Archive for the ‘toronto after dark’ Category

  • Review: The Dirties

    The Dirties (2013)

    Director: Matthew Johnson

    Writers: Matthew Johnson, Josh Boles, Matthew Miller, and Evan Morgan

    Producers: Matthew Johnson, Matthew Miller, Evan Morgan, and Jared Raab

    Starring: Matthew Johnson and Owen Williams

    Running time: 80 min

    The Dirties is one of the most insightful films on bullying in years. Effortlessly acted and directed by newcomer Matthew Johnson, it’s as much about the tragedy of school shootings as it is about the nature of the high school experience. Rather than obsess over the seriousness of the crime, it focuses on the series of events that allow a person to slip off the edge. Relatable, funny, touching, and disturbing, it tackles the reality of bullying, and the ramifications of brushing it off.

    The story starts with a high school film project. Matt (Johnson, playing a high school version of himself) and his best friend Owen (Owen Williams) are putting together a film for class about a group of bullies called The Dirties who get their comeuppance from some renegade students with guns. Full of obscure film references, the message goes over the heads of their classmates, and the real life bullies.

    As their lives become more difficult – bullying gets worse, and mockery over their film turns to physical violence – Matt comes up with a metaphysical cinematic concept for vengeance. What if someone made a film about actually killing the bullies? As Owen brushes off Matt’s concept as a means of venting his frustration, it gradually becomes clear that it may be more firmly rooted in reality. » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Toronto After Dark Full Line Up Announced


    This will be my fourth year attending Toronto After Dark Film Festival. TADFF is where I broke my proverbial festival cherry and it holds a really special place in my heart. The organizers are an amazing bunch of guys and gals who put on a top notch party, TADFF is the birth place for Row Three, all the coolest movie bloggers and fans in Toronto seem to congregate over the many pints and as an extra bonus the festival provides the audience with the chance to see some of the best new genre films. I do not expect this year to be any different and can’t wait for the festival to start on October 18th.

    This year’s fest consists of 20 feature films and 29 short films. Here is the quick list of the feature films American Mary, Cockneys vs Zombies, My Amityville Horror, Crave, Inbred, Grave Encounters 2, Citadel, Game of Werewolves, In Their Skin, Resolution, After, Rec 3: Genesis, Grabbers, A Fantastic Fear of Everything, Dead Sushi, Lloyd the Conqueror, Doomsday Book, Sushi Girl, Wrong, and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. And here is the list of short films Adjust Tracking, Alchemy And Other Imperfections, Annie And The Dog, Bio-Cop, Birthday Pictures, Bydlo, The Captured Bird, Children Of The Dark, Do Not Erase, Eviction, Frost, Game, Garlic Bread Man Vs. Superbo Lasagna Man, Malody, The Myth Of Robo Wonder Kid, Not Till We’re Married, A Pretty Funny Story, Sandwich Crazy, Trudy, We Ate The Children Last, Bobby Yeah, Caterwaul, Decapoda Shock, Dialogue, Family Nightmare, Henri, Numbers, Odokuro, and Vicki.

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  • Toronto After Dark In Summary


    The thrills and spills of Toronto After Dark are over, and there has been a mountain of coverage here at row three, both of the films, and, controversially, how the festival fits into the Toronto Festival Scene. This was TADFFs most successful year in terms of attendance, growth and certainly internet media coverage and this handsomely produced video, with lots of Zombie Walk footage and other shenanigrams (produced by MyCityLives!) tidily sums things up.

  • Toronto After Dark 2011: The Innkeepers Review




    There is a scene, perhaps midway through Ti West’s most recent film of spooky interiors and patient tracking-shots, where an underpaid employee struggles to get a bag of garbage in to the rear alley bin. It is as good of a touchstone for what he has been managed thus far with his career, going against the grain of mainstream horror trends (torture, found footage, etc.) by making more patient, measured films which rely exclusively on atmosphere and tension. Making a horror film in this day and age that eschews gimmickry and/or mounds of bad CGI (and worse dialogue) while actually getting it out into the marketplace is a herculean task in and of itself. Alas, for all the chatter (and wonderful key art) posted on the internet about The House of the Devil, the film is only a success within the select niche of genre aficionados. Notwithstanding some very minor issues with its digitally-flat (and rather abrupt) ending, it is one of the great horror pictures of the past 10 years. I have little reservation in calling it a master-work in terms of generating both tension and anticipation, which when you boil things down is damn near everything in the horror genre. Yet, suspense seems seems to be dying off with each new re-invention of horror-formula with only a few notable exceptions.

