Mamo #227: After After After Dark

Special guest star Adam Lopez, director and founder of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, joins us to call us out on various colours of carpets for our comments on Episode #225! A spirited conversation about running a genre film festival in the city of Toronto ensues…

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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.

Cinecast Episode 233 (part 2) – The Fests and Furious!

So we’ve been gone for two weeks. This is what we’ve been doing with our time since the last episode. Kurt spent a Halloween week with the crew at the After Dark Festival while Matt and Andrew went down to cider country for good ol’ homegrown fun with The Flyway Film Fest. A good time was had by all. Here’s how it all went down…

Be sure to check out PART ONE of this episode with new release talk and The Watch List!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!



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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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Toronto After Dark 2011: Father’s Day Review

Father’s Day is pretty much the perfect exploitation film. It will offend many with its graphic images and content (both bloody and sexual) while it embraces the anything-goes aesthetics of many of the films from the 1970s that range from impressively realistic gore to ridiculous use of stock footage. Its plot begins with a search for a serial killer and from there mutates with a speed and force rarely seen outside the viruses found in bad sci-fi movies. Strippers, priests, male prostitutes, bears, chainsaws, hallucinogens, demons, a visit to Hell and probably even a kitchen sink or two are smashed together, blended until each has been reduced to gooey chunks and then splattered back up on screen with a joyful exuberance. It’s sick, gory, disgustingly gross and very, very funny.

However, let me be very clear up front: The opening 10 minutes of the film is extremely nasty stuff and enough to thoroughly repulse just about anyone but the purest of gorehounds. A rapist of fathers (it’s explained that he doesn’t like woman, but never stated why he only goes after the Dads) is on the loose and we join him in the middle of a particularly, um, gruesome violation of another human. Having seen the faux-trailer for the film last year (which led the Canadian filmmaking team Astron-6 to make a full version of the film for the folks at Troma), it wasn’t really a surprise – that trailer is full-on Grindhouse at its ickiest – but that first section began to validate my fears that the movie was going to be completely in that same vein. A strange thing happens after a few minutes of this type of gore though – it’s pitched so way over the top that you can’t actually take any of it seriously and it becomes more of a parody than anything else (though a disgustingly Lurid one).

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Mamo #225: After After Dark

Mamo checks in from the Toronto After Dark film festival 2011, with a good news / bad news analysis of this festival’s market chances in the city with the most film festivals anywhere in the world. Plus unexpected guest appearances from Kurt and John!

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Toronto After Dark 2011: The Woman Review



After watching a movie that takes place in such a strange headspace such as Lucky McKee’s The Woman, it is probably best to let the thing percolate a bit before even attempting to articulate a reaction. The prime example of this visceral reaction is a youtube video that went around Sundance after the films premiere featuring a guy who wanted the film destroyed from existence. *Deep Breath* Here goes. The Woman boldly defies any attempts to slot it into any sort of easy niche. It is simultaneously a blunt gender provocation, a deadpan satire and a gory torture movie. I suppose if a filmmaker elicits a visceral reaction in your audience, you have made a successful horror picture, but I am not sure that the film has anything new or interesting to say, and I am not exactly enamoured with how it goes about saying it. There are a fair number of of leaps and contortions to be made to get into the the film. You not only have to swallow that there is a super-psychotic family that is well integrated into the polite rural society of back-yard BBQs and supermarket chit-chat, but also that there is a feral woman who has lived her life out in the back forty thus far unnoticed. But let us proceed with an open mind, nevertheless.

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Toronto After Dark 2011: Absentia Review

If there was one piece of hype that was circulating during this year’s Toronto After Dark festival, it was that the relatively low-budget horror film Absentia would shake us all, was easily the scariest thing we would see all week, possibly all year and that we should prepare ourselves…And if there was one thing that the crowd (at least those that I talked to afterwards) mostly agreed on after seeing the film was that the hype had improperly set everyone’s expectations. The film didn’t actually scare the pants off anyone or make them jump out of their seats to the rafters as advertised (except for one early scare that was executed brilliantly and made several people actually cry out). However, it did end up being the kind of real horror movie that lets its concepts sit and stew with you and provide fodder for the deep dark corners of your mind to pick up and play with when you aren’t paying attention. This applies not only to the specific horror on screen but to a larger thematic look at the idea of being abandoned. So though there was a great deal of consensus that the film wasn’t as outright scary as expected, there also seemed to be almost as much agreement that it was an excellent dramatic depiction of deeply felt horror.

The title comes from the decision to call someone dead after they have been “in absentia” for a period of time. Essentially, if after 7 years (in this case) a missing person hasn’t shown up anywhere and it’s just like they dropped off the face of the Earth, then they can be declared legally dead. The film opens as Tricia struggles with just such a decision so she can close the final chapter of her husband’s own disappearance 7 years ago. Her younger sister Callie has come to visit in order to help her with the final “death in absentia” paperwork and some packing before she moves out of the house to start a new life. Considering Tricia is pregnant, she should really be ready to move on, but the final submission of the papers and acceptance of her husband’s death (even if their marriage wasn’t completely successful) is a big step. So big, in fact, that she begins to see a ghostly version of him at almost every turn – his hollowed out eye sockets still fixing on her in an accusatory manner. Are these simple manifestations of her attempts at closure or is his spirit really trying to break through back to her? The answer might lie in a nearby walkway tunnel that seems to be a focal point for several disappearances.

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Toronto After Dark 2011: The Divide Review


Not a moment is given before the gorgeously apocalyptic opening of Xavier Gens new film sees its cast of characters barricaded in the basement bunker of a New York City high-rise. Then the few survivors have all the time in the world, stuck with each other after the world end. Such is the premise of The Divide, a film that is more icky than it is beautiful, as if someone decided to make a less-parable, less-arty version of Fernando Meirelles and José Saramago’s Blindness with video-game aesthetics as book-ends. The Divide is not so much about anything, but much like the directors previous, and quite furious film, Frontier(s), it plays out the situation that leaves little to the imagination, and more than a fair bit of wincing from this viewer. For the film takes its little neo-society of under a dozen and puts them through a hell that one character foreshadows, “but you are going to be swimming through a whole lotta godawful shit before you get out.” Yea, that about sounds right.

The actor who utters this phrase, is none other than Michael Biehn, who James Cameron endeared to science fiction geeks everywhere with the soldier-of-fortune 3-punch: The troubled freedom figher Kyle Reese in The Terminator, stalwart and reliable Cpl. Hicks in Aliens and hair-trigger nutter Lt. Coffey in The Abyss. To say the dude has INTENSE down pat is an understatement, and that Gens has more than a little worship of the actor doing his thing onscreen is apparent. Case in point, Biehn’s first line of dialogue is “Let there be light.” So that kind of says everything we need to know. Biehn plays Mickey, a retired NYC Firefighter turned superintendent – maybe a tad racist – and tightly wound-up nutter, but one that good sense to have a fully stocked bunker in the basement just in case New York takes another pounding from, his words, those towelheads. He is stand-offish and intimidating towards his new found roommates: Josh, a gay man (ex-Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia) his lover Bobby (Michael Eklund) and younger brother (Ashton Holmes), an older mom (Rosanna Arquette) and her pre-teen daughter, a black guy (Courtney B. Vance), a lawyer (Iván González) and his wife Eva (Lauren German) who looks enough like Milla Jovovich that one suspects she be start kicking some ass later on. I list the characters as ‘types’ here and there is a reason for it. The film is not so much interested in developing character as it is tightening the panic-screws on the trapped souls. Initially there are guys in Hazmat suits that have lots of plastic and lab equipment, but little interest in helping anyone. When they take the daughter out of the equation, this is a an act of mercy for the audience considering the five rings of hell the film descends into from there on out.

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