The Toronto After Dark Film Festival hosts a bevy of international genre films, on display for the Toronto fest loving audience. What’s more, the fest gathers some of the best shorts, Canadian and International, thus showcasing those from across the pond, while remembering to nod at the homegrown heroes. This year, many of the Canadian shorts programs boasted female creators. Here are just a few of my favourite maple scented Female Made Canadian shorts!
BEST FRIENDS FOREVER
Emily Gagne, Joshua Korngut
Some relatable girls in the midst of a wholesome teenage evening are spooked by the ghost story their ringleader shares; the tale of Nancy. Nancy, the tragic target of bullying, a girl once invited to a party much like their own. But Nancy’s invite was a prank, and she was left outside the door knocking until eventually disappearing, never to be seen again. Per the yarn being woven, Nancy, or the ghost that remains, wanders, knocking on doors, looking for a best friend.
This film is a play for the shared experience of feeling left out. Young women and girls will know all too well the feeling of not receiving invites, or for being made to feel like the one that comes was undeserved. Watching, I could label each character with the comparable girl I once knew.
The directors’ sensibilities are on full display here, but also their eyes. The short stands strongly on its own, but more, it stands as the perfect sample of what’s to come. It manages to be heartfelt, funny, relatable, and scary in good measure, the elements of a successful horror.
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
This very dark, completely silent (save for the brooding score) short is a delight in somber storytelling. A woman seemingly on a quest for lust is on a quest for hearts. She spends her nights luring lovers into her grasp, taking from them what gives her life. This film keeps you guessing in a way that you’re not sure the desires nor the needs of the protagonist. It’s reminiscent of Under the Skin in a way that this suspicious woman is the focus and has unexplained black widow tendencies. Though it differs in a key way; the tone of the lead who demands sympathy through her unexplained and otherwise evil actions.
The use of practical effects here are with expert restraint such that it feels real and gory, without ever breaking the somber mood.
This tale of the perfect housewife with sinister intentions is a fun nod and slap to films like The Stepford Wives that makes you suspicious of these dress clad, perky women. It sometimes feels like an old cigarette ad coming to life, while telling the story of a housewife who sets up her husband with her otherwise wifely skills.
This film feels a bit lost between worlds, the style of the ’50s, the food of the ’70s and the man from the modern-day. I’ll admit, its story being a bit too fantastical worked with this unclear timeline to create an impossible fantasy, or maybe it was just all too off the rails. What works better than anything is the acting. As Barbara-Anne, she sells every line and delivers each spot in such a way that makes cuts feel like they’re both from the darkest drama and the brightest Broadway show. Her subtle acting choices and ability really shine in this twisted and broken character.
WE THREE QUEENS
Chris Agoston, Marni Van Dyk
This adorable short is the perfect bridge from spooky season to the holiday season. Three carolers, or, queens, if you will, awake tied to chairs in the grasp of an aspiring choir member. Trying to avoid setting their captor off, the gals dance around agreeing to let her join their squad, not knowing exactly what this sweet singing enthusiast is capable of.
This short is, to put it simply, cute. The Christmas decorations used to bind, and the colors and cookies strike a good balance between holiday warmth and terror, an admirable blend.
Canadian comedy fans will recognize our darlings, Emma Hunter and Rachel Wilson, who bring their comedic chops to these roles. Hunter is hilarious as the snappy, quick-witted ring leader, and I never thought my holiday wish list would include wanting her in more horror comedies.
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