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Toronto After Dark Short Film Roundup Part 2 (Matt Hodgson)

The 2012 edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival is nearly over and we’re still pumping out the feature film reviews here at Entertainment Maven, but it’s time for part 2 of our short film roundup. One Canadian short film preceded each of the features at Toronto After Dark, while nine International shorts were grouped together for a short film slot this past weekend.

Synopses in Italics and from http://www.torontoafterdark.com

Henri

Eli Sasich, 20 min, USA, 2011

The lonely odyssey of sentient spacecraft and its desperate, bittersweet bid for humanity. An awe-inspiring blend of miniatures, in-camera effects and computer animation featuring Margot Kidder (SUPERMAN) and the voice of Kier Dullea (2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY).

Henri keeps to a major theme of this year’s short programme: the use of miniatures and special effects without the presence of actual actors, although Henri does break this trend for a few shots by using some living actors, including a brief appearance by Margot Kidder. The visuals are beautiful and in some cases jaw dropping. Sasich truly manages to make this long uninhabited spacecraft feel alive. The twenty minute short even manages to tug at our heart strings which is a very impressive feat in any short film. Henri is highly recommended and one of the best shorts at Toronto After Dark.

Numbers

Robert Hloz, 9 min, Czech Republic/South Korea, 2012

Minimalist FX and first-rate world-building come together in this lo-fi sci-fi slice of life, wherein a man’s perception of those around him is forever changed.

Numbers may be the most cerebral and well written short out of the ones I have watched at Toronto After Dark. Despite being only 9 minutes long it manages to set the scene for what could very well be a feature film storyline. A young man sees numbers above the heads of everyone around him. Some of the numbers are quite small (single digits), while others are five or six digits long. Our main character seems to have some grasp regarding the meaning of some of these numbers, but overall he is understandably confused. A young woman with the same strange ability provides some much needed insight into the meaning of the numbers, but at a frightening cost. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Numbers is definitely worth checking out, and the little short may lead its filmmaker into much bigger projects in the future as Hloz demonstrates serious storytelling skills.

Vicki

Bill Palmer, 14 min, USA, 2012

Both John Carpenter’s CHRISTINE and the general milieu of 1980s Hollywood genre cinema are lavishly parodied throughout this slick and funny nostalgia trip about the age old tale of boy meets possessed demon car, boy falls in love with possessed demon car, boy and possessed demon car kill everybody.

Vicki is very intentionally silly as we experience the lead character fall in love with sexy sports car. The romantic incident takes place after the young man in the leading role is run down by a group of toughs while he is biking home. The toughs destroy his bike, but the young man decides to finally get on the same level as them by getting a sick ride of his own. There are some very funny moments throughout the short, although I didn’t completely dig the over-the-top silliness for the entire runtime. Overall it’s a very nice looking short and Palmer definitely shows some promise as a filmmaker. My only complaint is that I would have liked to have seen some better writing.

Family Nightmare

Dustin Guy Defa, 10 min, USA, 2011

Family dysfunction becomes a near-Lynchian nightmare when Dustin Guy Defa reconstructs and redubs a series of home movies. A haunting and atmospheric experimental masterpiece!

Family Nightmare was hands down the most terrifying film at the entire festival, and I am including the features. The short is made up of home video footage from a single family, the voices re-dubbed with some very disturbing ones. From the opening scene, depicting a young child playing with a knife, there is a feeling of dread which will slowly envelop the audience. The members of the family seem to preoccupy themselves with copious amounts of smoking and drinking. Despite a few really solid laughs, the crescendo of this short is one of the most disturbing things I have experienced in recent years. Highly recommended but I will not be watching this short anytime soon – for my own sanity.

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