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By midlandsmovies, Oct 18 2019 11:53AM



The Devils Familiar


Directed by Kieran 'Ran' Edwards


2019


From Severed Head Entertainment comes The Devil Familiar, a new horror film within the found footage sub genre. Shot on location around Worcestershire, West Midlands, the film follows two filmmakers who want to explore a conspiracy theory that a wild beast has been mauling people in the woods and not the woman who has been convicted of the crimes.


The film starts in a Police C.I.D. meeting room, with a senior officer briefing others about a camcorder that has been found locally in a bad condition. However the tape inside has miraculously been salvaged which he is about to play them. And he warns them that in his 30 years of active duty he hasn't seen anything this brutal and shocking.


Whilst it is evidently clear from the first minute that this film has been made on practically no budget it doesn't deter the director from chilling his audience early doors.


As the discovered tape starts rolling we are quickly introduced to two university students, Elliott (Uriel Davies) and Jake (Kieran Edwards) who are in their final year of studying film and video production. They have been tasked with a final film for their degree which they have chosen to be a documentary about the 2006 Ribbesford Woods Murders, a case in which a man was brutally killed and others mysteriously vanish.


A woman, Sally Edwards, was charged and later convicted of murder - a conviction she denies whilst serving her sentence in a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Elliott and Jake believe this account to not be true and embark on trying to find fresh evidence for their film. What happened in 2006? Is the local legend of a wild beast to blame or was Sally Edwards a stone cold killer?


In similar fashion to probably the most famous found footage horror film The Blair Witch Project, the film follows the formula of having our protagonists interviewing experts of the case, people who knew the victim and suspect and listening to the rantings of the locals. I have seen some efforts of the found-footage sub genre to be stodgy and uninteresting however to keep these interviews and the first half of the film fresh and alert, Edwards employs the use of switching between colour and black & white in shots, a subtle but necessary element in keeping the audience engaged.


After a secure visit with the convicted Sally Edwards goes haywire, this spurs the two students to double their efforts. They persuade Logan (David Clarke) a zoologist, and Rex (Ross Mooney) the brother of one of the victims to join them in travelling through Ribbesford Woods, to finally see if there is a mythical creature once and for all.


Shot on location throughout Worcestershire, the film enjoys being able to shoot at length in places like Kidderminster Hospital and West Midlands Safari Park. A welcome sight for such a low budget feature as it gives the viewer a real belief in the world that director Kieran Edwards has created.


The Devils Familiar will draw obvious comparisons to the previously mentioned The Blair Witch Project, one being the similarities between plot and characters and the second the way sound is used to evoke terror. Whilst at times the film does appear to be a little too familiar, it definitely feels like more of a love letter than a lazy remake.


Ultimately I think this would of worked better as a short, at a run time of 56 minutes the film becomes a victim of its own aspirations as there was not enough original content embedded in the film to justify its length. However for a zero budget feature this will certainly entertain avid fans of the found footage sub-genre, as you can clearly see the passion from the filmmakers spread across every shot.


Guy Russell

Twitter @BudGUyer


By midlandsmovies, Oct 16 2019 12:00PM

The Invitation (2016) Dir. Karyn Kusama


Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus, in case it drives you mad like it did me) plays Wil in this new thriller-drama set around a strange reunion dinner party in the Hollywood Hills.


We open with Wil and his girlfriend Kira driving to the home of Wil's ex-wife Eden and her husband David along with a host of friends for a long overdue catch up.


The hosts are a married couple who disappeared for two years at a grief support group abroad but have returned to reunite with their friends. Wil and Eden still have unresolved issues over the accidental death of their son, but this is put aside to enjoy the evening with a familiar group of friends - some old and a few new, including Sadie and Pruit, whom they met at the support retreat.


Despite the warm welcome, Wil relives his past angst throughout the house, remembering his ex-wife's attempted suicide whilst finding more pills and wondering why doors are locked. The film creates an immense atmosphere of dread and awkwardness, none more so when the happy couple share a video of a terminally ill woman passing away during their stay at the retreat.


