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.

Would you like to know more…?

Toronto After Dark 2014 – A Preview

 

As I’ve mentioned before, the Toronto After Dark film festival is quite close to my heart…I was there at its birth in 2006 and have attended every single one of its birthday parties since – whether it was in the old or new Bloor Cinemas, the Toronto Underground or in its recent digs at the Scotiabank. Every year has had its share of great and good films (and yes, a few not so great ones too) as well as memorable moments like the Funky Forest screening, the storm that blew out a projector, the Black Dynamite screening, the after after-parties, closing down Pauper’s Pub every night, and some damn fine Q&As by directors who are genuinely excited to be there.

Even though just about every film festival that has ever existed says “this will be our biggest year ever!”, all signs certainly point to this being a big one in the history of Toronto After Dark. With just a few days to go before the festival kicks off (it runs from Oct. 16-24 and screens 19 feature length films and 28 shorts), there are already 3 sell-outs and, according to their web site, apparently another 3 about to sell out. Good news for the fest to be sure, but not too surprising when you look at their lineup (all trailers can be viewed from the festival’s schedule page):

 

Thursday October 16th

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Housebound – This opening night film from New Zealand promises a haunted house set of thrills. Apparently it can back up that claim with an award from another festival as well as numerous good reviews floating around. I haven’t seen a really good haunted house movie in a while, so I’m pretty psyched for this opener and expect the fest will kick off with a rollicking crowd pleaser.

Suburban Gothic – Described as a “ghost-hunting horror comedy”, this could go either way – specifically because of the two words “horror” and “comedy” being put together. Oh sure there have been plenty of good ones, but if the director and cast can’t hit the proper tones, it can all fall apart. The cast looks pretty solid, and since TAD has been pretty good at kicking their festival off strongly, I’ll stay on the optimistic side for this evening.

 

Friday October 17th

Hellmouth – A portal to hell horror starring Stephen McHattie? Sign me up! Written by Tony Burgess of Pontypool fame? I’m doubly excited! Wait…Didn’t Burgess also write last year’s abysmal (at least in my opinion) Septic Man? OK, let’s call it even and just say I’m singly excited…

 

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ABCs Of Death 2 – I’m a big fan of horror anthology films, so the first ABCs Of Death sounded like manna from heaven. Turned out to be a mixed bag of Halloween treats – mostly of that crappy candy corn variety. To be fair, there were several really strong stories and rumour has it that this second installment has much more quality control on it and an even more interesting list of directors.

Would you like to know more…?

Toronto After Dark 2013: The Battery Review

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Partially the product of circumstance, The Battery is a low-budget zombie film with nearly no zombies, blood, guts, or action. It’s a slow, seething film that focuses on human interaction at the end of the world, bringing it back to the social and cultural commentary instigated by George A. Romero’s work. Taking the festival circuit by storm, this predominantly two-man show with a killer soundtrack is worth all the praise it’s receiving.

The film centers around Ben (writer/director Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim), now former baseball players that were part of a Battery. Having survived the zombie apocalypse, they are now making their way through the woods and rural areas of desolate New England to stay safe from the undead. With no goal in mind other than staying mobile and safe, their personalities begin to clash. They represent two parts of the human condition: the desire for creature comforts, and the will to survive. Mickey longs for the comfort of a bed, the stability of a home, and the normality of daily life. Ben desires nothing more than to keep moving, living off the land and whatever they can scavenge from the remnants of society. Would you like to know more…?

Toronto After Dark’s 2013 Lineup

Toronto After Dark Film Festival Line-up 2013

This will be my second year attending Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and I’m eagerly counting down until it begins. Last year’s festival was my first time attending anything as press, and it was honestly a mind-altering experience. I got to meet some of the incredible people involved in this fantastic genre festival, and made some great friends I’m now quite close with. With the Toronto premieres of the Twisted Twins’ American Mary and the standout Resolution from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead, it felt like I was watching the future of the genre unfold before my eyes. It truly is a special festival, and I can’t wait to participate in yet another delightfully twisted nine nights of mayhem.

This year brings a wide array of strange to the table, with 19 feature length films and a total of 28 short films from around the world. The features at a glance are: We Are What We Are, Bounty Killer, Big Ass Spider, Eega, Stalled, The Battery, Silent Retreat, Septic Man, Motivational Growth, Odd Thomas, Solo, Last Days on Mars, The Machine, Found, Evil Feed, Willow Creek, The Banshee Chapter, Cheap Thrills, and Big Bad Wolves.

19 Canadian shorts will run before each of the feature films, including: Beasts of the Real World, Bless You, Corvus, Down Bob, Just Ella, Kin, L’étranger, Liebe (Love), Master, Montreal Zombies, Mood Killer, Night Giant, Remember Me, The Guest, The Hunt, The Lamp, The Last Video Store, The Vehicle, and Under The Neon Lights. Would you like to know more…?