This year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival begins next week, and your favourite magazine of cult entertainment will once again be on hand to bring you our thoughts on the highs and lows of the dozens of new films on offer. If you’re thinking of making a trip to the Scottish capital for a fortnight of filmic fun, here are some of the expected highlights to watch out for.
Opening the festival is Boyz in the Wood (pictured), a black comedy about a quartet of teenage boys left in the wilderness of the Highlands as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, and find themselves being hunted for sport by youth-hating aristocrats.
This year the Best of British strand brings us Strange But True, a noirish thriller where a woman is convinced her pregnancy was caused by her boyfriend who died five years previously and confronts his grieving family with the possibility; and Danny Boyle’s comedy Yesterday, where after a blackout a struggling musician discovers he is the only person alive who remembers The Beatles, and appropriates their songs from himself to become a musical sensation.
American Dreams is a strand that looks at new creative works from over the Atlantic, showing The Art of Self-Defence, a comedy where an accountant joins a karate studio to learn how to defend himself; The Dead Don’t Die, a deadpan surreal comedy horror where small town cops deal with a zombie uprising; I See You, a horror where odd goings on begin to occur in a small town after a young boy goes missing; and The Vast of Night; a sci-fi mystery where strange things begin to happen in small town in 1950s New Mexico.
Family films include Ugly Dolls, where a community of friendly plush toys discover they are rejects and must prove their worth in a town where perfect toys are trained to win the love of children; and Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion, where the famous Gaul and his friends search for a new village druid after Getafix retires, while an evil wizard plans to steal the recipe of the magic potion that gives them superhuman strength.
European Perspectives brings new films from creatives on the continent. Aniara is a sci-fi where the crew and passengers of a colony ship heading to Mars must survive when they are knocked off course; How to Fake a War is a comedy where an arrogant rock star instructs his PR consultant to fake a war story after peace breaks out in the conflict his upcoming charity concert was to promote the end of; and We Have Always Lived in This Castle is a gothic mystery based on Shirley Jackson’s novel, where two sisters and their uncle live isolated on a country estate after a tragedy makes them pariahs in the nearby town, and the arrival of their mysterious and faintly sinister cousin disrupts their ordered lives.
World Perspectives brings us a trio of crime movies. Bodies at Rest is a martial arts movie where a morgue on Christmas Eve is taken over by gangsters looking to cover up a botched drug deal; Extreme Job is a comedy drama where incompetent police officers stake out a suspected drug den from a fried chicken shop, subsequently discovering they’re better at selling fast food than doing actual police work; and Unstoppable is an action story where a family man with a violent past hunts down the sex traffickers who kidnapped his wife.
The Night Moves strand of the festival can always be relied upon for genre fare, and this year’s assortment is distinctive from each of its new films being directed by a woman. Body at Brighton Rock sees an aspiring park ranger discover a corpse on a remote mountain trail and must guard the crime scene until help arrives while night falls and something sinister may be watching her from the forest. Ever After is a zombie apocalypse, road trip horror where a pair of mismatched twentysomethings embark upon a journey across a county ravaged by the undead. The Furies follows one of several kidnapped women being hunted through a forest by armed men in masks, and must fight back against her pursuers. The Wind is a gothic horror western where a woman living on the remote American frontier is haunted by paranoia from the expansive isolation and her own religious conviction, exacerbated by fear of something in the darkness and the appearance of some neighbours. A double bill of psychological thrillers see Polyanna McIntosh take a starring role, first in 2011’s The Woman, where a misogynist lawyer keeps a feral woman captive without realising how much danger he’s putting his family in, and its new sequel Darlin’, where the bishop and nuns of a Catholic care home attempt to tame a violent feral girl, only for the even fiercer Woman who raised her to come looking for her surrogate daughter no matter who stands in her way.
A couple of documentaries of interest are Bludgeon, about a group of medieval re-enactment enthusiasts hoping to be selected for New Zealand’s national team for competitive medieval combat and travel to Europe for an international championship; and Memory: The Origins of Alien, charting the beginnings of the classic sci-fi horror movie, looking into how the creative visions of all involved influenced the film’s development.
Each year one country is singled out for special focus, and this year is the turn of Spain, showing h0us3, a sci-fi thriller where a group of computer programmers try to alter a hacked augmented reality app, only to unleash unforeseen consequences and must work fast to save themselves. A Spanish retrospective includes Pedro Almodóvar’s psychological horror The Skin I Live In, where a surgeon experiments on a human captive; Timecrimes, a sci-fi thriller where a man becomes caught in a time loop and must prevent his numerous other selves from existing; and two films from Pablo Berger: Abracadabra, a darkly comic fantasy where a woman’s husband is possessed by a ghost, and Blancanieves, a retelling of Snow White set in 1920s Andalusia.
This year’s Special Screenings include Cage-a-Rama 3D, a Saturday night double bill starring Saint Nic and featuring two of the most demented examples of Cage Rage, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Drive Angry. Also showing is a screening of all six episodes of apocalyptic fantasy series Good Omens, in case you fancied reliving it on the big screen.