Welcome back, my fellow cine-maniacs! The third day of Toronto After Dark is now behind us, and what a day it was! The day’s programming really accentuated the unique mix of films that TAD has become renowned for, and I’m happy to report that I enjoyed every one of the movies on some level or another.
Going into the day, I was starting to feel what other festival-goers referred to as “third day burnout.” The reason for this is because, on opening weekend of TAD, you really get a lot of activity crammed into a small window of time. The first night isn’t too bad, as there is only one film, but if you’re like me (and a lot of other attendees), you end up staying out pretty late (in my case 4am) at the festival’s opening gala. After that, you try to get some sleep in for Saturday, but before you know it, you have to get up, get some writing done, and then pretty much run out the door to be at the cinema by 3:30pm or so, where you will spend the next 9 hours or so watching films and waiting in lines before heading to the pub for drinks and conversation with everyone else. By the time Sunday morning rolls around, you feel a little hungover and kind of tired, but you still have more writing to do and another 9 hours or so at the cinema. It’s really hard to describe the feeling, but it does get to you…
However, in the end, the experience is totally worth it. And, from what everyone has been telling me, once Monday or Tuesday rolls around, you’re back to being well-rested. This is because, for the next five days, there are only two films per night, which means that you get an extra two to three hours to write and relax. I hope that is the case here, because I could use it. Still, that may not kick in until tomorrow because tonight is going to be crazy in its own way. You see, tonight, TAD is having its first-ever red carpet premier for Daniel Stamm’s The Last Exorcism. And, not only is this the Toronto Premier, but Producer Eli Roth is here in the city and will be in attendance. So, it’s safe to say that all eyes are going to be on the Bloor Cinema tonight, and things will probably be a bit insane, as the screening is totally sold out except for a block of passes, which I imagine people will be fighting for when they are released around 5 or 6.
Anyhow, you’ll be reading about all of that tomorrow, so let me give you the scoop on what went down yesterday…
Due to subway construction and utter madness on the Westbound Green Line, I ended up getting stuck for about 45 minutes in the swelteringly hot Toronto subway. As such, I missed the beginning 15-20 minutes of the first film of the day, which was the Swiss sci-fi thriller, Cargo. From the buzz around the film, I was expecting a creature-in-space film along the lines of Alien. However, the movie ended up being more of paranoid suspense film about the untrusting nature of humans; kind of like The Thing, only in space and with no monsters. While it wasn’t nearly as good as that film, I was still very much impressed by it; especially it’s visuals and set pieces, which were, in a word, stunning. What’s more, it turns out that the film was made for under $2 Million… Believe me, you would never be able to tell by looking at it. Every last penny of that was definitely on screen, and Hollywood could certainly learn a thing or to about production value from this film.
After the credits rolled, it was off to grab a bite to eat and then hop back in line for the day’s second feature, RoboGeisha. Luckily for me, there is no shortage of amazing Lebanese joints on Bloor (or in Toronto, for that matter!), and I was able to get some great food and an equally great spot in line. Good thing, too, because RoboGeisha was packed. You can tell that there is a crazy kind of love for Japanese splatstick films around here and that people were dying to see this tale of a runaway girl who is recruited into an army of geisha assassins and slowly has her body parts replaced by mechanics and weaponry, as there was hardly a seat left in the house by the time the introduction rolled around.
Festival, and it was preceded by the award-winning short film, Junko’s Shamisen. The short, which was directed by Sol Friedman, was an amazing-looking film, done in Kabuki style, about a young girl fighting an evil emperor. It was made with a blend of live-action, computer animation, stop-motion, and just about everything else out there. It was very cool and really resembled a live action comic book. The film itself is not out on the Internet for free, but I have included the trailer below. It’s definitely worth a watch.
That particular short segued very well into the beginning of RoboGeisha. Honestly, I’m not really sure how to describe this film other than a crazy, over-the-top blend of all of the cult Japanese cinema genres rolled up into one. There’s geysers of blood, half naked girls, kung fu, schoolgirl outfits, breast fondling, head smashing, and old people with machine guns. There is even a scene where a castle turns into a giant robot and smashes city buildings, Godzilla-style; only, in this case, blood sprays out of the buildings(!). If three chicks in bikinis and goblin masks having an ass-sword fight on a stripper pole sounds like fun to you, than this is your movie!
After the final, and most ridiculous, reel of RoboGeisha wrapped up, it was back in line for the last film, High School, which is easily the best (and most insane) stoner comedy to come along since the first Harold and Kumar film; though the two are humorous in completely different ways. I knew that I was in for a wonderful experience from the time that I stepped in line, as it seemed like a giant cloud of marijuana smoke had settled above the pass-holder’s line. Oh Toronto, how I love you…
Anyhow, before that film kicked off, we were treated to a very odd short film called King Chicken. The short involved a rather strange man, 80’s-style clothing, bad dance music, English For Beginners cassettes, and a very weird romance story. It was pretty darn funny, and the crowd loved it. Again, the film doesn’t seem to be online in its entirety, but I’ve included the trailer below.
Once the credits rolled on the short, High School started. Based on the strong reviews that I had read about the film, I was really excited to see it, and let me tell you… It did not disappoint. In short, the story focuses on a couple of kids who attempt to get their entire school high so that they can avoid being expelled for failing a drug test. While, on the surface, the plot may sound pretty stupid, and the film may not seem like a typical TAD movie, you have to believe me when I say that the film couldn’t have fit in better, and it was an amazing way to end the night.
Not only was High School very well written, but the performances were great.
The standout, and most notorious, of these performances came from Hollywood mega-star Adrien Brody as a whacked-out drug dealer; replete with cornrows, full-body tattoos, and eyes that look like they are on the verge of bleeding. Although Brody‘s performance is the most over-the-top, and makes the biggest impression, there are also great (and very bizarre) turns from some amazing character actors like Colin Hanks (King Kong), Curtis Armstrong (Revenge of the Nerds), Yeardley Smith (The Simpsons), and Michael Chiklis (The Shield).
To be honest, High School was easily the funniest movie that I have seen in a long time, and so far it’s my favorite from the festival. Judging by the giant roar, and near-standing ovation, that it received from the audience when the credits rolled, I expect that I’m not the only one who loved it. Seriously, it was on par with last year’s Black Dynamite… Sadly, High School doesn’t seem to have a distribution deal yet. Hopefully that will change soon, as this has the potential to become a great cult classic, and should really be seen with an audience.
That brings us to the end of the films from Day3. As usual, I headed across the street to Pauper’s after the last film to have drinks with the other festival-goers. And, as usual, it was a great time. You could tell that people had to work in the morning, and that many were probably close to burnout as well, because the place was much less crowded than the previous night. Still, visiting filmmakers Sol Friedman, Kyle Davis, and Devin McGinn were hanging out and chatting with the fans, and I had a great time. Can’t wait for tonight’s Pub After Dark. Who knows, maybe Eli Roth will show up… After all, stranger things have happened…
So, be sure to check back tomorrow for the scoop on (and pictures from) The Last Exorcism and tonight’s red carpet premier. Now that I have a bit more free time, you can probably also expect a full review of the film (eventually, I will have full reviews up for all of the features). The second film tonight should also be fun, as it’s another crazy Japanese flick entitled Alien vs Ninja. I don’t believe there is any more that needs to be said about what to expect from it.
Until then, stay sick!
Note: For more pics from Day 3, be sure to visit TAD‘s Facebook Page!
Junko’s Shamisen (Trailer):
King Chicken (Trailer):
Tags: Adrien Brody, Cargo, Devin McGinn, Eli Roth, Events, Film Festival, High School, Japan, Japanese, Junko's Shamisen, King Chicken, Kyle Davis, Movie Reviews, Reel Asian Film Festival, Reviews, RoboGeisha, Short Films, Switzerland, The Last Exorcism, The Last Lovecraft, Toronto After Dark