Hello fright fans! It’s time for another check-in from the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. The Blood Sprayer is here all week, and as promised, we are bringing you the scoop on everything After Dark-related! If you need to catch up on any of our previous coverage, you can go HERE to check out all of our articles… If not, read on for all the gory details about Day 2!
Last night was Zombie Appreciation Night here at TAD. As with past years, the festival teamed up with the organizers of the Toronto Zombie Walk to bring us all a night of programming filled with films about the living dead. And, what’s more, those who came to the box office dressed as zombies got in for a reduced admission, making TAD the only film festival in the world, as far as we know, to offer a discount to the undead!
Over the past few years, Zombie Appreciation Night has become a fan favorite, drawing large crowds of zombified genre fans. Last night was no exception. Hordes of festival-goers lined up down the street before each film, and all of the day’s screenings were packed. In true TAD fashion, the crowd was rowdy, and hearing the people shouting random things before (and occasionally during) the films was just as entertaining as the movies themselves.
Being that it was a Saturday, the festival screenings started earlier in the afternoon. The first feature was TAD‘s Shorts After Dark 2010, which is made up of ten short films from around the world that were chosen by the festival director as some of the best submissions received. Included in the compilation were the following:
- United Monster Talent Agency — A humorous short from Greg Nicotero that deals with the subject of what it would have been like in Old Hollywood if the creatures from the movies had their own agents!
- The Thomas Beale Cipher — A stylish animated piece about a scientific genius who is on the run from the government because he is the only one who has the knowledge to crack a particular code that they are after.
- Primer Contacte — An interesting take on what it would be like to search for other lifeforms in space… And then try to date them!
- Frank Dancoolo: Paranormal Drug Dealer — A hyper-stylized film about a news reporter trying to track down a narcotics dealer who may or may not be linked to an attempted invasion by evil creatures from the other side…
- Barcelona Venicia — A story about the effects of unintentional time travel.
- Pumzi — A film set in a future where the world outside of the massive cities is dried up and devoid of all water and life…
- Off Season — A tale about a man and his dog who roam the frigid terrain roaming through abandoned houses and taking what they want… But are they all truly abandoned?
- DemiUrge Emesis — A stop-motion animated short that tells a stylized tale of the artist’s process.
- Deus Irae — A terrifying short about a little girl who is possessed by a demon and the priests sent in to try and save her.
- The Library — A ridiculous (but fun) film that simulates the most obnoxious (and weird) Nintendo game ever made. Oh, and Marlon Brando.
Due to the hectic schedule of TAD over the weekend, and the sheer amount of news to report, I can’t give you my full thoughts here on all of these films. However, I will say that my favorites were easily Deus Irae, United Monster Talent Agency, and Off Season. The others were all good in their own right, but these films really left an impression on me by how well made and entertaining they were.
Deus Irae was creepy, splatterific fun. United Monster Agency was hilarious and featured some of the best classic monster effects ever with a host of cameos from the likes of Jeffrey Combs, Dick Miller, Frank Darabont, Eli Roth, and a whole lot more… Pure genuis! The third mentioned here, Off Season (no relation to the Jack Ketchum novel), was very atmospheric and filled with tense moments from the less is more school of filmmaking. Once things settle down and I get some extra spare time, I hope to put up a separate piece with my thoughts on all of the films.
After the shorts were done, I grabbed some lunch and met up with a couple of Canadian festival-goers that I was introduced to, via Twitter, by one of my friends out in Texas (funny how things work, huh?). We had all seen the night’s next feature, and the first of the zombie double-bill, Doghouse, and we were looking forward to a second viewing of it.
Once we were seated, there were some zombie prize pack giveaways, and then we were treated to the first Canada After Dark short of the night, Inferno of the Dead. The film was introduced by its director, Sir Jeremy Gillespie (?!), and it turned out to be a humorous little short about a couple who are terrorized by the undead in a, well, rather unexpected and peculiar way. I can’t much more about it other than that it was ridiculous in a good way, and that the crowd was laughing the whole time. To see it for yourselves, just scroll to the bottom of this article, as I’ve included it there.
After the short, and a few humorous technical errors that had the already rowdy crowd in stitches (don’t worry Adam, we didn’t mind!), Doghouse began. I’m happy to report that the film, which was directed by British splatter auteur, Jake West was even more fun on my second viewing. The story is about a group of sexist, and slightly obnoxious (but fun!), English guys who travel to a small town that is known for having a disproportionately large female-to-male ratio. The idea is for them to get drunk and get their buddy, who just went through a nasty divorce, laid in the process. The only problem is that it seems that all of the women in the town have been turned into zombie/demon hybrids, and they’re hell-bent on killing any males that they come across.
Now, I enjoyed West‘s previous films, Razor Blade Smile and Evil Aliens, quite a bit, but Doghouse is definitely his best yet. Not only did the production values get raised quite a bit, but the mix of humor and gore are just great. Those who are easily offended by politically incorrect and sexist humor, may need to take a pass, but in the end all the nasty things really are tongue in cheek, and there may even be a bit of a feminist message buried beneath all of the vulgar talk. Highly recommended for fans of splatter-comedy and/or zombie films!
Next up was the Greek import Evil In the Time of Heroes, but not before we got a look at another Canadian short. This time the short, which was also introduced by its director, Buck Anderson, was They Shall Pay With Rivers of Blood. This was another zombie film that went for the whole 70’s type of feel, and it wasn’t very bad at all. It basically just tells a short story about a couple who are being chased by the undead, and it features a strange little ending that had the crowd laughing it up quite a bit. Again, you can find the short embedded below.
Apparently, the film’s crew is pretty well known at TAD, as there was quite a bit of raucous applause during, and after, the film. It wasn’t anything overly fantastic, but it featured some decent low-budget effects and was entertaining. More importantly, the ending was a great lead-in to the ridiculousness that was coming our way in Evil In the Time of Heroes, a film that can only be described in three words: What. The. Fuck?!
EITH is the sequel to the Greek zombie film Evil, which created quite a buzz a few years back with it’s crazy kills and strange story. Here, we basically get a very similar story, only it is done with a much larger budget, better effects, and Billy Zane. Yes, you read that right… What Mr. Zane is doing in a Greek zombie film is beyond me. Apparently, the best explanation for his presence is that the director got him for a day of filming, and then decided to stick his character in the film to bridge two different timelines…
Well, if what I saw was any indication, that suggestion may be spot-on, as Zane‘s character seems to randomly appear in various parts of the film without any good reason. Oh, and from what I could tell, he speaks perfect Greek… Every time his character popped up (sometimes only for 30 seconds or so), the crowd chanted “Zaaaaaaaannnneeee!!!!” It was truly a surreal experience, but I enjoyed it for what it was; an over-the-top, hyper-stylized, piece of filmatic zombie madness. After all, do you really need a coherent story in a zombie film?
Anyhow, after the film ended I said my goodbyes to my new friends (they had to catch the train back) and then headed over to Pauper’s Pub for the first Pub After Dark night. I was at Pauper’s once or twice last year, so I knew what to expect. Basically, a lot of the die-hard festival-goers and many of the TAD staff head to the upstairs piano bar at the pub, which has been reserved for TAD, and everyone drinks and socializes. Quite often, the visiting filmmakers will come out as well.
I had originally only intended to stay for a drink or two, but I ended up meeting quite a few new people and had some great horror-nerd talks. Sometime around 1:30am or so, Festival Director Adam Lopez stopped by our table and we finished the night discussing various things about festivals past and present. He also gave us a bunch of free drink coupons, which we really couldn’t say no to (a couple people even tried, but Adam is a very convincing fellow!).
As I was saying goodbyes outside and preparing to stumble back to the hotel, we happened to bump into a few of the guys from The Last Lovecraft, who were still in town from the previous night’s screening. More specifically, we ran into actor Kyle Davis, actor/writer/producer Devin McGinn, and director Henry Saine, who was there with his fiancée. I told them again that I really enjoyed their film, and then we all got into a slightly drunken talk about a bunch of things, including the topic of Billy Zane and the differences between peeing on random buildings back in The States and doing it in Canada (can you tell that we were all having a good night?). Again, these guys were some of the friendliest and most entertaining filmmakers that I’ve met at any festival or screening, and after talking to them some more, it’s very apparent why they were able to make such an enjoyable movie.
Anyhow, that about wraps it up for Day 2 of Toronto After Dark. Again, it was a ton of fun, and if you are in the area, I highly suggest coming out tonight for either Cargo, RoboGeisha (which looks INSANE), and/or High School. Speaking of which, I need to go and get ready to catch the train out to the Bloor.
Enjoy the shorts below, and remember to check back tomorrow for more news on the festival!
Inferno of the Dead:
They Shall Pay With Rivers of Blood: