The thrill-seekers who fill the Ryerson Theatre for TIFF’s late-night program have seen many outrageous sights. But this year, they may witness something even they would have never expected to see at Midnight Madness: Demi Moore
Part of an unusually starry array of actors with roles in the program’s line-up of new genre flicks, Demi Moore
appears in BUNRAKU
, a hyper-stylized spin on the samurai movie. Though Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes isn’t sure whether Moore will be joining him at the Ryerson, he’s tickled at the thought that she and Ashton Kutcher may soon be following him on Twitter.
“That floors me even more than potentially being onstage with Kevin Bacon,” he says, referring to the star of another Madness entry, the superhero satire, Super.
Lest fans worry that the abundance of American features with big-name casts means that Hollywood has commandeered TIFF’s liveliest component, Geddes assures them that’s not the case.
“I’ve always tried to do a cross-section of international films, but this year, this is how it panned out,” he says. “All of the films are unique and they’re all independent.”
And judging by what Geddes has to say about his selections, they’re all weird, too. Here’s what’s in store for Midnight Madness:
• Fubar 2 and The Legend of Beaver Dam: The series launches with two homegrown offerings. Geddes says Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion’s horror-comedy short The Legend of Beaver Dam serves as the “opening band” for the sequel to Fubar, the beloved Canuck mock-doc about two Calgary headbangers. “It’s going to whip that audience into a frenzy, though it’s not like they won’t be in a frenzy already with whatever hijinks the Fubar 2 guys have planned,” says Geddes. And don’t worry if you haven’t seen the 2002 original: “You can roll right along with Dean and Terry and get what they’re all about pretty quickly.”
• Fire of Conscience: One of the program’s three Asian entries is this explosive example of Hong Kong action by up-and-comer Dante Lam. Says Geddes, “No one knows him over here and I’m really excited to be able to say, ‘Hey, this is the guy who’s inherited John Woo’s crown.’”
• Stake Land: “It’s essentially The Road, but with vampires and just a dash more hope,” says Geddes of this new film by the team behind 2006’s Mulberry Street. “It’s about a boy whose parents are killed by vampires and he is taken in by a vampire hunter in a brutal post-apocalyptic world which is now populated by feral vampires, survivors and a right-wing evangelical militia.”
• Vanishing on 7th Street: Geddes is excited to welcome back director Brad Anderson, whose eerie film The Machinist played Midnight Madness in 2004. “It has a Twilight Zone-esque premise but it’s also a film in which things aren’t explained. There’s no neat answer at the end. And it’s a film that totally plays on your fears about stuff in the dark.” Stars include Hayden Christensen and Thandie Newton.
• Insidious: Another Madness vet — James Wan, whose soon-to-be-mega Saw slayed audiences in 2004 — returns with a haunted-house chiller starring Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson. “For anyone who tags him as the Saw kid, this takes him out of that,” says Geddes. “This is his take on The Amityville Horror.”
• Red Nights: Geddes calls this first feature by two French filmmakers based in Hong Kong this year’s “curveball.” “It’s a hard film to describe,” he adds. “It’s an espionage movie with this weird Grand Guignol, pulpy feel.
• Super: Kevin Bacon co-stars with Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page and Liv Tyler in this dark comedy about a masked vigilante by James Gunn, the writer and director of Slither. “It’s really low-fi,” says Geddes of the movie’s scrappy appeal. “It’s night and day from Slither.”
• The Ward: The first feature in nine years by John Carpenter, this thriller fits into the slot unofficially reserved for masters like George A. Romero and Dario Argento. “The Ward is like the flipside to The Thing, where you’ve got four incredible female characters. They’re in this lockdown psychiatric ward for young women in the 1960s.” Geddes likens it to Carpenter’s 1980 classic The Fog. “It’s got this creepiness that gets under your skin.”
• BUNRAKU: According to Geddes, Bunraku’s wow factor extends beyond the appearances by Moore, Josh Hartnett and Woody Harrelson. “The whole film feels like you’ve opened up a pop-up book and there’s this amazing display of martial arts, acrobatics and dance inside the pages. It’s like a cross between MMA and Cirque du Soleil!”
• The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman: This martial-arts comedy is the first film from mainland China that Geddes has picked for Midnight Madness. “Plus, there’s exquisite food preparation — this one will have the audience running out to Chinatown for a 2 a.m. snack and a serving of cold tea, guaranteed!”
That’s it for Madness but Geddes hopes fans will also seek out genre fare he’s selected for other programs at TIFF, including Let Me In (the American remake of Swedish vampire hit Let the Right One In), 13 Assassins (an action spectacular by Madness regular Takashi Miike) and Machete Maidens Unleashed! (a documentary on exploitation cinema in the Philippines).
And who knows? Maybe Ashton and Demi will join you for cold tea.