Rare exploitation and horror cult films coming to Vancouver!

A scene from Demons, screening at the inaugural Northwest Horror Show film festival in Vancouver.

No, it’s not filmgoers leaving a screening of the latest Adam Sandler movie. It’s a scene from Demons, a 1985 Italian film screening at the inaugural Northwest Horror Show film festival in Vancouver.

Ah, spring. The buds are in bloom, the birds are singing, locals are taking to the streets in yogawear and shorts. What better time to take in a midnight screening of Cannibal Holocaust?

This year is the inaugural Northwest Horror Show film festival. For three days, March 20-22, Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour) will open its doors to film fans who like their movies twisted, depraved and at least a little off. Not only does the festival marks a rare chance to see cult favourites like Cannibal Holocaust, Demons and The Beyond on the big screen, but it’s bringing to town some films that have never before been screened in Vancouver.

The man behind this madness is Shane Burzynski. A 24-year-old Vancouver filmmaker/photographer, Burzynski is the curator and organizer of the festival and owner of the host company, Northwest Nightmares Entertainment.

In an email, Burzynski explained to Inside Vancouver that he’s putting on the festival because of his passion for film.

“I want to bring more cult and horror screenings to Vancouver on 35mm prints or at the very least DCPs [the digital equivalent of a 35mm print]. We don’t tend to get much cult cinema on 35mm these days and it’s something that I intend to change. There’s a lot of great stuff and an audience that is starving for these kinds of films.”

Two films in particular spurred him on: Massacre Mafia Style and Gone With the Pope , two low-budget crime films directed by a ’70s nightclub singer.

“Those two films are pretty much the entire reason I started the festival,” Burzynski says. “I’ve been trying to get them booked in Vancouver for 3 years now to no avail, so I’ve decided to start this up and bring a bunch of other great stuff with it.”

Gone With the Pope was filmed in 1976 but wasn’t completed until 2009, after a group of film enthusiasts came across the footage and reassembled it. Directed and produced by Italian-American crooner-actor (and self-proclaimed “Mr. Palm Springs”) Duke Mitchell, it tells the story of four ex-convicts who travel to Rome to kidnap the Pope. Film Radar calls it “ridiculously entertaining.”


The other Mitchell film, Massacre Mafia Style (aka Like Father Like Son and The Executioner) was first released in 1978. According to Cinema Crazed, “One thing you can say about Massacre Mafia Style, Duke Mitchell’s shameless attempt to cash in on The Godfather, is that it’s never boring.”

The back-to-back screening on Saturday, March 21 of the two Mitchell films is one of the unique features of Northwest Nightmares, Burzynski says. Another is Trailer Apocalypse, a 90-minute collection of trailers put together by Grindhouse Releasing. Expect “really obscure, wacky and off the wall exploitation movie trailers, all hand picked by Oscar-winning editor Bob Murawski himself.”

One of the biggest draws to the festival is the March 20 midnight (well, 11:40 p.m.) screening of Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980). Burzynski says that he and many other cult film fans are looking forward to seeing the infamous Italian cult classic on the big screen.

“It’s been about 14 years since the last time a 35mm print of that has shown in Vancouver, and it seems like its the right time to bring it back, what with the Blu-ray release being such a huge success and all.”

Burzynski notes that, before each of the features, he’ll be screening trailers and short films made by independent film makers.

Other films include Nightmare City (1980, Italy), Pieces (1982, USA/Spain/Puerto Rico/Italy), Demons (1985, Italy), The Beyond (1981, Italy), and Brain Damage (1988, USA).

Burzynski is also bringing in two guests. Make-up/effects artist Gabe Bartalos will be in town for the screening of Brain Damage, and Duke Mitchell’s son Jeffrey will answer questions about his dad’s filmic oeuvre following the screening of Gone With the Pope.

For showtimes and tickets visit Vancity.org. To stay up-to-date, visit the Northwest Nightmares Facebook page.

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