Horror Favourites – Chris Vander Kaay

‘Spoiler Alert! The Badass Book of Movie Plots’ is penned by a collective of movie-obsessed critics, authors and writers, and takes a fun and wry look at the way movies are plotted, designed, styled and made. We were lucky enough to have one of its authors Chris Vander Kaay to celebrate the release of the book.

Out now and review by use right HERE ‘Spolier Alert!’by Steven Espinoza, Kathleen Killian Fernandez and Chris Vander Kaay lets you celebrate Hollywood film-making in all its formulaic and predictable glory. The book takes 38 mainstream movie genres, from ‘Teen Sex Comedy’ and ‘Buddy Action Comedy’ to ‘Film Noir Detective Thriller’ and ‘Alien Invasion Thriller’, and through detailed illustrations reveals what makes them so hilariously recognizable – the plots, the key lines of dialogue, the essential visuals, the crucial characters and even the indispensable props!

Compiled by movie lovers, for movie lovers: every major popular film genre and sub-genre is covered including horror and below Chris Vander Kaay tells us all about his favourite horror film:

“I have three favourite films of all time, and two of them just so happen to be related to horror, so I will begin by cheating and quickly mentioning my runner-up because it is only tangentially a horror film. It is actually a documentary about a horror filmmaker, and it is called American Movie.

A fly-on-the-wall doc from the late 1990s that chronicles the attempt of a struggling Midwestern filmmaker to complete a short horror film called Coven, the film is as funny, real, and heartbreaking as anything I’ve ever watched. I quote it constantly and find it strangely inspiring.

But onto the legitimate winner, and the reason for me choosing it.

I judge the value of my favourite films on three points: originality, theme, and use of budget. If a film scores high in two categories, I like it. If it does really well in all three, it is in contention for my favorite. Originality is obvious; for theme, I’m referring to how the movie uses its horror trappings to say something bigger and more substantial. The third category is the great equalizer, because it evens the odds for the smaller films— a huge budget can make a movie look better and more polished, but it might not be utilizing its budget as creatively and effectively as a much smaller movie.

Using these three categories, I am proud (and sometimes surprised) to say that my favourite horror film is a $1.5 million Canadian zombie film called Pontypool.

Directed by Bruce McDonald and written by Tony Burgess based on his own novel, Pontypool tells the story of shock jock Grant Mazzy, his flailing career leaving him the sole host on a low-rent local station that operates out of a church basement in tiny Canadian town Pontypool. A seemingly ordinary day of broadcasting turns into a bizarre nightmare when reports of mobs, chants, and killings start pouring into the station.

The originality of the film is hard to discuss without giving away the big reveal of the movie (which I wouldn’t dare do in the hopes of sending throngs of readers out to buy a copy and discover what it is), but suffice it to say that the origin of the zombie outbreak is as bizarre as it is unique. A game cast (led by the BRILLIANT Stephen McHattie with weathered good looks and sandpaper voice) convinces us for ninety minutes that this could be possible, and we laugh with incredulity at the fact that we’ve bought in.

The theme is shockingly prescient, a film that dissects the way media manipulates, alters, and controls us in ways that didn’t become apparent in mainstream media coverage until almost a decade after this film’s 2008 release. What looked like fun, quaint paranoia in the late 2000s now has the frightening veneer of reality, and the movie becomes more profound with every passing moment.

And finally, the use of budget. This movie may have only cost $1.5 million, but McDonald and Burgess wring every bit of production value out of their limited cast and location. The cinematography by Miroslaw Baszak is gorgeous, and the movie lives and dies by its immersive soundscape. It’s a hilarious and absurdist chamber piece and a nightmare vision of a global pandemic of zombies created by… but that would be telling.

It’s a travesty that more people don’t know about this delightful, eccentric film, and given that a sequel may well be on the way that re-teams McDonald and Burgess, now is the perfect time for you to hunt down a copy and join me in appreciation of the audacity of this fantastic and idiosyncratic gem.”

Chris Vander Kaay’s new book, Spoiler Alert! The Badass Book of Movie Plots, co-authored by Kathleen Killian Fernandez and Steven Espinoza, is released on the 23 March 2020 (Laurence King Publishing, RRP £17.99). Available at all good bookshops and at laurenceking.com. Read our feature on the book HERE

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