Toronto After Dark 2013: Cheap Thrills Review

Toronto After Dark Banner White on Black 89uoi3rwef8youihk5j24twefsd98youhkj54twe


A near perfect title (targeting viewers as well as certain characters within the film) for a near perfect exercise in escalation, Cheap Thrills follows two desperate souls as they dive deeper into a game of cruel one-upmanship (for cash and prizes!). There can only be one possible direction for the game to finally take and the film steps you there in believable (and, fortunately, entertaining) fashion. As our contestants Craig and Vince out-do and under-bid each other at each step, the comedy turns darker and an uncomfortable reality sets in to the viewer – are we just as guilty as the two hosts of this private party?

The party in question is for Violet’s birthday (played by Sara Paxton and looking far different than her tom-boyish character in The Innkeepers) and it’s being hosted by her husband Colin (David Koechner). The party-hardy Colin chats up Vince at a bar (where he and Craig were catching up on old times) and manages to rope the two of them into celebrating the beautiful Violet’s special day (even if she seems totally uninterested in just about everything but her phone). Craig hasn’t exactly had the best day – he just got fired from a crappy job on the same day he received a final eviction notice on the apartment he shares with his wife and infant child – and he was just considering bailing on home when Colin and Vince convince him to stay for an additional drink or two. He really has no reason to stay (he had only accidentally ran into his old “friend” Vince at the bar anyway), but Colin’s ease with flashing money and willingness to make little side bets (e.g. “I’ll give you $20 if that girl slaps your face…”) has him intrigued. He’s in dire straits and currently has no immediate options for making any money. Since his going-nowhere writing career won’t provide for his family any time soon, he decides to stay…

Would you like to know more…?

Toronto After Dark 2013: Motivational Growth Review

Toronto After Dark Banner White on Black 89uoi3rwef8youihk5j24twefsd98youhkj54twe


If you’ve ever channel surfed and gone around the horn perhaps a few more times than a rational thinking person really should, you may have some idea how Ian Folivor (the central character of Don Thacker’s film Motivational Growth) feels. Only some though…You see, Ian has reached the grandmaster level of couch potato-ness. He hasn’t left his apartment in over a year, pizza boxes and various dishes litter the furniture and it’s probably a tie between the floor and his beard as to which contains more food scraps. His couch is well worn in and except for the fairly regular bowel movements, he has mostly settled into a slouched zombie position as he flips constantly between stations. The mammoth remote control stays firmly in his hand as he stares at his old relic of a family TV (the old kind with tubes that came in crate sized cabinets). He’s lost his way, doesn’t know how to find it again and has pretty much given up hope of ever finding the desire to look for it. We know this because after his TV conks out on him, he confides it all straight into the camera to us. Without the TV, he’s even lost the will to keep living, so he concocts a poisonous mixture in his bathtub, breathes in the fumes and resigns himself to sweet oblivion. It’s around this point that Ian notices mold in the corner of his bathroom – mainly because it speaks to him.

Sorry, I should say “The Mold” (as it likes to be addressed). After Ian crashes down on the bathroom floor trying to seal off that damn bathroom fan that’s constantly churning (along with spiffy 8-bit computer game music – also known as chiptune – it’s the only other sound on the soundtrack), The Mold informs him that things need to change. The Mold has a plan and Ian is to follow every step. The Mold is here to help him. Ian is resistant, but after a series of encounters with people in his apartment (groceries, TV repair, landlord, etc.), he strikes a deal with the fungus. Ian begins to clean himself and his apartment up, tackles several tasks assigned to him and starts to envision an actual life. Hopefully one with that really cute woman next door that he has been peephole stalking on a daily basis.

Would you like to know more…?

Toronto After Dark 2013: Eega Review

Toronto After Dark Banner White on Black 89uoi3rwef8youihk5j24twefsd98youhkj54twe


There’s always the danger of too much hype affecting the viewing pleasure of a new film – particularly when it’s screened at a film festival where the programmers introduce their own choices. You’d think that the sell job would already be done (after all, your butt is already in the seat), but there’s a strong desire to reinforce to the audience how much of a treat they’re in for…Though I was very much looking forward to the first Indian entry ever to be presented at Toronto After Dark – the revenge thriller Eega – the on stage introduction to it felt perhaps a bit too rapturous in its praise. It was definitely a genuine excitement, but when we were told that the film also contained the greatest Intermission title card EVER, I thought I should scale my own expectations back a bit. After all, could a story of a reincarnated housefly seeking revenge on an underworld boss really provide that much fun? And could a single title card make a crowd spontaneously break into applause?

Turns out the answer is Yes on both counts.

