“Since childhood, I’ve been faithful to monsters. I have been saved and absolved by them, because monsters, I believe, are patron saints of our blissful imperfection, and they allow and embody the possibility of failing,” 

Guillermo Del Toro, Golden Globes 2018

I was all prepared to write something much longer. I have since decided that keeping it short & sweet makes more sense.

I just handed off my letter of resignation today. Literally, minutes ago. After three years and a bit in this position, I’m walking away from gainful employment with a solid wage and the faint veneer of respectability in exchange for a shot at building a life around my passion: making monsters.

Growing up, my rockstars were found in the pages of Fangoria. My holy trinity consisted of Savini, Baker & Bottin. All my life, in one form or another, I’ve been making monsters. But I convinced myself it was good enough as a hobby, that I was never going to to make it a thing I could do for a living. For decades, I told myself I couldn’t do this.

I’ve since changed my train of thought to ” You can’t do this…yet. But you’re going to learn.” And so, starting mid-March, I begin full-time schooling at the College of Make-Up Art & Design in their Digital Character/Creature Design program. After that? I have a map and a plan. And it feels good to have both, compared to the decades of flailing and compromises and denials I’ve been doing till now.

I’ve said it before, but I know how all this ends for me. The same way it ends for everyone. We all get one crack at this, and I’m finally making it count. After decades of making sure everyone else was happy, this one’s for me. I’m excited and nervous, maybe even terrified. Which means it’s absolutely the right thing.

So? Here we go. There are monsters, waiting to be born.


PS: This photo documents my “ground zero”. It’s possible I may have delayed stepping onto this path if it weren’t for the kind words of support I’ve received from this man. Every time we’ve crossed paths over the past couple of years, he has always looked through my sketchbooks and given me encouragement. When I last saw him October 2017 at the AGO, I told him of my plans to get more serious about creature design.

He smiled and said “Good. This is what you should be doing. You’re good at it.”

Make of that what you will.



Clive Barker’s Seraphim Comics Reopens The Labyrinth with HELLRAISER: ANTHOLOGY

Clive Barker’s HELLRAISER is one of the seminal films of the 1980s horror boom. Smart, sophisticated and visceral, Barker’s directorial debut became a cottage industry of its own, with multiple sequels (and the merchandise to go with them) , as well as two comics series (Marvel’s Epic Comics, 1989 – 1994 and Boom! Comics, 2011 – 2015). They say the third time’s the charm, as Barker reopens the doorway to the “the further regions of experience” next month in a new and ambitious outing that should leave the Cenobites’ acolytes very pleased indeed.

Hellraiser: Anthology, the inaugural project for Barker’s new graphic novel imprint, Seraphim Comics, is a 90-page hardcover collection featuring 11 original tales set in the universe first introduced with his novella, THE HELLBOUND HEARTThe hardcover collection is priced at $35, while a limited edition (signed by Barker) will be going for $65. The digital edition ($15) is also available for those who like their comics on the portable side

Cover Image


As for who’s behind the wheel, Seraphim has lined up a solid list of contributors to play in Barker’s infernal playground. As well as tales from Barker himself (both writing and illustrating)and both Seraphim’s VP, Mark Alan Miller ( who just so happens to be interviewed right here) and Editor -In-Chief Ben Meares,  there are also contributions from’s Editor-In-Chief, Rebekah McKendry and contributing writer, David McKendry, POW Entertainment’s Matt Murray. Art duties have been filled by Daniele Serra (responsible for the cover art shown above), Riley Schmitz, Sam Shearon, Nick Percival, Jim Terry and Jimm O’Dell.


While there have been previous four-colour forays into Hell’s Labyrinth, this one feels very different and exciting – not only because of Barker’s involvement in the process but this time out, as the original tagline for HELLRAISER reads …there are no limits.
We had a very simple mission statement at the beginning of our journey with this comic” states Meares in discussing the project. “We set out to create something with no limits and no censorship that everyone involved, as both creatives and fans of the Hellraiser mythos, would be proud of.” And if the previews provided by Seraphim are any indication, it looks to do the sadistic and sensual series proper justice, with visions (and characters)  both new and exciting and -as seen below – very familiar.


Preview 1, (Ben Meares and Daniele Serra


Preview 2, (Ben Meares and Daniele Serra

Miller seconds the notion.  “We chose to publish this anthology in-house for one main reason…It frees us to tell stories that are entirely uncensored. Hellraiser, as a film and comic book franchise, has always needed to be censored to one degree or another. By producing this comic in-house, and distributing it straight to Hellraiser fans via our web store, the wide array of talented people on the book are free to tell the stories they want to tell, and dig as deep into their twisted imaginations as they please. And, let me tell you, the experience has been utterly freeing for all involved, and that creative freedom bleeds through the pages of this anthology.

I’ve been a part of a number of Hellraiser projects throughout my years with Clive… and this is easily the most personal project I’ve seen pass through these walls. It’s as lovingly curated as it is delightfully grotesque. I’m proud to have my name in its pages.”

HELLRAISER: ANTHOLOGY makes its grand debut on at this year’s Monsterpalooza convention in Pasadena, CA.  Following its arrival at the weekend-long convention (April 7th to 9th 2017), it will go on sale on April 14th through,, in both hardcover and digital formats.

And, in a move that will shock absolutely no one who knows me, I will have a review in the coming weeks. So keep your eyes (and flesh) peeled..

