Alexandra Heller-Nicholas is a writer, broadcaster and film critic from Melbourne. She is co-editor of the film journal Senses of Cinema, co-host of the Triple R film criticism programme Plato’s Cave, and winner of the 2017 AFI Research Collection fellowship. Alexandra is the author of four books on cult, horror and exploitation film including Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study (McFarland, 2011), Found Footage Horror Films: Fear and the Appearance of Reality (McFarland, 2014), Devil’s Advocates: Suspiria (Auteur, 2015) and Cultographies: Ms. 45 (Columbia University Press/Wallflower, 2017). Since 2003 she has published over a hundred reviews, essays, feature articles, interviews, book chapters and reference book entries, and has provided supplementary material on home entertainment releases from Madman, Umbrella, Masters of Cinema, Blue Underground and Arrow Video. Alexandra is also a researcher at the University of Melbourne and the Victorian College of the Arts.
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead may not be household names, but they should be: with little interest in deconstructing genre as such, their knowing, loving comprehension of the nuances of horror and science fiction in particular render them able to reveal to us the often-untapped magic that lies within in a way quite unlike any other filmmakers today. Both a stand-alone film and a simultaneous throw-back to their extraordinary 2012 debut feature Resolution, The Endless is beautiful, haunting, and deeply intelligent but never pompous.
Based on her debut short alone, Spanish filmmaker Alice Waddington is a filmmaking force to reckon with, and one of the most cinema-literate, fun and downright impressive cinema aesthetes working today. Inspired by the lush, perverse work of Georges Franju, Waddington’s feminine and feminist twist makes Disco Inferno truly its own beast. A masterclass in artistry and originality, Waddington is a cinema great in waiting.
Although many will come to director/writer Amat Escalante’s The Untamed on the back of his Mexican narco wars film Heli (2013), if there’s any single clue to indicate the direction of his latest movie it is its dedication to the late Polish auteur Andrzej Żuławski. The Untamed is an unapologetic love letter to Żuławski’s cult 1981 magnum opus Possession, but didn’t invent the trope of the enigmatic sex-tentacled love object (we can go at least back to Hokusai’s 1814 woodcut The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife for that). Yet in moving his reimagining of the scenario to the Mexican city of Guanajuato, Escalante explores the often-grim reality of oppression and violence through a wholly memorable fantasy metaphor.
The chance to see any Juraj Herz film on the big screen is a privilege in itself, and it’s hard to choose just one when they are all so close to perfect. All his films are worth seeing, but if pressed to choose only one The Cremator wins hands down. Herz’s 1969 horror comedy (black, black comedy) is arguably one of the most thematically and aesthetically striking films of the Czech New Wave, and one of the most extraordinary and insightful films about not just the Holocaust specifically, but the way that seemingly ‘good’ people can bend under the fist of any totalitarian force. The Cremator will forever change the way you think about the power of cinema.
If I was being flippant I’d described Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama as Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise through the eyes of Michael Bay, but this crude sketch does it little justice. A non-linear narrative stitches together the tale of a group of young terrorists in Paris, Nocturama consciously skirts around genres like political thriller and the action film. But at its heart is an anxious stillness and pervasive sense of ideological fatigue that renders it a captivating and surprisingly tragic experience. Keep an eye out for a great performance by Rabah Nait Oufella from Julia Ducournau’s recent cannibal coming-of-age film Raw.
Image: Disco Inferno