Saturday, 31 October 2015

THE UNWANTED - Review By Greg Klymkiw @ Electric Sheep Magazine UK

William Katt ("Carrie") delivers an Oscar-Worthy performance as a repressed White Trash South Carolina psychopath in documentary filmmaker Bret Wood's feature drama debut THE UNWANTED,
a perverse antebellum-ish New Millennium Gothic adaptation of "
Carmilla", Sheridan Le Fanu's classic tale of vampirism and lesbo action.
Read Greg Klymkiw's full review at the ultra-cool UK movie mag
ELECTRIC SHEEP - a deviant view of cinema
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Friday, 30 October 2015

Greg Klymkiw's 10 Favourite SCARY MOVIES of all-time (plus a 10 isnever enough list).


Greg Klymkiw's 10 Favourite Scary Movies of All-Time


All the movies listed here make ideal Halloween viewing and/or gifts to bestow upon those celebrating their birthdays, wedding anniversaries and/or pretty much any holiday celebration - most notably, the birth of Baby Jesus H. Christ!

Below you'll find a handy-dandy list representing my 10 All-Time Favourite Scary Movies. These are, frankly, worth watching any time of year and are movies I tend to watch at least once a year myself.

Because 10 is a ridiculous number, you'll find a more exhaustive list of my favourite scary movies way at the bottom, so make your list and check it twice!!!

Watch 'em and please feel free to soil yourself!

Please note: All my lists, including these, are alphabetical.


Alien (1979) Ridley Scott
The best and scariest Alien of all.
No matter how many times you watch it, everyone will hear you scream.


Black Sunday (1960) Mario Bava
Drawer-filling adaptation of Gogol with first-rate witch burnings, the gorgeous Barbara Steele and Bava style-galore.

The Cat People (1942) Jacques Tourneur/Val Lewton

Redefined and Defined horror on film forever by con-temporizing the world of horror, finding scares in the shadows and what you don't see, equating old-world horror with new-world fears and inventing the shock cut. The picture still sends chills down the spine and ruined many a walk in the park after dark.

The Exorcist (1973) William Friedkin
Scariest. Movie. Ever. The power of Christ compels thee, indeed.

Freaks (1932) Tod Browning
NEVER fuck a freak over. You could become one yourself.
Creep-fest from the MOST perverse director in the studio system.

The Haunting (1963) Robert Wise
Great ghost thriller. Wise created this nerve wracking film in the Lewton tradition.

Nosferatu (1922) F.W. Murnau
Stunning expressionism and still the creepiest, scariest and most vile vampire picture ever made. Max Schrek still comes closest to Stoker's vision of Dracula.

Rosemary's Baby (1968) Roman Polanski
Devil worship and paranoia at its finest.
Pray for her baby, Pray to replace your soiled panties.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Tobe Hooper
Masterpiece of nightmare logic delivers mise-en-scene seldom matched in modern horror. Like the old Dominion store jingle: "It's mainly because of the meat!"

The Thing (1982) John Carpenter
Carpenter's finest piece of direction yields edge-of-the-seat terror from beginning to end. A remake worthy of the original which inspired it.

Okay, because ten movies might just not be enough, here's a whole whack of my favourite scary movies to supplement the aforementioned list. Not all of them are strictly horror movies, but they all scare the shit out of me in some fashion or another. Enjoy!

10 Rillington Place by Richard Fleischer
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night by Ana Lily Amirpour
Alice Sweet Alice by Alfred Sole
American Mary by Jen and Sylvia Soska
An American Werewolf in London by John Landis
Antichrist by Lars von Trier
Asylum by Roy Ward Baker
Basket Case by Frank Henenlotter
Bedlam by Mark Robson/Val Lewton
Black Cat, The by Edgar G. Ulmer
Black Christmas by Bob Clark
Black Sabbath by Mario Bava
Black Sunday by Mario Bava
Body Snatcher, The by Robert Wise/Val Lewton
Boston Strangler, The by Richard Fleischer
Body Snatchers by Abel Ferrara
Bride and the Beast, The by Adrien Weiss/Ed Wood
Bride of Frankenstein, The by James Whale
Brides of Dracula by Terence Fisher
Brood, The by David Cronenberg
Bug by William Friedkin
Bunny The Killer Thing by Joonas Makkonen
Burnt Offerings By Dan Curtis
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari by Robert Wiene
Cape Fear by J. Lee Thompson
Carnival of Souls by Herk Harvey
Carrie by Brian De Palma
Castle of Blood by Antonio Margheriti
Changeling, The by Peter Medak
Citadel by Ciaran Foy
City of the Dead by John Llewellyn Moxey
Creature from the Black Lagoon by Jack Arnold
Cruising by William Friedkin
Curse of the Cat People by Robert Wise/Val Lewton
Dark Water by Hideo Nakata
Dawn of the Dead by George Romero
Day of the Dead by George Romero
Dead of Night by Hamer/Dearden/Crichton/Cavalcanti
Dead Snow 2 by Tommy Wirkola
Deliverance by John Boorman
Demon by Marcin Wrona
Descent, The by Neil Marshall
Devil Rides Out, The by Terence Fisher
Don’t Look Now by Nicholas Roeg
Dracula by Tod Browning
Dressed to Kill by Brian DePalma
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Rouben Mamoulian
Duel by Steven Spielberg
Editor, The by Astron-6
Ejecta by Matt Wiele, Chad Archibald
Entity, The by Sidney J. Furie
Evil Dead, The by Sam Raimi
Eyes Without A Face by Georges Franju
Father's Day by Astron-6
Fly, The by David Cronenberg
Frankenstein by James Whale
Frenzy by Alfred Hitchcock
Ghost Ship by Mark Robson/Val Lewton
Hellmouth by John Geddes
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer by John McNaughton
Hexecutioners, The by Jesse Thomas Cook
House of Dark Shadows by Dan Curtis
Howling, The by Joe Dante
Incredible Shrinking Man, The by Jack Arnold
Innocents, The by Jack Clayton
Invaders From Mars by William Cameron Menzies
Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Don Siegel
Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Phil Kaufman
Invisible Man, The by James Whale
Island of Lost Souls by Erle C. Kenton
Isle of the Dead by Mark Robson/Val Lewton
I Walked With A Zombie by Jacques Tourneur/Lewton
Jaws by Steven Spielberg
Kwaidan by Masaki Kobayashi
Last Man On Earth, The by Ubaldo Ragoda/Sidney Salkow
Leopard Man, The by Jacquea Tourneur/Val Lewton
Let's Scare Jessica To Death by John Hancock
Let The Right One In by Tomas Alfredson
M by Fritz Lang
Mad Love by Karl Freund
Man Who Laughs, The by Paul Leni
Mark of the Devil by Michael Armstrong
Masque of the Red Death by Roger Corman
Midnight Son by Scott Leberecht
Mulberry Street by Jim Mickle
Mummy, The by Karl Freund
Night of the Demons by Jacques Tourneur
Night of the Living Dead by George Romero
Omen, The by Richard Donner
Paranormal Activity by Oren Peli
Phantom of the Opera by Rupert Julian
Play Misty For Me by Clint Eastwood
Poltergeist by Tobe Hooper
Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock
Pulse by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Pyx, The by Daryl Duke
Rabid by David Cronenberg
Race With The Devil by Jack Starett
Re-Animator, The by Stuart Gordon
[REC] by Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Repulsion by Roman Polanski
Ring, The by Gore Verbinski
Ringu by Hideo Nakata
Road, The by John Hillcoat
See No Evil by Richard Fleischer
Seventh Victim, The by Mark Robson/Val Lewton
Shining, The by Staney Kubrick
Shivers by David Cronenberg
Silent Partner, The by Daryl Duke
Sinister 2 by Ciarin Foy
Sisters by Brian De Palma
Stake Land by Jim Mickle
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The by Charles Jarrot/Dan Curtis
Straw Dogs by Sam Peckinpah
Suspiria by Dario Argento
Tales From The Crypt by Freddie Francis
Targets by Peter Bogdanovich
Tenant, The by Roman Polanski
Terminal Man, The by Mike Hodges
Uninvited, The by Lewis Allem
Vampires by John Carpenter
Vampyr by Cark Dreyer
Videodrome by David Cronenberg
War of the Worlds by Steven Spielberg
Werewolf of London by Stuart Walker
Westworld by Michael Crichton
White Zombie by Victor Halperin
Wicker Man, The by Robin Hardy
Willow Creek by Bobcat Goldthwait
Wolf Man, The by George Waggner
Wyrmwood by Kiah Roache-Turner
X - The Man With The X-Ray Eyes by Roger Corman

