The Highs and Lows of Toronto After Dark 2014

Sixteen days ago, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival drew to a close with a resounding gasp. The Babadook ended the genre-themed film festival with outstanding strength, uniting many in the belief that this was one of the festivals strongest years to date. While that may be true, it simply isn’t quite good enough. This year, the festival had some truly standout films that blew audiences away. At the same time, the festival lows were shocking to say the least.

Toronto After Dark Film Festival - HouseboundOpening the festival with a laugh and a shriek was the New Zealand flick Housebound. This was, without a doubt, one of the most well-balanced horror comedies in years. Beautifully written, this Kiwi production takes dry wit and simple scares to new highs. Unpredictable, Housebound zigs when you think it’ll zag, taking you to places just adjacent to where you expected to go. The tension is palpable, yet beautifully broken with a well-timed and flawlessly crafted laugh. This is the redeemer of horror comedies, in line with the perfect balance of films like Shaun of the Dead. It’s a simple recipe expertly crafted, and was the perfect film to open the 9th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Would you like to know more…?

Toronto After Dark 2014 Review: The Town That Dreaded Sundown

 

 

Easily the biggest surprise and possibly my overall favourite film of this year’s Toronto After Dark film festival was Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s (director of several American Horror Story episodes) take on the 1976 early slasher The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Though that little film from 1976 has its supporters and certainly has some choice moments, it seemed like an odd pick for a revisit. The original as directed by Charles B. Pierce (director and star of the head-shakingly bad Boggy Creek II – And The Legend Continues – best known for being one of MST3K’s victims) is an awkward melange of horror/docudrama/slapstick comedy that tries to tell the actual events of a masked serial killer who terrorized Texarkana in 1946. And yet…There were some well-realized moments of genuine horror and interesting filmmaking. For his first feature, Gomez-Rejon seems to have focused on those positive aspects and has built a compelling, moody, surprising and absolutely gorgeous film.

Of particular note is the way he composes his frames. More than once during the film, I found my eyes roaming about the square footage on screen, trying to pick up all the little details and contrasting different colour combinations. I’m sure I missed some clues lurking in the background, but the simple pleasure of being pulled into this lovingly created canvas and wanting to savour each little corner, shadow and object was more than enough. If that sounds like a bit of an overstatement, it’s partly due to having very few expectations regarding not only the story but the level of filmmaking. It’s not that I thought the movie was going to be bad (the trailer is quite handsome actually), but from its opening tracking shot that pans down from a Drive-In screen playing the original film (and which continued through the parking lot filled with many of the films primary characters) it was obvious that Gomez-Rejon had very strong stylistic ideas for the film – all of which actually help move the story forward and engage the audience.

Would you like to know more…?

Toronto After Dark 2014 Review: The Babadook

 

 

Ba Ba-ba DOOK DOOK DOOK!!

Silly made up sounds to fit a children’s verse or shudder-inducing syllables to remind you of the darkness that exists in all our souls? In the case of first-time feature filmmaker Jennifer Kent’s critically praised creeper The Babadook, it’s not an either / or situation. The cute can definitely coexist with the terrifying.

Young Samuel typically celebrates his birthday in tandem with his cousin even though the date isn’t right. His mother Amelia likes to avoid discussing his actual date of birth since it was the rather auspicious occasion of the car crash that took his father’s life (as he drove Amelia to the hospital to give birth). As he closes in on turning 7 years old, Amelia seems to be having a harder and harder time coping with single parenthood. Samuel is a handful as his imagination gets the better of him on a regular basis – his certainty that monsters are after him, his magic tricks and his creative construction of weaponry are all putting Amelia right on the edge. One night she finds a storybook called The Babadook that she’s never seen before and they decide to read it together. It illustrates a tall, top hat-wearing, cloaked in black man-beast called The Babadook who will come a calling and knock three times. And Once you let him in…he never leaves.

The book seems to leave quite the impression on Samuel as he starts worrying about the dagger-fingered Babadook and warns his mother repeatedly about it – especially after something knocks on their door one evening. Amelia’s sleep patterns start getting messed up, Samuel appears to be harder and harder to control and she starts having issues at work. She’s a complete wreck and begins pushing away those that can and want to help her – she is caught up in a crushing concern for her son while also being way past the frustration point with him. The house starts closing in on her…

Would you like to know more…?

Flyway Pubcast #8 – Alex Johnson [Two Step]

 
Two Step is another Axe Award winner this year; this time it’s for best narrative feature. It’s a relationship and class drama that collides with a crime and home invasion angle. It’s really rather thrilling thanks in large part to the excellent cast but also due to writer/director Alex Johnson.

