GREG KLYMKIW - THE CURMUDGEON OF CINEMA

Greg Klymkiw’s 35+ years in the movie business include journalism, screenwriting, script editing, producing iconoclastic work by Guy Maddin, Bruno Lazaro Pacheco, Alan Zweig, etc, 14 years as senior creative consultant and producer-in-residence @ Norman Jewison's Canadian Film Centre, nurturing international recognition for prairie post-modernist films with his guerrilla campaigns as the Winnipeg Film Group’s Marketing Director, writing for Film Corner, Daily Film Dose, POV, Phantom of the Movies' VIDEOSCOPE, Electric Sheep UK - a deviant view of cinema, Take One Magazine, Cinema Canada & he's currently completing 3 new books about cinema. He's the subject of Ryan McKenna’s 2013 documentary "Survival Lessons: The Greg Klymkiw Story". At last count Klymkiw had seen over 30,000 feature films. GUIDE TO RATINGS: ***** Masterpiece/MasterpiecePotential **** Excellent ***1/2 Very Good *** Good **1/2 Not Bad ** Whatever *½ Poor * Raw Sewage. If a film is not up to earning 1 star, it will earn at least: 1 Pubic Hair. If, God forbid, the movie is worse than 1 Pubic Hair, the absolute lowest rating will be: The Turd found behind Harry's Charbroil and Dining Lounge.


PLEASE NOTE: AS OF JULY, 2014, THE FILM CORNER'S STAR RATING IS LOCATED AT THE END OF THE REVIEW.

Friday, 31 October 2014

THE INNOCENTS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Clayton's Adaptation of Henry James Classic on Criterion BluRay

The perfect marriage of
literature and cinema
The Innocents (1961)
Dir. Jack Clayton
Starring: Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde, Megs Jenkins, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin, Michael Redgrave

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There are few pieces of literature in the English language which can come close to the icky dread achieved by Henry James in his novella "The Turn of the Screw" and even fewer still that dare match its almost nectarous levels of creepy, languorous and bone-chillingly odious delights. It's writing that sticks to the roof of your mouth and short of attempting to dig the thick ooze from your maw, you're more often tempted to let it slide stealthily to the pit of your gut until it makes its abominable presence known within your intestines and sits there, like an immobile blob of mucky goo, never to be fully expunged, but just waiting for you to partake of its abominations again and again and yet again until all hope of it ever leaving you is hope worth abandoning. James hooks you for a lifetime and you never shake yourself free of his prose until you're good and dead. Even then, one suspects it will follow you to whatever place your soul ends up in.

That's just the way it is with "The Turn of the Screw" and one of the most phenomenal achievements in all of cinema is how astoundingly producer-director Jack Clayton was able to replicate James's literary power in his film version The Innocents, yet do so in ways that only cinema is capable of. Clayton, of course, surrounded himself with only the finest collaborators to pull this off including a screenplay adaptation by Truman Capote and William Archibald, astonishing cinematography by Freddie Francis, a haunting Georges Auric score and Jim Clark's first-rate cutting.

There's also that to-die-for cast. The gorgeous Deborah Kerr leads the charge. Her icy beauty is pinched and coiled within her indelible performance as Miss Giddens, the repressed, small-town preacher's daughter who takes her first step away from home to be governess to the creepy Miles (Martin Stephens) and innocent Flora (Pamela Franklin), the respective nephew and niece of the confirmed playboy bachelor Uncle (Michael Redgrave) who leaves his "inherited" charges socked away in his sprawling, isolated, lonely country estate managed by the kindly housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins). What should be idyllic (though in fairness, creepy rural mansions can never really be idyllic), soon gives way to unspeakable horrors in a house so pernicious that each revelation of the evil and perversion coursing through the estate's very soul grips us as obsessively as it does Miss Giddens. The previous governess, you see, the prim but comely Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop), fell hard for the coarse, brutish groundsman Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) and their relationship was not only one driven by sadomasochistic abuse, but Giddens discovers that the children were privy to it, if not even victims of it.

And yes, Giddens see ghosts. Quint and Miss Jessel died most tragically on the grounds of the estate and worse yet, Giddens fears that their ghosts are attempting to possess the innocents, the children, in order to keep their sick, venal, sordid sexual relationship alive in the bodies of the brother and sister she's been sworn to protect.

The very idea that children, siblings no less, could be compelled to offer up their bodies and souls to a continuance of sadomasochism is the stuff of both great literature and cinema.

The novella is written primarily in the first person by Miss Giddens and her "voice" is captured quite remarkably in the trademark Henry James ultra-long sentences, replete with endless parenthetical connectors and interjections. The prose yanks you this way and that way and yet, you're never less than compelled to plough through the eerie, horrifying, mounting and ever-perverse delirium of the text. There are, of course, given its first-person, subtle signposts suggesting that Giddens's narration might not always be reliable, and that there might not even be ghosts at all, but that she's simply going quite mad from repression, longing and isolation. And yet, in spite of this, we always believe that what she's seeing, she believes.

Though one suspects Clayton's mise-en-scene would have always employed the approach he eventually took, it was finally enhanced by the happy accident of distributor 20th Century Fox insisting the film be shot in their patented ultra-widescreen format Cinemascope. This at first annoyed Clayton, but as he soon resigned himself to this format, he and Freddie Francis concocted a brilliant approach which is as faithful to James's prose style as any film adaptation of a literary source could be. Objects and figures are placed at extreme ends of the frame, movements are subtle, yet pointed, and the outer edges of the frame are always treated with distorted anamorphic effects and filtering to create the sense that you're in a world that exists exclusively within the domain of this wretched house, one which is haunted by sick, loathsome spirits.

The other astounding thing is how Clayton scares the Bejesus out of you - not by shock cuts, but by both the languorous, gorgeously composed camera movements, but better yet by the appearance of the ghosts. They appear in the frame almost naturally, sometimes in broad daylight. (James used his prose to create light and often, it's these very segments that are scariest). The POV of the ghosts is almost always via Giddens, but there's one astounding appearance of the vile Quint at a window where we see him before Giddens does. I can assure you, you'll fill your drawers when this occurs. As well, Clayton makes judicious use of dissolves which act, not just transitionally and in terms of delineating time and space, but to also add an essence of the creepy crawly whilst also capturing the very heart and soul of Henry James.

At approximately 125 words, here's a sample of James's creepy prose style in ONE SENTENCE. Note the twists and turns, the parenthetical asides and connectors, all of which are so similar to Clayton's visual style:

But it was a comfort that there could be no uneasiness in a connection with anything so beatific as the radiant image of my little girl, the vision of whose angelic beauty had probably more than anything else to do with the restlessness that, before morning, made me several times rise and wander about my room to take in the whole picture and prospect; to watch, from my open window, the faint summer dawn, to look at such portions of the rest of the house as I could catch, and to listen, while, in the fading dusk, the first birds began to twitter, for the possible recurrence of a sound or two, less natural and not without, but within, that I had fancied I heard.

These very images and sentiments, if not literally captured by Clayton, are spiritually captured by the manner of how things are placed in the frame and how he and Francis manipulate our gaze to where they want us to go. The aforementioned passage is also important as it presents visual touchstones and feelings that should be infused with beauty and caring, but also creepily hint that things with Miss Giddens and/or the house itself are not quite right. Clayton through his miss-en-scene does the same thing, not with words, of course, but through his lens. Like some miracle, Clayton furthermore can capture Giddens's "restlessness" and infuse it with both face-vslue feeling, but something just a touch off.

