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Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Sean Kelly

TADFF17: Running Down the Toronto After Dark Line-Up

We are just over a week away from the 2017 edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. This year marks the 12th year of the festival and there are some major gems in this year's line-up. The festival will kick off with the serial killer bio My Friend Dahmer, which will be a rare Toronto After Dark screening to have a 14A rating, as opposed to the usual R rating.

As is usually the case, a number of films I previously covered for the Fantasia Film Festival. Of these selections, I most recommend the high school dark comedy Tragedy Girls, which will be the festival's closing film, and the Tarantino-esque crime film Lowlife.

Canadian content is well represented at this year's festival, with no less than seven of the of the nineteen features being locally produced. This include the world premieres of Sixty Seconds to Midnight by Neil Mackay, Impossible Horror by Justin Decloux, and Defective by Reese Eveneshen. The Canadian line-up at Toronto After Dark is rounded off by a special presentation of the zombie film Dead Shack and Toronto premieres of Trench 11, Game of Death, and Poor Agnes.

Probably the film at this year's edition of Toronto After Dark I am most looking forward to is the Toronto premiere of The Endless, which sees filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead returning to the festival five years after showing their debut film Resolution. This year's festival also has a pair of horror sequels, with the Canadian premiere of Victor Crowley, the latest in the Hatchet series, and a special theatrical presentation of Cult of Chucky, with cast and crew in attendance and a photo opportunity with Chucky himself.

Here is the full Toronto After Dark schedule:
THURSDAY, OCT 12 - OPENING NIGHT!

7.00 PM MY FRIEND DAHMER (USA) Opening Gala Film & Toronto Premiere - First Screening - Directed by Marc Meyers
Based on the acclaimed graphic novel about the infamous serial killer’s teen years, Toronto After Dark’s Opening Gala MY FRIEND DAHMER is a riveting, dark, coming of age tale. Before he turned to kidnapping and murder, young Jeffrey seemed like just another awkward teen trying to impress his high school peers. But a series of disturbing events, at home and at school, soon begin to turn him towards another very dark path. The brilliant cast includes Ann Heche and in a break out leading role, former Disney Channel star Ross Lynch. Set in 1970s small town America, this creepy tale with a Stephen King vibe has mesmerized audiences on the festival circuit, winning numerous awards on the way, including most recently Best Picture at Fantastic Fest. Don’t miss it!
Screens with short film Homer_a by Connor Sweeney/Milos Mitrovic

9.45 PM SIXTY MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT (Canada) World Premiere!
Directed by Neil Mackay
**Director, Cast & Crew In Attendance for Intro & Q&A!**
Join us for the World Premiere of Neil Mackay’s SIXTY MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT, an ultra-violent, action-packed new movie that blends elements of fan favourites DIE HARD, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and THE RUNNING MAN into an explosive new audience pleaser! On New Years Eve, former soldier Jack Darcy (Robert Nolan) wakes to find himself entered into a murderous new game show. He has sixty minutes to kill or be killed by a group of strange armed men who’ve surrounded his house. But what his would-be assassins haven’t realized is that Jack has learnt a trick or two from his military days, has a hidden cache of weapons and isn’t going down without a vicious fight!
Screens with short film Breaker by Philippe Mckie

FRIDAY, OCT 13 - SLASHER NIGHT!

7.00 PM VICTOR CROWLEY (USA) Canadian Premiere
Directed by Adam Green
Fans of 1980s slasher horror films like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and HALLOWEEN rejoice! Adam Green returns with a crowd-pleasing update to his retro-slasher inspired HATCHET series, full of fresh blood and creative kills. After a small plane crashs one night in the Louisiana swamps, the corpse of an infamous local serial killer Victor Crowley,  awakens from his deathly slumber! It’s not long before Victor sets off in search of fresh victims for his signature sharp slaying tools. Horror icon Kane Hodder (FRIDAY THE 13TH) both terrifies and delights with a menacing performance as the titular killer, unleashing murder and mayhem on an unwitting group of crash survivors. Fans will be torn between cheering for the vicious villain and rooting for the endearing underdog Perry Chen (BETTER LUCK TOMORROW) to survive the ensuing swamp carnage. One thing’s for sure, you’ll have a blast watching this retro slasher with an audience, no matter who makes it of the swamp alive!
Screens with short film The Freeze by Fabian Velasco,  Milos Mitrovic

