We know what you’re thinking. It really sucks that Halloween happens in the middle of the week this year and not really close to a new weekend. (Unless you’re one of those new school types who would like to make Thursday a part of the weekend, in which case, please carry on as you were you party animal, you.) That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of awesome stuff going on at the movies, on TV, on stage, or out and about in the city of Toronto this week. Here’s a look at some of this week’s spooky highlights! (And while you’re at it, enjoy our links to various tricks and treats… IF YOU DARE [to have fun]). There might be a special ghoulish prize for you guys on Halloween if you can pay attention to it all and you. can. survive.
Birth of the Living Dead (Monday, October 28th, 9:30pm) takes an in-depth behind-the-scenes and critical look at George A. Romero’s landmark low-budget chiller Night of the Living Dead that breathed new life into the zombie genre while infusing it (sometimes unwittingly) with a thick layer of civil rights allegory that was unheard of upon its release in 1968. Director Rob Kuhns takes a pretty great look at the history of the iconic original film without going into its sequels or beholden offspring. From a nifty history lesson that saw the then 27 year old Romero coming up from working in commercials and for Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood on PBS to making his first feature thanks to an outpouring of generous support from his community to the film’s notorious decent into public domain, it’s a great look at one of the greatest and most unlikely resonant pieces of cinema ever created. But more than that, there are some great moments with critic Elvis Mitchell and filmmaker Larry Fessenden analyzing the film possibly more beautifully than anyone else has done on camera yet.
For those who like their spooks to come from reality with a healthy dose of feel-good heart, director Sean Cisterna (Moon Point) delivers his partially Hot Docs Doc Ignite funded 30 Ghosts (Wednesday, October 30th, 8:30pm), a look at a Halton area paranormal investigation team. Led by Kim Hadfield, the Halton Paranormal Group has gained quite the online following, but their founder and incorporator looks to take things to the next level with a realistic looking reality show devoid of fakery and false drama. It’s fitting of the subject because Cisterna – in addition to capturing some really creepy abandoned buildings and having a run in with some paranormal activities himself – has crafted a human and thoughtful look at a profession that might have been derided by other filmmakers. Hadfield is a heck of a subject, battling her own past demons and conflicted emotions, but always remaining professional and sympathetic even when she’s clearly at her lowest moments. It’s recommended for those who like a bit of thoughtfulness and inspiration with their scares.
But, if you really want pure, unfiltered holiday tradition, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has a pair of shadowcasts on the 31st at 7:00pm and 10:00pm. Going to one of these screenings – full of ribald audience participation, vamping in the extreme, and all sorts of assorted shenanigans, flying objects, and squirt guns popping off – is a cinematic rite of passage unlike any other. These screenings are always packed, but go to the later one if you can. These shows are always rowdier the later it goes. And if it isn’t rowdy, then you might as well be watching it at home like a square.
Aside from one final screening of the still criminally slept on survival slasher-slash-home invasion thriller You’re Next (Monday, October 29th, 9:30pm, which holds up beautifully after its two year delayed release), TIFF Midnight Madness impresario Colin Geddes and local writer Katrina Gligorijevic offer up a special clip show and big screen party with their one night only Halloween Spook Show (Thursday, October 31st, 9:00pm) at The Royal. For $5 attendees can revel in the duo’s scariest, silliest, creepiest, and in many cases most obscure clips and shorts picked especially for the holiday. Anyone who has ever seen one of Geddes’ Nuit Blanche installations over the past year (or even listen to the pre-show tunes he selects for his TIFF screenings) knows that the man is kind of a master of cinematic mixing. They also promise candy and prizes, meaning this event’s a bargain at twice the price.
