Wednesday, April 22, 2015

TOP 5 SHOCK STOCK MEMORIES

This weekend is the annual SHOCK STOCK horror/exploitation convention, Apr 24-26 in London, ON. Celebrating its 5th year, SHOCK STOCK is the premier destination for fans who like their horror greasy and creasy. 

We at Horror in the Hammer have been attending Shock Stock since it debuted in 2011, and we have yet to find a crazier or more fan-friendly convention than Shock Stock. Part party and part carnival, SHOCK STOCK is the reel-deal weekend experience packed with vendors, screenings, and of course, awesome horror/exploitation movie guests.With SHOCK STOCK V just around the corner, we got to thinking about previous years and all the great people we've met, wonderful friends we've made, and legally-suspect shenanigans we've had. With that in mind, we've come up with a list of our


TOP 5 SHOCK STOCK MEMORIES

1.) Ilsa: She Wolf of Shock Stock (2011)



Shock Stock's first year in 2011 was a ground-breaking experience. New on the scene, Shock Stock didn't command the fan-following it has now, but you knew that organizers James Bialkowski and Jake Grimbro were on to something special. The big "get" of that year was  Dyanne Thorne aka. Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS. Star of the 1975 Nazi-sexploitation film and numerous other morality shockers, Thorne was nothing like the sadistic fascist-fetishistic character she portrays. She and husband Howard Maurer were nothing but kind, welcoming, and genuine people with an honest love for their fans. To cap off their appearance, Thorne and Maurer held a charity auction for fans to bid on rare and one-of-a-kind memorabilia including shooting scripts and props and posters from their films. Truly a moment we will never forget.

2.) Sprocket Damage with a side of Brain Damage (2014)



Last year's Shock Stock party went out of control on the Saturday of that weekend when the band Sprocket Damage took the stage at London's Call the Office. Sprocket Damage, a "five piece head bangin, string snappin, pressure applyin' musical tour de force," consists of Shock Stock organizers and friends who shred strings and melt faces with fist-pumping renditions of horror and exploitation tunes. And talk about sacrificing yourself for your art! That blotch of red you see there is front man Jake Grimbro's very own blood -- the same precious red fluid he leaked all the way back to the 1209 hotel party. Sprocket Damage returns to Shock Stock to play this Saturday's show at Call the Office. Anything could happen. Sprocket Damage is THE REAL.

3.) Choke on Captain Rhodes' Voice Mail (2012)



Shock Stock 2012 was a wild time! As by-law officers patrolled the convention floor at Centennial Hall fearing that organizers might try to skirt regulations with a nude performance by adult star Joanna Angel, there was an electricity in the air. A major conductor of that current was wild actor Joe Pilato, better known as Captain Rhodes in George A. Romero's Day of the Dead. We approached Pilato to get a signature for one of our crew who couldn't make it because he was stuck at work, and when Pilato found out about that he demanded that we call our buddy on the phone. When the call went to voice mail, Pilato took the phone and proceeded to ream out our buddy as Captain Rhodes!!!! Imagine checking your messages and finding out Captain Rhodes left you a personal voice mail calling you a lazy puss bucket. What a memory!

4.) Chin to Chin with Robert Z'Dar (2014)




At the end of March this year, we sadly lost cult actor Robert Z'Dar. Best known for playing the titular baddie in the Maniac Cop series, Z'Dar had roles in big Hollywood films like Tango & Cash as well as fan-beloved low budget films like Samurai Cop, Beastmaster 2, Frogtown 2, and many more. Z'Dar was a featured guest at Shock Stock in 2014, and although his health was not what it once was, the force of his personality and charm had lost none of its power. We had the real honour of sitting down to interview Z'Dar, and boy did he have stories to tell. With a gift for gab as mighty as his chin, Z'Dar wasthe  stuff of movie legends and a genuine, down-to-earth human being. We will never forget "dropping Z'Dars." RIP.

5.) GOBLIN LIVE!!! (2012)




What could possibly top seeing GOBLIN -- the band responsible for so many iconic Argento and other horror film soundtracks -- live and in person? Shock Stock 2012 blew our collective minds with a live and intimate night of morbid music as Claudio Simonetti and Maurizio Guarini joined forces with bassist Chris Gartner and drummer Great Bob Scott to become GOBLIN. One word: chills. Fangs of GOBLIN should check out Maurizio Guarini's booth and new album at Shock Stock 2015 this weekend.

