Toronto After Dark 2018: Our Review of the Pre-Feature Shorts

Toronto After Dark 2018: Our Review of the Pre-Feature Shorts

Every screening of a feature film in the Toronto After Dark Film Festival comes with a short. There are slightly some shorts here that recycle old concepts. And there are others that just be an exercise instead of something that is ready for audiences to see. But some of them are high concept films. Ones that look like they’re a sliver of something worth making a full length feature about.

BJ Verot has two such films, the first being Echoes in the Ice. The monster design is intricate. It’s also a comment on the past thirty something years of horror movies about men touching things they shouldn’t. They’re scientist who should wear gloves, for Christ’s sake. The rest of the CG and the premise itself are disappointing. This is about four men exploring an abandoned lab in Antarctica, a plot that doesn’t sound familiar at all.

I’ll talk about Verot’s second film later. But Echoes has some connective tissue with Philippe Bossier’s Deliverance. There, two men break into someone’s house. One of the men basically tells the other to “Prove me you have balls”. And that quality actually leads both men into peril.

Last Friday was Science Fiction Night. And the shorts that came with the two science fiction features are on the top of the pile. The first, Sean Janisse’s Locomotive 8 – Encore, is one of the better throwbacks about a widower astronaut. The animation reminds me of the late 90s Cartoon Network style and those are always fun to watch.

The second, James Villeneuve’s The Ticket, where a man escapes another who wants to lure him to a futuristic spacecraft. That seamlessly melds the future within the familiar Toronto city scapes.

After Science Fiction Night is Zombie Night. There the festival gives us two films about how that apocalypse might get its first victims. Amanda Row’s Alone, one of the genuinely and effectively scary shorts in the program. And that’s about the worst time anyone can spend while house sitting.

Then there’s Quang Ngo-Trong’s The Windmill Man, which is too silly a take on a zombie with a golden arm.

There are some shorts in the festival that make me ask questions. Specifically, why the characters I see on screen are behaving in ways that can’t suspend disbelief. Jordan McEwan and Corey Glover’s Mirror which is about a woman moving into a house with a wall of mirrors. That woman calls for someone named Sarah, a person we never see.

Patrick Devlin’s Mimic has a teacher trying to assert her authority in an empty hallway at night. I suppose we get the title from someone trying to mimic a child’s laughter. That’s creepy to hear in the dark, sure, but this teacher should have been home hours ago.

And sometimes acting normal can still lead to a character’s peril. Lewis Leon’s L’Homme et la Poisson is about an old ice fisher who might catch a big one. Not a big fan of this style of animation, making winter look flat instead of pure.

The next two films are about women in girls in trouble. The first is Kris Hagen’s Doors, where Lisa (Kristen MacCulloch), a paramedic talks to her roommate’s hookups (Hagen) about a rough night shift. MacCulloch’s is the best performance I’ve seen in a horror short this year. And I can’t tell you why that is.

Althea Manasan’s Clown Killer is one of the few shorts that make you question who the real victim is.

And then there are two shorts that will makes audiences say no to water. Ryan Couldrey’s The Baby Blue Canoe about a bored woman summering in cottage country. To kill her boredom, a shirtless man asking her out. The actor playing the latter missed the acting class where he reveal his character’s menace too early.

Then there’s BJ Verot’s second short, After the Rain, about a girl who sees a strange humanoid outside her window. His simple approach here works better than his more elaborate film.

The last two shorts, playing during the festival’s last two nights, can’t be more different in genre and quality. Michael Enzbrunner’s Death Van has textural surfaces and good music, which would be great if the short had a plot.

Eric Piccoli’s Revenu makes the most out of its production value. It’s the story of a woman, Emma (Eve Duranceau). She finds a man who wakes up in a hospital to find people eating each other. This is one of the few shorts that I wouldn’t mind to see a longer version of. The fact that many festivals picked it up is proof of that. And I’m hoping to see that and more and better stuff next year.

This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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