The uncomfortableness continues as they play a game of "dare" which results in Pruitt (a fantastic turn by John Carroll Lynch of Zodiac fame) admiting to a past crime he's now forgiven himself for.


Despite their shock, Pruitt expresses regret and explains how the support group helped him deal with his pain whilst Wil's paranoia continues to increase. The film captures an atmosphere of intense claustrophobia as the guests are huddled together in rooms but whether this is out of choice or not is the question the movie poses.


Increasing irrational accusations from Wil about his hosts' intentions are excused as a result of his emotional fragility over the death of his son and the film keeps the audience guessing as to why the guests are here - something sinister, or is it to deal with unresolved issues from their pasts.


The film probes themes of mistrust, grief and loss and its achievement lies in not letting the viewer - as a guest themselves - get too comfortable within the house. A trail of circumstantial evidence - a bottle of pills, an unattended laptop, glasses of wine - are merely breadcrumbs to the film's subsequent thrilling reveal.


The final act turns the screws up for the viewer as secrets are exposed and a sudden twist of events leads to darkly tragic conclusions. Although the film is almost entirely filmed within the anxious environment of this lavish gathering, a final shot implicates the wider ramifications of the proceedings.


Sinister and slow-building, The Invitation is one of those films that rarely get made these days - a mid-budget thriller with a great premise and well-executed. It also reminded me of the thrills of the "unknown threat", covered in indie sci-fi flick Coherence (2013) which was similarly set around a middle-class American dinner party.


Director Karyn Kusama has got nearly everything right with the film, getting great performances out of a good mixed cast, as well as filling her dark shots with trepidation, terror and a fair amount of fear. One tiny flaw were the character motivations - at times I was shaking my head in disbelief about their choices - but this was a one-off and towards the end I inwardly cheered as a guest got what they deserved.


Expertly crafted by Kusama, The Invitation creates anxiety through a superb central performance by Logan Marshall-Green, and is an alarming achievement where nothing is what it seems. Filled with fear and a few frightful revelations, this is one party I recommend you RSVP to on its release.


9/10


Michael Sales


The Invitation arrives on BluRay on 4th November 2019


Special Features

Commentary with Director Karyn Kusama and Writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi

The Making of The Invitation

Going Back Home - an interview with Director Karyn Kusama

There is Nothing to be Afraid of - an interview with Producer Nick Spicer

Tonight's the Night - an interview with Writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi

Playing Sadie - an interview with Actor Lindsay Burdge

English Subtitles for the Hard of Hearing

By midlandsmovies, Oct 3 2019 01:42PM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 4


Now deep into the second half of the year, there's more films being released in cinemas, on video-on-demand and home format than we can keep up with but we have three new reviews of some of the latest releases out there. In this review catch-up post we take a look at SKIN, MA & CHILD'S PLAY.




Skin (2019) Dir. Guy Nattiv


Jamie Bell plays real-life ex-white supremacist Bryon "Pitbull" Widner in this new dark drama asking whether a racist can be reformed. At various white-power gatherings, Bell acts as father figure to new recruits but begins to doubt his own convictions when he meets Danielle Macdonald as Julie Price and becomes an actual surrogate dad to her two children. Based on an amazing true story, Bell’s Neo-Nazi is covered in tattoos, including significant ones to his face and so the drama is punctuated with gruesome flash-forwards of tattoo removal scenes as his past is literally burnt away. The film has dashes of Imperium and American History X as it tries to get under the surface of the ugly face of American fascism.