For the unpredictable, the unbelievable, and the unforgettable, SHOCK STOCK is the place to be. Order your tickets now for the mother of all Canadian horror/exploitation weekends. SHOCK STOCK, baby!


Monday, April 20, 2015

THE DROWNSMAN Splashing onto Home Media in May

This May, THE DROWNSMAN is coming to a tub near you....

From Black Fawn Films and Breakthrough Entertainment, and the team behind ANTISOCIAL, Chad Archibald’s THE DROWNSMAN is set for an iTunes and Video-On-Demand release on May 1st and a DVD/Blu-ray launch on May 12th from Anchor Bay Entertainment in the U.S. and Canada.


After a successful festival run, The Drownsman -- the tale of a supernatural killer that lurks beneath the water's surface -- is set to make a splash among horror fans who first fell in love with classic films such as Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Hellraiser. Like these films, The Drownsman is a horror/suspense film that puts an original face on horror while creating a nightmarish character with its own rich mythology.

“We set out to make a film that created a new supernatural villain like the classic horror films of Clive Barker and Wes Craven, something that has become rare in the horror industry over the last decade,” explains writer/director Chad Archibald. “Similar to Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, Pinhead and Jason Voorhees, we wanted to create a villain with a rich history and a juicy hook that could make an appearance in a few viewers' nightmares.”

SYNOPIS

After almost drowning in a lake, Madison finds herself bound to a life of fear. Unable to describe what happened to her during the moments she was underwater, Madison begins to develop hydrophobia: an abnormal fear of water. Crippled by her post trauma, Madison attempts to shut out the world around her but, her fear intensifies when she begins to be haunted by the vision of an evil figure. After watching her struggle for over a year, Madison’s four friends stage an intervention in a desperate attempt to help.

In doing so, they accidentally open a floodgate to a dark place where none of them are safe. As Madison and her friends dive deeper into the dark history of the evil that haunts them, they’re dragged one by one to a horrifying place where they may never return.

Directed by Chad Archibald (Neverlost, Ejecta). Written by Cody Calahan (Antisocial) and Chad Archibald.

Starring Michelle Mylett (Antisocial), Caroline Korycki, Gemma Bird Matheson, Sydney Kondruss, Clare Bastable and in the horrifying title role, Ry Barrett (Neverlost, Kingdom Come, If A Tree Falls). Produced by Christopher Giroux (Antisocial, Dead All Night) and Chad Archibald.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE (Review)

LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE (2014)

review by AARON ALLEN

Directed by
Torin Langen
Navin Ramaswaran
Zachary Ramelan

(with contributions by Kelly Michael Stewart, John Forbes, and Jason Tannis)

Starring Jamie Elizabeth Sampson, Nick Smyth, Colin Price, Caleigh Le Grand, Brian Scott Carleton
-------------

Plenty of top-notch indie horror is on display in Late Night Double Feature, a new Canadian horror anthology premiering tomorrow at the 2015 Canadian Film Fest. Assembling three of Ontario's best up-and-coming genre directors, Late Night Double Feature is stuffed to the gills with all the things that make genre fans go "Ooooooh." But like every overstuffed delicacy -- Double Stuf Oreos, for example, or Foie Gras -- Late Night Double Feature may be simply too much for some palates. 


It's late night on low budget broadcaster TV13, and that means it's time for Dr. Nasty's Cavalcade of Horror: a cheesy late night horror and exploitation movie presentation hosted by the eponymous Dr. Nasty and his sidekick Nurse Nasty. The cast and crew are gearing up for a double-feature broadcast of the cannibal horror film Dinner for Monsters and sleazy art-house thriller Slit, but what we soon come to realize is that the real horror is not on screen but instead behind the scenes.


