Is it Fan Expotime already? Yup! This year’s convention will not have the Rue Morgue Festival of Fear, unfortunately. But I will be attending as part of the horror programming, selling and signing books, plus hosting a special spooky reading event.
Boo! Scary Stories Read Aloud. Friday, September 4 at 11:45am in Room 705 of the North Building, I’ll be reading one of my fave scary folk tales, from my own hometown. Plus, I’ve assembled a fantastic crew of fellow readers and invite you to join us for an hour of good ole fashion scary storytelling. Shopping and autograph hunting is fun but I always appreciate when there is culture to discover at a fan con so am trying to bring some to others. Friday is much less bananas in terms of line-ups and crowds than the weekend, so it’s a great time to visit. I will also be selling and signing my books in the horror vendors section, at booth #5431. I’m only there for the Friday, So if you’re planning to get your geek on this long weekend, make sure to come that day and come find me!
I’m sitting here with the big book of movies playing at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Even for someone who’s been attending for years, who’s even worked inside the festival (feel free to ask me about that time I danced with Cuba Gooding Jr., or what Brad Pitt looks like up close), it can be daunting to skim through hundreds of film titles and try to narrow down once’s choices to a reasonable (read: affordable) amount. There are plenty of arts reporters offering their top picks, but those lists are usually dominated by what the masses want: A-list celebrities, the next big Oscar contenders, critical acclaim at Cannes, etc. What if you don’t care about any of that, if you prefer to spend your time at the movies with things that are dark, strange, offbeat? One way to choose is simply attend Midnight Madness — ten nights of soon-to-be cult classics programmed by my friend Colin Geddes, which is an experience in itself. But there are some neat things lurking in other programmes, so while I whittle down my Wish List I thought I’d share some of the films I’m most excited about that I think my friends and readers will dig. See you there, in the dark….
Vampires are hilarious. Too bad most comedies about bloodsuckers simply suck. But this one looks like the best thing to come our way since Vampire’s Kiss. Kind of likea really twisted Big Brother, this is billed as a “mockumentary” about three old world vamps sharing a flat in a New Zealand suburb. Co-directed by and starring Taika Waititi (Boy, Eagle vs Shark) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), it seems to strike just the right notes of black humour and absurdity. Watch this trailer above for tips on how you get past a club bouncer when you need to be invited in….then come watch this with me at Midnight Madness on Friday September 12. I won’t bite you. (OK, no guarantees on that.)
One of my weirdest (read: best) TIFF experiences in recent years was Fabrice’s Du Welz’s Calvaire. (I also dug his Vinyan quite a lot.) Alleluia is thus my most anticipated film at this year’s festival, Du Welz’s take on the true story of the 1960s “Lonely Hearts Killers” Martha Beck (a single mom) and Ray Fernandez (a handsome con man who preys on older women). Sure to be shocking and uncompromising and, if his past work is anything to go on, with a memorable, strong female lead.
The Canadians at Astron-6 have been hitting it out of the park in the low-budget, outrageous genre game (Manborg, Father’s Day). Their love letter to giallo comes in this sexy, stylish feature about an Italian film editor in the 1970s who becomes a prime suspect in the murders of some of the actors from the film he’s been working on. Did I mention the guy has a wooden prosthetic hand? And that The Editor has appearances from Udo Kier, Tristan Risk and Paz de la Huerta? This is sure to get weird. Also, my talented illustrator friend Justin Erickson at Phantom City Creative designed the wicked poster.
If gore isn’t your thing, this erotic melodrama by Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio) looks deliciously dark and sophisticated. It’s about a wealthy woman who digs butterflies, domination, and her new young housekeeper. TIFF calls it, “kinky, dryly comic, and compellingly surreal, and boasting gorgeous, gothic cinematography and an enveloping score by orchestral pop duo Cat’s Eyes.” Sold.
Confession: I don’t worship Takashi Miike. I mean, mad respect to the man who made Ichi the Killer but I haven’t necessarily followed his work as much as my horror-loving friends. But this, Miike’s version of Yotsuya Kaidan, a kabuki play about murder and vengeance from beyond, seems like a must-see. Samurais and ghosts are usually Midnight Madness’s specialty, but this is screening in the Vanguard programme, which means it’s likely going to offer even more than you expect.
Oh, Willem Dafoe. You are not only my favourite film vampire, you are one of my favourite actors. It doesn’t look like you’re coming to town for this screening but I shall be there nonetheless. For you are playing the infamous, scandalous, Italian poet, on the last day of his life, directed by Abel Ferrara. These are the kinds of films TIFF was made for.
Every year I try to see one kind of messed-up movie at TIFF. I’m still washing my hands after Snowtown, and shaking my head over Dogtooth. This year, my oddball pick is The Tribe, about a gang of deaf-mute teenagers into robbing, assault, prostitution and more. It’s made by a Ukrarian director but the whole thing has no dialogue or subtitles, only sign language. Because WTF? is pretty universal.
Finally, because sometimes you just need to watch something pretty and swoon, here’s one for the RomantiGoths: Kate Winslet is a landscape designer commissioned to work on the garden at Versailles. Cue romantic interest in the king’s chief architect (Matthias Schoenaerts). Costumes and courtly love and historical drama to wash the blood out. Ahhhh.
“The day that Skinny Puppy’s “Live Shapes for Arms” tour thundered into Toronto, February 18, 2014, the music news world was focused on the fact that date was the 40th anniversary of the release of the first KISS album. No doubt that debut was important to rock ’n’ roll. But when it comes to celebrating the impact and longevity of a group, I am personally much more excited that next month marks 30 years since Skinny Puppy released its first cassette, Back and Forth.”
Ah, exhale. The end of another year. It feels that way tonight, surrounded by snow and twinkling lights and bits of shiny paper on the floor, with only a few squares remaining on the 2013 calendar. Time to plot the future. But first, a look back at the music, books, films that inspired me, excited me, provoked me, made me think, laugh, dance, rock out, dream, scream.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I find conflicts between my passion for all things tagged “goth” and “horror” and the reality of what I enjoyed and thought was good quality. I have never been a super fan of blind faith in terms of genre. Tell me a good story. If there be monsters, all the better. Sing me a song. If it’s sad and romantic and melodramatic, I shall sigh and swoon all the more. But I still get excited by many, many other genres of music, from folk to disco and beyond, as well as poetry and documentaries and all kinds of things. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Like what you like.
In 2013, I put out my own book, which impacted how much other stuff I could seek out, and really absorb, to recommend. But for the sake of posterity, and in the interest of spreading the word about what I find worthy and wonderful…. a few of my favourite things…
Live shows were more exciting to me than records this year. Probably because I saw Nick Cave perform two nights, back to back, and it was a much more satisfying experience than listening to his latest release Push the Sky Away on its own. First in Montreal, at the always amazing Metropolis club, than at the even more amazing Massey Hall, where I managed to push myself up to the front of the stage. There were strings and children’s choirs making the new songs sound great, and St. Nick doing “Stagger Lee” and “The Mercy Seat” with as much vigor as ever and my friend and I giving he and Warren flowers like lovesick teenagers and all I really remember is thinking how if I could see only one act in concert ever again for the rest of my life, it would be him. Hands down. Have I purchased tickets for his summer 2014 tour already? Hell, yes.
There were other live shows for the books, many of them verging on nostalgia trips — Rocket from the Crypt rocking my Riotfest, two intimate sets of triumphant, glorious Patti Smith at the AGO, Nine Inch Nails proving they can add funk and back-up singers and still blast out the industrial hits. But also some new favourites: The XX beautiful in the rain at Echo Beach, Iceland’s Legend at a basement bar, Majical Cloudz making my NXNE with his intense solo performance.
Like everyone with a pulse, I also gleefully danced to “Get Lucky” way too many times.
Only Lovers Left Alive! Jim Jarmusch’s arthouse vampire movie, starring Tilda Swinton, is exquisite, and was a highlight of my TIFF 2013. Sadly, no actual release date in sight. Ditto Horns, the most excellent adaptation of the Joe Hill novel, transformed into a superior dark comedy/horror/fantasy. Watch out for those next year. I join the chorus celebrating American Mary the indie Canadian horror flick about body modification, for being smart, sexy, nasty and driven by kinky, crazy, outrageous female characters. Thanks Soska Sisters for bringing back Katherine “Ginger Snaps” Isabelle to the big screen. And I really dug the sweetness of Warm Bodies. A zombie who plays vinyl records for a girl is my kind of zombie. As for documentaries, I had much to ponder about violence and appropriation of voice after watching The Exhibition, about an artist painting women killed by Robert Pickton; and I couldn’t be happier to see BlackFish changing perceptions and policies about whales and dolphins in captivity.
Or, this is what I was doing alone in the dark when not obsessing over Klaus in The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.
It was a great year for me to see some of my favourite writers in the flesh, and hear them read aloud. After many years of adoring Anne Carson from afar, she came to town for the International Festival of Authors. My favourite living poet, she claimed in her humble introduction to lack charisma. Hardly. Her words make other worlds possible, and when she brings them to life in her own voice, even the most obtuse things became completely clear. (This particular event provided me the opportunity to experience a woman shhhhhushing a man for taking notes because she found the sound of his pencil on paper too loud. Seriously. ) Carson is a strange woman. The very best kind. I cannot recommend her books more highly. Also, did I wait several hours to talk to Neil Gaiman at the Toronto stop for his Last Tour Ever for Ocean at the End of the Lane? Indeed I did. His reading was marvellous, the Q&A hilarious, the long queue well worth it to chat with him after about my own new book. He continues to say very kind things to me about Gothica and it’s such a blessing to have these interactions with someone so beloved, and so generous.
