Blood In The Snow Film Festival 2012: In the House of Flies Review (Kirk Haviland)

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Blood In The Snow 2012

In the House of Flies Poster

In the House of Flies (2012)

Starring: Lindsay Smith, Ryan Kotack, Henry Rollins and Ryan Barrett

Written by Angus McLellan

Directed by Gabriel Carrer

Making its World Premiere as part of the Inaugural Fright Nights: Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival this past weekend at Toronto’s Projection Booth East cinema is the newest film from Canadian director Gabriel Carrer (Kill, If a Tree Falls), In the House of Flies. The micro budget indie makes use of a small cast and minimal settings to create a suspense thriller about abduction, suffering and sacrifice. But will In the House of Flies be the film to catapult Carrer onto the world stage?

Set in June of 1988 In the House of Flies tells the story of young lovers whose lives are inadvertently changed forever when the couple, Heather (Smith) and Steve (Kotack), suddenly find themselves abducted. Alone, isolated, locked in a basement with only a tiny window as contact to the outside world, Heather and Steve find themselves pawns in the twisted machinations of their diabolical hosts. Surrounded by several mysterious pad-locked suitcases, each containing valuable food and supplies, Heather and Steve must fight to keep their sanity and clutch with blistering hands the last shreds of hope if they want to escape from their abductors (Rollins and Barrett).

In the House of Flies 1

In the House of Flies uses its limited budget to its advantage in producing a grimy, sleazy and claustrophobic story mainly set in the confines of a completely walled in basement with a locked trap door as it only entrance and exit. The film lies solely on the shoulders of Smith and Kotack as they are in every frame of the film and for 90% of it they are the only ones on screen. Rollins is only heard in voice  and Barrett is only seen from the neck down, never close up. The good news is that Smith and Kotack are up to the task. Their performances are solid and they keep you invested throughout. Rollins’ voice is nearly unrecognizable as he serves as tormentor over a phone placed in the cell.

The script uses its surroundings aptly, keeping the action centered in the basement keeps the budget low and production value high. That said this film is not one of action set pieces and momentum. This is a slow methodical devaluing and deconstruction of these characters. This inevitably leaves us with lulls in areas and some stretches of the film do drag. But when these sequences happen, Carrer, McLellan and the cast manage to snap you back into the film with another well placed revelation. In the House of Flies is a film that will need and demand investment from its viewers, and if you are not prepared to give the alert attention required you may be lost along the way.

In the House of Flies 2

One of the most pleasant highlights of the film is the excellent score and soundtrack. There is a screamingly obvious influence from last year’s Drive in the way the music is staged and used in the film, and the song choices follow those of Drive in tone and influence. That said Drive had one of the best soundtracks of the last decade so if you are going to use an influence like this, why not the best? The songs used are killer and would make an excellent companion to the Drive soundtrack on any MP3 player. Sadly I believe the filmmakers missed a great opportunity in not making the soundtrack available to the public after the screening, or if it was it wasn’t advertised strongly enough.

Is In the House of Flies the film that we have been waiting for to launch the ‘new wave’ of Canadian Horror and the careers of people like Carrer? Perhaps it will be, but it’s more than likely another stepping stone to get towards that goal. In the House of Flies is more likely to go down as a film that shows a burgeoning talent make giant steps towards the film that will eventually break him to the world. Either way In the House of Flies is a recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Little Terrors 9 – Altered Reality Review at the Projection Booth in Toronto (Kirk Haviland)

Little Terrors 9 – Altered Reality

May 12th 2012, Projection Booth, Toronto

For the ninth edition of Justin McConnell’s Little Terrors series, Justin had a much harder time getting the night of genre shorts to the screen. Justin had some issues with clearance and ratings from the Film Board that needed to be sorted out before they could continue along. Once all the issues had been settled and the announcements made I very happily made the familiar jaunt down to the Projection Booth for the programme, on a rare Saturday night this time out, but I was still able to meet up with and converse with all the regulars. Also, fellow blogger over at The Horror Section, Jay Clarke, was going to debut his short ‘Orange’ this evening as well. Supporting another blogger’s project was a another great reason to attend.

Justin managed to put together another great programme this evening. The standouts were the Ryan Levin penned, from Some Guy Who Kills People fame, T is for Tantrum, a hilariously demented tale of a boy losing his first tooth. Walter is a tale of a possibly deluded (or maybe not) young man who believes he is the 3rd son of god sent to earth, his job to decide the fate of everyone he meets. In Chambers is a brilliantly shot, atmospheric little mystery from Norway that features some great performances and one hell of an ending. Jay Clarke’s Orange is a fun little piece featuring real-life couple Jeff Sinasac (from previous Little Terrors short Skhiz) and Tonya Dodds as people who meet on a park bench, but is it a harmless encounter or something else? And the great Zomblies from the UK, where the UK has been divided Escape from New York style after a Zombie infestation and a military squadron sent behind the wall. Most of the squad believes they are there only to rescue another group who lost contact behind the wall, but others are on a secret mission as well. Featuring some great chase sequences and homages to films like The Great Escape, Zomblies was a great capper to the evening.

