Introducing “Convulsions,” or Midnight Madness reborn with extra madsauce


Diehard Cucalorians know that the festival has never been afraid to push boundaries. For anyone who visited the festival’s “Fillmore Shorts” block in 2004 (we named them after U.S. Presidents that year), you were given the following warning:

There is extreme sexual content in these films. If you find yourself narrow-minded, uncomfortable with bouts of sexual deviation, unable to appreciate nondiscretionary nudity, or simply nervous around tasty little naughty bits… please do not attend this screening. 

The screening contained a handful of tasteless goodies — from T. Aruthur Cottam’s deadpan mocker “Pornographic Apathetic” and Thomas Draschan’s pseudo-psychedelic montage To the Happy Few, to Usama Alshaibi’s orifice disaster “Convulsion Explulsion” and John Davis’ slice of lawn-mowing, tranny-loving heaven “Buff’n Muffin.”

Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin, screened during Cucalorus 19 as part of the Midnight Madness program

Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin screened during Cucalorus 19 as part of the Midnight Madness program

Leading up to this fall’s 20th anniversary, Cucalorus is rebranding the Midnight Madness program as Convulsions.” The Midnight Madness program was launched at the 2007 festival with films like Anders Morgenthaler’s devious debut “Princess,” an animated whopper about religion, pornography, revenge and one small girl with a crowbar. Last year boasted the Southern U.S. premiere of Jeremy Saulnier’sBlue Ruin,” which won the Fipresci Prize at Cannes.

Aaron Hillis was praised by Brooklyn Magazine as one of "The 100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture."

Aaron Hillis was praised by Brooklyn Magazine as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture.” He also <3’s Daiquiris.

The rebranding of this bad habit is illegitimately fathered by Cucalorus board member and NYC film journalist Aaron Hillis, who bothered* me enough in 2007 that I finally watched his dead-mall-turned-flea-market verite doc Fish Kill Flea, mainly so he would leave me alone**. Good thing I did. The film was an indie gem, a crafty cross between Errol Morris at his best and a funny-sad concert video for hoarders and junk-lovers. When I look at the festival’s programming successes over the years — Hillis’ co-directed doc is a solid top-ten 10.  (Other horn-tootin’ successes: the U.S. premiere of the Greek masterpiece “Dogtooth,” a habit of showing films just because they’re nasty and provoke the unwashed masses, and offering primo slots for emerging Southern filmmakers.)

I can only guess that Hillis caught wind of Cucalorus’ gonzo, late-night reputation. Aaron Hillis IS a late-night party. This is both a blessing and a dire warning. He’s got an after-party erection 24-and-a-half hours a day. So when he first came to (and on) Cucalorus in 2007, he and I started a torrid love affair that has nearly ruined us and the topographical surroundings. With his mischievous assistance and inexplicably shrewd curation, we’ve combed high schools and panty-raided nursing homes all over the country to program this year’s Convulsions program. Strap one on friends, this ride’s gonna get messy.

CONVULSIONS: Cinematic visions for the night crowd. A mash-up of sex, horror and the bizarre. For Adult Cucalorians only. Hosted by Aaron Hillis.

* Side note to all filmmakers: We want to hear from you. Don’t be afraid to email festival programmers and let them know just how badly you want it. Otherwise, WE DON’T KNOW. If you’re refreshing your inbox every minute and watching our website to see if your film appears on the list, email us right now and let us know. Sometimes we can give an honest assessment of your chances in making the cut, but at the very least, we can tell you when we’ll have final selections wrapped up. That way, you can relax and only check your email every 10 minutes between buying sweet-ass wafflemakers on that there eBay.

** Note from Aaron Hillis: that’s a bald-faced lie about bothering Dan. He’s a filthy liar and horse thief, and he programmed our movie because he digs it, not realizing he’d then be stuck with me forever.

 –this blog may have been written by dan brawley with help from aaron hillis and team cucalorus. who? knows!