On April 22-24 I had the chance to check out the second annual Northwest Horror Show in Vancouver, BC. When I heard about the event, I jumped at the chance to see such awesome titles as Maniac, Zombie, Night of the Creeps and more on 35mm at the local Vancity theatre. Though Vancouver boasts horror filmmakers like the Soska Sisters and refers to itself as “Hollywood North”, the horror community is surprisingly difficult to find. One of the best parts of the festival was the opportunity to see several horror shorts by independent directors tucked in between features, and I’d love to share them with you! The weekend also boasted Q&As with William Lustig, Tom Atkins, and Lynn Lowry which were exciting, despite any technical difficulties. The vintage trailers and PSAs before each feature were the true icing on the cake for me with titles like Night of the Bloody Apes, Rituals, and House of the Park on the Edge. There was so much eye candy and I left impressed with the smorgasbord the organizers from Northwest Nightmares gave us! I’ll be back next year for sure. Without further adieu, let’s take a look at the gems on display from the weekend:
Zombie, 1979 - Lucio Fulci
Probably best known for the awesomely bizarre underwater zombie vs. shark scene, Fulci’s Zombie was a fan favourite and a great start to the festival. Surprise: I’m not a big zombie fan in this saturated market, but I have a deep appreciation for this film. In particular, I love the way the zombies look, extra earthy! My favourite scene involved a slow-mo shot of a piece of wood going into an eyeball. Totally gross. If you get the chance, join the two strangers heading into the tropics to locate a missing scientist-dad who’s studying the cause and cure of - you guessed it - a zombie epidemic.
Maniac, 1980 - William Lustig
Though I enjoyed the 2012 remake of Maniac, this was actually my first time seeing the original and I can’t think of a better way to experience it than on the big screen. This was easily my favourite screening of the weekend. Joe Spinell plays the psychopath scarred by childhood abuse with the perfect blend of creepy uncle and sad trauma survivor. The interview with William Lustig after the movie definitely added to the experience. Around the time of filming, apparently Tom Savini was set to get a nose job. He had a bust made of his face pre-surgery, and since it would have been useless once he got the work done, they used it in the infamous shotgun head exploding scene. This was done with a live shotgun on the streets of New York, which was definitely not legal. When they drove the car from the scene home, they had to cross a toll bridge. When the attendant saw the hole in the windshield and the car covered in apparent blood and gore, the cops got involved. You can imagine how that went.
Cannibal Ferox, 1981 - Umberto Lenzi
What can I say? It’s like Cannibal Holocaust with better music. Sorry, that’s a little trite. This one caused an angry walk-out and it’s worth it just for that alone. It’s one of those movies you have to see once, if only because nobody will stop talking about it. It’s gory as hell and involves cannibalism, obviously. Can you tell it’s not my favourite film?
Night of the Creeps, 1986 - Fred Dekker
This is an absolute cult classic that took me awhile to get into (horror/comedy is not my jam) but by the end I was totally sold. There’s a pretty excellent dog in this movie, and I’m a sucker for clearly stuffed dogs in horror films. This movie is insanely quotable with perfect one-liners, and must be the quintessential 80’s experience. You’ve got your rowdy teenagers, you’ve got your alien parasites, what more do you really need? The audience had a blast with this one! Bonus points for a jovial interview with Tom Atkins after the movie, where, of course, his opening line was “Thrill me!” Speaking of which, he shared a story where he was standing in line at the grocery store where a woman approached him yelling “Thrill me!” when he turned to her, she eagerly pulled out a pack of pencils she had made for her personal business with the words printed on them. Who uses pencils still? Atkins prefers the theatrical UFO ending himself, which was the version we got to see that evening. I haven’t seen the other ending; which do you prefer?
I Drink Your Blood, 1970 - David Durston
This movie is one crazy hippie ride, with lines like “...Satan was an acid head. Drink from his cup; pledge yourselves. And together, we'll all freak out.” right out the gates. The audience was quick to laughter with this one, given the quirky dialogue and exaggerated cases of hydrophobia and human rabies. All was put in motion by one vengeful child who’s had just about enough of this hippie group terrorizing the town: meat pies will teach ‘em, for sure. The dessert was an interview with Lynn Lowry after the movie, who was cast as a mute only because she wasn’t supposed to be in the film! This one’s not really a must-see, but fun nevertheless.