At a mere 65-words, here's a sentence from James, using Giddens's "voice" wherein we're privy to one of her nocturnal wanderings. The very length and structure of the sentence, glides with a somnambulistic ease and yet, replicates feelings and actions within Giddens that induce us to feel what she feels:

Tormented, in the hall, with difficulties and obstacles, I remember sinking down at the foot of the staircase – suddenly collapsing there on the lowest step and then, with a revulsion, recalling that it was exactly where more than a month before, in the darkness of night and just so bowed with evil things I had seen the specter of the most horrible of women.

That Clayton replicates this very thing cinematically is beyond simple skill as a filmmaker, but is, rather, the work of an artist who himself is so possessed with James (and by extension, James's creation Miss Giddens) that his own directorial touches, whilst remaining wholly cinematic, are as Jamesian as they are his own.

The Innocents is filmmaking at its finest and it's a film that creates images and feelings that are as haunting for you as they are for the characters in the film and even more miraculously, as haunting as they were in written form in a work, so ahead of its time, yet also of its time. The repression of the very ethos of Victorian culture and literature is unabashedly created by Jack Clayton in his film to deliver a movie that will not only terrify the living wits out of you, but stick to your craw and haunt you - at least until you see the film again, and again, and yet, again.

And trust me, the movie never ceases to creep you out.

Never! No matter how many times you see it.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars

The Innocents is available from The Criterion Collection on Blu-Ray and DVD. The anamorphic monochrome images have not looked this good since I first saw a 35mm print on a big screen and the gorgeously designed and mixed sound which was applied via the delectably monaural track affixed literally to its prints via optical in the late, great and lamented analogue process. Both of these elements are handled with utmost respect to the original approach via the high definition digital process of an all-new 4K digital restoration, with the uncompressed monaural soundtrack. The extra features are absolutely first-rate and this might well be one of the best, if not THE best home entertainment product generated this year. We get a fine wide introduction and remarkable commentary track by the noted cultural historian Christopher Frayling, an unbelievably wonderful interview with cinematographer John Bailey about director of photography Freddie Francis and the look of the film which, I'm happy to say (and by virtue of all the things Bailey points out), corroborate my own belief that the miss-en-scene is as faithful to Henry James as any film has a right to be faithful to its literary source without being literary, but wholly cinematic. An additional added feature includes 2006 interviews with Freddie Francis himself, editor Jim Clark and script supervisor Pamela Mann Francis - all of whom provide just the kind of insight into the making of the film that delivers pure, practical as well as artistic knowledge that will appeal to both film lovers and filmmakers. You'll also find the requisite trailer and sumptuous accompanying booklet.

Feel free to order The Innocents directly from the links below to assist in The Film Corner's ongoing maintenance.


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Film Corner Accolades of the 2014 Toronto After Dark Film Festival as selected by Greg Klymkiw

I've been attending the magnificent Toronto After Dark Film Festival for 5 years of its 9-year-long history and I have to say that I have no idea what I would do if I ever had to miss a year. It's unique amongst genre festivals (and festivals period) in that its head honcho Adam Lopez set out to create an event that was by fans and for fans of all things macabre and this is what makes it so special. The audience-response is always lively, but respectful and you'll get no better on-a-big-screen experience anywhere in Canada - perhaps even the world. Lopez and his lively team (including, but not limited to) Peter Kuplowsky and Christian Burgess, have consistently presented more than just a film festival - it's a pure atmosphere of genre adoration. It's all about . . . . . LOVE!!! And believe me, it has nothing to do with the love between a man and a woman, a man and a man, a woman and a woman, a parent and their child or a boy and his dog. It is, in fact, the special love between those of humankind and the colour of red - BLOOD RED!!! This is a beautiful thing.


This year, I reviewed EVERY SINGLE FEATURE FILM and a selection of first-rate short films. Below, you will find my annual accolades for this year's edition of the festival. Without further delay, here they are:

BEST OVERALL FILM OF THE FESTIVAL:
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

BEST HORROR FILM:
Hellmouth

BEST SCIENCE FICTION FILM:
Time Lapse

BEST THRILLER:
Open Windows

BEST HORROR COMEDY:
Suburban Gothic

BEST WEREWOLF MOVIE:
Late Phases

BEST ZOMBIE MOVIE:
Wyrmwood

BEST CANADIAN FEATURE FILM:
Hellmouth

BEST SHORT FILM:
He Took His Skin Off For Me

BEST CANADIAN SHORT FILM:
Migration

BEST DIRECTOR:
David Zellner, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

BEST SCREENPLAY:
Nathan and David Zellner, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

BEST ACTOR:
Stephen McHattie, Hellmouth

BEST ACTRESS:
Rinko Kikuchi, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Jason Spisak, Time Lapse

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Siobhan Murphy, Hellmouth

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

BEST EDITING:
Wyrmwood

BEST SOUND:
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

BEST ART DIRECTION:
Time Lapse

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:
Hellmouth

BEST MAKEUP EFFECTS:
He Took His Skin Off For Me

Here are links to every single Film Corner review from TADFF 2014:

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Let Us Prey

Late Phases

Hellmouth

The Babadook

Canadian Shorts at TADFF 2014

Why Horror?

Refuge

The Town That Dreaded Sundown 2014

Wyrmwood

Wolves

The ABCs of Death 2

Dead Snow 2: Red VS. Dead

Shorts After Dark

Suburban Gothic

Time Lapse

The Drownsman

Zombeavers

Predestination

Housebound

Open Windows


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER - Review By Greg Klymkiw - 2014 Toronto After Dark Film Festival #TADFF

Inspired by the Coen Brothers's classic film,
a lonely, clinically depressed Tokyo "office girl"
seeks Treasure in Fargo, North Dakota, USA
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (2014)
Dir. David Zellner
Scr. David & Nathan Zellner
Starring: Rinko Kikuchi

Review By Greg Klymkiw

American cinema, more than anything, has always exemplified the American Dream. Almost in response to this, director David Zellner with his co-writer brother Nathan, have created Kumiko The Treasure Hunter, one of the most haunting, tragic and profoundly moving explorations of mental illness within the context of dashed hopes and dreams offered by the magic of movies and the wide-open expanse of a country teeming with opportunity and riches.

The riches awaiting Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) in Fargo, North Dakota are, given her lot in life, seemingly untold. She knows this all too well and in fact, knows it more than all of us. You see, night after night, for God-knows-how-many-years, the sad-eyed, lonely, friendless "office girl" has come home from long work days under the harsh fluorescent wash of lights in an anonymous corporate tower in Tokyo and settled down in her dreary apartment to ingest a bowl of packaged noodles.

Accompanying the modest meal, she inserts a well-worn VHS tape of the Coen Brothers' Fargo into a clunky, ancient VCR, and watches the events unfold on a tiny TV screen in order to study every detail of the precise location where the hapless, critically wounded Steve Buscemi hides a briefcase full of ransom money that he'll never, ever be able to retrieve.

Kumiko, having placed considerable faith in the opening titles of the film which proclaim that Fargo is a "true" story, obsessively pauses the VHS image upon salient details in order to create a detailed treasure map. It's quite an ingenious plan, at least to Kumiko. Movies are so often about dreams coming true, especially American movies and though the dreams don't come true for the characters in Fargo, she believes that the film itself can make her dreams come true.

Kumiko is clearly suffering from depression. She's teased by all the upwardly mobile young ladies at work, the boss lectures her about lacking ambition, her mother complains endlessly on the telephone about Kumiko being unmarried and even a chance meeting with a dear, old friend from elementary school goes awry when Kumiko storms out of the teahouse she meets her in, crushed by the shame of not having a child and husband as her friend is happily in possession of.

Kumiko has not known any such happiness. In fact, she appears to have never been acquainted with any happiness. Only Fargo gives her hope that one day, she too can be happy.

