Geek Hard continues its coverage of the 8th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival with some Rapid Rad Reviews! What’re they? Well it’s quite simple. Instead of giving a full length review on a particular film, we’ve got some bite-sized bullet reviews of a bunch of ’em for your mind to ingest. Don’t you feel stupid now, asking a question for what was such an obvious answer? Try not to feel bad and instead enjoy these quick thoughts on a selection of films that have played the fest so far. Read on………read on…..
Directed by Tricia Lee
Written by Corey Brown
Story by Corey Brown and Tricia Lee
Who knows what lurks beyond the trees…..and those that do don’t live long enough to talk about it. Janey, a teen girl is sent to a silent meditation retreat for rehabilitation only to find that the men running the camp are brainwashing young women into becoming “good wives”. The girls that don’t comply are left in the woods for a creature of unknown origin that is attracted (and repelled) by harsh, loud noise. There’s also something about the passage of time being screwed with for the girls so they don’t know how long they’ve been there as well. There’s far too many facets to the plot that are either under-explained or not explained at all. The performances are fine but are not strong enough to distract you from the muddled story being told. The problem is that the writers and director had a bunch of ideas that could go somewhere but instead of picking one and developing it to it’s fullest, they threw all the ideas in a blender and spat out a script that has no real payoff. The final moment of the film makes no sense when looking at all that came before it. And for a film with so dense a plot, there’s not a lot happening for at least 40 minutes in the middle of the flick. Nuff Said.
Directed by Issac Cravit
Written by Issac Cravit
A character driven piece with a female protagonist set against the backdrop of camping in the woods of an isolated island. Silent Retreat, take note. You just got served by Solo. The story of Gillian, a teen camp counselor who’s got a skeleton in her closet starting her first week at camp Kaya. On the second night of her employment, she’s to camp on her own on the island in the middle of the lake, a tradition for all new counselors. She’s taken out to the island by the camp’s owner who’s got a few demons he’s dealing with as well. The island is the sight of a camper’s death that still haunts him. That camper may in fact haunt the island as well. Will it be just a simple trip to the woods for Gill? In films like these, it never is. With great performances by Annie Clark, Daniel Kash and Richard Clarkin, this film gives you the creeps and all the only obstacles and antagonists are creepy guys with issues. I enjoyed that such a simple story kept me guessing on how the film would end. This is a testament to the actors and the director for taking the sparseness of the piece and making it all matter. Solo is definitely worth checking out. Like their facebook page and keep tabs on this one.
Directed by Rurairi Robinson
Written by Clive Dawson
Based on a Short Story by Sydney J. Bounds
What’s more frightening than zombies? Space zombies, I guess. The Last Days on Mars is the story of (surprise, surprise) the last days on Mars for a crew of astronauts who have been sent there for scientific exploration. On the final day, they discover a mysterious form of bacteria that has lethal effects to humans. The film follows a basic zombie/slasher story but is set on Mars. While the characters are interesting and the acting from the likes of Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai, Olivia Williams and Johnny Harris is strong, the story is predictable and the pacing is a bit off. I wasn’t bored but I wasn’t engaged either. I had high hopes for this film. Robinson got some great buzz from his 2011 short BlinkyTM, which was only 13 minutes long. It did in under 15 minutes what this film failed to do 98 minutes – scare me. This film looked great and was well acted but needed a stronger story to make it truly horrifying. But Schreiber’s still the man even if this film does not live up to his abilities.
Directed by Caradog W. James
Written by Caradog W. James
Can a machine find humanity? Can humans and sentient machines co-exist in harmony or will humanity only try to exploit them? These are some of the themes explored in The Machine, a British science fiction film about a computer programer who creates an android using the brain patterns of a colleague who is now deceased. Using military grants, he creates a sentient robot who is pure, loving and free thinking. The military doesn’t like this of course as they are hoping to use the machine as a weapon. Needless to say, a conflict is brewing. This film is sci fi done right. There’s an engaging plot with flawed characters and a conflict that feels very real. A number of moral questions and concerns are explored and addressed. The performance of Caity Lotz who plays Ava, the machine and the live specimen that she’s based on, is an enjoyable thing to behold as she presents the android’s childlike view of the world. There’s also a strong statement made about military involvement in scientific advancement with Britain’s Ministry of Defense taking the role of the main antagonist in the film. Festival coordinator Adam Lopez said that any fan of Blade Runner should check this film out and I would have to agree with him. This film is a delightful piece of sci fi.
So there’s some rapid reviews to fill you up with film knowledge. Be sure to check out our full length reviews of After Dark Films on the site and be sure to listen to next week’s show for a complete rundown of the fest.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!