It's Thursday night and Joseph Barbero, a local family doctor, is staying up until 3 a.m., a time that's earned the reputation among horror movie fanatics as "the bewitching hour."

But this physician has put down his stethoscope for 10 days to take part in Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness screenings.  

"They probably won't be coming out to mainstream ... you see them now because you'll probably never see them again," said Barbero.  

Now in its 28th year, the Midnight Madness program attracts a sub-culture of moviegoers, sometimes lining up three hours in advance to see screenings of cult-classics, and this year one horror film was too raw for some audience members who required medical attention during the screening.  

"The movies are totally worth it, they're horror, action, kung-fu," said Barbero.  

This is an annual tradition for him and fellow Midnight Madness goer, Jeff Estrella. The pair have been coming to these screenings for almost seven years. 

"It's really almost like its own festival, separate from the rest of TIFF," said Estrella outside Thursday's screening of The Autopsy of Jane Doe

He believes this is what makes it so special.  

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

André Øvredal's first English-language feature strikes terror in a crowd of Midnight Madness horror-buffs during its TIFF debut Thursday. (Courtesy of TIFF)

Katherine Olenic is a newcomer to Midnight Madness. Thursday night, she was one of hundreds lining up three hours before the screening of The Autopsy of Jane Doe.

She says the raucous crowd and non-traditional cinema is what brings her out. 

"It's great energy when you actually get in there," Olenic said. "Everyone gets so excited, so hyped and during the movie people are like cheering on everything." 

The theatrical elements of TIFF's Midnight Madness screenings appeal to fans, many who consider this the antidote to the glitz, glam, and star-studded red carpets of other TIFF programs.  

"It's not like the other movies where everyone sits very quietly," Barbaro said. "It's very loud and rambunctious. There's beach balls flying around and you can hear people screaming."

 

And for some, that is what it's all about.  

"Everyone is on the same page, everyone loves horror movies, everyone is in there to watch it, and the best part of Midnight Madness is when someone dies or the big blood and gore thing, blood spatters and everyone in the audience starts to cheer and scream," said Cydney Cochrane.  

This is her second year attending films in this category and she says she wants "that front row centre seat."   

The culture and life of TIFF's Midnight Madness has even earned it an international reputation.  

Andre Ovredal

CBC News Toronto reporter Ali Chiasson interviews director André Øvredal outside Thursday's Midnight Madness premiere of The Autopsy of Jane Doe. (J. Countess/Getty Images)

For Norweigian director, André Øvredal, who is premiering his new horror film, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the thrill of Midnight Madness goes both ways.  

"I've been hearing about the Toronto Midnight Madness crowd for years and I'm so excited to be here and actually experience them more than they are to see my movie," said Øvredal before his first TIFF screening.  

This is the grittiness, cultish atmosphere, and twisted traditions that are keeping Midnight Madness fans in their seats until 3 a.m. 

With files from Ali Chiasson