Matt Gamble and I discuss the nature of typical home invasion films and the amount of violence in films today. The alcohol, deep freeze temperatures and late night time begins to affect our judgement and speech but nonetheless it’s an entertaining and interesting discussion. Congrats to Alex and his film; have a listen below…


 
 

http://rowthree.com/audio/Flyway2014/flyway14_NAME.mp3 (use for below then delete this line)

 
 

 


 
Relevant Links:
Official site
IMDb
Facebook
@TWOSTEPFILM
@lachima

 

Indie Memphis
Stockholm Film Festival
Cucalorus

 

Flyway Pubcast #7 – Kristjan Knigge [The Right Juice]

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Easily the most entertaining interview we’ve ever had at Flyway, Kristjan Knigge is the director of The Right Juice. He’s also from Amsterdam which of course requires Matt Gamble and I to talk geography and world history rather than actual film making. Kristjan was gracious enough to educate the stupid Americans about the difference between The UK and Great Britain, Portugal, Christopher Columbus, Ireland, Anne Frank, The Netherlands and the “north bit”. I guess we might as well talk about the true discoverers of America too.

Eventually we do get around to talking about the film, the actors involved, political and social threats and comparing his film to Polanski’s Chinatown. Other upcoming projects are also mentioned. Matt tries to get convince Kristjan to get into criticism rather than film making because he is very amusingly abrasive – as evident by his berating us for giving a competing film The Keystroke Award. Basically he’s a really great guy and clearly a very talented film maker. Despite the interruption by locomotive, it’s a fun interview. Buckle up for a drunken history lesson…
(out takes at the end).


 
 

 
 

 


 
Relevant Links:
Official site
IMDb
Facebook
Wikipedia

 

Flyway Pubcast #6 – Jan Selby [Beyond the Divide]

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Flyway isn’t just shorts and features, for the lovers of the documentary, there are plenty of those each year too. Matt Gamble and I sat outside in the freezing cold and had a chat with Jan Selby, the director of the Axe Award for best documentary feature, Beyond the Divide.

Beyond the Divide is Jan’s first feature film and it’s already made quite the impact internationally. She’s hoping it will make an even greater impression in classrooms across the country. We also talk a bit about her first time at Flyway and her experience with other festival goers. Have a listen below…


 
 

 
 

 


 
Relevant Links:
Official site
IMDb
Facebook
@BeyondDivide
Instagram
Building the Pink Tower

 

Flyway Pubcast #5 – Rick Vaicius [Festival Founder and Director]

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Weven years and getting stronger! The Flyway Film Festival has gone from a little house with some movies to a really important cultural, social and professional event for a lot of people. From film makers to fans, the community at large to bloggers and critics, Flyway has most certainly struck a chord. Which is evidenced by its returning volunteers, film makers and audience members year after year.

Helping to make Flyway what it has become is greater than just one man, but you might find some people who disagree with that statement. It’s because Rick Vaicius is that man. He dreamed it. He booked it. And the people came. And they continue to show up; year after year.

So it’s with great pleasure that Matt Gamble and I got to hang out with Rick and drink all of his organic vodka, local microbrews and wines. Over said drinks we discussed the festival and what pains Rick and his family endure over the year to eighteen months to make Flyway a reality. Plus there’s a vicious rumor that Rick doesn’t like genre movies. Say it ain’t so Rick!


 
 

 
 

 


 
Relevant Links:
Flyway Official site
Minema Microcinema site
Flyway Facebook
Minema Facebook
@FlywayFilmFest

Flyway Pubcast #4 – Chad McLarnon [Bear with Me]

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Generally we try to stick with the interviewee and their projects and interests. This time, Matt Gamble and I spend a good chunk of this interview berating Gary King for being too good to come to Flyway anymore. Part of the reason the discussion devolves as such is because number one, free vodka and number two, Chad is the D.P. on Gary’s current project.

But we talk about the nature of shorts, how working as a D.P. helps get the feet wet for the director’s chair and what it’s like working with other directors and how to see their vision and hopefully recreate that vision.


 
 

 
 

 


 
Relevant Links:
Best Part Productions
IMDb
Home page
@chadmcclarnon
@bestpartpro

Flyway Pubcast #3 – Jaime Carroll and Nick Coleman [Jane Then Gone]

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Arguably, shorts are just as important at Flyway Film Fest as are the features films. They come in droves and it’s hard to whittle down the choices to just a select few that make the cut. It’s even harder to pick “the best” one. Jaime and Nick were a last minute submission to the festival and not only were accepted to the fest, but won the coveted Axe Award for best narrative short.

Matt Gamble (from Where the Long Tail Ends) and I chatted for a bit with these two and talked experience of winning an award, being at such a giving and inclusive festival for film makers and possibly how to gain secret passwords to exclusive projects and series. Have a listen…


 
 

 
 

 


 
Relevant Links:
IMDb
Facebook
@NickJColeman
@Jamie_Carroll
Meetup: The Series