First off, contributing to the renewal of the oldest theatre in the city would be a nice Halloween/belated Thanksgiving/early proper holiday present for everyone working over at The Revue to ensure they can keep programming great fare like their classic horror duos this season. Both nights find a pairing of classic arty horror, followed by mainstream genre blockbusters. On Wednesday the 30th, audiences can come for one of Roman Polanski’s best, Rosemary’s Baby (7:00pm), and follow it up with John Landis’ all time career high, An American Werewolf in London (9:30pm). On Halloween proper, you can check out Stanley Kubrick’s still heavily analyzed and possibly more popular than ever take on Stephen King’s The Shining (6:45pm), and then get ready to metaphorically smoke some weed and have a ton of premarital sex with some of the dumbest horror movie characters to even launch a franchise in Friday the 13th (9:30pm).
Also keeping the classics on lockdown alongside its sister cinema, The Revue, the team at The Fox go even more old school with a 3D screening of the Andre De Toth/Vincent Price classic House of Wax on Wednesday the 30th at 7:00pm, in what might just be the coolest programming of the season and a rare treat for anyone wishing to catch this one in its big screen glory. They follow it up on Halloween with the less spooky, but still 3D restoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (7:00pm), which looks stunning. Also on the docket for them are screenings of The Shining (Wednesday, October 30th, 9:00pm) and The Exorcist (Director’s Cut, Wednesday, October 31st, 9:00pm).
I’m a bit bummed and have to admit to a bit of a technological related mea-culpa on this one, but we had planned this big, huge piece about facts you might not know about William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (which started for a week of shows this past Friday, and runs through Halloween night at 9:00pm), but Buzzfeed beat us and rendered all of our work largely irrelevant. Still, if any horror movie was made to be in the cinema, it’s The Exorcist, a film that was so rigidly controlled by the filmmaker that when it opened in limited release around Christmas of 1973, Friedkin purposely went to all of the theatres showing the film to ensure all of his specifications for exhibition were met prior to it screening even once. Granted, this is digital and far more hands-off, but it was a film that demands to be seen in a big dark room.
On the Canadian side of things, TIFF opens up the vaults for a pair of homegrown classics. First up, the franchise spawning and widely beloved coming of age story Ginger Snaps (October 31st, 8:00pm with writer Karen Walton in attendance), and later at 11:00pm is a very rare and absolutely can’t miss screening of The Changeling with George C. Scott in one of the absolute best and unquestionably most underrated haunted house films ever made.
Oh, and there’s also the kick off of the Lightbox’s big Cronenberg exhibition and retrospective with a screening of the astoundingly creepy and often terrifying Dead Ringers (Thursday, October 31st, 6:30pm) with Cronenberg and Academy Award Winning Actor Jeremy Irons introducing the film. It’s the perfect lead in to the official opening of the David Cronenberg: Evolution art exhibit in the TIFF Gallery on November 1st. More on that later in the week.
Hey, look, our friend Justin McConnell – filmmaker, producer, Toronto After Dark Film Festival Programmer, dude who looks awesome in cardboard – has curated another selection of Little Terrors shorts, going down on Wednesday, the 30th at 9:oopm! This year’s highlights include murders, pumpkin carvings, a look into the not-so-lonely lives of coroners, abdominal surgeries run amok, and much, much more!
In addition to their continual branching out into archival fare with screenings of Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead (Monday, October 28th, 7:00pm at various locations, with additional shows at Yonge and Dundas on the 29th and 30th at 4:15pm, and on the 31st at 4:45pm and 9:30), and screenings of John Carpenter’s killer car flick Christine (at Yonge and Dundas on October 29th and 30that 9:45pm, October 31st, 6:45pm), they have some original fare debuting in wider release.
For one night only at various locations, viewers can catch Dead Before Dawn 3D on the 30th at 7:30pm. Debuting this past winter at the TIFF Next Wave Festival, it’s an okay teen horror comedy about a nearly graduated college student who helps to accidentally unleash a plague of “zemons” (zombie demons) on the world. It’s pretty lightweight stuff that will really only hold the interest of less discriminating teens, but by those parameters it’s a little bit of fun.
