Toronto After Dark 2019: The Assent (2019) – Pearry Teo

There’s a Barker/Lovecraftian feel to the gritty dirtiness of this entry in the Toronto After Dark film festival. Couched in a house covered in unnerving art, and filled with troubling apparitions and visions there is an aggressive edge to The Assent in the way it is shot, and the way the story unfolds.

Mostly.

Halfway through the film, there is a line of dialogue that reveals the ending long before it comes round. Having said that, the ride itself is worth it, and if you see it with a Toronto After Dark crowd, then no better ride will be had, but the fright of the ending is stolen by this one line.

Joel (Robert Kazinsky) is a widower, and struggling artist and father who is having all of his supports knocked away at once. Medicated to keep his schizophrenia at bay, he fights to provide a day to day living for himself and his son, Mason (Caden Dragomer), all of it overseen by Joel’s psychiatrist, Sarah (Margarita Reyes) with the threat of Child Protection Services waiting in the wings.

When both Joel and Mason begin seeing things in the house, Joel wants to chart it up to his schizophrenia, and begins to worry for his son’s condition as well. But when a determined priest, Father Lambert (Peter Jason) arrives with his authoritative voice to warn Joel that he has been targeted by a demon/entity known as Abaddon, he has to decide whether to go through with the exorcism of his son.

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It doesn’t help with his choice knowing that Lambert’s last exorcism landed him in prison when the child died during the ritual.

There is some really good stuff going on in this film, and I quite like Yeo’s visual style, which marries up with the set design of the house perfectly – honestly, I get Joel’s an artist, but how could anyone want to live in a place like that with his jarring artwork looking out at you from every surface?

The content of his visions, and the apparitions themselves feel authentic, and horrifying, and the glimpses we get of Abaddon definitely put one in mind of Barker of Lovecraft.

I have a bit of an issue with an underlying theme in the film, that I won’t give away here as to do so would also reveal a huge spoiler, but if you want to talk about it after you’ve seen it, hit me up.

I liked a lot about this film, but I saw the ending coming a mile away (though the lead up to it all enjoyable, and I definitely am interested in seeing what else Teo has done), and I’m not sure if that is because of the way the film was structured, written, or I’m just picking these things up more and more.

Still, I think this one is going to cause a lot of discussion at Toronto After Dark and other venues. So will you be checking it out?

What else will you be watching After Dark?

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