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Film

The Best of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Posted by Johnny Larocque / October 29, 2012

Toronto After DarkNow that Toronto After Dark has wrapped up it's 7th annual film festival, it's easy to say that this was not only the biggest, but the best year they've ever had. Here are my personal highlights.

My favourite film
When I selected 5 under the radar films at the Toronto After Dark Festival I'm glad I had what turned out to be my favourite film, In Their Skin, on my list. This film was extremely unsettling. The classic story of a country home invasion in the middle of nowhere, heightened beautifully by the fact that the invaders don't want to simply rob the family, they see them as perfect and want to become them. Slowly it's revealed how wrong this assumption is, as we get a peak inside the dark baggage each of the damaged characters carries with them. This is a must see for me. After Dark was heavy on the comedy this year, and only two films really gave me a scare.

More scares
Citadelwas the second of the truly scary films was this one. What was promoted as a tower-block-escape-from-monsters-with-a-baby type horror, actually turned out to be a dark study of anxiety, fear, and tragically realistic feelings of helplessness. I would have liked a bit more exploration of the characters before the film dived in and dispatched one, but few films are perfect. I still latched on to the main character after his tragedy happened and the fear took over.

Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning was a huge surprise for me, which I had been told was zero story all action. Not only was this hands down the best hard R action film I've seen, but the story was complex enough to keep the audience guessing. Jean-Claude Van Damme, the muscles from Brussels, like a fine wine seems to get better with age. Scott Adkins however, steals the show with his superhumanly mad martial arts skills, and sets himself up to potentially be a next generation action superstar. Forget the rest of the Universal Soldier franchise. All you need to know is that this brutal film is full of genetically enhanced ass-kickery.

Shorts After Dark
Always a highlight of After Dark, the unfortunately scheduled shorts programme was a massive hit with those in attendance. Definitely the weirdest, and darkest part of After Dark, it was sadly screened at 3:45PM on a Saturday which competed with the Zombie Walk. I skipped the Zombie Walk this year so I could attend, and I was happily blown away. My favourite segments were: Decapoda Shock, Caterwaul, and Bobby Yeah. It was hard to choose these three alone, the entire shorts collection was incredibly brilliant. I hope next year Shorts After Dark gets the time slot it deserves.

Other favourite films
Every festival has it's surprises, and though I knew the unfortunately named Cockneys vs Zombies would be good, I didn't know it would in fact be sold out, hilariously good. Another revelation was [REC] 3: Genesis, which was a welcome departure from it's shaky cam predecessors. Beautifully shot, wonderfully self deprecating and bitingly funny. Dead Sushi, exactly the kind of film you want to see at a festival like After Dark, whipped the audience into a drunken frenzy of shouting "DANGER!" and "SUSHI!" at the screen throughout the film, and also packed the nearby sushi houses after the credits. Inbred and Game of Werewolves both suffered from poor online representation and worse trailers, but turned out to be quite fun in their own rights.

Beer and a movie
Aside from the films, even the festival experience was improved. Being able to buy beer at the theatre? Genius. Some (cough) of the historically way too long movie intro's being shortened or made hilarious by filmmakers/presenters? Brilliant. Drawing a bigger crowd to Paupers Pub with the awesome Darkcade? Perfect. There's very little that could have been done to improve what has become Toronto's favourite film festival, other than making it even bigger next year, and I can't wait!

What were your highlights from Toronto After Dark? Add your thoughts to the comment thread below.

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