TADFF14: Running Down the Final 9

tadff2014 Only about two weeks remain before the start of the 9th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival.  Today saw the announcement of the remaining nine films in this year’s line-up and there are definitely some interesting selections among them. HOUSEBOUND (New Zealand) Toronto Premiere & Opening Gala Film *RECOMMENDED PICK* Description: HOUSEBOUND is a wickedly fun scary new horror thriller from New Zealand, described as “bloody brilliant” by filmmaking icon Peter Jackson (LORD OF THE RINGS). The film follows a young woman forced to return home and endure a triple threat of being under house arrest, living with her eccentric old mother, and potential ghosts in the house. Full of suspense and frights, and laced with a good dose of dysfunctional family comedy that will allow anyone to relate to the main characters, HOUSEBOUND has become a smash hit on the festival circuit, winning numerous audience awards since its SXSW debut. Thoughts: A mix of haunted house horror and dark comedy, this film should kick off Toronto After Dark with a bang. WYRMWOOD (Australia) Canadian Premiere *RECOMMENDED PICK* Description: DAWN OF THE DEAD meets MAD MAX in this full-on, post-apocalyptic road action adventure from Australia that will delight fans with its car chase thrills, zombie kills and unique spin on the undead mythos. After Barry, a talented mechanic, sees his community torn apart by a zombie apocalypse and his sister abducted by some sinister government scientists, it’s clear his only means of survival and finding his sister is to hit the road. But first he’ll have to improvise some deadly weapons out of garage tools, significantly modify a road vehicle for combat, recruit several allies to his cause – and also wipe out hordes of ferocious zombies beginning to encircle his home! Thoughts: Along with Dead Snow 2 and Zombeavers, there are going to be a lot of choices for zombie fans at Toronto After Dark this year.  This film looks to be the one of the three that’s playing it the most straight. WHY HORROR? (Canada) Canadian Premiere Description: WHY HORROR? is a fascinating new feature documentary that follows horror journalist Tal Zimerman (RUE MORGUE) as he travels the world to examine the different cultures, media, science, and psychology of horror, with one simple purpose: to understand why we love to be scared. Featuring exclusive interviews with horror filmmaking luminaries such as John Carpenter, George A. Romero, Eli Roth, Don Coscarelli and more, as well as discussions with leading psychological experts, WHY HORROR? is an illuminating experience for both fans and and foes of the movie genre alike. This screening is co-presented by Rue Morgue Cinemacabre, and will feature a fascinating post-screening Q&A with Tal Zimerman, and the Documentary’s Directors. Thoughts: Fandom documentaries can either be quite interesting, quite hyperbolic, or both.  The type of film that Why Horror? turns out to be will depend on how objective it is about its subject matter. LET US PREY (Ireland/UK) Toronto Premiere Description: In this tense, supernatural spin on John Carpenter’s cult classic ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13,  a menacing stranger (GAME OF THONES’ Liam Cunningham) turns up in the middle of the night at a police station in a remote Scottish town. After being placed in a holding cell, it’s not long before the stranger initiates a terrifying chain reaction of madness and violence amongst the inmates and police officers. One of the few unaffected is a newly hired female officer (THE WOMAN’S Pollyanna McIntosh), and with her back to the wall, not knowing who she can trust, she finds herself fighting for her life. Thoughts: This film definitely looks to be one of the more gory films at Toronto After Dark this year. THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (USA) Special Presentation Description: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (AMERICAN HORROR STORY) stylishly and cleverly reinvents the 1976 horror cult classic of the same name, with this dark and delicious cinematic treat for horror fans, both old and new. Based on a terrifying true story, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN picks up sixty-five years after a masked serial killer terrorized the small town of Texarkana. But now the “moonlight murders” have begun again. Is it a copycat or something even more sinister? A lonely high school girl (ODD THOMAS’s Addison Timlin), with dark secrets of her own, may be the key to catching the murderer. The fantastic supporting cast includes fan favourites Gary Cole (OFFICE SPACE),  Denis O’Hare (AMERICAN HORROR STORY) and Veronica Cartwright (ALIEN). Thoughts: This Blumhouse-produced film seems to be structured as both a remake and sequel to the 1976 original, which itself was inspired by the The Moonlight Murders from 1946.  