What The Film Festival 2017: Cats, rats and apes, oh my!

By Jim Slotek

The departure this year of Colin Geddes as programmer of TIFF’s Midnight Madness series after 20 years was worrisome. In a fest obsessed with its global and Hollywood status, MM was a beacon of left-field, filmic transgression.

Where else to see weirdo efforts like The Bad Batch (reviewed here earlier this week), the early efforts of Eli Roth, Daniel Radcliffe-turned-demon in Horns, or the young Jackie Chan-like acrobatics of Tony Jaa in Ong-Bak?

 Sylvio: Gorilla my dreams

Sylvio: Gorilla my dreams

So what of his successor and longtime programming associate Peter Kuplowsky? I have high expectations for the producer of the low-budget epics like Manborg and ABCs Of Death 2.

But a more immediate mirror of Kuplowski’s DIY taste is What The Film Festival 2017, which takes place at the Royal Cinema Saturday June 24 from 4:30-11:30 p.m.

It champions, “outlier and outsider films that intersect definitions of genre and avant-garde cinema and operate outside the traditional parameters of taste and convention.”

That includes hard-to-define features like Michael Reich's She’s Allergic To Cats, which is more-or-less about a wannabe filmmaker (Mike Pinkney) who’s moved to L.A., only to find work as a dog-groomer, and who dreams about filming a remake of Carrie with cats (including one that menstruates). All this sandwiched between episodes of ‘80s-style video-art of degraded VHS quality and a rat-war in his apartment.

 Uh oh. She's allergic to cats.

Uh oh. She's allergic to cats.

And I was actually moved by Kentucker Audley’s Sylvio – the tale of a gorilla trying to make a life for himself working at a collection agency and living a quiet life in his apartment watching TV and creating private diorama puppet shows. That is, until he accidentally becomes a media star on an afternoon talk show via the Gallagher-esque gimmick of smashing things. (The catchphrase “What will the ape break?” inspires t-shirts and other flash-in-the-pan merchandise).

(What I liked best about Sylvio is its embrace of its own internal logic. It treats as unremarkable an ape living and suffering ennui in human society, and we accept that.)

All this, plus the Canadian premiere of Shinichi Fukazawa’s Evil Dead homage Bloody Muscle Body Builder In Hell, and a series of selected and demented shorts.

It all happens before midnight, but the madness is still bona fide.

Original-Cin will publish an interview with Kuplowsky soon. Midnight Madness fans stay tuned.

What The Film Festival 2017. Royal Cinema. Saturday June 24 from 4:30-11:30 p.m.

Jim Slotek

Jim Slotek is a former Toronto Sun columnist, movie critic, TV critic and comedy beat reporter. He’s been a scriptwriter for the NHL Awards, Gemini Awards and documentaries, and was nominated for a Gemini Award for comedy writing on a special (the NHL Awards). Prior to the Sun, he worked at the Ottawa Citizen as an entertainment reporter.