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A sampling of scary, Manitoba-style

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Wanna hear something scary?

Some 25 horror feature films have been shot here in Winnipeg in the past 15 years.

Certainly, some of the films have been zero-budget junk. But it would be a mistake to slap that label on the whole bunch. As much as the local industry likes to trumpet an Oscar-winning film such as Capote, bear in mind the 2009 spookfest The Haunting in Connecticut substantially out-earned Capote, with a worldwide gross of $77 million to Capote's $49 million.

Manitoba has hosted adaptations shot under the auspices of horror heavyweights Stephen King and Clive Barker. Local crews have shot sequels to five different horror franchises and two different remakes of controversial '80s thrillers. And those movies have starred some impressive actors, including Dennis Quaid and Ziyi Zhang (The Horsemen), Virginia Madsen and Elias Koteas (The Haunting in Connecticut), Michael Biehn and Rosanna Arquette (The Divide), Christopher Plummer and Margot Kidder (The Clown at Midnight) and Milla Jovovich (Faces in the Crowd).

Of note:

The Franchises

The recent DVD release Curse of Chucky, directed by the demon doll's creator, Don Mancini, was a handsomely produced thriller hearkening back to the original Child's Play. It qualifies as the king of all the franchise films when compared to stuff in the vein of the stupid-gory cannibal thriller Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (2011), an ultra-gory exploitation movie featuring a family of mutant cannibals.

The 2001 sequel Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell was a redundant horror variation of the "Be careful what you wish for" theme. For those wishing for gratuitous nudity, it was mostly notable for a scene shot at the Manitoba Legislature, doubling as a university museum, featuring two topless women engaging in hanky-panky with Jason Connery... yep, Sean's son. It was followed in 2002 with Wishmaster IV: The Prophecy Fulfilled, which starred future Corner Gas fixture Tara Spencer-Nairn... also topless.

In 2003, American shlockmeister David (Creepozoids) DeCoteau moved from Hollywood to Winnipeg and whipped up the quickie oddball The Brotherhood III: Young Demons. If you've never heard of the Brotherhood series, it may be because DeCoteau catered to a very specific market with a genre that might be best described as teen-homoerotic-horror.

Coming next year to DVD and video on demand: the automotive-horror movie Joy Ride 3, from the director of Wrong Turn 4, Declan O'Brien.

The Prestige

In 1986, Stephen King himself directed an adaptation of his short story Trucks and titled it Maximum Overdrive. It proved to be an embarrassing movie, and that led the way to a more grounded shot-in-Manitoba TV movie about machines gifted with malevolent intelligence, titled Trucks, starring thirtysomething's Timothy Busfield. Featuring one death by toy truck blunt trauma, it was also embarrassing.

As a producer, horror novelist Clive Barker had a hand in The Plague (2006), a generational horror story of murderous teen zombies starring over-the-hill teen star James Van Der Beek. It has its creepy moments, but is as quickly forgotten as, well, James Van Der Beek.

Remaking '80s Shlock

Actress Jaime King (Sin City) starred in two different locally shot remakes of '80s grindhouse product. Mother's Day (2010) was a bloody psycho thriller in which one family's home is invaded by a clan of killer psychos. Silent Night (2012) was a remake of the notorious Silent Night, Deadly Night, about a homicidal maniac dressed as Santa Claus. Unfortunately, neither movie qualified as an improvement on the original.

-- Randall King

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2013 D5

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