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By midlandsmovies, Aug 16 2019 06:59AM



Midlands Review - The Cold Caller


Directed by Lee Charlish


2019


Korky Films


Made for under £500, The Cold Caller is a new horror short from prolific local filmmaker Lee Charlish of Korky Films


The director says it pays homage to 70s and 80s schlock which can be seen in the opening sequence where we find a with a woman tied to a chair in what looks like a killer’s scary basement.


Bound by the wrists and legs, the eerie location is filled with battered dolls, candlesticks and other paraphernalia that look straight out of Buffalo Bill’s home.


The blonde victim awakes to her predicament and spies a silhouetted person with a cleaver behind some plastic sheeting - the kind you see in an abattoir. The man is also masked in a homemade head covering which nods to similar fare seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre crossed with more recent horror Apostle.


The extensive production design has been clearly well-made and each item in the basement seems to nod to a movie in the genre. The director however appears to want to focus on this and so the shots seem a little gratuitous in displaying the hard production work rather than serve the story too much, certainly at the beginning.


However, with a clear love for slashers of the past some later shots certainly hint upon a nasty history in this place – a map with photos of girls pinned on the wall, a disgusting tea set on the table and jars of “who knows what” on a shelf.


Charlish does do a great job with the show-don’t-tell rule though. Tension builds from our own recollection of what these objects could signify from their place in horror cinema. And other than the cleaver on the chopping board and some heavy breathing as the girl begins to realise her plight, a freaky string-infused score is almost the sole sound of the short.


That is before the masked captor is shown creating some food whilst listening to an old-timey record as he possibly prepares a “last meal” for the kidnapped girl.


The film then turns on its head with a big dose of comedy but then quickly turns to a surprising grisly conclusion. The double-hander of the last two revelations are placed so closely in opposition to each other that it could jolt the viewer too quickly from one emotion to another - sadly not allowing either one to hit fully. I suspect that is the intention though and it’s better to be astonished by too much than indifferent with too little.


The Cold Caller then lovingly (can you call it that?) acknowledges the slashers of the past with a sympathetic young adult tortured by a deranged predator. The twist helps give the 3-minute short a bombshell ending and its mixing of tones recognises the roots of classic horror-comedies. So check out the short if you can, as you may just get a satisfying buzz from the tropes which will keep you on the hook from the start.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Jul 22 2019 09:58AM



Us (2019) Dir. Jordan Peele


After the amazing success of 2017 horror Get Out (our review here) director Jordan Peele returns with another fright flick that goes deep below the surface of American society. We open on Santa Cruz beach front where a young girl, Adelaide Thomas, enters a hall of mirror funhouse and discovers her doppelganger before returning to her family unable to speak.


Long since recovered we catch up with the adult Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) and her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Zora (Evan Alex). Despite her worries the family heads back to the beach where she encounters their rich friends and becomes scared after her son briefly disappears.


Returning home that night, a family of four in red overalls break in and the family realise these intruders are in fact doppelgängers called the Tethered. Director Peele throws in some solid character building at the beginning, filling his film with mysteries and concepts to be ‘untethered’ before the explosive home-invasion sequences kick in. Is it scary? Not really. For me, Get Out is the superior “horror” film, making me feel unease and dread whilst here the first-half jump scares and silly scissor slashing was more reminiscent of 80s video nasties that have never really done much for me.


However, Lupita Nyong'o is brilliant as a protective parent, the paranoid mother AND as a vulnerable victim dealing with her dual past and present. And duality is a strong theme throughout as is the notion of “class”. The literal ‘lower’ class below ground become a danger to the happy lives above and Peele uses dialogue, props, symbolism and thematic sequences to delve into the deeper and darker side of “America” today.


A great use of Luniz’s “5 on It” becomes slower and more orchestral (and therefore creepier) as the movie progresses and the cast excel in their physical portrayal of their ‘other’ selves. Mixing slasher and home-invasion tropes with a Twilight Zone episode, Us is another frightful look at the current politics and issues facing the United States/U.S./‘Us’.


And Peele’s masterful handling of a wide range of deeper meanings, along with a love for horror staples, sees Us continuing his spectacular cinema successes.


★★★★


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Dec 17 2018 10:36AM

Midlands Movies Worst Films of 2018


There have been a fair amount of disappointments this year – The Endless probably topping that list – but here are my picks for ten of the worst movies released in the UK this year. From terrible CGI flicks to sloppy slashers, some films may be technically worse than others but it was the all-round underwhelming nature of these poor efforts that saw them join this list of dreadfulness.


With some unintentional laughs to be had in a few – Escape Plan 2’s hilarious awfulness would never see it at number one on this list – the majority failed across the board with bad acting, script, F/X, story and more.


