THE CULT OF KIM NEWMAN
The critic and novelist selects the month’s weirdest home-ent releases
A NORWEGIAN KAIJU
picture, Roar Uthaug’s Troll treads in the giant footsteps of found-footage hit Trollhunter
but plays as a Scandi-noir homage to King Kong or
Godzilla. A railway tunnel blasted through frozen mountains awakens a mossbearded, earth-and-rock-bodied giant. Paleontologist Nora (Ine Marie Wilmann) is drafted into the team put together to stop the rampage and needs to consult her estranged father (Gard B. Eidsvold) — dismissed as mad because of his nowsuddenly-proven theories on trolls — to learn how to stop the fearsome, if not unsympathetic monster before it levels Oslo. A terrific mix of spectacle, humour, politics and devastation.
Iranian-born, Scandinavia-based Ali Abbasi — who made his own bizarre troll story
(Border) and an underrated Frankenstein variant (Shelley) — returns home, at least in setting, with Holy Spider (which was shot in Jordan). The based-on-fact drama pits a female journalist (Zar Amir Ebrahimi) against a serial killer (Mehdi Bajestani) in the holy city of Mashhad. Our hero, belittled and harassed at every turn, is terrified that the murderer of prostitutes is unapprehended because religious authorities basically think he’s doing a good job keeping women in their place… a belief the killer also takes comfort in, leading to a suspenseful third act in court as the establishment seem to be looking for a way to let the odious killer off lightly.
Duncan Birmingham’s Who Invited Them is billed as a home-invasion movie, but takes a while to get past comedy of embarrassment to duct tape and brandished kitchenware. A nouveau couple (Ryan Hansen, Melissa Tang) throw a housewarming party to show off their swish pad in an upscale Los Angeles neighbourhood. A chic, plausible pair (Timothy Granaderos, Perry Mattfeld) who neither of them knows just don’t leave. Things escalate from head games to knife games, and Birmingham cunningly mixes mysteries you’ll see through — the identity of the party-crashers isn’t too difficult to guess — with feints and twists that are more surprising. It’s nice to see a thriller that is as unsettling for what doesn’t happen as what does.
In Mali Elfman’s Next Exit , undisputable evidence of life after death changes the world, with an epidemic of suicide among those eager to move on to an incorporeal state. Two volunteers — longtime screw-up Rose (Katie Parker) and aimless Teddy (Rahul Kohli) — make a cross-country trip to an institute where they will be killed as part of a project to explore the afterlife. They go through the five stages of romcom (indifference, hostility, sex, crisis, love) on the road to deaths/transfigurations they might not be so keen to rush into now they have each other. Yes, it’s a riff on The Sure Thing with an afterlife as the illusory promise at the end of the road. The concept could easily make for a ten-part streaming miniseries, but the characters’ journey (in several senses of the term) is engaging as is. A smart, quiet, unexpected little picture.
Sean Ellis’ Eight For Silver (aka The Cursed) offers pleasingly retro gothic horror and knowing variations on The Wolf Man. In the 19th century, a land dispute is settled when the local bigwig (Alistair Petrie) orders the massacre of a Roma tribe. Supernatural vengeance ensues, courtesy of a set of silver-fanged dentures. A pathologist (Boyd Holbrook) and a cursed boy’s mother (Kelly Reilly) investigate, but tragedy escalates, leaving many mangled corpses in the woods.