(On Cable TV, February 2019) One of the perks of being Canadian is a glut of nationally produced content on Cable TV channels. OK, that’s not quite a perk considering the somewhat variable quality of Canadian productions, but at least it gives our media landscape something slightly different from south-of-the-border cinephiles. Anyone with a camera, a pickup, ominous news stock footage and a desolate landscape (plentiful up north) can make a postapocalyptic film and have it qualify for CanCon regulations. I was probably expecting a bit too much from SuperGrid considering that it shares many filmmakers (including director Lowell Dean) with the surprisingly enjoyable Wolfcop movies. Unfortunately, the result far too often hews closely to the clichés of the genre. It’s not bad, but it certainly feels dull most of the time: the idea of environmental collapse, post-apocalyptic road movie through a forbidden zone to find a cure (à la Desolation Alley) all blend into a beige morass of deja vu even when we want to be indulgent about a Canadian Prairie Science Fiction film. This is an age of cheap CGI, so the film’s few successes in that area don’t leave much of a distinction. To be fair, SuperGrid does improve in its second half: When doing familiar material, the best way to distinguish oneself in through small detail and atmosphere, and so when the film does make it to its destination, the highlight on indigenous characters is worth a cheer, although by that time the film’s bleak and humourless approach is likely to have ground down any sharp emotional reactions. Even the more ambitious action set pieces are the very end of the film feel like too little too late, wrapped in too many clichés to be effective. Despite approaching SuperGrid with the most indulgent attitude, I’m left once again disappointed at the homegrown result.
(On Cable TV, December 2018) The first Wolfcop was a welcome slide of crazy Canadian low-budget moviemaking, and I’m happy to report that sequel Another Wolfcop offers more of the same. Much more of the same, in fact, as the mythology is extended to include several fantastic devices beyond the titular Wolfcop. There’s an inspired bit of lunacy in writer/director Lowell Dean’s work here, as he uses the small-town hockey-loving setting to its fullest advantage and just lets his cast and crew have fun. It’s not perfect, but its flaws are often reflections of its nature—I’d like the result to be considerably less gross or gory, for instance, but wouldn’t that betray the low-down grindhouse feeling that the film is trying to ape? Clearly designed to appeal specifically to horror-comedy fans, Another Wolfcop certainly delivers. Leo Fafard is once again just right as the titular Wolfcop, with generally fine performances from other actors. Never mind the low budget, Kevin Smith cameo or incoherent world-building—the point of such a movie is seeing some demented red-syrup ice-rink action, and we get that in spades.
(On Cable TV, November 2014) Experience has taught me to expect the worst from Canadian horror movies, but I keep coming back because of films like WolfCop. Put together on a shoestring million-dollar budget in slushy Saskatchewan, WolfCop has one undeniable advantage: it’s fully aware of what it’s trying to do, and it’s refreshingly old-school in the techniques it uses to get there. Seemingly escaped from the era of VHS tapes à la Hobo with a Shotgun, (it even has a self-titled song during the end credit) WolfCop is never embarrassed about its policeman-turned-werewolf premise and ladles on the consequent puns. (A lot of low-budget films try to indulge in their own insanity, but only WolfCop dares include a Red Riding Hood sex scene.) The script offers a bit of substance and wit –I particularly liked the stipulation that “the victim” ought to be the village idiot. There is perhaps too much gratuitous gore, just enough female nudity, definitely too much gratuitous male nudity (including graphic parts of a werewolf transformation that no one should ever see) and an overall feeling of unassuming fun from it all. Leo Fafard is pretty good as the titular WolfCop named “Lou Garou” (bilingual bonus!) The script could have shortened the setup in favour of more fun-and-games starring the WolfCop, but writer/director Lowell Dean definitely knows what he’s trying to do here. While the result isn’t worth shouting about as a modern classic, WolfCop is the kind of film worth watching with a group of B-movie fans, and one that gives a better reputation to Canadian low-budget horror filmmaking. A sequel is reportedly in the works, and I’m looking forward to it.