Hot Docs 2013 is ON!

I’ve neglected Cinefemale. I know.

It’s a weird place that I’m currently in. On the one hand, I’m one exam away from finishing my undergraduate degree. On the other, I’m still busy as fuck and conveniently enough my last exam is on THE LAST DAY in THE LAST TIMESLOT (7pm!!! Is that legal?) BUT I am not discouraged. I’ve been working 6 days a week, juggling 4 jobs and just moved into a new apartment – and I’m happier than ever.

Hot Docs is a few days in and it’s already the best year yet! This year marks not only the 20th anniversary of the festival, but also the 100th anniversary of the Bloor Cinema. Shit’s been poppin’ ya’ll. I feel incredibly lucky to have been working with HD since January as the programming intern, and I’m currently residing in the main box office selling tickets. If I get a day off of ALL OF MY JOBS (it’s so rare) you can find me watching screeners at home and running to 5 or 6 films in a day. Life rules. I’m totally deprived of sleep and partying every night and it’s fabulous.

Hey, so, I presume you’re reading this and you’re like, “uhh where are the genre film reviews?” Don’t worry. I’m on it. I’m cataloging and viewing films from HD13 that I think genre fans will absolutely adore.

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Here’s my picks so far PLUS the dates/times/places of their remaining screenings. Keep in mind, these are pseudo-genre docs in the sense that they will touch genre themes such as horror, sci-fi, and even porn.

Fuck For Forest: Watch a bunch a weird hippies make amateur porn to save the rainforest – at least, that’s the guise this film initially takes. The subtext proves to be a lot more complex as the viewer becomes more and more critical of the performative qualities and actual documentary elements of the film.

  • Apr. 30, 11:45pm @ Bloor
  • May 5, 8:30pm @TBLB

I Will be Murdered: Rodrigo Rosenberg predicts his own murder in a searing online video confession that criticizes the Guatemalan government. The film reveals the layers underneath the murder case, which became a national sensation, and revealed that the YouTube video was only the beginning…

  • May 1, 3:30pm @ TBLB
  • May 4, 8pm @ TBLB
  • May 5, 9pm TBLB

The Ghosts in Our Machine: An intimate look into the lives of our furry friends at the hands of humans – in the food and fur industries, and also a rescue sanctuary. Compelling portraits of animals highlight their unique personalities and quirks, asking the viewer to questions their own animal relationships.

  • May 1, 11am @ Bader
  • May 4, 11am @ Bloor

Mercy Mercy: Devastating and horrifying, this is a true tale of adoption unlike any you’ve seen before. An Ethiopian couple decide (heartbreakingly) to give up their two youngest children for adoption because they are dying from HIV. The children are adopted by a couple from Denmark and everything that happens thereafter only gets worse. A must-see, but bring tissues.

  • May 3, 9:30pm @ Scotia

NCR: Not Criminally ResponsibleTwelve years after a man attacked a woman viciously in a mall, he is declared mentally unstable and is released. Now on medication,he applies for a conditional discharge, and the victim is still terrified he will seek her out again. Public safety and the rights of the mentally ill who commit violent acts are the issues that seek resolve in this doc.

  • Apr. 30, 3:30pm @ Scotia
  • May 5, 1pm @ TBLB

Shooting BigfootI promise this one is FUN. The filmmaker follows three teams for Sasquatch hunters in their search for the mythical monster. I don’t want to give much away, but holy shit the ending of this movie WILL SHOCK YOU.

  • Apr. 30, 8:30pm @ TBLB
  • May 1, 11:59pm @ Bloor
  • May 3, 9:30pm @ Royal

SickFuckPeopleAfter the collapse of the Soviet Union, many young Ukrainians turned to drugs to escape their harsh realities. The film follows two people in particular – a young boy returning home, and a pregnant girl who is strung-out – and their navigation through love and loss.

  • Apr. 29, 3:30pm @ ROM

Tales from the Organ Trade: The world of organ trafficking spans the globe from Toronto to the Phillipines, Israel and Turkey. With the ever-expanding list of people who need kidneys, people in poverty across the globe make a personal sacrifice to help their social conditions.

  • May 2, 4pm @ Scotia

The Unbelievers: Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss talkin’ about science and reason. Hell yeah.

  • Apr. 29, 7pm @ Bader
  • Apr. 30, 3pm @ TBLB
  • May 3, 9pm @ROM

Evil Dead (2013)

Monday night was a resounding success! Before I get into ‘review mode’ I just want to thank everyone again for their patience for getting into the venue. Amazingly, we managed to get every single person (both ticket holders + rush line) INSIDE. As well, it was a great disappointment to have found out just a few minutes before the screening that Fede Alvarez was not able to make it. I am glad however, that a q&a still ensued with the prosthetics director Patrick Baxter, who also managed to get Fede on the phone! Ultimately, it was somewhat of a makeshift q&a, but a highly enjoyable one. The fans that came out are truly the best people – and I’m so happy that many of them (or YOU dear reader) expressed interest in our INDIE HORROR NIGHT this Thursday as well! Stay tuned for a more info on Thursday’s screening… there’s a sweet surprise in store for attendees.

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Okay, so on with the review. I feel like it’s important to note that I had few expectations going into the film. Last night was also my first time seeing it, and I tried my best to avoid lengthy trailers. Knowing that it was a remake of Sam Raimi’s classic - The Evil Dead - certainly made me weary. It’s difficult to do a remake that both gives credit to it’s predecessor and attempts to do something new with the material without straying too far off course. I am delighted, actually, and surprised that Evil Dead managed to do so. Though it is not without flaws, the film is a beast all its own and should be read as not really as a remake, but a gore-infused, thematic rehashing of the original.

You know the story, do I have to reiterate? Five friends are holed up in a cabin and a demon possesses every god damn one of ‘em. Given the familiarity of a very common plot structure, Alvarez managed surprisingly well in creating tension. Long shots were quickly intercut with short close-ups of the ensuing action and as the speed in editing escalated, so did tensions in the audience. Indeed, the editing is in-line with the original, but where there are similarities there are also stark differences. Audiences looking for the humor and camp of the 1981 original will be mildly disappointed. The film does have funny moments but when they appear they seem unintentional. Unfortunately for the time it appears in, Evil Dead is a tad too cliché in representation; viewers who are well-versed in contemporary horror have surely seen it all.

In terms of characters, the five we encounter are stockpile horror tropes fans have come to expect: the ‘dark’ girl, heroic jock, weird (maybe stoned? maybe Jesus?) hippie, hot chick, and ditzy girlfriend. Check, check and check. However, the primary female figure, Mia, played by a convincing Jane Levy, is really interesting in a subversive sense. She is a dark character even before her possession, and although moments of melodrama act as interludes in her overall horrific performance, she is ultimately believable in her role. The other four players in the text provide some good laughs with their over-the-top one-liners spoken in utter seriousness. Those moments, however, were an advantage to an eager crowd that easily laughed at these deliberately bad lines for it was really the gore that kept them going.

Admittedly, my favourite element of Evil Dead was the makeup. Patrick Baxter went into extreme detail in the ensuing q&a regarded the on-screen special effects that made the film unique. Undeniably, if the film was full of CGI-enhanced effects, it would be severely dated. I really enjoyed the time and effort put into some of these extra gorey scenes – and I could tell the receptive crowd did too. I’m inclined to believe that even gore-haters could appreciate the work that went into the aesthetics beyond what is initially seen as disturbing. Some key gore moments for me were: cheek-cutting, pulling a needle out of an eye, tongue slicing with exacto knife (as seen in trailer), a whole lot of nail gun action, and of course, an expectedly impressive chainsaw kill. The gore was drawn-out, every nuanced detail was shown in extreme close-ups, disallowing viewers to entirely remove themselves from an immersive gore extravaganza. Little relief was provided; once someone was gruesomely knocked off, another character would endure something equally awful. It was an overwhelming corporeal experience – body horror to the extreme. Nonetheless, these moments were beautifully done, and were totally a nod to the original in it’s usage of traditional special effects.

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Fans of The Evil Dead may be pleased to note that there are many subtle Easter Eggs throughout the film from the original (besides, you know, the entire film). An astute observer maybe catch some quick moments, like utilizing the cars from the original film in the same order they were shown. Similar moments throughout the film were certainly an acknowledgment to the fans, and honestly I couldn’t catch them all myself but it’s nice to know Alvarez is highly aware of his audience. It is without a doubt that making Evil Dead was a risky endeavor, but ultimately Alvarez succeeded in creating a highly grotesque testament to The Evil Dead.

Did I find Evil Dead scary? No. Does it matter? Not really, especially considering my fright-threshold. My experience is singular, as many a patron in the theatre on Monday night admitted they were scared. So if it’s gore and easy jumps you’re seeking, you’ll find it in Alvarez’s film. I’ll admit I was only jumping because the person seated behind me was literally kicking my seat every time the music heightened. See it, and let me know what you think! Evil Dead is certainly polarizing to audiences that are new to the EVIL DEAD franchise and the hardcore fanboys of the original. However so, the movie is a fun one that is necessary to see IN A THEATRE. The thrills and scares won’t be any more exciting when you’re at home, alone and watching on a laptop. Don’t do that. You’d be setting yourself up for failure.

Be sure to stay for the credits…trust me, it’s worth it.

Horror Week Begins!

Hey there! I’ve popped my head out of the academic dungeon I’ve confined myself to for the past month to announce the beginning of - Horror Week at Innis College!

You heard correctly. Tonight at 8pm it all begins with a sneak preview of Evil Dead! Presented alongside CINSSU, my pal Zubin and I are helping putting what will be an awesome event. Director Fede Alvarez WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE! Post-screening there will be a nice discussion panel that includes Chris Alexander from Fangoria magazine, as well as UofT’s own Professor Kass Banning! A Q&A will follow, so fans can be sure to get their word in and ask the director whatever the hell you want.

Tickets for the event are free, but the advanced tickets have already disappeared in the greedy hands of hardcore fans! Don’t let that dissuade you from trying though, as long as you’re early (I’d recommend coming for 7pm), you can get in the rush line to ensure a seat.

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In theme with the week, and the event I’m probably the most excited for is INDIE HORROR NIGHT on Thursday! This event has been in the works for awhile, as my horror-parter-in-crime Zubin and I will be presenting two incredible works you can come check out. Firstly, from the twisted minds of Canada’s own Astron-6 comes Bio-Cop! Aptly described as “an epic emulation of 80s-era cop movie trailers, BIO-COP meticulously recreates the experience of watching VHS-era cheese with full-tilt gonzo gusto.”

The feature length that follows is Aaron Moorehead + Justin Benson’s TAD-award winning Resolution! I can’t say much about the film without saying too much, but it won best screenplay at this past year’s Toronto After Dark Film Fest. The Astron-6 guys will be in attendance to introduce their film, and Aaron and Justin have a special introduction planned as well. $5 is a small price to pay to see these awesome independent works with a truly horror-centric crowd.

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Come for one, or better yet, BOTH screenings and ensure that this slushy/grey time of year gets brightened up with a bit of blood!

See you there…

Zero Dark Thirty

Here it is ya’ll, my first review post in 2013. I saw the flick during one of my late night double-features at the cinema. You would think I would want a break after the three-hour war epic, but no, I needed to hit up Silver Linings Playbook in order to feel normal again. Ok, so the film is obviously not a genre film, but it surely has horrific elements. The female protagonist (as you’ll see me explain) is interesting in her representation, hence, I feel this is appropriate to place here…

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In a scene most descriptive of the female lead, CIA director Leon Panette (James Gandolfini), walks out of a meeting with a fellow agent and asks, “What do you think of the girl?” the agent quickly replies, “I think she’s fucking smart,” Gandolfini quips back, “We’re all fucking smart”. The “girl” in question is Maya (Jennifer Chastain), a CIA officer who has spent the last decade of her career towards finding Osama Bin Laden. Kathryn Bigelow’s new film Zero Dark Thirty raises plenty of tough questions concerning the dramatization of recent history, the film’s supposed pro-torture stance, and moral obligations of both the film and filmmaker. At the heart of it all, Chastain’s role as protagonist is integral to approaching the aforementioned topics, and Maya alone is an engrossing figure in her elusiveness.

The film opens in Pakistan in 2003, where Maya is assigned to work at a U.S. embassy, and the narrative follows her until 2011 when the raid on Bin Laden takes place. In this broad timeframe, many key historical moments are highlighted, such as the Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing, attacks on the London Underground, and the Camp Chapman attack. Considering the duration of the film at a nearly three hour run time, it never lulls, and Bigelow does not allow the audience to detach themselves in any way. In this regard, Chastian was a perfect casting for her subdued and antagonist depiction of Maya. Her background information is never disclosed, and yet the viewers of Zero Dark Thirty will feel sympathetic towards her character when there is little reason to do so.

As time progresses, Maya evolves. A once uncomfortable officer in the interrogation (torture) room, Maya quickly becomes an aggressor. Attraction to this character is in part due to her strength; she is never undermined because of her sex. Even among a group of US Navy SEALs, where one may expect Bigelow to touch on the apparent sexism in such groups, she is never harassed, belittled, or spoken down to. She rarely shows emotion, and is constantly seen as worn down, in unglamorous attire. Most baffling of all, she never divulges any information about her backstory. She is a ghost of a protagonist, so perhaps the reason she is so appealing has little to do with the character and much to do with Chastain’s striking features. Maya is reflective of the film as a whole; she is as concealed as the operation to capture Bin Laden was. And despite her pro-torture standpoint, viewers will feel a tendency to side with her. For these reasons, viewers of Zero Dark Thirty may find themselves grappling with conflicting emotions: the film is beautifully shot and absolutely watchable, but enjoyable in a problematic way. What little we know of Maya, and the Bin Laden’s assassination, is what will continue to intrigue and fascinate viewers who will find themselves watching her in the timeline of a decade, on one of the most drawn-out and anticipated moments in recent US history.

