My October Adventures!

Welcome to October Adventures! I’m going to say this right now…October was an adventure in some ways but nothing that I can really talk about here yet. Its some real life stuff that I’m working through right now which did cause some hiccups in the original blogging plans and well, the many festivals that happened to pop up with their last minute accreditation approvals so it was a little wild in general. Call this an update on the original commitments as a lot of stuff didn’t go as planned, but here we go!

Halloween/Horror Marathon – Extended

First things first, the main focus of October was the Halloween Marathon. Suffice to say, I stopped about halfway through the month and then switched gears into other commitments. Some did match the theme more than others but overall, I will talk about some little things happening potentially next month. Right now, I’m still working through it. However, because Halloween Marathon aka Horror Marathon is a big part of my year and I don’t want to cheat my way out of it as I haven’t even completed the main feature franchise film reviews, I’m going to be extending it for another 2 weeks or so to make up for the second half of the month. I still have some other reviews to wrap up which I will talk about in other sections of this update but it will be potentially going on simultaneously as I get rid of all the backlog in terms of movie reviews and festival coverage.

50th edition – Festival du Nouveau Cinema Overview

The first festival coverage to give me accreditation the day that it started was FNC 2021. Now, I’ve covered Festival du Nouveau Cinema a few years already and they have some great movies most of the time. Very arthouse and different from my normal wheelhouse including some Oscar nominated films even, however, the last minute thing threw me for a loop. Its not exactly anyone’s fault but my own since I lost track of what festivals I had applied for so didn’t realize that everything was clashing together. With that said, I truly did want to get more done for this festival however, due to work and life reasons, this festival was the one that suffered the most. It also occurred to me that this festival might truly be above my capabilities anymore as a lot of films while intriguing, its a sea of so many unknowns that in the process of decision-making, its a fear of choosing something that I didn’t like that worried me the most, causing less films being chosen as well.

However, I am still sitting on a few films that I haven’t reviewed yet. You can check out the films I have reviewed to this point. I did pick some pretty fun ones.

Compartment No.6
Bound
The Noise of Engines
Wood and Water
Days

I still have a short films compilation as well as two reviews coming up soon.

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2021

Toronto After Dark ran for a swift 5 days event. This is the first year that I got the full media accreditation and not only short films (which is what I got in 2019). In all my festival coverage time, I do feel that TADFF has the best press support team. I had issues with the virtual platform and they helped me out immediately that evening. Plus, the press coordinator was pretty cool and did check on likes and dislikes from the festival which I hadn’t got in other festivals before. A really lovely experience overall. The technical issues did set my coverage plans a little behind but I did end up catching everything that I intended on watching. With this being horror film focus during October, it did have priority during those few days and there were some fantastic discoveries.

You can check out the reviews below:

Canadian Shorts After Dark
Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It
Post Mortem
Nightshooters
Ditched
The Free Fall

Blood in the Snow Film Festival

The final film festival to come in is Blood in the Snow Film Festival! Now, this one is a little unique as it has its virtual platform at as a three day event at the end of October. Suffice to say, no reviews have been posted considering the delay on my reviews over this weekend however, they will be coming up soon. There are a few films that I’ve reviewed previously so there’s only a few movies for this part.

However, this festival does have its on location festival (of course, I’m covering remotely as I’m not in Toronto) during November 18 to 23 which I will have reviews up for that line-up probably around mid-November. It might be the final wrap-up for the extended Halloween marathon as it seems to fit. If you are in Toronto, you can see if you want to go check it out. The line-up is on the website: bloodinthesnow.ca

Tranquil Dreams Podcast – Hiatus

As a final update, due to just everything going on, I’ve decided to put the Tranquil Dreams podcast on hiatus for now. I have other projects going on and coverage and its just too much at the moment. Plus, I’m not too happy with the What’s Up structure that I’ve been doing. I want to really focus on creating some shows that highlight my initial idea of why I wanted to start the podcast in the first place. Its going on hiatus so that I can get it back on the drawing board. Get some ideas and structure set and bring it back with content that I think will be more fun to record and more interesting in general.

