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Back after a four-year hiatus, the Canadian Film Fest takes over the Royal in Little Italy for four days of screenings, parties and panels. Things got under way earlier in the week with the Toronto premiere of Thom Fitzgerald's Cloudburst; Thursday through Sunday are devoted to shorts, features and discussions about independent Canadian cinema.
The programming ranges from earnest documentaries like Brendan Culliton's If I Should Fall, memorializing Marc Diab, a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan, to the strained social relevance of Hit 'N Strum, a class-struggle reworking of Once about a member of the 1 per cent (Michelle Harrison) who befriends a homeless busker (writer/director Kirk Caouette) after she hits him with her car.
There are quite a few genre pieces, including Justin Thomas Ostensen's Below Zero, a thriller about a burned-out screenwriter (Edward Furlong) who comes up with a novel solution to his writer's block, and closing-night gala A Little Bit Zombie, in which a mosquito bite leaves hapless bridegroom Steve (Kristopher Turner) craving brains but otherwise pretty much okay during a cottage weekend.
There's some good stuff in Zombie, not the least of which are supporting turns by Kristen Hager as Steve's sister and Pontypool's Stephen McHattie as a no-nonsense zombie hunter, but director Casey Walker establishes such a broad tone so early on that there's nowhere for the comedy to go once the premise is established. (There's also the problem of the movie's ending, in that it doesn't have one.)
The inclusion of Manuel H. DaSilva's atrocious horror movie The Unleashed gives pause; it's not the sort of film that plays festivals, but the sort that gets booed off the screen. It had a dismal local run last summer, and I'm assuming it's here because someone owed someone else a favour. That doesn't mean you have to get suckered in, too.