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By midlandsmovies, Mar 30 2020 08:25AM





SNARL


Directed by L.J. 'Stark' Greenwood


2020


What lurks in the forest at night is a question posed in the opening of new short horror film Snarl from L.J. Stark Greenwood.


Well we find out as the chirping of crickets dies down and we stumble upon a half-naked man (Jay Podmore as Elijah) chained and tortured in a cave-dwelling. The man conducting this horridness is called Clyde (Troy Dennison) and accuses him of being a “devil”.


Two local villagers (Charlie Clarke as Faye and Jack Knight as Benjamin) wait for the torturer to leave before ignoring the “no trespassing” sign. They sneak in and seek to comfort and release the abused man who by now is covered in cuts and bruises.


The film is well shot and the story beats easy to understand in Snarl. The script is clear but delivered in a slightly Hammer-inspired way. The archaic dialogue with its hints of Victorian prose harks back to classic gothic literature. I hope this is deliberate as no one speaks like these characters do in real life that's for sure.


With the villagers and their rescued man now on the run, Clyde returns to find his captive gone and a chase ensues in the woods. Stumbling through the undergrowth, they attempt to flee but the injuries are taking their toll on their progress.


Low budget films tend to film in places with easy access (i.e. the woods). And horror action tends to be “chasing”. When these two are overdone you can far too often see these being overused with huge swathes of a short’s time being eaten up by that action in that location. However, although it edges close for a moment, Snarl thankfully ends just the right side of this horror trope. But does veer that way for a moment.


What doesn’t work so well is day-for-night shooting. The appearance of a full moon at the start hints on the horrors about to take place after sunset, but a blue filter appears to stand in for proper night-time shooting. This makes the film feel like it’s taking place in the less-than-scary early evening. A small point granted, but one that could have been altered for some more darkly visceral scares.


However, things turn worse later when Elijah reveals his true self - SPOILER - in the form of a werewolf. The low budget has forced Snarl to show very little of the transformation but, as so often with horror, it’s about the fear of what you don’t see, not what you do.


But the influence of the classic wolf shapeshifting in An American Werewolf in London is clear to see and the effects and make-up used are very impressive and filmed well.


Snarl ends then by playing on the thrill and the fear of the unknown and the short’s bloody atmosphere is one of constant dread. If a little too long given its content and narrative for me personally, what is shown is the filmmaker’s passion for classic retro horror beats with a love for the genre - as well as some excellent artistry from the make-up department.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Mar 11 2020 01:12PM



The Invisible Man (2020) Dir. Leigh Whannell


The Invisible Man is a Universal horror film created by Blumhouse. After staging his own suicide, a crazed scientist (Oliver Jackson Cohen) uses his power to become invisible; to stalk and terrorize his ex-girlfriend played by Elisabeth Moss. When the police refuse to believe her story, she decides to take matters into her own hands and fight back.


The film is Written and Directed by Leigh Whannell who rose to prominence as one of the co-creators of the "SAW" franchise. After a failed attempt by Universal to create a shared Universe of Monsters that began with the Mummy in 2017. This second attempt comes to return the stories of iconic horror characters, and it is an unexpected success. The Invisible Man is a genre defining example of making a quality horror film.


Leigh Whanell proves in this film that less is more. Each shot of this movie is teeming with questions, with extensive emphasis on space, ambiguity and inanimate items. Whanell manages to finely prod the viewer with an impending cloud of anxiety and terror, and when the scares hit. They hit hard.


With a central performance that will in my mind propel Elisabeth Moss to a new level, her reactions, the sheer terror and victimisation of her character is apparent throughout. This movie touches on some dark themes that are relevant to popular culture. Whanell managed to tell this story without it being overtly political, but instead prying solely on the innate characteristics we hold as a collective, making this an uncomfortable and at times highly emotional ordeal.


But all in all, I would go as far as saying this is a modern horror masterpiece, Very rarely do horror movies of this calibre come along. We as an audience are bombarded and hindered with mindless, bland jump scares or uninteresting and spurious gore.


The invisible man has No cheap jump scares, no unnecessary gore and no cringe worthy decisions that rattle your head. The plot is so sharp and self-reflective and Elizabeth Moss's performance is so outstanding. The concept, direction, acting, script, complexity, themes and ending all contrive like a grand orchestra, and this movie has some independent scenes that are like an epic orchestras crescendo.


