Fright Nights: The Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival Preview (Nadia Sandhu)

There will be Blood in the Snow and on the big screen at Projection Booth (1035 Gerrard Street East) as the First Annual Fright Nights:  Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival scares up thrills this November 30 to December 2, 2012 in a weekend long celebration of the best in contemporary Canadian horror filmmaking.

Festival Director Kelly Michael Stewart has been a strong supporter of the national horror filmmaking scene, writing about it for Fangoria and Planet Fury, and regularly showcasing these talented filmmakers at the hugely successful Fright Nights at Projection Booth screening series.  “I have noticed an incredible renaissance of horror directors coming out of Canada in the past few years. Southern Ontario in particular has become a hotbed of horror talent. Now the scene has grown large enough and vibrant enough that it warrants a dedicated yearly festival and we’ve been able to pull together an impressive lineup including the world premieres of SICK featuring Canada’s own scream queen Debbie Rochon and In the House of Flies starring Henry Rollins.”

Blood in the Snow kicks off on Friday, November 30 with a zombie infection in SICK at 7pm and critical darling Beyond the Black Rainbow at 9:30pm, and closes on Sunday, December 2 with art house vampire film Blood for Irina at 7pm, a film that also marks the feature directorial debut of Fangoria Editor in Chief Chris Alexander.  

In true rep house style, Saturday will be a late night with psychological thriller In the House of Flies at 6:30pm, classic 80’s style slasher film Devil’s Night starring Danielle Harris at 9pm and old school grind house throwback Famine at 11:45pm.

A retrospective shorts program, Fright Nights: Class of 2012, on Saturday, December 1 at 3pm showcases some of the best genre shorts from the last year of Fright Nights programming, including a personal favorite when it played here as part of the Viscera Film Festival last winter- Doll Parts from Karen Lam.  The retrospective also features a bonus screening- fan fave Cinemall, which documents the yearly pilgrimage of zombie fans to the mall where Romero filmed Dawn of the Dead!

“With films like Hobo With a ShotgunThe CorridorPontypool, and really anything from the guys at Astron 6, the Canadian horror film scene is bursting with creative talent and we are proud to support Kelly and what we truly feel is a killer line up of the next wave of genre directors. These are the ones to watch,” enthuses Jonathan Hlibka, partner at Projection Booth Cinemas.

And I for one am relieved that in this case at least, blood in the snow does not refer to baby seals.

Festival passes and tickets are on sale now and while there won’t be any chick flicks, I won’t completely rule out finding a touchy feely angle to report back on.

You can show your support for Canadian Horror by downloading the Blood in the Snow banner and using it as your Facebook Cover this Black Friday!

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Fright Nights (Toronto) – Viscera Short Film Festival Coverage (Kirk Haviland)

Fright Nights at the Projection Booth

Viscera Short Film Festival, May 15th 2012

For Kelly Stewart’s May presentation of Fright Nights at the Projection Booth in Toronto he decided to do something different. Hooking up with Curio Media and Director/Producer Karen Lam, Kelly was able to bring the Viscera Film Festival to Canada for the first time ever! Viscera is a traveling festival of short genre based films directed by women that was created to inspire and forward the amount of women involved in genre filmmaking. To top it off, Kelly managed to pull together a three-woman panel of directors for a Q&A/panel discussion after the film as well. This panel included Lam herself, whose short Doll Parts was showing, Dara Jade Moats whose short Adventure Girls 3 was also showing, and Jovanka Vuckovic, a local filmmaker who is in the midst of directing her first feature. A truly lively and knowledgeable panel indeed.

The standouts of the programme included Moat’s Adventure Girls 3, at only a minute it really leaves you thirsting for more, and stealing dialogue directly from Sailor Moon was ingenious (see it here). Lam’s Doll Parts is a great little twist on the serial killer genre in which the protagonist gets his comeuppance, a short I had already seen and enjoyed at last year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD). Nursery Crimes is a brilliant little stop-motion re-imagining of the story of Little Bo Peep and many other Nursery Rhymes that was an award winner at TAD last year, where I saw it as well. Blood Bunny was a hilarious take on a stylized grindhouse era movie trailer that works extremely well and is quite ingenious (see it here). 12/15/1996 features a road trip between 2 characters, Adam and Quentin, where one is covered in blood and they keep referring to the “business” in the trunk. A fun homage to filmmakers like Tarantino. And The Party’s Over, a cautionary tale of a drunken one-night stand with serious repercussions.

