The 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival continues its run at the Toronto Underground Cinema (186 Spadina Ave). Toronto Movies Examiner is reporting from the Festival – here’s a look at some of the films that have screened so far.
Click on the film title for reviews of Some Guy Who Kills People, Absentia and A Lonely Place to Die.
For fellow Examiner David Voigt’s After Dark coverage, click here.
The Corridor – Canadian filmmakers as a whole are just about as fond of the cabin-in-the-woods setting as are many horror writers. It’s easy to see why, it’s an easy way to isolate your characters and force them to explore their inner feelings, their relationships to one another, or become the reluctant hero in the fight against some formless evil force lurking amongst the trees. The Corridor, from Director Evan Kelly and Writer Josh MacDonald, attempts to do all three of the above…and it’s pretty darn successful.
The story involves a group of childhood friends who meet up at a remote cabin years after their buddy Tyler (Stephen Chambers) suffers a violent meltdown following the (maybe) accidental death of his Mother. In the throes of his breakdown, Tyler also attacked his friends with a butcher knife, leaving each of them with both physical and emotional scars of their own. The gathering is both a celebration of Tyler’s release from a mental institution and a pseudo-wake for his cremated Mother. After a night of reminiscing and revisiting their childhood slights and rivalries, the group discovers a translucent, steadily expanding, possibly extraterrestrial corridor of light that slowly begins to exert control over the friends, bringing their hidden fears and evil impulses to the surface. In a particularly clever twist, mental patient Tyler is the only one who’s able to keep it together, thanks to his anti-psychotic medication.
The film spends a good amount of time during the first two acts exploring the characters and their relationships to one another both before the “incident” and after. The cast of unknown actors are all incredibly naturalistic in the way they interact and demonstrate the ease with which long time friends fall back into old patterns with one another. It’s these performances that are the key to getting the audience involved enough to stay with the film as it takes its sweet time getting to the sci-fi/horror elements in the film’s final act, which employs the use of some good, old-fashioned practical gore effects in an extremely unsettling and effective manner.
Strong acting, natural dialogue, and a foreboding tone make The Corridor an engaging psychological horror trip well worth taking.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Vs– On the opposite end of the quality spectrum comes this tone deaf vanity project from writer/director/lead actor Jason Trost.
The concept, 4 superheroes wake up to find that their arch-nemesis (played like a cartoon on crack by James Remar) has set up a series of elaborate challenges for them to complete in order for them to keep him from killing a bunch of innocent civilians and eventually blowing up the town, is an intriguing one. Executed well, the film could have easily been a tension-filled thriller that lampoons everything from the SAW movies to the superhero genre. Unfortunately, this movie is about as far from well-executed as one can get.
In fact it’s hard to pinpoint one area in which the production went wrong: is it the atrocious acting (of note in the sea of bad performances, Sophie Merkley as “Shadow” is a blank slate who spends the duration of the film mumbling and staring into space), the clunky dialogue or the nonsensical plot progression? Well yes, it’s all of those things, but mostly, the film just has no soul. It’s an empty vessel of ideas and characters that have no arc and never ring true, making it hard for the audience to invest in the story.
It’s all well and good that Trost has created a vehicle for him and his friends (Lucas Till from X-Men: First Class also headlines and produces) to dress in colourful costumes and do neat things like shoot guns and punch out bad guys, but unless you’re willing to invest as much time in creating an engaging story as you are on trying to be cool, keep your superhero fantasies to yourself and off my movie screen.
Rating: 0 stars (out of 5)
Toronto After Dark Film Festival ends its run tonight with the much-anticipated screenings of Lucky McKee’s The Woman and Ti West’s The Innkeepers. Check the website for ticket info and showtimes.
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