We’re back with another edition of Jeff’s House of Horror! Today we’re heading to the great white north and visiting Canada. The Canadian ‘s put out some pretty damn good horror films from the ’70s to today. A lot of the older Canadian horror films from the ’70s and ’80s are still terrifying to this day. So we’re just gonna get into it without too much of an intro today. The spoiler warning is now in effect!
Canadian #5. The Brood (1979) – R
Synopsis: A man’s wife is under the care of an eccentric and unconventional psychologist who uses innovative and theatrical techniques to breach the psychological blocks in his patients. When their daughter comes back from a visit with her mother and is covered with bruises and welts, the father attempts to bar his wife from seeing the daughter but faces resistance from the secretive psychologist. Meanwhile, the wife’s mother and father are attacked by strangely deformed children, and the man begins to suspect a connection with the psychologist’s methods
The Brood is one of Cronenberg’s best films! It has some moments that will stick with you for a while. When the brood first appears and the beatings begin, I was not only disturbed by them but the way that their faces look was burned onto my brain. I once read that Cronenberg calls this film his KRAMER VS. KRAMER, and I think that’s very interesting. He’s taken the pain that he went through in his own life and manifested it in the physical form of these creatures. I find this kind of creativity to be associated only with some of the more visionary contemporary filmmakers. Cronenberg is that there is no question. Performances by the late great Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar and Art Hindle are perfect for the film. It is scary and disturbing and should be seen by all horror film fans. I find it to be a sadly neglected classic.
Canadian #4. My Bloody Valentine (1981) – R
Synopsis: Valentine’s Day is coming around and the young people of the small mining town of Valentine’s Bluffs are organizing a party. A few decades earlier an explosion at the mine trapped six miners underground. One, Harry Warden, survived, though in a deranged state. Warden is sent to a mental hospital but escapes and murders those he deems responsible for the mine accident. Now people are being brutally murdered again, and the townsfolk suspect that it is the work of Harry Warden.
Twenty years ago, Harry Warden went nuts and slaughtered a bunch of people on Valentine’s Day. The mining town he hailed from cancelled subsequent V-Day dances, but when they try setting one up again, Warden seemingly returns with his pickax, ready to hack the local kids up and leave his mark. Things can only go bad from here. Director George Mihalka brings us another holiday-themed slasher, riding the success of “Black Christmas”, “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th“… and paving the way for “April Fools Day”. But George is a nice guy and I don’t want to say he’s just one among the crowd. There were hundreds of 80s slashers, but only a few stand out today. “Bloody Valentine” is, of course, one of them. If you’ve been a horror fan and avoided this one, please see it. Sure, it’s mostly mindless fun — kids drinking and making out, getting hacked up — but I can watch variations of this formula dozens, scores or hundreds of times. There’s something fun about a simple stalking film that you can’t always get from other films that try too hard to be clever. And I like thinking films, but a night with buddies and booze… you need a slasher. And this is the one you should pick.
Canadian #3. Black Christmas (1974) – R
Synopsis: It’s time for Christmas break, and the sorority sisters make plans for the holiday, but the strange anonymous phone calls are beginning to put them on edge. When Clare disappears, they contact the police, who don’t express much concern. Meanwhile Jess is planning to get an abortion, but boyfriend Peter is very much against it. The police finally begin to get concerned when a 13-year-old girl is found dead in the park. They set up a wiretap to the sorority house, but will they be in time to prevent a sorority girl attrition problem?
Released and ignored in 1973, “Black Christmas” became a forgotten classic. The Canadian shocker was eventually re-released as “Silent Night, Evil Sight” in order to avoid confusion with the blaxploitation films of the time, but it bombed once again. In the early 80s, it was broadcast on cable as “Stranger in the House” in order to snatch up some rantings. Right when the movie seemed dead, NBC decided to cancel a prime-time airing of it because it was deemed “too scary” for network television. This was all film-buffs needed to go back and discover the wonderful “cool movie that you never heard of” that is “Black Christmas”. These disturbing elements are all put together though the brilliant cinematography by Reg Morris, who is able to capture the silent Christmas atmosphere perfectly with the wonderful use of silent snow-covered streets and decoration. Let’s face it, Christmas is a bit creepy, isn’t it? It certainly will be after watching this flick. The piano score by Carl Zittrer is simplistic and effective as well. The repetitive use of Christmas carols also add up to the tension. Ignored over the years and unknown outside the cult horror fans, this is an underrated classic that deserves much more attention that it ever got. Everything is perfect in this Canadian chiller: The atmosphere, the music, the overall spooky look, and one of the scariest villains in history. No gore (although the killings are so disturbingly shot they don’t really need any) no sex, no nudity, just plain old-fashioned horror. This is “Black Christmas”: Snow-covered silent streets, creepy Christmas carols, spooky use of lightening and color, scary atmosphere and the overall look of the plastic bag suffocated victim in a rocking chair staring from the attic window. Trust me, you will never go to your attic the same way again.
