Toronto After Dark 2016 Review: The Lure

Two mermaid sisters swim up to the Warsaw shore one night and encounter a family of musicians. Looking for some fun, they join the family’s band, which performs at a nightly cabaret club. Given the names Silver and Golden by the club owner, they become instant audience favourites because of their youthful beauty and serene singing voices. When Silver starts to fall in love with bassist Mietek, however, the more bloodthirsty Golden foresees doom.

The Lure is certainly one of the more original pictures of the year – a neon-lit fairy tale of man-eating mermaids and romance. It’s also a full-on musical – the first musical, actually, that has ever been made in Poland. Seemingly inspired by rock operas and ’80s new wave music, Agnieszka Smoczynska’s debut feature is an absurd tragicomic feast for the senses.

As the winsome but naïve Silver and the more cunning Golden, Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszanska, keep you firmly invested in their plights, navigating a hostile human world much like Scarlett Johansson’s alien creature in Under the Skin did. Although here they are, first and foremost, interested in having a good time before planning to eventually swim to America. Both actresses throw themselves full stop into the nightclub act, in sequences sure to slap a giddy grin on your face.

Smoczynska nicely balances a classic folktale with more contemporary sensibilities, although some of the underlying commentary could have been expanded on more for the climax to achieve its maximum impact. Nonetheless, The Lure moves along briskly at a beat you can dance to.

Toronto After Dark 2016 Review: Antibirth

If there was one film to sum up the kind of experience you should be looking for at a genre film festival, Antibirth would be it. This is one movie you don’t want to miss out on. The film follows Lou (Natasha Lyonne), a drunken stoner who spends most of her time hanging out with her friend Sadie (Chloë Sevigny). After a drunken party that Lou can’t even remember, she realizes that she may be pregnant, but can’t figure out how. As Lou tries to figure out what happened during her blackout, she starts to become incredibly sick. Soon she’s hearing voices and seeing things, and her pregnancy becomes a part of an even bigger nightmare.

That’s about as much information as you should know about Antibirth. The twists and turns in director Danny Perez‘s film are best experienced without knowing very much. The film manages to smash a variety of genres together quite successfully, and the slow build towards an outrageous ending is captivating. It can be difficult to follow at times, but viewers won’t really mind when the result is so successful.

This is the kind of film that you’ll want to watch over and over, just to catch all the little details you may have missed on previous viewings. Lyonne and Sevigny give outstanding performances, while Meg Tilly steals the show towards the end of the movie as Lorna, a woman who shares some things in common with Lou, and someone who happens to know more about what’s going on. The finale delivers on the promises that the film has made, and while not everybody may enjoy it, it’s impossible to deny that it’s powerful and filled with some of the most amazing effects on display.

Toronto After Dark 2016 Review: Creepy

Kiyoshi Kurosawa has deservedly become a master of contemporary Japanese cinema, but he’s struggled in recent years to reach the heights of his landmark work. In Creepy, he returns to the genre in which he found his first major success with 1997’s Cure – the serial killer thriller.

Takakura is a former detective turned criminal psychology professor who moves with his wife, Yasuko, to a new suburban neighbourhood. In their attempts to be friendly with a family of three who live next door, the Nishinos, they notice the father’s behavior is alternately friendly and downright strange. As Takakura investigates an unsolved missing family case from several years ago with an old colleague, interactions with Mr. Nishino become more suspect, leading him to believe he may be living next to a killer himself.

While I hesitate to say “return to form”, there’s certainly a lot about Creepy that reminds one of what made Kurosawa such a trusted source of drawing out dread in audiences in the first place. He’s fully in command of his craft here, unravelling the plot patiently and finding tension and unease in unlikely places. His renowned control of framing and composition is also fully on display, enveloping you in the world in increasingly claustrophobic ways.

As Takakura, Japanese star Hidetoshi Nishijima is a good entry point into the story, confident and sharp in his criminal analysis skills but also betraying eagerness that makes him vulnerable. Mr. Nishino, on the other hand, is the perfect foil – completely charming at times, until he says something odd out of the blue that sends shivers down your spine. Teruyuki Kagawa (so good as the lead in Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata) is a trained Kabuki actor and he puts his expressive face to the test here, inhabiting Nishino as a chameleon of the creepiest kind. You never know what he’s going to do.

I’m not sure Kurosawa quite sticks the landing by the time it’s all over and he does fall into some genre contrivances here and there, but it sure isn’t an easy experience to forget either. To say anything more, however, would be to spoil Creepy’s twisted pleasures.

Toronto After Dark 2016 Review: As The Gods Will

Shun Takahata’s greatest complaint in life is his overall boredom with it. He quickly retracts his statement when his high school, and others in Japan and around the world, are plunged into horrific chaos as teachers heads explode into daruma dolls forcing students into deadly games of survival. Shun and his classmates must find a way to outwit the game, for which the rules change every round, and nothing is as it seems in this dynamic manga adaptation by the master of extremism Takashi Miike.

For those not familiar with the manga series by Muneyuki Kaneshiro, from which Miike draws his latest filmic thrill ride, the requirement for the audience’s suspended belief is best summed up in the opening scene by an ill-fated student who urges his peers to figure out the “how” and “why” later and just focus on surviving for now.  That is precisely what the viewer must do from the get-go to board this rollercoaster. Those who stop to analyze will never discover reason and miss the point of this adventure entirely.

While physiological horror and gore transcend international boundaries, there is a certain amount of Japanese iconography and cultural significance contained in As the Gods Will that might be more familiar to some than others. In each of the lethal games, Shun and his peers contend with traditional objects come to life, such as daruma dolls, a giant lucky cat, and wooden kokeshi dolls who force students into playing childhood games in exchange for their lives. Miike strives to mutate your fondest memories of youth into twisted scenarios with heightening tensions.

Only in the instance of Takashi Miike can we describe a film about students battling each other for their lives under nightmarish fantastical circumstances as “light-hearted”, but compared to other titles in his repertoire, this is a light romp and a vehicle in which to introduce new viewers into his darker, more gruesome affairs.

Toronto After Dark 2016 Review: Train to Busan

Zombie movies are a dime a dozen. They’re usually easy to produce, have a rather decent sized and rabid fanbase, and have captured a slice of pop culture once again in recent years. They’re also frequently awful. Horror films suffer a lot in this way. Take some blood, throw in a few scares and some mindless characters that only exist to cease existing at some point, and you’ve got your horror movie. Personally, I’ve been waiting years for another great zombie film and it has finally arrived with Train to Busan.

The film follows Seok-woo (Gong Yoo), a divorced father who is always too busy at work to spend time with his daughter Su-an (Kim Su-an). Su-an’s birthday is coming and all she wants is to see her mother in Busan. It’s a 280 mile train trip from their location in Seoul, and Seok-woo doesn’t want to send Su-an on her own. He eventually agrees to go with her but just as their trip begins, reports of violent riots breaking out all over the city start appearing. It soon becomes obvious that these riots are because there is a viral outbreak creating zombies, and the passengers on the train are now trapped with a growing horde of zombies on the train. The only stop that seems to be safe is Busan, so it’s up to a small group of survivors to try and reach their final destination.

Train to Busan doesn’t quite break the expectations you may have of a zombie film. You get a group of diverse survivors, from young to old, who spend almost as much time fighting among themselves as they do battling zombies. There’s a charismatic hero in Sang-hwa (Ma Dong-seok who is immediately likeable), who wants to protect his pregnant wife (Jung Yu-mi), along with the manipulative villain of the group, Yong-suk (Kim Eui-sung). Throw in a few characters that you may want to survive, but know that they ultimately won’t, and you’ve got yourself a zombie movie.

It’s the little touches that make Train to Busan stand out though. Seok-woo may be the main protagonist, but he’s not the hero you would be expecting. His path may lead him to heroics, but it’s only through shame and guilt that he finds his way there. This is a great twist on the typical underdog must save the day kind of character that usually shows up in horror films. Those characters usually want to be the hero, but have never been able to pull themselves together long enough to do it. A dangerous situation gives them the chance. Seok-woo doesn’t want to be a hero. He simply wants to save himself and his daughter, even if it means sacrificing others. It’s only after he’s saved more times than you think he deserves that he starts to come around to the idea that helping others is the way to go.

