Peter Fonda

This Week in Home Video: The Soska Sisters invade Toronto, Dark Skies, Doctor Who, Dirty Mary & Crazy Larry

This Week in Home Video previews all the latest Blu-ray, DVD and on-demand titles hitting the street this week, plus lost gems, crazed Cancon, outrageous cult titles and the best places to rent or buy movies in Toronto.


AMERICAN MARY is a new horror film created by twin Vancouver-ites Jen and Sylvia Soska, and starring Katharine Isabelle from Ginger Snaps. It is screening in Toronto this Thursday night as part of Cineplex's Sinister Cinema umbrella, a collection of limited engagement, high-minded, low-budget pictures which evoke memories of the varied kinds of horror movies we all grew up with.

Do you like visiting Toronto?

Sylvia: I really do. As die-hard horror nerds, we love getting to invade the Anchor Bay and Rue Morgue offices. Anchor Bay has been putting out awesome horror titles and you can tell how much they love what they do with the stuff you find in their office. It's a real honor to have AMERICAN MARY in that film family. Rue Morgue is a staple of the Canadian identity and passion for horror. It's very rad to go from fangirling over the zines to being in their building, getting the tour, and seeing all of the history.

Jen: We LOVE Toronto. I owe a big part of that to the Toronto After Dark Film Festival and the amazing team that makes it possible. We had our Canadian premiere there and we were just blown away by how kindly we were treated and by the out pour of love from the fans. The audience was outstanding! It was and remains the biggest reaction we've ever received from an audience. They laughed at every funny bit and cheered and groaned and applauded. It felt extra special because it was in Canada. We are so proudly Canadian. It feels amazing to get that kind of response from a Canadian audience especially with a 100% Canadian film.

Other than American Mary, any hot tips for summer flicks?

S: Everything in the Sinister Cinema series was great - JOHN DIES AT THE END, THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH, THE ABCS OF DEATH, NO ONE LIVES - if you miss them in the theatre, the DVD/BD and VOD is a'coming. V/H/S 2 has Jason Eisener involved, so I can't wait to see what he does. It'll be rad.

J: I am terrified to see THE WOLVERINE. I'm such a comic fan and suffer, probably incurably, from nerd rage. Wolverine is one of my favorite heroes. There are two wicked cool Canadian super heroes and everyone know they're Wolverine and Deadpool. Neither has had a stand alone film that was worthy of the character. Don't get me wrong, Hugh Jackman plays a great Wolvie and Ryan Reynolds was a pitch perfect Deadpool and in no way responsible for what happened with his character in the film. Wolverine should be treated like a Batman or a Superman or a Spider-man. He's just such a deep and beautifully written character. The trailer for his new movie screams CGI nightmare to me. If you avoid that one, you should be good. I am pretty excited for MAN OF STEEL.

Your first horror movie is almost like your first crush, you never forget it. What was the first horror movie you remember seeing, or that scared you? Were you into horror movies growing up?

S: POLTERGEIST. We were so odd, as far back as I can remember, we would haunt our local video store's decorated horror section and stare at the VHS boxes, begging our mom to let us see one. When we did watch our first, it scared the shit out of us. Especially the bodies. Then our mom did something that would forever change the way that we look at horror films - she explained what we had actually seen: the director, the actors, the sets, the costumes, the script, and the monster makers. All these artists worked together with the intention of scaring the audience. We got hooked, it became a safe place to explore, and we loved monster makers.

J: We were always into horror. Halloween was a very big deal for us. Our first horror movie was POLTERGEIST. It changed our lives. I remember being so scared. That movie is made to terrify children if you really think about it. The clown under the bed. Oh my God. I had a clown doll that I had to lock in the closet. I got a lock for my closet so he couldn't come out and get me. But I imagined him in my dark closet at night and felt he was even more powerful in there. It was kind of like putting him under my bed.

And my closet was scary. There was a door on its ceiling that led up into the attic. We read a lot of Stephen King novels growing up. My mum had this massive collection and tricked us into loving reading by telling us if we read the book we could see the movie. It had us reading at a high level when we were incredibly young. It's also where we got our sick sense of humor. Stephen King is just the master of dark comedy.

I have heard that you really admire American Psycho from Canadian filmmaker Mary Harron. What other Canadian horror movies do you rate highly?

