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2012 marks the seventh annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival, a festival dedicated to bringing the best new horror, sci-fi, action, and cult films to the city. The past six years have showcased some incredible films, but not all of them have become as celebrated as others. They may not be as bloody, or perhaps they’re too bloody. They may not have bigger budgets or feature familiar names. For some reason, the films on this list, one for each year of TADFF, don’t seem to come up in discussion as often as other films. Genre fans will certainly recognize many of the titles here, but casual fans may not, and that’s why I’ve chosen to explore these films. I’ve also asked Toronto After Dark festival director and founder, Adam Lopez, to give me the reason why he thinks these films are fantastic.

2006 – Frostbite dir. Anders Banke

If you had to think of a Swedish vampire film, Let The Right One In would probably come to mind first. It’s certainly an incredible film, and was the opening night film at TADFF for 2008, but the first year of the festival held a different kind of Swedish vampire delight. Darkly comedic, Frostbite takes place in Norrbotten, a town which experiences 30 days of night. Annika and her daughter Saga have just moved into town, with Annika working at the local hospital. Dr. Beckert, a geneticist at the same hospital, has been secretly working on a cure for vapirism, but his pills are taken by some interns. These pills actually turn people into vampires, and they wind up in the hands of teenagers throwing a party that Saga is attending. With a rather interesting take on vampires, and an especially bloody finale, Frostbite is Shaun of the Dead for vampires. There are so many vampire films, and they’re rarely very good, which makes this film one to look for.

Adam Lopez – “Has one of my favourite kills of all time featuring death by garden gnome!”

2007 – Murder Party dir. Jeremy Saulnier

It’s hard to say that Murder Party is overlooked. Anybody who has seen it, loves it, but I’m still concerned that not enough people have actually watched this. It involves a group of artists competing for a grant. The group randomly invites people to a warehouse Halloween party, and Chris (Chris Sharp) is the one who shows up. The artists plan on killing Chris and turning it into an art project to impress Alexander (Alex Barnett) in order to get the grant. This one has it all. Great comedy, a few gallons of blood, and a bunch of villains that you can’t wait to see get killed. Throw in some obvious, and a couple of subtle, references to other films, and you’ve got a fantastic horror comedy.

Adam Lopez – “It’s Reservoir Dogs redone with a Halloween theme! Dark, twisty, funny and some great kills, there’s a reason we made this our closing gala that year!”

2008 – Donkey Punch dir. Oliver Blackburn

This is a title that I don’t hear much about, but that might be because people don’t want to talk about it. It can be extremely hard to watch due to its content. Three women meet some men while on vacation and are invited to a party on a yacht. Once there, one of the women is killed while having sex, leaving the remaining people arguing over what should be done. It’s brutal and incredibly tense. The biggest reason I’ve included this one is because the film actually caused me to have a panic attack in the theatre. The soundtrack alone could start your heart racing, and the tense situations on the yacht certainly don’t help. This is a film that will have you wanting a shower when it’s done. Not for everybody, but a movie that will stay with you.

Adam Lopez – “Gorgeous people on a boat hacking each other to death in brutal ways. It’s a lot of fun, if you’re into that sort of thing!”

2009 – Must Love Death dir. Andreas Schaap

The idea of a romantic comedy mixed with a torture film should be enough to bring viewers in. The fact that it actually works on both levels is more impressive. When a young man has his heart broken, he decides to join in a group suicide. When he finally meets the other suicidal people, he finds out that they just want to kill someone, and he’s their victim. This is one of the few romantic comedies that I actually enjoy, although the inclusion of horror probably helps it out. It’s ridiculously funny, extremely creative, and impossibly mixes two genres that should have nothing to do with each other.

Adam Lopez – “The ultimate crowd-pleasing mashup! A torture porn romantic comedy, with a homage to Star Trek thrown in to boot!”

2010 – Cargo dir. Ivan Engler, Ralph Etter

It looks a bit like Aliens , and the story plays a little like The Matrix , but the final result is breathtaking to view. In 2270, Earth has become uninhabitable, leaving people living in orbiting space stations. If you have enough money, you can move to Rhea. It’s a beautiful paradise that everyone dreams of living in. Dr. Laura Portmann (Anna Katharina Schwabroh) takes an eight year job aboard a cargo ship in order to make enough money to move to Rhea where her sister lives. Once on the ship, Laura finds that they’re carrying something completely different than what they expected. The story isn’t the most original idea, although it does add some interesting twists. What really makes this film a success is the amazing visual style. It looks astounding, from the enormous space stations in orbit, to the dark, dank interiors of the cargo ship. The style alone is enough to give this one a look.

Adam Lopez – “Switzerland’s first sci-fi feature film is an absolutely stunning and scary trip into deep space.”

2011 – A Lonely Place To Die dir. Julian Gilbey

This film was so intense and absorbing that I forgot I was in a theatre surrounded by 500 other people. It’s hard to think of another film that can draw the viewer in like this one. Five mountaineers in the Scottish Highlands come across a young girl buried underground in a chamber. When they release her, they find themselves hunted by the men who had kidnapped her. With gorgeous scenery, heart pounding tension, and incredible stunts, A Lonely Place To Die manages to captivate an audience through much of its running time. Things start to slow down a bit by the end, but the majority of the film is non-stop tension.

Adam Lopez – “Jaw-dropping mountainside stunts and a vicious terrifying killer make this film a real indie standout.”

With so many fantastic films to choose from, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival continues to be the highlight of the Halloween season. Running from Thursday, October 18, 2012 until Friday, October 26, 20112, the seventh annual TADFF is an event that everybody should attend. You can find more information at their official website.

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