Starting with eerily prescient scenes from 2009, the film mellows slightly in the middle before Bell makes a desperate call to a man who is trying to help people leave behind their Neo-Nazi past. As Bell denounces his previous life, he erases his tribal ink along with it. Danielle Macdonald (Dumplin’) delivers a warm turn as the empathetic wife, whilst Bell is great as the former skinhead. With a multifaceted performance, he looks for something (or someone) to blame but then takes control of his own life to make it better. With a timely subject matter, Skin delves into themes we’ve seen before but this almost unbelievably true life story gives hope to a better world by erasing, and learning from, one’s past mistakes. ★★★★



Ma (2019) Dir. Tate Taylor


Director Tate Taylor made 2011’s The Help which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture before his adaptation of The Girl on the Train earnt more than $122 million worldwide but what he is doing with Ma is anyone’s guess. Billed as a psychological horror, the film neither provides any depth to the psychological part and little in the way of horror either. In fact, 45 minutes in and all we have is a group of terribly broad and clichéd teenagers partying at a house owned by “Ma” (Octavia Spencer as Sue Ann "Ma" Ellington) who has lured the group to her basement as a place to consume alcohol under the relative ‘safety’ of her adult supervision. However, a humiliating incident from Ma’s past has built up a psychopathic resentment and her initial concern and protectiveness for the teens’ well-being slowly descends into ludicrous revenge sub-plots. Octavia Spencer, who was so excellent in Hidden Figures, does her best to hold the film’s under-developed aspects together but she cannot overcome the film’s rather large flaws. Unlike suggested in the trailer, the horror is sparse and the first terrible thing Ma does is at 1 hour 10 minutes into the film. Given the credits rolled at 1 hour 32 minutes, it really is a missed opportunity for what looks, on paper, to be an interesting set-up. The sewing of a teen’s mouth shut hints upon the gore and nastiness a film like this really should have had more of, but Ma ends up being a pretty terrible and boring film with a solid idea spoiled by its sub-par execution. ★★



Child's Play (2019) Dir. Lars Klevberg


80s video-nasty Child’s Play gets a technological upgrade in this reboot about a killer doll on a murderous rampage. Unlike earlier films in the franchise, the conceit here is rather than a killer’s soul being magically transferred to a toy doll, the recently released “Buddi” is a misfiring high-tech toy that interacts with other products from the Kaslan Corporation who make it. After a suicidal employee at a Vietnamese toy factory decides to disable the safety protocols of one of the dolls on the assembly line, the corrupt product ends up in 13-year old Andy’s hands. Andy (Gabriel Bateman) is a shy youngster who lives with his single mum Karen (Aubrey Plaza) and names his doll “Chucky" (oh-oh). Before long, the doll has murdered the family’s cat and decapitated his mum’s boyfriend after hearing Andy bad-mouth both of them. The film wisely takes broad aim at consumerist culture but the comedy-horror works well in the style of 80s fare like Gremlins as the characters never nod-and-wink to the audience. This makes the dark comedy all the more funny. From table saws, blood spurts and a horrifying scalping, the required gore is present and the film’s young child actors are pleasantly relatable. Some 80s clichés work themselves in too – the investigator, the adults who don’t believe their kids, a finale in a department store – and these help solidify the tone in which the film aims for. Mark Hamill does great with his Joker-infused tones as the voice of Chucky also. Much better than it has any right to be, Child’s Play digital modernisation respects the origins of that first film and whilst it won’t win any high-brow awards, for this sort of thing it’s surprisingly entertaining. ★★★



Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Sep 18 2019 12:11AM



The Black Country Horror Shorts Film Festival launches in the Midlands


A new film festival for short horror films is launching in the area and is inviting the region’s filmmakers to send in their movies for their event.


The Black Country Horror Shorts Film Festival will take place at Kinver High School in Stourbridge on 25th January 2020 and filmmakers will have the chance to show their films by submitting a short film under 5 minutes before 14th December.


Based in the Black Country, the festival is being organised by Weeping Bank Productions who are hoping to make this an annual event.


“We have quite an amazing panel of judges including Henrik Harms, Adam Neville and Steven Green”, says one of the founders Alan Birch.


Formed by two well-known Black Country ‘Alans’, Weeping Bank Productions is a small independent entertainment company dedicated to the art of scaring people by way of reading original ghost stories.


After many years of treading the boards with various theatre groups, actor Alan Birch starred in two full length indie comedy films as David Tristram’s creation Inspector Drake.