I have found the horror fan’s dream bookstore. I’ve known about Dark Delicacies for years, of course, by reputation. I included it in my Encyclopedia Gothica, after all. But I wanted to visit it first-hand, and that became my excuse for a trip to Los Angeles to promote my new book, How to Kill A Vampire.
The store regularly hosts authors, filmmakers, and other horror types for signings and they were courteous enough to have me come in, even though I’m not exactly famous. They even put a display in the window and set me up on the same day at the Full Moon event by the lovely folks at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, which allowed me to meet all kinds of people interested in dark and beautiful things.
One surprise visitor was actor Carolyn Hennesy. She was wearing blood red contacts and I jokingly asked her if she was a vampire….only to discover that she is! Or was. She played Rosalyn Harris on True Blood, until she was violently dispatched. I apologized for the title of my book and she forgave me. Haha. Then we talked about her animal activism: she hosts a podcast called Animal Magnetism about conservation and preservation. She was full of energy and enthusiasm and I liked her alot.
It was a splendid afternoon and I highly recommend you make Delicacies bookstore a must on your next visit to the L.A. area. The shop is located on a retail strip in Burbank surrounded by great thrift stores, independent clothing shops and more but you’ll be hard-pressed not to spend all your money on their books and horror gifts. I bought myself a gorgeous skull crystal necklace (naturally) and a copy the owner’s book Vampires Don’t Sleep Alone: Your Guide to Meeting, Dating and Seducing a Vampire, because even though I don’t believe vamps are real, it might come in handy someday….
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Darkening days. Cool nights. The smell of pumpkin spice. Orange leaves crunching underfoot. The frantic search for Count Chocula. And for me, this year, extra special good times promoting my new book.
Friends in Toronto, Los Angeles, and London, Ontario…. I hope to see you at one of these events this month.
Every year at this time I plan my 10-day movie-going adventure that is the Toronto International Film Festival. And every year at this time I try to convince my friends who don’t regularly “do” TIFF that despite how big and chaotic the festival is it’s really not that difficult to get tickets to great films, even at the last minute. If you look beyond the big premieres of films with Hollywood A-list guests you’ll find literally hundreds of movies to choose from. I always start with the Midnight Madness program, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year—it’s the home of horror, action and general weirdness picked especially for the witching hour. The screenings can be closer to going to a rock show than a movie theatre. Expect lots of hollering. More and more, the Vanguard program, which describes itself as provocative, sexy and dangerous, is also where I find my new favourites. But then things that go “boo” jump out at me where I least expect them, too.
Because this month is all about vampires for me, I’m going to have to see everything I can in that genre. Thankfully, there are three interesting ones indeed.
Only Lovers Left Alive promises to be the coolest vampire movie since the Hunger, starring Tilda Swinton. Confession: I’ve never actually seen a Jim Jarmusch movie. I’m excited that this is premiering the first night of the festival, which should set me up well for the week ahead.
Story of My Death, an experimental film from Spain, mixes Cassanova with Count Dracula. This could be sumptuously, deliriously satisfying or totally odd. I’m going to find out.
Rigor Mortis. Chinese hopping vampires at Midnight Madness?! Hello! If you’ve never seen an Asian vampire movie, they’re generally a wild and fun ride.
Apart from these vamp flicks, I’m pretty keen to see the sexy sci-fi thriller Under the Skin, Alexander Aja’s adaption of Joe Hill’s Horns, the historical drama Mary, Queen of Scots, the Icelandic coming-of-age story Metalhead, and Tom at the Farm, a psychological thriller from Canadian wunderkid Xavier Dolan. Oh, and about 50 others!
Here is my schedule. Hope to see you there. I don’t bite. (Much.)
HOW TO KILL A VAMPIRE BOOK SIGNING! ECW Press Booth #842
Thursday, August 22, 6 pm Saturday, August 24, 11 am
FEMME FATALES: THE WOMEN OF THE GENRE I’m moderating a discussion with THE SOSKA TWINS, JENNIFER BIEHN, ALYSSA LOBIT and PATRICIA CHICA about their work directing, producing and acting in horror. Saturday, August 24, 12:30 pm Room 713
EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT VAMPIRES BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK I get an entire hour to talk about my favourite creatures of the night with moderator Monica S. Kuebler. Come. Ask me anything.Saturday, August 24, 5:45 pm Room 705
SO YOU WANT TO WRITE ABOUT HORROR? A how-to session on breaking into the non-ficion horror writing biz with me, CRISSY CALHOUN, BRAD MIDDLETON, LIV SPENCER and SOPHIE COSSETTE. Moderated by Monica S. Kuebler.Sunday, August 26, 2:45 pm Room 713