New Zealand hasn’t produced many horror films over the years, but those it has given birth to are remarkably strong entries. The late ’80s and early ’90s witnessed the rise of Kiwi director Peter Jackson who made a name for himself with the Bad Taste (1988) and Dead Alive (1992). Jackson helped shine a spotlight on the countries genre offerings and his success no doubt opened the door for a new generation of Kiwi genre filmmakers. The latest of these films to make its way Stateside is Jason Lei Howden’s outrageous debut feature Deathgasm about a group of suburban metal heads who summon a demonic force.
The Marquis de Sade wrote, “There is no better way to know death than to link it with some licentious image”. Georges Bataille latched onto this idea, arguing that without death there is no desire. Factors of procreation and beauty play a role in sex, but true desire is rooted in our mortality: we want to fuck because we know we will die. The link between death and desire is at the heart of the Blaine brothers’ debut feature, Nina Forever.
Providence #2 continues the cycle of using a pastiche of Howard Phillips to comment upon the man’s works, and then turning around and using a pastiche of his works to comment upon Howard Phillips, the man. It’s literate and it’s dense, but it knows how to tell a classic horror story, as well. Burrows draws a damn horrible monster, and Moore knows how to indulge a horror cliché — here the “you must have bumped your head and imagined some monsters!” — to masterful effect. Providence #2 keeps the series in its place as one of the best new titles of 2015, and is putting up a good fight for some of the best stuff of its creators careers — it’s just that good.
I love when Fantasia gets weird. Featuring its fair share of bigger budget horrors, Asian epics and the occasional mainstream genre pic – it’s the little ones from far off places and no-name filmmakers that excite me the most. This year’s a goldmine for my particular tastes, and it’s been years since I’ve been so excited by their lineup. Most of the films I’m most eager to see are from filmmakers I’ve never heard of, or from countries I’ve nary seen a single film.
Few comics sit at the intersection of “fan beloved,” “industry defining,” and “absolutely impossible to acquire” the way the EC Comics library does. For a while they almost felt like Comics’ very own Holy Grail. On one hand, you’ve got the Tales From The Crypt brand itself, which has left an indelible mark on pop culture with films, cable TV series, Saturday morning cartoons, and a line of revival graphic novels from Papercutz — a proud legacy, to be sure. But on the other hand, you enter into the more nebulous region of pop cultural osmosis, and it’s there that the legend of Bill Gaines’ little comic line that could grows to gargantuan levels. The baby boomers that ate his ghoulish “mags” up in the early ‘50s eventually grew into the genre fiction movers and shakers of the ‘70s and ‘80s — from cult directors like George Romero and Joe Dante, to lit legends like Stephen King, to blockbuster cinema wunderkinds like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and John Carpenter (Carpenter actually provides a disappointingly brief intro to this volume). You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone whose imagination hasn’t been touched either directly or indirectly by the macabre yarns from the Crypt-Keeper, the Vault-Keeper, and the Old Witch. With all that and their notorious place at the forefront of the Seduction of the Innocent controversy that practically sent the comics industry into the Dark Ages, you’d think the existence of a prestige line of EC Comics trade collections would seem like a given, right?
There is such a thing as “pre-critic” movies. These are the films that had a major psychic impact on a writer or thinker way before they have even considered (or even imagined) the possibility of having cinematic sensibilities or intellectual engagement with movies as art-objects. These movies tend to be pop culture touchstones; movies like the first Star Wars film or Ghostbusters or Pulp Fiction are common ones in part because of their ubiquity. But as with all generalizations, there are always outliers and oddities. One of my pre-critic movies, which I saw as a young man of fifteen on Canadian cable on a sunny Saturday afternoon, was Vincenzo Natali’s 1997 sci-fi horror film Cube. To this day, it remains one of my very favourite films, a scrappy little piece of government-funded genre weirdness that gets by on crack direction, weird acting choices, and spectacular sound design.
Unfriended is the most ingenuous ‘contained thriller’ to come along in some time. Sadly, it doesn’t work nearly as well as a horror film, relying on the same tired jump scares to punctuate its well-constructed suspense. Director Levan Gabriadze keeps everything refreshingly barebones and tech-savvy for maximum realism. The timely nature of its subject matter, cyber-bullying, and its clever premise keep Unfriended entertaining, even if we don’t logoff completely satisfied.
The less you know about Spring before its arrival, the more enthralling its subtle charms. This is a delicate little gem that reveals its mysteries grudgingly; a seamless blend of moods and genres that never stops surprising you. Darkly comic and unflinchingly romantic, Spring steeps its horror mythology in realism to create a genuine sense of uneasiness. Director Justin Benson’s exquisite story of painful transformation is one of 2015’s best films.