TIFF #48 – Day 10
by Thom Ernst – Film Correspondent
(September 16, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Billy Bryk and Finn Wolfhard co-write, codirect, and co-star in Hell of a Summer, a satirical tip-of-the-old hatchet to 70s camp-counselor slasher flicks. Despite taking the lead in nearly all aspects of the film, neither Wolfhard nor Bryk assigns themselves starring roles. They generously pawn that role onto Fred Hechinger who plays Jason, a too-eager, too-friendly, too-old, 6-year camp veteran. Jason is everyone’s kicking bag, and he barely notices it; or does he? Being the summer camp scapegoat just might be reason enough to start secretly slaughtering camp staff.
Hell of a Summer works as a low-grade mystery; with a ‘who’s the killer?’ vibe. The movie clocks in with more pranks than kills, coasting on a goofy charm even while skewering the characters with sharp objects. Bryk and Wolfhard (pictured above) envelop some minor social issues about beauty and the drive for infamy, but their efforts to be relevant come second to their efforts to be fun and to keep their inner Friday the 13th close at hand.
Hell of a Summer gets its final screening today at 4:30 pm Scotiabank Theatre 7.
The final screening of Swan Song, a documentary around the rehearsals leading to The National Ballet of Canada’s production of Karen Kain’s direction of Swan Lake. Directed by Chelsea McMullan who co-directed the documentary Ever Deadly with Tanya Tagaq which screened at TIFF22.
Swan Song is in a word phenomenal. It’s an exhilarating, thorough (or so it seems from an outsider’s perspective), frank, revealing, and beautiful film. McMullan has perfectly chosen the right characters to tell this story. Karen Kain, of course. But here too is the principal dancer, Jurgita Dronina, and two young BIPOC dancers.
The film rewards viewers with breathtaking access to the lives of the dancers, choreographers, and director. But it’s the way the camera catches the dancers in motion.
Swan Song exceeds the expectations of film to become an experience.
Deepa Mehta’s I Am Sirat screens for the last time at noon today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Finally, a shout-out to my colleague, Norm Wilner who has programmed some of the festival’s better selections this year, and then went a step further proving himself to be one helluva congenial, crowd-pleasing festival host. Norm’s lively, heart-felt enthusiasm before every film he introduces is infectious. Wilner reminds you that film festivals are fun.
Thom Ernst is a Toronto based film critic and writer and an active member of the (TFCA) Toronto Film Critics’ Association. His work has appeared in various publications including Playback Magazine, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. He is known to CBC Radio listeners for his lively contributions to Fresh Air, Metro Morning, and CBC Syndication as well as appearing on-air for CTV News Channel and The Agenda with Steve Paikin. He was host, interviewer and producer of televisions’ longest running movie program Saturday Night at the Movies. Currently he can be heard interviewing Canadian filmmakers on the Kingston Canadian Film Festival podcast, Rewind, Fast-Forward.