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The Paradise Hills Trailer Offers a Pastel-Tinted Take on Cult Horror

Emma Roberts finds herself in a Stepford Wives style finishing school.

We all have our phobias. Be it spiders, snakes, clowns, or Babadooks, everyone is scared of something. My personal nightmare is being forced to wear white frilly couture while trapped in a prison-like etiquette school, so you can imagine how terrifying I found this trailer for Paradise Hills to be.

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The film, which marks the feature debut of Spanish filmmaker Alice Waddington, is visually arresting with lavish costumes and a colorful pastel palette that conjures images of Marie Antoinette and The Hunger Games. It clearly shares some themes with both films: young women being molded, elevated, and served up like sacrificial lambs.

The synopsis for the film reads:

On an isolated island, Uma (Emma Roberts) wakes up to find herself at Paradise Hills, a facility where high-class families send their daughters to become perfect versions of themselves. The facility is run by the mysterious Duchess (Milla Jovovich) where calibrated treatments including etiquette classes, vocal lessons, beauty treatments, gymnastics and restricted diets, revolve all physical and emotional shortcomings within two months. The outspoken Uma finds solace and friendship in other Paradise Hills residents — Chloe (Danielle McDonald), Yu (Awkwafina) and Mexican popstar Amarna (Eiza Gonzalez). Uma soon realizes that lurking behind all this beauty is a sinister secret. It’s a race against the clock as Uma and her friends try to escape Paradise Hills before it consumes them all.

Paradise Hills debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, where it received mixed reviews. Leslie Felperin of The Hollywood Reporter described the film in her review saying, “Words can’t do justice to the truly lavish sets and costumes on display here which are so dazzling, intricate and bizarre they serve as a useful distraction from the awkward dialogue and plot holes … Like the classic British TV series from the 1960s, The Prisoner, another obvious touchstone here, it doesn’t make much sense — but if you watch it stoned, it’s great.”

Vulture’s Nate Jones described the film as “Paradise Hills truly has everything: brainwashing sessions on top of a carousel horse suspended 40 feet in the air; lesbian subplots that emerge out of nowhere; Milla Jovovich as a Nurse Ratched type with magical powers; editing that might be elliptical, or might just be bad. But the third act at least is full of pleasantly spiky twists that suggest more interesting ideas and world-building than the rest of the movie gives us.”

And to all this I say, YES PLEASE. Give me a bonkers cult horror fantasy from a female point of view. I will gladly watch a Stepford Wives with flavors of Midsommar, Tarsem Singh, and Paris Fashion Week. Original ideas are in such rare supply, so even if the story isn’t all there I will be happy to lose myself in a candy-colored world of nightmares led by Milla Jovovich in designer duds.

After all, as s girl who grew up in the South, I can assure you there is nothing more disturbing than debutante culture and forced etiquette classes. Between the visuals, the cast, and the synopsis, I’m excited to see what madness Paradise Hills has in store when it hits theaters in November.

What did you think of the trailer? Are you on board or will you be taking a pass?

(via Jezebel, image: Samuel Goldwyn Films)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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