A blog exploring the sexy, shocking, surreal, and silly side of horror films.

June 28, 2010

Screamwave #9

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In this week's shorter-than-usual episode, Jenn and Aaron get musical with a review of REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA. Can the podcast survive this divisive discussion? Then, in Earth and Beyond, Kris plays some listener testimonials of ghostly encounters and paranormal experiences. Song: "Bitches Get Stitches" by RACKULA.

  [Original music composed by Nathan Fleet]
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Show Notes

June 25, 2010

Xtro -- Cover Criticism

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Back in my review of Xtro (review) I talked about how weird, disturbing, and silly the film is. But how does its VHS box art stack up?  Will it be classic, characterless, or criminal?


The box art for Xtro typifies the verbal shrug that is "meh." For a film that includes alien rape, the birth of a full grown man from between a woman's legs, psycho midget clowns, a panther, and a giant killer action figure, why does Xtro look like the art for a lame arcade game? Sure, it represents the thematic content of the father-son dynamic, but compared to other 80's sci-fi / horror box art covers, Xtro just doesn't bring any Xtro-ordinary to the table. I like the warm colour compliments between Tony in his red turtle-neck and the orange/red hues of the alien behind him, but the profusion of white text leaves me cold. You'd have no idea going into this movie how bat-shit insane it really is.

June 21, 2010

Screamwave #8

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"Show us where the mechanic touched you"

Slam head first into a collision with THE CAR (1977) starring James Brolin. It's four wheels of pure terror vs. one man's mean 'stache with your hosts Aaron and Kris in the back seat. Then, in Earth and Beyond, Aaron gives his picks for the five most intriguing UFO videos, including strange lights and a man who claims to summon UFOs with prayer. Throughout this episode you will hear music from the Hammer's own THE BARETTAS

  [Original music composed by Nathan Fleet]
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June 20, 2010

Father of Horror: Ode to my Dad

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I owe my love of horror to my father.

For personal reasons, this year has been a tough one, so I find myself pouring over nostalgic memories and dwelling quite a bit on the past. While trying to remember exactly how I first discovered my favorite horror films, I made an unexpected revelation: Dad helped make me the horror fan I am today.

Now, Dad is not a horror fan. Except for movies as disposable entertainment, my father has never expressed much interest in any genre of art and literature (especially books). I love my dad and he's been nothing but supportive and good to me, but we don't share many interests as far as media is concerned. Yet, when I think back to my favorite horror films -- the films that profoundly skewed my interest in movies towards the fantastical and horrific-- it turns out that they were all recommendations from my father.

1.) Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Growing up, I was familiar with the concept of zombies; it was the decade of Thriller after all. Nevertheless, I was a young boy interested in monsters and in love with Halloween but completely oblivious to zombie movies, the name George A. Romero, and his monumental influence on not just zombie films but all of horror. One Halloween night when I was too old for trick or treating and too young to go out alone, my Dad called me over. He told me that PBS was showing a film called Night of the Living Dead. He told me, if I recall correctly, that he had seen it as a boy about my age. Knowing my very vague interest in horror, he said I should go downstairs and check it out. I went to the TV room, turned on PBS, and was taken away by one of the most profoundly interesting horror films I had ever seen.It was definitely my first black and white horror film, and it may just have been my first "adult" horror film. Did Dad remember the cannibalism and gore? The bleak ending? If he did, he didn't prepare me for it.

I have been a lover of zombie media ever since. I don't know if I have come to zombies on my own (at least not with the same love), but my Dad's recommendation of Night came at a time where I was impressionable. It completely captured my imagination. Without Dad's recommendation, my other site -- The Zed Word zombie blog -- may not exist and I probably would not have become part of Horror in the Hammer through their annual Hamilton Zombie Walk. Anything I do relating to zombies, and all the friends I have met through zombie fan communities, I owe in no small part to my father.

2.) Creepshow (1982)

My memory of first discovering Creepshow is less distinct, but Dad figures prominently. At this point in my life, I was reading a lot of Stephen King (mostly books borrowed from my cousin). Dad probably had no idea that Creepshow was directed by George Romero and written by Stephen King, but he saw that Creepshow was playing on TV and pointed me in the right direction. I had never heard of the film before. It solidified my love of George A. Romero's film work but also the stories of Stephen King. It also inspired me to learn more about the golden age of horror comics (which dovetailed nicely into my interest in superhero comics at the time). Appropriately, my favorite segment of Creepshow is "Father's Day," and I owe its discovery to my father.

3) The Fly (1986)

"Just wait for the arm-wrestling scene."

Again, because I was growing up in the days before DVDs when our budget for VHS rentals was controlled by my parents who were not keen on renting horror films, I came to find some of my favorite horror films through TV. If I remember correctly, I saw a commercial for The Fly broadcast on TV, but the ad didn't give much info on the film save for some tantalizing and bizarre images. I remember asking Dad if he had seen it. He had, but he was unwilling to tell me many details. He said it as science fiction / horror (so I would probably like it), but he left me with one tantalizing tidbit: "Just wait for the arm-wrestling scene." What could that mean?

The Fly was probably the first gross-out film I ever saw. Watching Brundle slough off body parts as he mutates into a hideous fly creature that vomits acid on his food and enemies was like nothing I had ever seen before. The images in this movie (Brundle's peeling fingernails, the arm wrestling scene, the birth of the maggot baby) are embedded so deeply in my mind I can recall them with crystal clarity at a moment's notice. Even today, when I look at the stubborn hair growing on my shoulders as I age (thanks for the genes, Dad!), I can't help but think of Brundle discovering the first wiry fly hairs protruding from his own flesh.

Like Night of the Living Dead, The Fly also captured my imagination with its ideas. The terrifying but exhilarating avenues of body as a site of horror ingrained within me a love of body horror that compelled me to seek out Cronenberg's other work, namely Videodrome and Naked Lunch. Though my discovery of Cronenberg as a filmmaker, I was also exposed to the contributions that Canadians have made to horror. Viewing The Fly was, if you excuse the pun, a transformative experience. Had Dad had not made that cryptic comment about the arm wrestling scene, I might not have stayed up to watch The Fly.

So, this Father's Day I have to give thanks to my dad. Although we never discussed horror movies, in his own way he shaped my horror fandom. By recommending to me Night of the Living Dead, Creepshow, and The Fly, Dad unwittingly put me on the path to some great and horrifying experiences. Although we don't share many interests, we do share this odd and until now unspoken connection. He passed down to me these films that were memorable to him so that I could make them a part of myself. When I think of these films, I think of him.

And for that, I am very thankful.

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

June 14, 2010

Screamwave #7: Night of the Creeps

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Thrill Me!


Welcome to a very silly episode of Screamwave. Giddy exhaustion, non sequiturs, and a stubborn problem with uneven sound levels from our new mic and mixing board all threaten to derail your fearless hosts as they discuss Fred Dekker’s classic alien / zombie film NIGHT OF THE CREEPS. By the time the show gets to Earth and Beyond to discuss Lady Gaga’s paranormal purchases and alleged UFO landings in Angel Fire, New Mexico, it’s clear that Aaron, Kris, and Jenn have completely lost their minds. Come along for the ride!

Songs “The Undead” and “Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee” by The Screamagers

[Original music by Nathan Fleet]
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Show Notes
Horror in the Hammer
The Screamagers
Scream Scene
Punch Zombie FX
Long Pigs Trailer
Fright Night: Long Pigs (w/ Cast and Crew Q+A)

Night of the Creeps DVD-- Cover
Scare Sarah: Aaron Hates Parasites
Lady Gaga: Who You Gonna Call?
Advocates say UFO landing proved
Alleged UFO Landing Evidence
Fairy Rings
Mail Order Zombie

June 13, 2010

Interview: Cast and Crew of LONG PIGS

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I recently did a review with the cast and crew of LONG PIGS, a mockumentary about two struggling film-makers documenting the life of a cannibalistic serial killer. I talked with co-director Chris Power, actor Anthonly Alviano, and special effects artist Chris Bridges about the making of this film. 

INTERVIEW: Long Pigs cast and crew.
Interview by Aaron Allen

What does human flesh taste like? Chicken or pig?

When Horror in the Hammer brings the film Long Pigs to Hamilton on June 17th, horror fans will have a chance to find out for themselves. Long Pigs is a Canadian mockumentary from directors Nathan Hynes and Chris Power about two struggling filmmakers who decide to document the life of a cannibalistic-serial killer (played by Anthony Alviano) [ TRAILER -- SITE]. With special effects created by Chris Bridges (Diary of the Dead, 300), Long Pigs promises to deliver a gruesome and creepy yet darkly humorous twist on the horror mockumentary genre. To whet your appetite for the savory texture of long pig (i.e. human flesh), Horror in the Hammer put the filmmakers of Long Pigs on the grill to find out more about their experiment in cannibalistic cinema.


What exactly brings two independent Canadian filmmakers together to make a mockumentary about a cannibal serial killer?

