Deadgirls, Martyrs and JCVD at TIFF's Midnight Movies strand
26th Jul 08
The programme for this year's Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is beginning to take shape and once again Eat My Brains will be there to bring you coverage of all the latest genre titles. Running from 4th - 13th September the festival will showcase more than 400 new features and documentaries from around the world, with many filmmakers and talent in attendance to support their work. Of course it's the Midnight Madness strand which is of most interest to us here at Eat My Brains, with last year's selection featuring the likes of The Mother Of Tears, Diary Of The Dead, Sukiyaki Western Django, Stuck and Inside.
This year's line up has just been confirmed with highlights including Jean Claude Van Damme's self-titled madcap action-comedy JCVD, the infamous Martyrs which shocked everyone who saw it at Cannes, and Prachya Pinkaew's muay-thai extravaganza Chocolate.
The full Midnight Madness programme is as follows:
JCVD - Thursday 4th September (Dir: Mabrouk El Mechri)
Being Jean-Claude Van Damme is tough. Sure, he is an internationally recognized celebrity (and possibly the world's most famous Belgian), but this star seems to have fallen from grace with a recent history of direct-to-video flicks. In a surprising yet crafty career move, Van Damme plays himself - with all his foibles in plain view - in JCVD, a rollicking action-comedy examination of the nature of fame.
Adding to Van Damme's worries are a parasitic agent, financial troubles and an emotionally fraught custody battle for his daughter in which the prosecuting attorney rips apart the action star's bone-cracking collected works to make a case for an unsuitable father figure. In order to clear his head, Van Damme returns to his family home in Belgium, where the myth of the indestructible hero hasn't been completely shattered.
When the cheque to his lawyer bounces, Van Damme goes to a post office to make a wire transfer, only to stumble into a heist and be taken hostage. When the police catch a glimpse of the superstar in the middle of the chaos, they jump to the conclusion that he has finally snapped and pulled the robbery himself. Under the barrel of a gun, Van Damme suddenly turns into an ordinary guy, filled with fears, contradictions and hopes. How can he live up to the legend he has built?
Not Quite Hollywood - Friday 5th September (Dir: Mark Hartley)
Free-wheelin' sex romps! Blood-soaked terror tales! High-octane action extravaganzas! These are the main ingredients of Mark Hartley's documentary Not Quite Hollywood, a celebration of Australian genre cinema of the seventies and eighties.
A fast and furiously paced doc, Not Quite Hollywood is a treat for cult cineastes, a buffet of thrilling clips from obscure and lurid films sandwiched between ribald anecdotes and flashy animation derived from the films' original poster art and international ad campaigns. Stories of sex, shock and scandal ring loud. We hear from actor Steve Railsback about the producers of Turkey Shoot going to the horse track to extend the budget, and from Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis about being subjected to media backlash for putting local actors out of work while shooting Roadgames. We learn that Dennis Hopper was pronounced dead when doctors discovered the amount of alcohol in his blood during the Mad Dog Morgan shoot. And Tarantino, exploitation cinema's poster boy, gushes about car crashes and rampaging bike gangs in his favourite Aussie flicks.
Deadgirl - Saturday 6th September (Dirs: Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi
Bound to draw controversy by virtue of its premise alone, Deadgirl spins a smart and surprisingly funny tale of friendship, morality and the horror of growing up.
Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan) are the kids you remember from high school as skids or bangers - dudes from the wrong side of the tracks. One afternoon, the pair skip class and escape their adolescent despair by quaffing beers and causing mischief at an abandoned mental hospital. Breaking through a rusted door that leads into a boiler room, they discover the naked body of a woman strapped to a gurney and covered in plastic. At first they suspect they've stumbled into the lair of a deranged killer, but the rusted entrance is proof that no one else has been in the space for years.
