I attended a few screenings at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival a week or so ago. Here's what I saw:
The Last Lovecraft
- A very schlocky, very campy horror comedy. It seems to want to be one of those "so bad it's good" movies, but it doesn't quite hit the mark there. It definitely works better as a comedy than as a horror film, but even in this respect, I can't give it too many kudos. It has its moments, but I ultimately didn't find it that funny. C-
- A science-fiction film from Switzerland -- evidently, the first one the country has produced. Some of the F/X work (particularly the exterior spaceship shots) are a little shoddy, but the set design is actually pretty good, especially considering it had a budget of only $2 million (U.S.)
The story isn't wholly original (although really, what is these days?), but I found the film to be reasonably engaging, thanks partly to the emotional connection to the lead protagonist (however, I must admit the "romance" felt a little forced and unnecessary. It could have worked, but as presented, I just didn't completely buy it). B
- A teen stoner comedy, but much better than most. I must admit, I laughed my ass off a number of times. Features Adrien Brody as the crazed, tattooed local drug-dealer Psycho Ed (an interesting, unhinged performance), and Michael Chiklis playing (effectively) against type as the school's slimy principal, the main antagonist.
The plot revolves around two high school students' plan to get the entire student body high on Ed's special blend of dope (which he has placed in a container labelled "Captain Sulu"
) after the principal announces a school-wide mandatory drug-testing, and expulsion for anyone who tests posiitve. One of these two students is the class brain, and prospective valedictorian, so after toking up for the first time the day before, he naturally frets about the results of this drug test. Thus they put their daring plan into motion, and of course, hilarity ensues.
The film is fairly witty with some good performances, but there are a few negatives. Again, I found the "romantic" bits to be half-assed and almost an afterthought, but that may be on purpose (especially since the protagonist doesn't refer to the object of his affection as "the girl I love", but rather, "the girl I think is hot"
). There were a few lucky escapes that seemed a bit too convenient, and the ending was a bit predictable (not to mention a lot of the tension and danger that had been built up seemed to deflate rather quickly). Nonetheless, I recommend the film to anyone looking for a good laugh. B+
The Last Exorcism
- Opens this Friday, but I got to see it ahead of time at the Festival... producer Eli Roth was even on hand to introduce the film and hold a Q & A afterwards. I believe I actually got in a couple of promotional shots with him, but do you think I could find them online anywhere? Nooo...
Anyway, the film: it's another entry in the "found footage/faux documentary" genre. It involves a film crew following a disillusioned pastor as he attempts to prove that real demonic possession and exorcism are just myths. He receives a plea for help from a farmer who believes his daughter is possessed, and the reverend aims to show the documentarians that the girl's problems are all psychological. Of course, after he arrives at the family's farm, things start to get a bit more complicated...
I was mostly enjoying the film, until the end. Honestly, the last few minutes felt a little tacked-on, like the filmmakers weren't entirely sure how to end it (after providing the viewer with a fake-out almost-ending beforehand). I can see how the ending kind of works, thematically and for the characters, but I'm still not all that fond of it; it seemed a bit rushed and over-the-top. Still a generally solid film, though, with a number of strong performances. B-