65 days until the 2012 edition of theToronto International Film Festival. Are you ready?
To get us in the mood, the folks at TIFF have just dropped the trailer for this year’s edition. Nothing really new or special here, just a nice little teaser that will definitely get you in the mood.
Enjoy and see you in September.
Juan of the Dead is a funny and engaging zombie film from Cuba. Death and mayhem abound, the film is also a great political satire pointed squarely at life in Cuba under Castro. It’s funny, smart and scary, fresh and vibrant. Director Alejandro Brugués has a particular, and ghoulish, take on a well visited genre and makes a well done and amusing film.
Juan (Alexis Díaz de Villegas), a lazy fisherman, and his friend Lazaro (Jorge Molina), spend their days doing as little as possible, though it usually includes sitting on their Havana apartment rooftop drinking rum. For some unexplained reason, zombies begin to appear on the island. Explanation is not missed or needed, because, well, they are zombies. We are introduced to a variety of characters as it slowly dawns on Juan that something is quite amiss with his fellow island inhabitants. Rather than find a boat and leave, Juan creates a plan that will make them rich. Through the rest of the film we see Juan and his merry band attempting to carry out this plan, and then subsequent plans as the first one doesn’t work out as intended and events change.
Juan of the Dead is quite well done, considering it was shot in Cuba. It’s not that Cuban directors are incapable, but rather given the limitations their government puts on them, it is difficult for directors to have the type of artistic freedom those outside Cuba enjoy. Director Brugués is an independent filmmaker, got most of his funding from Spain, but also permission from the Cuban government to shoot in and around the historic areas of Havana. Those that have traveled to the island will see and recognize many places. And there are lots and lots of zombies, whole islands worth.
The effects are quite effective, both gory and frequent, though they don’t show every time a head gets smashed in, how they compensate for this is through clever camera work and angles. While not having a huge budget can derail many productions, this one, though, employs creative writing and filmmaking, setting up situations and scenes that give the impression of more zombies than are present, but also minimize the amount of screen time they have. Juan simply dispatches them in a timely manner.
The real heart of this film is the bond between the friends and their humor. While much of the humor is satire, there are also plenty of jokes at the characters expense. Used to long suffering, and all of the language the government uses to try to cover it, the same rhetoric is on display now, but made to look quite ridiculous as events unfold onscreen. As well, these friends enjoy one another’s company, and don’t mind mocking each other, and themselves. The jokes come fast and frequent, having a mix of personal and political. There are also references to not only some of the classic zombie filmmakers, such as George A. Romero, but plenty of other actors, films and genres.
While appealing to the horror fan first, and the zombie fan in particular, this film will also be enjoyed by the casual horror fan. If you are squeamish about blood and guts, you can safely avoid this.
I recommend this to anyone who does enjoy zombie flicks, dark humor and a gore fest. It simply isn’t made this good very often.
The Pact is a frightening and dark ghost film. It visits well used plot elements, but retains a scare factor not usually seen in big budget films. A frightening intensity permeates the film, causing a slow burn until the final act. Writer and director Nicholas McCarthy has created a tense, moody film that makes good use of a limited budget and creative ideas.
The simple setting, of a childhood home of a recently deceased parent, evoke memories of abuse for Nicole Barlow (Agnes Bruckner). In a phone call to her sister, Annie (Caity Lotz), Nicole insists that Annie come help with the funeral arrangements for their mother. Annie refuses, and later that night Nicole, while chatting with her daughter with her laptop, looses the connection. Seeing a door open that was shut before, she walks in. The next morning finds Annie arriving at the home, but Nicole missing. What happens next is a intriguing tale of a supernatural mystery.
Much of the film is carried by Lotz, with her performance being quite good throughout the film. The vast majority of the film is just Caity in the house alone, though there are also appearances by Casper Van Dien, as a police officer, and Haley Hudson as a blind medium. It’s Caity’s role that makes the film work and she deftly evokes the emotional battlefield of her life while trying to figure out why the house is haunted.
This is a subtle and slow moving film, emulating The Entity, Stir of Echoes, Amityville, Japanese horrors and their North American remakes. This is not a blood and splatter film that simply has a ghost doing nasty things to the star for an hour. In fact, there is little in the way of most modern, popular horror techniques in this film as it deftly underplays the physical horror element. The scares come, but there is a creepiness evolving from just being in a house alone. Odd sounds, things being moved or knocked over, doors opened and then closed, all in the matter of walking from one room to another. These events have purpose, and while appear random early on, begin to take shape as something is pointing Annie in a particular direction.
Taking place mostly in just the house, Nicholas McCarthy does an excellent job of maintaining viewer interest in this limited set. It is established early that the entity is both focused in the house, and demands Annie’s attention when she is there. That Annie is mistaken about the intentions of the ghost is no fault of her own, and through the help of the medium begins to piece together the puzzle. The house itself is a part of that puzzle, with a room being discovered that was previously unknown. What this room is, and how it fits into the puzzle is revealed in the final act which is quite well done.
