September 14, 2010

On My Radar: 11 Horror (or Horror-ish) Movies to Watch Out for at TIFF 2010

TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) has become a litmus test for movies heading into the fall season, arguably more so than Cannes as the homegrown talent gets a greater chance to flourish in Toronto. But the focus usually lies with those Oscar contenders, the low-key dramas with brooding performances from A-list actors. All fine and merry for the Access Hollywood crowd that wants to hobnob with George Clooney and Brad Pitt, but surely there are some horror movies that could use some attention at the film festival too. And not what Hollywood considers horror either, but some damned good movies that will scare the heck out of you.

Here are eleven films slated to be screened at TIFF this week that just might be what any self-respecting horror fan should look out for in the coming months. They run the gamut in styles and tone, and a couple look absolutely marvelous. Take a look at the list and tell me if there's a movie in there that sounds like it's your cup of tea.

  1. Bad Faith (Sweden) - It seems like Sweden is on a bit of a hot streak with regards to its storytellers. My cynical side tells me this suspense film is capitalizing on the success of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but my more appreciative side thinks we might be receiving a second high-caliber thriller about a woman's obsessive hunt for a serial killer. This one is supposed to have some subtle comedic nods to the genre, too.

  2. Black Swan (United States) - Before Natalie Portman goes off to deal with zombies in a Jane Austen landscape, she's going to play a ballerina with a diminishing grip on reality. It's a psychological thriller set in the backstage of a ballet, which is about the only way you could make me care about ballet. Throw in Mila Kunis as Portman's rival and my interest is about as peaked as it's going to get.

  3. Bunraku (United States) - This one is an action film rather than a horror film, but at first glance I can't help but include it as a film to watch out for in the future. Josh Hartnett and Woody Harrelson team up with Japanese pop star GACKT, forming a trio of avengers in a gunless dystopia ruled by a ruthless overlord played by Ron Perlman. Forget the gunplay, because this one is all about the swords. A spaghetti western mixed with a samurai revenge film, and a dash of Demi Moore thrown in, this stylistic action movie might be a runaway hit.

  4. Cold Fish (Japan) - This is apparently based on a true story, and if it is then this darkly enticing film should wind up being even more unsettling than if it was pure fiction. A tropical fish store owner befriends another after his step-daughter runs afoul of the law. The other shop owner offers her a job and a second chance, but the step-dad winds up ensnared his trail of corruption and murder. I guess his new friend likes to kill folks and dispose of them in gruesome ways.

  5. The Edge (Russia) - When I think of The Edge, I think of Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins fighting a giant grizzly bear. If I ever lay eyes on this Russian genre-bending movie though, that's likely to change. This one sounds cra-zee, with a post-WW2 Russian labor camp ritualistically serving a monster of a steam engine train, and a mysterious soldier returning to use the train in order to find an undead girl with an obsession about trains. I need to find a trailer for this one.

  6. Insidious (United States) - It's a haunted house movie, so you know it'll catch my attention. Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson play a young married couple who move into a house only to have their young son lapse into a coma. After that, all bets are off for the family. In movie-land, it's pretty hard to set yourself apart from the pack when it comes to stories about hauntings--and the pack is full of rejects and mongrels from recent years. I think this one has a chance a cut above the lackluster rest, though.

  7. Let Me In (United States/United Kingdom) - Undoubtedly, this is the one movie on this list getting the most buzz on the blogosphere. Director Matt Reeves assures fans of the original Swedish film--and the Lindqvist novel it's based on--that his movie will not suck. After learning of his casting choices (Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Richard Jenkins) and seeing a couple of teasers, I'm willing to take him at his word. This might be the movie I'm most looking forward to seeing coming out of TIFF.

  8. Rare Exports (Finland/Norway/France/Sweden) - I'm not entirely sure what to make of this one after reading the description for it, but it sounds quirky enough that it might be really good. A small community in the northern reaches of Finland is turned on its head when a group of supposed archaeologists start excavating a hill, disturbing the locals' livelihoods. It's not long that a young boy from the community notices that the excavation has something to do with one of the fabled houses of Santa Claus--and I guess the Santa in question ain't exactly a jolly old soul.

  9. Stakeland (United States) - Vampires. They're all over the place, and I'm not at all surprised to see another vampire flick rear its fanged head at TIFF. It's described as a road movie in a dystopian world ruled by ravenous vampires. With the protagonist being a teenage boy taken under the wing of a lone hunter, it sounds eerily similar to last year's Zombieland minus the sardonic wit. This may be a surprise hit among horror fans, but my cynical side disagrees.

  10. Vanishing on 7th Street (United States) - This movie is practically ripped from a lost Rod Serling script. In fact, there is something reminiscent of the Twilight Zone episode "Midnight Sun" to this film. A power outage occurs and when the lights come back on nearly everyone is gone, their clothes discarded on the ground akin to the Rapture. Those still around have to contend with fewer and fewer hours of daylight as the world gradually plunges into darkness. It might sound a bit hokey, but it's made by the guy who did Session 9 and The Machinist, Brad Anderson.

  11. The Ward (United States) - John Carpenter, ladies and gentlemen. F-ck yeah. Amber Heard plays a woman institutionalized after she's blamed for burning down a farmhouse, winding up in a psychiatric hospital that may not be willing to ever let her leave--at least not alive. The movie's setup sound like a cross between Rosemary's Baby and Girl, Interrupted. What the hell do I care? It's John Carpenter, ladies and gentlemen!