SHORTS AFTER DARK is a sampling of the year’s most inspired genre short films from around the world, part of the Toronto After Dark film festival.
It’s 9 nights of horror, sci-fi, action and cult movies, now celebrating it’s 10th year.
Where the programmed features such as Nina Forever, Tales of Halloween, Tag, The Demolisher, Deathgasm, The Hallow and much more make for a satisfying main course, the shorts that accompany each film provide for a wonderful appetizer. What follows is a look at a number of shorts playing this year After Dark.
El Bosque Negro (The Black Forest): Helmed by Paul Urkijo Alijo, this Spanish import is a lush and beautifully shot kinetic fantasy tale of a gallant but hubristic knight who ignores a peasant’s warning of certain death and enters a cursed forest to rescue a damsel in distress. He encounters all manner of crazy creatures that ensure his quest is a perilous one, finally coming face-to-face with a horrendous ogre. Fantastic creature effects and an ironic ending worthy of the grimmest of Grimm’s Fairy Tales make this a real standout.
El Gigante: From Luchagore Productions come this short which created a huge stir when it showed at Fantasia this past summer. Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero and Luke Bramley, this is an unbelievably visceral tale of a Mexican attempting to make his way into the US. He leaves his family behind, only to awaken bruised and bloodied in a makeshift wrestling ring with electrified ring ropes; a burlap Luchadore-type mask sewn into his neck. There, he’s forced to wrestle the hulking El Gigante! What follows is carnage unbridled with a darkly humorous ending. Incredible and unmissable!
Nihil: An architect Adina, about to leave work, gets on an elevator, which takes her to an underworld of enchantment, then terror. Gorgeous hand-drawn 2D digital and apparently no rotoscoping whatsoever (which sounds like something you’d need to prepare for by not eating for 24 hours). Graduation Thesis Film by Sheridan College’s Khoebe Magsaysay.
The Champ: Marcus Milos Ian Fabian presents a film that cleverly juxtaposes a boxer preparing for a championship bout with an inmate on death row. Poignant and metaphoric, The Champ is just eight-minutes long, but leaves a lasting impression.
Awesome Runaway!!: Fantasy and reality collide in this action-packed short by Caledonian Benjamin De Los Santos. As it begins, a man is tied to a chair, beaten and bloodied while a man in a white suit tries to coerce him to speak. He orders his goons to inject the captive with a type of serum which has the affect of giving the prisoner increased strength, agility, and even a supposed super-power or two. Some incredibly well-choreographed martial arts follow before the curtain is pulled back and the wizard is revealed.
Chasing Death: Can Death be caught? A determined policeman thinks so and sets up a sting to capture the Grim Reaper. But Death isn’t about to come quietly, and a fun premise gives way to an unexpectedly touching ending. Good stuff from director Alex Mullen.
Manoman: Manoman is a short film made using a mixture of rod marionette puppets and computer. Nebbish Glen attends primal scream therapy, then has a wild hallucinatory night on the tube. Wildly unforgettable and dialogue-free. The film was an Official Selection BFI London Film Festival 2015
Dead Air: Rock N’ Roll is the Devil’s music, or so they say. It’s the last night of broadcasting for punk rock radio show Dead Baby Syrup. But any hopes for an uneventful curtain call are dashed when a fan brings by a record, which, when played, results in some unexpected and possibly satanic consequences. Lyndon Horsfall’s entertaining short features a Carpenter-esque synth score and Giallo inspired camerawork and lighting.
Let Me Down Easy: Adolescents are implored to “Banish the darkness of sin” in a small town religious cult. Wide-eyed Ada and the rest of the group are tempted and then sickened by sugary treats. They’re then tempted by other things. A Sempre Films production.
Fuck Buddies: Joseph and Ellie are roommates as well as “friends with benefits”. Then Ellie brings home someone else, and they start to question their arrangement. But there’s something malevolent (and fucking messed up!) in the apartment, forcing them to continue schtupping each other. What starts off as a risqué rom-com morphs into something more dark and sinister yet still sordidly hilarious. Definitely not one for the kiddies. Henonlotter-esque horror-comedy from director Nate Wilson.
Exordium: Unlike Nihil, this animated short was rotoscoped and calls to mind a more modern Ralph Bakshi. Deliciously gory, a group of warriors wage war against the gatekeeper of the Bloom, the only item that can save their people. The creation of Morgan Galen King’s Gorgonaut studios, Exordium wouldn’t appear out of place in a newer installment of Heavy Metal.
Boniato: Directed by The Meza Brothers and winner of Best Short Film at the Diabolique International Film Festival, Boniato begins as a sober tale of workers on a Latin American plantation and transmogrifies into a tense, unrelentingly gruesome piece of survival horror. Great cinematography and the best of a full-length packed into a lean and riveting 20 minutes.
I Am Coming to Paris to Kill You: An odd one from writer/director Seth Smith. A woman under the influence of a drug takes a family of bowlers in a camper van hostage in order to rescue a loved one. This one has a slight Tarantino vibe.