ON THE SIDE NOTE: If you are looking for podcasts, I’m still co-hosting Movies and Tea and Game Warp with Elwood so you can still find them on most platforms where you can listen to podcasts. Movies and Tea is in its female directors season so you can check out which directors and their respective films made it on our list for this season.

A Little Life Update
(one of the reasons for the slowdown this month)

So…the last two updates I’ve talked about not feeling too good overall and its been truly taking a toll on me. As much as I want to keep the blog running as it did, I’m slowing down to focus on myself a little bit. Most of it is restructuring my lifestyle a little and getting back to some form of routine. Its working for the most part as you can see that I’ve been posting a little more frequently lately. However, I have decided to change my sleeping routine (aka sleep earlier) and get back to some healthy lifestyle with more workouts and healthier eating. This stuff all takes more prep time and dedication so more time there means less time for the blog. I am finding my routine over this month so its been going rather on track. That’s all I’m going to say for now but that is one of the main reasons.

I’m hoping that November will have some more normalcy in posting. The goal is to get a post up every other day. I’m definitely not lacking in content to write, but I just need to find time to do it.

That’s it for this October “Adventures”!
Hope you all had a Happy Halloween!
I sure hope everyone’s month has been much more exciting and healthier and feel good!

TADFF 2021: The Free Fall (2021)

The Free Fall (2021)

Director: Adam Stilwell

Cast: Andrea Londo, Shawn Ashmore, Jane Badler, Michael Berry Jr., Elizabeth Cappuccino, Dominic Hoffman

After attempting to take her own life, a young woman must wrestle with an overbearing husband. – IMDB

The big finale for my coverage of Toronto After Dark Film Festival is also the high point of the entire festival with this clever, thrilling and tense psychological horror film. There is so much to love about it and yet, what really pulls it together is its fantastic twist that gives this movie such a unique concept that pulls together the whole film in a way that hasn’t been done before (at least in my film experience). I don’t want to dive into the details as that will definitely ruin what makes this so cleverly structured and written. With any film which relies heavily on the ending being able to pull all its pieces together in a rewarding way for its audience, it also comes with a lot of mysteries and questions built out throughout that will definitely be very mindboggling and confusing. However, trust me on this one, if you stick it out, the ending is well worth it.

Moving away from the element that I can’t talk about, there’s a lot of other things that make this film pretty well-executed. The first has to be its one setting. One setting films are really quite fun as it works well to use its space efficiently, having spaces left to be explored and in this case, with a main character suffering from amnesia also brings in going into spaces that may or may not bring in new memories and create different atmospheres.

The atmosphere is also built up pretty well especially when it comes to the imagery and visuals. The house itself having a lot to do with how some shots are set up in an appealing way. The atmosphere also changes with the fluctuation of the main character Sara as she struggles with what she is seeing in reality or her imagination. It brings in a lot of darker and sinister moments that create the horror lurking in the background whether its through reflections or dark spaces. At the same time, there’s a nice control of how to use some of the scenes repeatedly but also expanding on them to add more to the story as it progresses.

A lot of credit does have to go to the cast here. Andrea Londo as Sara does a great job right from the start as she experiences the trauma that drags her into this situation where she struggles with recovering from amnesia and dealing with all the odd and suspicious things that seems to be happening in her home. Andrea Londo has a good control over her role which is ever so important here as it makes sure there isn’t any overacting. Much like Shawn Ashmore who also delivers a good performance as the husband Nick. Nick’s character is suspicious right at the beginning and in some ways, its meant to have that feeling especially when amnesia and suspicious husband roles come into play as they are estranged characters that haven’t been introduced until that moment. His character develops and changes over the course of the film especially in its character’s intensity and calmness that delivers a different layer.

