Earlier this month, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2019) delighted audiences and critics with a brand new slate of exciting films, not least among them being horror movies.

I just love festival horror films. Most of the time, horror films that make the festival circuit are much more exciting and innovative than your run-of-the-mill major studio, teen-horror flick. They may not be the best movies in the world, and they may not be the scariest, but I feel that such films should be encouraged and promoted. Why watch the 8th Paranormal Activity movie when you could see something new and daring from some up-and-coming talent?

Enter TIFF 2019, which has done a stellar job of showcasing groundbreaking horror movies, some of which even went on to become huge hits commercially and critically speaking. TIFF 2019 has shown such films as The Grudge (2002), Hostel (2005),  À l’Intérieur (2007), Black Swan (2009), The Lords of Salem (2012), The Ritual (2017), and Halloween (2018), among many others.

This year, the star at TIFF 2019 is Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, a moody psychological-horror film starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattison. The film is his follow up to The Witch, which took the horror genre by storm, dividing audiences and igniting a debate about what horror movies can do. Also at TIFF 2019 is the latest Nic Cage B-movie horror flick, Color Out of Space. There’s also a bunch of indie horror films with promising premises and fresh, hungry talent in front of and behind the camera.

Check out the TIFF 2019 lineup below!

TIFF 2019

Blood Quantum

Dir. Jeff Barnaby

“Jeff Barnaby’s astutely titled second feature is equal parts horror and pointed cultural critique. Zombies are devouring the world, yet an isolated Mi’gmaq community is immune to the plague. Do they offer refuge to the denizens outside their reserve or not?

The term “blood quantum” refers to a colonial blood measurement system that is used to determine an individual’s Indigenous status, and is criticized as a tool of control and erasure of Indigenous peoples. The words take on even more provocative implications as the title of Jeff Barnaby’s sophomore feature, which grimly depicts an apocalyptic scenario wherein an isolated Mi’gmaq community discover they are the only humans immune to a zombie plague. As the citizens of surrounding cities flee to the Mi’gmaq reserve in search of refuge from the outbreak, the community must reckon with whether to let the outsiders in — and thus risk not just the extinction of their tribe but of humanity, period.”

TIFF 2019

Color Out of Space

Dir. Richard Stanley

“When an iridescent meteorite plummets from outer space and into the property and foundations of a remote New England estate, a malignant force begins to insidiously permeate the lives of an unassuming family. The effects are gradual — time begins to dilate, nature assumes an otherworldly hue — and all things bright and beautiful eventually mutate and corrupt under its influence. So proceeds this eerie adaptation of the short story by H.P. Lovecraft, one of horror’s most haunting, here presented by the enigmatic South African filmmaker Richard Stanley.”

TIFF 2019

Resin

Dir. Daniel Joseph Borgman

“A startling, nightmarish revisionist variation on themes from fairy and folk tales, Daniel Joseph Borgman’s Resin focuses on a family of hermits who reside on a remote island. The family — father Jens (Peter Plaugborg), mother Maria (an unrecognizable Sofie Gråbøl), and daughter Liv (Vivelill Søgaard Holm) — lives off the land, with little or no contact with anyone, save periodic visits from the mailman, whom Jens always chases off. It soon becomes clear that the parents’ desperate determination to separate themselves from others has as much to do with paranoia and mental illness as their desire to remain close to nature. All of Jens’s lessons for Liv adamantly insist on the spiritual and moral failings of anyone from the wider society. But Liv is naturally curious and it’s clear that she will not accept being isolated for long. Her nightly “hunting trips” are really raids on nearby homes; attempts to experience and engage with the outside world.”

TIFF 2019

Saint Maud

Dir. Rose Glass

“There, but for the grace of God, goes Maud, a reclusive young nurse whose impressionable demeanor causes her to pursue a pious path of Christian devotion after an obscure trauma. Now charged with the hospice care of Amanda, a retired dancer ravaged by cancer, Maud’s fervent faith quickly inspires an obsessive conviction that she must save her ward’s soul from eternal damnation — whatever the cost.”

TIFF 2019

Sea Fever

Dir. Neasa Hardiman

“Siobhán (Hermione Corfield) is a brilliant young marine biology student, more at home amidst laboratory equipment than people. As a component of her studies, she boards a trawler overseen by a couple (Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen) whose amiable demeanour shields both financial worries and profound grief. Siobhán is not exactly welcomed aboard: her cool, scientific perspective is at odds with that of the salty, superstitious crew of “fishmen,” and her red hair is considered bad luck. Not long after setting sail, the old ship’s hull is glommed onto by a bizarre, bioluminescent creature of unknown genus.”

TIFF 2019

The Antenna

Dir. Orçun Behram

“In a steely, desolate dystopian Turkey, a new satellite system promises radical change via the consolidation of communications through antennas mounted overhead on each building. On installation day, Mehmet (Ihsan Önal), a superintendent who revels in the silence and solace of his occupation, is greeted with the accidental death of the government installer on his doorstep.

Following the morning’s unexpected excitement — scarcely noticed by the other tenants — Mehmet is tasked with finding the source of a toxic black sludge that has begun oozing from the building, infiltrating and infecting the units. A search for the source is underway, but as the first midnight broadcast hits, the inhabitants are siloed in their apartments where nightmare-scapes of early-Cronenbergian proportions await. The loss of contact with the outside world inspires distrust and claustrophobia as the building rapidly shifts toward the unknown. There are no screams coming from the trapped citizens, but the silence that surrounds them is deafening.”

TIFF 2019

The Lighthouse

Dir. Robert Eggers

“Charged with tending to a lighthouse for a four-week term, the taciturn Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) spends his days toiling away with backbreaking upkeep, while during the nights it is only his elder cohort Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) who is allowed to keep the beacon in operation. Growing weary of menial tasks, Ephraim’s curiosity regarding Thomas’ hours alone with the big light burgeons. But is it just fatigue and envy that cause Ephraim to become increasingly paranoid about the loitering seagulls, to the point where he’s visited by strange apparitions?”

TIFF 2019

The Platform

Dir. Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

“A citizen of a not-too-distant dystopia voluntarily incarcerates himself with the promise of increased social mobility upon release, but becomes so radicalized by his captivity that he will risk everything to ride a devilish dumbwaiter on a one-way ticket to protect a pannacotta.

To appreciate this trajectory, one needs to understand his prison: The Pit — a provocative permutation of a panopticon whereby hundreds of cells are vertically stacked, and hollowed out through the middle. Each day, a platform adorned with a decadent feast descends through the tower from its summit. It stops on each level for a few minutes, keeping those near the top well-fed, and those at the lower levels fighting for leftovers… if any remain.”

TIFF 2019

The Vigil

Dir. Keith Thomas

“In the Hasidic community of Boro Park, Brooklyn, a despondent young man, short on both faith and funds, reluctantly agrees to assume the responsibility of an overnight shomer and fulfill the Jewish practice of watching over the body of a deceased member of the Orthodox community. With only the company of the recently departed and an ailing widow who expresses cryptic reservations as to the man’s ability to carry out the task, he soon finds himself exposed to a terrifying haunting within the claustrophobic confines of a home that has become host to a malevolent entity.”

What horror movies from TIFF 2019 look good to you? Let me know in the comments!

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