Toronto After Dark Recap
The seventh annual Toronto After Dark film festival has just wrapped, and as always it was a show case of the best innovative, independent, and cult filmmaking. The festival director, Adam Lopez, exuded enthusiasm as he introduced each film and spoke to its cast and crew. Each volunteer was gracious and happy to share in the festival experience. The atmosphere was palpable, as fans of off-beat cinema filed into the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (formerly the Bloor Theatre), buzzing about what they had seen and how they anticipated the next film. Overall, this year’s TAD festival was a cinephile’s dream, and I was lucky enough to attend four of the twenty screenings. Here’s how they stacked up.
Lloyd the Conqueror
This comedy is about three college students who are bullied into taking up LARPing (that’s live action role playing, for the uninitiated), and stars Brian Posehn and Mike Smith. Both are in fine comedic form, playing over-the-top archetypes of LARPers with a vendetta against one another. Posehn’s character, The White Wizard, acts as a mentor to the three padewan LARPers who must face their professor, Smith’s Derek the Unholy, in order to pass their class. The movie felt like a feel-good comedy for gamers; with a little romance, a little action, a little crass humour, and an appearance by Harland Williams, it was a good bit of fun. Bonus, the entire thing is Canadian! But LARP fans will have to wait until at least January 2013 for Lloyd to even have a limited release. As of writing, the movie was still looking for a distributor.
My Amityville Horror
The Amityville Hauntings have fascinated pop culture since their alleged occurrence in 1975. Two years later, Jay Anson published The Amityville Horror: A True Story, a book that lead to ten movies that would dramatize the events of the Lutz family’s 28-day stay in the house at 112 Ocean Avenue. This debut documentary, by filmmaker Eric Walter, marks the first time any of the Lutz children have spoken on record about the alleged happenings of 1975. Daniel Lutz was 9 years old when he supposedly experienced a series of horrifying hauntings along with his mother, younger brother and sister, and his stepfather. The movie reunites Daniel with Laura DiDio, the first journalist to speak with the Lutz’s, and follows him as he recounts his memories and tries to make sense of his childhood. As any good documentary must, My Amityville Horror introduces the idea that Daniel may have been haunted, or that he may have been a young man under the strong influence of an overbearing stepfather, and respectfully allows the audience to draw their own conclusions. To see this yourself, you may have to wait for a DVD release. It is currently circulating through various festivals.
Of all the films I saw this past week, Resolution was by far my favourite. It is an atmospheric thriller about Mike Danube (played by Peter Cilella), an upstanding man with a happy marriage and child on the way, who tries to save his friend Chris Daniels (played by Vinny Curran) from himself when they find themselves followed by an unseen threat. This description does not do the movie justice, but nothing can really describe Resolution. It has a wicked sense of humour, which helps to balance the creepy atmosphere of the barren landscape and disturbing events. The entire story has a slight Cabin in the Woods feel to it, but it remains distinctly unique. It explores complex themes while unravelling a compelling story. For more on Resolution, keep an eye out for my review. Like My Amityville Horror, Resolution is on the festival trail hoping for distribution. I am confident that we will see a DVD release, if not a limited theatrical release soon.
A Fantastic Fear Of Everything
On closing night, I was treated to Simon Pegg’s newest film, A Fantastic Fear Of Everything. A comedic spoof of horror films, Fantastic Fear is about a neurotic writer working on a book about Victorian serial killers who begins to fear every bump and shadow on his walls. Simon Pegg plays Jack to perfection, often out-preforming himself as his fears escalate and his grasp on reality slips. He channels a John Cleese-like level of manic energy as he whips around his flat, baring a knife in an attempt to defend himself from perceived phantoms. There is a good amount of creepiness as the sets are decorated with the colourless faces of the killers Jack is studying, and the brief appearance of a rather stoic waiter had the entire room chuckling and questioning Jack’s safety. But ultimately, Fantastic Fear is a comedy, and one that delivers a satisfying helping of laughs. Fans of Pegg’s movies are in luck: A Fantastic Fear of Everything should be available on DVD soon.
If you’ve never been to Toronto After Dark, you have a year to plan. Follow their Twitter (@TADFilmFest) and pay attention for their summer preview screenings. If you attend, plan to stand in friendly lines, and to have a nine-day party complete with pub time after the screenings. If you’re a movie fan, the festival is a must. Not only are the films unique, but TAD has all the atmosphere and interaction any fan could hope for. You could not hope for better timing, either—Toronto After Dark leads perfectly into Halloween with its quirky misfit films and indie horrors. Mark it on your calendars now and I’ll see you next year!