Toronto After Dark Film Festival Event Report: Day 2

Crowds continue to come out in droves on day 2 of The Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Exit Humanity is yet another sell out for the festival! The audience was even more enthusiastic this time around.

Despite what I may think about any of the films that played tonight, all clearly showcase the amazing things that can be done when creativity (a taboo word in Hollywood) is your only option.

Read forth for my full report from day two of this fantastic fall festival. Prick

An exquisitely photographed short about a highly skilled serial killer who’s already fragile mental health begins to fall apart when empathy is entered into the equation. There is one stunning image after another but I felt a little distant by the fractured plot structure. Still, the visuals are a marvel to behold.

3/5 Skulls

Exit Humanity

Writer/Director, John Geddes takes the zombie genre into post-Civil War territory in Exit Humanity. This western is not really a zombie movie though. The central focus is on an ex-soldier, Edward Young and his struggle alone within this hostile apocalyptic environment that took away his family. Exit Humanity leans more towards drama than horror and it’s a very sombre one at that. The lead character is as tortured as they come. While I appreciate this serious take on a fairly tired sub-genre, I found the script to be filled with tired clichés. I couldn’t help but think of classics such as Braveheart and Dances With Wolves while sitting through this. The recurring flashback motif is too reminiscent of Gladiator. There’s never a moment where I was surprised by any of the characters’ arc or plot points. There is nothing bad about any of the material…it’s just all too familiar. Maybe a reason why it distracted me could possibly be directed to the film’s lumbering pace especially during the first half hour. I also, found the narration by the great Brian Cox to be very distracting. It almost always over-explained the obvious. I believe the solid performances in Exit Humanity (minus an out of place, Bill Moseley) are strong enough that the film could have easily done without this over-utilized, spoon-feeding device.

There is no doubt that this is a passion project for Geddes and company. The amount of care that has gone into the production side of this film is nothing short of impressive. The environments and set design capture a gritty authenticity. The animated sequences, which fill in the blanks in Edward’s journey, were beautifully realized. The Brothers Gore deliver some nasty, believable looking zombies. The cinematography is quite striking throughout. The high level of craftsmanship all across the board is jaw-dropping considering the film cost a measly $250,000. I can’t think of too many genre titles with this level of commitment and ambition.

I have no doubt that the future will continue to get brighter for Foresight Features (same team behind Monster Brawl). They’ve come a long way since their debut, Scarce. Exit Humanity knocked me out on the filmmaking aspect but ultimately I was never fully engaged into the story. The monotonous pace made this a dull, sometimes taxing venture to go on.

2.5/5 Skulls

My Main Squeeze

A charming seven minute short about a young lady’s unhealthy obsession taken to new queasy extremes. The entire film is narrated by a young girl to brilliant effect. Writer/Director, Chris Nash’s confident direction plays the audience right into his hand. The pace, humour and gross-out gags hit the bull’s-eye at every turn. My Main Squeeze is a masterfully put-together gem that is not to be missed.

5/5 Skulls

Father’s Day

Astron-6, a collective of filmmakers has finally delivered us their feature-length debut, Father’s Day. An off-the-wall tale about a one-eyed vigilante on the hunt for a cannibalistic, daddy-raping psychopath called…um, Fuchman (pronounced exactly the way you think it is). My synopsis doesn’t even begin to describe the half of it. Father’s Day is being unfairly compared to Hobo With A Shotgun. Aside from the visuals being drenched in primary colours, the film damage and the delightfully cheeseball synth score, both couldn’t be any more different. Father’s Day ode to grindhouse cinema is mainly on an aesthetic level. Astron-6’s influences are so far and wide that by the time we reach the roll of the end credits, they’ve managed to give the viewer an experience that is completely of their own concoction. This material is far more subversive and audacious than anything that came out of that highly plagiarized era. Hobo With A Shotgun feels rather mainstream compared to this totally outrageous…whatever you want to categorize it. It has elements of horror, comedy and action without actually be any of them.

The cast wisely play it straight which only helps to heighten the absurdity of it all. The gore effects are well done and completely disgusting. The visual effects are uber-cheesy but exactly what it needs to be to take the laughs to another level. I can’t think of the last time I’ve seen such low budget effects feel so painstakingly done. The use of stopmotion animation put a smile on my face every time it appeared.

Does it all work…not in my humble opinion. The imaginative but utterly psychotic Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey style third act is a little on the exhausting side. Possibly if the film was tighter than it would completely work. But in all fairness, it’s what makes Astron-6’s effort here so commendable. They’ve managed to squeeze every ounce of creativity on their barely existent budget to give the viewer the maximum entertainment value possible (of course, if this sort of stuff is your thing). Troma gags are aplenty considering they financed and are releasing it. After viewing it twice, I still can’t grasp how the film got to point A to point B. There is so much happening here that it isn’t hard to feel a little overwhelmed at the end. Most of it sticks, some of it doesn’t. Quite possibly after multiple views, my perception will change once again. There are just so many crazy layers to Father’s Day that makes defining it quite the chore.

Father’s Day is grindhouse, by way of Troma…or at least, what we’d all wish Troma would be again. I can’t even fathom what Astron-6 would do with something resembling a half decent budget. You can bet I will be the first in line to find out how it all turns out.

Note to Lloyd Kaufman: Don’t you dare remove the faux trailer out of this picture! We, the audience ate it up.

3.5/5 Skulls

Once again, Toronto After Dark: Day 2 did not conclude at the cinema but just got started at the Pub After Dark social event in which fans can chat and drink with filmmakers. Unfortunately, I had some writing to do so I couldn’t attend tonight.

Source: Toronto After Dark