Saturday marked the third day of Toronto After Dark 2014, and as is customary on the weekend, there were three separate screening blocks (as opposed to the standard two during the weekdays). Saturday at TADFF also usually means Zombie Appreciation Night, so you generally know that you are going to get at least two films featuring the undead. This year, both of the feature films were completely sold out, marking a running total of six sold out screenings for the year already. Huge congratulations to the festival organizers for making 2014 such a record-breaking year (and it’s only three days in)!
The day kicked off with Shorts After Dark, which is the festival’s International Short Film showcase. This gives the programmers a chance to feature their favorite non-Canadian short submissions, and while all of them aren’t usually great, there are always a handful of them that are worth your time, and there’s usually at least one or two that are flat-out brilliant. You can find a complete list of all the shorts featured this year here.
After the shorts wrapped, the first Canadian short of the night, DAY 40, played. Written and Directed by TADFF alumni Sol Friedman, the short is about “the ethical implications of the story of Noah’s ark.” However, don’t let that description dissuade you from watching it because DAY 40 is funny, inappropriate, and violent. I don’t want to give away too much, but let’s just say that the animals decide to take over the ark, and Noah.. Well, Noah has seen better days. I’ve been a fan of Friedman’s work for a while now, and this is the third short of his that I’ve seen at TADFF, so I definitely recommend this one. Unfortunately, it is not online for viewing, but you can find out more here, and the trailer is below:
After the short was the first feature of the night, ZOMBEAVERS. The film, about a bunch of college students who plan a getaway at a secluded lakeside house only to discover that the area is inhabited by zombie beavers, is one that I heard about a while back. The name and concept are so ridiculous that you can’t help but be intrigued; though I’ll be honest, I expected this one to end up going straight to the SyFy Channel. However, as it turns out, ZOMBEAVERS is actually quite a bit of fun, and it’s much better than the movies that show up on that particular cable channel.
For starters, I really liked how the film uses practical puppetry for the zombie beaver effects. In fact, if CGI was used for anything in the movie, it was used very sparingly. The film is also chock full of humor and most of it hits the mark; even if it is silly. There’s even a healthy dose of boobs included here, and that usually always helps a film… In any event, the movie is super short, and it moves along nicely and never overstays its welcome.
I’m not sure when ZOMBEAVERS will make its way to video, but if you get a chance to see it, I would recommend it. The trailer is below:
Next up was another Canadian-lensed short film, PERIOD PIECE. I don’t want to say too much about its premise, but it’s about a film crew shooting a Romantic movie who run into some unique challenges during their final scene. It’s definitely a fun watch, and I recommend seeking it out. The filmmakers were in attendance and said that they are trying to get funding for a feature length version. I’d be interested to see that, if they do. A short teaser is below:
The final feature of the night was the highly anticipated DEAD SNOW 2, Tommy Wirkola’s follow-up to his very popular Nazi-Zombie film from 2009. The first DEAD SNOW played TADFF when it was doing the festival rounds, and it took home several audience awards, including the coveted “Audience Choice Award,” so I wasn’t surprised when the movie was one of the first to sell out at this year’s festival.
DEAD SNOW 2 picks up almost immediately where the first film left off, and it charges full-speed ahead into insanity. It’s played much more for laughs than the original, and it definitely embraces the absurdity of its premise while amping up the action and widening the scope of the film’s narrative. It’s practically perfect in hitting its marks throughout, and the audience was cheering and laughing at the gore-soaked carnage and gags throughout. There was even a singalong during one particular scene that is set to Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
All in all, it’s definitely one of my favorites from this year’s festival, and I wouldn’t be shocked at all if it ends up taking home the Audience Award, based on the crowd’s response. This one is on VOD in the States currently, so I strongly recommend that people check it out; though, if you can see it with a crowd, you definitely should do so. The trailer is below: