Even before I started attending the Toronto International Film Festival, I was well aware of the reputation of their midnight movie programming, and in the years I've been attending, that reputation has been backed up with great choice after great choice. There was one day this spring, at the start of April, where something like three different choices from the previous year's programming was all released theatrically at the same time.  And these movies were some of the most talked about indie releases of the year, including "Insidious," "Super," and "Stakeland."

I was out this morning seeing something else when the announcement went live this morning, but all week long, Colin Geddes has been dropping hints and linking out to photos from the films, and I was guessing, and except for the one film that I've already seen, all of my guesses were wrong.

I'm okay with that.

I love the list that got announced. 

MIDNIGHT MADNESS

The Day
Douglas Aarniokoski, USA
World Premiere

In a post-apocalyptic future, an open war against humanity rages. Five survivors wander along rural back-roads, lost, starving and on the run. With dwindling food stocks and ammunition, an attempt at seeking shelter turns into a battleground where they must fight or die. Starring Ashley Bell, Dominic Monaghan and Shannyn Sossamon.

Sure.  I know that Colin sits through two thousand variations on a theme, and if he's going let in "post apocalyptic war against humanity," there's a reason.  Good cast.

God Bless America
Bobcat Goldthwait, USA
World Premiere

Loveless, jobless and possibly terminally ill, Frank has had enough of the downward spiral of America. With nothing left to lose, Frank takes his gun and decides to off the stupidest, cruellest and most repellent members of society with an unusual accomplice: 16-year-old Roxy, who shares his sense of rage and disenfranchisement. From stand-up comedian and director Bobcat Goldthwait comes a scathing and hilarious attack on all that is sacred in the United States of America.

I think it's love at first sight for me on this one.  I was flattened by "World's Greatest Dad" at Sundance a few years ago, and I think Goldthwait is the real deal, a smart and provocative filmmaker.  Can't wait.

The Incident
Alexandre Courtes, France
World Premiere

George, Max and Ricky are in a rock band and waiting for their big breakthrough. Between small gigs and rehearsals they work in the kitchen of a high-security asylum for good pay at minimum risk – they have no physical contact with the inmates. One night just before dinnertime, a big storm shuts down the security system, the doors open and the lunatics break loose. Help is on its way and should soon arrive... they just have to survive until it does.

Sold.

Kill List
Ben Wheatley, United Kingdom
Canadian Premiere

Eight months after a disastrous job in Kiev left him physically and mentally scarred, ex-soldier-turned-contract-killer Jay is pressured by his partner Gal into taking a new assignment. As they track their prey, they descend into a disturbing world that is darker and more depraved than anything they experienced on the battlefield.

Loved it when I saw it at SXSW.  I think Wheatley is a major new filmmaker, and I recommend both of his features as great examples of what can be done by someone truly gifted with almost nothing in the way of "production value."  His movies are devastating because of how intimate they are.

Livid
Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, France
World Premiere

The directors of 2007’s Midnight Madness hit A L’Interieur (Inside) return with a twisted gothic nightmare. A young woman and her friends break into a decrepit mansion looking for treasure, only to unlock a dark secret of unspeakable horror ready to dish out bloody punishment for their greed.

"Twisted gothic nightmare."  "The directors of 'Inside'"  That's really all you need to say to me.  I'm in.  I'm excited.  I'm ready to get punched in the face.

Lovely Molly
Eduardo Sanchez, USA (synopsis needed)
World Premiere

When newlywed Molly Reynolds returns to her long-abandoned family home, frightful reminders of a nightmarish childhood begin seeping into her new life. She soon begins an inexorable descent into evil that blurs the lines between psychosis and possession. From the director of The Blair Witch Project.

I like that Eduardo Sanchez has made such a strong comeback in the genre in the last few years, working hard.  This one sounds like a nice twisted character horror film, and I'm up for that.


The Raid
Gareth Evans, Indonesia
World Premiere

Deep in the heart of Jakarta’s slums lies an impenetrable safe house for the world’s most dangerous killers and gangsters. Until now, the run-down apartment block has been considered untouchable to even the bravest of police. Cloaked under the cover of pre-dawn darkness and silence, an elite swat team is tasked with raiding the safe house in order to take down the notorious drug lord that runs it. But when a chance encounter with a spotter blows their cover and news of their assault reaches the drug lord, the building’s lights are cut and all the exits blocked. Stranded on the sixth floor with no way out, the unit must fight their way through the city’s worst to survive their mission. Starring Indonesian martial arts sensation Iko Uwais.

This thing was an international sales sensation at Cannes this summer, and I've heard great things.  I'm a big fan of "Merentau," and I have high hopes for this based on what I've heard so far.

Sleepless Night
Frederic Jardin, France/Belgium/Luxembourg
World Premiere

When Vincent, a double-dealing cop, steals a big bag of cocaine from some drug dealers they counter by kidnapping and threatening to kill his son if the bag isn’t returned – fast. The swap is to go down at their headquarters in a big nightclub on the outskirts of Paris, but Vincent gets caught in a spiral of deception and betrayal and must fight his way through packed dance floors and dark corridors of the labyrinth-like club.

Great title.  Great synopsis.

Smuggler
Katsuhito Ishii, Japan
World Premiere

After his dreams of becoming an actor go nowhere, 25-year-old Kinuta does nothing but gamble every day. Broke, framed and now neck-deep in debt, he is recruited as a smuggler – an underground mover of everything from dead bodies to illegal goods – but one cargo triggers the rage of a psychotic gangster hellbent on revenge. By acclaimed cult director Katsuhito Ishii of Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl and Funky Forest fame.

Katsuhito Ishii is a really sharp and funny and quirky voice in film, and he's not one of those guys who ever really got his crossover mainstream moment.  He should be better known than he is, and I'm glad I'm going to get a shot at seeing this one.

You’re Next
Adam Wingard, USA
World Premiere

From the director-writer team that brought TIFF audiences A Horrible Way To Die in 2010 comes a new experiment in tension. A family comes under a terrifying and sadistic attack during a reunion getaway. Barricaded in their secluded country home, they have to fight off a barrage of axes, crossbows and machetes from both inside and outside the house. Unfortunately for the killers, one of the victims proves to have a talent for fighting back.

Wingard is, to put it politically, keeeeeeeeee-razy-in-a-good-way, and he's been building from film to film, getting sharper and sharper.  He's ready to pop, and it's a great title.

As we have for the last few years, Greg Ellwood and I will be on the scene in Toronto this year covering the film festival and doing our best to bring you all the flavor of the festival as it unfolds.  Midnight Madness will definitely be a big part of my experience this year.  There are other just-announced films that I'm excited about, of course, including "The Artist," "Comic-Con: Episode IV - A Fan's Hope," "A Dangerous Method," "Jeff, Who Lives At Home," Besson's "The Lady," "Moneyball," "A Monster In Paris," "Paradise Lost 3" Purgatory,"Paul Williams Still Alive," "The Skin I Live In," "Snowtown" Nick Broomfield's "Sarah Palin - You Betcha!", "Take This Waltz," and "Twixt," just to name a few.  It's going to be a great year up there.

The Toronto International Film Festival takes place from September 8 to 18, 2011.