Of course, no zombie film will be successful without some great corpses to rise from the dead and eat people, and Train to Busan does that brilliantly. There are shades of World War Z in how the zombies move. They occasionally are found to be rolling in waves towards victims, crawling over each other to get some fresh blood, and they’ll mindlessly throw themselves through windows and over balconies to achieve their goal. Separately, the zombies are brutal and quick. Praise should be heaped on the performers as they flip and flop on the ground, giving their all in physical performances that look like it would have been painful at times. They thrash around in madness, and it’s the most entertaining and frightening zombie performances put to film in years.

The somewhat claustrophobic setting of the train helps as well, and it’s only through a slight spin on what we know about zombies that the survivors can manage to stay alive for so long, especially in the close quarters of the train. Things occasionally move outside of the train, which gives the film a few moments of bigger and faster action to break up the relative calm of the train, which helps make the longer running time run more smoothly. The only problem comes close to the end, when a character’s terrible choice sets up the obvious ending. It’s not that the finale fails, it’s the way the film got there that is a bit annoying. That’s a small complaint for such an exciting, tense, and brutal zombie film though.

Toronto After Dark 2016 Review: The Rezort

After a zombie outbreak kills a large portion of the worlds population, humans are finally back in control. The remaining undead have been shipped to an island called The Rezort. It’s a place where the rich can come and hunt zombies in the wild, although the island is heavily monitored and guarded. There’s very little chance that the undead could ever escape, which is exactly what happens when Melanie (Jessica De Gouw) arrives at the island. It seems someone has tampered with the computer systems, and now there’s only a few hours until the island will be carpet bombed. With a random group of survivors, Melanie does everything she can to stay alive and escape The Rezort.

While The Rezort does everything a good zombie movie should, there’s also nothing that really makes it stand out from the pack. To be honest, when it comes to zombie movies, that’s actually saying quite a lot.

The idea is unique enough, although it may remind some of the video game Dead Island. The zombie effects are great, the locations are exotic, and the killing is plentiful. Where The Rezort falters is in its characters. Like a slasher film, there’s nobody here to really care about, so the stakes are quite low when things get out of hand. The performances are fine, but the character development is lacking, leaving everybody in the group as just another person to get eaten by zombies without any viewers feeling too bad.

There’s quite the message towards the end of the film, and it seems to be one that we’re seeing a lot more. It’s just that it’s so obvious that even that moment lacks impact. The Rezort will definitely satisfy zombie fans, but it’s not a movie that you’ll remember long after watching.

Toronto After Dark 2016 Review: War on Everyone

Terry (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bob (Michael Peña) are two corrupt cops working in New Mexico. They’re constantly in trouble with their boss (Paul Reiser), are quick to threaten informants to get information, and aren’t above brutally beating a criminal before they finally take them in. When they catch wind of a robbery with a 1 million dollar payoff, they want to be sure they’re the ones who walk away with the cash. This puts them in the sights of Lord James Mangan (Theo James) and his lackey Birdwell (Caleb Landry Jones), who aren’t above destroying the lives of anyone who stands in their way. As Terry and Bob get closer to figuring out who is behind the heist, they find some disturbing details about the lives of Mangan and Birdwell which will force them to make a tough decision about the lines they’re willing to cross to stop criminals.

At just over 90 minutes, it can take a little too long for War on Everyone to figure out what it really wants to be. For the first half of the film, it feels as if writer/director John Michael McDonagh is trying to capture his version of a Tarantino film. It manages to mostly work because of Skarsgård and Peña’s performances, but it always feels like it will come in second to anything Tarantino puts out.

About halfway through, War on Everyone finds its own voice, and it starts to become something much more interesting. While the first half feels like a goofy ’70s cop show placed into an R rated world, the second half becomes more serious, dark, and twisted. Skarsgård’s character starts to take centre stage and we get to see into his life a little more, which is perfect because he’s the most interesting character in the film. It’s here that the film finally becomes the dark and grimy cop movie it should be.

Toronto After Dark 2016 Review: Let Her Out

Helen (Alanna LeVierge) has an ordinary life that couldn’t have begun in a more unusual way. Her mother committed suicide while pregnant with Helen, but doctors were able to save Helen’s life. on her 23rd birthday, Helen continues to wonder what drove her mother to such a terrible act, and worries that her life could take the same kind of path. Helen’s friend Molly (Nina Kiri) assures her there’s nothing to worry about, but when Helen is accidentally struck by a car on the property of the hotel where her mother died, things quickly change.