As luck would have it, her boss gives her the company credit card to buy his wife a birthday gift. This is the chance Kumiko knows she must take. After all, whatever money she embezzles from her boss can be paid back once she finds the hidden treasure of Fargo. The American Dream and all of its untold promise and riches is a mere flight from Tokyo to Minneapolis, Minnesota.

She must take the plunge.

Bidding a teary-eyed farewell to the only thing in the world she loves, her dwarf bunny, Kumiko then hops aboard the first available airplane, eventually landing in the middle of a harsh Minnesota winter. Her odyssey through the heartland of America is the stuff movies are made of.

Alas, dreams are not always made of the same thing.

What the Zellner duo have achieved here seems almost incalculable, especially as they eventually infuse you with joy and sadness all at once during the film's final act. One thing is certain, they have etched an indelible portrait of hope in the face of unyielding madness. We're given the opportunity to experience an America not unlike that which the Coen Brothers detailed in Fargo, however, none of it in the Zellners' film feels derivative and manages, thankfully, to avoid even a shred of film-geek homage. Fargo, the movie, is not just an instrument which inspires Kumiko's desires, it's like a part of Kumiko's character and soul and represents an ethos of both America and madness. Kumiko is no mere stranger in a strange land, but a stranger in her own land who becomes a stranger in a strange land - a woman without a country save for that which exists in her mind.

There isn't a false note to be found in this gorgeously acted, directed and photographed movie. It is not without humour, but none of it is at Kumiko's expense and when the film slowly slides into full blown tragedy, the Zellners surround Kumiko in the ever-accumulating high winds and snow under the big skies of Minnesota. We get, as she does, a bittersweet taste of happiness - a dream of triumph, a dream of reunion, a dream of peace, at last.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars

Kumiko The Treasure Hunter screened at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

Monday, 27 October 2014

LET US PREY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - 2nd Last Closing Night Film at 2014 Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Let Us Prey (2014)
Dir. Brian O'Malley
Scr. David Cairns, Fiona Watson
Starring: Pollyanna McIntosh, Liam Cunningham, Douglas Russell, Bryan Larkin, Hanna Stanbridge, Niall Greig Fulton

Review By Greg Klymkiw

If you've seen Lucky McKee's delectably vile The Woman, you already know what a great actress (and babe) Pollyanna McIntosh is. Brian O'Malley's Let Us Prey, is a rip-snortingly scary, utterly demented supernatural take on John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13, which, for added kick, is liberally sprinkled with plenty of Irish Whiskey and smothered with globs of haggis (as its Irish-Scottish co-pro roots demand).

Featuring McIntosh's va-va-va-voom frame of womanhood stuffed into the tasty sausage sack of a form-fitting cop's uniform, she's clearly not here (as in McKee's picture) to be hung up nude in a barn and used for sexual gratification, but like The Woman, she more than admirably delivers the goods in terms of ass-kicking and major-league ultra-violent payback upon a fine selection of despicable scumbags.

Using the taut, imaginative screenplay by David Cairns and Fiona Watson as his blueprint for madness, helmer O'Malley skillfully leads us into the fiery pits of the first official night on the job for a newbie female cop in a Bonny Scottish station house located in the most remote locale imaginable. All you need know is that an event occurs which spirals the whole joint out of control as it's besieged by filth of the highest order - all demanding to be dispatched.

We get an alcoholic thug, a mass murderer, a self-flagellating killer of buff, young fellas and amongst corrupt, murderous cops, a child-raping kidnapper who may or may not be a demon from the utter depths of Hell itself. Of all nights, this is one in which our plucky heroine might have wished she'd been home washing her hair, then eating bonbons in front of the telly. But such is not to be the case. Violence must be done and we, the audience, are all the better for it.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ 3-and-a-half-stars
Let Us Prey was one of the closing night films at the 2014 edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. It'll be coming to cinema and home entertainment venues near you via Raven Banner Entertainment and Anchor Bay Canada.

LATE PHASES - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canadian Premiere at the 2014 Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Nick Damici: One of America's Greatest Actors!
Late Phases (2014)
Dir. Adrián García Bogliano
Scr. Eric Stolze
Pro. Larry Fessenden
Starring: Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Tom Noonan, Lance Guest, Erin Cummings, Tina Louise, Rutanya Alda, Karen Lynn Gorney, Caitlin O'Heaney

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Nick Damici is one of the best actors working in America today and he continues to dazzle us in Late Phases as a blind, retired war veteran who grudgingly settles in a retirement community plagued by an especially nasty werewolf. Damici, of course, is the terrific screenwriter who works with the extraordinary Jim Mickle and has scribed several great scripts that he's also acted in (Stake Land, Mulberry Street, We Are What We Are, Cold in July). He's got a rough-hewn handsome tough-guy quality and in another world, he'd have been as big a star as the late, great Charles Bronson (albeit with somewhat wider acting chops than the 70s action star of Death Wish, et al). With Late Phases, his versatility is a fait accompli.

From a strangely sensitive screenplay by Eric Stolze (this is a werewolf movie, after all), director Adrián García Bogliano weaves a compelling exploration of society's cast-offs - people of august years whose families insist they live in gated, monitored havens where they exist safely away from the hustle and bustle of lives they once actively led. In many cases, the forced relocation of our elders has the more insidious undertone of not just keeping them away from harm, but simply getting them out of the way, a sentiment which can also manifest itself quite overtly.

Stolze's thoughtful, intelligent and resolutely character-driven genre script also plays with the late phases of the lunar cycle when, just after a full moon, there is a period of calm in werewolf country as the moon settles benignly into its last quarter, new moon and then, first quarter phases. It's here, during this month of calm where one can best prepare for the next onslaught of a werewolf attack. (Sorry to get all egghead on you here, but these are genuinely elements which add to this film being such an exceptional genre piece.)

Damici's character Ambrose isn't even a bonafide senior citizen. Still in his early fifties, he's none too happy that his son Will (Ethan Embry) has packed him off into this place where many go to die.

And die they do.

Soon after Ambrose settles in with his seeing-eye dog, one of the seniors is savagely attacked - torn to ribbons, in fact. Ambrose himself narrowly misses getting munched. The idiot police chalk up the death to "another" (!!!) animal attack in the area. After all, the retirement community is on the outskirts of town just next to a deep upstate New York forest.

Ambrose isn't buying it. He wasn't born yesterday. He's seen things in war, in far-flung lands, that many of us will never, nor would even want to see. Though he is now afflicted with blindness, he's kept himself trim, fit, sharp and has learned to wend his way around, with or without his seeing-eye dog. Ambrose is a soldier, a dyed-in-the-wool, much-decorated, ass-kicking killer. His senses were always sharp, but now, in blindness, all his other senses have become even more attuned to the world around him.

Most importantly, Ambrose has maintained the right to bear plenty of firearms and good Goddamn, he knows how to use them - blind or not, so much so that when he concludes that a werewolf is indeed the culprit, he even gets a local gunsmith to manufacture silver bullets for his humungous double-barrelled shotgun.

Blood will be spilled, but it won't be his, nor any others living in his community.

This is, as far as werewolf movies go, a new classic to add to a mighty pile which includes George Waggner's The Wolf Man, Terence Fisher's Curse of the Werewolf, John Landis's An American Werewolf in London Michael Wadleigh's Wolfen, Joe Dante's The Howling and John Fawcett's Ginger Snaps. In addition to Stolze's script (with, God forbid, a story, characters and subtext), it's solidly directed, features good, old-fashioned transformation effects (no bullshit digital here, thanks) and, of course, the one, the only Nick Damici.

As a delightful bonus, Ambrose's journey includes a trip into religious fundamentalism land when he grudgingly decides to attend a local church in spite of his agnosticism just to get to know some people outside of the land of the living dead retirement community. Here, he meets the creepy, though erudite Father Roger (salaciously played by the great character actor Tom Noonan) and their strange friendship adds considerable resonance to an already rich tale.

