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



BLOODY KNUCKLES (Review) - BITS 2014

BLOODY KNUCKLES (2014)

review by AARON ALLEN

Written and Directed by Matt O'Mahoney

Starring Adam Boys, Kasey Ryne Mazak, Ken Tsui, Gabrielle Giraud, Dwayne Bryshun
-------------

Bloody Knuckles feels a lot like a long lost Troma film. 

It has all the earmarks of early 90s Troma classics: melting green goo, dick jokes, racial stereotypes, juvenile politically incorrect humour, and plenty of on-screen mutilation. In fact, Bloody Knuckles would fit right at home on the VHS shelf next to The Toxic Avenger or The Class of Nuke'Em High except for one thing: Bloody Knuckles hails not from Tromaville but the good old Great White North of Canada!

You have to hand it to the special effects in Bloody Knuckles
Adam Boys plays Travis, the creator of an offensive underground comic book specializing in the tasteless satire of current events and taboo culture. Whether its the depiction of a gay superhero called Homo Dynamous eviscerating Neo-Nazis or abortion doctors dousing Pro-Life protesters with buckets of fetal chum, Travis's vulgar illustrations have earned him a place in the underground art community. That is until one of his issues angers a Chinese crime syndicate and they respond by kidnapping him, beating him up, and amputating his right hand! Through the magic of absurd cinema, however, Travis's hand returns from the dead and embarks on a quest to drag Travis out of his depression, dispatch the bad guys, get the girl, and get back to making disgusting art.

The Dragons come to collect on a five-finger discount
Bloody Knuckles is undeniably vulgar and gory, but not all that funny in the end. The premise is wonderfully absurd and instantly engaging, and its Tromaesque antics exactly are what fans of off-beat and oddball cinema crave, but it's bogged own by a needlessly heavy-handed message about censorship and artistic freedom that sticks out like a sore thumb. I can't quite put my finger on it, but Bloody Knuckles lacks the right tone of juvenile je ne sais quoi required to pull off its series of gags and one-liners. For a film that includes a reanimated hand, a sadomasochistic gay vigilante, and a background subplot about a violent uprising against artists in Canada, Bloody Knuckles conducts itself with far too much seriousness and restraint. What could have been a big old fist punching at the subversive prostate of comedy ends up as a High School finger banging around the erogenous zones of funny. Sometimes less is not always more, especially when wooden acting is what takes its place.

Warrior of the Wasteland, the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah
I appreciate the premise and the film's staunch anti-censorship message, but Bloody Knuckles doesn't quite crack for me in the comedy department. It's low-budget special effects, however, deserve nothing less than a thumbs up.

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

9:30 pm
Bloody Knuckles w. O Come All Ye Zombies
November 29th, 2014
The Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival
Carlton Cinemas- 20 Carlton St. Toronto, ON.
BUY TICKETS @ BLOODINTHESNOW.CA



Thursday, November 27, 2014

BERKSHIRE COUNTY (Review) - BITS 2014

BERKSHIRE COUNTY (2014)

review by AARON ALLEN

Directed by Audrey Cummings
Written by Chris Gamble

Starring Alysa King, Samora Smallwood, Bart Rochon, Aaron Chartrand
-------------

On Halloween night, a trio of murderers in pig masks terrorize a teenage babysitter in this by-the-numbers Canadian home invasion thriller. Berkshire County is certainly not so "good to the last oink," as the slogan on the killers' very conspicuous truck exclaims, but it will definitely find something to make you squeal.

Kylie Winters (Alysa King) is having a horrible Halloween. After being pressured by her meat-headed crush (Aaron Chartrand) into giving a blowjob at a party, Kylie now finds herself being bullied and slut-shamed by her schoolmates, parents, and other adults in the community after a video of the act is intentionally leaked. Feeling completely isolated, Kylie takes a babysitting gig on Halloween night at a very large estate out in the boonies. Not too long after she gets the kids off to bed, however, a lone trick-or-treater -- a mute boy in a pig mask -- comes knocking on the door. And he's not alone. Soon Kylie must find the inner strength to survive a home invasion, kidnapping, and torture at the hands of  three diabolical (and not so little) piggies.