S: GINGER SNAPS - it's such an intellectual horror and a must see for all angsty teen girls. CUBE is great and so high-concept, I don't want to spoil it by giving anything away. SHIVERS is amazing because who doesn't like sex slug possession films. Everything by Astron-6 is some of the most hilarious and rad filmmaking you will ever see - cannot recommend highly enough. Start with BIO-COP, then do MANBORG. You're welcome in advance if I'm introducing them to you.

J: DEAD RINGERS is my favorite Cronenberg film, but I bet that's pretty obvious, ha ha. There are some sensational independent Canadian horror movies that I just love. PONTYPOOL is amazing. It's a very original take on a something that's been done to death, but never with such originality and excellent execution. GRAVE ENCOUNTERS by the Vicious Brothers is awesome. It's a found footage film where something actually happens. It was shot right here in Vancouver, too, at a partially closed asylum which is widely known to be haunted.

You both write, direct and produce. Who are your favorite other "triple threat" film makers?

S: We learned it all from the one and only Robert Rodriguez. The man is such an inspiration. Not only are his films rad, but he's cool enough to share his tricks. If it wasn't for watching his films, learning from his Ten Minute Film Schools, and reading his 'Rebel Without A Crew', we wouldn't have gotten into filmmaking ourselves.

J: Robert Rodriguez. He's our hero. He's the reason we ever picked up a camera. He is so much more than a triple threat. The man writes his own score, edits, shoots, and even acts. He's just a master of his craft. The way he works has made me endlessly seek knowledge about every position on set and never stop learning. I think he's the reason a lot of people got into filmmaking.

Horror as a genre seems to have suffered with the proliferation of PG-13 rated "horror" movies, usually toned down for economic considerations. Would you compromise your vision if it meant more people might see your film?

S: I wouldn't. If I have a story to tell with adult content, I'm going to have that content there. Once you start compromising for a broader audience, which is really a cash grab to increase your box office potential, it's a slippery slope to making sell out pieces of shit. That's not why I got into filmmaker. I would love to make some money doing this, but telling an honest story that means something to me and hopefully others is top priority.

That said, we've gotten messages from young people who can't watch our films because of the content, but their parents have watched them or they got introduced to us in another way and want to be able to see something we've done. We're working on a film for a younger audience because we got into horror at ten and it would be nice to make a horror film that ten year olds can see, but it's still very much our style. Finding a balance between the two is the real challenge, but we've got something good figured out.

J: We're not smart enough for that, ha ha. We have a very definite vision. If we have an evisceration in a film, we want it there. We've once passionately fought (and won) to keep a 3 frame insert of an extreme close up on male naughty bits. But we felt it was integral to the story we were telling. I don't think there are enough cool horror movies for young people. I began watching horror movies much younger than a lot of kids and I loved it.

I feel AMERICAN MARY is a horror film you don't have to look away from but my ringing endorsement won't likely get a bunch of parents to bring out their kids to see it. Sylv and I do have a series of horror films that would be able to get a rating under R purely so that young people can see our films easily. But we would never tone down a film that we're making just to get more people to come in. Some films have to be rated R. It's like in some situations you just have to use the "f" word.

Toronto versus Vancouver: Which city is scarier?

S: I haven't been to any scary places in Toronto. They shoot in an old asylum here called Riverview that the crews here swear are haunted and it's creepy as fuck. They shot IT and THE X-FILES here. It's rainy and dreary, so I think it has a more spooky atmosphere with the weather and the forested areas. I'll have to ask someone to show me the scarier side of Toronto.

J: Vancouver's my town! It can't be scary to me. It's like your childhood home. You're just so used to it and you get to know it so well. I don't really find Toronto scary. I mean, we're Canadian. We're so sweet and welcoming. I love Canada. I'd probably have to go to a hockey game in Toronto to really know which one of us is scarier. In that regard, I would say that LA wins hands down, ha ha

What's next for you? Any dream projects you would like to share?

S: We're in early prep for an original monster movie that we are teaming with Masters FX on called BOB. The tagline is: There's a monster inside all of us, sometimes it gets out. We're also very stoked to be a part of the multi-collaborative ABCS OF DEATH 2. We've got some good stuff cooking for that. We're in a very cool place in our careers right now that we have had this outpour of support so that we can pursue our dreams. There's a few projects coming that I can't talk about yet, but they are literally dream come true projects for the two of us.

