By: Heather Seebach
Short: Montreal Zombies (d: Eric K. Boulianne & Jean-Sebastien Beaudoin Gagnon)
At first, this one seems discouraging - between the title card that doesn't match the actual title and the fuzzy VHS quality - but I quickly saw this 8-minute movie belies its exterior. It's home video footage of three French-Canadian friends hanging out during the zombie apocalypse. Thanks to likeable leads and solid laughs, this is a fun short. I'm not sure if the home video style was born of choice or necessity but the movie works despite its low production value. Definitely worth checking out (even if you're sick of zombies).
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Feature: Stalled (d: Christian James)
It's Christmas Eve and maintenance man W.C. is stuck working in the bathroom while the rest of the office building parties. Things get even worse when those co-workers, who are now zombified, start shuffling into the bathroom. Our protagonist becomes trapped in a stall, using whatever he can find to plot an escape. Stalled is yet another horror-comedy from the UK. It seems they are a dime-a-dozen anymore, but this one has just enough humor and heart to stand out. Writer/star Dan Palmer has an adorable-funny way about him that reminds me of Simon Pegg. The film itself has some very funny jokes, and a surprising amount of tenderness.
Where it slips, however, is logic (or lack thereof). Too often W.C. does ridiculous things that are just frustrating to the viewer. It also runs too long - and don't bother staying til after the credits, as it'll only leave a sour taste in your mouth. Stalled definitely has some pacing and script issues, but they are forgivable considering how funny and often unique it is. It wears its homages on its sleeve (especially one very Raimiesque shot) but they are fun. Visually and humor-wise, it reminded me of The Office (UK) with a dash of Edgar Wright. If you enjoy British humor or zom-com's, this one is worth checking out.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
**Bumper: Toronto After Dark Bumper (d: Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson)
I don't usually mention the bumpers because they're generally uninteresting to me - until this one. As anyone who follows VDA knows, I am an uberfan of Resolution and its directors, so I was delighted to see their bumper here! Basically, the guys recap what they miss about last year's TADFF and take a playful swipe at their festival competition, The Battery. The best part about that was latter's director Jeremy Gardner was in the audience and immediately shouted out, "Those motherfuckers!!!!" This will likely show up on heir YouTube Channel soon so subscribe to that!
Short: Just Ella (d: Jim Munroe)
This Canadian short portrays a young women holed up in some kind of communal safehouse. There are hoardes of deadly creatures outside, but something perhaps worse haunts her inside. This short has an interesting premise with the safehouse, and I wish it was explored further. I found the big "reveal" to be pretty obvious and was just left wanting more.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Feature: The Battery (d: Jeremy Gardner)
This film has been preceded by endless critical acclaim, but I'm glad I put off seeing it until last night, when I got to view it on the big screen. It definitely lives up to the hype. Set in a world where zombies far outnumber humans, two former baseball players try to survive. Ben (Gardner) thrives on this new hunter-gatherer lifestyle, while Mickey longs for his creature comforts. Made for a ridiculously meager $6,000, this movie looks great, boasts fantastic performances, and has what might be the year's greatest soundtrack. It's technically a zombie film, but the undead definitely take a backseat to human drama. In fact, this movie nails the heavy themes The Walking Dead often fails to.
There are long stretches of dialogue and at least one unbelievably daring long take, but the film is never, ever boring. The leads are so likable and funny, yet the tension is ever-palpable. The Battery masterfully reaches over the aisle from horror to drama, ushering zombies into the world of genuine, unironic cinema with ease.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5