TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL

Making the pilgrimage up north to Toronto, I was fortunate enough to join the masses for the 11th annual TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL running from October 13-21 at the SCOTIABANK THEATER in downtown Toronto. In an overwhelming, engaging and welcoming environment of movie loving magic as well as film fan community, the opening weekend offered a very diverse short film block, dark dramas like TRASH FIRE, LET HER OUT and UNDER THE SHADOW along with action films like IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE, BLOOD FATHER, WAR ON EVERYONE, TRAIN TO BUSAN, THE REZORT, KILL COMMAND and more! Watching so many talented filmmakers and films that blend action, sci-fi, horror and drama, I compiled my Top 4 films from what I was able to see on the opening weekend for TOM HOLLAND’S TERROR TIME!

TRAIN TO BUSAN: Directed by Sang-ho Yeon (South Korea)

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There is nothing like this film. For me, TRAIN TO BUSAN transcends the tired genre of infection films. TRAIN TO BUSAN is the best overall horror film I have seen in a decade. Offering no exposition on why this happening or how the first domino falls, the ride is furious, emotional and truly well-crafted on such a contained staging. This film shows that the George A. Romero school of zombies, why it was a classic style for this sub-genre of horror in decades gone by is not as effective in modern horror cinema as Danny Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER reimagined, rage filled infected. Tapping into primal fears as well as reaction, TRAIN TO BUSAN makes us care in many different ways. We truly care about those trapped on the train as we invest ourselves in their love, fight and fear. The characters are developed on levels that work with the story. We care about and we are forced to follow the survivors through mistakes, moments of glory and horror that rips your heart out in all the best ways. We care about the moments when they are going to fight even though just like us, they are terrified because it goes beyond the aspect of fear, it is a fight to save those they love and will fight for whether in sacrifice or survival. Created by talented animator Sang-ho Yeon, TRAIN TO BUSAN is animation come to life in elements like the infected train passenger’s movements, the gore based kills and larger than life battle scenes. TRAIN TO BUSAN is one of the few films in my lifetime where I did nothing but watch, scream, roar and cry. Why… because it was a film overall that made me care about everything connected to it. Bar none, Korea is an incredible hub for film and effective horror storytelling with TRAIN TO BUSAN leading the way of incredible and engrossing cinema.

TRAIN TO BUSAN Trailer:

 

UNDER THE SHADOW: Directed by Babak Anvari (Iran)

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Watching this film at TORONTO AFTER DARK made me realize the importance of the theater experience and how it cultivates the film. At the basis of the Iranian dark drama UNDER THE SHADOW, we see the struggle with culture, family and gender in a war torn Iran in 1988. Adding the horrors of war, a rundown family housing as well as the fragile state that isolation creates on the psych, we learn that some monsters or the Djinns may be real… or not? The timing of this film and the mood created between the very powerful dialogue, reaction and use of light really surprised me. Compared to films like THE BABADOOK and REPULSION, I find UNDER THE SHADOW more of akin to Hideo Nakata 2002 DARK WATER in the overall growing dread of this film and how powerful the human mind can be in creating atmosphere and tension as well as the mix of incredible symbolism and the role of being a woman in a society at that time that offers nothing but placement and role. The mind is a scary place to be but when you blend legend and place, it can be all encompassing and build to a dark end in UNDER THE SHADOW.

UNDER THE SHADOW Trailer:

 

LET HER OUT: Directed by Cody Calahan (Canada)

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What can you say about BLACK FAWN FILMS! They continue to grow, evolve and bring very simple horror storytelling that connect to our basic fears in such distinct and effective ways. LET HER OUT continues that trend as director Cody Calahan (Antisocial 1 and 2) finds a new voice with this film concept based off the medical condition of “Vanishing Twin” syndrome and the struggle of woman who is not sure if her mind is lost or if her demons are consuming her. Redefining body horror in a new and very practical expression, we see the struggle of the lead character Helen played by Alanna LeVierge dealing with not only losing her identity to this dark force but the past that has defined her life. For BLACK FAWN FILMS, LET HER OUT raises that bar to a higher level than their previous releases for their ability to created mood, hook you with the struggle of Helen personally and of course offer eye popping visuals that shock and satisfy the gore hounds out there all on limited budget with indie sensibilities.

LET HER OUT Trailer:

 

IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE: Directed by Ti West (USA)

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Ti West is one of the great modern masters of horror. Whether it has been with films like THE INNKEEPERS, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL or THE SACRAMENT, West continues to create interesting stories and his twist on challenging film projects that has lead him to the western written also by him entitled IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE. Deciding to challenge himself with perhaps the hardest film genre to create in westerns, West assembles a talented cast with among others Ethan Hawke, Karen Gillan and John Travolta. Not truly returning to the developing characters and paced horror storytelling fans have come to know, he does find a voice in the old spaghetti westerns and the idea that good will triumph over evil no matter the odds and very emotional placed love of dog! The film offers some incredible scenery that puts you in the mood for the story and Hawke along with his dog companion Abby as well as his former SINISTER co-start James Ransone are some of the bright aspects within the film that offers authentic and impactful kills laced with gore and violent intent. Put out by BLUMHOUSE PRODUCTIONS, West does not forget those who have helped him cultivate an incredible career of cinema worship and love with not only actor Larry Fessenden jumping on board in one of his most nasty and truly fun performances but also Jeff Grace scoring the film, Graham Reznick with sound and cinematographer Eric Robbins to name just a few. IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE has the moments of levity, mood and style of the classic Clint Eastwood led westerns but does find a few impactful horror moments for those who feel West may have moved away from the path he is known for.

IN THE VALLEY OF VIOLENCE Trailer:

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TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL

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