If you would like to read more about each shocking movie then there are links to our full reviews under each entry and I’d highly advise you avoid these stinkers - so go watch them at your own peril!



10. Final Score (2018) Dir. Scott Man

“Squeezing in to the tenth spot just as the year ends is this woefully misjudged action film where Dave Bautista goes to watch a West Ham football game before joining forces with a steward to take down a group terrorists who have infiltrated the stadium. What??? With a tone that mixes Die Hard with UK soap opera Eastenders, you would think that making a film with that premise would be an incredible mistake. And you know what? You’d be absolutely right. A bike chase across the stadium roof is one of many hilariously misjudged action sequences and it’s a shame this won’t be the first time we see Bautista on this list. This stupid soccer film never kicks off and from its awful script to its clichéd narrative, I couldn’t wait for the final whistle to blow”.



9. The Meg (2018) Dir. Jon Turteltaub

“More monstrous-sized nonsense in this actioner starring everyone’s favourite knees-up-muvva-brown geezer Jason Statham. Here he is a retired and disgraced diver whose skills are needed when he returns to investigate an ocean anomaly and as quick as you like he’s involved in a sub-Deep Blue Sea monster movie with awful CGI and atrocious acting. Films that hope to be ironic b-movies tend not to work unless you go “full pastiche”. So, The Meg’s hammy performances and plastic special effects are not ironically bad, they’re just bad”. Click here for full review




8. Truth or Dare (2018) Dir. Jeff Wadlow

Blumhouse's Truth or Dare? I guess once you have a successful reputation you can slap your name in front of any old trash like Tarantino does at his worst and expect the brand recognition to get bums on seats alone. Here a group of adolescents will die if they fail to share a truth or complete a dare with supernatural origins. A convoluted set of rules confuses what could have been a freaky slasher and the actors are given clichéd characters which they are unable to do much with. I’m not sure why I was surprised to find out the real truth. And what is that truth? It’s utter rubbish”. Click here for full review




7. The Titan (2018) Dir. Lennart Ruff

“Sam Worthington (Avatar) becomes another human-alien hybrid as a pilot who joins an experimental programme to settle the human race on Saturn’s moon Titan. Part Frankenstein, part Splice and a whole dose of The Island of Dr. Moreau quality (i.e. none) the film’s slow pace leads it down to the inevitable test results – it’s simply deathly boring. The admittedly interesting concept is neither explored fully as a scientific drama nor silly enough for its probably more suitable b-movie thrills. An unsatisfying ordeal of titanic proportions”. Click here for full review




6. Death Wish (2018) Dir. Eli Roth

“A remake of the Charles Bronson 1974 revenge flick, Willis plays surgeon Paul Kersey who takes the law into his own hands after a home invasion sees his wife killed and his daughter end up in a coma. But Death Wish is a ham-fisted and low-quality attempt to pull ideas together. A waste of time that is perhaps trying to tap into the Taken crowd, Death Wish has a scene where a man actually gets hit on the head by a bowling ball which is a fine metaphor for this poor film itself”. Click here for full review



5. The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) Dir. Johannes Roberts

“Any positives the first film had are completely absent here in this belated sequel set ten years later where a family are terrorised at a mobile home park by masked assailants. I know it’s not high art but come on. If it’s supposed to be a homage/satire of slasher then it’s 20 years too late anyway whilst the kills are uninspiring, motivations non-existent and only Christina Hendricks seems to be aware of the trash she’s in. Half way through I was ‘praying’ for a better movie”. Click here for full review



4. Winchester (2018) Dir. Michael and Peter Spierig

“Helen Mirren stars as heiress Sarah Winchester - the lady of the house who is haunted by spirits in her turn of the century mansion. Along for the (dull) ride is Jason Clarke but don’t expect the slow build up needed for these kind of films. Quiet, quiet, quiet then BOOM, a pale looking ghost appears. If that's your thing then fill your boots but for the rest of us that technique is lifeless and predictable. A lack of true shocks, a boring narrative and scene after scene of dull exposition, not even the talented actors can raise this flop from the dead”. Click here for full review



3. Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018) Dir. Steven C. Miller

"Sylvester Stallone is back in prison again in an unbelievably bad (and unintentionally hilarious) mish mash of dull action, bad acting and sci-fi! Yes, sci-fi. The plot sees his colleague Shu Ren (Huang Xiaoming) end up in a prison that is more Tron: Legacy and Running Man than it is a modern prison. Neon lights, smoky corridors and laser doors (!) replace any sense of even a semblance of reality and by the mid-way mark I half thought the ending would reveal them to be in space. The sets are small, badly lit and cheap looking and the lighting is abysmal. “It’s bad to be back”, Sly says in an action one-liner which means nothing – yet summing up this film to perfection". Click here for full review



2. The Hurricane Heist (2018) Rob Cohen

"From the director of such “classics” as XXX (2002), Stealth (2005) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) comes this inane action romp where a bunch of criminals plan a bank heist around the impending arrival of a Force 5 hurricane. There’s so little to recommend in a film with such a ludicrous premise as this and it’s not only a no-brainer in all senses of the word, the film is unsurprisingly a no-entertainment zone too. So, batten down the hatches and ensure you are safely hidden away until this monstrous disaster has passed you by”. Click here for full review



1. The Predator (2018) Dir. Shane Black

“Wow! Just wow! To have seen The Predator is truly to have witnessed a tragedy. The film takes anything remotely enjoyable from the series and throws it in the bin and with sets seemingly made of cheap plastic, the film has all the cinematic gloss of a jungle grub. Black’s talent for witty scripting is nowhere to be seen as “yo momma” quips and Tourette syndrome expletives pepper the awful, no woeful, dialogue. Whatever this film set out to achieve it fails across every single one of them. The Predator is a dumb, badly-written and awfully constructed mess of a film whose one saving grace is that it makes all other Predator films seem better by its very existence. It’s almost beyond comprehension how any of this even passed the brainstorming phase and with a low box office take we can only hope no further sequels are in the works anytime soon”. Click here for full review


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Aug 29 2018 07:32PM

Review - Movie Catch Up Blog 2018 - Part 3




The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) Dir. Johannes Roberts

I hadn’t seen The Strangers (2008) until this year and for me it certainly wasn’t worth the wait as we get a pretty bog-standard home-invasion thriller starring Liv Tyler. However, the few thrills that film had going for it are completely absent here in this belated sequel set ten years later where a family are terrorised at a mobile home park by masked assailants. I’m sick of the child mask killer trope it has to be said and some of the character decisions are embarrassing to say the least. I know it’s not high art but come on. If it’s supposed to be a homage/satire of slasher then it’s 20 years too late anway (see Scream and its wicked take-down of the genre) whilst any attempt to create new franchise-defining villains with Dollface and her cohorts was heavy-handed and bland. The kills are uninspiring, motivations non-existent and only Christina Hendricks seems to be aware of the trash she’s in. Half way through I was ‘praying’ for a better movie. 4/10




Truth or Dare (2018) Dir. Jeff Wadlow

Blumhouse's Truth or Dare? I guess once you have a reputation with a couple of horror successes you can slap your name in front of any old trash like Tarantino does at his worst and expect the brand recognition to get bums on seats alone. And away with the quality, as quality this is not. Horror is one of those specific genres where you have to sift through many more films to find the gems – it could be argued those gems are all the more special – but this Final Destination-esque teen scary movie sits firmly in the bargain bin. A group of adolescents realise they will die if they fail to share a truth or complete a dare and they attempt to do their best to beat the real-life deadly game which originated with a supernatural curse from Mexico. A convoluted set of exposition-heavy rules confuses what could have been a freaky slasher and the actors are sadly given clichéd characters which they are unable to do much with. And from the “acclaimed” director of the awful Kick Ass 2 and the Kevin James starring True Memoirs of an International Assassin I’m not sure why I was surprised to find out the real truth. And what is that truth? It’s utter rubbish. 4/10




10 x 10 (2018) Dir. Suzi Ewing

Making quite a name for himself in roles as a terroriser of women, Luke Evans (The Girl on the Train) stars as Lewis in this new dark chiller involving kidnap and obsession. More like Denis Villenueve’s Prisoners than the Coens’ Fargo, the kidnapping occurs in an everyday US strip-mall car park as Cathy (Calvary’s Kelly Reilly) heads to her vehicle unaware of the evil about to befall her. An unobtrusive hand-held filming style captures the brutality of the attack before Cathy is smothered, tied and placed in the trunk of Lewis’ car. The beats of the soundtrack merge perfectly with our own imagined beats of pounding fists in futile attempts to escape. She is soon whisked off to Lewis’ home where he has constructed a 10 x 10 padded cell with 4-feet thick concrete walls and a recording system. Diving straight in, the film wastes no time in getting to its set-up and without much information we are, like Cathy, oblivious as to the reasons as to why we are here. And how to possibly escape.


