They Came From Within: A History Of Canadian Horror Cinema
By: Michael Helms on June 14, 2005  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Credits
Author: Caelum Vatnsdal
Publisher: Arbeiter Ring
Publishing Pages: 256 pages
Canada, like Australia, is a far flung realm of the British Empire. Since the 1970s both places have been striving to establish film industries. Both have struggled with notions of national identity in film and tax incentives. And both have produced much sub-par material. With it's proximity to the US and favourable currency exchange Canada wins out in the frequency stakes and intrepid writer Caelum Vatnsdal has sky-dived into the churning waters of Canadian production (without a wetsuit) and come up covered in the fantastique and just plain freaked-out from The Mask to The Brood, Deranged, and Humongous Vatnsdal leaves no genre (or subgenre) work overlooked and as such They Came From Within should provide reading of high interest and insight to any horror film fan.

With a jokey, anecdotal style that would hardly get approval from the academy but definitely makes for good reading, Vatnsdal, however, is organised and thorough in his approach that leads us chronologically through the deep woods of Canadian filmmaking. Vatnsdal casts his net wide to take in films produced in the US or other foreign locations with Canadian input such as Death Bed: The Bed That Eats and The Vulture, to films made in Canada that originated elsewhere like Playgirl Killer, Deranged or The Uncanny. He takes on film from an industrial perspective providing studies of of the work of film companies such as Cinepix and the Canadian Film Development Corporation but best of all uncovers films and their makers who until now have remained more than slightly obscured. A good example is Ontario filmmaker Lawrence Zazelenchuk the creator of The Corpse Eaters who died an alcoholic in Florida at the age of 36. Naturally, the figure of David Cronenberg looms large but his support of the Canadian industry despite much internal criticism can create a new found admiration for his work that will send you back to check some of his earlier films which are only now appearing on DVD. They Came From Within relies heavily on Fangoria for much of this history which is also something that would have to be done to put together an equally comprehensive history of the Australian horror film. This is the book you need to read more about The Bloody Brood, Blood and Donuts, Cannibal Girls, Creature of Comfort, The Jitters, Psycho Girls, Red Blooded American Girl, The Reincarnate, Rituals, Sasquatch, Spasms, and the Jon-Mikl Thor starrer Zombie Nightmare. On a critical note They Came From Within suffers from the minor repetition of facts like the constant references to Eli Roth remakes of Canadian films that are yet to appear. The use of Canadian colloquialisms like "pay the pickle man", is almost annoying but the lack of understanding of the Australian brand Speedo is more likely to make you laugh.

Overall, They Came From Within is an entertaining and significant work that deserves your attention.
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