Fan Expo 2012 Coverage (Kirk Haviland)

Fan Expo 2012

So another Fan Expo is in the books and it’s time to do some reflecting. This year was my first time with a media pass for the fest and thus I attended two of the four days, Thursday night and Sunday afternoon. Thursday became my walkabout day as the main hall was pleasantly less crowded and easy to maneuver, while Sunday was a work day as I attended some panels and conducted some interviews. The interviews will be along very shortly but for now we’ll start by focusing on Day 1.

My first stop after attaining my pass was to go directly to visit my great friends at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival and find out what their first 10 films announced for the 2012 festival would be. The announcement should be live online at the link above by the time you read this, but at this time it was still under wraps. I’ll simply state that this is an extremely strong first wave lineup, and it contains a lot of films that I’ve been tracking for a while. Adam Lopez and company have not failed to raise the bar once again. On top of this, Toronto After Dark has released a limited edition T-Shirt/Poster by renowned artist Gary Pullin. It’s a beautiful poster and since Gary was gracious enough to sign all copies for free I managed to get an autographed copy that I’m sure will end up framed on my wall at some point.

Next stop was the Anchor Bay booth where I acquired some goodies: a walking dead bag and some mini posters. It was there that I bumped into Justin McConnell, director of The Collapsed and curator of the Litttle Terrors Monthly Series that until recently was held at the east end rep cinema house, The Projection Booth.  But as of September 19th the series will be re-launching in its new home in the heart of downtown, the Rainbow Cinemas Carlton. To celebrate they have instituted a ‘Best Of Little Terrors’ tour that launched at Fan Expo with two sold out standing room only showings on Friday and Saturday. I will have more on this tour and the films associated with it in the near future.

Next I wandered through the multitudes of displays and vendors with standouts including the Frankenweenie exhibit, the free pic on a comic book cover from the DC booth and free Lego Darth Maul figure from, of course, the Lego booth. Along with running into some friends and getting my picture taken behind the wheel of an exact Back To The Future replica Delorean it was a fun day.

My second day started off with the Dead Before Dawn 3D panel with cast members, including Christopher Lloyd himself. Along with being fun and informative it was also research for what would come later. After another quick stop in at the Toronto After Dark booth to check in on the boys and the Underground Peep Show gang across the way, I was back on my way to Anchor Bay. After arriving there, and managing to snag a sweet full sized copy of the amazing Excision poster, I was lining up with some other critics to interview the cast and director of A Little Bit Zombie. The interviews were great fun and featured Casey Walker, Kristopher Turner, Shawn Roberts and the stunning Crystal Lowe. All of them were really great to talk to. Ending it off with a signed poster from the gang minus Crystal, who had taken off to go do her own shopping for graphic art (love this woman!), it was off to my next interview of the day.

Upon reaching the Dead Before Dawn 3D booth I noticed a very long line for autographs, probably spurred on by the film’s other star, Devon Bostick, autographing for free. Initially I was unsure how we would be able to fit the interview in. But the Writer Tim Dorian and Director April Mullen were very accommodating in talking to me as I had the interview booked with them but still managed to get in a few words from another cast member to boot. You should be able to read both those interviews very soon here on Entertainment Maven.

After some more roaming around and picking up some more schwag, I ended the day by sneaking into one of the smaller panels to get off my feet and hang with some friends. Earlier in the day I was almost bowled over by a passing Lou Ferrigno, so it seemed only fitting that my day would end standing shoulder to shoulder with Christopher Lloyd himself as he passed by. And with that my adventures at Fan Expo 2012 came to an end.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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If a Tree Falls – Disturbing Horror from Southern Ontario!

Image from Black Fawn Films (http://www.blackfawnfilms.com/)

There are not many things in this world that I find more frightening than motiveless masked assailants. Say what you will about the movie The Strangers, but the trailer alone almost had me losing my mind. Also, this year at TIFF”s Midnight Madness I will be forced to sit through Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, whose animal-masked assailants will probably have me looking through the Yellow Pages for a good therapist when I get home.

Before I sat down to watch my DVD copy of If a Tree Falls I took a long look at the cover. Specifically, I was looking at the blindfolded woman running away in terror and the burly man wearing a fishnet tank top, and nylon panty hose as a mask, which has distorted his facial features grotesquely. I know what you’re thinking, you gotta be crazy as hell to wear a fishnet tank top!

Was it really a good idea for me to watch this alone?

Well, I did. In the name of art!

I probably won’t sleep too well for a while.

If a Tree Falls is a cool indie horror flick from Black Fawn Films and director Philip Carrer. It was also an offical selection from the 2010 Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. The story revolves around two siblings, Brad (Ryan Barrett) and Lisa (Jennifer De Lucia), and two family friends, Will (Daniel Zuccala) and Vanessa (Breanne TeBoekhorst), who are setting out together for a road trip. After a creepy table-side encounter with a weirdo at a diner, the crew decide to setup camp for the night. Unfortunately for them, this is where the horror starts as the group is attacked in the night by a group of masked men. The friends are left with one seemingly impossible solution to their predicament. Get away!

The four leads do a great job of transforming from relaxed friends, enjoying a casual road trip, to suffering victims that just want to evade or at the very least understand why they are being pursued by masked assailants. Also, Jay Justin turns in a great performance as the creepy customer in the diner. The villains also do a great job with their terrifying, distorted faces and their complete lack of compassion.

On the technical side of things, the camera work is fairly solid throughout the film. It seems like a lot of work was done after shooting, as the film has a 70’s grindhouse feel to it. The picture quality was intentionally made to look like the reel had been forgotten on some dusty shelf for a few decades. The scratches and other artifacts are quite effective and greatly add to the film’s atmosphere. The soundtrack of original tunes is also quite good.

Finally, I think one of the hardest things to do in horror cinema in recent years is to walk that fine line between gut-wrenching suspense and downright torture. I feel that the most successful horror films are basically a well balanced tug-of-war between the heroes and the villains, while at the same time delivering the buckets of gore that modern audiences seem to crave. The struggle for power in If a Tree Falls leans a little heavily in the villains’ favour for my taste. However, with this imbalance of power comes an incredibly oppressive and upsetting atmosphere which will certainly appeal to many horror fans.

If a Tree Falls is definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of the gritty world of helpless victims and backwoods monsters. Also, it’s nice to see such a professional product that was shot in the small city of Guelph, Ontario. Normally this DVD would set you back about $15 from Black Fawn Distribution, but if you’re lucky enough to be attending Fan Expo this weekend, then pop by the Black Fawn Films booth and you can pick it up for only $10.

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