The last time the Georgia Straight chatted with Vince D’Amato, back in the fall of 2003, he was busy overseeing the gruesome torture of his fiancée at his mom’s house in Burnaby. D’Amato was directing an extremely low-budget ($3,000) horror flick called Human Nature, and his bride-to-be, Nicole Hancock, portrayed an unfortunate victim.
That set visit turned into the Straight’s Halloween 2003 cover, which depicted Hancock serving D’Amato’s severed head on a film canister. It was, without a doubt, the goriest front page in Straight history, although one that the happily married couple now proudly display on their living-room wall.
“That really worked out well for us,” recalls D’Amato in a call from his West End home. “After you did the interview, we signed a distribution deal for our first movie, which was a vampire movie, to a company in the States—actually it’s the one that does those Sharknado films right now. We signed with them and it went crazy; every Blockbuster in the world at that time bought three copies of it. It made them tons of money.”
Fast-forward a decade or so and D’Amato still has his bloody fingers in the horror pie, although more as a curator than a filmmaker these days. His Shivers Film Society is presenting the Canadian Horror Show, which runs October 29 to November 1 at the Vancity Theatre and boasts such Canuck fear epics as Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, and the director’s cut of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. Guests appearing at the festival include UBC cult-film professor Ernest Mathijs, blogger and Georgia Straight contributor “Big Al” MacInnis, and the Horror Honeys, who will live-tweet from the event.
So, does D’Amato have a personal fave among his CHS offerings?
“Yeah, I do,” he replies, “and it might not be the one that’s most expected, but my favourite actually is Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II. Ernest and I were having a conversation about how, when you get into Canadian genre films, with those that somehow get the go-ahead to be turned into a series, the second one inevitably starts sliding toward this bizarre art-house area. And I think that’s true of the Ginger Snaps sequel as well: it really had a lot of dark humour in it.”
Prom Night II had another thing going for it in the casting of genre vet Michael Ironside, who also stars in the Canadian Horror Show selection Visiting Hours. That’s the grim 1982 slasher flick that—along with David Cronenberg’s exploding-head classic, Scanners—established Ironside as the country’s top horror villain of the ’80s.
“Visiting Hours was kind of a tough one,” D’Amato offers. “I was keen on doing it, but I just wanted to make sure that the Vancity would be supportive with putting that one in there, because of all of them, that’s probably—I don’t want to say controversial, ’cause I don’t know how much controversy it actually generated—but it’s probably the most icky of all.”
All right, all you Michael Ironside fanatics: time to get your ick on! For the full Canadian Horror Show schedule, visit www.viff.org/.