Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Last days of The Toronto After Dark Film Festival: 2010

report by Jason Shayer

Toronto After Dark Film Festival - Days 7 & 8

Black Death is the tale of a monk who’s struggling with his role and joins a group of mercenaries appointed by the Bishop to investigate a village untouched by the plague which is ravaging the country. Their mission turns out to be more of a religious crusade with their true motivations being to reign in this village by any means necessary as it as turned away from God and Christianity.

The mercenaries are played by a solid cast of actors that capture your sympathy and allegiance. The film had some solid ideas, but it’s almost like it didn’t know what to do with them.

What Black Death does do quite well is highlight the insanity of religion and its terrifying powers in times of fear, ignorance, and superstition. The film also does an exceptional job at cultivating that feeling of dread and unease.

Unfortunately, despite the film’s originality and cleverness, it unraveled near the end and the story wrap-up/epilogue seemed to be a hasty add-on.


Rape scenes disturb me as they should everyone, but it really bothers me for some reason, I’m not sure exactly why. Perhaps I was a woman in a past life who had been scared by such a rape. Bottom line, I wasn’t looking forward to that part of the film knowing full well it was a remake of the 1970s version of the rape/revenge horror subgenre film.

To quote the director, Steven Monroe, I Spit On Your Grave is “disturbing and upsetting for the right reason.” Monroe wanted to get his hands on this film as soon as Family of the Year Productions picked up the rights. He bluntly told them he was the director to get this sequel done right and that he didn’t want anyone else screwing up this film like all the recent rash of remakes.

The film is a straight-forward execution of the story idea and it definitely had me squirming in my seat, grinding my teeth, and gripping the seat’s armrest. I wished I had a remote control to fast-forward to the second part of the film. As the ground is set for the revenge part, I was of mixed feelings. Obviously I was interested in seeing Jennifer get her revenge, but on the other hand, I felt sorry for the bad guys as that feeling of dread starts to build.

The biggest problem with this story is the main character. The actress did her job, but the role she played wasn’t well developed. Despite the amount of time we spent with Jennifer Hill, I still don’t know much about her. So, while it was easy to feel sorry for her in her predicament, I think it could have been that much more of a connection had the audience felt she had been a bit more fleshed out.

While the trailer gives you a few hints at the way she creatively serves her revenge, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the gruesomeness of her retribution. While you revel in her vindication and the reversal of power roles, your curiosity is peaked as you’re eager to see how she’ll outdo each kill.

Which brings me to my final complaint. While all of this is happening, you can’t help but wonder how she pulls all of this off. She had the motivation required to do so, but the means, physical strength, and cleverness were in question. And that’s when I remind myself that it’s not the point of this kind of movie.

While I Spit On Your Grave featured some of the best kills of the TADFF, I was left hoping for a bit more, something to surprise me, something that challenged the conventions of this kind of filmmaking.


The Human Centipede was exactly what it was. Barely making the grade as a B film, it lived up to the hype of its trailer, but that’s unfortunately it. According to imdb, the idea for this film arose from a joke Tom Six made with friends about punishing child molesters by stitching their "mouth to the ass of a fat truck driver". The execution of the idea is mediocre and doesn’t really do the genre any favours. Unfortunately, there isn’t much imagination in the plot as the story clumsily rushes to its core idea.

To its credit, the film effectively relies on the viewer’s imagination for several key scenes, allowing your mind to fill in the creepy details. There are a few good twists and turns, but they have more to do with grossing you out rather than moving the story along.

Dieter Lazer plays the insanely diabolical surgeon, Dr. Heiter, whose warped and twisted mind conceived this dreadful surgical procedure. His twisted, odd-ball behaviour sinks the film as it’s difficult enough to handle the overall concept of this film. The audience was laughing at his quirkiness and I felt that sapped the film’s strength and eroded the fear that we were to feel.

Apparently this film is only the First Sequence, and part one of the trilogy.

It’s been one helluva of ride over the last 8 days and I’m doing my best to keep all the movies straight as some are bleeding and blurring over into each other. I had a fabulous time and would really like to thank the Toronto After Dark Film Festival for the Press Pass. I’m already looking forward to next year and to seeing what kind of lineup they’ll be able to put together. The toughest part will be gently breaking the news to my wife that I’ll be abandoning her and the kids the same time next year!

Standing in line, waiting for that last film, I couldn’t help but notice that the weather was in stark contrast to that of the opening night. It was about 10 degrees colder and the smell of fall was in the air. There’s no better way to wind down from a great summer than enjoying the films of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

It was also great to meet a lot of other horror film fans in the line and in the seats. A shout out to Christian, David, and Derrick. Thanks for chatting it up with a TADFF newbie! Hope to see you guys around next year.

--Jason Shayer

(The Black Glove wishes to thank Jason and all those responsible for helping him make these reports possible.)