There’s a first time for everything. Sometimes, that first go knocks it straight out of the park. Exeposé Screen writers discuss their favourite examples of this – the times when a filmmaker makes something exceptional on their first try.
The Lure – dir. Agnieszka Smoczyska
It’s 1980s Poland. Two flesh-eating mermaids. A sweaty, seedy nightclub that exclusively dishes out synthpop and metal melodies. A crowd of unsuspecting humans soon to be fish food. This eclectic range of elements make up Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s sensually smoldering debut The Lure – an adult remake of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Oh, and did I mention it’s also a musical?
Whilst her name doesn’t admittedly roll off the tongue, Smoczyńska quickly makes a name for herself as a provocative and ultra-stylish filmmaker, showering this fairytale in enough neon and blood to make Carpenter nervous. Yet, it’s also a refreshingly feminist work that tackles the ‘horror’ of first love and burgeoning female sexuality. It’s not long before mermaid sisters Golden and Silver are driven apart by the omnipresent danger of attraction as one becomes smitten with a human. This is a gorgeously directed film whose confidence in bouncing between guts and gore with groovy musical numbers is a testament to Smoczyńska’s early ability. This is one for those who want something truly different, refreshing and with a little bite.
by Jacob Heayes
Hereditary – dir. Ari Aster
It feels strange to talk about Ari Aster, director of the horror hit Hereditary which broke box office records in theatres earlier this year, as if he is a new face in film. With multiple short films under his belt, such as the family tragedy The Strange Thing About the Johnsons and the silent short Munchausen, Aster had already made a name for himself online.
But neither of these shorts contain the polish and thematic weight of Hereditary. The film takes the contemporary horror film template established by the likes of James Wan (The Conjuring, Insidious) and Jason Blum (Truth or Dare, Ouija) and flips it on its head, making perhaps the most emotionally engaging and thoroughly disturbing horror film made in the west in the last decade. No film has messed with me in the way Hereditary has in 2018.
Ari Aster’s next film is already in pre-production; another horror film, this time centred on a couple’s holiday and the violence of a pagan cult, starring the likes of Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, and Will Poulter. Aster isn’t straying from his success, and he doesn’t need to.
by Ryan Allen
In Bruges – dir. Martin McDonagh
This homage goes out to writer-director Martin McDonagh for his first feature-length film, In Bruges. Although beautifully directed and scored, it’s real value is in McDonagh’s writing. McDonagh displays a genre and writing style that he will later go on to dominate – the dark comedy (most notably in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri).
Comedy in film can often be a substitute for substance. But in McDonagh’s writing it provides a vessel for saying something much more important; he uses humour to tell us something about the character we are investing in. As Collin Farrell put it, there is something hyper-real about McDonagh’s writing. His films aren’t fraught with cliches – they are dynamic, complex, and most importantly tell us something about ourselves.
In Bruges shows us that we can all be a murky of good and evil. McDonagh never lets us escape the humanity of a character. He shows us that there is a human cost for doing evil. This isn’t to excuse evil, but rather offer an insight into understanding its motivations. He does so in a way that is both hilarious and moving – with this fusion, McDonagh produces something truly special in In Bruges.
by Matt Betteridge
Eraserhead – dir. David Lynch
While a debut that shows promise for a future career is impressive (like the maligned Alien 3, debut of David Fincher), what should be praised to the heavens is a debut that is considered not only among the best of a filmography, but among the greatest of its kind. And for me, Eraserhead fits that bill perfectly.
Not only are David Lynch’s motifs fully formed here, from chevrons on the floor to pure surrealism in each shot, but it is a film that breaks down genre barriers. It’s terrifying, but not quite horror; it’s about a man dealing with fatherhood, but it’s not quite a domestic drama. All it is for sure, is Lynchian.
On top of being the bizarrely horrific story of a man looking after his prematurely born child, Eraserhead is notable for being one of the films to really kick start the trend of midnight movies, a trend that is exactly what it sounds like. So much is Eraserhead a figurehead of the delightfully cultish that it is the front cover for Hoberman’s book Midnight Movies. While starting strong is impressive, starting by making a figurehead for the freaks and weirdos of cinema is astonishing – and why I adore this film.
by Henry Jordan