Talk to anyone living in Toronto and they’ll tell you TIFF — Toronto Independent Film Festival — is such a big deal the city is different, and far more populated, during its annual run. It’s one of the continent’s biggest film festivals, and the big news this year is local filmmaker Stephen Dunn has taken huge honours.

His movie, Closet Monster, has won Best Canadian Feature Film. TIFF’s website praises Dunn’s blending of “affecting drama with whimsical fantasy and elements of Cronenbergian body horror,” calling Closet Monster “ceaselessly inventive.”

The main character, Oscar Madly, “needs out: out of the Newfoundland town that is stifling his budding creativity, out of his restrictive home life, and out of the closet, where he has fearfully remained after witnessing a brutal hate crime as a young boy.”

While he finds much-needed support from his best friend Gemma (Sofia Banzhaf) and his pet hamster, Buffy (who talks to him via the voice of the great Isabella Rossellini), Oscar is haunted by horrifying visions of the consequences of revealing his homosexuality — a fear that is compounded by his increasingly judgemental and erratic father (Aaron Abrams).

When Oscar meets the handsome Wilder — whose cool, carefree rebelliousness and unabashed hedonism make him the embodiment of the unrestrained world Oscar dreams of — he is immediately attracted and utterly terrified. With his fantasies becoming darker and ever more vividly real, Oscar finds that he must break free of the chains that bind him and live a life that is true to who he really is.

Impressing his unique sensibility on every frame of his remarkably accomplished film, Newfoundland native Dunn establishes himself as one of Canada’s brightest young talents. Striking, sometimes shocking and often unexpectedly funny, Closet Monster is simply a stunner.”

The film also took top honours at the Atlantic Film Festival taking Best Director and Best Screenplay.