Image courtesy of the Miskatonic Institute website

On Monday, January 6, 2020, the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies Presents NORTHERN SCARS: THE FOUNDATIONS OF CANADIAN HORROR CINEMA with instructor Caelum Vatnsdal.

Prepare yourself for a snowstorm of malevolent miners, ravenous rats, killer sex-slugs and ZED (not ZEE)-grade zombies: all this and much more can be found in the frosty annals of Canadian horror movie history. Oh, and there’s some Cronenberg in there too, of course.

Canada got into the horror game late, and even then started slowly, but by the beloved and despised tax-shelter years of the 70s and 80s the country more than made up for its initial delinquency. Movies by the dozens were being turned out: during the peak years of Canadian moviemaking, more films came out of Toronto than they did Hollywood, and a great percentage of these were horror pictures. Monsters and maniacs, scientists and shamans, Leslie Nielsen disco dancing and John Candy rolling around in his underwear: Canadian horror delivers more of what you want.

This lecture will bring the audience through the development of this genre in Canada, including behind-the-scenes peeks into the making of the movies; personal stories of the makers and stars; scandals and controversies associated with them; and the political gamesmanship behind the development of the Canadian commercial film industry. Never a dry recitation of facts, the talk describes a wild tapestry of high drama and crazy incident, with characters from David Cronenberg to Lawrence Zazelenchuk: a sort of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls with a much more specific focus and a lot more plaid flannel shirts.

This rollercoaster ride through history will be capped by a snapshot of the state of things today, and we may even take a guess as to where things will go next. A question and answer opportunity at the end ensures that any remaining bafflements will be addressed.

Accompanying the lecture will be mind-twisting clips from movies like The Mask (Canada’s first horror feature), The Corpse Eaters (its cheapest), Shivers, Black Christmas, Rituals, and Spasms.

From his cradle days in the great northern city of Winnipeg, Caelum Vatnsdal has lived and breathed the cinematic arts, with an especial love for the horror genre. Since then he has made short films, feature films, documentaries, music videos and more, and has worked also as a writer, producer, camera assistant, set decorator, special effects artist and actor. Vatnsdal began his professional life working on the films of Guy Maddin, starting with the colour feature Careful, on which he toiled in the art department, the camera department, and as an actor. (He continued acting for Maddin through to the director’s famous production The Heart of the World in 2000). In 1994 he directed his first feature film, Black as Hell, Strong as Death, Sweet as Love, and through the 2000s, Vatnsdal busied himself making mostly documentary productions, including a large-scale documentary on Bigfoot for the Canadian Television Network. He has written three books on film – a monograph on the works of Guy Maddin in 2000, a history of Canadian horror films, titled They Came From Within, in 2004 and a biography of the actor Dick Miller called You Don’t Know Me, But You Love Me in 2018. He lives in Winnipeg with his wife and son.

NORTHERN SCARS: THE FOUNDATIONS OF CANADIAN HORROR CINEMA with instructor Caelum Vatnnsdal will take place on Monday, January 6, 2020 from 7:30pm – 10pm at the Philosophical Research Society (3910 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles). Tickets are $12 in advance/$15 door and can be purchased here.

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