Toronto After Dark shines the spotlight on ‘The Dirties’

A scene from The Dirties.

With fans all across the city of Toronto anxiously awaiting word of the films playing during the Toronto After Dark Film Festival in October, there are still a couple of previews to whet our appetite in advance of the festival.

Tomorrow night at the Scotiabank Theatre fans will get a treat as the Canadian premiere of the sci-fi thriller Europa Report, starring Sharlto Copley of District 9 and Elysium fame unfurls at 7 p.m., while at 9:30 p.m. we get the Toronto premiere of The Dirties. I got the chance to not only check out The Dirties, but talk with the co-writer/director and star Matt Johnson, who will be in attendance with other members of the cast and crew at the screening.

The Dirties is a tale that starts out like any other as two best friends (Matt Johnson and Owen Williams) are filming a comedy about getting revenge on the bullies at their high school. But as production continues on with their film and things are going exactly as they had initially hoped, it becomes clear that one of them isn’t joking and isn’t only talking about the film any more.

This debut feature from Toronto’s own Matt Johnson certainly comes into town with a fair bit of fanfare as a ringing endorsement from Kevin Smith and awards at festivals all across North America. Johnson crafts an effective tale of high school woe as our two heroes set off on their task, only to be thwarted by bullies (aka The Dirties), school staff who are impeding upon their artistic vision for the film and even their classmates and themselves. The real master stroke of this film is how it so subtly turns what is just two high school kids venting their frustrations into some genuine tension as the line between sympathy and outright fear gets very blurry.

Both Johnson and Williams play to the script incredibly well as the quality script doesn’t hit us over the head with any grand moments and it works as a genuine cinematic slice of life.

Plain and simple, The Dirties works because it feels less like a movie and more like a moment of teenage angst that many of us can relate to…and that’s what makes it such a damn good film.

Rating: *** 1/2 (out of 5 stars)

When I spoke with Matt Johnson about how he started off and what it was that ultimately led to The Dirties, he had this to say:

It’s actually a pretty simple story to be honest. While I was in film school in Toronto I was making a web show, which was sort of a screwball comedy, but it was shot entirely like a documentary. Very much of its time with just two guys screwing around, but because we shot it like it was a documentary the language and grammar of it all is something that really stood out for me and it was really interesting. Everyone who worked on that show worked on The Dirties and we just learned so much and we want to see if we could apply it to a feature. We took all the elements from the web show that we learned and applied it to a story that really resonated with us because we didn’t want to do another screwball comedy. It very much came out of my film school experience and working with all my friends just trying to make each other laugh in the least expensive way possible.

We’ll have more with Matt Johnson as we talk about The Dirties next week in advance of its theatrical launch at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and VOD on October 4.

For more information on the screenings of The Dirties and Europa Report and for more info about the entire Toronto After Dark festival, which runs from October 17 – 25 at the Scotiabank Theatre, visit

Check out the trailer for The Dirties below.

Dave Voigt

About Dave Voigt

David Voigt was a content manager in the video distribution industry for over 12 years. HIs experience has provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, Dave should be your only stop to find out about the best in film. Contact Dave at or find him on Facebook and Twitter as the Pop Culture Poet.