From Body Horror Fantasy To Afro-Futurist Sci-Fi
Tripwire’s film and home entertainment editor Stephen Dalton picks his ten choices from the London Film Festival on now…
The BFI London Film Festival winds up this weekend after 10 days of starry premieres and splashy gala screenings. The big crowd-pleasers have included Idris Elba’s stylish Netflix western The Harder They Fall, Wes Anderson’s exquisitely whimsical all-star portmanteau comedy The French Dispatch, Kristin Stewart’s audacious performance as Lady Diana in Pablo Larrain’s royal-bashing drama Spencer, and Kenneth Branagh’s warmly personal childhood memoir movie Belfast. But behind the big-budget blockbusters and A-list celebrities lay a much richer, darker menu of Tripwire-friendly cult thrillers, sci-fi musicals, folk-horror homages and crazed genre hybrids. Here are 10 of the weirdest and best LFF films to look out for on both big and small screen in the near future:
Anybody baffled by the controversy around David Cronenberg’s oddly bloodless adaptation of JG Ballad’s cult novel Crash should find much to enjoy in French writer-director Julia Ducournau’s Titane, a delirious gender-blurring cyberpunk body-horror fantasy about a homicidal young woman (Agathe Rousselle) with a metal plate in her skull and a deranged sexual attraction to cars. Winning the Palme D’Or in Cannes before being selected as France’s official Oscars submission, Duvornau’s historic second feature is worthy sequel to her 2016 feminist cannibal chronicle Raw.
Expanding his 2019 short film of the same name, actor-director Philip Barantini filmed this gripping ensemble drama in one continuous 90-minute shot at a trendy East London restaurant. Stephen Graham gives a raw, intense performance as a troubled head chef in the middle of an escalating pressure-cooker crisis of bullying bosses, rude customers, medical emergencies and co-workers on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Boiling Point is consistently gripping and technically dazzling, even if it leaves a few too many dramatic threads hanging after its explosive finale.
British lo-fi horror director Rob Savage follows last year’s ingenious “haunted Zoom call” chiller Host with another topically slanted, self-aware, gross-out thrill ride. LA indie-rock musician Annie Hardy wildly caricatures her real self as a foul-mouthed, Trump-supporting anti-vaxxer whose self-filmed live online music show becomes a high-speed journey into Hell when she accidentally gives a lift to a sick woman possessed by some kind of demonic parasite. Clocking in at a lean 77 minutes, including Hardy’s 10-minute improvised rap over the closing credits, Dashcam plays like a punky, profane, hilarious splatterpunk update of The Blair Witch Project.
French writer-director Lucile Hadžihalilović specialises in haunting, unsettling, visually striking fantasy tales set in an uncanny Twilight Zone version of postwar Europe. Her first English-language feature is her most richly bizarre to date, an impressionistic fairy tale about Mia (Romane Hemelaers), a 10-year-old agoraphobic girl with ice cubes for teeth, and her diligent middle-aged minder Aalbert (Paul Hilton). Based on the slender 2019 novella by fine art professor Brian Catling, Earwig is impenetrably cryptic at times, but it rivals Tim Burton in its gothic melancholy and David Lynch for surreal dream logic.
Noomi Rapace stars in director Valdimar Jóhannsson’s chilly folk horror-tinged Nordic Noir thriller about a childless, bereaved couple on a remote Icelandic farm who adopt a bizarre half-human, half-animal baby. Jóhannsson’s previous special effects work on Star Wars spin-off Rogue One and other major sci-fi productions stand him in good stead for his handsomely crafted, starkly beautiful directing debut. Lamb was co-written by Icelandic poet Sjón, aka Sugarcubes and Bjork collaborator Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson. UK release is set for December.
Riz Ahmed stars in British writer-director Michael Pearce’s glossy sci-fi chase thriller as a former US marine who kidnaps his own kids, ostensibly to save them from microscopic extra-terrestrial parasites. As in his BAFTA-winning 2017 debut feature Beast, Pearce again uses family friction and creepy ambiguity to build tension, but this time he is working on a grander scale against the majestic backdrop of America’s desert southwest. Featuring classy visuals effects and a great cast, including superb actors Lucian-River Chauhan and Aditya Geddada, this Amazon/Film4 co-production is set for both theatrical and streaming release in December.
Poet, rapper and musician Saul Williams collaborates with his Rwandan wife Anisia Uzeyman on this wildly experimental Afro-futurist sci-fi musical, which forms part of a wider multi-media project of albums and graphic novels. Filmed in the mountains of Burundi, Neptune Frost is a true avant-garde original, dazzling and pretentious in equal measure, but bursting with great ideas and stunning visuals. Originally a Kickstarter-funded passion project, it was only completed after attracting support from producers Ezra Miller (The Flash in the DC Comics universe) and Hamilton musical creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Austrian director Stefan Ruzokwitzky, who won an Academy Award for his 2007 based-on-reality Holocaust thriller The Counterfeiters, makes dazzling use of computer-generated backdrops in this arty period murder mystery set in early 1920s Vienna. Murathan Muslu plays Peter Perg, a battle-scarred Great War veteran searching for a serial killer in a twisted, distorted, Expressionist vision of post-imperial Vienna. The stylised, hallucinatory visuals of Hinterland are reminiscent of other comic-book adaptations, notably the Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez collaborations Sin City.
Visual artist turned film director Charlotte Colbert gives vintage supernatural horror tropes a timely MeToo twist with her first feature. Alice Krige plays a veteran movie star recovering from a double mastectomy at a remote Scottish retreat, where she senses witchy black magic forces lurking the soil, summoning them to enact long-overdue revenge on the arrogant male film director who abused her in her teens, played with a nicely knowing twist by cult screen icon Malcolm McDowell. Despite a clunky script and uneven pacing, Colbert’s feminist horror fable is a beautifully shot and admirably ambitious debut.
BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONY PORN
Shot during Covid lockdown with cast and crew masked and socially distanced, taboo-breaking Romanian writer-director Radu Jude’s latest polemical comedy is a scattershot attack on sexual hysteria and political hypocrisy. Jude uses the absurd public shaming of a schoolteacher for a leaked sex tape to reflect on the crimes of Romanian history, highlighting deeply ingrained racism, antisemitism, misogyny, child abuse and government corruption, including complicity in the Holocaust, a recurring motif in the director’s work. Bad Luck Banging is an overcooked, disjointed, carnivalesque caper of a film, but never boring.
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From Body Horror Fantasy To Afro-Futurist Sci-Fi Tripwire’s film and home entertainment editor Stephen Dalton picks his ten choices from the London Film Festival on now… The BFI London Film Festival winds up this weekend after 10 days of starry premieres and splashy gala screenings. The big crowd-pleasers have included Idris Elba’s stylish Netflix western
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