The 5th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival continues its run at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor St. West). Toronto Movies Examiner is reporting from the Festival – here’s a look at some of the films that have screened so far.
For The Last Lovecraft and RoboGeisha, click here.
The Last Exorcism – Chaos reigned at the Monday night red carpet premiere of the Eli Roth-produced possesion movie, The Last Exorcism. Lines stretched around the block in both directions as horror fans and stargazers angled to be amongst the first public Toronto audience to view the much anticipated film, as well as get a chance to ask questions of Roth and the film’s stars Ashley Bell and Patrick Fabian.
The film, which is the directorial debut of Daniel Stamm, is presented as a documentary about charismatic small-town preacher Cotton Marcus who’s about to embark on the final exorcism of his career. He invites the film crew into his church and home, allowing them to extract the fact that, for a man of faith, he doesn’t have much of it himself. He doesn’t believe in the spiritual world and in fact, sees what he does as a service to give people the peace of mind they can’t find for themselves. He admits that he doesn’t believe in the idea of demon possession but is more than happy to take peoples’ money and give them a show (he has a trunk full of props including a crucifix that shoots smoke and rings that deliver a charge when applied to a person’s temples) to help them move past what is more than likely all in their heads.
To prove his point, he answers a letter from the Sweetzer family who complain that their livestock is being slain nightly and the clothes of the teenage daughter, Nell, are soaked with blood every morning, even though she doesn’t remember getting out of bed. Cotton and the crew head to the isolated farm to unravel the mystery behind the strange occurences and as they delve deeper into the lives of the Sweetzers, they realize not all of their problems are of an earthbound nature.
What follows is a creepy, suspenseful, tongue-in-cheek (an example of the film’s off-kilter humour comes in the form of a very creative use of foreshadowing) look at the very nature of faith, all wrapped up in smartly written horror film that pays tribute to “found footage” films like Blair Witch Project as well as other classic demon possession films like The Exorcist and more recently, The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Phobia 2 – In 2008, TADFF screened Phobia, an excellent thai anthology featuring 4 stories filmed by 4 different thai horror filmmakers. The film was a hit with Toronto audiences (as well as at other genre festivals), so it was inevitable that the sequel, this time featuring 5 stories, would make an appearance at this year’s Festival.
This installment, while effective in parts, is wildly uneven compared to the first film which managed to maintain a consistent tone and level of tension throughout, even with the varying subject matter of the stories.
All of the stories in Phobia 2 are linked in some way to cars or being on the road and of the 5, only 3 of them are must-sees (although one of the weaker ones features a character that turns up in the last story with great comic effect).
Story 1, the visually stunning Novice, is about a teen boy who’s sent into hiding at a monastery after his involvment in a tragic road accident. The story has an excellent mix of mood, scares and heart as well as some excellently creepy effects.
Story 2, Ward, follows a young man staying overnight in a hospital room with a coma patient who may not be as incapacitated as he seems. The story is pretty predictable and although it does feature one really great, scary moment, it’s mostly forgettable.
Story 3, Backpackers, offers a fun twist on a zombie tale as a couple of backpacking teens are picked up by a truckdriver toting a trailer full of the undead.
Story 4, Salvage, is the weakest of the lot. A dishonest woman selling cars salvaged from accidents and made to look new encounters some karma one night after her dealership closes for the night. Despite some good makeup effects, the story is kind of unfocused and way longer than it needs to be, making you wish the movie only had four stories to get through.
Thankfully Story 5, In The End, amps up the energy level and takes the movie out on a high note with its hilarious take on the horror genre and on sequels in particular (twist endings and the ubiquitous long-haired crawling ghosts are especially funny targets).
All in all, a so-so experience but still, way better than 90% of the horror films released in North America last year. If you’re a horror fan, definitely seek both Phobia and Phobia 2 out.
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs until Friday, August 20. For ticket info, check the TADFF website.
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