If you missed the preview post, Horror Fest took place this year on July 5th and 6th at the Hot Docs Bloor Cinema. It was second annual Lost Episode Festival Toronto film festival. And I was lucky enough to be able to cover it, and it was pretty cool.
The festival consisted of four screenings, of which three, the films Anna, Patrick, and Naked Zombie Girl were shown on Saturday, with the last screening, the 50 Hour Film Competition, being shown on Sunday.
Kicking off the festival, Anna, is a film about an agent named John Washington (Mark Strong) working for agency called Mindscape (this was also the working title for the film) that uses people with psychic ability to see into the memories of others – in a way similar to how people entered others’ dreams in Inception – in order to find information that can then be used to solve crimes or be of use in criminal trials. Washington, low on cash and reeling from the recent death of his wife, hasn’t been working much lately, so he comes into his boss Sebastien’s (Brian Cox) office insistently looking for a gig. Sebastien gives him an assignment: the ‘gifted’ daughter of a family he’s been friend’s with for a long time is going through a rough time and is refusing to eat. Go in and find out what the problem is using the memory probing stuff, get her to eat. Washington reluctantly takes the job and begins memory sessions with the intelligent, oddly seductive Anna (Taisa Farmiga), quickly discovering there’s a lot of stuff going on here that’s not right or as it seems.
Though the film works with an interesting premise and Strong and Farmiga are clearly exceptional actors, the script is shockingly bad, and the direction doesn’t manage to deal with it properly. There are a lot of “WTF???” moments not because of plot twists, but because some of things characters say are so stupid or redundant, or things that were set up as big plot points or ‘reveals’ are actually totally pointless. At one point Anna’s mother tells Washington something like, “we haven’t let her go back to school because she was cutting herself. Now we’ve taken out all of the sharp objects out of her room in order to protect her,” to which he responds, “from what?” as if this weren’t the most obvious thing in the world. But then we wouldn’t get the groan-worthy dramatic “from herself(!),” reply.
Luckily the next film, the Australian supernatural horror Patrick: Evil Awakens, was better.
You’re Next‘s incredible Ozzie lead Sharni Vinson stars as Kathy, a woman who has apparently left her husband and taken a job as a nurse at a remote psychiatric hospital for comatose patients. Though warned that Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths) and her father, Roget (Charles Dance), the head doctor, are breaking new ground in their treatment of comatose patients and that she should be prepared to witness some unusual things, she quickly realizes some things going on in the hospital are considerably more unusual than she could ever have imagined. Namely one patient, the handsome young Patrick (Jackson Gallagher), who not only is not comatose, but telekinetic. At first Kathy tries to help Patrick, save him from Doctor Roget’s experiments that she thinks are killing him, but Kathy soon learns that she is the one who needs saving from the obsessive Patrick.
While a couple points of the movie didn’t make sense and some loose ends were left untended at the end, Patrick: Evil Awakens is for the most part a well-acted, written directed, sharp and clever supernatural thriller. If you missed the screening, you can catch it on iTunes and Youtube where it’s available for purchase or rental. And if you’re looking for something to watch late at night to make you yell at the screen, you could do a lot worse.
Unfortunately I missed Naked Zombie Girl due to its late screening time, but I caught the 50 Hour Film Competition yesterday afternoon and it was pretty enjoyable. The shtick of the whole thing was that they had a bunch of filmmaking teams, each had 50 hours to make a short horror film from scratch, the best entries would win awards and prizes.
As one would expect, some of these films were great, while others were basically just dumb excuses for people to press record on their cameras (or iphones). The best were, unsurprisingly, the ones that went for a comedic angle. The Stagette stands out in memory for its great twist ending in which the local serial killer – who’s been mistaken for a hired male stripper – ends up getting scared off by the bitchy girl at the party.
Though the festival was relatively sparse compared to something like Toronto After Dark, I enjoyed it a lot and appreciated being able to cover it. Hopefully next year’s is even bigger and better.