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by Kyle Sanders
This year, I decided to switch things up a bit for my coverage of Chicago's International Film Festival. For as many times as I've attended, I've not once checked out their After Dark series, a collection of "shock-filled, spine-tingling, and wildly strange visions" made to keep you up late into the night.
Was I previously too scared to sit through any of the titles? Not at all. But this year's slate of movies had some too-good-to-miss contenders, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to shiver on the edge of my seat!
One of opening night's presentations included the highly anticipated Halloween Kills, but I preferred fare less familiar, that also didn't come attached to a highly successful horror franchise. Mythic creatures and mysterious real life events are what I was interested in seeing, and I got my fair share!
An upcoming American release, Antlers, delivered on the mythic creature feature, providing monster thrills from the Pacific Northwest. Set in a small coastal town in Oregon, an enigmatic boy's dark secrets lead his concerned school teacher (Keri Russell) and her sheriff brother (Jesse Plemons) to encounter a terrifying ancestral creature.
Produced by monster maestro Guillermo Del Toro, Antlers is based on a short story that draws from the Wendigo myths found in Native American Folklore (look for my full review when the film is released nationwide on October 29th).
Another film based on a frightening folktale is House of Snails, a collaboration between Spain, Peru, and Mexico. Consider it a werewolf tale with a fresh set of claws, this one involves a novelist (Javier Rey) who travels to Southern Spain ready to write his next book in a remote mountain town for calm creativity.
He finds himself a tourist surrounded by eccentric citizens and bizarre incidents which inspire their way into his manuscript. Pretty soon he learns of the community's superstitious traditions behind the curse of the "Valermo," a mythical beast that supposedly terrorizes the dark surrounding woods.
One of the most fun films I've watched so far is Broadcast Signal Intrusion. Set right here in Chicago, this American suspense thriller is actually based on the very real "Max Headroom Incident" (Google it if you dare!).
One night while archiving videotapes, an AV techie (Harry Shum Jr.) stumbles upon the grainy footage of a masked figure that hacked broadcasts in 1987 and was never solved. The mystery sends him down an obsessive rabbit-hole looking for answers leading to seedy locations inhabited by questionable characters.
This throwback to the Paranoid Cinema of the '70s checks off all the go-to references of its predecessors: from the voyeuristic suspense of Hitchcock, to the nerve-shattering scores of De Palma, and the slow-building intensity of Fincher.
The After Dark collection from CIFF proved to be an entertaining array of features, which was a frightfully fun alternative in lieu of some of the more dramatic narratives I normally check out. I look forward to seeing more of these with every new year the festival runs, but now I have an even more challenging task to complete--attempting to fall asleep tonight!
The Chicago International Film Festival runs October 13 - 24. For more information, check out chicagofilmfestival.com and follow @chifilmfest for other updates!
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