Monday, 31 December 2012


I realize that I'm going out to the movie theatre less and less each year. I guess being middle aged means that I'm a little less tolerant of the hassles that come with movie-going than I used to be. Despite that, I still think that seeing a movie in a theatre with an audience that is actually there to watch the movie is the best way to go - There, in the dark and on a giant screen, the movie controls you as opposed to the other way around as in home-viewing. With that in mind, here categorically are the movies I left my lair to see in 2012, though not all of them we're released this past year.

I liked these movies:

Django Unchained
Holy Motors
Seven Psychopaths
Killer Joe
The Expendables 2
Moonrise Kingdom
The Dark Knight Rises
To Rome With Love
The Artist
The Woman in Black

I thought these were mediocre:

The Master
Snow White and The Huntsman
Dark Shadows
The Raven
Cabin in the Woods

I disliked this movie:

The Grey

Friday, 5 October 2012

"I Spit on Your Grave" (1978) Review

My review of the original "I Spit on Your Grave" is up at Retro Slashers. Out of necessity I pondered this flick more than many I've written about...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Supporting Bimbo Zombie Killers

In the February 2010 issue of P.E.I.’s arts and entertainment monthly The Buzz I wrote a profile of Fox Henderson, a local filmmaker. I'd started doing this series of Island Imagemakers pieces because there are a number of people creating content for screens in the home, on the laptop, and in theatres that I either wanted to know more about or because I felt they were underrepresented. One additional caveat: the subject had to have a measurable body of work behind him or her. Fox fit all this criteria.

The first of Fox’s work that I’d seen was an animated piece featuring a dead-on visual and vocal representation of Christopher Walken. That was followed by more animation and the realization that the name Fox Henderson had started popping up in conversation and online with more and more frequency. Despite this, I’d never met or even, to my knowledge, seen Fox. I began to develop an image in my head of someone working away at a computer 24 hours a day under dim lighting conditions, a lone wolf with talent who knew his way around a computer, and someone who was obsessed with special effects. I’m not sure about the other aspects, but my notions about his ability and his love of FX proved to be true when Fox and I finally met. We even talked about collaborating on a project about a travelling circus that wreaks havoc on a small town, but after I suggested we change the circus to a traveling STD clinic, things sorta came to a standstill. Wonder why?

One of the other projects that Fox has been working on is a trilogy of Bimbo Zombie Killer shorts. Having completed the first two (they can be seen here), he’s developing the third as a 12-part web series and subtitled Dead in the Water. As many independent filmmakers are doing, even those as established as James (Deadbeat at Dawn) vanBebber, he’s turned to Indigogo for public support in completing this project. If you’re interested in helping Fox bring his BZK trilogy to a satisfying conclusion, logon and help out. You can find out more about Fox here and see some of his work here.

Thursday, 19 April 2012


When select major studios began releasing their back catalogs as Manufactured on Demand DVD-R's, it was as if a new boutique cult DVD company had opened shop and unchained some of the weirdest and wildest films that Hollywood had locked away in its attic. Psychotronic movies that I half-remembered from childhood, had only read about, or that I'd never even heard of were coming at me, produced as they were ordered and only available online.

Adding to my enthusiasm for MOD titles is the fact that in most cases the picture quality is terrific and each film is shown in its correct aspect ratio. Elaborate menus are eliminated, as are extras, though sometimes a trailer will be included. Typically, the original poster art is reproduced on the jewel case, and that's something I wish more releases would adhere to. The only downsides are that most MOD's carry a hefty price tag, and due to licensing issues, they can be difficult to get outside of the U.S.

Over the past year I've ordered a number of MOD's, and I've been pleased with each of them. Titles in my collection include: Bad Ronald, Crescendo, Daddy's Gone A-Hunting, Night School, Nightwatch, Obsession, The Pack, and A Quiet Place in the Country; A Reflection of Fear, Hysteria, and Two on a Guillotine are on their way to me as I type. My favourite MOD's, however, are as follows:

(aka Night of the Eagle; MGM; Dir: Sidney Hayers; Starring: Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair, Kathleen Byron; 1962)

Based on the 1943 novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Lieber, Burn Witch Burn is a terrific supernatural thriller in which a university professor discovers that his wife has been practicing witchcraft. Forcing her to discard all her charms and practices, bad luck befalls the couple. As things grow steadily worse, the doubting professor has to put intellect aside in an attempt to put things right.

(Warner Archives; Dir: Philip Leacock; Starring: Cloris Leachman, Ross Martin, Ned Beatty, Dana Elcar, Louise Latham, Dabney Coleman; 1973)

A TV movie that I saw as a kid and have never been able to forget, this tele-thriller involves a disappearance at a dessert gas station diner. No one believes the vanished man's increasingly frantic wife, but we're on her side all the way. Cloris Leachman is terrific in this Richard Matheson-scripted flick based on his short story.

(Warner Archives; Dir: J. Lee Thompson; Starring: Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Donald Pleasence, David Hemmings, Sharon Tate; 1966)

Though it's a little mannered, Donald Pleasence, David Hemmings and especially Sharon Tate cut through the sophistication to shake things up. Their performances are right in line with the astonishing opening of this film that's as exciting as anything I've seen, due to its very New Wave-influenced construction. Deborah Kerr discovers witchcraft in the family as she follows her husband (David Niven) to his ancestral estate in the French countryside.

(Warner Archives; Dir: Kinji Fukasaku; Starring: Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel, Luciana Paluzzi; 1968)

Goofy 1960's outer space entertainment as astronauts blast into space to destroy an asteroid headed for Earth, only to return to their space station with the titular menace tagging along. It's up to the three sides of a love triangle (Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel & Luciana Paluzzi) to kick ass against the Green Slime. Fittingly entertaining theme song by Charles Fox.

(Warner Archives; Dir: George Blair; Starring: Joe Patridge, Marcia Henderson, Merry Anders, Jacques Bergerac, Allison Hayes; 1960)

Fantastically lurid shocker about a hypnotist (Jacques Bergerac) who entices beautiful women to disfigure themselves. The detective on the case (Joe Patridge) gets frantically involved when his girlfriend (Marcia Henderson) becomes a target of the hypnotist and his assistant (Allison Hayes of The 50-ft Woman). Though it almost comes to a dead stop with a 10-minute audience participation hypnosis scene, The Hypnotic Eye features more than its fair share of memorable set pieces.

(Warner Archives; Dir: William Castle; Starring: William Prince, Christine White, Jacqueline Scott, Susan Morrow, Ellen Corby, Jim Backus; 1958)

An unpopular doctor (William Prince) and his lovestruck nurse (Jacqueline Scott) race against the clock to find the doc's kidnapped daughter in Macabre, William Castle's first stab at horror. To add to the duo's difficulties (and the audience's schadenfreude), the little tyke has been buried in a coffin somewhere. The template that Castle would repeat in all his thrillers is in place here: a couple of good scares, a nifty though hole-riddled plot, and enough entertainment to kill the entire Cirque du Soleil troupe. And that's good enough for me.

(Sony Pictures; Dir: Bernard Girard, Starring: Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters, Severn Darden, Crol Cole, Skip Ward, Beverley Garland; 1969)

Stella Stevens retrieves her younger brother and sister from a mental institution years after one or both of them murdered their parents. She brings her siblings to live at the remote home where she works for Shelley Winters, and in so doing, opens a jarful of preserved gothic crazy behaviour. An update of Ladies in Retirement, the opening images of The Mad Room stayed firmly entrenched in my brain when I caught it on the late show as a kid - childish drawings of flowers and other objects scrawled in blood on the walls of the just-murdered parents' bedroom. Though you may figure out what's going on, it's always entertaining to watch Stevens and Winters claw at each other, and Beverley Garland shows her stuff as a woman who deals with her cheating husband by drinking.

(aka The Road Builder; Warner Archives; Dir: Alastair Reid; Starring: Patricia Neal, Pamela Brown, Nicolas Clay; 1971)

A daughter (Patricia Neal) and her blind mother (Pamela Brown) take in a young man (Nicolas Clay) to help them maintain their crumbling estate. Unfortunately, he's the serial killer whose been traveling England on his motorcycle, raping and killing women. Some memorable scenes, dialogue and performances in this Roald Dahl-written thriller. The three leads in particular are terrific; it's fun to watch Neal and Brown crush each other's spirits, and Clay is convincing as a charming psychopath. This was Neal's first film after suffering a stroke, and her husband Dahl cleverly incorporates it into the screenplay. The ending, while a nice variation on a theme, is undone by the way its put together, and by the fact that it's hard to look beyond the 1970's Tam o' Shanter Neal wears during the film's climax.

For a complete list of MOD's available, visit this Video ETA link. It's updated frequently. For those looking to purchase MOD's outside of the US, (replace "ca" with your country's suffix) to the end is an obvious choice. Although the company itself (other than the US version) doesn't sell them, sellers who use Amazon's service does. Diabolik DVD is also a good place to order MOD's, as they have no problem shipping outside the US, and they also have a section dedicated to the format.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

I Had a TV Cartoon Show!

So back in the early aughts, Copie Zero TV + Media, led by Executive Producers Campbell Webster and Matt Zimbel, brought And Yet I Blame Hollywood to television. "AYIBH" is the movie review cartoon strip that I still write/draw monthly for The Buzz. The concept of the strip and toon is that I, usually accompanied by whomever I'd actually seen the movie with, would comment on the flick while clips from the movie were interspersed with the animation. Its emphasis was/is on the experience of going to a particular movie, all in either five panels (strip) or two minutes (toon).

Copie Zero found a buyer for AYIBH in a late night TV show called "ZeD", broadcast nationally on CBC, and Campbell found an awesome animation house called Fatkat, owned by Gene Fowler, to animate it.

The production schedule worked this way: We'd pass potential film titles for review past the ZeD producers, they'd yay or nay, then I'd write the script for each episode. Copie Zero Associate Producer David Malahoff was the script editor, and when each script was good to go, Campbell would take voice actors Rob MacDonald, Matt Rainnie, Rob MacLean and Nancy McLure to Perry Williams' Virtual Studios to direct the recording of dialogue; I kept my distance during this part of the process for fear that I would go prima donna. When that was complete, the script and voice tracks would be sent from Prince Edward Island to the animators, located first in Nova Scotia, then later in New Brunswick. They'd e-mail back a storyboard version of each episode and we'd comment on each, and then they'd produce the final version. Ensuring that everything went smoothly along this chain was Copie Zero Associate Producer Ghislane O'Hanley.

The show (actually an interstitial or short) ran for a year, and it was a lot of fun to do. Overall, 24 episodes were produced; some were shown at film festivals. After broadcast, each episode was available on ZeD's website for a while, but when Zed was eventually cancelled, the website was taken down.

Just today, Gene Fowler published a link on his Facebook page to a cover story in Atlantic Business Magazine that charts his progress from Fatkat to his new company, Loogaroo. It's an interesting read and an excellent case study of what can happen in the animation industry. Gene and I traded a few comments back and forth, and then he directed me to a Vimeo page that features 20 And Yet I Blame Hollywood episodes. Glad to find that AYIBH has a web presence again, here's a magic link to them.