As your intrepid reporter, I’ll be covering all aspects of Toronto After Dark Film Festival. This isn’t just film reviews, but festival facts.
The programmers for this festival scour the world for the weird and wonderful and Friday Night’s program of Big Ass Spider! (punctuation included) and Eega showed the fruits of their efforts.
This critter night started with Mike Mendez’s first feature in seven years Big Ass Spider!, a movie that delivers on its title’s promise of a campy romp with Ray Wise as the major in charge of the military "clean up" operation and Greg Grunberg as Alex Mathis, an exterminator who happens to be in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time. Despite its over the top (by the end the spider is ten stories tall) comedy, there are a few jumps along with the giggles. The movie pokes fun at a number of tropes, best shown when hospital janitor, Jose Ramos (played by Lombardo Boyar) decides to offer himself as sidekick by listing off great pairing, starting with Batman and Robin, but ending with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza as a mule rider. There is also the required mad, and useless but for his exposition scene, scientist.
They paired this screening with India’s Tollywood movie Eega. It starts with an unrequited love by the boy next door (Nani), unrequited lust, jealousy, corporate corruption (all by Sudeep), and reincarnation as a vengeful, and bilingual, housefly. It’s classically Indian enough to contain a few short dance numbers, including a dancing fly. Over half the movie is watching the inventive ways that the fly drives the villain Sudeep (he is such a villain) mad, and you’ll be cheering all the way. It’s a very well structured film, making full use of Chekov’s gun with a whole wall of guns. The only miss is that once he becomes the fly, Nani is no longer on the screen.
Comedic critters is just one aspect of the festival. Saturday was their annual “Zombie Appreciation Night” with two very different films. Stalled has a very tight focus on what happens in a ladies room on the night of the Christmas party and zombie outbreak, while The Battery is set months after the infection and explores the dynamics of two survivors, a minor baseball league pitcher and catcher, who are travelling together. There’s a Gross Out Night, a Gory Night, a Scary Night (where found footage films are featured) and a Sci-fi night. The last one includes space thriller Last Days on Mars as well as raising moral questions with the creation of a sexy female android assassin in The Machine.
Toronto After Dark has something for every taste, whether it’s for laughs or screams (or laughs and screams). Thanks again to the programmers who’ve chose such eclectic and excellent films.