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 6 – Event Horizon

Event Horizon
One of the few science fiction films featured here, this should be no surprise, because few are crazy enough to merge genres in this fashion and talented enough to pull it off.

I would never say that Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon is perfect. But it does have some incredibly scary moments, and a pretty sustained level or creepiness across the entire runtime of the film. That is if you can stomach the gorier moments in the film. It is kind of amazing that this was a studio released film with a sizeable budget, considering how graphic the imagery on display. Perhaps this is what endeared the film to me back when I caught in the theatres, the reviews were toxic and the film was a financial failure, but it has just a bit of je ne sais quoi (and two talented actors) to make the whole thing work. And it works well in the dark.

Laurence Fishburn captains rescue ship, commissioned by a scientist (Sam Neill) who hopes to find out what happened to the vessel knowns “Event Horizon” which disappeared, seven years prior but suddenly resurfaces in a decaying orbit around Neptune. The engine was a prototype designed to give faster than light travel by folding space, but instead, it may have opened a portal into another dimension, possibly to Hell.

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A Month of Horror 2013 – Chapter 3

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In this installment Exorcist II:The Heretic, Ravenous, Possession (1981) and The Devils. Now work with me Linda, work with me!

 

Exorcist II: The Heretic (John Boorman – 1977)
There are some great elements to this jumbled mess of a movie, but none of them ever quite fit together enough to bring even one great scene to bear. Moments, shots and ideas pop out, but then get ground down and trampled with remarkably silly and inconsistent plot points (usually involving religious flapdoodle, terrible “scientific” theories or ancient myths). Also of an inconsistent nature is the acting (though Richard Burton does stay reasonably consistent as the priest investigating what happened years ago), which can shift from moments of subtlety to awkward line readings – within the very same scene. Now that I think of it, nothing is consistent in this movie – even the special effects at times could provide an impressive set or shot, but then fall into almost laugh-out-loud goofiness (just because you can almost replicate a man falling down a chasm, doesn’t mean you should do it). No one gets away with their reputation intact.

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Empire’s 20th Birthday Photo Shoot

 

From South Africa (Clint Eastwood) to Santa Monica (Governor Schwarzenegger) to Jack Nicholson’s house (um, Jack Nicholson), Empire trotted the globe to deliver you 27 of the planet’s biggest stars, recreating iconic performances from two decades in film, for a unique 20th birthday celebration…

 

I stuck a few more favorites beneath the seats, but for the full list, head over to Empire online.

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Cinecast Episode 140 – Dybbuk Shmybbuk. Pass the Ham.

Episode 140:
Rants and raves in between a couple of spoiler free reviews of new Coens, Michael Moore and more zombies. We also have a nice discussion on screen hopping which sort of devolves into other theater no-no’s. Of course there are some DVD picks and more.

Thanks for listening!

Click the Audio Icon below to listen in:


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To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://www.rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_09/episode_140.mp3

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TIFF Brings the Madness!

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One of the very special treats at the Toronto International Film Festival is the midnight programme. Here, with 1000+ energetic movie goers, the chance is offered to take in the latest of wild and crazy genre fare from around the world. Horror, Martial Arts, Rockumentaries, and usually a zany asian bit of full on weirdness. Programmed by Colin Geddes for the past decade or more, the diversity and quality of the line-up (somehow!) improves year over year, and this one looks fun.

BITCH SLAP (The riff on Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!)
A TOWN CALLED PANIC (animated French stop motion animation)
ONG BAK 2: THE BEGINNING (Title says it all, bone crunching mayhem from Thailand’s Tony Jaa)
SYMBOL (Where the director/star Hitoshi Matsumoto of DIANIPPONJIN tries to one-up himself for strangeness)
THE LOVED ONES (Aussie Horror from the guy who directed ‘self help mumbojumbo, The Secret)
SOLOMON KANE (A 17th century Puritan, Solomon Kane is a somber-looking man who wanders the world with no apparent goal other than to vanquish evil in all its forms.)
[REC]2 (Just like the first one, but with more guns and military types)
SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (New Romero film. Local filmmaker alert!)
DAYBREAKERS (Bigger budget, star laden (Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Ethan Hawke) followup by the Spierig Brothers to Undead)

and…

Opening Midnight Gala: JENNIFER’S BODY (Diablo Cody + Megan Fox + Karyn Kusama = buyer beware!)

