TADFF 2021: Canadian Shorts After Dark

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2021 goes completely virtual this year as it kicks off its 15th annual edition milestone filling five days of horror, sci-fi and action films from October 13th to 17th. If you are in Canada, film festival access is nationwide so you probably don’t want to miss out! You can find the schedule line-up HERE.

Kicking off the festival on Day 1 to start off in a little bit of a unique way and probably the way I’m used to previously covering TADFF is with its short films selections. Nothing like some Canadian Shorts to kick things off with 9 short films in the Canadian Shorts After Dark showcase. There’s a few that I have seen before in film festivals but the majority are first time watches.

Morbus (2020)

Director: Kerim Banka
Cast: Nicole Hrgetic, Benjamin Liddell, Konstantina Mantelos

Morbus is a second watch and one that I remembered fairly well except I can’t remember from which festival I first saw it and then didn’t end up reviewing. However, better late than never as Morbus does have a rather intriguing premise.

Morbus tells the story of a young couple that is halted on an isolated country road by blocked cars in their path. When they get out to investigate, the woman notices something in the distance and they follow in pursuit to find a woman in the woods who has some weird growths and attacks them.

There’s so much to love about this. The isolated road is a fantastic setting. There’s a lot of mystery with this type of body horror-esque phenomenon where its not certain what is going on but yet, it shows the signs of humanity of the woman’s infection causes the man to react in his own ways. As much as its horrific and a tad disgusting in terms of the whole body changing, there’s also a human element at play that gives the story a little more depth. Its only a short and yet, there’s so many things to explore with this one.

Le Reflet (The Reflection) (2018)

Director: Louis-David Jutras
Cast: Laurence Anais Belleville

Alone in her apartment, Anais realizes that something is wrong with her reflection. Trapped, she tries to escape this entity that manifests itself only through reflection. – IMDB

Reflections and mirrors are such a great tool when it comes to horror films. Le Reflet does a great job and using its sound design, a lot of quiet moments and the different reflective surfaces to play with this reflection premise. While some of the scares are rather predictable, it all depends on the timing and anticipation that it manages to ramp up before executing the scare that makes it rather effective. Plus, it creates this unknown of why this is happening.

I’m a big fan of films with this sort of horror style which is much more subtle and atmospheric. For myself, this short was absolutely outstanding. Plus, it leaves such a mystery that it feels like the premise could be expanded into a full film and potentially be a rather fun horror experience.

Maybe You Should Be Careful (2021)

Director (and writer): Megan Robinson
Cast: Dan Beirne, Brittany Rae Robinson, Kelly McNamee

Maybe You Should Be Careful is about a young couple trying to reignite their passion and intimacy when the boyfriend finds a post about a female killer in the neighborhood that is shockingly similar to his girlfriend and starts building paranoia and fear towards her in his mind.

Paranoia and fear is such a great pair to use when doing a horror film that it adds this whole psychological element to it that works incredibly well especially in this case. This is a quirky little short. There’s a weird dynamic between the couple but then the suspicions start to form, its quite fun to see how it progresses. In many ways, its simply a miscommunication between the two and a different type of focus during the entire encounter that drives to a finale that is fairly expected once it happens but does leave a lot of space during the entire short of whether the girlfriend is or is not the killer preying on the men in their neighborhood.

Family (2020)

Director (and writer): Mark Pariselli
Cast: Neil Paterson, Tarick Glancy, Peter Campbell, Tracy Woods

An accident on the way to the cottage has horrifying consequences for an interracial gay couple contemplating parenthood. – IMDB

The elements of the road trip are pretty well set up at the beginning from the relationship between the two and their many stops which fit this season especially with pumpkin stalls and corn mazes. Plus, for those familiar with the dark country roads, there’s really nothing quite as spooky as its only lit up by the car headlights making what’s ahead a complete mystery. The mood is set up really great with the isolation and quiet rural area while adding in this dire accident which needs to be taken care of. It takes quite the alarming twist as the film progresses which is a pretty neat turning point. For gamers like myself, it might actually feel very familiar giving hints of Resident Evil 7 especially with a dialogue. I’m not sure whether that is deliberate or just a coincidence but its pretty fun.

Kweskowsiu (She Whistles) (2021)

Director (and writer): Thirza Cuthand
Cast: Sera-Lys McArthur, Aiden Devine, Sebastian Bertrand, Eileen Li

On the way to her girlfriend’s place, an Indigenous woman is assaulted by her cab driver. Amidst the struggle, she discovers a deadly supernatural power that may help solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. – IMDB

There’s a lot to love about this short. For one, it dives into Native American beliefs and/or myths about the Northern Lights specifically regarding what happens when you whistle at it. Using this as not only a faux-pas in conversation but also afterwards, using it to the main girl’s advantage. Second is the familiar face of Sera-Lys McArthur who is really good here especially after seeing a good performance of hers earlier this year in Don’t Say Its Name (review). The conversation between the cab driver and her character during the taxi ride is actually rather unnerving especially awakening some fear about how much privacy is being pried but also touching on the prejudices towards Native Americans in the community as well.

Whether its the thriller element or the other messages portrayed in this short film, its a very intriguing one overall and one that opens up unfamiliar myths which adds to the intrigue and at least for myself, lead me to do a little more research.

Sang Jaune (Yellow Blood) (2019)

Director: Julie Roy
Cast: Catherine-Audrey Lachapelle

Sang Jaune crafts a story of Jenny whose life is relatively routine as it revolves around work and collecting sports cars. One day, she wakes up in a yellow field in the middle of nowhere when she starts realizing that her belly is growing abnormally and things start getting weirder after that.

Sang Jaune is a second watch for myself. I believe that I had seen it in Fantasia 2020 but never got around to reviewing it. There are some great ideas here which center around some kind of unknown creature or alien as a subcontext. It revolves around one character. The area and the premise is rather intriguing overall and leaves a lot of space to connect the dots. However, it is one that feels a little abstract at times.

