The Toronto International Film Festival, also known as TIFF, is one of the world’s premiere film festivals, acclaimed for its diversity of programming. This year’s Festival runs from September 10 – 20.
Although the most likely candidates for genre fare come from the Midnight Madness and Vanguard programmes, the term “genre” isn’t just for straight-up horror films. Many can be found amongst other programmes as well. This year’s slate of genre films includes horror films, suspenseful thrillers, science fiction stories, and spooky, weird movies that defy easy categorization. For the first time, TIFF is also dedicating a programme to “serialized storytelling,” also known as “television.”
Stalkers, Satanic cults, monsters (both real and imaginary), murderers, natural and unnatural disasters, post-apocalyptic tales, true crimes, and more all populate this year’s TIFF offerings. There are selections from first-time feature filmmakers, up-and-coming talents, and even established directors like Takashi Miike. Ben Wheatley, and Ridley Scott.
Enjoy our preview and let us know which TIFF films you’re looking forward to!
Please note that all film synopses are borrowed from the TIFF website.
BASKIN: A squad of unsuspecting cops go through a trapdoor to Hell when they stumble upon a Black Mass in an abandoned building, in the tour-de-force feature debut from ferociously talented director Can Evrenol. (Midnight Madness)
BOY: After a boy dies in a bicycle accident, his ethereal shadow trails a classmate home from school and silently bears witness to the family’s sorrow, in this contemporary ghost story from former TIFF Rising Star Connor Jessup (Blackbird). (Short Cuts)
DESIERTO: Jonás Cuarón directs Gael García Bernal in this thriller about a group of would-be immigrants whose dream of entering the US becomes a nightmare when a deranged vigilante begins stalking them through the Sonoran Desert. (Special Presentation)
DISORDER (Maryland): A young ex-soldier suffering from PTSD (Matthias Schonaerts) protects a beautiful woman (Diane Kruger) and her child from a brutal home invasion, in this masterfully engineered thriller from director Alice Winocour (Augustine). (Gala Presentations)
EQUALS: Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult star in the ambitious new film from director Drake Doremus (Like Crazy), about a utopian future society where crime and violence have been eradicated through the genetic elimination of human emotion, and where those afflicted with the emotional “disease” are forced to go on the run. (Special Presentations)
FEBRUARY: Two young students at a prestigious prep school for girls are assailed by an evil, invisible power when they are stranded at the school over winter break. Starring Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men), Emma Roberts (American Horror Story) and Lucy Boynton. (Vanguard)
THE FINAL GIRLS: A group of young friends is sucked into the onscreen world of a cult 1980s slasher flick, in this clever horror-comedy packed with real heart, goofy gore and plenty of laughs. (Midnight Madness)
THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS: Big-city glamour clashes with small-town values when a celebrity photographer and his entourage descend upon a sleepy community to investigate the bloody doings of a serial killer. (Midnight Madness)
HARDCORE: A cybernetic super-soldier kicks, punches and parkours his way across Russia to save his wife from a psychotic paramilitary psychic bent on world domination, in this non-stop, white-knuckle, crackerjack thrill ride. (Midnight Madness)
HELLIONS: Seven years after his much-loved zombie thriller Pontypool, Canadian maverick Bruce McDonald returns to the horror genre with this deliciously creepy tale about a pregnant teen whose home is besieged by a ghastly crew of trick-or-treaters. (Vanguard)
HIGH-RISE: Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons star in the new film by cult British director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field in England), an ambitious adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel about a London apartment tower that becomes a battlefield in a literal class war. (Platform)
INTO THE FOREST: Two sisters (Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood) struggle to survive in a remote country house after a continent-wide power outage, in this gripping apocalyptic drama from director Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing). (Special Presentations)
THE MARTIAN: Stranded on Mars, a NASA astronaut (Matt Damon) struggles to survive on the arid planet while his ground crew races to mount a rescue mission, in this interplanetary epic from director Ridley Scott. (Gala Presentations)
THE MASK (EYES OF HELL): Newly restored by TIFF and The 3-D Film Archive, director Julian Roffman’s deliciously creepy tale about a haunted tribal mask was the first feature-length horror movie and first feature-length 3D film produced in Canada. (TIFF Cinematheque)
THE MIND’S EYE: A drifter with psychic powers takes on an evil doctor and his crew of telekinetic assassins in this smartly crafted contemporary thriller from writer and director Joe Begos (Almost Human). (Midnight Madness)
ONE FLOOR BELOW (Un Ejaj Mai Jos): In this brilliantly executed slow-burn thriller from Romanian director Radu Muntean, a family man who witnessed the prelude to a murder determines to keep his mouth shut and mind his own business — until the possible killer turns up at his door one day and begins to ingratiate himself into the lives of his wife and son. (Contemporary World Cinema)
PORTAL TO HELL! The apartment-superintendent hero of this primo slice of Canuxploitation has enough on his plate, what with all the plumbing and electrical problems and high-maintenance tenants. But then some jerks open up a multidimensional gateway in the basement. Thankfully, the guy standing between humanity and its certain destruction is played by the late, great “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. (Short Cuts)
REMEMBER: A nursing-home resident (Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer) sets out to exact vengeance on the man who murdered his family seven decades earlier, in this compelling thriller from master director Atom Egoyan. (Gala Presentations)
ROOM: Escaping from the captivity in which they have been held for half a decade, a young woman and her five-year-old son struggle to adjust to the strange, terrifying and wondrous world outside their one-room prison. (Special Presentations)
SLEEPING GIANT: The first feature from Canadian writer-director Andrew Cividino is set in an isolated Ontario cottage community during a bleak midsummer, where the volatile dynamics between three teenage friends-by-chance are gradually pushed towards a potentially dangerous imbalance. (Discovery)
SOUTHBOUND: From the makers of the horror anthology V/H/S, these five interlocking tales of terror follow the fates of a group of weary travellers who confront their worst nightmares — and darkest secrets — over one long night on a desolate stretch of desert highway. (Midnight Madness)
THE WAVE: In this pulse-pounding thriller, a geologist tries to prevent a cataclysm when a mountain overlooking a popular Norwegian tourist destination begins to collapse into the ocean. (Special Presentations)
THE WITCH: The astonishing feature debut by director Robert Eggers evokes Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining in its tale of a family of settlers in 17th-century New England who encounter mysterious, possibly supernatural forces when they are exiled from their village and forced to live on the outskirts of an ominous forest. (Special Presentations)
YAKUZA APOCALYPSE: Japanese cinematic extremist Takashi Miike (13 Assassins) returns to his gonzo roots with this mind-melter that finds room for vampires, gangsters, earthquakes, volcanoes, monsters, martial arts, and even a yakuza knitting circle. (Midnight Madness)