Paradise Hills (2019)

Where’s Nacho Vigalondo?

I mean, seriously: the eccentric Spanish director who’s created one unique film after another used to start talking about his next project while he was promoting the current one.

And yet I never heard any “what’s next” comments from him after Colossal (2016) came out.

Apparently, there were a few rumors running around (which never got my way at the time) he was going to direct Paradise Hills, but in fact, the film was directed by first timer, Alice Waddington and Nacho only gets a screenwriting credit.

The second one, at that.

Now we all know film is an artform, but the reality is that it is also an industry.  Movie credits are far from arbitrary and have even been the cause of quite a few unpleasant battles..  So the writer listed first is usually the one considered primarily responsible for what we see, while the second one contributed far less — perhaps a final polish, or an early draft which was largely abandoned.  That “and” may mean he had a larger part in the script, but then, it might not.

Nacho doesn’t even get the “story by” credit.

But Alice does, along with Sofía Cuenca (who’s listed second).

Does Paradise Hills seems like a Nacho Vigalondo film?  That’s harder to answer.

Uma, a young elite woman, wakes up in a curious school for girls run by the strange but superficially charming Duchess (Mila Jovovich).  Its mission is to take elite girls who are somewhat…troublesome to their families and turn them into someone the families can be proud of.

But something is wrong in Paradise Hills, beneath its genteel and cultured surface and Uma and her new friends try to find out its sinister secrets before they become the seemingly perfect versions of themselves the school turns out.

The film itself is lush, with its beautiful island settings, the extravagant architecture, the sedate but often weird costumes.  it all feels slightly off kilter and the sinister overtones which keep surfacing seem all too plausible.

As ultimate secrets go, the final reveal is a bit more prosaic when we finally get there, and it is debatable, despite all the high tech hardware, whether it is science fiction or not.

It is certainly hard to see Nacho’s hand in any of this.

Until, that is, we finally reach an utterly bizarre revelation about a major character, which is so weird and firmly established in WTF Land that one knows it had to have come from Nacho.

Was that strange twist originally meant to be the cornerstone of Paradise Hills‘ much freakier original secret? Was it all meant to have sort of a Dr. Moreau sort of vibe in the first draft?

After all, she said it was something her mother had done to her.  Maybe in Nacho’s version, others met similar fates as well.

So it all brings us back to the first questions we pondered:   did Nacho start out with a weird idea for a movie only to lose control of it?  did Nacho’s script get completely rewritten? Did he merely do a bit of a tweak on someone else’s script?  Or did he help them to develop the story?

I don’t know.  Thanks to that wacky final, well, boss monster, I’m inclined toward the first one.

But I’d still like to know:

Where’s Nacho?

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