31 Days of Horror: Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Like being scared witless? Do gouts of candy-apple-red blood sluicing across the screen make your heart beat like an overclocked dynamo? Maybe throw in a little zany comedy, too, along with the bumps and the jumps and the psychos in the night? Well fear aficionados, have I got the festival for you. Toronto After Dark opens on Thursday, October 15th, and this year’s gorefest promises thrills and chills galore.

Toronto After Dark has grown to nine fear-filled nights, running this Thursday to Friday, October 23rd out of the ScotiaBank Theatre. I’m going to be checking out several screenings, so expect more coverage over the next week. Below is a trailer-fest, a quick primer for what’s upcoming. Keep in mind that all films are restricted to 18+, with the exception of Lazer Team, which has been rated 14A.

Thursday, October 15th

A scary looking compilation from filmmakers Neil Marshall (The Descent), Lucky McKee (May), Darren Lynn Bousman (Repo! The Genetic Opera), Paul Solet (Grace) and many more. One doomed town is home to ten wickedly entertaining tales of terror all set on the same hellish Halloween night! Screens with short film Portal to Hell.

9:45pm THE HALLOW (IRELAND) – Also screens on Saturday, October 17th at midnight. 
Organizers are calling this the scariest film in this year’s lineup. The Hallow terrified audiences at Sundance on its debut. After a young family move from the big city to a peaceful Irish woodland cottage they find themselves in a desperate fight for survival in a prolonged confrontation with some vicious creatures lurking in the forest.  Screens with short film O Negative.

Friday, October 16th

A dark sci-fi thriller heavily influenced by Blade Runner (the opening notes of the soundtrack alone are enough to make you do a double-take and start looking for Harrison Ford), about a brilliant young scientist trying to crack the secret of time travel. Of course he has to thwart a sinister corporation, led by fan favourite villain Michael Ironside. Screens with short film Nihil.

9:30pm & 11:45pm LAZER TEAM (USA) 
Web series gods Rooster Teeth hit it out of the park with their feature film debut, a crowd-pleasing sci-fi action comedy. When Earth is threatened by an advanced alien race, the planet’s only hope lies in four morons, the self-proclaimed “Lazer Team” and some high tech weaponry that’s never been tested before!  Screens with short film Chasing Death.

Saturday, October 17th

A collection of nine new horror, sci-fi, action and cult short films from around the world including Awesome Runaway, Black Forest, Boniato, Exordium, Manoman, Movies In Space, Myrna The Monster, The Guests and Vicious!

A crowd-pleasing zombie comedy about Deb, an awkward girl, Ryan a guy she’s just had an embarrassing one night stand with and his eccentric dad (fan favourite Ray Wise) as they band together to figure out how to defeat the blood-thirsty horde that’s taken over their small town. Screens with short film El Gigante.

From the makers of the Ginger Snaps movies comes this delightfully wicked Yule-themed horror tale about all hell breaking loose in the small town of Bailey Downs on Christmas Eve, including Santa having to fight off an outbreak of zombie elves! With William Shatner scene stealing as the chatterbox local DJ working the graveyard shift! Screens with short film IBOP.

Sunday, October 18th

4:15pm SHUT IN (USA)  
Panic Room meets You’re Next in this gripping home invasion horror-thriller, full of shocks and surprises. After three criminals, including fan favourite Martin Starr break into a supposedly empty house, they find themselves in a deadly game of cat and mouse with the occupant, a shy young woman with a few nasty tricks of her own to play on the invaders. Screens with short film From Out. No trailer’s been released for this one yet.

In this sinister supernatural horror-thriller, with nods to Hellraiser, an artifact unleashes a demonic force upon the people of a small farm town. With most of the townspeople possessed, two young sisters find themselves in a race against time to try and stop the sinister force before its evil purpose is achieved. Screens with short film Heir.

A dark award-winning vigilante thriller about a mentally unstable man, The Demolisher, who deals with his personal frustrations by donning a suit of body armour and prowling the streets at night, delivering brutal justice to those he feels deserve it. Screens with short film The Orchard.