    Back to the bag of garbage.

    The employee is Claire and she is one of only two remaining staff serving a meagre three guests living at the The Yankee Pedlar Inn until the business shutters at the end of the week. The bag is leaking some sort of fluid as she drags it haltingly across the uneven cracked asphalt. She makes several Sisyphean attempts to heave the hulking sack into the bin whose lid seems close just a millisecond too soon. The whole scene plays out as a charming bit of physical comedy, a levity that rests purely on the comic timing and chummy vibe of Ms. Sara Paxton which, more than a bit, reminds me of Anna Faris’ endearing goofiness in Smiley Face. And so goes The Innkeepers, a haunted hotel story that trafficks in the gentle, snarky comedy of its pair of underpaid and unambitious wage-slaves before breaking out the Shining and the ghosties and turn-of-the-screw tension to become one of most effective horror films of 2011. One of the smartest, too. An early gag in the movie, which threatens to echo/resonate in the films final shot, is one hell of a deconstruction of the jump-scare and its often gross misuse in the genre. This is a good sign that West has his brain and his talent laser focused on the nature and the possibility of this type of filmmaking. The syntax similar to The House of the Devil, but the tone could not be more different. Gone is the late 70s early 80s setting, although it retains a feel of classic, vintage filmmaking that outside of a few laptop computers, and a latte bar across the street, could place the film anywhere in the 20th century. Horror and comedy are rarely mixed well, but resulting cocktail here is shaken and stirred. Hell, it is downright effervescent. The icing on the cake is that the ending here feels far more organic to the themes brought out in the storytelling than House of the Devil. In its own fashion The Innkeepers turns the rules of this sort of film inside out while still managing to follow them. It’s a neat trick, and a welcome one.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Review: Død snø


    Director: Tommy Wirkola
    Writers: Stig Frode Henriksen, Tommy Wirkola
    Producers: Terje Stroemstad, Tomas Evjen
    Starring: Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Røsten, Jeppe Laursen, Jenny Skavlan
    MPAA Rating: R
    Running time: 91 min.



    The market is becoming overly saturated with zombie movies. As much as I love the sub-genre, I have to admit that even I am getting sick of it (just look at my review for the pandering, Zombieland). Once in a while though you get a movie that ups the ante just enough to make the experience quite enjoyable. I realize this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Nazi undead, but this is the first one I know of that really makes it fun to sit through – assuming of course you’re not the squeamish type.

    The movie starts as a fairly typical looking slasher style movie: a group of med students on vacation head into the wilderness (in this case a snowy mountain range in Norway) for a drunken weekend in a desolate cabin where no one can hear them scream. A creepy old man shows up out of nowhere to basically tell them (and the audience) to watch out for the “evil in these hills” (in this case, the souls of dead Nazis); then disappears without a trace. The kids of course then proceed to partake in various, stupid activities that one should never partake in whilst in the middle of a horror film (like have sex in a darkened outhouse in the middle of the night). Just when all hope is lost and the film seems like it is going to be typical, boring slasher thriller, the kills begin to emerge. And they keep coming and then just get better and better and better.
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  • Toronto After Dark ’09: Festival Winners Announced


    TAD 09 Film Festival Banner

    The 2009 edition of Toronto After Dark came to a close a week today, yet lingering thoughts of some of the best films still rattle around in my head. My personal favourites were Black (Row Three Review), Strigoi (Row Three Review), Grace (Row Three Review), Rough Cut (My Review at Twitch) and of course, Black Dynamite (Row Three Review), but there were very few clunkers at the festival this year which boasted the strongest line-up since the fests 2006 launch. There is a democratic voting system used by the festival staff to generate the Audience Choice award (The same ‘vote 1 to 5’ system used by the Toronto International Film Festival). This year, the Audience Award went to Dead Snow (Gamble got a real kick out of this one, and talks about it on the last cinecast), the fun Norwegian Nazi-Zombie romp. The Vision Award, for best independent genre film went to UK/Romanian vampire dramedy Strigoi (Row Three Review).

