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By midlandsmovies, Aug 20 2019 07:48PM

Midlands Review - Can’t Hide It

Directed by Richard Miller & Grant Archer


Body in the Box Productions

From Body in the Box Productions comes Can’t Hide It, the latest short film offering from the mind of Richard Miller.

The film starts with a woman sat at her dressing table, music playing heavily below, she stares at the mirror directly in front and deeply into her eyes. She seems distressed but we don’t know why. She lowers a festive Christmas jumper over herself, fixes her hair and proceeds to join the rest of the party.

The woman is revealed to be Kim (Esther McAuley) who is in the middle of hosting a Christmas party with her partner (Gavin Fowler). As the guests weave in and out, smiles plastered across their faces we see Kim at ease but with an uncomfortable vibe surrounding her.

We as the audience can detect something is not right, especially as Christmas is supposed to be a joyous occasion and not a tense, strained one.

Over the next few shots we see the couple making their way to a hospital, and as they arrive they gather their thoughts before they head to their appointment. It is apparent now one of them is ill, which is revealed to be Kim.

A nurse prepares her for chemotherapy and places a “cold cap” onto her scalp, this is designed to hopefully diminish the chances of hair loss during the procedure. She doesn’t want to lose one shred of herself to this disease. This is all shot on-location at the hospital in Burton, which adds extra credence to the picture.

Kim calls her parents to inform them of the news, something she hasn’t done until her first session of chemotherapy is over. An understandably emotionally charged Kim struggles as she explains what she will be going through over the next few months. It is tough viewing as we see a determined, strong woman enduring such a tough time.

Directors Richard Miller & Grant Archer successfully manage to portray a “real” relationship between the couple and their reaction to living with this disease. Kim’s partner remains positive and optimistic to support her, as well as throwing in the odd inappropriate joke about the disease to make her laugh. His role in the film is an important one, and the directors make sure to highlight how helpless the other half can feel whilst their loved one is in pain which is a refreshing take to see.

Can’t Hide It benefits from an absolutely powerhouse of a performance by Esther McAuley who deserves heaps of praise for her heart-breaking portrayal of Kim. Her chemistry with Gavin Fowler is also notable, and without this I doubt the film would have resonated as much as it did with this viewer.

I was familiar with Miller and Archer’s previous works such as the brilliant, darkly comic short film The Exchange that they directed a few years ago. However, Can’t Hide It is their best work I have seen so far. It is sometimes hard to look at the screen as it is that moving but only gentle hands could effortlessly move from scene to scene with precision like pace without sacrificing authenticity of the situation.

As the credits rolled I found myself wishfully hoping Kim had beaten it or was at least on the path to, these fictional characters are written with such care by Richard Miller that they could be any one of us or any one we know, it is something a lot of us have experienced first hand or second hand but a film that demands to be seen regardless.

Guy Russell

Twitter @BudGuyer

By midlandsmovies, Jan 5 2019 10:29AM

Night Tide

(2019) Body in the Box productions

Directed by Richard Miller

A new film from director of Call Out (click here) and The Exchange (click here), Night Tide opens with a spooky and chilling lullaby as a man enters a house in the dark at Christmas.

The child singing & off-kilter glockenspiel has the vibe of BBC’s cult TV show Psychoville and as he sits in a chair with a stiff drink, we see a female companion laughing at messages on a smart phone – clearly not paying much attention to her husband.

Tension is high as the couple argue before a knock at the door stirs the man from a bathroom soak as he listens to Beethoven’s Für Elise. After finding no one at the door he then heads to bed with a reminder that his relationship is on the rocks.

However, after discovering an open window, the man looks out into the night and unsure of what he sees grabs a torch. This illuminates not only the dark corridors but the audience are slowly illuminated along the way too.

Director Miller has done a lot with little in this short. The scenes are lit with a horror vibe but doesn’t stray into haunted house territory. I’ve always found the more grounded drama and the depiction of a realistic house can make the horror stand out when it does arrive. And this is what happens in Night Tide.

Gavin Fowler is good as the put-upon and spooked husband. He says a lot without, well, actually saying a lot, especially as dialogue is kept to a minimum. Which is hugely to its benefit. An unsettling tone is what the director goes for and delivers in spades here as well. Each short scene/sequence has a beginning, middle and end which fits into the whole narrative well and creates intrigue from the start.

