Prey (DIR. Dick Mass)
Sometimes viewers are given the rare pleasure of experiencing a film that, by all intents and purposes, should be awful. Whether because of its genre’s history or just a general sense of ridiculousness, these films need to be dead on arrival, but sometimes a film is way better than it has any right to be. Dick Mass’ Prey, a film about a giant man-eating lion causing carnage in the streets of Amsterdam, is such a film.
In this ode to the creature feature which easily turns up the absurdity to eleven, a lion stalks the streets of metropolitan Amsterdam, finding its victims as a couple goes through a rough patch. There isn’t much plot to be spoken of beyond that in the first act, and that is not a weakness in any way. While the human interest is there—it is necessary to set up the arrival of a third party—the first act gives the audience what they want, which is a giant lion chasing and killing people in increasingly inventive ways. It is with the arrival of a British lion hunter—he is differentiated from another hunter by the fact that he only kills man-eaters—that the film gets its ludicrous counterpart to the lion, a one-legged man who is as eccentric as he is crafty.
Ultimately, Prey is the definition of an exciting thrill ride. It offers laughs, surprisingly potent jump scares, some of the best recent kills, and some hilarious political lampooning. The creature feature concept has not been used frequently for a while and, when it is, there are diminishing returns, so this film may well be the last opportunity to see it done right.
Robbery (DIR. Corey Stanton)
As the old adage goes, “rules were made to be broken”. And sometimes one is forced to break a rule in order to break another rule. And sometimes one must make a film about breaking a rule in order to break a rule in order to break a rule.
Enter Robbery. The rule is that if a film has its world premiere at Toronto After Dark, it will be bad (again, not a slight on TAD; it’s just a thing that happens). That rule was broken by Robbery, a film whose title explains its relevance to this, and the rule that was broken in order to break the world premiere rule is the fact that Robbery doesn’t really fit the ethos of the festival. Despite that, credit where credit is due: Corey Stanton’s movie is pretty good.
This film tells the story of a career criminal suffering from the early stages of dementia whose son reaches out to him to help him steal some money in order to pay off dangerous people to whom he owes money. What this film may lack in directorial voice or aesthetic interest, it more than makes up for with its compelling story; a story full of twists and turns, and a story which, despite its generic qualities, never seems derivative. Honestly, it feels like this film would have been even more successful as a novel.
It also stars Art Hindle, a man who has shown himself to be an asset at every step of his career (with a few exceptions, which we do not need to go into). Hindle’s performance as a cerebral criminal losing his mind is revelatory, even when the lines fed to him border on cliché.
This is not a film that you should seek out if you are looking for a genre film, but if what you seek is the sort of Canadian indie crime feature that you would see at an MDFF screening, this is the film for you. But, the most important thing to keep in mind is that this is an exception to the rule: the original rule still stands!
For more information on the festival, visit the official Toronto After Dark website.
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