On the night of November 9, 2013, I reached a cinematic milestone: I indulged in my 100th Canadian horror film. Unfortunately, it was the very forgettable eco-terror, SEVERED (2005). Although a pathetic and insipid tale, Michael Tiegen as Luke is a standout.
Regardless, I have always admired films, horror and otherwise, from the Great White North. Granted, in the realm of the macabre, David Cronenberg is a standout, but there are amazing films to see across the grand nation. Here you’ll find my Canadian favorites. The first ten are the best of the best. The runner’s up include quality productions that one should also take the time to explore.
THE CHANGELING (1980)
Peter Medak has delivered one of the greatest ghost stories of all time with a few creepy scenes that still freak me out. George C. Scott leads the way as a father who has lost his family and relocates to a mansion where a presence will not rest.
James Woods plays a skeevy president of an adult cable access station, who ends up going deep into the surreal world of the sadomasochistic Videodrome – with no way out. This is my favorite from Cronenberg, and the movie still toys with the senses.
NAKED LUNCH (1991, Canada/USA/Japan)
Cronenberg brought William S. Burroughs’s remarkable “anti-book” to life with the refined acting of Peter Weller, Ian Holm, Judy Davis, Julian Sands, and the late, great Roy Schieder. The director worked with Burroughs on this epic project, and captured the essence of the infamous novel.
One of Canada’s best low-budget horrors, we follow a small group trapped inside a maze of moving cubes with seemingly no escape. Vincenzo Natali delivers an intense tale that is as suspenseful as it is engaging as that small group disintegrates and succumbs to human frailty.
EXISTENZ (1999, Canada/UK)
Another from Cronenberg, he once again plays with our minds as we watch the wonderful Jennifer Jason Leigh and the amazing Jude Law play a game of their own. In this virtual world of ever changing mystery and science fiction, the master director will keep you guessing.
GINGER SNAPS (2000)
One of the greatest werewolf films ever made, we follow two sisters with a love for the grotesque until a lycanthropic presence enters their lives and works to pull them apart. Stars the fantastic Isabelle Katherine and Emily Perkins.
THE DARK HOURS (2005)
Based on a screenplay by Wil Zmak, Paul Fox brings us to a cabin where our minds are twisted around the dance between a psychiatrist and a sex offending criminal. With her family’s life in jeopardy, she must face her enemy, and his accusations, head on.
Stephen McHattie shines as a thwarted shock jock caught in the midst of social upheaval. Bruce McDonald directs this foray into the most unique premise ever for a horror film, based on Tony Burgess’s script and novel. A riveting, dramatic horror.
Sex, vampirism, and rock n roll gleams like moonstone in this comedy/horror from Rob Stefaniuk – complete with killer rock star cameos, and alternative tunes to keep your blood pumping. The film’s a great ride for those who prefer a bit of a bite to their music.
Cronenberg’s son, Brandon, delivers an amazing first feature that will definitely get under your skin. A cerebral and captivating dramatic horror, this is a fantastic extension of the nightmarish novelty world we’ve created. Caleb Landry Jones delivers an amazing performance.
Other great Canadian horrors:
THE BROOD (1979), HEAVY METAL (1981), DEAD RINGERS (1988), PARENTS (Canada/USA, 1989), SCREAMERS (Canada/Japan/USA, 1995), MY LITTLE EYE (UK/USA/France/Canada, 2002), WILLARD (2003), FIDO (2006), ORPHAN (2009), THE SHRINE (2010), and AMERICAN MARY (2012).
We know we’ll see more from Brandon Cronenberg, but will his acclaimed father bring us another horror? The seventy-year-old director does have a drama on the way, but there’s no talk of anything related to the macabre. Regardless, Canada has delivered many amazing terror-ridden films over the years and will continue to do so. After all, with the Twisted Twins, we know AMERICAN MARY is just a teaser for much more blood-drenched trauma from the Soska’s – and they’ve just announced they’ll take part in an all-female directed horror anthology.
Can’t wait to see what comes next…
(Photo from Live for Film.)