The only thing really holding Late Night Double Feature back from being a complete smash is a complicated tonal disparity that plagues every one of its segments. Divided up into its individual parts, Late Night Double Feature boasts thoroughly enjoyable over-the-top camp, shocking and disturbing psychological and physical horror, TV and film industry satire, action, suspense, romance, and revenge by some truly outstanding young Canadian filmmakers. It's a dark yet gleeful throwback to the days of late night horror hosts and anthology horror films. Unfortunately, none of the featured segments really mesh well with the other, and as the framing device of Dr. Nasty's Cavalcade of Horror morphs into one of the segments, it effectively leaves very little to contextualize the stories. I can see this schizoid jumble playing really well in a genuine late night feature with drunk, attention-deficit friends or a drive-in where people are constantly coming and going, but for the solitary viewing experience, Late Night Double Feature never feels quite unified.

Let's take a look at what works and does not work in each segment.

"Dinner for Monsters"
directed by Zach Ramelan
screenplay by Raven Cousens, Zach Ramelan, and Kelly Michael Stewart


A failing chef (Nick Smyth) is hired to cater a party at a hunting lodge for a group of pompous, affluent cannibals (this is not a spoiler: Dr. Nasty spills the beans on the cannibal angle before the segment event starts). If he fails to prepare a mouth-watering human delicacy, he just might end up on the menu himself. Despite its lush, shadowy visuals and Tales from the Crypt-style morality, the acting in "Dinner for Monsters" is over the top of over the top. Even the Cryptkeeper himself would blanche at the hammy exposition and lack of subtlety here. It's all really far too arch and, unfortunately, undercuts the horror of the piece. A supporting role by Raven Cousens helps ground some of the insanity, but I still can't tell if "Dinner for Monsters" was supposed to be silly, scary, or both. Definitely could have benefited from a more singular focus.

"Slit"
directed and written by Torin Langen


Wow! The stand out portion of Late Night Double Feature has to go to Torin Langen for "Slit," the tale of a gigolo for masochists (Colin Price) whose encounter with a deranged client (Caleigh Le Grand) puts his life in danger. Although the story is a bit thin, it's supremely well-acted and tightly paced. Dark, moody, bold, and atmospheric, "Slit" cuts right through the campiness of the surrounding anthology and gets the closet to producing genuine chills. "Slit" begs for a longer-format treatment. Late Night Double Feature is worth seeing for this segment alone, although there is plenty more to enjoy as we'll see.

"Dr. Nasty's Cavalcade of Horror"
directed by Navin Ramaswaran
screenplay by Kelly Michael Stewart


Part framing device and part horror tale, "Dr, Nasty's Cavalcade of Horror" is a really fun look behind the scenes of a low-budget horror host show where feuding personalities, sexist backdoor politics, raging egos, and creative apathy combine for a night of bloody revenge! Dr. Nasty (Brian Scott Carleton) is a washed up drunk with an iron-clad contract that means he can abuse his co-star Samantha (Jamie Elizabeth Sampson) with impunity. Samantha does all the heavy lifting on the show while starring opposite Dr. Nasty as his sidekick Nurse Nasty. How long before Samantha finally snaps? Blending comedy, drama, and horror, "Dr. Nasty's Cavalcade of Horror" also boasts some great performances, especially that of Jamie Elizabeth Sampson and Jason Tannis as Orson the soft-spoken and silently pining production manager. Carleton is so on-point as Dr. Nasty that you absolutely hate his guts by the end. Again, the only downside to this segment is that it's broken up over the course of the entire film so the audience is repeatedly disconnected from what's going on. And that's a damn shame, because director Navin Ramaswaran brings a naturalism to the proceedings that balances camp and horror yet might be easy to overlook when sliced up between the dizzying number of shorts.


Late Night Double Feature also showcases three fake commercials. The first is a trailer for the film "Night Clown" by Kelly Michael Stewart in which Robert Nolan plays a horrifying spectral clown, although I have to admit that I really didn't understand what was going on. "Killer Mortgage Rates," directed by Jason Tannis, is definitely the best: a cheesy late-night commercial spot bought by a local company that tries hilariously too hard to cater to the horror fan demographic. And "Encephalopithecus" is a low-budget and dirty trailer for a convoluted, black-and-white horror film directed by John Forbes that's accompanied by a marketing voice-over so desperate to entice an audience that it's forced to exclaim, with genuine enthusiasm, that the Toronto Film Herald praised the film as "relatively in focus."



When all is said and done, I found Late Night Double Feature a rocky experience but have no reservations about recommending it as an exciting and fun showcase of Canadian indie talent. Everyone involved in this film, from the writers, directors, and producers all the way though the makeup, effects, and music people are on the verge (and deserving) of a big breakthrough. Late Night Double Feature may just be the collective effort that helps launch them onto the next great big thing.



Get your dose of late night thrills and chills at the Late Night Double Feature Canadian Premiere this Thursday (March 26) at the Canadian Film Fest in Toronto. Advance tickets are selling quickly! 

BUY TICKETS


LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE
|| Canadian Premiere! ||
w/ Burn the Tapes (World Premiere)

March 26, 2015
The Canadian Film Fest
The Royal Cinema - Toronto, ON

Thursday, March 19, 2015

FATHERS OF WOLFCOP: Interview with Lowell Dean, Leo Fafard, and Emersen Ziffle

by Aaron Allen

WOLFCOP -- the tale of drunken cop Lou Garou and his transformation into a gun-slinging and whiskey-pounding werewolf at the hands of a demonic conspiracy -- is the latest in a long line of kooky Canadian genre exports to hit VOD, DVD, and Blu-ray, sparking the imaginations of horror fans the world over.

After competing in and winning the Cinecoup Film Accelerator challenge and getting picked up by Raven Banner Entertainment, Wolfcop became an instant hit with fans and has developed a carnivorous cult following among connoisseurs of horror and outlandish comedies. With Wolfcop screening this Saturday night in Hamilton, ON on a double-bill with werewolf thriller Late Phases at Fright Night Theatre, Horror in the Hammer interviews the three men we could call the fathers of Wolfcop, each responsible for giving distinct life and look to Canada's favorite beast with a badge: Lowell Dean (writer/director), Leo Fafard (star), and Emersen Ziffle (special effects makeup).

Wolfcop aims to conquer the independent horror film world
Horror in the Hammer caught up with the Wolfcop crew at the Anchor Bay booth at Fan Expo 2014 in Toronto, Ontario. Under a huge banner of a naked Wolfcop (ala George from Seinfeld), heavy promotion was underway to spread the gospel of Garou with interviews, a screening of the film, and a hair-raising, full-costume appearance by Wolfcop himself. Upon meeting Dean, Fafard, and Ziffle, the trio definitely struck us as a more-than-meets-the-eye crew of unique personalities. Lowell Dean, a reserved, soft-spoken, and unassuming director, was not the kind of man one might expect to hatch an idea like Wolfcop, but one need only speak with him to realize he's as hardcore a movie buff as they come with a seriously intense appreciation for the power of ridiculous cinema. Flanking Dean was star of Wolfcop, Leo Fafard, also not the kind of man one might expect to see surrounded by the conspicuous nerdiness of a comic convention. Fafard was high-energy, extremely outgoing, and undeniably mischievous. We'd be lying if we didn't spy a bit of Wolfcop's bar-brawling wildman twinkle in his eyes. And knitting the two together was a true FX whiz kid, special effects makeup artist Emersen Ziffle, who looked like he'd be just as comfortable quietly holed up in silence surrounded by moulds, latex foam, and rubbery fake body parts as he was eagerly chatting it up on the convention floor about sci-fi, horror, and the magic of monster-making. And as we soon learned by talking with these three talented gentlemen, it is precisely their unique and contradictory personalities that helped give Wolfcop his own.

Wolfcop's a Director's Best Friend
LOWELL DEAN

It all begins with Lowell Dean, whose previous credits include the zombie horror feature Eeire 13 starring American Mary's Katharine Isabelle. Where exactly did such a twisted idea as Wolfcop come from, and how much of himself does Dean see in his creature creation?

"I’m just really messed up," Dean admits with a laugh. "A lot of the tone and the story is in me, but hopefully very little of the character. Wolfcop is just a dark, twisted tale and I just really enjoy movies that are really ridiculous. There’s a feeling that we've seen everything. Superhero movies, especially. Origin movies, especially. For me, I always do think of Wolfcop as hopefully a fresh origin story for a character and an anti-hero and fun. I was just saying that my favorite movie of the summer was Guardians of the Galaxy  because it brought fun back to a genre that we've seen people desaturate and pull the fun out of."

Maybe that love of the fun and ridiculous best comes out in Wolfcop's infamous sex scene. Yes, kiddies, Wolfcop features a hazy softcore sex scene straight out of a late night Cinemax flick between a woman dressed as Little Red Riding Hood and a nude (and very hairy) Wolfcop. It's silly....and also hilariously awkward.

My what big....uh...you know....
"That’s the thing," said Dean, "I thought it would be really funny and we hoped it would be funny, but I have yet to be in a screening where anybody laughs in that scene. They just go quiet. They only start laughing when they’re smoking after it."

Clearly, shooting a werewolf-on-woman love scene was not without its complications. "You know, I felt oddly at home shooting that sex scene," Dean commented when asked. "I don’t know what that says about me. It was one of the scenes I was thinking about before there even was a script. I was thinking, we had never seen a woman and a beast. It’s either two humans or two beasts.

WOLFCOP: YOU'LL LAUGH YOUR FACE OFF
With scenes like these and full-on sequences of gleefully gory carnage, souped-up muscle cars, gun play, explosions, and monsters on the loose, Wolfcop's one hell of a ride, especially for the midnight crowd where Wolfcop has found some of his biggest admirers.

Dean has seen it first hand. "It’s like a mathematical equation," he says. "The later the screening has a correlation to the enjoyment. I’m sure liquor’s involved too."

But it's not just just drunken Canadians who are grooving to Wolfcop. The film also went on a highly successful European festival tour that had UK audiences, in particular, howling.

"It’s actually, knock-on-wood, shocking the response that the movie is getting outside of Canada," said Dean. "I’d actually argue it’s getting a better response outside of Canada than within Canada. . . . Maybe in the UK, a small Saskatchewan town is oddly bizarre and charming."

LEO FAFARD

The Man
Speaking of "bizarre and charming," two words could not be more endearingly apt to describe lead actor and the man under the fur: Leo Fafard. Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Fafard has more camera and technical credits to his name than acting roles, but you wouldn't take Fafard for anything but a seasoned and hardcore character actor for the way he brings Lou Garou / Wolfcop to life. It takes an actor with true dedication, and that special blend of "bizarre and charming" quirks we mentioned, to endure the hours of makeup required to make Wolfcop a reality on set and then endure the same process to promote the film in full makeup by jumping out of airplanes, scaring up interest on the streets of Canada's major cities, or shaking hairy palms at horror conventions. We caught Fafard just before he underwent his Wolfcop transformation for Fan Expo 2014 to ask him about becoming one of the most recognizable indie film characters in the Canadian genre scene. Given the popularity of Wolfcop through online social media, does it translate into the real world? Do people recognize him on the street?

The Monster
"Pretty rare that anyone puts the two together," Fafard tells us."I guess Lou Garou is just not that recognizable in person. Because I pretty much look exactly like him most of my day-to-day life. My hair is the same. I’m usually unshaven and mostly unkempt.  But you know, it does happen and it’s kind of weird, and not just in our hometown of Regina either."

Wolfcop's definitely a wild man. There must be some kind of catharsis in being able to lose oneself in the character and, perhaps, act in ways one couldn't in normal life, don't you think?

"I don’t know if I act any way that I wouldn't outside of the costume. I’m a bit of an ‘acter-outer’ anyway. I don’t conform very well to society’s rules and regulations as it is. But as far as there being a cathartic moment or change from being Leo Fafard / Lou Garou to Wolfcop. . .  I like to sleep in the [makeup] chair for the most part. [Emeresen] does his thing, and I go to my happy place, and I know that when I wake up or when I sit up and [Emeresen’s] done, I am somebody else. I get a chance to go into the character a little bit, so there is a real transformation that happens. When I get up out of the chair and throw the suit on, I definitely feel there’s something else in me."

EMERSEN ZIFFLE

As Fafard said, the mad scientist responsible for bringing out his nner wolf is none other than Emersen Ziffle. Ziffle helped create the look of Wolfcop for the original pitch trailer and stayed on the project to work closely with Lowell Dean to reshape Wolfcop's look for the final feature.

