Rue Morgue contributors Jessa Sobczuk and Vanessa Furtado check in with a pair of reviews from this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
The Last Days on Mars (UK/Ireland)
Dir: Ruairi Robinson
Director Ruairi Robinson (BlinkyTM) walks the line between claustrophobic science fiction and white-knuckle horror in The Last Days on Mars, a slick, low-budget UK-Ireland co-production that packs a talented cast including Scream‘s Liev Schreiber and Shutter Island‘s Elias Koteas.
On the last day of the first manned mission to Mars, an international team of astronauts uncover a virulent strain of bacteria. The ground-breaking discovery soon turns deadly as two teammates are infected with the virus and mutate into violent, shambling zombies. The crew is infected one by one and the remaining astronauts must survive the night before their relief team finally arrives.
Thanks to creative lighting and sound techniques and a clever use of a dusty desert landscape (most of this film was shot in Jordan), the end result looks high-budget, organic and convincingly Martian. The characters and story arc are common to many Mars/deep-space flicks (Red Planet, Ghosts of Mars, Alien) and the pacing and body count are exactly what you’d expect from a zombie movie, but this is still an entertaining and clever thriller that manages to bypass most of the cheese factor you might expect given some of its predecessors.
It isn’t paving any new paths for genre film, but sci-fi and horror fans will find a lot to enjoy from this Toronto After Dark entry.
Motivational Growth (USA)
Dir: Don Thacker
Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni), a disgusting slob of a man, finds himself taking advice from a growth in his bathroom after a failed suicide attempt and the death of his TV (which he’s named Kent). The Mold, voiced by Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs, is a silver-tongued fungus that has formed in the corner of Ian’s unkempt bathroom. The Mold leads Ian to believe it truly has his best interest at heart and wants to help him get his life back on track. While taking the Mold’s advice, Ian gets the attention of Leah (Danielle Doetsch), a neighbour he has been door-stalking through his peephole. After receiving bizarre messages from his broken TV set, though, Ian starts to realize the Mold may not be as helpful as it seemed.
Though Motivational Growth is too light on plot to really work as a full-length feature, it offers enough cringe-inducing images, accompanied by a kick-ass, video game-type score and some pop-up 8-bit animation, to make it worth watching.