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RUE MORGUE #4: HorrorWood North

Launched in 1997 by Rodrigo Gudiño, RUE MORGUE is the world’s leading horror in culture and entertainment brand, spearheaded by its multiple award-winning magazine, RUE MORGUE and RUE MORGUE DIGITAL; RUE MORGUE TV specialty horror channel; RUE MORGUE LIBRARY book series; RUE MORGUE PRESENTS FRIGHTMARE IN THE FALLS horror expo and RUE MORGUE PRESENTS CINEMACABRE MOVIE NIGHTS monthly film series.

MARRS Media Inc.
6 Issues

in this issue

5 min

BROWN AND ORANGE PATTERNED CARPET. IT DECORATED THE HALLWAYS LIKE A PAISLEY RASH IN THE TORONTO APARTMENT COMPLEX WHERE I GREW UP – an abstract bridge between the psychedelic ’60s and the emerging order of ’70s futurism. The buildings themselves were, despite their Soviet-style brutality, an inviting, middle-class community that seemed designed to embrace the brand of socialism that was fashionable at the time. And though only a child, I intuited that they were emblematic of Canada, a young country with promise, somehow free of the violence and malaise that gripped our post-Watergate/Vietnam American cousins to the south. Who would suspect that this shiny new world I inhabited would prove to be such fertile ground for horror? Certainly no one at the time would ever think that the kinds of films…

4 min

IT MAY BE SURPRISING TO LEARN, BUT CANADA HAS AN IMPRESSIVE TRACK RECORD WHEN IT COMES TO PRODUCING HORROR MOVIES. Since the country’s first full-length horror film (1961’s The Mask), Canadians have produced some of the most fascinating, provocative, offbeat and revered fright flicks ever made. That’s why Rue Morgue is devoting its fourth supplement to the world of Canadian genre cinema. Within the pages of Horrorwood North you’ll find interviews with some of the most influential figures in Canadian horror – the directors, writers, producers, actors and composers who have put Canada on the horror-movie map. You’ll find spotlights on some of most striking films from the Canuck horror canon, plus dozens of reviews and much more. But you might be asking yourself, “What’s so special about Canadian genre fare?” At first…

2 min
the pre-tax shelter years (1961 - 1973)

THE HISTORY OF CANADIAN HORROR IS FASCINATING, BUT IT’S NOT PARTICULARLY LENGTHY. Apart from a 1913 short film titled The Werewolf (now considered a lost film, unfortunately) by pioneering Toronto-born filmmaker Henry MacRae, Canucks did not become involved in the horror scene until the early 1960s. Canada’s filmmaking history dates back to 1897 with a series of shorts made by a Manitoba farmer named James Freer. There was a flurry of film production over the next two decades, including hits of the day such as Back to God’s Country (1919) from prolific Canadian producer Ernest Shipman. Next came numerous “quota quickies” – cheaply-produced films from American producers that were shot in Canada in the 1920s and ’30s in order to take advantage of a quota system in England that gave preference…

7 min
the mask (1961)

THIS IS IT – THE FILM THAT STARTED IT ALL. CANADA’S VERY FIRST FEATURELENGTH HORROR MOVIE, 1961’s black-and-white The Mask, is a little-known flick that has never achieved the popularity or recognition it deserves. Besides being the first Canuck horror film ever made, it’s also the first Canadian-produced movie to achieve widespread distribution by a large American studio; it’s the first Canadian film to be shot in 3-D; and finally, it is arguably still one of the strangest, most inventive flicks ever to come out of Horrorwood North. The Mask begins with a young woman being chased by a man through a wooded area and then strangled. The next day, the same young man, one Michael Radin (Martin Lavut), visits his psychiatrist, Dr. Allan Barnes (Paul Stevens) and agitatedly tells the…

2 min
further viewing

PLAYGIRL KILLER (1966) STARRING WILLIAM KERWIN, JEAN CHRISTOPHER AND ANDRÉE CHAMPAGNE DIRECTED BY ERICK SANTAMARIA Bill (William Kerwin) is an artist with a bad habit of murdering his models. On the lam for killing a young woman (with a harpoon gun!) who didn’t sit still when she posed for him, he finds himself at the mansion of Arlene (Jean Christopher), a young woman whose father is away for the summer. Arlene hires Bill as a handyman and tries to seduce him, but also falls victim to the artist’s homicidal impulses. Bill decides to remain in the house to lure other young woman there to model for him. Shot in Montreal, this deliciously sleazy trash-fest features singer Neil Sedaka (who also gives a performance) in a small role. THE VULTURE (1967) STARRING ROBERT HUTTON, AKIM TAMIROFF…

4 min

IF YOU’RE READING THIS, IT’S SAFE TO ASSUME YOU’VE LOGGED MORE THAN A FEW HOURS WATCHING SUCH CANADIAN HORROR CLASSICS AS Shivers, Rabid, My Bloody Valentine and Happy Birthday to Me. All of these Canuck genre staples, along with some of the country’s best-known filmmakers, can trace their roots back to a Montreal-based outfit known as Cinépix. Cinépix was founded in 1962 by Montreal-born producer John Dunning (who died in 2011 at age 84). Dunning had spent most of his life around movies, working at his family’s theatre in a variety of capacities. Shortly after he formed Cinépix, Dunning partnered with André Link, a Hungarian transplant with experience in booking and film sales. “John was a distributor for cinema and I was working at one point in the capacity of a booker…