Portal to Hell!!!: The late, great Roddy Piper portrays Jack, an ex-boxer whose best days are behind him, now toiling as a superintendent in a building whose residents won’t give him a moment’s peace. When two elderly residents open a portal to R’lyeh in the basement and unleash the force of Cthulu, Jack is conscripted into the battle of his life against the Lovecraftian Great Old One. Featuring an indelible performance by Piper and incredible effects by Steven Kostanski, Portal to Hell!!! begs to be seen.
Hear our interview with Portal to Hell!!! director Vivieno Caldinelli and writer Matt Watts here.
IBOP (International Brotherhood of Pancakes): Absurd and surreal, this five-minute short by Erik McKenzie is fairly indescribable, but akin to a more sadistic Kids in the Hall sketch. That certainly not a bad thing.
Heir: Written and directed by Richard Powell, Heir features indie acting phenom Bill Oberst Jr.(Coyote) and Robert Nolan (Berkshire County). Deeply unsettling, Heir may superficially resemble a creature film, but is analogous of deeper, much more disturbing themes. In fact, Heir is so effective, it may polarize a large segment of the audience, but that’s what great art does. Oberst Jr. redefines “creepy,” and the film is bolstered by incredible effects courtesy of the boys from Canada’s The Butcher Shop.
The Guests: From Australia comes Shane Danielson’s The Guests. A new mother in a new home awaits the arrival of her husband. There’s a knock on the door, and it’s three guests who have been invited by her spouse to a housewarming party. Soon, the apartment is full of revelers with nary a husband to be found. Echoes of Rosemary’s Baby as well as last year’s TAD hit The Babadook in how it explores the psychological effects of parenting.
Myrna the Monster: An official selection at both SXSW and Sundance, Ian Samuels’ entry combines live action, puppetry and animation to tell the tale of Myrna, a lonely alien now trying to settle into young adult life in Los Angeles. The film expertly uses the odd-looking extra-terrestrial Myrna as a metaphor for social and societal isolation and awkwardness. Creative and touching, the film features the voice of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre Frontwoman Kathleen Hanna as Myrna.
The Orchard: Fans of the first season of True Detective will dig The Orchard from Darcy Van Poelgeest. Two former small-town cops are still affected by an unsolved murder case from years ago and attempt to pick up with their lives. But there’s more than just the case which threatens to bring either one or both of them down. Moody and atmospheric with some great cinematography.
Movies in Space: A sci-fi, comedy from writer/director Chris W. Smith, who also plays the lead role of Travis, an ambassador from future-day Earth who visits a planet to study The “Corplox” race: alien beings who have advanced to where we were in the early 21st century. Deftly satirizes the perils and pitfalls of fame. Kudos to actor Jack De Sena who portrays the entire alien race!
o negative: Almost completely devoid of dialogue, o negative from Steven McCarthy is a spare and unflinching look at addiction, desire, and the lengths we’ll go to care for the ones we love. Hauntingly beautiful with an evocative electro-score.
Out of the Mold: Sex and Mold! As a couple’s relationship deteriorates, the mold in their bathroom spreads, soon reaching horrific proportions. This Australian/Canadian co-production from Michel Moon features an ending not for the faint of heart. For more TAD related mold goodness, see Motivational Growth.
Point of View: After being hilariously berated by a security guard, a young mortician is stalked by a zombie every time she averts her eyes. Quick, fun stuff from director Justin Harding.
Sleep Monster: The worlds of dreams and reality collide with unfortunate consequences in this beautifully shot, hallucinatory horror from Michael Bryan.
This Home is Not Empty: Three and a half minutes. No dialogue. White construction-paper dioramas. Lingering and poetic. An experimental work of art by Carol Nguyen.
Home Sweet Home: Absolutely devastating stuff from Frederic Lefebvre. Ben is an elderly, retired man living a loving yet routine life with his wife. When he wakes up and discovers her missing, he enters a dark, hallucinatory labyrinth in a desperate search to rescue his partner, all the while being pursued by nightmarish creatures. The discovery he makes and what the labyrinth represents will break your heart.
From Out: Milo is a humanoid alien who has crash landed on Earth. The sole survivor of the wreckage, the apparently guileless extraterrestrial is apprehended and interrogated. But sometimes naiveté can belie something much more sinister. Deliberately paced yet ultimately chilling, From Out was written and directed by Zachary Kerrholden.
Vicious: A slow burn of cumulative fright, Vicious combines the psychological and the supernatural into something genuinely scary. Oliver Park tells the tale of Lydia, who’s still grieving the loss of her sister. She comes home, discovers her door unlocked, and then faces a harrowing night where she discovers she is certainly not alone. Sheer, unnerving terror in just twelve minutes.
See you After Dark!
(AND CHECK OUT THE REALLY AWFUL MOVIES TORONTO AFTER DARK PODCAST with CHRISTIAN BURGESS!)