The Silent Lay Steady (2020)

Director (and writer): Travis Laidlaw
Cast: Katrina Elmsley, Spencer Hanson, Justin Hay

A woman finds herself alone with the body after a funeral in her 1860’s farmhouse. – IMDB

The Silent Lay Steady is definitely one of the standout shorts in this programming. The premise and the story is very multilayer as it plays around with this starting point that loops back at the end. Its a rather fun play on the supernatural element and some shots actually remind me a little of The Haunting on Hill House (review). There’s a lot of different horror elements executed really well where there’s a bit focus on sound design to create the atmosphere.

The most outstanding element has to be its cinematography. Each shot is framed very uniquely that creates this different feeling, leaving some things hidden behind the walls. Whether the camera is following the character or its framed on one spot while the character moves in and out of rooms or keeping sounds and lighting coming from off screen, there’s a lot of really great visuals that make the whole short film even more engaging.

10-33

Director (and writer): Alexander Maxim Seltzer
Cast: Alison Louder, Andrew Chown

Ava’s quiet date night out at the cinema turns into a nightmare when she’s trapped in a toilet stall during an active shooting attack. With only a thin door separating her from the gunman, she is forced to confront him and try to find a way to survive. – 10-33 Website

Shootings anywhere is always a scary scenario to imagine. The films crafts it in one location when Ava is hiding into the toilet stall after hearing the other girls in the washroom being shot. As she tries to stay quiet, unnoticed and stay calm, things don’t go exactly as plan. The interaction between her and the gunman is through the stall door. Its a rather normal sort of conversation but reveals quite a bit about both Ava and the gunman which also works to build up the tension.

To be fair, the film premise and execution is overall very engaging. Ava’s fear and the gunman being an unknown factor other than his voice makes it all the more nervewrecking to watch. Whether its to show an aggression or frustration or to highlight the type of person the gunman is, the dialogue has a lot of f-bombs. At one point, it felt necessary but over time, it felt a little annoying as pushing something too much feels like an overuse. Its just a little observation for myself and very much nitpicking at the details since 10-33 really did standout a lot.

Crawl Space (2021)

Director (and writer): Andrew Ellinas
Cast: Andrew Ellinas

A man battles a giant spider in his garage. – IMDB

Wrapping up the Canadian Shorts After Dark is this creature feature which centers around this man finding this crawl space and digs through the spider webs to find a giant spider living in it and it ends up battling it. There’s a definite budget at play here that makes the spider a little funny-looking but spiders are really unnerving in general especially then its a big one. Its uses the things in the garage at hand for the fight and it is pretty fun overall in a silly sort of way.

Not exactly one that I’m especially impressed with but spiders as creature features seem to be wildly underused. I definitely appreciate that this one plays on that creature but also adds a little twist in the end.

TV Binge: Love Death & Robots (Volume 2, 2021)

Love Death & Robots (Volume 2, 2021)

Creator: Tim Miller

A collection of animated short stories that span various genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy. – IMDB

The first season of Love Death and Robots (podcast discussion) was an absolute treat with its 18 episodes or so and having a variety of different short films that explores the three themes: Love, Death and Robots. Thinking back to it now, there are still many segments that are memorable. In comparison, the second season is much shorter running at a swift 8 episodes with some stories feeling more familiar however, the animation style has shifted to some refined visuals that for some almost look real and also, some unique animation art style. The stories itself also has overlapping themes in some in some interesting settings.

Anthology volumes are always going to have hit and miss. The good news is that the second volume of Love Death & Robots is overall pretty good with some segments landing better than others but nothing that is lackluster. Looking at more specific segments, the art style and story of a few do stand out like the horror creature feature of The Tall Grass which had painting-like illustrations or Ice with its world building and comic book/graphic novel illustration style that brings in creative designs and a outer space setting with normal humans being in a world of modded humans. There’s also a Christmas short All Through The House which has its characters almost like dolls while playing with who Santa is and leaving it with a rather troubling question.

In terms of overall stories that seem to be a great basis for a bigger scale movie to some kind of full-length feature, some of these definitely have the basis and foundation for it. Coincidentally, these also have some good voice cast behind it and some more renowned names. The first, of course is for Pop Squad which sets up a future where humans have traded the rights to have children for living forever and being young forever also where having children is now a crime and when found, said children will be killed in order to maintain the population balance. Its a well-structured story with a lot more to explore especially when its voice cast includes Nolan North and Elodie Young. Much like Snow in the Desert which also has a barren wasteland setting and manages to blend all three themes of this volume together.

Two other ones well worth mentioning is the starting episode and the final one which both contrast from the rest of the series in tone. The first called Automated Customer Service carries in a different setting of a futuristic senior residence where a cleaning robot goes rogue and packed with a comedic element mocking the future of automated customer service. Its one that sets an upbeat yet sinister tone but is rather entertaining overall and pretty fun. The final episode, The Drowned Giant is a slow-paced one that leaves room for reflection on humanity in general as it circles around the discovery and gradual deterioration of a drowned giant washed ashore with a monologue from the scientist that observes it over time. Its one that might not fit the general one of the entire volume but does end with a more meaningful and thought-provoking point.

Overall, the second volume/season of Love Death and Robots is a pretty good one. Most of them are well worth a watch and each have their own value whether from visuals and art style to storytelling and world building. It is a short season but one that is still bingeworthy.

BITS 2019: Emerging Screams Shorts Program

BITS 2019 banner

Emerging Screams Shorts Showcase is a collection of Canadian horror short films featuring either brillian first time directors or the most promising student filmmakers. It features 10 short films over a variety of horror subgenres. There’s a lot f unique visions here whether in script or atmosphere or tension respectively in each of these.

Emerging Screams

Emerging Screams Shorts Showcase is screening at Blood in the Snow Festival on November 24th at 2pm. 

Spectre (2019)

Director: Gabriela Diacon & Mariana Diacon

Cast: Julia Krikorian & Alina Lapteva

Things turn sinister at midnight when Anna realizes a presence in her house. – IMDB

Running at 4 minutes long, Spectre is a very quick short that sets up its atmosphere really well. There are some creepy background details that go on. What is very  nice is how they set up the whole scene of each one, leaving space for the expectation of something to happen to ramp up some dread. Its a bit predictable in how the whole short runs, it uses the off screen and sounds to add to its atmosphere and mood.

Solitude (2019)

Director (and writer): Andrew Fleming

Cast: Andrew Fleming

Solitude is a very short thriller, running at 5 minutes, about a man who disconnects from the city life while campy and canoeing on his own through the Ontario backcountry. What starts out as a calm and mundane trip takes a turn when he discovers something very unsettling. The moment of change from nothing to something takes it off guard. It uses its single tone lurking and building intensity of the soundtrack to fill in the void and quietness and then ends it on a wonderfully clever ending, leaving a lot to the imagination. At the same time, it uses its lighting and darkness to build up the atmosphere and emptiness of being in the wild. Its a wonderfully executed short.

The Acrylic (2019)

The Acrylic

Director (and writer): Daniel Pike

Cast: Athena Kaitlin Trinh, Wendy German, Jarrett Siddall

On the hunt for some new art for her apartment walls, Rosie acquires a bizarre painting from an equally bizarre art collector… – IMDB

The rule of life we can all learn from watching horror movies is to not buy anything too ancient because its probably not going to be too good or something that looks ominous, like a completely blacked out painting. Just like the painting, The Acrylic is rather ominous. There are some very inexplicable things that happen to it throughout the course where as the owner of it probably wouldn’t dismiss like the one in the short. There’s a little leap of imagination to get past that point. However, the great part of this is the creativity in how the story goes and the creativity behind creating the unknown here. There’s some foreshadowing in the dialogue and then it really takes a creepy dark turn and does ramp up the tension very well in how the cinematography works and how each scene is set up to garner its focal point.

Snack Time! (2019)

Director: Kaw Tay Whee School students

Full of hand puppets and made by students from Kaw Tay Whee School which is located in Yellowknife, Snack Time! is all kinds of weird. Running at a mere 4 minutes, its a rather horror comedy sort of deal. There’s flesh-eating puppets with a plan to pretend to be kindergarten kids to find their next snack. Its honestly a bit wild and there are really no words to say about its execution but as a student project, its oddly entertaining. That’s probably the best way to describe it.

Experience Machine (2019)

Experience Machine

Director: Ivana Bittnerova

Cast: Joanna Caplan, Nicholas Koy Santillo, Jonathan Davies

A young mechanic and his family lead comfortable lives in a sleek underground bunker. His life of futuristic luxury begins to deteriorate when the medical device strapped to his wrist is corrupted, revealing the reality of their true dystopian world. – IMDB

Experience Machine is a much more refined short. It has a decent cast with pretty good acting. The story itself builds up the futuristic world that it is set in, giving the setting a background and foundation. The science fiction elements of this future also works with the broken down elements of technology and the luxuries it can bring as well as the escape from reality in the dystopian world. There’s quite a lot to like about the depth in the world created here which leaves a lot of space for its premise to be expanded if ever desired.

Death’s Toll (2019)

Death's Toll

Director (and co-writer): Spencer Hetherington

Cast: Nick Nylen, Rob Hetherington

When the bells toll, the heads roll. A bell tower becomes the harbinger of death at the hands of an ancient creature, Mortuus.

Running at less than 4 minutes, Death’s Toll is a rather peculiar one that doesn’t have much dialogue but lets its own lore to told through the course of events. While I am personally unfamiliar with ancient creature or if Mortuus is a real thing or a figment of the writer’s imagination, the short does achieve a nice cinematography in executing the film to build up on the suspense and the fear. The creature itself is also done rather well. Its a simple and straightforward horror story and there’s a lot of appreciation in creating something without a lot of dialogue.

New Woman (2019)

New Woman

Director: Benjamin Noah

Cast: Rhiannon Morgan, Stephen Oates

New Woman is a gothic tale about a mysterious wealthy woman living in a castle that has recently moved into the area and her invitation to a male pickpocket to her home which ends up into a descent into a labyrinth of terror in 1888.

Definitely one of the more polished short films presented here, this short starts off with a quick note on the whereabouts of the scenario and then follows the woman, their encounter, the invitation, the dinner and then what happens afterwards. The film score is so enchanting and beautiful and a little haunting as well, creating a fantastic atmosphere. At the same time, as the story progresses, there is an edginess and ominous feeling to the beautiful woman and then hints of what she might be. The cinematography of both capturing the beautiful snowy setting all the way to each interaction and focus and when to pull away for the each shot is set up so intricately. This is well-shot, well-executed and well-paced and very mysterious and captivating as a whole.

Trash (2019)

Trash

Director (and co-writer): Suzanna Etheridge

Cast: Ian Etheridge, Suzanne Etheridge, Heather Nice, Michael Russer, Braedan Alexander, Sherri Young

They thought the dump fires were behind them, but something has emerged from the flames. Actions have consequences in this dark fairy tale, reminding you to take care of your trash, before it takes care of you. – IMDB

Starting up a broadcast about the current news and trash and dump fire issues and the focus on missing dog flyers in the area followed by Moonlight Sonata playing, Trash is set in Iqaluit where trash isn’t being taken care by its community well and comes to life to start take action on its kids causing a lot of missing kids. Dark fairy tales are always a welcome sight (in my world). It always anchors itself on a greater issue of the society that calls out for a dark force (that might not be completely right in its execution) and uses its way to share a message. In this case, its about trash and the importance of its being treated and taken care of properly. The Creature here is actually done pretty nice and suitably in shredded garbage bags and such. The quick rundown of the situation is set by its voiceover and the conversations between its members of the community so see the situation. Its a bit disjointed in its execution but the message sent is well worth a watch.

What’s Within (2019)

What's Within

Director (and writer): Haad Bakshi

Cast: Risa Cohen, Kaija Kalev, Vijay Mehta, Ali Shmaisani, Connor Atkins

When everyday problems in a home are seen as routine, Jane, a 16 year old is locked in her room in need of help. Her parents Amelia, and Zach approach her problems as normal teenage behavior. – IMDB

What’s Within takes a clever twist in the dynamic of what is seen as a troublesome teenager daughter behavior and her parents when the expectations or routine of doing wrong causes her to be neglected when she is actually in danger. Call this something of a The Boy Cries Wolf sort of deal but at the same time giving it a lot of suspense to give children the benefit of the doubt. Its a fairly extreme situation presented here and yet its executed with a lot of tension as it lands as a edge of the seat thriller to see how Jane will get out of the situation. A lot of credit goes to how well Risa Cohen does playing Jane as her fear truly comes through. This 7 minute short packs in quite a unexpected experience full of suspense and thrills.

Willa (2019)

willa

Director (and co-writer): Corey Mayne

Cast: Kelsi Mayne, Adrian Jaworski, Bex Carney, Nick Szeman, Gar Reid, Madison Seguin

A classic, haunting ghost story based off of Stephen King’s original tale. – IMDB

Willa is a 15 minute short about a man David who insists on leaving the stalled train in the middle of nowhere to find his fiancee Willa. Stephen King stories are always such great source material to work with. While I’ve never read this short story, Willa is really  nice ghost story. Its about a couple and then about their discovery of the situation on hand. The flow of this short works very well as well as the play of the light and darkness in contrast with the setup of the situation. The little details and the twist in the story all come together. The cinematography of the smoke and how the camera pans over the different scenes adds a lot of depth. Its one well worth watching.

BITS 2019: Funny Frights (Shorts Program)

bits funny frights

Funny Frights is the first BITS 2019 Shorts Program to kick off these collection of premieres of Canadian genre shorts. In this case, its a look at shorts on the lighter side of horror. The showcase includes 10 shorts which we have the opportunity to look at 9 of these.

The Video Store Commercial (2019)

The Video Store Commercial

Director: Cody Kennedy & Tim Rutherford

Cast: Joshua Lenner, Kevin Martin, Jesse Nash, Tim Rutherford

A desperate video store owner hires a crew to shoot a commercial in his shop. But when they accidentally destroy a cursed VHS, suddenly, all their lives are in danger.- and worse yet, the commercial may never get finished. – IMDB

The Video Store Commercial is a fun little horror comedy is all its best moments. It has some of the fantastic VHS static that builds up the film. It also has an over the top performance of the owner doing the commercial which is pretty entertaining in itself. The whole situation plays on what the viewer knows will go wrong and does in the form of something like a VHS monster of sorts which while looked low budget, actually fit into the whole shorts style and aesthetics really well. Its a satisfying short and one that fits perfectly in the horror comedy style with just enough quirk oddities to make it unique and memorable.

Video Vengeance (2019)

Video Vengeance

Director: Nada Cosovic

Cast: Madison Graves, Caitlin Nellist, Ty Hawley

Video Vengeance is a short about two stylish girls on the graveyard shift at a video store when an obnoxious customer enters to rent a movie. Just like the two female leads here, this short is full of visual style. It has fantastic color palette that highlights the more sinister bits. There’s also a great amount of quirk going on especially with the whole pause and play functions in between the scenes which adds a lot to the scenes itself. Plus, the obnoxious customer that comes in is fairly unlikable making it rather funny to watch the whole interaction go down.

Long Pig (2019)

Long Pig

Director: Nikolas Benn

Cast: Dave Walpole, Tommy Power, Mike Piwerka

Long Pig is a 7 minute short about an ex-con who lands an interview for a respectable well-paid job which takes a turn into something he didn’t quite expect. This short is one that focuses heavily on connecting with the dark humor that its using. The interview being a rather stressful experience and reflecting on how the ex-con in the hot seat is actually committing a lot of the faux-pas, the interview ramps up in its tension a little with the unsettling moments added in. Its not hard to imagine where it wants to go but having the interviewer role done so well to lead the short into some great territory while coyly keeping who and what this interview is for under wraps. There’s a great deal of finding the balance between subtlety and sudden over the top moments that make this short work very well.

Be Good (Sois Sage, 2019)

Sois Sage

Director: Anik Jean

Cast: Sandrine Bisson, Nathan Jean-Huard, Anik Jean, Jean-Nicolas Verreault

Sois Sage is a French-Canadian short about Nathan, a six year old boy with a lot of imagination. He is constantly in costumes of everything from superheroes to werewolves. In his world of grown-ups, he longs for someone to play with and this time, he chooses it to be the new babysitter. Kids are always fun little additions to horror pieces as they can have that creepy and unsettling edge done rather well because of the contrast to their innocent expectations. The same applies to Nathan which adds the whole mystery of the extremities he takes his little play time with the nanny, not to mention that he is more clever than the grown-ups around him expect of him. Well-executed, properly unsettling and a great set of characters and dynamic set up between Nathan and his babysitter.

Docking (2019)

Docking

Director: Trevor Anderson

Docking is about Trevor’s reflection on his fear of dating. The picture above pretty much sums up the short, just think of it in a more sexual context…in space. Filming wise, its done pretty well. Context wise, its not clear exactly what it was about and the humor behind it (if it was intended) so we’ll just move on to the next short and let you all experience it when you get a chance.

Don’t Sneeze (2019)

Director: Ryan LaPlante

Don’t Sneeze is a very concise 2 minute short about a guy who sneezes during an inopportune moment and suffers some shocking consequences. Humor is a tricky thing and while this one takes a rather silly approach, the whole dialogue involved is actually rather on point in hitting those funny moments of sometimes there are things that can’t be controlled and then there are things that happen because too much of done. While this has some dumb humor elements (which isn’t exactly my cup of tea), its surprisingly enjoyable.

One Last Last Heist (2019)

One Last Last Heist

Director (and writer): Darrin Rose

Cast: Suresh John, Darrin Rose, Ava Julien, Marito Lopez

The best cure for heartbreak is armed robbery. – IMDB

Its a bit of an odd selection to add to the theme of this shorts showcase but One Last Last Heist is an entertaining one. There are some over the top moments especially some over acting which probably does add to the humor of it all. The story itself aims to surprise in the small twist it has and in turn, takes an actual turn for the more comedic elements of a heist film.

The Trainee (2019)

The Trainee

Director: Ryan Couldrey

Cast: Marcella Young, Brian Quintero, Kira Hall

The Trainee is a 7 minute short about an interrogation of a criminal mastermind by an anti-hero that gets cut when her new trainee arrives on the scene. Shenanigans ensue and boy, are these shenanigans some hilarious time as it plays on the tropes of superheroes and their sidekicks from costume choices to the intimidating voices to the obvious question of whether violence to violence is the right way to do things. All this to bring it to a shocking wrap-up. Its a quick and well-paced short packed in with a ton of fun.

Asking For A Friend (2019)

Asking For A Friend

Director (and writer): Kelsey Bollig

Cast: Victoria Lacoste, Jacqueline Bell

Definitely one of the longer shorts and much more fleshed out, Asking For A Friend runs at 25 minutes and tells the story of two best friend, Blake (Jacqueline Bell) and Q (Victoria Lacoste) who get tangled up in a murder by Q when they were just expecting to enjoy a relaxing night with nachos. Its messy with a body and won’t stop bleeding, drugged up and hallucinations and a crazy night of planning how to get rid of it. When problems come, thats what friends are for: to help without asking any questions. Asking For A Friend has high production value. The scenes are done well and the pacing is great. The two characters and what they go through, for so much blood is rather hilarious in all its graphic goodness. Getting rid of a body for the inexperience is clumsy and messy and they portray all of that so well but never forgetting that this is all a dark comedy of sorts and it delivers on every bit of it.

Not reviewed from this showcase:

Now Is The Printer Of Our Discontent (dir. Michael Peeling)

Funny Frights Shorts Program will be showing at Blood in the Snow Festival on November 23 at 4:30pm. You can find more info HERE

What’s Up: Week 46 Blood in the Snow Festival is right around the corner…

Tranquil Dreams (48)

A week of vacation is upon us and the recap of it actually is surprisingly not quite a lot, especially since we just had a stay-cation so still around our home quite a bit. However, a lot of it was in the relaxing state so all doing things that I wanted to do while catching on a few little errands and eating good food and you know, the having fun not in the house variety. I’ll share those adventures at the end of the month in the November Adventures post. For now, lets look at the week!

READING

Proximity

  • Proximity by Jem Tugwell

Currently reading: Love, Potions & Other Calamities

And we are done with Proximity! Its a pretty clever little mystery and suspense thriller which plays on a future that could happen if technology were to control our lives or due to the overdependence of it in the future. A premise that definitely applies very well to questioning certain elements of a technology-filled world and how it applies to the investigation. I’ll talk more about it in the upcoming review. As for now, I just started reading Love, Potions & Other Calamities. Its too early to say anything yet but I have great hope that it will be great as this author Charlie Laidlaw has released some solid novels.

PLAYING

Afterparty

Currently playing: Afterparty & Cube Escape: Paradox

An hour down and a bunch more to go for Afterparty but its a start. Afterparty is a game that I’ve been anticipating since its announcement so I’m working hard to get some hours into it. Only thing hindering it is that whole Cube Escape: Paradox that I started but never got around to finishing it as its very difficult. I’m going to wrap that up before continuing on with Afterparty.

WATCHING

As the final festival of 2019 is among us, yet again the watching section will be split between two sections. The normal viewings and the festival viewing. The festival hasn’t actually started BUT remote coverage means some reviews can start going up as it approaches so if you are in the Toronto area, you can always go and catch it during this festival run.

Murder on Orient Express

  • Creepshow 2 (1987) Friday Film Club
  • Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
  • The Ice Storm (1997)

If only I had a 2007 then I’d have watched films ending with 7s over 3 decades. It wasn’t intended until I noticed the pattern here. Either way, Creepshow 2 was my pick for the Friday Film Club and I’ve shared the link up there. However, the movie that caught my attention the most was Murder on Orient Express which finally landed on Netflix so I jumped right on it during vacation week to catch up and it did not disappoint. As for The Ice Storm, its part of the Movies and Tea new season which is starting up soon with Ang Lee’s filmography.

Blood in the Snow Festival 2019 (Remote coverage)

Puppet Killer

  • Puppet Killer (2019)
  • Liaison (short 2019) Review
  • Housekreeping (short 2019) Review
  • Happy Face (2018)
  • Copenhagen Road (short 2019) Review

I’m slowly getting into the Blood in the Snow Festival screeners day by day and working out a nice schedule to get the writing done. Its been a lot of procrastinating and pondering. Hopefully by the time this gets out, the review for Puppet Killer will be listed as done above. I spent a few days thinking about it and putting together the review and its really growing on me.

BINGING

Wait My Youth

  • Wait, My Youth (2019)
  • Nailed It! France (Season 1, 2019)

Currently binging: Lipstick Prince (Season 2), Relation Ship, Green Eggs and Ham, Chase Me, Who’s the Murderer (Season 5), Viva La Romance (Season 3)

Go ahead! Tell me to pick my favorites this week! Not an easy task. Everything I watched was really awesome. Wait My Youth was the TV series that I chose as the series to watch during my week off and it was a ton of fun. I’m a huge fan of the male lead, a young actor with a lot of potential. Nailed It! France was hilarious to watch as well. The husband and I has pretty much pinpointed that understanding the language does help in the enjoyment of these things but this host also seems more in line with our type of humor than the other foreign version we saw, I think it was Nailed It! Mexico (review). I’ll probably do a TV binge on Nailed It! France soon!

Even my currently binging stuff, which is more currently playing, except for Green Eggs and Ham, has been pretty entertaining. All the variety shows and reality shows and whatnot have just been a blast to watch. I sometimes play the episode in the background when I’m writing to watch again. Its rare that I do that usually. Unfortunately a lot of them don’t have subtitles. But then, I’m translating the 90% of Chase Me, which is a celebrity Ultimate Beastmaster tag concept game on Zhejiang TV (on Youtube), for my husband as he also finds it very amusing to watch. Not to mention Season 5 of Who’s The Murderer is set on a cruise ship so its awesome plus it has Boran Jing (who I like a lot) as one of the participants. Viva La Romance Season 3 also started (and I just realized that I never finished Season 2..oops) and it has Miriam Yeung and I never knew a lot about her after she got married so its a fun little wife’s trip. So far, its been pretty cool. Lots of a great shows!

That’s it for this What’s Up!
Week 46 already of 2019! Its crazy!
But then, we have started setting up for Christmas..so I guess its not that crazy, right?

What have you been reading/watching/playing/binging?

What’s Up 2019: Week 43

Tranquil Dreams (46)

A crazy week has gone by! Its made blogging very abnormal and made it essentially impossible to get back into the Halloween marathon. Luckily, there’s Toronto After Dark and that was 95% horror and I had angled some horror stuff to go up. Either way, lets see whats up the past week!

READING

Murder in Montague Falls

  • Murder in Montague Falls by Russ Colchamiro, Sawney Hutton & Patrick Thomas

Currently reading: Legends of Exile

Its seems I have been in a phase of multistories in books as Murder in Montague Falls ended and my review goes up next week which was three stories set in this location. The book currently being read is also somewhat like that with a setting and four stories in Legends of Exile. I literally just started it so too early to say too much about it.

PLAYING

case 23

  • Cube Escape: Case 23 (Review)

Currently playing: Cube Escape: The Mill

I am working on the next Mobile Games Roundup and the second half of Cube Escape series right now. I am a tad stuck with Cube Escape: The Mill, which was one that I had trouble with the first time I played it also. However, I am trying to do these without any help or walkthroughs and just figure it out so definitely get back. Although, I have my eye on the release of Afterparty as its highly considered as the next review podcast for Game Warp. We will see!

WATCHING

Untitled design (5)

Toronto After Dark Short Films

  • Ocimokw!! (Go Away!!) (Review)
  • Grave Sight (Review)
  • Down the Rabbit Hole (Review)
  • Hearth (Foyer, Review)
  • Barabara-Anne (Review)
  • Kakatshat (Review)
  • Schism (Review)
  • A Noise That Carries (Review)
  • Eilid + Damh
  • Dead Before Dawn: Convoy (Review)
  • Patterns (Review)
  • The Changeling (Review)
  • The Haunted Swordsman (Review)
  • Canadian Shorts After Dark: Imagine A World, Plainsong (Melopee), Moment, Alaska, No One Will Ever Believe You, Best Friends Forever (Review)

Since I was watching all shorts except for one film from the week before that I realized that I forgot to add in, I did banner of my faves. Toronto After Dark has some great short films. The majority are impressive and very fun. Its also very diverse in topics and angles sometimes into sci-fi, even had superheroes plus all kinds of horror. I always appreciate creativity and great cinematography and a lot of these had those elements in spade and some projects that I would hope will expand to some feature films on their great premise.

BINGING

fated to love you

  • Gilmore Girls (Season 2, Rewatch) Review
  • Fated to Love You (2007, Rewatch)

Currently binging: Soft Memory, When I Grow Up, Relation Ship, Creepshow, Bromance, Super Nova Games 2

When I’m busy with work and overtime, my main focus drops to rewatching stuff so that its more background noise than requiring much of my own focus. Hence why Gilmore Girls has popped by on the radar (not that it really needs a reason for a rewatch other than its pure satisfaction and fun times). I’ve been trying to also go through my unreviewed TV series from the past year and decided to give Fated to Love You a rewatch as well. This viewing has actually brought to continue the Taiwanese series catch-up and went on to start Bromance which I happen to watch on my downtime when all the other series I’m currently watching, airing weekly is out of the way.

Along with that new beginning, I also started up Super Nova Games 2, which is a season 2 for this sports competition done by Tencent for its up and coming talent (singers, idols, actors, hosts, etc.).

That’s it for this What’s Up!
What have you been reading/watching/playing/binging?

TADFF 2019 Shorts:Barbara-Anne/Kakatshat/Schism/A Noise That Comes

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Barbara-Anne (2019)

barbara-anne

Director: Kat Webber

Cast: Emily Coutts, Philip Riccio, Katelyn McCulloch

Starting off as a light-hearted little dancing housewife through the kitchen as she prepares a full course meal for her husband, the story takes an obvious turn stylistically as well as in atmosphere when her husband who stays in the much more modern living room with his gadgets like wireless earphones and goes to do his workout when his wife has something much darker in the plans.

Barbara-Anne is a nice blend of classic Hollywood style with a modern contrast that works so well. The wife here while being the typical blonde beauty also delivers up a clever act that turns her into quite the femme fatale which pretty much happens all to the audience’s knowledge and not to her unsuspecting husband who expects her to be the wife that waits for his attention when he wants to give it to her. Of course, nothing is as you expect and Barbara-Anne has some tricks up its sleeve that gives it that dark twist while serving up some dark comedy as well. Fantastically done short!

Kakatshat (2018)

Kakatshat

Director: Eve Ringuette

Cast: Therese Vollant, Philippe St-Arnault

Starting the short in 1829 when a son abandons his mother in the forest who in turn curses his family and all the descendants to pay for his disrespect, it continues to the present where a father and son bond on a camping trip to where the woman was abandoned and the curse follows them.

Filmed in Sept-Iles in Quebec,  Kakatshat takes a rather atmospheric build here as it moves from the past to the present, not only contrasting the neglect from a grown-up son to a parent versus a young boy and his father, who talks about being neglected by his own father and generally not wanting to be like that. It also takes a sinister turn when the curse follows them in the forest which gives a tense dark atmosphere that builds up to a truly effective jump scare. To have that effect in 8 minutes is a great feat and also shares a bit about the culture of what is shown in the beginning as well. Kakatshat is a short well worth watching if you get the chance.

Schism (2019)

Schism 2019

Director: Andrew Todd & Johnny Hall

Schism is a 3 minute black and white short that is essentially no narrative and splits the screen into two as the main character is a man that has been split into two and negotiating with himself to become whole again. What is intriguing to note here is that Schism was made during the 48 Hours 2019, which definitely shows the creativity here at work especially for something put together in such a short time frame.

While the short is a bit odd and very abstract in what it is trying to do, there is a rather cool use of how the screen is split into two and how effective it is for the execution of this short as the one person split into two is almost like two sides of his personality compromising each other. One is much more wild and sinister while the other is serious and a bit worried about being split into two. At the same time, the soundtrack it uses really adds to the entire experience and the black and white gives it a nice style.

A Noise That Carries (2019)

A Noise That Carries

Director: Guillermo de la Rosa

Cast: Paul Payne, Lee Lawson, Meredith Heinrich

A Noise That Carries is a 15 minute short about a recently divorced man who wakes up to the sound of creaking floorboards which sounds like someone stops right outside his bedroom door and suspects that someone is has broken in during the night and decides to investigate this with a neighbor that drops by with similar concerns.

Pulling in at 15 minutes, A Noise That Carries is more fleshed out just by it being slightly longer. However, it takes no time to get its story set up with the basic knowledge of its situation and starts setting up the unsettling home invasion atmosphere immediately. Its takes its time to give the quiet a chance to do its work especially when subtle noises are the elements that are creating this horror element until it turns around with the big reveal and then things still play more on the quiet evasion rather than any intense chase scene and that works so much better. A Noise That Carries lets “less is more” do its work and it works incredibly well here leaving me at the edge of my seat and wondering whether there would be a jumpscare/surprise around every corner. Great home invasion stories usually have that effect.

 

 

 

TADFF 2019 Shorts 2: Ocimokw!!/Grave Sight/Down the Rabbit Hole/Hearth

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Ocimokw!! (Go Away!!, 2017)

ocimokw!!

Director: Mathis Ottawa

Running at less than 3 minutes, Ocimokw is made in Manawan, Quebec and shows the start of a zombie invasion and two guys who run away to be saved by a car passing by.

Its a bit goofy with the zombies and its not exactly a convincing portrayal of what we’ve been accustomed to, however, Ocimokw!! is pretty fun in a horror comedy sort of way while blending in some fairly nice dark color palette with atmospheric background music. Its not a lot of dialogue and really, the only person that talks is the radio warning them about the zombies and to run away. Its very basic and yet there’s no fault with that.

Grave Sight (2019)

Grave Sight

Directors (and co-writer): Walter Forsyth & Angus Swantee

Cast: Holly Stevens, Craig Gunn, Dale Bellefontaine

A couple goes to rob a grave which turns out to belong to a witch. As they open it, it releases a demon.

Running at about 7 minutes, this short actually is done pretty well. There are some rather comedic effects and probably done for that purpose. It plays on its low budget and yet, the demon itself is done really well. The couple actually do work although it plays on them being one braver than the other and finding their courage to fight back or save the other but also on the obvious clumsy act which amounts to whole deed being a loss at the end of the day. There’s some nice ideas here and the premise is pretty good as well.

Down the Rabbit Hole (2019)

Down the Rabbit Hole

Director (and writer): Ali Froggatt

Cast: Ali Froggatt, Jeff Gladstone, Darion Trotman, Lucia Forward, Charlie Kerr

Down the Rabbit Hole is a short about a woman who falls in love and cuts out their heart afterwards until one day, she suffers heartache. Its hard to pinpoint exactly what all of it means as the really lovely cinematography here actually hides a lot of it off screen and leaves it for our own imagination. No doubt one of the more polished and artistic shorts so far, the story itself has no narration and only has atmospheric background music and non-verbal exchanges whether facial expressions or actions as a means of directing the story forward. While its an abstract sort of storyline, it leaves a lot of space for its own interpretation which is quite fun. Not to mention, the effects here are done really well and there’s a deep sense of build-up for the leading lady as she goes from one rendez-vous to the next until that final turning point which is rather shocking on how it all works.

Its one those stories that leave enough space that it could be interesting to see what this could be with more space to develop the story and what direction it can take as there seems to definitely be a bigger picture here to understand and explore.

Hearth (2019)

foyer le film

Director: Sophie B Jacques

Cast: Marilyn Castonguay, Joel Marin, Marianne Farley, Guy Richer

Paralleled with reality to the past events of an Airbnb owner coming home after renting out her home to a couple, the story follows the reading of the man of the letter he leaves after their departure (or maybe the note in the guestbook, something like that). As she goes through the house, she is pleased by its appearance while its contrasted with how the events of the night the couple rented went and it was much more sinister in nature.

Using dim lighting and a very clever use of camera as it moves from one room to the next and blending in the past and the present, Hearth is an outstanding telling of the horror stories behind the unknowns of renting out a house, taking the opposite side of the spectrum when most people will talk about the owners being the one with the questionable motives, the renters can also be the ones that are the unknown factor here and can be involved in some suspicious activity. Its a clever little script that works really well and perfectly paced for this 10 minute experience.

With Airbnb and such services becoming such a hit, it was only a matter of time before horror took its direction there and gave everyone the warning of what could happen with their tenants. Its definitely a territory to explore in the future of horror and suspense.

 

What’s Up 2019: Week 42

Tranquil Dreams (1)

Another week as passed. Festival du Nouveau Cinema is now behind us and having a sudden drop of a little remote coverage for Toronto After Dark (which is ongoing currently) for short films, we’re still in a heavy watching action. Of course, Toronto After Dark also is mostly horror films so that fits with the Halloween marathon. A lot of other stuff was going on at the same time so lets see what happened!

READING

Hope

  • Hope by Terry Tyler (Review)

Currently reading: Murder of Montague Falls

Slowly getting back into the reading vibe! There’s a few blog tours coming up and other reading commitments. I was pretty close to deadline for Hope but it all worked out and actually was a really nice thrilling read. Right now, I’m in the first of 3 novellas in the Murder of Montague Falls novel. So far, its pretty neat and very matching to the Halloween horror sort of vibe so thats coming up as well.

PLAYING

cube escape: Harvey's Box

  • Cube Escape: Seasons
  • Cube Escape: The Lake
  • Cube Escape: Arles
  • Cube Escape: Harvey’s Box

I’ve been revisiting the Cube Escape series in an attempt to review them. The best way I’ve figured out is to just go at it through the Mobile Games Round-ups which keeps them fairly contained, almost capsule reviews, style and still share some of them in case some of you haven’t checked it out and are looking for something fun. At the same time, I also wanted to play their latest one which I happened to have backed on Kickstarter and never got around to playing so I wanted to replay it from the beginning to piece together the story again. Four games in so far (Cube Escape series) but there’s still a good deal of not only Cube Escape but also the full games on Steam.

WATCHING

Mickey and the Bear

Festival du Nouveau Cinema 2019 Films:

  • Sole (2019, Review)
  • J’ai Perdu Mon Corps (2019, Review)
  • Mickey and the Bear (2019, Review)
  • A White, White Day (2019, Review)
  • Dirty God (2019)

Toronto After Dark Short Films:

  • Turbo Killer (2016 short, Review)
  • Far Horizon (2019, Review)
  • Flip (2019, Review)
  • We Three Queens (2019 short, Review)
  • Eyes Open (2019 short, Review)
  • Make Me A Sandwich (2019 short, Review)
  • International Shorts After Dark: Maggie May, Puzzle, Eject, La Noria, Your Last Day On Earth, Place

Crazy long list this time! Its why I decided to separate them by full features and short films and which festival they belong to. In terms of Festival du Nouveau Cinema, the story that touched me the most is Mickey and the Bear! Hands down, the one that hit me the hardest and it being a directorial debut really shows the power of new eyes in cinema coming up on the scene to look out for. At the same time, J’ai Perdu Mon Corps and Sole are two that I liked a lot also. The former will be landing on Netflix as an Original film so that’s pretty exciting (especially if you like French animation).

As for short films, my fave probably would go to We Three Queens for the holiday horror element that hasn’t been looked at before (at least I haven’t seen it), Turbo Killer for its exciting visually stunning, fantastic music video style creative sci-fi story and well as for horror drama-ish with tons of creativity, La Noria takes that one without any doubt.

BINGING

dream space 2

  • Well-Intended Love (2019)
  • Dream Space 2 (2019)

Currently binging: Soft Memory, When I Grow Up, Relation Ship, Creepshow

Feeling quite nice nowadays as the whole TV binging thing has been much more toned down at a normal level. I wrapped up Well-Intended Love, which I felt was a few episodes too long and really did lack a lot of the whole chemistry and whatnot that I would have liked. I didn’t really hate it but just slightly indifferent about it, I guess. We’ll see where Season 2 goes, I suppose as that’s in filming now. However, my choice goes to Dream Space 2 which definitely had its up and downs. Its not quite as entertaining as the other shows of the same style (or even its first season) but I had some participants that I was really liking a lot so hoping that their whole leaving the show together will result in some happy ending in the future.

As for currently binging, I let the husband choose the next show to binge together and he went for Creepshow on Shudder. We’re three episodes in, which is 6 stories and I have to say that while its relatively fun to watch, its a lot of hit and miss but I think it all dials down to what type of horror you enjoy more of.

That’s it for this What’s Up!
Its been a crazy busy week with one more of the same to go as well as wrapping up the final few bits of Halloween month!
What have you been reading/watching/binging/playing?

TADFF 2019 Shorts #1: We Three Queens/Eyes Open/Make Me A Sandwich

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Much to our surprise, we are going to be covering Toronto After Dark Film Festival remotely for its short films selections. The festival itself runs from October 17 to 25th this year at the Scotiabank Theatre. If you happen to be in Toronto, do head over to check out this festival with its great line-up of feature films. You can find all the info HERE.

Over the next few days throughout the duration of TADFF, I will be looking at these in various categories and pre-feature shorts will be batched in 3 (or 4) films. Most of these will be paired with their screening times. These three to kick-off the first batch of pre-feature shorts are paired with screenings from October 17th and 18th.

We Three Queens (2018)

We Three Queens

Director: Chris Agoston

Cast: Erin Margurite Carter, Soma Chhaya, Emma Hunter, Rachel Wilson

*Screens with Extra Ordinary at TADFF 2019*

Beard (Erin Margurite Carter), Charlotte (Soma Chhaya) and Janet (Emma Hunter) are an all-star carolling group called We Three Queens. As they go to pick up their vests from their seamstress, they end up waking up kidnapped in her basement. With Christmas just around the corner, they need to find a way to convince Shelly (Rachel Wilson) to release them before midnight so that they can finish their carolling.

Christmas horror is always a welcome idea. Carolling has probably (at least to my knowledge) never been used in the context of a horror film. In a premise like this one, carolling definitely seems like quite the competitive world although who doesn’t want to be a part of something important or get noticed by the people that they enjoy watching, right? Running at almost 9 minutes, We Three Queens is a fun little Christmas horror short that adds a little comedy to the situation. Its not hard to see where the story goes as there is some foreshadowing but the actresses here are also quite entertaining to watch especially with their dialogue. Something about having a lot of red on screen not only makes it have the feeling of holiday but also have this more troubling situation at hand that we never know how Shelly would react to their responses to her requests.

Straight-forward and fairly unique in its premise of carollers being the central focus, We Three Queens is a fun Christmas horror short to check out.

Eyes Open (2019)

Eyes Open

Director (and writer): Jawed J.S.

Cast: Angela Bell

*Screens with Witches in the Woods*

Eyes Open is a 2019 horror short about a girl who goes for a walk in the woods to soon find out that she is haunted by an unseen presence both physically and psychologically.

Horror set in the woods has become increasingly used. Its a great choice for a setting because of its emptiness and isolation. With Eyes Open, its (almost) 6 minutes is a huge difference from where it starts to where it ends. The horror actually builds in its moments. While there were some oddities to this one, it still works overall especially as the unseen presence that haunts the single character in Eyes Open shows what it is doing: attacking when she closes her eyes. There are some odd low-budget effects but still, for its progression of horror, it does a pretty decent job at making it intriguing.

Make Me A Sandwich (2019)

Make Me A Sandwich

Director: Denman Hatch

Cast: Anne Shepherd, Peter Hodgins

*Screens with James vs. His Future Self*

Make Me  A Sandwich is a 2019 horror short (and its very short) about a wife who is constantly being asked by her husband to make him a sandwich.

Nothing is quite defining of a short film than one that runs for 3 minutes and keeps things as simple as a wife constantly being asked to make her husband a sandwich. And yet, those 3 minutes say a lot with just the wife’s reaction to each aggressive demand. Anne Shepherd as the wife does a great job at using those little facial expressions to show her lack of patience each time and how she retaliates. At the same time, what seems simple and straight forward as this story has a very startling twist at the end. Deranged might be the way to say that twist ending and actually makes you think a little more about the whole situation here and what we just watched. Its rather unsettling to watch and yet its hard to not laugh at a little of the dark humor here (perhaps its dark humor..I’m not sure anymore). If satisfying unsettling is a term that works, then this might apply to Make Me  A Sandwich.