Sunday, 25 October 2015

MULHOLLAND DRIVE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Criterion Does David Lynch Death Dream


Mulholland Drive (2001)
Dir. David Lynch
Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Ann Miller,
Michael J. Anderson, Lafayette (Monty) Montgomery, Robert Forster,
Dan Hedaya, Billy Ray Cyrus, Chad Everett, Lee Grant, Rebekah Del Rio

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The tagline for David Lynch's first feature film Eraserhead was the aptly creepy, "A Dream of Dark and Troubling Things" which, frankly, could be applied to most of his great work. Few filmmakers understand dream logic and even fewer know how to use it within narrative cinema. Lynch is the exception to all rules and he might be the best living example of a filmmaker who brings the properties of nightmare to his drama with the kind of intelligence and aplomb that most can only, if you will, dream of.

Plus, his work continues to be the epitome of cool. Better yet, it never feels dated. Yes, it can be rooted in whatever time frame its rooted in, but his technique feels timeless, which bodes well for its unending value beyond the mere ephemeral that most contemporary films are hamstrung with.

Mulholland Drive was a film that chilled me to the bone and moved me deeply when I first saw it on a big screen at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2001 (one day before the 9/11 attacks, no less). Subsequent viewings in the next couple of years or so maintained the degrees of richness I'd come to expect with so many of Lynch's films.

Though screenings eventually dropped off my radar, the film itself did not and it continued to haunt me.

And then, the Criterion Collection issued a spanking new, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director David Lynch and director of photography Peter Deming.

No two ways about it, Mulholland Drive is a masterpiece.


I think it's safe to say that like Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive is indeed a cinematic "dream of dark and troubling things". Lynch has, however, chosen a very simple tag line for this creepy, terrifying tale of contemporary Hollywood and billed his picture as "A love story in the city of dreams . . . "

This is clearly appropriate in more ways than one.

Set against the backdrop of the movie business, we follow the story of Betty Elms (Naomi Watts), a small town girl who decides to grab her shot at stardom. She's completely unprepared for the deep horror and secrets beneath the dream factory's veneer. Upon taking possession of a homey suite owned by her aunt, she discovers Rita (Laura Harring), a gorgeous amnesiac passed out in the bedroom.

Betty, being a Canadian missy from Deep River, Ontario (no less) is an especially wide-eyed, kind-hearted star-struck blond naif. She also shares the Jeffrey Beaumont obsession (Kyle McLachlan's character in Blue Velvet) with solving mysteries. Rita has been involved in an especially horrific experience on Mulholland Drive and Betty is determined to assist her new sexy brunette friend.

This not only leads to all manner of delving into hidden corners they shouldn't, but the two gorgeous lassies begin to fall in love and Lynch happily has them diving into each other's respective love pockets.


A juicy, compelling sub-plot which wends its way into the lives of our heroines (and is, in fact mysteriously and inextricably linked to them), involves wunderkind film director Adam (Justin Theroux) who is being given thug-like orders by a raft of agents and executives - all of which seem closer to the edicts of gangsters. He's been clearly used to the business vagaries of the film industry, but his refusal to play ball seems to go deeper than usual as his life starts to spiral out of control. To restore normalcy, he is eventually forced to pay a visit in the deep night to one of Lynch's scariest incarnations, The Cowboy (Lafayette "Monty" Montgomery).

Betty's ascension to stardom seems to be getting more than a few helping hands. At one audition, she plays a love scene with Jimmy Katz (Chad Everett) a cheesy soap opera actor. The assembled slime bags for the audition appear to fetishize the love scene to creepy extremes, but Betty seems naively oblivious to the weirdness of it all. Deep french kissing with Chad Everett (no less) might well have been every gal's dream come true in his TV-star heydays of the 60s/70s, but it seems almost irredeemably sickening here.

And as her detective work on Rita's behalf intensifies, the very identities of both herself and lady love begin to morph into some extremely scary places. One of the more unsettling and moving sequences involves our sapphic couple visiting a strange club where they experience a live performance by an intense blue-haired chanteuse (Rebekah Del Rio) of Roy Orbison's "Crying" in Spanish.

The film swirls deeper into a thick morass which many might find utterly unintelligible, but in actual fact, there is a fairly straightforward narrative buried beneath the layers of mystery. (Lynch provided several cheeky clues for viewers to make note of that are now all over the internet after first being published with the first DVD release, but I think it's going to be a far more rewarding experience to let the film wash over you and keep discovering its secrets on subsequent viewings.)

I much prefer the big hint in Lynch's tagline for the film. He makes it clear that our film is set in the "city of dreams" and with elements of film noir coursing throughout the picture, Mulholland Drive might be as savage an excoriation of said dream factory as Nathanael West's classic 1939 novel "The Day of the Locust" (and its flawed, but worthy John Schlesinger 1975 screen adaptation).

In that great book, its "hero" is a production design storyboard artist who has been working on a sequence entitled "The Burning of Los Angeles" and one which terrifyingly comes to life in the book's shocking climactic moments. The portrait West paints of the film business is one of greed, exploitation and misogyny. Eventually, the only way to exorcise the evil is for total destruction.

Alas, Los Angeles, or rather, Hollywood, has not really burned. In Lynch's film, the greed, exploitation and misogyny West evoked has become more further entrenched than ever. It is a world of crime and corruption - a dream factory of nightmares. One of the orders director Adam receives is to utter the simple words "This is the girl" at an audition. At one point, Betty's alter-ego (yes, her personality does morph into someone else's) utters the same words.

"This is the girl," she says.

These words could belong to any "girl" for any reason. Using elements of dream logic to tell her dark story reveals how tenuous the thread between reality, dream and waking dream actually is. In many ways this dream of dark and troubling things in the city of dreams is not unlike a death dream and death, might well be what the dream factory is ultimately all about.

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

In addition to the new restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director David Lynch and director of photography Peter Deming, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray, the Criterion Collection version of Mulholland Drive contains new interviews with Lynch; Deming; actors Naomi Watts, Justin Theroux, and Laura Harring; composer Angelo Badalamenti; production designer Jack Fisk; and casting director Johanna Ray, on-set footage, a deleted scene, the trailer and a booklet featuring an interview with Lynch from the 2005 edition of filmmaker and writer Chris Rodley’s book "Lynch on Lynch".

Friday, 23 October 2015

THE LAST WITCH HUNTER - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Hopefully the first and LAST!!!

