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The Method Behind Midnight Madness
Peter Kuplowsky, the new programmer of Midnight Madness, tells us what to expect from TIFF '17's deadliest lineup
After 20 years, Midnight Madness has new blood. Peter Kuplowsky, the series’ longtime programming associate under Colin Geddes, has assumed the throne — and with today’s programming announcement, his choices are as eclectic as they are enticing. We quizzed the new guy about what we can expect at 12am every night of Festival, emerging trends in genre cinema, and why Vincent Price embodies the spirit of the programme.
What can people expect from this year’s Midnight Madness lineup?
Having grown up as an ardent fan of the programme, I very much wanted to preserve the sensibility Colin Geddes has cultivated over these past 20 years. As always, the 10 films will run the gamut of genres and sensibilities with a healthy balance of work made by emerging artists and returning alumni.
Some may be struck by some of the decidedly non-genre titles in the programme like Bodied or The Disaster Artist. Though Midnight has a reputation for horror, it also has a long-standing history of showing films that defy genre and explore alternative subcultures and eccentric personalities. I wanted to keep that tradition going, while still playing classically scary flicks like The Ritual, as well as more experimental fare like Let the Corpses Tan! and The Crescent, which intersect genre tropes with avant-garde style and form.
Have you noticed any particular trends this year in horror film?
I’ve noticed that a number of the films have a tendency to depict artists and how their practice may define their identity. In The Disaster Artist and Bodied, filmmaking and rapping become an extension of the lead character’s ego. A woman’s grief is poured, almost literally, into the paint marbling throughout the Canadian supernatural indie The Crescent, and Vampire Clay is about the danger of letting one's artistic obsession consume them (literally).
Failed masculinity continues to be a perennial undercurrent in horror movies. I think a lot of the films in this lineup, particularly The Ritual and Revenge, reflect this theme. Let The Corpses Tan is reminiscent of last year’s Free Fire, insofar as it also involves an assembly of men with big phallic guns losing their heads in a firefight.
How conscious were you of programming female directors and people of colour in your lineup this year?
The statistics are still depressing in the genre space, but I do think the industry is moving towards representation and inclusivity. Nonetheless, out of the 300-plus films I looked at, about 10 percent were directed by women. I was definitely keeping track and being conscious of representation when putting together the final 10. I am really happy to be showing Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge, as it’s a really striking debut. It’s also great to have Hélène Cattet and her husband Bruno Forzani back at the Festival with Let the Corpses Tan. It’s also worth looking beyond the director-writer credits, as Seth A. Smith’s The Crescent is very much a creative partnership with his wife and producer Nancy Ulrich. I think the programme is about 50 percent female protagonists too.
The programme fares better with people of colour, such as directors Joseph Kahn, Ryuhei Kitamura, Hélène Cattet, and Sôichi Umezawa, but it is still rather white. I do see signs of more women and people of colour (particularly in the Western industries) getting more opportunities in the director’s chair, but it's still only moving inches in genre and horror film. I really do hope to see the statistics improve, because I very much want to see new stories and perspectives. Genre cinema doesn’t need to be so generic.
Do you feel like you have big shoes to fill, following Colin Geddes’ 20-year legacy?
It’s absolutely surreal. I still remember vividly when I saw my first Midnight Madness screening, SPL, in 2005. I definitely feel the pressure, but having worked as Colin’s programming associate for the past four years, it’s been a comfortable transition.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m a bit anxious about how my inaugural lineup will be received. I’m not playing a Hong Kong martial arts flick, which will no doubt arch some eyebrows!
What film will be the most surprising for fans of Midnight Madness?
I’m not gonna play favourites, but I’m very excited about emerging filmmakers David Bruckner, Coralie Fargeat, Seth A. Smith, and Sôichi Umezawa. I’m confident they're gonna be well-known genre names within the next decade, and I am really excited to share their work with the audience that helped launch the likes of James Wan, Fabrice du Welz, Alex de la Iglesia, and Gareth Evans, to name only a few.
Any special guests or secrets you’d like to spill?
I’m breaking a Midnight Madness tradition this year and playing one film at an earlier time slot: S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99. Maybe that’s because I actually think the first half of the film is more of a slow burn crime drama — something that would’ve historically fit in our former Vanguard programme. However, the second half is a steady escalation to truly deranged and gory heights, so by my estimation the film becomes a Midnight Madness film at the hour-and-seven-minute mark. I want to start my introduction at 10:45pm and have the film begin at exactly 10:53pm, so when the clock strikes midnight, so does the movie.
What is Midnight Madness 2017 all about?
No choice is without consequences. Consider them well before making yours… [Vincent Price laugh] I’m actually serious! That could be another running theme in this year’s programme.
Finally, Midnight Madness 2017 is the year of the...
The year of the artiste, be it in front of the camera or behind; be it the plastic or the deadly arts.
Films screening as part of the 2017 Midnight Madness programme include:
Midnight Madness Opening Film
Bodied | Joseph Kahn, USA
Brawl in Cell Block 99 | S. Craig Zahler, USA
North American Premiere
The Crescent | Seth A. Smith, Canada
The Disaster Artist | James Franco, USA
Downrange | Ryuhei Kitamura, USA
Great Choice | Robin Comisar, USA
Let the Corpses Tan | Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani, Belgium/France
North American Premiere
Mom and Dad | Brian Taylor, USA
Revenge | Coralie Fargeat, France
The Ritual | David Bruckner, USA
Midnight Madness Closing Film
Vampire Clay | Sôichi Umezawa, Japan