The end of the coverage of one film festival is only the start of the next. The Toronto International Film Festival might be over for another year, but we are only one month away from the 9th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival!
This year’s festival will be taking place for the second time at the Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Toronto and will feature 20 screenings over nine nights, from October 16-24. The first ten films of the festival were previewed last month at Fan Expo, before being officially announced about two weeks ago.
With the dust from TIFF now settled, I can finally get around to running down the first half of this year’s festival line-up!
HELLMOUTH (Canada) World Premiere
Description: From the twisted mind of writer Tony Burgess (PONTYPOOL) comes a stunning, spectacular ode to classic horror and fantasy. HELLMOUTH tells the tale of gravekeeper Charlie Baker, (WATCHMEN’s Stephen McHattie) assigned to tend to a mysterious cemetery. Charlie’s routine journey to his new place of employment turns out to be a dark and fantastic voyage through a Gothic landscape, filled with demonic forces, and a life-altering encounter with a beautiful woman he must try to rescue from the bowels of hell.
Thoughts: This film has a very stylized look to it, which makes it appear like a mix between 1950s horror films and Sin City. Also, it is always great to see a film with Canadian character actor Stephen McHattie in a lead role.
THE BABADOOK (AUSTRALIA) Toronto Premiere *RECOMMENDED PICK*
Description: In the scary new horror hit from Australia, single mother Amelia must battle with her son Samuel’s fear of a monster lurking in their house. After a creepy pop-up book called Mister Babadook is found on the doorstep, Samuel begins to sense a sinister presence, and strange things begin to happen around the house. Amelia is at first dismissive, but then begins to question whether THE BABADOOK is a figment of Samuel’s troubled imagination or whether there might be something genuinely evil lurking in their midst.
Thoughts: Already having received much acclaim since premiering at Sundance, The Babadook is set to be one of the scariest highlights of this year’s Toronto After Dark line-up.
PREDESTINATION (AUSTRALIA) Toronto Premiere *RECOMMENDED PICK*
Description: Based on a story by acclaimed sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein (STARSHIP TROOPERS), the Spierig Brothers (DAYBREAKERS, UNDEAD) direct Ethan Hawke (GATTACA, TRAINING DAY) in this riveting sci-fi thriller in the mold of LOOPER and MINORITY REPORT about a Temporal Agent, tasked with traveling through time to stop crimes before they’re committed. On his final assignment, the agent must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time, the elusive Fizzle Bomber, determined to unleash mass destruction upon New York City, and who somehow always seems to be one step ahead of the Temporal Agency.
Thoughts: Toronto After Dark tends to have themes with its programming and one of them this year is undoubtedly time travel films. As a fan of Daybreakers, this will be a film I look forward to checking out.
DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD (NORWAY) Toronto Premiere
Description: The gruesome army of awakened Nazi Zombies from fan favourite DEAD SNOW once again return to terrorize the Norwegian countryside! In this crowd-pleasing zombie action comedy follow-up, Martin, the sole survivor of the first movie, must join forces with an American zombie hunter (cult favourite FREAKS AND GEEKS’ Martin Starr) and a reanimated squad of dead Russians if he is to try to defeat the undead Nazi horde and their evil commander!
Thoughts: With the original Dead Snow having played at Toronto After Dark back in 2009, it is no surprise that the sequel will be playing at the festival (undoubtedly for Zombie Appreciation Night).
WOLVES (USA/CANADA) North American Premiere
Description: In this coming of age werewolf action movie from David Hayter (writer of X-MEN, X-MEN 2), Lucas Till (XMEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST) plays Cayden Richards, a high school senior who awakens one day to find his parents brutally murdered and his body transforming into a wild, savage wolf. In search of the truth behind his animalistic tendencies, Cayden heads to the small town of Lupine Ridge, only to find himself caught between an ongoing war between two opposing werewolf clans, led by Jason Momoa (GAME OF THRONES) and Stephen McHattie (WATCHMEN). As the past begins to reveal itself, so does Cayden’s power to put an end to the savage violence around him and within him.
Thoughts: Werewolf films are nothing new, but Wolves is notable for an impressive cast that includes Stephen McHattie (in his second film at the festival) and Jason Mamoa (Game of Thrones).
