As more and more TIFF press releases roll out, I always get excited for the Vanguard and Midnight Madness sidebars as they are pretty genre heavy and often transgressive or experimental without being too arty (i.e. Wavelengths). New films from directors Barry “Wag The Dog” Levinson, Rob “Devil’s Rejects” Zombie, Michel “Eternal Sunshine” Gondry, Ben “Kill List” Wheatley, Don “Beastmaster” Coscarelli, Martin “In Bruges” McDonagh and a host of new genre directors to discover which is part of the thrill of film festivals, both large and small.
Both programmes just went live on the TIFF website, for our thirsty eyes to devour and my initial reaction is that the Midnight Madness program has a significant American focus this year. No Asian Martial Arts flicks or Miike films; no rock documentaries; gone are the Euro-horror entries as well, signaling that the French New Wave (of horror) is taking a break. And this year’s films are loaded with celebrities: Colin Farell, Chris Walken, Paul Giamatti, Lena Heady, Sam Rockwell, Karl Urban, Eli Roth, Harry Dean Stanton, Woodey Harrelson, Tom Waits, Clancy Brown and Udo Kier. That is not to say in the slightest that the content of these films will be any more wild, gruesome and world class than they always are, but it might make for a very busy red carpet this year! Also, points to anyone who can make a coherent sentence using all the evocative titles on display for Midnight.
The Vanguard Programme is even weirder and more exotic and looks to be full of discoveries. If you are doing TIFF this year, you’ll pretty much find me at every one of these films.
All titles for both programmes can be found below:
MIDNIGHT MADNESS PROGRAMME
Aftershock, CHILE, Nicolás López – In the middle of a night of wild partying, a hapless American tourist (Hostel director Eli Roth) and his friends are suddenly plunged into a living hell when a powerful earthquake rips through the coastal town of Valparaiso, Chile.
ABCs of Death, USA, Anthology – It was a cinematic challenge like no other: twenty-six directors from around the world — all connected to fantastic or horror cinema — each shot a short film about death based on a word starting with a selected letter from the alphabet, showcasing death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty. Directors include the warped minds behind Hobo With a Shotgun, You’re Next, Tokyo Gore Police and A Serbian Film, to name just a few.
The Bay, USA, Barry Levinson – Acclaimed writer-director Barry Levinson gorily switches gears for this mock-doc eco-apocalypse thriller about a seaside town that becomes a breeding ground for a terrifying nest of parasites.
John Dies at the End, USA, Don Coscarelli – Ancient evils, trans-dimensional bugs, meat monsters and Clancy Brown are just a few of the freakish denizens of this phantasmagorical mindbender from the director of Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep.
Come Out And Play, MEXICO, Manikov – A young couple expecting their first child must escape from an island overrun by legions of killer children, in this atmospheric thriller that turns a sandy, sun-bleached Mexican paradise blood red. This is the long awaited loose remake of Spanish horror classic, Who Can Kill a Child?
No One Lives, USA, Ryuhei Kitamura – The director of Versus and The Midnight Meat Train returns with this exuberantly gory thriller about a clan of backwoods road bandits whose latest victims are far less helpless than they seem.
Seven Psychopaths, UK/USA, Martin McDonagh – An alcoholic screenwriter (Colin Farrell) struggling to write a serial-killer script gets more real-life inspiration than he can handle when a dognapping scheme gone awry brings a galaxy of crazies to his doorstep. A top-notch cult-movie cast — including Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Harry Dean Stanton-anchors this wacky, blood-spattered commentary on the psycho-killer thriller from the writer-director of In Bruges.
Dredd, USA, Pete Travis – In a grim, dystopian future, ultimate lawman Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) takes on a vicious drug empress (Lena Headey), in this dark, visceral new screen version of the legendary British comic-book icon.
Hellbenders, USA, J.T. Petty – The Hellbound Saints of Brooklyn Parish are a team of foul-mouthed, lewd and lecherous Catholic priests who you’ll need on your side if you want to survive an exorcism, in this outrageous horror comedy by JT Petty (The Burrowers, S&Man).
Lords of Salem, USA, Rob Zombie – Rock star-turned-horror maven Rob Zombie conjures up a nerve-wracking chiller about a Salem hard-rock radio DJ (Sherri Moon Zombie) whose playing of a sinister heavy metal song awakens a coven of witches from the 17th century.
90 Minutes, NORWAY, Eva Sørhaug – Director Eva Sørhaug (Cold Lunch) reveals the rage and violence lurking beneath seemingly tranquil domesticity in her bold and uncompromising sophomore feature.
Beijing Flickers, CHINA, Zhang Yuan – Beneath Beijing’s dazzling economic boom exists the downtrodden and the forgotten “little” people who bear the weight of life’s trials and injustices.
Berberian Sound Studio, UK, Peter Strickland – Set in 1976: Gilderoy is hired to orchestrate the sound mix for the latest film by Italian horror maestro, Santini. As time and realities shift, Gilderoy is lost in a spiral of sonic and personal mayhem, and has to confront his own demons in order to stay afloat.
Blondie, SWEDEN, Jesper Ganslandt – Three sisters, all adrift and in crisis, reunite at their childhood home as their domineering mother arranges a big birthday. But as the festivities come to an end, repressed conflicts rise to the surface. Old wounds are opened and a new family is born.
Here Comes the Devil, MEXICO/ARGENTINA – On a family vacation, a couple’s son and daughter disappear while exploring a cave-riddled mountainside. The children eventually return home seemingly unharmed, but are withdrawn and devoid of emotion. The parents fear they have fallen prey to something inhuman — and that this dark evil has come home with them.
iLL Manors, UK, Ben Drew – iLL Manors is the highly anticipated directorial debut by pioneering British music artist Ben Drew (a.k.a. Plan B). A unique crime thriller set on the unforgiving streets of London, iLL Manors follows six disparate lives, all struggling to survive the circles of violence that engulf them. Narratively linked through original music from Plan B, the film is a visually stunning and emotionally impactful experience laced with street-wise humour. The film’s soundtrack just topped the U.K.’s album chart.
Motorway, HONG KONG, Soi Cheang – A cocky young cop on the city’s top-secret, high-speed pursuit squad must learn the tricks of the trade from a grizzled veteran (Hong Kong action star Anthony Wong) as he prepares to take down a getaway driver in this super-charged, high-octane thriller from Hong Kong action auteur Soi Cheang (Accident) and legendary producer Johnnie To.
Painless, SPAIN/FRANCE/PORTUGAL, Juan Carlos Medina – At the dawn of the Spanish civil war, a group of children insensitive to pain is locked in a sanatorium in the heart of the Pyrénées. In the present day, brilliant neurosurgeon David Martel discovers that he has a tumor and starts searching for his biological parents, in order to get the bone marrow transplant necessary for his survival. During his quest, he will exhume terrifying secrets about his origins, reanimate ghosts of his country and confront Berkano, the only fateful survivor of the insensitive children. From the writer of [Rec].
Peaches Does Herself, GERMANY, Peaches – On the advice of a 65-year-old stripper, Peaches makes music that is sexually forthright. Her popularity grows and she becomes what her fans expect her to be: transsexual. She falls in love with a beautiful she-male, but Peaches gets her heart broken and has to realize who she really is. Described as an anti-jukebox musical. Peaches writes, directs and plays the role of Peaches herself.
Pusher, UK, Luis Prieto – As edgy and explosive as Nicolas Winding Refn’s (Drive) 1996 cult classic, this English language remake tells the story of a week in the life of Frank, a big time drug pusher in London. Frank’s life is a fun-filled rollercoaster ride that spins out of control. Friendships start to vanish, there is no longer room for love within his life, and violence takes over. Danger and chaos ensue, and eventually Frank is left with no one to turn to and nowhere to go.
Room 237, USA, Rodney Ascher – Room 237 fuses fact and fiction through interviews with ardent fans convinced they have decoded Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining’s secret messages regarding genocide, government conspiracy, and the nightmare that we call history. Ideas of five devotees of the film are braided together in a kaleidoscopic deconstruction of the horror classic.
Sightseers, UK, Ben Wheatley – Chris (Steve Oram) wants to show Tina (Alice Lowe) his world and he wants to do it his way: on a journey through the British Isles in his beloved Abbey Oxford caravan. Erotic odyssey… Killing spree… Caravanning holiday… The trip taken by Tina and Chris in Sightseers is all these things and more.
Thale, NORWAY, Aleksander Nordaas – Canadian Premiere Two crime-scene cleaners discover a mythical, tailed female creature in a concealed cellar. She never utters a word, unable to tell her story, but the pieces of the puzzle soon come together: she’s been held captive for decades for reasons soon to surface.
The We and the I, USA, Michel Gondry – It’s the last day of the year at a high school in the Bronx, and students pile on to the usual bus home. The raucous bunch of aggressive and superficial teens — the bullies and the bullied — develops and is transformed as the bus empties. Relationships become closer and more personal between students with absolutely nothing in common.