There are more than scares to surprise you in these Canadian horror films that push the boundaries
There’s still time to scream … uh … release a movie before Halloween, but what you might not know is that there are a number of new hit Canadian horror films. review from your choices.
This year has seen the release of a series of well-reviewed Canadian horror films, some of which have had to overcome pandemic-related production delays and digital-only festivals in addition to the traditional challenges facing Canadian filmmakers.
Titles like Retirement, Bloodthirsty and Brain freeze all came out in 2021 for “fresh” scores on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. If this is the first time you’ve heard of it, academics, critics, and some filmmakers themselves may not be surprised.
“It is common knowledge that Canadians don’t watch Canadian films,” said Emily Sanders, doctoral candidate in screen cultures and curatorial studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.
According to a report published by the Canadian Media Producers Association, only three percent of movie theater revenues in Canada came from Canadian films in 2020. That number has been between two and three percent each year since at least 2010.
She said it may be more economical for Canadian films to hit theaters in the United States.
“Often what determines whether Canadians see Canadian films is whether Americans see them,” she said.
Director Pat Mills said the feeling among many Canadian filmmakers is that they are “underrated”.
“There are the American Indies [independent films] who are, like, the real underdog, and then there’s us, “he said.
However, he noted his latest film, Retirement, was a success in streaming, especially on the Hulu platform in the USA
Happy horror harvest this year
Edmonton film critic Sarah Clements said Canadian independent films can sometimes be missed by the general public at home after screenings on the festival circuit – performing in front of moviegoers at events such as Montreal’s Fantasia or After Dark from Toronto.
“They sort of disappear and go on-demand video, and you have to search the video-on-demand catalog and come across it,” she said.
But for Clements, the quantity and quality of Canadian films, especially in the horror genre, has been impressive.
“I watched more than I normally would,” she said. “I can’t remember if any of them from Canada stood out for me as much as this year.”
Here are some of this year’s Canadian horror movies available to stream this weekend:
Gallery: The cast of “Terminator 2” yesterday and today (Espresso)
A slasher film about a lesbian couple being stalked during an Airbnb weekend gone awry in the Ontario countryside.
When writer and producer Alyson Richards and director Pat Mills decided to make Retirement, they were very aware of the genre tropes.
“There’s a story of queer characters being used as a murderous trope, and that was something we really wanted to avoid,” Richards said.
She said that during the development process, they would often have to throw out arguments to turn one of the film’s main queer characters into a killer.
When the two made the film, they also struggled to think of any examples of queer horror films that weren’t campy or didn’t take a comedic take on the genre, Mills said.
“Anytime you saw someone who was foreign or queer or implied queer or trans or something different sexually, they were bad,” he said.
Retirement released in May and is available to rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other video-on-demand platforms.
Singer-songwriter Gray travels to a secluded retreat to record a sequel to his hit debut album. But when she gets there, she begins to transform into a bloodthirsty creature.
As The Retreat, Bloodthirsty portrays queer characters in leading roles. However, Wendy Hill-Tout, who co-wrote the film with her singer-songwriter daughter Lowell, said the film was not about LGBTQ + relationships, but about a woman struggling to find her identity.
She said the film straddles the line between psychological horror and drama.
“There’s a whole side to this movie that has to do with the artistic process, and at the same time it’s a werewolf movie,” Hill-Tout said in a statement.
Bloodthirsty is available to rent on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, and other video-on-demand services.
The fertilizer used on an upscale golf course ends up turning the wealthy residents of a gated community into zombies.
Made in Quebec, the French-language horror comedy opened the Montreal Fantasia Festival earlier this year with a positive reception.
In August, director Julien Knafo told Screen Daily that while he’s not usually a horror director, he’s had this film in mind for years.
“There is a small island in Montreal that is quite rich, and I thought it would be funny to shoot a zombie movie there,” he said.
Brain freeze, currently on Shutterbox, debuts on a wider range of video-on-demand services leading up to Halloween.
Other films on the horizon
Still waiting for a wider exit is The Just, a Newfoundland film about a former priest who receives a visit from a sinister stranger. Clements says it’s his favorite Canadian horror film of the year.
Also on the festival circuit is Don’t say her name, a horror film about the killings in an indigenous community after the establishment of a mining company, and Tin can, a sci-fi thriller about a new fungal disease called Coral.