TIFF celebrates 25 years of Midnight Madness, the genre-festival-within-the-festival
COLIN GEDDES has been with Midnight Madness from the beginning. Before he was brought on to quarterback TIFF’s latenight genre movie mini-festival, he was just another fan waiting in line to see Hellbound: Hellraiser II at TIFF in 1988. In 1997, MM programmer Noah Cowan asked Geddes to come on as co-programmer – after seeing him run crowd control on legendary giallo director Dario Argento following a particularly hectic screening.
“He was kind of swarmed in the lobby of the Bloor,” says Geddes. “I jumped into it and held people back, like, ‘Let him through! Let him through!’” No longer Midnight Madness’s volunteer bouncer, Geddes has become its guiding intelligence, making TIFF’s late-night slate perhaps the film event for horror/sci-fi/action aficionados.
“What I do is glorified show-and-tell,” he says. “I find a cool movie, and then I try to share it with something more than just the four people who could fit on my couch.” I talked to Geddes about some of the breakout hits (in chronological order) that have helped define Midnight Madness over its 25year history. BRAINDEAD (1992) Before Peter Jackson helmed The Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit franchises, effectively becoming the King of Movies, he was just a schlocky Kiwi genre filmmaker. Jackson’s third feature, Braindead (released in North America as Dead Alive), found its foothold at Midnight Madness. “I’ve got an autograph in one of my old program books from Peter Jackson,” Geddes recalls, “signed in the lobby of the Bloor.” CABIN FEVER (2002) For better or worse, Midnight Madness is responsible for breaking Eli Roth’s career. “Nobody knew who Eli Roth was,” says Geddes. “Roth talks a lot about how Midnight Madness made him and discovered him.” Because of that success, says Geddes, many filmmakers now try to make the types of films they think will land them a spot in the series, in hopes of securing the same breakout success. ONG-BAK: MUAY THAI WARRIOR (2003) Beyond splatter films, Midnight Madness also casts its net to other corners of the globe. (Geddes has a particular interest in Asian genre cinema.) With the premiere of Ong-Bak, he intro- duced audiences to a whole new kind of martial arts film and a whole new kind of action star. “Look: Thai cinema has been around for 100 years. And overnight we introduced the first major Thai film star to the world. Nobody could even name a Thai film star at that point. Then, overnight, we birthed Tony Jaa.” BIG MAN JAPAN (2007) Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Japanese pop culture send-up as capital critique packed in the crowds in at Midnight Madness despite his relative anonymity. “I like to put curveballs in there” says Geddes. “It’s about taking smaller films and helping them get discovered. Nobody had heard of [Matsumoto]. Just based on the way we pitched it, we sold out the Ryerson. A few years later he did Symbol. Now, this year, three movies later, he’s finally coming to the festival with his latest film, R100.” THE RAID (2011) Gareth Evans’s locomotive martial arts actioner played Midnight Madness in 2011 and went on to win the coveted People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award. “That was our opening-night film. I take pride in saying I assembled the largest group of people in North America in one room to watch a film from Indonesia. I’m pretty confident no one else had done that.”