As per usual, Toronto After Dark offered up a slew of both homegrown and international short films to compliment their lineup this year. Here below are some of the ones that stood out to me the most.
Many of my favourites from TAD this year, like Bobby Yeah, The Captured Bird and Adjust Tracking, were shorts I saw earlier this year at WWSFF, so I decided to just rank the ones I saw for the first time here. But, rest assured, I adore Bobby Yeah (but more on him in a later post).
1. Numbers – This Asian short was absolutely fantastic and instantly created a science fiction world that I would of happily watched a feature length version of. Grounded by a simple story of two strangers in a market, we are gradually let in on their unique ability to see numbers above other people's heads. Through well paced dialogue, it weaved a narrative that really captured my imagination.
2. Bio-Cop – Astron 6 alumni Steve Kostanski is back with his newest slice of eighties-inspired hilarity. With it being shot here in Toronto, it was so great to see so many familiar faces onscreen. I don't know anybody who captures the energy and aesthetic of the home video era better than he does. Much like his past work Lazer Ghosts 2 (which played TAD in 2008), Bio-Cop plays like a half-trailer/half-short film, with as much slimy goo and mayhem as he can pack into its five minute running time.
3. HENRi – Originally funded on Kickstarter, director Eli Sasich has finally realized his story of a robot trapped aboard a derelict spaceship. The core of this story was so provokative it actually caught the attention of sci-fi icons Margot Kidder and Keir Dullea who, as a result, appear in the film. This is excellent straight-up science fiction in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Sunshine.
4. Malody – I really dug this strange little short. It is a technical marvel and its surrealist underpinnings naturally struck a cord with me. I believe I was most taken by its ending, which was one of those “wow, how did you come up with that?” moments.
5. Family Nightmare – I had heard about the disturbing weirdness of this short previously, and it did not disappoint. Using actual vintage home video footage, the short paints an off-kilter family gathering where babies play with knives, family members break out into impromptu wrestling matches and there are Christmas viewings of hardcore porn rather than Frosty the Snowman. It is delightfully bizarre and askew.
Some Honourable Mentions:
It seems like Nova Scotia may be having a little film renaissance, as Josh MacDonald (of last year's The Corridor) returns with Game. It takes a scenario we have seen a million times before and wonderfully subverts it. The last shot is one that will surely give you a chuckle.
Not Till We're Married is a funny little short about relationships by Shannon Hanmer. TAD alumni Chris Nash also served as writer and make-up effects artist on this one to continue his streak with the festival.
Annie & The Dog is a beautifully shot short about a priest calling on a local deputy to help him perform an exorcism on a young girl he has tied up in his barn. It mixed horror and humour quite well and the performances were all solid.
Vicki was a colourful eighties homage that went over really well with the crowd. At first I was a little hesitant because it started out like a carbon copy of John Carpenter's Christine. I mean it's okay if want to use it as a reference, but don't actually copy it scene for scene. As the short progressed though, it found its own voice and I was also chuffed to hear a lot of Umberto in the score, as well. You can watch it now, by going here.
Other strong shorts were Caterwaul, We Ate The Children Last and the tasty Garlic Bread Man vs Superbo Lasagna Man.
Again, another great bracket of shorts this year. When the final TAD awards are tallied and announced, I'll be sure to let you know. Oh, and Happy Devil's Night everyone!