As the days grow shorter, the Blood In The Snow and Bloody Mary festivals splatter homegrown horror across Toronto's screens
You thought Toronto’s November film-festival wave was over, didn’t you? Well, think again: a pair of horror fests have been biding their time for the temperature to drop and the days to get shorter. Here’s a handy guide.
When: Thursday (November 23) through Sunday (November 26).
Where: This year, the festival trades the claustrophobic auditoriums of the Carlton for the bigger space of The Royal (608 College St) … where anything might be lurking in the shadows.
What To See: The BITS festival lines up as many Canadian horror features and shorts as its programmers can fit into a long weekend, keeping the conversation going with industry panels and receptions a short walk south at the Monarch Tavern.
Highlights include Matthew Currie Holmes’s Buckout Road (Friday, 9:30 pm), a grindhousey mash-up that sends three college kids students down “the most haunted road in New York state,” where a host of 80s horror menaces lies in wait. The better-than-average cast includes Henry Czerny, Danny Glover, Colm Feore, Mockingjay’s Evan Ross, Wynonna Earp’s Dominique Provost-Chalkley and Letterkenny’s Michelle Mylett, and everybody has a pretty good time.
I really liked Fake Blood (Saturday, 4:30 pm), a meta-horror exercise from Vancouver filmmakers Rob Grant and Mike Kovac that starts out as a home movie about two friends who enjoy making violent films together, and quickly goes somewhere darker and more disturbing. And while The Child Remains (Saturday, 9:30 pm) could have used one more pass in the editing bay, Michael Melski’s thriller features strong performances from Suzanne Clément and Allan Hawco as a couple spending a really bad weekend in a haunted inn.
And the festival’s selection of short films offers plenty of nasty treats, whether they’re paired with a feature film (as is the case with Alyx Melone’s stylish debut Talking Heads, screening with the hostage thriller Art Of Obsession Saturday at 4:30 pm), or collected in the official Short Film Showcase (Saturday, 7 pm), where you’ll find the wilderness freakout of Gigi Saul Guerrero’s Bestia, the Argento-flavoured bloodbath of Kyle Martellacci’s I Make Corpses and the deeply twisted punchline of Greg Kovacs’s Fun, among others.
Berkshire County screens again at Bloody Mary Fest.
When: November 30 and December 1.
Where: This one’s at the Carlton Cinema (20 Carlton St).
What To See: Marking its second edition, the Bloody Mary fest is devoted to screening Canadian genre cinema directed by women, which gives it a relatively small pool from which to draw its programming – and an even smaller one, since it has to compete with other festivals like Toronto After Dark and Blood In The Snow.
Indeed, both of this year’s feature-film selections have already had commercial runs in Toronto Tricia Lee’s Blood Hunters (November 30, 7 pm) – is a fuzzy sci-fi/horror hybrid that’s not especially good, but Berkshire County (December 1, 7 pm) is a solid take on the home-invasion thriller. (It was also a BITS premiere all the way back in 2014 director Audrey Cummings is back at that festival this year with Darken.)
For discoveries and surprises, check out the two short film programs, which are positively bursting with new talents: the first program (November 30, 9:30 pm) includes Naledi Jackson’s unsettling The Drop In, Gigi Saul Guerrero’s creepy Madre De Dios and Amelia Moses’s body-horror thriller Undress Me, while the second (December 1, 9:30 pm) offers the slippery, sensual chills of Ariane Louis-Seize’s La Peau Sauvage and Kassandra Tomczyk and Daniel Rocque’s Sea Monster and the more precise sting of Erica Generex Smith’s A Brief History Of The Apocalypse. Oh, and Talking Heads and Bestia turn up in this one, too.
And yeah, I know, everybody’s short films eventually turn up on the internet. But they’re so much more effective on a big screen in the dark.