Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Bruce and Bruce: Zombie Night in Canada

Friday, June 19th, 2009

PontyPool, tag line “Shut up or Die”, is a film from Canadian director Bruce McDonald [2008]. Zombies invade a town in Ontario and the only human defense is utter silence, the zombie virus spreading via language. Read more on the use of silence in horror film, specifically in The Descent. It’s a tricky concept considering our natural impulse to scream or yell when startled by excessively violent creatures or threatened with extreme bodily harm. Not to mention the convention of sound overuse, especially as shock effect, in many horror films. In PontyPool much of the horror is not seen by the protagonists or the audience, but rather described to the radio show staff core characters, via the helicopter weather guy.

In other 2008 Canadian zombie news from directors named Bruce, Bruce laBruce’s Otto or Up with Dead People is a film with a cute gay goth boy zombie protagonist. The trailer claims it “Brings Sexy Back…From the Dead”. This one looks more funny than scary – at least from the trailer.

Good night Ivar

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Clara Isaksson, the wonderful super-intern for Undead in the Night at Lilith Performance Studio made Godnatt Ivar as her first stop-motion film in school. It’s excellent, and has a horror theme!

Zombie POV

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

At the top of a list of notes about the zombie film I want to make one day is this sentence, “film from the zombie’s point of view” which as far as I know was not done before at any length – until now. Enter Colin, a new British horror flick that does just that. My friend Ellen Pearlman was the bearer of bad news.

From the press release:
“Our hero Colin is bitten by a Zombie; he dies and returns from the dead. We
follow him as he wanders through suburbia during the throes of a cadaverous

Mark Price who wrote and directed Colin, claims on CNN the film cost $70 to make through Nowhere Fast Productions, his own outfit. That seems highly unlikely and more of a publicity quote than anything. According to CNN, American and Japanese distributors at Cannes are vying for the prize – look for it soon!


The battle scene or us vs. them. In this case, it’s a question of who is who:

Labour of Love

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

field of the undead video still

Field of the Dead and Undead is a video that I am slaving over working on since last fall. It is all rotoscoping, which at the worst of times is obsessive, slow and labourious, and at the best of times highly meditative. Sometimes something surprising happens, like the layers go missing, creating magic accidental images:

accidental image

Haunted in Connecticut by way of Winnipeg

Friday, March 27th, 2009


Another movie review (sight unseen):
If you’re wondering what on earth is coming out of that boy’s mouth in the poster for The Haunting in Connecticut, don’t worry, it’s probably chiffon. The film opened tonight and I skipped it, I don’t really like chiffon. Haunting in Connecticut is a true story, like many horror films including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Wolf Creek, The Blair Witch Project, and Amityville Horror.

I’ve never seen a ghost, not even at The Headlands in Northern California – a place rife with ghost stories. But I have occasional dreams where someone is standing at the foot of my bed, I always wake up immediately during these dreams, which is haunting. If these ghosts watch me sleep, their motive is a mystery. Talking, laughing, stealing covers, arguing, and kicking are not outside the purview of my nocturnal activities, so maybe the ghosts study my sleep patterns or find me entertaining. Or maybe they followed me from Winnipeg.

Winnipeg physician T.G. Hamilton began conducting séances in his home and recording paranormal sights after the death of his young son in 1918. The University of Manitoba published this video on Youtube, which features the photos. As you can see, the photos are unbelievable. Literally.

That whispery substance emitting from the subjects’ mouths and other orifices is, if not chiffon or muslin, paranormal ectoplasm, secreted by mediums when in a trance state. According to, ectoplasm “appears to be milky white in color and smells like ozone.” “Medium Eva C. supposedly produced an ectoplasmic face from her ear during a séance. Many of her “faces” were later revealed to have been cut from a Paris newspaper.”

The Haunting in Connecticut website provides many resources, including Sample Questions for the Dead, should you wish to conduct your own séance. According to their blog, “thoughts may come into your head that seem strange; embarrassing, or uncomfortable. Do not fight them. These are the thoughts of the dead.” I plan to use that excuse regularly.

The strangest fact I learned on the website’s paranormal proximity assistant is that all the world’s haunted houses are in the USA. What about T.G. Hamilton?

Okay I forgot to review the film: it’s late and I digress.

haunted near you

Love among the Ruins (the Zombies and the Vampires)

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

forest malmo

Last week I had a planning session with the fabulous Lilith Performance Studio for an upcoming forest performance in Malmö, Sweden. After 3 days and nights amidst the dark blueish pines, swamps, and mossy hills I am having trouble adjusting to New York’s nakedness. Thinking of doing some guerrilla planting, if the spring ever comes: it snowed yesterday, briefly.

On the plane I was unable to resist viewing the almost unwatchable and aforementioned Twilight. No doubt the tiny airplane screen did not do the sweeping Pacific Northwest forest scenes justice, and I confess I am no screaming teenage fan, but for the life of me this story of forbidden love among the vampires screams of cliché.

The “nice” vampires including our perpetually pouting hero happily inhabit, for the moment, a posh glass house sans coffins in rural Washington State, where avoiding full sunlight is unnecessary (since most days are grey and since the sunlight doesn’t kill them anyway), vampire dad dons the guise of preppy local doctor, and everyone is terribly attractive if well beyond the pale…

According to IMDB, “A teenage girl risks everything when she falls in love with a vampire” not the least of which is any hope of being independent. She goes willingly into the role of princess in utter distress and the movie ends with Bella, our damsel, doomed to be protected by her “hero” forever. Only he, and his extended family, can save her from the vampire bad guy and his own monstrous desires. Now that’s progress.

On the plus side, for the first time ever I enjoyed watching baseball played on screen, since vampiric forces make anything more exciting.

sarah jane

I Love Sarah Jane, on the other hand, is an Australian micro film about lust in the time of zombies. As you may know, zombies are at the other side of the class scale. We find Zombie dad in this case tied up in a wrecked suburban backyard, snarling at a skinny shirtless teenage boy who taunts him.

Sarah Jane herself is no ingénue. She emerges from a dark and claustrophobic living room to put the lusting teenage Jimbo – the subject of the film’s title, a mess of bullies, and her eventually (spoiler alert!) chain-sawed dad out of their misery by the end of the film … some with a heavy shovel, sealing her position as no-nonsense heroine and the far from innocent love interest extraordinaire, with a sense of very dark humour.

Day of the Dead, Risen Again

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

day of the dead

Courtesy of fellow zombiephile and student Sean Colon, I watched a lot of zombie flicks during a recent flight to Saskatoon. This made me think about the claustrophobia built into horror films and what it would be like if zombies were on the plane – throw in a shark and you have my three worst fears. I write this in my notes about the zombie film I want to make one day.

The Day of The Dead remake (2008) was the only one of the films I hadn’t previously seen. The update embraces the “uber fast zombie” trend which if you are not familiar goes against the stiff lumbering archetype of zombies past and gets your heart feeling a might racy.

I have only one thing to say to the badly cast female protagonist on keeping the zombie boyfriend – which seems a shallow reference to the original film where our big oaf zombie guinea pig turns friendly neighbourhood allie in an endearing twist.

“Please, if you’re waiting for him to chill out (and look better) when this all blows over, it never blows over, haven’t you done your research?”

*image from

Williamsburg Odyssey

Monday, February 16th, 2009

DIY Brooklyn

Marcin Ramocki’s new documentary, Brooklyn DIY premieres at MoMA in New York on Feb 25th.

From the press release,
Brooklyn DIY is a long overdue examination of the creative renaissance in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Home to underground warehouse parties, anarchistic street creativity, and artist-run galleries and performance spaces, Williamsburg gave birth to one of the most vibrant and rebellious artistic communities to arise in the 1980s, permanently changing the city’s cultural landscape.
Featuring interviews with a host of artists and neighborhood characters, Ramocki’s film captures life in a utopian universe made by artists, for artists alone with its inevitable decline in the face of real estate development, gentrification, and the post September 11 market collapse.”

Brooklyn DIY features interviews with the likes of Joe Amrhein, Mike Ballou, Ken Butler, Don Carroll, Lauren Cornell, Matt Freedman & Jude Talllichet, Jillian Mcdonald, Aron Namenwirth & Nancy Horowitz, Ward Shelley, and other artists and developers.

Details here.

Living Dead overkill? Never!

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

night of living dead

You can never have too much of a good thing. That applies to one of my favourite horror films, Night of the Living Dead.

I just finished reading “Night of the Living Dead” by Ben Hervey, a great little book rife with anecdotes and trivia which contextualizes the cult classic firmly in its historical moment. This is a film that has never gone out of video print since being released, according to Hervey.

That this film relies on non-actors, a low budget, and the resourcefulness of an ambitious crew makes it all the more worthy of story-telling.

When my friend Jenni Quilter friend invited me for a screening last night I jumped. Accidentally she rented Tom Savini’s 1990 colour remake which I’d never seen. Suffice to say it is almost the same film, based on the screenplay by Romero and Russo, but there are some significant character changes, mostly in the female roles. Barbara is heroic, not catatonic; Judy wants to help, not just “stand by her man”; and little Karen is neither little, endearing, nor as angry at dad. The ending is different too but I won’t spoil that – any fan of the original will surely enjoy the updates and the references to other later zombie films (eg. the hunting posse bullying the zombie in the ring à la 28 Days Later). Oddly, the ghoul’s barbeque feast and the dead farmhouse owner upstairs are toned down gore-wise, where everything else is ramped up.

SCREAM in Saskatoon

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

scream billboard

In Saskatoon at the moment it is minus twenty-seven degrees Celcius, a temperature that deserves more than a tiny number in order that you can savour it, contemplate it, or at least try to fathom it. Luckily we humans have very little capacity for recalling pain which is why, in the words of my undergraduate art school professor Sharon Alward, people can live in extremely cold places like Winnipeg or Saskatoon year after year without going insane*. While minus twenty-seven degrees Celcius is reason enough to evoke screams in many people, it scares neither me nor Jo-Anne Balcaen – my billboard project collaborator and friend from Montréal. Jo-Anne and I were actually born within hours of one another and grew up separately in Winnipeg**, but that aside is another story of which I will spare you the details. The daunting temperature also doesn’t scare David LaRiviere, director of Paved Arts who facilitated and helped tremendously to oversee our two-person show.

Scream opens January 16th – come see it if you dare. There will be screaming. You have been warned. The billboard is silent but it requires 3-D glasses – available at the gallery.

scream billboard

From the press release, “Scream is a two-person video installation and collaborative billboard presentation. While Jo-Anne Balcaen studies the scream from the perspective of ecstasy, Jillian Mcdonald approaches the same subject as a device in horror films. The exhibition project arises from the affinity that the artists recognize in each other’s work, and is thus culminated from an ongoing, long-distance creative dialog.

Jillian Mcdonald’s video work entitled The Screaming challenges the horror movie genre’s damsel in distress by inverting the power dynamics and charging the scream with a potency that overcomes any would-be menace…. Jo-Anne Balcaen’s Screaming Girls appropriates famous film images of teen-aged girls enraptured by rock ‘n’ roll performance. Stripped of sound, Balcaen’s subtle manipulation of this familiar pop adulation becomes a study of mass hysteria, oddly foreign to any kind of rationale that Beatlemania may have once produced.”

*Keep in mind these are select few people, you may not want to attempt this yourself.

**According to Wikipedia, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Winnipeg was −47.8 °C (−54.0 °F), on December 24, 1879. The coldest wind chill reading ever recorded was −57.1 °C (−70.8 °F), on February 1, 1996. I was not alive in 1879, but I’ll point out that the last winter I lived in Winnipeg was 1996.