Most of the elements presented prior to the final act are focused on providing a satisfying resolution. Having fought with the house and its ghost to get answers, there comes a surprising revelation late in the film that makes sense rather than just having a twist to have a twist, as is often the case. Some viewers may struggle with the pacing and subtly, as many North American horror film explain everything or are obnoxiously over the top.
While emulating and paying homage to other films, it retains its own unique vision. Not quite gothic in nature, it is still a supernatural thriller with good chills and frights.
Recommended for horror fans or anyone looking for a slow paced thriller that does not give its answers easily.
The Bloor Cinema was shut down last year for remodeling and has reopened as the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. Toronto After Dark Film Festival has returned to the venue by hosting a pair of screenings this summer. Usually reserved for October, the Festival wanted to give those that can’t wait a chance to come out and enjoy some horror, sci-fi, cult and actions films.
We at Xavierpop love the Toronto After Dark Fest (and it shows by our reviews of every film last year) and are very happy for this summer tease. It is perfect timing as the city is alive with culture around the Canada Day Long Weekend and the fest is a perfect. So on Wednesday, June 27 and then two weeks later on Wednesday, July 11 head on over to the Hot Docs Cinema to catch some great films.
To start the festivities off, the June 27th movies are the Juan of the Dead and The Pact.
Juan of the Dead is a Cuban produced dark comedy about the island nation being overrun by zombies. Although the title closely mimics Simon Pegg‘s Shaun of the Dead, beyond having dark humor, and zombies, and being shot on an island, that is where similarities end.
The Pact is about an unsettling presence emerges in a woman’s childhood home as she tries to unravels a mystery in the wake of her mother’s death. Offering a slow burn with a strong ending, this promises to be a dark ghost story.
The second night of films (July 11th) includes Detention and V/H/S.
Detention is a genre smashing tour de force featuring a group of high-schoolers trying to catch a serial killer with the help of some time travel, all whilst stuck in detention on prom night!
V/H/S is about a group of kids that break into a house, finding a VHS tape that includes some things they did not bargain for. An anthology of five shorts uses found footage editing to tell it’s stories.
Individual Film Tickets are $13 each, with discounts for Bloor Cinema Members ($11), buying Double Feature packs ($22), or Summer All-Access (4-Pack Passes) ($39) and also come with the added benefit of Priority Seating. The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema is located at 506 Bloor St West at Bathurst.
Opposites Attack (5 min)
A blind date that becomes self-reflective when the two deconstruct the motive of the person who set them up and, even though things become a little bitter, somehow things work themselves out. A very funny perspective on how people relate to each other.
Excuse Me (6 min)
Something is said in the course of having sex that’s discussed afterward that threatens to break up a couple. Sharp dialogue and a witty exchange of ideas makes this movie a nice little experience to behold.
Would You (7 min)
Two tipsy platonic friends play “Would You Rather?”. The escalating questions begin to manifest in dreams and their choices start to take on a new significance. At times light-hearted romance and perverted comedy, this film excels at both.
Mouthful (11 min)
A guy consults his girlfriend about the size of his penis. The inevitable complications with the conversation come up but things get interesting with these two don’t get offended or angry at each other right away. Of course, too much information is divulged and awkward tension fills the screen that gets funnier with each new piece of information.
Anti-Reproductive Mating Ritual (6 min)
Two guys skateboaring in briefs to contemplative music with suggestive actions and explicit nudity – these two guys are attempting to bond on a new level that includes just about everything except penetration. I predict a few nervous laughs from the audience.
One Minute Puberty (2 min)
An interesting animated time-lapse of that awkward time in everyone’s life: puberty. Displayed with inventive imagery and use of music, this short in an achievement.
Don Blanquito is an English- and Portuguese-speaking rapper in Brazil. This film documents his philosophy on love and sex; his perspective is relatable and thoughtful, despite not being favorable to monogamy. This is in stark contrast to his anxiety of dying alone. Strangely, you can’t help but laugh at his views that could, otherwise be offensive to some.
030 (3 min)
The erotic interactions of a girl with a guitar, this steamy short holds back very little.
Cougar Lesbians Go To College (2 min)
A mockumentary of Los Angeles lesbians in their 40′s that hit on younger women much the way womanizing men do.
Cockatoo (11 min)
A man calls an agency called “Reality Dreams” asking for a redhead and, shortly after, a blonde woman appears at the door. She quickly changes into a disguise and interviews him. “Reality Dreams” isn’t a call service, but about helping someone cope with the loss of another person by exposing people to a look-alike. This half-baked plan and seems to undermine relationships and the complexity of personality.
Tempest in a Bedroom (11 min)
A couple looks to spice up their sex life with little progress, in this stop-motion animation. This film’s unique visual style facilitates the telling of these characters and two other character’s attempts to reclaim and invigorate their sex lives as well.
A man lusts over his ex-girlfriend and they suddenly get lost in the act of sex – and then they get stuck. After a few uncomfortable situations, including one with the man’s current girlfriend, they begin to talk. Maybe there are worse things.
