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By midlandsmovies, Oct 5 2018 10:23AM



Hereditary (2018) Dir. Ari Aster


In his first film, director Ari Aster tackles sinister themes and mixes a slow-pace build up with horror frights in a mish-mash of tones in new film Hereditary. Opening with a zoom into a dollhouse, we are immediately pushed into a world controlled by bigger hands as Annie Graham (Toni Collette) mourns the death of her mother before sharing her family’s tragic history with a grief support group.


Her daughter Charlie (a disturbed Milly Shapiro) is a distant tongue-clucking junior who after joining her brother Peter (Alex Wolff) at a house party is decapitated in a car accident. In a haunting scene of shock, Peter heads straight to bed leaving his mother to uncover the horrid truth the next day. Splitting the family’s cohesion and plagued by visions, Annie is approached by Joan, a member of the support group, who promises Annie answers to the mysteries in her life.


It is here where the film will win you over or not. The intrigue, drama and deliberate pace take a turn and we enter – for want of a better comparison – “Sinister” territory. The previous tone is ditched in favour of some nonsense Ouija shenanigans and shifting glasses on tables akin to Elsie Partridge’s seance in Only Fools and Horses.


Some will see the change as a ramp up of the first half’s conundrums whilst I can imagine many feeling cheated about the bait and switch as we get the more standard genre tropes of spooky visions, nightmares made real and flaming bodies.


Collette gives an absolute star turn though as the wickedly wild woman of the story but shows restraint in more conflicted scenes to balance the hectic finale. Unlike her motherly turn in The Sixth Sense (1999), it is now her turn to see ghosts and visions.


Gabriel Byrne as her husband is sadly a little wasted, and as the realisation the film revolves around an ancient entity seeking a modern (and male) host, the final few scenes did illicit a few gaffaws – akin to my experience of The VVitch. However, despite some of its tonal inconsistencies I enjoyed the film far more than both aforementioned The VVitch and the similarly lauded The Babadook. Both of whom failed to engage me with their apparently “unsettling” but, to me, utter flat delivery.


The film’s themes of inescapable family failings are dissected throughout with a number of strange cult symbols and recurring images (heads are forever rolling in both ways) that are littered through the movie's narrative. And they hint upon and foreshadow the horrors soon to be arriving. Towards its conclusion, Collette’s Annie stalks rooms like a bird of prey – hiding in corners awaiting a chance to strike – and Aster delivers a string of scary sequences which are effective and genuinely unnerving.


Not without its flaws – and for me, certainly nowhere near the praise being thrown at it – Hereditary is a strong showing from a debut director which warrants multiple viewings to fully appreciate its complex domestic themes and doorway into the private (doll)house of a cursed family.


7.5/10


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Oct 4 2018 08:59AM



Midlands Spotlight - Mayhem Film Festival


The Mayhem Film Festival was founded in 2005 by filmmakers Steven Sheil and Chris Cooke and screens the best in contemporary horror, science-fiction and cult cinema from around the world right here in the Midlands.


And their forthcoming 2018 festival is no different. Featuring premieres, previews, masterclasses and international special guest filmmakers - as well and unique live cinema events - the festival has developed a reputation as one of the most innovative horror genre festivals in the country.


Running from 11th October to 14th October the event is based at Nottingham’s Broadway – one of the UK's leading independent cinemas and creative hubs.


Festival Co-Director Chris Cooke has an illustrious career by writing and directing Film 4/BFI funded comedy feature One For The Road whilst fellow Co-Director Steven Sheil is also a screenwriter and director. His first feature film, the microbudget Mum & Dad (2008) was described by Total Film as 'one of the defining British horrors of its generation'.


And with something for every fright fan, please check out the full line up for the 4-days below!


THURSDAY 11 OCTOBER

7.30PM - ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE + Q&A // Dir. John McPhail

10PM - NIGHTMARE CINEMA // Dirs. Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Alejandro Brugués, Ryûhei Kitamura & David Slade


FRIDAY 12 OCTOBER

2.15PM - THE WHITE REINDEER // Dir. Erik Blomberg

3.45PM - PIERCING // Dir. Nicolas Pesce

6.15PM - NIGHTSHOOTERS + Q&A // Dir. Marc Price

8.30PM - PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH // Dirs. Sonny Laguna & Tommy Wiklund

