While our hearts are always with the Fantasia Film Festival, which just wrapped up yesterday, the next big festival on the list is one of the biggest of the year – the Toronto International Film Festival, which descends on the city next month.
Most exciting is TIFF’s ‘festival within a festival’, Midnight Madness, which brings horror, action, and generally subversive film to audiences and has served as a launching pad for a huge number of writers, directors, and actors. This year’s lineup, lovingly curated by programmer Peter Kuplowsky, is no different, and promises many sexy, bloody, and kicky delights over the ten days of the festival.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story dir. Eric Appel | USA (World Premiere)
Opening the lineup this year is one of the most exciting biopic projects in the last couple of years. Promising to take the life story of the most prolific accordion enthusiast and song parody artist in history, “Weird” Al Yankovic and turning it up to eleven, WEIRD: The Al Yankovic Story looks like a wild time, and if the eponymous Al is in attendance, shit is about to pop off. All indications are that Daniel Radcliffe’s portrayal of the iconic singer is incredible and I can’t wait to see it with the Midnight audience.
Sisu Jalmari Helander | Finland (World Premiere)
Returning to Midnight after his two successful outings – the iconic Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (which has become an annual Yuletide tradition in my household) and Big Game, which brought Samuel L. Jackson to Midnight Madness (in the role of the president of the United State, no less) – is Finland’s greatest action export, Jalmari Helander. This time, Helander presents Sisu, the story of a tough as nails Finn being pursued by Nazis in Lapland. Sisu also reunites Helander with his favourite lead, Onni Tommilla.
The Blackening Tim Story | USA (World Premiere)
Based on Tim Story’s and 3Peat Comedy’s sketch of the same name, The Blackening takes on tired horror/genre tropes by asking the question, “who dies first if the whole cast is Black?” I’m a big fan of the original sketch, and the full-length feature sounds like a great time. I really want to see this one with an audience.
Sick dir. John Hyams | USA (World Premiere)
Programmer Peter Kuplowsky has lined up a couple of wild collaborations this year at Midnight Madness, and Sick is the first of them. Combining the action stylings of John Hyams, director of the criminally-underrated Universal Soldier: Day of Recknoning (2012) and legendary screenwriter Kevin Williamson (Scream, The Faculty, I Know What You Did Last Summer), I’m very excited to see what this fusion of styles brings about in what’s described as a “lean, mean, and wickedly timely slasher.”
Pearl dir. Ti West | USA (North American Premiere)
Ti West’s X was one of my favourite horrors of the year, and it’s seedy, sexy slasher vibes continue in the prequel, Pearl, which was filmed concurrently with X. Mia Goth plays the role of the ambitious, psychotic farm girl whose dreams of stardom lead to bloody ends. I’ve been anxiously waiting for this one, and I think the Midnight audience will eat it right up. West is no stranger to the Festival, last appearing with The Sacrament in 2013, and will certainly be welcomed back with open arms.
The People’s Joker dir. Vera Drew | USA (World Premiere)
Multi-award-winning editor Vera Drew brings a deliciously queer take on The Joker to Midnight with The People’s Joker. We talk about subversion a lot when we discuss Midnight Madness, and Drew’s newest definitely fits that bill, recontextualizing the caped crusader into a fascist figure as our eponymous clown struggles with gender identity. This could be one of the bigger surprises in this year’s lineup.
Venus Jaume Balagueró | Spain (World Premiere)
Speaking of surprises, one of the other big collaborations this year is between REC‘s Jaume Balaguero and prolific horror director Alex de la Iglesia (Day of the Beast, The Last Circus, Witching and Bitching) as they team up to present a “cosmic horror” set “within the concrete corridors of a cursed apartment complex on the outskirts of Madrid.” These two Spanish powerhouses are sure to bring the heat this year.
V/H/S 99 Flying Lotus, Johannes Roberts, Maggie Levin, Tyler MacIntyre, Vanessa & Joseph Winter | USA (World Premiere)
Last year’s V/H/S 94 gave the long-running found footage anthology series a kick in the pants and a very popular reboot that ended up being one of Shudder’s most successful premieres since the service’s inception. The newest installment from an incredible slate of horror directors promises that the turn-of-the-century-set film will innovate in ways we never imagined, and that there’s some big spooky times ahead. I’m particularly excited to see what Flying Lotus brings to this project, having assembled some of my favourite video and music content in the last few years with Kuso and Yasuke. But don’t sleep on Vanessa and Joseph Winter, whose Deadstream is making big waves in indie horror right now.
Project Wolf Hunting dir. Kim Hongsun | South Korea (World Premiere)
In terms of making waves, the Korean film output in the last few years, including Bong-Joon Ho’s Parasite, has been a gamechanger. Could Kim Hongsun’s Project Wolf Hunting be a breakthrough as well? From every indication, this ultra-bloody seafaring action-thriller could very much fit the bill. I’m hearing early buzz that Project Wolf Hunting is the bloodiest movie in this year’s lineup, and that’s enough to sell me on it.
Leonor Will Never Die Martika Ramirez Escobar | Philippines (Canadian Premiere)
One of the most esoteric films – maybe the most esoteric – in the Midnight lineup this year is Martika Ramirez Escobar’s debut feature, Leonor Will Never Die. The trippy-looking Filipino story is about a screenwriter who gets transported into the worlds of her action films. I always like when TIFF closes out with something that swings for the fences like this, and gives a surreal and dreamlike feel to the Festival’s final night, and Leonor sounds like just the ticket.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8-18. We’ll have more details and coverage here on Biff Bam Pop, and you can get lineup and ticket information at the TIFF website here.