Happy Friday the 13th, everyone. If you’re living in Los Angeles, congratulations, because in doing so you’re already celebrating this notoriously creepy holiday appropriately. Aside from its macabre history (Manson, the Black Dahlia), it’s become a destination for dark twisted fantasies as of late. For a minute the city was almost at capacity in terms of comedy-leaning television: Transparent, You’re the Worst, and not one but two Netflix series, Love and Flaked. But judging by this year’s slate of movies, the constant sunshine, looming hills, and shadowy palm trees have a totally sinister appeal as well.
Take Under the Silver Lake: Last week it was announced that Andrew Garfield would be starring in director David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to the eerie, era-bending 2015 chiller It Follows, which is being described as “a modern-day-noir crime thriller” by Variety. Yesterday Dakota Johnson joined the project, and it begins filming—possibly in or around the hipster neighborhood—at the end of the summer. While little else is known about the plot, we’re confident it will be just as visually and emotionally tense as It Follows. (But will it feature a haunting synth score is the question.)
Next week, Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon premieres at Cannes, and is set for release the following month. Elle Fanning stars as a top model who arrives in Los Angeles and is soon terrorized by her competitors. In the NSFW trailer below, she gets sized up by Christina Hendricks in an office against a backdrop of what looks like Beverly Hills and later prances at dusk along a railing in the canyon. The rest of the scenes give off major Black Swan vibes, except blue-lit and Malibu-adjacent. Refn’s last affair with the seedy corners of California, 2011’s Drive, scored big with critics, but the Danish director has expressed fatigue with stories about violent men and has turned his attention to an industry where the women are (arguably) more vicious.
Last month, The Invitation premiered in theaters and on-demand so that anyone who saw it definitely wanted to avoid those aforementioned hills for a while (and good luck if you live there). Director Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body, Girlfight) and writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (Crazy/Beautiful, Clash of the Titans) had been contemplating the script for years, and Kusama’s attention to uneasy ambience made it one of the best, and certainly more original, movies of 2016. To give too much away would be to spoil it, but the subgenre is a personal favorite: old friends at a dinner party, which never fails to go abysmally wrong. The trailer doesn’t give too much away, but it does unfold in a palatial house replete with mid-century furnishings, and that isn’t the only nod to distinctly L.A. signifiers (Scientology, mindfulness, Manson).
Also worth mentioning was last year’s under-appreciated The Gift. Maybe mid-century isn’t worth the price tag, everyone. This film likewise created a lot of tension with its glassed-in hillside setting, and one off-putting run-in at the Urban Home in Sherman Oaks. Directed by and starring Joel Edgerton, The Gift was something of a throwback to ’90s-era vengeance thrillers that is hardly softened by all the blooming bougainvillea and expansive vistas. So, yeah, maybe this city is officially ominous.