Besides, can any movie featuring supporting roles for Tina Louise (Ginger Grant on Gilligan's Island) and Karen Lynn Gorney (John Travolta's ice-queen dance partner from Saturday Night Fever) be anything less than first-rate?

I thought not.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars

Late Phases had its Canadian Premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2014.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

HELLMOUTH - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Triumphant World Premiere at 2014 Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Stephen McHattie, a babe-o-licious ghost,
creepy graveyards, the jaws of hell itself,
Bruce McDonald & Julian Richings in tow,
plus super-cool retro imagery fill the drawers of
HELLMOUTH
Hellmouth (2014)
Dir. John Geddes
Scr. Tony Burgess
Starring: Stephen McHattie, Siobhan Murphy, Boyd Banks, Julian Richings, Bruce McDonald

Review By Greg Klymkiw

To both the living and perhaps even the dead, old graveyards are as comforting as they are creepy. Screenwriter Tony Burgess seems to understand this better than most and with Hellmouth, he's crafted one of the most deliciously insane horror treats of the new millennium. Superbly and imaginatively directed by John Geddes and delivered to us by Foresight Features, the visionary company of (mad)men from Collingwood, Ontario, this is a first-rate mind-penetrator designed to plunge us deeply into the hallucinogenic properties inherent in Hell itself.

When I was a (relative) kid in the late 70s and early 80s, I programmed a movie theatre devoted almost exclusively to cult and genre films and Hellmouth is exactly the kind of picture I'd have been playing during midnight shows in the 70-year-old 600-seat former-neighbourhood-cinema-turned-Porn-emporium-turned-arthouse in the waste-end of Winnipeg (just round the corner from famed cult director Guy Maddin's boyhood home and his Aunt Lil's beauty salon which eventually became the studio for his first bonafide hit film, Tales from the Gimli Hospital). It's this very personal observation which proves to me, beyond a shadow of any doubt, just how universal Hellmouth is. The narrative is rooted in a strange amalgam of 40s film noir and the controversial early-to-mid-50s William Gaines period of the late, lamented and utterly demented E.C. Comics. In this sense, the madness that is Hellmouth yields a classic horror movie for now and forever.

And lemme tell ya, this ain't nothing to sneeze globs of bloodied snot at.

Charlie Baker (Stephen McHattie) is a tired, old grave-keeper living out his last days before retirement in a long-forgotten graveyard still maintained by a rural municipality with a certain pride in its historical legacy. As the film progresses, however, the legacy goes well beyond its commemorative value. Mr. Whinny (Boyd Banks) is a slimy, local bureaucrat who demands Charlie curtail his retirement plans to preside over an even older graveyard a few miles away. Charlie reminds Whinny that his own days are numbered due to a rare, degenerative brain disease, but the cruel, taunting administrator will have none of it and threatens to fire Charlie if he doesn't do his bidding (and thus flushing the retirement package down the toilet). Bureaucrats are just like that, especially if they work for Satan.

Alas, poor Charlie has little choice in the matter and is forced to make an odyssey across the dark and stormy landscape of this rectum-of-the-world township where he meets the mysterious babe-o-licious Faye (Siobhan Murphy). Swathed in form-fitting white, dark shades and blood-red lipstick, Faye hooks Charlie immediately into her plight and he becomes the unlikeliest knight in shining armour.

Grave-keeper Charlie Baker will, you see, soon do battle with a formidable foe at the very jaws of Hell itself.

Burgess's writing here is not only infused with imagination, but the archetypal characters, hard-boiled dialogue and unexpected turns taken by the tale create a solid coat hanger upon which director Geddes can display the stylish adornments of cool retro-visuals as well as all the eye-popping special visual effects splattering across the screen like so many ocular taste buds.

The mise-en-scene is not unlike the Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez approach to the world of Sin City, but here, the rich monochrome, dappled occasionally with garish colours, seems even more suited to the genre of horror rather than neo-noir. Geddes guides his superb cast through the minefields of a gothic nightmare with the assured hand of a master, eliciting performances that play the more lurid properties of the characters blessedly straight (McHattie, Banks and Murphy), thus allowing occasional explosions of over-the-top, though never tongue-in-cheek thespian gymnastics from Julian Richings and legendary director Bruce McDonald.

Crypt-Keepers and Grave-Keepers have long been a staple of horror, but usually, they're not treated as characters, but as "hosts" to deliver anthology-styled tales of terror (not unlike the classic Amicus production from the 70s such as Tales from the Crypt). As a feature film, Hellmouth gets to have its cake and eat it too. However, given that Charlie Baker is a living, breathing character, Foresight Features might actually have a property here worth revisiting - either in feature-length prequels, sequels and/or standalone "presents" tales of other grave-keepers. Better yet, there might even be a terrific continuing anthology series for the likes of Starz with Charlie involved week-to-week as an actual participant and storyteller. God knows the creative above-the-liners are more than skilled and up-to-the-challenge and Stephen McHattie, one of the best character actors in the world would be the ideal star.

Just a thought from a middle-aged old exhibitor, film buyer and movie producer . . .

Getting back to my personal rumination of those halcyon days when I programmed cult movies, it's with all respect that I reveal now that Hellmouth is the kind of picture we used to fondly refer to as a "head film". Like the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo), Slava Tsukerman (Liquid Sky), David Lynch (Eraserhead) and so many others during the "Golden" Age of cult cinema, Hellmouth is ideal viewing for those who wish to ingest copious amounts of hallucinogens prior to and during their viewings of the film. That said, like all terrific "head films", the movie itself is plenty hallucinogenic and ultimately requires no added stimulants.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars

Hellmouth enjoyed its World Premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2014 and is being distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada (and its Uncle Sam counterpart Anchor Bay).

Saturday, 25 October 2014

THE BABADOOK - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Much hyped closing night TADFF2014 title fails to live up to its rep.

Who will the Babadook kill first?
Annoying Kiddie? Annoying Mommie?
Annoying Doggie? Or us, the audience?
The Babadook (2014)
Dir. Jennifer Kent
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman

Review By Greg Klymkiw

God knows I want to see more women directing horror films, but Aussie Jennifer Kent is not one of them. This much-hyped, overrated and singularly limp psychological chiller thriller with a clunky on-its-sleeve feminist bent courtesy of Kent's underwhelming screenplay is competently crafted, gorgeously shot and well acted, but there's nary a moment of this two-hander that isn't predictably tarred and feathered with a big old brush of been-there-done-that.

It also doesn't help that the whole affair is utterly humourless and annoyingly adorned with the kind of preciousness that gets festival programmers, film critics and pseuds of all persuasions, hot and bothered that they're seeing something resembling an art film dabbling in off-the-well-worn-genre-path. There's nothing original about this, unless you consider a film being new and exciting that's little more than a pallid, oh-so sensitive melodrama about a single Mom (Essie Davis) trying to cope with the death of her husband by taking up the cause of her child's (Noah Wiseman) potentially overactive imagination. The only and truly horrific thing about this film is that the first half features a child who is nerve-gratingly annoying and then, tables turned, a Mom who is even more aggravating than her son. Mixing in a whole lot of over-salted, powdered-soup-like grim fairy tale elements, the movie lets us share in Mom reading a bedtime narrative from a mysterious book of her son's choosing. She'll soon regret being such a progressive parent in such matters.

