In Canada, the genre films are as odd and quirky as a kerfuffle between a moose and reindeer.
Canadian genre films, lovingly referred to as Canuxploitation, are a brand of cinema unlike any other. They almost always appear to be fairly innocent on the surface but then they take weird and bizarre turns. In many ways, they serve as the perfect reflection of the Canadian lifestyle, or at least my perception of the Canadian lifestyle. Granted, I say all of this despite the fact that I, myself, have never been to Canada. I did, however, spend a number of years watching a long-haired, scruffy little Canadian do amazing things on the basketball court and my grandfather on my mother’s side of the family was from Canada which basically makes me an expert.
Using my “expert” opinion as a guiding light, I have compiled a list of 5 Canuxploitation titles that you simply must see. Get yourself a two-four, a Big Turk and then get comfortably settled on your Chesterfield and let these magical films take you to a place of pure wonder and joy.
The Mask (1961) Dir. Julian Roffman
The modern use of 3D is something I really don’t care for all that much. My main issue is that I feel 3D is a gimmick that should be used for gimmicky purposes in low budget B-movies. In 1961 director Julian Roffman understood this when he made the wonderfully trippy The Mask.
In The Mask, a young archaeologist finds a strange mask while out on a digging expedition. When he returns home he puts the mask on and things get weird. Driven mad by the mask the archaeologist eventually commits suicide but not before mailing the mask off to his psychiatrist. As you may have guessed, the psychiatrist experiencing the same effects.
The Mask has a razor-thin plot but that’s ok because it wins you over with psychedelic visuals, which are the result of anyone wearing the mask. This is also when the film uses 3D and it’s great because it pulls the viewer into this eccentric world. This is a movie everyone should experience once.
The Mask is available on 3D Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
Cathy’s Curse (1977) Dir. Eddy Matalon
There are no words to accurately describe Cathy’s Curse but I’ll give it the old college try anyhow.
George moves his family into his childhood home. He’s thrilled about returning to the house he grew up in and excited about the prospect of sharing the experience with his wife and daughter. As his daughter, Cathy, is getting a feel for the house she discovers an old doll and quickly becomes enamored with it. Also, that doll is maybe possessed by George’s sister.
Logically, nothing in Cathy’s Curse makes much sense. Honestly though, who needs logic? We’ve got a creepy doll, a bloodthirsty little girl, and craziness that continues to escalate the further into the movie we get. You and your logic can go straight to hell!
At one point in this movie, Cathy tries to kill some of the neighbor kids. The reaction from her parents is, “Meh, kids will be kids.” Cathy’s Curse is the best.
Cathy’s Curse is available on Blu-ray from Severin Films.
The Pit (1981) Dir. Lew Lehman
When I think of classic Canuxploitation The Pit is one of the first films that comes to mind. I’m not sure if it was the first Canadian horror movie I watched but it was definitely the first one to stick with me. And it stuck with me for good reason.
Much like Cathy’s Curse, The Pit is centered on an evil little kid. The kid responsible for this mayhem is a perverted little asshole named Jamie. Being a perverted asshole comes naturally for Jamie, but he also has a stuffed bear named Teddy that seems to encourage his ultra-shitty behavior. Oh, he also finds a giant pit full of mysterious little creature deep in the forest. Jamie is the only one of aware of this pit so he decides to take care of the creatures by feeding them the raw meat that they desire.
There is a lot to like about The Pit and like all of it I do. The chompy little creatures, known as Tra-la-logs, are a lot of fun, especially when they get set loose on the town in the final third of the film. The performance of Sammy Snyder as Jamie is unusual but highly effective. Best of all is the film’s freeze frame ending. Legendary.
The Pit is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
Rolling Vengeance (1987) Dir. Steven H. Stern
Over the years there have been a lot of revenge flicks. Everyone is a slight variation on the same basic plot. A mild-mannered average Joe has someone close to him murdered by thugs and said thugs are then able to skirt the law. The average Joe is forced to take matters into his own hands. Rolling Vengeance is a lot like that but with semis and a homemade monster truck.
Tiny Doyle, played by the great Ned Beatty, owns a popular bar in a small town. He also has 5 idiot redneck sons that get drunk and cause trouble for everyone else in town. Tiny’s sons take it too far and end up killing the family and raping the girlfriend of a young truck driver name Joey. Joey does the only logical thing and gets started on building his killer monster truck.
Joey uses his new truck to literally rundown his enemies. It’s nonstop action and it’s awesome. And like any good 80’s movie Rolling Vengeance has a montage, but instead of your standard training montage, it’s a truck building montage. Like I said, it’s awesome.
Now, enjoy that montage.
Rolling Vengeance is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
Beyond the 7th Door (1987) Dir. B.D. Benedikt
Beyond the 7th Door is the film that inspired this entire list. I was introduced to this film about a month ago and I’m not lying when I say it changed my life. This isn’t a movie, it’s an experience and it should be required viewing for everyone.
Boris is a struggling thief but he’s finally found the opportunity of a lifetime. His ex-girlfriend is currently working for a wealthy man that allegedly has a treasure hidden somewhere in his mansion. With the assistance of his ex Boris plans to break in and steal the treasure but once inside he runs into a series of deadly booby traps. Oops.
Beyond the 7th Door is an ultra low budget version of Saw or Cube, only it came years before either of those films. It also features one of the most fascinating lead performances in the history of cinema. Lazar Rockwood plays Boris and once you see him in action no other actor will be able to satisfy you. His line readings are incredible and he has such odd mannerisms. I love him.
Go watch this movie now.
Beyond the 7th Door is available on DVD from InterVision Picture Corp.