Oct. 18–26 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
What with all the blood, guts, and deviant behaviour that so often prevail in the wild world of genre cinema, it’s easy to overlook the educational value of these films. For instance, if the world is someday threatened by blood-sucking aliens, Spanish werewolves, or murderous houseguests, surely it’s a good thing if some of us know how to step up and take care of business.
If you believe that’s the case, then you may consider your attendance at Toronto After Dark to be a matter of civic duty. Others will come to sate their appetite for chills and thrills at the annual festival of horror, science fiction, action, and cult flicks at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.
Both camps should be pleased with TAD’s opening selection on Oct. 18 at 6:45 p.m. A deliriously fun creature-feature about many-tentacled beasts that lay siege to an Irish island, Grabbers is engaging whether it’s spoofing the conventions of extraterrestrial-invasion tales or making light of its characters’ fondness for drink. Indeed, Grabbers’ stroke of genius arrives when its heroes realize that their only means of protecting themselves against alien attack is by maintaining a dangerously high blood-alcohol level. Never before has getting hammered seemed like such a sensible decision.
Rambunctious horror comedies have become a mainstay of TAD. An especially goofy example from Spain, Game of Werewolves, plays the fest’s final spot on Oct. 26 at 9:30 p.m. Yet two of this year’s best new titles are less easily categorized. Resolution, which screens Oct. 23 at 9:45 p.m., is an inventive thriller by the American team of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. Their film’s opening set-up about a man who chains up his troubled pal in order to get him off meth plays more like a grubby mumblecore drama than a genre pic. Unfortunately for these two, their impromptu rehab clinic soon attracts weirdness of all sorts.
As surreal as the action gets in Resolution, it can’t hold a candle to Wrong, the latest exercise in absurdism by Quentin Dupieux, the French director better known by his musical handle of Mr. Oizo. Returning to the Californian setting of 2010’s Rubber, Dupieux presents the story of a schlubby Everyman whose bizarre series of misadventures begins with the disappearance of his beloved dog. Among the highlights of his search are a very Being John Malkovich–style workplace where the employees are continually drenched by indoor rain-showers, and an appearance by an indescribably weird dog expert, played by William Fichtner. Even TAD’s most adventurous-minded patrons may be perplexed by Wrong, which makes Dupieux’s film especially deserving of its own cult. It plays Oct. 25 at 9:45 p.m.
Further moments of inspiration can be found in two Canadian features at TAD. American Mary—which screens Oct. 18 at 9:45 p.m.—is a grisly slice of surgically inclined horror by Jen and Sylvia Soska, identical-twin filmmakers from Vancouver. Fuelled by a tough performance from Ginger Snaps’ Katharine Isabelle as a medical student who develops a rep for performing unusual body modifications for her discerning clientele, the film is enjoyably perverse until iffy plotting sends it awry. Another new film from B.C., In Their Skin (Oct. 25 at 6:45 p.m.) is a hard-edged thriller about a bourgeois family menaced by intruders. Though Jeremy Power Regimbal’s feature debut is similarly distinguished by a strong leading lady (in this case Selma Blair as the mom in jeopardy), it suffers in comparison with earlier films that preyed on home-invasion worries, most obviously Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. Even so, it still provides moviegoers with useful tips on handling unwanted visitors.