As always, every feature film at Toronto After Dark was preceded by a Canadian Short Film. This year’s Canada After Dark line-up included obsessive fans of pop stars, killer tattoos, and of course creepy clowns. Here are my thoughts on each of the 19 short films.
A young girl gets into trouble for eating too many cookies, which results in her mother switching the cookie jar from a teddy bear to a scary looking clown. As the girl takes cookies from this new jar, scary things begin to happen. Kookie is a very timely short film, since scary clowns seem to be an obsession around North America right now. This short is very well produced and features a fine performance by the young lead. Also, there is one hell of a final shot.
A man scavenging through the trash is picked up by another man and forced to participate in S&M games. Ape Sodom is one of those short films that seems to be aiming to shock and disgust. It succeeded.
The hottest popstar in the world right now is Austin Kelsey (Conor Sweeney) as his hit new single “21 Year Old Baby.”An obsessed fan of Kelsey tries his best to look like the pop star, before going to sing at a karaoke night. Winnipeg film collective “Marcus Milos Ian Fabian” teams up with Astron-6’s Conor Sweeney and Matt Kennedy for this comedy short that really needs to be seen to be believed. Definitely one of the highlights of this year’s short line-up.
A woman’s (Mishka Balilty) new tattoo turns out to be quite dangerous. Ink is a very simple short film involving tattoos, a bathtub, and a whole lot of ink. The short is well-produced and gets to the point in relatively quick fashion.
Do You See What I See?
Sloan (Caleigh Le Grand) begrugenly goes to a Christmas Party hosted by her sister Jessica (Jorja Cadence). However, a masked killer arrives at the party and begins offing the guests. From Justin McConnell and Serena Whitney comes this holiday slasher short. Probably the most interesting aspect of Do You See What I See? is a final revelation somewhat reminiscent of a certain John Carpenter film, which I would definitely like to see expanded upon in the future.
Divorced Dad: Home Improvements
Divorced Dad (Matt Kennedy) hosts a cable access talk show with his co-host Gilles (Gilles Degagne). In this episode, the two talk about Home Improvements, in memory of Tim Allen. Divorced Dad: Home Improvements is an episode of an upcoming webseries by Astron-6. Directed by member Conor Sweeney, Divorced Dad is presented like a cable access show from the 1980s, complete with grainy footage. This episode gives a taste of what the full webseries will be like, including deadbeat humour, extreme violence, and even a few surreal twists.
Hopkins has been hosting a late-night UFO conspiracy radio show for 30 years, hoping to get an answer to the question of “Are we Alone?” One night Hopkins receive a very frantic call, who believes to have the conspiracy all figured out. Paranormal Radio is a well-made science fiction short, which is sure to satisfy the UFO conspiracy theorists out there.
A young woman gets vengeance against the mob boss that killed her father. Olga is an action short film, with some pretty well-choreographed fight scenes. The bulk of the backstory is told through flashback, as the titular character is forced to make a horrible choice. Altogether, this was a solid short.
Jacob (Roc LaFortune) sets out on a dark and twisted daydream of vengeance against the man who allegedly killed his daughter. The plot of Jacob’s Wrath moves back and forth from a post-apocalyptic landscape and scenes in an airport. It’s hard to tell whether these concurrent narratives were alternate timelines or merely a dream in the titular character’s head. However, the post-apocalyptic scenes does have a bit of a Mad Max feel to it.
Two men must survive their torturous existence. Boy Toys is a film that examines what dolls must feel when they are played by children. This makes for a quite a hilarious short film, particular the crazy ending.
It’s All In Your Head
Little Sarah Lynn (Addison Jeffs) encounters monsters in her bed. It’s All In Your Head is a visual nursery rhyme, which features a twisted little twist of the classic story of monsters in the closet. I quite enjoyed this one.
Wizardly Wickedly Weeping
A psychedelic looks at wizards and witches on a hill. Wzardly Wickedly Weeping is a very experimental short film, which is just plain old messed up LSD trip.
Two girls find a body in the woods and decide what to do with it. Don’t Scream is a horror-comedy short, which is really all about is final punch line. Nothing spectacular, but a fine enough watch.
A magician obsessively practices his craft in a hotel room. Emty Drive is a short film that features no real story, other the fact that this magician is absolutely horrible at performing his escape routines. In fact, I was more interesting by the various pans of the streets of Niagara Falls.
A manager of a sleazy motel spies on a couple and fears that one of them may be a violent psychopath. There is nothing all that original to the plot of Peephole, however it is pretty well executed and has a clever twist at the end, even if I did see it coming.
Takumi (Kohei Shinozaki) is a young man apparently from another planet, whose best friend is his toy robot Doka (Rintaro Sawamoto). Doka receives a message saying that transport will be arriving back to their home planet, however it will be one the same night as a party hosted by Takumi’s love Yoshimi (Elizabeth Davison). Indigo is a sci-fi/fantasy about a boy and his robot. This is actually quite dramatic and features a somewhat heavy ending. Though it’s still well done.
Pyotr (Alex Ozerov) is a young gay Russian man, whose online hook-up turns out to be a bait and switch by an ultra-nationalist group bolstered by Russia’s LGBT propaganda law. However, Pyotr has his own dark secret, which allows him to turn the tables on his attackers. Pyotr495 is a very well-produced horror short, which features a major anti-homophobia message. While it is possible to misread some of the turns the short film makes, it still takes a real and serious issue and makes it into a quite enjoyable tale of vengeance.
Dennis in the Bathtub
Dennis (Aaron Rothermund) is a merman, who complains to his girlfriend Marguerite (Kimberley Wells) about his poor life outside of the ocean. While Dennis in the Bathtub is a funny short film, it is also a little one note, with not much variety in the shots.
WW2 Bluatsauger: Crypt of Doom
A group of allied and Nazi soldiers must reluctantly band together when attacked by vampires in an old castle. WW2 Bluatsauger: Crypt of Doom is a quite well done claymation short, featuring some impressively animated characters. While the sound and voice acting is a little rough, this is still a fun little short film.