"I'm hoping this franchise can transform me into a Steve Reeves for the New Millennium."

The Last Witch Hunter (2015)
Dir. Breck Eisner
Starring: Vin Diesel (dubbed "Not His Real Name" by the late, great film critic John Harkness), Michael Caine, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson

Review By Greg Klymkiw

One doesn't go to a movie entitled The Last Witch Hunter expecting a masterpiece, especially when its lead is played by Vin ("Not His Real Name") Diesel, the bald, vaguely simian wiseacre star of the Fast and Furious and XXX franchises who, it seems, is seeking a whole new persona to exploit in yet another potential franchise. In fact, one expects something considerably lower on the rung when its revealed that the director will be Breck (Sahara, The Crazies) Eisner, a man who has yet to direct anything resembling a good movie.

In spite of these strikes against it, one grits ones teeth and hopes the movie will at least be fun on the level of 50s/60s Italian sword and sandal epics starring the likes of Steve Reeves. For the first few minutes, with Diesel traipsing about some Middle Ages fantasy setting with a ludicrous bushy beard and wielding a humungous sword, one believes that the modest hopes one had going in might blossom into something a bit more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, Diesel's character is defeated by the head honcho of all witches and cursed with eternal life and banished to an eternity of always remembering he didn't avenge the murder of his wife and child. That said, he becomes a witch hunter and, for a few hundred years he's been decimating "bad" witches all over the place.

"Look, this babe behind me has such a bad speech impediment I can't understand a word she says. Can we use some witchcraft to fix this up?"

For the rest of this movie, Diesel (sans beard) lives high atop the city in a swanky Manhattan pad and continues his vendetta against witches who refuse to live peacefully with humans. He even has a sidekick in the form of a Catholic priest played by Michael Caine (who no doubt earned a sizeable cheque to pay for a few more mansions in the sky). When Sir Michael is savagely tortured and left for dead, Diesel not only gets mad, he's going to get even. Related to this injustice is the fact that some bad witches are about to release a plague upon New York, so the Diesel-meister is going to have his hands full. The Catholics, always on top of such matters, give him a new Holy mortal sidekick in the form of a young priest (Elijah Wood) who means well, but is lacking the know-how of his predecessor.

Even all this might have been palatable if it wasn't for the fact that the movie gets increasingly convoluted and stupid. Stupid is fine, but once its commingled with convolutions, it becomes deadly. Add to this an uninspired villain (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) and a horrendous leading lady (Rose Leslie, she of the speech impediment which renders all her lines to mush and a grating high-pitched voice which is probably enough to send canines the world over into a tizzy rivalling the silent dog whistles one can buy from ads at the back of comic books) and worst of all, a character working both sides of the good/evil coin that we can see from the first minute he appears on screen, we know - beyond a shadow of any doubt - that this picture is going to be a boring stinker.

One of the most repulsive screen kisses in recent memory.

Eisner's non-direction proves he's not even grasped basic skill sets to put him in hack territory. He simply has no idea of where to place his camera and the action scenes are all a miss-mashed mess.

Diesel has apparently announced a sequel is in the works. Let's hope it quietly goes the way of the Dodo. That said, I'd be up for a Fast and Furious sequel which offers Diesel in full-on sword-and-sandal beard. Now that, could be a howler worth enjoying.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: * One-Star

The Last Witch Hunter is a Lions Gate production in release world wide via eOne.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

THE INTERIOR - Review By Greg Klymkiw - "Office Space" Meets "Deliverance" Meets "Repulsion" Meets "Willow Creek" Meets "Fight Club" Meets "Repo Man" Meets "Billy Liar" Meets "O Lucky Man!" in this creepy, hilarious, terrifying, original & potential cult classic, a very promising Canuck First-Feature by Trevor Juras - TADFF 2015

Hope springs eternal in the young man's breast.
New Beginnings. New Job. New Boss. New Horizons.
The Interior (2015)
Dir. Trevor Juras
Prd. Peter Kuplowsky
Starring: Patrick McFadden, Delphine Roussel, Hyun-Jin Kim, Andrew Hayes,
Lucas Mailing, Ryan Austin, Shaina Silver-Baird, Jake Beczala

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I hope not to oversell the subtle, albeit glorious charms of The Interior, but when I see a movie as bold and original as this one, it's hard not to. Let me say, right off the bat, though, that writer-director Trevor Juras has broken a big rule in storytelling that not only works beautifully, but warms the cockles of my heart because this particular approach is so rooted to my personal peccadilloes as both a critic and film producer. For anyone who cares, my production of Guy Maddin's Careful had a deliciously insane narrative rule-breaker (among a shitload, really) that's not unlike the one employed by Juras in this brilliant black comedy/horror thriller.

Though I was pleased this film reminded me of several films, this is not to say Juras employs by-rote geek-homages, but that his film made me think positively about it in the historical context of such disparate items as Office Space/Silicon Valley (knee-slappingly funny white-collar shenanigans), Deliverance (creepy-ass shit in the deep woods), Repulsion/The Tenant (loneliness and insanity converging to create horror), Willow Creek (sheer terror in a tent), Fight Club (eating food with one's digits directly from the fridge), Repo Man (a mordantly hilarious and realistic blend of workplace strangeness with, uh, just plain cult-movie strangeness), Billy Liar (the famous Brit New Wave rendering of a young man with "fantasies") and O Lucky Man! (the bizarre adventures of a coffee salesman played by Malcolm McDowell).

For a first feature to get an old curmudgeon like me to put its director's name, Trevor Juras, in a pantheon that includes Guy Maddin, Mike Judge, John Boorman, Roman Polanski, Bobcat Goldthwait, David Fincher, Alex Cox, John Schlesinger and Lindsay Anderson, is indeed a heart-felt pleasure.

How's that for an oversell?

Well, screw it. This movie gave me so much pleasure, I can't help myself.

Things get off to a rip-snortingly deadpan start. Yes, "rip-snortingly deadpan" might seem like an oxymoron, but that's just the kind of picture The Interior is. It's a leave it or lump it affair, but if you leave it, you lose (and potentially display your crappy taste, lack of cinema literacy and sense of humour).

Under the harsh glare of fluorescent lights, we first meet a handsome, cleanly, but conservatively attired James (Patrick McFadden in an astonishingly great performance, an amalgam of Emilio Estevez in Repo Man and Buster Keaton in anything). He betrays little emotion as he rigidly drills his eyes downward into nothingness whilst the angry thumping of a rap song pulsates on the soundtrack. Given the composition and lighting, as well as what little of the set we see, his emotion-bereft reverie could well be in the copier room of some white collar offices as he daydreams in place of his gaze upon the progress of the copy machine.


The reverie is broken. The door opens. An exotically attractive woman with high cheekbones that never end, inviting eyes, a gorgeously buffed aquiline profile and adorned in medical-white attire, enters and grabs a chart near the door. We realize there's no copy machine and that James is actually in a doctor's office.

This opening shot and subsequent shots during the rest of the scene is a terrific indicator of what's to follow - rigid, well-composed tableaux which appear to be something other than they actually are. This is a consistent attribute of Juras's direction within the film as a whole. It's not just an effective visual flourish, but is rooted in the movie's structure, narrative and thematic core - that nothing is ever as it seems, but, uh, maybe it is, like, after all, but, like, who the fuck really knows in this cold world of contemporary ennui. I loved this point of view which permeates The Interior with the force and consistency of a master, yet possibly only achievable in an artist's earliest work (only to grow and morph with maturity and subsequent pictures).