Preview 4, Pin-Occhio


And so, another Toronto After Dark Film Festival has come and gone. Celebrating ten years of genre cinema, both homegrown and international, it’s safe to say this was probably one of the festival’s most successful years with multiple “sold outs” screenings across the board.

Personally, I didn’t get to see as many films as I had hoped, so for those who were able to make it out each and every night… you have my respect and envy. But I saw enough of After Dark’s offerings ( including the opening gala, TALES OF HALLOWEEN, which was reviewed right here ) that it warrants some thoughts and opinions for public consumption. So let’s take a look, shall we?

the_hallow_posterTHE HALLOW: Synopsis – “After a young family move from the big city to a peaceful Irish woodland cottage they find themselves in a desperate fight for survival in a prolonged confrontation with some vicious creatures lurking in the forest.

Beautifully shot, with the visual aesthetic of the darkest of fairy tales, THE HALLOW is a masterclass in building tension. A slow-and steady escalation towards intense confrontation between the family and the long-time residents of the dark and foreboding winds that makes up the last half of the film, which kicks into “siege mode” hard and fast. It also works because the supernatural elements are contrasted with primal, universal fears – children in peril (and the parental fear of failing to protect them), isolation in foreign territory and the disintegration of the family unit – grounding the story and its characters in the real world. Great performances by Joseph Mawle & Bojana Novakovic, as the besieged couple & newly-minted parents, also anchor the film as truly sympathetic characters in a very-bad situation.  Then there are also the creatures of The Hallow and dear lord, they are glorious! As with any creature feature, the stand-or-fall ratio depends on how the monsters come across, and THE HALLOW succeeds – no, exceeds – those expectations. Created through practical effects and designed by concept designer, Ivan Manzella (Prometheus, Edge Of Tomorrow), the “Fair Folke” are equal parts folkloric menace and bio-eco horror, rendered with old-school mastery and shot beautifully. They are menacing, nightmarish and wholly original.

This is director Corin Hardy’s debut behind the camera, and if it’s any indication of what to expect, Hardy’s got a very bright (or dark – depending on your penchant for horror-film analogies) future ahead. Directed with confidence, shot beautifully and expertly paced, THE HALLOW deserves to be seen in wide relase, as it puts most mainstream horror output to shame. Endorsed with the highest and most enthusiatic of recommendations.

Christmas-Horror-Story-poster-newCHRISTMAS HORROR STORY: Synopsis – “Yule-themed horror tale about all hell breaking loose in the small town of Bailey Downs on Christmas Eve, including Santa having to fight off an outbreak of zombie elves!”

The second of this year’s “holiday anthologies”, CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY takes the polar end of the holiday spectrum, with four stories set in the Yuletide season. Strangely enough, it’s also the darker of the two. Where TALES has been called by some a “GOOSEBUMPS for adults” (and I only wish I had come up with the analogy myself), CHRISTMAS has much more in common with the black-and-white pulp terrors of Warren Publishing’s pulp CREEPY and EERIE magazines: it’s got a bit of a mean streak to it, albeit a delightful one.

CHRISTMAS relates the events that occur one Christmas night in the small burg of Bailey Downs (ten bonus points for the CanCon horror fan who recognizes that name – for everyone else, Google it ). Four separate stories, joined together a “host” of sorts in the form of William Shatner as the town’s local DJ, the episodes range from a haunting in the local private school, a family outing for a Christmas Tree that yields much more – and worse , a family stalked by the season’s vengeful “anti-Claus”, Krampus and Santa Claus fending off an elf-zombie apocalypse at the North Pole. Each installment would work incredibly well on its own, with the “Christmas Tree” and “Santa” episodes being especially noteworthy, despite being on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. “Tree” is a dark, slow-building piece that surprisingly shares much in common with the above-mentioned THE HALLOW, bleniding family drama and folkloric horror. “Santa” is a giddily violent riot, with Ol’ St. Nick laying the smackdown on the foul-mouthed, flesh-hungry elves in a Raimiesque splatstick extravaganza. While the stories are joined by the most threadbare of narrative threads – a character here, a reference there – the crossover was, according to the filmmakers, a matter of fiscal neccesity rather than a creative choice. Which makes it all the more amazing when it all comes together in the film’s climactic confrontation between… you know what? I’ve said too much already. Let me leave it at this: it takes a lot to surprise me. This one had me literally clapping out loud.  A lot of fun, and a worthy add to your holiday movie collection

TheHollowOne_Poster_2_newTHE HOLLOW ONE: Synopsis – “an artifact unleashes a demonic force upon the people of a small farm town. With most of the townspeople possessed, two young sisters find themselves in a race against time to try and stop the sinister force before its evil purpose is achieved.”

Another directorial debut, this time by Nathan Hendrickson, THE HOLLOW ONE is an ambitious blend of rural family drama and grand cosmic horror. While many have already made comparisons to Clive Barker’s HELLRAISER, most notably for the puzzle-like apparatus at the heart of the story that summons the titular evil, the film owes a much stronger debt to the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Nigel Keane (who also inspired John Carpenter’s brilliant metaphysical horror masterpiece, PRINCE OF DARKNESS). The Hollow One itself is a truly alien being of ancient age and unfathomable purposes, and placing such an unknowable force in the American heartland gives the film an eerie and original feel. It’s also one of the more visually interesting movie monsters to appear in a very long time, which always gets a win in my books. Performances are good, tension is consistently raised and although the film occasionally trips itself up in the “otherwise smart characters making really bad decisions” trap, it’s a minor quibble. Despite its low-budget and related production values, THE HOLLOW ONE has ambition to spare, with the hints of a much greater and expanisve mythology lurking in the background and that’s rare in this day and age with so many low-budget filmmakers trying to break in with “Zombie Apocalypse Movie #342”. At the post-screening Q&A, Hendrickson hinted that he would like to tell more stories in the universe he’s built for this first film.  Here’s hoping that comes to fruition, as THE HOLLOW ONE shows incredible potential, both for its director and its future as an expanding mythos.

backtrack-posterBACKTRACK: Synopsis – “After a series of unnerving ghostly encounters in the city, a troubled psychotherapist returns to his rural home town to try and solve the dark mysteries that date back to his childhood.”