All so masterfully done. Phenomenal


Ben Warrington

Twitter @MrBenWarrington



By midlandsmovies, Feb 21 2020 10:30AM

Quite simply, here is our ongoing and updated list of Film Festivals in the Midlands (2020 edition):


• THE SHORT CINEMA http://www.theshortcinema.co.uk info@theshortcinema.co.uk Phoenix, Leicester - August 2020 (TBC)


*CINE-EXCESS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL - Birmingham School of Media Birmingham City 4th - 7th November 2020


• NOTTINGHAM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL http://www.nottiff.com/ 13th - 15th November 2020


• INDIE-LINCS - Feb 13th - 15th 2020 Based at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, and run in partnership with The School of Film and Media at the University of Lincoln http://www.indie-lincs.com


• BRINDLEY PLACE OUTDOOR FEST - http://www.brindleyplace.com/event/brindleyplace-film-festival-2018/ DATES TBC


• BORDERLINES FEST http://www.borderlinesfilmfestival.co.uk UK's largest rural film festival. Herefordshire/Shropshire - 28th February to 15th March 2020


• BIRMINGHAM FILM FEST - 13th - 22nd November 2020 https://filmfreeway.com/festival/Birminghamfilmfestival


• BIFF FEST (Birmingham Black International Film Fest) https://www.biffestival.co.uk 2020 TBC


• SHOCK AND GORE FESTIVAL Electric Cinema in Birmingham https://twitter.com/shockgore 2020 TBC


• DEAFFEST http://www.deaffest.co.uk The UK's International Deaf Film & Arts Festival Wolverhampton. Contact info@light-house.co.uk 2020 date TBC


* BIRMINGHAM INDIAN FILM FESTIVAL http://birminghamindianfilmfestival.co.uk 2020 dates TBC


• THE UK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL LEICESTER - http://tonguesonfire.com/ 2020 dates TBC


• SHOUT FESTIVAL http://shoutfestival.co.uk Birmingham 2020 dates TBC


• DERBY FILM FESTIVAL http://www.derbyfilmfestival.co.uk 19th - 23rd November 2020


• FANTASTIQ FEST http://fantastiq.co.uk Fantasy/Horror Fest at Quad in Derby (part of Derby Film Fest)


• MAYHEM HORROR Film Fest - Halloween. Contact Broadway cinema in Nottingham http://www.broadway.org.uk/mayhem 15th - 18th October 2020


• FLATPACK FEST - Birmingham, UK. http://www.flatpackfestival.org.uk 5th - 10th May 2020


• BEESTON FILM FESTIVAL - https://twitter.com/BeestonFilm 25th-29th March 2020


• SHROPSHIRE RAINBOW FILM FESTIVAL http://www.rainbowfilmfestival.org.uk/midlands-zone on hiatus for 2019 - TBC 2020 dates


• GRINDHOUSE PLANET - www.grindhouseplanet.com 2020 dates TBC


* BOTTLESMOKE FILM FESTIVAL - https://www.facebook.com/BottleSmokeStoke Stoke on Trent - September 8th 2019


* WIRKSWORTH FILM FEST https://wirksworth3minfilmfest.co.uk Derbyshire 2th - 31st July 2020


* HEART OF ENGLAND FILM FEST - https://www.heartofenglandfilmfest.com Coventry 2020 Dates TBC


* HIGH PEAK INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL Derbyshire https://www.highpeakindie.com 6th - 9th August 2020


* NEXUS FILM FESTIVAL https://twitter.com/NexusEastMids Nottingham 17th - 21st May 2020


* NOTTZ FILM FESTIVAL Hothouse Theatre Nottingham https://twitter.com/NottmFilmFest 2020 Dates TBC


* THE SHORT STACK FILM FESTIVAL Nottingham Bi-monthly screening night at Broadway Cinema https://www.facebook.com/groups/841340665914084 (Various dates)


* 5 LAMPS FILMS - Bi-monthly short-film screenings at Derby Quad (various dates) + annual 24hr film challenge https://twitter.com/fivelampsfilms (Various dates)


* PARACINEMA - Derby https://twitter.com/ParacinemaDerby 7th - 10th May 2020


* THE BLACK COUNTRY HORROR SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL - Stourbridge https://www.weepingbankproductions.co.uk/horror-film-festival Saturday 27th February 2020


