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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

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

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

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.


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:

By midlandsmovies, Jul 9 2017 09:15AM

The Mummy (2017) Dir. Alex Kurtzman

Oh Tom Cruise what have ye done?

Tom Cruise is one of those actors who fully deserves the title “icon”, “film star”. He has tackled every genre and worked with the greats. I mean who can boast working with Scorsese, Spielberg, Kubrick, Coppola, Stone, De Palma, Mann, Woo, Ridley and Tony Scott to name a few? He’s managed to stay on top of his game through four decades, reinventing himself time and time again.

But is this the end? If The Mummy is a taste of what we can expect from now on, then this could be the first nail in Cruise’s coffin?

Firstly, clear you mind. Clear your mind of any previous assumption this will film will be similar to the old 30’s Mummy film’s or Brendan Fraser’s Mummy trilogy of 99-08. Doing so will give you a better chance of enjoying this picture…maybe. I went expecting a fresh take on an old story, and that is on offer here, it’s just a shame the film is so poorly made narratively speaking.

The story begins with during the Middle Ages, as English crusaders capture a large stone from Egypt and entomb it within the coffin of a departed crusader knight. The rare stone coupled with a special dagger can grant whoever wields it the power to transfer spirits into an animated form.

In another flashback, in Ancient Egypt, Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) has just been informed that her new born baby brother will be the new heir to the throne as he is male. Scorned by this she sells her soul to the Egyptian god of Evil, Set, who presents her with a dagger to kill her family which can also be used to transfer his spirit into human form.

Ahmanet fails however and is buried alive deep underground inside a sarcophagus. Unknowingly U.S soldier and treasure hunter Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) stumbles upon her tomb. Freeing the sarcophagus for financial gain Nick and his military superiors place her in transport to London.

Free from the steel chains and mercury imprisoning her, Princess Ahmanet takes over the plane transporting her, crashing and killing nearly everyone on board. Nick awakes from the crash, confused and disorientated, he is told Ahmanet has chosen him as a vessel for Set and is now cursed for eternity. Roaming around free in present day London, Princess Ahmanet regains human form, chasing the stone and dagger she needs to resurrect Set.

It’s difficult to understand how director Alex Kurtzman has managed to make a story which could be so simple into such a convoluted mess. The Mummy throughout its 110-minute run time has no patience, it never seems to slow down enough for characters to develop or for the viewer to catch up with the unnecessarily complex narrative. This is the films biggest problem, what should have been a brisk, enjoyable adventure film has been worn down to a gloomy, careless, mess.

Leaving the film, I realised I didn’t know anything about Nick nor cared what happened to him, he’s a character that moves the plot from A to B. Nick’s love interest Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) the viewer cares even less about, she is given no development and comes across as bland and unforgettable.

With War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) just on the horizon we know that good CGI is attainable for modern Hollywood blockbusters which frustrates me when you see the awful effects on show here. This is genuinely one of the worst examples of bad CGI I’ve seen in recent years.

Releasing The Mummy, Universal Studios are trying to capitalise on the current trend for films to share

a universe instead of standing alone, in this case the universe being the Dark Universe, which will consist of films based on the classic monster movies of the 1930s. Whilst I’m no expert or super fan of Marvel they have done a stellar job in achieving this, working hard over the last decade ensuring the films that make up for universe are solid feature films that can be watched as a singular film and still be enjoyable. Universal seem to be desperate to replicate their success but not willing to spend the time ensuring the movies they’re producing under the Dark Universe banner to be well made.

Overall The Mummy surprises me. Tom Cruise is known to have such a powerful creative input during production that his films are made to an extremely high standard which isn’t the case here. A bigger shame is that the opening half hour impressed me, the scenes in Iraq are creepy and exhilarating; the fire-fight on the rooftop being a good action set piece. Also the cinematography by Ben Seresin, known for his work on World War Z, is fantastic but wasted in parts by the rushed editing.

Tom Cruise is back in cinemas this September with American Made (2017) which sees him team with up Edge of Tomorrow (2014) director Doug Liman so here’s hoping Cruise can get back to his best!


Guy Russell

By midlandsmovies, Jul 9 2017 09:03AM

Midlands Movies interview Luke Gosling and Sean Brown of B305 Productions

Midlands Movies Mike speaks to Luke Gosling and Sean Brown from Leicester film production company Bearing 305 Productions to talk about their new horror Blood Myth, what the future holds for this exciting new project and there experience of on-set ‘Barnageddon’.

Midlands Movies Mike: Morning Luke and Sean. How are things and what’s your connection to the Midlands film scene?

Luke Gosling: Hi there! Well I’m originally from Newark, but now living in Lincoln. I have been an avid film fan from a young age, which lead me to study BA in Model Design at Hertfordshire University. From there I developed a keen interest in storytelling so started making skits and short films as a means to show my written work.

Sean Brown: For me, I have been making films since I was 16. I am originally from Newark and I studied Media Production at Lincoln University. I worked at ITV in Leeds in their post production facilities and have more recently been working at The Northern Film School in Leeds.