9.15 PM & 11.59 PM CULT OF CHUCKY (USA) Special Presentation! **TOP FIVE PICK**
Directed by Don Mancini
**Director, Select Cast & Crew In Attendance for Intro & Q&A!**
Killer doll fans are in for a special treat on the night of Friday, October 13! Toronto After Dark will be hosting the Exclusive Canadian Theatrical Screening of CULT OF CHUCKY, the latest movie in the fan favourite horror series, along with some very special guests! This time Chucky (voiced by the ever sinister Brad Dourif) returns to terrorize his past victims at an asylum for the criminally insane, and Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky) returns for added mayhem. If you’re a fan you won’t want to miss this one chance to enjoy watching the latest Chucky movie the way it was meant to be seen: on the Big Screen with an audience! EXCLUSIVE LIVE ON STAGE: Chucky’s originator and Director Don Mancini, the Chucky doll himself, lead actress Fiona Dourif, plus additional cast and crew for a Special Intro and Q&A with the audience to celebrate the film’s Canadian Premiere! EXCLUSIVE CHUCKY SHORT: Playing right in front of the feature, a special bonus short: The Dollhouse tells the true life tale of the girl who grew up in a creepy house full of Chuckys as her dad designed the dolls for the movie series! EXCLUSIVE PHOTO OPP: Bring a copy of your purchased ticket to this screening (or valid Festival Pass) to the Theatre from from 7.30-8.30pm to get a free photo with the Original Chucky Doll and Creator/Director Don Mancini! (available on a first come, first served basis).
Screens with additional Canadian short film Masks by Peter Genoway

SATURDAY, OCT 14

3.00 PM SHORTS AFTER DARK
A collection of 10 incredible International horror, sci-fi, action and cult short films will screen this year as part of our popular global short film showcase:  BON APPETIT, BUZZCUT, CRESWICK, SAY NOTHING, STAY , VOYAGER, TASTE, THE PLAGUE, WITHHELD and OUR DATE IS HERE.

6.00 PM THE VILLAINESS (South Korea) Toronto Premiere
Directed by Byung-gil Jun
Byung-gil Jung’s critically acclaimed stylishly violent revenge movie THE VILLAINESS slayed audiences at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and now it’s ready to do the same to Toronto! Fans of Quentin Tarantino’s KILL BILL and Luc Besson’s NIKITA will devour this tale of a young woman, Sook-hee (THIRST’s Kim Ok-bin) who’s been training since childhood to become the world’s most brutal assassin. When Sook-hee gets betrayed by a former lover turned crime-lord, she goes on a deadly rampage of revenge.  But with an army of well-armed bodyguards in her way, it won’t be easy to get to her target. Stunningly shot and choreographed ultraviolent carnage ensues with some of the best fight scenes ever put to cinema, outshining the most jaw-dropping moments of OLD BOY and THE RAID. You will be blown away watching this film on the Big Screen, do not miss THE VILLAINESS!
Screens with short film The Good Samaritan by Darrin Suzuk

9.00 PM BEYOND SKYLINE (USA) North American Premiere!
Directed by Liam O’Donnell
**Director, Select Cast & Crew In Attendance for Intro & Q&A!**
Join us for the North American Premiere of BEYOND SKYLINE! Taking its cues from INDEPENDENCE DAY, ALIENS and DIE HARD, the film is a fantastic crowd-pleasing fusion of epic sci-fi, alien horror and hardcore action.  When his son gets abducted by a terrifying alien mothership that’s covered the Los Angeles skyline, a tough-as-nails cop (THE PURGE’s Frank Grillo) embarks on a relentless journey to rescue him and defeat the vicious extraterrestrial invaders. Joining him in the fight are the stars of THE RAID Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, who also acted as fight coordinators on the film and it shows! With an endearing group of scrappy rebels up against a horde of blood thirsty, technologically advanced aliens, stunning special effects and jaw-dropping fights, BEYOND SKYLINE is a spectacular audience blast from start to finish! 
Screens with short film Nil: No Blood For Coffee by James Turner

11.59 PM MY FRIEND DAHMER (USA) - Second & Final Screening of Opening Gala
Directed by Marc Meyers

SUNDAY, OCT 15

4.00 PM RABBIT (Australia) Canadian Premiere
Directed by Luke Shanahan
Adelaide Clemens (‘Rectify’) stars in this creepy, atmospheric, horror-thriller that recently wowed audiences at Fantastic Fest.  Following a mysterious, near-fatal collapse in Germany, medical student Maude Ashton is plagued by a series of vivid dreams about her twin sister, who has been missing for several years. She returns to her native Australia, certain she now knows where to find her. Her journey takes her deep into the forest in a remote part of the country. It’s not long before Maude encounters a mysterious commune who she suspects are hiding a dark truth about her lost sibling. RABBIT is a dark, gothic Australian fairytale full of haunting imagery and unsettling sound design that will burrow its way into your soul!
Screens with short film Bonfire by Nate Wilson

ZOMBIE NIGHT (COSTUMES WELCOME!)

