John Carpenter - "It's in the blood."

(Kurt Russell and John Carpenter on the set of Big Trouble in Little China)

So again... After an 8 year hiatus from feature filmmaking, John Carpenter is BACK (!!!!!!!!!) with a new film; John Carpenter's The Ward, which will have its World Premiere on September 13th at TIFF.

Icon vs. Icon just posted a lengthy and delightfully honest interview with Mr. Carpenter, in which he discusses his career, his hiatus, future projects, video games, and remakes/getting paid.

Check it out here: The Legendary John Carpenter Discusses His Past, Present & Future In Cinema!

John Carpenter's The Ward screens:
Monday, Sept. 13. 11:59pm Ryerson
Sunday, Sept 19. 12:15pm Scotiabank Theatre 1

You can purchase tickets from the official TIFF website.

Blast from the past: Fest of Fests '83

I have lots of tasks ahead of me as I prepare for Midnight Madness, but I took a break to flip through an old programme book for the 1983 Festival of Festivals (as we were then called). Thought I'd share this ad that will strike a nostalgic chord with Toronto residents.

In 1983, the first edition of Midnight Madness was still a full five years away, but there was still lots for fans of genre and offbeat cinema to see including The Best of Nightflight, MTV Basement Tapes, a Don Letts retrospective at the Bam Boo Club on Queen Street, a David Cronenberg retrospective, and a 33 film series called Science Fiction Revisited with a broad range of films selected by Croneberg that included Duel, Vampyr, La Jetee, Peeping Tom, The Devils, War of the Worlds, The Bed Sitting Room, Dr. Strangelove, Creature From The Black Lagoon, Mad Love, Private Parts, The Golem, Taxi Driver (Cronenberg writes, "a better Blader Runner than Blade Runner. New York is a nightmare L.A./Tokyo of the future. De Niro is a sleepless alien who does a poor job as passing himself off as an earthling. He can't really figure out human sexuality but he wants to get involved anyway. It doesn't work."), Satyricon, Forbidden Planet, Alphaville, Freaks, This Island Earth, Lord of the Flies, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Hour of the Wolf, M, On The Beach, Don't Look Now and more.

For the mainstream crowd, there were screenings of The Big Chill, Educating Rita, The Moon In The Gutter by Jean-Jacques Beineix, Heart Like A Wheel, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Luc Besson's Le Dernier Combat, Paul Verhoeven's The Fouth Man, and the rap/graffiti documentary Wild Style.

And of course, on the back cover of the guide, an ad for Labatt's Blue Light – in a stubby bottle, naturally!


Genre Icon: John Carpenter

In the past few years some genre icons have premiered their films at Midnight Madness: Dario Argento with Mother of Tears (2007), George A. Romero with George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead (2007) and George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead (2009), and Stuart Gordon with Stuck (2007). This year, John Carpenter becomes the latest genre icon to premier a film in Midnight Madness with John Carpenter’s The Ward.

It has been nine years since Carpenter's last film so younger genre fans might not be familiar with his earlier work. But if you enjoy slasher films like Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street then John Carpenter is the man to thank. It was 1978’s Halloween (directed, scored, and co-written by Carpenter) that contemporized techniques like the masked villain POV shots and jump scares that are still used to thrill mainstream audiences today.

If you don’t believe me go watch the original Scream; I’ll be here when you get back… Did you notice the kids watching Halloween while Jamie Kennedy explains the rules of modern day horror films? If Wes Craven credits Carpenter with writing the rules for slasher films who am I to argue?

Some would say Ridley Scott and James Cameron pioneered mainstream use of post apocalyptic futures in the 80s. Obviously those people never saw Escape from New York. A full decade before The Matrix and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Carpenter was cluing North American audiences into Asian martial arts/wire-fu cinema with Big Trouble in Little China. Before everyone started remaking everything in the last few years, including a Rob Zombie remake of Carpenter’s original Halloween, Carpenter himself was showing the world how to do remakes right with The Thing.

If Carpenter isn’t an icon I don’t know who is! Don’t miss your chance to be at the World Premiere of John Carpenter’s The Ward on Monday, September 13 at 11:59 pm at the Ryerson. It is also eligible for the Cadillac People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award so don’t forget to vote!

Screening times:

Monday, Sept. 13. 11:59pm Ryerson
Sunday, Sept 19. 12:15pm Scotiabank Theatre 1

You can purchase tickets from the official TIFF website.

MONSTERS: An Unforgettable Journey

This film screens as part of the Vanguard programme but maybe of particular interest to Midnight Madness fans.

Very rarely do you ever see the words romance and monsters in the same synopsis. Those two words are at the very core of Gareth Edwards' film Monsters. I personally consider the film a contemporary classic, a throw back to films from the forties and fifties. Monsters is The African Queen meets War of the Worlds. That being said the themes of the film are very much rooted in the present day.

Here is the first clip I saw of Monsters. It really captures the beauty and awe of the film.

Monsters is also one of the great stories of independent film making. The words science fiction film, usually conjures up images of huge budgets and large crews. The production team had less people then a baseball team on the field. There was Gareth wearing two hats as both director and cinematographer, a sound man, an interpreter, an editor, an assistant, a line producer and the two lead actors. Using two vans the crew filmed in Guatemala, Belize, Mexico and Texas. I believe this small team really brought a lot of intimacy to the film, you as the audience really are a third person on this journey. Here is Gareth talking about the making of the film

Here is the latest trailer.

Monsters is a well crafted, engaging sci-fi, adventure film in which the passion and dedication that went into the production is evident in every frame. I strongly urge you to take the journey because it is an experience that you will not soon forget.

Screening times:

Thursday, Sept. 16. 9:00pm Ryerson
Friday, Sept. 17. 8:30pm Scotiabank Theatre 1
Sunday, Sept 19. 3:00pm Scotiabank Theatre 3

You can purchase tickets from the official TIFF website.


Getting the Invite to Midnight Madness

I know what it is like to anticipate attending Midnight Madness as film lover and I was wondering what it was like as a filmmaker to get the call that your film was going to be invited to Midnight Madness, so I decided to ask a couple of Midnight Madness alumni for their reflections and advice to the filmmakers having a premiere this year. I recently spoke with Trent Haaga TH (screenwriter for Deadgirl) & Noah Segan NS (lead actor from Deadgirl)

1.) What was your initial reaction to the news that your film was being invited to the Toronto International Film Festival?

TH Disbelief. I love the film and the script was very special to me, but I had been told for so long that no one would ever make or watch the movie that I had begun to believe it. Getting into Midnight Madness at the TIFF was, quite simply, unbelievable at the time. TIFF is one of the most prestigious festivals in the world and they're premiering one of MY movies? The guy who wrote THE TOXIC AVENGER PART 4? Really?

NS When I heard that Deadgirl had gotten into TIFF, I immediately called my Parole Officer and Rabbi (They're actually the same guy. Hollywood. Go figure.) for permission to attend! In all seriousness (or a little seriousness), I was nervously excited that a screwy little movie like ours had gotten the attention of such a prestigious festival.

2.) Could you share some of your memories of being at the festival in 2008.

TH My wife (and also the film's costume designer) and I decided to take a walk to the end of the line for the first screening of Deadgirl, we walked around one city block, then another, then another before we found the end of the line and every time we turned a corner I was shocked and amazed to see how many people were queued up to see the premiere ... we ended up selling out the Ryerson, which was amazing. It was also our first trip to Toronto, which is a great city.

NS TIFF was a whirlwind. I remember a couple really, really good buffets for us movie-folks. And a few protestors outside our theatre at midnight. Colin seemed just as surprised as we were to be a part of something so wild, just as much of a kid in a candy store. The best part was having an audience that "engaged" the movie. They didn't have any kind of snobbery. They laughed and screamed and joked and snarked and made it a party. That's my kind of scene. So in a way, it felt like I was just hanging out with pals.

3.) How has having your film premiere at tiff changed your life?

TH Premiering at the TIFF was definitely one of the pinnacles of my career thus far and it made Deadgirl the most successful film I've been involved with, both critically and financially. The film may have found its place over a longer period of time outside of TIFF, perhaps, but being discovered at the TIFF was the greatest exposure the film could have asked for.

NS Deadgirl went from a no-budget flick on the fringe to a hipster indie-darling thanks to TIFF Not only did the festival legitimize the movie, but having it in the scope of Colin's program made it appropriate. It's probably the first and last time I'll ever be "legitimately appropriate". How ironic that it's for a flick where I play a sociopathic rapist? I knew about Midnight Madness and how cutting-edge it is for a program, but I also knew that movie distributors really pay attention to the T.I.F.F. program, and that it could help lots of folks see our flick. It did.

4.) What advice would you offer filmmakers that are about to experience the world premiere of their films this year?

TH Enjoy it! Life isn't like a movie. It's not chock full of defining moments ... having a film premiere at TIFF during the Midnight Madness is one of those defining moments that you see in the movies. Well, it was for me, anyway ...

NS Get some sleep, you'll need it. Also, people in Canada really are as nice as they seem. It's not a scheme. Just roll with it.

5.) What projects are you currently working on?

TH I wrote a film called Fetch (www.themoviefetch.com) that is premiering in September, I've just completed my directorial debut, Chop (www.chopthemovie.com), and I turned in a screenplay for Deadgirl 2 a few months back ... Also working on the most important projects of all, sons Maximillian (8 years) and Bronson (8 weeks) ...

NS I need a killer gig so I can come back to TIFF!


Red Nights at TIFF

Category III represents at Midnight Madness this year with Hong Kong star, Carrie Ng in Red Nights. But Red Nights is more than an homage to sexy and violent Hong Kong movies from the 1980s. Directors Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud have been inspired to make a giallo in Hong Kong:

"The project originated from the idea to transpose a traditional 'Giallo' intrigue in a Hong Kong context.... [O]ne just needs to wander at night along the mid-levels lanes on Hong Kong island, a maze of stairs and narrow streets connecting ancient theatres, temples and high tech buildings with silent mansions hidden among the trees up along the peak, to know this is a perfect playground for a maniac killer in trench coat hunting attractive but terrified victims 'à la Mario Bava.'"

Screening times for Red Nights are: Wed. Sept. 15, 11:59pm RYERSON; Fri. Sept. 17, 2:15pm SCOTIABANK THEATRE 2; Sun. Sept. 19, 5:45 SCOTIABANK THEATRE 11.

Trailer and press kit quote via Wildgrounds


STAKE LAND A Must See of 2010

When the Midnight Madness programme was recently announced one film that immediately grabbed my attention was Stake Land

The reason for my my excitement?

Firstly, the director Jim Mickle. Click here for an interview with him over at Twitch

It is not uncommon during a film festival Q&A to have some one raise their hand and ask, "How much was your budget?" Well Mr. Mickle's first feature Mulberry Street was made for a tiny fraction of most budgets and proved that it's not the cost of your film that matters but the amount of talent and imagination. Mulberry Street transcended all it's limitations and announced the arrival of a major new talent.

Secondly, the producer Larry Fessenden. Larry is one of those cool indie N.Y. film makers who not only makes horror films but is a huge fan of the genre. Check out my 2008 interview with him here:

Lastly, the film itself. Here is the first trailer for Stake Land. A film that people will be talking about long after the end credits.

Screening times for Stake Land are: Friday, Sept. 17th at the Ryerson Theatre at 11:59 pm, Saturday, Sept. 18th at the Scotiabank Theatre #4 at 12:15 pm and at the AMC Theatre #2 at 9 pm.

"If you were gonna die, and you knew you were gonna die... and you could choose how... what would you choose?"

Though this blog's main focus is the films that are playing as part of the Midnight Madness program, we'll occasionally take the opportunity to bring to your attention films outside of MM which might be of interest to you. The first of these films is a film having its World Premiere in the Vanguard program, called A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE.

A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE is directed by Tennessee born filmmaker, Adam Wingard, who made a huge impression on the independent horror scene three years ago with his haunting film, POP SKULL. A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE tells the story of Sarah (Amy Seimetz); a woman trying to start a new life, and a murderous ex-boyfriend (AJ Bowen) who won't let her. The film also stars writer/actor/director Joe Swanberg, and is written by Simon Barrett, the writer of Midnight Madness alumni, DEAD BIRDS.

A trailer for the film was released today, and it looks stunning. A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE is without question, one of my top three picks of TIFF 2010.

Watch the amazing trailer!

Tuesday September 14
8:00:00 PM
Thursday September 16
6:00:00 PM
Friday September 17
2:00:00 PM
AMC 10

Just Giv'r! FUBAR 2 @ TIFF MM!

