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By midlandsmovies, Aug 28 2019 12:40PM

Midlands Review - A Sort of Burial

Directed by Lee Charlish


Korky Films

'A Sort of Burial' is another film from the prolific Korky Films, purveyors of twisted animations and macabre humour. While this is arguably their most wholesome and heart-warming film, the subject matter is still deliciously morbid and irreverently tongue-in-cheek.

It's time to say goodbye to Basil, as siblings Alistair and Carla gather by his graveside with a bloke named Harry to pay their... respects? It's all rather perfunctory, as it's clear Alistair would rather not be there and Harry keeps cracking wise in a most disrespectful way, much to Carla's annoyance.

She's trying to mourn over here! The Vicar can barely get a word in with all the snide comments and feeble puns, but when he is heard it becomes obvious this is no typical funeral...

Not much more can be said about the story without spoiling the twist, though to be honest you're likely to get it almost immediately as it seems to be made fairly obvious from the start. That didn't spoil my enjoyment of the film at all, though, as the tone was spot on and lovingly cheeky. It's a little reminiscent of Death at a Funeral, which is by no means a bad thing!

The actors also do a great job, especially Marian Elizabeth as Carla, who struggles to keep the proceedings appropriately sombre.

There's something a little uncanny in how the film is shot that distracts a little. Perhaps it's the equipment used, or the lighting, but the scenes seem visually off, oddly flat. The framing of the burial scene is also subtly weird and off-putting; the reliance on close-ups makes it seem like the Vicar isn't in the same place as the mourners, even though they share a shot at the beginning of the scene.

Despite these distractions and the sensitive subject matter, this is a fun, cheeky little film, and the dedication at the end caps it off with a lovely warm fuzzy glow. This is one funeral that's sure to leave you with a smile on your face long past the service and well into the wake.

Sam Kurd

Twitter @splend

By midlandsmovies, Oct 18 2018 07:58PM

Midlands Review - Breakdown

Directed by Michael Ellis

“You just spent last night in a police station”.

And so says one of two male characters in a car as they drive through the countryside and come across a stranded woman attempting to get a phone signal as she stands next to a broken-down vehicle.

This is the set up of new Midlands film Breakdown from Michael Ellis and from the outset we get the impression that something very dark could be on the horizon involving this naughty duo.

Despite these shady themes the film is shot in stark daylight – throwing a bit of oddness into what could have been a potentially clichéd picking up a stranger on the road dynamic – but the quirky performances help to sell the unpleasant awkwardness as it plays out.

As the men stop to "help", they explain how their phones cannot be used to call for assistance (battery’s dead, left at home) and how they also know nothing of how to fix cars. This sets a tone of jet black comedy amongst what started as a seedy set up to the film.

Whilst the man who spent the night in the cells (Paul Findlay as “Passenger”) spins a yarn about his kindly offer of a lift, the second man’s worried brow (Dominic Thompson) is shown in close-up – hinting upon a repulsive inevitability he may have seen before. Offering to take her to a nearby garage, she reluctantly agrees to get into their car and the men and their new passenger drive off down the road together as we await their fate.

But director Ellis jumps 6 minutes before the story starts in an ingenious flashback which turns the tale upon its head. Without spoiling too much, the lady in distress (admirably played by Tenisha White) may not be as unaware as the first half of the short makes her out to be. We also get to see her character become less victim and more intimidator with an hilarious delivery of “piss off” which had me laughing despite the more pressing serious matters.

A fantastic short that handles its different tones with expertise, the twist in narrative during the middle section completely changes the direction of the story. As we are given new information we are suddenly thrust into a more complex dilemma which is surprising yet satisfying. Paul Findlay in particular as a man with obnoxious intentions gives a believable yet frightening turn, with his staring eyes and superb deadpan delivery of the lies his character spins.

With the right balance of story and plot twists and a trio of great acting turns in the film's brief 7-minutes, Michael Ellis has delivered a great short film that I hope not only does well on the festival circuit but brings more attention to this exciting filmmaker.

Mike Sales

Follow Michael and find out more about his film projects at his Twitter page: https://twitter.com/MEFilmsUK

By midlandsmovies, Aug 12 2018 07:00AM

Thoroughbreds (2018) Dir. Cory Finley

With a funky hipster trailer Thoroughbreds was sold as a modern knowing twist on something along the lines of Scream, when in fact it is a far darker exploration of revenge and bitterness away from slasher genre conventions.

We are first introduced to Olivia Cooke as Amanda (The Quiet Ones, Ouija) who joins fellow horror stalwart Lily, who is played terrifically by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split) as friends who begin a dark alliance together.

Amanda states she feels little emotion and has been in trouble for animal cruelty after putting her injured horse out of misery with a knife. After being forced to meet Lily owing to a concerned parent, the pair soon rekindle their friendship and come across Lily’s cruel step-father Mark. Their smart teenager cynicism soon grows into far more creepy territory as they discuss the possibility of killing him.

Taylor-Joy as the prim puritan who slowly reveals her morbid aims is excellent and her steely persona contrasts with Cooke’s troubled and emotionally stunted Amanda who is a mix of disturbing unhappiness and dark sarcasm.

The late (and great) Anton Yelchin appears as a drifter druggie who duo try to lure into committing the crime as the girls twist and scheme to arrange their macabre proposal. His scatty and thoughtless criminal is a more humorous role and gives the film some space outside the claustrophobic confines of Lily’s oppressive house.

Thoroughbreds therefore sits with both Heavenly Creatures (1994) and Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker (2013) as brilliant left-field and artistic studies of evil teenage tearaways. And its intentionally slow and deliberate camera moves and suburban setting are akin to those found in The Killing of a Sacred Deer and allows audiences to both be drawn into the image whilst slowly building unbearable dread. This is especially true during the third act as their psychotic plans begin to play out.

New York composer Erik Friedlander delivers a beautifully eerie score which compliments the well-designed visuals and director Finley shows a masterful control and maturity in his debut feature.

With Taylor-Joy having success with a string of hit horror roles, she is also developing far beyond her “scream queen” tag and Thoroughbreds is another fantastic addition to her career. With Cooke’s sociopathic Amanda matching her every step along the way and Yelchin showing why he is a talent so sorely missed, the film delivers a wonderful atmospheric mix of themes.

Thoroughbreds is an accomplished exploration of both egotistical and conflicted morals with an exceptional cast working at the top of their game.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Mar 13 2018 09:29PM

Mom and Dad (2018) Dir.Brian Taylor

About two-thirds of the way in to Mom and Dad I thought to myself, “Hey, this is on a level of ridiculousness I haven’t seen in a long time...probably since Crank”. Imagine my surprise that Mom and Dad writer/director Brian Taylor is one half of the directing duo who brought us not only Crank 1 and 2 but Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Bringing back Nic Cage from the latter, this film twists the traditional zombie narrative by showing the traditional family as a unit of killers and victims. In this case, static on the radio and television is turning parents into killers of their own kids. The director's visceral visuals pop from the screen from the outset with a strange 70s-style grindhouse intro sequence and the weirdly kinetic stylistic choices continue throughout.

The film begins as a soap opera with the usual family dynamics about school and disapproving parents upset about boyfriend choices and homework. However what begins as a set of mundane routines soon moves into unsettling sequences as the static “infects” parents who attempt to maim and murder their young ones.

Cage mixes his “family man” persona with his legendary “full-on Cage” mode and the fact an audience can tell he is in on the joke makes his OTT performance twisted yet funny. An impressive Selma Blair does more with her mother character who moves subtly from caring guardian to an evil-doer who even attempts to harm a newborn in a hospital.

I’ve mentioned many times I’m not the biggest zombie film fan which is its biggest hurdle it has to overcome. However, there’s slightly more going on here as the parents talk to each other thus giving us their viewpoint – although Cage mostly just shouts uncontrollably. Morbid humour can be found as the parents bond over how best to kill their children and an impressively constructed scene sees Cage and Blair attempt to gas their children (Anne Winters as Carly Ryan & Zackary Arthur as Josh Ryan) out of a locked basement. But their wily offspring have an explosive surprise in a sequence that is thrilling and comical.

The music is clearly an intended choice to connect with a young (and knowing) audience as we get Bill $aber’s I Know that You Pussies Don’t Want It alongside punk band Reagan Youth and a twisted use of Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love.

Mom and Dad gleefully says “this is me, I’m here, and this is what I want to do” and does so with reckless abandon although one’s enjoyment is related to what extent you go along with its ideas and ignore its many structural flaws and lack of depth. From Nic Cage barking like a dog and hollering like a coyote to a fun cameo from Lance Henrikson, the film is ultimately nonsense. And it fails the most when it attempts to go beyond its b-movie roots with a somewhat superficial commentary on parenting, children and the stress of family life.

In the end, not without its chilling charms, whatever message Mom and Dad is trying to say, it gets overshadowed and lost against its style and silly theatrics. Beyond its Friday-night frills, it is a muddled mess that may prove too berserk for most audiences.


Midlands Movies Mike

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