The Canadian Thanksgiving weekend provided one turkey and several tasty morsels: Leprechaun, The Canal, Tales That Witness Madness and Witchcraft.
Leprechaun (Mark Jones – 1993)
It didn’t really take me long to decide that the first film in the rather lengthy Leprechaun series (there’s six or seven of them in all I think) would be the end of the line for me. It’s not like I expected to be drawn into a series of horror-comedy films about an evil leprechaun, but nothing about this film gave me any reason to press forward. Everything is just mediocre. It’s not horrific or creepy or even suspenseful. And it was neither funny nor fun. That may be a subjective statement I suppose, but most of the humour is pretty basic and uninspired. Jennifer Aniston is actually pretty decent here in one of her earliest roles, but in the end I was simply bored. Warwick Davis is the titular little green guy, but his grotesque form just isn’t overly interesting after he cracks his first corny joke and gnashes his teeth. I guess there was an audience for this since they made more of them (apparently with different approaches and levels of comedy), but this particular one sure wasn’t made for me.
The Canal (2014 – Ivan Kavanagh)
The Canal looks like it may be just another one of those generic, non-descript, interchangeable “horrors” you see in your random NetFlix browsing, but don’t click away too quickly…This is a nifty little atmospheric gem in my eyes. Now that may be simply because I was blinded by the super-saturated colours flooding the screen, but along with the sound field and some patient direction, the film really builds up that sense of…wait for it…dread. You won’t find too much new in the story as a cuckolded husband starts seeing and sensing “something” in his house after his wife (and mother of his 5 year-old) dies in what seems to be a drowning accident. As he digs into some of the back story of several old crimes committed at his house and views some old films about them (his job as a film archivist actually brings him to these stories before his wife dies), he gets deeper and deeper into fully believing that the evil that has been in the house before has returned to get him, his son and the nanny. The structure and editing style foreshadow where the story is headed without being too obvious and there are few dips in the pace, but the star here is the mood – dripping of Argento and bits of J-Horror, the film was a delight.
Tales That Witness Madness (1971 – Freddie Francis)
A 1970s horror anthology directed by Freddie Francis that I didn’t even know existed? This isn’t Thanksgiving – it’s Christmas! I was very excited to dive into this and it was pretty much everything I was hoping it would be…A wraparound with Donald Pleasance, an invisible tiger, a time-traveling ancient bicycle, a tree jealous over Joan Collins and Kim Novak at a luau. How do you beat that? Francis’ keen direction keeps it all moving quickly without any dawdles and gives you all the info you need, litle bits of creepiness and never forgets to entertain the audience. Job well done! Now I have to go see what else Freddie has been holding out on me…
Witchcraft (1964 – Don Sharp)
A straight up witch story told in a no-nonsense way. Well, except for Lon Chaney Jr. To be fair, he’s not that bad…I never really found he was overly charismatic on screen though…Fortunately, his role as the elder statesman of the Whitlock family doesn’t “grace” the picture very much. The Whitlocks and the Laniers have been at odds for centuries and as the latter family’s remaining wealthy members are clearing out a graveyard of the former’s (to make way for a new housing project), an old casket is unearthed…After an old ghost from the Whitlock side has been set free, it’s revealed that the entire family has been mixed up in witchcraft all these years and is now resorting to it in order to exact some revenge on their rival family. As the rift grows bigger there are voodoo dolls, secret crypts, young lovers caught in the middle, and sacrificial ceremonies. All in less than 80 minutes. Nice.