“Well, there are two parts to that answer,” says co-director Chris Power. “When we were still in our early 20’s, [co-director Nathan Hynes] and I were looking to write a horror story based on actual events. Nathan (who’s originally from Newfoundland) had heard about a strange case that possibly involved ritualistic killings, and [we] actually contacted the murderer in prison – that evolved into a documentary in which we broke every journalistic rule in the book and made every mistake imaginable. Cut to many years later: we were gearing up to do a slick $100,000 ‘calling card’ short when someone contacted Nathan about investing in our company. Of course, this so-called investor was actually just looking to bang one of Nathan’s co-workers, but it got us thinking high concept / low budget. We knew we had [actor Anthony Alviano], so I pumped out the first thirty pages overnight, and within a week we had the script for Long Pigs.”

Since developing the script, the road to production on Long Pigs has been a long one. Although Long Pigs is being released in 2010, it began production in 2003. Throughout production, Chris and Nathan have embraced the independent nature of the production all the way. “In the past we’d tried to have a more graphically-designed, classical approach to film making and realized that if you don’t have good performances you don’t really have anything,” says Power. “One of the goals in making Long Pigs was to never sacrifice a good performance take because of a technical glitch and the bumbling nature of the filmmakers’ camera, and the rough editing style [of Long Pigs] allowed that to happen.”

Naturally, people are going to draw comparisons to other horror mockumetnaries that have since been released such as the metatexual slasher film Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. “We weren’t aware of Behind the Mask,” notes Power, “but certainly we were both fans of Man Bites Dog,” a Belgian film about a film crew documenting the life of a murderer. “I don’t want to say what makes Long Pigs unique, but I’ll say that I’m most proud of our actors’ performances and Chris Bridges’s amazing special effects.

Perhaps the most talked-about actor in Long Pigs is Anthony Alviano who plays the self-named cannibal Anthony McAlistar. Much to the relief of his cast mates, Anthony didn’t approach the role as a method actor, but he did say that he and the filmmakers “created the character in a naturalistic way, so he evolved as we shot. While some of the scenes followed the script, at other times I was reacting to the situation that the character was in, and the questions that were thrown at me.”


No doubt these situations often involved the grisly mutilated remains of Anthony’s human ingredients – all special effects props created and designed by Chris Bridges. Bridges – whose past jobs includes work on films like Mimic, Diary of the Dead, Jason X, 300, Silent Hill, and Blade II – was brought on to Long Pigs to redo some special effects. “For me,” he says, “the most exciting effect was the male corpse. It was not technically difficult, but it took the whole day to shoot. The body was quite simple, Tony and I jumped in at every cut and applied blood, bone and guts so that it looked as though the body was anatomically correct. I am so happy about how it turned out.”

Speaking of  blood, bones, and guts, what kind of effect does working with severed limbs and bloody corpses have on the minds of the actors and special effects crew?

