Toronto After Dark 2012 Journal: Day 1 – Grabbers / American Mary

TADFF 2012 Coverage!Hey everyone, Jeff here reporting on the first night of Toronto After Dark 2012! All in all, I’d say it was a great night; though I could’ve done without the rain (more on that in a minute). The Bloor was packed with energetic TAD fans, the beer was flowing, and the movies were both solidly entertaining.

If you’re not familiar with TADFF screening conventions, each feature plays with a short Canadian-made film in front of it. The first film of these shorts was titled, Not Till We’re Married, and it went over very well with the crowd. It was essentially a story about the perils of Internet dating and featured a rather “unique” couple. It kind of reminded me of what you’d get if Basket Case were a romantic comedy.

The short was followed up by the first feature of the night, Grabbers, an Irish/British-produced Sci-Fi/Horror-Comedy hybrid about an island that is invaded by tentacled aliens with a taste for human blood, and the only way to survive is by getting drunk. I’d been tracking this one for a year or two, so I was glad to finally get a chance to see it. The movie started off a little slow, but once the creatures showed up, things got fun.  If you’re looking for gory horror, then this won’t be for you, but if you want a fun creature feature with some decent effects and a good cast, then you should seek this one out. For more on the film, check out its official TADFF page and read my full review.

After the first feature wrapped, I spent about 30-45 minutes standing outside in the pouring rain, which was rather cold and unpleasant, but no fault of the festival organizers (Note To Self: Bring larger umbrella tonight!). However, it was totally worth it, as about 20 minutes in, we were greeted by Jen and Sylvia Soska (aka The Twisted Twins), the writer/directors of the next feature American Mary. Not only were they super enthusiastic for two people who were running around in a miserable downpour while wearing short skirts and vinyl, but they were joined by Toronto Batman (if you have no clue who that is, click that link), who barely seemed to know what he was there for and hurled verbal assaults at pretty much everyone he passed.

Screening two was preceded by the Canadian short, Trudy. It was kind of a trippy little film about a young girl who goes out to a club and gets more than she bargained for. I enjoyed this short more than the first, and was fairly impressed at what the first-time filmmakers pulled off with only a couple hundred dollars and some non-actors. If you can find it, check it out.

After that came the “main event” of the evening, the Canadian premiere of American Mary. If you haven’t heard, the film is about an aspiring surgeon who unwittingly finds herself thrust into the dark world of underground body modification. The film is a far leap in both tone and production value from the Soskas’ first feature, Dead Hooker In A Trunk, and while it’s not perfect, it is an impressive sophomore effort with stunning cinematography, a wonderful lead performance from Katharine Isabelle, great practical effects and makeup work, and some delightfully demented scenes. This one comes with a strong recommendation to horror and genre fans, and seeing as the Soskas announced during their introduction that Anchor Bay had just picked up American Mary for distribution in Canada, it sounds like it won’t be long before you get the chance.

The Soskas hung around afterward to do a Q&A session that also included star Antonio Cupo. The pair were very lively and quite entertaining. I managed to record almost the entire Q&A session which you can listen to using the player at the bottom of this post. It started rather quickly, as folks were eager to head to the social event at the pub, so the first question and a few seconds of the answer are missing, but it’s still worth a listen. I don’t believe there is anything too spoiler-like included, but if you don’t want to know anything about the film, you may want to proceed with caution. You can also check out the film’s official TADFF page for the trailer and poster.

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