CATEGORIES Animation, Foreign Language, Horror, Independent, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Thrillers, Toronto International Film Festival, Cinematical Indie, Toronto Film Festival, CinematicalWelcome to the fourth and final chapter of Scott's Toronto Genre Fest. (I swear I saw some "grown-up" movies while I was in Canada; All the King's Men is a snoozer, Catch a Fire is fine stuff, and Little Children is pretty excellent.) But my main goal was to catch all ten of the Midnight Madness selections, plus a few extra genre nuggets that I had my eyes on. (Unfortunately I did miss one of the MM flicks: Nacho Cerda's The Abandoned.) So to round out the reporting, I bring you: Master del Toro's latest masterpiece, a slow-moving but creepifying arctic chiller, and a Dutch piece of animation that deals with pornography and little girls. Yes, really.
Princess -- From Dutch director Anders Morgenthaler comes this (mostly) animated tale of lost innocence, brutal vengeance ... and a sentient stuffed animal creature. It's about a former priest who comes to collect his niece when the girl's porn-star mother is killed, and it quickly branches off into an action-comedy/social commentary that, let's face it, might not play real well in the States. Despite its prickly subject matter, the animation is quite excellent and there's a few canny twists along the way. Certainly not for all tastes, but I dug it well enough.
Pan's Labyrinth -- Not a Midnight Madness selection, but why let that get in the way of hyping one of the year's best movies? I'll need to see the film a second time before writing any sort of cohesive opinion, but ... wowwy wow wow. To those of you who believe that The Devil's Backbone is Guillermo del Toro's finest film (as I did until a few days ago), get ready for a pitch-perfect treat. It's about a young girl who's forced to accompany her mother and horrific new stepfather as they hole up in an isolated military installment -- while a world of dark and dangerous magic resides in the surrounding forest. (Fear not, I refuse to spoil a damn thing in this movie.) Full of chilling moments, creatively unsettling creatures, creepy adventures, and a handful of unexpected shocks, this is a wonderfully entertaining fable. That del Toro has such strong and sincere affection for the horror/fantasy genre... the guy's a mad genius, period.
The Last Winter -- From Canadian director Larry Fessenden (he of the underrated Wendigo) comes a tale of global warming, gradual madness, and freeze-dried freakiness. Take the setting of The Thing, the message of An Inconvenient Truth, and the psychosis of any good haunted house flick, and that's The Last Winter. On the downside, the movie sure does take its time getting off the starting line, but Fessenden is able to balance a tricky air of mystery that's pure Twilight Zone material. Plus he's got an excellent cast in Ron Perlman, James LeGros, Kevin Corrigan and Connie Britton -- or maybe I'm just a sucker for the whole "trapped and dying out in the arctic isolation" sub-genre. (Note: The Last Winter was my Last Cheat: It wasn't a Midnight selection, but it was spooky so it stays.)