Eli Roth, Sion Sono and Lucky McKee all part of 25th anniversary Toronto Midnight Madness line-up

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Toronto’s Midnight Madness section of the annual film event that has become one of my very favorite parts of every year.

The first year I went up for the festival, I didn’t have a badge. HitFix wasn’t even a year old yet, and I was still working to get set up at each of the festivals. I wasn’t sure it would be possible for me to do a good job covering it without a badge, but I ended up walking away feeling like I’d done as well as could be expected, thanks in no small part to Colin Geddes, who programs the Midnight Madness line-up and who is also involved in many other decisions made each year.

He went out of his way to make sure I had tickets for things, and to be honest, I barely knew him at the time. He did it because that’s the kind of guy he is. I’ve gotten to know Colin much better over the years since then, and I think there are very few festival programmers who eat, breathe, and love this stuff the way he does. He travels constantly, he sees movies around the world, and when the actual festival begins, Colin puts on an amazing show. He considers those ten nights to be a sacred trust, and he works his ass off to make sure that year in and year out, people who sit in that Ryerson theater every night at midnight have experiences. Good, bad, that’s almost beside the point. What is most important is that you have a genuine reaction, and that you can’t just shrug these movies off.

This year’s line-up is out, or at least the first nine titles are. Colin is evidently working to pin down one final title, and they’ll announce that soon. I’ll be speaking with him tomorrow about this anniversary and what his plans are for the future and how he handles the selection process each year, and I look forward to sharing that with you. For now, here’s the list of titles that were announced tonight:

The Toronto International Film Festival® celebrates 25 years of Midnight Madness with a murderers” row of wild cinematic thrills. Programmed by Colin Geddes, the international lineup aims right for the jugular with everything from an extraterrestrial gore-thriller and sinister sex-comedy, to an Asian exotic horror film and a visually-stunning reinvention of the Italian cannibal genre.

“Since its 1988 launch, the Midnight Madness programme emerged as a touchstone of cinematic shock, satiating the adventurous palate of bloodthirsty cinephiles from all over the world,” said Geddes, International Programmer for the Festival. “When the witching hour strikes and the human brain starts slipping into dream mode, the Ryerson Theatre will once again serve up a feast of phantasmagorical characters and jaw-dropping scenes, playing host to bizarre biological monstrosities, ruthless dominatrix gangs, paranormal mirrors, and the hijinks of supernatural cheerleaders.”

The programme presents films from Midnight Madness alumni Hitoshi Matsumoto, Eli Roth and Sion Sono, as well as the debut feature of Hong Kong pop singer Juno Mak.

The 38th Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 5 to 15, 2013.

dir. Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, Canada/USA
World Premiere

Best friends Derek and Clif set out on a trip of a lifetime. Their plan: travel to the ends of the earth, see the world, and live life to the fullest. But the trip soon takes a dark and bloody turn. Just days in, one of the men shows signs of a mysterious affliction which gradually takes over his entire body and being. Now, thousands of miles from home, in a foreign land, they must race to uncover the source of his illness before it consumes him completely. Footage of their travels meant to document pleasant memories may now become evidence of one of the most shocking discoveries ever captured on film…and may be their only postcard home.

“All Cheerleaders Die”
dir. Lucky McKee, Chris Sivertson, USA   
World Premiere

When tragedy rocks Blackfoot High, rebellious outsider Mäddy Killian shocks the student body by joining the cheerleading squad. This decision drives a rift between Mäddy and her ex-girlfriend Leena Miller – a loner who claims to practice the dark arts. After a confrontation with the football team, Mäddy and her new cheerleader friends are sent on a supernatural roller coaster ride which leaves a path of destruction none of them may be able to escape.

“Almost Human”
dir. Joe Begos, USA   
World Premiere

Mark Fisher disappeared from his home in a brilliant flash of blue light almost two years ago. His friend Seth Hampton was the last to see him alive. Now a string of grisly, violent murders leads Seth to believe that Mark is back, and something evil is living inside of him.

