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TIFF 2013 Unleashes Midnight Madness Lineup, Docs, and Vanguard:

We are a little over a month away from opening night at one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, the Toronto International Film Festival. Last week was a treat as the first 75 films were announced, including galas and special presentations. Now, it’s fair to say that the films presented last week were are a little more serious and dramatic, those hoping to generate Oscar buzz and compete for the “people’s choice award.” The films announced last night however, are much more easygoing.

Around midnight (fitting), TIFF unveiled its lineup for what is quickly becoming the festivals most notable, fun, and bizarre sub-competition, Midnight Madness! Which hosts films ranging from horror, thriller, dark comedies, and oh so much more. This yearly tradition celebrates filmmaking that stretches the human psyche, tests the viewers tolerance level, and essentially weeds out the weak cinephiles from the tough. This will be the 25th anniversary of Midnight Madness and this year’s line-up is an outstanding gift to the public. Check out the all the Midnight Madness films here. Below you’ll find what I believe to be the highlights!

“The Green Inferno” (2013, Eli Roth).

Horror maestro Eli Roth (Hostel) returns to the director’s chair for this gruesome homage to the notorious Italian cannibal movies of the late seventies and early eighties.

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“Rigor Mortis” (2013, Juno Mak).

A public-housing tenement is plunged into a dark storm of supernatural chaos, in this loving tribute to the cult classic Hong Kong horror-comedy series Mr. Vampire.

Next up, is Vanguard! Described as “Provocative, sexy… possibly dangerous. This is what’s next.” You can check out all the films announced for Vanguard here. Below you’ll once again find what I believe to be the highlights of this section.

“The Sacrament” (2013, Ti West).

Inspired by the infamous mass suicide of Peoples Temple cultists at Jonesetown, Guyana, the latest film from indie genre icon Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) sends frequent collaborators AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg and Kentucker Audley on a harrowing journey into madness and messianic bloodshed.

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“Horns” (2013, Alexander Aja).

Blamed for the brutal murder of his longtime girlfriend (Juno Temple), a small-town guy (Daniel Radcliffe) awakens one morning to find a pair of horns growing from his head, in this offbeat supernatural thriller from horror ace Alexandre Aja (Haute tensionPiranha 3D).

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FInally, for those of you interested, you can find all the Documentaries premiering at TIFF here. It isn’t my cup of tea so I’m not really sure what the highlights are. If you happen to be a documentary enthusiast, be sure to let me know what you think of the selection in the comments section below.

Okay all, that’ll do it for this announcement. I didn’t think it was possible for me to become more enthusiastic and aching with anticipation after the first set of announcements, but I’ve been proven wrong. The horror crop looks terrific at TIFF this year and I’m really looking forward to checking them all out at the festival. Remember, The Cinema Monster is your number 1 source for TIFF news and reviews!  Be sure to follow me on Twitter @cinema_monster or on Facebook here for up to the minute news. Please comment below on the selection for the festival already presented and let me know which films you are most excited to see. Have a great week!

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Maniac (2012)

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Barely offering enough sexual appeal and gore to stay a float in this ocean of an over-saturated and increasingly disappointing genre. “Maniac” has got the blood and guts, but never really gives a reason for them, which ultimately leads to it occasionally gulping lethal amounts of salt-water. In addition to the necessary savagery and unflinching gaze into the nauseating details of the human body, both mental and physical. “Maniac” displays, at times well, the helplessness of a psychopath succumbing to their sociopathic tendencies and obscure obsessions. Granted, it is relatively difficult to create and present a protagonist who doubles as an antagonist. However, the amount of slack “Maniac” is asking for is absurd and even its plethora of eye-pleasing victims isn’t enough to completely vindicate the leaps and bounces the audience needs to execute in order to rationalize this picture essentially void of any skeletal structure.

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Frank (Wood) is a mentally disturbed man who has taken over his family’s mannequin restoration business. Frank’s childhood experiences of seeing his mother work as a prostitute has left him unable to enter into meaningful relationships. Which results in his sexual impulses manifesting themselves as violent urges. Struggling to come to terms with the way his mother treated him and his memories of her constantly brushing her hair leads Frank to stalk, murder, and scalp women. As Frank attempts to create a meaningful relationship with a woman he met by chance, his sociopathic urges begin to grow stronger.

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While “Maniac” is an upgrade from the 1980 original, that isn’t saying much. Still, it is an admirable attempt. Nonetheless, compared to foreign horror masterpieces, the timeless classics, and a few modern geniuses. These hackneyed, over-the-top, uninspired entries just don’t cut it anymore. Although “Maniac” is a definite step-up from the current, typical genre garbage full of cliches and idiotic premises, it isn’t a large step. A lot of what makes it passable is the fact that it is a retread, it has a respectable basis. Still, it doesn’t separate itself enough or add enough of the human element. We don’t empathize with the victims which predictably results in indifference towards their murders. Essentially, aside from the evolution of visual effects, props, and make-up, “Maniac” has nothing new to contribute.

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Given, if you’re looking for a film to dance and flicker in the background of a Halloween party, you’ll find none better than “Maniac.” It has the gratuitous nudity and appalling gore you’d expect, and the best part is, you don’t really need to pay attention to understand what is going on. Listen, I love gore, sex, and violence as much as any horror obsessor. It’s just that I’ve seen truly terrifying, malicious, bloody films that have incredible stories and characters to match, which make for insanely better horror flicks. If you’re into gore and everything that is considered disgusting by human nature, go watch “Martyrs,” “Inside,” or literally any foreign horror film. Simply put, they do it better. Look, if you’ve seen about every horror flick like I have and are simply looking for a fix. “Maniac” should have enough scalping, disembowelment, and nudity to quench your bloodthirsty nastiness.

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As for the technical aspects of the film, yeah, it has some impressive attributes. Elijah Wood in the lead role is particularly effective. His withdrawn, subtle approach is unnerving and the way he wields a knife is enough to give you goosebumps. The cast is really limited and Wood is pretty much the only performer worth noting. Nora Arnezeder does a decent job supporting Elijah, but nothing too spectacular. Alexander Aja contributed to the screenplay. Aja is someone who really needs to step-up his game. After the satirical and bloody remake of “Piranha” and the disturbing “The Hills Have Eyes,” Aja seems to have lost his way. Yet, talent doesn’t disappear, we just have to wait a little longer for Aja to regain his touch. In summary, “Maniac” is subpar and the only purpose it serves to horror enthusiasts is to kill time until the next couple of anticipated terrors like “The Conjuring” or “Insidious: Chapter 2.”

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While it may lack the necessary human element and any frightful scares. Maniac should offer enough blood and guts to conjure up some value with horror enthusiasts.

Maniac: 5.5 out of 10.