Check out all sorts of midnight coverage at Thesubstream.com .
Every second of every intro and Q&A can be found here. Or you can watch them below. So enjoy, and we'll see everyone again next year at 11:59 pm!
The creative team behind Stake Land talk about heroes with the Midnight Madness Blog...
Since the eighties, there has been a decline of the male action hero in horror films. Back then we had Bruce Campbell taunting demons, Kurt Russell fighting Things, and Rowdy Roddy Piper chewing bubble gum and kicking ass.
After that, we saw more and more females, soon to be defined as "final girls" taking on hero roles. The Final Girl hit its mainstream apex with Neve Campbell's portrayal of Sidney in the Scream films. Not only that, but in the nineties, we also saw the rise of empathetic villains stealing the hero spotlight all together with Jason Vorhees, and Freddy Krueger getting more screen time, and in Freddy's case, dialogue than the actual protagonists of the film. This trend continued to the point of Child Play's murderous doll Chucky becoming a full on protagonist in his more recent outings.
However, all through this, the males heroes have been having a tough time. While I intend to take nothing away from George Clooney's awesome performance in Dusk Till Dawn, or Vin Diesel's Riddick-- the male heroes of genre movies had become increasingly sinister. After the dust settled, these were not savory characters who you would invite to your home. More and more it seemed that these were bad people doing good deeds; but in no way did they intend to be redeemed. One could easily assume they went back to being their bad selves after the credits rolled.
When you look to TV's currently most successful hero, it's Michael C. Hall's Dexter - a serial killer who hunts other killers. Is it even possible to have cool male heroes in a horror movie who can realistically fight the evil forces convincingly... while also being a good human being?
With Mulberry Street, we saw a new force buck against this trend, where Nick Damici's character Clutch does everything in his power to save the tenants of his mutant rat infested building. The striking thing about that film, was that while Clutch was so tough, he was also incredibly human and believable. Here was a tough guy who genuinely cared about people- and not fleetingly or selectively. And he kicked ass. And I don't mean kicking ass by suing the villains or calling the police. This was a nice guy who could convincingly overcome his foes, without super powers, psychotic rage, or criminal talents. Just a good guy trying to do the right thing.
Now Mulberry Street's creative duo return with a new tale of apocalyptic terror. Nick Damici stars as a grizzled warrior teaching and protecting a young man in a doomed age of vampires in this year's midnight madness selection Stake Land.
And for my money, this further cements Nick's triumphant rise as a new kind of horror hero; one that cares about you!
NICK DAMICI - writer, actor
Do you write parts for yourself, or do you write the character as someone different in your mind and then you become that person -- as a writer how do you separate yourself from the story to become the actor, or what’s your method?
I write the characters generally with someone in mind including myself. As far as separating myself from the writing and moving into the acting, they are different processes taking place at different times so it's pretty easy. I'm not precious about what I write and often end up letting the actor in me edit the writer. When I not sure of something or it doesn't seem clear to me, I talk to Jim...
Have you ever had a “hero moment” in real life?
I've had a few scary moments, and you just react or you don't. I've been lucking in that I generally react. It's a reflex decision so I don't think heroism really comes into it.
How do you view your roles as a writer, and how do you approach them from an actor's standpoint?
I try to keep my characters as close to me as I can generally and then just try to be as honest as I can in my portrayal.
Who are your heroes in film, life, etc?
My film heroes range from King Kong to Bogart in films. In life I see heroes in anyone who faces the world honestly and with humility. People who have the courage to embrace the gift of our lives in the face such a shitty world.
What other kinds of characters are you interested in exploring?
I'd love to do a real period peace and stretch a bit. I played Sherlock Holmes in a play two summers ago and had a ball. I'd love to re-visit Mister some time in the future and maybe see how Martin turns out as a man.
JIM MICKLE - director
How did you two first meet?
I met Nick on a student film almost 10 years ago. I was doing lighting for a friend and Nick was playing an ex-con school bus driver. We hung out after the shoot and realized we had the same crazy tastes for movies and filmmakers and over the next few years we pipe dreamed about doing a movie together and working with guys like Tim House (from Mulberry Street) and other friends. Mulberry Street came about out of a mutual desperation to work on our own projects. And now that friendship has led to a pretty potent creative juice and we wind up making these hard to define, hybrid genre movies.
What was your first impression of Nick as an actor?
The first time I saw Nick he was acting in a scene and I was probably stacking sandbags on the side, but I remember thinking "Holy Shit! This guy's the real deal." So many times in the independent film world you see a guy who looks tough or sounds tough but you can tell it's an act, and they're trying really hard to fill a type. With Nick he just is. He's confident as a person and as an actor and he never has to push. Some people do that, but they're bland and no one wants to see them in movies. Nick can be himself, but he's got that great cinematic quality that pulls you in and keeps you watching more.
How did he convince you to play the lead?
He never had to. He wrote it for himself to play, and the cool thing was, it was the least doubtful decision of the whole film for everybody. I remembered being concerned at first that someone would want to put a huge name in that role but once people liked the script and met him for two seconds, the case was closed. He IS Mister.
