Author Archives: Matthew T.

About Matthew T.

Editor of the Blood Theatre.

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Evil Dead: The Musical

October 29th; a cold, dark evening just hours away from Devil’s Night. We are standing in downtown Toronto in front of the Randolph Theatre on Bathurst, eagerly awaiting the opening night performance of Evil Dead: The Musical. As theatre buffs and horror connoisseurs alike rush to find their seats (the most daring sit in the infamous splatter zone) the lights dim and the crowd erupts in applause. One thing is clear: Ash and his ever-resilient flock of Deadites have returned to the Toronto stage, and it’s about to get messy.

A rousing ensemble number kicks off the production (appropriately titled “Cabin in the Woods”) as Ash and his companions drive to the middle of nowhere for a spring-break they won’t soon forget! The tongue-in-cheek set design perfectly captures the essence of the films; a blend between camp, silliness, and when required, atmospheric horror. Fans of the film already know the characters in-and-out, but for those first-timers the characters’ roles are defined and developed quickly and thoroughly before the end of the first song. It’s this type of fast-paced energy and clever writing that sets the tone for the entire musical.

It’s easy to lose yourself in the zany, colourful, and off-the-wall story; the brief intermission at the one-hour mark arrives before you know it. But for the ravenous gorehounds that find themselves asking: where was all the splatter?, worry not! The second act will leave you satisfied and drenched in the red stuff.

Evil Dead: The Musical works so well because it was clearly written by a fan of the films and remains faithful to the spirit of the original movie. Its self-aware moments (which lovingly poke fun at creator Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and the inconsistencies in the movie that we horror fans love to discuss) are reassuring reminders that this is a production from a true horror enthusiast who is well acquainted with the source material. (And for those not familiar with Christopher Bond’s work, his more recent Night of the Living Dead: Live was equally as successful and thoroughly enjoyed).

Ryan Ward shone in his portrayal of Ash, displaying a keen sense of Bruce Campbell’s mannerisms and speech pattern, while at the same time bringing his own dramatic flair to the role. The cast is equally talented, delivering pitch-perfect performances while tackling some truly well-choreographed and satisfying routines. Also, special care was taken to ensure that iconic scenes and lines of dialogue from the Evil Dead series was recreated — each time being met with rousing applause from the audience. One thing is certain: you won’t leave disappointed.

Evil Dead: The Musical is a bloody good time that can’t be missed! For more information and to purchase tickets, visit their website: http://evildeadthemusical.com/toronto/tickets/

Groovy.

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Night of the Living Dead Live

“They’re coming to get you, Barbra!”

In 1968 a young filmmaker named George Romero made a low-budget picture that explored a single premise: what would happen if the dead returned to life? His film painted a bleak, realistic, and unflattering portrait of humanity, and was responsible for not only launching his career, but also elevating him to the legendary status he possesses today: the grandfather of the zombie genre.

The influence of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is undeniable; it shaped our modern understanding of the undead, and can be seen throughout the last forty-five years of cinema. And while filmmakers and artists have subtly paid homage to the master of horror in their own small ways, truly there can be no better compliment than to transform and adapt a beloved story into a new and exciting medium: in the case of NotLD, to lift it from celluloid and to place it on stage.

On a beautiful May evening, myself and co-editor Ali had the opportunity to visit the Theatre Passe Muraille in downtown Toronto to see a production of Night of the Living Dead Live. It’s difficult to walk into a re-enactment of a classic and beloved film without wondering “will they really be able to pull this off?” but my mind was set at ease when I opened the programme and saw that it had been written and directed by Christopher Bond, the brilliant mind who brought us Evil Dead: The Musical. Mr. Bond has proven in his previous endeavours that he is a horror fan through and through, and one that can also remain respectful and true to the original source material.

Upon entering the modest-sized theatre the viewer is immediately thrown back in time; retro, black-and-white parody ads are projected onto the stage while mock-vintage radio broadcasts play overtop, setting the tone and preparing you to enter Pittsburgh, 1968. The dim, open stage displays the living room of the infamous farmhouse — the set beautifully constructed and painted in subtle shades of black and white. Before we knew it, the room darkened, and the show began…

…and what a show it was! Divided into two acts, the first presents a faithful and well-adapted version of the original film. The performances were wonderful, and truly the work of talented and charismatic actors. Sound and lighting cues were particularly effective in recreating key moments from the film; the production overall was incredibly cinematic, no doubt influenced by the fact that Christopher Bond is also an accomplished screenwriter (A Little Bit Zombie). The second act deviated, and presented a barrage of hypothetical scenarios in an effort to discover what the group should have done in order to successfully survive the night; its tongue-in-cheek approach, coupled with fantastic comedic timing and smart writing led to a wonderful (and extremely memorable) production. The finale itself is worth going for!

