Toronto Film Festival To Premiere Diary Of The Dead

Paul talks up “Midnight Madness”


The Toronto International Film Festival announces eight daring films to screen as part of its Midnight Madness program. The 20th edition of this heart-stopping, late-night blow out features a range of audacious, bone-chilling and eerie genre flicks from terror-fiends George A. Romero and Stuart Gordon, to giant Japanese supercharacters and Hong Kong gangsters cracking heads. Here’s the latest rundown.

Most anticipated is GEORGE A. ROMERO’S DIARY OF THE DEAD, the horror maestro’s first independently produced zombie film in over two decades. Here, Romero returns to ground zero in the history of the living dead in his eerie tale of a group of film students making a horror movie in the woods, who discover that the dead have begun to revive. They then turn their cameras on the real-life horrors that suddenly confront them, creating a first person diary of their bloody encounters and the disintegration of everything they hold dear. Told with Romero’s pitch-black humor and an unflinching eye on our post-Katrina world, GEORGE A. ROMERO’S DIARY OF THE DEAD marks the noted filmmaker’s return to his roots. The film stars Michelle Morgan, Josh Close, Shawn Roberts, Scott Wentworth, Amy Lalonde and Joe Dinicol. No distributor yet but that will change after its Toronto bow.

From Japan, there’s DAINIPPONJIN, directed by Hitoshi Matsumot. Pic revolves around middle-aged slacker Daisato (played by director Matsumoto, one of Japan’s famous comedians) who seems an unlikely subject for a documentary crew following his banal daily routine; that is, until he transforms into a giant superhero with tight purple briefs, tattoos and a crazy hairdo to battle outlandish villains and revolting monsters. But with the superhero’s falling TV ratings, noise complaints from citizens, blame for destruction of public property and family problems, he has become the scapegoat of New Japan. A wickedly deadpan spin on Japanese pop-culture and traditions, DAINIPPONJIN is an outrageous comedy destined for cult status. The film co-stars Riki Takeuchi, UA, Ryunosuke Kamiki and Itsuji Itao.

The British chiller THE DEVIL’S CHAIR is director Adam Mason’s sharp supernatural rollercoaster follows Nick West (Andrew Howard), who has spent years in incarceration for the alleged brutal murder of his girlfriend. Released into the care of a noted psychologist and his students, hell-bent on exposing the truth behind the killing, they return together to the scene of the crime, an abandoned asylum, where a blood-drenched secret is revealed. With the team in mortal danger, the criminally insane Nick is their only hope for survival. Also starring are Elize du Toit, Matt Berry, David Gant and Louise Griffiths.

From Hong Kong is FLASH POINT from director Wilson Yip. After the success of SPL in Midnight Madness in 2005, director Wilson Yip and actor and fight choreographer Donnie Yen (IRON MONKEY and HERO) hit back with another two-fisted cinematic powder keg. Hot-headed cop Jun (Yen) is after a gang of drug-dealing brothers. His undercover colleague, Wilson (Louis Koo), infiltrates the gang but has his cover blown, which lands one of the brothers in jail. The other members vow to wipe out Wilson, the only witness, and set off a series of high-octane chases and bone-cracking fisticuffs. Also starring are Collin Chou, Lui Leung-wai and Fan Bing-bing and Xing Yu.

From France is FRONTIÈRES which marks the debut feature of Xavier Gens. His film is a bloody head butt into the stiff face of French cinema. Paris’ projects burn where protesters riot against a newly elected extreme right-wing party. Among the chaos, a gang of youths flee with stolen money towards the Luxembourg border. They reconvene at an inn and encounter their hosts, a motley clan of neo-Nazi fanatics only too keen to invite them into their twisted Gothic household. The film stars Karina Testa, Samuel le Bihan, Estelle Lefébure, Aurélien Wiik and David Saracino.

Also from France is À L’INTÉRIEUR, directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo. Four months after the tragic accident that claimed her husband’s life, a pregnant widow, Sarah (Alysson Paradis, sister of Vanessa Paradis), receives an unexpected knock on her door on Christmas Eve. A stranger (Béatrice Dalle) asks to use her phone, which raises Sarah’s suspicions and she immediately calls the police. They find no trace of the woman. Locking her door after the police leave her home, Sarah unwittingly traps herself in a terrifying, jealous maternal struggle for the life of her baby in this nail-bitting French thriller.

Festival favourite Stuart Gordon is back with STUCK. The film’s initially simple plot has Brandi (Mena Suvari) hitting Tom (Stephen Rea) with her car on her way home from a night of partying. With Tom still alive but lodged through her windshield, she promises to go a hospital but then decides to leave Tom to die in her garage as she realizes that her future is inextricably tied to her victim. Realizing this plan, Tom knows escape is his only chance for survival. Based on a true incident, director Stuart Gordon (THE RE-ANIMATOR) has made an urban chiller with a jagged edge of black humour.

And finally, another Japanese thriller VEXILLE from director Fumihiko Sori, rounds up the program. Audiences will be diving into the ground-breaking, animated futuristic odyssey of VEXILLE, surface in Tokyo Bay and discover a country sealed off from the rest of humanity. In 2077, Japan has isolated itself from the rest of the world, opposing a United Nations treaty restricting areas of advanced research in biotechnology. Vexille, a female commander in charge of a U.S. Special Forces unit that polices treaty violations, is sent to infiltrate Japan. The revelation of the country’s new reality shakes her when she witnesses the destruction of both land and citizenry by a Japanese mega-corporation and monstrous, android worms. The film stars the voices of Meisa Kuroki, Shosuke Tanihara, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Takahiro Sakurai and Romi Pak.

So genre fans heading to Toronto this September, there’s much to look forward to in Midnight Madness.

-PAUL FISCHER