As Nick wrote the script, did he need to audition; and if not, what was the major selling point for you in using him?
Nick wrote the script, and no he never had to audition. Because it was all born from his mind, I actually had to catch up with him on the character and the world. He was so engulfed in the joy of creating a character, that it was a pleasure to sit back and be a part of the ride. He slept in a tent during the shoot, camped out, carved his own weapons, sewed his own clothes. He made his own leather pants. He spent a few rainy nights sleeping in the car. By the time we started shooting, he was just doing his thing, and we grabbed the camera and just hoped to make it translate to the screen..
Has your collaboration gotten more in tune with a second feature film together?
Absolutely. We also did a short film and teaser trailer for another feature. I remember working with him on set before Mulberry Street and being amazed that someone was as enthusiastic and excited to be creating something as I was. It was like running around in the backyard making films as a kid and forgetting that the rest of the world exists outside of your little movie. By Stake Land, we know what the other guy is looking for, so the only time we need to speak up is if we're violating something in the story, or if we're screwing up a good idea by trying to pull off too many ideas. It's fun to hit that groove with someone.
What would YOU do in a vampire apocalypse?
I'd go to Nick's apartment and watch him go to work.Check out the team at work in Stake Land, mere hours from now as it premieres at Midnight Madness!
Stake Land Screening times:
Friday September 17 11:59:00 PM RYERSON
Saturday September 18 12:15:00 PM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4
Sunday September 19 9:00:00 PM AMC 2
We were very fortunate to have had financial support throughout the recession of Dark Sky Films. The association began with Ti West’s THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL and that lead us to strike a deal to produce three more movies over the course of 18 months: BITTER FEAST, STAKE LAND and HYPOTHERMIA. And that was followed by another Ti West film, THE INNKEEPERS. So we’ve had a very good run of it with Dark Sky. In the 2000’s Glass Eye Pix invested in the careers of several filmmakers including Ti West, Graham Reznick, James McKenney, and Glenn McQuaid, as well as Kelly Reichardt and Ilya Chaiken, and the consistent model was to make films of artistic integrity at a very low budget. During more lucrative times we could get reimbursed for our efforts. It is our hope that in these lean years our model of frugality and originality will be attractive to new investors. It is important not to discount the sheer talent we have tapped in to. And I believe there is a tone throughout all the films from Glass Eye Pix that stands in marked contrast to the mainstream or even “indie” output and that is our brand.
Stake Land was the most solid pitch we had for our slate of three movies with Dark Sky Films; it had the elements that looked good on paper: vampires, the post apocalyptic setting, and the director Jim Mickle had made a successful first film but still was hungry enough to go from no budget to low budget with gusto and conviction. So the film was financed easily, as part of an overall slate. The challenges were many from there. First, the script had to be reworked over several months to shape it into the feature it’s become, and then the epic scope of the story had to be fit into the budget. We determined to split the shoot into two parts, so we could experience on film the change in seasons. This was a gamble that paid off, but one that can stress a budget and crew and spook most financiers. As with all our films, we choose to emphasize post production: sound design, music, graphics, visual effects, the color correct and mix, all are an essential part of the experience we want to deliver, and again, the challenge is to strategize to get the most out of what is left of the budget after a grueling shoot. By using the same team of people in post-production on several films, we have been able to get a lot of bang for the buck.
There is no one thing that has changed since I made HABIT in 1994. With HABIT, I established many of the principals that I still employ: A small crew (there were seven of us on HABIT), an open schedule (we shot over 45 days), and a long post-production emphasizing sound design and a rich, live score, all driven by a resourceful, single-minded auteur (which was me at the time). With HABIT, I endured a tsunami of festival and distribution rejections and so I released the film myself, compelling me to learn about marketing and exhibition. That experience taught me that there are no answers in show biz, there is only conviction. I have applied that to film after film with various degrees of success since, and it has helped several careers get started through Glass Eye Pix. Another thing I have learned since HABIT is I need my own producer to take care of the nuts and bolts of production. I may have a philosophical overview that drives the ship, but it was HABIT’s producer Dayton Taylor that got the film made, Jeff Levy-Hinte who got my subsequent films made, and now Peter Phok and Brent Kunkle have been instrumental in getting a slew of new pictures made. Collaboration in film at every level is essential.
They say that Toronto boasts more Chinese restaurants than China (where, by the way, they’re just called ‘restaurants’).
Okay, no one says that. Mostly because it’s probably not true. But Toronto not only has some of the best Chinese restaurants in Canada or even North America, but many of them are open until the wee hours of the morning – perfect for a post-Midnight Madness snack or, if you’re in and out of screenings as much as I am, breakfast. Here’s a few of my favourites that would make for an ideal setting to mull over the culinary and martial arts wizardry in tonight’s premiere of The Butcher, The Chef, and The Swordsman.
Gold Stone Noodle (isn’t just any old restaurant – it’s actually nothing short of a fixture in Chinatown. Whether driving or walking down Spadina, you can’t miss the illuminated window with whole roasted ducks and pigs hanging there like delicious, inside-out mannequins. Make your selection and the chef will chop up that carcass like it owes him money before expertly laying it on a bed of freshly-made (in-house!) thick noodles. It’s no frills and I don’t even think they give you any vegetables, but it is seriously one of the best meals you can have in the city.
Rol San (is so dear to my heart that I’m almost loath to mention it, lest it be overrun next time I’m trying to get a table. I’ve spent many late nights there, eating things I was too drunk to even identify and passing them to friends around huge round tables after a particularly late club night or screening. The Crispy Beef with Ginger Honey Sauce here is roughly equivalent to a night with GACKT or Carrie Ng (depending on your preference) and the gigantic sign outside proclaiming that “WE SERVE DIM SUM” isn’t just there for decoration.
Asian Legend (418 Dundas St. W.) is a lesser-known spot on Dundas, located close to the Art Gallery of Ontario and TIFF venue, Jackman Hall. This place specializes in Northern Chinese cuisine from the Shanghai region and is super authentic (chicken balls are nowhere on this menu). Super crispy, not greasy Peking Duck, delectable green onion pancakes rolled with beef...Oh god I’ve drooled all over my keyboard. What I love about this place, though, are its private rooms downstairs. Nowhere in this city can replicate the feeling of being a Chinese gangster quite like Asian Legend’s circular rooms that my friends and I have affectionately dubbed ‘the Jedi Council Chamber’. You get a huge table in this room that goes almost to the wall and rotates, Lazy Susan style, for optimal sharing. Perfect for you and your crew to plan your next hit.
So if you find yourself with a deadly case of the munchies tonight after The Butcher, The Chef, and The Swordsman, give one of these places a try!
Red Nights is a special and unusual film. It’s beautifully shot, with an amazingly hypnotic soundtrack and compelling performances by its sexy femme fatale leading ladies.
However, it's a difficult film to peg down, making it the wild card of this year’s Midnight Madness line up.
When seeing the trailer, I wasn’t sure what I was in for, because there was nothing I had seen before that I could relate it to: vivid neon cityscapes, an air tight PVC body encasement, a glamourous woman plucking a bullet out of her shoulder with jade claws, striking images set to surreal music.
But how does it all come together?
It’s a ride movie. But unlike any ride movie. When you think about blockbuster films, you compare them to roller coasters. Insidious you could compare to a terrifying haunted house attraction.
Red Nights is something very different. It’s not a roller-coaster, it’s more like a pedal boat; floating through dark forbidden tunnels. Sometimes the water is still, other times, not. It feels like progressing through a guided dream, leading you down the lost hallways of the characters' repressed subconscious.
It never feels contrived or too precious with its symbolism. This is a film of complimentary contrasts: romantic yet perverse, sublime but harrowing, gorgeous and repulsive. It all melts together like the over-flowing fudge sundae you’re too modest to order. You know you want it, though!
Some would complain the narrative is a bit undefined, and it's tough to decide who the protagonist is until the very end. But that never bothered me -- because this film consistently chooses against expectation, making it highly enjoyable to those jaded by more conventional thrillers. If you dig, deeper meanings are there. Nothing happens by chance.
Now tie this together with one of the most surreal and maddening soundtracks in years, and you have a lush ride that invites you to dream with it.
When it all ended, I wanted to have that dream again.
Red Nights screening times:
The Black Eagle is the venue of choice for gay men in the leather community. It’s located right in the heart of the gay district (the Yonge/Wellesley area) and features decor that wouldn’t feel inappropriate for Jigsaw’s basement in Saw. There’s dungeon equipment, fetish-themed artwork, and a large patio for that post-panking smoke.
Goodhandy’s describes itself as ‘Toronto’s pansexual playground’. Hosting a wide variety of events for gay, straight, and mixed crowds, it can be safely said that if you have a kink that can’t be satisfied here, well, perhaps you should consider therapy. Goodhandy’s hosts transgirl parties and boy parties each week and hosts the Northbound Leather Fetish party each Saturday which may be one of Toronto’s largest weekly events of this size. All genders and orientations are welcome to dive into the smut.
Every fourth Saturday, Subspace throws their monthly fetish party in the heart of Kensington Market. Mandatory fetish attire means that your gimp mask and ball gag wouldn’t be out of place, and there’s a large dance floor and play area. Subspace’s marquee event happens on Halloween night, but there’s large events each year on a weekend in May that’s hosted in conjuction with London’s Torture Garden (the be-all and end-all for fetish parties). There’s also a dungeon space that’s available to rent for your next birthday party, anniversary, or office retreat.
Fetish Masquerade is a monthly event held usually on a Friday or Saturday and located on Queen West. It’s not always quite as large as the others mentioned, but like Subspace, fetish attire is mandatory and there are play areas throughout the club as well as a dancefloor.
Red Nights screening times: