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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Occultober – Day 3 – The Wicker Man (1973)

The Wickerman (1973)
Not the American one with the bees, but rather the original British version with the apples.

When an uptight, very catholic, police sergeant (Edward Woodward) investigates the mysterious disappearance of a little girl on the isolated Scottish island of Summerisle, he quickly comes to suspect that she could possibly be sacrificed by the local pagans to help next years harvest.

Part musical, part pagan-wiki, part philosophical treatise on belief and morality, it remains, along with Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist as one of the truly iconic films of the genre. From a screenplay by Anthony Shaffer (Frenzy, Sleuth) it is barely a horror film by conventional standards. It is a bizarrely paced folksy crime procedural prone to bouts of ecclesiastical chagrin. But the ending is haunting enough to make up any lost ground. Likely the tour de force finale lead to The Wicker Man being branded “The Citizen Kane of horror films” by Cinefantastique Magazine; after its original theatrical release (the B-Side to Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now) was kind of ignored, the magazine devoted an entire issue to it.
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Occultober – Day 1 – Race With The Devil

Over the course of the month, one a day, we will be offering suggestions on cult films to watch. And by cult films, we mean films about cults, even though many of these films have cult followings in their own right. Each will go up as a separate post at the stroke of midnight, as it should be.

Race With The Devil
Why not kick things off with a bit of that old-school 1970s Satanic Cinema mixed with adrenaline-laced car chases. The tail off from the Corman biker movie cycle (the film features a stalwart of the genre, Peter Fonda, along with Warren Oates) before Mad Max, there is an absolutely incredible action set-piece in the middle of the film involving a lot of Satanists attacking a Winnebago at 80 miles per hour.

The rest of the film has some pretty classic occult cinema imagery, as well as sympathetic and fine performances from the two couples who turn off the main road with their RV and witness a human sacrifice.

Cinecast Episode 326 – Functionally Retarded, Yet Infectious

As it turns out, we discover as a very welcome surprise that this is Kurt and Andrew’s 300th episode together. So there’s reason enough to celebrate here. Kinda. But if you’re more into movies rather than nostalgia and landmarks, there’s plenty to get into with this episode. We have five, count ’em five, theatrical reviews to get to as well as our respective festival titles and experiences to mention. All of this spirals into a very important homework assignment for the week. Matt Gamble comes aboard to talk about Ridley Scott’s meandering. We get into all manner of awesome, including Robert Redford’s double takes, Polanski spelling it out, Elijah Wood is perpetually twelve years old and Judd Apatow’s version of a Richard Linklater film. All of this and a helluva lot more in another mega-episode that spans nearly four hours.

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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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Mondays Suck Less in the Third Row

Check out these links:
Best Buy Blu-ray upgrade SALE!
A dot map of every single person in the U.S.
Facebook is SOOOO 40 years ago
Long lost film from Roger Christian (Star Wars art director) found and will be available soon!
“Tweet Seats” introduced at theater in Minnesota
The Avengers is the most overrated movie of 2012
largehearted boy’s favorite short stories of 2012
Great Q&A with Tarantino on a Django Unchained plot hole

 


 

Happy 72nd Birthday Hayao Miyazaki!

 


 

Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney and Christian Bale morphed together together to create the “perfect” face of Batman

 


 

Mars if it were covered in water

 


 

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Playing Horror Catch-up: Vol 3

One last set of horror capsules from me, and relatively on time, too! Go me. I would actually have had it ready yesterday except I knew we were going to watch Friday the 13th last night and I wanted to include it. It’s been a solid month of catching up for me, with several big-name horror films crossed off my list. My overall new-to-me favorites for the month are The Cat and the Canary, Carrie, and The Descent, but I enjoyed everything I saw to one degree or another. I think next year I’ll have to come up with another title – I feel relatively caught up now with the big-name things that everyone expects me to have seen.

The Cat and the Canary

It figures that my favorite new-to-me film of the month would turn out to be a silent. I think I’m made backwards or something. Heh. Anyway, this “old dark house” film was namechecked at the screening of The Bat I went to earlier this month (capsule review), and even though I liked The Bat well enough, THIS is the film it largely wanted to be. I saw “largely” because this film is not a crime film in the same way, and those crime elements are solid in The Bat. The Cat and the Canary focuses on a last testament left by a crotchety old man twenty years ago – he stipulated waiting twenty years after his death to read it, and this is the time, with all his relatives gathered like vultures in his spooky old house to find out who will get his fortune. His instructions are complicated, involving a second inheritor if the main one proves to be insane, which leads to much suspicion all around. Add in a potential escaped lunatic running around through hidden passageways in the house and a mystery involving the family diamonds, plus some well-done comedy around the disparate group of people, not to mention the quite excellent Expressionist-style cinematography and really innovative animated titles, and this is a super-fun time. Is it scary? Well, maybe not, but there are some moments of genuine suspense and tension, and a few of the visuals are extremely creepy. I wrote a bit more about it here, along with more screencaps.
1927 USA. Director: Paul Leni. Starring: Laura La Plante, Creighton Hale, Forrest Shanley, Tully Marshall, Gertrude Astor, Flora Finch, Arthur Edmund Carew, Martha Mattox.

The Fog

This was a nearly random pick off Netflix Instant (not totally random, because I have been meaning to watch more John Carpenter films), and I knew almost nothing about it. I haven’t seen the remake or anything. I ended up really enjoying it – Carpenter has a talent for the kind of creepy scares that I love. Not quite jump scares, but where something just appears (with no cut or music to make it a jump) or you become aware of the bad guy’s presence and it sends chills down your spine. I love that, and there are several scenes in here that did that for me. The story is based on a ghost story (told wonderfully by John Houseman to a bunch of kids in the first scene) about a group of people killed 100 years earlier when their ship wrecked in a massive fog. Legend has it that when the fog returns, so will they, and this apparently is the year for it. Fog is creepy anyway, hiding things until they’re right upon you and tending toward exactly the kind of reveals I just mentioned. And there’s more to the story, as the priest in the town uncovers, that means these ghosts are not just unsettled due to their violent deaths, but actually seeking revenge. Not all of this plot works out totally, and the end is fairly nonsense-making, but on a scene-by-scene basis, I loved this. I actually liked it a little bit more than Halloween, which I’m sure I’ll get eviscerated for, but it’s because I like the ghost back story more (despite the nonsense-making). Halloween is the tighter, better movie, but The Fog appealed to my sensibilities more.
1980 USA. Director: John Carpenter. Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Janet Leigh, John Houseman.

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