Toronto After Dark Film Festival Event Report: Day 3

I’ve been really looking forward to today’s line-up. Considering how strong the shorts have been to this point, anticipation was high for this afternoon’s Shorts After Dark program. Tonight was particularly special considering it was Zombie Appreciation Night in which we got two back to back zombie flicks which includes the World Premiere of War Of The Dead. It was really cool that After Dark was donating a dollar for every ticket sale from tonight’s closer to the Toronto Zombie Walk which happened to be this afternoon. Also, anyone who dressed up as one of the undead, saved an extra $2 for either of the zombie films. Very cool indeed. Both screenings were pretty packed. SHORTS AFTER DARK

Once It Started It Could Not End Otherwise
An extremely eerie collage animated short recounting a series of bizarre incidents at a high school. The strong imagery and score really gets under my skin.
4/5 Skulls

Good Morning, Beautiful
This smartly-paced short about a grieving father’s increasingly diminishing mental state. The ending is a bit on the obvious side though.
3/5 Skulls

Nursery Crimes
Cleverly conceived, macabre stop motions take on the classic nursery rhymes.
3.5/5 Skulls

Protoparticulas
A low-key and very odd sci-fi tale. It has a deadpan Lynchian quality that I find charming.
3/5 Skulls

Dirty Silverware
You’ll never look at silverware the same way again after this clever and extremely funny fantasy. The narrator’s delivery is priceless.
4/5 Skulls

Rosa
This traditionally-animated sci-fi/action epic is beautiful eye candy.
3.5/5 Skulls

The Dungeon Master
A witty and well-acted comedy by writer/directors, Rider and Shiloh Strong (yes, that Rider Strong) about a seemingly harmless game of Dungeons & Dragons.
4/5 Skulls

Brutal Relax
In the tradition of Dead Alive (aka Braindead), one man takes on a band of Mutant Sea Creatures after a beach massacre. The set-up is a little sloppy but once the action and carnage begins, I’m in a state of bliss. Brutal Relax is delightful, gory fun.
4/5 Skulls

Martha’s Birthday
This darkly comedic parable will surely change your perception of Piñatas forever.
4/5 Skulls

PASO DOBLE
This 2 minute animated short is pleasant to look at but didn’t make much of an impression on me either way.
2/5 Skulls

LOST FOR WORDS
This 10-minute fantasy contains some creative production design but never quite drew me into its world. The flat performances from the children didn’t help either.
2/5 Skulls

REDLINE
Redline is the first anime I’ve seen in quite some time…and it had me smitten from its very first frame. The traditional animation here is simply gorgeous, creating a visceral energy that’s awe-inspiring to say the least. You can see why Redline took seven years to come to fruition. It is directed by Takeshi Koike, the man behind the equally explosive, World Record from The Animatrix. The unthinkable speed these racers are hitting is spectacularly conveyed within every single image. The energetic soundtrack gets your heart racing all the more.

This simple but engaging sci-fi story revolves around an extremely dangerous racing tournament and a human being’s quest to win it all despite the near impossible odds. As thrilling as Redline is, it also contains memorable characters, a sharp sense of humor plus a big heart. It’s Speed Racer fuelled on adrenalin. Redline will have you gasping for breath, one mind-blowing sequence after another. It contains a level of deranged imagination and epic ambition rarely seen in cinema today. An instant classic.
4.5/5 Skulls

PLAY DEAD
This 15-minute short is a cute and fresh look at a zombie apocalypse through the eyes of man’s best friend.
3/5 Skulls

DEADHEADS
The zombie’s role in comedy has been quite the in-thing these days with popular titles such as, Shaun Of The Dead, Zombieland and Dead Snow. In Deadheads, the zombies are not only the leads but one of them happens to be looking for love. This romantic/buddy comedy is about two unexplainably coherent new additions to the undead army and their road trip to find one’s love of his life.

Deadheads‘ heart is in the right place but I found it to be a fairly run-of-the-mill road picture. It follows the formula to the t. The humor is a tad too cheeky for my taste. Also, the zombie aspect feels like an afterthought. I never got by the fact that the two lead zombies are fully articulate and could easily put any of their severed limbs back to place. There is a hint of an explanation in the third act but it never exposed. Don’t get me wrong; Deadhead‘s is not without its charms. The cast especially the two leads are pitch-perfect in their roles. It’s an undeniable crowd pleaser and will most likely work on most people, judging by the enthusiastic reaction at the Toronto After Dark screening. If the zombie angle felt more integral to the actual story, it might have won me over.
2.5/5 Skulls

YOU ARE SO UNDEAD
In the spirit of Ginger Snaps, this 6-minute short, is a witty vampiric twist on girls’ bathroom talk.
4/5 Skulls

WAR OF THE DEAD
How can you possible go wrong with a WWII action/horror flick with Nazi zombies? Look no further. It’s unfortunate considering how promising War Of The Dead looked in the trailer. Now, it’s not that War Of The Dead is a bad film; it’s just an extremely lifeless one. Even at a merciful 85 minute running time, it still manages to bore me to death. It’s about as much fun as watching someone play a video game.

The film follows a platoon mixed with American and Finish soldiers on a mission to recapture Finland. That’s it, plot-wise. The characters are paper thin. So what we get is a film strung together by a bunch of serviceable at best, action sequences. As for the gore department, there really isn’t any. War Of The Dead has got to be one of the most bloodless zombie flicks of all time. That’s a crime in of itself. The movie is well-made and decently acted which is the only thing that’s keeping it from getting a score of zero. Epic disappointment.
1.5/5 Skulls