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By midlandsmovies, Aug 16 2019 06:59AM



Midlands Review - The Cold Caller


Directed by Lee Charlish


2019


Korky Films


Made for under £500, The Cold Caller is a new horror short from prolific local filmmaker Lee Charlish of Korky Films


The director says it pays homage to 70s and 80s schlock which can be seen in the opening sequence where we find a with a woman tied to a chair in what looks like a killer’s scary basement.


Bound by the wrists and legs, the eerie location is filled with battered dolls, candlesticks and other paraphernalia that look straight out of Buffalo Bill’s home.


The blonde victim awakes to her predicament and spies a silhouetted person with a cleaver behind some plastic sheeting - the kind you see in an abattoir. The man is also masked in a homemade head covering which nods to similar fare seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre crossed with more recent horror Apostle.


The extensive production design has been clearly well-made and each item in the basement seems to nod to a movie in the genre. The director however appears to want to focus on this and so the shots seem a little gratuitous in displaying the hard production work rather than serve the story too much, certainly at the beginning.


However, with a clear love for slashers of the past some later shots certainly hint upon a nasty history in this place – a map with photos of girls pinned on the wall, a disgusting tea set on the table and jars of “who knows what” on a shelf.


Charlish does do a great job with the show-don’t-tell rule though. Tension builds from our own recollection of what these objects could signify from their place in horror cinema. And other than the cleaver on the chopping board and some heavy breathing as the girl begins to realise her plight, a freaky string-infused score is almost the sole sound of the short.


That is before the masked captor is shown creating some food whilst listening to an old-timey record as he possibly prepares a “last meal” for the kidnapped girl.


The film then turns on its head with a big dose of comedy but then quickly turns to a surprising grisly conclusion. The double-hander of the last two revelations are placed so closely in opposition to each other that it could jolt the viewer too quickly from one emotion to another - sadly not allowing either one to hit fully. I suspect that is the intention though and it’s better to be astonished by too much than indifferent with too little.


The Cold Caller then lovingly (can you call it that?) acknowledges the slashers of the past with a sympathetic young adult tortured by a deranged predator. The twist helps give the 3-minute short a bombshell ending and its mixing of tones recognises the roots of classic horror-comedies. So check out the short if you can, as you may just get a satisfying buzz from the tropes which will keep you on the hook from the start.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Aug 14 2019 06:48AM



Beware the Moon with The Blair Witch Project at Dudley Castle


On the evening of Saturday 3rd August, in between the sporadic heat waves of this summer, I got to experience an outdoor screening of The Blair Witch Project. It was shown in the grounds of Dudley Castle, and what a perfect venue for such an unsettling film.


The area was plentiful yet enclosed, and most brought their own blankets and chairs. The turnout was fantastic; there were couples, big groups of friends and just people by themselves who wanted to enjoy a classic movie with atmospheric value.


The company behind this event is the Flatpack Festival who run all sorts of creative events mixing art forms and transforming spaces. For the fourth year running, they have partnered up with Beware The Moon to host annual outdoor screenings within the grounds of Dudley Castle. For the Blair Witch Project, they amped up the dramatics with subtle projections of the Witch symbols and slow moving forests on the walls, as well as glowing orange backlights from within the castle. It was fair to say they definitely used its uniqueness to their advantage.


It’s also worth noting that the area had all the conveniences within reach, from hot food and a bar to bathroom facilities along the side so that the audience was rarely disturbed. I often find that open-air cinemas have the bare minimum of facilities, so this was great to see.



Dudley Castle also accommodates a zoo, and to get to the screening area, you get to pass some of the animals along the way. This quirky little adventure through the zoo at night, when it was its most quiet, was exciting, new and playful; much like the naive characters we were about to watch on screen. It was just an afterthought, but it did feel like we were all being lured into an unknown area with a seemingly cheerful and curious intent.


For anyone who hasn’t seen The Blair Witch Project, it’s about 3 filmmakers who venture out into the woods and document an urban legend. Things start to go a bit south when they can’t make their way out of the woods. The found footage is what the audience sees, and it is one of the first of its kind, inspiring many other handheld camera footage movies since 1999.


Admittedly I hadn’t seen it since its release date and there hasn’t really been an excuse to re-watch it again until the opportunity of watching a predominantly outdoorsy type of film in an open-air cinema cropped up. The settings for viewing it on a cool August night were perfect.


The sun set at the right time and as the movie progressed and the characters got lost further into the woods, the darker the sky became and the deeper the film got; the synchronisation was sublime. You felt quite involved as the projections onto the castle walls added a sense of unsteadiness to help emphasise with the characters, and when the wind blew and you felt a sudden chill on your neck, it was like you were there in the woods with them. It made the whole experience all the more realistic.


Beware The Moon have previously shown Bride of Frankenstein, An American Werewolf in London, Night of the Living Dead, Lost Boys and 2019’s double bill of Beetlejuice and The Blair Witch Project. As you can see, with this being the 4th year running, it is highly popular and to go to Dudley Castle – one of the most haunted locations in Britain, and absorb in the atmosphere, as well as indulge in cinema’s most frightful pieces of work, was one of the most exceptional experiences for me.


I would highly recommend this, and as well as keeping your eyes peeled for next year’s event, you can also help suggest what you’d like to see on the screen. Tweet @Flatpack and hashtag #BewareTheMoon and your voice will be heard!


Sam Fransico

https://twitter.com/IsoElegant



By midlandsmovies, Jul 22 2019 09:58AM



Us (2019) Dir. Jordan Peele


After the amazing success of 2017 horror Get Out (our review here) director Jordan Peele returns with another fright flick that goes deep below the surface of American society. We open on Santa Cruz beach front where a young girl, Adelaide Thomas, enters a hall of mirror funhouse and discovers her doppelganger before returning to her family unable to speak.


Long since recovered we catch up with the adult Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) and her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Zora (Evan Alex). Despite her worries the family heads back to the beach where she encounters their rich friends and becomes scared after her son briefly disappears.


Returning home that night, a family of four in red overalls break in and the family realise these intruders are in fact doppelgängers called the Tethered. Director Peele throws in some solid character building at the beginning, filling his film with mysteries and concepts to be ‘untethered’ before the explosive home-invasion sequences kick in. Is it scary? Not really. For me, Get Out is the superior “horror” film, making me feel unease and dread whilst here the first-half jump scares and silly scissor slashing was more reminiscent of 80s video nasties that have never really done much for me.


However, Lupita Nyong'o is brilliant as a protective parent, the paranoid mother AND as a vulnerable victim dealing with her dual past and present. And duality is a strong theme throughout as is the notion of “class”. The literal ‘lower’ class below ground become a danger to the happy lives above and Peele uses dialogue, props, symbolism and thematic sequences to delve into the deeper and darker side of “America” today.


A great use of Luniz’s “5 on It” becomes slower and more orchestral (and therefore creepier) as the movie progresses and the cast excel in their physical portrayal of their ‘other’ selves. Mixing slasher and home-invasion tropes with a Twilight Zone episode, Us is another frightful look at the current politics and issues facing the United States/U.S./‘Us’.


And Peele’s masterful handling of a wide range of deeper meanings, along with a love for horror staples, sees Us continuing his spectacular cinema successes.


★★★★


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Jul 16 2019 04:15PM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 3


Here's another set of our shorter reviews for films we've caught up with in 2019 featuring A Vigiilante, The Curse of La Llorona, Alita: Battle Angel....


Scroll down to see what we thought of each of them...




A Vigilante (2019) Dir. Sarah Dagger-Nickson

A Vigilante is the debut of writer and director Sarah Dagger-Nickson and sees an abused woman (Olivia Wilde as Sadie) assisting other women victims who have had a similar experiences. The film’s explosive opening sees smartly-dressed Wilde enter a home of a woman suffering an injury – hinted to be from her spouse – and when he returns, Sadie inflicts punishment that will sees him reluctantly leaving and handing over half his savings to his wife. Surprisingly, but very powerfully, the director actually minimises the on-screen violence itself (this is definitely not in the realm of action-flicks like Atomic Blonde) but this has the effect of heightening the victim’s plight. With an audience’s projection of what violent acts may have occurred, we therefore imagine the worst – both in the perpetrators acts and the subsequent retribution of justice inflicted back. Great cinematography from Alan McIntyre Smith helps focus the story on a stellar performance from Wilde, who plays both a hard-nosed enactor of violence and, in a flashback explaining her backstory, a sensitive and emotional victim-turned-avenger. As we discover that she too was once a victim, losing a child to her ex-husband (a disgustingly dark turn by the excellent Morgan Spector), the film propels to a unshakeable climatic conclusion that sees her finally track down and face the hideous partner from her past. A Vigilante therefore has a smart and timely premise and is a quality movie tackling the issues surrounding domestic abuse. Olivia Wilde gives a career-best performance too as the woman fighting this head on, and this exciting debut is a successful revenge film that delivers more insight into the topic than similar movies of this kind. ★★★★




