If you’ve been keeping up with my writing at Film Army, you would’ve been more than acquainted with our coverage of this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
The festival which focuses on bringing hardcore genre films (short and feature length) to eager audiences has been stronger than last year but still hit-and-miss. While gems like We Are What We Are and Big Ass Spider! had audiences glued, other horrors like Silent Retreat and Septic Man flopped.
Coverage of that festival will conclude at Wylie Writes with a couple of reviews – including this one.
Programmer Steven Landry has figured it out!
Four minutes before the screening as the last members of the audience trickled in to the theatre, Landry took the stage and gave his introduction.
Being a stickler for tardiness and an observer of how this year’s festival has had the odd slip-up regarding scheduling, Landry’s early start informed everyone of what was to come as well as upcoming screenings playing later in the week. He was quick and to the point and the film started on time. An huge relief, for sure.
After a couple of video segments, the festival jumped right in with a Canadian short.
Liebe (LOVE) (DIR. Cameron Macgowan)
Taking a few clever jabs at Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder before turning the film into a different kind of romance, Macgowan’s audience pleasing Liebe (LOVE) is a front runner for being my favourite short I’ve seen in this year’s festival.
Macgowan captures a floating dreamy atmosphere with his swooping camera and smooth movements. If the horror elements were taken out altogether, this could definitely work as a straight-up satire of lovey-dovey weepers.
Just as we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, a strange troll-like creature is brought into the mix and adds its own romantic feelings. This stroke of comedic gold makes Liebe (LOVE) an absolute riot.
Macgowan makes matters extra bizarre but keeps up with his aforementioned style he’s cheekily built so well. It’s arguable that the sexual overtone is a bit much towards the end, but we’re too busy giggling at the ludicrous nature of a romance that we never could’ve foreseen.
Found (DIR. Scott Schirmer)
I try not to hyperbolize in my reviews. However, Scott Schirmer has sent me on a hyperbole highway with his highly disturbed yet chillingly accurate independent film about a boy who gradually figures out his older teenage brother is a serial killer after finding hidden severed heads in his house.
Found floored me. There were situations in Schirmer’s film that became so wrenching to watch, I was afraid I was going to be sick. It doesn’t shy away from anything, yet doesn’t feel as if it’s twisting anyone’s arm for an expected reaction. It doesn’t have to.
What the film is displaying is so sickening, it turns us into an emotional pretzel.
Found has a synopsis that could easily fit into a campfire setting, but Schirmer – who is adapting from co-writer Todd Rigney’s novel – uses this opportunity to take a perceptive and psychological look at what ignites a younger generation to start massacring people.
Take Steve – the brooding and blood thirsty older kin. Ethan Philbeck, who plays the twisted role undeniably well – comes across as your average moody teen filled with angst. Throughout the film, that cliched character mould slowly deteriorates into a sadistic, unpredictable killer.
Steve’s intentions could spawn from a variety of sources, but Schirmer is able to keep the open concept controlled. There are obvious influences in a grisly unrated videotape Steve hides away. The film also allows audiences to think a gaping void regarding a strong father figure could’ve pushed Steve, as well as his Dad’s prejudice towards African-Americans. Did I mention these disembodied heads were black?
What I admire about Found is that it looks at Steve’s case, and then balances it by mainly focusing on the youngest sibling, Marty, and his sponge-like mentality. There are influences all around us that could be the cause for an unbalanced individual to snap, but Schirmer also shows that pure curiosity (such as Marty’s) could also lead to a shadowy path. Marty is played with great effect by newcomer Gavin Brown.
Found is a homegrown film. Schirmer made the movie for $8,000 and while it shows, the natural reality adds that much more of an immersive sucker punch. It’s a case where the amateur rough-around-the-edges acting actually compliments the authenticity even more. Everyone does a bang-on good job, especially the leading kin.
The point where I realized I was watching something utterly fantastic, was during that relentless final stretch. Events get out of hand and you worry Found is jumping the shark. You can’t help but try and predict Schirmer’s next steps.
I was convinced what was happening was a dream sequence where someone – at any moment – was going to sit up in there bed breathing heavily. But, I was wrong. My “this is all a dream” prediction turned into myself trying to convince my thoughts that I was having a bad dream.
I’ve seen some seriously distressing films and had some terrible nightmares in the past. But, never in my moviegoing experience nor recent recollection of having bad sleeps have I seen something so alarming. I was left speechless as I realized I was trying to convince myself what was happening on screen was not happening.
Found played me like a fiddle. It’s been a few days after seeing the movie and it’s done nothing but fill my thoughts. With a bit of very careful trimming here and there, it’s going to be an unstoppable force once it’s unleashed to the wide public.
For more information on Toronto After Dark, click here!
Read my anticipated Toronto After Dark picks here!
Read my reviews of KIN and We Are What We Are here!
Read my reviews of The Last Video Store and Big Ass Spider! here!
Read my reviews of The Guest and Silent Retreat here!
Read my reviews of Under the Neon Lights and Septic Man here!
Read my reviews of Beasts in the Real World and Evil Feed here!
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