Particularly that title card. Though we didn’t actually stop for an intermission (the international cut of the film has been trimmed by 25 minutes or so to about 108 minutes), when our heroic fly strikes a pose in freeze frame after announcing its intention to the big bad boss that it will kill him, our entire theatre burst into cheers and laughs followed by a palpable sense of anticipation for the back half of the film. Those are the moments that the theatrical experience was designed to be. Forget whatever “experience” your megaplex theatre promises you, the best ones are when an entire crowd joyously hand themselves over to what’s on screen. Of course, that specific moment wouldn’t have happened had the movie not already won us over to it. The story starts out a little slow during its character introductions, but by the time the musical number has graced the screen you should already be sold on the film’s rhythms and tone (which is distinctly and very knowingly goofy).

Would you like to know more…?

Toronto After Dark 2013: We Are What We Are Review

Toronto After Dark Banner White on Black 89uoi3rwef8youihk5j24twefsd98youhkj54twe

We Are What We Are 0uoi2j3rwefs7d8uoyih5k34twrs

Horror’s breadth of vision is part of what makes it such a remarkable genre. Straight horror is steadily becoming an increasingly difficult label to affix to a genre film, as they tend to vary drastically in their thematic elements and tonal range. Horrific elements can range from blood, guts, and entrails to demonic possession, or the depths of depravity of the human race. We Are What We Are, Jim Mickle and Nick Damici’s reimagining of Jorge Michel Grau’s Somos Lo Que Hay (2010), embraces the versatility of the genre with a shocking story of an unconventional family.

Set in the Catskills, this neo-American Gothic film focuses on the Parker family. After the accidental death of their mother, Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia Garner) are placed as the sole providers of the household. Their father, the formidable and domineering Frank (Bill Sage), enforces their sinister family tradition much against the girls’ wills. The hope of a normal life slowly slips away from the young girls as they are left in charge of the duties that once belonged to their mother: to slaughter, harvest, and consume another human being.

As a terrible storm strikes their tiny town, the resulting flood washes up what seem to be sparse human remains. Discovered by the local physician, Doctor Barrow (Michael Parks), a makeshift investigation ensues, and the extent of the Parker legacy is revealed. Would you like to know more…?

Welcome to October: T is for Thread


Friend of Row Three and horror blogger Jay Clarke (The Horror Section) puts forth a lesson to you all out there: If you are looking for plastic surgery, he is NOT the man you want to have doing the stitching on your face. Check out this black (and red) comedy short directed by Chris Nash and produced by Clarke. I cannot think of a more perfect or gruesome way to kick off October month. T for Thread has aspirations of getting into Drafthouse Films ABCs of Death short film anthology. I believe it has a good shot, if only because it has an entirely new spin on the banana-peel gag.

Full short is tucked under the seat. (Warning, don’t watch this while eating…)

Would you like to know more…?

TADFF ’11: Full Line Up

Without Toronto After Dark it is unlikely that there would be a for y’all to hang out, talk about a wide breadth of cinema goings on and enjoy a plethora of podcasting profundity. Row Three was formed when Andrew, Kurt and John hung out in the third row (literally) of The Bloor Cinema and took in films like Funky Forest, Aachi & Ssipak, Mulberry Street and Behind The Mask. In between screenings and over copious amounts of micro-brew, we talked about starting a website that favoured user discussion and community and a general vibe of ‘shooting-the-bull’ over the typical film-nerd comic book movie casting items and/or regurgitated pop-culture focused press releases. So it is always with interest and fondness that we hold this particular genre festival which is now going strong in its sixth year of operation. Incidentally, John, who, these days mainly operates behind the scenes on the site, because he started up a similar festival in Sasktown, Dark Bridges – which sees its sophomore year festival starting tomorrow!

Narcissistic nostalgia notwithstanding, Toronto After Dark has announced its full line-up today! The second round additions are pretty darn good, thus assuring that the temporary change of venue to Toronto Underground Cinema should see a showering abundance of genre trick ‘r treating this October. Locals will get a chance to see Ti West’s follow-up to House of the Devil: The Innkeepers on the big screen, as well as Lucky McKee’s controversial Jack Ketchum adaptation, The Woman. Also, weird comic book mayhem with VS (described to me by programmer Peter Kuplowski as the marvel-superhero deconstruction equivalent to the DC-universe breakdown, Watchmen.) Also, I’ve seen the little indie vampire tale Midnight Son, and it is a work of maturity and quality in a genre that sorely needs it. Further quality titles include slick mountain chase film, A Lonely Place to Die (Kurt’s Review) and indie Science fiction epic, Love (Kurt’s Review).

For the Full Line-Up, it’s all tucked under the seat.

Would you like to know more…?


TIFF 09Today was the first day of my new job. It looks like a great job and I’m pretty happy to be doing something new for a while. There is one terrible side effect of the new job and that is I have to wait for holidays to build up once again. I’ll have enough holidays built up by the fall for my regular family trip but I will not have enough for neither of Toronto After Dark nor the Toronto International Film festival. I was thinking I could do Calgary, Edmonton or Vancouver but they are all shortly after TIFF and they just won’t work out either. It looks like I might be thinking of Sundance in January but I would like some other suggestions. The festival needs to be in North America and should take place sometime very late in the year or early in the new year. Any suggestions?