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    Kim Ki-duk’s “MOEBIUS” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Kim Ki-duk might be the most outrageous and provocative filmmaker working in South Korea, something not easily accomplished given the competition. Yet, despite all of the shock tactics that Ki-duk has pulled in the past, nothing comes close to the nightmarish glee with which he unleashes MOEBIUS. It’s a movie that walks the line between “like” and “respect.” You can’t really do the former without a certain level of self-deception, but the latter comes easily enough. It takes an equal balance of guts and insanity simply to launch a movie like this, so kudos to Ki-duk for doing so. As for the audiences who will be sucking it up through their eyeholes…well, you’ll never forget what you see here.

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    “THE DOUBLE” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Despite serving up plum roles for a pair of contemporary stars and coming from one of the most promising filmmakers of the moment, there’s something delightfully old fashioned about Richard Ayoade’s THE DOUBLE. It’s one of those identity crisis existential horror movies that were all the rage in the heady art cinema days of the 60s. The film comes from a novella by Dostoevsky, features style and technique pulled from Roman Polanski and Orson Welles’ THE TRIAL. Yet it somehow also feels very much like a film of the moment. It’s a nightmare movie that crawls under your skin, while also proving to be one of the funniest features of the Toronto International Film Festival. Thematically, the flick is not an easy sit and yet Ayoade somehow makes it play as pure pleasure through his sardonic humor and cynical worldview. I guess you could call it a movie comprised of contradictions, and a wonderful one at that.

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    “GRAVITY” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Based on the broadest definition of genre, Alfonso Cuarón’s astounding new film GRAVITY doesn’t cleanly qualify as horror. It is however guaranteed to be one of the most terrifying viewing experiences of the year, so it seems silly not to acknowledge it. After disappearing from filmmaking for seven years following the technically ambitious and thematically complex CHILDREN OF MEN, Cuarón has returned with a movie quite simply unlike anything else. As a depiction of space travel, the realism and immersion of GRAVITY is unparalleled; the story then uses that realism to make the space environment feel more unforgiving and chilling than ever before.

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    “INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2” (Movie Review)

    The challenge involved in making a direct horror sequel like INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 is that it’s harder to mystify and scare both audiences and the characters the second time around. Fortunately, returning director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell have partially changed the source of the terror for CHAPTER 2, though it takes the film a little while to get there.

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    “CANNIBAL” (TIFF Movie Review)

    There are moments of exquisite stillness in Manuel Martin Cuenca’s CANNIBAL. Some might say too many. But for those willing to go along with its deliberately tentative pacing, CANNIBAL  delivers a poignant – if not always totally gripping -minimalist narrative about a man who eats people and the woman who loves him.

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    “UNDER THE SKIN” (TIFF Movie Review)

    There is a scene in director Jonathan Glazer’s unsettling and unusual masterpiece BIRTH where his camera hugs actress Nicole Kidman’s face as tightly as possible. In that sequence, we study Kidman’s porcelain visage as she watches an opera. Not one word of dialogue distracts us from her eyes, her lips, her skin. The character is clearly processing an idea—that a mysterious child may be the reincarnation of her dead husband—and that idea slowly evolves into an epiphany resulting in a single tear streaming from her rapidly reddening eye. It is without a doubt the single most alarming example of an actor’s “inner voice” in effect this critic has ever seen, and a majestic moment of “pure cinema,” uncompromising in its ambiguity and reliance on sound and image to make magic.

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    “A FIELD IN ENGLAND” (TIFF Movie Review)

    With only a handful of movies, writer/director Ben Wheatley has already established himself as one of the finest filmmakers of his generation. Always toeing genre lines, his greatest achievement thus far was probably KILL LIST, a viscous hit man movie transformed into occult horror with one of the most disturbing finale twists since his obvious influence THE WICKER MAN. The genre journalists all immediately demanded that he dabble in horror again and now he kind of has with the twisted art house hallucinogen he calls A FIELD IN ENGLAND. Like KILL LIST, the movie is not pure horror, but it does boast some of the most disturbing images destined to flicker across screens this year.

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    “DEATH FORCE / VAMPIRE HOOKERS” (DVD Review)

    It isn’t every day that fans of both heads-on-stakes and stakes-in-hearts are able to indulge in one stop shopping, but this double feature of films from the “King of Filipino Exploitation” Ciro H. Santiago (courtesy Vinegar Syndrome’s endlessly awesome Drive-In Collections) provides precisely such a buying opportunity.

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    “SAVAGES CROSSING” (DVD Review)

    When WOLF CREEK came out back in 2005, it proved to be one of the most riveting and raw horror films in a long time. The main attraction that tied it all together was the central villainous performance by then-unknown actor John Jarratt. The promise of another horror film starring Jarratt, set in his native Australia, gave rise to great hopes and anticipation—which, unfortunately, are quickly shattered by SAVAGES CROSSING.

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    “OCULUS” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Mike Flanagan’s debut picture ABSENTIA was something truly special: a quiet, slow burning indie horror film that betrayed its budgetary cramps at every turn and used an existing location—in this case, a creepy suburban tunnel—and made it into something nightmarish. Slow zooms, quiet spaces, ambiguity and minimalist music all coupled with better than average performances and the result was a work of practical nickel and dime perfection. If you haven’t seen it, do so immediately and watch in the dark…

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    “AFFLICTED” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Each year, TIFF’s Midnight Madness program provides a home for hungry genre buffs where blood is spilled for adoring crowds to squeal in delight. Pretty well all of the iconic horror directors of the last 20 years have premiered at least one of their features as part of the program, but the finest treat is probably the discovery of new filmmakers bursting onto the scene. This year, the big breakout just might be for first-time Vancouver filmmakers Cliff Prowse and Derek Lee. The duo made the leap from shorts to features with AFFLICTED, their impressive new schlocker that manages to wring a little extra life out of the tiresome found footage genre and even a classic creature as well.

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