MM: Nice! How did your new film Blood Myth come about?

LG: After tackling numerous short films across various genres we decided that we had progressed technically to a level where the natural next step was to make a feature length film.

MM: Can you tell us a bit about the film’s story?

LG: Blood Myth is British folk horror film. It is a twisty turny mystery that will intrigue and shock audiences worldwide. A man’s pregnant girlfriend vanishes on the anniversary of a centuries old sinister folklore surrounding the occult. He then sets out to discover the truth and find her before she becomes part of a 30 year cycle of disappearances.

MM: You’ve focused on horror for this film. How did that come about? Are you fans of the genre?

LG: We initially envisaged doing a dark noir thriller revolving around a journalist and the occult, but as the development process moved forward the film naturally evolved away from the noir tropes and more towards a horror mystery thriller with elements of black humour which better fit our writing and watching sensibilities.

SB: In addition, the idea was to use what we had to save money on the production design. Luckily my mother in law has a farm with various visually interesting buildings. We realised quickly that it would be a folk horror film that would fit best for the location.

MM: With that location in mind, what has been the most difficult hurdle you have had to overcome during filming?

LG: Shooting on a micro budget and a tight timeframe means you can’t afford to wait for everything to be just right e.g. the weather, so we had to grin and bear some cold, wet and windy days. Night shoots are tough, especially when you have started at 8am and go through into the early hours.

Our most challenging day was shooting an important set-piece, involving multiple characters, on a large set with an elaborate lighting set-up. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, which became known as “Barnageddon”. Thankfully everyone pulled together and we got it done late in the day but it worked out great.

SB: I think that filming on various weeks for over a year makes keeping continuity consistent a challenge. After the first week filming I managed to get hit by a bus travelling at 30mph in my car. My first thought was relief that I had survived and my second thought was that we had only filmed half the shots that we needed with my car. So for the rest of the film the camera had to be in the car looking out. Other than that I think that the major challenges were time and money. When you are working with such a small amount of money you have to be very creative to fill in the gaps and with a limited amount of time on top of that it makes everything twice as stressful. I also didn't help matters by making the film at the same time as having a new born baby.

MM: And can you tell our readers about you many other projects?

LG: Together we’ve made four projects before Blood Myth. Web series sit-com The Pitch (2012). Animated comedy short B-Movie (2013). Comedy short film I Am Lodger (2014) and sci-fi short film Athena (2015).

MM: And how was B305 set up?

LG: Bearing 305 Productions is two person team with Luke and Sean writing, directing and producing. We do like to work with the same people wherever possible, bringing back familiar actors and crew. It was set up due to two friends having the same film watching/ making sensibilities and goals.

MM: What were your influences from the genre? Any specific for this film?

LG: We have always loved films and TV like Seven, X-Files, True Detective and The Wicker Man (original). Story and tonal touchstones for Blood Myth include Kill List, Shallow Grave, The Usual Suspects and Blue Ruin. Musically we like the tone and tension created in Sicario, Hell or High Water and 10 Cloverfield Lane.

MM: Do you have any future plans for Blood Myth?

LG: We are currently submitting Blood Myth to film festivals around the world with an aim to get distribution, and ultimately to make enough waves to get considered for production of future scripts. I think like any filmmakers we just want the film to reach the widest possible audience.

MM: What are your favourite Midlands films/filmmakers? Anyone you’d recommend?

LG: We really like Shane Meadows' Dead Man's Shoes. Although it had roughly 100 times our budget it was still a very low budget film, made with such an independent spirit. It was a big inspiration for us especially because it was from an area we recognised. It wasn't glossy or glamorous it was a film about characters that were recognisable and had a story that was heartfelt and touching. It also put filmmaking within our reach because we knew Toby Kebbell and there he was on the big screen in a film. This was an enormous leap, from just making short films for fun, to seeing that the film industry was actually within reach, if we were prepared to put in a lot of hard work.

SB: Local filmmakers we have worked with include Jordan Handford who is a terrific actor and has just made a nice debut short film, and Kris Tearse who has done acting for us and provided great score work in the Blood Myth teaser trailer.

MM: And finally, we always ask if there’s any advice for anyone looking to start their own project in the region?

LG: Create for yourself. My initial aspiration was to be a writer, but no one was gonna make stuff from an unknown, so I had to take on directing to tell my stories. Learn, develop and push yourself with each project. Keep writing and most importantly finish. It’s too easy to have twenty openings or synopsis, it takes dedication to complete script after script. See it through to the end. Blood Myth has been two and a half years work.

SG: Don't wait! I have made a lot of short films and now a feature and I have learnt more from making the films than any book, course or video online. You have to make mistakes to understand how to be better. The only way to progress at anything is to do it over and over again. Also learn the technical side of filmmaking. When you are starting out it is very difficult to find people who are as passionate about your project as you are. If you are not relying on other people to work the camera or edit the film, then you will have it done much faster and learn more.

Huge thanks to Sean and Luke for their time and check out the film's trailer above and follow the latest news about the release of Blood Myth over on their official website at

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