Midnight Madness scares up some yakuza, a sexually transmitted ghost, an unhinged film editor, and Kevin Smith.
Still TIFF’s home for all things creepy and strange, Midnight Madness returns this year with a healthy dollop of gorefests and thrillers, and one yakuza musical—all courtesy of longtime programmer Colin Geddes. A festival within the festival, Midnight Madness tends to draw a certain kind of genre-savvy, nervy audience, which ought to be sufficiently tested and sated by the week’s selections.
Let’s start with the yakuza musical. Following his Audience Choice Award in the programme last year for the delirious, whipsmart, and improbably fun Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, Japanese cult director Sion Sono offers Tokyo Tribe, set in a parallel-dimension version of Tokyo, where a war is brewing between rival gangs of rebellious youth. Geddes’ programme notes promise a mashup of West Side Story and John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, and knowing Sono, he’ll pull it off with verve.
Speaking of Carpenter, there’s a lot of the chilly auteur and sometime composer in David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, which takes the raw materials for a tender teen drama, throws in a serial haunting, and cranks up the tension with a pummelling synth score from Disasterpeace. (Canadian genre fans will also detect a trace of our own David Cronenberg in the central conceit of a sexually transmitted phantom.) We’ve already praised the film’s masterful construction in our look at our favourites at the festival so far, but suffice it to say that it feels like the best low-key drama-horror hybrid we’ve seen since Let the Right One In.
Another offering in the horror indie tradition is Adam Winguard’s The Guest. Winguard’s been putting a lo-fi mumblecore spin on the genre since A Horrible Way to Die, and this film, which co-stars It Follows lead Maika Monroe—seemingly on the fast track to becoming Scream Queen royalty—promises to be an ’80s-inspired action thriller about a mysterious stranger who approaches a grieving family and claims to be their dead soldier son’s best friend.
For Canadian content, audiences might want to check out Matthew Kennedy and Adam Brooks’s The Editor. An extended homage to the 1970s Italian giallo thrillers of Dario Argento and Mario Bava, the film tells the woeful tale of a former master film editor who becomes suspected of a number of grisly murders. Something tells us this will involve a lot of fun with scissors.
Though the programme offers a good spread for different sorts of genre fans, the film with the most general appeal on paper is probably Kevin Smith’s Tusk. Starring Justin Long and The Sixth Sense survivor Haley Joel Osment as American podcasters who go to Winnipeg to track down a subject and then end up in increasingly dicey territory, Smith’s film seems angled more toward the comedic than the suspenseful—and probably for the better. We weren’t sold on the po-faced Red State, the director’s first major foray into horror, but we’re willing to give Tusk a chance, if only for its blatant Canadian content.