Friday was Day Two of Toronto After Dark 2014, and the theater was packed for both of the evenings screenings. HELLMOUTH had its World Premiere, ABCs OF DEATH 2 had its Toronto Premiere, and the sold out crowds were cheering and ready for both movies. It’s kind of a big deal that both of these screenings sold out, as that means that the first four consecutive films at this year’s festival were completely full. I believe that is a new TADFF record. The festival certainly has grown over the last 8 years, and it’s exciting to watch as more and more films sell out with each iteration.
The night kicked off with PUPA, an anime-style animated mindfuck of a short film that was both entertaining and bizarre. It certainly was a great match for HELLMOUTH, which is about as WTF-inducing as they come (more on that in minute), so I can see why the programmers chose it. The film’s Director, John Lee was present to introduce it. If you’re interested, you can watch PUPA below:
HELLMOUTH immediately followed the short, and as mentioned, this is the first time that the finished film had been publicly screened anywhere. The crowd was obviously packed with folks who were anticipating the film, which tells the story of a grave-keeper (played by character actor Stephen McHattie) who is pulled into a hellish alternate dimension where he fights to save himself and the soul of a mysterious woman. It was directed by TADFF alumni John Geddes (EXIT HUMANITY) and written by the prolific Tony Burgess (PONTYPOOL, SEPTIC MAN), both of whom were in attendance for a Q&A following the feature (which you can download here or stream below).
HELLMOUTH uses the SIN CITY-style technique of actors working against a completely green-screened environment to create a highly-stylized comic book-like world. The visuals are fantastic, but for me, the story is a little too abstract . Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need things laid out for me explicitly, but this film doesn’t really seem to be saying much of anything (which seems to be confirmed in the Q&A because the Director and Writer don’t necessarily agree on the subject matter). The pacing also drags a bit in the middle, but the last act is pretty fantastic. I know that a lot of people liked the film, but in the end, I just don’t think HELLMOUTH is for me. However, I think people should check it out; both for it’s crazy visuals and because I know there’s an audience for this film (even if it doesn’t include me). Plus, I liked the movie infinitely better than last year’s SEPTIC MAN… So it has that going for it.
The trailer (and Q&A) are below:
HELLMOUTH Q&A (TADFF 2014)
Next up was another Canadian-made short film called LUMBERJACKED. The film is basically an animated music video for a retro-styled electronic piece, where a reformed lumberjack becomes one with nature and fights off a mutant wasp that is threatening his friends. It’s goofy, but the music was pretty cool, and it fit well with the feature it was paired with (ABCs OF DEATH 2). You can watch LUMBERJACKED below:
The last film of the night was ABCs OF DEATH 2, which is the follow-up to 2012s experimental anthology film where 26 directors are assigned a letter of the alphabet and then produce shorts centered around death based on their letter. I wasn’t a fan of the majority of the shorts in the first film, so I wasn’t sure how well ABCs 2 would play for me. However, several of the directors in this iteration were people that I found interesting, so I was more than willing to give the film a shot and judge it on its own merits.
I’m glad that I did because ABCs 2 is a significant improvement over its predecessor. This time around, there were far more hits than misses – I think I enjoyed about a third of the shorts in the first, but this time out, I liked about three-quarters of them – and while the end result isn’t mind-blowing, it certainly proves that the concept wasn’t the problem with the first film. However, seeing as the filmmakers featured in both films were given total artistic control over their segments, I suppose the outcome will depend on who is involved and exactly what it is they want to make. I’m not going to get into the various shorts here, but I recommend that you give the film a shot; even if you hated the first one. It really is a lot more fun.
Several of the cast and crew involved with a few of the shorts in the film were on-hand for a Q&A, and you can download the entire audio recording of that session or stream it below:
ABCs OF DEATH 2 Q&A (TADFF 2014)
All in all, the second night of TADFF 2014 was a success. The theater was packed for both screenings, and overall, the night was more hit than miss. While I didn’t love either film, I didn’t dislike them, and they definitely are definitely worth your time.