Helen begins having periods of lost time, finding herself in strange places without knowing how she got there. Her anger is getting uncontrollable and she’s experiencing visions and hearing voices. She learns that she had a twin, but her twin died in utero and was absorbed into Helen’s body. Now her twin is growing, and perhaps trying to find a way out of Helen’s body.

The latest from director Cody Calahan, Let Her Out is much more polished than his previous efforts. The acting from LeVierge is solid, the story is interesting, and there are some great moments of horror to close the film. The dialogue can be a little on the nose at times, and Calahan’s love for the genre shows itself in moments that can be a bit cliché, but it all comes together to provide a rather classic feeling horror film.

If there’s actually a problem to be found, it’s an opening sequence scene where Helen’s mother is raped. There’s no real connection made between this and what’s happening to Helen, so it’s unnecessary. If this is troubling to you, skip the first 5 or 10 minutes and you’ll still get a solid film without being lost.

The highlight is the finale, where things come to rather bloody conclusion. It’s a moment that you may be expecting, but it happens in such spectacular fashion that you won’t care.

TAD 2015 Review: Tag

After a horrific accident on a school trip leaves all but one student on a pair of tour buses gruesomely flayed with one fell swoop, teenager Mitsuko (Reina Triendl) escapes the grisly scene—outrunning a killer wind, to boot—and makes her way to a nearby high school where everyone seems to remember her, but which she never remembers going to. Mitsuko slowly realizes that she’s in the middle of a bizarre, surrealist nightmare, eventually turning into a 25-year-old bride to be named Keiko (Mariko Shinoda) and later into a marathon runner named Izumi (Erina Mano). None of these alternate timelines have happy endings, and none of the common characters between them seem to understand what’s going on, so it’s up to the women at the centre of each story—even though they’re technically the same person—to get to the bottom of things and break a cycle of relentless, senseless violence.

It’s no surprise that Tag comes courtesy of prolific, gonzo Japanese auteur Sion Sono (Suicide Club, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?), who has another of his whopping five 2015 releases, Love & Peace, screening on the same night of this year’s festival. The film once again blends his love of over-the-top grand Guignol theatricality, genre movie homages, and boundary pushing, sometimes tasteless humour. It’s like he decided to remake David Lynch’s Lost Highway by way of The Butterfly Effect and Final Destination, and I actually mean that as a positive.

I’m somewhat surprised this film isn’t getting as much attention as his other more high-profile efforts since there’s a lot to like. Admittedly, I’m in no way a huge fan of Sono, who I think has one hit to every six misses, but the more messier and more convoluted Tag gets, the more fascinating and thoughtful it becomes. It’s the rare example of a film that’s all over the place, but has a great, artful twist at the end that makes the disorienting tone worth it. It looks gorgeous, moves faster than even some of his crazier films (clocking in at 85 minutes, which most of his films probably should be instead of 130 minutes), and it holds within it a pointed and shockingly feminist critique of a culture that gets off on misery instead of joy. It’s the only time one of his genre exercises actually make me think about the material after it ended.

TAD 2015 Review: The Hexecutioners

Malison McCourt (Liv Collins) has just started working for a company that conducts euthanasia, something that has now become legal. Her first day on the job is rather unpleasant, and she takes up her concerns with the head of the company. He reassures her that everything will be fine and arranges for her to accompany Olivia (Sarah Power), a veteran worker, on her latest assignment. Heading to a remote mansion, Olivia and Malison must stay in the home for a few days to prepare for the assignment, but the client has some very strange requests. Malison soon realizes that the client was involved in some sort of death cult, and the former members are now haunting the home, attempting to stop Malison from performing the assisted suicide ritual.

Director Jesse Thomas Cook and writer Tony Burgess join forces again to bring The Hexecutioners to horror fans. Their previous collaboration, Septic Man, was a bit rough around the edges, but their latest offering is an atmospheric, tense and bloody treat.

Burgess’s work can be hit or miss as it can start to get into some very strange areas at times. With The Hexecutioners, his story keeps it rather simple and spooky, which works perfectly for audiences expecting a more traditional ghost story. There are enough odd twists and turns to keep things interesting though, so you’re never quite sure of what to expect.

