icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo FILM FREEWAY LOGO

blog

Movie news, reviews, features and more thoughts coming soon...

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



By midlandsmovies, Nov 26 2017 09:16PM



Grindhouse Planet Film Festival 2017


Still a young pretender on the Midlands circuit, the Grindhouse Planet Film Festival may have started small but has grown into a successful alternative to the mainstream regional showcases with its focus on the bloody and gruesome. Midlands Movies Mike heads to the home of horror for the second time for another dose of sleazy celluloid.


Now in its second year, the festival ran on 26th November with over 50 films being chosen to screen at Leicester city’s The Shed venue. With a cosy and friendly atmosphere the films comprised shorts and features from the local to the international whilst all the while maintaining its grass roots grime.


With a 48-hour film challenge and a question and answer session from filmmaker Steve Lawson, the event had a varying array of talented filmmakers and fans eager to see the nasty gems on offer.




The festival was spread over 10 hours and included such fan favourites as West Midlands zombie comedy Still, web-series sci-fi shocker The Rockman and dark drama All Bad Things.


Blood, guts, nudity, violence and laughs were all covered across the films and although Quentin Tarantino drew attention to the genre with his 2007 homage to the 70s double-features of his youth, it was great to see local filmmakers show their love for the exploitation movie tropes of the past as well.




Around the halfway mark, The Shed held host to a Q & A with Leicester filmmaker Steve Lawson of Creativ Studios. Having recently completed Hellriser (our coverage here) and a co-directing stint on short Time, and Again (review) the writer-director was happy to share his current experience with the passionate audience.


“Jumping from making my first film to working with distribution companies I realised very quickly you have to compromise a lot and change a lot of things but you cannot make films without producers”, explained Steve.


“After doing the low-budget Essex Heist which wasn’t a mega-seller but was distributed into Asda and other major retailers, other companies began taking my calls,” he joked. He went on to say: “My new film though is for Hereford Films (We Still Kill the Old Way) who are based in London. It’s a serious horror slightly away from the grindhouse style”.


Steve is a firm believer in filming efficiently which he says zero-budget filmmakers should have an understanding of - as whether you are making a £10,000 film or a £10 million film, filmmakers should prioritise the important business side of things. And with his career in full swing Steve gave some exclusive nuggets about his upcoming film.


“This new movie stars Shane Taylor from Band of Brothers as the lead and support comes from Rula Lenska who hasn’t made a film since Queen Kong. Actually I don’t know what I’m doing here as I start tomorrow at 9am and should be prepping!”




As well as Steve, we heard from Kelly McCormack who is heavily involved in the film-making scene in Leicester and beyond, and was down at The Shed supporting The Rockman (as associate producer) as well as Christmas based short The N0ughty List as a make-up artist.


“How did I jump from one to the other?” asks Kelly. “Well, they needed someone to put lots of fake blood on Santa and I had lots of fake blood”. Encapsulating the grindhouse spirit and community, Kelly feels the support from fans and filmmakers often help get these zero-budget films off the ground.


“I’ve been here most of the day and loved Charismata but the 48 hour film challenge was so good to watch to see what local people can do in a short time. Once you get a team that’s fully on board you know that it’s going to go mostly right with these mini-projects. Regarding the festival itself I was here last year but The Shed has had a refurbishment and the filmmaking community has had an even better atmosphere over the last 12 months so it’s made this year even more special”.


She adds that the spirit of genre film fans helps inspire others too. “There’s also a lot of networking going on and this is the type of festival where you can see people achieve whatever they set out to do. And we shouldn’t forget that big thanks should go to the organiser Marc Hamill as it’s been a really great day".


Another attendee was actor, filmmaker and grindhouse fan Ryan Flamson who starred as the main character for one of the entrants in the 48 hour film challenge.


“Well I starred as Coke-head the Clown [laughs] and it was a lot of fun and the short got a great crowd reaction. The turnout has been really good and the local talent is far better than people realise”.


Ryan adds, “People don’t always get the opportunity to showcase these types of films but Grindhouse Planet helps this and the quality of production is getting better and better. Especially with the budget limitations we all have”.


“Another thing is that people can come here to learn", says Ryan. "Steve Lawson gave a great Q & A about distribution and you can hear lots of feedback and get involved in networking too. I really loved The Killer Must Kill At Christmas from the 48-hour film challenge so recommend people go check that out”.


Check Ryan's recommendation below




With another successful year completed, the fans of saws, gore and more once again demonstrated their appreciation of all the talent on show and were buzzing to hear more about a third festival in 2018. Lets hope Marc and the team can grind out another successful full house of fright flicks next year. I'm almost certain he will.


Check out the official website here: http://www.grindhouseplanet.com


Check out The N0ughty List which is being shown before our own Batman Returns Christmas screening at Firebug in Leicester https://www.facebook.com/events/349772655487985/



By midlandsmovies, Aug 17 2017 09:36PM



Time, and Again (2017) Dir. Kel Webster and Steve Lawson


Produced and directed by local filmmakers Kel Webster and Steve Lawson this new sci-fi short Time, and Again was independently made in Leicester and Nottingham and stars former Dr. Who Colin Baker alongside local actress Helen Crevel.