10.30PM - MANDY // Dir. Panos Costamos


SATURDAY 13 OCTOBER

12PM - ONE CUT OF THE DEAD // Dir. Shin'inchiro Ueda

2PM - PROSPECT - UK Premiere // Dirs. Chris Caldwell & Zeek Earl

4PM - NUMBER 37 - UK Premiere // Dir. Nosipho Dumisa

6.45PM - SHORT FILM SHOWCASE // Dirs. Various

9PM - THE DEVIL'S DOORWAY + Q&A //Dir. Aislinn Clarke

11PM - DEMONS + CHOWBOYS (UK Premiere) // Dir. Lamberto Bava


SUNDAY 14 OCTOBER

12PM - INUYASHIKI - UK Premiere // Dir. Shinsuke Sato

2.30PM - THE FIELD GUIDE TO EVIL // Dirs. Ashim Ahluwalia, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Agnieszka Smoczynska, Peter Strickland & Yannis Veslemes

4.45PM - THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW //Dir. Andy Mitton

6.15PM - The Flinterrogation in Cafébar

7.15PM - THE NIGHTSHIFTER //Dir. Dennison Ramalho

9.30PM - WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE // Dir. Colin Minihan


Check out the festival's official website here:

http://www.mayhemfilmfestival.com


By midlandsmovies, Oct 1 2018 08:03AM



Aura (2018)


Directed by Steve Lawson


Written by Steve Lawson (based on an idea by Jonathan Sothcott)


Hereford Films


Aura is a new film released by Hereford films and directed by local Leicester filmmaker Steve Lawson and tells the spooky tale of an ancient entity that can be exposed via a person’s aura.


Kirlian photography has appeared as a fictional element in numerous media and here the concept – a photography technique used to capture the phenomenon of electrical coronal discharges – is refigured to show a person’s supernatural “aura”. The idea of these strangely-coloured emanations has been used in past horrors including the 1975 film The Kirlian Force, re-released under the more sensational title Psychic Killer.

We open this film in a dark room as a mysterious stranger takes photographs of a girl tied to a chair and so Aura begins with a very intriguing concept repurposed for the horror genre.


Cut to the present day and we get Shane Taylor as Mitch who, along with his girlfriend Diane (a superbly vulnerable Janine Nerissa), undertakes the most cliched of horror tropes by moving into a new house.


As they settle, Mitch uncovers the photos in a basement and speaks to his mother – a fantastic Jane MacFarlane as Elaine – who explains the tormented origins of the family’s past engagements.


Lawson has raised the quality of his film once again with Aura. From Killersaurus via Survival Instinct to his last film Essex Heist, Lawson has moved leaped and bounds beyond his zero budget roots but here he continues to tackle the terror genre with a few neat additions thrown in.


To find out more about the paranormal phenomenon, Mitch goes to visit psychic Rula Lenska as Ada. Lenska is a fine face from the past to give the film a bit of gravitas in a role that is typical of the genre and one that Blumhouse have built a company from - see Ouija, Inisidious et al.


Yet Lenska is also one of a number of the actors to use an American accent with Taylor himself appearing to deliver his lines using the voice of a 1930s New York street thug. Although there is a USA muscle car as well, the film is as American as Lawson’s previous Midlands film Essex Heist is from Essex.


However, despite that small personal annoyance, the actors do very well with their roles and Lawson uses off-kilter shots and Dutch angles to add to the film’s weirdness. As we move forward with the narrative it is uncovered that one of the children used in the photo experiments, Karen, voluntarily committed herself to a psychiatric ward. Mitch takes her home and it is here where the movie kicks up a gear.


The second half of the film ditches the table-based expository scenes – which to be fair provide useful backstory but fail to scare with their broad daylight location – and this is despite Jane MacFarlane’s excellent delivery of the soliloquies - and provides some much-needed chills


What is far creepier though are a smattering of horror scenes at night now that the disturbed Karen is released back into the couple’s care. Midnight wandering, nightmare visions and a demon-summoning séance gives the audience the scary thrills it has been building to. Throw in some Exorcist-infused possession and the film delivers some fearful sequences that fright fans will lap up.


Another huge step forward for the Leicester director, Aura has great acting and fantastic Hollywood cinematography. Sadly, the story is as old as the hills with its plot points of demon possession and a matriarchal psychic we’ve seen 1000 times before. However, with this and Nottingham feature Outlawed, we are now seeing feature films from the region that have the blockbuster sheen and weighty ambition that will see filmmakers like Lawson move even higher in the echelons of the industry.


