Even if you can't make it to a film festival like Fantastic Fest (which announced its first wave yesterday) or the Toronto International Film Festival, that's no reason to ignore them. Festivals that prestigious don't just program every film that comes along. If something finds its way into the festival, it means it's something you should absolutely have on your radar whether you're going there or not.
Take TIFF's Midnight Madness, which announced its program earlier today. We can't guarantee much, but we can guarantee this: these are genre films people fans will be seeking out in the years to come. So let's take a closer look at the films that might just be this year's The Raid, You're Next, Insidious, Solomon Kane or any number of other great films that played the festival in recent years, cementing TIFF's MM as a premiere genre tastemaker.
The ABCs of Death
Who Is Involved: Simply too many names to list here and keep things tidy. If they've made a buzzed about genre film in the last decade, they're probably somehow involved here.
What's It About: The ABCs of Death is an anthology horror film broken into 26 segments, each handled by a different director plucked from a wide pool of the most promising indie and foreign filmmakers working today. The idea is that each will make a short film using their given letter and how it relates to a very specific way of dying. The result is sure to be one of the craziest, bloodiest, nastiest film experiments of the year. I caught a trailer for this Drafthouse Films-coproduced insanity earlier this year at SXSW, and it was as diverse and debauched as you'd expect from its conceit. Will packing that much death from so many different filmmakers be sensory overload? Maybe, but damn if we're not curious to see how their gamble pays off.
Who Is Involved: Eli Roth not only took on writing duties, but he produced and costars in this new film from the Chilean director of the acclaimed comedy F*ck My Life.
What's It About: Roth plays an American partying it up in Chile when a massive earthquake tears the town apart, thrusting him into a survival scenario. We're not entirely sure where it goes from there, but considering how bloody Roth's shirt is in all of the stills released so far, we're assuming rubble is just one of the problems the survivors face.
Who Is Involved: Directed by Barry Levinson (Sphere) and starring Kristen Connolly (The Cabin in the Woods)
What's It About: An eco-horror movie about a seaside town facing some kind of a new parasite. TIFF's official guide says Levinson "gorily switches gears" for the film, so we're excited to see what he's got planned and just how far these parasites push their human hosts. If the concept art is any indication, it's going to be a pretty nasty affair.
Come Out and Play
Who Is Involved: Vinessa Shaw (The Hills Have Eyes) stars
What's it About: This is actually a rather under-the-radar remake of the cult favorite Spanish film Who Can Kill a Child? This version relocates the film to Mexico, but appears to still follow the plot of a young couple who come across an island that appears to be a ghost town populated by parentless children. The original is an interesting film, but it's certainly tame by today's standards (despite the hardcore title), so it'll be equally interesting to see what direction this updating takes.
Who Is Involved: Screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later), director Pete Travis and star Karl Urban (Star Trek)
What's It About: This adaptation of the beloved comic series puts Karl Urban's Judge Dredd at the center of an apartment building overrun by drug dealers and junkies alike, all in desperate need of a date with the law. This actually played at Comic-Con and while our reviewer didn't love the film overall, she at least had to tip her hat to how over-the-top violent it was. That certainly sounds like a prime midnight movie to us.
Who Is Involved: Written and directed by J.T. Petty (The Burrowers), starring Clancy Brown, Dan Fogler, Clifton Collins Jr. and Andre Royo
What's It About: A group of priests whose sinful ways make them ideal exorcists. Think of it as an R-rated version of Ghostbusters, only instead of scientists you've got boozing men of the cloth, and instead of ghosts you've got people-possessing demons. Sounds fun to us.
John Dies at the End
Who Is Involved: Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep)
What's It About: A pair of average 20-something dudes whose lives are going nowhere until they discover Soy Sauce, a drug that takes them across space, time and different dimensions. I caught this truly out-there film at SXSW earlier this year and was pretty impressed that Coscarelli still isn't afraid to go for weird, wacky humor all in pursuit of showing you something you've never seen before. It's worth noting that John Dies at the End still doesn't have a distributor, and that Coscarelli made some changes to the film between its Sundance premiere and its SXSW appearance, so it's entirely possible the TIFF screening will be a different version of the film as well.
The Lords of Salem
Who Is Involved: Written and directed by none other than Rob Zombie, starring Sheri Moon Zombie and Sid Haig (of course) and more genre regulars new and old than we can list here
What's It About: A local DJ plays a record she receives in the mail, which summons a coven of witches from the 17th century back to Salem, Massachusetts. That definitely sounds like a change of scenery for Zombie, who may not always deliver great horror films, but he certainly delivers unique ones. Going on his track record and the above picture, this may be one of the bigger genre surprises this fall.
No One Lives
Who Is Involved: Director Ryuhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train), stars Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens and Lee Tergesen
What's It About: A band of redneck criminals rob the wrong man and surely find themselves neck-deep in gore. Also worth noting that this is from WWE Studios. They don't exactly have the greatest track record, but that's definitely a promise for some serious violence.
Who Is Involved: Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), starring Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Tom Waits
What's It About: We're not sure that even matters because the names above are more then enough to have us excited, so we'll just quote straight from the press release: Seven Psychopaths follows a struggling screenwriter (Colin Farrell) who inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends (Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell) kidnap a gangster’s (Woody Harrelson) beloved Shih Tzu.
Follow along on Twitter: @PeterSHall and @Moviesdotcom.