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After Toronto After Dark: Festival Review

Last night the Toronto After Dark Film Festival wrapped up. Festival Director and Founder Adam Lopez humbly admitted how overwhelmed the festival organizers were by the turnout and positive response to the festival's inaugural year. Glowing and confident, and much to the delight of a large, excited, and enthusiastic audience, he announced that the festival would indeed be back next year.

The sci-fi, horror, and fantasy film festival, touting 13 international gems hand-picked by Programming Director and film junkie Todd Brown (editor of twitchfilm.net), was very obviously a labour of love. The lineups I saw outside the Bloor Cinema (that hooked up Bathurst at times), and the many positive conversations I had with festival-goers were testament to the efforts of the organizers.

The feature film selection was diverse yet focused, the festival's promotion and ads were visible and entertaining, and the support for Canadian filmmakers was strong. The international feature film screenings were all anchored by short films by burgeoning Canadians.

I was able to take in a few great films:

Shinobi (Japan, 2005) - an archetypal story of forbidden love within ninja clans laden with stunning cinematography, and a slew of imaginative characters surpassed in creativity only by their unique, specially honed powers and brilliant fights scenes. I scored it 4/5.

Canadian martial arts comedy short Shaolin Delivery Boy by Mark Cutworth had the crowd in stitches!

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Retribution (Japan, 2006) - a twisted psycho-thriller about a detective who is being haunted by a (sometimes comical) floating female ghost. All the while he's investigating himself in a related series of murder cases. Relatively slow moving plot was balanced by the occasional jumper and a few "WTF?!" moments. I scored it 3.5/5.

Mike Jackson's horror short The Veil (originally filmed for the 2005 Bloodshots 48-hour horror film competition) was a dark, sinister, and bloody warmup.

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Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (USA, 2005) - an awesome satire-driven deconstruction of the slasher genre. In a manner reminiscent of Tarantino's Dusk Til Dawn, it starts out in dialogue-heavy documentary style, then makes an exciting transition to all-out slasher. The characters are likable, the writing really smart and hilarious, and being devoid of gore I suspect this film is going to break out large on the mainstream big screen. I scored it 5/5.

Rodrigo Gudino's short entitled The Eyes of Edward James was a spine-chilling, psychiatrist/patient narrated, shaky camera memory recounting of a bad deed committed in the patient's attic.

Congratulations to the festival crew and all of the filmmakers. This happy film fan is looking forward to Toronto After Dark 2007!

(images: Toronto After Dark Film Festival)


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