Empire (UK)


The critic and novelist selects the month’s weirdest home-ent releases



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.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom