Alongside their dedicated Shorts Showcase (both Canadian and International), the Toronto After Dark Film Festival offers bitesize extras for those attending. Each of the main features is preceded by a short film, resulting in a bevy of horror and comedy in equal measure. Here are our thoughts on those ten extra shorts.
*666 is a horror short, written and directed by Abby Falvo with additional writing from Lar Violet. A casual dabble in the occult leads to horrifying consequences as two women contact another realm.
Consisting of a single roll of Super8 film presented in a silent film style, *666 is a peculiar blend of classic films from the 1920-30s, the satanic panic of the ’70s-90s, and, of all things, the board games prominent in the 80s such as Girl Talk. Whilst attaining an authentic representation of the silent era, the production does have a slight air of campy undertones with its thematic yet playful score.
Black Paris is a horror short, written and directed by Sid Zanforlin. Mankind is losing the war but one soldier fights the darkness, no matter what the cost.
Being filmed in front of an LED volume wall, Black Paris has an incredibly grandiose production value. Beginning with the veneer of a period piece set around the 1940s, this facade is soon shattered—building up and subverting all expectations within a brief, 2-minute runtime.
Bye-Bye is a supernatural horror short, written and directed by Freddy Chavez Olmos. In the eerie silence of a deserted subway station, Karla and her partner Hannah await a train late at night. Unsettling whispers soon emerge, revealing that they are not alone.
Containing almost zero dialog, the score for Bye-Bye does the majority of the heavy lifting to create an atmosphere of tension. Whilst implementing a large amount of CGI for a number of different aspects, these effects boast some incredibly high production value for a short film. However, its length is a discernible hindrance, having hardly any time to instill any of the ambient suspense that was intended to be built.
Camp is a horror short, written and directed by Bronson Allen. Three young girls’ obsession with contacting the dead via a Ouija board takes a drastic turn.
What seemingly begins as a supernatural short soon becomes significantly darker in tone, shifting from a childish game into a subversive tale similar to Devil Times Five. Featuring some slick cinematography and an amazing performance from young lead Charlie Rose Neis, this short is a delightful diversion from the expected.
Gamesmanship is a gore horror short, written and directed by Doug Cook. One couple’s competitiveness to win at a game of Christmas charades soon leads to drastic consequences.
Beginning as a (un)seasonal Christmas horror, Gamesmanship certainly diverges from the expected—delivering an incredibly gruesome depiction of gore and mutilation. Whilst some performances feel a little stiff at its start, this soon evolves into a fairly competent performance from everyone involved. Its over-the-top nature and nonplussed delivery undoubtedly exacerbate the grizzly visuals into the territory of satirical, dark comedy, delivering an extreme yet enjoyablely enclosed tale of competitiveness.
Mystery Box is a horror short, written by Marko Pandza and Jason Kerr, and directed by Tomas Morisson. A young man gets more than he bargained for after he purchases a mystery box off the dark web.
Taking a strong focus on the dangers of technology and the invasion of privacy, Mystery Box certainly meets the expectations of dealing with the enigmatically taboo subject of the murky depths of the internet. Successfully constructing insurmountable ambient tension, the utilisation of minimal characters and locations enforces an enclosed, claustrophobic atmosphere throughout. Rather than show any graphic detail, the short’s horror comes from the revelation of the grander plot without an overreliance on visulising them—emphasising them drastically.
Pool Party is a monster horror short, written and directed by Ellie Stewart. What should be an enjoyable 17th birthday party is soured when an underlying issue between two attendees comes to a boiling point.
Poised as a coming-of-age drama, Pool Party highlights numerous issues experienced as a teenager. Suffering through puberty, distancing relationships, and the eruption of hormones are all explored in some unique ways—compounding these alien changes to a young person’s body and personality. Furthermore, the short employs some impressive prosthetic effects, transforming the protagonist into a monstrous being without the use of CGI.
Rec Volton is a sci-fi action short, written and directed by Jack Lesarge. An alien parasite has taken up residence in a human host, posing an immense risk to the population of Earth. It’s up to Rec Volton, Alien Hunter, to travel back to Earth to destroy this beast and save the planet—all in a day’s work for the legendary hero of the stars.
An outlandish blend of 80s sci-fi, cheesy serial shows, and some impressive body horror, Rec Volton is a phenomenal love letter to all these and more. Whilst there is a comedic undertone to the over-the-top nature of the story, its straight-faced delivery further strengthens this aspect without the need to self-identify its inclusion. Moreover, with detailed prosthetics and impressive practical effects, these gruesome scenes, though limited, carry a high level of production value for an obviously limited budget short.
Soul Proprietor is a supernatural horror short, written and directed by Scott Riopelle. Hidden within a dingy basement, a priest fights the noble fight while performing multiple exorcisms in an attempt to save a young woman’s eternal soul.
An idiosyncratic take on the possession horror genre, Soul Proprietor fully succeeds in adding a fresh angle on the exorcism trope that seems to have grown stale over the years. With an impeccable performance from Tehya Silbermann for her portrayal as the innocent Eva as well as three despicable demons from hell, her overall range is incredibly vast—fully embodying the distinctive personalities of each. Additionally, the implementation of highly polished CGI in just the right amount leads to an overall beautiful-looking production.
Xtemplar is a French-language sci-fi horror short, written and directed by Paul Fuminger with additional writing from Wilson Tang. In 2077, The Soul Eaters attacked Earth with the intent of absorbing psychic energy from places of worship and temples, destroying cities, and laying waste to the planet in the process. After 60 years, humanity finally creates a weapon that can fight back against these creatures, and now they take the fight to this horrid abomination.
Looking more like a game cutscene than a short film (it was made on Unreal Engine), the short is heavily stylised with cartoonish, cell-shaded graphics that, surprisingly, works incredibly well for Xtemplar’s alien setting. The distinctly foreign landscape and neon colour palette prevent the feeling of an uncanny representation from seeping through, fully leaning into its aesthetics. However, the short’s narrative hardly has the time to establish any real semblance of progression and the entire experience feels akin to a technical demo of sorts.
We watched these short films at Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2023
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Kevin Kopacka is a name that horror fans around the world will no doubt become very familiar with. After having his latest film, Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes, screened at…
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Hey there, I’m Jim and I’m located in London, UK. I am a Writer and Managing Director here at Grimoire of Horror. A lifelong love of horror and writing has led me down this rabbit hole, allowing me to meet many amazing people and experience some truly original artwork. I specialise in world cinema, manga/graphic novels, and video games but will sometime traverse into the unknown in search of adventure.