6.30 PM DEAD SHACK (Canada) Special Presentation
Directed by Peter Ricq
**Director In Attendance for Intro & Q&A!**
STRANGER THINGS meets SHAUN OF THE DEAD in this endearing 1980s infused zombie comedy from Peter Ricq (TV’s the League of Super Evil and Freaktown).  Three kids on vacation are shocked when they stumble upon a cabin in the woods full of the ravenous undead! With the brain munchers following behind, the kids run back to their holiday home to tell their supposedly responsible father to call for help. Unfortunately Dad (a scene-stealing Donavon Stinson) has had too much liquor and won’t be much good for the rest of the night. And given their remote location, there’s no help coming anytime soon. So it’s up to our young trio to see what weapons they can improvise from the house as they prepare to go one on one with the zombie horde! Featuring great zombie kills and gore gags, three standout young leads delivering some wickedly dark humour, and a fantastic 80s synth score that brings back memories of John Carpenter at his best, DEAD SHACK is a bloody delight for fans, not to be missed! NOTE: We only have a ok teaser trailer below, but trust us the actual film is far more entertaining!
Screens with short film Dead House by Travis Laidlaw

9.30 PM TRENCH 11 (Canada) Toronto Premiere
Directed by Leo Scherman
**Director, Select Cast & Crew In Attendance for Intro & Q&A!**
In this intense World War One set zombie horror thriller, a group of allied soldiers are sent on a secret mission behind enemy lines to stop a new biological weapon being developed by the enemy. Deep underground in a set of German trenches, the allies uncover the chilling secret that the new weapon will be the creation of a zombie army.  With some of the undead already activated, the soldiers find themselves in a race agains time to destroy the zombie soldiers and their creators, before they unleash murderous mayhem on the world.  Riveting, gritty, claustrophobic and thrilling, the fight to survive against the undead horde in the tunnels of TRENCH 11 will leave you breathless!
Screens with short film No Wave by Stephane Lapointe

MONDAY, OCT 16 - DOUBLE SCENE REWARD POINTS NIGHT!

7.00 PM EAT LOCALS (UK) Toronto Premiere
Directed by Jason Flemyng
For his directorial debut, actor Jason Flemyng (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS) delivers a crowd-pleasing horror comedy in the vein of WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS and COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES. For the first time in 50 years, Britain’s secret society of vampires has decided to call a meeting. Little do they realize that a unit of vampire slaying soldiers has followed the neck biters to their countryside lair and are planning to wipe out the killer coven once and for all. It’s not long before a night of vampires vs slayers and plenty of blood-soaked mayhem ensues, all washed down with delightfully British humour! Along for ride is a fantastic ensemble cast of UK thesps including Charlie Cox (Daredevil), Nick Moran (Harry Potter), Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who), Eve Myles (Torchwood), Tony Curran (Underworld: Evolution) and Mackenzie Crook (Pirates of the Caribbean). Come for the talent, stay for the flowing blood!
Screens with short film One Hell Of A Party by Austen Payne

9.30 PM IMPOSSIBLE HORROR (Canada) World Premiere! **TOP FIVE PICK**
Directed by Justin Decloux
**Director, Cast & Crew In Attendance for Intro & Q&A!**
With IMPOSSIBLE HORROR, Director Justin Decloux (TEDDY BOMB) delivers a fresh, innovative, supernatural thriller with a delightfully dark and twisted sense of humour. After Lily, an insomniac young filmmaker, starts to hear a recurring sinister scream every night outside her apartment window, she teams up with a friend Hannah to try and track down the source of the terrifying noise. Soon the intrepid duo’s investigations lead them into a dark and sinister tangled web involving shadowy figures and a deadly supernatural force beyond their comprehension. An absolute treat for horror fans, IMPOSSIBLE HORROR takes you on a creepy, freaky mystery ride with nods to plenty of cult classics on the way. Don’t miss it!
Screens with short film Stray Dog by Michael Mazzuca