Things take a dark turn when the body shows signs of life, and JT suggests he and Rickie shouldn't waste the opportunity to have some lewd and lusty fun with their naked captive. Horrified and disgusted by his friend's intentions in this unusual circumstance, Rickie struggles with his own moral compass. When word of their discovery spreads, a dangerous battle of wills erupts between friends, leading to a disturbing climax.
Detroit Metal City - Sunday 7th September (Dir: Toshio Lee)
Souichi is a timid, sensitive and innately polite music geek who moves from the Japanese countryside to Tokyo with big dreams: he aspires to sing sugary love ballads and become a chart-topping sensation. But life does not turn out the way Souichi had hoped, and the only gig he can get is that of front man for notorious band Detroit Metal City (DMC). Wearing a cape, tights and ghostly demon makeup, Souichi storms the stage each night as Johannes Klauser II, smashing guitars and spewing verbal filth in songs about murder and rape. The band's crazy getups and destructive performances have also earned them a legion of devoted, maniacal fans who believe that Klauser is a drug-gobbling demon from hell.
To make matters worse, this reluctant rocker runs into his college crush, the demure and adorable Ms. Aikawa, who is now a magazine pop critic. Soon he is struggling to keep his wild metal stardom a secret. After defeating rival bands and winning recognition as one of Japan's top acts, DMC is challenged to a duel by death-metal icon Jack IL Dark (played to perfection by Gene Simmons of KISS). Souichi finds himself locked in a battle of satanic guitar riffs for the title of ultimate death-metal king, all while keeping Ms. Aikawa sweetly ignorant of his alter ego.
Acolytes - Monday 8th September (Dir: Jon Hewitt)
Following the disappearance of a young female classmate, shy high-schooler Mark (Sebastian Gregory) stumbles upon a fresh grave in the woods of his peaceful suburb, and spies an SUV driving away from the scene.
With the help of two friends - James (Joshua Payne) and his girlfriend Chasely (Hanna Mangan-Lawrence) - Mark decides to return to the scene to dig up what they imagine is simply someone's dead pet. Their bit of fun turns perilous, however, when they unearth the body of a Canadian backpacker. They embark upon a hunt for the identity of the killer, and James soon realizes that their grim discovery could help them exact revenge upon Gary Parker, a brutal bully who had robbed them of their innocence years before and was recently released from prison.
In the proud tradition of Aussie horror films (illustrated in this year's Not Quite Hollywood), Acolytes quickly turns into a sinister tale of deception and betrayal. The three teens find themselves in over their heads, trying to outwit a serial killer as he turns the tables on them and lures them into his violent world.
The Burrowers - Tuesday 9th September (Dir: J.T. Petty)
It is 1879. Coffey (Karl Geary), a young Irishman settled on the plains of Dakota, is about to ask his sweetheart to marry him. His dream of wedded bliss is shattered, however, when something or someone attacks the young lady's family farm, kidnapping the women and children and slaughtering the men. Coffey joins a group of local ranchers and cavalrymen in search of the victims, who are assumed to be prisoners of a fierce band of natives.
Put off by the sadistic and single-minded tactics of self-appointed group leader Henry Victor (Doug Hutchison), Coffey sets out with a couple of ranchers (William Mapother and Highlander's Clancy Brown), as well as a teenaged boy and a freed slave (Sean Patrick Thomas). They soon discover mysterious holes in the ground and a catatonic girl buried in the dirt, suggesting that they may not be hunting an ordinary tribe. A sinister enemy seems to be stalking them from below the serene grassy plains of the vast new frontier.
Martyrs - Wednesday 10th September (Dir: Pascal Laugier)
Martyrs opens with a horrifying story ripped from the headlines: young Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) is found half-naked, filthy, starving and nearly catatonic, unable to describe the horrors she has endured. Hospitalized, she learns to function once again with the help of Anna (Morjana Alaoui), another young victim of terrible abuse. The girls quickly develop a strong bond, and though they try to protect each other, Lucie continues to be haunted by the spectre of her violent past.
