Toronto After Dark, or TAD as it’s become affectionately known, is taking over Bloor Cinema once more to excite audiences with epic feats of violence; make them cower in their seats from horrific monsters; and induce nausea via gore that often defies description.

After some unforeseen technical delays that kept fans on the edge of their seats refreshing their Internet browsers for updates, TAD finally rolled out its entire festival line-up in one grand revelation. And the fifth annual instalment provides little cause for disappointment, as genre fans have their choice of Japanese splatter, cult horror, bizarre villains, supernatural menaces and (of course) zombies.

Opening the festival is the international premiere, creature feature, The Last Lovecraft. The monster comedy centres on a group of social misfits that must battle an assortment of sea monsters trying to take over the Earth. Organizers describe the film as “a cross between Shaun of the Dead and Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer – those are fairly large boots to fill, but done successfully would make a worthy inauguration.

The next day is the much-anticipated Zombie Appreciation Night, during which the “undead” receive special ticket prices for the night’s features. First on the bill is the British Doghouse, in which a guys getaway goes awry when their vacation village turns out to be populated with infected, cannibalistic women. The film is directed by Jake West (Evil Aliens and Razor Blade Smile) and stars Danny Dyer (Severance), Noel Clarke (Doctor Who) and Stephen Graham (Snatch). The night ends with Evil in the Time of Heroes, which is a stand-alone sequel to Evil that features Billy Zane as an immortal Greek zombie slayer.

The British invasion continues with three more programmes. Centurion pits a handful of Roman soldiers that survived a vicious clash against the Picts, a savage Celtic tribe. To rescue their general, they must battle both the harsh environments and the merciless pursuit of a vengeful Pict warrior (Olga Kyrylenko, Quantum of Solace). Also stars Dominic West (300) and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds). In Heartless, Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess, Across the Universe) was born with a disfiguring birthmark across his face, leaving him an outcast in his rough East London neighbourhood. But when he comes across a gang of thugs, he is led to a Faustian deal that will see him become a part of the terrifying chaos around him. In Black Death, as medieval England is consumed by the black plague, a monastery is perturbed by reports of an isolated pagan village that remains untouched by the disease. Suspecting the work of witchcraft, a young monk (Eddie Redmayne) is ordered by his superiors to guide a detachment of mercenaries to beat God back into the pagan community. Led by Ulric (Sean Bean, Lord of the Rings), a famed and feared witch-hunter, the monk soon finds himself on a perilous journey that will test his faith and moral compass.

First-person point-of-views are all the rage these days, so producer Eli Roth (director of Cabin Fever and Hostel) is adding The Last Exorcism to the pot. Jaded preacher Cotton Marcus decides to document his last exorcism on camera to reveal the true sham nature of the business. Unfortunately for the priest, his visit to the Sweetzer family farm to treat their daughter Nell is nothing like anything he’s encountered before.

Continuing the scarefest are Cargo and Phobia 2. The former is a sci-fi thriller from Switzerland in which it’s the 23rd century and the Earth is uninhabitable. Laura, a young medic, has signed onto a cargo freighter for four years to earn her passage to Rhea, an idyllic planet slowly being colonized; but during her eight-month shift alone on watch, Laura discovers she and the small crew are not alone and whatever is hiding in the shadows is killing them off one by one. The latter is a sequel to TAD’s 2008 Audience Award second runner-up, showcasing an anthology of five horrific tales from five Thai directors.

Outrageous Japanese genre pictures are once again on the menu. Noboru Iguchi (The Machine Girl) will strange-up the screen with Robogeisha, about two sisters battling for the affection of a wealthy young industrialist. Training with his Geisha death squad, the sibling rivalry evolves along with their now mechanized flesh, sprouting machine guns, swords, and buzz saws from the most unlikely places. Japanese splatter guru Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police and Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl) steers the outlandish effects. Alien vs. Ninja is as the title suggests: a brood of xenomorphic aliens incurs the wrath of feuding, fashionable ninja clans.

Cult films are often an acquired taste, but they can also just be a lot of fun. In All About Evil, Deborah Tennis (Natasha Lyonne, Slums of Beverly Hills) always wanted to be a star, but is instead a frumpy librarian who inherits her father’s failing rep cinema. However, when she commits a vicious murder captured on the lobby’s security camera and projected onto the big screen, the small but loyal crowd believes the footage is a “gore worthy” short film that becomes a hit. Hungry to become a famous directress, Deborah and her crew of nefarious psycho-misfits begin to make more short films by including clueless audience members. Co-starring Noah Segan (Deadgirl and Someone’s Knocking at the Door), Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Cassandra Peterson a.k.a. “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.” In High School, when pot smokers Henry and Travis realize they’re going to fail the school’s new drug test, they decide the only way to avoid expulsion is to make the entire school high. But just when things seem to be going according to their devious plan, the town’s biggest nut-job, Psycho Ed (Adrien Brody), barges into the school looking for his stolen stash. The film also stars Michael Chiklis (The Shield), Colin Hanks (Orange County) and Yeardely Smith (the voice of Lisa on The Simpsons).

The festival’s closing night features a noteworthy double bill. Rubber is the story of an angry tire named Robert, which uses telekinesis to make things explode. If that doesn’t have you lining up at the box office, there’s nothing more to be said. The final film of this year’s event is The Human Cenitpede. Two American tourists with car trouble seek help at the house of Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser), a physician who specialized in separating Siamese twins but now wants to create a human centipede. The mad doctor sews the girls and a Japanese tourist together – butt-to-mouth – and marches them around his yard. Now, their only hope for escape is their ability to work together as a singular organism.

TAD continues its tradition of supporting the briefer genre pictures with “Shorts After Dark,” a programme of international short films, as well as “Canada After Dark,” which opens each feature with a home-grown mini-movie.

I Spit on Your Grave will also be screened as part of Toronto After Dark.

Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs August 13-20 at Bloor Cinema.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s