“The Green Inferno”
dir. Eli Roth, USA   
World Premiere

How far would you go for a cause you believe in? In horror master Eli Roth”s terrifying new film, a group of college students take their humanitarian protest from New York to the Amazon jungle, only to get kidnapped by the native tribe they came to save: a tribe that still practices the ancient rite of cannibalism, and has a healthy appetite for intruders.

dir. Mike Flanagan, USA   
World Premiere

“Oculus” is a spine-chilling supernatural tale of two damaged siblings (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites) who, as children, witnessed their parents’ harrowing descent into madness and murder. At long last, brother and sister reunite as adults to expose and destroy the paranormal entity they believe is responsible: the Lasser Glass – a legendary mirror their family once owned.

dir. Hitoshi Matsumoto, Japan   
World Premiere

An ordinary man with an ordinary life joins a mysterious club. The membership lasts for one year only and there is one rule: no cancellation under any circumstance. The man enters into an entirely new and exciting world which he has never before experienced.

“Rigor Mortis”
dir. Juno Mak, Hong Kong   
North American Premiere

Juno Mak”s debut feature Rigor Mortis is an eerie and chilling, contemporary action- and special effects-laden homage to the classic Chinese vampire movies of the 1980s. Starring Chin Siu-Ho, Kara Hui, Anthony Chan, Lo Hoi Pang and Richard Ng.

“The Station”
dir. Marvin Kren, Austria   
World Premiere

At a climate research station in the Alps, the scientists are stunned as the nearby melting glacier is leaking a red liquid. It quickly turns to be very special juice – with unexpected genetic effects on the local wildlife.

“Why Don’t You Play in Hell?”
dir. Sion Sono, Japan   
North American Premiere

Two men, Muto and Ikegami, hate each other. Muto desperately wants to help his daughter Mitsuko star in a movie. Meanwhile, Ikegami falls in love with Mitsuko, knowing that she’s the daughter of his foe. Hirata, a filmmaker, and Koji, a young movie-lover, get dragged into this complicated situation that heads into an unexpected direction.

Tickets to screenings for this programme will be available for individual purchase as well as through the Midnight Madness Pack, which includes all 10 screenings for $176, or $113 for students and seniors. Purchase Festival ticket packages online 24 hours a day at tiff.net/festival, by phone Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET at 416.599.TIFF or 1.888.599.8433, or visit the box office in person from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET at TIFF Bell Lightbox, Reitman Square, 350 King Street West, until August 19.

That’s amazing. Eli Roth’s new one, a Sion Sono premiere, the latest from the lunatic who directed “Symbol” and “Big Man Japan,” a new Lucky McKee film… it’s a great line-up already. I love that he programmed an homage to Chinese vampire films, because those are completely bizarre. “R100” sounds like it’s going to be insane. And the stuff I’m not already excited about tends to be where Colin’s taste as a programmer shines the most, because he really is out there hoping to discover new voices each year.

Here’s a quick fact sheet they sent along about Midnight Madness and some of the milestones it has celebrated in the last quarter century:

1988: The Toronto International Film Festival, headed by Programme Director Piers Handling, launches the Midnight Madness programme at The Bloor Cinema – the first all-midnight series hosted by a major film festival.

1989: Noah Cowan is named Midnight Madness programmer.

1990: Shinya Tsukamoto makes his feature film debut with “Tetsuo a.k.a Iron Man.” Legendary Italian horror film director Dario Argento makes his first North American film festival appearance when “Two Evil Eyes” plays Midnight Madness.

1992: Quentin Tarantino attends the Festival to present the indie cult hit “Reservoir Dogs” (in the First Cinema programme) and brings the film”s esteemed cast to several of that year”s midnight screenings, including Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Madsen. Madsen”s sister, Virginia Madsen, was the star of “Candyman,” one of the films in the Midnight Madness lineup.

