By Naomi Joseph

I am very particular about horror films. I want films with a meaty story that haunts, unnerves and, of course, scares me but is not a total gore fest. I don’t like to see people slashed to pieces, especially if there’s no real plot. I enjoy horror films like The Shining, The VVitch, It Follows, Tale of Two Sisters and Midsommar. So, when my colleague Anna sent me the trailer for Out of Darkness, I knew I would love it.

Set 45,000 years ago in the Scottish Highlands, the film follows a small tribe of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens who have found themselves in a new land beset with unknown dangers. They soon realise their survival plans will have to involve more than gathering food and finding shelter, as a mysterious monster begins to hunt them down one by one.

As our reviewer Penny Spikins, an expert in the archaeology of human origins, explains, filmic representations of this period have often verged on the ridiculous – being either wildly inaccurate (10,000BC) or crassly comedic (The Croods and Ice Age). The creators of Out of Darkness have, however, managed to pull off a deeply unsettling and surprisingly accurate stone age survivalist horror.

They have clearly done their research, with the tribe’s clothes and look fitting what experts know of the period (no fur bikinis or loincloths). Our reviewer was also impressed by their inclusion of locations known to have been used in this period as burial grounds and hunting sites. They even worked with a linguist on creating an authentic-as-possible language, which manages not to sound jarring or cartoonish.

The Settlers is a brutally violent film with a lot to say for itself, which also plays with genre. It can be seen as a sort of western, following follows three riders in the early 19th century as they journey through rugged landscapes on a mission that sees them violently suppress native populations to further European interests. It’s a well-known narrative in westerns, but The Settlers uses it to starkly condemn the exploitation and colonisation of Chile’s Tierra del Fuego under the orders of the Spanish landowning elite in the country’s capital, Santiago.

The film is the debut of director Felipe Gálvez Haberle, who does not shy away from the unremitting horrors of this campaign while telling this story of settler colonialism and genocide from the perspective of the perpetrators. As our reviewer Barry Langford notes, Haberle’s choices have been made to redress the whitewashed history of this period, and to incorporate Indigenous trauma into Chile’s narrative. He is urging viewers not to look away, and to witness the horror the country has chosen to ignore for far too long.

Something sweet

Both Out of Darkness and The Settlers feature deeply atmospheric cinematography that shows the beauty and violence of their natural landscapes. However, if you’re looking for something less violent and a lot more rich and lovely, then we would recommend you go see The Taste of Things. Our reviewer, Thi Gammon, thought it was gorgeous, which is much in keeping with director Trần Anh Hùng’s growing oeuvre.

I am someone who shows my love through food, and this film speaks deeply to that side of me. It follows cook Eugenie and her boss, the famed French gourmet chef Dodin, over 20 years as they impress the world’s best chefs and grow closer in the process. Dodin wants nothing more than for Eugenie to be his wife, but things are not so easy in the world of romance as they are in the world of food for the pair.

It’s a simmering and sumptuous period romance with stellar performances from Juliette Binoche (Eugenie) and Benoît Magimel (Dodin). The process of cooking is given a lot of attention, with entire scenes given over to the dizzying processes of their kitchen.

If you’re looking for more romance, then why not watch the new Australian romcom Five Blind Dates? This film treads familiar ground, following a young woman who, to the dismay of her parents, is more concerned with running her business than looking for love. Tea shop owner Lia is forced to go on five blind dates, one of which her fortune teller tells her she will meet the love of her life.

It’s the sort of film that’s perfect for when you want something comforting and familiar, but don’t want to rewatch your favourite romantic comedy for the umpteenth time. Our reviewer, Jodi McAlister, found it refreshing to see a film about a Chinese Australian woman that, while treading a lot of familiar romcom tropes, managed to be distinct. It also only lasts 90 minutes, which in a world of two-hour plus films is something to celebrate.

Cocoon yourself further in beauty and romance at Tate Britain’s new exhibition, Sargent and Fashion. Did you know the American artist John Singer Sargent was a dab hand with pins and fabric? The man could make a dated cloak look new and dramatic again with a bit of time and a lot of vision, as the opening portrait to this exhibition attests.

Fashion historian Serena Dyer felt a bit drab next to Sargent’s impressive portraits of women in swirling taffetas and carefully draped silks – despite being kitted out for her visit in a great outfit and even accessorising with a Sargent painting necklace. It’s not a perfect exhibition – it fails to acknowledge the many anonymous women who created the fabulous garments on show and doesn’t say anything too exciting about Victorian fashion. However, what it does do is bring Sargent to a different audience, fashion lovers, and for those who are already fans, sheds light on a new and important side to his work.


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