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culture

Blood in the Snow, Here in Toronto

A new film festival at the Projection Booth East showcases Canadian horror filmmakers.

A still from Blood for Irina, which closes The Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival on Sunday at 7 p.m.

The Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival
Projection Booth East Cinema (1035 Gerrard Street East)
November 30 to December 2
$10 in advance, $12 at the door

Red and white is the most Canadian of colour combinations. And no, we’re not referring to our national flag; we’re talking about blood in the snow.

The first annual Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival starts this Friday at the Projection Booth East Cinema. Instead of the holiday cheer that typically fills the first weekend of December, the fest will feature bone-chilling, gut-bursting horror.

According to Blood in the Snow director Kelly Michael Stewart, it’s about time Toronto had a film festival—out of the dozens held here each year—dedicated purely to Canadian horror. As a writer for Fangoria and curator of the Projection Booth’s Fright Nights series, he has discovered a wealth of homegrown horror films that were escaping the notice of Canadian audiences.

“These are films that were getting into festivals all around the world, but couldn’t find a home in the festival circuit here in Canada,” he said. Blood in the Snow’s offerings come from all across Canada, though the majority are from southern Ontario.

To Stewart, rep cinemas, smaller festivals, and specialized film publications have shown Canadian horror filmmakers that it can be done on home turf, just as easily as in New York or Los Angeles. Canadian horror success stories—like American Mary, Hobo With a Shotun, and Pontypool—have also been helpful, as have big horror festivals and programmes, like Toronto After Dark and Midnight Madness at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Chris Alexander, editor of Fangoria and director of Blood for Irina, which closes the festival on Sunday, thinks indie horror is enjoying a resurgence here. “Dating back to Cronenberg, we’ve always had a vital exploitation cult film identity,” he said. “But suddenly in the underground, the independent spirit is alive and well in Canada. And I think a lot of that comes from the presence of American horror movies here. All the Saw movies were shot here. George Romero—the guy who invented the term ‘splatter movie’ with Dawn of the Dead—lives on The Esplanade for Christ’s sake. Rue Morgue magazine is the Canadian answer to Fangoria, and they’re homegrown. I run Fangoria magazine, which is a New York magazine, out of my home office in Oakville. It’s a really weird scene.”

Not that every movie needs to be constantly playing the national anthem in the background. Actually, Stewart likes the fact that there are no qualities that make any of the Blood in the Snow offerings distinctly Canadian. What’s important is for the genre to get the attention it deserves, and for the movies to be seen in their native land.

“Your movie’s home, you’re home. There’s an extra sense of pride,” said Alexander. “My movie has played all over the place, but this is especially exciting for me because I get to bring my mom.”

“I think we’ve really hit a nerve here,” said Stewart. “From the buzz we’ve got so far, I don’t see why we wouldn’t have it again next year.”

It looks like Torontonians may be dreaming of a red Christmas from now on.

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