Fright Nights at the Projection Booth in Toronto
Hosted by Fangoria Writer Kelly Stewart
Saturday February 11th, 2012
Ethereal Chrysalis (2011)
Written, Directed and Starring Syl Disjonk
Starring Phillipe Buckland and Natalie Feheregyhazi
Written and Directed by Yaz Rabadi
The Black Cat (1934)
Starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff
Written by Edgar G. Ulmer and Peter Ruric, inspired by a story by Edgar Allen Poe
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
If you haven’t heard of the ‘Fright Nights’ series hosted by Kelly Stewart out at the east end’s Projection Booth cinema at Gerrard and Pape in Toronto, then let me indoctrinate you. The film series was created to highlight contemporary cinema; January showed local indie film Black Eve, but the new series has also been used to show classics of the genre, like the December showing of Roger Corman’s Bucket of Blood. Kelly always brings filmmakers out to the screenings, usually they are from the shorts involved, but he did get the filmmakers and cast out for a fun Q&A session after Black Eve, so feature film Q&As are not out of the question. February 11th turned out to be a special edition of Fright Nights as the date also marked the birthday of the series’ host, and because of this he decided to bring out one of his personal favorites from the ‘Golden Age of Universal Horror’, The Black Cat. Kelly is one of the most informed people you could ever hope to meet concerning horror cinema, especially when it comes to the works of Lugosi, Karloff, and Vincent Price, so as you can imagine, he makes an excellent host for Fright Nights.
It was a dedicated crowd that made it out for the screenings during an extremely cold evening in Toronto. This included the directors of both short films to be screened, with the director of Ethereal Chrysalis, Syl Disjonk, coming in all the way from Montreal for the evening’s festivities. I had met Syl at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival back in October and it was great to catch up with him and hear that his film is doing very well on the festival circuit. As usual, when I walked in the door I received a very warm welcome from Jonathan Hlibka and Nadia Sandhu, two of the owners of the Projection Booth. After catching up with some of the theatre’s regulars and grabbing a beer (yes, Fright Nights is a licensed event), I took a seat with my friend Melanie, we were pleased to be joined by Syl. We prepared ourselves for the horrific cinematic offerings to come.
I had seen Ethereal Chyrsalis before at the aforementioned TADFF screening and so had the Maven (you can read his thoughts HERE), so I was fully aware of what I was about to see. That said, I may have been more impressed with the otherworldly visuals the second time around. The fact that this credit card funded project could rival a lot of Hollywood productions for effects is a real accomplishment. Disjonk is a filmmaker to keep an eye out for.
Next up was Inside, a psychological horror piece about a man who sees himself as a tortured mess, wasting away in his humdrum existence, but the twist here is he sees the scars that only exist in his mind manifested on his actual body. A tight script and solid performances back the story well. Yaz Rabadi, like Disjonk, is another exciting director with a definite style and vision of his own.
Now, on to the feature of the night.
I must admit when it comes to the leads, Karloff and Lugosi, I had not seen a lot of their work, and as a result I have a lot of homework to do. That said, I am the Movie Junkie so I am of course familiar with these men and the stories of their infamous feud in their latter years. While watching The Black Cat one thing became clear to me: the reason these men were so famous was due to the amazing charisma they had on-screen. Their charisma was made even more evident by the performances of the Universal contract players around them and their utter lack of it. You can’t help but be sucked into the performances in Black Cat despite it’s ridiculous story, which has been made even more so due to the passage of time. Highlights include Lugosi cowering like he was still Dracula as garlic was thrown at him when a Black Cat appeared. This prompted him to kill the cat by throwing something at it, or so we are told, only to have the cat appear with Karloff a couple minutes later quite alive. In another scene Lugosi asks another male character if he would mind if Lugosi kept the sliding door, which separated their rooms, open for the night. The man responds “please do, I’d sleep in a cold sweat if you didn’t” (this brought on the biggest laugh from the audience), all the while his wife is sleeping in a 3rd room. And who could forget the infamous “skinning” sequence? At a brisk 65 minutes, The Black Cat is an easy recommendation simply based on how much fun it is.
Another highlight of the night was during the film when Jonathan walked through the cinema disbursing slices of birthday cake, which was a brilliant haunted house custom design complete with a Black Cat, Alfred Hitchcock’s infamous shadowy outline in the top window, and the graves of Lugosi and Karloff out front. The cake was supplied by Kelly’s sister who was unfortunately unable to attend and receive the kudos she deserved, so I shall praise her artistic merit here. As the night dwindled down and only the regulars remained everyone agreed on one thing, that cake was awesome.
Now, dear reader, this is the part of the article where I implore you to keep the date of Friday March 2nd, 2012 marked on your calendar so that you may experience Fright Nights for yourself. And what better way to start than with an Ultra Rare screening of the Japanese Genre Classic, and one of my favorite movies of all time, Battle Royale on the Big Screen! This movie is brilliant and if you’ve never seen it I envy you because you’ll get to see it for the first time with a full theater, something that I never got to do myself. Also showing is the world premier of the short film Familiar from Fatal Production, based out of Toronto. Cast and Crew from Familiar will be in attendance for a Q&A session and there will be prizes from Suspect Video, Anchor Bay and the Shinsedai Film Festival to boot.
I’m not going to use this column to simply hype up every event like a paid pitchman. That is not my job and not what this is about. But I will do it for things I feel passionately about, and Battle Royale should not be missed.
Till Next Time, My friends
Kirk “Movie Junkie T.O.” Haviland
Follow me on Twitter @MovieJunkieTO