Toronto After Dark 2013 - Day 4

My fourth day at the Toronto After Dark film festival brought its biggest-budgeted film yet with the anticipated Dean Koontz adaptation Odd Thomas plus the lesser-known indie horror, Solo. The trend of good shorts continued as well, and the night ran later than ever at Pub After Dark. Good times. Here are my thoughts on the night's films:

Short: Down Bob (d: Adam Schafe)

It's debatable if this is even a genre film, but regardless of that, it's a damn funny little short. It gives us the point-of-view of a young man who sees himself as a hero to the world. It is made great by hilarious dialogue and a good titular lead. The humor is very akin to Napoleon Dynamite, but don't let that discourage you - I hated that movie but still loved this.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Feature: Odd Thomas (d: Stephen Sommers)
(Canadian Premiere)

Based on Dean Koontz's book series of the same name, Odd Thomas is about a short order cook who can communicate with the unrestful dead, and takes it upon himself to bring their killers to justice. When Odd (Anton Yelchin) gets wind of a devastating evil at threatens his town, he is the only one who can stop it, but he gets some help from his beloved girlfriend, Stormy (Addison Timlin) and the police chief (Willem Dafoe). 

The film is directed by Stephen Sommers, whose last couple films have been pure crap (G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra; Van Helsing) but surprisingly, this is the most I've liked one of his movies since 1999's The Mummy. There is still Sommers' self-indgulgent visual style, an excess of slow-mo, cheap jump scares, and some questional CGI, but Odd Thomas is a fun - and surprisingly dark - movie. In both story and tone, it reminds me of Peter Jackson's The Frighteners. Yelchin and Timlin are very likeable leads with a lot of chemistry, too, which is important considering how prominent the love story is here. 

Odd Thomas may be supernatural adventure, but it often deals with very real (sometimes too real) horrors, which surprised me. There is bound to be some controversy from this flick. Personally, I was entertained and it's not too PG which is refreshing. The film still falls in the realm of bigger-budget blockbusters, but it's nice when one toes the line into edgier genre territory. 

Rating: 3 out of 5

Short: The Hunt (d: Spencer Estabrooks)

In this Canadian short, a father drags his uninterested son on a hunting trip in an attempt to spend "quality" time together, but they soon learn they are not alone in the woods. To say anything more would spoil it. The film's concept is an obvious one, but it's still satisfying and has some neat FX.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Feature: Solo (d: Isaac Cravit)
(Toronto Premiere)

I had zero expectations for this film, which looks like a run-of-the-mill summer camp slasher. While it does not exactly reinvent the subgenre, Solo does use all the familiar elements to their absolute potential, creating a tense, gorgeous survival thriller that surpasses some of its better-known contemporaries (looking at you, Wolf Creek). 

Gillian (Annie Clark) is a 17-year-old with a traumatic past, who is trying to move on and enjoy her summer as a camp counselor. As part of her training, she must spend two nights alone on the camp's island, where there is legend of a ghost. This all sounds pretty familiar, right? Well, despite using all the tropes and cliches you expect, Solo manages to forge an eerie slow burn full of red herrings. Gillian has just enough sense and strength to be a solid character rather than some idiotic victim stumbling through the woods, and Clark carries the role well. 

The real scene-stealer of Solo, however, is director of photgraphy Stephen Chung. Whether we're getting lost in Clark's blue eyes or the island's natural beauty, the whole film just looks stunning. This movie will most likely be dismissed by horror fans for its generic-sounding premise, but I recommend you give it a shot. It is currently available on iTunes. If you need an extra boost - Spunkmeyer from Aliens (Daniel Kash) is in it!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

After the Solo screening, cast and crew did a Q&A.

After the Q&A, my night continued with drinks at Pub After Dark at The Office Pub, and a very late-night discussion with Jeff Konopka and Motivational Growth director, Don Thacker. I'll link to that podcast once it's up - it's pretty great. 


My fifth day at TADFF Is sci-fi night, including UK thrillers Last Days on Mars and The Machine. Click here for day 5 coverage!
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