The Toronto International Spring of Horror and Fantasy Film Festival is a weekend dedicated to genre appreciation conceived by filmmakers Lari Teräs and Jon Lewis. The festival returns to the city’s indie hot spot Carlton Cinema on Friday, April 7 and carries through to Sunday, April 9, promising movie goers an eclectic three-day event filled with music videos, short films, and unique movies that are out-of-this-world.
Wylie Writes’ Nick Ferwerda was fortunate enough to catch a couple of the feature films programmed at this year’s TISH festival: UK horror Brackenmore and the latest North American found-footage flick Occupants.
Brackenmore (DIR. JP Davidson)
Brackenmore had the potential to be amazing but, unfortunately, the film misses the mark.
The film starts out with a young girl Kate and her family driving along an old country road. Things go south when they get into a deadly car crash, and Kate is the sole survivor. Fast-forward to present day, married Londoner Kate (Sophie Hopkins) receives a letter in the mail telling her about the death of an uncle she wasn’t aware existed. Upon her brief return to South Ireland’s Brakenmore, she inherits a home belonging to her uncle and meets a friendly local named Tom (D.J McGrath). Tom reacquaints Kate around the small village, and helps her remember her roots. From there, the horror begins.
Brackenmore had a great start. It’s fast paced, straightforward, and sets up the story nicely. However, once Kate arrives in Brakenmore, the story (written by Chris Kemble and Brian Teles) starts to slowly fall apart. For instance, various details – including symbols – are emphasized yet they never actually hold any true meaning, ultimately serving no purpose or benefit to the material.
Its unsalvageable script aside, Brackenmore shines in certain areas. Justin MacCarthy and Rupert MacCarthy-Morrogh bring life to the film with beautiful cinematography; some very creative angles and composed shots make Brackenmore aesthetically fantastic. Sophie Hopkins (BBC’s Class) and D.J. McGrath (Philomena, Glassland) deliver great performances as well.
However, not even those key strengths can save Brackenmore from its confusing story.
Catch Brackenmore at the Toronto International Spring of Horror and Fantasy Film Festival on:
Saturday, April 8 at 7:15 p.m. @ Carlton Cinema
Occupants (DIR. Russ Emanuel)
Found-footage thriller Occupants follows Annie Curtis, an award winning documentary filmmaker, and her husband Neil Curtis. This happy couple kick off a 30-day healthy living lifestyle, which Annie plans to chronicle and make into her next movie. In the spirit of the found-footage sub-genre, they set up cameras throughout the entire house to capture every angle possible.
When Annie uploads the first batch of captured footage, she notices something abnormal about it – they seem to be capturing video from an alternate reality. Annie quickly seeks help from specialist Dr. Alan Peterson (Star Trek: Voyager’s Robert Picardo), who confirms their suspicions.
Occupants is slow from the get-go, making it difficult for audiences to stay tuned in. The film eventually gains momentum, and about two-thirds into the film, Occupants takes a turn from harmless fun to dark and intense. Occupants also has some great special effects. They are subtle, but very impressive.
Actors Briana White and Michael Pugliese are quite good, and they excel at playing duel characters. Picardo is fun and convincing as well, even though movie goers only see him over the internet via web chat.
Occupants overcomes a rocky start by proving to be very entertaining.
Catch Occupants at the Toronto International Spring of Horror and Fantasy Film Festival on:
Saturday, April 8 at 3:00 p.m. @ Carlton Cinema
Other TISH Coverage:
Addison Wylie’s review of Holy Hell (Saturday, April 8 at 11:20 p.m.)
Addison Wylie’s review of short film A Quiet Moment (Saturday, April 8 at 5:00 p.m.)
Click here for more festival details and to buy tickets.
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Nick Ferwerda: @NickFerwerda