After the programme finished Justin informed us that he will be bringing back the short Familiar (from the Fright Nights Battle Royale presentation, review here) for the first selection of Little Terrors 10 next month. This is a great opportunity to see the incomparable Robert Nolan in action, so please do yourself a favor and don’t miss it. Little Terrors 10 is scheduled for June 19th, back to Tuesdays, for all information updates on the lineup make sure to follow the Little Terrors page on Facebook.

After the films a group of us headed out to the pub for a lively discussion on many topics including the night’s festivities. A good time was had by all, and I’m sure next month we will all have a great time again.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

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Fright Nights (Toronto) – Viscera Short Film Festival Coverage (Kirk Haviland)

Fright Nights at the Projection Booth

Viscera Short Film Festival, May 15th 2012

For Kelly Stewart’s May presentation of Fright Nights at the Projection Booth in Toronto he decided to do something different. Hooking up with Curio Media and Director/Producer Karen Lam, Kelly was able to bring the Viscera Film Festival to Canada for the first time ever! Viscera is a traveling festival of short genre based films directed by women that was created to inspire and forward the amount of women involved in genre filmmaking. To top it off, Kelly managed to pull together a three-woman panel of directors for a Q&A/panel discussion after the film as well. This panel included Lam herself, whose short Doll Parts was showing, Dara Jade Moats whose short Adventure Girls 3 was also showing, and Jovanka Vuckovic, a local filmmaker who is in the midst of directing her first feature. A truly lively and knowledgeable panel indeed.

The standouts of the programme included Moat’s Adventure Girls 3, at only a minute it really leaves you thirsting for more, and stealing dialogue directly from Sailor Moon was ingenious (see it here). Lam’s Doll Parts is a great little twist on the serial killer genre in which the protagonist gets his comeuppance, a short I had already seen and enjoyed at last year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD). Nursery Crimes is a brilliant little stop-motion re-imagining of the story of Little Bo Peep and many other Nursery Rhymes that was an award winner at TAD last year, where I saw it as well. Blood Bunny was a hilarious take on a stylized grindhouse era movie trailer that works extremely well and is quite ingenious (see it here). 12/15/1996 features a road trip between 2 characters, Adam and Quentin, where one is covered in blood and they keep referring to the “business” in the trunk. A fun homage to filmmakers like Tarantino. And The Party’s Over, a cautionary tale of a drunken one-night stand with serious repercussions.

After the screening we were treated to a lively Q&A that ran a full half-hour in which I personally gained a whole lot of respect for the women filmmakers on the panel and the jobs they are doing. Lam, Moats and Vuckovic were all very open and unguarded with their answers and even provided many helpful tips to some budding filmmakers in attendance. They also stuck around for another half an hour after the panel to talk directly with the attendees in the theater and lobby. A great night out was had by many in attendance.

Next Month Kelly returns with the TAD crowd pleasing hit Father’s Day (review here) from filmmaking conglomerate Astron 6. The film will be preceded by some of the Astron 6 group’s most infamous shorts and features a Q&A with lead actress Amy Groening. This film is disturbing, graphically violent, repulsive and downright hilarious. If you missed it at TAD, DO NOT MISS it at Fright Nights. Father’s Day plays on June 9th.

Till Next Time.

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

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Little Terrors Volume 8, Hidden Worlds Review – The Projection Booth in Toronto (Kirk Haviland)

Little Terrors 8 – Hidden Worlds, March 6th 2012, at the Projection Booth in Toronto

Hosted and Curated by Justin McConnell

Hello All,

I promised a while back I would be talking about this series that Justin McConnell hosts (in the Goon review) and here I am finally following up and keeping my word. Little Terrors is a monthly collection of Genre based short films from around the world put together in a themed event by Justin. This month’s entries rallied around the concept of “Hidden Worlds” and all the things that may entail.

Good Morning, Beautiful

Starring David Tufford and Catherine Campion

Written and Directed by Todd Cobery

Good Morning, Beautiful centers around a couple (Tufford and Campion) who has just lost their newborn baby. The events of the loss are told through a masterful opening credits montage that reminds me of the emotional heft of Pixar’s Up “Death of Ellie” sequence. But things take a much darker turn as the grief and lack of sleep suffered by Dave is taking him further into a delusional state where reality starts to blur. Strong performances from the leads carry this story with solid direction from Mr. Cobery. A festival fave, this is one to look out for.

