This weekend ASFF selects five films set to open in UK cinemas. With the filmmakers coming from France, Norway, America and Spain, these are stories that will provoke, scare, enchant and amuse, as they tackle themes ranging from survival to sexuality, racism to religious fundamentalism.
Paris-born Alexandra Aja has already crafted a strong career in the genre world, with films like Horns and the remake of The Hills Have Eyes. Now he turns to alligators in this Florida-set tale of a father and daughter (Barry Pepper, Kaya Scodelario) trapped in the ‘crawlspace’ beneath their house, with two of these deadly creatures just inches away from them as a hurricane rages outside. It’s a neat set-up, even if it’s not quite as terrifying as it thinks it is.
Norway’s André Øvredal, who made a name for himself with Trollhunter, takes a step up with this atmospheric adaptation of the short spooky stories for children written by Alvin Schwartz. Joining forces with Guillermo del Toro, who produces and worked on the screenplay, it’s a 1968-set tale that sees a group of outsider kids accidentally unleash hell when they visit a local haunted house. With a cast of newcomers, it’s got the capacity to get under your skin.
Spanish maestro Pedro Almodóvar’s twenty-first feature of his career is right up there with his best. Antonio Banderas, who won Best Actor in Cannes for his role, plays Salvador Mallo, an ailing film director whose physical complaints have left him in a creative slump. A film both funny and tender, elegantly put together by Almodóvar, who draws from his own life as much as anything, it co-stars Penélope Cruz as Salvador’s mother in scenes that takes us back to his childhood.
French actor Louis Garrel turns director with this typically Parisian tale of an unhappy couple. Garrel plays Abel, whose girlfriend Marianne (Laetitia Casta, Garrel’s real-life wife) informs him that she’s pregnant by another man – a mutual friend – and she wants him out. That’s just the start in what emerges as a droll romantic comedy. Lily-Rose Depp co-stars as Marianne’s soon-to-be-sister-in-law, while Garrel keeps it ticking over at an enjoyably brisk 75 minutes.
Penny Lane’s documentary takes on The Satanic Temple, an American religious organization that sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. Founded in 2013 by Lucien Greaves, this progressive outfit protest against anti-abortionists, pick up litter and even help the homeless. But they also seemingly delight in provocation, especially towards those entrenched in Christian fundamentalism at a time when very real, painful scandals have engulfed organized religion. Thought-provoking.
All films released by 23 August.