I’ll Take Your Dead (DIR. Chad Archibald)
The multi-hyphen horror film is just a concept that is here to stay. Despite everything being a hyphenated genre lately, very few films actually know how to do it well. The issue is that these films are often so lost in their own muddled genres, that they forget to specialize in one. Very rarely can someone pull off an actually balanced hyphenated genre film, leading to practical magic when it occurs. However, barring a miracle, a film which knows what it is at its core will often lead to something worthwhile, even great. The films that don’t realize that, the jack of all hyphens, are just not very good. Case in point, Chad Archibald’s horror-ghost-home-invasion-family-drama I’ll Take Your Dead.
There is heart in this film, that is undeniable. Unfortunately, the fact that the film never quite decides if it wants to be an action film about a complicated criminal who has his home invaded, or a ghost story about a little girl who has seen too much, or the tale of a father and his daughter ultimately harms the movie. Because, in the end, nothing is given enough substance to get the audience to care.
I’ll Take Your Dead is about a man who forcibly finds himself in a body disposal business for a bunch of criminals. Meanwhile, he is raising his daughter who is coming-of-age while haunted by the ghosts of those who met their post-ends at the hands of her father. Things become even more complicated when a recently-deceased client turns out to not be quite so deceased. Again, this film has a lot of heart and quite a bit of humour—most of it intentional—but there is just so much missing.
However, there is a happy end to this review, because there are two performances in the film that make the viewing somewhat fulfilling. The first comes from Ava Preston, the young actor who portrays the daughter at the centre of everything, affecting a cute-evil child persona—less Rhoda Penmark, more Wednesday Addams—who shows amazing range going from highs to lows, goods to evils, with great precision. The other shout-out goes to a real despicable character – Ari Millen’s performance as the wonderfully, hilariously hateable villain whose demise you cheer for seconds after meeting him for the first time.
Ultimately, there is nothing inherently wrong with I’ll Take Your Dead, but it could have – perhaps should have – been so much better.
Mega Time Squad (DIR. Tim van Dammen)
Who would not enjoy Mega Time Squad? People looking for an intelligent comedy. People who are interested in the mythology of time travel. The sorts of people who try to figure out the textual intricacies and paradoxes that come with the particular style of time travel. And, who would enjoy Mega Time Squad? The sort of people who know how to turn off their brains for a while and want to guffaw for about an-hour-and-a-half. This is not an insult towards this film; the filmmakers clearly understand where their film exists and have no misunderstandings about its intelligence.
Tim van Dammen’s Kiwi comedy follows John, a small-time crook who, while stealing some triad money, finds himself in position of a time-travel bracelet and finds himself using time travel to escape his now-ex-gang, the dangerous triads members and a demon. Plus, every time he travels back in time, he ends up in the same timeline with the John of “then”. If this sounds like nonsense, that’s because it kind of is. There is very little logical consistency to this film, but that is not the point. The point is that this inconsistency is hilarious, in a way that only New Zealand filmmakers seem to be capable of.
And how is it recognizable as a Kiwi comedy? The dumb humour that makes you double over in laughter—seriously, this is bordering on lowest common denominator humour—the lo-fi subversion of American genre conventions and the appearance of What We Do in the Shadows’ Jonny Brugh.
There isn’t much else to say about this film. If you appreciate Kiwi humour, if you appreciate any humour, Mega Time Squad is for you.
For more information on the festival, visit the official Toronto After Dark website.
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