Based on this year’s stellar list of Midnight Madness titles announced for the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival it’s clear that the State of the Genre Union is strong. Peter Kuplowsky, who has been leading the Midnight Madness program since 2017, has put together a phenomenal slate of horror, action, and comedy that has something for every type of genre aficionado. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us as we all prepare to gather at the witching hour for 10 rollicking nights from September 7-17, 2023.
BBP: For MM newbies, which film(s) this year would be the best entry point that shows what MM is all about?
PK: Our opening night films always tend to inspire a lot of infectious energy, and DICKS: THE MUSICAL will be no exception. It will help if you have a predilection to musicals, but I really do believe that its stars and writers Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp are going to be major comedy forces, not unlike Trey Parker and Matt Stone. There’s a sing-along number and I expect the Midnight crowd will join in.
That being said – I think the Midnight audience is at its most memorable when it’s reacting to martial arts death blows, so if you’re there for KILL or BOY KILLS WORLD, then you should have the ideal Midnight Madness experience.
BBP: On the flipside: Which film(s) are going to blow away the veterans who’ve been showing up at every screening for the last 20+ year?
PK: There’s a sequence in WHEN EVIL LURKS that might be the most violent and upsetting thing I have ever seen in Midnight Madness – at least during my tenure.
BBP: This year’s lineup has films for every type of MM fan with an excellent balance of horror, comedy, and action. Was that a conscious decision on your part or was it just how the line-up naturally came together?
PK: While I try not to shape the flow of a MM lineup in advance, it is important for me not to deliver the same experience every night. That’s actually something my predecessor, the great Colin Geddes taught me. There are many different kinds of midnight madness, and I do try to feature as many distinct ones as I can. Regardless, I am always surprising myself at the end of the process – I definitely didn’t start this year thinking I would open with a musical, end with a bizarro children’s fantasy film and feature Harmony Korine at his most experimental!
BBP: MM films always start with a strong opening scene. Was there a film you saw this year that you knew within the first 15 minutes that it would strike a chord with the MM audience?
PK: NAGA. No spoilers, but it really is a shocking scene and what happens casts a spectre that haunts the rest of the film in a profound way.
BBP: What’s this year’s dark horse MM title? The one that nobody is going to see coming and everyone will be talking about the next morning.
PK: It might be NAGA. Meshal Aljaser was on a few people’s radar after his short ARABIAN ALIEN premiered at Sundance in 2020, but even I was not expecting just how terrific and auspicious his feature debut would be. Much credit must be given to my TIFF colleague Nataleah Hunter-Young, International Programmer (Africa and Arab West Asia), as she discovered the film in the submission pile and recognized that it would fit Midnight Madness. It’s just such an audacious ride through spheres of Saudi society over one-crazy night, not unlike the Safdies’ GOOD TIME or Scorsese’s AFTER HOURS. At one point it becomes a straight-up creature feature too – this one is gonna really floor people!
BBP: Is there anything else outside of MM that you’d recommend checking out?
PK: I nominated DREAM SCENARIO for the PLATFORM section, and I am delighted that TIFF’s Director of Programming & Platform Lead Robyn Citizen accepted it! It’s kind of a comedic reversal of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, insofar that it concerns an unassuming man who keeps interrupting people’s dreams, and the phenomenon having real-world consequences on his life. Kristoffer Borgli is quickly becoming one of cinema’s most incisive satirists, and he has imagined such a funny and inspired conceit, escalating it to hilarious and often cringe inducing lengths. It’s also a great role for Nic Cage, one that affords him to play to both ends of his performance spectrum.
Find information about the Festival, including schedule and ticket information at TIFF.net ! The Festival runs from September 7-17, 2023 and you can find coverage right here at Biff Bam Pop!