2022 is the first year I was able to do something I’ve always wanted to but never had the opportunity to do — and that was to watch every film in the Midnight Madness program during the festival. That being said, two of which weren’t at the midnight premieres, but I still was able to do so. I do not believe I will do it again, but I was happy to do so. It’s not easy falling asleep around 3 am to head out by 8 am for a morning screening.
For those unfamiliar with TIFF or the Midnight Madness program, the TIFF website describes itself as “the wild side: screenings of the best in action, horror, shock and fantasy cinema.” The program is home to many movie lovers who love the bizarre, anything other than the norm. It’s many people’s favourite part, to let loose a little and be themselves amongst friends. Whether that’s clapping through the ads, yelling “arr” at the anti-piracy ad, or the new tradition, of standing up and saluting the volunteers. It’s a crowd like no other, and not much else can live up to it.
And now, my thoughts on the ten films from the program, and one as a preview of what was to come.
Dir. Zach Cregger
By now, I presume some of you have seen the film and how wild it can be. Some are going on to say it’s one of the scariest films in years, and others are saying it isn’t at all. And we love these divisive films. Watching Barbarian with the Midnight Madness crowd was an absolute delight. We had the audience responding to the film, screaming and cheering. It’s the way the film was meant to be watched. I’ve been waiting to revisit it and hope it still scares me as it did before.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
Dir. Eric Appel
A great and intelligent choice for the opening night film, The crowd was cheering and laughing, but then about midway through, the film lost a bit of its momentum. It returns for the finale of it all, but you can tell the movie was stretched a bit too thin for that feature-length runtime. I don’t remember the last time I saw a film that felt designed to play at Midnight Madness.
Dir. Jalmari Helander
Sisu was sold as Mad Max Fury Road meets Rambo or even MMFR meets Inglorious Basterds. Watching the film made me think I’m not a fan of the three films because Sisu didn’t work for me. The deaths and gore were inventive and could be fun, but it didn’t solicit a response outside one or two of them (there are dozens). The audience responded to the film positively during it, and post-movie reactions were also positive. So there is an audience for the film. I’m just not involved.
Dir. Tim Story
The Blackening might have been the most fun I had in a single screening during the festival. It’s on the nose just enough to allow the audience to join in the joke, but it never prioritizes comedy over any scares. A crowd pleaser that I hope gets to get played on the big screen more often because it’s a big crowd type of film.
Dir. John Hyams
I’m a sucker for a good slasher with a few great chase scenes, but I can’t recall another slasher that may have been a non-stop chase scene. With a few moments that tell us enough of the leads that keep us invested, we’re on the edge of our seats, anticipating as the killer enters the home, bringing havoc. Plus, it’s 80 minutes long.
Read my review now.
Dir. Ti West
I missed the premiere of X when I was in Austin for SXSW. I wanted to ensure I wouldn’t miss out on Pearl, and I’m glad I didn’t. To be in the room for an even more surprising post-credit of a teaser to the third film of a franchise (though halfway through some of the credits, I thought it might lead to another) was exhilarating. But the film is lovely. Strange to say about a horror film in which our lead Pearl (played once again by Mia Goth) rides a scarecrow to completion. It’s camp, but it’s not. There’s something about the stylistic choices in this technicolour dreamscape that eventually loses all of the colour and appeal as Pearl grows older and stays in the same place she was in, even though she wanted to leave for Hollywood. As someone who was a bit lukewarm on X but loved some of West’s previous work, I was delighted to be extremely surprised by this film. A thing of beauty.
The People’s Joker
Dir. Vera Drew
The People’s Joker is a film that didn’t work for me, but I grew to love it on my way home. While the story and the performances were great from the jump, getting into the film’s aesthetic took me a while. That being said, watching the audience respond and react to the film felt special. I didn’t realize it would end up being special since the film was pulled from the rest of the festival sometime during the screening. This movie is going to be a big deal for a lot of people.
You can read my review now.
Dir. Jaume Balagueró
I wanted to like Venus, I really did. At some point, the film got interesting, but then it ended soon after. It looked good and the child actress was actually incredible.
Dir. Maggie Levin, Johannes Roberts, Tyler MacIntyre, Flying Lotus, Joseph Winter, Vanessa Winter
I love the VHS franchise. An anthology of filmmakers tackling found footage segments that often vary in quality. Personally, V/H/S/99 is the most consistent film in the series so far. Some previous films often have one that is a vast stand-out compared to the others. While this one does have stand-outs (“Ozzy’s Dungeon” & “To Hell And Back” are both incredible), the others are also entertaining and enjoyable. Focusing on a 1999 aesthetic, it almost becomes campy at moments, but not for long.
You can watch V/H/S/99 on Shudder on October 20th.
Project Wolf Hunting
Dir. Kim Hongsun
Blood. There is so much blood. Project Wolf Hunting is too long and… has too many kills? I know that having a considerable body count is sometimes why some of us run to a movie, but when more people are about to be slaughtered, and the response is, “wait, who’s that?” the kills lose their impact. Not to mention that eventually, the deaths no longer become unique. That being said, this is violent and fun. At the hour mark, when the film switched to a different type of film, I was excited to see how much carnage we were about to witness, but as it continued, I realized how much more I enjoyed the first half.
Leonor Will Never Die
Dir. Martika Ramirez Escobar
Leonor was the first Midnight Madness film I saw during the festival due to the press screening being on the first day. It, in a way, set the tone for the rest of them for me. This is the first Midnight Madness film I’ve ever seen where I’ve actively used the word “cute” to describe it, but it truly is. It’s about a love of cinema and entering that world as we get attached to it. The narrative decisions and the meta-filmmaking aspects are things I have always been interested in, but the film as a whole didn’t always work for me, but as I said, it’s cute.
Until next year, when I hope to not do all 10 again. We’ll find out then.