SIFF spotlight: Midnight Adrenaline

RoboGeisha plays SIFF 2010 May 28, June 8.

The first truth about Midnight Movies is that any movie can be a midnight, it simply needs to be screened at midnight. The second truth is that some movies make better midnight movies than others. Just what makes the ideal midnight movie is a question that could lead to endless debate, but the primary difference between a true midnight movie and just a movie screened at midnight is some slight edge to the film that makes it mean something at midnight that might not be there at another time of the day.

Take Rocky Horror Picture Show, for example, perhaps THE midnight film of all midnight films. Watch it at home on video in the afternoon sometime and it’s just not the same movie that you grew to love in the theater. I discovered the strength of the midnight effect a few year ago with The Wizard of Oz.

Like most cinephiles, it’s impossible for me to name just one favorite film, but The Wizard of Oz comes close. Having lost track of the number of times I’ve watched the movie all the way through somewhere around 150 many years ago, I was sure that nothing about the film could surprise me – and then I went to a screening of Wizard at midnight at The Egyptian and quickly learned that watching Wizard with a group of openly-vocal Friends of Dorothy definitely made it a whole new experience.

Audiences are a key factor in what makes a good midnight movie – midnight movie audiences are definitely unique.

SIFF’S Midnight Adrenaline programmer Dan Doody says that one of the biggest misconceptions about midnight movie audiences is that they are drugged out or just plain bizarre. He allows that a very small minority might be weirdos out for mischief, but adds that even they want a film that will engage them. Perhaps more so than any other movie audience, midnighters have a real need to interact with the movie they’re watching. This doesn’t have to be physical interaction – it’s not all shouting out lines or tossing rice – but midnight audiences aren’t into passive entertainment. They embrace the unusual, the quirky, the outright strange. Midnight audiences want a movie that moves: “The biggest criteria,” Dan says, “is that it’s well-paced and gets its hooks into you.”

He adds that the midnight audience is “the hardest to please. If they get bored, the audience has no compunction about walking out.”

As a long time midnight movie fan myself, I know this to be true myself, but I’ve also noticed that in some ways midnight movie audiences are also quite generous. As long as it brings the fun and keeps the story flowing, audiences will embrace midnight movies that aren’t quite technically perfect. It’s how the movie feels that matters most.

Over the years Dan has watched enough midnight audiences to have a good feeling about what will sustain an audience’s interest and he’s pleased with this year’s selections. Having seen a few of them already myself, I agree with his enthusiasm. My hate/hate relationship with zombies will (probably) keep me from the new Romero flick, but otherwise I’m hoping to see you all at this year’s screenings.

The 2010 Midnight Adrenaline series features:

Amer: A three-part giallo style erotic thriller from Belgium about three key stages in a woman’s life, all of them more than just a bit gruesome. Directors élène Cattet and Bruno Fortet are scheduled to attend.

Centurion: A small platoon of Roman legionnaires survive an ambush by the Picts they have sworn to exterminate. Quintus Dias must lead his small band of soldiers through the dangerous wilds of Scotland to rescue their general while being pursued by the remorseless, relentless “barbarians” out for revenge.

Dream Home: Cheng Lai-Sheun’s dream is to own her own home and she will stop at nothing, not even vicious murder, to make her dream come true in this bloody thriller from Hong Kong.

George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead: Romero forever changed the shape of cinema, most notably that ever-growing genre that’s grown around the idea of zombies that he himself helped create, with his classic Night of the Living Dead. He’s continued to use the undead as a metaphor for society’s various ills; in Survival of the Dead, a group of soldiers find themselves trapped between a zombie apocalypse and a human one.

RoboGeisha: Sibling rivalry reaches a whole new level when sisters Yoshie and Kikue are recruited by a company bent on world domination through the use of cybernetic-enhanced geisha assassins in this kitschy, fun, sci-fi actioner from Japan.

Splice: Two scientist lovers go undercover to experiment with injecting human DNA into things that aren’t human, eventually producing a winged chimera that forces them to have to decide where being a scientist stops and being a parent begins.

Ticked Off Trannies with Knives: A tribute to the old grindhouse exploitation films featuring, well…you know.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil: Tucker and Dale are a couple of hillbillies who rescue a young college student from drowning and get more trouble than thanks when her misunderstanding friends become convinced they need to rescue her from harm. That’s when all the messy dying begins.

The Wild Hunt: Erik’s girlfriend Evelyn leaves him to immerse herself into the elaborate LARP (live action role play) game beloved of his brother Bjorn who is extremely dedicated to his life as a “Viking chieftan”. Despite his misgiving, Erik decides to follow Evelyn into the game in hopes of bringing her back home with him. Soon Erik discovers the dangers that arise in crossing the fine line that separates fantasy from reality. An extremely engaging debut from Canadian director Alexandre Franchi.

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