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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Toronto After Dark Short Film Roundup Part 1 (Matt Hodgson)

The 2012 edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival is entering day 5 and the half-way point. We’ll have plenty of feature film reviews that will be coming at you over the coming days, but this year we also thought it would be a good idea to feature the wonderful short films of the festival. One Canadian short film precedes each of the features, while nine International shorts were grouped together for a short film slot this past weekend. We’re going to try to cover each short in a segment called the Short Film Roundup. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: While I may be a huge movie fan, sometimes ideas and concepts within movies are less obvious to me and more obvious to others. I do a good deal of reflecting after features and generally arrive at a satisfactory conclusion regarding the intent of the filmmakers, however that gets flipped on its head with short films, especially when I watch nine of them back-to-back. I apologize to the filmmakers in advance if I missed what you were trying to say.

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

Caterwaul

Ian Samuels, 13 min, USA, 2012

A fisherman’s painful recovery from a tragic loss manifests itself in the intimate relationship he initiates with a lobster in this intimate, beautiful portrait.

This was the first film of the International programme, and it’s easily one of the best. The brief synopsis sounds ridiculous, but this short is an incredibly emotional one to watch, with only one or two instances of humour. I think the relationship between the old fisherman and his arthropod is an allegory for a different loss, loss and grief that occurred earlier in his life. Caterwaul is beautiful, touching and features some wonderful practical effects. This one is going to be tough to beat in my books.

Decapoda Shock

Javier Chillon, 9 min, Spain, 2011

An astronaut-turned-lobster-freak returns to Earth in search of his family and the life the government has stolen from him.

As this short starts on the red sand of Mars, audiences may expect to be in for a very serious sci-fi piece. Even more so when our lone astronaut gets clipped by a martian crab, his space suit now compromised. Also he may now be infected as we see blood oozing from the tiny tear in his suit. But this short takes a turn for the ridiculous as our astronaut returns to earth – as a giant crab. We follow this crab-man as he learns about his condition, seeks out his family, and tries to exact revenge on a government who set him up. If crab-man revenge is your cup of tea then Decapoda Shock will not disappoint. I wasn’t on board with the humour immediately, but as the short went on I became invested in the humour and our hero’s mission. This short may have set a record for highest body count racked up by a crab-man. Can anyone confirm this?

Dialogue

Josh Johnson, 1 minute, USA, 2012

Why is there a vagina there?

Dialogue tells a very brief story about a young man with a vagina on his arm. Unfortunately for the vagina it speaks a foreign language and has trouble communicating the painful existence that is its reality. A truly terrifying concept, hopefully this short doesn’t create a new phobia for the medical books. Short, funny, and to the point, Dialogue was successful at what it set out to do: tell the story of a guy with a vagina on his arm.

Odokuro

Aurelio Voltaire, 6 min, USA, 2011

Under the auspicious direction of TAD short film favorite Voltaire, Gary Numan narrates the reanimated exploits of a Sumartran Rat Monkey and its battle against all forms of media.

Odokuro looks like a very ambitious stop-motion animation project. The setting is a cluttered room full of many different types of media and a skeleton that is reanimated only to wage a type of war against these objects which should be inanimate. Wonderfully creative and a joy to watch, Odokuro probably has a take home message, but I think I missed it. However, I would watch this short again in a heartbeat if only for the fantastical strangeness on display and the painstaking work that must have gone into making it.

Bobby Yeah

Robert Morgan, 23 min, UK, 2011

It isn’t that the mischievous Bobby Yeah has always got his finger on the button. It’s that he always presses it. A grotesque stop-motion wonderland of fleshy Švankmajer-inspired delights.

Bobby Yeah is easily the best short of the International programme at TAD this year. While other shorts were a lot of fun to watch, Bobby Yeah is an absolute triumph of imagination, weirdness and claymation. At the heart of this nightmarish tale is our strange preoccupation with pressing buttons in order to see what they do, particularly red buttons. Our lead character is a rabbit-like thing who would be cute if his face wasn’t splattered with blood, covered with sores, and his eyes bulging out of his head. He gets into quite a bit of trouble, but his exploits are incredible to behold. Morgan is a veritable creative force whose work looks to be almost entirely unique, something which I found very refreshing. I look forward to anything he does in the future.

