TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL 2015: NIGHT 3 - ZOMBIE NIGHT
It's night three of the 2015 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and the Zombies come out tonight!
Shorts After Dark
Shorts programs that I have seen in the past can always be a bit of a mixed bag. It is arguably a lot more difficult to create a solid short compared to a feature, because it's so difficult for some to remain within the smaller scope and keep bound to a tight time structure, so I was seriously pleasantly surprised to find that out of the nine films in this showcase, I enjoyed something about every single one. The films were The Guests by Shane Danielsen, Vicious by Oliver Park, Bonitato by Andres Meza-Valdes, Diego Meza-Valdes and Eric Mainade, Exordium by Morgan King, The Black Forest by Paul Urkijo, Awesome Runaway by Benjamin De-Los Santos, Movies in Space by Chris Smith, Myrna the Monster by Ian Samuels and last but certainly not least, Manoman by Simon Cartwright. This program offers a wide selection of genre fare, ranging from the tense and eerie Vicious to films like Exordium, an animated treat that could be likened to early '90s adult cartoons. Although all of the shorts have something to offer, the standouts are Manoman, a story depicted by impressively emotive puppets, about a man who attends a primal therapy class where something beastly is unleashed within him. Another standout is Myrna the Monster, the story of an alien who comes to earth and can't seem to make sense of her life, which is rife with realistic (and therefore hilarious) dialogue about early-twenties disillusionment.
Night of the Living Deb (screened with the short film El Gigante)
With last year's Zombie Night floating around in my brain and images of the incredible Wyrmwood dancing through my head, I had a hard time wanting to sit down for a zom-rom-com such as Night of the Living Deb. Having seen the trailer and sort of ready for the kooky jokes to come from the main character (such as "I knew this town was dead… but this is ridiculous!"), I tried my best to still give the movie the benefit of the doubt. Although Night of the Living Deb stole some laughs from the audience who may appreciate that kind of obvious, sitcom-ish humour, it's a tired and flimsy story about the zany Deb and her attempts to thwart zombies all while trying to make a one-night-stand fall in love with her. Alongside several dirt cheap gags (such as putting the legendary Ray Wise in a floral apron), it's irritating depiction of women-against-women to win the affection of a man leaves for a grating experience for most audiences with half a brain.
This film screened with the short El Gigante, which follows a man from Mexico who is trying to cross the US/Mexico border in order to pursue a better life. His attempt is unsuccessful and he is knocked unconscious, and when then wakes up in a grimy basement setting on a wrestling ring, with a luchador mask sewn to his face. He must then fight the evil Gigante in order to win his safety, but it doesn't turn out well for our ill-fated hero. The aesthetic of this short could perhaps be likened to Rob Zombie's Halloween, in that it is very brightly coloured, grimy and graphic. Also like Halloween, the gut-wrenching gore is there for viewers, but the narrative is a little sparse and clunky.
A Christmas Horror Story(screened with the short film IBOP)
Still a little sour from watching the anthology film Tales of Halloween earlier in this festival, I suspected that I would have similar problems with A Christmas Horror Story, which is another anthology film, but split into four different stories. Structurally, Christmas is far better done than most in its ilk, because it introduces all four stories, and then bounces between them as their stories progress, instead of carrying out one completely before it moves onto the next segment, which is a pacing that I've never been able to really enjoy. Although this structure worked in its favour, there were some flaws in each of the segments due to some overdone scares that stopped working for audiences years ago, such as the standard scene where a character hears a spooky noise, wanders into the dark, and BAM, there's a ghost behind them. The wrap-around segment is undoubtedly the strongest, which follows Santa Claus after he learns that a zombie outbreak has come over his elves. The story also intertwines a disenchanted DJ (played by William Shatner) who is almost nonsensically commenting on the happenings in the town of Bailey Downs (which most will remember as the location of the Canadian classic, Ginger Snaps). Although a lot of this movie is fairly mediocre and standard, the ending of the wraparound segment is a shockingly funny twist that is effectively foreshadowed, which will leave audiences wondering how they didn't catch on earlier. With an ending as strong as this one, it is easy to finish this movie with a smile on your face.
If absurdist humour is your bag, then I have good news for you. A Christmas Horror Story screened with the short film International Brotherhood of Pancakes, which is written by Shawn Kosmerly and Eric McKenzie, and directed by McKenzie. This is a silly, good-natured story about a man who is desperate for a place to live so he moves in with his weird cousin, and then finds himself involved in a pancake worshipping cult.
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