was during last year’s Fantasia Festival that I met Dave and Kier-La (in the flesh, anyways) and made my first visit to Blue Sunshine; they subsequently invited me back in November to deliver a lecture on Canadian horror for the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies program hosted there. During both visits, it was clear to me that (amongst all the other fantastic programming) the BS co-founders’ support and understanding of Canadian films of the last few decades was more sophisticated than anything happening in other cities, including venue-rich Toronto. While maybe inevitable, the closing of Blue Sunshine isn’t just a loss for local cinephiles, but also for anyone who cares about Canada’s film history, and knows why it’s important to keep these films unspooling in front of screens.

In advance of Blue Sunshine’s final Canadian screening on May 10, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN… MR. LEONARD COHEN, we talked to Dave and Kier-La about why Blue Sunshine had to end, memories about some of his highlights of the last two years and their feelings on audience attitudes towards Canadian filmmaking.

First off, why did you decide to end Blue Sunshine? Oh why, God, why?

DB: Oh God! Well, when Kier-La and I set out to attempt this crazy experiment – that is, starting our own micro-cinema in a city neither of us have ever lived in, and with no financial backing to speak of – a two-year lease was about the maximum we thought we could make it work. Our lease expires at the end of May, and ever since we opened in June 2010, we’ve learned that, though this business is creatively rewarding on so many levels, financially, it just doesn’t work. Despite keeping our film licensing and rental costs to a minimum, the cost of the rent a commercial space on overpriced Boul. St-Laurent, excessive utilities rates, and our numerous attempts to legitimize the business with the city of Montreal, all pricey and ultimately unsuccessful – even when we did really well, attendance-wise, we lost money. On top of that, we’re really, really tired and our mental health is unraveling. But hey, it’s a miracle we made it last two years, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with all we’ve accomplished! We’ve left a big dent on the Montreal film world. I’m honoured that this was a part of my life.

Blue Sunshine has always featured a healthy amount of Canadian films. Why was it so important to Blue Sunshine to showcase local movies?

KJ: Honestly I don’t feel we showed enough local movies! But because we often played repertory titles, we’re able to have some perspective on how these films are relevant to our development, individually and as a country. Most Canadians, when they talk about Canadian films, tend to characterize them as middling and bland or just trying to ape American films. It’s only with some distance that you can really see that there’s a strong identity there. It wasn’t until I lived in Texas that I started to appreciate Canadian cinema really. Well, I always liked the tax shelter flicks but that was because Canadian industry seemed so embarrassed by them and so it was fun to side with the underdog. But once I moved to Texas I started to really see Canadian cinema on the whole as unique and worth fighting to preserve. There are things about the films that will be especially funny or poignant to Canadians in whatever region the film is from — specifically films made in Quebec. The best thing about moving to Montreal was discovering how much amazing French-Canadian cinema there is that no one talks about in the rest of Canada. And it is electrifying to sit in a room full of Francophones who are watching a movie that’s engrained in their culture – like the time we showed APRES SKI, and I couldn’t even understand the dialogue, but I was just feeding off the energy in the room. We would have showed way more of these films but the Cinematheque kind of had it covered.

DB: Most Canadian cinema still remains an untapped resource – the Canadian public of non-film professionals remains largely oblivious to their own cinema history, mostly due to lack of exposure and the enormous weight of Hollywood. Personally, it gives me great pleasure to dig out some obscurity from the tax shelter era and toss it up to an unsuspecting audience. As Kier-La says, being Anglophone outsiders, it was a shocker to realize just how much film history there is in Quebec that we knew NOTHING about, and are only still just scratching the surface of. I can say from experience that screening a Montreal-based film is ALWAYS a draw — here, like anywhere, people love to see their own neighbourhood and history up on the screen. So why not play something with a local connection, which excites a crowd and brings in greater numbers, and is an unheralded gem to boot?

… Continue Reading


They Came From Within London — A Q&A with SHIVERS Programmer Vince D’Amato

Canada is set to invade the UK later this month in a brand new screening series that will shine a spotlight on one of the more neglected aspects of Canadian horror, the independently produced films of the 1990s. “The Influence of the Tax Shelter Films”, an all day movie marathon curated by Shivers,  a new London-based film society. In anticipation of their upcoming screening on May 20, 2012 at The Roxy Bar and Screen, we caught up with one of Shivers’ co-founders, Vancouver-based film fanatic Vince D’Amato, to talk about the films Shivers has selected, the group’s plans to expand back home and why Canadian genre films matter.

How did you get the idea to start the Shivers film society?

Justin, a friend of mine who runs the Filmbar 70 film club in London, came up with the idea of screening a series of Canadian films, like a mini-festival. We thought about programming and, after a couple of months, decided to form Shivers as a one-time event. However, after putting all that work into scheduling and designing ,we discovered a lot more interest in this idea than we’d initially anticipated, so we decided to take it even further.

… Continue Reading

Pages ... 1 2