Toronto After Dark 2014 Review: Time Lapse


Opening with a shot of swirling red paint, which then has tiny flecks of white thrown into the mixture to disturb the surface and complicate the image, Bradley King and B.P. Cooper’s Time Lapse shows just how bloody far you can go with a tiny budget, a great prop and two locations. The script here is a beauty, that finds new ways to look at time travel causality (or rather the dangers of perceived causality) along with the good old genre standby of the ‘big bag of money’ landing in your lap. To prove they are the real deal, the film also diligently delves into trust-issues that develop amongst friends when a morally questionable opportunity in life presents itself.

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Toronto After Dark 2014 Review: Predestination


Never do yesterday what you should do tomorrow, reads a sign in the early minutes of The Spierig Brothers’ delightfully loopy new film. Another reads, If at last you don’t succeed never try again. There are many of these twisted bon-mots lifted verbatim from Robert Heinlein’s short story, “All You Zombies” and scattered throughout its film adaptation, Predestination. Here is the thing about time travel movies: much time is in fact spent waiting around for things to catch up, even if it is only for that moment when Doc Brown sends his dog Einstein 60 seconds into the future. It leaves plenty of time to read the signs.

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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. Would you like to know more…?

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.

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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.

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“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.

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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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