"We really loved the trailer and how angry and scary he was," Ziffle explained, "but we really wanted to bridge the gap between that and what Leo brings to the table as a character. We did about 10 designs and gradually whittled it down to something that retained a bit of humanity but kept it kind of scary."

The original look for Wolfcop was decidedly more feral and frightening, with black eyes and deep cracks in his face. What inspired his initial look?

WOLFCOP: BEFORE PLASTIC SURGERY
Ziffle explains: "I tried to do more dog-like features. If you’ve ever seen in a dog’s mouth they have this weird black lip thing that goes from fur to that and is just like this flappy fold of skin. I tried to incorporate that."

Fafard becomes Wolfcop at Fan Expo 2014
Such attention to detail and Ziffle's willingness to experiment, work on the fly, and fuse Lowell Dean's vision for Wolfcop with Leo Fafard's take on the character made him an invaluable asset to the success of Wolfcop. In fact, we had to wrap up our interview because we were going to lose both Ziffle and Fafard to the makeup chair where Ziffle would transform Fafard into the beast in full view of the Fan Expo audience before unleashing him on a murderous rampage of photo opportunities. Clearly, practical makeup effects were at the heart of what made Wolfcop so great. So we thought we'd pose writer/director Lowell Dean one parting question:

If he were given this Faustian deal -- 200 million to make WOLFCOP 2 but Wolfcop had to be computer generated -- would he do it?

Playing Wolfcop really gets under the skin
"That’s a really tough question," Dean said after a pause. "How the hell do you turn down 200 million dollars? Maybe Emersen can design the CGI model? Honestly, if we had a budget of 200 million, I would be fighting and pushing really hard to do as much practical as possible. I think there's a real resurgence of practical effects. Look no further than the new Star Wars films. All you hear is that they're trying to do as much in camera as possible. I don't think that's by accident. I’m sick of movies with no stakes. I’m sick of a thousand digital ships fighting a thousand digital ships.  Practical is grounded and it's real and it usually keeps things more intimate, as a rule."

Of course, Leo Fafard had to have the last word.

"If you had that budget," he deadpanned, "you could make Lou CG and Wolfcop practical."
----------

Come experience Wolfcop for yourself this Saturday at FRIGHT NIGHT THEATRE. 9:30pm. $10 advance, $12 at the door, or $15 on a double-bill ticket with LATE PHASES at 7:30pm. 


The Staircase Theatre - 27 Dundurn St. N., Hamilton, ON

TICKET PURCHASE LOCATIONS

* ONLINE (Visa or Mastercard)

* HAMMER CITY RECORDS (cash-only): 228 James St N Basement @ Rear Off Robert St. Hamilton, Ontario

* CRASH LANDING (cash-only): 1189 Cannon Street East. Hamilton, Ontario

Monday, December 29, 2014

RISE OF THE HARVESTER: BOOK ONE by Steve McGinnis (Review)

RISE OF THE HARVESTER: 
BOOK ONE (2014)

review by AARON ALLEN

Original art and story by Steve McGinnis
Text on page one by Matthew Hancock
Additional Writing and Editing by Ryan M. Andrews
-------------

If you're a fan of classic 80's slashers like Friday the 13th and Halloween, you'll want to read Rise of the Harvester: the new horror graphic novel series by artist Steve McGinnis

The first book, which launched at Horror-Rama 2014, gets the ball rolling with all the severed heads, gory eviscerations, and brutal kills that slasher fans crave. Although undeniably rough in the art and typography department, Rise of the Harvester: Book One is nevertheless a very satisfying tale of murder and revenge. Sequential art not for the squeamish!

Rise of the Harvester: Book One serves as a grisly introduction to our titular killer: a mysterious, hulking man in a scarecrow mask known as the Harvester. The book opens with the comatose body of a serial killer as it rides in the back of an ambulance, transported away from the closed down asylum where he once resided. The paramedic at the wheel believes the mute killer patterned his crimes on the legend of the Harvester. The Harvester, the driver explains to his rookie companion, is a lurid legend that traces his origins back to a farming community in the early 1900s where a tragic series of murders are believed to have turned a disturbed young boy into an undead, sickle-wielding madman in the tradition of Halloween's Michael Meyers or Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees. It's a classic serial killer tale with a paranormal twist. Gorehounds will certainly get their kicks as the Harvester slices and dices his way through pages of helpless Amish farmers.

