The Depths Of Obscurity: Canuxploitation from the 1970s
Canuxploitation = Canadian-made exploitation films
Mostly known are the flicks created throughout the 70s and early 80s; tax incentives during this time allowed films produced in Canada almost 100 percent of their funding returned back in the form of a tax credit. Canuxploitation still lives on in the 21st Century with flicks like – Fido, Dead Hooker in a Trunk and Hobo With a Shotgun.
The Flickchart list of Canuxploitation Movies of the 1970s has 31 titles on it. Black Christmas (Bob Clark) and The Brood (David Cronenberg) are two of the most widely known films on the list, however, let’s focus our attention on a few others from Clark and Cronenberg that have been rated by less than 500 Flickcharters.
They Came from Within aka Shivers aka The Parasite Murders (265 Users)
A parasite created by a crazed doctor is unleashed upon the residents of the Starliner Towers, an isolated luxury apartment complex. Spread by the doctor’s promiscuous teen mistress, it turns everyone into violent sex fiends with no limits to their debauchery and violence.
They Came from Within was Cronenberg’s first feature film and one of his best. It set the tone for Body Horror and its dive into the deep evilness of sex will have you questioning some of the decisions you make on a Saturday night. Featuring horror queens Lynn Lowry and Barbara Steele, Cronenberg’s film is a captivating and disturbing exploration of human sexuality. Watching it may not be easy for some as the second half is a nonstop display of gore and nudity. This movie could have only come out of the 1970’s, the heyday of unencumbered sexual liberation.
It’s been widely rumored over the years that this flick was a big influence on Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay for Alien. You can definitely associate the scenes where the parasite jumps onto people’s faces and bursts through the stomachs of its victims. You could also say that the isolated Starliner Towers could easily be reworked into a spaceship.
Cronenberg once said his goal was “to show the unshowable”, well he reached that goal on his first movie.
Deathdream aka Dead of Night (109 Users)
Shortly after his family receives news that he had died in combat, Andy arrives back home in his uniform. At first the family is ecstatic until they quickly realize that something is not right about Andy.
Directed by Bob Clark, Deathdream is a tense, eerie and emotional story backed up by a fantastic unsettling score from Carl Zittrer. Richard Backus’s performance as Andy is exceptionally creepy; he starts with a reserved psychopath feel before exploding into madness. Lynn Carlin and John Marley (Oscar nominee for Love Story) are an exceptional pairing as Andy’s troubled parents and Bob Clark even makes a cameo as Officer Ted.
A few years before getting his break working on Martin, Tom Savini worked on Deathdream. While this may be a selling point for some it should be noted that the movie is PG meaning the gore is almost nonexistent, something that is much different from a traditional Savini effects film.
With its original Canadian release in 1972, Deathdream could be one of the earliest flicks to address the adverse impact of the Vietnam War. Easily related to by soldiers and their difficulty returning back to a normal life; you could say Andy represents all the young men forced out to war who never came back the same.
Rabid (459 Users)
Following a motorcycle accident Rose (Marilyn Chambers) undergoes experiential skin graft surgery to repair burned areas of her body. While being a complete success, the operation causes her to develop an orifice under an armpit that hides a hidden stinger she must use to feed on the blood of people. Every person she feeds on then becomes “rabid” and attacks others, their bites causing the rabies to spread even further
Written and Directed by Cronenberg, Rabid is an intelligent story that continues his exploration on the evils of sex that he started in They Came from Within”, making the two almost companion pieces. It is a unique take on vampirism, throwing out the folklore and turning it into a disease-causing the victims to become deranged.
Coming from a pornographic background, Marilyn Chambers was an unusual casting choice but gives a surprisingly excellent performance, she easily could have become a scream queen. Cronenberg initially wanted Sissy Spacek in her role, but the studio denied that. Producer Ivan Reitman – Yes, Ghostbusters Ivan Reitman – then suggested Chambers thinking it would easy to market the film with a well-known porn star.
Cronenberg has since expanded beyond Sci-fi/Horror, bringing out critically acclaimed dramas like Eastern Promises and a History of Violence. His cult following remains strong though thanks to his early Canuxploitation works along with later films – Scanners, Videodrome, The Dead Zone and The Fly.
Bob Clark left horror behind in the 1980’s and brought out a couple widely loved comedies- Porky’s and A Christmas Story. Then starting in the mid 80’s that inventive storytelling he had just disappeared when he gave us movies such as – Rhinestone, Loose Cannons, and Baby Geniuses. The last thing he directed was a made for TV movie called The Karate Dog. I’ve always wondered how Clark was reduced to such meaningless trash. Unfortunately, we lost Bob Clark in 2007 after his car was struck by a drunk driver, so we never got a chance to see him shine again.