44th Toronto International Film Festival – horror, thrillers, sci-fi and fantasy line-up

Dogs Don't Wear Pants. Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

The Toronto International Film Festival®, recognised as one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the world, is held this year from the 5th to the 16th of September.

For the first time, Horror World & Reviews has been granted press accreditation to TIFF, which means I’ll keep you updated every day (from today until the day after the festival ends) about the movies I watched: I’ll post reviews, first impressions, news and other fun stuff for lovers of cinema and horror flicks. In this regard, make sure to like the official Horror World & Reviews Facebook Page and to follow me on Twitter: there’s a ton of work to do, so I might post on social media instead of sharing articles.

Continue reading and check the line-up for this year’s TIFF below:

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As always, this year’s TIFF comes with a solid line-up that includes films from all around the globe: shorts, documentaries, fictional movies belonging to different genres will be premiered/screened between September 5th and September 16th. Renowned filmmakers like Terrence Malik and Pedro Almodovar will be part of the line-up with their highly anticipated pictures, alongside up-and-coming directors (like Robert Eggers and Benson/Moorhead) and promising new-comers.


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Blood Quantum (Canada, Jeff Barnaby) – In a world devoured by zombies, an isolated Mi’gmaq community is immune to the plague. Will they offer refuge to the people outside their reserve or not? Part horror film, part poignant critique of modern Western society, Barnaby’s second feature delves into the exploration of racism, colonialism, and the very real threat of extinction that Indigenous communities have experienced for generations. Don’t worry, though, because in the meantime the undead are spectacularly and gruesomely dispatched via samurai swords, chainsaws, shotguns, and makeshift axes. On top of all that, Michel St-Martin’s cinematography and Lynne Trepanier’s sound design promise to elevate the material even more.

Color out of Space (USA, Richard Stanley) – In seasoned director Richard Stanley’s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s classic horror short story, a meteor falls to earth and lands on the property of a New England family, in which the-one-and-only Nicholas Cage plays the father, with insidious, delirious, and psychedelic results. This story about physical corruption of everything bright and gorgeous becoming ugly and haunting, promises to lead to a series of grotesque, body-horror, and psychedelic spectacles, worthy of its ineffable literary origins.

Resin (Denmark, Daniel Joseph Borgman) – Presented as a brutal, unflinching horror-drama, Resin follows the dangerous paranoia lurking beneath the seemingly idyllic existence of a family of hermits living on a remote island: when the youngest daughter starts questioning her parents’ beliefs, everything descends into madness. Resin presents nature as both idyllic and stifling, limitless and claustrophobic — mirroring the relationships among the family members.

Saint Maud (United Kingdom, Rose Glass) – This movie revolves around a pious nurse who becomes dangerously obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient, making for a psychological horror film that leads the viewer into the disturbed psyche of a character that acts according to her dogmatic beliefs. Combining elements of supernatural horror with challenging topics, Saint Maud might turn out to be one of the best debut features at TIFF.

Sea Fever (Ireland, Neasa Hardiman) – Screened already twice at TIFF (September 5th and 6th at Scotiabank Theatre), this film tells the story of a bizarre creature that hitches a ride on a departing trawler: Sea Fever is a creature-feature film from Irish filmmaker Neasa Hardiman that leverages the mysteries of the sea to amplify the potential horrors of the unknown. Through richly constructed characters, this film makes the audience experience all manner of eerie sights and sounds, recalling such genre hybrid classics as Alien and The Thing.

SYNCHRONIC (USA, Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson) – After the success of such hits as Spring (2014) and The Endless (2018), the couple of multi-talented filmmakers is back with a bigger budget, seasoned movie stars and the usual amount of ground-breaking concepts. SYNCHRONIC revolves around New Orleans paramedics Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) stumbling upon a bizarre plot involving a series of drug-related deaths. This film is presented as a genre-bending story steeped in a dark, neo-noir tone to create a stylish, original, impeccably crafted thriller/sci-fi/mystery that will likely benefit from the two filmmakers taking care of editing, camera-work and cinematography as well.

The Antenna (Turkey, Orçun Behram) – Set in a steely, desolate dystopian Turkey, this film centres on a new satellite system that promises radical change via the consolidation of communications through antennas mounted overhead on each building. Orwellian and nightmarish, The Antenna will go against type for this kind of sci-fi/horror pictures, by showing a dirty, deafeningly silent world where the main characters are trapped. Just like other great directors did before, Behram utilises unsettling horror images to underline the political anxieties that affect a country, its people, and its future.

The Lighthouse (USA, Robert Eggers) – One of the most anticipated films in the whole of TIFF, The Lighthouse is shot on 35mm black-and-white film: it’s a psychological thriller from Robert Eggers (The Witch) that follows the slow descent into madness of two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) on a remote New England island at the turn of the 19th century. The director studied 19th century diaries written by actual lighthouse keepers in order to give this movie an extra-layer of authenticity; the way it’s filmed makes this picture look like no other film before; the great casting, paired with the filmmakers’ talent, should provide an unprecedented viewing experience.

The Platform (Spain, Galder Gatzelu-Urrutia) – If you love the combination of horror and social commentary, make sure to add this sci-fi/horror picture to your watchlist. In a future dystopia, prisoners housed in vertically stacked cells watch hungrily as food descends from above, feeding the upper tiers, but leaving those below ravenous and radicalised. Allegorical and filled with symbolism, The Platform is also extremely gritty, creepy and violent. The world-premiere at TIFF is likely to put this film on many people’s radar.

