Canuxploitation!

Canuxploitation!

By Paul Corupe

If you’ve ever caught a late night TV movie, you’ve probably seen some startling images. Young women happily eating the flesh of a man as he screams in pain, or maybe a demented hillbilly tracking down a girl caught in a bear trap. Disturbing? Definitely. But you may be even more shocked to find out that these films were made not in some sleazy Hollywood backlot, but right here in Canada — in your very own backyard!

Although staid Canadian critics prefer to dismiss Canada’s rich history of b-movies and cult films, to ignore them is to ignore a unique and fascinating alternative history of Canadian and North American cinema. Canada has a rich heritage of forgotten “trash” and low budget gems. Together they present us with a film legacy entirely different from our traditional understanding of Canadian movies as either soporific art films or happy stories about families from the Prairies overcoming adversity. It is this seedy underbelly of Canadian movies that is the phenomenon known as “Canuxploitation”.

Canadian b-movies are distinctive. Although canuxploitation films owe a debt to the low-brow tastes of Hollywood trash, our films tend to be more story focused, and not as special-effects laden as their American counterparts. Because of their widespread and speedy distribution, many Hollywood b-movies of the past have been quickly produced to capitalize on a particular trend – beach party movies, biker flicks, and even women-in-prison films. Canadian b-film makers, in contrast, were subject only to their own feverish imaginations – they made films for passion, not profit. This makes Canadian films more varied in topic, because our film makers could concentrate on films they wanted to do instead of quickly churning out drive-in fodder for their studios. Some obvious influences do creep in, like the early Lorne Greene voice-over documentaries of the National Film Board, and subtle British style humour, but the general atmosphere of canuxploitation is one of total creative control, independent voices howling into the creative shriek that marked the arrival of the b-movie in the late fifties.

Despite the fact that canuxploitation films were – and are – primarily autonomous indie productions, there is one authority they all tried to answer to: the Canadian audience. Our reputation as a polite and straight-laced people is quite apparent in Canadian thrillers and horror movies, which rely more on character and atmosphere than gross-out special effects. When there are gruesome scenes, deceptive camera angles and quick cutting make you believe you are seeing more than you really are, a throwback to the days of Hitchcock. All of this infuses canuxploitation with an earnest tone bent on gaining your approval. It is this unique mixture of a personal vision (however misaligned) with enthusiastic charm that earmarks a canuxploitation production. Canadian film makers want to create a cultural medium for us that combats the stereotype of bland Canadian entertainment. At the same time, they struggle to appeal to the infamously neutral Canadian audience. It is in the creative resolution – the struggle between explosive exploitation and ponderous sensible film-making – that characterizes your classic work of Canuxploitation!

Canada Screams in 3-D!
Canada’s first “exploitation” movie was the silent feature Back To God’s Country. A tale of blackmail and murder made in 1919 by Ernest Shipman, the film gained notoriety because Shipman’s wife Nell appeared naked in one scene. While Canada’s film industry started with shysters like Shipman making films on shoestring budgets for profit, the failure of Carry On Sergeant (1928), an expensive dud about an adulterous Canadian soldier, left others wary of that model. To make matters worse, the National Film Board (NFB) was formed in 1939 with a mandate to create not feature films, but shorts and documentaries to fill out the bills at movie houses, and for broadcast on the CBC. Since the government was offering grants to film makers for these shorts, it was a while before anyone thought about using their own money to make any feature films again.

Nevertheless, by the late 1950’s, features started a comeback and independently produced canuxploitation efforts began to appear. With 1958 came the juvenile delinquency epic A Dangerous Age, about a girl escaping from boarding school to be with her boyfriend.

Shortly after, Julian Roffman, a director who had previously made military training films for the NFB managed to make two self-produced feature films: The Bloody Brood (1959) and The Mask (1961). The Bloody Brood was the quickly forgotten story of beatniks and crime and starred Peter Falk in his very first role. But The Mask slowly gained a reputation as one of the strangest and best Canuxploitation movies ever made.