“I’ve always loved the horror genre and what excites me most about telling these stories is the fact that the audience has no preconceptions. They really will be unprepared for just how scary they are”, adds Alan.



Co-founder Alan Smith who writes under the name A.G.Smith has gained praise for his novels from best-selling authors Anthony Horowitz and G.P.Taylor. His work with prisoners has seen him appear on Channel Four’s ‘Secret Millionaire’ and on BBC Radio 4’s PM Programme.


The pair met on the set of ‘Inspector Drake The Movie’ and have remained friends ever since. Once they discovered that they both shared a passion for horror, the idea of forming Weeping Bank Productions was hatched.


And as they launch the festival, they are keen to encourage everyone with a horror story to tell to get involved. The 1st prize for the festival winner is £200 (plus a crate of Batham’s Best Bitter) and 3 runners up will win £50 (plus six bottles of Batham’s).


The full list of judges are Adam L.G. Nevill (author of the horror novels 'Banquet for the Damned', 'Apartment 16' & more), journalist/writer/filmmaker Steve Green, Birmingham radio journalist Nina Das Gupta, writer A. G. Smith and Worcester writer and director Hendrik Harms.


To enter is just £10 and click this link and check out further festival information and full terms and conditions on the official site here:

https://www.weepingbankproductions.co.uk/horror-film-festival







By midlandsmovies, Sep 12 2019 12:35PM




Midlands Spotlight - Day of the Stranger


Whilst his other movie The Pocket Film of Superstitions is in full swing, local filmmaker Tom Lee Rutter is closing the book on another film that has had a more complicated journey.


And after a near-6 year battle, this highly unique and ambitious Midlands movie is finally all set to attract a cult crowd...


Billed as the only British Guerilla Acid Western ever made, new film Day of the Stranger was full of filming obstacles and hardships. With a traumatic behind the scenes story as dramatic as the movie itself, the film finally looks set to be unleashed upon the world.


In true guerilla fashion, filmmaker Tom Lee Rutter and his crew took to the sand-stoned countryside of Worcestershire to achieve the unthinkable - a West Midlands psychedelic, horror Western.


True to form, what started as a group of enthusiastic individuals making a film turned into an ordeal which spanned nearly 6 years of obstacles to get the film finished.


''Several times it nearly never happened, I was ready to bury it", says Tom.


"Everything you can imagine that went wrong went wrong - from erratic behaviour of certain individuals, constant re-shoots and re-casting to hard-drives dying on me. We had it all. Your classic underground film-making horror story.'' explains the director.


With the help of the enthusiasm of individuals and the recent involvement of new talent, new life has been breathed into the film and seen it to the finish line. 'It's a miracle we have a film at all, but such is the journey on the front-line of underground film.''


Now a trailer has been released along with an official poster. The film is a throwback homage to the sparse run of the acid-western sub-genre which included films such as Monte Hellman's The Shooting (1966), Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo (1970) and Robert Downey's Greaser's Palace (1972).


Aiming for an early 2020 world premiere and starring a wealth of talent including Gary Baxter (Beyond Fury), Richard Rowbotham (White Goods) and a special appearance by Gary Shail (Quadrophenia, Metal Mickey) Day of the Stranger looks set to offer something different to the world of cult and horror indie cinema.





By midlandsmovies, Sep 11 2019 11:02AM



It Chapter Two (2019) Dir. Andy Muschietti


The success of the first IT film came as a bit of an industry surprise with the best opening of a horror movie at the box office ever. The inevitable sequel was not just because of that – the book is “essentially” two parts anyways – so now we follow the Losers Club as adults as they return to Derry to fulfil their promise to each other to stop Pennywise the (killer) Clown if he ever returned.


Director Andy Muschietti builds upon the good work of his first film which, for me, is by far the best of the recent glut of mainstream Hollywood horror. But this time we have a selection of adults embodying grown-up versions of the child actors from the previous film.


Jessica Chastain/Sophia Lillis star as the old and young versions of Bev respectively, James McAvoy/Jaeden Martell are Bill, Bill Hader and Finn Wolfhard play Richie, Isaiah Mustafa and Chosen Jacobs are Mike, Jay Ryan and Jeremy Ray Taylor act as Ben, James Ransone and Jack Dylan Grazer are Eddie and finally Andy Bean and Wyatt Oleff play Stanley Uris.


As the gang reunite, the film sees their memory of past events slowly return and the success of the excellent young actors’ chemistry from the first film has led to the director inserting plenty of flashbacks to flesh out the story.


And of course, the fabulously malevolent Bill Skarsgård is Pennywise the Dancing Clown with his piercing eyes, child-like voice and drooling smile all coming back to scare the adults who are all dealing with their personal past demons too.


As well as the actors, the film is shot superbly and the glowing cinematography during the flashbacks harks back to the innocent past whilst the modern versions have a more contemporary look. And a smattering of humour, mainly built around the excellent Bill Hader helps keep the protagonists likeable.


However, despite some excellent work from the cast and filmmaker, there are some problems with that. The film is not really scary at all. A Thing-inspired spider-head and a tense meeting between an old lady and Jessica Chastain’s Bev are superb but an over-use of CGI and the humour is tonally a little off. There are also some “meta” moments with a film set location, a Stephen King cameo and constant references to McAvoy’s writer who is known for the bad endings of his published books. This makes the film feel more like the satirical Scream 2 and these self-references took me from the movie completely.


Also, we must talk about the runtime. At 169 minutes (!) it’s AT LEAST 30-minutes too long. The great drama played out by the gang works well but by the cataclysmic and over-the-top end confrontation, I was actually yearning for a conclusion. A Return of the Rings-style multi-ending added another 10 minutes on that and it soon became quite comically misjudged.


The cast (did I mention them at all?) really help the slightly ramshackle film from falling apart but with its aim to be “epic”, it falls flat at times despite the interesting dark themes of dealing with the past sitting nicely with some more positivity set within fun 80s retro references. In the end though, IT Chapter 2 is a more than solid 2 hour sequel with an added 50 unnecessary minutes that ideally could be wiped from your brain like a memory from Derry.


★★★½


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Aug 28 2019 10:13AM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 4


In this collection of recent reviews we take a look at ANGEL HAS FALLEN, KILLER'S ANONYMOUS, IN FABRIC and THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK.


Read on to hear our thoughts on some of these new 2019 cinema and dvd releases.



Angel Has Fallen (2019) Dir. Ric Roman Waugh

A frankly out-of-shape Gerard Butler returns in this third instalment in the Fallen film series following Olympus Has Fallen (the number 10 entry of our worst films of 2013) and London Has Fallen (the number ONE entry in our worst films of 2016) again playing secret service agent Mike Banning. Suffering from a form of PTSD, he protects US President (Morgan Freeman) from a drone attack but is implicated in the crime itself. Cue a tedious game of cat and mouse between an on-the-run Banning and his previous colleagues. He’s also chased by forces “unknown” (it’s so obvious from the outset who the culprits are) who want to get to Banning to finish the job and execute their conspiracy.


What we have then is an unexciting, monotonous and dreary “action” film whose 2-hour runtime feels like 2 weeks. Jada Pinkett as an FBI agent spouts tedious action-film clichés passing itself off as dialogue and its plot has been done numerous times before as seen in the Bourne franchise, Sentinel (2006) and most of M:I series as an operative is framed for a crime he didn’t commit whilst others attempt to bring them to justice.


Positives? Although I’m struggling to find many, when Banning meets his father (Nick Nolte) in his remote wood cabin, the film is given some much-needed pleasure with a tongue-in-cheek tone and some nifty banter. A mid-credits scene has to be seen to be believed too, so if you manage to make it to the end, stick around for that. I also thought the explosions were pretty spectacular with some stuntmen really taking a battering as they are thrown around. But the woeful quick editing on the fights makes them hard to follow and one brawl in a car at night is frankly unwatchable and shouldn’t be in a movie with this budget. In the end it may just be the best of the series, stay with me on this, as the others were beyond terrible and this is simply mostly bad. Action fans may find something in this that I didn’t get out of it, but for general audiences, the franchise should fall into retirement as soon as possible.


