October 21, 2012

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012 - Part 1

The Toronto After Dark Film Festival has become a favourite for many of us in the city. It brings us nine days of horror, sci-fi, action, and cult films from around the world.

The opening film this year, Grabbers, is a monster comedy straight out of Ireland. Set in a small village on Erin Island, local police must help save the locals from alien 'grabbers.' These aliens arrive during a storm and are looking for a place to reproduce near water, and what better location than on an island! Local police officer and functional alcoholic Ciarán O'Shea (Richard Coyle) must partner up with big-city police officer Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) in order to save the town from these blood hungry monsters. Unbeknownst to these two, local drunkard Paddy Barrett (Lalor Roddy) has brought one of the monsters home. This is where things get creepy, funny, and everything in between. In order to save the town, O'Shea & Nolan manage to get all the locals to gather at the town's only pub. Having figured out these blood-sucking aliens are allergic to human blood intoxicated by alcohol only means one thing, "bottoms up everyone!" This makes for a very interesting way to battle these 'suckers.'

There is a bar scene reminiscent to that of Gremlins, which some of us who like that film, truly appreciate. With a great cast and some memorable scenes, writer Kevin Lehane and director Jon Wright have managed to make a film that will have you 'in stitches' from laughter yet cringing at the prospect of being zapped by tentacled, blood-sucking aliens. Filled with great Irish humour, some great one-liners, and of course tentacled monsters, Grabbers makes for a very fun, and entertaining film.

Crave is the directorial debut by by Charles de Lauzirika,well-known for his work on the restorations and new cuts of films, such as Alien 3, Legend and Blade Runner: The Final Cut. In Crave, thirty-something Aiden (Josh Lawson), a crime scene photographer, is living a much darker existence than he appears. His friendship with a sarcastic yet helpful detective (Ron Pearlman) seems to be his only relationship at this point. With some luck, Aiden becomes involved with Virginia (Emma Lung), whom he sees as 'perfect,' and who also happens to live in his building.

Over time, Aiden becomes more and more frustrated by the many crimes and death scenes he photographs. He soon starts fantasizing of ways in which he could right so many wrongs. In a running commentary, we are able to hear Aiden's thoughts and experience his inner turmoil as he begins to blur reality with fantasy. Things with Virginia also become murky and as much as we may want things to work out between these two, we know from Aiden's actions, this may not be so. We follow Aiden's descent only hoping he may crawl out of it unscathed. Crave is dark with some wonderful camera work and as a first-time feature, definitely worth a look.

Paco Plaza, a member of the duo behind [REC] and [REC]2, bring us the third installment in [REC]3: Génesis. This time, we are transplanted into a very lavish wedding reception. Koldo and Clara seem are the perfect match with the perfect wedding. The setting is an old villa filled with family and friends, while three cameras (one professional, two amateur) capture the celebration. The film is not a continuation of the previous two but it certainly follows the theme of an outbreak, which leads to infected guests becoming some very dangerous predators. Separated in the mayhem, Koldo and Clara vow to find each other no matter what the risk. Thus, the bloody chase ensues.

With some references to the first film, we are plunged into a story that at times feels disjointed. Nonetheless, there is plenty of blood and a chainsaw toting bride to keep us interested.  References to Catholicism keep the themes in line. For those wishing to see a film similar to the first two, this version will not satisfy. However, [REC]3: Génesis certainly stands alone as a horror film. Génesis is the set up for [REC]: Apocalypse, which may pick up on this story and take it further away from the original two. Or perhaps it will connect all four... we'll have to wait and see!

There are other After Dark film reviews coming, so please stay tuned! Time for me to go get some sleep...

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