OPEN WINDOWS (SPAIN/USA) Toronto Premiere
Description: In the vein of Alfred Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW comes this gripping cyber-thriller from acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo (TIMECRIMES) that exposes a terrifying dark side to internet voyeurism. When an unwitting celebrity fan-site operator (LORD OF THE RINGS’ Elijah Wood) is persuaded by a mysterious caller to hack into the personal webcam of a movie actress he idolizes (Sasha Grey), he finds himself not only uncovering a dark and sinister plot, but also trapped in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a psychopath.
Thoughts: I’ve heard great things about director Nacho Vigalondo and his “cyber Rear Window” might be one to check out.
ZOMBEAVERS (USA) Toronto Premiere *RECOMMENDED PICK*
Description: From the producers of CABIN FEVER, THE HANGOVER, and AMERICAN PIE comes ZOMBEAVERS, a crowd-pleasing zombie comedy co-starring Cortney Palm (SUSHI GIRL) that delivers exactly what you’d want from its title and more! A group of college kids’ weekend of sex and debauchery at a riverside cabin turns gruesome when they find themselves menaced by a swarm of deadly zombie beavers. Riding the line between scary, sexy, and funny, the kids are soon fighting for their lives in a desperate attempt to fend off the blood-thirsty undead beaver horde!
Thoughts: Zombie…beavers. ‘Nuff said!
SUBURBAN GOTHIC (USA) Toronto Premiere
Description: Richard Bates Jr. follows up his acclaimed horror film EXCISION with a supernatural comedy about an unemployed graduate (CRIMINAL MINDS’ Matthew Gray Gubler) who returns to his small-town family home, only to encounter a vengeful ghost and a mystery that must be solved before everyone’s lives are lost. A spooktacular treat of a movie, SUBURBAN GOTHIC features an endearingly quirky script with numerous fan favourites in scene-stealing supporting roles, including Kat Dennings (THOR), Ray Wise (TWIN PEAKS), Jeffrey Combs (RE-ANIMATOR) and John Waters (PINK FLAMINGOS).
Thoughts: This is the most comic film in this initial line-up and also the one I’m not too sure about. I’m going to take a wait and see approach with this one.
TIME LAPSE (USA) Toronto Premiere
Description: In this award-winning new sci-fi thriller, three friends, including Danielle Panabaker (THE FLASH) discover a mysterious machine in an abandoned apartment that seems to print photos taken 24 hours into their future. The trio conspire to use the device for personal gain, but it’s not long before the images start to reveal a disturbing and dangerous chain of events they must somehow try to avert before it’s too late. Co-stars John Rhys-Davies (INDIANA JONES TRILOGY).
Thoughts: The second time travel of the festival has a very intriguing sci-fi plot.
ABCS OF DEATH 2 (USA/New Zealand/Canada/Israel/Japan) Canadian Premiere *RECOMMENDED PICK*
Description: Get ready to gasp, laugh, shriek and cheer at this latest anthology of 26 short tales, each punctuated by a different shocking, wickedly entertaining death. Completely one-upping its predecessor, ABCS OF DEATH 2 is packed with outstanding thrills, chills and kills, brought to you by some of the acclaimed film-making talents behind fan favourites CUBE (Vincenzo Natali), AMERICAN MARY (The Soska Twins), BIG BAD WOLVES (Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado), MANBORG (Steven Kostanski), ROOM 237 (Rodney Ascher), INSIDE (Alexandre Bustillo) and JUAN OF THE DEAD (Alejandro Brugues), just to name but a few!
Thoughts: Without a doubt ABCs of Death 2 is the highlight of this first batch of Toronto After Dark films. This will definitely be a can’t miss screening at the festival, particularly with the large number of Canadian and/or Toronto After Dark alumni directing segments. One little hiccup is that ABCs of Death 2 will be released on VOD in the US on October 1, meaning that some people will have access to the film prior to Toronto After Dark. However, this is a film that should be seen in a theatre, with a crowd of fellow genre fans.
That wraps up my round-up of the first ten Toronto After Dark films. The remaining nine films, along with the shorts, will be announced at the end of the month, which will also be the time when single tickets go on sale. While supplies last, you can also buy a Toronto After Dark all-access pass and get into all 20 screenings for only $149 (saving you about $110 off the regular ticket price).
See you after dark!