Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Phobia 2 and All About Evil

I went to the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TADFF) last night. By myself. I know, I know. What is a self-confessed scardy cat doing at TADFF by herself? Well, I’m not one to hold back on going somewhere just because my friends have other plans. Besides, no one is ever really alone at TADFF; there’s a theatre full of horror/cult/zombie fans to share the experience with you. If a film is scary, there is someone there to jump with you. I’m always surprised that however scared I am, there is always a couple of people squeaking and jumping when I am calm. And, when I do squeak and jump, others are with me, too.

PHOBIA 2Having said all that, I must say, though, that I was nervous about seeing the Thai film, Phobia 2. I can’t take really intense horror, and I had no idea where Phobia 2 fell on the scare-ometre. I hadn’t seen Phobia!, so I had no frame of reference. The film is also made up of five short films, each of which could be any range of scary. I decide to skip the popcorn (didn’t want to choke or get queasy from eating grease on a tense stomach), and opt for lemon-ginger tea (to be sipped only in moments of dialogue to avoid burns).

Thank you TADFF for programming a variety of films to meet the needs of genre audiences. Phobia 2 was just right for scardy cats like me who like a good scare without too much gore and violence. The first of the five stories (Novice) is a morality tale involving a recalcitrant teen in a Buddhist retreat dealing with guilt and the legend of the Hungry Ghosts. The scares in this one comes from very atmospheric music and scenes in a tropical forest at night. Ward was both scary and funny as we see the effects upon a young accident victim who has to share his hospital room with an old man on life support who may or may not be moving. I loved the way that one ended. In Backpackers, two Japanese tourists in Thailand encounter so much more than they bargained for when they hitch a ride with a trucker, his partner, and their cargo. I really enjoyed the way modern elements are included in this story to give the subplot some basis in reality. In Salvage, a woman who deals in restoring and passing off wrecks as “quality” vehicles gets her comeuppance in a horrifying and heartbreaking way. Creepy moments in this film comes from the fact that she is "alone" at night at the dealership. In the End is a much needed palate cleanser of comedy, providing plenty of laughs with life imitating art when a cast member’s ghost reappears on the film set to finish her final scene. This was my favourite of the five. Now that I have seen Phobia 2, I am going to look for Phobia! on DVD and have a marathon of the two films. Maybe I’ll throw in the filmmakers other film, Alone and challenge myself further by watching them on a dark and stormy night.

I knew I’d be okay on my own for All About Evil because it was listed as “cult horror black comedy” and I’m good with those; horror comedies are my faves. The film is about a mousy librarian, Deborah, (played by Natasha Lyonne)who gives it all up to carry on her dead father’s dream of packing an old movie house every night. Deborah (rhymes with Gomorrah) Tennis (rhymes with Denise) fulfills her father’s dream by directing and starring in her own brand of cinema verité horror shorts with titles such as The Maiming of the Shrew and The Scarlet Leper (she is, after all, a librarian). Drunk with her own success, and channeling the voice of a 1940’s bombshell, Deborah’s films become progressively disturbing as her audience builds and her celebrity status grows. Assisted by an assortment of like-minded crewmembers (a pair of icy, insane twins, a sociopath and a besotted aging projectionist), Deborah thinks she is unstoppable until her most faithful fan realizes just how real her films are. But, will he be able to bring her deeds to light before its curtains for him? The film does drag a bit in the beginning, but spurting blood, drag queens, teen queens, cinematic lust (and some great designed-for-the-film movie posters) makes this cult horror comedy an over the top treat.

What are you doing After Dark?
See what else is showing at TADF:
Tickets: $13 more for galas

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