icons-03 icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo

blog

Movie news, reviews, features and more thoughts coming soon...

By midlandsmovies, Aug 17 2017 09:36PM

The Belko Experiment (2017) Dir. Greg McLean


From the director of Wolf Creek 1 and 2 comes this horror-drama where a group of office workers in South America are pitted against each other in a social experiment fight to the death.


Each worker has a voluntary tracking device in their head (owing to possible kidnappings) yet when their high rise building is suddenly locked down, a mysterious intercom voice instructs them to kill each other or face having their in-head trackers blown up.


A ridiculous premise for sure, I found the characters boring and not even a broad turn from the likable John C. McGinley (Office Space) could help with the repetitive killing spree.


Uninspiring “deaths” and a lack of tension unfortunately didn’t help proceedings and the film was crying out for the genre-bending and satirical style of similar structural kill-fest ‘Cabin in the Woods’. In a world where realism is often missing from modern movies, it was clear that what The Belko Experiment actually needed was a big pinch of hyper-reality or dark comedy to compensate for the ludicrous set-up.


Despite being written by James Gunn, the film contains little of his wit and clever character arcs (as seen in his ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films) and was ultimately just like a long unfulfilling 9-5 shift at the office.


5/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Aug 9 2017 03:15PM



Raw (2017) Dir. Julia Ducournau


What if you had a rash that didn’t stop itching? Well, that’s just one of the inescapable addictions in French-Belgian film Raw that looks at growing up in a world of school, sex, and illness.


We follow Garance Marillier as the wild-eyed and vegetarian Justine who follows in her parents and sister’s footsteps and heads to veterinary school. Here she is immediately thrown into the wild parties and the ritualistic and degrading hazing of new joiners at the college.


The director shows the horrors of hedonism in long tracking shots in nightclubs and the frightening freshers’ week ends in the new recruits covered in blood and guts in a Carrie-esque soaking. The final initiation sees Justine forcing down a raw rabbit kidney despite her veggie instincts.


An irritating body rash soon develops before more primal impulses start to form and the lifelong herbivore begins to enjoy the taste of meat-filled sandwiches. This soon progresses to raw chicken then even her own hair which is regurgitated in a shot of visual repulsion.


Her college life continues and the director gives us stark glimpses of the school with scenes of horses, breeding and animal corpses. From the limbs of a variety of beasts, the crossover between animal and human is an obvious parallel but works well as we see the two combine. Sometimes literally when Justine is shown elbow deep in a bovine’s bottom.


It is here when the director’s realism culminates in a horrific scene as her sister’s finger is accidentally cut off and Justine crosses a taboo line. Much like the cinematic authenticity of French film Martyrs, the slice-of-life direction focusing on drama make the shocks all the more terrifying. The amazing Ella Rumpf plays her sister Alexia and the film begins to suggest a sibling similarity between the relatives.


With an almost non-existent score (mostly a soundtrack of background music and sounds), the simple turn from biological functions – themselves depicted in their simple disgusting glory – to a craving for the forbidden fruit of human flesh is revoltingly good. With bullying and nappy punishments, the film is visually biological with a strong focus on the body. From things going in and coming out of orifices to waxing and washing, the film cuts between these haunting human images to animal autopsies and dissections.


A horse on a treadmill appears symbolic of Justine’s ever growing and onoging hunger for “bodies” and her cravings for the phallic finger leads to an awakening sexuality as she breeds and bleeds with her male mating partner.


I subsequently felt that Raw infects the audience with an orgy of limbs whilst Justine’s withdrawal is depicted in a painfully straight forward filming style. Like the recent US film Maggie, Raw takes the flesh-eating concept and attempts to normalise its presentation. Raw is a much greater triumph though, and far better movie, and becomes a biting, but maybe slightly on the nose, metaphor for growing up and its effects on the body. The film succeeds on many levels and after it had finished I found an obsession with its images and themes and longed for another taste of its delicious pleasures.


9/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Aug 8 2017 09:41AM



Flatpack presents - Dudley Castle After Dark: An American Werewolf in Dudley


John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London brought packs of film fans out to a special screening of the highly influential horror-comedy.


Unlike last year's Bride of Frankenstein screening, the surrounding animals in Dudley Zoological Gardens were ominously quiet throughout. Perhaps with the werewolf in town, they were worried about their place on the food chain. Perhaps not. Although in recompense, there was a baby somewhere screaming with a mixture of terror and tiredness.


The evening opened with Howl, an eerie animated short detailing a true enfant terrible in the shape of a werewolf toddler. This was fittingly followed by the full length video for Michael Jackson's Thriller vanity project. Directed by John Landis after The King of Pop saw An American Werewolf in London, its balance of laughs, scares and nostalgia set the tone perfectly for the main feature.



