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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 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



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