A few years ago, a Spanish filmmaker called Alice Waddington made a splash on the festival circuit with a short titled Disco Inferno. It seemed to be the calling card of a bright new talent, and anticipation grew to see what Waddington—already a stand-out in the advertising world—would do with a feature film. Her feature debut, Paradise Hills, is now here, and it has a trailer for us to judge. It looks lavish, and like a complete trip.
Waddington has assembled a squad of rising talent, including Awkwafina, Danielle MacDonald, and Eiza Gonzalez, with Scream Queen Emma Roberts heading the pack and Milla Jovovich providing adult supervision. If nothing else, Paradise Hills is incredibly well timed to capitalize on Awkwafina’s burgeoning leading-lady status as The Farewell pushes her further in front of audiences. And Emma Roberts is still looking for that thing that will put her over the top and make her a household name, like her aunt. I don’t think that will be Paradise Hills. It looks too weird.
I get a strong fairytale vibe from the trailer, with obvious nods to Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty. There is also a bit of a Stepford vibe, and maybe a little bit of Ex Machina with the combination of nature and technology. This also reminds me of the work of Peter Strickland, who combines genre elements and meticulous art direction to great effect (his latest is In Fabric, the “haunted dress” movie). Super curious to see how Waddington pulls it all together. Disco Inferno is cool, but shorts don’t have to be cohesive in the same way as a feature—the expectations are different. This trailer is a little disjointed, though that might just be cutting around whatever is really going on with the women (robots?) at this school (prison?). Paradise Hills LOOKS gorgeous, but I’m not entirely sold on the concept. I might also be scared by the presence of Milla Jovovich, star of so many terrible sci-fi movies. I’m not sure what to make of Paradise Hills, but Waddington has shown so much promise. Here’s hoping she delivers.