1993: Richard Linklater”s “Dazed and Confused” debuts to an enthusiastic rock ‘n’ roll audience, garnering great success for the film”s future.

1995: Popularity of the programme grows, demanding a bigger theatre capacity. Midnight Madness screenings move from The Bloor Cinema to the Uptown Theatre, a 900-seat venue with state of the art AV capability.

1997: Colin Geddes gets tapped to co-programme the year”s lineup. He would take over programmer duties in 1998. “Orgazmo,” the first feature film by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, screens in Midnight Madness – the duo”s cartoon series “South Park” had just debuted on television. Takashi Miike makes his first ever international festival appearance with “Fudoh: The New Generation,” which Time magazine cites as one of their top 10 films of 1997.

2002: Eli Roth premieres his first feature “Cabin Fever” and sells the United Kingdom rights to the film 10 minutes into the first press and industry screening, drawing in eight offers from studios by the end of it. Roth secures a deal with Lionsgate, making it one of the top sales of the Festival. Cult actor Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) introduces the “Bubba Ho-Tep” screening to a packed and pumped-up audience, and delivers a memorably hilarious Q&A session.

2003: “Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior” screens to an overwhelming audience response, launching Tony Jaa, martial arts actor into internationally-recognized territory – a first for a Thai film star. “Haute Tension” makes its North American premiere and starts the wave of transgressive French horror films. Midnight Madness”s closing night film, the Australian zombie-horror comedy “Undead,” marks the last ever film to play at the Uptown Theatre before closing its doors.

2004: The programme finds a new home at the Ryerson Theatre. James Wan”s “Saw” gets a taste of the Midnight Madness magic as its closing night film, going on to make it as a huge horror franchise.

2005: Eli Roth returns to shock audiences once again with the world premiere of his notorious horror film “Hostel.” Hong Kong action superstar Sammo Hung receives a standing ovation as he walks onstage at the Ryerson Theatre to introduce the film “SPL.”

2006: “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” has its world premiere and goes on to be the first Academy Award-nominated film in the history of Midnight Madness. Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) arrives on a donkey-drawn cart to rapturous crowd applause. The New Zealand horror comedy “Black Sheep” brings a memorable herd of sheep in bow ties and tiaras to walk the red carpet.

2007: George A. Romero attends the world premiere for “Diary of the Dead” accompanied by 50 zombies.

2009: The first People”s Choice Midnight Madness award is presented to Sean Byrne’s “The Loved Ones.” Subsequent winners include Jim Mickle”s “Stake Land” (2010), Gareth Evans” “The Raid” (2011), and Martin McDonagh”s “Seven Psychopaths” (2012).

2011: Director/actor/comedian Bobcat Goldthwait hops onstage to entertain the audience with an impromptu stand-up comedy routine before the premiere of “Smuggler.” He was presenting his film “God Bless America” that year.

2012: Midnight Madness sees the highest number of directors on stage to present a single film – seven out of the 26 directors for the world premiere of “The ABCs of Death.”

Over its 25-year history the Midnight Madness programme has presented films from 23 countries: Thailand, Japan, China, Hungary, United Kingdom, Canada, Finland, Spain, South Korea, Luxembourg, Indonesia, Denmark, Mexico, Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, Hong Kong, USA and Germany.

Notable directors who have introduced their screenings at Midnight Madness include: George A. Romero, Bobcat Goldthwait, John Carpenter, Tony Jaa, J.T. Petty, Takeshi Miike, Dario Argento, James Wan, Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, Don Coscarelli, Bruce LaBruce, Richard Linklater, Peter Jackson, Barry Levinson, Ben Wheatley, James Gunn, Stuart Gordon, Bong Joon-ho, Jonathan Levine, Christophe Gans, Kim Jee-Woon, Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Johnnie To Kei-fung, Cindy Sherman, Bill Plympton, Shinya Tsukamoto and Alex Winter.

We’ll have all the excitement from this year’s line-up for you when we cover the Toronto International Film Festival once again, and I can’t wait.