There was a lot of fun to be had at the 2012 Calgary International Film Festival this year. Having started this blog recently, it was a great opportunity to get out and see some great and not so great horror films. Leading up to the fest we presented our wish list. One of those films, Excision made the cut this year and it didn’t disappoint. I unfortunately couldn’t attend the Black Pond screening I had purchased tickets for, but I did make it out to see Antiviral and few others.
The Killing Games
This is an exploitation film out of Edmonton. Our friends to the north have a reputation of being a pretty rough. Anytime I open the news and read some crazy story, chances are it happened in Deadmonton. Fuck, they even have a suspected serial killer on the loose up there!? Generally we Canadians are known more for our love of hockey, beer and maple syrup. Murdering prostitutes, while not altogether unknown here in western Canada (I’m looking in your direction Robert Pickton!) really doesn’t fall into one of our preferred past times. It’s kind of our Detroit.
I was intrigued to hear an Edmonton based filmmaker was bringing his movie The Killing Games to The Calgary International Film Festival. I found the trailer disturbing, not being an exploitation film fan. I had read at Anything Horror how the film was denied entry into the Edmonton Film festival and that it would instead see a première this year at CIFF. Calgary and Edmonton have had a rivalry that has times bordered on psychotic. Walking through West Edmonton Mall wearing a Calgary Flames jersey may result in grievous bodily harm. The Boston and New York reciprocated hatred really has nothing on us. I can’t help thinking that this may have influenced the decision to show the film here in Calgary in a small way. That being said, CIFF organizer Bruce Fletcher has a genuine love of the film and he showed his enthusiasm when introducing it Saturday Sept 22nd at the Globe theatre.
Barry J. Gillis is a Canadian filmmaker who has made a name for himself in exploitation cinema. He wrote, directed and produced his first film “Things” in 1989. His next film wasn’t made until 20 years later. Titled “Wicked World” the film is about a dirty cop hunting a serial killer. Barry had since relocated to the great province of Alberta when he began this, his third film.
The Killing Games is a low budget exploitation film. The film is about a family struggling with caring for their terminally ill matriarch. One day the daughter Elysia witnesses a double homicide and narrowly escapes. We meet the family patriarch known as “The Birdman” at his 49th birthday party. Surrounded by friends and family they celebrate by taking part in the little known Canadian tradition that includes pouring beer on the birthday boys head? This was reminiscent of an NFL coach receiving a post victory Gatorade shower from his players. It did not appear to be nearly as fun in The Birdman’s tiny living room. In this scene we see the first of many more scenes to come that are nonsensical, contain dialogue altogether unrelated and are introduced to characters that provide nothing to the plot. “Dirty Jesus” and “Son of Satan” (I’m not making this up) are a couple of homicidal maniacs akin to Charles Ng and Leonard Lake. As they sit together in their cabin discussing their love of murdering people and speculate on how they will pay the rent? The film then cuts to a character only known as the “Metis/First Nations Minister” as he sings to the Birdman’s dying wife. This parallel editing continues for what feels like ten minutes. One moment we have the weeping spiritual leader singing and the next it cuts to “Son of Satan” smashing a guitar. This was one of many bizarre scenes in the film that didn’t seem to serve a purpose.
Kelly Bird stars and also gets a producer credit for helping finance the film. The largely inexperienced cast, do their best to deliver some intense performances. There are some really affecting scenes where the amplified dialogue is written and delivered at 11.
The screening hosted a rowdy cast and crew and was a lot of fun. Director Barry J. Giles introduced his cast after and thanked the CIFF for selecting his film after it had been denied by the Edmonton Film Festival. Bruce Fletcher of CIFF proclaimed this had been the most fun midnight screening in the festival’s history. T-shits were given away and everyone got a DVD of Barry’s first film Things on their way out. Barry invited the entire theater to party in his hotel room at the Ramada across the street after the movie. An interesting side note, the film also features scenes from Nick Zedd’s Police State featuring Rockets Redglare. If you get the opportunity to see this in a theater, please do. If on video do so with a large group of friends and plenty of alcohol.
I had high expectations going into this. I love horror anthologies and had read some great reviews. I generally have no problem suspending disbelief in films but there were a few things in this that made no sense and I found annoying. The meme above from Bloody Disgusting sums some of those up. Also the film is filled almost entirely with characters who can be categorized as “Douche Bags”. It wasn’t fulfilling enough that most of them met their end in some hideous fashion. Instead I felt much like I would if I had just left some social obligation populated by horrible, horrible garbage human beings. That is, relief that the evening is over and the strong desire to sit alone in a dark room.
This was probably my favorite film this year at CIFF. The story is about a Detroit crime photographer who is becoming disillusioned by the ever eroding fabric of society. He thinks about and begins to carry out some of his vigilante fantasies. All while trying to court a new love interest. I loved this film and really cared about Aidan the lead character. Great support by Ron Perelman who plays Aidan’s best friend. This had been screened at few genre related festivals and won the best feature at Fantasia and director Charles de Lauzirika won best director at Austin’s Fantastic Fest. This film is well worth seeking out. I hope to see it get a wide release soon.
This is Brandon Cronenberg’s debut film. A study in society’s obsession with celebrity culture. Star Caleb Landry Jones delivers a strong performance. Brandon defiantly shares some of his father’s DNA literally and figuratively. The film had me wondering part way through how he would wrap this up? The ending delivers strongly in a way I hadn’t expected. This is a must see and one of the best horror films of 2012. Dark and twisted.
Other non genre films I saw this year included the super intense Ferocious starring the amazing Kim Coates and Smuggler. This is the first time I had endeavoured to see this many films at the CIFF and it was a great time. CIFF is really a great organization staffed by people who love many types of cinema. The festival really adds some spark to our city and should be embraced and supported. Can’t wait for next year.