    The rest of the award winners, including short films, are tucked under the seat.

    Also, it bears mentioning that if you are a Toronto local and missed the France/Senegal heist-blaxploitation remix Black at this years festival, be sure to check it out at the AMC Yonge & Dundas, it opens commercially in Toronto today with a slow expansion across Canada.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • “Live Evil” Gets Release Date and a Free Screeing in Vegas


    For those that missed Toronto After Dark and all the goodness it had to offer, I may have found something for you to take the bite from your pain; maybe not the same thing, but possibly the next best thing. For those of us who love our little indie horror flicks – specifically Vampires – director Jay Woelfel put together this little tale of survival called Live Evil in which a group of vampires are having trouble surviving in a world where the blood supply has become polluted by drugs and STDs.

    The film gets a limited release on September 18th (playing about 300 screens) and hits DVD in early November. For those closer to the west coast, sin city will be hosting a free screening of the film on Devil’s Night at the Sci-Fi Center: a true grindhouse movie theater dubbed “The Underground Screening Room” that showcases arthouse, horror, cult, science fiction, fantasy and independent cinema not usually available at traditional theaters.

    While I’m not sure if the limited screenings will hit my neck of the woods, this looks fun enough that I’ll certainly be tracking down a copy of the DVD as quickly as possible. Gotta love your indie horror.

    Trailer is under the seats…
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  • Toronto After Dark: GRACE


    Let us put the cards down on the table, shall we? Most horror movies these days aim to titillate, not actually scare. When you are cheering for the victims (or the slasher) to be splattered or carved on screen, this is lynch-mob entertainment or vicarious wish-fulfilment. An honest to goodness horror movie, in the humble opinion of this writer, should burrow at a deeply personal, individual level. There is nothing wrong with the former group spectacle (akin to blood-lust for gladiators in the coliseum or even the role modern sports entertainment), it is just not my personal cup of tea. When a movie like Grace comes along and shows how a few very well articulated ideas, specific amplifications of the anxieties of new parents, can really massage its audience with discomfort and bile, you will have to indulge me for getting a little giddy with excitement. The Sundance buzz around this picture, in the wake of a few audience members fainting or rushing for the doors, proudly proclaims to “See it at your own risk.” Believe that film is the real deal. Moms-to-be or folks who have a young one at home in the crib are going to have a more difficult time with Grace than some of the more acknowledged classics of the ‘pregnant-horror’ sub-genre À l’intérieur or Rosemary’s Baby.

    Writer-director Paul Solet is content early on in the picture to take precisely aimed satirical strikes at some of the things expecting parents (in the western middle class, but to a degree in any culture) will likely have to deal with at some point. Many ‘older couples,’ as in those getting pregnant into their thirties and beyond, have a rough go at getting pregnant. ‘Mission sex’ centered more around conception than personal intimacy becomes the order of the day. The goal of spawning takes on the guise of a masters thesis. The research around reproducing, the medical and social decisions can be daunting and veer off into obsessive and narcissistic realms. Natural birth or epidural pain killers? Midwife and Doula or Hospital? Breast feeding or baby formula? How far do you want to let the in-laws into the child raising decisions? How do you keep them at arms length if they disagree philosophically. Judgement calls become personal flags of stubborn pride that can alienate friends and family. All the while, images of handsome little infants gleam out from product advertisements in glossy parenting magazines and the overall sales machine of all manner of baby-do-dads. This level of anxiety-joy is much more heightened than say the lucre-circus of marriage due to the biology involved. Biology is one of the great avenues to really going after a horror metaphor; something that David Cronenberg or Shinya Tsukamoto knows a thing or two about, and Grace is certainly gunning to be in that league.

    » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Toronto After Dark: THE CHILDREN


    “You brought them into this world. Now … They will take you out” is the, frankly, pretty awesome marketing hook on the British juvenile-slasher film The Children. I choose my words carefully because the film is on the whole rather immature; being more giddy for set-piece kills over storytelling and characterization. I am quite amazed how it is earned a reputation for being “scary.” Tom Shankland and company have a eye for technical detail yet one too many establishing shots expose the episodic, plotted around kill ‘money shots’ nature of the piece. The film is so eager to please in a 1980s Freddy/Jason kinda way that it squanders a really good idea on the cheapest form of horror-thrills. Nevertheless the picture is shot with a talented eye and for the most part the acting and setting is well established.
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  • Toronto After Dark: STRIGOI


    With all the contortions and mutations that the vampire movie has taken in the past 75 (heck, the past 2) years, it is quite refreshing to see that there remains interesting potential in the genre. Take for instance, Fay Jackson‘s debut feature, Strigoi, which trumps Bram Stoker in going rigorously back to the roots of the mythology in Romanian folklore, pulls things forward through both World Wars and culminates in a failed medical doctor sending a picture (via blackberry) of the townsfolk dealing with the undead at the local catholic church. Bring Backup.

    The very indie British filmmakers, obviously in love with the local terrain and history, bring a maturity to the genre (along for the ride: handsome cinematography) that is most definitely lacking in the modern trend of nosferatu sightings (with the obvious exception one one Swedish entry). Where Trueblood and Twilight pander mightily to their audiences, offering lurid cheap thrills and plots that wash down like fizz-less soda pop, Strigoi challenges and stretches audience expectation of the bloodsucker with an ambitiously adult story of land ownership, tradition, history and a people dealing with a generational gap that has its youth go off to the rest of Europe to find their place in the world. Oh, and it is darkly funny too, with a delightfully morbid use of Norman Greenbaum Spirit in the Sky and a mothers plea to her son to “Be a good boy, go cut out his heart and burn it.”
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  • Toronto After Dark: BLACK DYNAMITE


    bdposterThe challenge in spoofing Blaxploitation flicks is that really, most of the classic entries in the genre are well into self parody already (Dolemite anyone?). The solution brought to the table by writer-director Scott Sanders and writer-producer-star Michael Jai White is to make the film look as authentic as possible (re-purposing lots of 1970s b-roll footage in establishing shots) while picking at the overstuffed nature of the more serious entries (Shaft, Coffy). Police Procedural? Check. Neighborhood Vigilantism? Check. Kung Fu Island Assault? Check. Racial Conspiracy? Check. Revenge Plot? Check. It may be busy, but Black Dynamite is certainly Baadasssss.

    As strange as it is to say in a film this broad in its aim, much of the best humour derives from exposing the structural short cuts of lower budgeted ‘give-em-what-they-want’ action flicks. There are a lot of things adding up to the conspiracy Black Dynamite aims to uncover, and the movie has no problem jumping from one set-piece to the next to keep things moving along. In the case of stretching things to the expositional breaking point, a scene that pulls all of this together is sublime in its unexpected lunacy. BD and the gang get together for a ‘chalk-board’ session to pull together all the clues and connects Asclepius to Malt Liquor, M&Ms to Little Richard and incidentally causes the invention of Chicken and Waffles. This is worthy of whiter-than thou comic genius of Monty Python or at least the Ealing inspired Without A Clue. More obvious sight gags like boom mikes dropping into the frame, choppily edited car chases, and a shoot out involving a man in a donut suit (with an uzi) are equally plentiful and interspersed with wordier gags like that mentioned above, or, for example a co-op of wildly nick-named pimps going through their blow and ho business plan. But to merely list the successful chuckle-worthy gags and ‘great’ scenes would be both exhausting and pointless. Suffice it to say that they are both a plentiful cocktail of both subtle and obvious. The only tricky part is to decide whether some of the clunkier moments, characters or side-plots in the film (and there are a few) are errors in judgment or a play for further authenticity. Perhaps one could make the argument on whether or not this sort of endeavor is worthwhile considering that there are boatloads of classic black-cinema out there waiting for discovery and enjoyment. The emphasis on comedy and style here is highly likely to be a catalyst in getting people to go back and look up many of the originals and that in and of it self is pretty cool. You dig.

