Horror in Vancouver: making Midnight Matinee on the Granville strip in 1988

One of the first set-visit stories I did as a freelance writer for Fangoria magazine was back in 1988, when I headed down to the Granville Mall to cover a low-budget flick called Midnight Matinee, which is also known as just Matinee, not to be confused with Joe Dante’s Matinee of 1993.

The movie–which nobody bothered telling me was being made for TV–may be best known for being helmed by the son of Dick Martin, one of the guy’s from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in.

The coolest aspect of the film for me is that it was partially filmed in my hometown of Chilliwack, using the old Paramount Theatre as a backdrop.

That’s where I went to see David Cronenberg’s Shivers during my last year of high school, dragging a bunch of buddies with me. I’m pretty sure they were impressed by the bathtub scene.

Here’s a condensed version of the “Monster Invasion” story that appeared in Fango #83, which had Jason Vorhees on the cover without a mask.

Man is that dude ugly.

 

With its glorious combination of snow-capped mountains and sandy beaches. Vancouver, British Columbia has a reputation as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But like most fair-sized metropolitan centres, it also has its seamy underside. Two blocks south of the Granville Mall’s fancy boutiques and specialty shops, the downtown strips turns into a seedy section where panhandlers, porn palaces, and stripper bars abound. It’s a cheerless place at the best of times, but your trusty Fango correspondent braves it one dark and rainy November night to get the lowdown on Midnight Matinee, a fright flick filming in an abandoned movie theatre.

A few inquiries bring me face to face with the project’s FX box, Bob Comer of Paller Special Effects, and we get right down to business.

“It’s not visually graphic per se,” says Comer, a twinge of regret in his voice. “Much of it is done Hitchcock-style. But we’ve done two hangings,” he brightens, “a really nice one in chains. We’ve blown a guy through a glass door. There’s a couple of stabbings, too.”

 

Having redeemed himself somewhat, Comer lifts up his wool sweater to reveal a Splatter Movies t-shirt. “I’ve been trying to get the director to use more blood,” he laments, “because I’ve got buckets of it. But it’s mostly been in vain.”

“Well, it’s definitely got a lot of suspense elements in it,” says director Richard Martin, who is actually the son of Dick Martin, the wackier half of hippie era comedy team Rowan & Martin. The first-time director explains that the story of Midnight Matinee revolves around a series of mysterious killings that take place during a small-town horror film festival.

“The interesting thing is that we’re continually mixing up the movie realities, so you’re locked in a situation where the two are overlapping, and you’re not sure whether you’re watching a movie or watching our movie. That creates an interesting kind of tension,” Martin feels.

“The nifty thing about this picture is that we had the luxury of making a number of fake movies that we’re using within the film,” producer Cal Shumiatcher enthuses. “We’ve got a vampire picture, we’ve got a 1950s black-and-white psychodrama, we’ve got a 1920s expressionist thriller, and a classic ’70s chainsaw movie. So all those pictures unfold at the same time as our main action.”

A production of Vancouver-based Summit Entertainment Corp., Midnight Matinee goes to its distributors this month. At presstime, an American distribution deal has not yet been signed, but overseas distribution is being handled by the L.A.-based Image Organization, and Canadian distribution by Thomas Howe Associates Ltd. of Vancouver. The movie was shot in 25 days on a budget of just over $1 million.

“It was mainly a vehicle to get the directing credit,” confesses Martin, who also wrote the screenplay. “It’s almost impossible to go out and find a property and put yourself on as a first-time director, so you’ll notice a lot of first-time directors wrote their first films. If you own the property and people want it, they’ll be a little more willing to let you direct it.

“But,” he adds with a chuckle, “not a whole heck of a lot more.”

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