Frontières 2021: From Our Dark Side, Five Great Projects From Female Canadian Filmmakers
From Our Dark Side is the rebranded micro program which focuses on highlighting Canadian genre projects from female and female identifying filmmakers across the country.
Five projects were selected to be presented at this year's market. Apart from the larger program in this selecion we have found five projects which have strong commercial appeal. From straight horror to zombie to supernatural and horror comedies any one of these projects could be made and sold around the world. Any one of them would find success on the festival circuit or find a very quick home in theatrical or digital distribution. That's how broad their appeal is. From group retreats gone wrong, to zombie outbreaks, bloodthirsty bats, haunted homes and transgender serial killers there is definitely something for half of the genre community looking for genre thrills while speaking directly to the other half, saying we know and we got you.
Some of the projects are traditional while others are more progressive. A recurring theme in most of these projects is trauma and recovery, which is unsettling when you think about it, but is a jumping point for a lot of these women and women everywhere.
Here are our thoughts on the five projects: Dark Woods, Mid LIfe, Red Wings, The Apartment and Transvengeance.
Dark Woods starts where most horror films end, after the traumatic event. Two friends, Joy and Carmen, go on a women’s retreat in the Canadian Rockies. Joy is a survivor of domestic abuse but she doesn’t buy into the trip leader’s blend of philosophies of healing which tests their friendship. As the retreat goes on she begins to suspect that they’re being stalked by her abuser. But it is not just her. All the women in the group will confront a threat more terrifying than the monsters of their past.
The project pitch video had images from other popular movies where a group of women face terror in the woods which really set the mood of their project. Dark Woods came to the market nearly completely funded and will be produced by Michael Peterson (Bloodthirsty, Knuckleball, Harpoon). They only have a little bit left of their budget to get before they can go to camera. They came to the market looking for presales and/or a distribution advance. It really seems attainable.
Dark Woods has great commercial appeal. It has great appeal for female fans of genre films as well. Dark Woods was:written and will be directed by Berkley Brady with a core female cast. Pending what the distribution trends are in the coming years it could have a lengthy and global festival run if such distribution advances and presales allow it. If not, streamers will gobble it up and pending which one that could be regionalized or global. For sales and distribution companies looking for the next The Descent, this might be it.
Mid Life is about a Soccer Mom who gets dumped off at a weekend retreat for middle-aged women by her husband. At the retreat she meets and befriends an aging Riot Girl and they quickly become friends. The retreat is headlined by a popular wellness guru pitching the next great anti-aging cream. Problem is, the cream turns every other woman at the retreat into a mindless zombie. Now the soccer mom, the riot girl and the guru must escape the resort alive.
Alyson Richards’ movie comes to terms with the mid life crisis that women eventually face. It also takes on the wellness and cosmetic industries and their place in telling women that aging is bad. In the most extreme case these three women will accept their mid lives and work together to survive this small zombie outbreak.
Mid Life came to the market to work towards financing this project. The zombie genre never seems to die and there is a hint of Umbrella Corporation going on in here as well, which genre fans should pick up on too. Blowback against the beauty and wellness industries, acceptance of who you are, and killing a bunch of fuck off zombies should be an easy sell anywhere in the World.
The horror comedy Red Wings also looks promising. Though the pitch video was only a mood reel and neither the director, Kaye Kroll, or her producer, the formidable Anne-Marie Gelinas (Slaxx, Turbo Kid) shared in the video the story of the film itself has tremendous potential to be a bloody good film.
It tackles the taboo subject of menstruation. Audrina is an ordinary woman who flees to the country away from her stalker ex-boyfriend. When she crosses paths with an exotic animal dealer she gets bitten by a bat. Soon after her period starts and the tampon she uses turns into a tiny red bat. She discovers that these tiny red bats will follow her command and death soon follows.
Red Wings will talk about themes of vengeance, not being heard or taken seriously, and overcoming obstacles. Kroll is promising a script that touches on discovering the power within women’s bodies while being hilarious with zero fucks to give. It sounds perfect for late night programming for film festivals, both gross and natural, horrific and beautiful, hilarious and bloody.
Red Wings came to the market at the financing stage. Gelinas is a proven force in the Canadian genre scene, I don’t see how Red Wings wouldn’t get made with her behind the project. This would be Kate Kroll’s feature film debut.
The Apartment moves into supernatural horror territory, a story about a woman who is haunted by ghosts of other women in her apartment. When she discovers that she cannot escape the apartment she kills herself and joins the cycle of haunting when the next woman moves in. If she can discover the source of all this trauma they can break free from the apartment and the cycle of violence and haunting will stop.
The setup for The Apartment is ideal for the post-Covid times. It takes place in a single location with a small cast. The creative side involves transforming the apartment over four time periods and a promise of some fun stunts and effects. The project came to the market at the advanced stage, looking for financing and production partners, along with international sales. Which leads us to the market appeal of this project too.
The supernatural is something that is meaningful across a lot of cultures around the World. There are ghost stories everywhere. And unfortunately there is trauma everywhere too. The talk about breaking the cycle of trauma in the apartment has to be allegorical for a break in the cycle of trauma that women are facing all over the World. This has broad appeal for those looking for something scary and for those looking for something meaningful.
And finally there is Transvengeance a horror comedy from writer and director Kaye Adelaide. The story centers around a transgender serial killer, Jane, who is legally dead and has a kill list that needs some ticking off. When she discovers that there is a link to an alt-right hate group she must decide if she carries on with her own agenda or takes on the larger threat.
Of all of the pitch videos this was the most polished and I believe gave real insight into what Adelaide and her team want to accomplish by way of look of the film. Think lots of striking, bright colors, and brutal bursts of blood. In the program notes the team writes about the balance of dark social commentary and gory 80s slapstick splatterfests, “think Promising Young Woman meets Evil Dead II". Considering how much both of those films are loved and adored by the genre community in general, if the team can deliver on both of those and support the trans community? That’s a huge deal.
Identity issues are on the forefront of sociological and political landscapes everywhere. In our homes, our schools, our communities there is no broad acceptance of transgender people but nowhere else an progress be made like in the horror community. We hope and wish. Transgender issues are not just limited to here in Canada and North America. This is a global concern.
The team came to the market specifically looking for a local distributor in Quebec and international sales agents. Producer Patricia Gomez Zlatar worked on Our Dark Side alumni Slaxx which successfully found homes on streaming platforms after a quick festival run.