The Curse of La Llorona (2019) Dir. Michael Chaves

Produced by James Wan, The Curse of La Llorona is another (dull) entry into The Conjuring universe and is based on Mexican folklore where a supernatural entity attempts to steal children from their families. In echoes of Case 39 (2009), our lead Linda Cardellini is social worker Anna Tate-Garcia who investigates an abusive family situation that spirals out of control. Mixing silly superstitions with godawful jump scares, the film’s woman in a white dress begins hunting down Anna’s own two children. Filled to the brim with obvious 'quiet-then-loud' jump scares, La Lorona is the kind of PG-13 horror that is over-done and has been seen dozens of times before. A car-based stalking sequence was the one standout innovation but this was not developed at all and we’re soon back to the bland back-story involving stock priest and detective characters. I’m also sick of the clichéd dropped-mouthed white-skinned monster bride trope as well, which again, is now far too familiar to shock. But what did general audiences think? Well, with a budget of just $9 million (and boy can you tell), the film took $121.6 million (!) at the box office so prepare yourself for the inevitable slew of sequels or side-quels or whatever future dross they’ll end up knocking out. For the rest of us with higher standards, set your expectation level to “underwhelmed” and then still prepare yourself for a bit of a knock. ★★


Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Dir. Robert Rodriguez

The uncanny valley is ‘when humanoid objects appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings and elicit uncanny feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers’. I know friends who can’t even watch Pixar films owing the “rubbery” features of the human-like characters. I’ve never really experienced it myself. Until now. Forever in development hell with James Cameron, he serves as producer here, in an adaption of the 90’s manga series where a female cyborg is recreated by Dr. Dyson (Christoph Waltz) with no memory of her mysterious past. She learns to skate and take part in future-sport Motorball and later engages in brawls and visually ugly and confusing CGI fights which create absolutely zero intrigue. With a stellar support cast including Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali and Jackie Earle, the weird thing is, it’s not essentially the CGI that sticks out. There’s so much of it that the human characters inserted in the film feel almost unneeded and a distraction in themselves. But it's Alita's facial construction, whose eyes and face are computer-generated beyond all recognition which actually turned me off from the screen regularly. Somehow grossing over $405 million worldwide, with possible sequels now in the works, the film may have been better delivered as an animation as it’s already 90% there. And therefore sadly, as Alita is found amongst a big pile of junk and hastily put together, the film mirrors this in its themes, tone and dull execution. ★★


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Jul 9 2019 08:57PM



Midlands Spotlight - Stairs


Award-winning Midlands director Tom Paton is about to launch his debut time-travel/horror film 'Stairs' at Arrow Frightfest in London.


This is Tom's fourth film and stars Shayne Ward and Toby Osmond and will get its world premiere at the prestigious event.


Mosley Productions in association with Goldfinch will hold the debut screening of their film this August at the highly respected festival and is about a group of mercenaries who are sent into Eastern Europe in the middle of a civil war to retrieve intel.


But shortly after the mission, the unit find themselves trapped on a never-ending stairwell; forced to climb or die. To survive, they must revisit their past sins if they ever want to get off!


The production hopes to blur the lines of action and horror to create a visually unique movie that deals with time travel, the repercussions of violence and its consequences. With practical effects, bone crunching fight sequences and existential dread the film promises to thrill audiences with 'Stairs' marking Tom Paton’s third time premiering at the London-based event.


Tom grew up in West Midlands where his passion for story telling started. Originally he wanted to be a comic book artist, but at the age of fifteen he realised it was a different form of narrative he was most drawn to and film became the obvious choice. “I always had a goal and that was to have made my first feature film by the age of thirty, so writing and directing Pandorica always felt like something that was inevitable to me, even in those early days”.


Paton had this to say on “Stairs” inclusion in the event, “It’s a really honour to be back at Frightfest for the third year in a row. I’m especially proud of how Stairs has turned out and I can’t wait to share it with everyone".


"Frightfest has been an amazing platform for my career and I’m really excited to be heading back, especially as the line-up is so incredible this year", he adds.


