The programmers of the Blood In The Snow festival couldn't have picked a better weekend. It's cold, it's miserable, and there's probably still snow on the ground as you read this, so why not hide from the elements with three days of homegrown horror?
The festival returns to the Carlton tonight (November 29) through Sunday, kicking off with two vivid, bloody studies of young women trapped in very personal hells.
Karen Lam's Evangeline, which makes its North American premiere at 7 pm, tracks the descent of a young woman (Kat de Lieva) assaulted and left for dead in the woods. Bloody vengeance is exacted, though precisely what's exacting said vengeance is unclear. Lam's directed a number of short films that play out along similar lines, and Evangeline feels like a conscious attempt to expand one of those stories to feature length. At 85 minutes, it's a stretch, but some of the individual moments pack a punch.
Playing at 9:30 pm, Éric Falardeau's Thanatomorphose is basically a chamber drama with prosthetic effects. One morning, a young woman (Kayden Rose) wakes up with some ugly bruises on her body; she ignores them and gets on with her life, only to discover that she appears to be rotting from the inside out.
There's not much dialogue; Rose carries the picture with a deliberately calibrated physical performance that mirrors the growing panic behind in her eyes. And maybe it's just that I'd recently revisited The Fly, but there seemed to be a deliberate echo of David Cronenberg's merciless approach in Falardeau's measured deterioration of his physically beautiful protagonist.
I've no idea where Falardeau and Rose go from here - both experimental horror and straight drama seem like plausible follow-ups - but this is a really impressive debut from a filmmaker and star of whom I'd previously been entirely unaware.
A new month means a new Doc Soup feature at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. And this time it's Gore Vidal: The United States Of Amnesia, making its Toronto premiere with two shows Wednesday (December 4) and one more Thursday (December 5).
Structured as a tribute to the cantankerous vision of its subject - who died last July -Nicholas D. Wrathall's doc weaves extensive footage of Vidal discussing American political and cultural policy (and his own illustrious personal life) with admiring testimonials from celebrated writers and thinkers who knew him over the decades, up to and including Tim Robbins and Sting.
It's a bracing history of a life vividly lived, and few documentaries manage the simple visual eloquence of cutting between clips of the young, furious Vidal and the physically faltering but still mentally acute man he was in his later years. Wrathall doesn't shy away from the reality of old age, although it's heartening to see Vidal's eyes still blaze with righteous fury while old rivals like William F. Buckley, Jr. slide into louche parodies of themselves.
One last thing before the weekend: my good friend (and occasional NOW film contributor) Kiva Reardon's film journal cléo has launched its third online issue, this one structured around the concept of "Doom". It's well worth checking out; be sure to read Kiva's excellent conversation with Claire Denis, which will probably make you regret missing Bastards earlier this fall. Sorry about that.