Now in its eighth year, Toronto After Dark hasn’t changed much—and that’s a good thing. As Sunday’s screening of Lloyd the Conqueror made clear, every film at this festival is treated like an event. Set in the world of LARP (Live Action Role-playing), the film attracted several members of the local LARP community, who gathered in front of the theatre to show off their costumes (including swords, shields, and masks) while they geared up for the onstage duel that preceded the film. Curious onlookers stopped to ask questions and take in the spectacle, both intrigued and a little perplexed.
Before the screening, producer Brendan Hunter and comedian Brian Posehn—who plays an important supporting role in the film—were escorted on stage by a large group of larpers, who Posehn joked would be escorting him to the airport the next day. Shot in Alberta by a Canadian cast and crew, Lloyd the Conqueror features just one American actor: Posehn (“I think I faked kind of a Calgary accent”), who said he’s extremely proud of the film. After the screening, Posehn explained that he formed a close bond with co-star Mike Smith (best known as Bubbles on Trailer Park Boys), who couldn’t attend the screening because he’s on tour with Guns N’ Roses. “He’s hanging out with Axl Rose instead of my sorry ass, so I get it,” Posehn said.
Daniel Lutz revisits painful memories (and does some virtuoso guitar shredding) in My Amityville Horror.
While Toronto After Dark is perceived as a horror film festival, films like Lloyd the Conqueror (a fantasy-themed comedy) and My Amityville Horror (a documentary) prove that it’s a bit more diverse than its reputation would suggest. The latter film made a powerful impression, thanks to its fascinating, somewhat unstable protagonist. This film chronicles the true story behind The Amityville Horror movies—particularly Amityville II: The Possession—as told by Daniel Lutz, one of the children who suffered through the supernatural events that may have taken place in the winter of 1975. Alternating between spooky anecdotes and absurdist observations that recall the non-fiction work of Werner Herzog—the devoutly religious woman with twin roosters comes to mind—this open-ended documentary has a lot more on its mind than haunted houses.
The filmmakers behind My Amityville Horror were unable to attend the festival, but special guests introduced the film nonetheless. On hand for their screening later in the evening, Resolution directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead explained that they’ve met My Amityville Horror director Eric Walter and confirmed that he’s a cool guy—then launched into an elaborate sales pitch for their own film. Before leaving, they made a bold promise. “Resolution helps your sex life,” they said. “It will get you to bang a stranger tonight.” Festival Director Adam Lopez went one better, suggesting that “you might get to bang one of the filmmakers.”
In the introduction to their own screening, Benson and Moorhead explained that they made similar promises when the film played at this summer’s Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. To prove their point, they brought up an audience member from Montreal, who explained that his wife conceived a baby on the night they saw Resolution. “We do this all the time,” said Moorhead. “How many Resolution babies are in the audience?” That faux Montrealer turned out to be the film’s star Peter Cilella and this was followed by similarly phony testimonials from co-star Vinny Curran and one of the film’s producers.
Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran witness their own demise in Resolution.
After all this (admittedly, very amusing) hype, there was some fear that the film would fall short of expectations. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the standout horror films of the year, Resolution avoids just about every cliché available in its exploration of a junky who is held prisoner by his best friend, while he battles through withdrawal—and all kinds of enigmatic external threats. The less revealed here the better, but Cilella makes for a refreshingly intelligent, sensitive protagonist, grounding the film in a credible vision of reality. His witty interplay with Curran prevents the film’s momentum from sagging and the conclusion is nerve-wracking in a brand new way, creating a sense of dread that transcends genre.
The cast and crew returned for a lively Q&A after the screening, which featured a Brokeback Mountain-inspired trailer for the film and some audience-wandering by Curran, who spontaneously decided to moderate. After this typically memorable night at the festival—which also featured Matt O’Mahoney’s Adjust Tracking, an excellent short that should appeal to anyone with a history of renting schlocky VHS tapes—cast, crew, and audience retired to Paupers Pub for drinks. Just another night of movie geek bliss at Toronto After Dark.