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Sep 23 2018 05:39PM



Bad Samaritan (2018) Dir. Dean Devlin


With a unique if exploitation-esque story, Bad Samaritan’s script by Brandon Boyce tells an interesting tale of valets who use the cars left in their trust to burgle the houses of their unwitting victims whilst they dine.


Robert Sheehan stars as one of the criminals Sean Falco, who on one particular job to steal from David Tennant’s Cale Erendreich stumbles across a woman being held captive at his home. As the title suggests, the devious deeds of Sean are outweighed by his disgust at the kidnap and torture he’s uncovered.


However, after going to the authorities it turns out their investigations turn up nothing and Cale becomes aware that Sean has discovered his chamber and subsequently hatches plans to ruin his life. But despite scenes of dark horror, the film really is a silly affair overall. Tennant’s over-the-top performance is pure pantomime and much like the similar Don’t Breathe, a fantastic premise is utterly wasted.


This film needed much more of a subtle hand to deliver its admittedly interesting concept with themes of guilt, responsibility and invasions of personal space. As a Get Out style satire it could have worked but it’s purely shlock nonsense here.


The situations spiral further out of control and as the scenes become increasingly ludicrous so does Tennant’s performance who appears to have realised what pap he has got into about halfway through filming.


Stupid, yet at a push somewhat fun, the cheap tricks on display may provide some entertainment for those with less demanding sensibilities but in reality this is TV-movie-of-the-week at best.


At best.


5.5/10


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 6 2018 11:59AM



Heather (2018)


Directed by Scott Driver


A scream of ecstasy or agony opens new 3-minute short Heather, the latest from Midlands filmmaker Scott Driver


Previously directing other impactful shorts such as HIM and Restroom, it is quickly made clear by the director that these cries are not from pleasure. Or are they? We cut from legs writhing on a bed to a bespectacled woman raining hammer blows on a body in the bedroom who seems more than happy as to what she is doing.


Scrubbing the resulting blood from her face in the mirror, our assailant is then seen dragging a heavy black bin bag outside.


“What’s in the bag?” asks a delivery man who is passing by, leaving us with a palpable tension in the air as she struggles to come up with a suitable reply. And whilst leaving a package he runs off disturbed with what he has witnessed.


A nearby DIY shop comes to the rescue as our unidentified lead purchases a shovel and the audience may guess where this could lead. And yes, a we’re soon off to a wooded area for the body to be disposed.


Director Driver has an eye for showing not telling an audience the main points of his plot and keeps the dialogue at a minimum. The confines of a short run time can force directors into making snappier edits and trims which I’d love to see continue into their longer local feature films.


Created as part of the regional High Peak Independent Film Festival, the short was entered into their 10 hour film challenge. That’s right. Make a movie in just 10 hours – from start to finish. This goes some way to explaining the lack of dialogue but the short is all the better for its visual, rather than expositional, story-telling.


An ending involving a make-shift wooden headstone and a heavy suggestion this may not have been the first killing the perpetrator has committed draws the film to a close. Will she get caught? It’s not looking likely. Lucky Heather indeed.


Driver’s speedy construction of plot, script and narrative combined with the more than fine high production values and shot choices sees a superb short created in super-fast time that also contains a hard impact and an assured confidence from a talented group of local filmmakers.


Mike Sales





By midlandsmovies, Aug 29 2018 07:32PM

Review - Movie Catch Up Blog 2018 - Part 3




The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) Dir. Johannes Roberts

I hadn’t seen The Strangers (2008) until this year and for me it certainly wasn’t worth the wait as we get a pretty bog-standard home-invasion thriller starring Liv Tyler. However, the few thrills that film had going for it are completely absent here in this belated sequel set ten years later where a family are terrorised at a mobile home park by masked assailants. I’m sick of the child mask killer trope it has to be said and some of the character decisions are embarrassing to say the least. I know it’s not high art but come on. If it’s supposed to be a homage/satire of slasher then it’s 20 years too late anway (see Scream and its wicked take-down of the genre) whilst any attempt to create new franchise-defining villains with Dollface and her cohorts was heavy-handed and bland. The kills are uninspiring, motivations non-existent and only Christina Hendricks seems to be aware of the trash she’s in. Half way through I was ‘praying’ for a better movie. 4/10




Truth or Dare (2018) Dir. Jeff Wadlow

Blumhouse's Truth or Dare? I guess once you have a reputation with a couple of horror successes you can slap your name in front of any old trash like Tarantino does at his worst and expect the brand recognition to get bums on seats alone. And away with the quality, as quality this is not. Horror is one of those specific genres where you have to sift through many more films to find the gems – it could be argued those gems are all the more special – but this Final Destination-esque teen scary movie sits firmly in the bargain bin. A group of adolescents realise they will die if they fail to share a truth or complete a dare and they attempt to do their best to beat the real-life deadly game which originated with a supernatural curse from Mexico. A convoluted set of exposition-heavy rules confuses what could have been a freaky slasher and the actors are sadly given clichéd characters which they are unable to do much with. And from the “acclaimed” director of the awful Kick Ass 2 and the Kevin James starring True Memoirs of an International Assassin I’m not sure why I was surprised to find out the real truth. And what is that truth? It’s utter rubbish. 4/10




10 x 10 (2018) Dir. Suzi Ewing

Making quite a name for himself in roles as a terroriser of women, Luke Evans (The Girl on the Train) stars as Lewis in this new dark chiller involving kidnap and obsession. More like Denis Villenueve’s Prisoners than the Coens’ Fargo, the kidnapping occurs in an everyday US strip-mall car park as Cathy (Calvary’s Kelly Reilly) heads to her vehicle unaware of the evil about to befall her. An unobtrusive hand-held filming style captures the brutality of the attack before Cathy is smothered, tied and placed in the trunk of Lewis’ car. The beats of the soundtrack merge perfectly with our own imagined beats of pounding fists in futile attempts to escape. She is soon whisked off to Lewis’ home where he has constructed a 10 x 10 padded cell with 4-feet thick concrete walls and a recording system. Diving straight in, the film wastes no time in getting to its set-up and without much information we are, like Cathy, oblivious as to the reasons as to why we are here. And how to possibly escape.


The film is slow and meticulous – Evan’s methodical food-making hinting at an obsessive darkness – but there are flashes of action in Cathy’s escape attempts with bottle smashing and gun shots. The film twists and turns and darker secrets come to light but the script and cinematography are mediocre despite the two fine leads. Melodramatic with lacklustre interest 10 x 10 is simply too leaden to be anything more than a footnote on the stars’ résumés 5.5/10



The Devil’s Doorway (2018) Dir. Aislinn Clarke

With one of the best concepts for a horror in many a year, I was excited to see Aislinn’s Clarke’s The Devil’s Doorway which tells the story of two priests who investigate supernatural events at an Irish home for “fallen women”. Whilst the double-act set up is certainly Exorcist-inspired, the unfortunate character traits meant I couldn’t help but be reminded of classic UK sitcom Father Ted. Father Thomas Riley (a frankly brilliant Lalor Roddy) is the old jaded priest with a crisis of faith whilst Father John Thornton (Ciaran Flynn) is a naïve and inexperienced younger believer. (Ted and Dougal respectively). Set in 1960 and using a handheld 16mm camera style, the sense of time and place was superb and Helena Bereen as Mother Superior is as terrifying and intimidating as you could have wanted. Maybe I’m being too harsh but something just wasn’t working despite these excellent elements. From the clichéd door knocks and paranormal child voices to your average jump scare and foreboding corridors, the film failed to leap into more interesting territory despite its high ecclesiastical aspirations. Which was a big shame. Certainly a filmmaker with some aptitude, I have faith we’ll be seeing more from Clarke but this isn’t quite the film it could or wanted to be. 6/10




Journey’s End (2018) Dir. Saul Dibb

A new adaptation of the play by R. C. Sherriff is the 5th time the World War I drama has moved from stage to screen following Journey's End (1930), The Other Side, Aces High and a 1988 BBC TV film. With a fantastic cast what we get is Asa Butterfield’s young Second Lieutenant Raleigh posted to the front-line where his hopeful fighter soon realises the ravages of war can take its toll even on the most experienced of Captains. The gifted Sam Claflin as Stanhope is the Captain in question whose vicious drunken words and tough exterior cover a more sympathetic and broken man conflicted with torment and the horrors of fighting.


Playing out in the muddy dugout over four days of 1918, the cast is fleshed out with gifted turns from heavyweights Tom Sturridge, Toby Jones, Stephen Graham and Paul Bettany. Bettany channels the stiff-upper-lip of a traditional British soldier but also gives his character empathy and pathos as the inevitability of an over-the-top raid to capture a German soldier dawns on him and his men. Grand and distinguished, the film is an admirable adaptation although I was yearning for some more scenes outside the trenches given the cinematic medium. Understandably, the confines of the trenches play their own entrapped character (akin to Kubrick’s Paths of Glory) and the film enlightens the audience on the multifaceted aspects of war and how the horrific pressures can affect different individuals. Journey’s End is therefore a dignified, if slightly by-the-numbers, tale of struggling tactics and temperaments in the trenches. 6.5/10


Michael Sales







By midlandsmovies, Aug 26 2018 07:36AM



Revenge (2018) Dir. Coralie Fargeat


A rape-revenge action horror, Revenge is certainly not for the faint at heart. Director Coralie Fargeat has created a visceral show of bloody violence and dreamy imaginations as a young girl escapes into the wilderness to hide and stalk her tormentors.


Married man Richard (Kevin Janssens) flies out his secret lover Jen (Matilda Lutz) to a remote house in the desert for a saucy weekend together but are interrupted by the arrival of his hunting pals Stain (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède). After a night of partying, Stan rapes Jen in a vile act whilst Dimitri stands by. When Richard returns, the situation spirals out of hand and with a promise of paying her off and returning her home, he pushes her from a cliff where she is impaled on a tree.


Leaving her for dead, the film uses incredibly strong imagery throughout. As Jen pulls herself off the tree, her battered, bruised and bloodied body twists and contorts. Audiences will be fixated in the hope she survives but at the same time will struggle to watch as they turn away from the stark and graphic images on screen. And the film never lets up.


Jen’s thoughts turn to survival and with little dialogue Lutz does well with her role bringing depth to what is truly a b-movie concept. She is also both stalked and the stalker. Jen needs to simultaneously avoid the men yet needs the cars and guns they possess to escape from the harsh desert, which acts as its own villain in her survival plans. When her wounds begin to take hold a hallucinatory drug allows her to cauterize the wound but plays havoc with her version of reality.


After acquiring a gun and when Stan’s SUV runs out of petrol, Jen becomes sniper and in an exchange of shooting, the film’s most stomach-turning scene is “merely” a shard of glass through a bare foot. Removing it slowly, the sequence is simply shot and all the more revolting because of it. See similar French drama/realism in the fantastic Martyrs and Raw, both comparative nasty gallic pieces.


The film does play out much as you expect so doesn’t push many boundaries with its action-drama-violence. And although it’s been claimed it’s some sort of feminist revision, it’s no Love Witch for sure. I’d argue that whilst there are sprinkling of those themes throughout, they are a smokescreen for the usual revenge flick clichés and tropes.


But that’s no bad thing. The nasty violence should bring in the splatter fans, whilst the more discerning can enjoy a depth of character and ideas rarely seen in this brand of furious filmmaking. With intense scenes, Revenge is a non-mainstream cinematic coup that explores slightly deeper themes than your average personal payback piece to provide exploitation pleasures and explosive sequences.


8/10


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Aug 25 2018 12:24PM



Fright Club in Derby screens cult classics in September


Fright Club is Derby QUAD's mix of brand new terrors from home and abroad and the pick of the archives which has a reputation of dragging audiences kicking and screaming towards the midnight hour!


Every month, Cult Film Historian Darrell Buxton introduces some of the best horror films around and in September they have a whole host of chillers coming to the cinemtaic screen.


Fright Club are screening (to much controversy it seems - see BBC coverage here) British horror classics Don't Look Now and The Wicker Man at Derby Cathedral on September 7th and 8th.


At QUAD, there are screenings of local horror comedy Crispy's Curse with a Q&A with director John Williams on September 28th.


And during the following month on October 11th, there will be a preview screening of British zombie epic Redcon-1 with a Q&A involving director Chee Keong Cheung, executive producer and actor Carlos Gallardo (El Mariachi, Desperado, Once Upon A Time in Mexico), and actor, producer and fight co-ordinator Mark Strange (Batman Begins).



For more information and to purchase tickets for each screening check out the links below:


Don't Look Now (15)

September 7th 2018

Derby Cathedral

Click here


The Wicker Man (15)

September 8th 2018

Derby Cathedral

Click here


Crispy's Curse (18)

September 28th

QUAD

Click here


Redcon-1 (18)

October 11th 2018

QUAD

Click here





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