An oddity in several ways, The Mask was filmed in 3-D even though the trend had died out in Hollywood 5 or 6 years earlier. In the theaters, movie patrons were actually given a cardboard “mask” with built in 3D glasses that they were instructed to wear whenever they heard a character say: “Put the mask on now!” (The actual mask – which looks like it was made of paper mache – can be viewed in a glass case in Toronto’s Canadian film reference library.)

The Mask concerns a psychiatrist, Dr. Allan Barnes, who receives an ancient Indian ritual mask from a patient who had just recently committed suicide. In an accompanying letter, the man explains how he was driven mad by the mask. A cataloger at the museum, the man became intrigued about the mask’s curse, which states that the wearer is put into a trance and commits “cruel and unnatural acts”. The patient posthumously dares Dr Barnes to try it, and we hear the echoing voice, “Put the mask on now!”

When Barnes puts on the mask he enters a 3-D dreamworld, designed to fully exploit the 3D process. There are all kinds of skulls, flying eyeballs and fireballs emerging from the screen. These sequences (there are three) are the most enjoyable part of the film. It isn’t long before Dr Barnes also becomes obsessed by the mask’s powers.

Although this was Roffman’s last directorial effort, he went on to produce a few Canadian movies in the 1970’s, most notably, The Hooker Cult Murders (1973). The Mask is definitely darker than American films of its time, and could almost be considered a film-noir with its haunting musical score and shadowy atmosphere. Shot in a studio in Toronto, The Mask is not only a predecessor to the Canuxploitation of today, it is also Canada’s only 3-D movie. Along with The Playgirl Killer (1966), a story of an artist who has an interesting method of attaining models for his work, The Mask is distinguished as one of the earliest Canadian horror films, despite David Cronenberg’s long-standing claim to being this country’s first horror film director.

The 70’s: Down the Road with Canuxploitation!
It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that Canadian film truly began to take shape and Canuxploitation could come into its own. In 1967, the Government devised the Canadian Film Development Corporation (CDFC), a crown organization whose purpose was to create an internationally recognized feature film industry in Canada. At the forefront of this new movement in Canadian features were two films: Claude Jutra’s Mon Oncle Antoine (1969), and Donald Shebib’s Goin’ Down The Road(1970). Although both films are government funded and fiercely Canadian, they represent a split in sensibilities.

Claude Jutra was part of the Quebec film maker scene centered around the National Film Board’s Montreal office. Together, the group was trying to create a distinctly Canadian feature film but ironically, they looked to European directors like Cocteau for influence. Jutra had been working for the NFB for several years when he madeMon Oncle Antoine, which was one of the few feature dramas ever funded by the board. Jutra’s film was praised by critics outside of Montreal for it’s artistic yet sentimental depiction of a child’s exploration of death.

On the other side of the coin is Goin’ Down The Road, which should be seen as a low budget b-movie alternative to the emerging pretentious film culture of the 1970’s. Donald Shebib started his career as an uncredited associate editor on two films for American International Pictures, the b-film studio that is most often associated with schlockmeister Roger Corman. He worked on Corman’s The Terror(1963) and Francis Ford Coppola’s first directorial effort , Dementia 13 (1963). Like Jutra, Shebib made several shorts for the NFB like Surfin’ (1964) and a documentary called Satan’s Choice (1965) about a Hell’s Angels chapter in Toronto. Soon, Shebib started making a documentary titled The Maritimers, about the economic problems of East coast residents. With no guaranteed distribution, Shebib combined the usual $19,000 loan from the CDFC with some of his own savings, and decided to turn the film into a narrative.