Canadian #2. Ginger Snaps (2000) – Not Rated
Synopsis: Is becoming a woman analogous, in some deep psychological way, to becoming a werewolf? Ginger is 16, edgy, tough, and, with her younger sister, into staging and photographing scenes of death. They’ve made a pact about dying together. In early October, on the night she has her first period, which is also the night of a full moon, a werewolf bites Ginger. Within a few days, some serious changes happen to her body and her temperament. Her sister Brigitte, 15, tries to find a cure with the help of Sam, a local doper. As Brigitte races against the clock, Halloween and another full moon approach, Ginger gets scarier, and it isn’t just local dogs that begin to die.
“Ginger Snaps” is one of the best movies of werewolf ever. This is the third time that I watch this movie, now on DVD, and I like the approach of the dramatic story, using the usual change of behaviour of a teenager after her first period in parallel to a werewolf attack. The weird Fitzgerald sisters are brilliantly performed by Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle, and the conclusion is excellent. This film is legit one of the best werewolf movies ever made. I cannot say that enough. The film is violent and it pulls no punches. Which is why I love it so much. Ginger Snaps and its sequels are all must-sees, go out and watch them. I don’t wanna give away too much at all but I cannot help it! The outcast teenager sisters Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle) are very connected and have a weird pact of death between them. Their hobby is photography, more specifically morbid pictures of violent death scenes. On the full moon night, the sixteen-year-old Ginger has her first period, she is bitten by a wild animal, indeed a werewolf, but she omits the attack to her mother Pamela (Mimi Rogers). A couple of days later, Ginger changes her behaviour; her body is covered by excessive hair, and she has the need of attacking dogs and other animals. While her mother believes that the menstruation is causing her changes of attitude, Brigitte seeks the cure with the local drug dealer Sam (Kris Lemche). Go watch it. Seriously.
Canadian #1. The Witch (2015) – R
Synopsis: New England, 1630: William and Katherine try to lead a devout Christian life, homesteading on the edge of an impassible wilderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another. ‘The Witch’ is a chilling portrait of a family unraveling within their own sins, leaving them prey for an inconceivable evil.
“The Witch” lives in that territory as a horror movie for cinephiles, not for audiences who love the thrill of a good scare. That’s not to say “The Witch” isn’t scary; it is. It’s just not scary in the modern trend-driven, formulaic, “movie trailer that ends with a jump-scare” kind of way. Writer and director Robert Eggers, who makes his feature film debut, builds his terror with tension drama and mystery, not by creating the pervasive sense that some creepy thing will pop into the frame at any moment. Eggers, a production designer first and foremost, build his “Puritan nightmare” from the ground up, starting with all the tiniest era-appropriate details in the set, costumes and even dialogue. It doesn’t take a historian to notice the immaculate craftsmanship and consideration of time and place. Eggers’ devotion to this realism pays off in that “The Witch” never loses its footing in reality even as more supernatural elements creep into the story. Well, until the end, but let’s not go there except to say that by then, the realism matters much less. The story follows a Puritan family that leaves its plantation and village over religious differences and goes off to build a home near the edge of the woods. Suddenly, the family infant, Sam, disappears under the watch of the eldest child, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). The incident devastates the mother (Kate Dickie) and father (Ralph Ineson), who convince everyone it was a wolf that took Sam, but the tragedy trickles down to the four children, Thomasin, pre-teen Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) and young twins Jonas and Mercy. Of course, the audience is privy to what actually happened to Sam, and we know things will only get worse for the family. Considering the legitimate Puritan fear of Satan and witches, the subsequent events begin to tear into the family dynamics, which adds to the tension that already exists over what unnerving thing might happen next. This is one of the best psychological horror films to come out in the last 20 years. I cannot recommend it enough.
Thanks again for joining me today as we dove into everything Canadian (EH!)! Keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment, coming soon. I’ve got lots of countries to visit and I may even revisit some of them since some countries just have that many good horror films. Next time we’re taking a trip back to Europe, I won’t tell you where but you’ll just have to wait and see. Later!