Only three days remain before the start of the 2014 edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival! This year will be a bit of a milestone for me, since it will mark my fifth year attending Toronto After Dark. In those five years, I’ve progressed from seeing a single screening on a very stormy August night to providing full in-depth coverage of the festival. Doing the math, I’ve been attending Toronto After Dark for a little over half of its nine year existence. Before I jump into my coverage of the festival later this week, I thought that I would write a retrospective post about my personal history attending Toronto After Dark.
My first ever screening of Toronto After Dark was on August 20, 2009, as I went to go see a screening of Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat. I had already known about Toronto After Dark since its inception, however I needed a special incentive to actually get me to attend. That inceptive happened when Trick ‘r Treat was programmed for the fourth edition of the festival in 2009. This was a film that I knew about since it was initially scheduled for a theatrical release in the fall of 2007. After seeing the trailer for the film, I was really looking forward to seeing Trick ‘r Treat and I was bummed when it was delayed and later pegged for a direct-to-video release. That’s why I was so happy when I saw the film as part of the Toronto After Dark line-up. This was my only chance to see the film theatrically, so I nabbed a ticket and went to the screening.
I should add that I almost never went to this screening. It turned out that there was a very bad thunderstorm that night and I was debating whether it would be worth it to make the trip to the Bloor Cinema for the screening. Thankfully, the rain let up in time for the screening and I made it in just fine. I should add that this Toronto After Dark screening was also my very first time seeing a film at the historic Bloor Cinema, which I now attend quite regularly.
My first Toronto After Dark experience was also part of the brief period when the festival moved from October to August. I can’t recall the reasoning for the move, though it is great that the festival decided to move back to October two years later. Trick ‘r Treat was the only film that I saw at the 2009 festival, though there were other films playing that year that I would’ve liked to check out, including Dead Snow (the audience award winner that year) and Black Dynamite (the opening gala film).
I enjoyed my Toronto After Dark experience so much that I decided to return in 2010. Once again, I opted to see a single screening and I chose to attend a screening of the found footage horror film The Last Exorcism. This turned out to be a bit of a choice pick, since the screening had producer Eli Roth and stars Ashley Bell and Patrick Fabian in attendance. In hindsight, if I saw more than one Toronto After Dark film in 2010, I would have included the dark comedy High School, Neil Marshall’s Centurion, and perhaps even that year’s closing gala The Human Centipede.
I consider 2011 to be my first “proper” year at Toronto After Dark, since it is the first year I decided to attend more than one screening. The festival moved back from August to October this year and, because of renovations at the Bloor Cinema, this edition of the festival was hosted at the (now closed) Toronto Underground Cinema. My initial film selections that year included the opening gala Monster Brawl and the dark superhero thriller VS (later renamed to All Superheroes Must Die). Even though I was worried about a conflicting event at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (In Conversation with…Guillermo del Toro), I also later decided to get a ticket to that year’s closing gala The Innkeepers. I’m glad I did, since it ended up being my favourite of the three. The 2011 festival had a lot of films that I regretted not seeing, including the two Astron-6 films Father’s Day and Manborg, as well as the thrillers Absentia and A Lonely Place to Die.
2012 was marked my first year providing full coverage of Toronto After Dark. The festival moved back to the freshly renovated Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. Along with covering all the films that screened at the festival, I also experimented with video coverage. Using the iPhone I just acquired that summer, I recorded highlights from the Q&As and edited them together into a six minute highlight reel. 2012 was also my first year attending the post-screening “Pub After Dark” socials, which this year had the addition of the indie videogames in the Darkcade.
Last year saw Toronto After Dark move yet again, as it settled at its new home at the Scotiabank Theatre. I could now consider myself a seasoned pro of the festival, with me devloping a routine of watching screenings in the evening and writing/video editing during the day. With the festival now stationed downtown, it could only lead to bigger things.
That leads us to this year. My fifth year of Toronto After Dark will most definitely be the biggest. Three screenings have already sold out and there will likely be more sell-outs as the festival nears. It has been a wild ride to reach this point and I look forward to covering Toronto After Dark for the fifth time this year and returning to celebrate the festival’s tenth edition next year.