Readers from last year may have remembered my disdain for the Canadian short films featured at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. This year, out of a wide array of great shorts preceding each feature, the programming won me back.
Here are a few of my favourites from this year’s festival:
Paranormal Radio (DIR. Andrew Jeffrey)
This short film is based on an infamous call into a radio show (search for it on YouTube by looking up “area 51 call”). Paranormal Radio is a simple but effective film, relying on voice acting and suggestion more than any actual visual proof of aliens. At the very least, Andrew Jeffrey skillfully shows that big scares can come from small places.
Boy Toys (DIR. Trevor Kristjanson)
Two vain, stiff, surprisingly prolific young men are sitting at a table having a discussion when it becomes apparent that they are under the control of an all powerful deity. The actors do a good job at conveying natural emotions, and the presented visuals are colourful enough to make viewers believe that a horrorshow ending won’t happen. You’ll have to see this one to believe it.
It’s All in Your Head (DIR. Greg Jeffs)
It’s All in Your Head is a nice twist on a nursery rhyme. This family friendly short tells the story of a young girl’s encounter with a scary monster. But, who is the real terror in this story? The sudden turn of perspective truly ties this cute short together.
Olga (DIR. Olaf Svenson)
A young woman with a grudge enters a mafia establishment and makes her grievances known. Olaf Svenson’s resonating work in Olga makes one believe that this story could pop up as an extended feature film in the future – there’s lots of potential here for the filmmaker. The short is beautifully choreographed with just the right amount of bloodlust.
International Shorts: The Call, Vitamins for Life, Greener Grass
Canadian Shorts: Boy Toys, Olga, It’s All in Your Head
The action sequences in Train to Busan
Whenever Jumpy the Dog appeared in Ti West’s In a Valley of Violence
The insanity of As the Gods Will
The creatures from The Master Cleanse
International Shorts: When Susurrus Stirs, Shutter
Canadian Shorts: Wizardly Wickedly Weeping, Pyotr495
Sentimentalism in Train to Busan
Most of Kill Command
The low representation of woman filmmakers (one feature and five shorts directed by women)
The inadvertent homophobia and (possibly advertent) sexism in Pyotr495, a film about the dangers of dehumanizing queer individuals which does exactly that
The fact that the bed in Bed of the Dead was not actually the killer for the most part (plus the strange time travel implication)
Having to say good things about Ti West and Mel Gibson
Continuing my streak of missing at least one film at the festival (I’m sorry, Stake Land 2!)
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