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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, Sophie Stuckey 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 history of 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 play adds a layer of interesting complexity as it delivers a play within a play.


Kipps is first played by Robert Goodale, 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 the story successfully.


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


The sparse stage layout first evokes a small theatre but as the play moves into the recreation of the story then it becomes more elaborate as we see dusty sheets on old furniture through the haze of a semi-translucent curtain.


This opens up the play to a larger location and larger themes about loneliness remembrance. It does dip back into the fact that the story is being recollected and acted out from the pages of the diary which 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 thrown in 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 recommend you definitely head towards this disturbingly dark tale set at the infamous and sinister prison known as ‘the rock’.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Jan 16 2020 07:29AM



3 from Hell (2019) Dir. Rob Zombie


3 from hell is the third instalment in the blood soaked Firefly trilogy written and directed by Rob Zombie. The film follows on from 2005’s cult spectacle ‘The Devils Rejects’ following Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Winslow ‘Foxy’ Coltrane (Richard Brake).


After the unfortunate passing of Sid Haig (Captain Spalding) the film underwent re-writes that saw the character replaced by Richard Brakes character. The film centres around these three fiendish nihilists as they embark on a journey from incarceration to the freedom of anarchy.


Firstly the question needs to be asked… Did we need this film? NO…


The film had the same budget as the final 45 minutes of The Devils Rejects said Rob Zombie on ‘The Joe Rogan Experience.’


This film felt like a rush to the finish line for me. Zombie has gifts; he really does. And I'd rather see him using them with fresh material than repeating himself, which is what he did to some extent in 2016's 31 and also here. This film lacked that dirty, nasty, gross taste we expect with a Rob Zombie film and instead replaces it with silly humour and Hollywood production.


The film gradually feels more Hollywood, with the standard tropes, as we approach the third act which unsurprisingly presents itself like one big reshot third act, almost completely separating us from themes and character arcs presented in the first half of the film.


You have all the pieces of a great Rob Zombie picture here: hilarious comic book dialogue, gruesome violence, and charismatic anti-heroes. And 3 From Hell is as extreme as it is whimsical, and as gratuitous as it is provocative. And the Western elements are omnipresent in this one, building upon the style of The Devil's Rejects.


But unfortunately we don’t get that, we get a patchy, corny, and at times, a face-palming ordeal.



Ben Warrington

Twitter @ben_warro


By midlandsmovies, Jan 7 2020 05:35PM

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


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, Dec 15 2019 11:08AM



Wild Hunt


Directed by Hendrik Harms


2019


Harms Way Studios


The annual decorating of the Christmas tree opens new creepy short Wild Hunt from Midlands director Hendrik Harms.


Two sisters (Tess Clarke as Maggie and Charlotte Wallis as Beatrice) bicker over who should top the tree with an angel but elder sister Maggie kindly allows her sibling to take the honours. However, the lovely gesture soon turns into a nightmare when Maggie awakes in the middle of the night to see her sister dragged away by a person unknown.


An intriguing opening, the mystery is set up and Harms further pushes away from Christmas tropes into a dark arena as Maggie meets a stranger at a candlelit table. Here she asks about the legend of Woden.


For those who don’t know, he’s historically linked to the origins of Santa and was worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons and Celts. Woden, the god of magic and healing rode across the sky on an eight-legged white horse and came to Earth in the form of Father Christmas, dispensing goodwill, luck, peace, of course presents.


Harms is aiming to mix two very different tones and although the Indiana Jones supernatural elements sometimes grate against the domestic settings, it’s mostly successful in giving yuletide tropes a new horror spin.


Maggie also explains that Woden wasn’t all fun and games. The legend says Woden uses young people as forest hunters and kidnaps more children as replacements if one dies.


Following the instructions of the mysterious woman, Maggie soon ends up in the Black Forest searching for the mythical entity to retrieve her sister. From the angelic decoration to Violet’s name – violets first blossomed when Gabriel told Mary of her impending birth as well as symbolising protection and connection – Harms’ little touches, both in the script and mise-en-scène demonstrates a thoughtfulness and depth in the short which was impressive.


A bit more attention could have been paid to the lighting though. Some sequences seemed slightly underlit but that said, the visuals are suitably cinematic and well composed by cinematographer Elliot Wallis. Ironically the moment Maggie finds Woden in the woods could have actually been darker which would have added a scary presence to the monster and his minions. Perhaps even a night-time shoot in the snow. Not easy to arrange granted.


Geena Dinnis provides some great make-up on Woden but the monster required a little better sound mixing as the fantastic voice is undercut by some poor syncing.


Back to the story, Maggie is then hunted herself, hiding behind tress and branches in the woods and I won’t spoil any ending here there’s a bit of black comedy as the two sisters cross paths in an emotional conclusion.


There’s plenty to recommend about Wild Hunt though. The narrative strands hang together like an exquisite set of fairy lights. And the mix of old and new traditions are an excellent addition to the fable being told. Bringing Christmas back to its tribal roots, Wild Hunt is a very successful and sinister short. And this frightful festive film has all the necessary trimmings which makes it a hugely satisfying dark delight.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Dec 5 2019 05:20PM



Rachel


Directed by David L Knight


2019


“This won’t bring her back”.


Rachel is a new film from Midlands filmmaker David L Knight and throws us straight in to a world of drugs, violence and former wrongdoings.


