|They Came From Within A History of
Canadian Horror Cinema
Written by Caelum Vatnsdal
Arbeiter Ring Publishing 2004
|The history of the horror film in Canada is
looked at in this excellent book. In the Introduction "Terror on the Tundra" and
the first chapter "Put on the Mask" not only are the films covered that were
made up north, but Caelum Vatnsdal even names Canadian actors and directors who were part
of horror films made out of the country. I never realized how many have worked in
Hollywood, Im pretty sure all of you would be surprised by the sheer number.
In the third chapter "Im Dreaming of a BLACK CHRISTMAS", some of the early horror films (1968-1971) are discussed THE REINCARNATE, LE DIABLE EST PARMI NOUS (a.k.a THE POSSESSION OF VIRGINA), THE PYX, THE CORPSE EATERS and Ivan Reitmans CANNIBAL GIRLS. Its really interesting to read how difficult of time Reitman had making CANNIBAL GIRLS. Its hard to believe that he is the same director who has gone on to make hugely successful films like STRIPES, GHOSTBUSTERS, KINDERGARTEN COP and DAVE.
Vatnsdal chronicles the beginning of many filmmakers in the second and third chapters; Bob Clark, Oliver Stone who made SEIZURE in Canada, David Cronenberg and William Fruet and George Mihalka. Most of these filmmakers had to deal with the government of Canada (CFDC) and the politics are looked at a little closer in the chapter "You should know how bad this movie is; after all, you paid for it".
We get the details of how SHIVERS (a.k.a. THE PARASITE MURDERS, THEY CAME FROM WITHIN) came together. David Cronenbergs first horror film nearly got made outside of Canada because the CFDC seemed against making it. It was not until after Cronenberg took a trip to Los Angeles did they approve to finance SHIVERS.
The fourth chapter "Slash for Cash" (1978-1982) is probably for me the most important time frame of my life as far as filmmaking. This is the period that I saw two films that changed my life forever (1978 HALLOWEEN and 1982 THE THING) and influenced me to become a film director. After seeing HALLOWEEN, I started absorbing everything I could watch, especially horror and suspense films. So no matter what those films look like now, many of them have a special place in my heart and there are different things I really like about those films. It amazes me to read that the audience in Canada didnt like THE CHANGELING because its honestly one of the more creepy films ever made. DEATH SHIP (which Ive never seen) and TERROR TRAIN are looked at next. I really enjoyed TERROR TRAIN though I havent seen it since the early 80s. Vatnsdal talks about the production and how they were able to film most of the film inside a studio where the interiors of the train where painfully reconstructed.
Paul Lynchs PROM NIGHT and HUMONGOUS are focused on next. HOMONGOUS is another film I havent seen and from Vatnsdals description the production company purposely put out a dark version to hide the violence or the make-up effects werent good enough to show clearly. Vatnsdal feels the film probably wasnt that good anyway, but I would be curious to see it.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME was quite a departure for director J. Lee Thompson and actress Melissa (LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE) Sue Anderson. There is some interesting anecdotes about the production.
Caelum Vatnsdal calls MY BLOODY VALENTINE "the most Canadian horror movie ever made." Its kind of tragic hearing how the special effects in the film were cut to ribbons. Tom Burman was doing pretty strong work at the time, he continues today in the television series "Nip Tuck." It would be great to see the violence restored on a Special Edition DVD. I liked this film when I first saw it, I remember the Sidney Mines, Nova Scotia location being frightening and unique. I agree that MY BLOODY VALENTINE is one of the better films made during the time period.
Reading the difficulties William Fruet had on SPASMS and David Cronenberg with VIDEODROME will keep your interest.
Chapter V covers the time frame from 1983 1999. Except for David Cronenbergs THE DEAD ZONE, THE FLY, DEAD RINGERS the only other title Vatnsdal felt held any great importance was PIN. Ill admit that Ive never seen PIN but now I will seek it out.
The last chapter rounds up what Canada has accomplished so far since 2000 and that if the filmmakers embrace horror for what it is, the best may lie ahead. GINGER SNAPS is proof of that.