Thursday, July 1, 2010

20 Great Canadian Horror Films

Happy Canada Day! In celebration of my nation's 143rd birthday, I have compiled a list of Canadian horror films. It's an eclectic bunch, featuring werewolves, ghosts and talking medical instruction dummies. Some are scary, some are funny, some are strange, but they're all great horror films and go to show that Canada has more to offer than hockey and maple syrup. Instead of ranking them, I listed them by their release date.

For more Canadian horror movies, check out this list. There is also a documentary, Nightmare in Canada: Canadian Horror on Film, which is all about Canadian horror films.

1. Black Christmas (1974)

Arguably the best and most recognizable Canadian horror film, this is one of my favourite horror films and I watch it every Christmas. I'm sure everyone already knows the plot, but I'll recap it anyway. It's Christmas and a handful of girls in a sorority are staying put over the holidays/waiting for family to arrive. They start receiving obscene phone calls and soon some of the girls go missing. This film, directed by Bob Clark, is considered to be the first slasher.

2. Deranged (1974)

After watching Motel Hell on TV and becoming obsessed with it, I rushed out and bought it on DVD, and this film came with it. I had never heard of it before, but it turned out to be pretty disturbing - especially the fact that it happened in real life. Based on the life of Ed Gein, this film follows the true story closer than Psycho or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and features unsettling scenes such as digging up corpses and making things out of skin.

3. The Brood (1979)

David Cronenberg is probably the most well-known Canadian horror director. His films are always creepy and...unusual. I could've chosen any of his horror films to put on this list, they all include bizarre and interesting plots such as telepathic people who can will others' heads to explode or parasites that make you crave human blood. The Brood is about a woman who gives birth to mutated children, and they kill anyone their mother feels anger towards.

4. The Changeling (1980)

A creepy and atmospheric film about a widower moving into a haunted mansion and his attempt at solving the mystery behind who died there. Won the first ever Genie Award for Best Canadian Film, and an addition seven Genie Awards. Director Lamberto Bava made an unofficial made-for-TV sequel in 1987.

5. Terror Train (1980)

A college prank traumatizes a young man and he is sent to a mental hospital. Three years later, the six college kids responsible are throwing a New Year's Eve costume party on a moving train. But there is a killer aboard the train, stalking those kids. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis.

6. Prom Night (1980)

Although I think this film is a little overrated, it's not a bad slasher and it stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen. A group of kids accidentally kill a young girl and six years later, on prom night, a killer is stalking everyone who was involved. This film spawned three sequels (Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, Prom Night III: The Last Kiss and Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil) and a 2008 remake which were all filmed in Canada.

7. My Bloody Valentine (1981)

When the foreman of a mine leaves five workers to attend a Valentine's Day dance, there is an explosion and sole survivor Harry Warden remains alive by eating his fellow miners, driving him insane. One year later (on Valentine's Day) he escapes from the loony bin and murders the foreman. 20 years later, Harry Warden is old news and the town decides to have a Valentine's Day dance. But then the murders begin.... Is Harry back? A great slasher with lots of inventive kill scenes. I also enjoyed the 3D remake.

8. Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

Happy Birthday to Me stars my namesake Melissa Sue Anderson (my parents liked Little House on the Prairie) as a young woman who finally fits in at her snotty school, Crawford Academy, gaining acceptance into the most exclusive clique the "Top 10." But being in the group isn't all it's cracked up to be since someone is offing them, one by one. I love this movie. Sure it's pretty cheesy at times, but so are most 80's slashers.

9. The Pit (1981)

Odd yet amusing film about a boy, Jamie, whose only friend is his teddy bear - oh, and the creatures who live in a pit in the middle of the forest. The film mostly focuses on Jamie's obsession with sex, but there are still plenty of scenes where he feeds people to the monsters.

10. Deadly Eyes (1982)

I have a phobia of rats. If I see one I don't just scream, I sob hysterically and shake uncontrollably. This film about giant rats is like my worst nightmare brought to life. Set in Toronto, these huge rats have a taste for human flesh. Based on James Herbert's novel, The Rats. Interestingly, the rats were actually dachshunds in costume.

11. Curtains (1983)

Six actresses are invited to a famous director's home to audition for a lead role in his latest project. How far would they go to get the part? Would they sleep with the director? Kill the competition? Well, the answer is both. The actresses are killed off one by one a la And Then There Were None. A great horror film with plenty of creepy scenes featuring a killer wearing a scary hag mask and carrying a scythe.

12. The Gate (1987)

When a boy (Stephen Dorff) digs a hole in his backyard with the help of his friend (Louis Tripp), they unleash small demons. Also starring Kelly Rowan (Kirsten Cohen on The O.C.)! Directed by Tibor Tackacs, who also directed the sequel and I, Madman...oh, and the made-for-TV movie, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which spawned the TV series!

13. Pin (1989)

Pin, short for Pinocchio, is an anatomical dummy that Leon (David Hewlett) and Ursula's (Cynthia Preston) father (Terry O'Quinn) uses to teach life lessons. When their father dies, Leon develops an unusual relationship with Pin and an obsession with his sister, Ursula. Pin driving Leon to madness and murder is genuinely creepy. Pin is based on the novel of the same name by Andrew Neiderman.

14. Ginger Snaps (2000)

I love werewolf movies and this one is my favourite - and my favourite film on the list. Katherine Isabelle (Freddy vs. Jason, Carrie remake) and Emily Perkins (It, Supernatural) are great actresses and two of my favourite scream queens. I loved the outcast/goth main characters and how becoming a werewolf was linked to Ginger getting her period. This is an excellent example of a Canadian horror film and makes me proud to be a Canadian. There is also a sequel, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed and a prequel, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning.

15. Fido (2006)

A unique and funny zombie comedy where in the 1950's radiation brings the dead back to life and a company develops collars which controls their taste for human flesh. People then use zombies as servants.

16. End of the Line (2007)

Members of a religious cult make their own Judgment Day and start murdering all the "sinners". The film focuses on a group of people trapped in a subway while this happens. An unsettling film that made me wary of Bible thumpers, with an opening scene that made me jump.

17. Wrong Turn 2 (2007)

I can't decide if I like this film more than the original. It's awesome and has loads of gore, but the first film has Kevin Zegers and Jeremy Sisto.... Although this film has an American director and most of the cast is American, it was filmed in Vancouver so I'm going to include it.

18. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2008)

A funny monster movie about a man (Trevor Matthews) who witnessed the murder of his family at the hands of a beast when he was a kid and flees. When his Professor (Robert Englund) is possessed by a demon, Jack uses his pent up anger about running away to fight this monster.

19. Gutterballs (2008)

This is an entertaining and extremely gory homage to 80's slashers. Set in a bowling alley, the killer uses various bowling-related items (pins, bowling balls, etc.) to murder his victims. There is tons of sex and buckets of blood and may be offensive to some (there is a fairly long and nasty rape scene), so viewer discretion is advised.

20. Pontypool (2009)

Definitely the most original zombie film I've ever seen. Instead of being infected by a bite, the virus is spread through the English language. Having the entire movie set inside a radio station with the characters not knowing what is going on outside makes this film even more terrifying than if the gore was shown. Based on the novel Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess.


Sarah E. Jahier said...

Great list!

Kudos for including PIN on there...didn't know it was Canadian, but certainly a creepy little film!

All great selections...

venoms5 said...

Nice list, Melissa! I'll have to look out for END OF THE LINE and GUTTERBALLS.

There was another really cool, but obscure Canadian horror movie from the early 80's I saw on VHS tape called DEADLINE. It was about a writer whose horror stories became reality. The one part I remember most vividly was a guy being chewed up in some farm machinery. I would love to see that one again.

DERANGED is quite good, too. The MGM double feature DVD is missing a brief scene where Ezra scoops out a corpses eyeball with a spoon. Doesn't detract from the film, but it's some additional Savini gore just the same.

Will Errickson said...

I've seen a lot of these... great list! Nice call on THE PIT--so odd.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, PIN! That's one messed up movie.

Awesome list! Hope you had a great Canada Day!

Andrew said...

Excellent list....
But shouldn't Cube be in there? Or is Cube more of a sci-fi kinda thing?

Halloweenman666 said...

Gotta see curtains!!

Melissa Helwig said...

Thanks everyone!

Sarah & Kinderscares - I love Pin, it's so creepy.

venoms5 - Yeah, End of the Line and Gutterballs are pretty good. Deadline sounds awesome, I'll have to check it out. Aw, that eyeball scene sounds sick, I wish it was on my DVD.

Will - Yeah, especially that kid.

Andrew - Oh no, I totally forgot about Cube! Yeah, it definitely belongs on this list.

Halloweenman - You should definitely check out Curtains. It's great.

Morgan said...

Love this list! So many favorites up there! I did not realize how I much I love Canadian films until now.

Melissa Helwig said...

Morgan - Thanks. Yeah, there's a lot of awesome Canadian horror films out there.

Unknown said...

looks like most of my favorite movies are canadian. who knew?

Rabid Fox said...

Cool list. Good to see some movies I've seen and enjoyed sneak onto the list. Was Nightbreed Canadian made? That'd be on my list.

Mr. Xploit, Esquire said...

A whole lotta great horror seems to come from Canada. Ginger Snaps is probably my fave. Cool list, although Gutterballs is total shit. Ryan Nicholson is a great make-up artist but a horrible filmmaker.

Jay Boon said...

Guys, Insidious is coming out on DVD and Blu-Ray on July 12th. Anyone seen it yet? So scary and awesome:

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