The Quiet Revolution: State, Society and the Canadian Horror Film

01/14/2021 06:34

Film: The Quiet Revolution: State, Society and the Canadian Horror Film

Year: 2019

Director: Phillip Escott and Xavier Mendik

Writer: Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik

Starring: Pierre David, Gregory Dunning and Mark Irwin



When I saw that this was being shown as part of the Nightmares Film Festival, I was stoked. I’m a sucker for documentaries in general. If you can tie in the history of the film industry, especially with a focus on horror and its impact, you’ve got me even more. Seeing this was about Canada, I was really intrigued as I did know some of the history already. The synopsis here is an in-depth look at the making of the Canadian horror genre in the 1970s.

Where I really need to start with my thoughts on the documentary is at the beginning of the documentary itself. We are mostly listening to some individuals who either lived first hand a lot of what is happening here, or in the case of Gregory Dunning, his father lived in. The background of what was happening in Canada was interesting to see how they’re connected.

I didn’t realize that Canada during the 1970s was still technically part of the United Kingdom and wasn’t until the 1980’s it fully gained independence. There was a lot of civil unrest in Quebec due to the fact that there were a lot of French speaking people. The rest of the country that was English speaking, there were a lot of issues which arose from this. Quebec really seems to have its own identity. It was due to this, that the company of Cinepix started.

This is part of the documentary I didn’t realize. Cinepix was a company that was at first taking European films, cutting them if need be to show in Canada. During this though, they had inspiration to produce their own films. Something I was telling Jaime is that for many countries, the United States dominates their box office when it comes to showing movies. Cinepix was a Canadian based company and knew what its people wanted. They wanted to make movies for their citizens. Where they started was with sexploitation films. It appeared this caused outrage, but it allowed them to move into their next venture, the horror film.

During the month of October, I needed to watch some body horror films for a challenge, so I finally sought out a David Cronenberg film I had never seen in Shivers. I read up on the outrage of what happened here and especially since the film industry received funding from the government. It was interesting to see this documentary talk about giving Cronenberg a chance and the backlash that then came from that decision. Regardless of this, they still allowed him to do his own thing and help him make more movies. This helped spark what would come next in Canadian film history, the tax shelter.

Being that I’m from Michigan originally and growing up as close as I did to Canada as well as being a film buff even from a fairly young age, I knew that many movies would get made up there. What I didn’t realize though was the ins and outs of this tax shelter concept. This documentary does a great job explaining what it was, why it was great for the film industry, but though also the backlash of it and why it failed. It is really interesting as I’ve heard a lot of my favorite filmmakers saying how difficult it was to find funding. When Canada was offering this, it makes sense as to doctors, bankers and lawyers would give the funding over like they did so movies would get made. It does seem though, without this, we wouldn’t get such films as The Brood or Death Weekend.

The movie then starts to shift into more of the present day where we hear from people like the Soska Sisters, Gigi Saul Guerrero and some of the other producers/directors from a more modern age of Canadian horror scene. What I like though is we learn about their works in the context of them paying homage to those that came before them to pave the way. It is also hearing these experts on film analysis also break down the works from the 1970s until the present as well.

If I did have a gripe with the movie, I do feel that we really aren’t delving into some of the negative enough. We hear about how great all of these films are that they’re bringing up, but not all of them are masterpieces. I really say this more with some of the more modern films. I get they don’t want to fully critique them on a documentary like this. That is not the purpose, but some of the movies they’re going over aren’t as good as the critics are making them out to be.

That’s all I really wanted to delve into breaking down this documentary. The more interesting aspect for me is the history of the film industry in Canada and how important the horror genre was there. I would really recommend this if you are like me, where learning the past of the genre is something that sparks your interest. There are some quite knowledge people we get to hear from. It is interesting to see the correlation of where things start to where they are now in this first part of the documentary. Quite informative, love the clips they show from the movies they’re referring to and hearing the stories really pulled me in. I would have to rate this as a good documentary and would recommend it for sure.


My Rating: 8 out of 10