Horror has been in Canada's snow for decades now, starting with the classic Cannibal Girls and Black Christmasin the early '70s, through the classic early Cronenberg years of Shivers, Rabid and The Brood in the late '70s. In the '80s, we got films like Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine and The Gate. In the past decade, we've had flicks like the Ginger Snaps series, Cube and PontyPool. In fact, you could even count the last three Dead movies by George A. Romero as Canadian — after all, he is a Canadian citizen now and made all three films in Toronto.
Being both a film writer and a host of a monthly horror film series called Fright Nights at the Projection Booth (based out of Toronto, Canada), I have noticed an incredible renaissance of grindhouse and horror directors coming out of Canada in the past few years. Southern Ontario, in particular, has been a hotbed of horror talent. An argument could even be made that Toronto is for horror directors in 2012 what Seattle was for grunge in 1991.
So, I've put to together a list of 10 Canadian genre/horror filmmakers and filmmaking teams who I think are worth watching out for in the next year. Remarkably, there are a ton of directors that I couldn't even fit on this list, so that gives you an idea of the wealth I had to pick from. All of the chosen people have a feature or two that are out now or will be out in the next 12 months. Most of these names you likely haven't heard of yet and are best described as "bubbling under" in the industry. The one thing that they all have in common is that they have recently put out an interesting film or a small body of work that is pointing to greater things. Keep an eye on the following filmmakers in the next year and see if you agree.
1. Foresight Features (John Geddes, Jesse Thomas Cook)
Geddes and Cook debuted in 2008 with their feature Scarce. That film wasn't much to write home about at the time, but you could certainly see some potential. Where they really broke big as both directors and producers was with 2011's Monster Brawl (directed by Cook) and Exit Humanity (directed by Geddes). These ambitious projects were produced together back-to-back through their Foresight Films banner and hit all the right notes from each side of the horror spectrum. Next on the block for them is no less than three films currently in production under the Foresight banner, all written by Tony Burgess (Pontypool): the sci-fi chiller Ejecta, directed by Foresight's Matt Wiele, just wrapped production in May; a gothic horror-throwback directed by John Geddes (Exit Humanity) set for production in July; and a survival horror nightmare directed by Jesse Thomas Cook (Monster Brawl) that will be shot in September. So, it's pretty safe to say that 2013 will be a huge year for this team.
2. Astron-6 (Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matt Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Steven Kostanski)
Astron-6 is actually a filmmaking collective of five directors who hail from Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto. They have released two recent features, Father's Day (through Troma) and Manborg. The collective have been making short films for a few years now and have just released their first DVD collection, called Astron-6: Year One. Their feature Father's Day makes it onto DVD on Father's Day this month, and I would expect a limited theatrical release of Manborg in late 2012. Also, expect a standalone feature documentary on the making of Father's Day called No Sleep, No Surrender, to be released separately on video later this year, chronicling the hardships making the film. As a team that plays by their own rules, their recent public squabbles with Troma have made these renegades reputation even more notorious.
3. Jason Eisener
Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Jason blasted on to the scene in 2007 with the Grindhouse feature-winning faux trailer Hobo with a Shotgun. Along the way, he made the comedy horror short Treevenge in 2008, but he really broke big with the feature-length Hobo with a Shotgun, starring Rutger Hauer. That flick basically did circles around Robert Rodriguez's Machete in terms of translating the tone and feel of a real grindhouse film. For his next project, Jason is one of the 26 directors contributing to The ABC's of Death anthology.
4. Black Fawn Films (Chad Archibald and Gabriel Carrer)
The duo of Chad Archibald and Gabriel Carrer, out of Guelph, Ontario, debuted a few years ago co-directing Desperate Souls and Kill. More recently, each started directing his own feature (but with the other producing). Gabriel directed the horror-road movie If A Tree Falls and the soon-to-be-released In the House of Flies (with Henry Rollins). Chad has just released his Twilight Zone-influenced feature Neverlost and is serving as producer on the next three Foresight Films (mentioned above) as well. Neverlost and If A Tree Falls are now on DVD, and In the House of Flies will hit the festival circuit later this year.
5. Karen Lam
Karen has been a producer out of Vancouver for the past 15 years but moved to the directing chair with her debut feature, Stained, in 2010. More recently, she has done some amazing short films like Doll Parts (2011) and her new film, The Stolen, which will be out later this year. Her new supernatural horror feature, Evangeline, is just in pre-production now.
6. Justin McConnell
Justin's feature debut, The Collapsed, is just getting released on DVD and his new documentary film, Skull World, is about to come out. The Collapsed is just a small piece of larger story of at least five films, starting with The Eternal(coming in 2013), that ties into the graphic novel of the same name. So expect big things here.
7. Ryan M. Andrews
Ryan is one of the most prolific filmmakers in Canada right now with a bottleneck of films on the cusp of being released. Ryan first came on the scene with the documentary-styled The Art Of Infamy in 2007. Since then he has made three more features A New Design, Black Eve and SICK: Survive the Night (featuring Debbie Rochon). Black Eve is just making its way through the festival circuit and SICK is in post-production with a fall release expected. His next feature has already been green-lit called Growing Paranoia that will be going to camera later this year.
8. Twisted Twins (Jen & Sylvia Soska)
The Twisted Twins are the acting/directing team of real-life twin sisters Jen & Sylvia Soska out of Vancouver, BC. They burst on the scene with the gritty underground film Dead Hooker in a Trunk, which has done well on DVD as of late. Their latest film, American Mary just debuted at Cannes to some good notices. In a move of casting brilliance, actress Katharine Isabelle (of the Ginger Snaps series) returns to horror as the lead in American Mary. So expect this film to make some heads turn later this year and into 2013.
9. Evan Kelly
Evan had been making his way up the ladder working as an assistant director on various productions during the past 10 years before he made his stunning feature debut with psychological horror thriller, The Corridor. The Corridor is currently showing in select North American theaters now and you can expect a video release later in the year.
10. Richard Powell
Richard, along with producer Zach Green, has created a trio of very memorable short films, including Worm and Familiar, under the Fatal Pictures banner. Familiar is currently making the festival rounds; watch for a feature-length version of Worm in the next year.
Manborg reminds me of Eliminators, an 80's film starring Denise Crosby (Tasha Yarr from Star Trek: The Next Generation). As a kid I always thought the ninja was named Coochie, not Kuji.
" I grant, at least, that there are two distinct conditions of my mental existence -- the condition of a lucid reason, not to be disputed, and belonging to the memory of events forming the first epoch of my life -- and a condition of shadow and doubt, appertaining to the present, and to the recollection of what constitutes the second great era of my being. Therefore, what I shall tell of the earlier period, believe; and to what I may relate of the later time, give only such credit as may seem due, or doubt it altogether, or, if doubt it ye cannot, then play unto its riddle the Oedipus. " - Eleonora, Edgar Allen Poe