TIFF 2012: Midnight Madness Highlights

While most people know the Toronto International Film Festival as the unofficial kick-off to the movie awards season, there's so much more to the fest than the gala premieres and star-studded red carpets.

Thanks to the Midnight Madness programme, TIFF has also become an important destination for genre films, both foreign and domestic. Showcasing the best in sci-fi, action, horror, mystery, and more from around the world, the late-night movie series is one of the festival's hottest draws. Previous Midnight Madness premieres have included the original "Saw" and "Hostel" movies, the limb-crunching North American debuts of "Ong Back: Thai Warrior" and "The Raid: Redemption," and horror-comedy "Jennifer's Body."

TIFF announced its 2012 Midnight Madness line up earlier this week, and this year is stacking up to be one of the best ever. Here are a few of the highlights.

"Dredd"

"Dredd 3D" - Comic book lawman Judge Dredd returns to the big screen this September in "Dredd 3D," but not before premiering for TIFF's Midnight Madness audiences. For those unfamiliar with the 1995 Sylvester Stallone disaster-piece "Judge Dredd," consider "Dredd" a fresh start for the hard-boiled character, played this time out by "Star Trek's" Karl Urban.

The 3D sci-fi actioner is set in the distant future where police, called Street Judges, have the power to convict and execute criminals on the spot. The film sees Dredd and a rookie Judge (Olivia Thirlby) take on a skyscraper full of vicious drug dealers led by a woman calling herself Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Perfect Midnight Madness fare.

"Seven Psychopaths"

"Seven Psychopaths" - From the creators of the dark comedy "In Bruges" comes "Seven Psychopaths," the tale of Marty, a hard-drinking screenwriter (Colin Farrell) trying to finish his latest script, a film about serial killers. In an attempt to find some inspiration for his screenplay, Marty somehow becomes involved in a ridiculous dog-napping scheme with his best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell), but the duo's plan backfires when they unwittingly kidnap the dog of a dangerous gangster (Woody Harrelson).

Co-starring Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, and Harry Dean Stanton, the midnight premiere of "Seven Psychopaths" is sure to be one of the festival's high points.

"John Dies At The End"

"John Dies at the End" - Cult filmmaker and  "Bubba Ho-Tep" creator Don Coscarelli is slated to bring his latest film, the horror comedy "John Dies at the End," to the Ryerson Theatre for Midnight Madness. Based on the David Wong web serial-turned-novel of the same name, "John Dies at the End" follows two college dropouts who accidentally end up battling an inter-dimensional invasion with the help of a reality-altering drug called "soy sauce."

Featuring Paul Giamatti ("Cosmopolis") and cult icon Clancy Brown ("Highlander," "Starship Troopers") in supporting roles, "John Dies at the End" sounds like appropriately wacky subject matter for TIFF's late night programme.

"Lords of Salem"

"The Lords of Salem" - Remember when Rob Zombie just made heavy metal? The former White Zombie front man's horror films aren't for everybody, but movies like "House of 1000 Corpses," "The Devil's Rejects," and "The Haunted World of El Superbeasto" have garnered him a bit of a cult following.

In what seems like a long overdue Midnight Madness appearace, Zombie's latest movie "The Lords of Salem" will premiere at TIFF in September. Starring the director's wife and frequent collaborator Sheri Moon Zombie, "Lords of Salem" tells the story of a radio DJ who receives a cursed heavy metal record that causes her to experience violent flashbacks. Metal and horror? Are Zombie's music and filmmaking careers finally coming full circle?

"The ABCs of Death"

"The ABCs of Death" - An honest-to-goodness anthology of horror: 26 short films from 26 different directors, reflecting almost every genre of cinematic terror. Featuring films by Ti West ("The Innkeepers") and Nacho Vigalando ("Timecrimes"), as well as numerous former Midnight Madness directors, including Xavier Gens ("Frontier(s)"), Adam Wingard ("A Horrible Place to Die"), and Ben Wheatley ("Kill List"), "The ABCs of Death" is a veritable who's who of contemporary horror filmmakers.

Not every part of the anthology is sure to be a hit, but with so much terrifying talent behind the camera there's sure to be something for horror fans of all stripes.

See the full TIFF 2012 Midnight Madness programme here.