Toronto After Dark 2013 Journal: Day 9 – Cheap Thrills / Big Bad Wolves

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Well, here we are…  The ninth, and final, night of Toronto After Dark 2013 has officially passed, and the festival is wrapped for another year. Luckily, the festival ended on a pretty high note, with two of the best films of the batch closing things out; Cheap Thrills and Big Bad Wolves.

As you probably know by now, each film is preceded by a Canadian-made short, and tonight kicked off with a film titled Remember Me. The central story revolves around a man who has a strange, hereditary affliction that makes him literally begin to disappear (kind of like Marty McFly in Back To The Future) if someone isn’t thinking about him. His discovery of the disease leads to him carrying out a series of outrageous stunts and crazy acts in order to avoid completely disappearing. This may sound a little outlandish, but trust me it’s very funny. In fact, it is probably my favorite short of the festival overall. I highly recommend that you seek this one out and see it for yourself

movie-cheap-thrills-poster-mask9Next up was the Toronto Premiere of Cheap Thrills, a feature film about a man who loses his job and, out of desperation, finds himself participating in a series of increasingly bizarre and dangerous dares; each with a financial reward. Going in, this film had a couple of red flags for me. For one, the Director, E.L. Katz, was one of the writers of Autopsy, which I thought was a boring mess of a movie. Secondly, all of the marketing that I’d seen behind the film made it look like nothing more than a torture-porn film, and I’m not a big fan of that whole sub-genre. As such, I was pleasantly surprised when Cheap Thrills ended up being a great film. Not only does it have interesting characters and a ton of (very) dark humor, but it also has a huge amount of tension and some of the best “gotcha” moments in recent memory. Pat Healy (The Innkeepers, Compliance) and Ethan Embry (yes, the guy from Empore Records and Can’t Hardly Wait) are wonderful leads, and this is the funniest (and most dramatic) turn that David Koechner has ever taken on screen. Sara Paxton (The Innkeepers, Shark Night) also has a supporting role, and she does a wonderful job; as always. I was very glad to have my expectations thrown in my face because I loved Cheap Thrills, and it is easily one of my favorites from this year’s festival (and maybe even 2013, overall). Do yourself a favor and go see this movie as soon as you can. The trailer – which doesn’t do it any justice – is below:

The first feature was followed by the final Canadian short of the festival, entitled Corvus. If I had to describe it, I’d say it was a very film noir-ish story about a detective investigating the crime scene of a young woman’s death. It looked beautiful, and the music was great, but overall, it just didn’t really do a lot for me. I think the Director has talent, and his cinematographer certainly does, but I also think it could be used to tell a better story than this. I’ll leave it at that. Which brings us to our final feature of the festival…

big_bad_wolves_xlgThat movie, of course, was the Toronto Premiere of Big Bad Wolves, and Israeli revenge film about the lengths that a father and a policeman will go to in the wake of the murder of a young girl. If it sounds awfully close to Prisoners, don’t worry, it’s not… Sure there are a few similarities with the father/cop/missing daughter thing, and both are very bleak, but Big Bad Wolves has some very black humor in it, whereas Prisoners goes right for your gut. But I will end the comparisons there… I know that the recent hype around Wolves is very much due to Quentin Tarantino christening it as his “Favorite Film Of The Year,” but his praise isn’t enough to make me fall in love with a film. Don’t get me wrong, it is very well made, and it is certainly one of the best films of the festival for varying reasons, but it didn’t entertain me nearly as much as some other films that I’ve seen at TADFF this year (Cheap Thrills, for example, was a much better movie, in my opinion). Still, the movie is interesting in that we generally don’t get films like this out of Israel, and the Directors,  Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, definitely have a great deal of talent. So, I do recommend that you see this movie, and I’m sure that it will continue to get good buzz as we move into 2014; especially given that Israel is submitting it as their Academy Awards entry, and I’m sure it will get a nomination. I believe that Magnet will be distributing Wolves in the States in early 2014, so you can probably expect a VOD release followed soon after by Blu-ray/DVD and Netflix Instant releases. If you’ve not seen the trailer yet, it is included below:

After the final film, we all headed to The Office Pub for one final night of drinking, socializing, and celebration of genre films. The festival team did a wonderful job having the event catered, and it was really nice to see all of the staff and volunteers cutting loose after a very great week-and-a-half of running the festival. The pub had last call at 4am, but we didn’t actually shuffle out into the streets until around 5am.

All in all, I had a great time at Toronto After Dark this year. As always, it has been one of the highlights of my year. Nine nights, nineteen feature films. Some were great, many were good, and as always, a few were not so noteworthy, but I’m glad that I got to at least see the films; some of which have now found distribution thanks to the festival. Thanks to the TADFF folks for putting on such a great event, and thanks to all of you for reading my thoughts on the films. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend attending the festival in the future.

As for now, it’s time for me to pack up my things and head back to the US. But, keep your eyes here over the next week or so, as there will be more feature reviews on their way, and at least one podcast.

Until then… Stay Undead!

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