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They Came From Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema [Paperback]

Caelum Vatnsdal
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 15 2004
No horror film is truly mainstream, David Cronenberg has said, and it is for this reason that even the lowliest of them may be worth consideration. In They Came From Within, Caelum Vatnsdal adjusts the focus in Canadian horror films, and unwinds the history of this neglected genre to learn "why we fear what we fear and how it came to be that way." From the early Canadian infiltration of Hollywood in the thirties, to the flowering of Canuck horror films in the sixties and seventies, to the surreal products of the "tax-shelter" eighties and beyond, Vatnsdal shows how the Canadian horror film industry has, unwittingly or not, created a complex social, economic, and political portrait of a nation. Engagingly written, extensively researched, and lavishly illustrated with rare stills and poster art, They Came From Within is an invaluable addition of Canadian film criticism.

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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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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than most of the movies it talks about Feb. 22 2013
Vatnsdal's book is a fascinating look at an oft-reviled genre - horror- that has kickstarted many careers, including those of Ivan Reitman and David Cronenberg and Bob Clark.

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."
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The horror, the horror... July 28 2012
By J.T.
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I've always been a big fan of Canadian genre film-making ever since I was a kid, way back in those dim and distant days of the seventies when, as hard as it may be to believe in this all but ubiquitous era of Hollywood North, the trade magazine Cinema Canada was so desperate for news that they actually ran a story when William Shatner showed up at a friend's kid's birthday party and someone brought out their Super 8 home movie camera.
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).
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful addition to any horror movie collection Sept. 18 2005
By Charles Avinger - Published on Amazon.com
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This book thoughtfully examines an often overlooked area of horror movies: Canadian horror. The author covers not only the most well-known horror films to come out of Canada (Black Christmas, the works of David Cronenberg), but also the most minor efforts (even Rituals is discussed). The book is quite easy to read but very substantial in content; I have recommended that my college library purchase a copy. I recommend it highly for anyone interested in international horror cinema.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy addition to any horror fan's library July 28 2013
By Brad Middleton - Published on Amazon.com
"Canada may one day be counted as one of the great horror-film producing countries or it may not, but after forty-five years of malevolent masks, cannibals, creatures, ghosts, diabolists, maniacs and mutations, it cannot be denied that the country has a genuine horror movie history." So states author Caelum Vatnsdal in the closing comments of 'They Came From Within', which is an excellent overview of Canadian horror films from the 1960s-early 2000s.

'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!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you love horror movies this book is for you... Oct. 9 2008
By Barry J. Gillis - Published on Amazon.com
I just wanted to say that this is a great book, and well written and researched. It covers everything from the lowest budget Canadian horror movies to the biggest budget Canadian horror movies. You'll find everything in this book. This book is a MUST HAVE book if you like horror movies, or if you are interested in Canadian feature films in general. If you're thinking about buying this book, STOP THINKING, lol, and buy it!!!! It's worth every penney, and he even declares our movie THINGS the "worst Canadian horror film ever made, with an extensive two page review of THINGS (1989)", A MUST HAVE BOOK FOR ANY SERIOUS FAN OF HORROR MOVIES...
4.0 out of 5 stars Canuck cwality Feb. 6 2014
By Orville Dunworth - Published on Amazon.com
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This is a great read for those like me who have become smitten by the strange and unique style of Canadian film, especially of the exploitation variety. Very well written with Northern Frog insights that further expand the understanding of how and why these strange people north of Wisconsin do what they do.

A great inclusion in my underground film library.
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