Toronto After Dark 2019: ‘Blood Machines’ and ‘Homewrecker’

Blood Machines (DIR. Seth Ickerman)

The cinema is a visual and narrative medium, but the narrative is often king.  Way too many films will give up on the visuals to tell a story, leading to slightly stagnant results.  As such, it is sometimes oddly refreshing to get a film which will sacrifice narrative cohesion in order to produce a spectacle of light and sound.  Seth Ickerman is such a filmmaker and Blood Machines, a collaboration between himself and musician Carpenter Brut, is the latest manifestation of this ethos – one which would rather just attack the senses.

There is a narrative here: a ship crash-lands somewhere, leading to a group of Indigenous figures to free the ship’s artificially intelligent spirit, creating a full mythology in a solid fifty minutes.  However, again, the narrative takes a back seat to the aesthetic pastiche which borrows from 80s sci-fi, coming across as a live-action version of Heavy Metal at times.  What makes the pastiche here so effective is that it doesn’t fall into either pitfall of cinematic pastiche: it doesn’t navel gaze and get distracted by its own cleverness, and it doesn’t practice hero-killing in an attempt to mock its predecessors.  Instead, you get an absolutely genuine celebration of a specific visual art—warts, problematic elements and all—which comes across almost like the real thing it’s paying homage to.

Of course, when your film decides to take on “form over content”, the main issue is how to justify every minute.  After all, if a moment is not being used to further a narrative, what is it being used for?  This film manages to use its time effectively, but there are still some missed opportunities (unlike Ickerman’s previous film, Turbo Killer, which was tighter).  However, Ickerman doesn’t drop the ball during the final stretch, and delivers a satisfying third act.

Blood Machines is definitely worth your time when it receives a wider release.  Just leave your preconceived notions at home and enjoy the sensory assault.

– Shahbaz Khayambashi 


Homewrecker (DIR. Zach Gayne)

Homewrecker is an outrageous collaboration between director Zach Gayne and co-stars Alex Essoe and Precious Chong that channels the comedic competitiveness of Bridesmaids and the seething discomfort of Blumhouse’s Creep franchise.

After Michelle (Essoe) and Linda (Chong) inadvertently meet at the gym, and then later at a coffee shop, Linda invites Michelle over to her house without hesitation.  Michelle, on the other hand, has her reservations but, nonetheless, accepts the invitation.  Even before they arrive to the house, red flags start springing up due to Linda’s awkward stares and small talk.  However, these quirks are dismissed by Michelle as details that suggest how lonely Linda may be.  Over a short period of time, the awkward social cues turn into threatening personality disorder, and Michelle becomes quite aware of how she may be the victim of a kidnapping.

Homewreckers find longevity in its limitations, which allows the production to think outside the box in terms of Michelle’s survival.  Essoe does a very good job at showing empathy towards someone who has been emotionally abandoned;  especially when Michelle has to simultaneously plan an escape around Linda.  Chong has fun playing an unhinged character who hasn’t perfected her plan, nor does she know the degree of damage she’s making.  With that mentioned, Chong’s portrayal of Linda’s derangement doesn’t stray too far away from believability.  Movie goers can still comprehend why Michelle, after being chased around by Linda with a sledgehammer, can’t help but feel sorry.  Audiences can also see how much fun both actors are having, which sometimes doesn’t translate well during vicious fights.

Homewrecker doesn’t go too deep into its dissection of Stockholm syndrome because Zach Gayne clearly isn’t interested in making that movie.  Instead, he has made an entertaining dark comedy that shows audiences how a bottle narrative can still use a large dynamical scale to full effect.

– Addison Wylie 

Homewrecker screens at Toronto After Dark on Tuesday, October 22 at 9:30 pm at Scotiabank Theatre.


For more information on the festival, visit the official Toronto After Dark website.

Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:

Toronto After Dark: @TADFilmFest
Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam
Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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