It’s that time of year again… The weather is getting chilly, the leaves are changing colors and falling from the trees, and everyone is in full Halloween mode. Fall is my favorite time of year for all of those reasons; and also because it means that Toronto After Dark is upon us.
If you’re not familiar with the festival, you can find all sorts of information on their official site – http://torontoafterdark.com. However, if you are a regular reader here, you probably already know that we love the festival and do our best to cover as much of it as possible every year. This is the ninth year of the festival – I’ve been attending annually since 2008 – and this year’s lineup is quite killer (you can find the full schedule HERE). Apparently, that fact hasn’t been lost on fans because many of the films are already selling out; including the first film of the night, the New Zealand import, HOUSEBOUND.
As is customary, all features are preceded by a Canadian-made short film. In this case, the short was a film called FOXED. The film, which is a stop-motion animated piece about a young girl who finds herself kidnapped by a group of foxes, was a pretty great way to kick things off. The animation was beautiful, and in a lot of ways the look and story of the film kind of reminded me of Henry Selick’s fabulous film, CORALINE. If you get the chance, I highly recommend seeking the short out. You can find the film’s official site HERE.
As for HOUSEBOUND, I had been anticipating the film quite a bit as it is one that I have been tracking for a while. The movie, written and directed by Gerard Johnstone, tells the story of a young woman who runs afoul with the law and is put on home-arrest, under the care of her estranged mother, in the house she grew up in. Of course, there is a lot more to the plot than that, but I don’t want to say much because HOUSEBOUND is best seen with as little background info as possible. There are a good deal of twists and turns in the film, and saying anything more might spoil them.
I will say, however, that HOUSEBOUND is surprisingly hilarious. The crowd was laughing and having a great time throughout the screening; and with good reason. That’s not to say that there aren’t some solid scares in the film; because there are. However, overall, it manages to balance both the humor and the horror very successfully. The main performance from Morgana O’Reilly is great, and her smugness and cynicism help to accentuate and ground some of the wackier elements of the film. After all, it is very funny, but it is hardly the type of slapstick humor of horror-comedies like DEAD ALIVE.
Overall, the film went over very well with the sold-out crowd, and I had a very good time. HOUSEBOUND is definitely one to add to your watchlist, if you haven’t already. The trailer is included below:
Next up was another Canadian short entitled YOUNG BLOOD. The film is about a young boy whose uncle is babysitting him on his birthday while the family is out on the town. Of course, there’s more to the story than that, but again, telling more would ruin the surprises. It’s a damn funny film, and honestly, it was a perfect pairing with the next feature. In particular, the guy playing the uncle was hilarious. If you get the chance, I recommend watching the short.
The final feature of the night was SUBURBAN GOTHIC, Director Richard Bates Jr’s follow up to the very well-received EXCISION. I liked that film quite a bit, so I was very intrigued by SUBURBAN GOTHIC, and I was happy to hear that it would be playing TADFF this year. The movie is about a young man who leaves college and has to move back to his home town to live with his “quirky” parents. Of course, he’s not too excited about the move, but he’s even less enthusiastic to find that the spirit of a murdered child is haunting him at the house…
The film is hilariously inappropriate, and I can see where a lot of people might find it offensive and/or too wacky, but I loved the tone of the piece. Bates’ humor is definitely his strong point, and a lot of times, it reminds me of a Troma production if Troma wasn’t annoying. I was laughing often throughout the screening, and I had a fantastic time with the movie. Ray Wise, who plays the super-racist father, was the scene-stealer, but everyone involved was great. I can see where some people won’t click with the jokes in the film, but for my money, it’s one of the funniest things that I’ve seen this year, and I will definitely be seeking it out to add to my collection at some point. In my opinion, Bates is a filmmaker to watch, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Shawn also checked out the film and liked it quite a bit. You can find his review of it HERE. The trailer is also included below:
Overall, I think the festival is off to a strong start. Day Two will feature the World Premier of the Canadian film, HELLMOUTH, along with a screening of THE ABCs OF DEATH II. I wasn’t a fan of the first ABCs film, but I hear good things about the follow-up, and apparently, so has everyone else because it is sold-out.
A full report of both films will follow tomorrow… Be sure to check back every day for more on the films playing; along with reviews, etc.