Day two of the 2013 edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival has now come and gone. Dubbed “Insect Night,” the night’s programming consisted of a pair of movies where the (arguably) main star was a bug. The idea of “theme nights” is one that has become more prevalent at the festival over the years, and I think that it has worked in favor of TADFF. After all, for those of us who don’t cover the entire festival, it’s probably a lot easier to pick certain days to attend if the film’s are similar in theme; and I use the term, “similar,” loosely.
Why do I mention that? Well, that’s probably because, while both movies featured insects, their tone and overall execution varied pretty wildly… But more on that in a minute…
As is customary for TADFF screenings, the main features are preceded by Canadian-made short films. The short that played in front of the night’s first feature was entitled, The Last Video Store. The film was a pretty humorous take on the recent craze of VHS fandom in which a package delivery man finds himself caught up in some bizarre events while delivering a package to an eccentric video store clerk. Overall, the short was quite fun, and while I am not necessarily one to wax nostalgic for VHS tapes – a technology that I have publicly stated my boderline antipathy for – I thought the hook was clever. Of course, a good deal of this was probably because the short was far from serious in tone. It also featured some pretty great special effects, and really captured the spirit of 1980s genre films. I would certainly recommend it, and you can check out the trailer below, if you are so inclined.
Next up was Big Ass Spider!, Director Mike Mendez’s tale of a giant arachnid terrorizing Los Angeles. As I’ve said before, I generally like Mendez’s work (The Gravedancers, in particular, I feel is vastly underrated), and I was looking forward to seeing what appeared to be his version of a SyFy Original movie. While Big Ass Spider! certainly delivered on the promise of its title, I have to admit that it’s probably my least favorite of Mendez’s films, and I found it to be a bit wanting. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is light years beyond the majority of giant bug/shark/whatever movies that constantly are pumped out by the SyFy channel. However, it just seemed to have trouble finding its footing and deciding just how campy it wanted to be. If you want my full thoughts on the film, then you can check out my review on the site. In case you were confused as to what the movie is all about, here’s the trailer:
Next up was a another short film, Bless You. This one was certainly a change of pace from the earlier short. It was a nice, brief, animated piece and had a very interesting art style. If you’ve ever sat on a late night subway train next, you can probably relate.
Closing out the night’s films was one that I had been hear a lot of good “buzz” about; Indian import Eega. From the moment that I heard it was about a man who is murdered and then reincarnated as a housefly who then seeks revenge on his killer, I was intrigued. Still I have to admit, I’m not a veteran of either the Bollywood or Tollywood scene (this film comes from the latter), so I wasn’t sure if this would sit well with me. Thankfully, the movie is a far cry from boring, and it was easily the more entertaining film of the night. As expected, it features outlandish musical numbers, lots over the top acting, and is very eccentric. However, I was also surprised by the sincerity of the film. Sure, there’s a lot of silliness on display here, but the movie somehow manages to play it fairly straight at times and the camp factor works much better here than it did in Big Ass Spider! It even gets pretty dark at times; especially for a movie about a CGI fly trying to murder someone… Seriously, it’s like the world’s most bizarrely twisted Pixar film at times. Plus, it has one of the best Intermission cards ever. I would recommend seeking this one out for sure (it is currently available for import on Blu-ray and DVD here in the US). As the version we saw was the International cut and had about 30 minutes or so missing, I am certainly going to check out the original cut. Trailer is included below.
After the screenings wrapped, we headed over to the pub to chat about the films and talk a bit about what were looking forward to over the weekend. The clear choice by most for Saturday’s roster is The Battery, which I have heard nothing but great things about. Also playing are the International Shorts compilation and Stalled, a UK zombie movie set in a bathroom. Check back tomorrow for thoughts on those…
Until then… Stay Undead!