Anthony Alviano, who plays the lead cannibal, found it easy to get in character around such gruesome props. “This was my first experience with extensive SFX. The quality of the physical effects allowed me to easily ‘be in the moment’. Working in such close quarters in that basement for so long allowed me to get used to it in the same way that the character had grown used to it.”
And what about the man behind the effects? Has he grown desensitized to gore on-set and when watching other films? “I think that’s fair to say that I am desensitized to gore,” admits Bridges. “Most of the time it looks like an ‘effect’ to me, and it’s hard not to be critical. I really appreciate great films that suck me in to the story, when that happens I stop being so critical and really buy into the effects." Dealing with realistic gore effects and cannibals would be a harrowing experience for anybody, but co-director Chris Power has his own share of horror stories from taking Long Pigs on the unpredictable independent film festival circuit. “The festival thing is tricky,” Power tells us. “There are numerous festival highlights – but let’s face it, the gut-wrenching lows are more entertaining. . . . We got off the plane for our World Premiere to find us incorrectly listed in the main festival program for 10:00 AM instead of PM! Four of us hustled our asses off handing out postcards with the correct time for over a week, and when the night of the premiere finally came around, we were delighted to see a huge lineup at the theater. Unfortunately, that theater was also premiering 300 on the same night. We played to about 53 people including our parents.”
Dealing with realistic gore effects and cannibals would be a harrowing experience for anybody, but co-director Chris Power has his own share of horror stories from taking Long Pigs on the unpredictable independent film festival circuit. “The festival thing is tricky,” Power tells us. “There are numerous festival highlights – but let’s face it, the gut-wrenching lows are more entertaining. . . . We got off the plane for our World Premiere to find us incorrectly listed in the main festival program for 10:00 AM instead of PM! Four of us hustled our asses off handing out postcards with the correct time for over a week, and when the night of the premiere finally came around, we were delighted to see a huge lineup at the theater. Unfortunately, that theater was also premiering 300 on the same night. We played to about 53 people including our parents.”
Ouch, that is pretty bad. But Power isn’t done yet: “Another festival had a packed house full of people laughing and loving the movie. With 10 minutes to go, the film suddenly stops and begins to rewind. The projectionist gets the film back to the same place – it stops again. Basically, the guy who had transferred the festival’s program tape had fallen asleep and not seen that the tape ran out before Long Pigs finished. With no other playable format the lights just came up and the crowd was apologetically asked to leave.”
What’s success without a little bit of tribulation? Seven years after production began, Long Pigs is finally available on DVD in stores and online retailers such as Amazon. Chris Power and Nathan Hynes are very thankful to have their film off the shelf. Since the 1970s when Canada was producing such early slasher films as My Bloody Valentine and Terror Train, the Canadian film grant system and tax syatem has become increasingly bureaucratic. “Because we were totally unknown, there was no way we were qualifying for anything,” Power says. “Our investors were private citizens who just happened to like the script, and if it weren’t for them Long Pigs wouldn’t have been made. No studio would have touched this in a million years and certainly not the Canadian government . . . . For now we’re just happy people are able to even see Long Pigs after it came so close to sitting on the shelf forever. Thank goodness for horror fans!"
And what about actor Anthony Alviano? Now that people will get to see him play cannibal Anthony McAlistar, how will audiences compare his character to other famous horror cannibals? For example, if Anthony McAlistar and Hannibal Lecter where to face off in an episode of Iron Chef with human flesh as the secret ingredient, who would win? Anthony stands by his character: “I would say the Iron Chef judges usually reward originality – and I think Hannibal Lecter would stick to classic dishes whereas Anthony would be more adventurous. I’d be close, but McAlistar by a nose."

June 10, 2010


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In two days, this video showing director Kevin Tancharoen's vision for a reboot of the Mortal Kombat film franchise has garnered more than 1 million views. Why?

Well, for one thing it offers a unique take on the Mortal Kombat mythos. By toning down the hokey magic and mystical elements from the game's mythology and instead treating its outlandish characters as if they were Batman villains (you can't tell me the cannibalistic Reptile in this video is not inspried by Batman's KILLER CROC), this vision for a new Mortal Kombat is still pretty hokey but in a good gory way. If this were a real movie, I would see it opening day.

But for now, it remains only a very professional fan video. If the online response is any indication, I hope Hollywood looks at this seriously and gives Tancharoen a call. This might just be what Mortal Kombat needs.

Check out an exclusive interview with Tancharoen over @ Collider.com to find out more about the production of this short.

June 9, 2010

What Scares Me?

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I appear over at the Scare Sarah as a guest blogger to bare my soul and my worst nightmares.

Peer into my fears to find out what keeps me up at night.  


June 7, 2010

SCREAMWAVE #6: Night of the Living Dead (1990)

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You're boss down there. I'm boss up here!


Aaron and Kris are back in action with a discussion of Tom Savini's 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead. In Earth and Beyond, Aaron and Kris discuss the curious Acámbaro figures. Do they prove that ancient humanity lived alongside the dinosaurs? Then to wrap up the show, listener feedback.

Throughout this episode you will hear music from RACKULA, Hamilton's all-girl Punk Rock'n Roll band. Music is from their CD "Up The Chix."

  [Original music composed by Nathan Fleet]

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Show Notes

June 4, 2010

High Tension (Review)

High Tension (2003) 
(Haute Tension)
Director: Alexandre Aja

I don't know where I heard it, but someone once said that to review a film and discuss its twist -- or to even knowledge that there is a twist -- ruins the film for anyone who has not yet seen it. Well, too bad! I can't review High Tension without discussing the twist because it was precisely the twist that took me out of the movie. For the most part, High Tension is a tense and bloody experiment in psychological terror and suspense, but it squanders its gains with a twist ending that uses a circular saw to rip a needlessly messy hole in the plot.


Marie (Cécile De France) accompanies her friend Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) to Alex's family home in the French country. Isolated and quiet, the home will be a perfect place for them to study. The quiet is soon interrupted when a mysterious killer enters the home and begins to slaughter Alex's family. He abducts Alex in the back of his rusty metal truck, but Marie stows away. The film ramps up into a thrilling series of cat-and-mouse torments and revenge as Marie attempts to rescue and reunite with Alex.