The storybook recounts the foul antics of our title's nasty monster and weirdly, the said volume she reads from has no ending. Blank pages fill its final third, but rest assured all of them will get filled as the movie's repeated "scares" and hauntings accelerate. Call me a jaded know-it-all, but there were virtually no plot points I didn't see coming and never once did I invest enough care in the characters or proceedings to feel even a single creepy-crawly moment and/or shred of sympathy for either Mother or Child. If anything, I empathized with the poor Babadook who might well, it seems, only be a figment of the damaged imaginations of our vexatious protagonists.

The hype accompanying this picture wants us to believe we're seeing a new horror classic, but all The Babadook really delivers is a horror movie to tickle the fancy of people who really don't enjoy horror movies. For those who should know better, its veneer of respectability will make all of them think they're seeing something special. If anyone cares to buy that, I can certainly sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. The rest of us will look forward to new films by the Soska Sisters, Karen Lam, Jovanka Vuckovic and the upcoming ShriekFest prize winning feature by Audrey Cummings.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ** 2-Stars

The Babadook was the 2014 Toronto After Dark Film Festival Closing Night Gala. It will be released by eOne Films, who will hopefully do more than a perfunctory limited platform, which, in spite of my reservations, deserves more than that.

Friday, 24 October 2014

CANADIAN SHORTS at the illustrious TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL 2014 - Reviews By Greg Klymkiw - FOXED!, DAY 40, ROSE IN BLOOM, MIGRATION and HONOR CODE - 5 Terrific Canadian Shorts at #TADFF 2014

Screening a new Canadian short film before every feature is one of many deserved accolades to bestow upon the magnificent Toronto After Dark Film Festival, which proudly displays its unwavering commitment to the future of Canadian Cinema as well as its open embrace of the short film medium. Here are five Canadian shorts that tickled my fancy during the 2014 edition.

Every child's worst nightmare!
Foxed! (2013)
Dirs. James E.D. Stewart, Nev Bezaire

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Originally presented in 3-D, I was grateful that TADFF screened this gorgeously animated grim fairy tale sans my least favourite mode of projection. This dark, icky, terrifying world is imbued with both visual and thematic depth to such a degree that its eye-popping visuals are, to my eyes, exquisitely sumptuous in a non-3-D format. The film is a grotesque phantasmagorical portrait of a little girl kidnapped by evil foxes and forced to serve in a purgatory of hard labour. When she discovers a window upon her previous home and hearth, we're treated to a delectably creepy rendering of every kid's worst nightmare. The film should be marketed to parents as a tool to keep kids in their proper place.

Foxed! played before the feature film Housebound @TADFF14 THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3-Stars

What the fuck did all those animals do?
Day 40
Dir. Sol Friedman

Review By Greg Klymkiw

From here on in, whenever my attempts at repressing the loathsome experience of Darren Aronofsky's ludicrous, humourless, overblown debacle Noah aren't working as well as I'd like, I now have the perfect antidote. Aronofsky's Noah is the disease, Friedman's Day 40 is the cure! Sol Friedman's knee-slappingly hilarious and alternately vicious and moving (!!!) satirical look at activities on Noah's Ark is one of the most cleverly amusing cartoons I've seen in a longtime. If you've ever wondered WHAT THE FUCK was really going on within the bowels (so to speak) of that ark for 40 days and 40 nights, Friedman's quaintly perverse film provides more answers than one could ever begin to imagine on their own.

Day 40 played before the feature film Zombeavers @TADFF14 THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3-Stars

Kids see things they should NEVER see!
Rose in Bloom (2014)
Dir. Trevor Kristjanson

Review By Greg Klymkiw

When a young girl turns 13, there are many things on her mind which are confusing, thrilling and even kind of scary, but it's all part of what it means to grow up. Sadly, there are things they should never have to see, think about or experience. Trevor Kristjanson's super-creepy evocation of a child's birthday celebrations is splashed with a kind of rural, midwestern White Trash gothic as it follows a child during pre-party preparations, through to a mysterious ride into a murky, muddy, isolated flatland and eventually, back to a celebration where her poker face does not reveal the horror she's experienced, but the almost voyeuristic approach to storytelling reveals everything we need to know. It's ambiguous, but only on the surface. It's a tidy, twisted and painful short that will keep you haunted long after you've seen it.

Rose in Bloom played before the feature film Wolves @TADFF14 THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars

Aaron Poole
One of Canada's best actors
as a Buster Keaton corporate Samurai.
Honor Code (2014)
Dir. Pascal Trottier

Review By Greg Klymkiw

If honour could truly be found amongst the zombies working in the world of corporate fluorescent cubicles, it stands to reason that the best of its best could only settle differences as aggressively as they pursue filthy lucre to line the pockets of their CEOs. Pascal Trottier's clever and funny satire ascribes the most honourable methods to settling roiling hostilities twixt suited, brief-case-toting warriors who adhere to long-honoured traditions of the Samurai. Seeing these Masters of the Universe engaging in Toshiro Mifune-like bows, nods and sabre-wielding gymnastics is not only hilarious, but decidedly pointed. Aaron Poole is the challenger. With a Buster Keaton deadpan, he proves again why he's one of Canada's finest actors.

Honor Code played before Time Lapse @TADFF14 THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***1/2 3-and-a-half Stars

All of God's Creatures Must "Go Home."
Migration (2014)
Dirs. Fluorescent Hill
(Mark Lomond, Johanne Ste-Marie)

Review By Greg Klymkiw

They say that all living things are God's Creatures and if there is such a higher power of all-embracing love, then surely there could not be a more perfect example of his glory than the herd of sweet, intelligent and fun-loving animals in Migration whom we follow as they traverse a multitude of barren topographical regions tainted by humanity to get to where they belong. This might well be one of the best short films ever made, not just in Canada, but the world. Utilizing a gorgeous 8mm-like home movie aesthetic and imbued with a narrative, characters and theme that are as profound for our time as they will be for future generations, this is a film that deserves no less than being lauded as both a classic and a masterpiece. This is pure cinema and a magnificent tribute to the importance of its funder, Canada Council.

Migration played w/Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter @TADFF14 THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars

Thursday, 23 October 2014

WHY HORROR? - Review By Greg Klymkiw - World Premiere Toronto After Dark 2014 - Oct. 23 @ 9:30pm

Why Horror? (2014)
Dir. Nicolas Kleiman, Rob Lindsay
Starring: Tal Zimmerman, George Romero, John Carpenter, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Karen Lam, Don Coscarelli, Eli Roth

Review By Greg Klymkiw

My heart briefly sank during the first few minutes of what turned out to be an otherwise entertaining personal journey into the world of horror fandom when the movie initially assaults us with images of a "zombie walk", one of those pathetically annoying parades of geeks adorned in full living dead regalia, marching "in character" down big-city streets the world over. I'm not sure why this drives me insane, but perhaps it's because I'm a lot older than most of the participants and I came to my horror obsessions in the early 60s and expressed said devotion in very different ways.

Luckily, Why Horror?, a personal journey taken by host-subject Tal Zimmerman, quickly dispenses with this offensive way into his genuine exploration of all things horror and a lifelong devotion to popular culture devoted to scaring the faecal matter out of its most avid proponents. Replete with his own personal reminiscences (including great childhood home movie footage and photos), as well as his current activities, Zimmerman is a likeable, intelligent and unpretentious aficionado and public face for so many of us who share his healthy/unhealthy lust for shivers and blood.

The film delivers plenty of interviews with eggheads and writers who offer up historical and intellectual tidbits as well as an dream-team display of talking heads from the world of horror movies including the likes of George Romero, John Carpenter, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Karen Lam, Don Coscarelli and Eli Roth. Zimmerman and his directors aren't North America-centric either and deliver plenty of Euro and Asian spokespersons for the genre.