Goin’ Down The Road stars Doug McGrath as Pete and Paul Bradley as Joey, two uneducated blue collar dreamers from Nova Scotia who load up their rusted-out car (with”My Nova Scotia Home” painted on the side) and head out to Toronto looking for jobs. But things don’t turn out as well as they had hoped. Pete and Joey get fired from their dead end jobs, struggle with girlfriends and even turn to crime by the end of the film. Facing extreme poverty, Joey and Pete have to decide whether to stay, or leave the big city.

While Shebib’s association with Roger Corman and his interest in popular culture may not have directly influenced the sociological premise behind Goin’ Down The Road, it certainly had an effect on Shebib’s unflinchingly realistic film style. The director does justice to his corny plot – rural rubes get swallowed up by the evil big city – by staying true to the visual grit of his unpretentious story. Instead of of peppering his film with the kind of forced artistic elements we find in Mon Oncle Antoine, the movie clings to a do-it-yourself feel that is more akin to The Mask than it is to even the similarly themed Hollywood production, Midnight Cowboy (1969). Unfortunately, this b-movie classic which walks the line between glamour and gore, cliche and convention, continues to be plauged by distribution problems. Though you may occasionally catch it on TV, Shebib’s film is tragically unavailable on videocassette – despite a recent short-lived re-release in theatres.

While there were relatively few canuxploitation movies before Goin’ Down The Road, Shebib’s film made the gritty, low-budget b-movie style acceptable to the fickle Canadian public. The result was an explosion of b-movies in the early 70’s. One of the most interesting was directed by Ivan Reitman, who would later hit it big in Hollywood with movies like Stripes (1981) and Ghostbusters (1984). His first major film, however, was a 1973 canuxploitation feature called Cannibal Girls.

Cannibal Girls!
In some ways, Cannibal Girls is completely unremarkable; standard horror trash with a typical mix of nudity and gore. However, Cannibal Girls is also a very distinct and important canuxploitation film. It features future SCTV player Andrea Martin as Gloria and a young but still nerdy Eugene Levy making his screen debut as Cliff. The film takes place in Farnhamville, a small Canadian town which Cliff and his new girlfriend Gloria pass through. Their car breaks down in the snow, and they take a room at the local motel until it can be fixed. There, the motel proprietor tells them about the town’s ugly secret – there is a house in town where three young girls lived. These girls used to pick up out-of-town men, kill them and take them home to eat them! Although the young couple is shocked by the story, they are told that the house has since been turned into a popular restaurant. Cliff and Gloria go to their hotel room to have a nap, and decide to go to the ex-cannibal eatery for dinner.

At the restaurant, they are welcomed and seated by Reverend Alex St. John, a strange bearded figure in a top hat. After dinner, which is served by three familiar looking girls, the Reverend convinces Gloria and Cliff to stay at the house until morning. Later, in the middle of the night, Cliff awakes to find himself chained to the bedposts, surrounded by the Reverend and the three girls. Worse, a hypnotized Gloria is holding a knife to his throat! Luckily, Gloria manages to escape the Reverend’s powers and flee the house. She finally reaches a Doctor’s house where she falls asleep crying. When she awakens, Gloria is relieved to find herself back in her motel bed, with Cliff. It has all been a bad dream. Or has it? Cliff wants to visit the restaurant!

If there is such as thing as “breaking into” the American bmovie market, then this was the only Canadian film to accomplish this — Reitman sold the movie to Roger Corman and American International Pictures. A little unsure of what to do with the offbeat film, the studio added a promotional ploy, a warning buzzer. When something gruesome was going to happen, the buzzer would go off, and squeamish members of the audience would know to close their eyes. Then a doorbell sound was heard, indicating the scene was over. Does this gimmick sound like it was ripped off from a William Castle movie? Actually it was stolen from a TVpilot calledChamber of Horrors (1966) which was released theatrically. In that film, a “horror horn” was sounded before any scary scenes. It apparently worked, because Cannibal Girls went on to be a big hit in the US on the drivein circuit.

Cannibal Girls is fun to watch because of its unabashedly Canadian roots. Cliff’s car has a University of Toronto sticker on it, and Gloria even tries to call her parents in Toronto. Although Farnhamville is a fictional town it looks like many small, snowy Canadian towns (the movie was actually filmed in the then sleepy town Richmond Hill, Ontario – now a Toronto suburb). Cannibal Girls is essential viewing for Canuxploitation fans- an extremely low budget picture, with a story torn right from the pages of a Tales From the Crypt horror comic book. And yet, in classic Canuxploitation style, the film never crosses the line into full-scale bad taste, relying more on what you think you saw than what the camera actually shows you.

The Trash Era!
But the history of comparatively subtle trash film making in Canada was just beginning. No strangers to trashy cinema themselves, the Florida team of Bob Clark and Alan Ormsby made a strange horror film called Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things in 1972. Later that year, they both came up to Canada where they collaborated on Deathdream, a celebrated Canadian zombie film which was the first professional job for famous make-up artist Tom Savini (Dawn of the DeadFriday the 13th). After Deathdream, Clark helped produce Alan Ormsby’s next groundbreaking project, a Canuxploitation pinnacle that goes by the nameDeranged.

The 1957 murderous rampage of Ed Gein has been the subject of many films, including Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Add Ormsby’s Deranged to that list, a film which unlike the others, is a docudrama of Gein’s reallife exploits. It even has a “names were changed to protect the innocent” disclaimer at the beginning, as it proceeds to describe Gein’s tastes for murder, grave robbing, cannibalism and necrophilia.

In the 1974 Deranged, Gein is Ezra Cobb, played as a slow yet honest backwoods cracker by Roberts Blossom. When she was alive, Ezra’s domineering mother was such an influence on him that even in death he is unable to let go of her. One night he decides to “bring mother home”, and digs up her rotting corpse. In an effort to preserve her, Ezra learns taxidermy and embalming, but eventually discovers the best way to repair his mother is to dig up the remains of the freshly dead and skin them to create patches and masks for her. Then the illusion of his real mother is complete, and he even starts to berate himself in his mother’s voice, just as inPsycho.

Ezra decides to heed his domineering mother’s earlier advice that all women are evil, and starts ridding the Earth of such “perpetrators of disease”. He first does away with one of his mother’s friends, a lonely widow named Maureen. Then, while down at Goldie’s, the local bar, he becomes obsessed with an aging waitress named Mary, and decides to add her to his collection. He manages to get her back to his farm house, where she stumbles on the bodies of those Ezra has been digging up. Next, Ezra turns his sights on Sally, a young teen who works at the town hardware store. One day Ezra goes in the store to buy some antifreeze, but leaves with Sally’s limp body. Only Sally isn’t dead…yet.

This lowbudget crime film has some incredible scenes thanks to effects expert Tom Savini, making it an important addition to any Canuxploitation film library. The steady camera work is very similar to Goin’ Down the Road, and a narrator often appears, giving the film the familiar over-dubbed Can-documentary style. If that isn’t Canadian enough for you, they even play Stompin’ Tom Connors songs on the juke-box at the seedy local watering hole Goldie’s! In the manner of Cannibal Girls,Deranged plays down the gore – it’s much less graphic than American films like the similar The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Instead, Cannibal Girls and Deranged rely more on atmosphere and creepiness to conjure up the impossible horrors lurking behind the facade of normalcy we come to expect in the b-movie oeuvre.

But producer Bob Clark must have been repulsed by Deranged, since he actually had his name removed from the credits. No wonder. Clark was moving on to bigger and better things! In the same year, Clark directed Black Christmas, Canada’s first slasher movie which set the pace for future teen slaughter sagas like Prom Night (1980) and Happy Birthday to Me (1981) – starring Little House on the Prairie‘s Melissa Sue Ex-YTV personality Ron Oliver later picked up on the first film to make two terrible Prom Night sequels, even directing the third.

