Friday, 29 June 2012

Juan of the Dead & The Pact: Toronto After Dark Summer Screening Day 1

It was so much fun to have a slice of Toronto After Dark goodness this week, instead of having to wait all the way until October! Don't worry - the festival still will be in October (October 18 - 26, 2012 to be exact) which makes this festival goer happy as I've always favoured the fall and rev-up to Halloween with scary film goodness. But this Wednesday we had a taste of scares, blood and glory with the double bill of Cuban zombie film Juan of the Dead / Juan de los Muertos and supernatural horror of The Pact with Toronto After Dark Summer Screening Day 1 all at The Bloor Cinema. I'm still not quite used to the Bloor for festivals screenings yet, although one great edition they have for festival goers is that they can project on the big screen people on the stage (see pictures below), which is a great thing given that the balcony has seemed to become the seating area of choice. It also works nicely for video introductions, which the audience got treated to with The Pact writer/director Nicholas McCarthy who sent us a message expressing the thrill of having his film playing as a double bill. Pretty freaking awesome. We also started the night off with a great short animated film called The Ward that was full of creepy ideas and imagery following a man trying to escape a hospital ward. It may be the first short animated film that totally felt like an action version of a Twilight Zone episode, which made it totally awesome.

Speaking of films, let's get to them! Rather watch than read? Check out my Vlog!

Toronto After Dark Film Festival Founder and Director Adam Lopez introduces the Summer Screening at the Bloor

Juan of the Dead / Juan de los Muertos
Writer/Dir: Alejandro Brugués (Personal Belongings)
Cast: Alexis Díaz de Villegas, Jorge Molina, Andrea Duro, Andros Perugorría, Jazz Vilá, Eliecer Ramírez, Blanca Rosa Blanco

What a way to charge into the double bill with the Cuban zombie film Juan of the Dead / Juan de los Muertos, full of zombie goodness and a heck of a lot of humour. The film stars Alexis Díaz de Villegas as Juan, our relaxed and very capable protagonist whom is oddly unnerved by the craziness of people attacking and eating each other. Why let it stop him living life? Instead, it's an opportunity to let him hone in on his survivor skills. He's not alone either as we have the faithful Lazaro (Jorge Molina) and his son California (Andros Perugorría) as well as outgoing China (Jazz Vilá) rounding out the mix of the band of misfits in this crazy journey. Zombie films are easily know for blood, brains and beheading and Juan of the Dead / Juan de los Muertos stays true to even more zombie roots as it throws in a healthy dose of social commentary to jazz up the setting and character motivations, and even combines them by showcasing their resilience to pretty much everything and anything you can throw at them. There is a fountain of creativity at work here, not only with an awesome new spin on the zombie film but with all of the great humour that had the crowd laughing and cheering along with the kills, the little victories and the ingenuity at every turn. Juan of the Dead / Juan de los Muertos was an undead treat and a great addition to the zombie genre.

The Pact (2012)
Writer/Dir: Nicholas McCarthy - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien, Agnes Bruckner, Mark Steger, Haley Hudson, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Sam Ball

I was really excited to see The Pact, with it's haunted house vibe and generally creepy feel I was totally stoked even before the film but it just got better as the story actually follows a pair of sisters with a tumultuous pass that starts to stir again after the passing of their mother. I really loved as Caity Lotz as Annie, she's a great tough girl that stares into the face of challenges and doesn't take any crap, but also is easily relatable when things start to get freaky. I loved the sense of mystery in the film and was very impressed by the storytelling that how things unravelled throughout and it even had me guessing which is very impressive given that I watch a heck of a lot of supernatural and horror films. There are lots of scary moments and ideas in the film and it reads just as well as a thriller as it does as supernatural horror. The characters are compelling and nicely stray off the beaten track not only with the aforementioned Annie, but also in the haunting Stevie played by Haley Hudson who adds and elemental edge to the film; plus Casper Van Dien does a great job in the local law enforcement role. The Pact was fabulous, it really kept me off balance in a good, engaging way and had some great stares but behind it all was a fantastic mystery that unfolded at the perfect pace. I can't wait to see it again.

The Toronto After Dark Film Festival Summer Screenings return in just under 2 weeks on July 11, 2012 with Detention and V/H/S. See more about the screenings here, see more information at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival website or Buy Tickets to the Summer Screenings Here.

In between screenings I had the rare chance of capturing the new Bloor sign with a beautiful dark blue sky behind it. Just beautiful!

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