TUESDAY, OCT 17

7.00 PM MAYHEM (USA) Toronto Premiere
Directed by Joe Lynch
OFFICE SPACE meets 28 DAYS LATER in Joe Lynch’s MAYHEM, a virus outbreak horror-action comedy crowdpleaser that’s been a huge audience hit at other festivals its played at including SXSW.  Young lawyer Derek Cho (Stephen Yeun, late of “The Walking Dead” in a standout lead performance) is having a very bad day. He just got fired by his middle manager for an innocent mistake. Now he just wants a chance to talk to the CEO on the top floor to ask for his job back. There’s only one problem. The building just got put on a lockdown due to an outbreak of a rare psychotic rage virus that’s known for turning humans into uninhibited homicidal maniacs! If Derek’s going to survive and make it to the top, he’s going to have to kill a lot of his raging coworkers using whatever office products he can get his hands on! In-between all the fantastic bloody ultraviolence that ensues, MAYHEM brilliantly skewers the soulless corporate world. If you liked FIGHT CLUB or AMERICAN PSYCHO, you’ll feel right at home!
Screens with short film The Drop In by Naledi Jackson


9.30 PM DEFECTIVE (Canada) World Premiere!
Directed by Reese Eveneshen
**Director, Cast & Crew In Attendance for Intro & Q&A!**
Join us for the World Premiere of DEFECTIVE, a dark and gripping new sci-fi thriller that firmly establishes director Reese Eveneshen as a talent to watch! The film brilliantly draws from the dark futures of sci-fi classics like ROBOCOP, THX 1138 and MINORITY REPORT, fleshing out a terrifying dystopian world, where humans are controlled, from the television they watch to the words they can say in public.  In a near future city, a brother and sister uncover dark secrets about their government and the sinister corporation that’s been manipulating them. It’s not long before the siblings find themselves on the run from a robotic killer police force and its killer drones that have been commissioned to capture or terminate them. With corporation eyes everywhere, finding shelter will be difficult, surviving might be impossible!
Screens with short film Missing Toes by Ian Bawa


WEDNESDAY, OCT 18

7.00 PM GAME OF DEATH (Canada/ USA / France) Toronto Premiere
Directed by Sebastien Landry, Laurence Morais-Lagace
**Filmmakers In Attendance for Q&A!**
BATTLE ROYALE meets JUMANJI in this bloody SXSW festival hit crowd-pleaser GAME OF DEATH! At a summer cottage a group of teens decide to try out an obscure electronic board game they’ve uncovered. To commence, the game demands a drop of each of their blood and they dutifully comply.  But soon after when one of them stops playing and then dies in a spontaneous explosion of blood, the terrifying real rules of the game become clear. It has a built-in countdown that cannot be stopped. It demands one death every few minutes or it will choose a victim at random to instantly die. It’s now kill or be killed for the friends as they either turn on each other to satisfy the game’s blood lust - or start killing innocent victims for fresh blood. Featuring outrageous kills full of practical effects, a wicked dark sense of humour, and a circle of characters you’ll be cheering to either live or die in the ensuing mayhem, THE GAME OF DEATH is a bloody fun time for horror fans!
Screens with short film Latched by Justin Harding

9.30 PM POOR AGNES (Canada) Toronto Premiere
Directed by Navin Ramaswaran
**Director, Cast & Crew In Attendance for Intro & Q&A!**
A worthy winner of the Best Canadian Film Award at Fantasia Film Fest this year, the horror thriller POOR AGNES has been described as the perfect date movie for psychopaths, and with good reason! Young Agnes (a mesmerizing Lora Burke) hides a dark secret in her small rural town. She’s turned to serial killing as a hobby. And she’s really good at it. She lures, captures and slays men and then covers up her tracks perfectly. But something about her latest catch Mike (Robert Notman), a mild mannered investigator makes her think he might be a keeper. Perhaps this time she’ll just tie him up in the basement as a pet to come home to. It’s not long before abductor and abductee begin to form a twisted domestic relationship, and tensions begin to rise as Agnes reverts back to her homicidal ways. In the vein of Stephen King’s MISERY, POOR AGNES is a fantastic, unpredictable, dark character study, full of twists and turns that will leave you equally captivated!
Screens with short film Studded Nightmare by Jean-Claude Leblanc