If you like the alphabet soup that toplines the post then you should check out the Midnight Madness twitter feed at http://twitter.com/mmadnesstiff, all the cool kids are doing it. And guess who else is on twitter? Dean Murdoch from Fubar II https://twitter.com/Dean_Murdoch

Some of Dean’s pearls of wisdom include: "Fubar II world Premier at TFFF (Toronto F*cking Film Festival) on Sept 9. Don't like sequels? Well, FU2 buddy. Again."

"My neighbour told me if I don't put up some blinds soon he's gonna duct tape the outside of my windows. I was like great, free duct tape."

"Ten minutes of rock is worth twenty minutes of meditation."

I’d post more tweets but I don't want to spoil the fun for everyone. Dean has a lot of great links to Fubar II related videos and trailers. Not bad for a nut cancer surviving stoner, 'eh. Just giv’r a look.

Screening times:

Thursday, Sept. 9. 11:59pm Ryerson
Saturday, Sept 11. 12:00pm Varsity 8

You can purchase tickets from the official TIFF website.


It's official! MIDNIGHT MADNESS 2010!



A superhero, a samurai, gun runners, vampire hunters and hosers stalk the night during the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness programme. Programmed by Colin Geddes, this year’s line-up features premieres that deliver the thrills and chills that the devoted audience has come to expect and love from Midnight Madness.

“From the streets of Hong Kong to a post-apocalyptic vampire plagued United States, from a town run by Kung Fu killers to the oil fields of Alberta, this year’s Midnight Madness selection will take audiences into worlds that are sure to shock and thrill,” said Colin Geddes, TIFF programmer.

The Midnight Madness selection includes films from John Carpenter, James Wan, James Gunn, Brad Anderson and Dante Lam and feature on-screen performances by Demi Moore, Ellen Page, Josh Hartnett, Liv Tyler, Hayden Christensen, Kevin Bacon, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo, Rainn Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Rose Byrne.

Midnight Madness Opening Night
Fubar II
Michael Dowse, Canada
World Premiere

In the sequel to the 2002 cult comedy, Fubar, headbanger hosers and lifelong friends Dean (Paul Spence) and Terry (Dave Lawrence) realize they’re weary of constantly trying to "give’r" while barely scraping by and hit the road to find wealth, happiness and more beer in the oil fields of Alberta.

The Canadian short film The Legend of Beaver Dam (Jerome Sable) will premiere prior to Fubar II.

Guy Moshe, USA
World Premiere

In a world with no guns, a mysterious drifter (Josh Hartnett), a young samurai and a bartender (Woody Harrelson) plot revenge against a ruthless leader (Ron Perlman) and his army of thugs, headed by nine diverse and deadly assassins. This visually stunning film is filled with uniquely choreographed action sequences of a new style that melds east with west and old school with new. The film also stars Demi Moore.

The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman
Wu Ershan, Hong Kong, China/USA
North American Premiere

A tale of revenge, honour and greed follows a group of misfits that gets involved with a kitchen cleaver made from the top five swords of the martial arts world in this wild and brash action comedy.

Fire of Conscience
Dante Lam, Hong Kong, China
North American Premiere

Dante Lam proves himself to be a talent to look out for in this slam bang action film where robbers and gunrunners battle with cops on the busy urban streets of Hong Kong. Starring Leon Lai, Fire of Conscience is easily one of loudest action films from Hong Kong in recent memory, with an orchestra of exploding grenades and machine gun rounds.

James Wan, USA
World Premiere

When proud parents take possession of an old house, an accident results in one of their sons falling into a coma. The tragedy doesn't stop there when they are beset by vengeful spirits from another realm in this new chiller by the director and writer of Saw and by the producers of Paranormal Activity. The film stars Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey and Patrick Wilson.

Red Nights
Julien Carbon, Laurent Courtiaud, Hong Kong/France
World Premiere

This shocking debut by director duo Carbon and Courtiaud is a seductive cat-and-mouse thriller set in Hong Kong, about a woman's obsessive desire to own a rare object that hides a deadly and perverse secret.

Jim Mickle, USA
World Premiere

In the aftermath of a vampire epidemic, a teen is taken in by a grizzled vampire hunter on a road trip through a post-apocalyptic America, battling both the bloodsuckers and a fundamentalist militia that interprets the plague as the Lord’s work.