Overall, The Free Fall is an outstanding psychological horror film. Thrillers are so hard to do great and this one manages to make the ending so rewarding and gives such a unique angle to the horror subgenre that its tackling. The writer Kent Harper deserves a lot of credit. The cast, the cinematography, the writing are all really well-executed, making this film well worth a watch.

TADFF 2021: Ditched (2021)

Ditched (2021)

Director (and writer): Christopher Donaldson

Cast: Marika Silas, Mackenzie Gray, Kris Loranger, Declan O’Reilly, Lara Taillon, Shawna Pliva McGill, Reamonn Joshee, Lee Lopez, Michelle Molineux, J. Lindsay Robinson

After a routine prison transfer crashes in the forest, young Inuit paramedic Melina finds herself surrounded by murderers with a mere 100 feet to climb out of a ditch to escape. When they are attacked by an unseen force in the forest, Melina’s short journey to safety becomes the ultimate contest of wills. – IMDB

Ditched is a 2021 Canadian survival horror film where it almost feelings like Panic Room but in an isolated country road but instead of an actual panic room, its the insides of an overturned ambulance. As the people involved in the accident both in the police car and the ambulance wakes up, they start to realize that there is a group of brutal killers outside waiting to kill each one of them one by one.

The isolated ditch in the middle of nowhere at night is a wonderful horror/thriller setting. It brings in the helplessness and the fear even more as the unknowns lie in the dark. The mystery also comes from why this group has targeted them specifically: Is it for the prisoners that are being transferred or is it just for the hunt itself? The questions that build up do get answered gradually towards the middle which does feel like the reveal is a little bit early at times as this leads into this long face-off period which loses steam as the final confrontation is also drawn out as it faces down to almost monologue moment that also feels a little tedious. This is definitely a pacing issue with the script itself as perhaps the entire plot was structured a little straightforward in the beginning that there isn’t as many angles to play with in execution.

With that said, the tension that is built in the first act is done really well and does trail into a good portion of the second act. A lot of it also comes down to some well-structured kills as they go through them one by one while they try to survive in their own way. Its a rather psychological battle for the most part as well as a battle of the wits in the final act. While there are quite a few characters in these interactions, the main few do focus around Melina the paramedic, the strapped down manipulative prisoner as well some other paramedics that make it out. As they use the resources in their tight ambulance space to survive, it does make for some nice fight back moments.

The main element with Ditched is that where it works and doesn’t work is in its plot. Where is doesn’t work is in how it seems to get to the reveal point of what the goal is as mentioned before. However, it also works in the plot as it creates this more conflicted view towards people in general where it makes the audience think about whether the killers are actually bad and the survivors are actually good. In more simple terms, the gray area gets explored here in human nature and probably how some people aren’t exactly what meets the eye completely while also leaving some room at the end for a little further contemplation about whether what is done as the big finale is actually justified.

Overall, Ditched is a decent horror thriller. It does show a lot of low budget elements. It also does feel like it has a lot of influences in terms how certain moments are treated. The director’s message at the beginning does talk about his intentions of creating something that feels like it been the missing 80s film that no one ever saw before but finally get a 4K release and in many moments, it definitely feels like an 80s film whether in dialogue or the effects or how certain scenes are structured.

TADFF 2021: Nightshooters (2018)

Nightshooters (2018)

Director (and writer): Marc Price

Cast: Adam McNab, Nicky Evans, Rosanna Hoult, Jean-Paul Ly, Richard Sandling, Kaitlyn Riordan, Mica Proctor, Nicholas Aaron, Ben Shafik, Doug Allen

An action thriller about a group of filmmakers who find themselves on the run from a violent horde of criminals after witnessing a brutal gangland execution. Unable to flee the derelict building they have been shooting in, the hapless film crew must use their technical skill and cinematic knowledge to defend themselves. The stunt man is a martial arts master, the special effects guru disregards safety and sets lethal traps, and the sound department strategically lay radio mics to detect when the hoodlums are on their way. Cue lots of thrills in a cat and mouse game of survival. – IMDB

For fans of The Raid and Snatch, there’s a lot to love about Nightshooters, a low budget action thriller that takes place in one location, a soon-to-be demolished building which almost feels like some kind of the real situation being reflected in a more fictional setting but similar as the story also features a group of filmmakers making a low budget film in a soon to be demolished building with a few hours countdown. This right away sets up this urgency that this will come into play as the two groups goes up against each other. While there is not actual counter, its a little detail that really does bring the setting as a constant reminder.

