Each year, Toronto fans of horror, sci-fi, action and cult films wait breathlessly for the start of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Now in its 6th year, the festival showcases genre features and short films from all around the world, often screening films that don’t ever get a theatrical release, and in some cases don’t even find a home on DVD.
This year’s line-up features everything from monster wrestling and reluctant vampires to zombies and haunted innkeepers, much to the delight of the hundreds of genre fiends who turn up for each screening.
Toronto Movies Examiner is reporting from the Festival – here’s a look at just a couple of the films that have screened so far.
Some Guy Who Kills People – Popular character actor Kevin Corrigan (Unstoppable, Please Give, Superbad) headlines this John Landis-produced dark comedy gem about a lovable sad sack named Ken who may or may not be taking bloody revenge on the football player bullies who tormented him in high school.
Ken has just been released from a mental institution, is living with his mother (Karen Black) and is working at a job that forces him to dress up as a giant ice cream cone and stand on the street. Just when Ken starts to question his place in the world, two monumental events occur: one of his high school tormentors ends up brutally murdered and his previously unknown 11-year-old daughter Amy (the winsome Ariel Gade) shows up on his doorstep, looking to foster a relationship.
Amy begins to bring Ken out of his shell, encouraging him to ask out the pretty British lady who frequents the ice cream shop (Lucy Davis from the Brit version of The Office), and all the while Ken’s nemeses continue to be picked off in a gorily violent manner, stumping the local sheriff (Barry Bostwick) and causing Amy to suspect her Father.
This is a classic B-movie horror comedy in the grand tradition of movies like The ‘Burbs or Fright Night (although not quite in the same league) in that writer Ryan Levin and Director Jack Perez (Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus) have managed to create a thoughtful film that featuring a story about a damaged guy learning to open himself up to the people around him amdist a series of slapstick gore sequences that are both laugh-out-loud ridiculous and stomach churning. In fact, it’s that novel mixture of heartwarming horror that save the film when the story starts to drag around the midway point.
All in all, a lovely addition to the Toronto After Dark line-up that proves not all horror films need to be deadly serious in order to succeed.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Absentia – This ultra low-budget pschological horror seems to be getting some positive word-of-mouth amongst horror critics, but call me crazy, Absentia did not work for me at all.
The film looks at the real-life horror of a loved one disappearing without a trace and adds an otherwordly spin to it, following the story of Tricia, a young woman who’s about to have her husband declared dead after his seven-year absence. Her troubled sister Callie shows up to help Tricia pack her husband’s things and ready herself for the birth of her first child by a detective working on the disapperance. After an early morning run through the ominous tunnel across the road from Tricia’s apartment, Callie begins to encounter some strange occurences that may point to the tunnel’s connection to a rash of disappearances in the neighbourhood, dating back decades. Callie’s a former drug addict and Tricia’s driving herself crazy with guilt – are the bizarre visions and unexplained events really happening or are they all figments of their overtaxed minds?
Kudos to writer/director Mike Flanagan for raising a good bulk of the $65,000 budget through kickstarter.com, it’s always inspiring to see a filmmaker able make a film on his own terms, but that good will does not extend to the final result which I found to be tedious, hamfisted and decidely not scary.
The film starts out well enough, with Flanagan making it clear that this is meant to be some sort of play on the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff (Callie gives her sister the book as a baby gift – hamfisted, remember?), a horror re-imaging that has not yet been done. From there it’s all downhill as the film throws together a bunch of different horror sub-genres, none of them entirely successful as the film becomes bogged down by terrible pacing, clunky dialogue and a funeral dirge-like score that eventually makes the running time of the film feel interminable.
Rating: 1 star out of 5
Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs until Thursday, October 27. Check the website for ticket and screening information.
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