The film marks the feature film debut of National Television Award Winning actor and former X-Factor winner Shayne Ward, alongside Toby Osmond (Game of Thrones), Sophie Austin (Call The Midwife), Alana Wallace (Black Site), Samantha Schnitzler & Bentley Kalu (Wonder Woman).


Never one to rest on his laurels, Paton has also announced that his fifth film 'G-LOC' is in post-production. It is set to star Stephen Moyer (The Gifted, True Blood), Tala Gouveia (Cold Feet), Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), John Rhys-Davies (Lord of The Rings, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Aquaman).


Ward, Osmond and Wallace will also return for the film and Tom has already announced that he is in production on his sixth film with executive producer Steve Mosley.


Tickets and information are available via the events website www.frightfest.co.uk







By midlandsmovies, Jul 3 2019 08:49AM



PET SOUNDS


Directed by Bob Hartshorn


2019


Rest In Pieces Productions


A new short horror from Leicester comes from the appropriately titled Rest In Pieces Productions and has Laura Wilding as “El”, a dog-walker searching for her missing mutt.


Wandering alone in a park then further into the woods, the film opens with a literal pile of doggy “doos” – which subsequently gets stepped in by our protagonist as she calls aloud her hound without any luck. With a soundtrack of quacking ducks we hear the owner repeatedly calling for “Pieces” (yes, that is the name of her dog!)


The film is shot on location in Knighton Park in Leicester which gives a suitable dense forest vibe. We peer through branches and bushes along with the lead, the viewer also unable to see her dog as spectator to the proceedings.


But soon she spots a broken collar sitting on the leaf-covered floor and, more strangely, comes across a blood-red chair and desk surrounded by half-buried records in the middle of a clearing. Further eeriness ensues when it is revealed a turntable is playing a vinyl record of what sounds like a cockerel – ‘pet sounds’ indeed.


As the lead investigates a collage of dog photos on the desk, an old-timey rotary phone rings and we are jolted out of our quiet intrigue by a screaming voice on the line.


Without wanting to reveal the short’s mysteries here in this review, our first splash of blood interrupts the well-structured tension built to this point and it veers further into the more gruesome aspects of the horror genre in a skull-cracking finale.


As a dog owner myself, there was a natural realism to the proceedings and the film develops its ideas with another owner (Carolyn English) in a similar predicament with her lost dog.


A fun little (dog) treat of a horror, the short is well written to build up an air of anxiety from the beginning. And this feeling is one which many pet owners will no doubt relate to as we ramble through this frightful forest film.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Jun 24 2019 07:19AM



Brightburn (2019) Dir.David Yarovesky


Written by Brian Gunn & Mark Gunn and produced by cousin James Gunn, Brightburn sure is a family affair. And family and growing up are two of the central themes in this new what-if-Superman-was-evil horror flick.


We begin with full-on Snyder-satire where the images from his disappointing Man of Steel are recreated so closely that I’m surprised DC haven’t filed a copyright claim. We get images of grain silos, barns and mailboxes as we discover a small town (ville?) called Brightburn located in Kansas (where else?).


What we have is mother Elizabeth Banks as Tori Breyer and David Denman as Kyle Breyer whose son Brandon (a nod to Superman Returns’ Brandon Routh?) was in fact discovered as a baby one night after a glowing spaceship crashed on their land. And so they take him under the wing unknowing that their child will soon develop super-powers.


Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon does well as we see an innocent boy uncovering his powers that make his school and personal life a misery. Parallels with the problems of growing up are echoed in his uncontrollable urges and difficult teen conversations. His mum and dad chalk this up to the perils of puberty but although his body is physically changing, he has an unnatural attraction to the spaceship he arrived in that is now hidden in their barn. And the red entity that lies within has him changing into a “super-brat” his parents struggle to control.


“Who am I?” asks Brandon, oblivious to his past and with his parents revealing the truth to him, his bad behaviour gets worse and the abuse of his powers increases. He breaks the wrist of a girl who doesn’t like him back, and in the most gruesome scene of the year (involving glass and a close-up on an eye) he brings awful revenge to her mother.


The film does well in setting up character, motivations and the plot and we uncover many truths along with the main players, first feeling sympathy and then disgust with Brandon’s strength. As he enacts punishment to seemingly petty situations, the film also explores the notion of maturity and masculity (his father gives him “the talk” and issues of gun ownership come up) whist Banks gives a great performance as the mum longing for, and protecting, a son no matter what flaws he has.