The Tax Shelter Years: Crime Wave
After he made his opus Black Christmas, Bob Clark became one of the most prominent directors working in Canada with hit Canadian films like Porky’s (1981) and A Christmas Story (1983). Due to newly established tax shelters, many USA/Canadian joint film productions of dubious quality were made in the early 1980’s such as Class of 1984 (1982), a juvenile delinquency classic which starred Michael J. Fox as a terrorized high school student and The Gate (1987) which shows us the portal to hell in Stephen Dorff’s suburban backyard. One of the most unlikely films to come from this time was a low budget transsexual film called The Woman Inside (1981) featuring Joan Blondell in her very last role. This was the era of high budget corporate shlock b-movie, and its emphasis on US scenarios and faces left a void in the evolution of Canuxploitation.

Finally, after one too many Canadian-shot Ernest movies in the 80’s, another generation of Canadian film makers started to pick up their first cameras, and make their very own b-movies. From Winnipeg came Guy Madden’s David Lynch-ian adventure Tales From the Gimli Hospital (1988), as well as one of the best known and respected Canadian cult films, John Paizs’ 1985 film Crime Wave (see our adjacent feature for an in-depth analysis of Paizs’ work and his new feature film). Better known as Big Crime Wave, its video title, this film stars director John Paizs as the silent Steven Penny, a young filmmaker who is trying to make a “colour crime movie” called Crime Wave, only he can’t come up with the middle of the film, just variations on the beginning and endings.

Steven rents the room above the garage of a family in suburban Winnipeg, and is obsessed with colour crime. He reads Colour Crime Quarterly Magazine, and has posters in his room for 1950’s crime films like Teenage Crime WaveOutside The Law and Stolen Face. Since Steve doesn’t speak, the movie is narrated by Kim, the little girl of the family who becomes friends with Steven. Steven teaches Kim different things about the colour crime movie industry. He shows her his Bolex camera, explains why he only writes by streetlight, and plays her an audio tape of camera that he borrowed from the NFB being run over by an out of control car.

The real fun in this film is the beginning and endings of Steven’s movies, which are acted out in the film. They are essentially the same crime docudrama, except the characters always change. His first version is the life of an Elvis impersonator named Ronny Boyle, who breaks into the “tribute racket”. The end features Ronny’s untimely death, thrown from his car into a wooden pole. The second features Skip and Dawn Holiday, two Allway distribution up-and-comers, who kill their customers. In Steven’s ending, the two are taken down by police at an Allway awards ceremony.

Crippled by self-doubt and depression, Steven is unable to write a complete screen play. Luckily, Kim sees an ad in Colour Crime Quarterly for a Texas screen writer named Dr Jolly looking to collaborate on a film script. Kim sends off a letter for Steven, and in return gets a bus ticket and some advice from the doctor: “middles need twists!”. Steven leaves Kim and his room over the garage, to meet Dr Jolly. Unfortunately, Dr Jolly has some plans of his own, and it begins to look like Steven’s Crime Wave will never be written.

This is such an enjoyable film, it’s hard to resist the pure earnest (and Canadian) fun of Crime Wave. Kim’s narration shows Crime Wave‘s debt to the over-dubbed NFB documentaries, and like many other Canadian comedy films, Crime Wave gently satirizes that which it loves: period crime movies and suburban culture. The style is so playful however, that Crime Wave is a pure delight to watch.

The French-Canadian b-Movie
If you think finding English-Canadian B-movies in English-Canada is difficult, try finding some French-Canadian B-movies. It’s no secret that some French-Canadian films are anti-federalist such as the popular Elvis Gratton series. It’s possible that because of the politics in these films distributors don’t think they will have any audience in the rest of the country, even for rental. Sometimes it seems that only movies which broaden their anti-federalism to a generally anarchistic theme will be distributed and viewed in the rest of Canada. One example of this is Yves Simoneau’s 1989 film Dans le Ventre du Dragon (English title: In The Belly of the Dragon).