The selection of clips are always bounteous and thrilling and the whole affair is nicely put together with numerous animated sequences and slick graphics as both drivers, inserts and clever interstitial material. I was also impressed with a lovely film within the film which attempts to provide a very short history of horror cinema from its early beginnings through to the present. Much as I appreciated this sequence and acknowledge how impossible it would have been to include all salient issues, it does seriously err with one extremely important omission. By not touching upon the RKO horror division led by the visionary Val Lewton, it doesn't address how horror changed forever because of Lewton's insistence upon finding the things that really scare us in:

(.a) the contemporary world/themes

(.b) the mind/imagination of children (plus adults under stress of societal pressures/expectations) and;

(.c) the dark and shadows.

Lewton also pioneered the use of sound in horror and in so doing, in collaboration with the likes of Jacques Tourneur and Robert Wise, he pretty much invented the shock cut that became so de rigueur in virtually every horror film that followed it. For decades afterwards, crew members would always refer to shock sequences (the kind designed to make you jump) as "The Bus". Watch the original The Cat People sometime. Follow the heroine as she eerily makes her way through the park and eventually gets the crap scared out of her by . . . "the bus" (and a whole lot of other stuff blended in).

I'm sorry, but no matter how brief any history of horror films is going to be, ignoring Lewton borders on, sorry guys, boneheaded.

The only other quibbles I have with Why Horror? is that it's a bit too lightweight in terms of delving into the personalties of those who love horror, including the host. Where is the self-loathing? To ignore it is to say it doesn't exist, which is, ultimately major denial. Maybe Zimmerman is in denial on that front. It's his journey, after all, but someone (given that two directors and several producers are credited) should have been on the ball here to push this particular envelope. As well, even though the film interviews several older filmmakers, the movie seems a trifle ageist in terms of ignoring the experience(s) of fans who discovered horror at earlier junctures than those the film focuses on. Again, it's Zimmerman's journey, but by exploring horror using a few more old fart fans could have expanded the breadth of the movie.

And don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting this to be the Shoah of horror, but I must admit, seeing that someday might be just what my psychiatrist ordered.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3-Stars

Why Horror? enjoys its world premiere at TADFF 2014 and will eventually be broadcast on SuperChannel.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

REFUGE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canadian Premiere Toronto After Dark Film Fest 2014 - Oct. 22 @ 7pm

It ain't easy surviving the apocalypse.
Refuge (2013)
Dir. Andrew Robertson
Starring: Carter Roy, Amy Rutberg, Eva Grace Kellner, Sebastian Beacon, Chris Kies, Travis Grant, Mark Ashworth

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There's a whole lot of been-there-done-that-been-done-lots-bigger-and-better comprising the experience that is Refuge (earlier entitled The Mansion) which makes my heart go out to the filmmakers even more than those who would merely attempt a low-budget, slapdash rehash of movies like John Hillcoat's fine adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. That said, this post-apocalyptic science fiction chamber drama with thriller elements is not without fine performances, intelligent writing (via helmer Andrew Robertson and co-scribe Lilli Kanso), superb use of remote, evocative locations and first-rate production design and art direction.

Our familiarity with this world on film is simply one of the biggest problems facing Refuge. The accent on character and family is admirable and its handling of both suspense and violence is not without merit, but given its modest budget, one might have hoped its makers would have attempted to push the envelope further in order to deliver something that felt more original.

They don't, though, and we're left with a film with considerable merit, but few surprises that provide the kind of frissons which would otherwise allow us to forgive a few of the picture's lapses in logic which seem due to a clumsy flashback structure which might have been a problem inherent in the screenplay or the result of exigencies in production and post-production.

Focusing on a couple and their young daughter (Carter Roy, Amy Rutberg, Eva Grace Kellner), a next door neighbour (Chris Kies) and a wounded outsider (Sebastian Beacon) who brings a backstory of violence and being on the run with him.

The latter is what sets off a chain of unpleasantness when a gang of nasty psychopaths follows his trail to the backwoods mansion and our protagonists are forced to leave their refuge behind, now all on the run from the marauders. Things settle into a backwoods cat and mouse until the predictably inevitable grand showdown.

There's nothing especially wrong with the film, but its familiar tropes are enough to make the experience quite underwhelming in spite of its quality.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **½ Two-and-a-half Stars

Refuge has its Canadian premiere during the 2014 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (2014) - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canuck Preem TADFF14 - Oct22@7pm

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) Dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Scr. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Starring: Addison Timlin, Veronica Cartwright, Anthony Anderson, Edward Herrmann, Ed Lauter, Denis O'Hare

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Nobody, has ever accused Charles B. Pierce of actually making a good movie out of the Texarkana true-crime tale of the "Phantom Killer." Released in 1976 to solid box-office and an eventual cult following, the impact of Pierce's documentary-like approach to the otherwise creaky and somewhat clumsy The Town That Dreaded Sundown was, in spite of its shortcomings as cinema, felt the world over. Its influence has, in fact, lasted to this very day. Not that the subject matter was at all uninteresting, but it was Pierce's approach to telling the tale of a mysterious lovers' lane killer which superseded the mystery - one that never really had an ending as the killer had never been apprehended.

There had, of course, been earlier "fake" documentaries, most notably Jim McBride's 1967 groundbreaker David Holzman's Diary, but none of them were absorbed into the public consciousness as widely as Pierce's through-the-roof money-makers. A prolific regional independent filmmaker, he first brought his unique style of faux-documentary to bear in The Legend of Boggy Creek, the smash 1972 hit which focused on the Fouke County, Arkansas lore of Bigfoot.

Some consider Pierce the real father of true-crime reality TV, a dubious achievement at best. Better yet, he's also credited with inspiring the "found footage" horror film craze that began with The Blair Witch Project in the late 90s and has unabatedly kept generating new product each and every year since.

This vaguely post-modern reboot has a screenplay by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa that is not initially without interest or ambition. We're introduced to the contemporary town of Texarkana and the yearly ritual of screening Pierce's film at a local drive-in.

The famed killer appears to be resurrected and begins to commit heinous murders in the tradition of those detailed in Pierce's film. There are all sort of interesting elements involving the God-fearing citizenry of Texarkana and their decidedly un-Christian need to extract bloody revenge upon the killer. This all takes back seat eventually to a dull mystery and slasher movie-styled murders until we're not surprisingly introduced to the real killer.

Television director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon handles the proceedings with all the skill of a competent camera jockey, but does little more to enhance the proceedings. It's fun seeing old pros like Veronica Cartwright, Edward Herrmann and Ed Lauter strut their stuff, but their screen time is limited compared to the bland, young leads. There's also one interesting subplot involving a character based on the son of Charles Pierce, very well played by Dennis O'Hare, but sadly, this thread eventually goes nowhere.

In fact, the whole film is a whole lot of nowhere.

>THE FILM CORNER RATING: *½ One-and-a-half-stars

The Town That Dreaded Sundown enjoys its Canadian Premiere at Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2014.

Monday, 20 October 2014

WYRMWOOD - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canadian Premiere Toronto After Dark FF 2014 - Oct22 @ 9:30pm

Wyrmwood (2014)
Dir. Kiah Roache-Turner
Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The new Australian living dead chiller-thriller Wyrmwood might, at first glance, look and feel like a derivative post-apocalyptic zombie picture, but there's nothing run-of-the-mill about it. Constructed with solid craft, spewing globs of gallows humour, walloping your senses, well, uh, senseless with bowel-loosening jolts, inspiring cold-cocking scares that slide you to the edge of your seat and of course, offering up a kick-ass babe of the highest order, all adds up to a rollicking good time.

With plenty of loving homages to George Miller's Mad Max pictures and George Romero, helmer Kiah Roache-Turner and his co-scribe Tristan Roache-Turner, serve up a white-knuckle roller coaster ride through the unyielding Australian bushland as a family man (who's had to slaughter his family when they "turn" into zombies) and a ragtag group of tough guys, equip themselves with heavy-duty armour, armament and steely resolve to survive.

