Well gang, September is here again. For many people, that means returning to school with all of the pencil buying and social anxiety that implies. For me, your trusty CGM movies critic, that means it’s time for The Toronto International Film Festival, with all of the pencil-buying, social anxiety, and sleep deprivation that implies. That’s right, it’s that special time of year when Toronto is besieged by movie stars, red carpets fill the streets like rivers of blood (well, that’s what it looks like on Google Maps anyways), and critics like myself must watch more movies than seems humanly possible in just under two weeks. I can’t pretend I don’t like that last part, I just like complaining almost as much.
So, if you’re one of the folks who plans on dipping their toes into the TIFF 2015 pool, then I thought I’d provide y’all with a list of ten of my most anticipated films during this year’s fest. Obviously, at CGM we like to keep a genre focus. So, there are plenty of worthy dramas, docs, comedies, and art flicks that won’t qualify for this list. However, for those of you who delight in genre flicks as much as us, these ten titles should be at the top of your TIFF shopping list. In accordance with annual tradition, I shall return after the fest with our annual, unofficial TIFF CGM awards. For now, these movies are perfect in my head. We’ll see what happens when reality enters the picture.
Bruce McDonald is one of Canada’s great cult filmmakers with some genuine classics like Hard Core Logo and Pontypool to his name. So, any time good ol’ Bruce brings a flick to TIFF, it’s always worth a look. However, this time it’s even a little more tempting than usual, since the man is returning to the horror genre with a tale of a pregnant teen whose house is attacked by creepy trick-or-treaters on Halloween, who just might bring a supernatural twist to their holiday horrors. That’s a pretty good premise for a tight little genre romp (even if it sounds at least superficially similar to the finale of Trick ‘r Treat) and McDonald has already proven with Pontypool that he knows a thing or two about claustrophobic horror. If nothing else, it should get viewers revved up for Halloween season, and I am always A-OK with that.
I’ve always had a soft spot for a good ‘lovers on the run’ action/comedy romp like Something Wild or True Romance. There used to be at least one classic entry of the genre per decade, but now it’s all but extinct. Thankfully, Spanish director Paco Cabezas decided to right that horrible wrong and managed to deliver quite possibly the most charming contemporary star duo imaginable for such a flick with Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell. She is recovering from heartbreak and desperate for a rebound. He’s a contract killer with a sense of irony who Anna thinks it’s joking about his career until it’s too late. Toss in Tim Roth as the FBI agent chasing these lovers as they run and a supporting turn from RZA and you’ve got a movie that I’ll have to watch with the widest possible smile on my face at all times.
Montreal filmmaker Denis Villeneuve made the jump from the Canadian art house to Hollywood a few years ago with Prisoners, and his next project will be the revival of a lil’ 80s sci-fi movie known as Blade Runner. He’s a director with a deft hand at combining personal artistic sensibilities with mainstream entertainment and his latest feature is this sweaty Mexican drug war thriller. Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro star as three FBI agents who enter Mexico for a big drug bust that almost instantly goes wrong in a hail of gunfire, leading to a wild and dirty ride of lawless violence and panic. It’s an indictment of the ineffectual drug war that also happens to be a nasty action/thriller that gives mainstream entertainment a good name.
Well, it had to happen eventually. Someone went ahead and made an action movie shot entirely in first person. Cybernetic super soldiers, parkour, flame throwers, machine guns, sword fights, and one-liners, Hardcore promises to deliver all of the bloodsoaked eye-candy a growing child needs from an action movie, only shot entirely in POV. Yep, good or bad, this is a must-see just to find out whether or not the experiment worked.
A few years ago, Australian director, Sean Byrne treated TIFF’s beloved Midnight Madness program to his strange ‘John Hughes on acid’ horror movie, The Loved Ones. For those who have seen it, you’ll know what a treat it was and how highly anticipated the next genre effort from Sean Byrne has been for six long years. Well, the guy is finally back with a Texas-set haunted house tale laced with Satanic undertones. If that doesn’t put a smile on your horror-loving face, nothing will. This should be a good one for those who delight in the demonic.
Takashi Miike is a name that inspires wonder and nausea in the minds of most genre fans, thanks to the sickening thrills he’s churned out in titles like Audition and Ichi the Killer. It’s been a long time since Miike went as nuts as he did in the early 2000s with a series of wild rides that inspired the torture-porn era (for better or worse). Tired of no one taking his place as extreme cinema’s biggest extremist, Miike finally decided to get up to trouble again with Yakuza Apocalypse. This tale of sword-wielding yakuza, vampires, deadly mascots, tortuous sewing circles, and anime-obsessed kung fu masters is sure to make the Midnight Madness crowd giggle with delight through the type of cinematic insanity only Miike can provide. You might want to bring a raincoat for splashback from the screen.
From Todd Strauss-Schulson (the director of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas), comes a movie that strives to be The Last Action Hero of slasher flicks (in a good way). It’s the tale of a group of contemporary young girls who somehow end up transported into a campy 80s slasher movie. Unlike the characters surrounding them, they know the slasher clichés, which should help them survive against that pesky, hulking, masked killer. That’s a pretty damn clever concept for a horror comedy that should rip apart and gently hug the classic 80s slashers in equal measure. It’s been just long enough since the wave of late 90s Scream knock-offs for self-aware slashers to be fun again, so hopefully this gang got it right.
Charlie Kaufman is the genius who wrote Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Now he’s made a stop-motion animated feature with the studio that created the darkly comedic Adult Swim series Morel Orel. ‘nuff said. This should be extraordinary.
A surprise hit out of Sundance this year, The Witch sets its sights on turn-of-the-century New England for some creepy doings. ‘Twas, of course, an era of paranoia, superstition, and wrongful witch-trials. Yet, rather than focus on those real-life horrors, first-time director Robert Eggers has delivered a vicious little tale about a family who are banished from their community and forced to live in a isolated cabin where they encounter a genuine witch attack. Given all the films made about the era, it’s surprisingly to think there hasn’t been one made that treats the myths and legends of New England witchcraft as real. However, this harsh horror film makes up for lost time by delivering on the concept with a vengeance. The Witch is undoubtedly one of the most genuinely frightening films in years.
Finally, the top spot could only, selfishly, go to the latest feature by my favourite contemporary filmmaker, Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers, A Field in England). Social commentator, darkly comedic satirist, and harsh-horror maestro, Wheatley has a sensibility that blurs the line between genre and art. His latest feature is an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s (Crash) 1975 dystopic novel High-Rise, which has long been named-checked as David Cronenberg’s primary influence on Shivers. It’s a dystopic tale of a future tower of debauchery and social strife; part sci-fi, part horror, all social satire. With Wheatley calling the shots and a cast led by Tom Hiddleson and Jeremy Irons, High-Rise is sure to be a festival highlight for every cinema-loving cynic like me.