Toronto's Blood in the Snow

Our neighbors to the North are putting on one hell of a show! From November 22-27 this year Toronto is host to the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival. Their mission statement boasts that this fest “…is a unique and imaginative showcase of contemporary Canadian horror, genre, and underground cinema, that exists to challenge social boundaries, explore artistic taboos, and support and exhibit independent Canadian genre media artists.” And we are here to tell you from the selection of shorts and features presented this year, that is no empty promise - Mission. Accomplished.

We have had Blood in the Snow on our radar for a few years but now that we are back in the area, we know we have to get there in person for 2019! Read on for some brief reviews of the shorts that we enjoyed the most.

SUBURBANIGHT by director Eva Colmers had a great somber tone, perfect for November if you ask us. “Aria Lefler just wants to feed her hungry kid and have a quiet night at home. When her bothersome neighbor continually interrupts their family time, Aria finds the perfect solution to both problems.” Without giving too much away, this was a fun take on the more well-travelled “bad neighbor” story.

For those of our Canadian friends who are now legally able to enjoy a certain herb (we’re not jealous having moved from Oregon to New York… it’s fine, no, really) there was a variety of visually bizarre shorts that might make you flip out….man! HOT ANGER by director Gwen Trutnau was reminiscent of a Gwar video with a heavy cyber-junk hellscape vibe. I’m not sure if I can even describe the plot to you so I won’t even try.

Along the same lines of bizzaro cinema was THE CHICKEN MAN by director Joslyn Rogers. “A suicidal writer is miraculously saved by a chicken. His story is re-written.” This piece has a weird, gritty, yet musically hypnotic drive to it. The tale gets more and bizarre and will leave you scratching your head by the end… but it feels like that is all intentional!

Both visually stunning and well-paced, HUNTING SEASON was a superb dark fantasy entry into the festival. “A recovering alcoholic, Callie is struggling to move on from her past in the blue-collar community. When a violent creature escapes from a group of local hunters, it happens upon her at the station. Callie comes face to face with the beast and an unlikely bond forms between creature and girl which will change Callie’s life forever.” Director Shannon Kohli was able to harness the torment behind addiction and meld it with a dark imagery that is haunting when juxtaposed by the cold and mundane background of Callie’s daily life.

When scrolling through Facebook or Twitter it feels as though fans get more cynical every year, and in horror that can result in an overabundance of horror comedy. When you’re not sure you can scare, just have a bit of fun with it, right? While a finely crafted horror comedy is to be cherished, it was refreshing that Blood in the Snow did not include too many shorts that relied on the chuckles rather than the chills.

However, the festival was not lacking in quality dark laughs, as was evidenced by SANTA’S HELPER. Let director Alex Hatz get you into the shivery season with this awkward confrontation between a “naughty” girl and an elf that must deliver coal for Santa – or pay a price worse than death. You’ll laugh at the ridiculousness of the scenario while gritting your teeth as the intensity rises.

TIME HEALS NO WOUNDS from director Jordan Barnes-Crouse made an appearance at Crypticon Seattle this past year as well as BiTS, but we’ve got to mention it here. This short has it all for inter-dimensional and time travel horror fans, which Matt most definitely is. “Toiling away in a makeshift lab, Dr. Barry Slater has finally made a breakthrough: The Chronospheric Re-Oscillator, a device able to transmit artifacts across time…When the experiment goes awry, Georgina (his young wife) finds herself transported to another time, and the man resembling her husband may no longer be who, or what, he seems.” Barnes-Crouse maintains a humorous tone throughout but still manages to keep a semi-serious tone much like Don Coscarelli or David Wong, thus making it a perfectly fun entry into the dark sci-fi category.

Blood in the Snow was also strong on the paranormal thriller entries. We would argue that BINGE and STANDBY were the top two shorts were top in this subgenre. BINGE by director David J. Fernandes paints an ominous, slow-prodding thriller, where “a mysterious envelope arrives at Jen's door, sending her on an increasingly dangerous hunt to discover its intent.” As each step of the puzzle is unraveled, the intensity of the film rises, and Jen’s safety and sanity quickly become endangered.

STANDBY, by director Daumoun Khakpou, manages to be both terrifying and heartbreaking at the same time. “A desperate man resorts to smuggling his wife inside of a piece of luggage in hopes of finding a better life in a new country. His hopes are put on hold when his plane arrives-but the bag containing his wife does not.” Of course, from the very outset of this short, the viewer is at unease as to the plan to stow away a human on to a plane, but Khapkou ratchets up the tension as the story unfolds.

Regarding just general scares, were two tales that stood out the most; THAT’S NOT ME and QUIET ROOM BEARS. Directed by Charlie Hamilton, THAT’S NOT ME brings the volume up to 11 with a shockingly creepy doppleganger tale where “During a stormy night at home alone, a young woman is confronted by someone who may or may not be her best friend.” It keeps a creepy tone throughout, while managing a fairly novel approach to an old type of fear. Be sure to catch this one while you can!

QUIET ROOM BEARS brings an entirely different type of terror. “What was to be a simple home renovation project quickly turns into a horrific nightmare when Simon begins to a downward spiral to insanity and at the center of it all, a mysterious bear whose origins are more sinister than they seem.” Director Lee Howard paints on film an almost creepypasta-esque story and brings so much more with gory SFX and a morbid background score provided by Lito Velasco.

It has been an absolute pleasure to see what our northernly neighbors can dish up! Sometimes at festivals the features fall a bit flat for us, but with Blood in the Snow there were more than a couple of excellent features that played on the big screen. Stay tuned for an in-depth review of feature length flicks, HAMMER OF THE GODS and FUGUE, on here as well as on our next podcast episode! HAMMER OF THE GODS is from the same writer and director as 2014’s BLACK MOUNTAIN SIDENick Szostakiwskyj - so we are  stoked to share it with you (spoiler free of course).