* CINEQ - Birmingham Queer Film Festival - https://www.cineqbirmingham.co.uk 26th - 29th March 2020


* LEAMINGTON FILM FESTIVAL - Temperance Bar, Leamington Spa http://www.temperance.bar/film-festival.html 10th - 12th January 2020


* NORTHAMPTON FILM FESTIVAL - various locations across Northampton http://www.northamptonfilmfestival.co.uk/ 13th – 20th May 2020


* WORCESTER FILM FESTIVAL - Royal Porcelain Works, Worcester https://filmfreeway.com/WorcesterFilmFestival 15th – 17th October 2020



Other useful Film Festival information can be found at these links:

http://www.festivalfocus.org/festival

http://film.britishcouncil.org/festivals-directory/festivals-map

http://www.thefilmfestivaldoctor.co.uk

By midlandsmovies, Feb 6 2020 03:58PM



Daniel Isn't Real (2020) Dir. Adam Egypt Mortimer


Based on In This Way I Was Saved by Brian DeLeeuw, Daniel Isn’t Real is a new horror-thriller starring Miles Robbins (Blockers) as a young man with some serious psychological issues. After witnessing a shooting, a young shy boy called Luke meets Daniel whose outward confidence ends up connecting the two boys as friends. However, Daniel cannot be seen by Luke’s mother and after his imaginary friend tricks Luke into almost poisoning her, Luke metaphorically locks Daniel in an old dollhouse.


Years later, a teenage Luke (now played by Robbins) has become a worried student who unlocks the dollhouse after travelling home one day, and now an older Daniel (played by Arnie’s son Patrick Schwarzenegger) reappears to him.


An interesting idea, the film could be the worst of b-movie horrors but takes its set-up and characters mostly seriously. As Daniel begins to help out Luke overcome personal demons and help others, the figment of his imagination is soon involved in assaults and violence and becomes a real demon of his own.


The film cleverly uses Luke’s photography hobby as a metaphor for image and self-projection and his old camera along with other students’ artwork focuses the film on symbolic duplicates, replication and the internal and external aesthetics of persona.


As Luke’s mother struggles with her own mental health issues, the film does swerve from its analysis of schizophrenia and move into more body-horror and the supernatural. This is no bad thing though and through sex, drugs and self-medication, the film attempts to tackle more heady themes than you’ll see in an Insidious or Annabelle.


Reminiscent of Austrian movie Goodnight Mommy (2014) and a bit of Fight Club (1999), the film does have somewhat of a reveal later on but it’s a pleasant surprise to have the conceit explained early on to avoid a clichéd denouement.


From the opening sequence to a body possession, there are also flashes of some brilliantly constructed and visually arresting shots yet the film doesn’t quite get away from its less-than-original premise. And narratively I felt you could mostly see where it is going beat-by-beat.


However, for the first horror of 2020 I’ve seen it has set the standard of mixing genre tropes with a few new ideas to provide a satisfying albeit slightly inconsequential tale of terror.


★★★


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Feb 3 2020 10:09PM




Dark Summer


Directed by Mark Murphy


2020


Rocking Wolf Media


Dark Summer is a new January release filmed on location in Nottinghamshire from filmmaker Mark Murphy.


From Mark’s own production company Rocking Wolf Media, the director has made a number of creative shorts as well as working on corporate film work.


Here in Dark Summer we open with a satanic incantation taking place in a candle-lit room before we see two ladies laying a wreath at an ominous tree in the woods.


Back at home the younger of the two women – a heavily made-up goth girl – is angry with the mother figure before she heads off to her bedroom in a temper.


Later, the two catch up at the dinner table but not before we get a quick cutaway to more of the ritual in which a call to death is being made.


Halfway through the film it’s noticeable that Dark Summer is unfortunately affected by a terribly home-made feel. Whilst the director appears to have passion for the darker things in life, the film is mostly set in a living room area that appears solely lit by the ceiling light.


This bland tone sadly carries over into the shot choices where static camerawork highlights the dialogue which although brief, still confuses as the film doesn’t lead the audience down a clear enough narrative path.


Unfortunately then, I feel these rather poor technical and creative choices don’t represent the feeling that the filmmaker is attempting to portray.


A camera could move quickly or edit sharply during an argument. Certainly some close up to show the emotions on the protagonists’ faces but here there are just the most basic, and motionless, shot choices.


A final narrative twist hints upon some greater intrigue but the set-up isn’t handled well enough for an audience to be truly shocked. Again, a real shame given the intention.


So in the end I’d advise the filmmaker to look at the tone and shot choices of the sort of films that influence them as a way to improve. With low budgets and often amateur actors, local filmmakers need to be very inventive in their projects to overcome those limitations. But Dark Summer doesn’t do this and so the film regrettably ends up far more frustrating than frightening.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Feb 1 2020 09:28AM



The Turning (2020) Dir. Floria Sigismondi


The Turning is a new horror film directed by Floria Sigismondi and starring Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard and Brooklynn Prince.


The plot is a shrewd updated adaptation of Henry James’ ‘The Turn Of The Screw’. The Turning sadly embodies near every element of its cursed release date, and is a studio hack job of the highest order, despite a promising start. The Turning takes us to a mysterious estate in the Maine countryside, where newly appointed nanny Kate is charged with the care of two disturbed orphans, Flora and Miles.


Quickly though, she discovers that both the children and the house are harbouring dark secrets and things may not be as they appear.


The films atmosphere is rather eerie, and there are a good collection of scares. The main actors did a very good job of completely embodying themselves as their characters, and they really do give off a creepy aura.


However, this movie lacks any gravitas narratively speaking, with the plot being sketchy and unkempt. The narrative is very subjective to its viewer, the ambiguous pacing and the insidious, vague story make it hard for you as a watcher to really resonate with its characters and themes. The theming I feel was trying too hard to be part of the political commentary we are seeing more and more in modern horror.


This past year alone, both Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale” and Sophia Takal’s “Black Christmas” used rape-revenge tropes as plot points, though to vastly different degrees of success. In the case of The Turning, we get drawn out depictions of ‘toxic masculinity’ and poorly and often annoying one-liners referring to tyrannical power, and oppression.


This film does have a beautiful pallet, and certain set designs made nods to ‘The Women in Black’ and ‘The Shining ’but the movie lost its identity, and throughout loses its audience.


Overall The Turning did not know what film it wanted to be. Was it a social commentary, or was it a homage to mental health? In the end we got a tense, chilly movie with no distinctiveness and unfortunately, for a horror movie to stay with you, that narrative has to be coherent with the audience’s thoughts throughout.


The intentionally cryptic ending is the director's unapologetic take on the source material. Unfortunately, the extreme level of ambiguity is not an audience pleaser. The story would have been far better served if the conclusion offered more subtle feelings of unease or doubt.


★★


Ben Warrington

Twitter @ben_warro

By midlandsmovies, Jan 21 2020 12:39PM



The Woman in Black at Curve Leicester


The Woman in Black is a 1983 horror novel by Susan Hill, written in the style of a traditional Gothic novel and made into a 2012 supernatural horror film starring Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe with great support from Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer and Liz White.


Yet although it was a commercial success, the original book was adapted into a more famous stage play by Stephen Mallatratt that is now the second longest-running play in the West End.


The plot of all adaptations follows a young lawyer who travels to a remote village where he discovers that the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorising the locals.


And Curve Leicester now has a further adaptation directed by Robin Herford. It again seeks to tell the story of solicitor Arthur Kipps who attends the funeral of a client and subsequently discovers the dreaded secret of the Woman in Black.


In contrast to the film and book however, this stage version adds a layer of interesting complexity as it delivers a play within a play.


Kipps is first embodied by Robert Goodale, as an old man hoping to turn his story into a stage play for friends and family. He is assisted by a professional actor (Daniel Easton as “The Actor”) who wants to help shape and deliver a successful story.


Both actors do well and before long, and after reading excerpts from Kipps’ diaries, The Actor ends up playing the younger incarnation of Kipps and the whole production takes a more conventional form.


The sparse stage layout first evokes a small theatre but as it moves into the recreation of the "real" story then it becomes more elaborate. We see dusty sheets on old furniture and spy mysterious shapes through the haze of a semi-translucent curtain.


This opens up the play to a larger location and larger themes about loneliness and remembrance. It does dip back into the fact that the story is being recollected and acted out from the pages of the diary. However, although this is somewhat clever this also hinders the audience as it “snaps” you out of the dark atmosphere of the narrative itself.


Both actors do well intertwining their different roles as needed and playing off a surprising amount of comedy. This is thrown in the script and performed well by the double-act from the very start. The suspension of disbelief is an allegorical and on-stage physical trait of the play, especially when they play multiple roles throughout.


