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TIFF BELL Lightbox - Birth of a Villain

07 Nov 2012


In this new series by TIFF Bell Lightbox, Twitch Film’s Todd Brown brings back the origins of filmdom’s greatest monsters.   The series are the first films from such classic horror franchises as Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser and Child’s Play on the big screen.

Capsule reviews for 4 of these films (highlighted) are found at the end of the article.

The series runs from Nov 10th to Dec 29th, 2012.

The complete list of films and show times is outlined below:-

A Nightmare on Elm Street – Saturday, November 10, 10:00pm
Halloween – Saturday, November 17, 10:00pm
Child''s Play – Saturday, November 24, 10:00pm
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – Saturday, December 1, 10:00pm
Hellraiser – Saturday, December 8, 10:00pm
Phantasm – Saturday, December 15, 10:00pm
The Howling – Saturday, December 22, 10:00pm
Friday the 13th – Saturday, December 29, 11:59pm

HALLOWEEN (USA 1978) ****
Directed by John Carpenter

The villain in HALLOWEEN is Michael Myers.  After murdering his older sister in 1963 on Halloween night by stabbing her with a kitchen knife, he is institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital.  Myers (Will Sandin) escapes 15 years later, returning to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois.  Myer’s doctor, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) follows him to Haddonfield to prevent him from killing.  Myers stalks babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends.  Carpenter’s slasher film, made at a miniscule budget of less than a million went on to make more than $70 million and was a huge success.  It is easy to see why.  The film is almost perfect in the way scares are generated.  There are similarities with Hitchcock’s slasher film PSYCHO in the way suspense is used rather than graphic gore and violence to create the horror as well as the way the knife plunges into the victim.  Carpenter did the music, utilizing for example, off-key notes (compared to Hitchcock’s screeching notes) when the slashing occurs or plunking sounds as the victims are stalked.  Pleasance is wonderful as both the frustrated and concerned doctor, describing the villain in one scene with all the relish he can muter as a creature of pure evil.


Directed by Clive Barker

Flawed but still scary horror slasher movie American style though made in Britain.  The villain here is Pinhead (Doug Bradley) summed up from another dimension by Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) solving the puzzle of an antique puzzle box that he bought.  Sometime later, Frank''s brother, Larry (Andrew Robinson, son of Edward G. Robinson and known as the sniper from DIRTY HARRY) arrives at the house along with his second wife, Julia (Clare Higgins) who previously had an affair with Frank.  Larry''s teenage daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) chooses not to live with her stepmother and moves into her own place. While moving into the house, Larry cuts his hand on a nail, and drips blood on the attic floor. The blood somehow reaches Frank in his prison in the humanoids'' realm, partially restoring his body and allowing him to escape to the attic.  How the blood reaches Frank and how Kirsty manages to use the box to retract Pinhead and his cenobites are questionable.  The film also turns into the cenobites chasing teenage victim Kirsty by the end of the film.  Still the film contains many genuinely frightening scenes such as the one in which Kirsty stumbles through a dark corridor screaming for help.

THE HOWLING (USA 1981) ***1/2

Directed by Joe Dante

THE HOWLING is an odd werewolf entry that stands out for its sense of humour and outstanding special effects of man transforming into the werewolf.  The film begins with Karen White (Dee Wallace), an L.A. television news anchor stalked by a serial murderer named Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo).  The traumatic experience of him being shot while almost killing her leads to her therapist, Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee).  The doctor sends her and her husband, Bill Neill (Christopher Stone) to "The Colony", a secluded resort in the countryside for treatment.  Nothing is as it seems.  The colony turns out to be a community of werewolves which the good doctor is involved in.  Jokes like the sheriff (Slim Pickens) eating ‘wolf’ brand chilli or a the disk jockey called Wolfman Jack abound as do lots of references to old wolf movies (example George Waggner is the name of the director of THE WOLFMAN, a 1941 film).  But the scares are genuine though the horrors are to be taken tongue-in-cheek at most times.  Dante does not skimp on the blood, violence, sex or nudity.  But Spielberg took him over to make GREMLINS, toning him down to family style horror movies.  Pity!


Directed by Tobe Hooper

This is the original produced, directed and co-written by Tobe Hooper that spurned a reboot and many sequels.  Supposedly based on the murders of serial killer Ed Gein, this disgusting film featuring screaming almost naked women at its most vulgar concerns a terrorizing family of three.  The victims are a visiting group of 5 youths, one of which is an invalid who meets his end hacked up by a chainsaw while in his wheel chair.  This film contains many gruesome, unforgettable scenes such as the one in the van when a hitchhiker slits his own hand with a knife and then proceeds to slice the side of the arm of the invalid.  Others include stringing up a victim on the meet hook in the slaughterhouse and yet another, an extended screaming scene at the dinner table as the killers imitate her screams.  All this action is made even more intolerable by the soundtrack that includes squawking chickens and victims hacking from the stench of rotting corpses.  This film remains the horror film which contains the most disturbing segments of all time.  This film is one worst nightmare coming true and that is not necessary in a bad way.

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