2 Stars

Refuge (screened with the short film Monster Island)


Due to the substantial boom in post-apocalyptic stories, it is beginning to become a wildly clichéd sub-genre. Whether it is zombies or a deadly virus, the problem with movies that fall into this category is that they have the tendency to not really bring anything new to the table, which is unfortunately the case for Refuge. Following a small group of survivors who are introduced to one man in need of help, they struggle to survive in the harsh terrain with even more dangerous people lurking in the distance.


Although it is essentially The Road meets The Walking Dead, there is strength in the fact that this is a quieter story about what life would be like after most of the world's population has died. What I would have liked to have seen is a story that completely omits the archetypal 'lunatic bad guy' who succumbs to a life of raping and torturing people. There is enough heavy drama alone in the prospect of surviving, and if Refuge aimed to be a subtle depiction of what the filmmakers believe would happen in this scenario, they could have toned it down even more. This movie does however have great cinematography that is dark and bleak and indicative of what the characters are going through, which entirely hits the mark.


The Canadian short film that Refuge screened with is called Monster Island, which was written and directed by Sean Grady. While introducing the film, Grady explained that it took over two years to completely finish the project, which is maybe what hindered the cohesiveness of the story. It follows a disillusioned man in his twenties who ventures to an island that is rampant with hideous creatures so that he can find himself. After a fairly enjoyable ride to the end, it abruptly cuts short, but instead of leaving the audience with a satisfied ambiguous ending, it feels unfinished. Even one more scene added to Monster Island could have helped this inventive short greatly.


Monster Island2.5 Stars



Wyrmwood (screened with the short film Lazy Boyz)


This film is so much fun. After a relatively calming and subdued Refuge, I was entirely in the mood for guts, action, snappy one liners and bright cinematography. This Australian film follows Barry, a husband and father who has his life ruined when a virus strikes that turns humans into zombies. He later meets Benny, who successfully fills the role of a loveable oaf. Barry's sister, Brooke, is kidnapped in the midst of the outbreak and experimented on by a mad doctor, but through his own inadvertent fault, he brings on something that no one could have ever imagined.


Featuring an incredibly strong and massively wicked female hero in Brooke, there is a twist in her character arc that I have never seen done before in zombie flicks, which is something that should be the most appreciated about Wyrmwood. This is a funny and fast paced gore-fest that is unapologetically outrageous, which is a perfect palate cleanser when you have seen too many movies with dramatically thick and murky plots. Although it does actively entail clichés from the post-apocalyptic genre, there is a lot to be said for what the film does right.


The program directors at Toronto After Dark have consistently chosen the perfect short films to accent the features that follow, of which is still the case with Wyrmwood's opener, Lazy Boyz. Young filmmakers Ryan Coopersmith and Charles Muzard created a funny and entertaining story about two stoners who accidentally take home a killer couch that they found on the side of the road. With bright and identifiable cinematography, cheesy acting, solid set design and a great looking antagonist with the couch, this is a wildly fun short that is indicative of Coopersmith and Muzard's deserving long future in filmmaking.


Lazy Boyz




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