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Tonight, Evolution, the sci-fi/horror hybrid by French writer/director Lucile Hadzihalilovic will have its Florida premiere at the Second Annual Popcorn Frights Film Festival (Our review: Evolution skips clear narrative to create waking nightmare of body horror — a Popcorn Frights film review). Earlier this week, The Miami New Times published an interview I conducted with the filmmaker (read it here), but so much had to be trimmed out, like why did it take Hadzihalilovic 10 years to follow-up Innocence? We also spoke about the film’s strange, surreal tone and why a straight narrative doesn’t always make for the best horror movie.

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The directorial feature debut by American writer/actor Brady Corbet offers an arcane psychological portrait of a little boy who grows up to become a fascist leader. The storytelling of The Childhood of a Leader is spare and counts on the empathy and patience of the viewer, as Corbet keeps the inner world of this child obscured behind a physical performance by newcomer and British child actor Tom Sweet. The film focuses on behavior, especially punishment and a clear lack of love surrounding the boy, which is accentuated beyond words and exposition by an oppressive atmosphere of darkened interiors and a grim orchestral, sometimes cacophonous, score by English musician Scott Walker.

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Too often, mainstream American horror movies strain to explain circumstances to get to the bottom of a mystery, which often saps an important element of fear of the unknown from a picture. Sometimes the genre is better served by defying logic and rationale to play with fear on a more primal level. With her new film Evolution, French writer-director Lucile Hadzihalilovic builds horror on atmosphere, absurdity and the dread of the unknown.

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It’s been a long time since a jump scare has genuinely grabbed me and left me unnerved in the pit of my guts the way Iranian writer-director Babak Anvari succeeded with his patiently executed and thought-provoking debut feature Under the Shadow. This carefully crafted movie will have its Florida premiere at this year’s second annual Popcorn Frights Film Festival (Tickets for Florida’s premiere horror movie fest Popcorn Frights on sale today; a chat with the fest’s creators), and it’s bound to be a surprise hit of the festival. It’s also one of those rare horror films that crosses over in appeal to fans of foreign language cinema, as it doesn’t overdo the cheap scares with gore and harbors an insightful connection to a particular culture and history, in the case Iran of the late 1980s.

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Jorge Fuembuena

The Bride (La Novia) is based on the famous play “Bodas de sangre” by Federico García Lorca, retold through the eyes of Spanish writer-director Paula Ortiz, who is able to bring out the female perspective in this tragic love triangle, albeit with mixed results cinematically. In The Bride, a threesome of two boys and a girl meet as youngsters in a remote, desert town. The three strike a friendship that marks their lives, as one of them later is to be married to this young girl while she pines for the other.

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Shadows obscure life throughout Dheepan, in the drudgery of scraping a living together from nighttime street vending to cleaning out dank common areas in a French housing development rife with tension between rival gangsters to the room the titular character shares with a woman and girl masquerading as his wife and daughter. The shadows seep into the lead character’s sense of self, for his real name is not even Dheepan, as established early in the film. He’s a former Tamil soldier fleeing strife in Sri-Lanka, adopting a new name and joining forces with a young woman and an orphaned girl for safe passage to France.

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SUICIDE SQUAD

There is nothing in Suicide Squad that shows any hope that an auteur filmmaker can do anything distinctive with the current cash cow of the Hollywood machine: the super hero movie. What Christopher Nolan once made his own has devolved into a predictable pastiche whose charms should be wearing thin on audiences. It doesn’t help that the movie is also an example of how bad one of these films can be when it becomes watered down and designed to refrain from shaking up anything in the so-called DC Universe. Suicide Squad, a PG-13 film, was supposed to be DC’s entry to rival Marvel’s R-rated Deadpool. Even though Deadpool had its own problems as a self-aware action movie, it still had focus and a bravado that is nowhere to be found in Suicide Squad.

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