By Josh Bell | @signalbleed
There’s a grab bag of oddball new releases to check out this week, including an Irish horror movie, a German magical-realist drama, a pair of trans documentaries and a cult classic new to Netflix.
An unemployed man gets a seemingly generous job offer to spend a few days keeping watch over his landlord’s teenage niece. But situations like that never turn out well in horror movies, and when Isaac (Jonathan French) arrives at the isolated estate, he’s told that he needs to spend his entire time locked in a harness attached to a chain in the basement (for the safety of the mentally unstable young woman, of course). That’s just the first of the many unsettling events in this creepy, atmospheric Irish horror movie, which doesn’t entirely hold together narratively but maintains a consistently eerie mood.
Now streaming on Shudder.
Acclaimed German filmmaker Christian Petzold brings a dose of magical realism to his latest drama, which won multiple awards at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival. Paula Beer plays the title character, an enigmatic woman who inspires passion and obsession in the men she meets. Undine isn’t just attractive and alluring, though; she’s a mythological creature who comes from underwater and must eventually return. Petzold keeps the movie’s supernatural elements grounded and low-key, devoting as much time to the architectural history of Berlin as to Undine’s mysterious origins, somehow making both equally fascinating.
Now available for VOD rental.
“Changing the Game”
June is Pride Month, and this week brings two new documentaries about the trans experience, starting with this festival favorite spotlighting the struggles of teenage trans athletes. Director Michael Barnett follows three trans high schoolers as they participate in their chosen sports while fighting for their rights to do so. Trans participation in youth sports has been a highly contentious issue, and Barnett brings the focus back to individual human stories. These young people are committed activists, but their main passion is wrestling or running or skiing, and “Changing the Game” captures the full range of their unique personalities.
Now streaming on Hulu.
“The Sound of Identity”
There’s a narrower focus to this documentary about trans opera singer Lucia Lucas, following the preparations for her U.S. stage debut as the star of a production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” Director James Kicklighter focuses as much on the details of this specific production and its environment (in Tulsa, Oklahoma) as he does on Lucas’ personal journey. Everyone involved in the production proves thoughtful and ambitious in their approach to interpreting one of the world’s most venerable works of art. Lucas’ enthusiasm for opera and performance turns out to be just as fascinating as her advocacy for trans representation.
Now available for VOD rental.
“Streets of Fire”
Walter Hill’s 1984 musical-fantasy flop has become a cult classic in the past 30-plus years, and it’s ready to be discovered by a whole new audience after hitting Netflix this week. Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis and Willem Dafoe star in a movie that’s part gritty sci-fi thriller, part glossy, sexy music video. Las Vegas-based cult filmmaker Albert Pyun even directed his own unauthorized sequel, “Road to Hell,” in 2008, with original stars Paré and Deborah Van Valkenburgh. (We discussed the movie and talked to Pyun about his sequel in an episode of my podcast Awesome Movie Year.)
Now streaming on Netflix.