Manborg Review – Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2011

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The 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival, 8 Nights of Horror, Sci-Fi, Action, and Cult Movies runs Oct 20-27, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For complete festival info visit www.torontoafterdark.com.

The guys at Astron-6 are back for the second time at the 6th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival. The first helping was the deliciously over-the-top Father’s Day which must have been one of the crowd favourites of the festival. This time around the visuals resemble an old cd-rom game, the acting is cheesier, and the spirit of fighting games has been channeled to create some epic showdowns.

Before I get into Manborg I would like to discuss the impressive short that preceded it, Ethereal Chrysalis from writer\director Syl Disjonk. Disjonk introduced the short, saying that the imagery we were about to witness was the product of his nightmares. He wasn’t lying. Ethereal Chrysalis really reminded me of Dante’s Inferno, and the otherworldly work of Clark Ashton Smith. In addition to this, there is even a character who is reminiscent of the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley, in more ways than one. Disjonk has done a remarkable job creating a nightmarish world complete with amazing special effects. I hope he continues to be haunted by nightmares, so I get to see more of his films.

Back to Manborg.

Do I really have to explain the plot of Manborg? It sounds like your typical computer game from the early 90’s. The Hell Wars have been going on for years. Draculon, the military leader of Hell is up to his usual business, slaughtering human soldiers and then sucking them dry. But when he kills a seemingly harmless soldier, he starts a chain of events that delivers the human race’s final chance at salvation, Manborg. Half man and half…borg, Manborg has a devastating arsenal and at least 128-mb of ram, enough to take on Draculon and the armies of Hell, but has he been assembled in time?

Manborg is a tribute to old computer games, fighting games, and most importantly VHS movies from the 80’s. Like Father’s Day, every member of Astron-6 is involved in some way. For the most part this is Steven Kostanski’s film, as he directed, while sharing writing and some special effects duties with Jeremy Gillespie. Kostanski’s love of movies and computer games from the 80’s and 90’s is readily apparent. #1 Man (Ludwig Lee) is an out of place and badly dubbed martial artist dressed like Johnny Cage from Mortal Kombat; Justice (Conor Sweeney) is a ridiculous vigilante with a bizarre gun stance and a hilariously awful Australian or New Zealand accent (I heard both); finally, Manborg (Matthew Kennedy) is armed to the teeth with weaponry from old first person shooters. In other words, Manborg is nerd video game/filmmaking heaven. Also, Jeremy Gillespie’s performance as the Baron, much like Sweeney’s portrayal of Justice, has some real comedic flair. Astron-6 films may feel like a bunch of your high school friends decided to make a movie, however real individual talent can be found with each member.

If you’re on the fence about checking out Manborg, just understand that seriousness and incredulity must be left at the door before watching this one. If you can do that, and you can find an audience to watch it with, then I am sure you will find something to like about Manborg. It’s a fun movie, and you get to see what the Astron-6 guys were up to three years ago, before they completed the highly entertaining and boundary pushing Father’s Day.

Father’s Day Review – Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2011

Image is not the property of Entertainment Maven

The 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival, 8 Nights of Horror, Sci-Fi, Action, and Cult Movies runs Oct 20-27, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For complete festival info visit www.torontoafterdark.com.

Back for my second night at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival to see Exit Humanity and Father’s Day. The turnout was once again very strong and consisted of salivating fans ready for lurching zombies and some serious father violence. The short before Father’s Day was My Main Squeeze from director Chris Nash. Nash also has compiled six lessons learned from Toronto After Dark, which are shorts scattered before features throughout the festival. I really wish I had seen more of Nash’s work to prepare me for My Main Squeeze. The film is about a young girl enamoured with popping bubble wrap, and the social problems that are inherent with such an obsession. My Main Squeeze contains some of the most grotesque and upsetting (although it is not at all malicious, which is refreshing) on-screen imagery I have ever seen. Chris Nash you are truly a sicko, and I bet reading that statement would make you smile.

On to Father’s Day.

One night, the members of Astron-6, a collective filmmaking group out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, were sitting around wondering how to make the best use their considerable talents.

‘What should we do next?’ said one of them.

‘Let’s ruin Father’s Day for everyone,’ said another.

At this point, a normal person, with their finger on the pulse of morality, would have asked ‘WHY would we do that’, but the guys at Astron-6 simply asked each other ‘HOW could we do that’. Well, it turns out you ruin Father’s Day for everyone by making a movie about a father raping serial killer, add in some of the most disgusting displays of gore, and choose the same title (save the location of that stubborn apostrophe) as a lighthearted comedy starring Robin Williams and Billy Crystal, which down the road, should royally mess up the night of some careless holiday movie watchers with terrible taste.

As I have said, Father’s Day features a slew of father rape\murders that has devastated the city. The police, including the short-fused Detective Stegel (Brent Neale), have no idea how to stop the killings. Their only suspect is the wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time troubled teenager Twink (Conor Sweeney). A kind priest, Father John Sullivan (Matthew Kennedy), is pushed away by Twink, despite offers to help the boy. However, Father Sullivan quickly learns that the killings are the doing of the Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock), a vile fiend with a taste for vintage dads. Father Sullivan does the only sensible thing, he traverses every imaginable terrain in the world to track down the one man who nearly put a stop to the Fuchman in the past, the one-eyed Ahab (Adam Brooks).

Going into Father’s Day and not being a rabid Troma fan, I was not sure if I was going to enjoy myself. I can certainly appreciate gratuitous violence, Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive is one of my favourite movies, however, I also appreciate great narratives and well executed comedy, not always Troma staples. As it turns out, Father’s Day has a completely outlandish storyline, but the violence is accompanied by some excellent comedy. The jokes were ridiculous, but the comedic timing was amazing. Without the comedy, Father’s Day would just be bloodbath that may grow a bit tiring near the end of the runtime, but with the excellent writing, Father’s Day becomes a highly entertaining adventure.

The special effects and creature effects are also a pleasure\displeasure to behold, it really depends on your perspective. The Astron-6 crew purports to make their films for next to nothing. If this is true, I find it shocking what Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie have been able to accomplish in the visual effects\digital effects department. Gunshot wounds, chainsaw attacks, crushed heads, and gluttonous creatures from hell, nothing is impossible with this kind of talent.

Finally, the Astron-6 crew has really shown their savvy. You see, with fame comes increased attention, paparazzi, and inevitably nude pics that can ruin careers. It seems that for this reason, multiple members of the crew decided to bare all in full frontal shots during the film, veritably preempting money hungry paparazzi and gossip magazines. Like I said, savvy.

Now for what everyone has been waiting for, which is better, the Astron-6 film or the Robin Williams and Billy Crystal Comedy? Let’s just say that if the two movies met in a dark alley, the Williams-Crystal one would walk away bow-legged, if it walked out at all. As you can imagine, Father’s Day isn’t for everyone, but for those readers that are willing to risk their sanity and potentially the contents of their stomach, Father’s Day is a dad rapingly good time for the whole family, as long as your family enjoys seeing exploitation filmmaking pushed to the extreme. I’ll be back in a few days after the screening of the second Astron-6 film at Toronto After Dark, Manborg. Get your tickets while you can!

Astron-6 consists of Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, and Steven Kostanski.

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