Die Hölle (Cold Hell)
Cab driver Özge Dogurol (Violetta Schurawlow) after a trying night gets home to her apartment and witnesses a murder in the opposing flat, and she is seen by the murderer. The police are called but inspector Steiner (Tobia Moretti) doesn’t have any real interest, and won’t give her any protection.

However, they start to take more notice when the killer begins to stalk her, in the process mistakenly murdering her cousin Ranya (Verena Altenberger). This also means that Özge is now looking after her child while on the run from the killer. They are given an option to go to a women’s hostel but sharply leave. Leaving the child with her father and mother is not an option as she left the household because of her father’s abuse.

Director Stefan Ruzowitzky has imbued Cold Hell with a grimy colour palette though at times cold and vibrant, setting off the Vienna night in a way that doesn’t get seen very often. This also goes to the parts of Vienna that most tourists, or even locals will venture into. Ragged housing and streets; a squalid area with people piled on top of each other.

Some parts don’t hang that well. The relationship that develops between Özge and Steiner appears unlikely to start with and never really convinces that much as it progresses. Not so much a horror film as a very violent thriller, it is slick, cold and hard with some excellent action sequences: the killer in the back of Özge’s forcing her to drive, fight and eventually crash the car in the river. Özge however does get a chance to let loose her Thai boxing skills on the killer in a pulsating chase and fight scene on the Vienna metro.

The serial killer (Sammy Sheik) is one off the shelf when it comes to his mad motives for killing women. But his motive, as written, could be read as a reference to Islamic fundamentalism, or wider still. It’s telling that when his religion is mentioned the reaction is that he’s not a Muslim but a maniac. 3/5

This an odd very stylised film debut from Norbert Keil (co-written with Richard Stanley) that has a few things to say about modern attitudes to aging and its prevention. Kira (Rebecca Forsythe) has a dermatological problem that’s causing her finger to crust over, and is starting to spread. Her dermatologist Dr Crober (Barbara Crampton) is cool about it and doesn’t have much to say.

Around this time Kira meets her neighbour Sofia (Lucie Aron) who seems to be the answer to her dreams: she’s beautiful, successful, happy-go-lucky, and really fancies her. An accident at home leads Kira to discover that other people’s skin will replace hers. Though it can only be living skin as a trip to the morgue swiftly informs her. So, actually quite reluctantly, she sets out to kill and flay to save her hide.

Flashbacks, blackouts and amnesia do muddle this a bit, though it does come together satisfactorily as we get towards the end, which is protracted. 3/5

Imitation Girl
The obvious first reference for this film is the Man Who Fell To Earth, though other than falling to earth, it not a good idea to stretch it. An alien black gooey lifeform landing on earth, and taking the shape of the first image it comes across. This happens to be Julianna (Lauren Ashley Carter) who works in the porn industry and based in New York.

The alien, or Imitation, now tottering about like a new born pony and dressed in Julianna’s cover costume starts to cross the desert and slowly pick up what human life is about. She needs to eat but it doesn’t agree with her, she vomits. Imitation eventually stumbles into the lives of Iranian brother and sister Saghi (Neimah Djourabchi) and Khaher (Sanam Erfani) who take her in. There she learns Farsi, about television and generally about being human.

Meanwhile, cover star Julianna is living the life of porn star, deadbeats and drug use. She’s having doubts about the whole game when she happens to bump into her old piano teacher (Marsha Stephanie Blake) who suggests that she auditions for a conservatory place. It’s a disaster and a potential friendship is destroyed when her lover flushes her drugs down the toilet, and she goes nuts.

Imitation happens to catch an image of Julianna on the tv and stealing money makes her way to New York, where they meet.

Ashley Carter is exceptional in the dual roles of a groggy, curious and naïve alien, and the street smart, heart-smashed and vulnerable Julianna.

Beautifully written and directed by Natasha Kermani it looks superb. It’s ostensibly a science fiction film by virtue of the fact that there is an alien in it. However, it deals with everyday difficulties of a stranger in a strange land, and dashed childhood ambitions. What there is running through the film is aspiration: the alien is an enquiring creature, eager to learn, while Julianna, as good as she is at her job, seeks a higher fulfilment. Their meeting is inevitable but the ending is ambiguous. This is one that requires a repeat viewing. 4/5