Oh, and that remake of Carrie is still in fairly wide release, and it’s really not that bad.
Just in time for the grooviest holiday of the year, Ash, his boomstick, and his singing and dancing Deadite friends make their way to their new home at the Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst Street), bringing back with them all gory hijinks of one of the most unlikely and well crafted musical adaptations in history. If you can’t make it to the currently ongoing previews or the opening night on October 27th, don’t fret. The show currently stands to run until December 22nd, a perfect way to spend that other “most wonderful time of the year.” And yes, for those in the know, the famed Splatter Zone has returned despite the change in location from past years.
The Woman in Black
Remember that movie with Daniel Radcliffe that came out a couple of years ago that was a minor hit and was a remake of a previously successful TV movie? Well, here’s the stage version that immediately followed the publication of Susan Hill’s original short story. The story of Arthur Kipps, a young and hungry for success turn of the century lawyer trying to unload the quite possibly haunted and definitely isolated Eel Marsh House, gets a run at the Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Avenue) from October 30th to December 1st. It’s a no frills haunting story with a sympathetic protagonist in an awful situation, and a great story to introduce younger viewers to the delights of horror theatre (provided that they are 14+, of course).
Also at The Lower Ossington is their stage production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, kicking off on Halloween and running through to November 23rd.
Remember when you were a kid and the only way to catch up with the latest in scary movies was to see it far later than your older siblings, friends, and parents on television? Well, that memory is easily relived – commercials and all – thanks to AMC’s yearly line-up of Halloween favourites. Between 8:00 on the 28th and 4:00am on the 30th, viewers can delight to almost all of the Friday the 13th franchise (with the inexplicable exception of the first two films and Freddy Vs. Jason, but maybe not so thankfully including Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X, and the not so much bad as it is disappointing 2009 remake). Starting at 10:45am on the 30th, the unemployed, home sick, or general slacker can mainline the so-bad-it’s-awesome charms of the entire four film Tremors franchise. Then things get serious at 8:00pm with a proper marathon of Halloween, starting with John Carpenter’s original classic and ending with 1995’s somewhat snicker worthy, Paul Rudd starring, and druid oriented sixth instalment. These are the movies (and viewing conditions) perfectly suited to background party noise or attempts to work off a hangover while too lazy to put in a DVD.
While it might not seem terrifying to talk about why people refuse to step on cracks out of fear for their mother or why some buildings don’t have a 13th floor clearly marked or noted, superstitions are based out of an intrinsic fear of something unknown and unquantifiable. At 9:00pm on Halloween night, CBC Doc Zone and documentarian Adrian Willis will take a look at the rational and irrational thinking that goes into the perceived avoidance of pain, awkwardness, terror, or in some cases, potential satanic possession or control. It might not be edge of your seat stuff compared to what most thrill seeking junkies might want to get out of the holiday, but for those curious and staying at home handing out candy (or afraid to leave the house for reasons the very show happens to be talking about), it’s a deeply humane look at the things that make many people unique.
Aside from your own party with loved ones and your own cheap booze? I’m guessing most of you got the party bug out of your systems this past weekend, but if you really want to get down and do the inevitable drunken Thriller dance to songs that aren’t “Thriller” probably while dressed as Walter White or an Adventure Time character, there are few better places to do it than ,The Drake Hotel (1150 Queen Street West, Thursday, October 31st, 10pm-2am, $10 cover). With performance art, free candy, good tunes, and a $500 audience choice costume contest there are few better excuses for calling in sick the next day than spending a ghoul and goblin filled evening at one of the best bar lounges in town.
Or if drinks and partying isn’t your speed (or you overdid it) and you want to do something fun while helping out an awesome cause, The Drake is also holding a pumpkin carving competition from 5 to 7 that evening to benefit Second Harvest Food Rescue Charity. Chefs from The Drake, Blowfish, and Kanji will slice and dice some bright orange utility grade orbs, with attendees voting on the best with one dollar votes determining the Iron Carver.