When Mr. Romero himself calls it “terrific!”, who are we to argue? Don’t miss your chance to catch Night of the Living Dead Live during its Toronto run. You’ll never forgive yourself for missing a show this good.

Night of the Living Dead is directed and co-written by Christopher Bond, and features the talent of: Darryl Hinds, Mike “Nug” Nahrgang, Dale Boyer, Trevor Martin, Gwynne Phillips, and Andrew Fleming. It runs April 26th to May 19th.

Find tickets and showtimes here: http://nightofthelivingdeadlive.com/tickets/

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Hemlock Grove

Netflix sure has come a long way over the years; in March of 2013, it was estimated that over 33 million people currently subscribe to their service. As video stores seemingly fall by the wayside, the popularity and reign of Netflix only continues to rise. Given their power position, It’s really no surprise that projects began developing with the intention of being Netflix exclusive.

Enter: Hemlock Grove; a thirteen episode series made specifically for Netflix. When the initial trailer began to surface, I’ll admit I had no idea what to expect. On the surface it appeared to be another “Anytown U.S.A. has a dark secret” type of stories — but what caught my attention was a name: Eli Roth. The man responsible for bringing us such graphic delicacies as HOSTEL and (my personal favourite) CABIN FEVER. In addition to serving as executive producer, Roth also acted as director of the premiere episode. If a guy with such a solid track record was attaching his name to the project, how could it be bad? At the very least we could surely expect disgusting, cringe-worthy traditional effects… couldn’t we?

The basic premise of Hemlock Grove is simple enough: when a series of brutal murders begin, it becomes a race to discover the culprit before he (or it) continues their spree of destruction. From the very beginning we’re tossed into the simply bizarre universe of Hemlock Grove; a town so weird and dysfunctional that the savage murders almost seem to pale in comparison. There’s a girl convinced she was impregnated by an angel; a boy with a blood-fetish who has seemingly mastered the old Jedi mindtrick; his giant, blue-glowing, eye-deformed medical experiment of a sister; their sadistic, manipulative, and sex-starved creature of a mother… and the list goes on, and on, and on.

I kid you not: everything in Hemlock Grove is a mystery to which there is never an answer; it is a perpetual “…” that leaves you hanging until the series reaches its end, still leaving you strung up and waiting for a proper resolution. And to make it worse, the entire time the writers treat you as if you already know why everything is happening. I understand it was influenced heavily by Twin Peaks — of that there’s no doubt — but even Twin Peaks was easier and more satisfying to follow! At least the absurd was expected, and even served a purpose in the story.

Writing and story aside, I did thoroughly enjoy the cast. Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgård, Landon Liboiron… the performances were all well done. The up-and-coming Freya Tingley handled some tense, mature scenes brilliantly, and Kaniehtiio Horn was particularly effective in her possession scenes. If the material they had been given was as good as their acting I would no doubt be writing a very different review.

But let’s talk effects, because again, with Eli Roth’s name front and centre we’re surely expecting an emphasis on practical, old-school guts and grue. Did it deliver? Yes and no. At the very heart of it, this is a werewolf story. No matter what else happens in a werewolf story, the most important scene is the transformation, and over the years special effects gurus (like Rick Baker) have elevated these scenes to an art. I don’t think we were necessarily expecting Hemlock Grove to top the beauty of, say, An American Werewolf in London… but I also don’t think we were expecting to see the majority of it achieved through CGI. Where the concept succeeded, the execution failed.

No matter how much I wanted to like the show, I just couldn’t get into it. And that’s disappointing to me since I legitimately dig Eli Roth and everything he’s attached his name to.

When all is said and done, the series suffered from a bad story and an under-developed script more than anything else. On the plus side, if you ever lay awake at night and wondered what would happen if they blended True Blood, Twilight, and Twin Peaks together? At least now you have your answer:

Welcome to Hemlock Grove.