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By midlandsmovies, Aug 19 2018 03:05PM

Review - Movie Catch Up Blog 2018 - Part 2

Another selection of films from 2018 that we've caught up with later in the year!

Blockers (2018) Dir. Kay Cannon

A 90s style sex comedy which harks back to its closest cousin American Pie (1999) Blockers tells the story of three girls who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. With their protective parents discovering their saucy plans, they endeavour to prevent their offspring’s goals in a series of (“cock”) blocking moves. A directorial debut of some comedic flair, Blockers takes what could be a seedy premise and gives it a dash of heart which American comedies so much need to avoid the full-on gross-out humour and improv-style that has plagued the genre in the 2010s.

Starring Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena – the ex-wrestler is surprisingly becoming one of my favourite American comedians and a far better actor than The Rock in my opinion – they are the trio of parents who try to stop their children Julie (Kathryn Newton), Sam (Gideon Adlon) and Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) from doing the dirty.

As well as the solid gags and situations, a splattering of deeper themes are sprinkled throughout including overprotective parents, blossoming sexuality and parental neglect during difficult teenage years. And whilst a couple of scenes seemed unnecessary – a rectum beer bong (!) is probably the worst offender – all 6 lead actors do well with the material as they give their characters heart and empathy. Blockers’ best aspect are the honest performances and tender moments however. Hardly breaking new ground, the film is a fun romp (pardon the pun) that takes its ideas seriously but with a winning formula of hilarity and honesty. 7/10

The Endless (2018) Dir. Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

With a draw dropping trailer, The Endless promised a dark drama with fantastic visuals as a strange, possibly apocalyptic, entity descends on a cult in the wilderness. Directors Benson and Moorhead also star as two brothers who return to a mysterious group of zealots they escaped from in their past. Struggling to move forward in their lives, the brothers have differing views of the cult and whilst their friends seem the same as many years ago, eerie events lead them to suspect there are still many unanswered questions.

The film sadly doesn’t live up to the trailer promise and opens poorly with an attempt to instil mystery falling flat with bland talking head interviews and a convoluted explanation of the events so far. Once the brothers arrive at the compound the film steps up a gear but spectacularly fails to provide any drama to keep the narrative pushing forward. With trees falling, a baseball apparently “floating” and a stranger repeatedly running there’s plenty of mysteries set up to explore but the Endless struggles to engage with rather dull characters and a narrative that, somewhat ironically, never gets going. As it proceeds I found my interest waning and with so little conflict or explanation, the worst state of all kicked in and I started not to care.

[Spoiler] The film’s one interesting concept is a reveal that this movie actually cross-overs with the directors’ previous film Resolution. If you are to watch the Endless then I highly recommend you catch that first. Aside from the surprise sequel concept (it’s no Split I assure you) there are some obvious circular comparisons in the visuals (a cup here, a ring fireplace there) which showed the inexperience of the directors with such weak parallels.

Whilst there were attempts to explore the truths behind the inexplicable events, I had sadly already lost interest by the final act. Comparisons to the TV show Lost were inevitable when rabbit hole story threads go down other rabbit holes, which, after a while, simply made no sense. In the end though, a great set of ideas and some admirable rich themes are completely undercut by a stale and moribund narrative and bland characters. A real missed opportunity that endlessly disappoints. 6/10

Ghost Stories (2018) Dir. Andy Nyman & Jeremy Dyson

A horror anthology with echoes of Jacob’s Ladder, Ghost Story also has a splattering of dark comedy by co-writer and co-director Jeremy Dyson from the legendary League of Gentlemen. Fellow writer-director Andy Nyman also stars as the film’s lead as a presenter who debunks psychics, but is then sent to investigate three mysterious tales by the famous 1970s supernatural sceptic who inspired him. First up is a ghostly fable involving a night watchman haunted by his daughter’s spirit, then a teenager spooked by a malevolent being in the woods and we end with a poltergeist encounter with a new-born.

The tales work well as short shockers but the film couldn’t quite work the balance of humour and horror. The appearance of comedic talents Martin Freeman and the Fast Show’s Paul Whitehouse meant the tales weren’t as terrifying as they needed to be. With a conclusion that felt more cop-out than revelatory, the whole production is well meaning but a bit meandering. Ghost Stories may supply a few charms for fans of retro UK Hammer horror but for me it would have suited TV far more than the cinema. A story of missed opportunities. 6/10

Mike Sales

By midlandsmovies, Mar 30 2017 10:16AM

Post-production has completed on Kaush Patel and Dave Hastings’ horror anthology ‘The House of Screaming Death’ and Midlands Movies Mike sees what’s next for this scary chiller from the region.

Featuring a chilling quartet of tales, ‘The House of Screaming Death’ features classic British actor Ian McNeice as a mysterious character known as The Architect – a storyteller who has a few demons to share of his own.

After a viral campaign ended with the release of the film’s trailer, the team behind the film have worked on adding the final touches including the completion of editing by Sam Woodhall who also oversaw the film’s visual effects.

Reuniting with local composer Matthew Calvert from the team’s previous award winning film ‘Checking In’, the musician has added a dark and macabre score influence by the likes of James Bernard – a staple of many Hammer Horror productions – as well as Christopher Young (Hellraiser).

“We all have jobs around the project, so we didn’t want to rush this at all”, says co-producer Kaush Patel. “People have been asking us for months about when the film will be finished, and we’ve always said, when it is as perfect as it can be within our limited resources as independent filmmakers. It has taken us four years to make this film a reality, so we are very protective of it as well as proud of all the cast and crew”, continues Patel.

Producer Dave Hastings adds “(the cast and crew) are all wonderful, and spending the last year seeing all their hard work, both in front of and behind the camera in the edit suite has been an absolute pleasure. It has just been an absolutely wonderful experience seeing all these components come together like they do here. As an independent filmmaker and for a film that has cost £4,000 to make overall, the dedication, passion and the love that has gone into this project has been overwhelming”.

Costing £4,000 to make, Patel wants encourage people to see what has been achieved on a small budget, especially within the struggling confines of the UK film industry.

The film is now entering the film festival circuit around the globe and will soon be receiving its local press screening at the amazing Manor House in West Bromwich. The film was in fact filmed around the location which doubled as the fictional and sinister Bray Manor, home of The Architect.

It will also also be receiving its first ever Birmingham premiere at the upcoming Fear-fest on Sunday May 28th (more info here: www.birmingham-fearfest.co.uk) which is organised by horror writer and journalist Steve Green

Before that, a cast and crew premiere is soon to be announced where everyone involved in the film will get first chance to see the scary fruits of their labour.

Aiming for a mid-late 2017 release, it truly is a Midlands-centric production with locations used in Walsall, Sandwell and Staffordshire areas with huge support from local councils. You can keep up to date on all the latest news by following the film on Twitter @screamin_death or by visiting the official website www.screamingdeath.co.uk

By midlandsmovies, Mar 6 2017 03:26PM

XX (2017) Dir. Roxanne Benjamin, Sofia Carrillo, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent & Jovanka Vuckovic


An 80 minute horror anthology from different female directors, XX takes an established formula (Creepshow, V/H/S) to tell 4 interesting tales about women, made by women but to be enjoyed by all.

A quick synopsis of the 4 shorts starts with The Box (from Jovanka Vuckovic) where a young boy peers into a stranger’s present on a train and then refuses to eat any food. With the family frustrated, he shares the secret with his sister and father who also stop eating. A gory dream of the family feasting on the desperate mother leads to the end when the 3 members die of starvation and the mother searches for the mysterious stranger. What?

The Birthday Party (Roxanne Benjamin) tells a story of another mother trying to hide the fact her husband has died during the craziness of arranging and hosting her daughter’s fancy dress birthday party. She hides the body around their home then places him in a giant panda suit before the inevitable grisly uncovering happens in front of the gang of children at the end which provides the top comedic moment of the films.

Moving into monster territory is Roxanne Benjamin’s Don't Fall where a group of friends’ desert trip is interrupted by an evil spirit they saw depicted in cave paintings. Maiming and killing its way through the friends, this is the most gory of the quadrilogy and perhaps the most fun, by sticking to well-known tropes and throwing in some chases and action.

Finally, Her Only Living Son (from Karyn Kusama) shows a single mum attempting to resolve issues with her misbehaving son who turns out may or may not be Satan’s offspring (!)

Interspersed with stop-motion-animation between each individual short, XX takes some intriguing ideas and new directions and I enjoyed the different tones of each. The first is pure mystery, the second is darkly comedic, the third channels the slasher genre, whilst the last has a classic Devil’s son theme. But the problems? Well, at under 20 minutes each, there is very little oomph to the proceedings, ideas cannot be developed and characters are broad.

Also, given the talent on show, the tales simply aren’t punchy enough. I was frustrated with the first, the second tale was funny but shot like a sitcom, the third was most fun whilst Her Only Living Son was a disappointment. Made by Karyn Kusama who directed one of my favourite films of last year (#2 of my top 10 of 2016 was her movie The Invitation), this stale story of a possibly demonic son was a good premise but delivered far too little.

It’s such a shame overall that I cannot massively recommend this audacious take on horror and the involvement of all-female writers and directors is certainly to be applauded. My passion for Anna Biller’s more interesting take on horror in The Love Witch is something I would recommend much higher. The stories here though? Sadly, as a fan of narrative cinema, they just didn’t shock or feel me with any terror or fear. An admirable attempt but only the most die-hard horror fans need to investigate this frustrating four-some.


Midlands Movies Mike

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