By Jonathan Kieran
At last, we are through winter and into the wonderful season of spring, or as it’s known in New England, “technically Spring,” at least until the warm winds of late April pry the last icy fingers of winter off of us. While we wait for the merciful finale of Winter: Extended Cut, we can take some solace from knowing that, astronomically speaking, the worst the year has to offer is behind us.
While you’re taking evening walks with real sunlight, and clinging to every last robin sighting and green crocus shoot amid the brown grass, I have a modest proposal for your consideration: watch a messed-up movie.
This awkward handshake between winter and spring won’t last forever, but it will take time. So why not mark the turning of the season with something that makes you go: “the hell did I just watch?” Lucky for you and me there’s plenty of odd-as-hell-looking films hitting theaters between now and National Sense of Smell Day (that’s April 30th for you sniffers). Let’s dig in!
Let’s hear it for weird cinema queen Mia Goth. Her career kicked off in 2013 with Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac Vol. II and she’s rarely starred in anything remotely normal since. If you’re not yet on the Goth train, I highly recommend watching her head explode as she deliberately flies into a black hole (spoiler alert) in Claire Denis’ High Life. Even in the relatively sane (and totally delightful) Jane Austen adaptation EMMA, you’ll find her shoving her face into a pile of flour, just because!
Goth’s latest starring role comes in Ti West’s X, in which a film crew location-scouting for a porno shoot wind up in a remote farmhouse where, it seems, things take a very Texas Chainsaw Massacre turn. X is the latest from director Ti West, whose early films The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers are modern classics of indie horror. Though from one angle X feels a bit like a frighteningly traditional homage to classic slashers, I have faith that Mia Goth would never sign onto a project that wasn’t at least a little bizarre.
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
If you’re a certain brand of blockbuster-weary, Marvel-averse moviegoer, you may feel yourself starting to tune out as you scan this sentence and find the words “martial arts star,” “multiverse,” “action movie.” Not so fast. Everything Everywhere All At Once is the new film from directing duo Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, who share credit as DANIELS. They’re the team that brought you Swiss Army Man, a film about a shipwreck victim (Paul Dano) who befriends a bloated, flatulent corpse (a never-better Daniel Radcliffe), and amid other wacky adventures, rides him like a deceased human jet-ski. So trust that DANIELS are coming at the action-adventure formula from somewhat of a WTF direction.
EEAAO (even the acronym looks weird!) hits theaters on March 25th, hot on the heels of its world premiere at SXSW in Austin last week. In addition to more eye-tickling visuals than I can possibly cram into this paragraph (check the trailer), it features a cast led by action icon Michelle Yeoh and backed up by heavy hitters like Jamie Lee Curtis and James Hong (Blade Runner, Big Trouble in Little China).
Robert Eggers has got to be on the shortlist of directors making the most eccentric films for wide release. His first two features, The Lighthouse and The Witch (sorry, I mean THE VVITCH) are period pieces set in New England, and their scripts mine their dialogue from local literature. In the case of The Witch, Eggers claimed to have sourced much of the screenplay from court transcripts, diaries, and other written sources from pre-Salem witchcraft panics.
While The Witch sticks pretty close to a familiar folk-horror mode, The Lighthouse is quite impossible to pin a genre on. Luckily, the joy of hearing Robert Pattinson talk like a 19th-century Mainer transcends all petty questions of classification.
Eggers’ new film, The Northman, hasn’t premiered yet, and solid details since a trailer drop back in December have been hard to find. The film tells the Hamlet-esque tale of a Viking prince (Alexander Skarsgård) seeking vengeance against the uncle who slew his father. Probably safe to assume that slaying will be a heavy theme for this picture, which also features Eggers veterans Anya-Taylor Joy and Willem Defoe, and what looks like a supremely unsettling turn by everyone’s favorite Icelandic chanteuse Björk.
WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR
Though the rest of the above films will be marching into a theater near you thanks to big-name distributors, it may be a while before you can track down Jane Schoenbrun’s feature directorial debut, which will screen for those lucky ducks in New York City and Los Angeles beginning April 15th. This micro-budget coming-of-age horror film follows Casey, a very online teenager who becomes a little too online after completing the “World’s Fair Challenge,” a digital ritual that puts her in touch with a mysterious presence.
The trailer is heavier on mood than plot, but with its web-focused concept and emphasis on Casey’s inner experience, WAGTTWF sounds a bit like an Unfriended sequel cross-pollinated with Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade. In addition to its specialty theatrical run, one of these days the film will be available on HBO Max (who acquired the rights back in May 2021).
Though this film isn’t slated for a Spring release, let’s throw it in for good measure while we’re firing off weird ones. Things have been quiet on the directorial front for Jordan Peele since 2019’s US, the rich and mysterious follow-up to Peele’s landmark debut GET OUT. At the same time, it feels like he’s been everywhere, executive producing a slew of TV and claiming screenplay and producer credits on Nia DaCosta’s solid CANDYMAN update from last summer. NOPE won’t hit screens until July 22nd, so we’re still very much in the phase of poster reveals, YouTubers picking apart the first trailer, and journalists dutifully updating their “Everything We Know About NOPE”-style articles.
From the peek behind the curtain we’ve had so far, it looks like NOPE combines cowboys, aliens (NOT Cowboys & Aliens, thanks), and features plenty of those eerily intriguing visuals which are Peele’s specialty (think of that spoon scratching the sides of a teacup. Got it?)
I know I started this out by saying Spring is the perfect season to watch something weird, but with the world the way it is, it turns out so are Summer, Winter, and Fall. So put away those normal movies, kids. They’re bad for ya!
Jonathan Kieran is a film programmer, slow reader, novice synthesist, and little-bit-of-everything-liker. Twitter: @JonKieran
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