TIFF 2016 Midnight Madness: Guns Blazing, Limbs Hacked and Rats Aplenty 

click to enlarge Brie Larson stars in Free Fire. - STUDIO CANAL
  • Studio Canal
  • Brie Larson stars in Free Fire.
I might as well have been at a hockey game for all the raucous energy at the Toronto Film Festival Midnight Madness showcase. In the lead up to TIFF's other-side-of-the-tracks all-nighter passel of bizarro films there were air horns blasting and whistles shrieking as audience members greeted each other with endearing but non-stop F-bombs. This was all a good half hour before the films started rolling, ending in the wee hours of the next morning. This was clearly not the junior-sized popcorn and Peanut M&Ms crowd.

Free Fire is a 1970s-era big hair and guns-blazing comedy thriller about an arms deal that goes very, very wrong. It stars Armie Hammer (who has appeared in at least three TIFF features thus far), Cillian Murphy and the most buzzed about actress on the planet, Brie Larson, this year's Best Actress Oscar winner. The film is ferociously violent and the ammunition budget—let alone the hair spray used on the cast—must have jacked the production budget through the roof.

Is the film any good? Think of Free Fire as a low-rent Reservoir Dogs or a really wicked, R-rated Looney Tunes cartoon with a grotesque body count.

click to enlarge Suki Waterhouse stars in The Bad Batch. - ANNAPUMA PICTURES
  • Annapuma Pictures
  • Suki Waterhouse stars in The Bad Batch.
Another gut-buster was The Bad Batch starring the particularly lovely Suki Waterhouse. At least I think she was lovely, before she had an arm and leg hacked off by cannibal zombies in the film's opening minutes.

The Bad Batch is the latest dystopian thriller looking to recapture some of last year's Mad Max madness (for the record, it doesn't come close and the violence was more boring than brutal).

Just about the time I was about to doze off, none other than Jim Carrey popped up on screen as a desert-wandering hobo. Then.. wait for it... Keanu Reeves appeared as a sinister cult leader (is there any other kind?). I thought someone had sprinkled crack onto my popcorn (which, come to think of it, wouldn't have been out of the realm of possibility). 

click to enlarge Rats is directed by Morgan Spurlock. - DAKOTA GROUP / SUBMARINE ENTERTAINMENT
  • Dakota Group / Submarine Entertainment
  • Rats is directed by Morgan Spurlock.
It's not too often you mention the words "Discovery Channel" and "Midnight Madness" in the same sentence, but the popular North American cable network has snapped up the rights to another TIFF Midnight Madness shocker, Rats, a wonderfully repulsive documentary from Morgan Spurlock.

Yes, it's total creepsville, but Rats is also a fascinating chronicle of the history of rat infestations in the world's biggest cities.

Oscar-nominated Spurlock (Super Size Me) has announced he's about to go into the editing room for his next documentary feature: a full-length chronicle of this year's occupation by armed militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon.

The documentary, which should be released sometime in 2017, reportedly had unfettered access to the armed protesters, led by anti-federalist brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy.
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