Opening with a dishevelled man in a hoodie playing with a lighter, the voice of a female tells him that his pain must be “unbearable”, before we are shown her standing nearby in an angelic white dress.


However, the junkie quickly turns his aching addiction into an abduction as he drags a well-dressed woman off the street and into the alley. But here, we are shocked as a hard cut to black then takes us to a warehouse with the man now tied to chair in a brutal opening twist.


With tape over his mouth gagging his cries for help, the ghostly woman reappears laughing before two strangers arrive. “Rachel” builds up its world quickly and efficiently and with just a few lines of dialogue the short sets up a number of intriguing mysteries that help push the narrative along.


Owing to the setting and situation, the filmmaker also delivers a locally-infused Reservoir Dogs aesthetic with the tied victim attempting to speak, but also suspecting the worst. He’s definitely stuck in the middle with them!


“There’ll be plenty of time for noise later”, says one of the captors as they toy with their victim and the short builds up some good tension as we are thrown into this dark standoff.


As per the three-act structure, at about two-thirds of the way in the film finally reveals that one of the tormentors has lost his daughter and is seeking some rough justice. But although our victim claims to have no knowledge of the man’s 17 year-old, a photo thrust under his nose proves otherwise.


The presence of a person as a metaphor for a haunted past is a little over-used in films but Knight uses the apparition sparingly enough, especially as she is often glimpsed over the captor’s shoulder – haunting both the dad and his bloodied victim.


As we draw to the film’s conclusion, the verbal torture ends and physical torture begins in a brief flash of violence straight out of Taken. Rachel slowly builds a sense of concern AND revulsion for both of the main characters as we are shown the two sides of a moral quandary.


However, as the mysteries unravel so do the captors and the short ends on a cliffhanger of horror. A cautionary and mostly successful tale of drug abuse and revenge, and despite a cliché here or there, Rachel ends up a satisfyingly tense 9 minutes of drama where past mistakes haunt the present.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Dec 3 2019 05:59PM



Review - Midsommar


Midsommar is the second feature film from up and coming horror maven Ari Aster. Midsommar revolves around Dani (Florence Pugh) a young women traumatised by a family tragedy that turns her difficult student life upside down.


Dani invites herself on a trip to Sweden to take part in the Midsommar celebrations alongside her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his budding student friends. The pleasant trip turns from a pleasant, healing experience and into a dark, dread-soaked visceral ordeal.


This film had lots to live up to considering the honorary success of Hereditary in 2017. And Ari has not disappointed.


Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor both are fantastic in their roles backed by an equally noble ensemble. The characters all had their parts to play in this movie, all of them bringing heaps of value to the plot, and all of the people involved created a light but dark spectacle. The costumes of the Midsommar goers are beautiful, and everything from the synchronicity of movements, to these characters micro expressions provided a thoroughly immersive experience that hits hard.


The plot really does have some dark themes to it, exploring tragedy and grief to the heart-breaking descent of a relationship. Midsommar has it all. The camera work is beyond belief, each frame could be a photograph if rendered correctly, and A24 really did give Aster the budget and support he needed to create one of my favourite movies of 2019.


Don’t get me wrong this isn’t for the faint hearted, the effects in Midsommar are gnarly, realistic and justifiable, but also horrific. The common debate among critics of this movie is, is it a cult movie? Or a breakup movie? Well, you decide.


But this film truly did give me a strong sense of wellness, I somehow fell under the spell of the psychedelic potency of this piece and loved all the themes it is predicated upon.


But if I had to summarise this to you. Watch it. See it, and join the festivities.


★★★★ ½


Ben Warrington

Twitter @ben_warro



By midlandsmovies, Nov 26 2019 09:20PM



Midlands Review - Do You See It Too?



Directed by Liam Banks


2019


Superfreak Media


"Do You See iI Too?" is the latest short story from Liam Banks and Superfreak Media which tells of a rainy night in what appears to be suburban England. A couple (Chloe Crump and Jay Podmore) are agonisingly traumatised by something lurking in the shadows of their home and we follow them as they attempt to alleviate their terror through the night.


Firstly, there are countless positives to this piece that with such a low budget must be highly commended. The colour palette is beautiful, and the usage of light is a real way to build the tension in this piece.


Ambiguous lighting like this really does press on your anxiety as the viewer and that’s what the film attempts to project onto its audience.


The sound design also was a very nice feature, not perfect mind as there are small questions of synchronicity with what we hear but its used in a very effective way to pace the film, as well as set the mysterious mood. The two lead characters were flawless when expressing fear and anxiety, and following their journey throughout this piece really connected us with them.


There was some really great shots as well which really made me feel uncomfortable at times and the pacing of this film being so peculiar was another clever technique.


The plot itself isn’t clear what it wants to portray at times but you can clearly see there are some references to other, more popular theatrical releases. However, this doesn’t cause an issue as the implementation of many horror techniques was present and I really could feel the energy behind the camera.


Overall, the short is a perfectly well implemented horror flick. Personally, I didn’t enjoy the jump scares in particular but I wouldn’t hold that against the makers as I know they had a minor budget.


So with some beautiful shots, sound design and visuals, backed up by two very good performances, Do You See It Too is a short but tense, nerve shredding ride.


Ben Warrington

@ben_warro

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