TIFF’s Halloween showcase makes us think about Canadian horror.
There’s no shortage of horror playing on Toronto screens on Halloween night, but TIFF Bell Lightbox takes a patriotic route with The Changeling (1980) and Ginger Snaps (2000), two pivotal Canadian horror films.
“Even though Canadian films are known primarily as an auteur cinema, there’s a long-running history of genre and horror cinema,” says Canadian Open Vault programmer Steve Gravestock.
The Changeling, which stars George C. Scott as a widower who unknowingly rents a haunted mansion, was a big commercial success for producer Garth Drabinksy. Although contemporaneous with Halloween and Friday the 13th, Gravestock says “because The Changeling was a classically tinged ghost story it stood out and resonated with many people who saw it at the time.”
The werewolf tale Ginger Snaps, written by Karen Walton, equates lycanthropy with maturation and menstruation.
“It’s aware of the fact that it’s not the first werewolf movie or first viral infection movie, but it overturns a lot of those things, like taking shots at the doldrums of suburban life,” says Gravestock, adding that David Cronenberg’s influence of body horror is evident in Ginger Snaps. It spawned several sequels.
Canadian horror cinema began in 1961 with Julian Roffman’s The Mask, a key film, he says. “It’s eerily similar to the Jim Carrey vehicle that happened 30 years later.”
Curious about Canadian horror? We asked three horror experts for their top picks:
This article originally appeared in the Toronto Star on October 27, 2013.