After a personalised video greeting by the director himself ("On the way home, stay on the road"), we were straight onto the Moors. We join two American tourists as they walk into The Slaughtered Lamb, a pub which the residents of The Wicker Man’s Summerisle would probably regard as “a bit rough.” A swift exit sees them stranded in the back end of beyond, with something creepy closing in...


The film itself sees Rick Baker's 36 year old practical effects still looking surprisingly impressive on the big screen, no doubt holding up better than the many CGI efforts that have followed it. Besides the ground-breaking transformation of David (David Naughton), there's true horror to be found in the lycanthropic mauling and subsequent undead appearances of Jack (Griffin Dunne).


There are also genuine laughs to be had, as Jack’s incarnations become increasingly comical and gruesome throughout. The camaraderie between the male leads is infectious and the humour still stands up in front of a modern audience. Having said that the downbeat ending is still a shock to the system, but how could it all end happily?


After the moon rose and the darkness fell, projected pentagrams and candle flames crept along the castle walls, creating a sinister setting for the leaving audience. Such details, alongside Landis’ intro, thoughtful shorts and an inspired film selection, has seen Flatpack’s ‘Dudley Castle after Dark’ become an unmissable event in the Midlands' movie calendar.


Robb Sheppard


twitter.com/RedBezzle

By midlandsmovies, Aug 6 2017 07:15PM



Who Put Bella in the Wych-Elm: The Untold Secrets


Pre-release Screening, 4th August 2017, Stourbridge Town Hall


The question of who put Bella in the Wych-Elm has both baffled and captivated the public since 1943, when the body of an unidentified female was found in the innards of a tree in Hagley Woods in the West Midlands.


Director and paranormal investigator Jayne Harris set about trying to solve this long-standing mystery and uncovered some shocking revelations along the way. Stourbridge Town Hall sold out early with four hundred people wanting to be the first to see the film that documents her findings.


A director’s introduction detailed the evolution of the project, from YouTube clip to documentary feature before the audience was introduced to the case. Harris opened the introduction with claims that she isn’t a filmmaker. This is an assertion which needs to be reassessed.


The sheer wealth of material that has been excavated and created is staggering: Soaring aerial expositional shots of Hagley and its surrounding areas situate the audience slap-bang in the middle of the crime scene; ‘misplaced’ post-mortem documents were dug up and acted recreations were used effectively, never once evoking that unintentional ‘Horrible Histories’ feel that hampers some documentaries. Seamlessly put together, exhaustively researched and passionately presented, this wouldn’t look out of place under the Documentaries tab on Netflix.


Talking heads interviews with case experts and witchcraft aficionados translate as authoritative and impartial and are all the more engrossing for it. However, the medium’s insight does ask a lot of the audience, leaving this pragmatist somewhat sceptical and wishing the film was five minutes shorter.


However, depending on your inclination this and the eyewitness accounts of ghostly figures in the area will either send you running for the Wychbury hills…or running for the hills.


Although a few audio issues with the venue detracted from the presentation, it was inspiring to hear so many audience members discussing their thoughts and theories in the lobby after the film. This is clearly a case which captures the imagination and to see it in such an environment (a stone’s throw or two from the crime scene) separates this from your run-of-the-mill multiplex experience.


That the story invites such engagement is unsurprising; it’s delightfully dark and rich for exploration. Who was Bella? A prostitute, a traveller, a German intelligence agent? What about the actual killer? Was it ritualistic witchcraft, a local cover up or even Mi5 influenced? You’ll have to see it to find out for yourself.


Bella will haunt Stourbridge Town Hall again at a further screening on the 31st of October. Links to tickets will soon be available here


The DVD of Who Put Bella in the Wych-Elm is available to order here with bonus features which include copies of the original police files/photographs and an interview with Director & Producer Jayne Harris.


Robb Sheppard

https://twitter.com/RedBezzle

By midlandsmovies, Aug 4 2017 07:49AM



Midlands Movies speaks to local legend Thomas Hodge aka The Dude Designs who for years has been respected as one of the best alternative poster designers out there but who now has taken his first steps into making his very own film.


Thomas Hodge is the poster artist behind Hobo with A Shotgun (2011) The Innkeepers (2011) The Heat (2013) WolfCop (2014) and many more, as well as the author of VHS: Video Cover Art (2015). This book is the first of its kind to comprehensively bring together the artwork on UK VHS covers from the '80s to the '90s.


But now Tom is now proud to present his first stint in the director's chair with 'Teddy Bears Picnic', a proof-of-concept short film selected to premiere at this year's Fright Fest in London.