Rating: 3/ 5 Shyamalans



Like most of films coming out of the French horror renaissance, to call High Tension a bloody movie is an understatement. Modern French horror is known for pushing the limit in extreme depictions of violence but also psychological horror. To ensure the gore and blood looks its best, the film hired famed Italian special effects artist Giannetto De Rossi who worked on other European horror classics such as The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue and Fulchi's Zombie 2. The whole film has a violent aesthetic as if the actual film print itself had been slightly stained with blood.

Carrie must have looked like this in the cab home from Prom

But High Tension is more than just a gore movie. Per its title, High Tension is incredibly suspenseful. The killer loves to taunt and play with his victims. He's a truly menacing and misogynistic force to be reckoned with. There's a great scene in a gas station where Marie is trying to get the store clerk to call for help but the clerk enters into a conversation with the killer that is just dripping with tension. Then tension gives way to violence and the clerk is dispatched with an axe to the chest. But because the killer is so spiteful that he doesn't just leave the clerk to die of the wound. He puts his boot on the clerk's back and pushes him further down onto the axe blade. Yeah. He's not messing around.

A shave and a haircut while you sleep: two bits.


The only thing surreal about High Tension is the twist ending that renders the entire film a fantasy. You see, the male killer is actually......Marie. Yup, this is that hard-to-accomplish switcheroo where the hero is actually the villain. Marie slaughtered Alex's family. Marie, we learn, is completely psychotic, obsessed with Alex, and acting out a divergent personality to be close to her. Marie also killed the store clerk and kidnapped Alex, taking her to a secluded location in the woods. There was no male killer.

In order for this to have happened, however, the majority of the films events could not have happened as we saw it if they happened at all. In fact, nothing except the last few scenes can be reliably said to have happened since everything up until that point is seen from Marie's deluded perspective. All that tension in which Marie was being stalked by the killer didn't happen in the actual narrative of the story. For example, Marie is trying to hide from the killer in Alex's house. There's a great scene where we think Marie is in the bathtub behind the shower curtain. When the killer pulls back the curtain -- she's not there. Whew. She's actually under the bed. Oh, but wait -- this whole sequence is just a red herring. It never happened. Either Marie was hiding under the bed imagining the killer was looking for her, or she was in the persona of the killer searching for a victim who did not exist. Or, the whole thing could have been in her mind while she was doing something else.

Don't worry. This probably didn't happen.

This is the problem with High Tension. A lot of time and detail is spent crafting the character of the killer, Marie, and then setting them against each other in a very satisfying killer vs. survivor girl battle. The killer is full of unique character: he drives a giant meal truck and keeps on his dashboard the pictures of other women he has killed. The first time we see the truck, he's getting a blow job from a severed head that he cruelly discards. So, if the killer is and has always been Marie, where did she get the truck if she came to country house in Alex's car? Has she killed other women or are these suggestions a fantasy? Later, when the killer leaves Alex at the gas station in his truck, Alex is forced to steal a car in pursuit of him. Since she is the killer, how does this work? Does she take Alex in the truck to the woods, walk back to the gas station, steal a car, and then drive that stolen car back to the truck?

The film's Shyamalan-twist works as a momentary shock, but it makes everything we've seen suspect and potentially just a fantasy, draining the film of its tension. While this twist can be satisfying in other films such a Phantasm because we remain identified with one central character, this twist does not work in High Tension because it's handled poorly and too much like that derided cliche ending: "it was all a dream."


The experience of High Tension is a superb example of horror-tension. In this film, Aja shows his flair for horror that he later used in the remake of The Hills Have Eyes and hopefully will parlay into further success with his upcoming Piranha 3D.

The ill-conceived twist, however, throws away the narrative of the film for a cheap reveal that is far less interesting or compelling than the events that came before.

June 2, 2010

What's Your Horror Face?

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What's your horror face?

Horror in the Hammer hosted a night of French horror cinema on Tuesday with a screening of Ils and Martyrs. I have avoided seeing Martyrs these last two years knowing that we would eventually screen it here in Hamilton. During Martyrs on Tuesday, I became keenly aware that when I am really and truly horrified, I make the same face.

My horror face: I cradle the side of my face and jaw while my pinky rests on my chin and my ring finger is planted firmly on one of my canine teeth. I've seen a lot of horror movies, but it takes a very special brand of terror to provoke me. If you see me doing this, you know I've been horrified to my core.

Are you like me? If so, what's your horror face?

Sarah from Scare Sarah has an excellent horror face. She looks like she's seen a g-g-g-host!


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