CATEGORIES Features


Every year, black-clad vampire-loving nighthawks of the underworld come out in droves for the Toronto film festival's Midnight Madness program. The aptly-titled sub-section of TIFF has boasted entries by the likes of Quentin Tarantino (his break-through feature 'Reservoir Dogs'), Eli Roth (director of 'Cabin Fever' and 'Inglourious Basterds' star) and fest favourite, George A. Romero ('Night of the Living Dead'). This year's line-up proves to be the strongest and most female-driven in years, so get ready for some estrogen-pumped frights.

Every year, black-clad vampire-loving nighthawks of the underworld come out in droves for the Toronto film festival's Midnight Madness program. The aptly-titled sub-section of TIFF has boasted entries by the likes of Quentin Tarantino (his break-through feature 'Reservoir Dogs'), Eli Roth (director of 'Cabin Fever' and 'Inglourious Basterds' star) and fest favourite, George A. Romero ('Night of the Living Dead'). This year's line-up proves to be the strongest and most female-driven in years, so get ready for some estrogen-pumped frights.

The second film penned by indie wunderkind Diablo Cody, 'Jennifer's Body' is the most anticipated Midnight Madness entry this year. It doesn't hurt that Megan Fox stars as the demonically possessed cheerleader whose insatiable appetite for blood and sex are slowly destroying her school's entire population of jocks. Yet director Karyn Kusama is also a big part of the draw. Despite the resounding flop of 'Aeon Flux', critics have been holding out for the director's next opus after she broke-out with 'Girlfight' in 2000. Whether the alchemy of Cody's logorrhoea, Fox's sex appeal and Kusama's toughness can create gold or simply a big ball of mud-blood remains to be seen.

The patron saint of zombie movies, George A. Romero, presents the world premiere of his latest undead instalment, 'Survival of the Dead', at this year's fest. This time around, the denizens of groaning creatures reside on an island off the coast of North America where the locals are trying to fight them with one hand and cure their undead relatives with the other. Rogue solider Crocket (Alan Van Sprang) returns after making a brief appearance in 'Diary of the Dead' to lead the islanders to safety. Rumour has it that Romero subverts the traditional western in order to highlight a contemporary society in which societal issues are overlooked in favour of personal feuds.

First-time Aussie director Sean Byrne channels the violence of 'Wolf Creek' and the strong feminist presence of 'The Descent' in 'The Loved Ones'. High school senior Brent Mitchell ('Twilight's Xavier Samuels) is grieving over the death of his father, for which he feels responsible, only to find himself caught up in an even more horrific family situation. Brent becomes involved in a perverse father-daughter relationship when one of his classmates, Lola (Robin McLeavy), decides she wants to take him to prom, whether he likes it or not. Highly sadistic and cringe-worthy, 'The Loved Ones' is oddly addictive for its stellar performances and its fresh take on unrequited love.

Ethan Hawke as the world's last hope? It's hard to imagine, but so was squeaky-voiced Tobey Maguire as Spiderman and the drug-addled Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. In 'Daybreakers,' it's the year 2019 and a plague has transformed pretty much all of us into vampires. With their blood supply dwindling, the vamps start farming humans for blood. But vamp researcher Edward Dalton (Hawke) has a way around this rather inhumane practice. The film has the morbid blue-tinged aesthetic of 'Dark City' and brings that welcome excitement to the festival that is usually reserved for comic book adaptations.

What do you get when you cross 'Xena: Warrior Princess' and 'Baywatch'? Filmmaker Rick Jacobson, of course. The man who directed these polar opposite but equally female-driven shows brings 'Bitch Slap' to TIFF this year. A modern take on those old exploitation films that Quentin Tarantino loves so much, 'Bitch's B-storyline is used for character exposition, something that is often overlooked in traditional exploitation fare. Inspired by likes of 'Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill', it follows a stripper, a drug-runner and a powerbroker who travel to a remote desert to extort money from an underworld mob. The film prides itself on quoting the likes of Dostoyevsky but it runs the risk of being all substance and no actual point to slap home.