When the crew ends up witnessing a crime execution in the other side of the way and the criminals goes after them in this building, its all a great set-up in the first act which sets the tone especially in terms of the dark comedy and the characters involved and their basic characters and abilities. Much like how it naturally flows into some fantastic action sequences and choreography when it gets into the criminals against filmmakers running and hiding through this building which is both dangerous as it already has all its demolishment explosives in place which could easily be triggered but also the criminals being rather a wide group of characters and lethal in their own ways as well.

Talking about the characters, there’s so much to love about them as well especially when it comes to the film crew themselves. This group is definitely the characters which are meant for the audience to connect to a lot more. Their different roles and their abilities and know-how come into play as they try to survive the chase from the other criminals. With a lot of the action sequences powered by a fantastic action choreography and sequences with Donnie played by Jean-Paul Ly (also, could the name be a nod to Donnie Yen?), there’s some exceptional moments here through these fight scenes.

However, not only their more professional fight sequences are great to watch but also a moment where the more amateur fight moments like one with the character Kim (Mica Proctor) which was a lot of fun but the other character encounters also leading to some creative death sequences as they defeated the criminals one by one. There are some really cool effects executed there. The stand-out characters has to be the three girls of the film crew as they are very resourceful especially Ellie (Rosanna Hoult) who has some foreshadowing in what she will use at the beginning but also a lot of other know-hows that effectively come into play. Of course, for much more personal reasons, Kim is a character I rooted for (considering I’m also a Kim and she kind of reminded me of myself).

Overall, Nightshooters is a really entertaining low budget action thriller. Its effective in what it achieves as the setting and the tone is used really well. There are definitely nods to other films throughout that are rather apparent but also fit incredibly well and adds to the film itself. There’s a cast of characters that have their own value and personality which adds contrast and makes them all stand-out and fun to watch. Nightshooters has a very straightforward plot which works well with what they are trying to do.

*Nightshooters is available on Toronto After Dark Film Festival from October 13th to 17th on their virtual platform. You check it out HERE*

TADFF 2021: Post Mortem (2020)

Post Mortem (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Peter Bergendy

Cast: Viktor Klem, Fruzsina Hais, Judit Schell, Andrea Ladanyi, Zsolt Anger

A post mortem photographer and a little girl confront ghosts in a haunted village after the First World War. – IMDB

This year’s Toronto After Dark is definitely new experiences coming one after another. Post Mortem is a Hungary horror film. Being someone who hasn’t seen a Hungary film before, this is a completely new territory to explore. Horror movies especially revolving ghosts and hauntings are the creepiest types of horror in my personal opinion so this one was right up my alley.

Port Mortem is set during the times of World War I and after that and the Spanish Flu and centred around a photographer Tomas (Viktor Klem) that has survived a near death experience during the war to come out afterwards selling his craft as a post mortem photography. A little girl Anna (Fruzsina Hais) shows up one day from a neighboring village and asks him to help with her own town’s hauntings. Packed with part skepticism and curiosity, he goes to the town as weird things start happening as he helps the recently deceased and their families with their post mortem photographs.

The story overall is pretty good. The whole investigation and a stranger going into a small village brings in a lot of suspense as he is discovering what’s going on along with the audience. Plus, ghost stories are rather appealing overall especially when it involves hauntings where this one is executed rather well in terms of plot. The film does almost reach 2 hours in length so in the middle it does seem to drag out a little. The setting and time period adds a certain level of atmosphere which makes almost like a gray filter over the screen and adds a very gloomy feeling.

The idea of post mortem photographs in itself is a pretty creepy thing in general. A lot of the unsettling horror moments do involve the actual post mortem photography as Tomas sets up his shots and works with the different bodies. A lot of unexplained things happen creating some great scary and unsettling moments. There are also other rather mysterious and sinister things that happen creating a good part of the horror and bringing in the ghost element a little bit more as Tomas and Anna try to find out why this is happening and what it wants. Some other horror elements include some possession going on which has a rather scary sequence with a little boy involved at one point while in contrast, there’s a part in the final act which sees a lot of people being pulled up levitating in the air that feels a little overdone.

In terms of characters, its main focus is on Tomas and Anna who are really good characters overall. They do have their own little stories through conversations which shed some light on the village itself. At the same time, there is a deeper meaning to Tomas for agreeing to do this for an unknown little girl which also builds up on their dynamic as they investigate together. The older character and the younger girl does have this protective element to it especially putting in contrast their reactions to the scary events happening. I’d like to say that Anna, played by Fruzsina Hais is absolutely fantastic. She is such a charming character despite her age.

Overall, Post Mortem is a pretty effective ghost haunting horror film. There are some moments which feel a little stretched out and some horror elements feel a tad overused losing its effect and actually having an oddly comedic feeling to it. However, its core element of photography and recording technology in that time and era is incorporated well, much like using the post mortem photography as an effective horror element. Its definitely one worth checking out!\

*Post Mortem is currently available from October 13th to 17th on Toronto After Dark Film Festival’s virtual platform. You can find all the info HERE!*

TADFF 2021: Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It (2020)

Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Yernar Nurgaliyev

Cast: Daniar Alshinov, Asel Kaliyeva, Azamat Marklenov, Yerlan Primbetov, Dulyga Akmolda, Almat Sakatov, Rustem Zhaniyamanov, Yerkebulan Daiyrov, Bekaris Akhetov

Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It is a 2020 Kazakhstan horror comedy that tells the story of Dastan (Daniar Alshinov), a husband awaiting the birth of his child. As his wife Zhanna (Asel Kaliyeva) hounds him over the name for their first child, he suddenly decides to take a day trip to escape with his two friends, Arman (Azamat Marklenov) and Murat (Yerlan Primbetov) to go fishing on the countryside. As they start their fishing, they end up seeing something that they shouldn’t have and from then on, their fishing trip takes a dangerous turn as they need to run for their lives to not get caught and get out of this predicament alive.

First off, let’s go on the record that this is definitely the first Kazakhstan film that I’ve ever seen. Being completely new to country’s offerings, this was a really great first film experience. The film starts off setting the tone pretty well with a lot of comedy between the couple quarrelling over their newborn baby and the name that they should give it. From the reactions to the facial expressions to the whole interaction, it gives a good idea of the main character Dastan right away and also sets up the comedy tone right away. The film is not about this couple though because shortly after, Dastan runs off for a fishing trip with his two buddies. During the car ride, it reveals a lot about these three guys and the ridiculousness and in turn, the hilarity that will ensue especially when the truck is full of sex dolls that ends up being turned into a makeshift raft when these three going on a fishing trip and know nothing about fishing.

At the same time, the film also focuses on a group of mobs/psychopaths living in the area that is bringing their hostage to settle some issues with them when they end up angering a killer in the vicinity who goes after them one by one. As this group crosses with Dastan’s group and they witness something that they shouldn’t, the mob ends up chasing their group as the one-eyed killer goes after them and then all three get tangled with each other. Thing is, the film’s horror comes from the one-eyed killer hunting down them and the different ways that he kills them right up to the end. At the same time, it mixes in these hilariously ridiculous moments that are so over the top that its hard to not find it funny even if some of it is so silly and absurd. And yet, somehow it works so well and creates a fantastic balance between the comedy and the “horror”.

The film does have really good pacing. Its executed really well as it does pick up as it moves along especially when these guys are all chasing after one and another. Right down to some pretty well-choreographed action sequence in the final act as they all reconvene in a tight space trying to get out of this. There are some other moments where this feels very apparent with their action sequences. It almost feels a little comedic like one moment where one of the friends flies through the window and then ends up coming back through the other window on the other side almost feeling like a cartoon.

Overall, Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It is this fun little slice of life horror comedy especially for these friends as they experience this whole predicament which feels too ridiculous to believe. As usual, comedy is a rather subjective thing so perhaps this feel might feel dumb to some people but I’m a big fan of over the top absurdities and this film is a absolute trip, an awesome one at that!

*Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It is available to stream across Canada on Toronto After Dark Film Festival’s virtual platform throughout the festival from October 13th to 17th. You can check it out HERE along with the rest of the schedule.*

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.

TADFF 2019: Dark Before Dawn: Convoy/Patterns/The Changeling

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Dark Before Dawn: Convoy (2019)

Dark Before Dawn: Convoy

Director: Brodie Spaull & Paul Krysinski

After some research, Dark Before Dawn  is a YouTube series and this little part shown at Toronto After Dark is episode 10 called Convoy. Convoy is a little segment which tells the story of some men carrying previous cargo when they are infiltrated by some other men and end up fighting for their lives. You can watch the episodes HERE.

Looking really good right from the start, this episode of Dark Before Dawn as a start-off episode looks really intriguing and definitely sparks an urge to check out what came before to see whether it will reveal why the cargo itself is precious and whether its just a bunch of different people in the same (what would look like) post-apocalyptic world. The action itself is great and the whole tone works well. Its straightforward as small segments like these should be. Its just a lot of action and works for its context. There is some blood going on here and it all looks good and nothing low budget, which is always a plus. Definitely looking forward to check out the rest of the series and see what is in store for it, especially how the Dark Before Dawn element works in the series and story as a whole.

Patterns (2019)

Patterns

Director (and writer): BJ Verot

Cast: Steven Ratzlaff, Karl Thordarsson, Jake Kennerd, Aidan Ritchie

Patterns tells the story of an older man Henry who goes to a facility to get a treatment procedure and ends up being set on a path of killing after he receives a phone call.

Patterns has a fragmented storyline that jumps back and forth from the past where Henry goes to get his treatment and the happenings there to the trigger that leads him down the path. Its mostly an action piece and fairly mysterious as to what this whole procedure he goes to does to him as he ends up joining their “program” which makes him susceptible to number sequences on the phone which repeat itself in his mind over and over again. While the elements here from Henry to the doctor to even the Cleaner all are great pieces to the puzzle, the acting might be the only iffy bit here that seems like everyone seems to be trying too hard to make the film more suspenseful or that they have more to them instead of it being as natural as it should be.

There’s a lot of questions that leave unanswered but that does show a potential of this concept having a further area to explore if ever it was considered as a bigger piece and gives it some depth, always a good thing.

The Changeling (2019)

The Changeline 2019

Director: David Hamelin & Neil Macdonald

Cast: Katherine McCallum, Emily Farrell, Tiarnan Cormack, Olivia Hamelin

The Changeling is a 5 minute short about a woman who comes home after a panicked call from her babysitter and frantically goes in to look for her baby daughter to find a demon looking after her instead.

There’s a lot of good elements here. The background score works well with building up the atmosphere here. There are a few jumpscares here and there however do work well enough except doors banging shut which because of its overuse in horror films in general don’t quite work as effectively. The demon itself is done really well. The acting is on point as well. The progression of events also is well-paced to give this one some tension. The Changeling isn’t exactly a new concept which probably other than the two feature films being done before and remade before, there’s a lot more but for a short, this one is well-polished and looks great and well-rounded on all the elements. An impressive short for sure!

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.