Quick Update

Hey guys… it’s been awhile.

I won’t lie, I’ve been slacking in the blogosphere, but I have been busy in the real world. As I have mentioned previously, I am working at an independent video store downtown, managing a 5-day school schedule and somehow picked up an internship programming at Hot Docs! I’ve also managed to become a regular contributor for these guys. Eep.

Although I no longer have a day off, my social life is obsolete, I’m recently single and dealing with that kind of horror (re: the heartbreaking kind), I’m actually okay. Okay in the sense that I’m still alive, and busy, and being super productive. The happiness part is a work in progress. I keep telling myself that remaining this busy for the next three months is worth it because, well, I’m graduating at the end of this semester. That’s right. I’m almost an adult. I guess.

So what does this all mean in regards to Cinefemale? I am unable to update weekly, that’s a given. Luckily I am currently enrolled in a critical writing class! And ya’ll know me… I will surely try to review stuff relevant to this blog for that class. I have an upcoming piece waiting for you, although it’s not on a horror film. What it is? I’ll keep you in suspense. For now.

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My outward appearance…

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& how I really feel.

See you soon…

Happy Halloween!

At last… my favourite time of year! The weather’s a little cooler, the leaves are a little crunchier and everyone’s out and ready to get their creep on. Whether it’s those pesky/adorable trick or treaters who just want sugar, or the more grownups in disguise who just want booze, Halloween offers something for everyone.

If you don’t see yourself involved in either candy begging or binge drinking, or maybe you don’t wanna don a costume, you need not fret. Cinephiles and horrorheads alike will rejoice in some of the unique Halloween screenings or movie-related events in Toronto tonight!

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1. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney 

Tonight at Innis College you can come see Takashi Miike’s newest release, Phoenix Wright. Based on the first of the Ace Attorney games, the film follows attorney Phoenix Wright as he strives to protect his clients in various murder trials. Being already heralded as a “cartoonishly fun ride” this film is sure to please both fans of the game and newcomers. Fans of the auteur are sure to expect a treat with this one.

Starts at 7pm, tickets are $11

Click HERE to check out the facebook event!

2. Rocky Horror Picture Show

I’m sure you’ve seen Rocky Horror before, but have you seen it with a shadow cast crew? The annual shadow cast show is set for tonight and I bet you’ve never seen the Time Warp done like this before! The cast is always lively and adds an extra intertextual element to the already much-loved him. As I recall, they always have a costume contest during the Halloween show, so if you’re dressed up you can win some nice prizes! Even if you’re underdressed for the occasion, you can at least enjoy the many Sweet Transvestites that are sure to be in attendance.

Screenings at 7:30 and 10:30pm, tickets are $11 and can be bought on the website or at the venue.

3. Dracula Frankenstein double-bill

Got a hankering for some classic horror monster action? The Cineplex Odeon theatre chain has just the solution. Tonight they are screening a double feature of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, starring the masterful Boris Karloff in the leading role, directly followed by Tod Browning’s Dracula with the just as wonderful Bela Lugosi. See two masters at work in these timeless classics.

Shows at 7pm at various Odeon theatre, tickets can be bought here!

4. In conversation with George A. Romero

Okay, so this isn’t happening tonight, but bear with me. This Friday at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Mr. Romero himself will be kicking off TIFF’s Living Dread retrospective of his film with an in-house interview. You can sit, in a theatre, with Romero, and fucking ask him anything. I will be there and I’ll most likely be experiencing some hardcore sweaty palms. This event takes place on Friday, November 2nd at 11am and tickets are available on the TIFF website.

The retrospective WILL begin tonight however, with an initial screening of Creepshow at 9:30. Come see the Romero and Stephen King’s collaboration in this fantastic horror anthology classic. To browse the full schedule and purchase tickets, click here.

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So I wanna know what crazy Halloween antics you get up to! And I’d love to see some good costumes…horror related or otherwise. So send send away or keep in touch on twitter! Stay safe but most importantly…

Have a Frighteningly Good Halloween!

xxx April Ho’Neil

And yes, if you’re wondering, I did go to school in this costume.