MOVIE NIGHT! Danish Priests, French Noblemen, and Eldritch Horror

A Danish priest braves the watery wilderness of Iceland in Godland. Credit: Janus Films.


By Glenn McDonald

Every other week, our Movie Night! column previews the best upcoming films showing in Chapel Hill theaters – for those who still like to go out to the movies. While Covid remains an issue, all local venues have taken measures to make their spaces safe. Also please remember that bookings and schedules change all the time, so always check online before heading out.


Opening April 21 at the Chelsea


Opening April 21 at the Chelsea and Silverspot

With the right story onscreen, the movie theater can turn into a time machine. The immersive nature of old-fashioned, in-the-theater moviegoing amplifies the effect of period pictures and historical films. For us history nerds, it’s one of the few unambiguous benefits of modern living.

Two films opening locally this week offer intriguing opportunities for the discerning time traveler. The first, Godland, is an import from Icelandic director Hlynur Pálmason. Set in the late 19th century, the film chronicles the journey of a Danish priest sent to build a new parish church in the remote wilds of Iceland.

Check out the official trailer for a sense of the tone and approach with this one. Godland is filled with big skies, frozen tundra, raging rivers, and terrifying volcanoes. Humans-versus-nature is one of our oldest and most durable story templates. There’s something inherently compelling about watching characters with limited resources fight for survival in a hostile environment.

The second option this week provides a different kind of historical backdrop. Chevalier tells the true story of French-Caribbean nobleman Joseph Bologne, a “free man of color” in the elite cultural and political circles of 18th century France.

Later known by his title Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Bologne lived an impossibly interesting life. He was a renowned composer, virtuoso violist, and world-champion fencing master. He even rubbed shoulders with Mozart and Marie Antionette before encountering a spot of unpleasantness known as the French Revolution.

Chevalier has earned good reviews since coming off its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Everyone seems to be particularly impressed with the lead performance from Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (The Trial of the Chicago 7). But for history nerds, much of the appeal will come from the art direction and production design – a chance to peek into the VIP sections of Paris, circa 1780.

Evil Dead Rise

Opening April 21 at Silverspot

Horror fans will likely be aware of this one already, the long-awaited new installment in the legendary Evil Dead franchise.

The first two films in this series, The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987) were required curriculum where I grew up in suburban Detroit. Filmmaker Sam Raimi was one of our own and made his first short films at Michigan State University. Raimi went on to bigger things, but his oddball vision has since been embraced by a new generation of filmmakers.

The latest movie follows the same basic Lovecraftian template as the others: Hapless young people discover an eldritch tome of forbidden magical lore, which opens a portal into hell.

The Evil Dead movies are not for everyone. Raimi brought a new visual style and exuberant tone to the horror genre, but these movies are still decidedly hardcore, filled with demons and zombies and gleeful gore. Definitely review the trailer if you’re at all unsure.

Quick Picks:

Another cherished childhood classic, much gentler in tone, opens in local theaters next week: Judy Blume’s classic, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Next up on Silverspot’s Flashback Cinema series: Blazing Saddles (1974), April 23 and 26; and Footloose (1984), April 30 and May 3.

The Lumina is holding over several of the current crowd pleasers in circulation, including Air, the new John Wick movie, and the surprisingly good Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.

The Varsity is currently playing The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Up next: Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3, opening May 5.

On April 29, the Chelsea will kick off its annual dance film series in collaboration with the American Dance Festival. Check the website for more details.

Glenn McDonald is a Chapel Hill freelance writer and contributing film critic with Indy Week.

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