J: We are huge comic nerds. We're stoked to be partnering with FIRST COMICS to bring our films to graphic novel life. We've also had the pleasure of meeting so many talented writers and artists through them. There is one particular writer/artist who I can't mention by name just yet, but we are massive fans of his work and we are so honored to be bringing one of his graphic novels to the big screen. We've always wanted to do a comic book movie and to do it authentic to the comics. You'll just be able to feel our love for the material and creator dripping from every frame. It's going to be incredible.

With the rise of tablets and changing viewing habits, do you worry your movies will be watched in 10 minute chunks on iPhones while people are on the bus? Are you format agnostic or would you prefer your films screened in a theatre?

S: I don't think we'll ever lose theatres. Since before Gladiator times, we've had groups of people sit together and watch a huge spectacle unfold. It's escapism at its best. Yes, you can have escapism on the bus, that's why those devices are so cool, but it isn't as all-encompassing as the theatre ritual. Theatres will develop and change to be experiences you need to come out to and hand-held devices will continue to advance to be convenient entertainment for people. I think we can have both.

J: Growing up, we used to pick out horror movies at our local video store. We'd spend forever looking at the covers and checking out the backs of VHS boxes. It's something that really made me fall in love with horror. That's gone now. No kid will grow up with that experience and have it make them want to make movies. And that sucks. With more and more people staying home or downloading movies, we're seeing a huge decline in theatrical releases. It's so hard to get a horror film or an indie film on the big screen. Who knows how much longer they'll be around at this rate.

There's some real romance to going into a theatre and sitting there waiting for the film to start. There's that anticipation and audience experience. I believe it's an experience you can't download. You put some much into a film, with production design and make up effects and wardrobe and locations... it's not really meant to be seen on an itty bitty screen. I am happy that anyone anywhere is watching our films in any form, but I do think films belong on the big screen and it's all of our responsibilities to go out and watch movies and keep theatres alive.

AMERICAN MARY is playing this Thursday. Check your local listings.

Blu-ray/DVD will be released June 18


Dark Skies (eOne)

Suburban bliss comes under sustained attack from unexplained forces in the home of Daniel (Josh Hamilton) and Lacy Barret (Keri Russell). Legend has it that originally Steven Spielberg's E.T was going to be a horror movie about a pack of malevolent aliens mercilessly attacking a family home. Instead, he ported that element over to his production of Poltergeist, changed them into ghosts, and made his alien friendly. Dark Skies plays out that original remit to its chilling natural conclusion. This is a bona fide scary movie, the kind that the major Studios used to churn out en masse in the 80s and 90s before bean counters pointed out it was cheaper to remake and reboot previous glories. That said, while Dark Skies may cannibalize Poltergeist, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Paranormal Activity, it also remixes the source material into a novel contemporary tale of terror.

Doctor Who: Series 7 Volume 2 (BBC)

Matt Smith continues to amuse as the 11th incarnation of the popular Time lord, however sadly this year's crop of episodes has slightly let the team down with inconstant pacing and some horrible scripts. Highlights include the gothic haunted house episode "Hide", The Sherlock Holmes meets Hammer Horror comedy "The Crimson Horror", and a claustrophobic re-introduction of the classic Ice Warrior baddies in "Cold War". Season finale "The Name of the Doctor" starts out great, but falls to pieces with cheap emoting and a cringing cliff-hanger, and the less said about Neil Gaiman's pig's ear of a script with the natty Cybermen, the better. Seeing as it is the 50th anniversary of this great British institution, let's hope they get their act together, sharpish.

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry/Race with the Devil (Shout Factory)

Deep fried Southern gritsploitation is the name of the game with this low-down, sweat stained double bill from Shout Factory. First up is the legendary Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, featuring what amounts to a movie-length car chase featuring a kitted out 1969 Dodge Charger RT in one of the most nihilistic finales in cinema history, and a gurning Peter Fonda; Race With the Devil, also with Fonda, and hard boiled '70s bad man Warren Oates, finds two couples running afoul of a local Satanic cult during an innocent RV vacation. Vintage high octane drive-in trash classics.

Rolling Thunder (Shout Factory)

Often hailed as one of "Quentin Tarantino's favourite films", this flea bitten revenge tale about a Vietnam vet hunting down a pack of low-lives who killed his family packs a serious punch. Starring the awesome William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones in an early role, it's easy to see how this influenced much of Tarantino's output of late. Directed by the great grizzled John Flynn (The Outfit), and written by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), this is one cult '70s picture that actually deserves its iron fisted rep.


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