These pigs do some huffing and puffing of their own.
Berkshire County is a completely derivative home-invasion slasher that regurgitates elements we've seen before time and time again in the wake of John Carpenter's Halloween, Wes Craven's Scream, and Bryan Bertino's The Strangers. Audiences familiar with these genre films and their copycats will be able to peg exactly where Berkshire County is heading almost beat by beat. Make no mistake, Berkshire County is a certainly a competent copycat that means well, but it doesn't seem to have any real desire to deviate from the How to Make a Generic Horror Movie manual it's been given. There are several moments where it looks like Berkshire County is going to defy expectation or do something rare (especially in the case of its pint-sized pig mask killer), but it always returns safely to its upright and locked position. A little more originality and fewer loud noise jump scares would have been appreciated.

"Hey there Little Red Riding Hood, you sure are looking good..."
That being said, Alysa King as Kylie holds the film together with her conservative portrayal of a young woman in peril. Her character is a great 21st century update to the conventional Final Girl character. Turn on the news and you'll see several high-profile cases of teens who were raped or sexually manipulated and then bullied to the point of suicide because of it. It's a grim, sad reality that too many teens have to deal with in the age of the internet. Putting Kylie in the same position lends a real credibility to her struggle, even as the film drifts into  auto-pilot plot mode. King makes Kylie feel like a real person with true human courage. I've seen a lot of wannabe slasher films full of bland, unmotivated masked tormentors chasing screaming teens, but King's final girl is without a doubt one of the most sympathetic heroines to come around.

Berkshire County will have its Canadian Premiere this Friday, November 28th at the 2014 BLOOD IN THE SNOW CANADIAN FILM FESTIVAL. The first screening is sold-out, but a second screening has been added.

7:00 pm & 9:45 pm
Berkshire County w. Serpent’s Lullaby
November 28th, 2014
The Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival
Carlton Cinemas- 20 Carlton St. Toronto, ON.
BUY TICKETS @ BLOODINTHESNOW.CA



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Win tickets to HEINOUS ACTS @ Blood in the Snow (November 30)

Win two tickets to the World Premiere of the Canadian horror anthology HEINOUS ACTS at the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival: November 30, 2014 @ 2pm.



A small town police force has examined some of the most unspeakable acts imaginable. When their file clerk breaks into the records room late at night to impress the new cleaning girl, he tells her the stories behind four of the most heinous crimes ever investigated.

HOW TO WIN
DEADLINE: 12am on Thursday, November 27, 2014 (ET)

One winner will be selected at random and notified at midnight.

Heinous Acts w. Trick or Treat
Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 2pm.
Carlton Cinemas
20 Carlton St
Toronto, ON




Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival - 2014


Want to find the best in Canadian horror? Look no further than the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival, which returns for another phenomenal year of blood and guts at the Carlton Cinemas November 28th - 30th.

Tickets have been selling out exceptionally fast, but with a premiere-studded lineup this sensational, how could it not? Advance tickets and festival passes are still available at bloodinthesnow.ca. Grab them before they're gone for good!


November 28th

7:00 pm: Berkshire County w. Serpent’s Lullaby

9:30 pm: BITS SHORT FILM SHOWCASE
Damned Selfie
Insane
The Makeover
Woods
Massacre at Femur Creek
Greater Than
Malleus Maleficarum

9:45 pm: Berkshire County w. Serpent’s Lullaby just added!
11:45 pm: opening night party

November 29th

4:00 pm: Queen of Blood w. The Table
7:00 pm: Ejecta w. Uncommon Enemies 
7:15 pm: BITS SHORT FILM SHOWCASE just added!
9:30 pm: Bloody Knuckles w. O Come All Ye Zombies
11:59 pm: Teddy Bomb w. No Pets Allowed

November 30th

1:45 pm: BITS Seminar: Surviving the festival and distribution world
2:00 pm: Heinous Acts w. Trick or Treat
4:00 pm: Kingdom Come w. Domestic Blood
4:15 pm: Black Mountain Side w. The Resurrections of Clarence Neveldine just added!
6:45 pm: Black Mountain Side w. The Resurrections of Clarence Neveldine
7:00 pm: Kingdom Come w. Domestic Blood just added!
9:30 pm – closing night party and awards