Collins’s performance as Malison is cute and creepy, blending well with the more powerful and confident persona that Power creates with Olivia. To provide the uncomfortable moments, Wil Burd stars as Edgar, the helper who maintains the house of the person they’re sent to assist with his suicide.

TAD 2015 Review: Nina Forever

Rob (Cian Barry) recently lost his girlfriend Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) in a car accident, leaving him terribly depressed. An attempted suicide doesn’t work for Rob, and he’s just trying to get through life. He soon falls in love with Holly (Abigail Hardingham), a young paramedic in training who works at the same grocery store as Rob. The two begin a relationship, but things turn strange and ugly when Rob’s dead girlfriend appears next to the new couple every time they make love.

Blood and nudity are staples of the horror genre, but very rarely do they ever blend as erotically as they do in Nina Forever. Ben and Chris Blaine share directing and writing duties on the film and manage to create a touching, thoughtful story that is also filled with incredibly dark humour and some interesting twists on our perception of events.

Things are rarely what they seem to be, but Nina Forever takes that to extremes. The reasons for Nina’s sudden reappearance, as well as the subject of her scorn, seem clear at first but soon escape our expectations. The same idea carries over into other aspects of the movie as well, causing viewers to think twice about each situation and who may be in control.

All three leads are outstanding and handle the very dry and dark humour well, making for a wonderfully funny, intelligent and sexy horror film.

TAD 2015 Review: Gridlocked

Former special tactical unit officer David Hendrix (Dominic Purcell) is faced with his toughest challenge yet. He is forced to let bad boy Hollywood star Brody Walker (Cody Hackman) shadow him while working for the police as he tries to get back to the special unit he previously worked in. When David lets Brody tag along to visit his former teammates in the training facility where they frequently hang out, the two men find themselves locked inside by a group of individuals who want something from inside the facility. It’s now up to David and his former team to protect Brody, stop the criminals and figure out just what they’re looking for.

Gridlocked is good old-fashioned action like you may remember from the ’80s. The story is pretty standard for this style of film, with a few little surprises thrown in here and there, but it’s the action that keeps things going.

Purcell is joined by Trish Stratus as the most recognizable member of the special unit, while Danny Glover shows up as the officer who monitors the front door. The villains, led by Korver (Stephen Lang in a perfect villain role), manage to walk right into the facility, setting up the explosive events and suggesting that there may be a spy on the team.

Purcell and Hackman make a great pair for what is essentially your typical buddy cop film. Hackman plays for laughs while Purcell is the straight man. It works well, but the film doesn’t try to hit too many funny moments, which makes the few there stand out even more.

TAD 2015 Review: The Interior

James (Patrick McFadden) has grown very tired of his life. His job is terrible and his boss is even worse. He tries to motivate himself, but his frustration with everything around him makes it difficult. He’s also been suffering strange symptoms of an illness that has been undiagnosed. When he finally finds out what that illness is, it prompts him to quit his job and leave his life in Toronto behind for some peace and quiet in the woods of British Columbia. Once he arrives, James starts to realize that escaping his problems is harder than he imagined.

The Interior begins like a dark office comedy giving viewers plenty of moments to laugh at, even if it comes at James’ expense. This works perfectly, but it doesn’t last. When James heads out to the woods, the film becomes a silent horror movie, and loses most of the excitement it had built in the first 30 minutes.

There are some great points to be made from James’s journey into the woods, and the beautiful forest and slight sounds make for a visual treat. It’s just that watching James eat food, wander through the woods or sleep just isn’t interesting. There are moments of great terror and tension when James begins seeing a strange man spying on him, or people outside his tent making noise, but it never really adds up to much. The Interior is simply too much art house and not enough haunted house.

TAD 2015 Review: The Demolisher

Bruce (Ry Barrett) is a man living on the edge of sanity. His wife Samantha (Tianna Nori) has been left in a wheelchair after being attacked by a vicious gang while working as a police officer, and it has led Bruce to strike out against the crime in his city. When night falls, Bruce dons protective riot gear and a tinted helmet so he can find and brutally beat members of a local gang. As he slowly loses his grip on sanity and the ability to restrain himself, a young woman named Marie (Jessica Vano) inadvertently finds herself as the focus of his madness.

Writer and director Gabriel Carrer brings a brutal vision of vengeance to the screen with The Demolisher. If you’re expecting a story of a man fighting back against crime, you’ll only be scratching the surface. Bruce may have simply been a man looking for revenge at one time, but by the time we begin watching him in the film, he’s well beyond the line between sanity and madness.

Ry Barrett is unbelievable in the almost silent role, standing among some of the best villains in genre film like Jason or Leatherface. The difference is that Bruce is really just a man with troubling problems. He doesn’t want to be the violent individual he’s becoming, but is powerless to stop the change.

The film looks fabulous and doesn’t hide its location, taking a shot of the Toronto skyline and focusing on it from the start, giving our city a disturbing makeover.

TAD 2015 Review: The Hollow One

Rachel (Kate Alden) and her sister Anna (Chelsea Farthing) live a comfortable life in a farming community with their father (Tony Doupe) and mother (Tonya Skoog). Rachel has a wonderful boyfriend, Matt (Jesse James), and shares a close relationship with her family. Her mother Linda has a bit of a mysterious past, so their father Michael has hired a private investigator to find out some things about her family. When he delivers a mysterious mechanical object that seems to be connected to a necklace that Linda wears, he inadvertently unleashes an evil spirit. Fighting over the object, Linda is accidentally hit and killed by Matt and Rachel on their way home from a party when she runs into the road. This causes Rachel to leave their home with Anna, but two years later they return to search for their father, who has been left with the evil spirit for the entire time.

Horror characters are rarely smart. If they didn’t do dumb things, there wouldn’t be a movie. The Hollow One takes things much too far though, giving us characters who ignore painfully obvious warning signs without even considering for a second that something may be wrong. Strange jugs of black liquid? Who cares. People who twist in odd ways and look to be covered in blood? Not worried. Trails of blood? Lets follow them. Speaking in demonic voices? Don’t even notice.

It’s way too much for audiences to accept, even if it is a horror film. There is a late twist that makes things much more interesting, and the ending is a perfect horror film conclusion, but it’s just not enough to overcome the ridiculous things these characters do. It’s an interesting concept that is buried under mediocre acting and badly written characters.

TAD 2015 Review: Shut In

Anna (Beth Riesgraf) has been taking care of her brother who is dying from pancreatic cancer. When he passes away, Anna is forced to face her devastating agoraphobia on her own. Unable to even leave the house to attend the funeral, Anna is confronted by a much more terrible problem when three men, led by JP (Jack Kesy), break in to rob her. Assuming she would be gone at the time, the trio is forced to deal with Anna not knowing that Anna’s agoraphobia is not the only mental illness she suffers from.

At times it’s a relief to be limited to a word count for reviews, because Shut In is a film that is more exciting with all its mysteries intact. A general comparison to You’re Next gives you an idea of what you’re in for, as these two films share the common element of a woman taking charge of a deadly situation. Beyond that, the two films share little, and Shut In goes to some extremely dark places that You’re Next never did.

Once we start to learn more about the real problems Anna suffers with, things start to get bloody, brutal and a little ridiculous to be honest. Though the story can become a little hard to accept, the outstanding performances from the entire cast, especially Riesgraf and Kesy, makes this a film that is almost impossible to look away from. Audiences will be gripping the arms of their chairs until the final moments of this one.

TAD 2015 Review: Night of the Living Deb

Deb (Maria Thayer) is a woman looking for love in Portland, Maine, but she’s not having much luck. When she’s out at the bar one night and spots Ryan (Michael Cassidy), she decides to make her move. Ryan happens to be engaged, but that doesn’t stop the pair from hanging out for the evening. Deb wakes up in Ryan’s apartment the next morning with no memory of what happened the night before. She doesn’t want to lose her chance at love, but Ryan would just rather get rid of her. When they leave the apartment they find that zombies have taken over the city. This unlikely couple is forced to work together to try and get Ryan to his father’s (Ray Wise) house for their annual Fourth of July party, but Ryan’s father may have actually played a part in the outbreak.

Billed as a zom-rom-com, Night of the Living Deb is a bit more rom-com than zombie horror film, but it’s still plenty of fun. Thayer is great as Deb, a character who is a bit annoying at first, but quickly grows on you. This parallels the relationship between her and Ryan, as the couple starts to grow fond of each other the more they learn.

