Rue Morgue contributors Mike Beardsall and Jessa Sobczuk check in with a pair of reviews from the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
Silent Retreat (Canada)
Dir: Tricia Lee
The locally-shot Silent Retreat celebrated its world premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival Sunday afternoon. The plot centres around Janey (Chelsea Jenish), a young woman who has recently gotten into some trouble with the law and is sent away to a meditation camp to be rehabilitated. Janey, along with her fellow campers (all teenage girls), must remain completely silent for the duration of their stay, or else incur the wrath of the camp doctor and his two sons. Escape is impossible as they’re miles from anywhere, surrounded by forest, and watched constantly by a hungry nocturnal beast that walks among the trees.
Part social commentary and part creature feature, Silent Retreat beautifully blends supernatural horror with the terrors of the real world, particularly those faced by young women. The film has some tense moments and plays it pretty straight-faced right up until its monstrous (and bloody) conclusion. The dialogue is largely kept to a minimum for the first half of the movie, but that doesn’t stop the characters from feeling any less real or engaging.
Female viewers will definitely get more out of Silent Retreat, but there’s plenty here to keep anyone intrigued.
Septic Man (Canada)
Dir: Jesse T. Cook
Let’s try to get through this without any puns, shall we? Septic Man is no laughing matter. While this film has a few moments of uncomfortable humour, overall director Jesse T. Cook (Monster Brawl) sets a fairly serious tone for this psychologically torturous and physically nauseating survival flick. Writer Tony Burgess (Pontypool) combines psychological horror with slasher- and monster-movie elements to create a surreal and visceral story that will leave you shaken – and desperate for a shower.
When the town of Collingwood, Ontario faces a deadly water crisis, septic worker Jack (Jason David Brown) is hired to investigate the source of what seems to be a widespread viral contamination. After the town is evacuated, Jack stays behind to search the water plant, where he becomes trapped inside a septic tank. Then it goes down, it hits the fan, and it gets real. Let’s just say things take a turn for the worse, and the supernatural.
Elements of Pontypool, Toxic Avenger, hell, even The Decent can be found in this film, and for the most part Septic Man is an entertaining and putrefying fantasy yarn. But the plot takes some leaps and bounds toward the end that might be too surreal for some viewers to swallow. If you can suspend a bit of disbelief – and suppress your gag reflex – this makes for a strangely satisfying and terrifying watch.