James Gunn, USA
World Premiere

After his wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a drug dealer (Kevin Bacon), a frustrated husband (Rainn Wilson) decides he will win her back as Crimson Bolt, a costumed vigilante armed with a monkey wrench. His actions bring him an admirer, an overeager comic store clerk (Ellen Page) who wants to be his sidekick.

Vanishing on 7th Street
Brad Anderson, USA
World Premiere

When a massive power blackout causes the population to inexplicably vanish, a small handful of survivors (Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo) band together inside a desolate tavern, struggling to survive as the darkness hones in on them. From director Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Session 9) comes an apocalyptic thriller with a terrifying vision of our world's end and a story that wrestles with the nature of existence itself.

The Ward
John Carpenter, USA
World Premiere

Acclaimed director John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) makes his long awaited return to the screen with a thriller about a young woman (Amber Heard) in a 1960s mental institution who becomes terrorized by a malevolent unseen forces.

The Midnight Madness Package is $157, and available to students and seniors for $100 (prices exclude taxes and fees). Other ticket packages for the Festival are also available for purchase by cash, debit or Visa†. Purchase online at tiff.net/thefestival, by phone at 416-968-FILM or 1-877-968-FILM (Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.,) or in person at the TIFF Box Office at 2 Carlton Street, West Mezzanine (Monday to Friday: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. The 35th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9 to 19, 2010.

Midnight Madness is made possible through the generous sponsorship of Cineplex Entertainment LP and SPACE.


MM Blog Flashback: That's A Wrap!

An entry from the 2009 Midnight Madness blog. You can check out the archive for it at http://tiff.net/Blogs/category/Midnight-Madness.aspx

That's A Wrap!
October 1, 2009 - By: Sanjay Rajput

I know TIFF has been over for weeks but if you are like me, and you miss those late nights at the Ryerson, you are probably in the midst of the post fest blues. Well fear not as I've got a few places for you to go to let you relive some of the best moments of Midnight Madness 2009!

Uber-Video bloggers Sheleigh Bober & Robert Mitchell have some pretty slickly produced wrap-up videos of all 10 Midnight Madness evenings posted on this youtube channel.

If you are a fan of the cinematography of Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project check out the uneditted Midnight Madness Intros & Q&As here.

There are hundreds of pics over on the Midnight Madness group over on Facebook.

So that's a wrap gang, it was a blast and see you next year!

MM Blog Flashback: And the award goes to...

An entry from the 2009 Midnight Madness blog. You can check out the archive for it at http://tiff.net/Blogs/category/Midnight-Madness.aspx

And the award goes to...
September 19, 2009 - By: Eric Veillette

For the first time, TIFF is awarding a top prize to a Midnight Madness selection. Announced moments ago in a conference room at the Hotel Intercontinental, the recipient of the Midnight Madness Cadillac People's Choice Award is Sean Byrne's The Loved Ones, the 'Dark Horse' of this year's lineup.

There was heavy competition, from neo-noir vampires in Daybreakers -- which was the runner-up for the award -- incubated demons in [REC]2, stop-motion toys on amphetamines in A Town Called Panic and absolute absurdism in Symbol. But as far as the Midnight Madness audience is concerned, Byrne's tale from down under tugged, pulled and stabbed at the heart-strings of the audience. With a fork.

It's an unprecented move for a genre film to receive such accolades at one of the world's most prestigious film fests, and we're hoping it leads to a bright future for this fresh, fun and gory film. The MM blogging team wishes to congratulate Sean Byrne and his entire cast and crew for this award.

This just in from Sean Byrne himself:

"I just received the best wake-up call of my life informing me THE LOVED ONES had received the Midnight Madness Audience Choice Award (and I'm still pinching myself!). The MM audience is the most educated, passionate and hardcore horror audience I've ever encountered, which makes receiving this award an especially great honor. Team LOVED ONES thanks Colin for hunting down our 'darkhorse', his team of bloggers for so kindly spreading the word and, finally, we thank you, the MM audience for voting for us!!! You ROCK!!! I can't wait to come back with another film that goes straight for the jugular! Sweet dreams!!!" --- Sean Byrne (Writer/Director, THE LOVED ONES)

Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes (in his pjs from Symbol)
accepting the Midnight Madness Cadillac People's Choice Award for The Loved Ones.