Of all the films I caught this year, the Australian host story/murder mystery BACKTRACK was the most underwhelming of the bunch. Shame, really, because all the moving parts work just fine. It’s a good-looking film, with atmosphere and shadow aplenty. We have great work from Adrian Brody ( as the film’s haunted protagonist, who also pulls of an impeccable Australian accent) and Robin McLeavy (in a complete 180 from her work as the psychotic Lola in THE LOVED ONES, as a local cop drawn into Brody’s hunt for answers). We have well-played out scares, of both the slow-and-creepy and “jump scare” varieties. There’s really no reason this shouldn’t have worked.

It’s just that we’ve seen this story before, most notably in WHAT LIES BENEATH and (my personal favourite) STIR OF ECHOES: a person, haunted by the past, is chosen by vengeful/wronged/lost spirits to undertake a mission of redemption/forgiveness/revenge. The plot twists and turns to keep you guessing, but even those convoluted contrivances and red herrings only end up leading us to familiar territory. While the route may be different, the destination is all too familiar.

It’s not horrible nor exceptional. In the end, BACKTRACK rests in the grey zone of “passable entertainment” and will probably find its audience with those looking for a good night out for some chills and thrills. For the more seasoned horror/suspense moviegoer, though, it’s deja-vu all over again..

Patchwork PosterPATCHWORK: Synopsis – “ A re-animated corpse, made from the stitched together body parts of three murdered young women. On waking after the operation, The Creature decides to go on a quest to find the girls’ killer and avenge their deaths with both bloody and darkly humorous results.”

If there’s a “Sleeper Hit” award for After Dark, PATCHWORK wins it, hands-down. With less visibility or advance buzz than some of the fest’s “big ticket” films, I had zero expectations or preconceptions going in. And I loved it. A violent, laugh-out-loud funny and very bold feminist take on Frankenstein, PATCHWORK delivers a consistently funny script, a cast of incredibly gifted actors with great comic timing and a hit-list of gore gags across the board. Once the three victims learn how to work their new body together, they go on a killing spree that takes out every man who ever done them wrong – and may have done them in. Ex-boyfriends, date-rapey fratboys, etc. – all gruesomely and humorously eliminated by the three-in-one avenging angel.

Much of the film’s success lies in the chemistry between its three female leads, only seen onscreen together in their “hive-mind” pow-wows – an accidental shared consciousness created by making one body out of their three corpses. Tory Stolper (strait-laced Jennifer) , Tracey Fairaway (party girl Renee)  and Maria Blasucci (mousey loner Madeline)  are all exceptionally talented and create a great dynamic together ( I overheard someone else at the screening call it the horror version of Pixar’s INSIDE OUT, and I’m using it here because dear God, it’s SO spot-on).  It’s Stolper, though, as the physical “body” itself who merits special attention with her brilliant physical comedy and timing, especially in the early stages of their “awakening”. Evolving from spastic and twitchy shambling corpse to confident and swaggering engine of destruction, Stolper’s performance has been compared to Bruce Campbell‘s splatstick brilliance in EVIL DEAD 2. And that’s high and accurate praise indeed. Also features a fun, understated performance by James Phelps (One half of HARRY POTTER’s Weasely Twins), a med grad student who becomes The Creature’s makeshift medic and unwitting love interest ( their sex scene – funny, gory and necrophiliac as all get-out –  is one of the film’s absurdly brilliant highlights.).

I have yet to see an announcement for PATCHWORK’s release, theatrical or otherwise, but it is still touring on the festival circuit.  Here’s hoping there’s news soon, as it’s a clever, smartly-written and flat-out funny flick that deserves a bigger following.

deathgasm_ver2_xxlgDEATHGASM:  Synopsis – “a group of metalhead outcasts unwittingly unleash a horde of vicious demons upon their sleepy suburban neighbourhood. To win back the town they face an epic duel of blood, music and metal with Satan’s hordes!

And here we are, the closing gala and the final film of After Dark 2015. Did they save the best for last? By and large, yes. Yes, they did. I’m sure you’ve read other reviews on the big horror websites. I’m sure you’ve seen the gushing praise on social media.

And it’s all warranted. Every last word.

DEATHGASM is a flat-out, balls to the wall gorefest, with outrageous kills, crackerjack pacing and zero f*cks to give about social acceptability. Death by dildo, blood-farts, castration by Weed-Whacker, decapitations, two-fisted chainsaw combat… all lovingly rendered in a gleefully cartoonish manner that will bring back fond memories of DEAD ALIVE (aka BRAIN DEAD) for folks in my age bracket. It’s also incredibly funny, and kind of sweet, with the heavy metal bromance between best friends Brodie (Milo Cawthorne, with more than a passing resemblance to Jason Mewes) and Zakk (James Blake, equal parts Heath Ledger and Glenn Danzig) at the heart of the film. It’s Kimberly Crossmah, as high school object of affection and burgeoning metalhead, Medina, who steals the show. Medina is smart, quick with an axe and even quicker with her wit, as she gets in some of the best lines in the film. Growing up as a horror and metal fan in my teenage years, DEATHGASM is the kind of film 16-year old me would have given a limb or eyeball to see. And it’s totally been worth the wait.

Director Jason Lei Howard knocks it out of the park with his first film the very definition of “crowd-pleaser”, endorsed by the enthusiastic laughter and roars of approval at the film’s most spectacular gore gags from Friday night’s audience. A truly good time and a fitting closer for one of Toronto’s longest-lasting (and rowdiest) film festivals.

So there you have it: How I Spent My Time In The Dark. And it doesn’t even cover the films I WISHED I had seen, including NINA FOREVER and THE DEMOLISHER, all of which generated considerable heat from the festival’s crowd.
Perhaps next year, I’ll gain the reserves and the time to see absolutely everything. But for now, I’ll take my little victories where I can.

Congratulations, Toronto After Dark, on ten years of genre cinema love and continuing to grow as one of the best movie-going experiences the city has to offer. Long may you reign.

And now, rest. Until next time…


Thursday saw the launch of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, now celebrating its tenth year of highlighting the latest in cinematic genre fare. And if the filled-to-capacity gathering for last night’s opening gala is any indication, it looks like this might be one of their biggest years yet.

As such, it couldn’t be more fitting that the opening gala of this October institution was custom made for this holiday season. I’m talking about the Halloween-themed anthology, TALES OF HALLOWEEN. A loosely-connected (and I mean by the slimmest of threads) collection of stories set on one Halloween night, TALES was concocted by the filmmakers’ collective, deliciously dubbed The October Society, and spearheaded by producers/directors Mike Mendez and Axelle Carolyn.

Now, I feel it’s important to get this out of the way: there will be inevitable comparisons to Mike Dougherty‘s now-seasonal-perennial TRICK ‘R TREAT. Yes, both are anthologies set during All Hallows’ Eve, but that’s as far as the comparison goes. Whereas TRICK was a singular vision connected through multiple plotlines written and directed by Dougherty, TALES has ten separate tales from ten different filmmakers, each one different in tone and style from each other, resulting in a much more eclectic mix.  The story parameters given to each director were simple and open-ended: one Halloween night in the suburbs, bad things happen.

Among my personal favourites? The list begins below:

TRICK (Adam Gierasch): two young couples are menaced by a gang of murderous trick-or-treaters. Clever, brutal with a sick and vicious punchline.

BAD SEED (Neil Marshall): A killer jack-o-lantern runs amuck, and it’s up to one tough cop to put an end to its rampage. What makes it work is how Marshall plays out this goofy concept with po-faced 80s B-movie straightness.


GRIMM GRINNING GHOST (Axelle Carolyn): a pitch-perfect campfire ghost story. As an aside, Carolyn excels at this kind of slow-burn creepshow (watch her film, SOULMATE, to see what I mean) and GHOST mines a lot of tension in its short running time, ending with a satisfying (and spooky) payoff.

FRIDAY THE 31st (Mike Mendez): A flat-out gonzo slasher parody that evokes the early gore-splattered films of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson. One of the big crowd-pleasers with the After Dark audience, and with good reason. It’s bloody hilarious.

THE RANSOM OF RUSTY REX (Ryan Schifrin): a kidnapped trick-or-treater who’s not what he appears to be proves to be an unholy handful for his two kidnappers. A clever concept loosely based on the O. Henry story “The Ransom of Red Chief”, bolstered by the performances of Sam Witwer, Jose Cantillo and John Landis. Another winner with the opening night crowd.


THE WEAK AND THE WICKED (Paul Solet): This one’s a little tougher to nail down. I’m going to call it an “urban supernatural western”. With teenagers. The real “wild card” of the bunch and, letting it stew since first seeing it, it’s becoming one of my favourites of the ten.

Which brings us to the film’s cast. Did I mention the cast? Because Sweet Baby Jeezus … it’s a who’s who of cult and genre cinema history including… *deep breath*… Barry Bostwick, Lin Shaye, Dana Gould, Tiffany Shepis, John Savage, Caroline Williams, Robert Rusler, Joe Dante, Adam Green, Adam Pascal,  Mick Garris,  Stuart Gordon, Barbara Crampton and Adrienne Barbeau.  And that’s just for starters.

Like I said, anthologies are a hit-and-miss kind of deal. Some stories stick it on the landing, some never get their footing. But with ten short blasts of horror crammed into ninety-or-so minutes, there’s bound to be something here for a wide array of tastes and preferences. Above all that, though, you can feel the love that went into making TALES (trite, I know, but hear me out). The cast of genre luminaries, the EC Comics vibe and the old-school practical effects make it more than just a fitting tribute to Halloween, but a love letter to (and from) the generation of monster kids – my generation -who grew up reading Fangoria and gathering with like-minded individuals for VHS-fueled horror movie marathons.

It’s also just a lot of fun. Probably the most fun I’ve had with a horror anthology since my young and unsullied eyes first took in CREEPSHOW all those years ago.  So here’s hoping this “October Society” thing becomes an annual deal. Because I would gladly support that.


TALES OF HALLOWEEN is now available for your seasonal viewing on VOD, including iTunes.

