In light of the release of Jason Eisner's Hobo with a Shotgun, QuietEarth asked the world's leading expert on Canadian exploitation cinema, the Managing Editor of Canuxploitation, Paul Corupe, to share his five favourite and most outrageous Canadian expoitation films.
The Canadian film industry has a dirty little secret. For every critically lauded drama by celebrated auteurs, dozens of unacknowledged low-budget horror, science fiction, sexploitation, action and lowbrow comedy films lurk just below the surface. Although many of these "Canuxploitation" films appeared during the 1970s and '80s, when generous tax laws helped nurture the budding careers of directors like David Cronenberg, Bob Clark and Ivan Reitman, Canada's rich history of exploitation films stretches from almost the very beginning of moving pictures.
Our most recent entry, Jason Eisner's Hobo with a Shotgun, has been earning positive reviews due to its gleeful devotion to exploitation carnage, it's only the tip of the ice floe when it comes to the dark side of Canada's film industry. In more than a decade of hunting down obscure Canadian B-movies, the five films below are some of the wildest examples of Canuxploitation, a legacy created by toque-clad hosers across the country who sometimes only needed to borrow a camera to make their own dubious contribution to our shared national culture.
Dragon Hunt (1987)
Kickboxers Martin and Michael McNamara are truly the pioneers of the modern Canadian action film. When not running their martial arts school, these twin brothers self-produced a handful of micro-budgeted vanity films in the 1980s in which they impressed girls in skintight acid wash jeans by taking down baddies with furious roundhouses.
In this sequel to their first film, Twin Dragon Encounter, the mustachioed bros' peaceful weekend with their bitchin' babes is ruined by a gang of post-apocalyptic punks and ninjas out for revenge. With gratuitous slo-mo shots, they handily dispose of ludicrously named opponents like "The Beastmaster" and "The Red Skull of Death" to the finest in Canadian heavy metal balladry. As for the rest of the film, let's just be glad that the boy's fighting technique is far more honed than their acting skills.
Think you've seen bad films? Not until you've endured this late '80s, straight-to-video atrocity. Concocted by Scarborough teens in their basement and shot on 8mm, Things is ostensibly about a Cronenberg-ian doctor who has artificially impregnated a woman with ant-like monsters that rip her apart and run amok.
But, oddly, the camera quickly dispenses with that story to instead concentrates a improvised afternoon with the woman's pudgy husband and his mullet-sporting friends as they drink beer, fart, watch TV and talk non-stop about witchcraft, alternate dimensions and Satanism. The results are surreal and vapid, testing viewers' patience with many frustrating scenes, such as when the pals, petrified of creatures on the loose, spend several minutes exploring the bathroom ceiling with a flashlight. Porn star Amber Lynn has a brief cameo, for some reason.
Yeti: The Giant of the 20th Century
Among the strangest Canadian films are our co-productions, multi-country productions that allowed foreign filmmakers to get in on Canada's tax-saving act.
Made in conjunction with Italian cinematic craftsmen, Yeti: The Giant of the 20th Century just might be the strangest, though, as a weird, extra large Bigfoot (with extremely prominent nipples) is defrosted by scientists in Toronto and displayed as a tourist attraction. Of course, he escapes, raging through the city, smashing styrofoam buildings and landmarks like a hairy, Canadian Godzilla on a budget.
Rock N Roll Nightmare (1986)
Do you accept the challenge? Canadian metal frontman and renowned weightlifter Jon Mikl Thor wrote and produced this bizarre mix of murder, monsters and T&A (though most of the nudity comes from Thor himself!).
It's like a Fangoria photospread come to life, as Thor and his band, The Tritonz, spend a week at a farmhouse recording studio only to have band members picked off one by one by rubber-masked zombies and demons. Thor soon discovers that it's all the work of the devil and must fight for his friend's lives in the most rockin' way possible. Filled with awesome Thor songs and enough awkward puppets to make Jim Henson blush, the film lives up to the dream logic implied by its title with one of the most bewildering final plot twists committed to celluloid.
Murder By Phone (aka Bells) (1982)
As cheesy as it is unlikely, this Canada-U.S. co-production is about the most fun you can have while ignoring a basic knowledge electricity and telecommunications. A university prof played by Richard Chamberlain is called into investigate which disgruntled phone company employee is sending deadly electronic impulses through the lines. On answering a call, unsuspecting victims bleed from their eyes before the receiver explodes and they are shot across the room. Featuring some of the most bizarre death scenes of its day, the film is also notable for portraying the national phone company as an evil and impenetrable organization—something that most Canadians will tell you is not that far from the truth.