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DVD REVIEW: CELLULOID HORROR

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By Amy Seidman
If you’ve ever griped about the fault in the latest film festival you attended and thought “Why don’t I create my own? Why not? How hard can it be?” Well, my friend, prepare to have your eyes opened. Sit back, grab yourself a glass of your favorite plonk, and let this 88 minute documentary be your guide.
CELLULOID HORROR follows the trials and tribulations of now legendary writer Kier-La Janisse, the tireless organizer, founder and festival programmer (“and she’s one person!” exclaims a newscaster) of CineMuerte, Canada’s first International Horror Film Festival.

The horrors of Kier-La’s rocky upbringing cleverly coexist with scenes drawn from the films she has screened at the festival that sadly mirror her own life. So what drives this unflagging tough as nails woman? The answer: Anyone starting up a festival has to possess those qualities. You have to eat, sleep and breathe the task, and this film documents just that.

An interesting aspect of CELLULOID HORROR is the support Janisse receives from the founders of competing festivals. From their points of view, Kier-La is a director with an unwavering passion and knowledge of the genre. More than that, she is thick skinned and fully capable of absorbing the hits that taking on an endeavor as big as this one is. They offer assistance in any way possible instead of seeing her work as a threat to their own festivals. In addition to the help provided by other festival organizers along the road to bringing CineMuerte to life, she receives support from friends, volunteers, and her husband as well.

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By her own estimation, it costs about 25,000 dollars a year to run CineMuerte, so you may wonder how she funds it? My favorite of her funding tactics has to be the “Torture Garden, which tests a fan’s ability to sit through 12 hours of horror films that Kier-La describes as “truly fucked up.” Starting with a 20 dollar cover (which goes to funding the festival), the rate drops with each hour that you stay, and ends at 5 dollars if you survive that long. Her film selection is, in general, not for the faint of heart as proven by the woman who left crying or the man who LITERALLY fainted twice after watching Cannibal Holocaust.

Looking at the clips, the documentary can also read as a horror “greatest hits” package. If you are a fan of Udo Kier or Jean Rollin and need your fix, this film will cure what ails you. Udo Kier is truly Kier-La and the festival’s biggest cheerleader. Udo uses every press event as an opportunity to plug the fest and question why there is such a lack of support for it. From finding a place for Jean Rollin to get dialysis in Vancouver to separating http://healthsavy.com/product/nolvadex/ from her husband, this film is an inspiring and at times rocky ride.

Now, on to the bonus material…

The first and quite unique special feature of note is actually not in the film at all but in its packaging. Using the technology normally associated with singing birthday cards, just opening the DVD case for CELLULOID HORROR will freak you out when you are greeted by Udo Kier’s voice saying ”Where is Kier-La? I’m going to kill her.” It certainly scared the shit out of me when I first opened it, and had the same impact when I pranked the super-stoned couch surfer crashing in my apartment. It’s a great promotional idea, and you too can amuse yourself by playing the game with unsuspecting friends. When your targets open the box act as if you don’t hear Udo Kier’s voice, and using your finest patronizing tone ask about what drugs they’re blasted on, and as a capper ask them to lie down while you get them water and they reflect on their mental state.

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Next is director Ashley Fester’s commentary. Among many anecdotes about the construction of the film, she thoughtfully discusses the accompanying music by Max Mueller that sets the background ambience for the film rather than dominating it. Fester touches on the lengthy process of getting the rights to use clips in the film which was of particular interest to me inasmuch as the film is loaded with them. She also uses the opportunity to thank the unsung heros of the film and all those that made it possible.

Additionally, there are Q&A’s for “Squirm” and with Udo Kier, deleted scenes and plenty of footage not included in the film. Real bang for your buck with this one.

While CELLULOID HORROR is a great tribute to Kier-La and to CineMuerte, it also provides a great resource for films you may not have seen. So if you’re dreaming about your own movie festival, and mimicking a small business start-up like the CineMuerte festival truly was? Well, then, stop daydreaming and prepare to put yourself deep in debt, risk alienating your friends and family, and all for the love of exposing people to films they may otherwise not be able to see. With a little luck you may, just MAY make it in the film fest business.

A final word: Check out this doc, and when you get a chance take a walk off the beaten path of Hollywood blockbusters, and recognize your local film fest by honoring it with your presence. And while you’re at it, how about offering a glass of the aforementioned plonk to a stressed-out organizer. As much as we all love horror flicks, it’s a tough racket.

Go to www.BreedProductions.com to order CELLULOID HORROR today.

DELIRIUM Review 9/10

TORONTO AFTER DARK REVIEW: SUBURBAN GOTHIC

DELIRIUM is at the 2014 TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL and will be reviewing new horror and cult films right from the front lines of the festival. Here’s our first entry from critic and writer Cheryl Singleton.

By Cheryl Singleton

As a fan of Richard Bates Jr.’s deliciously disturbing 2012 debut EXCISION, I was anxious to feast my eyes on what would follow. A first taste via the trailer for SUBURBAN GOTHIC did not disappoint. With a super-saturated bubblegum palate, snappy dialogue and a killer cast including Matthew Gray Gubler (CRIMINAL MINDS), Kat Dennings (NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST) and the fan favourite Ray Wise (TWIN PEAKS) I was ready to take another bloody ride with the director.

Having missed the World Premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival back in August, I was delighted to see it would be playing on the opening night of the 9 day Toronto After Dark Film Festival along with Gerard Johnstone’s popular genre mash-up HOUSEBOUND. The two were a perfect pair of oddly hilarious horror films that left a smile on my face for the rest of the night.

While not in the flesh at the screening, Bates Jr. provided a video intro where he warned that this film would be “totally a complete departure from my last movie” Noting that he was unable to get a film made after the graphically disturbing EXCISION, he fell into a depression that led him to revisit things from his childhood that made him happy including watching ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK and SCOOBY DOO cartoons and reading THE HARDY BOYS. With that in mind I was ready to sink into this “children’s film for adults” that he had created.

Unable to find a job in upper management after completing business school, Raymond (Gray Gubler) has no choice but to move back in with his parents in the small town he thought he had escaped years ago. Once an overweight kid obsessed with the supernatural and prone to ghostly visions and high-pitched http://premier-pharmacy.com/product-category/womans-health/ screams, Raymond has shed the pounds and stopped communicating with the dead, though he remains an outsider thanks to his “European” style of dress and hair that is a character unto itself. Raymond’s parents are split on his return. His mother Eve (Barbara Niven) channels the perfect 50’s housewife and is thrilled to have her little boy back home while his ridiculously bigoted football coach father Donald (Wise) couldn’t be more embarrassed by the arrival of his jobless metro-sexual son.

Bonding with the local bartender Becca (Dennings) over too many drinks, regrettable tattoos and the shared disdain for their town, the snarky pair become fast friends. When Raymond begins to experience strange paranormal occurrences at home (including a particularly cringe worthy piano/ toe nail duet) the two form a misfit ghost hunting team armed with Becca’s trusty crowbar to get to the bottom of it. Gray Gubler and Dennings each bring a crackling energy to the screen which is at its best when they are together. The end of the film suggests more mysteries are in store for the duo and I can only hope to see these explored in some fashion.

While the pace slows at the end of the second act, some secondary characters including the local bullies feel unnecessary and Donald’s prejudices begin to feel a bit heavy, it is not enough to derail the overall fun of the movie.

SUBURBAN GOTHIC is a grown up SCOOBY-DOO mystery complete with characters disguising themselves as ghosts by wearing bed sheets, but by no means is it childish. Between the razor sharp dialogue, the over the top costuming (kudos to designer Anthony Tran), the punk rock energy and the amount of time the characters spend speaking directly into the camera, this film is in your face from start to finish.

EXCISION and SUBURBAN GOTHIC could not be more different yet I was equally enthralled with both. I can’t wait to see what Richard Bates Jr. does next.

DELIRIUM REVIEW: 9/10

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