Rise of the Harvest: Book One is a very cinematic story. It wears its slasher horror movie influences on its sleeve, and the entire 44 page book flows seamlessly from panel to panel like a movie storyboard. With McGinnis's eye for panel composition and sequential storytelling, I can see Rise of the Harvester easily making the leap from the page to the screen. Unfortunately, not all of the book is so smooth. Rise of the Harvester is plagued with basic typographical errors that cast a shadow on the professionalism of the book. Also, McGinnis's art shows several rough spots where the artist's signature black-and-white style is depicted in a fashion too rigid and restrained to capture some of the emotions and movements called for in a number of the book's scenes.

If released in a second edition, I hope the typographical errors in Rise of the Harvester: Book One can be fixed because they distract from a really cool story and are an unnecessary impediment to getting this book the respect it deserves. Rise of the Harvester has the potential to be a really kick-ass indie horror comic, and I personally can't wait for the second installment.

Rise of the Harvester: Book One can be purchased directly from steveillustration.com

Sunday, November 30, 2014

HEINOUS ACTS (Review) - BITS 2014

HEINOUS ACTS (2014)

review by AARON ALLEN

Directed and written by Tim Hannigan

Starring: Shonna Brown, James Burns, Daniel Cristofori, Claudia Wit, Luke Gallo,
Sydney Kondruss, James McDougall, Paul Ferguson, Pat Hannigan, James Burns
-------------

On Sunday, November 30th, the indie horror anthology Heinous Acts made its world debut at The Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival. Undeniably raw and very, very rough around the edges, the trio of terror tales comprising Heinous Acts don't exactly scare up many thrills or chills. However, it's clear from this tenderfoot horror feature that writer-director Tim Hannigan has definite potential as a filmmaker.

A police file clerk sneaks the new cleaning girl into the evidence room to impress her with some of the department's most grisly and horrifying cases:

THE CRAWL SPACE KILLER

A woman who suspects that her father is cheating on her mother with a prostitute sneaks into his house and uncovers a deranged family secret in the crawlspace. 


RURAL MYTHS

The crew of a would-be reality show gets more than they bargain for when they venture out into the forest to investigate the rural legend of Weird Willie, a deranged murderer believed to live in the woods ever since butchering and eating his family.


THE BABY MONITOR

After an accident that claimed the life of his wife and baby, a man struggles with amnesia and a haunting supernatural presence that forces him to confront his true self. 


Heinous Acts has a lot of problems, none of which are uncommon in independent low-budget features. It suffers from sound problems, wooden acting, terrible music, predictable plot-lines, weak visuals, and unconvincing special effects owing to a lack of resources. It's also not terribly scary. All that being said, I didn't leave the BITS premiere of Heinous Acts dwelling on the negatives. For all its flaws, Heinous Acts also shows a tremendous amount of talent and wit on the part of writer-director Tim Hannigan.

The script of Heinous Acts has some really great ideas. Each of the segments is unique and either surprisingly funny or intriguing. I was not expecting this anthology to have so many great lines and story premises. The actors aren't always up to the challenge, but it's really apparent that the script for Heinous Acts knows exactly what it's doing. The "Rural Myths" segment, in particular, is both creepy and extremely fun "The Baby Monitor," although dragged down by some serious melodrama, also verges on the truly creepy. You really have to admire a filmmaker like Hannigan for tackling such an ambitious project and, despite its technical follies, still rising above it all as an emerging writer-director to keep your eye on. If Heinous Acts is Hannigan's first big film, then I fully expect we'll be seeing much bigger and better things from him down the road.



Friday, November 28, 2014

EJECTA (Review) - BITS 2014

EJECTA (2014)

review by AARON ALLEN

Directed by Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele
Written by Tony Burgess

Starring Julian Richings, Lisa Houle, Adam Seybold, 
-------------

Somewhere along the way, alien invasion films lost their edge. 

