Legend has it that Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes is the love child of a mad scientist and a martial-arts demon. What we do know is the charismatic fanboy began social networking in the 1990s — publishing the zine Asian Eye, working at Toronto’s legendary Suspect Video and curating the popular Kung Fu Fridays. Hired in 1998 to replace Noah Cowan (now TIFF Lightbox artistic director), Geddes transformed his followers into bloodthirsty auds that pack the 1,200-plus-capacity Ryerson Theatre for Midnight’s 10-pic slate; this year he brings dark magic to Vanguard as the program’s new steward.

Ever since buyers ate each other alive to nab Eli Roth’s “Cabin Fever,” Midnight has remained a vibrant killing field. Last year, nine up-for-grabs titles (including “The Raid,” “You’re Next” and “Lovely Molly”) sold during or around the fest. Four world-premiering midnighters had U.S. distribution in place when the 2012 slate was unveiled, while Ryuhei Kitamura’s “No One Lives,” J.T. Petty’s “Hellbenders,” Nicolas Lopez’s “Aftershock,” Makinov’s “Come out and Play” and Rob Zombie’s “The Lords of Salem” are on buyers’ radars.

The genre market’s evolution has made Midnight a more commercial arena but never a slave to buyers. “To me it’s always been the same beast,” says Kiwi producer Ant Timpson, who first visited as a distributor in 1993 and says world-bowing anthology pic “The ABCs of Death” (Magnolia) at Midnight this year is a dream come true. “It’s about delivering wild progressive genre cinema — it has always put fans’ interests first.”

When Geddes was charged with sharpening the parallel Vanguard section, fans became top priority. The program of a dozen-plus pics targets a slightly older demo seeking extreme arthouse storytelling and a decent night’s sleep. The renovated Bloor cinema (see story, next page) will screen one to two titles per night. “Giving Vanguard audiences a destination, like they have for Midnight, in itself changes the nature of the program,” he says.

Vanguard has screened pics by U.S. helmers John Cameron Mitchell, Gregg Araki, Jessica Yu and Adam Wingard, whose “A Horrible Way to Die” sold in Toronto in 2010.

In 2012 it emerges as a focused strand for buyers and distributors to gauge the first North American aud response to rave-inspiring U.K. fare like Ben Drew’s “iLL Manors,” Luis Prieto’s “Pusher” (Radius-TWC) and Peter Strickland’s “Berberian Sound Studio” and catch world preems of buzzing international pics like Adrian Garcia Bogliano”s “Here Comes the Devil” and Juan Carlos Medina’s “Painless.”

Dubbed by Geddes as “Midnight Madness’ older cool sister,” Vanguard is sure to stir up biz this year.