Blasting through hordes of flesh-eating slabs of viscous decay, they careen on a collision course with a group of Nazi-like government soldiers who are kidnapping both zombies and humans so a wing-nut scientist can perform brutal experiments upon them. The family man's insanely well-built, athletic and gorgeous sister is nabbed by the fascist egghead which allows for a harrowing rescue attempt and a bevy of scenes involving our babe in lethal fighting mode.

The movie has two very cool variations on zombie lore - one, a way for humans to telepathically communicate with and subsequently control the zombies as well as the handy discovery that zombie blood can be used as petrol for their souped-up fighting truck.

Roache-Turner proves himself a formidable talent. He employs very little herky-jerky action and keeps things in nice clean shots which allow the action and violence to play out stunningly (including a few harrowing chases). He manages, on what feels like it might have been a meagre budget, to put numerous blockbusting studio films of a similar ilk to shame. It delivers the goods and then some.

You'll feel a bit like you've seen Wyrmwood before, but as it progresses, it gets increasingly more intense and original. It's also great seeing aboriginal characters playing heroes and zombies, adding a unique flavour to the proceedings. So hold on tight to your fur-lined Aussie Akubra hats and prepare for the blood-splashing ride of your life.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars

Wyrmwood premieres at the 2014 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

WOLVES - Review By Greg Klymkiw - North American Premiere Toronto After Dark 2014 - Oct19@7:00pm

Wolves (2014)
Dir. David Hayter
Starring: Jason Momoa, Stephen McHattie, Lucas Till, Merritt Patterson

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Wolves purports to be in the style of 70s/80s monster movies like The Lost Boys (pretty much a piece of shit anyway) and Near Dark (a near-masterpiece that Wolves isn't worthy of to lick the ass clean after a runny dump) and, in fact, feels like a horrendous cellar-dweller country cousin to the abominable Twilight series.

The screenplay by first time helmer David Hayter plays out like a soap opera with man-to-wolf transformations and lots of blood, but bereft of the style infused in something like Dan Curtis's great TV series Dark Shadows. This is simply dull, dumb nonsense involving a young man who discovers his true pedigree as a noble-class werewolf amidst a passel of white-trash hillbilly werewolves. He falls for a hot babe werewolf, also of his "class", but a mean-ass werewolf, also of the noble line, wants to mate with her.

Lots of poorly executed werewolf mano a mano follows.

The movie is not without basic competence, but has no voice, no style and very little to recommend it save for the welcome presence of stalwart character actors Stephen McHattie and Jason Momoa who both add a whole lot of sizzle to this otherwise cheap cut of werewolf steak.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: * One-Star

Wolves enjoys a Noirth American premiere at Toronto After Dark 2014, followed by a perfunctory release by E-One

Saturday, 18 October 2014

THE ABCs OF DEATH 2 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canadian Premiere at Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2014, followed by a wide Canadian release on October 31, 2014 via VSC

A whole whack of directors to
deliver 26 whacks (and then some)
The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)
Dirs. Evan Katz, Julian Barratt, Julian Gilbey, Robert Morgan, Alejandro Brugués, Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado, Jim Hosking, Bill Plympton, Erik Matti, Dennison Ramalho, Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper, Lancelot Imasuen, Robert Boocheck, Larry Fessenden, Hajime Ohata, Todd Rohal, Rodney Ascher, Marven Kren, Juan Martinez Moreno, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Vincenzo Natali, Jerome Sable, Steven Kostanski, Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo, Soichi Umezawa, Chris Nash.

Starring: Tristan Risk, Conor Sweeney, Béatrice Dalle, Nina Iordanova and shitloads of others

Review By Greg Klymkiw

This second followup to the popular anthology feature The ABCs of Death is a marked improvement over the previous outing, but it shares similar, albeit less egregious obstacles to total appreciation.

This is a full-length amalgam of 26 thematically-linked shorts, each representing letters of the English alphabet which stand for a word that delivers a solid "kill" within a short narrative, each of which expunged upon celluloid by 26 directors.

Sounds interesting enough, but the whole package is a serious slog. Amidst the stuff that works, you're forced to watch a whack o' titles that range from ambition-exceeding-their-delivery (but worth seeing) to just plain middle-of-the-road (but watchable) to sucking a dirty, sweaty scrotum.

With this in mind, I'm going to primarily concentrate on letters of the alphabet that deliver good, better than good or just plain terrific short genre films.

And, of course, kills of the highest order. Jesus, for all of my kvetching, what's not to like?

"D" is for Deloused is UK director Robert Morgan's delightfully baroque animated short about a repulsive bug assisting a creepy gent get some mega-payback upon those who were responsible for his execution. Morgan's palette is wadded with globules of the most odious colours which he's skilfully wielded with abandon, aplomb and appropriate nausea appeal. Lots of disgusting viscera on display and a whack of decidedly dark laughs are the hallmarks of this outlandishly imaginative cartoon for kiddies of all ages who desire plenty of viscous fluids with their breakfast cereal (or as their breakfast cereal).

The Film Corner Rating: ****


"H" is for Head Games has been spewed from whatever orifices Master Animator Bill Plympton chooses to release his brilliantly unhinged images and ideas. Here, two people engage in the simple, passionate act of kissing. Imagine if you will, the scandal caused by all 47-seconds of Edison's famous 1896 filmed re-enactment depicting a kiss twixt the somewhat disgusting May Irwin and John Rice then blend it together with Raymond Carver's short story "Popular Mechanics" in which two parents play tug-of-war with their child. You get the drift.

The Film Corner Rating: *****


"Q" is for Questionnaire is belched out from the ultra-cool Rodney Ascher who delivered the phenomenal conspiracy theory documentary Room 237 about the more brilliantly psychotic theories behind Stanley Kubrick's much-loved and oft-debated horror masterpiece The Shining. In the grand tradition of documentary direct cinema, cross-pollinated with zero-budgeted 50s/60s "brain" genre films, he presents two sides of a delightful coin as he bounces twixt an intelligence test and a man's brain being transplanted into the head of a gorilla. The only thing missing is the gorilla leeringly emitting a Jack Nicholson-like "Heeeeeeerrrrrrreeeee's Johnny!"

The Film Corner Rating: ***1/2


"S" is for Split is an ideal short genre film and makes clever, literal and metaphorical use of its title. Juan Martinez Moreno creates a numbing nightmare involving a cel phone conversation twixt a hubby and wife whilst a killer invades the family home and proceeds to search out and murder one of the significant others on view in a series of horrifically effective split screens that would make Brian De Palma proud if they didn't give the man a run for his money.

The Film Corner Rating: ***


Astron-6 Stud-Thesp Conor Sweeney
is about to learn the meaning of
PAYBACK!!!
"T" is for Torture Porn comes to us courtesy of the Soska Twins, Jen and Sylvia, those two nice Hungarian girls from British Columbia who are continually on the cutting edge of reinventing, revitalizing and just plain knocking the ball out of the genre film park. They're an important force, not just in the world of genre, but in the world of cinema period. From their crazy micro-budgeted Dead Hooker in a Trunk to the astonishing low budget sophomore effort American Mary, the Soska Sisters (aka "The Twisted Twins") were naturals for this anthology feature. Their special blend of feminist splatter is taking the world by storm. Their films are stylish, dark, funny and have plenty to say about the world we live in. Herewith, the legend continues as the ladies wear metaphor on their sleeves in a winning fashion. Astron-6's prime thespian stud Conor Sweeney presides over a grim audition for torture porn and proceeds to debase a young actress (the great Tristan Risk) in the most despicable fashion. Payback is inevitable. Happily for the abused actress and the audience, the Soskas unleash payback of the Most Delicious Urotsukidōji Kind. Scumbags Beware!!! There's a vengeful new Overfiend in town and SHE's not interested in raping little schoolgirls in uniform.