The image of UFOs, strange beings from beyond the stars, and the terror of alien abduction have become so over-played in popular culture that there's nothing really alien about them anymore. The films of the 1950s turned these scenarios into camp while the 1980s tried to bring them back with a heavy dose of body horror that has for whatever reason (I blame CGI) fallen out of favor with audiences. Now, alien invasion films are far more comfortable than they are disturbing. They're safe. Fodder for bloated, explosion-filled summer blockbusters. Then comes EJECTA, the latest film from the Canadian movie house Foresight Features. Pinned down by a pitch-perfect performance by Julian Richings as an alien abduction survivor, supplied with intriguing ideas and dialogue by rebel writer Tony Burgess (Pontypool), and duo-directed by Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele, Ejecta triumphantly puts the "alien" back in alien invasion. It's a subtle, tense, and never completely comfortable hour and 20 minutes of alien horror meets torture drama. Next to Exit HumanityEjecta is without a doubt the greatest film to come out of Foresight Features.


40 years ago, William Cassidy (Julian Richings) had an interaction with an extraterrestrial being that left something behind in his mind. Now a recluse who blogs under a pseudonym about his extraterrestrial experiences and theories, Cassidy cannot sleep more than a few hours a night because he is tortured by strange sensations, feelings, and ideas that pass through him like a conduit from unseen alien forces. Sometimes he even wakes up covered in blood, or walking down a highway, or two states over with absolutely no memory of how he got there. It is during one of these blackouts that he contacts Joe Sullivan (Adam Seybold), a young UFO researcher and conspiracy theorist, and invites him to a secluded location on the night of a large solar flare event. A solar flare event that knocks something dark and alien out of the sky. The film then switches back and forth between scenes of Cassidy as he's interrogated and tortured by the military and the found footage from Sullivan's camera that reveals what exactly happened on that fateful night of the solar event. Something has made contact with the earth. And it is not friendly.
They're heeeeeere
Ejecta was shot for a very modest budget, but it uses its resources extremely well. Directors Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele turn in a very polished and professional film. By keeping the aliens on the margins of the story -- creeping in the dark just on the edge of the clearing, plummeting from the sky in a frustratingly shadowy and undefinable craft, or emanating from Julian Richings's voice as disembodied gods -- Ejecta avoids the cliches of many other alien horror films. Instead, Ejecta focuses its attention on Richings's wonderfully weary performance as a man whose gifted touch with the cosmos has cursed him with nothing but pain and confusion. He is Icarus but instead of heading for the sun on wings of wax the sun came, uninvited and unstoppable, to him. Whether he's speaking to Sullivan's camera or facing off against a cruel military interrogator played by Lisa Houle, Richings grounds the film in his embodiment of this alienated and tortured character.
Julian Richings is electric in more ways than one
Truth be told, Ejecta does get a bit tedious around the third act when we're presented with the found footage of Cassidy and Sullivan's encounter with some deadly aliens. It's a lot of the shaky cam and barely-can-see-anything-in-the-dark cost-cutting cinematography that mars far too many low budget POV horror films. There are some genuinely scary moments in these sequences, but there are just as many lame jump scares and nauseatingly blurry camera movements. Ejecta is best and most frightening when Richings has full command of the screen, either monologing like a master or completely crushing it in scenes of physical contortion. Lisa Houle, by comparison, seems to have a hard time keeping up without resorting to making some very hammy performance choices.
E.T gets creepy
If you're looking for some modest but satisfying sci-fi horror thrills from a narrative that keeps itself always just slightly off-center from what you expect or are used to seeing, you're going to enjoy Ejecta. Ejecta is definitely a can't-miss film at this year's Blood in the Snow Film Festival.

Ejecta will have its Toronto Premiere this Saturday, November 29th at the 2014 BLOOD IN THE SNOW CANADIAN FILM FESTIVAL.

7:00 pm
Ejecta w. Uncommon Enemies
November 29th, 2014
The Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival
Carlton Cinemas- 20 Carlton St. Toronto, ON.
BUY TICKETS @ BLOODINTHESNOW.CA