CHEAPER, FASTER, CANADIANER
America likes to think that nobody can make a crappier, B-er movie than they can. Bullshit. Canadians can hack out more awful exploitation flicks per capita than any country. Take a significant brain drain to greener American pastures, add some enforced cultural protectionism, and you've got a formula for halfassed films by mediocre talent that live forever on late-night Canadian TV.
For example: in 1991, while Hollywood was busy crowning the action genre with Terminator 2: Judgement Day, we were busy with Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe, a film so bad it lured both Jesse Ventura and Sven-Ole Thorssen all the way up here to film it. America somehow scores a hit with Porky's, we let flop with Screwballs. Outside the comfy confines of the National Film Board's mandate, Canadian filmmakers have to try to do more with less to compete with Hollywood's more established garbage dumps--sometimes with success, but many, many times without. Bad news for our cultural identity, good news for bad movies that're more fun to watch than drunk monkeys racing tiny go-karts.
VICE talked to Paul Corupe, probably the world's leading expert on Canadian exploitation cinema, about his favourite films that had the misfortune of being Canadian and independent in a time before Lions Gate.
VICE: So what are the most worthwhile Canadian B movies out there?
Paul Corupe: One of my favourites is Rock N Roll Nightmare, a vanity project for a rock star based out of Vancouver named Thor. He's the star of a rock band and they head to a barn in northern Ontario to record their album because there's a studio in the barn, and that's when strange things start happening. One by one the members of the band start disappearing, until eventually Satan appears and accosts Thor in probably the craziest ending to a film I've ever seen. It's pure cheese, but wildly enjoyable. I talked to Thor about it, and he's not terribly proud of the film, but he knows what it is--one of those monster movies with bad heavy metal and a lot of fun.
I didn't figure Thor for the bashful type.
Well, he at least realizes it's not the best-made film in the world.
Next, I think The Mask is one of the best-made Canadian horror films that doesn't really get its due.
Agreed. Jim Carrey scared the hell out of me.
No, definitely not that The Mask. This one was shot in 3D in 1961, well before 1964, when most critics say that Canadian fiction film really started with Nobody Waved Goodbye. There were a couple of films before then, and The Mask was one of the best. You would go to the theater and they would give you a little cardboard replica of the mask with 3D glasses in it, and it's about a psychiatrist who's sent the mask of a patient who's just committed suicide, and every time he wears it, he enters this surreal, 3D dream world with sacrificial altars. But every time he puts the mask on, the audience is told to put their mask up to their eyes to experience these sequences. Not a lot of people know about it, but it's a lot of fun to watch.
Anything that actually manages to be decent?
Crime Wave is one of the films that actually got me started on the site. It was made in 1984 by John Paizs in Winnipeg, and it's a comedy about a frustrated screenwriter trying to make the perfect crime film, and he can always get the beginning and end of the film, but he can't come up with a middle. He lives above the garage of a family, and he befriends their daughter, who narrates the film and helps him try to come up with that elusive middle. The gems of the movie are the dramatized half-started and half-finished vignettes he writes for his crime film. One's about an Elvis impersonator trying to break into the world of... well, impersonating. Another's about a couple trying to sell Amway to people, and it ends with them at the Amway awards ceremony shooting people with shotguns. It really is a brilliant dark comedy. Although we have a lot of comedic talent, we haven't had a lot of comedy films come out of Canada. This was a huge film to me--it showed me that Canadian films don't have to be about cottages or the plight of bass fishermen.
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