The Film Corner Rating: ***1/2


"U" is for Utopia is pure Vincenzo (Cube, Splice, Haunter) Natali. The man has a distinctive voice you can detect within seconds of seeing his seemingly cold, clinical, horrifying and mordantly funny work. Here we face a dystopian world of public execution (in malls, no less) and for the most egregious of crimes (in a perfect world, of course). Imagine, if you will, a dash of Kubrick, a sprinkling of Jean-Baptiste Leonetti, a few drops of Harlan Ellison via L.Q. Jones ('natch) and a few buckets o' Pure Natali. It's tasty!

The Film Corner Rating: ***1/2


"W" is for Wish is the latest cinematic chub o' kielbassa from that Winnipeg Wunderkind of the Astron-6 persuasion, the one, the only, Steven Kostanski. The madman behind Manborg serves up a delicious blend of his delightfully retro special effects and the kind of wonder we all felt as kids (and that those of us, who've never grown up, still feel). Kostanski's operating on similar ground to the Soskas here by wearing metaphor proudly (and entertainingly on his sleeve). The less said about this gem, the better. Suffice to say, we're given a dose, through the eyes of children, of how the things we wish for might come terrifyingly true. Mega-Bravo!

The Film Corner Rating: ****


"X" is for Xylophone by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo features Béatrice Dalle, the still sexy Betty Blue girl herself, the incomparable muse of Jean-Jacques Beineix and every strapping young 70s/80s lad's mega-masturbation fantasy. Here, she's a somewhat long-in-tooth babysitter being driven to places she'd rather not traverse to, courtesy of an annoying child plunking on a fucking xylophone. Xylophone's in the hands of babes are fine, but only in moderation and this goddamn kid just doesn't know the meaning of the word.

The Film Corner Rating: ***


Refrain from ingesting your guitar.
"Y" is for Youth is what's been barfed up from within the diseased mind of ace Japanese makeup and SFX whiz Soichi Umezawa. His cinematic blown chunks reveal an equally diseased mind - that of a young woman fantasizing violent payback for those in her family who would dare abuse her. If you've a fetish for sword swallowing electric guitars, viscous pustules, juicy white worms and other taste treats, you're sure to be dazzled by the fantasies of this demented young missy exploring the true extert of her desires for vengeance.

The overriding question is this: Is fantasy reality? O! Land of Nippon! I love thee!

The Film Corner Rating: ***


"Z" is for Zygote is the last short in the anthology and it's the surprise treat of ABCs of Death 2. The less said about the plot and/or content of Chris Nash's creepily eerie and downright brilliant shocker, the better. Just let it work its savoury magic upon you whilst rivalling the pus sucks hanging from Samantha Eggar's tummy in David Cronenberg's The Brood.

Storytelling and shocks at their very best.

The Film Corner Rating: ****


So there you have it: 10 fine films out of 26. Titles where the ambition of the filmmakers either exceeds their reach as filmmakers and/or falls short in the delivery department, but are worth seeing include "C" is for Capital Punishment, "F" is for Falling, "J" is for Jesus, "L" is for Legacy and "O" is for Ochlocracy. Adding these titles to the list increases the watchability-factor to 15 out of 26 titles. Adding middle of the road mediocrity (no need to point fingers on this inevitability) increases watchability to 19 out of 26 titles. The most horrendously disappointing film is master filmmaker Larry Fessenden's lazy effort "N" is for Nexus. The number of shorts that suck dirty, sweaty scrotum (including Fessenden's) are a mere 7 out of 26 titles. Not too bad at all when you get right down to it. Add to this mix cool opening and closing title sequences to the whole anthology and The ABCs of Death 2 yields a fine genre treat for horror lovers - especially as Halloween is looming.

THE FILM CORNER RATING for all 10 titles in the 3-5-Star Range: **** 4-Stars
THE FILM CORNER RATING for all 19 titles in the 2-5-Star Range: *** 3-Stars
THE FILM CORNER RATING for the whole 26-title package: **½ 2-and-a-half Stars

The ABCs of Death 2 had its Canuck launch at the 2014 edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. It will be released theatrically in Canada (and via VOD and digital platforms) on October 31, 2014 through everyone's have Canuck indie distributor VSC. Playdates include the following:

On Demand and iTunes October 20, In Theatres October 31

Opens October 31
Toronto – Carlton Cinema, 20 Carlton Street
Calgary – Globe Cinema, 617 8th Avenue Southwest

Opens November 1
Vancouver – Rio Theatre, 1660 East Broadway

Opens November 5
Montreal – Centre PHI, 407 Rue Saint Pierre

Opens November 7
Ottawa – The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street

Magnet Releasing is handling the distribution honours in USA

Friday, 17 October 2014

DeadSnow2REDvsDEADakaDødSnø2 ReviewByGregKlymkiw 2014TorontoAfterDarkFilmFestivalOct18@9:30pm

A rotting, flesh-eating Obergruppenführer der
Einsatzgruppen der Sicherheitspolizei Zombie
Waffen is no mere wurst einen Gehackte Leber!
Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead
aka"Død snø 2" (2014)
Dir. Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Vegar Hoel, Ørjan Gamst, Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer, Ingrid Haas, Stig Frode Henriksen, Jesper Sundnes, Tage Guddingsmo, Charlotte Frogner

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Those plucky Nazi Zombies have returned to invade contemporary Norway, but there's little need to see the precursor to this sequel, since the first instalment wasn't especially good to begin with, nor is there any real need to get up to speed with it. All one needs to know is that the latest shenanigans of Der Führer's rotting, flesh-eating Waffen-SS in Død snø 2, is a truly jaw-agape treat of the highest order.

Martin (Vegar Hoel) is hell bent on avenging his girlfriend's death from the first Nazi Zombie outing. However, a major screw-up finds zombie Kommandant Herzog's (Orjan Gamst) hand sewn onto Martin's arm. Herzog, in turn, now sports Martin's hand. Complications ensue from the swap and lead to laughs-a-plenty and a running homage to Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead.

Herzog's goal is to complete a mission ordered by Der Führer - a major offensive against Norway. With the help of Zombie-Squad basement-dwelling geeks from America and resurrecting Soviet zombies, it doesn't take too long for an all-out battle on Norwegian soil. Carnage ultimately rules the day. The movie has a few shock-cut scares, but for the most part, it's very existence is rooted in non-stop gross-out gags, thus solidifying Død snø 2 as a madcap farce, replete with a barrage of Zucker-Abrams-Zucker-like one-liners and slapstick humour. There's nothing really scary about the picture, but it's a damn joyous one.

Amusingly, the movie features a very strange homage to Star Wars and manages to sneak in famous lines of dialogue into the proceedings. I'm no fan of Lucas's blockbuster space opera, but the geek-meter in me still hit the top bubble when I encountered the dialogue in what feels like virtually every scene in Dead Snow 2. God knows I found this movie way more entertaining than any of the Star Wars movies (and, for that matter, many others), but then again, how could any movie that feels like Braveheart with Nazi Zombies and Norwegians, not be anything less than captivating?

With movies like this one, there was a halcyon time when you used to be able to say, with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, "Oh, those crazy Germans!" Given the oddball movie output of Norway in recent years, one is more likely to emit the friendly chiding, "Oh, those crazy Norwegians!"

(And, of course, as this film is Norwegian, but shot in bloody Iceland, feel free to add, "Oh, those crazy Goolies!")

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3-Stars

>Død snø 2 plays the 2014 Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Visit the TADFF website HERE!

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