There’s plenty of laughs to be found throughout the film, and Ray Wise once again shows up as an inappropriate but hilarious father, stealing a lot of the scenes that he’s in. The film also twists many of the typical zombie film clichés we know, putting a nice spin on how the virus works and the extent of the outbreak. The real reason it works is because of how much you will start rooting for Deb and Ryan to not only survive the zombie outbreak but to get together as well.

TAD 2015 Review: A Christmas Horror Story

Four stories of holiday terror taking place in the town of Bailey Downs on Christmas Eve are presented in A Christmas Horror Story. A group of teens find themselves trapped in a high school that happened to be the scene of a double murder the year before. A police officer tries to bring his family back together by cutting down a Christmas tree. His son goes missing in the woods, but when he and his wife find their son, they may not be going home with the right child. A family heading out to their aunt’s house wind up the victims of Krampus (Rob Archer), the anti-Santa who punishes kids who have been bad, and finally, Santa (George Buza) has more problems than just presents to deliver when his elves get infected by a zombie virus. Through it all DJ “Dangerous” Dan (William Shatner) keeps spinning holiday hits from the local radio station, only slightly aware of the madness going on outside.

Christmas has often been a holiday that horror has included and A Christmas Horror Story offers up a bloody holiday anthology that isn’t always successful. Of the four stories and the segment featuring Shatner, only the story of the teens trapped in the high school offers very little. It’s a typical ghost story and offers few shocks or surprises.

The rest of the shorts are quite good, but it’s Krampus and Santa versus his zombie elves that steal the show. Krampus looks incredible and the only thing viewers will be upset about is the limited amount of time he’s on screen. Santa and zombie elves is the perfect setting for lots of bloody action, and the story doesn’t disappoint. What does disappoint is the choice to cut back and forth between the stories instead of playing them one after another. Viewers keep getting taken out of each short just when they start getting good, and it breaks the film up too much.

TAD 2015 Review: Synchronicity

Physicist Jim Beale (Chad McKnight) has invented a machine that can create a wormhole, essentially folding time and space on itself to allow for time travel. In order to power his machine, he must work with sleazy corporate executive Klaus Meisner (Michael Ironside), whose company manufactures the highly dangerous fuel Jim needs. When he activates the machine, a rare Dahlia flower appears in the lab and Jim must find its match in the present to prove the machine works. Jim finds the flower in the possession of Abby (Brianne Davis), a mysterious woman who may be working with Meisner to steal Jim’s work. To stop them, Jim enters the wormhole to travel to the past, but soon finds that he may not know the entire story.

Co-written by Alex Orr and Jacob Gentry, who also directs, Synchronicity avoids some of the pitfalls of time travel films but also winds up falling into a few. The story offers enough twists on the formula that you can’t easily dismiss it, but it doesn’t always work perfectly so it can be a tough sell.

Its biggest mistake is the love story at the heart of the film. Brilliant scientist Jim falls hard for Abby, despite not really knowing her at all. By the time two brief conversations have passed between them, Jim seems willing to throw away the greatest discovery in the history of mankind. It’s hard to accept and really takes away from the enjoyment.

The mind-bending and fascinating ideas of the film slightly outweigh the negatives though, and viewers will be locked in intense debates about what exactly happened for days after. Just don’t let love blind you.

TAD 2015 Review: Tales of Halloween

It’s Halloween night and every ghoul, ghost and goblin is prowling the streets in the anthology horror film Tales of Halloween. With 10 short films from 11 directors, every type of creature you can think of appears here. From man-eating pumpkins to urban legends and even Satan himself, there’s something to please every horror fan.

There’s not enough room here to cover all the directors and shorts that make up Tales of Halloween, but it’s not that difficult to say that this is the best anthology film around since they’ve come back into fashion.

With 10 shorts, there’s really only one that doesn’t quite live up to expectations, and even then it’s not really that bad. Its real problem is that it’s surrounded by such an incredible string of stories. There’s a man-eating pumpkin on the loose; Satan and his little friend heading out for bloody tricks on Halloween night; spooky tales of candy-gobbling monsters that will eat you if you don’t share, and that’s just scratching the surface.

There’s so many shorts to enjoy and viewers will never be tired of watching. Most anthologies leave us waiting impatiently for the less successful stories to finish, but this one will have viewers wishing that each short was its own feature film.