TIN CAN (2020) REVIEW: A Love Story In Reverse


The director of TIN CAN (Seth A. Smith) can be heard in the commentary saying that if there isn’t a chance for catastrophic failure on a project, it probably isn’t worth it. And while the film is unexpectedly tinged with real world catastrophe, the movie is far from being one.

I mean, this frame alone is worth it, so just imagine the other 2,495.

TIN CAN is Smith’s third outing as a feature film director. Here he continues the tonal balance of existential dread and hopeful longing seen in both LOWLIFE (An exploited girl helplessly addicted to a substance you absolutely will never guess) and THE CRESCENT (A mother and child coping with the loss of someone…or is it the other way round?) Love and fear constantly dancing with one another in an unsettling yet romantic landscape. In fact, Smith calls TIN CAN a love story in reverse.

Seth himself says this movie technically has a happy ending, so no need to worry, right?

TIN CAN is a story of a virus, the company trying to preserve life during the pandemic, and the relationships of the people who work there, all of which are placed under the microscope and sealed away.

Did I mention this was all conceptualized before Covid?

No. Really. I would say you can’t make this up, but they literally did.

The virus in question, “Coral”, and the film it’s contained in were all well into production just as the coronavirus began to affect the real world. So much so in fact that the theme of preservation spilled over, causing the film itself to be preserved in its own tin can come time to hit the festival scene.

Writer Darcy Spidle, Producer Nancy Urich, and Director Seth A. Smith at the screening of TIN CAN on 9/21/21, over a year after the film’s official release.

So one might think the eerie similarities in the first half of the film are a reflection of our time spent isolated from one another when in fact Cut/Off/Tail Productions should sue Covid-19 for copyright infringement.

Once you settle into the film however, you are given a wonderfully heartbreaking story about frailty, love, and the cost of being truly human, both good and bad.

The story centers around a scientist named Fret.

Played by the understated talent of Anna Hopkins to perfection, carrying a large portion of screen time on her own.

While making progress towards the cure for “Coral”, Fret loses consciousness unexpectedly, only to wake up inside the claustrophobic confines of a curious containment unit and soon discover she is surrounded by others in the same predicament.

Mondays. Am I right?

The movie itself is divided into two parts with each retaining the focus on confinement in such devilishly clever ways, I’d be a real a-hole to spoil the fun. I will however say that joining her on and off camera are Simon Mutabazi, Amy Trefry, legends Michael Ironside & Tim Dunn, and repeat offender Chik White (if that even is his real name) slowly becoming the “Doug Jones of Canada”. Seriously, it might be easier to point out the people in the movie who aren’t Chik White. Oh, and keen viewers can even find a cameo or two from some Trailer Park Boys alumni.


Given Smith’s background in music (The frontman of Dog Day), his aptitude for layering in genuine human emotion between the imagery and story (written by  returning collaborator Darcy Spidle) presented to us is off the charts. The finer details are never wasted, and each frame, each line of dialogue, each meticulously created sound seem to hold multiple meanings that give the film some serious rewatch value. Each new viewing offers something missed the time before. A name here. A prop there. The film has a genuine sense of movie magic when it comes to the wonderment of how it was made on such a limited budget. It proves again that limitations make creativity grow like mold on a test slide. Luckily for us, both a feature length commentary and a behind-the-scenes documentary are included on the Blu-ray.

Spoiler alert for this review: You should go buy it.

And having a background in music doesn’t hurt when it comes time to compose the score. The award winning music is outstanding, proving again Smith is on the same level as John Carpenter when it comes to memorable film scores from directors. (Seriously, THE CRESCENT score is massively underrated). But Smith’s most certainly not the only chef in the kitchen.

Pulling countless duties alongside him are his wife Nancy (among many things, the film’s producer and member of Dog Day herself) and Darcy Spidle (the film’s writer, jaw harpist, and alter ego of actor Chik White). In fact this trio of many hats have been working together in some sort of holy indie trinity for over a decade, raising the independent film bar.

Look at ’em. Being all talented.

When all is said to be said and done, effective horror needs to have a heart in order for it to be felt when it’s ripped out, and the cast and crew of TIN CAN have given it heart. It’s a beautiful film that you can’t look away from, even in the presence of ugly truths that are inherently a part of life. Smith, a self proclaimed fan of Cronenberg, uses the distortion of human form to reveal the real people lying underneath just trying to find meaning in something outside themselves like flowers reaching for sunlight. TIN CAN not only asks us why we are more obsessed with trying to preserve the beauty of life than observing it, it asks us if we should bother preserving it at all risk the beauty itself losing value.

While it may only be seeing a proper release almost two years later, TIN CAN is a sci-fi horror lover’s treat that has an amazing shelf life, now and into the future.

TIN CAN is available for on all major digital services, or available for purchase on Blu-Ray either through Dread Central or directly from Fundog Productions where you can also find the score alongside other musical projects, including Dog Day. I personally recommend to all you Lynch/Cronenberg fans to snag the LOWLIFE/TIN CAN bundle that includes a digital copy of the TIN CAN score as well.