Check out our coverage of the WorldWide Short Film Festival:
- Douglas Reviews ‘For Shorts and Giggles’ - And Now Onto The ‘Film School Spotlight: Super 16 Anarkino’ Programme - Douglas Reviews The ‘Sci-fi: Out There’ Programme - Douglas Does ‘The Laughter Without Borders’ Programme - Next Up ‘Shorts For Shorties: Mission to the Milky Way’ - MovieJay Reviews the ‘Date Night’ Programme - Xavierpop Breaks Down the Popular ‘Scene Not Herd’ Programme - Xavierpop Reviews The ‘Short Dramatic Films” Programme - MovieJay Really Enjoys The ‘Celebrity Shorts’ Programme - Douglas Breaks Down The ‘X-Ray Spex’ Programme - MovieJay Reviews The ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ Programme - Now Onto The ‘Homeland Security’ Programme - Xavierpop Takes On The ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ Programme - MovieJay Reviews The “All Tomorrow’s Parties” Programme - Douglas Godhino Reviews The ‘Superfans’ Programme - Xavierpop Takes on The “Creative Control” Programme - MovieJay Reviews the “War, What Is It Good For?” Programme - MovieJay Reviews ‘The Family Compact” Programme - Next Up A Look At the ‘Iron Ladies’ Programme - Xavierpop Covers ‘The Love Hurts’ Official Selection - A Break-Down The ‘Who’s Your Dada?’ Programme - MovieJay Reviews The Opening Night Gala: Winners From Around the World - The @xvrpop Ultimate Worldwide Short Film Fest Preview - The CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival’s Screenplay $50,000 Giveaway is Back!
In this collection of very short films, you’ll be presented with a variety of situations and scenarios that won’t take up too much of your day. With a wide range of comedy types, there’s a good chance you’ll find something amusing here.
After picking up his son from the library, dad needs to stop by the drug store for mom and an inappropriate and imaginatively awkward conversation ensues.
Preparing to eat lunch, two construction workers get ready to eat Burger John’s Breakfast Croissant Sandwich.
Linda (3 min)
Linda is a paper cutout of a girl that has a wide range of outfits. She’s prone to giving too much information about herself, bouts of over-aggressive commentary and general insensitivity.
Useful Things (2 min)
A couple of not-so-useful objects tell the audience a little bit about how they met and fell in love.
SWHD (4 min)
A man touches his face so he can tell how he feels. Sad = wet, happy = dry.
Buyer’s Market (5 min)
A real estate salesman has difficulty displaying a house that’s for sale because of a persistent vagrant.
Pixar (2 min)
Our two construction worker friends are back, contemplating lunch again. How can a carrot compete with Burger John’s Breakfast Sandwich?
Sheddies (5 min)
On a hot summer day, shed-dwelling bachelors interview a potential roommate. The application process is rigorous and…interesting.
Visionary Times – Episode 1 (3 min)
The telling of the alternate history of the Great Sphinx of Giza by experts, that may or may not be true. Probably not.
Dress (2 min)
An oddly shaped girl can’t wait to share how she made her dress.
Scr__ble (3 min)
A couple friends catch up over playing scrabble in a café. When one advises against getting a dog, the other says they’re thinking of getting a “povern” instead.
Old Friends (4 min)
The interactions of two friends that have fallen out of contact with each other who meet on the street and realize there’s not a lot to talk about.
Our two construction worker friends forget their differences and remember what’s important: Burger John’s Breakfast Croissant Sandwiches.
Say Yes To The Pants (3 min)
In this short reality TV parody about pant stylist Devin, his conflict is bold and compelling.
Check out our coverage of the WorldWide Short Film Festival:
- And Now Onto The ‘Film School Spotlight: Super 16 Anarkino’ Programme - Douglas Reviews The ‘Sci-fi: Out There’ Programme - Douglas Does ‘The Laughter Without Borders’ Programme - Next Up ‘Shorts For Shorties: Mission to the Milky Way’ - MovieJay Reviews the ‘Date Night’ Programme - Xavierpop Breaks Down the Popular ‘Scene Not Herd’ Programme - Xavierpop Reviews The ‘Short Dramatic Films” Programme - MovieJay Really Enjoys The ‘Celebrity Shorts’ Programme - Douglas Breaks Down The ‘X-Ray Spex’ Programme - MovieJay Reviews The ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ Programme - Now Onto The ‘Homeland Security’ Programme - Xavierpop Takes On The ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ Programme - MovieJay Reviews The “All Tomorrow’s Parties” Programme - Douglas Godhino Reviews The ‘Superfans’ Programme - Xavierpop Takes on The “Creative Control” Programme - MovieJay Reviews the “War, What Is It Good For?” Programme - MovieJay Reviews ‘The Family Compact” Programme - Next Up A Look At the ‘Iron Ladies’ Programme - Xavierpop Covers ‘The Love Hurts’ Official Selection - A Break-Down The ‘Who’s Your Dada?’ Programme - MovieJay Reviews The Opening Night Gala: Winners From Around the World - The @xvrpop Ultimate Worldwide Short Film Fest Preview - The CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival’s Screenplay $50,000 Giveaway is Back!