Crabs in the Dollhouse

Narrated by Annika Schlesinger

Written and Directed by Carrie Juenger

Next up is the most surreal and avant-garde piece of the evening. Is it an allegory for murder/suicide? A take on Cannibalism?  Random crabs dumped in blood puddles for no apparent reason? Whatever it may be, it was the most discussed and debated movie of the evening and had many more questions than answers at the end. So, in those regards it’s a complete success, but it leaves me completely incapable of summarizing it for you here. You’ll need to see it for yourself to decide.

Within

Starring Raizelle Aspilla

Written by Adam Kenneth Wilson

Directed by Raha Shirazi

After that we get Within, a short film entirely based on mood and atmosphere. The audience is seeing the context from a lady who is apparently been in a struggle, as we see evidence on this all around, and  we follow her until we are interrupted by something unexpected which reveals the entire scene to be more than what it seems. While I can admire and appreciate the style and craftsmanship that went in to this, unfortunately the “payoff” does not work for me in the context of the short. However, it does have excellent technical work, and a very captivating lead performance.

Prick

Starring Ian Batt and Sarah Mitich

Written and Directed by Colin Berry

What can I say about Prick. It won me over with its visual flair and technical wizardry when I saw it back at TAD in October and was really looking forward to seeing it again. It’s a day in the life of a very disturbed man, a serial killer by trade. When something enters his world that has meaning, we see how it changes his perceptions and motivations to protect it. Excellent lead performance from Batt in this and a repeat viewing does nothing to diminish the film’s impact. Highly recommended and I will be keeping tabs on what Mr. Berry may be up to in the future, and Mr. Batt as well.

Cold Sore

Starring Saskia Burmeister and Henry Nixon

Written and Directed by Matt Bird

After a short intermission, in which Crabs in a Dollhouse was a major topic of discussion, we resumed the program with Aussie import Cold Sore. Jenna (Burmeister) sits alone in a club, apparently stood up on a date. Guy (Nixon) see this and moves in to strike a conversation, also claiming to have been stood up. The two hit it off. As the end of the night draws near, Jenna invites Guy over to her place, he unfortunately has to decline, but takes a rain check. The next morning Jenna notices a cold sore on her lip has formed. What type of person is Guy? What type of person is Jenna for that matter? Solid script and acting highlight another Festival Fave on the bill. Interesting twist on the one night stand scenario doesn’t really surprise or break new ground, but it is an effective entry.

Prey

Starring Casey Clark and Marla Johansson

Written and Directed by Adam Mason

From back in 2003 we get our next short, Prey. Spun off from true events, we get a creepy firsthand account from John ‘Bub’ Morris as he stalks his prey, all told through narration, and his prey happens to be women. We see and hear his thoughts through stills and moving pictures as he stalks and kills one of his recent prey. An effective film that shows the potential Mason would see come to fruition years later in his highly underrated feature film, Devil’s Chair.

Based on the horrific true life exploits of Alaska’s most notorious serial killer Robert Hanson.

Skhiz

Starring Jeff Sinasac

Written and Directed by Krzysztof Pospieszynski

Our second to last short featured our cast attendee of the evening as Jeff Sinasac was on hand to provide some feedback and answer a question or two after the screening. Both funny and disturbing and the same time, Skhiz is the only “living” member of a Zombie infested world who has grown so lonely and deluded that he uses former townsfolk, now zombified, to reenact daily conversations and activities. Eventually the townsfolk literally “start talking” as we see them through Skhiz’s perceptions. Ultra low budget production gets point for creativity and an effective lead performance.

Opstandelsen

Starring Roxanne Tirkov, Mads Althoff and Jonas Bjorn-Andersen

Written and Directed by Casper Haugegaard

Clocking in at 50 minutes, Opstandelsen (Resurrected) is somewhere between feature and short. It closes off our evening with a tale of zombie apocalypse set in the underbelly of a Danish church. Three siblings are trapped in the basement of said church after zombies crash the funeral of their other sibling, Simon. Ruth (Tirkov), Peter (Althoff), and Johannes (Bjorn-Anderson) must find a way out of the labyrinth like surroundings in hopes of escaping from the zombie horde, which now includes their own family, all while finding a way to get over their own squabbling and fighting. The tension in Opstandelsen doesn’t let up, and at 50 minutes it has very little “padding” in the script, just action. The leads do an amiable job, managing to keep you engaged throughout. The setting is inspired, even though the “basement” is completely out of proportion with the rest of the building, seemingly going on forever in parts. Some interesting character choices and a bleak ending solidify the film and make it all the more satisfying in the end. Opstandelsen manages to elevate itself from a lot of the zombie crowd, which is filled with so much crap, and produce an effective thrill ride.

So that’s a wrap on Little Terrors 8 – Hidden Worlds. Justin McConnell has done another excellent job in finding and curating some of the most interesting short films around. I would urge any aspiring filmmakers and just fans of film to get out to the next Little Terrors in April. It’s always a fun night and you get to see what else is out there from the rest of the world genre-wise. Follow Little Terrors on Facebook to keep up to date with the next lineup and screening date announcements.

Til Next Time

Movie Junkie TO aka Kirk Haviland

follow me on Twitter @moviejunkieTO

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Battle Royale – Fright Nights at the Projection Booth in Toronto (Kirk Haviland)

Fright Nights at the Projection Booth hosted by Kelly Stewart

March 2nd 2012

Familiar (2012)
Starring Robert Nolan, Astrida Auza and  Cathryn Hostick
Written and Directed by Richard Powell

Battle Royale (2000)
Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Chiaki Kuriyama and Takeshi Kitano.
Written by Kenta Fukasaku based on the novel by Koushun Takami
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku

Hello Folks,

Once again I get to talk to you about the fantastic series from the Projection Booth known as Fright Nights. Kelly outdid himself this time by landing the first “official” Toronto screening of Battle Royale for this month’s outing. This happily affords me the opportunity to talk about one of my all time favorite movies. It was preceded by a world premiere of the new Fatal Pictures production Familiar. I was unfortunately running late for the screening and missed the mass of humanity socializing prior to the screening as this was a highly anticipated and heavily attended event. I did however get to sneak in while Kelly did his intro at the front of the cinema, in front of a giant Battle Royale symbol on the screen no less.

The night started off with the psycological thriller Familiar. John Dodd (Nolan) is a troubled man. He is plagued by thoughts of dissatisfaction and murderous impulses directed towards his family while he counts down the days till his daughter departs for college and he can finally just leave. Slowly we become aware that the inner monlogue may be more than just John’s inner rumblings as events occur which will prohibit his plans of escape. The inner struggle continues to a grisly conclusion.  A strong cast keeps you enthralled throughout the entire film, and Nolan’s performance in particular is mesmerizing. During the Q&A after the movies, director Powell mentioned he’s looking towards a feature of one of his other films starring Nolan “Worm” as Fatal Pictures next production. Things are definitely looking bright for the future of Fatal Pictures.

And now our glorious feature presentation.

I should provide some of my history with this film. It starts with me scouring Chinese owned video stores in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, as this is where I was living at the time. After much searching I found a VCD copy (basically a VHS quality copy on disc), but even that could not dampen my excitement. After watching the movie for the first time, I immediately watched it again. It was like nothing I had ever seen. Over the years I have owned different versions of this film at least 8 times, with Anchor Bay’s upcoming set due to be my 2nd copy on Blu Ray and 9th overall. Yes I love this film that much.

For those non-indoctrinated few let me summarize the film for you. Japan’s society is crumbling due to overpopulation, youth gang violence and overall apathy. The government devises a plan to both keep the population and youth in check and this is the BR ACT. The BR ACT states that once a year a class of students is selected to participate in Battle Royale, a ” fight to the finish” where only one may survive to be declared the victor. This is the environment this year’s “winners” are placed in as they are drugged on the way to their senior class trip, only go wake up surrounded by soldiers with strange new necklaces on. Our protagonists are Shuya Nanahara, whose best friend Nobu once attacked a former teacher which leads to a early exit from the game. And then there is Noriko Nakagawa, desperately infatuated with Shuya, and the object of Nobu’s affections. This leads to Shuya vowing to protect Noriko throughout the game out of his loyalty to Nobu. As loyalties break and deception rules, Noriko and Shuya stay true to each other and their hope that their new friend Kawada is right when he says he can get them all out alive.

Going into any more detail would be giving away too much. Needless to say, finally seeing this on the big screen with a crowd was a special treat. After 20 times, seeing this on the big screen for the first time I saw certain things I had never seen before for the first time. Man I love this movie. I will be one of the first in line for the Blu Ray set on the 20th.

On a quick side note, those who may be familiar with the story behind this year’s high profile release of the Hunger Games movie will notice obvious similarities. Keep in mind that Battle Royale’s origins lie a full decade prior to Suzanne Collins’ novels. Yet despite Battle Royale’s heavy influence in the creating of the Hunger Games, Collins’ was smart in infusing her story with aspects different than Takami’s vision.

Next month Kelly is presenting Monster Brawl for the first time in a Toronto theater since the Toronto After Dark Film Festival back in October, 2011. I have it on good authority that the director Jesse T. Cook will be present along with some of the Cast and Crew. So come out for some monster fighting fun and stick around to talk with the Junkie aka me!

Til Next Time

Movie Junkie TO
follow me on twitter @moviejunkieto
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