Toronto After Dark 2015 – A Preview

 

The 10th edition of the Toronto After Dark film festival kicks off later today and runs for a solid 9 days (Oct. 15-23). The fest seems to have settled into its niche – it doesn’t look to expand beyond its ~20 screenings per year and likely won’t compete for big World premieres, but year after year it puts together an interesting and eclectic lineup of solid genre fare. Granted, there are typically some odd choices and a rather insistent need to pick thematic pairings (I have to assume many people are getting slightly tired of the zombie double-bills every year – or is that just me?), but there’s little doubt that genre fans who don’t make the trip to Fantasia and Fantastic Fest are rabidly happy that TAD rolls in the numerous big genre titles of the year to the big screen here in Toronto. And many of us are also rabidly happy about the late night pub gatherings.

With the shift to the downtown Scotiabank location in recent years, the more anticipated screenings typically sell-out (several have already done that) so the fest has instituted some late night second screenings for the more popular titles. Consult the full lineup on the festival’s schedule page) which should include trailers for the films as well. Here’s a short run down of this year’s titles (with the proviso that I’ve not watched any trailers or read much about any of these films):

 

Thursday October 15th

 

Tales Of Halloween – Though my love for horror anthologies was challenged a few years ago when Trick R’ Treat was screened at After Dark (I seem to be in the minority in not liking that film though), I have higher hopes for this particular effort. The stories are shorter, the directors are more varied & interesting and there has already been some solid reviews of it. All the tales apparently take place on the same spooky evening, so we’ll see if they manage to do any crossover/merging of the stories or if they are all standalone. I’d love it if they could bring some of the feeling of the old Amicus anthologies from the 70s, but I think we’ll be in for a pretty rousing fest opener regardless.

The Hallow – To be honest, all I needed to see was that the film was from Ireland…Of late, there have been numerous really solid atmospheric horror films coming from that isle (or at least funded via their film fund) like Dorothy Mills, Citadel and the recent The Canal. Though there isn’t necessarily anything specifically in common between those films, there is an appreciation of atmosphere and a willingness not to rush to jump scares. Even though The Hallow is getting stuck with the “scariest film at the fest” moniker (which always sets expectations too high), I’m hopeful that it will tackle horror in my favourite way – the one that slowly envelops and squeezes the breath from you.

 

Friday October 16th

Synchronicity – Sci-fi can be a tricky bet at smaller festivals like this (especially when you hear them being compared to much larger budget and classic films like Blade Runner), but TAD has chosen a few good ones the last couple of years and with director Jacob Gentry’s track record of The Signal behind him, there’s at least some solid talent involved. Given the title and the knowledge that there are likely some time travel paradoxes involved, the film promises to be a head-scratcher in a good way. Also, Michael Ironside plays a baddie, so there’s always that.

Lazer Team – I’ll be honest…I have much less confidence that Lazer Team lives up to any of its billing. Goofy comedic sci-fi can be even more difficult to hit right especially when your protagonists are (apparently from the blurb) idiots. I’m not familiar with the filmmaking team’s web series (Rooster Teeth), so this one is a crap shoot.

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Review: Resident Evil: Afterlife

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It’s a little bit pointless to review Resident Evil: Afterlife, which is why I didn’t even bother seeking out the Rotten Tomatoes score or any other reviews before rushing off to see it opening night. I mean, this is the fourth Resident Evil movie, with basically the same team behind all of them, though directors have changed a few times. You pretty much know what you’re getting into when you buy a ticket for this. If you expect much more than Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter looking hot and kicking ass while spouting ridiculous dialogue in a series of loosely tied together scenes, you’ll probably be disappointed. If not, enjoy it for the even sillier-than-most B movie it is.

Resident Evil: Extinction ended with classic sequel bait, with Alice (Milla Jovovich) promising to find Umbrella Corp bossman Wesker in his underground Tokyo lair and wipe him out, with the help of the army of clones Umbrella had been building to try to find a cure for the T-virus. Resident Evil: Afterlife picks up the story right there, with an all-out attack on Umbrella Tokyo. But Wesker gets away, destroying the facility behind him, and Alice (re-humanized by an injection that neutralizes the T-virus in her) sets off to find the rest of the Extinction group who had left to find Arcadia, a promised infection-free haven. Things don’t go as planned, Alice and Claire (an awesomer-than-I-expected Ali Larter, almost upstaging Milla a time or two) end up with another small group of survivors and eventually face off with Wesker again.

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