Monday, October 19th

Single mom Madison (Heroes’ Ali Larter) and her two children are awoken nightly by strange and terrifying apparitions in this supernatural thriller from the producers of The Pact that unnerved audiences at SXSW. Seeking help from her scientist boyfriend, they embark on a hunt to destroy the violent spirit that paranormal experts are too scared to take on. Screens with short film Sleep Monster.

In this unique blend of dark comedy and creepy horror, a frustrated young office worker quits his day job and flees the city to go on a camping trip by himself, deep into the forest. His sense of tranquility is replaced by fear when it becomes clear that someone sinister is also out there with him. Screens with short film Let Me Down Easy.

Tuesday, October 20th

Oscar Winner Adrien Brody and the iconic Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) deliver polished performances in this creepy supernatural horror thriller that haunted audiences at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. After a series of unnerving ghostly encounters in the city, a troubled psychotherapist returns to his rural home town to try and solve the dark mysteries that date back to his childhood. Screens with short film Home Sweet Home.

Die Hard meets Assault On Precinct 13 in Gridlocked, a crowd-pleasing throwback to 80s and 90s action movies. A group of deadly mercenaries led by Stephen Lang (Avatar) attack a police facility with a sinister ulterior motive. It’s up to a hardened officer (Prison Break’s Dominic Purcell) and his sidekicks that include Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) and WWE star Trish Stratus (who will be in attendance for the screening’s Q&A) to repulse the invaders using every weapon at their disposal. Screens with short film I Am Coming To Paris To Kill You.

[No trailer for this one but check out this bone-crunching clip]

Wednesday, October 21st

Winning rave reviews on the fest circuit, this twisted, messed-up, dark horror comedy from Britain is about a young man trying to start a new relationship with a supermarket co-worker while all the time being stalked by his very jealous, very dead, ex-girlfriend. Screens with short film Out of the Mold.

Directed by Jesse Thomas Cook (Monster Brawl) from a screenplay by acclaimed writer Tony Burgess (Pontypool) The Hexecutioners is a chilling new rural horror thriller with shades of cult classic shocker The Wicker Man. Two young nurses who specialize in treating the terminally ill are summoned to stay at a creepy mansion deep in the countryside. There they make some very disturbing discoveries about their new client. Screens with short film This Home Is Not Empty.

Thursday, October 22nd

7:00pm TAG (JAPAN)
From the warped mind of acclaimed Japanese director Sion Sono (Suicide Club, Love Exposure, Why Don’t You Play In Hell) comes a shocking, satirical, horror-action-thriller about three Japanese schoolgirls in the race of their lives as they try to outrun a mysterious malevolent force that’s brutally killing every girl around them. Definite shades of cult classic Battle Royale in this one. Screens with short film F**k Buddies.

9:30pm LOVE & PEACE (JAPAN) 
This Audience Award Winner, also from the eccentric mind of director Sion Sono, is a wildly imaginative Japanese fantasy/monster movie mashup about a down-trodden office worker who aspires to be a rock star and his pet turtle who wants to grow up to be a city-destroying giant like Godzilla! Screens with short film The Champ.

Friday, October 23rd

A delightfully dark Frankenstein-themed horror comedy about a re-animated corpse, made from the stitched together body parts of three murdered young women. On awaking, The Creature decides to go on a quest to find the girls’ killer and avenge their deaths with both bloody and darkly humorous results. Screens with short film Point of View.

9:30pm & 11:45pm DEATHGASM (NEW ZEALAND)
In the latest crowd-pleasing horror-comedy from New Zealand that’s taken the festival circuit by storm since its debut at SXSW, a group of metalhead outcasts unwittingly unleash a horde of vicious demons upon their sleepy suburban neighbourhood. Now they’ll have to engage in an epic duel of blood and metal with Satan’s hordes if they’re to win back their town. This looks pretty hilarious and intense.

For ticket info and lots of information about the festival, check ’em out here.

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