Undead at the Uptown

As part of my plan to salvage some posts that will disappear soon if I don’t, I’m going to post some I wrote for the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness Program Blog.  Midnight Madness is a screens genre films. It’s acted as a gateway for many films to become classics and many genre directors to move into more respectable daytime programs. I can’t take any credit for any of that. I am starting with a post that looks back on some of my Midnight Madness experiences.

undead porch

POSTED on the Midnight Madness Program Blog: September 4, 2007 16:05 | By: Carol Borden

I’m not sure I remember what my first Midnight Madness movie was. It’s all a swirl of late nights, early mornings and coagulating pizza followed by more late nights, early mornings and unwise eating on Yonge St. I do remember it was at Toronto’s lost wonder, The Uptown, a huge old renovated movie palace at Yonge and Bloor where even at 5’2″, I always had an unobstructed view.

Cinema One’s huge screen ruined home theater for me. So at Midnight Madness, I focused on films I wouldn’t likely have a chance to see projected or sometimes even on DVD, though a bunch of them did end up finding distribution. At the Uptown, I saw Bruce Campbell as Elvis and Ossie Davis as JFK in Bubba Ho-Tep, watched Tony Jaa all muay thai baron with his legs on fire in Ong-Bak and the creepy splendor of the Pang Bros.’ The Eye.

The last movie I ever saw at the Uptown was the last movie ever shown there, Undead, part of the 2003 Midnight Madness program. You’ve probably seen it by now, but if not, Undead is an Australian zombie movie made by twins Michael and Peter Spierig.* It’s not really important that they’re twins, but it’s pretty cool–almost as cool as the fact that they made the movie with a broken down van and a pentium 600.

Enjoying the film’s undead fish and Fifties science fiction feel might’ve been easier without the family who looked like they’d come straight from their cottage to be there for the Uptown’s last moments as a theater. I don?t think they checked the film description. They kept sighing and hissing, “The directors have sick, sick minds.” They just couldn’t get over the biting and gore and zombie killin’. But those intrepid folk stayed the entire film and the Q & A, radiating their disapproval, muttering and giving us all the stink eye. Still the movie itself would’ve been fun in every way if I weren’t already missing the Uptown.

uptown theater

Famous Players closed the theater in 2003 because they claimed it would be too expensive to make the theater accessible to disabled people and, after all, closed theater is an accessible one. The Uptown collapsed while it was demolished for a new condo development that has taken its name. But The Uptown isn’t dead to me and I make sure to give the condos a stinky undead fish look of my own every time I pass by.

uptown collapse

*The Spierig Brothers have sense gone on to make Daybreakers, which also premiered at Midnight Madness.

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