[Some of the most memorable cult films in Canadian history were a result of the so-called “tax shelter” production boom of the 1970s and ‘80s. The Shivers film festival, which kicks off in the UK on May 20, will highlight the influence of these “tax shelter” films with a series of screenings at London’s Roxy Bar & Screen. Rick Gladman, the voice of Rue Morgue UK and the mastermind of the Classic Horror Campaign, recently caught up with Shivers co-founder/programmer Vince D’Amato and strapped him into the Sinister Seven interview machine.]
For starters, tell me a bit about the Shivers film festival.
The idea of screening and celebrating Canadian cult films actually came about while chatting over a few pints with Filmbar 70′s Justin Harries. It was really his idea to do an all-Canadian festival, and then I came up with the idea of starting to tell a little bit of Canadian cinema history with the screenings. We’re starting with “The Influence of the Canadian Tax Shelter Films,” which is a notorious period in Canadian genre film production that lasted from ’79 – ’89 and gave us some of our best and worst genre cult flicks. Even Cronenberg was part of that.
Can you tell me a little about your background and influences?
My main background is independent filmmaking. Of course, being an independent Canadian filmmaker, I actually grew up seeing a lot of Canadian genre content on pay-television in the ’80s on channels like Superchannel and First Choice, which I think are long gone now. Cronenberg was always a huge influence on me, as well as highly stylized thrillers like Blow Out, Dressed to Kill and pretty much the entire Italian giallo sub-genre. Romero was always one of my favourite directors, and Carpenter, and when I was younger Rodriguez and Tarantino were influences back then, as they were on a lot of new filmmakers. The latter two not so much now, though.
Initially, we wanted to begin with screening independent Canadian genre films, which I think was Justin’s original idea. Once I came up with the “tax shelter” idea, we decided to screen independent films by filmmakers who, like myself, were influenced by this particular period in Canadian cinema. Genre filmmakers nowadays are really more influenced by American films than anything else, which is something we hope to address through these screenings.
You’ve partnered with The Roxy Bar & Screen for this event. What influenced this decision?
Actually, I loved going to The Roxy for their film events since I first moved to London last year. It was a Classic Horror Campaign Double Feature I first saw there. But it was back in December that I saw, whilst there for a Die Hard / Trading Places Christmas double feature, that The Roxy was taking part in the London Short Film Festival. I saw the promotional flyers, and was not only excited by the programming and promotion, I was reminded of all the good work they’d done with the Scala Forever film season that summer that made me approach them with the idea of joining up for Shivers.
What are your own personal favourite genre films and why?
I always love this question. In no particular order: Frankenhooker, because it’s not only funny, it’s far more brilliant than I think a lot of people realise. Re-Animator has always been and I think will always be one of my favourites — it’s a nearly perfect comedy. Martin, which in my opinion is George Romero’s masterpiece. Torso, Sergio Martino’s too-oft dismissed giallo, one of the best. DePalma’s Blow Out, and if I need to explain that one, you haven’t seen it. I love Argento’s films, and have a soft spot in my heart for Tenebrae, even though most Argento fans would disagree with me, I know. And Videodrome – I think it’s Cronenberg’s best work, both artistically and interpretively, and I love how it’s really just a film noir, deep down. I guess that’s why I also chose that one to screen in the first Shivers event. It’s a great film. As are so many more. I didn’t even pick a Carpenter film! Okay, They Live. And I love Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Okay, I’m stopping now.
Who do you think is the most influential Canadian film director of all time?
In the genre/cult film realm it would have to be Cronenberg, of course, he’s recognised internationally. There are other great Canadian directors, though.
What are your thoughts on the Canadian genre film industry at the moment? What names and films should we be looking out for?
Sadly, my thought on the Canadian genre film industry is that it’s non-existent in the rest of the world’s eyes. For the moment, anyway. This is partially because as of 2007, at the international film markets, there is no longer a Canadian category, nor is there a selection quota (of Canadian films) for foreign film buyers, as there used to be prior to 2007. If an independent Canadian producer has an independent Canadian film at any of these major markets nowadays, it’s listed as an American film. And look at the output as well – films like Hobo with a Shotgun are not influenced by Canadian films, they’re influenced by American films, and even by American pastiche films. Movies like Trapped, Rituals and East End Hustle – now those are proper Canadian exploitation flicks! I’d really like to see us, as Canadian filmmakers, being proud of the fact we’re producing Canadian films — especially Canadian genre films.
Shivers film festival: http://theycamefromwithin.com/
The Classic Horror Campaign: http://www.classichorrorcampaign.com/
Rue Morgue UK Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/RueMorgueUK
Finally, for a great primer on the history of Canadian cult/exploitation films, check out this article on Canuxploitation.com.