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Toronto After Dark Film Festival: horror, sci-fi, camp and buckets of gore

by DREW ROWSOME
06 October 2017


October climaxes with Halloween and part of the delicious foreplay is the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Horror, sci-fi, action and cult films unspool over nine nights with many Toronto premieres and some tasty experiences that will never pass this way again.

The opening night gala is the controversial but apparently riveting My Friend Dahmer. Jeffrey Dahmer's finale and final meal is familiar to most but My Friend Dahmer concentrates on his youth and how he learned to cook. The subject matter is not without sensational elements but the filmmakers upped the ante by casting mini-hunk and former Disney Channel starlet Ross Lynch, as the sexual cannibal in training. With lovable loon Anne Heche as his mother and a heavily '70s set design, My Friend Dahmer is at worst a creepy camp curiosity and at best, judging from the reviews, a work of art.

Aside from whatever suspense the film generates, it will be a nail-biter to see if Lynch can, like Zac Efron and Garrett Clayton attempted, transcend his roots in Teen Beach Movie and Teen Beach 2 to become a serious thespian.

But the big news is a screening of Cult of Chucky. The Chucky series either, depending on one's tastes, derailed or achieved nirvana with Seed of Chucky: the Chucky film guest-starring John Waters, featuring the murder of Britney Spears, and introducing the gender variant - after most dolls have ambiguous at best genitals - child of Chucky and Tiffany in a riff on Glen or Glenda). "I think that movie is so fundamentally comedic and farcical. It's a farce. It's literally a farce," says writer-director Don Mancini. "I mean, slamming doors and all of that. And I think that turned a lot of people off, I guess. I'm sorry! But, as a gay guy, I love the fact that over the years, to the people who saw that movie as children, the character of Glen really meant something to them, and that's very cool."

Not Cult of Chucky. Though it can't help but be comedic - dolls that kill are inherently hilarious plus Chucky has a wiseacre way with a quip - Mancini promises that, "this is definitly the goriest of all of the movies." Cult of Chucky is only being released digitally so this is a rare opportunity to see it the way a horror movie is made to be seen: with a screaming and laughing crowd interacting with a big screen. And, if you dare, arrive early for the first screening and have your photo taken with Mancini and the original Chucky doll, both of whom will be in attendance.

Of course two highlights do not a festival make and there is also the swampy slasher epic Victor Crowley, "bloodthirsty, technologically advanced aliens" in Beyond Skyline, the '80s-themed zombie comedy Dead Shack, the vampire comedy Eat Local starring Doctor Who alumni, the impossible to describe Impossible Horror, and a Mexican wrestler El Monstruo in Lowlife. There is also Canadian talent with The Endless and Poor Agnes, plus shorts and events and many more films. Can't you already hear Chucky laughing with orgasmic delight?

The Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs from Thurs, Oct 12 to Fri, Oct 20 at the Scotiabank Theatre, 259 Richmond St W. torontoafterdark.com

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