After the screening we were treated to a lively Q&A that ran a full half-hour in which I personally gained a whole lot of respect for the women filmmakers on the panel and the jobs they are doing. Lam, Moats and Vuckovic were all very open and unguarded with their answers and even provided many helpful tips to some budding filmmakers in attendance. They also stuck around for another half an hour after the panel to talk directly with the attendees in the theater and lobby. A great night out was had by many in attendance.

Next Month Kelly returns with the TAD crowd pleasing hit Father’s Day (review here) from filmmaking conglomerate Astron 6. The film will be preceded by some of the Astron 6 group’s most infamous shorts and features a Q&A with lead actress Amy Groening. This film is disturbing, graphically violent, repulsive and downright hilarious. If you missed it at TAD, DO NOT MISS it at Fright Nights. Father’s Day plays on June 9th.

Till Next Time.

Movie Junkie TO

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Stained – Independent horror from Karen Lam

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It seems like I have been reviewing a lot of films in which very minor plot spoilers could ruin the viewing experience for readers. It makes it very difficult to write a meaningful 500 words if I can’t write about the plot – my review for Kill List was almost ridiculous, given how cryptic I had to be. I’ve tried my best in this review to provide you with as much information as possible, without spoiling the dark heart that is Stained.

Picture this. Isabelle, youthful and beautiful, has moved away from home to open a used bookstore. She spends the majority of her days living alone in her apartment, unless you count her two cats, or working alone in her bookstore, unless you count her cat that lives there. Actually, she has a couple employees, I just wanted to let it be known that she is a cat or two shy of being a full blown crazy cat lady. The book store is bereft of customers and is an allegory for Isabelle’s love life, platonic or romantic, as her only meaningful human contact is over a telephone with her sister Jennifer, whose family adopted Isabelle when she was 12 years old.

Isabelle seems to be on a downward spiral towards crazy catlady-dom, after an uncomfortable encounter with a male acquaintance leaves her rather jarred. However, the next day, James, a man from Isabelle’s past, enters her bookstore, and reenters her life. Isabelle’s joie de vivre returns, but at the same time, the reappearance of this man from her past means that she must confront some memories that are anything but rosy. A more fitting word would be ‘bloody’.

Stained is the independent feature length debut from writer/director Karen Lam, and features a very impressive cast of Tinsel Korey (Isabelle), Sonja Bennett (Jennifer), Tim Fellingham (James), Anna Mae Routledge (Janna), Stephen Lobo (Dave), Stephen Huszar (Rolf) and Steph Song (Chloe). I recognized a number of the actors, a bit of a foreign feeling for me when watching independent cinema, but a welcome one.

I think that Stained has a lot to offer fans of horror films. The acting is well above par for an independent film, Tinsel Korey and Sonja Bennett are particularity good, while the rest of the cast does a great job in their supporting roles. The setting of the used bookstore is a wonderful choice. I think horror filmmakers need to use this setting more often; there are not many other locations that can match the lonely solitude of a used bookstore, and I think library stacks have been done to death. Also, there are a number of effective flashbacks throughout the film, the imagery of which is quite disturbing. Lam has done quite a good job with her debut. Stained is haunting, suspenseful, grotesque and scary. However, the narrative stumbles at times, and as a result, the atmosphere takes a hit.

The use of flashbacks has paid off to provide a creepy atmosphere, but at times can be a bit confusing. Sometimes the flashbacks are used to show Isabelle and James, as they were in the past, but they have just got back together and it can be frustrating differentiating the past from the present. Also, the narrative needed one or two more interesting events in the first two thirds of the film in order to have the viewer truly glued to the screen. It feels like there is a bit of unnecessary bouncing back and forth between the book store and the apartment, which could have been made more meaningful.

Stained certainly has more positives than negatives. It starts out as a very ‘safe’ film – some of the early shots felt a bit like a made for TV movie. However, something very exciting happened as I continued to watch. Lam started to take chances with angles, movement and sound. In particular, a scene in an alleyway is reminiscent of the ugliness and grittiness of a  Michael Caine and Sydney Furie beat down scene from The Ipcress File. Also, the last act of the film really feels like expert film making, not an independent movie. I am very eager to see what Lam will do next if she starts her next film with the film making energy on display in the final act of Stained. I could be wrong, the film may have been shot and edited backwards, but watching Stained really felt like watching the maturation of a filmmaker.

I expect big things from Lam in the future.

Purchase Stained:

Itunes

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

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