By: Addison Wylie
The Toronto International Film Festival may be in full swing, but Toronto After Dark shall not fall by the wayside.
On September 4, the eclectic festival – known for hosting screenings that would please any sort of genre fan – released their first wave of films. The list has it all: toothy zombies, time traveling, werewolves, Elijah Wood, and two highly anticipated follow-ups to recent cult favourites.
The ten revealed titles can be viewed here. But, before you click away, these are the flicks I’m looking forward to the most so far.
The ABCs of Death 2 (DIR. Vincenzo Natali, The Soska Twins, Steven Kostanski, Alexandre Bustillo, and others)
Get ready to gasp, laugh, shriek and cheer at this latest anthology of 26 short tales, each punctuated by a different shocking, wickedly entertaining death. Completely one-upping its predecessor, ABCS OF DEATH 2 is packed with outstanding thrills, chills and kills, brought to you by some of the acclaimed film-making talents behind fan favourites CUBE (Vincenzo Natali), AMERICAN MARY (The Soska Twins), BIG BAD WOLVES (Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado), MANBORG (Steven Kostanski), ROOM 237 (Rodney Ascher), INSIDE (Alexandre Bustillo) and JUAN OF THE DEAD (Alejandro Brugues), just to name but a few!
The first ABCs of Death was an interesting assortment of shorts that ranged from highly creative gutbusters to grotesque head scratchers. Overall, it was a decent experiment that was in dire need of tighter organization. However, when selected filmmakers hit the bullseye, their work was impressive and memorable.
This anthology franchise just needs a bit more practice, and hopefully audiences will see improvement with this sequel. Hey, it worked for a rivalling competitor, the V/H/S series. If anything, ABCs of Death 2 is going to be an absolute hoot with Toronto After Dark’s audience.
Hellmouth (DIR. John Geddes)
From the twisted mind of writer Tony Burgess (PONTYPOOL) comes a stunning, spectacular ode to classic horror and fantasy. HELLMOUTH tells the tale of gravekeeper Charlie Baker, (WATCHMEN’s Stephen McHattie) assigned to tend to a mysterious cemetery. Charlie’s routine journey to his new place of employment turns out to be a dark and fantastic voyage through a Gothic landscape, filled with demonic forces, and a life-altering encounter with a beautiful woman he must try to rescue from the bowels of hell.
I like Burgess and McHattie, but I run into a conundrum. On the one hand, I believe Pontypool is an excellent capsulized horror film. One of the best within the past decade. McHattie gives a sensational performance that’s both amusing and fearfully manic. The same can be said about Burgess’ writing.
On the other hand, those two – as well as Hellmouth’s director – were all involved with Septic Man. It’s an absolute stinker of a film, an annoying and boring nuisance, and one of the worst movies of the year.
Septic Man failed because its story was not substantial and the material intentionally – and sarcastically – wallowed in filth. Hellmouth sounds like a great premise with a bit more direction and fun behind it. Here’s hoping audiences get another Pontypool.
Zombeavers (DIR. Jordan Rubin)
From the producers of CABIN FEVER, THE HANGOVER, and AMERICAN PIE comes ZOMBEAVERS, a crowd-pleasing zombie comedy co-starring Cortney Palm (SUSHI GIRL) that delivers exactly what you’d want from its title and more! A group of college kids’ weekend of sex and debauchery at a riverside cabin turns gruesome when they find themselves menaced by a swarm of deadly zombie beavers. Riding the line between scary, sexy, and funny, the kids are soon fighting for their lives in a desperate attempt to fend off the blood-thirsty undead beaver horde!
Yes, it’s a goofy premise. Yes, the trailer is bonkers. But, if Rubin can dive into the absurdity with bravery, Zombeavers could be a hit and a possible modern day cult classic.
Also, you can’t always judge a “killer animal/creature/insect movie” by its cover. Case in point: the highly entertaining and surprisingly smart Big Ass Spider!, a film that screened at the festival last year.
Predestination (DIR. The Spierig Brothers)
Based on a story by acclaimed sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein (STARSHIP TROOPERS), the Spierig Brothers (DAYBREAKERS, UNDEAD) direct Ethan Hawke (GATTACA, TRAINING DAY) in this riveting sci-fi thriller in the mold of LOOPER and MINORITY REPORT about a Temporal Agent, tasked with traveling through time to stop crimes before they’re committed. On his final assignment, the agent must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time, the elusive Fizzle Bomber, determined to unleash mass destruction upon New York City, and who somehow always seems to be one step ahead of the Temporal Agency.
I’m a sucker for time travel and Ethan Hawke. Plus, with this and arthouse darling Boyhood screening within the same year, it’s neat to embrace two time shifting movies starring Mr. Hawke.
I never saw Daybreakers, but I heard it was a pleasant surprise in a season of doldrums. If the Spierig’s can take that same pleasing spirit while also successfully covering their asses when it comes to the nitty-gritty of their time traveling mythology, this could be a great time at the movies.
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