In The Belly of the Dragon is one of the easiest French-Canadian films to uncover, which is good, since it’s a fun science-fiction comedy about disease. The plot revolves around three co-workers: Bozo, a dull-witted fool, the grizzled idealist Steve and Lou, a quiet teenager who has just joined the team. Steve helps out Lou on his first few days, and the three of them drink Tim Horton’s coffee and have political discussions about “the system”.

Lou is looking for a way to get some money for new boots, and decides he can make it by testing drugs at the pharmaceutical company. Dr Jonas (played by Marie Tifo) notices Lou’s quick reflexes and high scores at mental tests, and decides to use Lou in a special experiment. For $1500 a week, she will try to get Lou to overcome the common cold through drawing upon the unused 90% of his brain.

Back at the flyer warehouse, Steve and Bozo have no idea where Lou has been for the past week, until Lou’s former roommate tells them. Afraid he has been captured by “the system”, Steve and Bozo decide to go and rescue him in Steve’s paddle boat. They get inside and make their way to the basement, where they reveal Dr Jonas’ dark secret.

Despite some dull moments, In The Belly of The Dragon is a fairly good film. The setting is obviously influenced by David Cronenberg’s dark, bureaucratic government health facilities. The pharmaceutical company is trying to control people, and one can only assume that this is Simoneau’s anti-federalist statement, where the three friends can smash the state and find their own paradise. AlthoughIn the Belly of the Dragon is slicker than most canuxploitation films, this should not stop you from seeking out this and other French-Canadian cult films such asBingo (1974) and Bar Salon (1975). While Simoneau’s film does have similarities in style to English canuxploitation films like Crime Wave, it is essentially different due to its political overtones.

Sci-fi Schlock in the Nineties
Speaking of contemporary politics, who’s the 11,000 year old alien space cop that’s a sex machine with all the chicks? Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura! Yes, 1991’s Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe stars Governor Ventura as the ponytailed justice keeper in question, fighting his renegade ex-partner, Secundus. Secundus is played by SvenOle Thorsen, and sports a sequined jacket that looks like it was stolen from Lorne Greene in Battlestar Galactica.

The writer and director of Abraxas is Damian Lee, who also appears in the film as a space cop at some ‘galaxy outpost’. Although his past films were mostly teen schlock films such as Ski School (1990), Damian Lee had also worked for Roger Corman, like Ivan Reitman and Donald Shebib did, this time on the giant rat sequel Food of the Gods II (1989).

During a previous battle on Earth, Secundus used a special alien birthing technique on an unsuspecting human woman. Now he’s trying to track down his bastard offspring Tommy, since the child is a “culmator” and has something called the “antilife equation”. Neither of these concepts are really explained in the film. But they are bad… I think. So Secundus is after Tommy, and Abraxas is dispatched after Secundus, using the “travel warp” which is again, not explained. Another confusing device is the “answer box”, which both Abraxas and Secundus wear on their wrists to “sense vibrations” and give them orders. Not only do the boxes talk, but the voice in Secundus’ box is provided by Canadian media mogul Moses Znaimer!

During yet another deadly fight, Secundus impales Abraxas with a floor lamp. While being healed by his “answer box”, Abraxas and Sonya start having a love affair complete with wonderful romantic dialouge like: “You’re busy saving the universe, but what about my problems?” But Sonya isn’t the only one who gets a warm feeling when she’s near Abraxas; Tommy runs off and leaves his mother a note which starts “I love you and I think I love Abraxas too”. Secundus chases Tommy to an abandoned warehouse where lots of things burst into flames. Can Abraxas kick ass in time and generally guard the Universe? There’s lots more fun in this unintentionally hilarious canuxploitation movie – a dirt bike chase, Secundus visiting a strip bar for absolutely no reason and Tommy making a school bully pee his pants.