Fifteen years later, with the help of Anna, Lucie sets out to wreak vengeance on the family she suspects of being the sadists responsible for her torture. Lucie's violent acts set into motion a downward spiral of pain and despair for the two heroines.
Eden Log - Thursday 11th September (Dir: Franck Vestiel)
As seen in past Midnight Madness selections, something sinister and strange is growing in French cinema. Vibrant new voices in horror are emerging and there is a parallel movement of dark cyber science fiction. Eden Log is the freshest example of this burgeoning genre. In a murky cave deep below ground, Tolbiac (Clovis Cornillac) wakes up naked and disorientated. Pulling himself up from the mud, he is cold and hurt, and has no idea who he is, what brought him there or what happened to the dead man lying next to him. Digital phantoms appear and inform him of a paradise known as Eden Log, a community sustained by energy drawn from the twisted roots of a mammoth tree.
His journey propels him through a labyrinthine network of tunnels and abandoned laboratories as he discovers he is not the only one trapped in this tomb-like underworld. Pursued by ravenous mutants and phantoms, he meets a female botanist who may provide clues to his identity, the brutal force that rages within him and the vital part he plays in a project that could threaten the very existence of mankind.
Sexykiller - Friday 12th September (Dir: Miguel Marti)
A serial killer is loose at a medical school in Spain, and the police have no clue who is responsible for the carnage. Certainly, nobody suspects Barbara (Macarena Gómez), a sexy, fashion-obsessed student with a hunger for blood that can't be satiated by what she gets in anatomy class. Killing has become a hobby for Barbara, who would just as easily suffocate an unsatisfactory one-night stand as she would slice the throat of a peeping tom.
Inspired by her favourite childhood toy, the Barbie-like Cindy Superstar and her plastic mate, Glen, Barbara wants to find her perfect match, a hunk who would share her passion for bloodletting. Her search ends when she meets Tomás (César Camino), a hard-working student assigned to the morgue who spends most of his time slicing open cadavers. However, Tomás has secretly developed a brain-impulse decoder to cure migraines and inadvertently discovers that, with the added effect of a little ecstasy, he can see the final images from the brain of a corpse. Will Tomás's special sight solve the mystery of the Campus Killer, putting an end to Barbara's killing spree and her newfound love in one swoop?
Chocolate - Saturday 13th September (Dir: Prachya Pinkaew)
Director Prachya Pinkaew and action choreographer Panna Rittikrai ushered in a new era of action cinema featuring no-holds-barred, full-contact fight sequences matched with death-defying stunts, and left bruises all over the genre. Five years later, Pinkaew and Rittikrai unveil a new action discovery: twenty-four-year-old Jija Yanin, the delicate yet deadly star of Chocolate, who seems destined to join other "femmes of fury" like Angela Mao, Michelle Yeoh and Kara Hui.
Exiled from a powerful Thai crime syndicate following a passionate but forbidden love affair with a Japanese gangster, cancer-stricken Zin (Ammara Siripong) struggles to raise her shy, autistic daughter Zen (Jija). When Zen's friend Moon discovers an old journal listing outstanding debts owed to her mother that, if collected, would pay for much-needed medical treatment, the naive Zen sets out to collect from the reluctant debtors, placing herself in perilous situations that reveal a latent talent.
Lightning-quick reflexes and years obsessively playing martial arts video games and watching action movies on television have provided Zen with subconscious training in hand-to-hand combat, transforming her into a martial arts savant. With fluid combat moves that emerge as second nature, Zen leaves a trail of cracked and broken limbs, placing her in sight of the vicious gang that her mother has tried to leave behind.
In addition there are a number of other potentially interesting features already confirmed for the main programme including Fernando Meirelles' Blindness, Kim Jee-woon's The Good, The Bad And The Weird, Bruce McDonald's Pontypool and Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla.
You can find full details on the festival at www.tiff08.ca and don't forget to look out for our extensive coverage right here during September.