(Oh and in the non-midnight programs, several media outlets have let titles ‘slip’ prior to press release, MidnightMoviesBlog has the goods on the ‘unofficial at this time’ titles, here)

Vampires Turn Human in Daybreakers Trailer

Daybreakers Movie Still 6

Lestat reveled in it, Louis didn’t want it, Buffy wanted to kill them while blade Blade wanted a cure. Oh yeah, and Bella wanted to be one. What can Daybreakers bring that we haven’t seen before? Not much but as long as it does the job well, I’ll be a happy camper and if this shiny trailer is any indication I’m going to be more than happy. I’m going to be downright ecstatic.

In this new film from The Spierig Brothers, the world is populated by vampires who hunt the last remaining humans for blood and harvesting. Small problem: they’re running out of humans and therefore, food. Ethan Hawke is a scientist who is approached by the last surviving humans to help rebuild humanity. Willem Dafoe is the once-vampire-now-human with the cure and Sam Neill is the badass vamp who wants everything his own way. It’s a great idea for a story and the trailer looks super spiffy. I can’t believe we’re still moths away from a release – Daybreakers isn’t scheduled for release until January 8th, 2010.

Be sure to check out the images we posted a few months back. Trailer is tucked under the seat!

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31 Days of Horror: Day 8 – In the Mouth of Madness

German Version of In the Mouth of Madness PosterAny horror movie list needs to have at least one or two John Carpenter movies on. I thought about throwing Halloween on the list but that is just too simple and everyone has seen it. I’also have to say I’m a bigger fan of In the Mouth of Madness than of his other horror movies. Carpenter manages to create a modern H.P. Lovecraft classic story. In my mind it is fairly easy to create a world where a serial killer is stalking people but it is not so easy to create a terrifying descent into madness caused by reality being broken. In the Mouth of Madness is just one such movie and it is bizarre, creepy, humorous, terrifying and extremely compelling all at the same time.

Sam Neill is John Trent, a private investigator who specializes in Insurance Fraud. He is hired by the Arkham (Arkham in H.P. Lovecraft stories is a New England Town) Publishing to track down Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow). Sutter Cane is basically Arkham’s version of Stephen King. Sutter Cane has gone missing and the company wants to find him so that he can finish his latest novel which is sure to be worth millions. Trent agrees and heads home to start reading Cane’s works so that he can try to figure out where Cane might be. Shortly after he starts to read the novels he experiences nightmares for the first time. We have already been told that Cane’s novels can “affect” less stable people. Eventually Trent heads off to find the town of fictional town of Hobb’s End as he becomes to believe that the town actually exists. On his journey he is accompanied by Linda Styes (Julie Carmen) who works for Arkham. On his journey a lot of weird things happen. I could mention a few of them but they really have to be seen. My favourite of them all though revolves around an innkeeper and her husband.

In the Mouth of Madness really plays with the aspect of the world just not being right. In essence it is broken and the people you normally meet are in fact monsters. An example would be something along the following: while you might think your neighbor is just the average person he is really in effect a deranged deformed killer who has been abusing his family. You just were unable to see him for truly what he is. Are you actually insane and just believe this or is he really that evil monster. This is just an example I made up but I feel it covers the themes of the movie fairly well.

When we first meet John Trent we know right off the bat that he has been locked away insane but we do not know why or if he is actually truly insane. What we witness throughout In the Mouth of Madness is John Trent’s downfall once he enters into the world of Sutter Cane. It is a fun disturbing journey that really is worth taking and while it is not as simple as the typical slasher horror it is much more compelling in my mind.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Day 9 of the 31 Days of Horror.