With independent cinemas forced to close in the face of switching to digital projectors, the venues for genre and alternative theatrical releases were beginning to get pretty darn thin. Thankfully, the fine folks at Cineplex Entertainment’s Front Row Centre Events and Raven Banner Entertainment are kicking off the Sinister Cinema series this week and are bringing the art-house/genre experience to the multiplex.
As part of Sinister Cinema, 25 Cineplex theaters across Canada will be treated to a series of some of the best independent horror films on the market today. These screenings won’t just be about the movie itself, but the experience. Each screening will feature added content, too, such as special appearances, live Q&A sessions with filmmakers along with pre-recorded interviews, and so much more. Simply a great series, particularly for horror fans who don’t necessarily live in a bigger city and get to experience films like this on the big screen or during a festival type experience.
The series kicks off with a bang with Don Coscarelli’s John Dies at the End, which is about a silent, but deadly invasion from another dimension as a mysterious drug only known as “Soy Sauce” grabs a hold of the population promising some out of body experience. The effects are more than anyone imagined as a lot of people change into something not quite human.
John Dies at the End kicked off its run in the world as part of last year’s Midnight Madness programme at the Toronto International Film Festival, and while it had a short run south of the border, this is the only theatrical screening that will have been in Toronto (and maybe even Canada) since TIFF.
In town to help promote the event and the upcoming DVD/Blu-ray release on April 2, I got the chance to talk to Don Coscarelli about the launch of Sinister Cinema, his experiences during TIFF, and the interesting time period we are heading into for theatrical exhibitors and the chance for some indie horror to reach a broader audience.
This is your first time back to Toronto for John Dies at the End since TIFF right?
Yes, we got to play at Midnight Madness this past year and what a glorious event that truly was. This year was just great and I actually came in a few days early since I thought I had press to do, which actually wasn’t there, but on the plus side I got to see all these great movies at Midnight Madness. I’d be there every night and Colin (Geddes), the programmer, is such a good guy and treated me so well. I got to see another film playing later on in the Sinister Cinema series called No One Lives, the Ryuhei Kitamura film, which is great. I saw Lords of Salem, where Rob Zombie did a great job and I thought Sheri Moon was excellent in it. I also got to see Aftershock, the Eli Roth film, and that was just such great earthquake mayhem and a lot of fun.
I don’t want to call you an ‘indie’ filmmaker since that term has just been done to death, but you don’t really work inside the studio system and your films don’t always get a real theatrical run.
That is all very true.
With so many of the smaller theaters and rep houses having to close because of the switch to digital projectors, is it encouraging for you as a filmmaker to see a large chain like Cineplex launch this series?
It seems really fantastic. The fact that they are embracing and taking it across the country in 25 different theatres is great. It’s a really interesting time that we are living in because I remember that even when we were making John Dies at the End we were preparing that we need to be going to 35mm film prints and then about half-way through post production the digital conversion for exhibitors had happened so quickly that there really just wasn’t any point. Times are changing, but we are rolling with them and trying something different, which is really kind of cool because it’s going to be out in a lot of theaters, but then within the week it will be available on DVD, Blu-ray, and on demand. We had a similar situation in the U.S. with the VOD running concurrent to the theatrical. I think what is most important for me at least, especially having gone through some difficult times myself, is that “back in the day” there was a term that was used — “Direct to DVD”, or worse, “Direct to Video”, and if you had one of those you were just considered a pariah and nobody wanted you. Nowadays the way the different outlets are all being worked concurrently it’s actually a pretty cool thing.
John Dies at the End screens Wednesday, March 27 at select Cineplex theatres. For more info on it and other films in the Sinister Cinema series, visit cineplex.com.