Street Trash, 1987 - James M. Muro
Surprisingly, I felt Street Trash was the weakest screening of the weekend even though it was the one I most looked forward to. maybe it was the time of night, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I covered this movie in my recent Gross-Out List, mostly because the effects of the mystery brew on the street people is pretty fantastic. People tend to enjoy this one, because it can be a lot of fun, and the audience showed their approval. Seeing it with an audience is a whole different experience, so I recommend a group viewing where laughter is encouraged.
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, 1975 - Pier Paolo Pasolini
The crowd was predictably smaller for this showing, and the organizer congratulated us for our bravery before the show began. I was familiar with the content of Salo but this was my first real viewing. It had been 12 years since Salo was screened in Vancouver and I felt it was an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed, especially since we had our hands on such a beautiful copy of the film. Though I found it a little uncomfortable to watch, it definitely inspired a lot of conversation afterwards. I think it’s a movie that should be viewed once, but doesn’t really need to be visited again. There’s only so many times you can watch 4 fascists torture a bunch of adolescents for 4 months. Unless you’re in college, and then you’re there for like 4 years.
Bad Taste, 1987 - Peter Jackson
Despite the name, Bad Taste turned out to be a pretty great palate cleanser after Salo. This little project was so much fun! It initially started out as a weekend short film project by Peter Jackson and his friends, and naturally evolved into his first feature. I really appreciated the opportunity to view it on the big screen and I think everyone should see it! It was a pretty great end to the festival and my only regret is that I didn’t bring more friends to see it. After all, it was rated “auuugh” and I left with a big smile and a great song stuck in my head.
Memorable Short Films, in order of appearance:
Night of the Slasher - Shant Hamassian
Impressively done in a single shot, a fun take on horror tropes and what happens if you try to lure the bad guy… Check this one out if you have a soft spot for ‘90s horror!
The Smiling Man - AJ Briones
My favourite short of the weekend, and recipient of several festival awards, The Smiling Man was a real creep-fest that had me thinking about it for days. Wonderful makeup and acting, it was just what I wanted to see. Everyone should see it, if possible.
Out of My Skin - Nadine L’Esperance
Here was a humble short tackling the demands of motherhood: can’t a lady get a break? What about a break out of her skin? Some definite talent had a hand in making this one, so keep an eye out.
Carved - Mary Russell
If you like hot ladies getting into some trouble, you’re in for a ride. This one is a lot of fun and worth a watch! Check it out!
The Barber’s Cut - Mark Brocking
A cute horror/comedy involving a nefarious barber (no, not Sweeney Todd) with some impressive shots. You’ll get some chuckles out of this one, especially if you like puns.
Chateau Sauvignon: Terroir - David Maire
It’s wine! Made from people! Watch a sickly-looking son try to care for his ailing mother under the guidance of a father with anger issues. Anyone coming out for a wine tour is in for a big surprise.
Dark and Stormy Night - Jared Carney
Another comedy short that is suspiciously reminiscent of a beer commercial. You’ll probably like it.
McDavid - Conor McNally
Do you like hockey? If not, too bad, because I’m Canadian and it’s my only religion. Either way, this experimental short about the Edmonton Oilers was something special. Having been an Oilers fan back in the day, I am no stranger to the true horror that team has become. But the new arena being built, and the new draft picks, well, they might just change everything.
Cantata in C Major - Ronnie Cramer
An experimental short mashing together 600 audio clips from old timey horror movies and transcribing them into electronic music. It sort of felt like 6 minutes of screaming, but if you’re into that stuff I’d give it a try.
Beautiful - Andrew Phillips
What if the person you loved, trusted, and married, turned out to be kind of weird and obsessive about you in a Boxing Helena way? Just wondering.
Canvas - Leandre Low
This was a great little piece about a haunted(?) painting. It lures you in, and with one touch… well, you have to see what happens.
Sunnyville Security - Shelby Wilson
It’s Valentine’s Day and someone’s on night security duty, but they’re not alone. The classic foolish security guard who gets into more than he can handle - this got a lot of laughs, so check it out if you can!
I had a great time this weekend covering The Northwest Horror Show for The Bloodlust! This is going to become an annual tradition for me, for sure. I’m already looking forward to the next one! Let me know your thoughts, and check out some of those great shorts! After all, some of the best filmmakers started out that way. Also, recommend some movies to me with stuffed dogs, because that gets me every single time.
~ Becky (@Bexbz)