THURSDAY, OCT 19

7.00 PM LOWLIFE (USA) Toronto Premiere **TOP FIVE PICK**
Directed by Ryan Prows
**Director In Attendance for Intro & Q&A!**
Student Academy Award Winner Ryan Prows makes his feature debut with this entertaining, violent and darkly humorous crime thriller that’s been favourably compared to PULP FICTION.  As with Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, LOWLIFE features an endearing group of down and outers in a gritty Los Angeles, caught in a web of crime, including disgraced Mexican Wrestler El Monstruo, Crystal, a recovering addict, and Randy, fresh out of prison but now cursed with a full-face swastika tattoo. As their sordid, small-time lives collide, these antiheroes must come together to fight tooth and nail against a despicable character that dominates them all and save a pregnant woman from certain and gruesome death! Warning: the teaser trailer does not do this film justice: LOWLIFE is a fantastic, refreshingly original dark and violent tale, with a group of misfits on the edge that you’ll identify with and cheer for. Every where it screens, audiences erupt in applause at its conclusion: you will be kicking yourself if you miss it!
Screens with short film Schwartzy by Aleks Vujosevic

9.30 PM THE ENDLESS (USA) Toronto Premiere **TOP FIVE PICK**
Directed, Written by and Starring Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
**Justin & Aaron In Attendance for Intro & Q&A!**
Filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead won many fans with their first two sensational horror films, RESOLUTION and SPRING. Now they raise the bar even higher with their third feature THE ENDLESS, a masterful blend of horror, sci-fi and mystery, that’s winning them awards! A pair of brothers goes in search of their missing friend, last seen residing at a creepy desert commune. As the locals seem friendly, the siblings decide to stay a few nights. It’s not long before they notice that there’s something very eerily off about the place, with numerous inexplicable phenomena happening around them that defy any laws of science. Soon these benign events give way to something far more sinister! A mind-bending sci-fi horror thriller, with an overwhelming sense of dread, and clever use of special effects, THE ENDLESS will draw you in deep to its otherworldly mystery. Perhaps the bigger question is: will you ever escape! Don’t miss seeing THE ENDLESS with the popular two filmmakers known for their legendary Q&A’s live in attendance!
Screens with short film A Dark Bedtime by Paul Aihoshi


FRIDAY, OCT 20 - CLOSING NIGHT!

7.00 PM COLD HELL (Germany) Toronto Premiere
Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
Oscar Winner Stefan Ruzowitzky takes inspiration from David Fincher (SEVEN, ZODIAC, GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) in directing one of the most intense serial killer thrillers of recent years with COLD HELL, a gripping cocktail of full throttle action and brutal horror, set on the cold hard backstreets of Vienna. When Ozge, a young immigrant cab driver accidentally witnesses a mysterious man’s latest brutal murder from her apartment window and he also sees her face, she knows it’s not long before she’ll be his next target.  As the police don’t seem that sympathetic to her plight, Ozge - a fully trained kickboxer - decides to take matters into her own hands! It’s time for her to flip the script and turn from prey to predator and play a deadly game of mouse vs cat, trying to draw the killer out into the open and attack him before he can strike her or any one else. But the killer intends to match Ozge attack for attack. Intense jaw dropping car chases, gritty close quarter fights, and deadly collateral damage ensue across the city, as the killer and his prey strive to take each other out first by any violent means necessary! Dark, thrilling, hard-hitting, brilliantly acted, led by a strong young female lead (Award-winner Violetta Schurawlow) don’t miss taking a journey to COLD HELL!
Screens with short film Blood And Honey by Karl van Allen

9.15 PM & 11.59 PM TRAGEDY GIRLS (USA) Toronto Premiere & Closing Gala Film **TOP FIVE PICK**
Directed by Tyler MacIntyre
**Director In Attendance for Intro & Q&A!**
Returning filmmaker Tyler Macintyre (PATCHWORK) closes Toronto After Dark 2017 with his acclaimed newest film TRAGEDY GIRLS, a delicious dark horror comedy that updates SCREAM and HEATHERS for the social media age. Teenagers Sadie (DEADPOOL’s Brianna Hildebrand) and McKayla (X-MEN APOCALYPSE’s Alexandra Shipp) love running a true crime blog at their school covering local murders. But without any exclusives, they’re not getting enough views and likes. For help they enlist a local serial killer (THE STRAIN’s Kevin Durand) who inspires them to become an anonymous serial killing duo themselves. As they post about the fresh new murders for their blog, bloody mayhem, hi-jinx and higher view counts ensue! With two winning leads delivering plenty of dark gallows humour, some fantastic gore gags, and plot twists you won’t see coming, TRAGEDY GIRLS is the perfect bloody fun way to wrap up this year’s Toronto After Dark!
Screens with short film FWD by Stephen Sawchuk

The 2017 Toronto After Dark Film Festival takes place from October 12-20, 2017 at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto. Information on tickets and passes can be found on the festival's website.

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).