Four new films to see this week

Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt in Hollywood epic Babylon, plus Iranian serial killer drama Holy Spider, Irish horror comedy Let the Wrong One In, and a documentary on the legendary Chelsea Hotel

Babylon ★★★1/2

Directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li, PJ Byrne, Lukas Haas, Olivia Hamilton, Tobey Maguire, Max Minghella. 18 cert, gen release, 189 min

Chazelle, director of La La Land and Whiplash, slips off the leash with this effluvial journey through the early days of Hollywood. Robbie is the wild young star. Pitt the older matinee idol. Calva a hopeful dragged into the lower reaches. Babylon offers an intriguing, infuriating, sometimes entertaining, sometimes preposterous oscillation between two warring extremes. It features some of Chazelle’s very best work. It features some of his clumsiest follies. When it is really buzzing — as in a long sequence concerning a day at the studio — you want it to go on forever. Which it kind of does. Full review DC

Holy Spider ★★★★★

Directed by Ali Abbasi. Starring Mehdi Bajestani, Zar Amir Ebrahimi. 16 cert, gen release, 118 min

Abbasi’s incisive follow-up to folk horror Border could be viewed as an antidote to the sickening vogue for “hot serial killers”. Holy Spider concerns Saeed Hanaei, a real life sexually motivated murderer, who, in 2000 and 2001, strangled at least 16 prostitutes in the holy Iranian city of Masshad. The film comes into its own as a procedural, tracking a dogged journalist Areez Rahimi (Ebrahimi, best actress at Cannes), who sets out to catch a killer that law enforcement isn’t especially bothered with. It’s a cracking, effective thriller, powered by uneasiness. Recent events in Iran render it more powerful still. Full review TB


Let the Wrong One In ★★★☆☆

Directed by Conor McMahon. Starring Karl Rice, Eoin Duffy, Anthony Head, Mary Murray, Lisa Haskins. 16 cert, gen release, 97 min

A shower of Dublin women return from Transylvania to make vampires of the locals in the latest rough-and-ready comic horror from veteran McMahon. The film does often look eye-wateringly cheap. The perfunctory attempts to address social issues do not really come off. But it works through its tolerable high concepts with a great deal of verve and charm. The idea of the traditionally glamorous, diaphanously robed Brides of Dracula being reinvented as a Dublin hen party is close to irresistible. Rice is charming as a decent bloke cast involuntarily into the grimly fantastic. Full review DC

Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel ★★★☆☆

Directed by Amélie van Elmbt, Maya Duverdier. Featuring Merle Lister, Bettina Grossman, Nicholas Pappas, Steve Willis, Zoe Pappas. Digital platforms, 80 min

Diverting doc, endorsed by Martin Scorsese, concerning the New York hotel that homed Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Arthur Miller, Mark Twain and many other legends. Various residents rage against the loss of walls and rooms in a space where bohemians were once allowed to submit artworks in lieu of rent. It’s a “slow-motion rape”, says resident Steve Willis. The Dutch co-directors are more interested in preserving a sense of space than in rehearsing arguments about capitalist greed, the commodification of art, and gentrification. Entertainingly ramshackle, but short of historical context. Full review TB

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic