Before I move into my summary of film thoughts from TIFF, I thought that I would create a post dedicated entirely to the films I saw in the Midnight Madness programme. I’ve been steadily increasing the number of Midnight Madness films I see every year and this year I saw six of the ten films from the programme – two at midnight and four repeat screenings.
While I have been seeing Midnight Madness films at the festival since 2006, I’ve only been braving the actual midnight screenings for the past three festivals. It’s personally a bit of a mixed bag for me. While the Midnight Madness screenings have one of the best atmospheres of the festival, there is also many downsides. The biggest downside is the fact that the screening is at midnight. You have to be in a pretty good state of mind to be able to stay up that late. It also depends on the movie. I was perfectly alert when I saw the midnight screening of Dredd 3D (despite the film starting an hour late), however I found myself dozing off during John Dies at the End (doesn’t help that I was already up for 18 hours when the film started).
There is also the issue of getting home from the screenings. Many Midnight Madness films end at 2am or later, well past the end of subway service. The only options I have to get home are taking the late-night bus (which can be quite difficult on weekends, when they are full of people leaving bars) or I could take a cab (which can be tricky to flag down and costs me about $30).
I don’t regret braving the midnight screenings and I’m sure that I will do it again next year. However, I doubt I will be able to handle the toll of going to midnight screenings more than once or twice a festival. I definitely applaud the hardcore people that come out every night of the festival to the Midnight Madness screening.
Well, enough talk about Midnight Madness in general and lets move on to the films themselves. I’ve already made posts about Dredd 3D and John Dies at the End, so I will focus my capsule reviews on the four Midnight Madness repeat screenings I saw during the festival.
Hellbenders is a darkly humourous horror comedy about a group of priests, who are the Church’s last hope when it comes to exorcising demons. The priests commit sins like crazy to make sure that they are “damnation ready” in case they have to commit a “kamikaze exorcism,” in which they get themselves possessed before committing suicide and sending both to Hell. I thought that this was a somewhat dumb film that featured more comedy than horror, however I still thought that it was somewhat fun to watch.
7 | FAIR
Directed by Barry Levinson, The Bay is a found-footage film about a parasitic outbreak happening in a seaside town. The film is quite smart with its found footage premise in how it utilizes many different video mediums, ranging from traditional video cameras, to cellphones, to webcams, and even security footage. The film is quite terrifying at times, which is made more scary by the fact that the attacking creatures (called Isopods) actually exist (though its suggested that its a mutated variety that’s in the film). There are many gory deaths in the film (since the Isopods eat people from the inside out) and its not for the weak stomached. This is probably my favourite film of this year’s Midnight Madness selection and I wish I actually saw it at the Midnight Screening.
9 | REALLY LIKED IT
Eli Roth produces, co-writes, and co-stars in this film about the aftermath of an earthquake in Chile. One of the most interesting points I have to make about the film is that it is fairly evenly split into two halves. In the relatively normal first half, Roth plays an unnamed American tourist (who is called merely “Gringo”), who is touring around with his two Chilean acquaintances. They visit wineries, go to nightclubs, and even run into Selena Gomez for about two seconds. Then about 40 minutes into the film, the earthquake happens. It is at this point that everything falls into anarchy as everyone (literally) fights to get to safety. You quickly forget the somewhat uneventful first half of the film as the society in the town falls apart and rioters (and escaped prisoners) hit the street. The second half of the film features some grisly and disturbing violence (including a couple rapes) that might not be for everyone. The film almost becomes a pseudo slasher towards the end, including a great climatic show down. I thought it was a pretty decent horror/disaster hybrid.
8 | LIKED IT
The ABCs of Death
Here’s another film I wish I saw at midnight, but it also turned out to be a fun way to complete my festival experience for this year. The ABCs of Death is an anthology film featuring 26 short films about death, each of them directed by a different indie horror director. Each of the shorts are no longer than 5 minutes long and feature a wide variety of styles, ranging from darkly humourous to quite disturbing. Since the film features 26 shorts, it would be safe to say that you would like some better than others. Part of the fun is guessing what each letter stands for (so I would reveal the title), but I will point some of the highlights (and lowlights) of the film. My most favourite of the shorts is definitely Q, which was directed by You’re Next‘s Adam Wingard. There were also some enjoyable animated shorts for the letters K and T. One of the weirdest shorts is H, which features anthropomorphic animals. The most disturbing (and gory) short of the bunch is hands down X (which I actually had to cover my eyes for part of). My least favourite of the shorts (which was also the most distasteful) was the one for Z (it was definitely not the best way to end the film). Despite being a mixed bag, I will still say that I overall enjoyed The ABCs of Death.
8 | LIKED IT
And those are my thoughts on this year’s Midnight Madness programme.