They Came From Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema Paperback – Mar 15 2004
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About the Author
Caelum Vatnsdal is an award-winning writer and filmmaker, and a frequent culture commentator for CBC Radio. His book Kino Delirium: The Films of Guy Maddin (ARP 2000) won the 2001 Carol Shields City of Winnipeg Book Award.
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The Canadian tax credit film boom also contributed a number of classic films to the genre.
Despite the literally horrific content the book is often very funny. Vatnsdal appears to have coined three genres whose names are likely funnier, more interesting and more memorable than any of the films that make them up: "Maple Syrup Porn", "Ontario Gut-Munchers" and "Canadian Losers."
So of course you might well understand how delighted I was when I came across Caelum Vatnsdal's "They Came From Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema" and decided I had to have my own copy.
Having read it, can I say that it the definitive tome on Canuck exploitation films? Sadly, no.
An eccentric volume, it does offer a wide-ranging history of genre cinema up here from the silent era and old NFB safety shorts up through the sputtering attempts of the sixties and seventies through the Cronenberg controversies to the Tax Shelter era and beyond, but it is a deeply flawed book.
There are glaring omissions (much mention is made of the obscure 1976 shot-in-Vancouver Christopher Lee flick "The Keeper" but none at all of the same year's much better known West Coast-lensed aboriginal sorcery shocker "Shadow of the Hawk" starring Chief Dan George and Jan-Michael Vincent which still shows up on TV from time to time) and much claiming of films as Canadian that were actually shot in other countries ("The Pit" and Bob Clark's "Deathdream" were shot down in the States while "The Vulture" was filmed across the pond in jolly old England).Read more ›
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'They Came From Within' is also one of the alternate titles of David Cronenberg's first feature film, 'Shivers' (1975). Although this prolific writer/director/actor may be the most well-known Canuck working in the horror genre, Vatnsdal brings much-needed attention to many other (often forgotten) contributors to the Canadian horror film landscape--including Julian Roffman, George Mihalka and William Fruet. Thoroughly researched, 'They Came From Within' is written in a conversational style, rich with anecdotes and quite humorous at times. But this is also one of the faults; sometimes one has to trace back a couple of paragraphs in order to figure out which film Vatnsdal is discussing.
To my knowledge, this is the only book to date that has provided such a thorough survey of the history of Canadian horror films--and it does seem to be written for a Canadian audience, so bear that in mind. The only reason why it was not given full marks is because spoilers run rampant throughout the book; the ending is revealed for most (if not all) of the films discussed. However, because of the rarity of many of the movies, you'll have forgotten the synopsis by the time you finally hunt down a copy!
A great inclusion in my underground film library.