Written, produced, directed and financed by Tom himself, the film stars US actress Abby Miller (Justified, Aquarius & The Sinner TV series) and Laurence R Harvey (Human Centipede 2+3, ABCs of Death 2 & The Editor) yet was shot entirely in the Midlands at Welford in Northampton.


“I'm VERY excited to announce my first film project at long last!” says Tom who has kept the project behind guarded doors during its production. He adds, “It’s great the film is also showing at Fright Fest in London on the 28th August and with a world-wide online release to follow I hope it’s possible to develop it into a feature”.



The film revolves around a mother and daughter playing games in the forest but unbeknownst to them there is somebody watching their every move. Filmed entirely on location in the rural woodlands of the English Northampton countryside, Tom describes the short as "a year-long trip in terms of production but seven years of work in total”.


“I've been hands-on throughout, donning many new creative hats to produce, direct, art-direct and edit for the first time. I spent months making props, building creepy woodlands and creating original costumes."


Tom says how he was inspired by the 1907 melody of the same name, “Teddy Bears Picnic re-envisions the childhood song as a nightmarish fable that twists the concept of childhood innocence. I particularly loved the creativity of high concept horror in the '70s and '80s – from the films of Charles Band to the pulp horror novels of Guy N. Smith. So I wanted to take classic character-driven horror and develop it to suit contemporary tastes, with a strongly stylised visual approach”.


Tom also had the invaluable input of an “amazing director of photography" James Fox and the help and support from co-producer Natalie Dorn who also sacrificed a year for production. A musical score by Sophie Galpin (Pins-band) and sound design by Todd Freeman (Cell Count & Love Sick) add to the small cast and crew alongside co-writer Russell Norris.


With a set of teaser trailers being released online over the next month, you can get updates on the film at Tom’s YouTube channel - click here


And check out Tom’s poster art at https://www.thedudedesigns.com




By midlandsmovies, Aug 3 2017 08:58PM

Hounds of Love (2017) Dir. Ben Young


Australian model Emma Booth is unrecognisable as Evelyn White, the warped partner of a serial killer who preys on young girls in this debut feature from director Ben Young. Her husband is John (a creepy Stephen Curry) and together they troll the neighbourhood looking for unsuspecting girls to kidnap, torture and eventually kill. After a successful stalk and kill spree, their next target is the impressionable Ashleigh Cummings (as Vicki).


Jumping from her window at night to head to a party, Vicki is tempted by the lure of a lift and marijuana before being tricked into entering the couple’s home then drugged and chained to a bed. This dark and disturbing film treats its characters with respect allowing the actors to brilliantly portray twisted, psychopathic tendencies whilst showing a vulnerability and doubt that arise during quieter moments.


The house is surprisingly normal yet Vicki witnesses the twisted relationship from her confines and realises these doubts may be her one means of escape.


Jealousy and resentment play their parts and the director continuously crosses the mundane with bouts of shocking terror which never allows an audience to get truly comfy. There are (small) echoes of The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009) as we see kidnappers distrusting one another but the terrifying drama and sadistic suffering is more akin to Haneke’s Funny Games (1997).


Booth portrays a conflicted persecutor so well there are signs of sympathy but her torment is cut with brutal cruelty that reminds us of the extremely harrowing circumstances she has placed this young woman in.


Cumming as Vicki suffers at the hands of her aggressors but knows that it will be her mind not her muscles that will assist her and the actress gives a first-rate performance as the abused but assured victim. A quality yet somewhat controversial debut, Ben Young has crafted a creepy suburban scare story which has the uncanny ability to make audiences both panic and ponder over its disturbing content. A scary soap opera about the neighbours next door.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Aug 1 2017 06:36PM

Hell rises at the Phoenix


On a sunny Monday night, Midlands based writer/director Steve Lawson brought hell down on the Leicester Phoenix thanks to the premiere of his latest movie 'Hellriser', produced through his own company Creativ Studios in conjunction with 88 Films, who are fast establishing themselves as the go-to label for cult and genre cinema.


Fans of independent British horror will recognise a whole host of faces, if not their names, as Hellriser stars Steven Dolton (Zombie Undead, Devil’s Tower and KillerSaurus), Charlie Bond (Strippers Vs Werewolves; Vendetta) and Nathan Head who has stared in way too many independent British horrors to name here.


The film itself follows a jaded alcoholic detective (Dolton) and his new, fresh faced partner; Detective Keyes (Bond) as they trail a mysterious killer who seems to be solving the local prostitution problem in their own bloody way.


Although things are not quite as they seem as the action soon takes an occult twist, with the introduction of the hammy German psychologist Dr. Unnseine, terrifically portrayed by Andrew Coughlan, and his patient Annie Dyer (Raven Lee – returning to her role from an earlier Steve Lawson film - however Hellriser is designed to work as a standalone film).


Some of the early scenes are evocative of several contemporary gialli, with this connection no doubt aided by the use of triggers such as black gloves and choice of lighting, while a specific murder torture scene reminded me somewhat of a similar set up in Dario Argento’s much (and rightfully so) maligned film ‘Giallo’ only here it is better executed and situated within a much better film.


Talking of the colour yellow, sorry for the poor segue, Hellriser manages to keep things fresh for the viewer with the injection of not only dark humour but also something a little brighter and eagle-eyed British viewers past a certain age will enjoy the nod to a certain author.


The ability to combine the thriller elements with the humour is why Hellriser works so well, Steve Lawson manages to pepper in intentionally humorous dialogue and moments without breaking the tonal consistency of the film and the result of this is a film that is comfortable with its limitations while maximising those areas that don't cost money - namely decent writing and great timing.


While special mention has to be made for the music by Kevin MacLeod, which on first listen came across as a mixture of Goblin (in particular Claudio Simonetti) and a less electronic Robin Coudert. Music can often make or break a film, and here it certainly plays its part in supporting a highly entertaining watch.


So it is unfortunate then that the film suffers from an anti-climactic ending; which despite being very slightly reminiscent of Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead fails to hit the mark. Perhaps part of the problem however is that we go from one terrific flesh melting death to that of a pretty easy and inconclusive final battle. Although for those that way inclined the ending is at least pretty easy on the eye.


Ultimately however, Hellriser is a highly influenced but never derivative fun film and writer/director Steve Lawson must be commended for the way in which he seamlessly weaves these references without disrupting the flow or impacting on the enjoyment of the more casual fan.


In a subgenre that is so easy to get wrong, Hellriser stands as a shining example that will undoubtedly please horror fans and hopefully will find its audience. Talking of which, before I headed off to the premiere I tried doing a bit of background research but found the title somewhat of a hindrance when I went online although I suspect that it was chosen for sales and marketing reasons as when you are browsing the shelves in their local store or the selection on a VOD service it’s similarity will peak enough interest to make this approach worthwhile.




Hellriser is available on DVD for pre-order on Amazon and will be released by 88 Films.


To keep up to date with the film and to find out more visit the Creativ Studios Facebook page.


Midlands Movies Marek

tWITTER: @cosiperversa


By midlandsmovies, Jul 10 2017 05:44PM


Midlands Movies Mike uncovers an interesting new experimental feature that combines the mysticism of folklore with the modernism of an experimental soundtrack.


Staffordshire set film The Doxey Boggart is a new film from John E Smoke who is a deaf-blind filmmaker, musician and artist. Set within a nature reserve called Doxey Marshes, the film is a semi-documentary which follows a group of people investigating the local legend.


From an experimental sound artist with his guide dog to his fellow esoteric associates, they seek to uncover the truth about a ‘boggart’ (an evil or mischievous spirit) that is associated with the area.


Director John E Smoke is the aforementioned sound artist and has performed in many unusual locations including abandoned buildings and a set at Mermaid Pool in the Staffordshire Moorlands.


During one particular session of his there were claims of a ghostly image being caught on film which went viral online and featured widely in press at the time.


The film mixes a slim ‘plot’ with real-life elements as the musicians perform a set on Doxey Marshes during which a folk poem about a boggart is recited. At first nothing untoward happens but after the disappearance of a mother and child “the team are left wondering if the recital has brought something to life”.


Following their investigations the film includes field recordings and footage and borrows from 'actual' local folklore relating to 'boggarts', 'bugs' and other entities.



One of the key parts of the film is the music which assists in supporting the atmosphere of the historic locations. John E Smoke has pulled together friends in the music scene to compile a soundtrack that includes well-respected members of the experimental noise genre.


Soundtrack artists include 'Tunnels of Ah' (the solo project of the former Head of David vocalist, 'Autoclav 1.1', 'Khost' (featuring former members of Techno Animal, Final, Iroha etc), 'From The Bogs of Aughiska', 'John 3:16', 'Ian Haygreen', 'Whote', 'Satan's Bee Keeper', 'Theresia', 'Raxil4' and 'James Hoehl' alongside field recordings undertaken by John E Smoke.


With a mix of documentary, sound art and a little bit of horror, The Doxey Boggart’s eclectic combination of experimental images and dark ambient music will be released later in 2017 and also includes the release of hand printed DVD and double-CD music packs.


For more info please take a look at the trailer above and also check out further details of this Sonic Entrails production over on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/doxeyboggart






RSS Feed twitter