Toronto After Dark: Highlights So Far

The 2009 Toronto After Dark Film Festival is in full swing at the Bloor Cinema.  This year’s fest has it all: Horror, action, science fiction and thrillers are all represented.  It all kicked off on August 14th with Black Dynamite and ends on the 21st, this Friday, with the zombie-baby flick Grace.  Here is a list of just a few of the highlights so far:

Black Dynamite

Scott Sanders‘ amazing send up of the 1970’s blaxploitation genre.  Michael Jai White plays Black Dynamite, and kicks so much ass in this film; both in terms of his performance and in actual ass kickings.  Black Dynamite was easily one of the most entertaining times I’ve had at a movie in a long time.

The Warlords

This brutal Chinese war epic stars three of Asia’s biggest stars: Jet Li, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro.  Lau and Kaneshiro are great, but they’re always solid.  Li gives perhaps the best dramatic performance of his career.  This is not a classic wuxia film, no wire-work here; The Warlords is about massive battles between armies.  Cavalry charges, plenty of severed limbs, people being impaled in horrible ways and emotional decapitations.  Wartime melodrama at its best.

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Dead Snow

As if Nazis and zombies weren’t bad enough on their own, the Norwegian film Dead Snow finally combines the two.  The Nazi-Zombie has got to be among the most awesome and terrifying undead ever brought to the big screen.  In the film tradition of Evil Dead and Friday the 13th, a group of horny students decide to spend a few nights at a remote cabin in the mountains.  Beer, sex and snow-mobiling — a perfect getaway.  For reasons quickly expounded upon by the trademark creepy old man, the mountains are full of undead Nazis.  Unsurprisingly, things get extremely bloody and ridiculous from there.

Strigoi

This quirky black comedy has been the surprise of the festival for me.  I knew nothing about the film going in and came out loving it.  Strigoi takes the vampire mythos back to basics.  The film is steeped in local folklore and the creepy backdrop of rural Romania.  The inhabitants of a small Romanian town have had to deal with a lot of problems in their time: the Nazis, the Russians, the communists and more recently the capitalists — but now they must deal with the Strigoi, the undead.  Which ones are the true bloodsuckers?  Read our full review.

Shorts After Dark

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The festival featured some amazing genre short films from around the world.  I was glad to see two of my favourites short films from the past year among the lineup.  We’ve posted this one before, French electronica duo Zombie Zombie‘s epic homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing filmed entirely in stop-motion using G.I. Joe action figures, Driving This Road Until Death Sets You Free.  The other is the incredible pixel-art side-scroller Kings of Power 4 Billion % from animator Paul Robertson.  Robertson is one of the artists working on the upcoming Scribblenauts for the Nintendo DS. Kings of Power is sure to be one of the most insane things you’ve ever seen, a must for video game fans.

As for the shorts I hadn’t seen, mention must be made of The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon, which follows a man as he is bludgeoned to death by a mysterious spoon-wielding man over the course of several years.  Brutally hilarious. Welgunzer is a clever time travel film that involves suicide and a mind-bending plot.  Think Pi, but starring a manic depressive with a cheating wife.   The Spanish short Practical Guide for the Imaginary Friend examines the lives of imaginary friends after their careers have ended. Very charming film that will bring out the kid in you.

All that in just four days, and the Toronto After Dark Film Festival still has three more days to go!

Dork Shelf will be checking out more films from the festival, including the Korean actioner Rough Cut, the zombie-baby film Grace, Canadian Shorts After Dark and Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl.  Be sure to check back for our reviews of these films and more in the coming week.

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For details and ticket information be sure to visit the Official Toronto After Dark Film Festival Site.



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