TIFF’s annual Midnight Madness program has been a favourite of mine for about as long as I’ve been attending the festival. I can generally trust Programmer Colin Geddes to whittle out ten of the most bizarre, terrifying, ridiculous, gory, scream-inducing and fun-filled flicks from the massive array of such fare as he is subjected to each and every year. (Note to directors hoping to be selected in the future: Please stop sending him found-footage films. He’s way over it). There are usually a couple on the slate that I’m just not interested in, but for the most part, I count on Colin for much of my TIFF-related fun.
This year, I was actually interested in seeing all 10 films screening as part of the Midnight Madness program – and about 7 of them were for sure. Since I was only planning to see ten films in total, however, I needed to cross some off my list to make room for intriguing offerings in other programs. To that end, I whittled my own list down to just two Midnight Madness screenings, and No One Lives was my first of the season. Despite being incredibly tired and rundown (I’d already worked a full day and seen another screening before going home to feed the cats and head back downtown), I knew that Colin’s enthusiasm and the Midnight Madness crowd would get me riled up and ready for a fun night in no time, so off to the Ryerson Theatre I went.
I’m happy to say, I was not disappointed!
No One Lives starts out simply enough: a young girl runs screaming through the forest, beaten and bloodied, only to be caught up in a trap and left swinging from a tree. From there, we go in two directions almost at once, and wait for the inevitable collision to come. On the one hand, we have a gang of somewhat inept and volatile backwoods thieves, caught emptying the contents of a large well-to-do house, by the well-to-do family returning home from their vacation. How the thieves decide to handle that situation in part sets us up for the rest of the story. On the other hand, we have a young couple (one seems quite a bit younger than the other, actually) on a long drive, a small black trailer attached to their car, and a news report stating that a message had been found carved into a tree (the very message left there by our screaming girl in the opening scene) suggesting that a missing young girl who had been presumed dead, may in fact still be alive. The reward for finding her is two million dollars and, if she is alive, she would be the sole survivor of a horrific massacre that left 14 of her college friends brutally murdered.
Anyway, as luck would have it, our young couple has a run-in with the inept band of thieves, which leads one of them to believe that he can redeem himself for his mistakes with the vacationing family if he robs and kills the young couple, because they have all of their worldly possessions in their trailer. What happens next, however, is not what any of them expected, and very quickly the tables are turned and everyone is left fighting for their lives.
The rest of No One Lives is a fun and ridiculous gore-filled romp that’s pretty much perfect for a Midnight Madness crowd. We laughed, we cheered, we revelled in some pretty amazing one-liners, and we enjoyed the ride. The pace is quick and engaging, and the kills are more rapid-fire fun than long drawn-out torture. The cast, including Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens, and Derek Magyar is a pretty interesting mix, too. Would it play as well with a different sort of audience? I’m not sure. There’s something special and unique about a Midnight Madness crowd, and this is the sort of film that suits that audience perfectly. It’s just a fun, gory, ridiculous ride!