Toronto After Dark Film Fest Reviews, Part II: Inner Demons, Outer Demons, and Human Demons

Demons all the way down.

Before I forget, check out Toronto After Dark‘s homepage to sign up for their updates and keep abreast of after darkingness.

King Knight (USA) – Okay so this director also did Trash Fire and Suburban Gothic, which I enjoyed, so I was very keen to see this one AND IT IS GOOD, HOWEVER, it was also the film that gave me the most trouble watching it because of the sound mixing. Maybe it would have been hella good in theatres! However, on my TV at home, it’s… pretty bad. Usually my TV needs to be set around 5-15 to hear dialogue but not have my ears blown off when a musical sting happens. King Knight had to be cranked to 50 for dialogue. And then de-cranked in a rush. Having the option for subtitles rules, people. Subtitles fucking rule.

That being said, I would love to watch this one again with friends (once subtitles are A Thing), because this movie really is very funny and the actors have great physical comedy presence and knowing what the word-jokes are would make it even better!

King Knight has a pagan leader-man with a dark past: he used to be a normie. Pearl-clutchingly normie! The natural enemy of the weirdo is the normie who was popular at school and won prom awards

[SIDE NOTE: I won a prom award, for Best Dressed, because I wore a chainmail bodice I made myself and at the time Lord of the Rings had recently come out and chainmail started its shameful decline from nerd couture to mainstream accessory.]

and how dare such a person be fit to run a counterculture coven. Also there are animated sequences and a delightful conversation between a rock and a pinecone (Team Rock vs Team Pinecone). Anyway the movie is very very funny and nerds will delight in it.

Nightshooters (UK) – A guerilla film crew shooting a zombie action flick in a soon-to-be demolished building of unknown quality witness a mob doing a murder and unfortunately the mob also witnesses the film crew doing a witness. Action film ensues! This ended up being one of my favourite films, which I was not expecting, as action flicks I generally consider fine but not something I tend to remember fondly. It’s a very fun cast, all of whom you care about, and was surprisingly touching, which I also was not expecting from an action movie. (Even more delightful hearing a bit about it from the director pre-show about how the knife fight scene had to be practiced with the actors in separate locations because of timing issues. Dang!) With villains you love to hate and heroes you love to love, plus some very fun action sequences, this is one that would be super to throw on for a group of friends. It’s lovable.

Ditched (Canada) – I… wanted to like this movie more than I did. I really wanted to like it! It has an Inuit actress (Marika Sila) as the lead, and being Inuit has nothing to do with anything plot-related, and rape has nothing to do with her character, and that is amazing! It is fucking amazing! I am very into that! This was just a genre of horror that I am not super into (survivalist siege slasher type) and that is on me, not the film. I don’t dig the villain doing an exposition while the survivors take advantage of the monologue to prepare their next offense. It just doesn’t hold my interest. If, however, you are into claustrophobic siege conditions with shock-style slasher murder, by all means support Canadian cinema (and giving Indigenous people top billing) and give Ditched a go.

Seobok (South Korea) – South Korea has brought fantastic films to After Dark for years (The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale, Train to Busan, to name just a couple), and in case you haven’t noticed but South Korea tends to deliver phenomenal cinema and TV in general (Squid Games, anyone?), so Seobok is… fine. It’s fine! It just doesn’t blow my skirts up the way Odd Family or Train did. Which is fine! Can’t all be bangers. It’s perfectly acceptable as a film. A young man is vat-grown at an astonishing rate and he has super powers which evil people want to abuse and it’s up to a heart-of-gold (but tumour-of-brain) ex-company man to keep him safe. I think my main quibble is that I didn’t quite buy the developing relationship between the two leads. The plot felt fairly rote. It was a safe film. Sometimes you just want popcorn and safety. It’s fine.

The Free Fall (USA) – I haven’t the faintest idea how the title ties into the movie.

I felt a major dissonance throughout the entire film. The two supporting characters (The Maid and the Mystery Man) and the interior shots seem to exist in a different movie from the two leads (Husband and Amnesiac Woman) and the exterior shots. They just don’t gel together. Maid and Mystery Man would be perfect in a gothic slow burn from the 70’s (Messiah of Evil, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, Burnt Offerings), whereas Husband and Amnesiac Woman seem to be a couple decades removed. Likewise, the interior of the mansion is properly foreboding and dingy and suggests it’s far removed from society, but the exterior seems to place it in a posh suburban neighbourhood – large lawns, certainly, but you could wave through the windows at the neighbours and not need binoculars to spy. I spent the movie wishing Amnesiac Woman was played by Man of La Mancha-era Sofia Loren, smoking pensively as she stares out a window to a distant dot of light signifying the nearest neighbour, with Husband played by Raul Julia (circa pretty much any era) smouldering at his typewriter. I don’t think the twist is terribly shocking – I spent most of the movie figuratively pounding my fists on the counter while (literally) chanting “demon demon demon demon” – I just wish everyone smoked and smoldered while the movie ran its course, firmly seated in the 70’s with gratuitous moaning, a never-ending chain of cigarettes, and half-lidded stares across a lawn that is never watered and left to die.

Super Z (France) – I made it 10 minutes before leaving my better half to watch by himself. This movie absolutely knows what it’s doing and what it’s aiming to achieve and it careens headlong into doing so, and good on it, you do you, freaky zombie movie. Like Ditched, it’s just not a genre that I enjoy. But! Would you like to see nasty dirty foul-mouthed dicks-ahoy chomp chew Theatre of Cruelty-esque clowntype zombies do… well, all of the above? Oh man is Super Z going to make you happy.

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break (UK) – Who among us has never had a day where everything goes poorly and destroys your only hope of future happiness? Who among us has never wished vengeance on those who wronged us while buoyed by a sea of condoning acolytes wishing you the very best? Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break, while set in the now of influencer stardom, feels like you’re watching a hazy recollection through a smudged lens as our anti/hero bumbles through his attempts to Get Seen and become a star. I was worried he’d become a 2019 Joker type whose probable victory would turn the movie to ashes in my mouth, but in truth Deadly Lunch Break is a much softer movie than that. Do people die? Well, yes. But not quite as deliberately as intended. It’s a pleasant watch with a wonderful ensemble cast.

Ta-da! Movies reviewed (to a greater or lesser extent). As with every After Dark, it’s a mixed bag for me, and thank goodness for that. Any movie, feature length or short, is a stunning thing to pull off, more so to even get an audience, and the odds of everything pleasing everyone is a laughably foolish pursuit. I’ve no doubt that anything that left me lukewarm means it’s going to leave someone else frothing at the mouth about how brilliant it is and what an utter boob I am to think elsewise. So if you have a different opinion: don’t tell me, tell the people who made the thing you love how much you loved it. (And don’t tell them to read about how much I personally didn’t like their thing, this is not beef that needs seasoning.) I do not have a cool ending catchphrase like TADFF’s “See you after dark,” so. Ta-da. Movies reviewed!

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