Brandon's blue pyjamas and red bed sheet outfit (!) morphs into a scary red-only costume he has drawn in a notebook and the film hints upon the 2013 Superman: Red Son comic mini-series which asks what would happen if Superman landed in Russia instead of the USA. Would he still do good?


Eventually Brandon flies up, up and away and with super-speed the film turns into a slasher of sorts as the authorities track him down after investigating a mysterious symbol Brandon leaves at the scene of his atrocities - and the movie's genre-homages were a pleasure to watch.


With an interesting idea and a surprising amount of gore and horror, Brightburn is a fantastic what-if fantasy film. With a mother desperate for a child to love, the film gives more depth to what could have been a throwaway fright flick and although firmly in the b-movie genre, I hope it gains enough of a cult following to deliver a sequel to its rather dark finale.


★★★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Jun 23 2019 02:02PM



Leicester Horror Con 2019


Ghouls, demons and creatures of the night descended upon Leicester on Saturday 22nd June 2019 for the launch of the first ever Leicester Horror Con.


Hosted by Nathan Leverton, who previously organised Leicester Comic Con, the convention took place over a number of venues. The Dark Market, a bazaar of the bizarre, was hosted at The Guildhall Museum, a notoriously haunted venue that’s ironically located a stone’s throw from the Cathedral, where ghouls fear to tread.


Vendors lined the halls, selling all manner of curios and treasures. T-shirts, collectables, more schlock and exploitation films than you can shake a severed arm at – that’s the just the tip of the bloody iceberg.




There were a number of hand-crafted products too, from gory Zombears to deliciously macabre resin sculptures of horror icons like Freddy, Jason and, er, Mr. Bean. Pins, badges, stickers, posters, even cushions – there was such a range on offer that I wish I could have bought one of everything!


The Guildhall also played host to a number of special guests, including Jared Blanchard (the best of Stephen King’s psychotic high school bullies, Henry Bowers in the original ‘IT’ miniseries), Madeline Smith (Scream Queen and Hammer Horror veteran) and the guest I was most excited to meet, Hugo Myatt. He’s only bloody Tregard from Knightmare! My inner child was jumping up and down with joy when he kindly obliged me with a couple of ‘oooh nasty!’s.


The guests weren’t the only horror legends roaming the grounds, though. Thanks to the wonderful efforts of cosplaying attendees, such luminaries as Jason Vorhees, a Maniac Cop, The Walking Dead’s Negan and even child-stealing Krampus himself stalked the grounds. It must have been extremely hot in that heavy goaty costume, I do hope they kept hydrated! There was also a delightful puppet named Barry The Bat Beaver and a trio of masked home invader straight out of You’re Next.




Firebug Bar also got in on the fun, offering themed cocktails and hosting screenings and guest talks in their upstairs rooms. They showed a wonderfully creepy short ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’ about a child who meets a grisly playmate in the woods, directed by talented movie-poster-designer Thomas Hodge.


Then came a screening of House of the Gorgon, which is a love letter to Hammer Horror by low-budget auteur Joshua Kennedy – luckily they screen some (lots of) trailers for his other movies so we would be prepared for quite how tongue-in-cheek this was meant to be.


Mind you, he nailed the tone, so while it was extremely silly it was definitely entertaining, and he managed to cast legends like Caroline Munro and Christopher Neame to give it an extra ring of authenticity. Definitely go check it out! Unfortunately a sudden migraine meant I couldn’t stay for the screening of Drag Me to Hell, but I’m sure it went down a treat with everyone there as you can’t go wrong with a bit of Sam Raimi.




In all, this was an excellent event. It was managed smoothly, and the crowds were well-handled. I was concerned on the way there that this might be a re-run of EM-Con’s inaugural event in Nottingham, where there were too many people for the venue, and it all went a little pear-shaped. I needn’t have worried; the organisers clearly knew what they were doing and the event was in very capable hands.


Splitting between two venues (with special offers on horror boardgames at Bean Gaming Café) was clearly a wise choice as it ensured neither venue was overrun on the day.


Here’s hoping that next year goes just as smoothly and that the con goes from strength to strength, with even better guests (can we have Jeffrey Combs next year, please?).


I’ll certainly be rising from the grave to go back!


Sam Kurd


Twiter @Splend


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