“Turn out the lights the party is over” – Willie Nelson
This well-known song lyric is only partially correct. Now that the Toronto After Dark Film Festival has wrapped up it’s 2017 schedule the more correct phrase should be “Turn ON the lights, the party is over”. Now that the lights have turned back to their full illumination, the organizers can now pat themselves on the back full well in the knowledge that throughout nine consecutive days, 19 feature films accompanied by 19 film shorts thrilled, chilled and entertained over 10,000 genre fans in the city.
Before the first screening on Day 1, Face-of-the-Festival Adam Lopez took to the stage and introduced the festival with a preview of things to come. Adam revealed to the sold out audience that this year’s festival was a tad different from its predecessors in that there was more of a low budget/independent vibe throughout the 2017 schedule. Adam backed his comment informing us that some of the films were unpolished and a few didn’t even have trailers as of yet to promote the project. Adam’s words were presented with cautionary enthusiasm, but with the finish line now a few steps behind us, any preconceived notions we may have erupted were unfounded.
The opening night began with marc Meyers’ My Friend Dahmer and Neil Mackay’s Sixty Minutes to Midnight. The two films ran seamlessly together which elicited praise for the programmers who slated these two same-feel type films into the same evening. In fact, the schedulers plied their trade better than any of the previous 12 years the festival has been in existence by pairing the perfect films together on each double feature night. It was like picking the perfect wine to go with the porterhouse steak. And sure, placing Victory Crowley and Cult of Chucky – two icons in the horror genre – together might have seemed like a no-brainer, but who would have thought The Villainess and Beyond Skyline would be so perfectly matched? Whomever has a say as to what films get partnered should be exalted.
Low budget genre films can be so deflating. Bad scripts coupled with bad acting and no money for any effects are a recipe for audience ire. But the Toronto After Dark Film Festival proved that in the hands of competent directors and actors, marvelous art can be created with the sheen of a Hollywood funded feature.
The Toronto After Dark Film Festival awards have yet to be made public but we have our own thoughts. Our favorite film of the festival was Trench 11 a film rife with atmosphere within the darkened trenches of WWI. Our guiltiest pleasure was Low Life, a Pulp-Fiction styled drama that had spurts of violence and cruelty that left us feeling as dirty as Peanut’s Pig-Pen when the experience came to a conclusion. There was above average special effects in Beyond Skyline, great kills in Victor Crowley, nuanced performances in My Friend Dahmer, laugh-out-loud comedy in Dead Shack and Tragedy Girls, some of the best action ever put on screen in The Villainess and a great female lead performance in Cold Hell. There was hardly a misstep in 2017’s Toronto After Dark Festival with all films finding a recommendation from us for repeat viewings.
Toronto After Dark becomes a teenager next year. 13 years in existence and still running strong. Organizers have 364 days to put together 2018’s installment but have a huge monkey on their back ….how to compete with the collective greatness of their 2017 edition.