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Little Terrors Volume 3 (Toronto) – Phil Graves Guest Blogging

Hand drawn art from Kevin Hutchinson (www.secondskincreations.net)

Editor’s note: It’s difficult to find guest bloggers that will work for free, that’s why I had to settle for Phil. Please don’t be too upset by his manner, he really is quite a nice fellow. Regardless, I should still take the time to apologize in advance, before I get a slew of angry e-mails.

I’m sorry.

Entertainment Maven

Good evening,

Horror correspondent Phil Graves, at your service. It seems that the last night of Little Terrors, back in August, was too much for the cowardly Entertainment Maven. Daily sessions with a psychiatrist and a few bottles of pills a week helped the Maven reduce his relentless nightmares, induced by the last evening of Little Terrors, to basic insomnia. However, he didn’t think his constitution was strong enough for another round, so he sent me in his place to attend Little Terrors Volume 3 at The Projection Booth in Toronto. For those of you who have been hesitant to come out and slay with us, Little Terrors is a deliciously terrifying evening of short horror films presented by the crawling cadavers over at Rue Morgue, and the unbalanced psychopaths at Unstable Ground. In fact, lead corpse Justin McConnell has been doing such a bang up programming job that he will likely be institutionalized in the near future, due to the reels of depravity and mayhem that his now brittle sanity has had to endure.

The nice thing about Little Terrors is that it caters to an audience who are normally hard at work during the evening hours, like myself. It’s nice for these lowstanding citizens to have the opportunity to get out of the basement and hang up their knives, machetes, and axes for the evening. At $8 a ticket I was eager to put down my own shovel for two hours of vicarious chills and thrills. Volume 3’s lineup featured a balance of hackles, cackles and shackles, and would not have disappointed any true fiend. Below are some comments on the recently exhumed shorts.

Off Season – Unfortunately some of the zombies working on the TTC caused me to arrive a little late for this one. But what I saw impressed me. A man and his dog spend some quality time together, sticking their noses into some abandoned cabins, and discover something that gave me CHILLS.

Next Floor – How often are you disappointed that a buffet doesn’t have your favourite dish? Well you’ll be overjoyed to hear that this short offers up a smorgasbord of grotesque treats, and features a mixed grill comparable to the contents of Noah’s Ark, that is, if it fell into some gluttonous hands. Excellent production value, uncharacteristic of many shorts, make this one tough meal for the squeamish to stomach.

The Screaming Skull – Reminiscent of old horror computer games like The 7th Guest and Realms of Haunting, this atmospheric spooker proves that you don’t always have to understand a plot to understand fear.

The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon – I don’t know about the killer’s choice of weapon, at this rate he’ll send my business to a grinding halt, but I have to admit that I don’t think I’ll be eating a bowl of soup anytime in the near future.

The Eyes of Edward James – A murderous tale that may remind viewers of the Christopher Nolan film, Memento. However, this story also uses a very interesting setting. Time is split between a therapy session and the first-person p.o.v. reminiscences of a patient, from the night of a traumatic event.

Legend of the Seven Bloody Torturers – The seven bloody torturers have been doing their thing for a long time, after all, they are legendary. But even these hard working gentlemen have to submit to bureaucratic rules and regulations. What is a poor torturer to do?

The Familiar – A vampire’s familiar is one of the least appreciated occupations in the underworld. The hours are long and the pay is little, only the allure of becoming a fellow bloodsucker could attract a young man to this job.

Rise of the Living Corpse – Clocking in at 30 seconds, this short gets to the harsh reality of being a new member of the undead.

Dead Bones – A wild west bounty hunter tale with an early twist. Gorehounds should find this one disgusting!

The scream team of Rue Morgue and Unstable Ground, and the screen scene at The Projection Booth have proved to be a ghastly combination. If I wasn’t so busy shoveling dirt every night, I might think about making the theatre my home. Alas, more hacking and slashing will have to wait until Tuesday, October 18th at 8:00pm, when Justin McConnell stitches together the next collection of shorts that will send your mind reeling. I’ve heard murmurs that ‘Axed’, which is a Toronto premiere, is the bloodiest thing since Peter Jackson’s Braindead (Dead Alive) and Bad Taste.

Hope to see you next time at Little Terrors, or eventually, lying face up in one of my holes.

Phil Graves

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