The cinematography from Grant Archer is superb as uses the light from the torch, candles, isolated bulbs and clever angles to help further solidify the film’s horror credentials and morbid tone.

So what strange entity may be lurking around this domestic abode? Well, I won’t spoil it here but a splatter of blood, a silhouette at the window and a meal at a table all add to the strange atmosphere.

Miller expertly creates questions in each scene and allows the viewer to discover (or question) the strange goings-on with the protagonist as he wanders his home at night. A final reveal didn’t quite hit the mark for me but all the previous strands, music and themes are concluded very well.

With a great wrap-around story, excellent technical skill and with a set of frightful, and brilliantly executed scenes, Miller has created a terror-filled short in Night Tide that brilliantly soaks you with outstanding sinister scares.

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Jul 26 2018 04:32PM

Call Out (2018)

Directed by Richard Miller

A deserted trading estate at night is the setting for this new short film from director Richard Miller. Call Out begins with a factory alarm ringing in our ears as a silver car pulls into a car park at night to investigate what may have triggered this wailing siren.

Pulling up we see the half-open entrance to the dingy building as two men exit their vehicle and venture inside with their torches.

Turning the deafening din off, the two members of security brazenly plan to “get this job done” but one can already feel that this may be no ordinary search for the person who has instigated this call out.

We follow one of the men (the expressive actor Richard Shields who has starred in two previous Midlands films we’ve covered - Frettin’ and The Exchange) who begins to solitarily explore the box-filled factory floor.

As light bounces of cellophane-wrapped goods, the director has a keen eye for lighting and shot composition given the darkness in the factory. The scorching flashlight beam together with the expressive sound, creates an intriguing atmosphere before a crash is heard that breaks the eerie silence.

Again, cleverly using sound – the short has no music – a walkie-talkie crackles into life as we hear some ghoulish communications over the radio waves. Creaking doors and cold footsteps give way to a visit to a lorry where the guard turns off the spooky and strange voices echoing from a radio in the main cab. More peculiar however, he then finds his colleagues’ hat discarded on the factory floor.

But before we know it, a freakish person appears and we hear a terrifying scream as we quickly exit the building, before a dark twist back in the car from the beginning brings the film to a mysterious conclusion.

Call Out is a short sharp shocker with an interesting premise that veers into horror territory from its realistic depiction of a monotonous alarm check. For me the “intruder” could have been designed ever-so-slightly better but this is a minor criticism when the technical aspects – especially the sound – are what sells the film.

With the right blend of a good idea, combined with a flourish of technical proficiency, Call Out is a fantastic short which squeezes a lot of story narrative (show don’t tell, film folks!) with little fuss into its short run time. One well worth investigating on its release.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Dec 12 2017 04:09PM

The Exchange (2017) Dir. Richard Miller

Directed by Richard Miller and Grant Archer, The Exchange is a mysterious three-minute short film made as part of the MyRodeReel Challenge, an online filmmaking challenge where the film’s running time must not exceed three minutes.

The Exchange starts off with the introduction of two men. One rings the doorbell as the other answers the door. Both of these men appear to be flamboyant, outgoing, friendly. As they accompany each other into the hallway we see the windows and panes are covered with old newspaper, the owner cranes his neck around the door to see no neighbours have seen his guest arrive as he triple locks the door behind him.

Regardless of the uneasy atmosphere, the film is surprisingly darkly comic at times. An eerie score by Stephen Theofanous compliments the perfectly timed direction by Miller and Archer. The actors Richard Shields and Robert Laird bounce off of each other fantastically and juggle comedy with fear really well, with one playing a confident well-spoken middle class Englishman whilst the other displays a more quiet, homely persona, forcing the audience to think what could possibly connect these two and what do they have to exchange.

I enjoy short films where the conclusion completely takes you by surprise, as so many short films are made, the successful ones are those with finales you don’t forget. This is fortunately the case with The Exchange, another successful project by Richard Miller who continues to impress with every new entry.

Having seen his previous directorial work in Ballpoint Hero and Life Flashes it’s no surprise why he is one of the finest filmmakers currently working in the Midlands.

I highly recommend The Exchange, a fantastic way to spend three minutes and a brilliant finalist for the 2017 MyRodeReel Challenge.

Guy Russell


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