    blackdynamte-r2Michael Jai White, who is perhaps best known as the man in the Spawn costume or Direct-To-Video fare (although he has a blink and you’ll miss him role in The Dark Knight), gets a chance to really strut his stuff as a Robin Hood of the ‘hood with a CIA secret ops, Kung Fu and ‘Nam background. He is Richard Roundtree, Jim Kelly and Chuck Norris all rolled into a virile and buff lead who can deliver the Kung-Fu and Nunchaku along with tongue twisting monologues and wild wakka-chikka-wakka-chikka moments with the ladies. His comic timing is as impeccable as his martial arts. His reaction to meeting ‘the man’ and his wife at the very top of the food chain results into a worthy climax of the film, consecrating his superhero status with the destruction of the good china, that will be hard to top any future Black Dynamite sequels (BD in Africa?).

    To put it quite simply, Black Dynamite is a the best parody/spoof film to be made in some time. It stomps on the line between gag-a-minute classics such as Airplane! and Top Secret! (I’m surprised Black Dynamite does not also have an exclamation point at the end of its title, it is certainly deserving of it) and more indirect homage films like Hot Fuzz and Austin Powers. While there have been a couple of quite passable parodies that have mined this territory (I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Undercover Brother), Black Dynamite is best of breed. It understands and takes precise aim at the idiosyncrasies of Blaxploitation flicks and delivers an entry of pure popcorn entertainment. It keeps much of the spirit of good old fashioned (em)power(ment) to the people, even as it often pokes ‘the classics’ in the solar plexus.

    blackdynamite-r1After picking it up at Sundance, Sony Pictures is giving Black Dynamite a limited 5-6 city release on October 19th, and hopefully this will expand outward after that. With a serious lack of black action heroes out there, “We need you Black Dynamite, now more than ever!” The “R” rating that this is destined to receive (due to mondo mammaries) may help or hinder its wide-release chances. But if this picture does make it into wide release, here is hoping that it shows the folks that flock to the soulless and offensive ‘____-Movie‘ parodies just how things ought to be done.

  • TAD09: The First Announcements


    TAD 09 Film Festival Banner

    I‘m sure at some point the boys will post an official TAD entry somewhere to track all of the stuff playing in Toronto from August 14th to 21st but the organizers have posted the first announcements and even if they didn’t add any more screenings, this would be a trip worth making. Seriously. The screening of Michael Dougherty’ long hidden Trick ‘r’ Treat is almost enough to sell me on the trip. But August in Toronto? So close to VIFF? Not so much.

    Line-up of films at the moment:

    Trick ‘r’ Treat
    Michael Dougherty, USA, Toronto Premiere
    Four creepy crowd-pleasing stories intersect in this hugely anticipated feature, set on the night of Halloween. From Producer Bryan Singer (X-MEN, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, VALKYRIE) and starring TRUE BLOOD’s Anna Paquin and Brian Cox (MANHUNTER, BOURNE SUPREMACY). Trailer

    Grace Movie Still

    From Producer Adam Green (HATCHET) comes this creepy and shocking tale of one very desperate woman as she tries to satisfy the needs of her very special newborn baby, that will only eat…. human blood! Trailer

    Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl
    Hysterical and bloody, this one of a kind romantic horror comedy about two dueling dead girls at a high school is from the same deliriously warped Japanese minds that gave us last year’s Toronto After Dark Festival hit TOKYO GORE POLICE and the upcoming ROBOGEISHA whose recently released trailer has become a viral video sensation! Trailer

    » Read the rest of the entry..

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