Boarding school has always been a great setting for a horror film. Isolated teenagers thrown together in a den of stress and restless sexuality? The potential for things to go wrong is huge. The setting of Raw is a French veterinary school, where Justine (the compelling Garance Marillier) is about to start her first year. She’s a dedicated vegetarian and a little sheltered, and she struggles through gruesome hazing rituals including being forced to eat raw meat. Justine becomes unwell, and it’s not long before that becomes an insatiable craving for human flesh. Essentially, this is Hermione Granger becoming a cannibal, if Hogwarts was a Brutalist French towerblock. Raw is sexy, violent and … raw.
Raw is playing at Nova, Sun and Lido cinemas.
This is fun. Last year cult British director Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, a smart and shiny take on J.G. Ballard’s classic novel, was a hit at MIFF. Free Fire is somewhat less cerebral, with a simple premise. A dozen outlaws (a great ensemble cast including Brie Larson, Armie Hammer and Cillian Murphy) converge on an abandoned factory for an arms deal. It quickly goes very, very wrong, and our anti-heroes engage in a long, clumsy shootout. It aims to make you laugh, and hits its target. Under a lesser director it would quickly become boring, but under Wheatley it’s solidly funny. It’s also set in the ’70s, apparently just so everyone can wear wide lapels and absurd facial hair. Style-over-substance at its absolute best.
Free Fire is playing at Nova and Lido cinemas.
Director Kelly Reichardt is known for understated portraits of American lives. Her latest is Certain Women, a gentle and stoic film about episodes in the lives of three very different women. Laura Dern is a small-town lawyer dealing with an unhinged client. Michelle Williams is a mother stuck between a bratty teenage daughter and a husband who undermines her. Kristen Stewart plays an inexperienced lawyer teaching a class on law and forming an odd, disjointed bond with a student who is just a little bit too attached. The three stories are tied together by a sense of the languid everyday. It’s three rare depictions of ordinary women, characterised frankly and plainly. I’ve said gentle, languid and ordinary, so I should add it’s also moving, mesmeric and beautiful.
Certain Women is playing at ACMI until May 9.
The brilliantly left-field and tense directorial debut from comedian Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele fame) is a horror movie about racism. When Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) meets the parents of his new girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams), they seem okay, if a little over-keen to emphasise that they’re cool with a black man dating their daughter (“I would have voted Obama for a third term if I could!”). But why do all the black people in the area act like caricatures from a minstrel show? The best horror movies always reflect contemporary paranoias, and Get Out draws on the rich vein of American prejudice, starting out as a riff on Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and quickly morphing into a contemporary Stepford Wives. Kaluuya is excellent as a black man clearly uncomfortable being stuck in a sea of white faces, and Peele is brilliant at drawing out the discomfort, and eventually, fear.
Get Out is screening at the Lido, Nova, Palace, Hoyts and Village Cinemas.
This month David Lynch’s Twin Peaks returns to screens after a 25-year break. If you’re not familiar with Lynch’s work beyond his iconic murder mystery series, you really should catch Mulholland Drive, his utterly baffling 2001 film noir, which last year the BBC determined to be the best film of the century so far. A mysterious amnesiac befriends a hopeful actress as they attempt to unravel the mystery of her identity. A maverick director is coerced by cultish mobsters into casting an unknown woman in his new film. A jumble of plot elements flirt, but don't consummate in any traditional way. Mulholland Drive has a dreamlike approach to logic and sense, but it lodges itself in your subconscious and stays there. Just go with it. It’s probably a better indicator of where Lynch plans to take Twin Peaks than rewatching the original series.
Mulholland Drive is screening at the Astor on May 20 and Palace Westgarth on May 16 and 22.