Killers Anonymous (2019) Dir. Martin Owen

This American crime thriller film directed by Martin Owen tells the story of a group of assassins being brought together in a secret hideaway situated in a London church after the assassination of an American Senator on UK soil. Opening with an elongated conversation between Gary Oldman and Jessica Alba – filmed strangely, as characters talk to the camera Peep Show-style – the group finally congregates in a small set of rooms as they share their backgrounds and “days since last killing” stories like an AA meeting. The film wastes its talented cast which includes a delicious Tommy Flanagan as Markus, an excellent Rhyon Nicole Brown as Alice, a subtle performance from MyAnna Buring as Joanna and stalwart Tim McInnerny as Calvin who all did their best with some awful dialogue. It could have worked as a more serious chamber piece like 12 Angry Men (1957) or pushed the envelope and gone further into the knowing horror of the more recent Would You Rather (2012) but in the end it sticks to a bland unsatisfying middle-ground. How Oscar-winner Gary Oldman got involved in this is anyone's guess and it most reminded me of the darkly comic Inside No. 9 both in flat TV look and its eclectic soundtrack. In the end though, what could have worked as a one-off ITV drama is not cinematic enough for the ideas it has. And sadly this more than tiresome movie tries to be a big screen blockbuster but is much more of a lacklustre little screen disappointment.

★★



In Fabric (2019) Dir. Peter Strickland

A horror comedy infused with Italian ‘Giallo’ genre stylings, In Fabric is a new movie featuring, bear with me, a killer dress. A ridiculous conceit, the film in fact uses this far-fetched idea to look at consumerism, desires and hypnotising capitalism. It stars Oscar-nominated Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Sheila, whose awful managers and worse dates increase her feeling of loneliness since her recent divorce. She purchases a crimson dress at the enigmatic Dentley and Soper's store from assistant Miss Luckmoore (an incredibly creepy Fatma Mohamed) who appears part of a ritualistic coven. The cursed dress leaves a strange rash on Sheila as the supernatural piece of clothing causes havoc with a washing machine and attempts to murder Sheila’s son’s girlfriend – played by a welcome but all too brief appearance from Gwendoline Christie. A sharp turn in the narrative though is where the film started to lose its way a little. The dress ends up in possession of washing machine repair man Reg Speaks (Leo Bill) whose story of hypnotism is far less interesting and developed than Sheila’s. In Fabric’s tone however seems not only to be hinting at classic Italian horrors but also by very British influences too. I saw hints of the satirical website Scarfolk Council, who is in itself influenced by the panic-filled sensibilities of 1970/80s government health and safety films and iconography. And In Fabric at times seems to be what Matthew Holness was attempting in Possum (2018) which was a snail-paced disappointment. A beautiful looking film of strong colours and lighting and a terrific cast playing bizarre and peculiar characters, In Fabric suffers most with its plotline switch at the halfway point, dismissing almost all of what came before it. Fans of the cinematic influences will lap it up but for me, it’s a slightly missed, but to be fair with a lot to like, opportunity to bring Suspiria to suburbia.

★★★



The Standoff of Sparrow Creek (2019) Dir. Henry Dunham

Written and directed by Henry Dunham in his feature debut The Standoff at Sparrow Creek tackles current U.S. obsessions with gun ownership, responsibility, media blame and political and social paranoia. Throwing us straight in, James Badge Dale plays ex-cop Gannon who has joined a local militia and ends up investigating his own group after one of them is suspected of a mass shooting at a police funeral. Information comes in sporadically over the police radio meaning a time limit is set, and in their secluded warehouse base one of their machine guns is suspiciously missing. Creating a sense of dread and hidden motives, the film is set almost solely in this location and using the fantastic conceit, the group is faced into confronting this situation with the audience trapped in this mystery along with them. The cinematography mixes dark shadows and spotlights as the questions fly and these help create the best scenes which involve Gannon interrogating members using his previous experience. A small but powerful indie feature, its 88 minutes gives the movie a swift pace with more depth than most small dramas. But it doesn’t let up either with a multitude of talented performances from the excellent cast playing distrustful characters obsessed with protecting their “freedoms”.

★★★★



Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Aug 27 2019 06:00PM



Stairs (2019)


Directed by Tom Paton


Mosley Productions


The very prolific Midlands-originating director Tom Paton who has tackled 5 features in as many years returns with new movie Stairs, an action flick with lashings of fights, drama and a dark splash of the supernatural.


Opening in Eastern Europe, a group of crack commando special mercenaries are privately hired on a mission to gather intel and kill anyone who stands in their way.


After completing their task, one woman survives but Commander Will Stanton (a bearded X-Factor winner Shayne Ward) demands one of his crew (Samantha Schnitzler as Kia Clarke) leave no one alive. In cold blood she reluctantly follows his orders. Also along for the ride is Toby Osmond (Game of Thrones), Sophie Austin (Call The Midwife), Alana Wallace (Black Site) and Bentley Kalu (Wonder Woman).


From the outset and despite the low budget, the film’s design looks suitably authentic – real automatic weapons, whole fleets of jeeps and military equipment give the army set-up a realistic tone. What isn’t so realistic sadly is an overly-saturated blue filter over the sequence to represent “dawn”. A day-time shoot would have been fine and the only change in the first 15 minutes is the addition of a green filter for a point-of-view scope of a rifle shot.


Once that goes however, we have a much better-looking film (although it returns in the form of a lot of red) and once back at their headquarters, the group head up some stairs for a debrief even though Kia is haunted by the atrocity of her actions in the field.


Yet as they ascend, the team find themselves stuck in the stairwell with no comms or support but is this a drill, an emergency or something altogether much more sinister? With a bit of a nod to Dredd and The Raid where an armed group are trapped in one building location, the claustrophobia gets to the audience but also to the characters who start pontificating on their lack of progress.


With a few monologues (bit of a genre cliché but expected nonetheless) giving some exposition – perhaps a bit too much at times – the strange environment turns even weirder as they begin hallucinating a bloodied woman amid ghostly noises and whispers. A spooky piano-played child lullaby adds a supernatural feel to the proceedings and eventually one unfortunate member falls to their death.


Much to my surprise however, when the unit finally find an exit on these endless Escher-like steps, the film takes an astonishing left turn. Stepping through the door, they find themselves transported back in time to the field from the opening scene. Well I wasn’t expecting that!


A kind of Groundhog Day/Back to the Future 2 situation occurs and now the team are forced to repeat endless loops (or video game levels) of violence to resolve their predicament – learning more each time they rerun. This “circle” of hell is hinted upon in the dialogue with allusions to purgatory, faith and guilt as the characters are trapped in their personal prisons.


These aren’t fully explored sadly, as the film decides to stick to its guns (literally in fact) and follows the rigid action beats of the genre. And it also reminded me at times (in a good way) of Edge of Tomorrow and 2018’s Overlord which mixed a similar military group dealing with an inexplicable other-worldly entity.


Without spoiling any ending, the film continues with more action scenes and a satisfying amount of gory and bloody wounds to boot. As an aside, unfortunately the film uses CGI muzzle flashes which does a sad disservice to the genuine stunts and accomplishments elsewhere.


But as the film clambers to its conclusion, Stairs provides the right amount of bangs and bust-ups. And it sits alongside Outlawed as a local British film bravely attempting to take on the bigger budget actioners of Hollywood. Whilst there are certainly a few minor flaws – many simply to do with a low budget (plus my colour filter pet peeve) - the film has a very unique idea which makes it far more interesting than the usual “Expendables” style flick. So in the end, Stairs sticks with what it knows best and is well worth a climb for any fans of supernatural-infused action.


Michael Sales


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