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Toronto After Dark Film Festival – A Look Back

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It can be said that every film, director, actor, actress, producer…etc. needs a launching point – somewhere they can get their work out there for the masses to soak in and enjoy, and one of the horror genre’s biggest film festivals has been going strong since 2006 – it’s Toronto After Dark, and with its 12th annual gala upon us (October 12th-20th), we’re going to dive into this pool of up and coming chills and see what movies made their mark with fans and critics alike in years past.

The festival kicked off in 2006 with a relatively small crowd of a little over 43 hundred attendees, and one of the more notable presentations was Behind The Mask: The Rise And Fall Of Leslie Vernon – this black comedy/horror product has maintained a fairly heavy cult following since its release, and remains director Scott Glosserman’s biggest film to date.

Behind the Mask

The second annual festival launched in October 2007, and with a broader extension of films that were on display, more than a few of them reeled in the crowds, including the complete insanity that was Troma’s Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead and Mulberry Street, which gained inclusion into the short-lived After Dark Horrorfest 8 Films To Die For. Director Jim Mickle parlayed his directorial entry into further projects, leading to other movies such as 2010’s Stake Land and We Are What We Are in 2013.

2008’s festival included a three-headed monster of films that garnered some seriously heavy praise (and awards won) – Let The Right One In, with director Tomas Alfredson moving onto much larger projects such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the upcoming The Snowman. Yoshihiro Mishimura’s blood-soaked Tokyo Gore Police was an underrated hit, as well as I Sell The Dead from Glenn McQuaid.

Let The Right One In

Rolling into 2009, the festival shifted its dates from October to August, but it didn’t diminish the level of fantastic movies that were presented to even larger crowds, and the biggest title to come out of the show was Trick ‘r Treat, and it’s managed to hold down a colossal cult following amongst its supporters. Another notable was the pregnancy-gone-wrong flick, Grace – directed by Paul Solet, and produced by Adam Green.

trick r treat

With a much higher attendance than its first year (now over 9000 attendees), the 2009 festival marched out the film that’ll make you think twice about overeating ever again: The Human Centipede. Alongside it ran the possession frightshow, The Last Exorcism starring Ashley Bell and the remake of 1978’s I Spit On Your Grave with each film ringing up awards and accolades alike.

Returning to a more horror-friendly month like October, 2011’s festival most notable presentation was the absolutely off-the-wall Father’s Day from Astron-6 and Troma. Following up was Ti West’s creepy The Innkeepers and Lucky McKee’s disputatious feature, The Woman starring Pollyanna McIntosh.

2012 ushered in two of the festival’s more prominent entries, with the first being the anthology piece V/H/S, boasting directorial efforts from names such as Ti West and Adam Wingard. The second film was the Soska Sisters’ body-modification chiller, American Mary – this marked their second directorial go-round, and they’ve been tabbed to helm the remake of David Cronenberg’s Rabid. The rest of the lineup really did offer some decent sequels as well, with Rec 3: Genesis and Grave Encounters 2 also getting some screen time.

2013 brought in some underrated little gems that were focused upon, and Jim Mickle followed up his 2006 film Mulberry Street with the best proposition for going vegan with We Are What We Are. Other notable submissions included Big Ass Spider!, zombie flick The Battery, Bobcat Goldthwait’s found-footage film Willow Creek and a film that still manages to give me the heebies, Banshee Chapter.

The festival that took place in 2014 cranked out more than a handful of fun features, including the visually striking Hellmouth, starring Stephen McHattie, followed by the undead/Mad Max blender Wyrmwood, Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (Tommy Wirkola’s work) and the “sequel” to the 1976 film The Town That Dreaded Sundown. The one product that came out with both mitts swinging, and still manages to act as a conversation piece of “you either loved it or you hated it” – The Babadook, a first time directorial effort for Jennifer Kent, and to this day the film has become somewhat of a symbol for the LGBT community.

The roster for 2015 and 2016 was a bit lackluster as far as more notable films were concerned, but still managed to pop out a few decent watches, with movies like the anthology piece, Tales Of Halloween, Deathgasm, Train To Busan (honestly one of the most solid zombie flicks I’ve seen in moons), From A House On Willow Street and a movie that has become a huge hit on the Blu-ray market, The Void.

There are so many more fantastic films that I’ve left out of this 11 year span, and trust me it’s not for lack of caring – there’s only so much that can be covered, but all you need to do is check out the roster of all the films that have been screened over the years, and I’m sure that you’ll find some unwatched gems that beg to be released, even to this day. This year’s festival promises to showcase some fantastic flicks, and while I can’t list them all, here’s just a condensed list of what’s up for viewing: Marc Meyers’s peek into the teen years of one of America’s most notable cannibals: My Friend Dahmer – the newest entry into the Hatchet movie series, Victor Crowley, and the latest hijinx from that little red-headed bastard-doll, Cult Of Chucky. Everything that I’ve mentioned is only covering the first day/night – seriously, guys – if you’ve got the time and a little traveling dough, I HIGHLY recommend making the jaunt to this year’s festival, and all the pertinent info can be found at Torontoafterdark.com – they’ve got a full schedule of films to be seen as well as tickets for the screenings. This full-blown assault on your horror and sci-fi senses takes place October 12-20th, so don’t miss it!

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