Baker has supported Midlands filmmakers before with a voiceover in Kenton Hall’s A Dozen Summers and in Rhys Davies’ historical Finding Richard so has a great track record here in the region. Crevel too has starred in a number of films for Leicester’s Creativ Studios including horror-drama Survival Instinct.


“Is the future in our hands?” asks Baker’s Professor Theo at the start as he address a small audience of students. After the class finishes, theoretical physicist and ex-student, Maggie, takes him to a clock-filled room akin to Doc Brown’s laboratory in Back to the Future.


After calibrating the professor’s watch with a wooden grandfather clock, she drops it into an electrical blue ‘nest’ only for it to appear later during another time and space. However, not only physical objects are affected as Maggie explains that “time shifts” will disrupt one’s memory as well.


The ticking of clocks and shots of timepieces are littered throughout, with sound effects coming from the chiming of bells with the film’s slight musical track sometimes drowned out in the background. The science lab set is well dressed and doesn’t overpower the actors – who are the film’s sole focus.


The props are a mix of past and present which highlight the fluid nature of time and before long, a discussion is had about the scientific and moral decisions in an ambiguous effort to erase/replace their pasts – along with their recollection of these.


With the risks (briefly) talked over, the theme of changing the past – for the better or worse – leads the film to a final leap into the unknown. Without going into spoilers, influences range from the circular nature of Looper to the dark scientific repercussions of Shane Carruth’s head-spinning Primer.


The short is well filmed with the performances of the duo are fantastic. The stoic academic Theo is given humanity through Baker’s accepting glances whilst Crevel is the wide-eyed inventor with dreams of changing their histories. Both display a sorrowfulness when recalling a past tragedy which is wisely left mostly open to interpretation.


A haunting little film, which leaves the audience with many more questions to think about than answers, Time and Again is an assured debut from Webster who started out as a camera assistant alongside the more experienced Steve Lawson. It is to the credit of the two arresting main actors who infuse an engaging uncertainty into what could have been your standard “fixing-the-past” plot, that the film owes much of its success. Overall, the future looks bright for Webster and Lawson as the story is a timely reminder that a good short can use the genre conventions of the past yet challenge expectations to deliver its fresh new ideas in a contemporary way.


Mike Sales, Midlands Movies


View the film's trailer here:




Find out more about the film on the links below:


IMDB - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5770448/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_2

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TimeAgainFilm

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, Feb 16 2017 06:30PM



Essex Heist (2017)

Dir. Steve Lawson

Creativ Studio


From a self-confessed filmmaker who hasn’t seen a modern British gangster film as well as filming this movie entirely in the Midlands region, Leicester director Steve Lawson is a brave man taking on new flick Essex Heist. However, he does a pretty spot on job of recreating the wide-boy bravado of a host of ‘mockney’ gang flicks even without the previous experience of the genre.


We follow Jez of Prestige Motors who works for gang boss Terry Slade with cheeky mechanics Clive and Daveyboy as they do dodgy deals on motors. Hearing a story from Andy (“who came down from Nottingham”), he knows that his boss is on his way through town (down from Nottingham as well of course, ha ha) with cash that is just asking to be stolen.


With Snatch-esque scratched out freeze frames and a few flashes of skin, Essex Boys is aiming at a very specific demographic and mostly hits the right notes if you’re a fan of geezers and girls.


A long opening conversation against a grey brick wall is not the most engaging way to open your film but sets up all the characters yet it’s hilariously obvious, as someone born in Essex myself, that most of the actors haven’t even set foot in the county. Their accents ranging from the North to Northern and as far down as the Midlands.


The film does liven up with the heist itself – in many ways the film could have (or should have) started at this point – and with quick pans and handheld camera the audience will feel more engaged with the visual style used here. When the obligatory heist goes obligatory awry, the film sets up a possible double-cross as the gang try to find where the money has gone after the large sum is replaced by blank pieces of paper.


Some post-heist warehouse torture and gun stand-offs echo similar scenes in Reservoir Dogs as the gang start to accuse each other and fall apart as they fight over the whereabouts of the missing cash. A few fun fist fights are littered throughout and the director throws in a large amount of blood and splatter too.


Sadly, this film didn’t entirely warm to me owing to the unconvincing characters, who are forced to deliver long lines of dialogue to explain plot rather than the script showing it to us, whilst the inclusion of stock music rather than a hip soundtrack is a bit of a misstep.


As a piece of local filmmaking though it is admirable again to see a local director spreading their wings into new territories; here Lawson is building upon chase drama Survival Instinct and creature feature KillerSaurus. He’s aware of the genre – cheeky (then violent) mechanics, lots of swearing, machismo, voiceovers and gang loyalty are all here is spades and help sell the illusion.


As the film twists to its conclusion, the obvious low-budget nature of the film either becomes part of its charm or a limitation that brings the film down but this will depend on your pre-disposition to silly b-movie thrills. This lack of depth will allow genre fans to enjoy Essex Heist's superficial action-drama about angry young men scrapping but may frustrate others with its lack of bona fide charisma.


Midlands Movies Mike


RSS Feed twitter