NEXT TIME: A one-two shot of After Dark fare, with A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY and THE HALLOW.


Photo Credit: Ninedoors Photography

The conversation started with a simple question: “Where should we begin?

Considering everything that’s happened for Tristan Risk since her scene-stealing performance in The Soska SistersAMERICAN MARY, it’s a legitimate question. After turning heads and gaining cred as the body-modded Betty Boop doppleganger, Beatress, Risk has been making a name for herself, including appearances in THE ABCs OF DEATH 2 ( in the Soskas’ T IS FOR TORTURE PORN segment) and Astron-6‘s THE EDITOR. And she hasn’t taken a break since, racking up a number of recent back-to-back projects.

INNSMOUTH_4x6For starters, Risk has been making the rounds (cinematically, at least ) on the festival circuit, with Izzy Lee’s INNSMOUTH as the first one out of the gate. “Without giving too much away, this is my second film with Izzy, and this is based on the Lovecraft story, The Shadow over Innsmouth.” What makes INNSMOUTH interesting is its gender-flipped (and decidely un-Lovecraftian) approach. “This is a very female-centric cast, as well as most of the crew, and I am interested in how people will react to the… ‘special thing’ in this particular film, and with such a female-specific bent, how people will look at it. So far, all of the response has been very, very positive. I play Alice Marsh, the town’s matriarch, and she’s guarding her town’s secrets very jealously. That was a really fun project to be a part of. I’m sure this is going to get me either loved or hated, one of the two. It’s probably going to be the most “GIFed” thing in my career.”

Following completion of INNSMOUTH, Risk moved onto her next short film, Luchagore Productions‘ blood-soaked (and just a pinch blasphemous) MADRE DE DIOS. “I’ve been trying to work with (Luchagore) for two years, and it’s taken this long because we’ve both been so stupid-busy doing all of our projects. It’s just like shooting laser beams across the universe at each other. Finally, the stars and the planets aligned, thankfully, and we were able to get together. Gigi (Saul Guerrero) came to me and said would you be into reading this and what do you think.” Both Risk, and Luchagore, are expecting a little bit of religion-backed “outrage” with this one, as it blends sacred and the profane in equal doses. MADRENow, I should stress here that I am not Catholic. So, certain things are going to upset some people more than most. I, myself, didn’t think that this was a particularly offensive script, although I was assured by other people that they might be excommunicated for it. I think it’s a beautifully shot film. The art department took it to the next level. And just watching this team work together was really, really cool and gratifying. So I hope to be able to work with them again in the future, but I have enjoyed all of their projects up until this point, so it was really nice to be part of one of them now.” The film also marked a continuing ‘familial’ thread for Risk, too. ” The fun part of that for me was that there’s a snake that appears in it, and it’s actually my boyfriend’s snake, Indigo, so that’s kind of like “oh, look it’s our snake-baby in there, too! She’s getting work!” There was another time that I had a pet in a film was AMERICAN MARY – her bird, that was in the cage – that was actually my parrot. I have this trend in films where I sneak my pets into them, somehow.

Up next on the release schedule? FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS, James Bickert‘s follow-up to his oh-so-un-PC bikers vs. Bigfoot sleaze-terpiece, DEAR GOD NO!. “As of today, (BIKERS) has officially wrapped all of their filming now, they are going into editing now, so this was the last day – Boom! It is done. So considering it started filming in June, and being that they are filming on 35mm film, not digital, that’s incredible. I am so proud of them for doing that, so good on them for sorting that out. I’m excited to see it, I’m excited for everyone who was involved with it. It was definitely a labour of love.

Unlike many of her previous roles, Risk got to have some straight-up Russ Meyer-vixen fun with firearms and explosives in this outing. “I play Val, who leads a rival biker gang, and other special interest groups against the lead bikers. I have a penchant for blowing things up with ever-present grenades. I love it. I didn’t think I would love it, but I did.


With more film work under her belt, Tristan’s next project returns her to roots in stage magic and burlesque. Starting this month, British Columbia will get their first look at The Carnival of Creeps. Hearkening back to the heyday of the travelling sideshow, but with a very modern sensibilities, The Carnival is a collaboration of many hands, spearheaded by Risk and Burns The Dragon, a Vancouver-based sideshow performer/juggler and snake handler. “This happened because Burns came to each of us in the troupe and said ‘ we all have these different skill-sets and we have these really cool acts. We don’t do anything together in town and it’s a bit hard, because it’s a bit of a saturated market in Vancouver right now, so do we want to take this one the road?’ And we all agreed – it would be cool. So we have a great variety of performers -burlesque dancers, magicians, acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, fire performers, sideshow freaks. All people who have been doing their own thing for a quite a long time, coming together and collaborating. It’s very exciting for me to be doing this with fresh faces. We are all excited to do this tour. And it’s all in the week before Halloween, so we are able to bring all of our more dark and creepy circus stuff, because it’s just the perfect time of year for it.


While the initial run is limited to BC, the long-term goals are much more intercontinental. “The ultimate plan is to have a full touring circus. When we get to that level, we would be interested in touring Canada, The USA, Europe. Potentially Mexico and, if possible, New Zealand and Australia. Just kind of doing what Hellzapoppin’ (Circus Sideshow Revue ) does, where they have the circus show that they travel with, and then have local talent join them up on stage to round it out. As a collective, we’re able to swap out members if not everyone can tour at the same time. Some tours will be larger, some smaller. So we’re really excited to get our brand and our name out there.



Something Wicked This Way Comes: A taste of The Carnival of Creeps’ sideshow magic.

It’s exciting. Burns went and bought a bus that sleeps seven and it says ‘The Friendship Express’ on the front, and ‘Seven Dudes, One Bus’ on the back. This is going to be a blessed voyage.

After the dust settles for 2015, Risk is already eyeing the next item on her to-do checklist. Only this time, it will be from behind the camera. With tentative plans set for 2016, Risk is preparing to shoot her first short film: an adaptation of her short story, CAT LOVER (originally published in Malevolent Magazine). “It’s a thing. It’s going to happen.”

In the meantime, Tristan Risk will be joining the list of guests for this weekend’s HORROR-RAMA Toronto and while there’s no concrete plans for her to perform, that doesn’t mean she’s not game for trying. “We all know – let’s be real, here – that if there’s a party, there may be an unscheduled performance. It all depends on how many libations I have prior to that. I know myself well enough that I will pack a costume, because you never know.

HORROR-RAMA takes place on October 17th and 18th at The Hyatt Regency, Toronto.

INNSMOUTH and MADRE DE DIOS are both currently playing on the festival circuit.


THE CIRCUS OF CREEPS hits the road October 21st, with stops in Merritt, Kamloops, Kelowna and Penticton. 

For more of the wit, wisdom (and occasional bouts of literary scribbling) of Little Miss Risk, make a point of checking out her blog, HIGH BARBED WIRE WALKING, while you’re at it.



As mentioned earlier on this here webpsace, HORROR-RAMA TORONTO is just a little over a week away. With a great line-up of guests and vendors, it’s shaping up to be a solid show and a fitting warm-up to Halloween.

But wait… there’s more!

Once you’re done shopping and chit-chatting with guests and fellow congoers on the Saturday, you could do worse things than attending the official after-party. Horror-Rama takes over Cherry Cola’s Rock ‘n’ Rolla Cabaret & Lounge for a night of rock, drinks and fan-to-fan socializing.

So who’s on the playbill? As well as performances by shock-rock/performance artist, Corpusse, and “punk gods” Adaptive Reaction, featured guest and co-founder of The Runaways, Cherrie Currie, will take the stage with Sprocket Damage, for what’s sure to be one hell of a show.

Here’s the details:

Where: Cherry Cola’s Rock ‘n’ Rolla Cabaret & Lounge
200 Bathurst Street, Toronto

When: Saturday, October 17
9:00pm – 4:00am
Tickets are $25, and are available through Horror-Rama’s website, as well as Silver Snail and Suspect Video.
Keep your eyes on Horror-Rama’s Facebook page for more announcements, including show schedule and panels listings, as they become available.

Century Guild’s FREAKS Gala Opening

As I wrote in my article for Rue Morgue, Los Angeles’ Century Guild Gallery is hosting FREAKS: EXPLORING THE UNIQUE, an art exhibition celebrating the bizarre and the surreal. Curated by Century Guild’s Thomas Negovan, the exhibit features the works of Chicago’s Gail Potocki, with a focus on the definition of “freakish”, both those of the carnivals and sideshows of the past, as well as the imaginary ‘outcasts’ of our collective imaginations.

Century Guild was kind enough to provide photos taken at both Thursday’s press-only preview (attended by the cast of AMC’s FREAKSHOW) and from Saturday’s grand opening . Some of those photos can be found on the original article posted today.

The rest? They’re right here for your visual stimulation.

Asia Ray and Morgue from AMC's Freakshow with Freaks artist Gail Potocki

Asia Ray and Morgue from AMC’s Freakshow with Freaks artist Gail Potocki.

Dakota the Bearded Lady, Todd and Danielle Ray, Asia Ray, Morgue, and America's Smallest Man Gabriel with Freaks artist Gail Potocki

Dakota the Bearded Lady, Todd and Danielle Ray, Asia Ray, Morgue, and America’s Smallest Man Gabriel with Freaks artist Gail Potocki.

Gail Potocki and America's Smallest Man, Gabriel Pimentel

Gail Potocki and America’s Smallest Man, Gabriel Pimentel

Morgue terrifying Gail Potocki

Morgue terrifying Gail Potocki

Mosh and Stacia Dunnam

Mosh and Stacia Dunnam

Taking In The Exhibit

Taking In The Exhibit at Century Guild

Thomas Negovan with SALEM co-creator, Brannon Braga

Century Guild curator, Thomas Negovan, with SALEM co-creator, Brannon Braga

Todd Ray of Venice Beach Freak Show, Thomas Negovan of Century Guild, and Gustavo Turner of L.A. Weekly

Todd Ray of Venice Beach Freak Show, Thomas Negovan of Century Guild, and Gustavo Turner of L.A. Weekly

Troma's Pat and Lloyd Kaufman with Gail Potocki

Potocki, with Troma’s Pat and Lloyd Kaufman

Once again, FREAKS: EXPLORING THE UNIQUE runs from now until October 11, with exhibit hours from Noon to 8 pm, Thursdays through Sundays.  More information can be found at Century Guild’s website, Facebook and Twitter. And be sure to follow them on Instagram for a virtual tour-of-sorts of this and Century Guild’s other ongoing exhibits.
Special thanks to Thomas Negovan and Kat Handler for providing the photos.

LITTLE TERRRORS VOLUME 37: Short, Sharp Shocks for September

One of Toronto’s best and longest running venues for short horror cinema, Little Terrors begins its fifth season on Wednesday, September 30th. 9pm at the Magic Lantern Carlton Cinema, presented by Rue Morgue Magazine and Unstable Ground. Each month, Little Terrors showcases a night of thematically-related short-form cinematic terror, at a fully-licensed venue, for two hours of “the craziest, goriest, most-disturbing and off-the-wall” fare from here and abroad. To kick off this season, the theme is “Control Over Time And Space”.

So what can you expect when the lights go down Wednesday night? Here’s the playlist:

Shadow Boxer (3 minutes, UK, premiere)
DIR: Nic Alderton
A young man practices his martial arts moves while cleaning up a club. But has the power of his imagination brought something dark to life?

The Guest (5 minutes, premiere)
DIR: Nick Rodgers
A trapper finds an unusual creature in the woods, and brings it home with him. A very unique stop-motion style, reminiscent of ‘The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb’.

Night of the Slasher (12 minutes, premiere)
DIR: Shant Hamassian
A teenage girl must commit horror movie sins to lure a masked killer and finish him off. Official selection of Telluride Horror Show 2015, and Frightfest. ‘Shot-in-one-take’.

The Listing (9 minutes, premiere)
DIR: Luke Jaden
A beautiful two-story starter home is for sale, but none of its former occupants have ever left alive. Creepy, atmospheric short. Previous selection of Fantasia, and Telluride Horror Show.

Bad Guy #2 (10 minutes, premiere)
DIR: Chris McInroy
A henchman discovers that career advancement has a deadly downside. Hilarious, gory fun! Previous selection of Fantastic Fest.

Point of View (9 minutes, premiere)
DIR: Justin Harding
A tired coroner is stalked by the living dead, but only when she isn’t looking! Think ‘The Weeping Angels’ from Doctor Who in a full out horror fest. Previous selection of Fantasia and Telluride Horror Show.

Lumberjacked (3 minutes)
DIR: Joel Mackenzie
A reformed Lumberjack must embrace the power of Nature to defeat a Wasp Monster. Trippy animated goodness! Previous selection of Toronto After Dark.

I‘m You, Dickhead (12 minutes)
DIR: Lucas Testro
A man travels back in time to force his 10-year-old self to learn guitar, so he can grow up to get more action from women. A funny mind-bender of a concept.

Controller (9 minutes)
DIR: Saman Kesh
A girl that control everything guides her own rescue by taking control of her boyfriend. Action-packed, high-value thrills with an original concept. Feature version currently in development via 20th Century Fox.

State Zero (17 minutes)
DIR: Andrée Wallin
In post-apocalpytic Sweden, four soldiers investigate why an old surveillance tower just went offline.

One Minute Time Machine (6 minutes)
DIR: Devon Avery
A young man uses a ‘1-minute-back’ time machine to impress a girl he meets. Starring Erinn Hayes of ‘Children’s Hospital‘.

Götcher (4 minutes)
DIR: Bruce Branit
A secret support group meets to take back something stolen from them in childhood. Twisted take on an old joke.

If this sounds like your kind of thing (and why wouldn’t it be), Advanced Tickets are still available for Wednesday’s show.

For more information, including showtimes, updates and where to submit your own shorts for future screenings, make sure you check out the Little Terrors Homepage, as well as their Facebook , Twitter and YouTube pages for info and trailers of upcoming films.

And stay tuned for a recap of Season 5’s launch right here, following the night’s events.


Horror-Rama Toronto : Back For Another Round


To hear Chris Alexander tell it, he’s the last person to expect behind the scenes at Toronto’s newest convention. “Well, I was never fond of conventions. To this day, I’m still not. I’ve always found it a disingenuous way to meet your idols. I would rather sit down and have a beer with somebody that I dig and talk about what they do, instead of dropping down a chunk of money and see them for a fleeting moment. I just found – even back in the early days of Rue Morgue’s Festival of Fear – I just felt that I would rather be on Mars than be here.” With that in mind, Alexander (with a little help from his friends) organized the little con that could: Horror-Rama Toronto, an intimate and cozy convention that stands at the opposite polar end of the spectrum of bigger shows like Fan Expo Canada.

Chris Alexander and Luis Ceris

Chris Alexander and Luis Ceriz

Horror-Rama is spearheaded by Alexander and Fangoria‘s marketing director Cheryl Singleton and Luis and Donna Ceriz, proprietors of the Toronto video store/cultural institution Suspect Video, with a singular focus in mind: horror, and nothing but. It all started with Fangoria’s involvement in the London, Ontario based horror/exploitation gathering, Shock Stock“When I took over on Fangoria, the boys who run ShockStock asked if I would come onboard – give them an ad, take a table –  so I thought “why not?” . It was here that Alexander made first contact with Luis Ceriz , and the wheels started moving. “Even though I knew Luis from Suspect Video in passing, I didn’t really “know” him. It was the first or second year we just started connecting and talking. He’s one of the sweetest guys, the most honest and open people I’ve ever met in the business. I trusted him instantly. He’s also very relaxed, when you’re around him, you feel very relaxed.  With Luis, it was a very practical, very calm suggestion that we band together for this convention. I brought in some other people I was working with to let them handle it while I was doing other things. Those people left, so it was just Luis and I left standing and I said “well, fuck, let’s just jump in and do it.’  Let’s make the kind of convention that we would want to go to as fans of weird stuff.  So we put it together, with friends who love this stuff, working in various ends of the industry, and did it because we love to do it, not because we want to make tons of money. We started this thing with zero capital, and just jumped in. It was the most pleasant, relaxed thing going into this. The guests that we had brought onboard – we populated it with people that we liked. I don’t even think of it as a convention, I like to call it a two-day party.”

The golden rule for Alexander and Ceriz for keeping the show on track? Simplicity. “Suspect has been around for a long time. It’s real “mom and pop” – just (Luis) and his wife that own it – so Luis was key in keeping it very simple, keeping it friendly and fun, no bullshit. Deliver on what you can promise: that was the philosophy for the show. Just promise everyone a good time and I think honestly, that was the secret to our success. To keep it simple. The first year was successful, as far as the vibe. Financially, I would say it was successful too, because we didn’t lose any money. I would say that for a first-year show, that’s pretty successful.”

As part of this year’s upgrade, the show has moved to a bigger venue (downtown Toronto’s Hyatt Regency), emulating the smaller convention model much more prevalent in the US. “The last venue we had was cool and bohemian, but it was also difficult. We weren’t allowed in on the Friday night before the show – we didn’t get in there until 6 o’clock in the morning, and the show opened up at 10 or 11. We were trying to build this thing with very few people. So we wanted something closer to central Toronto… a great room in a great hotel. It’s close to everything, and they gave us the run of the joint.”

As well as space-wise, the show’s guest list for Year Two has also expanded, with such names as Mick Garris, perennial icon Micheal Berryman, horror comics superstar Steve Niles and a quartet of scream queens, including Linnea Quigley, Sybil Danning, Debbie Rochon and Tristan Risk, among many others. “We have a variety of guests this time, but it’s still all our friends. People that we know and love.”

With Horror-Rama’s inevitable evolution underway, Alexander remains pragmatic about everything, keeping the initial spirit and tone first-and-foremeost. “It’s the same show, the same heart, just a little more refined. It’ll still be two days of hanging out with people who like weird shit.”

Horror-Rama takes place October 17th and 18th at The Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Toronto.
Advanced tickets are on sale here. 

Keep watching for more updates and interviews, as we get closer to showtime.


Del Toro’s Master Class Recap: REBECCA

Originally published for Rue Morgue (August 27, 2014).

Photo Courtesy of Ian Gibson

“Welcome to this screening of I AM CHRIS FARLEY.” And thus, with his trademark self-depreciating humour, Guillermo Del Toro kicked off the Gothic Master Class at TIFF last night to a full-capacity audience.

The Master Classes have become an annual tradition here in Toronto, Del Toro’s second home. And for him, there’s as much business as there is pleasure in curating this film and lecture series. “The reason I wanted to do this is because I love the idea of discussing films in the same depth that we can literature or painting, or any of the major arts. There was a time when we used to discuss it like that and somewhat it got lost in the last 15 years. The discourse started to wrap into the business, box office… and it has become a necessity for me to do this, to re-engage in the fact that what we do is a form of art and a form of narrative art that can drink from the most ancient sources.”

Setting the tone for his three nights of “school”,  Del Toro gave a brief overview of The Gothic Tradition, including its symbolism as well as the origins of the sub-genre: “The Gothic Romance is a very peculiar creature. For me, horror surges out of the vocation of the fairytale…to talk about the dark side of the universe and to talk about the forces that shape us as humans.

Out of that comes a movement, over the centuries, towards rationalism. We look back, and we do it even now, we look back on things that are myth, fable, parable… like those things are for childish minds. But the fact is there is a moment in time in the 18th Century, where there is a surge against rationalism – “The Age Of Reason”, making everything prim-and-proper for the good of intellect – and there is a rebellion of the spirit. The spirit demands that we reembrace nature and fable and myth.

We are going to hopefully drag the gothic, and the gothic romance in particular, all the way up to now.

Following Del Toro’s introduction, the house lights dimmed and the opening credits for Alfred Hitchcock’s REBECCA filed the screen. The adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier’s novel was Hitchcock’s first film in Hollywood, marking the transition from his early days (Hitchcock’s “British years”, as Del Toro pointed out. The resulting film, despite its then-contemporary trappings and mores, has all the hallmarks of the Gothic tradition: a manor with a shadowy legacy, a dark and brooding patriarch haunted by the past and his innocent young bride, drawn into a web of mysteries and secrets.

 After the film’s fiery coda and the final credits rolled, Del Toro took to the stage and continued with the lecture portion of the night. It was here that he went into the film’s history – the clashes between Hitchcock and producer David O. Selznick, his displeasure with the film’s telegraphing and over-abundant score (as Del Toro put it, the music “Mickey Moused” every action and emotion on the screen to a near-cartoonish level), as well as how the then-untested director and Gothic Romance were actually a perfect fit.

You must remember this. First of all, two things: Gothic Romance was basically punk, it was an affront to the establishment when it was birthing. It was emotion and rote melodrama and a lot of things that weren’t ‘proper’ to express or feel, filled with innuendo. And Hitchcock, by the same token, was an incredibly modern filmmaker at the time. He was a guy that was very daring. There were plenty of sexual layers in the movie – he was an expert at dodging The Hayes Code… he would remove one perversion and add three.

There are two more films left to screen in the Gothic Master Class: tonight’s screening of David Lean’s GREAT EXPECTATIONS and Monday’s ( August 31st) final installment, Robert Stevenson’s JANE EYRE. Rush Tickets will be made available at the TIFF Box Office one hour prior to screening.