There are many things to love about the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. The films, the crowds, the electricity in the air. But one thing that I look forward to more than most are the Canadian short films that are shown before each feature.
The appeal to me about the shorts is that you generally have no information about the shorts prior to their illumination on the screen. There are no online trailers months in advance, no big red carpet ceremonies to roll them out. We can simply sit back in our theatre chair and await the creativity juices to flow from the projector lens.
Up first at this year’s Festival is Kookie, a short that is worthy of our attention. Written, directed and conceived in just a few weeks by Justin Harding, Kookie stars Ava Jamieson as Bree, a 9-year-old child with a penchant for eating cookies from the cookie jar then lying about her involvement.
But Bree’s attraction to the cookie jar is put to the test when her mother replaces the usual cutesy bear ceramic with a terrifying clown face jar. Bree must then approach a devilishly evil looking jar if she is to keep her insatiable urge for the sweets in order.
What transpires over the full 13-minutes of the short we will leave to your viewing pleasure but we will report that if you have a fear of clowns – something that is ever present in today’s news headlines – then Kookie might be the short of nightmares.
There is so much to enjoy in Hastings vision. The cookie jar itself is as downright frightening as any live killer we’ve seen a horror film this year. But it was the camera work in this short effort that really got our attention. The lighting, framing and focus points were all the work of a master. We are not accustomed to such professional looking imagery on the screen when a filmmaker utilizes a budget likely less than the average person’s credit card limit.
All this makes Kookie one of our favorite shorts to even show at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. And that is high praise.