The film is slow and meticulous – Evan’s methodical food-making hinting at an obsessive darkness – but there are flashes of action in Cathy’s escape attempts with bottle smashing and gun shots. The film twists and turns and darker secrets come to light but the script and cinematography are mediocre despite the two fine leads. Melodramatic with lacklustre interest 10 x 10 is simply too leaden to be anything more than a footnote on the stars’ résumés 5.5/10



The Devil’s Doorway (2018) Dir. Aislinn Clarke

With one of the best concepts for a horror in many a year, I was excited to see Aislinn’s Clarke’s The Devil’s Doorway which tells the story of two priests who investigate supernatural events at an Irish home for “fallen women”. Whilst the double-act set up is certainly Exorcist-inspired, the unfortunate character traits meant I couldn’t help but be reminded of classic UK sitcom Father Ted. Father Thomas Riley (a frankly brilliant Lalor Roddy) is the old jaded priest with a crisis of faith whilst Father John Thornton (Ciaran Flynn) is a naïve and inexperienced younger believer. (Ted and Dougal respectively). Set in 1960 and using a handheld 16mm camera style, the sense of time and place was superb and Helena Bereen as Mother Superior is as terrifying and intimidating as you could have wanted. Maybe I’m being too harsh but something just wasn’t working despite these excellent elements. From the clichéd door knocks and paranormal child voices to your average jump scare and foreboding corridors, the film failed to leap into more interesting territory despite its high ecclesiastical aspirations. Which was a big shame. Certainly a filmmaker with some aptitude, I have faith we’ll be seeing more from Clarke but this isn’t quite the film it could or wanted to be. 6/10




Journey’s End (2018) Dir. Saul Dibb

A new adaptation of the play by R. C. Sherriff is the 5th time the World War I drama has moved from stage to screen following Journey's End (1930), The Other Side, Aces High and a 1988 BBC TV film. With a fantastic cast what we get is Asa Butterfield’s young Second Lieutenant Raleigh posted to the front-line where his hopeful fighter soon realises the ravages of war can take its toll even on the most experienced of Captains. The gifted Sam Claflin as Stanhope is the Captain in question whose vicious drunken words and tough exterior cover a more sympathetic and broken man conflicted with torment and the horrors of fighting.


Playing out in the muddy dugout over four days of 1918, the cast is fleshed out with gifted turns from heavyweights Tom Sturridge, Toby Jones, Stephen Graham and Paul Bettany. Bettany channels the stiff-upper-lip of a traditional British soldier but also gives his character empathy and pathos as the inevitability of an over-the-top raid to capture a German soldier dawns on him and his men. Grand and distinguished, the film is an admirable adaptation although I was yearning for some more scenes outside the trenches given the cinematic medium. Understandably, the confines of the trenches play their own entrapped character (akin to Kubrick’s Paths of Glory) and the film enlightens the audience on the multifaceted aspects of war and how the horrific pressures can affect different individuals. Journey’s End is therefore a dignified, if slightly by-the-numbers, tale of struggling tactics and temperaments in the trenches. 6.5/10


Michael Sales







By midlandsmovies, Apr 23 2016 10:39AM

Hush (2016). Dir. Mike Flanagan


A low budget 81-minute schlock-y premise of a film, Hush takes on the formulaic home-invasion sub genre and weaves in an original idea to spin it off in this taught thriller. The addition of an affliction affecting the protagonist – in this case home-owner Madison Young is deaf – gives the film not only a new concept to base some familiar tropes around, but allows the filmmaker to deftly use sound to great effect. Madison is played sympathetically by Kate Siegel as an author with writers block living in an isolated cottage in rural woodland – such as these things go.


After her neighbour is murdered by an unknown attacker, ‘Maddie’ is stalked by this masked intruder who eventually reveals himself and is intent on killing her now she’s seen his face. Knowing of her disability, the attacker uses her ailment to his advantage and Hush brings this to the forefront as the film follows a hunt between the crossbow-armed attacker and his trapped victim.


Light and movement is used to symbolise Maddie’s tracking of her pursuer and the audience is asked to question who is hounding who. From knives tapping on locked window panes to the rustling of leaves, the film’s technical aspect of sound is used to impressive effect. Music, sound f/x and soundtrack come together well but it is the absence of noise that really increases the stress of the situation. This silence strains the anxiety to breaking point as the scenes with the aggressor’s footsteps and boisterous attempts to break-in are heard (or not in this instance) along with the concealed Maddie.


The escape attempts are thrilling and the motivations mostly believable which makes Hush a surprise twist in ‘killer’ fiction. Not having been a fan of slasher films in the past – 1996’s Scream deconstructed its tropes so perfectly – Hush had a high bar to overcome. However, the lofty tension and well constructed themes – both the subject matter and the masterful technical use of sound design – generates an attention-grabbing horror flick that genre fans and casual moviegoers will enjoy.


8/10

Midlands Movies Mike

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