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



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
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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