There are several recent Canadian movies that qualify in that coveted “so-bad-it’s-good” category, such as the laughable Lorenzo Lamas action film Snake Eater(1989) and the ridiculous sci-fi time travel in Millennium (1989). Still, the embarrassing story of an alien space cult in Alberta, Quest For The Lost City (1990) usually ends up battling Abraxas for supremacy in this b-movie sub-genre of lame Can-sci-fi.

The Future of Can-Cult
It might surprise you that even “respected” film makers aren’t able to escape the devastating grip of canuxploitation. The King of Kensington himself, Al Waxman once made an obscure soft-core porno film called My Pleasure is My Business(1974)featuring the Happy Hooker herself, Xaviera Hollander. Oliver Stone’s first directorial feature Seizure (1974) was made in Montreal starring b-queen Mary Woronov and a dwarf. Gerald Potterton, director of the ultimate Can-fanboy movieHeavy Metal (1981) started his career combining re-dubbed footage from an old Russian film called Dr. Abolit with new animated sequences to make Tiki Tiki(1963) a family film that has the Doctor rescuing monkey children from alien bandits!

Of course trashy classics like these are few and far between these days. In the late1980’s, the CDFC became Telefilm, and changed their focus from feature films to made-for-television films. Even the NFB does not help produce as many films as it once did. Does this make our feature film industry destined to a future of Last Night-style movies which languish in cliches? Or is it possible that more challenging (or at least more bizarre) low budget films like Deranged will be made to present us with fresh alternatives? The future hangs in balance as the Canadian government is now proposing a new feature film fund as well as new tax shelters for US productions.

The biggest problem facing the Canuxploitation enthusiast is still the unavailability of many great and not-so-great Canadian films. With theatrical distribution short lived and always in doubt, Canadian b-movie makers must rely on the vagaries of video for their films to make a lasting impression. This means that while some Canadian movies like Abraxas and Heavy Metal may be easy to find, classics likeGoin’ Down The Road can only occasionally be seen on TV.

And, even if much of the great relatively short past of Canuxploitation is unavailable to us, we can still look forward to yet another wave of b-movies that continue in the same vein, determined to mix a low budget aesthetic and plenty of shock value with a determined independence and a reliance on personal vision. Features like The Paper Boy (1997) and Bruce La Bruce’s gay porn classic Hustler White (1996) are examples of purely indie Canuck b-movies, while b-documentaries (a unique Canadian sub-genre) make good with a combination of government grants and indie hustle that have given us classics like Comic Book ConfidentialThe Powder Room(1997) and Project Grizzly (1996), which focuses on one man’s quest to develop the ultimate anti-grizzly bear suit.

Despite problems with distribution and a lack of attention from Canadians themselves, these are just some of the films ensuring that the legacy of canuxploitation will live on. Like any obscure cultural artifact, whether it is a zine, strange musical recording or rare book, the canuxploitation film is as much fun to seek out as it is too watch. Most shocking and rewarding of all is knowing that these amazing oddities were produced right under our noses by a group of hardy, strange, uncompromising film-makers who might very well be our next door neighbors. Sit back, relax, slide another Canuxploitation classic into the VCR. And don’t forget to lock the door.

Other Classics of Canuxploitation!
Alien Warrior
Archangel
Bad Manners
Big Meat Eater
Blood Clan
Blood Relations
Bullies
The Club
Flesh Gordon & The Cosmic Cheerleaders
Freakshow
Incubus
Journey Into Fear
The Keeper
Kidnaping of the President
Murder By Decree
Naked Flame
Pin: A Plastic Nightmare
The Plague
Psycho Girls
Red Blooded American Girl
Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter
Starship Invasions
Sunday In The Country
Things
White Line Fever

The publisher of now defunct b-culture zine Ground Culture, Paul is a leading expert in the murky world of the Canadian cult film. His canuxploitation homepage can be found at:

Your complete guide to the Canadian b-movie

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