March 21, 2012

Brain Picking: Interview with Bern Euler (Canadian Film Fest)

(director Canadian Film Fest)

In seven days, the Canadian Film Fest will return to Toronto for its 2012 program of purely Canadian films with several horror titles and zombies lurking in the lineup. In particular, the Canadian Film Fest will be hosting the Toronto premiere of the zombie comedy A Little Bit Zombie.

For six years, the Canadian Film Fest has been providing a platform for Canadian filmmakers to showcase their work and connect with other filmmakers and the Canadian public. But what's a Canadian Film Festival without a little horror and some zombie fever? Canada is, after all, the home of horror geniuses like David Cronenberg, slasher classics such as My Bloody Valentine, and innovative zombie films like Pontypool and Fido. To gear up for the 2012 Canadian Film Fest, The Zed Word got a hold of festival director Bern Euler to talk about the horror and zombie offerings at this year's festival.

ZED WORD: How did the Canadian Film Fest get started?

BERN EULER: The scope of innovative talent in the Canadian film industry is impressive. However, there aren’t many venues for filmmakers to showcase their work. At the Canadian Film Fest we decided to create a forum for filmmakers to show their work and for audiences to enjoy them. Our goal is celebration, promotion and advancement of Canadian filmmaking talent.

ZW: This year, the Canadian Film Fest is screening three Canadian horror films: Below Zero, A Little Bit Zombie, and The Unleashed. What are your thoughts on each film?

BE: I love these flicks! I mean, obviously, I programmed them, but they’re three different genre movies with each their own reasons why they’re cool as cherry pie.

BELOW ZERO is interesting to me because, as a writer, I can really associate with Jack, the protagonist played by Edward Furlong. The stress of trying to get a screenplay done is not a fun thing. The only thing that’s worse is being locked in a meat locker while trying to do so while a serial killer stands just outside not yet knowing that you’re trapped inside. This one’s a mind trip as line between reality and fantasy begins to blur. It’s an extremely difficult thing to do, but the writer and director (Signe Olynyk and Justin Thomas Ostensen) pull it off easily.

THE UNLEASHED is, simply put, a great ghost story. One of the original genres of horror stories, a good ghost story is something that always stirs that primal fear in me. A solid story and a great turn by the cast filled with horrific images and happenings of possession left me screening it the first time with all the lights on. Malcolm McDowell takes his turn as narrator and will actually be present at the screening.

A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE. Who doesn’t love zombie flicks? I’m a HUGE fan of this genre and am so excited to be showing the Toronto premiere of Casey Walker’s film. This film is laugh out loud funny and some really amazing animation that completely adds to the fun of it all. Casey blends everything a die hard zomcom fanboy wants and then turns it up a couple of notches.

ZW: The Canadian Film Fest does more than just screen films. Are there any upcoming panels or events of interest to horror and genre fans?

BE: We have a great panel discussion coming up [on March 29] about the Canadian Genre Scene and how emerging and established filmmakers are turning more and more to genre filmmaking.

[It's a] frank and candid discussion about the new wave of horror film directors in Canada. Why are so many emerging filmmakers turning to genre films (think: A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, SPLICE)? Why are audiences responding so well? The landscape of genre-filmmaking in Canada is in a state of flux so where is it going and where did it begin? What can filmmakers do to anticipate audiences desires?

[Editors note: the panel will be attended by representatives from Anchor Bay entertainment and moderated by Warren P. Sonoda (TODD AND THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL, SERVITUDE, UNRIVALED). To attend, email to reserve a free spot.]

ZW: What are your favorite Canadian horror films?

BE:  1.) Gingersnaps – All these movies were great and too much fun
        2.) The Chair – From the director of Gingersnap II a must-see creep fest
        3.) Screamers – A sci-fi/horror that I’ve had a soft spot for since I was a kid
        4.) Pin – Just plain creepy
        5.) Splice – Another sci-fi horror from the master, Vincenzo Natali, this takes you to some dark places

ZW: What do Canadian horror films bring to the genre that we just don't see in American fare?

BE: I think that our two cultures are very similar, so this is a hard one. What is Canadian and what is American? Most people regard the slasher flick as an American genre but the 1974 BLACK CHRISTMAS, a Canadian movie, is regarded as the first slasher flick. We invented it! And we keep on doing it.

There’s a certain freedom with being just on the outside. We’re not expected to keep within any structure or stereotype and we do just that. We try to push boundaries and explore more of the unknown and it keeps our movies fresh and more interesting. For example, what happens if you become just a little bit of a zombie?

To find out, book your tickets for all the horror and genre films at the 2012 Canadian Film Fest (March 28-31)