TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL 2014: DAY 8
With deep sadness, I walked into the Scotiabank Theater on day eight of Toronto After Dark, because due to scheduling conflicts I would be missing the final day. Although the festival included a joyously diverse set of movies, the closing day included my must-sees Let Us Prey, starring the eyebrow-endowed Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones), and The Babadook, a highly regarded tale of haunting that looks absolutely terrifying. I guess I will have to wait until those two hopefully get a wide release, because they both seem as though they are worth a few nightmares.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (screened with the short film Satan's Dolls)
I (for some reason) have never seen the original The Town That Dreaded Sundown, so for fear of lack of context, I was a little concerned going into this movie. Fortunately for me, instead of a remake, this instalment is a meta-sequel, thus the only thing I had to be prepared for was the knowledge that people are murdered in the first movie.
In the township of Texarkana, the citizens have a peculiarly macabre tradition every Halloween. 65 years before, the town was stricken with serial killings by a mysterious 'Phantom', who eventually inspired the original film, The Town That Dreaded Sundown – which is played every October 31st at the local drive in. Not long after the annual screening are similar killings arising that cause a high school girl named Jami to investigate the possibility of a copy-cat or a re-emergence of Texarkana's biggest threat.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown's biggest strength is in its fiercely active directing. There is a palpable feeling that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was entirely immersed in the filming process when this movie was being shot. Although the big reveal at the end would have been much better with an air of subtlety instead of the James Bond villain-esque detailed explanation of the killer's motives, it is a fun ride that serves its purpose as a modern slasher.
The short films throughout the festival have been pretty consistently entertaining, and Satan's Dolls has to be right near the top of the list. It is an enormous love letter to seventies exploitation, with an Italian horror overtone. It follows a woman who takes solace in a nunnery and goes into hiding by joining the convent after having repeatedly killed and philandered her way through life. It is insanely fun and chalked full of sensationalism that is exactly the way an exploitation story should be.
Why Horror? (screened with the short film Last Breath)
Concluding my trip to Toronto After Dark, the last film I saw was Why Horror?, which is a documentary that follows Tal Zimerman as he asks the age old question. Tal is a life-long horror fan who was first enthralled as a young boy, which motivated him to play with prosthetics and make-up to add creepy gore to his friends and relatives. Zimerman travels to places such as Japan and Mexico and interviews likeminded fans, as well as takes part in multiple studies to examine the brain's reactions during watching horror movies. Although the documentary presents some factors that could have been assumed (such as the fact that non-horror fans and horror fans alike have very similar brain activity while watching scary movies), it is a highly relatable picture that still effectively brings new theories forward as to why we who like horror movies are often as consumed by it as we are.
The short film that Why Horror? was screened with was Last Breath, written and directed by Neil Cavalier. The short begins with sharply funny dialogue delivered from three female friends, of which I can confidently say is exactly how women (or at least the ladies I hang out with) talk when there are no men in sight. The three become stranded on the side of the road and encounter a satanic cult that threaten their lives as they race through a snowy forest to try and escape. Although I've said it for most of the short films that I watched at Toronto After Dark, this is easily one of my favourites. Effectively creepy and unsettling and paired with the great scenery, solid acting and simple premise, it has left me excited for more from Cavalier.
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