What often defines me as a writer, much to the chagrin of certain members of the intellectual old guard, is that I approach bargain basement genre films with the same enthusiasm and critical eye as I would something from Godard, Bergman, or Kurosawa. There is merit to be found in almost any film, and where there is not–even when judged within distinctive criteria–is when a movie has truly failed. This passion for all things celluloid, for a wider palate of films that would have someone more traditionally academic than myself expectorating with disdain, appears to be one of the core principles upon which the Fantasia Film Fest was founded. This year, the Montreal-based festival’s sixteenth in existence, Fantasia opted to construct an event that perfectly encapsulates this love for obscure cinema and packages it in the most artistically adept fashion possible.
Dave Alexander, editor-in-chief of Rue Morgue magazine, assembled a bloody handful of some of Canada’s most notable genre filmmakers and paired them with a cadre of the nation’s top illustrators/designers to bring us If They Came From Within. This gallery featured a host of incredible posters, and even a few props, that supposed an entire alternate history of Canadian genre films. It was like walking through an exhibit of awe-inspiring drive-in art from a museum, and more to the point a drive-in, that never existed.
The names culled to help conceive of these bloodcurdling and beautiful works of art should be eerily familiar to readers of this site. Names like Jason Eisner (Hobo with a Shotgun), Vincenzo Natali (Splice), Maurice Devereaux (End of the Line), and George Mihalka (My Bloody Valentine) adorn the walls with proud prominence.
The job of the directors was to come up with a fabricated film replete with appropriately sensational synopsis. The artist would then bring the hypothetical shlock to live in vibrant color and painstaking detail.
This gallery was the pitch-perfect way to kick-off my first Fantasia Film Fest and I offer you some of my favorites here below. I defy you not to wish these films were actual productions.
Art: Rupert Bottenberg
Concept: Dave Alexander
Released from the glaciers of Canada’s Far North region by clumsy researchers, this furry prehistoric menace threatens to demolish and devour an entire Inuit village. It is only stopped when our hero, Dr. Rick Tibideau, attaches an explosive to a spear and delivers the killing stroke from the underside of the beast. Baring a loving resmblance to the lesser-known Hammer monster flicks, Tundrasaur would have undoubtedly featured plenty of Harryhausen-esque stop-motion effects.
Cabane à Sang (Blood Cabin)
Art: What Is Adam
Concept: Dave Alexander
Canada’s version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blood Cabin takes the farm/slaughterhouse that so epitomized the Sawyer family, and replaces it with the far more Canadian setting of a maple syrup shack. Who will survive, what will be left of them, and how many pancakes will you eat while watching…Blood Cabin?!
The Mummy Speaks
Art: Eric Robillard
Concept: Brett Kelly
When you find a mummy in ancient Egypt, the first place you want to take it is Ottawa, right? This Edgar Allen Poe-inspired tale also seems to have at least a small influence from the Abbott and Costello horror comedies judging by the visibly whacky duo of Dan and Stan. Note the various puns in the actor names. Priceless.
Farm of Frankenstein
Art: Jason Edmiston
Concept: Dave Alexander
I remember the poster for Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound, and how that singular stitched eyeball dead-center promised a movie that would be far, far better than what we actually got. Jason Edmiston’s design for the Farm of Frankenstein poster is a marked improvement over that of Frankenstein Unbound. This unfortunately unrealized version of Mary Shelley’s classic tale transports the proceedings to the Canadian prairies during the Great Depression. It’s alive! It’s aliiiiiive, eh?
The Witching Hour
Art: Ghoulish Gary Pullin
Concept: Rodrigo Gudiñ0
One of my absolute favorite posters of the entire show was the collaboration between Rodrigo Gudiño (The Demonology of Desire) and the aptly dubbed Ghoulish Gary Pullin. The Witching Hour is an anthology horror film with one vignette for each of the five time zones that divide Canada. The various stories are respectively set in St. John’s, Montreal, Toronto, Saskatoon, and Vancouver. If I need to write a check right now for this film to get made…it better have super low production costs…but still! I love how this poster eloquently calls back to the grotesque, but undeniably gorgeous VHS covers of the 1980s.
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