There are two things you need to know about Midnight Madness, the Toronto Film Festival’s late-night celebration of pulp, schlock, and carnage:
- It can be one of the most amazing moviegoing experiences of your life;
- It can be terrible.
There are a lot of factors at play. For one thing, the films in the programme are not necessarily good. They may be, but that’s not sole criteria that puts them on screen at the Ryerson theatre at midnight. Rather, they must be fun. Or weird, but in a crazy-nutso sense, as opposed to merely eccentric. The must, for the most part, be briskly paced, and offer enough thrills to keep a sleep-deprived audience going into the wee hours of the morning.
Sometimes, you will see a truly great film, like the Indonesian martial arts extravaganza The Raid. And sometimes you’ll see a comedy like God Bless America, which wasn’t a particularly good movie – the more I thought about it, the more I disliked it – but it was tremendously fun to watch with a large audience that could appreciate some black humour.
The thing I’ve discovered about Midnight Madness over the years is that it’s best in small quantities. For a few years, I was seeing 4-6 midnight screenings during the festival, which would just wipe me out. And the more tired you are, the harder it is to enjoy a film. I’m also not a huge fan of horror/slasher/gore movies, so there’s a limit to how much I can take.
As a rule, the opening and closing shows of Midnight Madness are usually the best, and the busiest. This year, the films I’m most excited about are on the last two nights of the festival.
One of my earliest experiences at the Toronto film festival was seeing Gozu at Midnight Madness at the old Uptown Theatre. It was incredible: The movie was weird, the audience was crazy, and the whole thing was a lot of fun.
Why Don’t You Play In Hell doesn’t look a lot like Gozu, but it’s enough to say I have a predilection for watching crazy Japanese movies at midnight with a large crowd.
Meanwhile, Witching & Bitching offers what appears to be a lighter take on From Dusk ‘Til Dawn: A group of robbers on the run blunders into a coven of witches. And when Midnight Madness Maestro Colin Geddes promises “zany spectacle”, I take him seriously.
(I’m hoping the music in the trailer is not as prominent in the film itself.)