During this thorough exam, James reveals a number of troubling symptoms which have the doctor quite concerned. She orders an MRI, passes him some documentation, then watches as he strangely keeps missing the insertion-target of his shirt pocket. She delicately expresses more concern. James has a roach twixt his fingers and has clearly been puffing on a joint whilst waiting for the doctor to come into the room.

This is our perfect entry point into the seemingly empty life of James. He works as a low level executive in an advertising agency run by a complete asshole (Andrew Hayes), spending much time gazing into a bathroom mirror, having a myriad of daydreams and eventually pulling a weirdly brilliant and hilarious stunt which gets him fired. He eventually applies for a new job, expressing his need to the proprietor (Ryan "Please Let This Man Be In More Movies" Austin) that he wishes to work with his hands. His interview is a success, he's hired by MAXI-VAC, an air duct cleaning firm, gets a shocking medical prognosis, breaks up with his girlfriend (Shaina Silver-Baird) without even looking her in the eye and then, finally decides that TRUE change is in order.

Two things were clear to me on a first helping of The Interior and remain with me after subsequent helpings. First of all, during this opening section, I howled with laughter so hysterically that I induced a few unwanted dribblings twixt my loins. Secondly, this first chunk of the movie features the funniest job interview scene that I've ever seen. EVER. NO KIDDING. Much of this is thanks to Juras's terrific writing, but also the insanely hysterical performance by Ryan Austin.

As the film, by this point, felt like James would indeed plunge into the "big change", I realized that after almost 30 minutes of screen time, something was missing. Seconds after this thought scuttled across my cerebellum, the film's title finally appeared on-screen.

Excellent.

No more noggin-scratching on my part and the title also announces that our hapless city-dweller is now in The Interior.


The story structure might feel wonky to some, but in reality, it's rooted in the very nature of what James has had to face all along. Going from a black comedy about urban emptiness to what becomes a chilling exploration of a man facing his own demons and maybe some real ones in nature, is so simple and powerful.

It helps that Juras is blessed with the cinematography of Othello J. Ubalde (who deserves some kind of award for the name most resembling a giallo lenser). Ubalde exposes gorgeously, mostly with natural light and light sources, his compositions are exquisite and his moves like the golden ooze of honey. Juras, for his part, wisely and bravely trusts in the power of the tableau, allowing one to take in every detail - no matter how beautiful, scary or mundane.

And yes, with a knapsack on his back, James has left cold, soul-bereft Toronto behind and is now in the middle of deep bush in British Columbia's dense, lush and unpopulated hinterlands. He breaks into a cottage, already shuttered for the season, helps himself to a nice bottle of wine and leaves this vestige of civilization behind.

Once ensconced in nature's loving embrace with his tent erected and his cooler hung high above on a tree so critters won't get at it, he seems, content. Now, here is where audiences must display a smidgen of patience. If they do, it will be rewarded a thousand-fold.


Mr. Juras shifts gears into borderline neorealism as we experience every simple, mundane act anyone might perform alone in deep bush. This includes eating, tent-erection, napping, reading, exploring, napping, eating, reading, sleeping soundly into the deep night and finally - YES! FINALLY! - taking a most leisurely dump in the woods. Heaven on Earth!

And then, whilst enjoying his bowel movement in the fresh air of the outdoors:

James sees someone.


Here, The Interior moves into an even slower crawl - never boring, but even more time for every twig snap to take on substantial, shuddering power. Not only does Juras spend time to establish the rhythm of time in nature, the often glorious feeling of being cozily blanketed in a tent in the deep night, but he slowly lures us into the creepy crawly terror of a man in a red jacket (Jake Beczala), seen only fleetingly, often at night, but eventually daring to lurk outside of the tent Jason is bundled in. Soon, the man even pushes against the nylon, ever-so gently, just enough to let James know he's there.

Juras uses a skillfully crafted sound design which captures the sounds of "silence" beautifully. His editing is a thing of beauty. His visual design is such that when a cut comes, it's not only absolutely necessary at just the right beat, but also allows for occasional cuts to simply take your breath away.

Curiously, the film often feels like a silent movie - that wonderful period of film history when both narrative and emotion had to be conveyed by picture and music (always live - sometimes with an orchestra and often with a lone piano or organ). There's one "scare" sequence where the blacks are deep and we catch fleeting brightly lit irises of James's horrified face as he moves through the dark in sickeningly horrifying slow motion as a simple Chopin piano solo carries us away with its haunting accompaniment.

This is the cinema of gooseflesh.


There are, of course, quite a few terrifying set pieces which are as scary as anything I've seen recently - not in cheap, obvious ways, but the kind of "scary" that gets deep in your bones. Most extraordinarily, Juras captures the joy and terror of nature, but does so by using his seemingly slender narrative, measured pace and attention to detail to explore that horrifying feeling that maybe, just maybe, all your senses play tricks on you, but then, as quickly as you settle into the notion that it's all a figment of loneliness, the realities rear their ugly heads and within no time, imagination and nightmare become one with reality.

And you know, this is what really fucking curdles your blood.

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

The Interior enjoyed its Toronto Premiere at TADFF 2015.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

BACKTRACK - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Predictable supernatural thriller - TADFF 2015

Adrien Brody registers some autopilot anguish for us.
Backtrack (2015)
Dir. Michael Petroni
Starring: Adrien Brody, Sam Neill, Bruce Spence,
Robin McLeavy, Malcolm Kennard, Jenni Baird

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Man, when Adrien Brody is playing a character in anguish, nobody can reproduce this single note with more autopilot consistency than he can. In this wannabe "thoughtful" Aussie thriller, Brody plays a psychiatrist grieving over the death of his child - all the more so since he believes her demise was his fault. In spite of this, he's decided to ease back into his practice in order to give psychiatric care to others even though he's hardly healed from his own wounds.

Luckily, Brody has an old pal and mentor in the form of stalwart Sam Neill to see him through the rough patches and the two of them have plenty of opportunities to talk things out. Brody maintains his grimace of anguish in these scenes whilst Neill is plastered with a virtually Botoxed visage of concern.

Anguish is Botoxed into Adrian Brody's face
as he commingles with a ghost.

In no time at all, one of Brody's clients, a mysterious little girl, proves to be a ghost.

Or is she a figment of his overheated anguish and despair?

Well, it matters not since he's being haunted either way.

Not surprisingly, Brody needs to eventually engage himself in the Backtrack of the film's title in order to retrace a few steps from his deep, distant past in his old small-town. He reconnects with his alcoholic Dad, a retired policeman with his own deep, dark secrets and a plucky young policewoman who begins to smell a rat.

And a smelly, hoary old rat it turns out to be.

Sam Neill registers concern.
Brody registers ('natch) anguish.

Eventually, all this plays out as predictably as one would expect in a film which purports to be above the tropes of its genre, but is, in fact, replete with and dependent upon them.

There's a veneer of competence here which means the film can't be totally flushed down the toilet, but the picture is ultimately as dull as it is derivative and infused with the kind of mock-intelligence which bamboozles some (including, presumably, its makers) into assuming the movie is far more lofty than it is.

Still, one cannot deny how great Adrien Brody is at conveying anguish.

In Backtrack, his entire persona proves to be an immoveable feast.

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

Backtrack enjoys is Canadian premiere at TADFF 2015.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

SHUT IN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Misogynistic home invasion thriller - TADFF 2015


Shut In (2015)
Dir. Adam Schindler
Scr. T.J. Cimfel, David White
Starring: Beth Riesgraf, Rory Culkin, Martin Starr,
Jack Kesy, Joshua Mikel, Timothy T. McKinney, Leticia Jimenez

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There's very little reason to justify the existence of this appalling, morally repugnant thriller which details how an agoraphobic young woman defends herself against a brutal home invasion. Though one cannot fault the cast, all of whom valiantly offer solid performances, this is a film that's directed with a cold, efficient competence from a screenplay which skillfully creates one sordid twist after another, but in so doing, does not take away from the fact that nothing can absolve the entire enterprise of its mean-spiritedness.

In essence, a lot of skill has been poured into a work which purports to be both entertaining and provocative, but is finally, little more than a grotesque wad of misogynistic filth with blurry lines of morality throughout.

The filmmakers want to have their cake and eat it too. The first third of the movie is comprised of various acts of physical and psychological terror perpetrated against the young woman who has not left her home for some ten years. The final hour involves a reversal of fortunes wherein she taunts her aggressors and kills them one by one.

Sadly, the film resorts to utilizing rape and incest as a backdrop to the woman's fury, doing so by creating a backstory which justifies her behaviour in a sickening, knuckle-draggingly exploitative manner.

The filmmakers no doubt think they're very clever by hiding the fact that the woman was a longtime victim of her late father's repeated sexual abuse and that she's outfitted the old house with a series of secret rooms, passageways, booby traps and audio visual equipment, all once used to execute rapists, pedophiles and other criminally deviant scumbags.

However, the filmmakers don't hide it well enough. Almost from the beginning we know, from the broad-stroked hints, that her Pappy was fiddling with her as a child. As the film progresses, the house's accoutrements of incarceration and pain are revealed to suggest what she was up to and how she's a powerful enough adversary against the clutch of inbred home invaders.

That the film uses her perpetration of violence as the thing which cures and cleanses her isn't problematic per se, but rather the fact that it chooses to create a character whose sexual assaults at the hands of her Daddy are the thing which instigate her actions, all accompanied by some mild tut-tutting on the part of the filmmakers and ultimately, acceptance.

God knows I love a great thriller and horror film which can explore all manner of deviance, even if it resorts to tropes, but this is something else altogether. Shut In is the most horrendous example of a movie that exploits incest and rape to parcel out its "clever' story twists and dubious morality.

It's a movie that would better serve as incineration fodder.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: * One-Star

Shut In has its Canadian premiere at TADFF 2015.

Monday, 19 October 2015

THE HEXECUTIONERS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Babes who kill, legally, in Owen Sound, Ontario and the lovely, surrounding environs of Grey-Bruce Counties - TADFF 2015

In Owen Sound, there are babes who commit euthanasia!!!

The Hexecutioners (2015)
Dir. Jesse Thomas Cook
Scr. Tony Burgess
Starring; Liv Collins, Sarah Power, Will Burd,
Barry Flatman, Boyd Banks, Tony Burgess

Review By Greg Klymkiw

"A Yotar is a sky burial, a ritual performed for releasing the soul from the clutches of vengeful spirits that wish to lay claim to it through their desire for eternal revenge. I don't get it, do you? Okay, whatever." - Dialogue from The Hexecutioners as could ONLY be written by Tony Burgess.

The opening scenes of The Hexecutioners perfectly exemplify why Foresight Features, the tiny independent Canadian production company from Collingwood, Ontario are making some of the creepiest, scariest, most intelligent and wholly original horror films in the world. Their latest, shot in the seemingly normal rural locale of Owen Sound and surrounding areas, manages to bring a wholly indigenous quality to a film that will be enjoyed round the world. The bottom line: Canada IS creepy, especially in Grey-Bruce counties.

The film begins with a simple white-on-black title card informing us that euthanasia has been legal in Canada and many other countries for several years. With the passing of Proposition 177 (this even sounds like something passed by Canada's former Fascist Party under ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper), private medical firms have been granted the right to perform assisted suicides (with full immunity and impunity).

The titles fade to black, hold briefly in the pitch ebony until a hard cut reveals an older model station wagon in mid-assault upon the frame as it barrels forward over a gravel road leading to a mysterious old rural house at the top of a hill.

The sole occupant of the car is a quiet, primly attired redheaded babe (Liv Collins), who overlooks a series of official looking papers before proceeding to the front door. She's greeted by a sour, sad-faced cynical husband (one of Canada's foremost character actors, Boyd Banks) who complains about her being late. She explains this is her first day on the job. Hubby responds with considerable sarcasm, especially in response to her clearly rehearsed speech:

"My name is Malison McCourt. I'm a palliative technician with Life's Source Closures. We'd like to extend our compassion to you at this sensitive time. I'd like to personally assure you that your family's closure will be meaningful, merciful and memorable."

Hubbles leads the peculiarly Christian-named Malison (which means, uh, curse) into his wife's sickroom where the poor woman lies in a coma. Malison prepares her implements of euthanasia and eventually injects the poison into the woman's system.

What happens at this point is sickening, shocking, grimly grotesque and deeply, deeply disturbing. It places a stunning capper to the sequence which includes a brutal shocker to top the actual shocker. This is a truly astonishing and creepy opening sequence, one which has few rivals in recent memory and plunges us headlong into the world of legitimate, though corporate-sullied assisted suicide, a world in which moral lines are clearly blurred.

Lines between this life and the next, are also blurred. This is good, and this then, is precisely why Foresight Features continues to kick considerable genre ass. The Hexecutioners delivers an opening few minutes that creeps us out, throws us for a major loop, forces us to practically upchuck and does so, from beginning to end, with a first rate mise-en-scene, impeccable cutting, crazed imagination, sheer originality and dollops of contemporary political/social issues nestled in the backdrop.

What follows the opening is even more jaw dropping. In order to add some buff and polish to his newest employee, Malison's boss (Barry Flatman) decides to pair her up with the perversely surnamed Olivia Bletcher (Sarah Power), a senior "palliative technician" (uh, killer), who also happens to be an even bigger babe than Malison (and she smokes cigarettes - nothing sexier than a leggy babe alternating twixt firearms and ciggies). Not only are we going to follow two women who perform assisted suicides, but they are both mouth-wateringly gorgeous.

This, my friends, is great cinema!

It's probably not a good idea to go down this corridor.

The next hour has our babes in an eerie old Owen Sound mansion where we meet a creepy caretaker (Will Burd), presiding over Milos Somborac (writer Tony Burgess), the hideously disfigured patriarch who has an insanely repellent request for his own assisted suicide. Will this madness ever cease?

No. The movie never lets up.

It delivers the following checklist of spine-tingling horrors:

- Plenty of sojourns into dark rooms, long corridors, murky basements, rocky exterior passageways a la Picnic at Hanging Rock and a garden maze which puts the Overlook Hotel's leafy catacombs in The Shining to shame;

- Nightmares a-plenty, which might not actually be nightmares and involve hideously masked rituals in the tradition of the pre-orgy Eyes Wide Shut ceremony and the very best devil/demon worship shenanigans that cinema has to offer;

- Ghosts. Yes, ghosts, and they are not at all benevolent;

- Magnificent blood-letting and viscera and,

- Babes. Babes in various states of sanity, costumery and undress.

Larry Miller, MP for Grey-Bruce County
How this Conservative clown was re-elected is a mystery,
but perhaps he'll preside over the Owen Sound Premiere of
THE HEXECUTIONERS

The only flaw in the entire film is the hint of Sapphic Delight, presented with some lovely girl-on-girl kissing, but unfairly pulled from us like so many rugs from under a century of prat-falling-physical-comedians.

Ah well, we can't have everything, I suppose - especially when The Hexecutioners offers such original, mind-blowing scares from the diseased minds of director Jesse Thomas Cook, the clinically insane screenwriter Tony Burgess and the brilliant independent Collingwood filmmakers at the visionary Foresight Features.

That, ladies and gents, is entertainment!!!

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

The Hexecutioners enjoys its world premier at TADFF 2015 and will be released courtesy of Raven Banner and Anchor Nay Entertainment Canada.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canucks Unleash Grim, Ghoulish, Darkly Hilarious Yuletide Omnibus Horror Picture - 2015 Toronto After Dark Film Festival


Is William Shatner the GREATEST Canadian Actor?
Is he the GREATEST ACTOR, like, ever? Period!!!
Well, he sure fits his alcoholic radio D.J. role like a glove.

A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
Dir. Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan
Scr. James Kee, Sarah Larsen, Doug Taylor, Pascal Trottier
Starring: William Shatner, George Buza, Zoé De Grand Maison, Michelle Nolden,
Amy Forsyth, Oluniké Adeliyi, Adrian Holmes, Jeff Clarke, Julian Richings,
Alex Ozerov, Shannon Kook, Corinne Conley, Debra McCabe, Jessica Clement

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A Christmas Horror Story is so much damn fun, I feel like the Grinch for needing to employ the simple, but necessary act of wanting to like it so much better than I did. So fuck it, let me be Cindy Lou Who for awhile.

This Canadian Yuletide horror treat has many things going for it. The picture bestows the twelve following gifts over the twelve, so to speak, days of Christmas:

a. Babes
b. Elves who turn into the living dead
c. Santa Claus battling dwarf zombies and Krampus
d. Krampus
e. Babes
f. Changelings
g. William Shatner as an alcoholic graveyard shift D.J.
h. Blood, viscera and more blood
i. Hostage-taking in a mall
j. MILFS
k. Have I mentioned babes yet?
l. Happy shoppers and clerks mass-murdered in mall

These elements are clearly undeniable and go a long way in masking the film's flaws whilst accentuating several positive attributes that will delight and tantalize.

Though clearly a horror omnibus picture with four grisly tales plus a wraparound story, the filmmakers have made one near-fatal error. Instead of relying upon the tried and true, established so many decades ago in Dead of Night from the legendary Ealing Studios, they've attempted to mush everything together as if it were a multi-charactered drama set in the same locale (the fictional locale "Bailey Downs" of Ginger Snaps and Orphan Black fame) and on the same day.

Alas, it doesn't quite work and has a tendency to queerly bog down the pace and add an occasionally confusing herky-jerky feeling to the whole thing.

The four stories involve some fairly tried and true elements.

KRAMPUS, SANTA & BABES
'Tis the season to be DEADLY!!!

First and foremost, we get to meet Santa in his magical workshop as he preps for a night on his sleigh dispensing gifts. Alas, a virus begins to affect the elves and soon, the North Pole is turning into George Romero's Pittsburgh.

Another story involves a cop on mental health leave after discovering a gruesome murder in the local high school the previous Christmas. He wants his wife and child to enjoy a quiet old fashioned Christmas and takes them out to cut down their own tree. Unfortunately, he chooses to trespass on someone else's land which results in an unholy possession consuming the couple's child.

Somewhat related to the aforementioned, we follow a group of teens into the very same high school as they attempt to get to the bottom of the murders, which were never solved. Once in the bowels of the old building, they discover some truly gruesome secrets which go beyond their wildest expectations and result in an orgy of blood, sex and Cronenberg-like viscous explosion.

Finally, a greedy family attempts to bamboozle an old, rich aunt into forking over wads of cash. Their actions release the horrifying demon, Krampus (a kind of antichrist figure to Santa Claus). This is not a good thing - for anyone in Bailey Downs.

The wraparound involves William Shatner pulling graveyard duties on his annual all-night Christmas broadcast on the radio, getting progressively sauced as he tries to report on a hostage-taking during a charity drive at the local mall.

This all sounds like fun, right? Well, it is, but only to a point. By throwing the omnibus structure to the wind results in a movie that constantly feels like its struggling against itself and as such, has a tendency to exhaust you rather than thrill you. This is a shame since there's a lot of fine genre writing in the piece, wonderful special effects and not a single performance is any less than delightful within the context of the picture's qualities of insanity.

The biggest disappointment is the big surprise at the end, which comes as no surprise at all, but is one of those annoying revelations you see coming early into the picture, but pray and hope that it won't come to pass. It does and your heart sinks. First of all, because it removes a gorgeous delightful sense of magic the film is imbued with and secondly, because it's a lost opportunity to go the distance into the truly perfect territory of genuine, horrific tastelessness. The movie had the potential to be an omnibus yuletide answer to such outrageously hilarious recent pictures as Bunny The Killer Thing and Canada's own High School Shooting - The Musical. Alas, it falls short.

Stylistically, the picture feels all over the place. With three directors handling the chores for the whole film, their voices (mostly) get lost in the proceedings; firstly because the picture tries to betray its omnibus roots, but secondly and most especially since the overall picture lacks the sustained vision of the Ealing Studio on Dead of Night, the directorial aplomb of Freddie Francis and Roy Ward Baker respectively for the Amicus productions of Tales from the Crypt and Asylum, then last, but not least, the very strong unifying vision of Axelle Carolyn in the flawed, but effective Tales of Halloween.

All this said, the story involving the kids in the school stands out as having the strongest sense of personal voice - the creepy, sexy and nasty qualities are inherent in the writing, but the story itself goes the added distance in terms of its stellar mise-en-scene and directorial proficiency above and beyond the call of duty.

A Christmas Horror Story is not without merit and is begging to be a franchise, but it's frustrating to watch a picture that has so much potential that's been unnecessarily buried; not allowed to blossom and breathe to the fullest extent.

For a much fuller description of omnibus horror cinema, feel free to read the first few paragraphs of the Tales of Halloween review HERE.

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

A Christmas Horror Story, from e-One plays TADFF 2015

Saturday, 17 October 2015

THE HALLOW - Review By Greg Klymkiw - In Ireland, there are animals in the woods. Terrifying, visceral first feature at Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TADFF 2015): ***½


The Hallow (2015)
Dir. Corin Hardy
Scr. Hardy and Felipe Marino
Starring: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Michael Smiley

Review By Greg Klymkiw

So you move into an old stone cottage in the middle of Inbredville, Ireland because your hubby (Joseph Mawle) has been hired by rich scumbag developers to survey a deep, gorgeous old forest for nefariously commercial purposes.

It should be plenty quaint. Hubby gets to tromp about the woods with his trusty dog and your cute baby stuffed into one of those handy Mountain Co-Op hiking carriers. You, the loyal wifey (Bojana Novakovic) will have plenty of time to putter about the sweetly idiosyncratic old house and gardens. One of the first orders of business is to remove all the unsightly steel bars which are mounted on every single window. This bit of home improvement is all well and good, but did you not think - if only for a second - why these bars have been affixed there in the first place?

Honey, there's always a good reason for steel bars on the windows.

To keep someone or something in? Or, maybe, just maybe, the bars are meant to keep something out - something lurking in the deep woods. In fact, a gun-toting local inbred (Michael McElhatton) repeatedly demands that hubby stop trespassing in the ancient heritage forest and furthermore suggests that you all should just plain LEAVE. GO. BUGGER OFF! NOW! RIGHT FUCKING NOW!


This then is The Hallow, a film of mounting, creepy chills until it blasts into the stratosphere of utter, relentless terror. Frankly, there's absolutely no need to describe what is in those woods, but suffice to say it's shit-your-drawers ghastly and as an added bonus, rooted in not the most pleasant Irish folklore - no Darby O'Gill and the Little People here, folks. No fucking Gnome Mobile in sight. Just icky, sticky, oozing... uh, let's just say, things.


Though much of the screenplay is by the book structurally, it's rife with realistic dialogue (uttered with conviction by a first-rate cast) and plenty of local colour to keep one tantalized. The special effects are mostly of the non-digital variety and as such are a whopping jarful of maraschino cherries floating in viscous fluids and deposited in healthy dollops upon this most foul ice cream sundae of a movie.

Director Hardy demonstrates considerable skill and aplomb with this, his first feature film as a director. Though the picture's elements are familiar enough, his mise-en-scene is always several country miles ahead of most genre directors with its solid compositions, plenty of variation in performance and skillful coverage to allow for elegant cutting. The man has skill, but he also has a lot of style and he displays the strong early beginnings of a distinctive filmmaking voice.

The Hallow is that lovely pot at the end of the Irish rainbow, a pot overflowing with blood and plenty of gelatinous chunks of viscera.

One cannot argue with this.

The Film Corner Rating: ***½ 3-and-a Stars

The Hallow plays at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TADFF 2015)

Friday, 16 October 2015

TALES OF HALLOWEEN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Mixed wheelbarrow full o'pumpkins, half of them are plump. ripe and juicy, the other half remaingreen and not fully grown - Toronto After Dark Film Festival - TADFF2015: ***

Amply endowed milk maid assailed by psycho.

Tales of Halloween (2015)
Dir. David Parker, Darren Lynn Bousman, Adam Gierasch, Axelle Carolyn,
Lucky McKee, Paul Solet, John Skipp, Andrew Kasch,
Mike Mendez, Ryan Schifrin, Neil Marshall
Starring: Barry Bostwick, Pat Healy, Booboo Stewart, Clare Kramer, Alex Essoe, Lin Shaye, John Landis, Caroline Williams, John Savage, Greg Grunberg, Barbara Crampton, Adrienne Barbeau, Grace Phipps, Kristina Klebe, John Savage, Keir Gilchrist, Sam Witwer, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Graham Skipper

Review By Greg Klymkiw

An omnibus film (a feature-length anthology) is only as good as its wraparound story (the tale that holds it all together). Tales of Halloween doesn't have one.

The classic example of this structural necessity to the omnibus is the immortal 1945 shocker Dead of Night by the UK's legendary Ealing Studios. It introduces us to an architect who joins an assemblage of guests for some tea and crumpies in an old house in need of a structural makeover. He notes that all the guests mysteriously made appearances in his nightmare the previous evening. At their urging, he recounts the guests' respective roles from his trip to the Land of Nod.

One of the stories is the famous Cavalcanti-directed segment involving Michael Redgrave as a ventriloquist having a nervous breakdown. Each of the recounted stories (save for one odd-duck in the Ealing comedy tradition) are absolutely chilling, but all the more so because of the wraparound story which, is cleverly integrated into the omnibus structure and as such turns out be the best of the lot (save for the bunyip puppet master and his creepy wooden dummy tale which, is utter perfection).

Joan Collins & Psycho Santa in
1972's "Tales from the Crypt"
Herbert Lom & deadly mechanical
alter-ego in 1972's "Asylum"
Michael Redgrave and dummy
in 1945's "Dead of Night"

In the 70s, the Amicus company began adapting E.C. comics as omnibus features. All these had wraparound stories. Tales From The Crypt (1972) by Freddie Francis was endowed with a simple, but effective wrap-tale involving the great Ralph Richardson as a mysterious crypt keeper. Roy Ward Baker's Asylum (also 1972) had a wrap, but it turns out to be so perfect that I'd argue it rivals Dead of Night in this respect.

In it, Robert Powell (Ken Russel's Mahler), plays a young psychiatrist applying for a position at an asylum. As part of the job interview process, he meets a number of inmates (including the stellar likes of Charlotte Rampling, Herbert Lom, etc.) and listens to their grotesque stories in order to provide his analyses. As the clever conceit of this wraparound continues, both it and the other tales get creepier and creepier. By the end, we've enjoyed an omnibus picture which really kicks some serious ass.

That Tales of Halloween does not bother with a traditional wraparound story for the ten Halloween-themed short chillers is, perhaps, the film's biggest mistake. Leading us through the proceedings is an All Hallows Eve radio D.J. (delightfully played by Adrienne Barbeau, in a reprise of her role in John Carpenter's The Fog). It's wonderful to have her in the picture, but narratively, she just doesn't seem all that integral to the whole and it certainly doesn't feel like there's anything here resembling a solid narrative attached to her character.

Being bereft of a proper wraparound story might be the most egregious offence, but Tales of Halloween has plenty of other problems wafting through it - notably, a number of the stories that are simply not up to snuff.

A Babe is stalked in "Tales of Halloween".

Basically, we get what the title, Tales of Halloween, tells us we'll get - E.C. Comics-like tales of madness, retribution, murder, myth and magic. Each tale has a different team of filmmakers, though in the feature's favour, the picture has an overall stylistic unity which keeps it from being a total patchwork quilt. This is due mainly to the work of creative producer Axelle Carolyn, horror-journalist-turned-horror-filmmaker, who was the driving force behind the overall concept and final product.

At the end of the witching hour, though, some tales are better than others. This is to be expected. Even the virtually perfect grandaddy of horror omnibus features, Dead of Night, has one dud. Tales of Halloween, has quite a few.

Let's concern ourselves with what works.

Some people need to wash up before they eat.

"Sweet Tooth", written and directed by Dave Parker is a solid opener dealing with a little boy teased by his baby sitter and her boyfriend about a demon that kills kids who don't share their candy. The monster not only eats what little candy might remain, but disembowels his greedy victim to eat the candy not yet putrified by the digestion process. Needles to say, this urban myth is for real, and it comes a calling. Lots of genuine tension, shocks, a great monster, a couple of babes (one of them a yummy mommy), copious amounts of blood and viscera, plus a delightful E.C. Comics-style button-snapper at the end.

"The Night Billy Raised Hell", directed with aplomb by Darren Lynn Bousman and superbly written by Clint Sears, is a dazzlingly joyous bit of mordant wit and mega-blood-letting. On All Hallows Eve, a little boy is shamed into pelting the house of a creepy, old recluse with an egg. The recipient of his aim is, uh, Satan (Barry Bostwick, "Brad" in Rocky Horror Picture Show) and our plucky little hero, under the expert tutelage of the Dark Lord himself, spends a glorious night committing mass murder and other heinous activities. This short film had me soaring like no other in this entire anthology. Too bad Bousman and Sears opted for a disappointingly safe (and predictable) twist at the end. Happily, it didn't detract from the overall sheer orgasmic pleasure I received whilst watching it and, just thinking about the high points of this segment, I get giddy.

"Grimm Grinning Ghost", written and directed by the feature's primary creative force Axelle Carolyn scared the crap out of me. Uh, kinda literally. We observe a young babe on her Halloween evening walk home as someone, or something is on her tail. The creep and suspense factors mount ever-so insidiously, eventually offering solace until… well, just wait and watch, making sure you're wearing adult diapers. Conjuring feelings similar to the walk-through-the-park sequence in Val Lewton's production of Jacques Tourneur's The Cat People is no mean feat. Ms. Carolyn pulls it off admirably.

