Review and interviews within!
The 2009 Toronto After Dark Film Festival was another resounding success in bringing us the most eclectic selection of genre film the world over. In its 4th year, Festival Director Adam Lopez and his team continue to surpass previous years line up, a feat that is hard to do.
This year’s program included the blaxploitation hit Black Dynamite, the futuristic steam punk feature Franklyn, the nazi zombie pleaser Dead Snow, Coffin Joe’s return in Embodiment of Evil, Trick âR Treat (finally) and Grace as the closing gala. As always, TADFF also showcases an enormous amount of shorts that screen before the films and all afternoon on certain days.
There was a nice mash up of international shorts and some homegrown Canadian goodies like crowd favorite Bad Roommate by James Gangl and Keven Whalen, Heart Of Karl by Steven Kostanski and countless others.
Normally, the festival runs in October to coincide with the local Zombie Walk but was changed this year to hopefully (and presumably) bring in more people. Good news is that this didn’t change the fact that hundreds of people still showed up in zombie attire for fun and, of course, a discount on ticket prices.
What set’s this festival apart from others is the involvement of the fans with the festival staff and its guests. After every screening in the evening, fans are encouraged to gather at the Paupers Pub across the street for discounted food (with their ticket stub) and great beer. Filmmakers are also in attendance and everyone gets to chat and have a good time.
In its fourth year, festival director Adam Lopez and his crew have once again put together 17 new, unique and fascinating films that stay true to the craft of filmmaking.
Below you’ll find select coverage.
Someone’s Knocking at the Door
ShockTillYouDrop.com: After seeing your film, there have been a lot of critics comparing it to Shaun of the Dead. After watching the film, there is absolutely zero similarities besides one of the partners being dead. While filming or coming up with a concept, did you have any reservation with people in the horror community comparing it as such?
Kerry Prior: Well, of course I thought that was a great movie, but I never thought they were comparable. The tone was different. So no, I didnât have reservations. Hell, in a way I would be flattered to be compared to Shaun of the Dead, but I donât think it would be accurate. It seemed like a broader comedy.
Shock: Your last film was Roadkill in â96, right? Why the long interim between movies?
Prior: Well, not exactly. I did another film in-between called the Blair Rabbit Project which ended up a tragic lawsuitâ¦
Shock: Was it ever released?
Prior: No, it was never released! Interestingly, this is a horror story in and of itself. We had a great distribution deal in the UK, and then my partner that I should the movie with had a bit of a meltdown and ended up sullying the deal, things went from bad to worse and we ended up in a lawsuit with these guys. Really a shame cause it was a good little movie. Falls into that statistic about independent filmmaking, which is that youâre not likely to make your money back.
Shock: Speaking of independent, you produced it yourself?
Prior: Well actually not entirely. A good pal of mine for years Jacques Thelemaque he started the filmmakers alliance in Los Angeles. Hell of a director, old friend of mine. I trusted him to watch my back and felt that he liked the project.
ShockTillYouDrop.com: With regards to the definition of Strigoi, what I could find on the internet seems that its definition is it’s a person who died out of wedlock who comes back to life and, to be blunt, rapes people who are not married?
Faye Jackson: There are so many definitions of what Strigoi are. That’s one of the funny things that I think makes it so Romanian, is that sometimes its only people with red hair, or people who are killed and face some kind of injustice in their death, they come back and right injustice, or they can just come back and eat your food. There are so many different and contradictory versions, we chose the one we wanted to go with.
Shock: Your interpretation was sort of up for grabs?
Jackson: For me, I wanted something that worked in the world that we were creating, this particular village, the injustices that had happened over the past few generations, and we were playing as well with the funeral and all the traditions at the funeral, such as making sure that the person passes over to the other side. I wanted something that could be real as well. The symptoms that [the Strigoi] have are that they are red and puffy. They have what look like insect bites, not obvious puncture wounds. More medical symptoms than symptoms of vampirism.
Shock: Were the superstitions that were utilized in the film in the small village based on any experiences that you have witnessed in Romania?
Jackson: I know that some people are unaware of these traditions, mostly I think people don’t take them very seriously, but they still follow them.
Shock: Considering that your husband, and producer, Rey is Romanian, did he have any part in terms of the writing process or was he more of an editor?
Jackson: Nothing at all. I think because I’ve visited Romania a lot over 10 years, you spend a lot of time trying to figure out what is happening, what people are saying. I spent a lot of time observing. Itâs funny, when people were reading the script, they were saying “We didn’t know you were listening to us this much, we didn’t realize you were paying attention!”
Rey Muraru: It was a surprise to me as well, because I was reading the script and I would think “Oh, hell! She caught that, the mentality!”
Jackson: A lot of people didn’t think it was written by a British writer, they thought it had been written by a Romanian.
Shock: Being a female director in the horror genre, do you feel that it’s difficult trying to take your place in the boyâs club?
Jackson: It’s funny because in a way I never really thought of myself particularly as a horror filmmaker. I like stories which blur the line between fantasy and reality, and horror is like that kind of stuff. The thing about being a female is that I don’t have any frame of reference. I’ve never been a male director so it’s just normal to me but, I think it’s more of a before and after thing. Once you’re done the work people are going to judge you, but when you’re actually doing it, it doesn’t make much of a difference.
Shock: Did you find that the reception tonight went well?
Jackson: It was great! Obviously we were very nervous, and it was the world premiere, so we didn’t know how the Canadian audiences would react to a Romanian film in English. But the reception was fantastic, and we had a great time at Toronto After Dark. We are really happy to be here. We’re a smaller film, but we’re only one of seventeen, rather than some of the festivals where you’re one of sixty or one hundred. It helps that we had a bigger share of publicity, and the audience was great and enthusiastic!
ShockTillYouDrop.com: The film opens with a concoction of assorted drugs falling during the title sequence. At first I felt the film had an air of being pro-drug, especially considering all of the debauchery in the film, but towards the end it took a very different note. Was the intention to make an anti-drug movie? Or a twisted take on ’70s prolific drug films?
Noah Segan: I think you hit the nail on the head. The real drive was to make a modern film, with all the modern tools are our disposal that had the ethos and the philosophy of the films we loved from the â70s. I’d like to think that it goes beyond being a pro-drug or anti-drug movie and it becomes an exploitation film. It’s about being subversive, not giving an answer and giving lots of questions. A lot of it was inspired by my own drug use. I used to love doing psychedelic drugs, and I would consistently have these crazy trips where I would come face to face with the concept of “going over the edge” and going to a place from whence you can’t return. And that was very interesting to investigate, what is that process going on, when you’ve completely broken your f**king brain!
Shock: Well it did seem very introspective. Especially theâ¦lets say mega bad trip.
Segan: I think it’s safe to tell people there’s a bad trip in this movie. There are a couple of bad trips!
Shock: I heard that you had a hand in writing this as well as producing it.
Segan: Well, I co-produced it. And I’ll tell you a funny story: Basically I worked on a film called Dead Girl and the writer of it and I were very good friends, and he worked with the director of this film Chad Ferrin , who worked on The Ghouls, Easter Bunny Kill Kill – very successful genre director. Chad and I became friends, realized we had similar tastes, when he had this script sent to him by these investors in Australia, and he had never been approached to direct something he hadn’t written. And he said, “I don’t know what to do with this, will you read it and tell me your thoughts?” The next thing I knew it was six weeks later and we had re-written it together ten times. The nice financers in Australia paid him for his time, so we said they were going to get this script and see how left of center it is from the original, and they are going to say goodbye. So we sent the script and they wrote back “We love it, it’s amazing! Its nothing like we thought we would ever get.” Chad really is the writer and I like to think of myself as a guy with a lot of really good ideas who put a bunch of really cool people in a room together and bought them coffee and cigarettes, left, came back two hours later and they came up with great ideas.
Shock: At a fest like Toronto After Dark, do you like that you have more of an opportunity to interact with the fans on a more personal level?
Segan: The reason I work on movies is because I’m a fan of movies. The thing with Toronto After Dark and people like Adam Lopez [Toronto After Dark founder] is that they wear their hearts on their sleeves more than any other people I’ve ever met at any film festival I’ve been to. The amount of collaboration in getting this film and getting me here to Toronto is something that I have never seen before. You don’t get festival directors giving their opinions on your trailer, and good opinions! The man has fucking good taste! Not only are you surrounded by the nicest people in the world who are smart, but they have awesome taste! For me as an actor this is a great excuse to come out and see movies and show you my little part of it. Horror movies and the community are like a little microcosm and I just want to be a little amoeba.