The Vigil (USA, Keith Thomas) – The movie takes place over the course of a single evening, where a man providing overnight watch to a deceased member of his former Orthodox Jewish community finds himself opposite a malevolent entity. Presented as a one-man show and thorough character study, The Vigil is a slow-burner that calmly evolves into a climactic finale filled with genuine scares and insane plot progression.


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With the huge catalogue of this year’s TIFF, it’s nearly impossible to cover – even briefly – every movie that will screen/premiere at the festival. Therefore, I selected a few that I’m sure my readers would want to know about and keep an eye on.

A Hidden Life (Germany, Terrence Malik) – Based on real events, A Hidden Life is the story of an unsung hero, Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II. Epic in scale and runtime (173 minutes), this film from master art-house filmmaker Terrence Malik will stand out for its cinematography, character study and deeper meaning about life and human essence.

Bring Me Home (South Korea, Kim Seung-woo) – This Korean drama/thriller/mystery follows a mother who tries to find her 6-year-old son after he disappeared in a playground near home. Playing on one of a mother’s biggest fears, this film is set to be extremely unsettling and depressing, all the while being gorgeous on a visual level and pleasant to the ears due to its hypnotic soundtrack.

Coppers (Canada, Alan Zweig) – Renowned documentaries Alan Zweig delves into the life or retired Canadian police officers. Through eye-opening interviews and subtle narration, this documentary works as the perfect companion piece for A Hard Name, a film about ex-convicts made by Zweig in 2009.

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (Finland, J-P Valkeapää) – The story follows Juha, who develops an unexpected but powerful connection with a dominatrix named Mona, following a tragic event in his life that has left him emotionally paralysed. With its genre-bending approach, suspended between horror, drama, comedy and surrealism, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants will most likely be a one-of-a-kind cinematic experience, filled with uncomfortable moments and darkly humorous bits. A lot of BDSM and sex scenes are to be expected.

First Love (Japan, Takashi Miike) – Legendary filmmaker Takashi Miike goes back to his ‘first love’, yakuza movies. Set over one night in Tokyo, we follow Leo, a young boxer down on his luck as he meets his ‘first love’ Monica, a call-girl and an addict but still an innocent. Little does Leo know, Monica is unwittingly caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme, and the two are pursued through the night by a corrupt cop, a yakuza, his nemesis, and a female assassin sent by the Chinese Triads. All their fates intertwine in spectacular Miike style, at his most fun and anarchic.

Hearts and Bones (Australia, Ben Lawrence) – Starring Hugo Weaving as a war photographer who has just returned home to prepare for his latest exhibition, this film follows his relationship with a South Sudanese refugee who appears at his door and asks that he not exhibit any photographs of the massacre in his village, taken 15 years earlier. What emerges is an unlikely friendship between the two men. While sifting through the photographer’s archive, they make a startling discovery – the refugee’s daughter, thought dead, may still be alive. As more revelations arise, both men begin to question their past and, in their search, they discover salvation.

Parasite (South Korea, Bong Joon-ho) – After the success of English-friendly Snowpiercer and Okja, Bong now returns to his home country for a film that is more focused in its setting, but perhaps even more ambitious in its execution. Parasite is film that you experience, rather than just watch – a multi-layered story about human behaviour, modern society and the impossibility of success. On top of that, this film benefits from the expected Bong visuals and the director’s dark and dry sense of humour.

Savages (France, Rebecca Zlotowski) – This is a thriller and family saga, reflecting on France’s contemporary identity. Set in present-day France, the movie begins with the first presidential candidate of Algerian descent being on the brink of power. But on the night of the election, he is shot, bringing turmoil to two families and the entire nation.

To the Ends of the Earth (Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa) – The director of Pulse (2001), among other ground-breaking pictures, is back with a new film about a small Japanese TV-crew that fails every assignment their broadcaster had given them. With one failure after the other, To the Ends of the Earth is an epic, bleak and heart-warming (at the same time) journey to success, or rather towards the consequences of chasing success.

Zombi Child (France, Bertrand Bonello) – Combining fantasy with coming-of-age stories with a bit of horror, Zombi Child starts in Haiti, 1962. A man is brought back from the dead only to be sent to the living hell of the sugarcane fields. In Paris, 55 years later, at the prestigious Légion d’honneur boarding school, a Haitian girl confesses an old family secret to a group of new friends – never imagining that this strange tale will convince a heartbroken classmate to do the unthinkable.

JoJo Rabbit - Image credit, courtesy of TIFF
Jojo Rabbit. Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

Although the few films I mentioned will likely make every fan of cinema excited, this year’s TIFF offers much more than that. The line-up includes many interesting short movies, such as Billy (USA, Zachary Epcar) and A Fool God (France, Hiwot Admasu Getaneh); highly anticipated pictures like While at War (Spain) by Award-winning filmmaker Alejandro Amenabar, JoJo Rabbit (New Zealand, Taika Waititi), Joker (USA, Todd Philips), Nimic (USA, Yorgos Lanthimos), Saturday Fiction (China, Lou Ye), The Last Waltz (USA, Martin Scorsese), The Traitor (Italy, Marco Bellocchio), There’s Something in the Water (Canada, Ellen Page) and Pain and Glory (Spain, Pedro Almodovar).

On top of that, there’s plenty of experimental movies from first-time filmmakers and many interesting documentaries… the 44th edition of TIFF promises to be one of the best ever, make sure to follow this blog by subscribing or following it on social media for daily updates!

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