Tuesday, December 20, 2005


"If this movie doesn't make your skin crawl... It's On Too Tight!" was the promotional tagline from the 1974 Canadian Christmas stalker film which (likely) created the genre that flourished in the 1980s. It is the Christmas holidays at a (unnamed) college around Scarborogh, Ontario. In one of the sorority houses, the few girls staying on campus for the holidays (for various barely-developed reasons) are getting some pretty obscene phone calls from a local nut-job. The straight-laced girl of the bunch, Clare, wisely offers the advice (especially if one knows they are in a horror film) "I don't think you should provoke somebody like that," to Barb, the baggage laden drinker of the bunch (played in a weirdly prophetic role by Canadian Lois Lane/occasional-crazy-lady Margot Kidder). This phone call is followed by the terrorizing and systematic elimation of the ladies of Pi Kappa Sigma.

Black Christmas is a moody and steady thriller which takes its time, and fetishizes the kill scenes much more like the Italian Giallos than the flood of American films which followed it. Of the two directors who popularized the slasher genre, John Carpenter with Halloween and Wes Craven with A Nightmare On Elm Street, it is certainly the latter who was stealing/paying-tribute to Black Christmas the most. First with the casting of John Saxon, who plays a competent police detective here (and both a father and a cop in Nightmare), as well as one memorable phone sequence involving a tongue. Craven's most successful film, Scream, even though it is knowingly making fun of the genre, is so similar that there probably should have been licensing involved.
In Black Christmas, there are many lingering shots on avacado bakelite phones, nearly to the point of fetishization, we even get to explore the inner guts of the local phone-switchboard. But the foulness that comes out of the speaker from Mr. POV-Shot psycho is geniunely creepy (strangely evokative of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

Make no mistake that the film is purely a product of Canada. First off, the director, Bob Clark, would later go on to make the very successful Porkey's (which may have kick-started another genre, the modern teen gross out/sex film, but that is another story) and the Canuck equivalent (in Yuletide event status) of It's A Wonderful Life: A Christmas Story. Odd casting bits are all over the place, from the aforementioned Ms. Kidder, to a straight-up performance from pre-SCTV Andrea Martin, to the lead actor of a bonafide Canadian masterpiece, Goin' Down The Road, Doug McGrath, who plays the dopey (and picked on) Sgt. Nash, to finally the couple of "eh" spouting Bob & Doug types scouring the neighborhood with shotguns.

Come out and catch this horror classic before it is remade by the X-Files folks in 2006. (Yes, every horror movie is going to be remade over the next few years)

Drinks at 8, Trailers and Showtime at 8:30pm - Tuesday December 20

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two or three weeks, you may have heard about a certain expensive remake from the director of those Lord of the Rings pictures, Peter Jackson. Since the re-mastered DVD of the 1933 RKO Pictures original special effects blockbuster is a just a mighty fine presentation of the film, KBT is letting you folks out there do a little homework for the biggest movie of the holiday season 2005.

The original Kong brought together as many elements of the B-picture while simultaneously creating the template for the slew of Z-grade features in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s before they came back into A-List budgets with 1993's Jurassic Park. Terse but functional dialogue, proclaimations of greatness from an ambitious megalomaniac, sappy and semi-awkward romance, and a boatload of special effect shots of a giant monster ravaging one thing or another. This was the pornography of any boys urge for the fantastic. Case in point: You get not one, but THREE(!) fights featuring the gigantic Kong fighting off Dinosaurs. Just think of how much The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, not to mention film-makers Edward D. Wood, Steven Spielberg, and Robert Zemeckis, owe to this film. But King Kong goes far beyond that, insofar as it is buried into the subconciousness of cinema as any one of Hollywoods iconic films from an earlier era: Citizen Kane, Singin' in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, or Star Wars.

Before taking the voyage on the glossy modern version (which is not inappropriately being compared to Titanic in terms of run-time and cost), come check out the original adventures on prehistoric islands, tropical natives in politically-incorrect ooga-booga glory, inexplicably present gigantic gates, dinosaurs (dinosaurs, dinosaurs), and the sublime aerial confrontation atop the Empire State Building. See and hear actrees Fay Wray scream in about 40 different ways while her leading man Bruce Cabot comes to the rescue. Gentle mocking aside, as much as the picture as aged in 70+ years, there is still the power to capture the imagination.

Drinks at 8, Trailers and Showtime at 8:30pm - Tuesday December 13.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Gattaca is without a doubt one of the great overlooked science fiction films of the 1990s. It is a film with a flair for presenting both ideas and striking visuals.

In the future, when genetic engineering has reached the point where society considers people "in-valid" if they were not fully engineered in their mother's womb to reach maxium physical and mental potential. In-valids are relegated to the lower caste jobs such as janitorial work, while the more perfect folks get to be shot out into space by the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation, be a police detective, or olympic athlete.

Vincent (A subdued, but determined Ethan Hawke) dreams of space travel, but had the misfortune of his parents choosing him an untampered natural birth. But he has the gumption to sneak his way into Gattaca's astronaut training programme by faking his DNA. To do this, he is hooked up by a black-market salesmen (Tony Shalhoub in a nice cameo) with a crippled ex-athlete (a career making performance from Jude Law) who provides skin, hair and urine samples to fool Gattacas doctors. As he is on the eve of realizing his dreams, two things jeopardize the realization. First is a romantic entanglement with hyper-intelligent and flat out stunning co-cadet Irene (Uma Thurman, 100% sleek curves, but fully convincing in the role of math genius) giving him a reason to stay earthbound. Second is the murder of a Gattaca Mission Control officer (another nice cameo from Gore Vidal); the investigation of which brings two very curious detectives into the building. The laser-focus of the investigation runs a real risk of exposing his real identity or landing him in jail for a murder he did not commit.

In modern sports parlance, it would be called "heart"; the undefinable quality which elevates a great athlete from merely a skilled one. Gattaca takes the romantic stance that a flawed person with heart can rise about the perfectly engineered by sheer force of will. It develops this idea in the context of genetic control to the fullest but has time to stop for some quirky and humourous touches. Take the 12 fingered pianist who can play more complex concerto than Beethoven due to the extra digits. Or the noirish old-school detective, deliciously played by Alan Arkin, who goes on instinct rather than process. How for instance, did he keep his job in this future of statistical societal control? Lastly, the sparse architecture somewhere between art deco and suburban research park and the Mormon-esqe dress code lend a surreal not-to-distant future feel to the film. The title itself is a sequence of amino acid which can't help but bring up the image of either a microscopic plant cell morphing into a solar body or a long, cold double-helix.

There is not a weak performance here, and the film crackles with an slow-burn intensity, despite having little action beyond a half-blind Vincent trying to cross a busy street. The action here is in the exploration of ideas.

Come out and enjoy this perfect little Gem of a film. If you've managed to see it already, trust me, a second viewing is equally as pleasurable. Tuesday, December 6 - 8pm for drinks. 8:30pm - Trailers (X-Men3 and Trailer Park Boys!) and Film.