The film has its regular release around the same time as Toronto After Dark, which is probably why it has been designated a “Special Presentation.” LATE PHASES (USA) Toronto Premiere Description: When grizzled war veteran Ambrose (STAKE LAND’s Nick Damici), moves into the Crescent Bay retirement community, he’s discovers that some local residents have been dying not from old age, but from a series of mysterious, vicious dog attacks. After his own house is attacked in the night by the animals, Ambrose sets his military mind to tracking them down.  But it soon becomes clear that these attacks are a regular monthly occurrence, synchronized to the full moon, and the tight-knit community of Crescent Bay has been hiding something far more sinister that wild dogs in its midst. Ambrose will have to face off against some creatures that are part-man, part-wolf – and completely deadly. Thoughts: A werewolf film with a blind protagonist. Interesting. REFUGE (USA) Canadian Premiere Description: Set amidst the ruins of a collapsed America in the wake of a great catastrophic plague, REFUGE is a tense post-apocalyptic survival thriller in the vein of THE ROAD and THE WALKING DEAD. Taking refuge in an old boarded-up home, a family does its best to maintain a sense of normalcy amidst a lawless world of roaming gangs. But it’s not long before food and supplies begin to dwindle, forcing the family of survivors into a deadly showdown with a group of vicious marauders surrounding their home. Thoughts: This post-apocalyptic thriller somewhat reminds me of The Day. Take that for what you will. THE DROWNSMAN (Canada) Toronto Premiere Description: With THE DROWNSMAN Chad Archibald (ANTISOCIAL) delivers a refreshingly new take on classic urban legend horror such as the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series. After a young woman narrowly survives a terrifying drowning experience in a lake, she finds herself stalked by an evil entity, The Drownsman, determined to drag her and her circle of close friends to a watery hell! Thoughts: A monster that drowns people? This is a “wait and see” film for me. KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER (USA) Toronto Premiere Description: Based on a true story… a lonely, eccentric Japanese woman (PACIFIC RIM’s Rinko Kikuchi) becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried in the Coen Brothers’ cult classic crime thriller FARGO, is in fact, real and still out there, waiting to be recovered. After watching the movie over and over again, she prepares a crudely drawn treasure map and with limited preparation, escapes her structured life in Tokyo and embarks on a foolhardy quest across the frozen tundra of Minnesota in search of her mythical fortune. Stunningly shot, beautifully acted, and dream-like in its execution, KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER has entranced audiences wherever it has screened, winning numerous festival awards since its debut at Sundance where it won a Special Jury Award. Thoughts: By the description alone, this film seems to standout from the rest of the Toronto After Dark line-up.  I’d be willing to give this one a shot. As always, there will also be 28 short films: CANADA AFTER DARK: DAY 40, DEAD HEARTS, FOXED, HONOR CODE, INTRUDERS, KISMET, LAST BREATH, LAZY BOYS, LITTLE MATTHEW, LUMBERJACKED, MIGRATION, MONITOR, MONSTER ISLAND, PERIOD PIECE, PUPA, ROSE IN BLOOM, SATAN’S DOLLS, WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU, YOUNG BLOOD SHORTS AFTER DARK: DYNAMIC VENUS , EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING, HAPPY B-DAY, INVADERS, , HE TOOK OFF HIS SKIN FOR ME, LIQUID, REDACTION, STRANGE THING, SWORDFIGHTS As as this writing, all-access passes to Toronto After Dark are still on sale, though they will likely sell-out by the time the festival starts.  Single tickets and the full schedule will be available this Friday, October 3. The 9th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival takes place from October 16-25 at the Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Toronto.  See you after dark!

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).