Top 5 Must-See Films at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2013

We Are What We Are, 2013, Jim Mickle

Personally, October is one of my busiest and craziest months, but it’s also one of my favourites because it’s when I get to enjoy nine full days of horror and scares at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. The festival is in its eighth year and I think it has the potential to be one of the creepiest and weirdest, and I mean that in the best possible way. Tickets are now on sale for the festival which runs from October 17-25, and to cut to the chase, here are my top five selections, sight unseen, in chronological order.

Thursday, October 17 – 7 p.m. — We Are What We Are – Jim Mickle, USA
It goes without saying that this is one of my most anticipated films of the festival. Director Jim Mickle won the Midnight Madness award in 2010 for his zombie apocalypse film Stakeland, and his highly anticipated follow-up We Are What We Are has screened at both Sundance and Cannes this year. The trailer paints a picture of a grieving widower and his two daughters trying to hold tight to their traditions after the death of his wife. The only trouble is that one of their ‘traditions’ includes the eating of human flesh, and their neighbours are getting close to uncovering this dark truth. This absolutely looks like it could be the best opening night film in Toronto After Dark’s history so far, it’d be a shame to miss it.

Friday, October 18 – 9:30 p.m. — Eega,S.S. Rajamouli, J.V.V. Sathyanarayana, India
This film was brought to my attention by programmer Peter Kuplowsky and after I saw the trailer, I knew I absolutely had to move heaven and earth to see this film. It’s an absolutely insane tale about a man reincarnated as a vengeful (and surprisingly capable) HOUSEFLY, hell-bent on destroying the crime lord who murdered him. Have you ever seen an Indian fantasy-comedy-horror film before? No? Do you want to? Then this film is for you! This completely bizarre film has turned into a global blockbuster that has won a bevy of awards.

Sunday, October 20 – 4:15 p.m. Silent Retreat, Tricia Lee, Canada
What can be scarier than silence? One of the most acclaimed (and one of my personal favourites) episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is “Hush”, an episode where the Scooby Gang is rendered silent due to some creepy, suit-clad men in town, and it emphasized the role of silence in a good horror story. Having only seen the trailer, I’m not sure if Silent Retreat uses a similar aesthetic, but it sounds about right. The film follows Janey, a teen sent to a 10-day silent meditation retreat as a form of behavioural rehabilitation, who discovers that the men running the retreat are interested in keeping women quiet and submissive for their own horrifying means. I’m super interested in this film because Silent Retreat is a low-budget (less than $30k to make) but high-concept world-premiere by first-time filmmaker, Torontonian Tricia Lee, and it’s always fantastic to support a local director, especially one with something so unique. Get your tickets NOW.

Monday, October 21, 7 p.m. – Odd Thomas, Stephen Sommers, USA
One of the higher budget films in the festival, Odd Thomas is an odd film. Based on a Dean Koontz novel of the same name, Star Trek‘s Chekov, Anton Yelchin stars as the titular character, a short-order cook who has the mysterious skill to see supernatural occurrences. It all seems like fun and games as he tries to solve crimes, but that’s until he taps into some seriously scary premonitions that threaten to destroy him and his town. It’s a popular book series that could’ve spelled a series of films for Yelchin, but according to Wikipedia, this film probably won’t ever see wide-release due to the lawsuits surrounding two of the production companies. It’s a shame, but at least you can see the film at Toronto After Dark!

Wednesday, October 23 – 7 p.m. Found, Scott Schirmer, USA
I don’t remember the last time a trailer gave me shivers, but the one for Found sure did. Narrated through the eyes of a bullied 10 year-old Marty, we watch his horrified realization that his older brother Steve is a terrifying and detached serial-killer. As Marty desperately tries to survive through the fifth-grade with all the torment that children go through, he also attempts to connect to his brother, as a way of self-preservation and to keep his entire family from being destroyed. It’s screening on “Gory night” and the trailer promises multiple decapitations, full-frontal killing sprees and a lot of blood, but the tone of the trailer also seems heartbreakingly sad, so I was completely terrified and transfixed by the end. Definitely make an effort to see this film, it’s yet another low-budget film that may just surprise you.

*Warning, this trailer is seriously disturbing.

Also recommended?

  • Solo, about a camp counselor terrorized on an overnight stay on an island.
  • The Battery looks like a ridiculous take on the zombie buddy-dark-comedy-roadtrip flick.
  • Last Days on Mars because I love sci-fi and Liev Schreiber is my homeboy.

The Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs from October 17-25 at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto. Tickets cost $13 individually or $10 if you buy a multipack of 2 or more films, and you can also get Cineplex Scene points with your purchase. You can follow the festival on Twitter, Facebook or at TorontoAfterDark.com. Learn about ticketing packages and visit Cineplex to buy tickets directly.

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