Lucky McKee's "Ding Dong" sees the remarkably versatile mega-babe actress Pollyanna McIntosh as the "better half" of a childless couple who cruelly abuses her milquetoast husband and, one fateful Halloween, she experiences a completely psychotic nervous breakdown as neighbourhood children are visiting in record numbers to get their fair share of candy. We're either in a living hell or the real thing as McKee's grim tale dives into unexpected viscera.

The Descent's Neil Marshall serves up "Bad Seed" wherein a tough babe cop (Kristina Klebe) faces a most formidable adversary - a pumpkin which goes on a killing spree. This is one great short film - original, scary, funny and edge-of-the-seat suspenseful. Marshall tosses in one astounding visual frisson after another until the picture builds to one of the most gorgeous and horrifying images I've had the pleasure to experience in quite some time. It's dazzling!!!

Poor thing has escaped from Hell's petting zoo.

And there you have it - five terrific horror shorts amongst a total of ten. The cellar-dwelling remainders are simply just that. They're the dross we must sludge through to get to the gold, but it's an especially tough sludge to get to the good stuff. (One segment involving a large-breasted Dorothy-Gale-like milk-maid fighting a Jason-Voorhees-like killer has some amusement value, but wears out its welcome pretty quickly.)

Then there is the matter of the key missing element. Other than a few tiny, tenuous strands supposedly linking the anthology together (the best being Adrienne Barbeau), I'm still scratching my head over the choice not to include a solid wraparound story. Doing so would have probably inspired better work amongst all the short films, especially the ones infecting the whole film with the debilitating added burden of being well below the bar set by the films that work.

This has got "franchise" written all over it, but hopefully Tales 2 will endeavour to include itself amongst the very best. This, of course, means it will require a wraparound story as solid as all the others.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3-Stars

Tales of Halloween is an Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada picture which had its Toronto launch at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2015.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

TAG - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Sono Delivers Japanese schoolgirls in uniform, ultra-violent bloodletting, staggering imagery and Buddhism. Yes! Buddhism! TADFF 2015

Top: 3 of many instances wherein Matsuko is sprayed with blood.
Bottom: 3 of many causes for said blood being sprayed upon Matsuko.
Tag (2015)
Dir. Sion Sono
Starring: Reina Triendl, Yuki Sakai,
Mariko Shinoda, Erina Mano, Maryjun Takahashi, Sayaka Isoyama

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Sion Sono's Tag opens with a sequence which, is not dissimilar to a two-by-four being slammed repeatedly into the audience's face. This is merely the beginning.

A schoolbus full of happy, smiling Japanese schoolgirls carries them to a resort for an extended field trip. They're chatty, giddy with excitement and even go so far as to engage in a glorious pillow fight. Ah, but there is always one who is left out of the frivolity. Matsuko (Reina Triendl) sits alone writing in a notebook.

She is, what our Japanese brothers and sisters refer to as a "Hafu" (half occidental, half oriental) and she is not only the butt of cruel, racist jokes from her classmates, but one of them tries to steal her notebook to read it. Matsuko wrestles it back, but her pen falls on the floor. She can't reach it, so she drops down to the ground to retrieve it.

Fate intercedes perfectly here, as she stays down to examine a beautiful white feather which, is lodged perfectly in the pen's lapel clip (the whole bus is full of white, fluffy down from the earlier frolics). Feathers, of course, will prove to be an important recurring image. Most of the time they're white, but sometimes they're blood-red.

What happens next is so jaw-dropping, sickeningly blood-drenched and terrifying that Matsuko's actions not only keep her alive, but her athletic prowess allows her to escape in a harrowing chase down a lonely country road littered with corpses and even more acts of carnage, in which our heroine escapes by ducking down to how she was posed in the bus.

Matsuko begins to run - harder and faster, it seems, than she's ever run in her life. Oh, and does she ever blast. Matsuko madly runs and runs and runs in a horrifying sequence which rivals that of Marilyn Burns being chased by Leatherface in Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (and even utilizing a similar nightmare logic to the material).

The movie never lets up. Even when things slow down to offer brief solace as well as very odd explanations as to what's happening, the idylls never last long before Sono throws a shocker at us and the characters - one shocker after another, increasing in intensity, imagination and originality. As scary as the movie gets, it's replete with a tremendous sense of dark humour - nothing tongue in cheek, but all rooted in the world of the picture.

I'm not familiar with the Japanese graphic novel "Tag". Nor, it seems, was Sion Sono when he chose to make Tag. He had a vague idea of what the manga was about and he liked the title. Seeing as he's one of the most original filmmakers in the world (Why Don't You Play in Hell?, Tokyo Tribe), the result of this approach has yielded one of the most insanely entertaining pictures of the year.

Matsuko is not a contestant on "Reach for the Top"

With its emphasis on alternate universes, Tag is not unlike a Sono-style version of Christopher ("One Idea") Nolan's Inception, or to a lesser extent the Wachowski's The Matrix, but with the added bonus of pretty Japanese schoolgirls in uniform, glorious bloodletting and none of the pretension of the aforementioned American titles. Tag is also vaguely Bunuelian, not just because of the satirical jabs at society and class, but Sono even goes so far as to introduce us to a strong main character, but he eventually gives her three faces, all played by three different actresses (That Obscure Object of Desire, anyone?).

To even begin summarizing the plot would be tantamount to an act of heretical selfishness. All one really needs to know is what's been divulged already: young schoolgirl escapes horrific death and breathlessly races forward for 85 minutes of screen time to avoid being caught and similarly decimated as everyone around her. I will reveal that there is a "game" aspect to the proceedings, if only to suggest what a terrific film Tag is, especially in comparison to something like the boneheaded disgrace of the The Hunger Games pictures.

For a film that is so infused with bloodletting, horror and nerve-jangling suspense, it is surprisingly dappled with sensitivity, deep friendship, love, soaring moments of joyous sentiment and even, I kid you not, the principles of Buddhism.

Matsuko's loyal friend Aki (Yuki Sakai) is always around to lend support and love. (The other girls tease the two, incessantly calling them dykes.) In fact, it is Aki who provides the simple, soothing words, "Life is surreal. Don't let it consume you." Most importantly, it is also Aki who tells Matsuko that no matter what happens, "Our destiny is decided. We're trapped within it," but adds the sage advice, "You can trick fate. Do something spontaneously that you'd never do." Eventually, this becomes Matsuko's greatest weapon against the horrors flung at her.

Sono's images are nothing less than spectacular - whether displaying horror, good humour, love and peace - he delivers compositions that are both breathtaking and rooted firmly in the film's tone and narrative.

Left: Director Sono finds an ideal angle to show us the schoolgirls' panties.
Right: Matsuko luxuriates in one of many alternative dimensions.

Oh, and in addition to everything but the kitchen sink, Sono gives us, the kitchen sink (with cherries on top). The kitchen sink turns out to be bone-crunchingly spectacular martial arts and the cherries on top are that all of the gorgeously choreographed kicks and thwacks are girl-on-girl.

Yes, ladies and gents, cat fights.

Tag is proof positive that contemporary Asian cinema in all forms continues to make pretty much most everything else, especially from the American studio system, pale in comparison. Chances are good that we'll eventually get an American remake and one can predict even money odds on the inevitability of it being dreadful.

The picture is a dazzler, as are all of Sion Sono's films, but this might well be my favourite of them all. Frankly, you do yourself a disservice to not see it.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4 Stars

Tag plays at Toronto After Dark (TADFF 2015).