Smile (2022) Review: It Follows made by committee.

I should say early doors, that it is entirely possible that this movie is the singular vision of one person and turned out exactly as writer/director Parker Finn intended. However I do feel like I have enough of an understanding of the way the giant disgusting industry works to feel relatively strongly that Paramount Pictures isn’t putting out an almost 2 hour horror movie that they’re not positive they can sell. Particularly when they’re putting money into weird viral marketing campaigns. So, with that aside, lets talk about the camel that is Smile.

Before I get into the issues I have with this one, I feel like it’s only fair to talk about what works first, and there are things that work to be sure. The concept on its (smiling) face, is genuinely creepy – and I wasn’t terrible surprised to hear that it was a short film before hand, because Lights Out worked much better in isolated scenes than in its totality and this kind of reminds me of that in that way. There are some truly unsettling and effective scene thought Smile, the majority of which were in the copious trailers, and one that doesn’t hit until the final moments of the movie. To spread that out across a relatively lackluster hour and fifty five minutes does not make for much to get excited about.

I will say though, there is a scene in the ending that absolutely bangs and if the movie had been more of that it might be one of my favourites of the year. Sadly, one good scene does not a good movie make. There are also some really great performances throughout; Sosie Bacon is great in the lead, and gives a pretty emotionally complex performance – for the most part. She reminded me a whole lot of Lili Taylor throughout, and I really appreciated that kind of off-beat performance. Caitlin Stasey is also great, albeit only briefly in the movie, and Kal Penn has a great and natural charm about him.

I imagine that the scenes that do work are the reasons the movie is seeing quite a bit of positive response, because when it works it does work. The other thing I see commented quite positively on is the thematic exploration of mental illness and trauma. Personally, I feel like the movie is getting an A for effort rather than credit for a real and meaningful exploration – how much of this is the fault of the studio or a bad script is kind of hard to tell, but it is there. The thematic exploration is also stated outright multiple times, seeming not to trust the audience with piecing it together on their own. It also creates an issue in the established rules of the world, and manages to simultaneously over and underexplain the smiling monster and there is some kind of disconnect between what the movie is trying to be about and what it is actually about.

Perhaps the biggest crime, to my mind, that this film commits comes down to the cat, Mustache. As soon as I saw that fucking cat I immediately required the movie to have a shot of that cat smiling with human teeth and really leaning into the wild premise and embracing a little absurdity. Instead, the cat is killed – as only true hack writer’s do – and used in a little fake out bit of nonsense, which I did not enjoy.

I will admit that it seems unfair to compare this movie to It Follows, but it really is the most obvious comparison the primary difference being that I quite like It Follows and found Smile a bit … tedious. A kind of funhouse version with a much less cohesive vision and made with the “assistance” of the production company and producers. Almost like seeing what Smile could have been in an alternate universe or something, rather than this pretty lackluster thing. \

A movie like this doesn’t need to be complicated, and should have a significantly more fun time with this premise. I think of something like last year’s Malignant, which runs about the same length but has a significantly more entertaining story that really leans into the goofiness of it all. There really could have been something like that here, and it does show through in more than one spot.

All in all, Smile just doesn’t quite put a smile (womp womp) on my face. I really wanted it to, but here we are.


Terrifier 2 (2022) Review: A piece of Art.

Alright, after 2016’s Terrifier left me feeling pretty lukewarm, and the press surrounding the sequel was bad and annoying, I had pretty low expectations for the crowd-funded follow up. Add to that an eye-watering run time* (* for a movie like this) – at nearly two and a half hours – and I had some… concerns. Honestly, the red flags really do abound with this one. So, did I throw up and faint and feel deeply scandalized and traumatized? Is Art a new horror icon? Is the genre too gross? Lets find out, shall we?

To answer those questions first, in order, No, maybe, and no. Lets start with the negatives, because they do exist and I think it’s worth talking about. The first problem is the run time, look, as much fun as I had watching this movie, it’s too fucking long. It absolutely doesn’t have the same issues with pacing as the first, the pace is a bit better, but it does go on too long and spends a lot of time on lore that it never really pays off. If you had excised the dream sequences you likely wouldn’t have missed out on much, for example, but I get the sense that they were an idea for a short film that just got spliced into this one. They are definitely sequences but they don’t do a huge amount in main story, or if it does it goes over my head and doesn’t actually get resolved.

The star of the show, again, is David Howard Thorton as Art the Clown. The performance is solid, if maybe a bit tired because I watched them back to back essentially. He made me laugh on more than one occasion, particularly his scenes in the Halloween store are genuinely fun and bizarre. The rest of the cast is stronger here too, Lauren LaVera is great as Sienna. Her performance is a bit uneven, but honestly she really brings it in some very challenging scenes. It is absolutely clear that everyone is game for this and that goes a long way.

The reason, of course, that everyone is talking about this movie has to come back to the practical effects – which are on a whole other level this time around. The money the crowd funding made absolutely was well spent because there are some excellent effects throughout. Nothing so dIsgUsTiNg that I felt ill or anything, but it really cranks things up. Which absolutely is what needed to happen to make this superior to the original. One in particular that comes to mind has to be one of the dead characters in the bed, who I think is part stop motion, part puppet, and part the actress and it is genuinely a great, gross gag.

Something that feels worth mentioning here is a bit of respect paid to something that Terrifier does, or rather doesn’t do. A standard, and extremely off putting, trope of schlock movies like this is sexual violence; and Terrifier doesn’t do it at all, despite being a pretty shocking and violent thing, it never crosses that line and honestly, it makes the whole affair seem more mature and I give it a whole lot of credit for that. The reliance on rape as a plot device or a means of shocking is one of my least favourite things about movies that are almost exactly like this series, and this one really shows that its a lazy fucking crutch that we don’t need to do anymore.

This is, by a pretty wide margin, a better movie that the original, and I think that is going to actually kind of make it worse for some folks. There is a story that is being, at least, attempted, and while I’m not convinced it actually comes together I will give it extreme bonus points for an absolutely wild post-mid-credit sequence that proved all of my predictions wrong and redundant.  If this upward trend continues, then I will expect some good things from the next one.

On an unrelated note, I just heard that David Howard Thorton will be donning the green furry mantel of the fucking Grinch in The Mean One, which… is going to be a weird thing that shouldn’t exist but I’m probably going to watch it anyways.

Terrifier 2, I must extremely begrudgingly say is great, and one of my favourite horror movies of 2022. Which is so annoying and I hate it. But I did love this movie. So.



Terrifier (2016) Review: More like Pennydumb…right? Does that track?

This review contains spoilers for Terrifier (2016)

Alright, well, with Terrifier 2 making headlines for making people faint and throw up and being just the most fUcKeD uP moViE of AlL tIMe – I thought it was high time that I got around to watching the first one. I remember, vaguely, Art the Clown’s arrival in the basically ok All Hallows’ Eve, but this one completely passed me by. So, how was this one? Has my life been forever changed by the most edgy fucked up movie of a generation?

The short answer is … no. Obviously not.

Running at 88 minutes, Terrifier somehow manages to feel too long, with so much meandering and cat and mouse and completely superfluous characters who take FOREVER to die. Look, I understand that this is supposed to be a dumb, gory, 80s throwback slasher and looking into the story in any meaningful way is a pointless exercise but the movie needed to push harder than it did. It doesn’t go far enough with the gore and kills to justify being quite this lazy with the story. It kind of tries to have it both ways?

So, lets talk about the reason to watch this movie, because despite it being too long, I think I actually kind of loved parts of it. The main reason to watch it is, surprising no one, Art the Clown. David Howard Thorton is genuinely good in this role, his performance is creepy and consistent and, occasionally, genuinely funny. He really commits to the role, and it works. His design is great too, the make up is really effective, with enough nooks and cranny to make it terrifying under the right lighting, and harmless under the right light. Writer/Director Damien Leone absolutely has a winner on his hands with Art, and I absolutely understand why people have responded to the character so well.

The other thing that the movie gets so much love for seems to be the practical effects, and I’m going to try to separate my feelings about the effects in this one with the effects in the sequel, so bear with me. I love practical effects and wet puppets, I don’t need realistic gore, the less real the better honestly, no one needs to know what it actually looks like when someone gets their head crushed, so lets up the gore and go way over the top. Terrifier does a pretty good job with this line, and in general the thing is effectively silly, and most of the gore gags are a lot of fun. They just get a bit few and far between and the thing really drags in the middle when it could be smashing.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the movie is genuinely funny, and makes a couple of jokes that were extremely smart and showed a real love for the genre. Which kind of makes the script being just so-so all the more disappointing, because the moments where it really works are so good. There are two moments in particular that I want to highlight and give credit for, the first is the first time Art just uses a gun. The moment is so well set up and got a genuine laugh out of me. It’s absolutely a question we’ve all asked “Why don’t they just use a gun?” – and it really hits right. The other comes closer to the end, when a character inexplicably goes back into the scary building even though there are vehicles outside, and then Art drives the truck back into the building and into the character. There are more moments that are funny, but truly those two are exceptionally funny.

It’s clear that I have complicated feelings about this one. I had fun, sometimes, and was bored more often than it was fun, unfortunately. The pacing isn’t great, and the characters make absolutely irredeemably bad decisions (WHY DID YOU GO BACK IN THE BUILDING???), but Art really does hold the whole thing together and it really does work. I wasn’t repulsed or offended, and I was kind of hoping for a bit more edge. It kind of ends up being a just-ok slasher flick that never quite takes the joke as far as it should and it suffers for that.