The scares come from what isn’t seen – a bang on a door here, a creaking rocking chair there – but after hearing anecdotes from others about the horrific nature of the play I can’t but express some disappointment. At no point was I genuinely frightened and as the play ratcheted up tension, it was a shame that scenes came to a rather abrupt end quite often.


All the audience tension in a near-silent auditorium was lost as we jumped back to the “play” rehearsals or a pinch of comedy was thrown in which undercut the well set-up horror.


In the end, the construction of the play was its most intriguing aspect and the second half’s stage lighting, furniture and props were scene-setting delights. However, if you happen to have a strong disposition, don’t go into The Woman in Black ready to be spooked as the less-than-average scares are too few and far between.


Mike Sales


The Woman in Black at Curve


Tue 21 Jan — Sat 25 Jan


Age Recommendation: 12+


Running time: 2 hour 5 minutes including a 15 minute interval


Please note this performance contains loud noises and smoke.


Tickets

£35 – £10

DISCOUNTS*

£15 Under 16s

£15 Under 18s school groups

£18 16 – 26 yrs (with a FREE 16 – 26 Membership)

£4 off for Groups 10+

15% off for Members or 241 tickets on Mon 20 Jan


*Discounts are subject to terms and conditions, availability and are only valid on certain performances.




By midlandsmovies, Jan 16 2020 07:16PM



Midlands Review - The Haunting of Alcatraz


Directed by Steve Lawson


2020


High Flier Films/Creativ Studios



Can you make a film set on Alcatraz Island but film it around the Midlands? Well, Leicester-based horror director Steve Lawson attempts to give that a go in his new film The Haunting of Alcatraz.


With many legends set within the infamous walls over the years, we open up with a bloody bang of a beginning. An inmate manages to trick a guard who ends up giving him a blade (from a pencil sharpener no less) and a swift suicide leads to more mysterious deaths as the film progresses.


With Aura, Hellriser and Time, And Again under his belt Lawson again aims big with this film. He introduces us to Charlie Schmidt (Tom Hendryk) who comes straight out of college in 1937 to get a job as a prison guard. With the jailhouse routines explained by The Warden (Mark Topping excellently channelling some of the pious and cruel barbs of Shawshank’s Samuel Norton), he begins his shift.


But it isn’t long until Charlie’s bright young mind starts to investigate the strange deaths at the prison, yet despite warnings from a fellow guard (a very creepy Chris Lines) he continues to explore the bleak cellblocks.


Filmed at the disused Gloucester prison no less, Lawson does a more than admirable job convincing us this local made film is actually set in the bay of San Francisco. The British cast also do very well with American accents. So much so that I had to look up Chris Lines who is in fact from Stoke and not the US Deep South. And with good use of stock footage, it’s sometimes only the overcast UK weather that hints that we’re not in sunny California.


The film takes time to build its plot and Charlie eventually crosses paths with Helen Crevell’s nurse Sherry and together they begin an awkward bond of friendship, and perhaps more, which alleviates some of the more morbid aspects of the story.


Their relationship sadly leads into the middle third of the film which needed a few more scare scenes to keep the horror aspect at the forefront. And as it slows you start to notice the slightly functional camerawork – more variety in the shots could have helped visually – and some of the more cliched dialogue. Plus for a large prison, there seems to be very few inmates incarcerated. Almost none to be exact and a couple more tense scenes in this middle section sure wouldn’t have gone amiss.


However, the flashing lights and spooky sounds combined with a screeching soundtrack do just enough to keep you guessing at the film’s cryptic narrative and what could be lurking in the secretive “Cell 13”.


As Charlie uncovers further corruption, as well as possibly some supernatural goings-on, the movie definitely, and wisely, picks up the pace towards its conclusion. And later on Charlie’s enquiries into visions and voices leads to him unfortunately finding himself stuck in a cage (although not with The Rock alumni Nic Cage).


With traces of Shawshank and the Green Mile mixed with horror elements, The Haunting of Alcatraz’s does extremely well to create a convincing setting to hang its story around. Despite the obvious budget limitations, the film’s mix of penal punishment and cagey corruption drags it over the line before the illusion breaks.


And so, although you’re advised to stay well away from creepy “Cell 13”, it’s recommended you definitely head towards this disturbingly dark tale set at the infamous and sinister prison known as ‘the rock’.


Michael Sales


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