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By midlandsmovies, Mar 13 2018 09:29PM

Mom and Dad (2018) Dir.Brian Taylor

About two-thirds of the way in to Mom and Dad I thought to myself, “Hey, this is on a level of ridiculousness I haven’t seen in a long time...probably since Crank”. Imagine my surprise that Mom and Dad writer/director Brian Taylor is one half of the directing duo who brought us not only Crank 1 and 2 but Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Bringing back Nic Cage from the latter, this film twists the traditional zombie narrative by showing the traditional family as a unit of killers and victims. In this case, static on the radio and television is turning parents into killers of their own kids. The director's visceral visuals pop from the screen from the outset with a strange 70s-style grindhouse intro sequence and the weirdly kinetic stylistic choices continue throughout.

The film begins as a soap opera with the usual family dynamics about school and disapproving parents upset about boyfriend choices and homework. However what begins as a set of mundane routines soon moves into unsettling sequences as the static “infects” parents who attempt to maim and murder their young ones.

Cage mixes his “family man” persona with his legendary “full-on Cage” mode and the fact an audience can tell he is in on the joke makes his OTT performance twisted yet funny. An impressive Selma Blair does more with her mother character who moves subtly from caring guardian to an evil-doer who even attempts to harm a newborn in a hospital.

I’ve mentioned many times I’m not the biggest zombie film fan which is its biggest hurdle it has to overcome. However, there’s slightly more going on here as the parents talk to each other thus giving us their viewpoint – although Cage mostly just shouts uncontrollably. Morbid humour can be found as the parents bond over how best to kill their children and an impressively constructed scene sees Cage and Blair attempt to gas their children (Anne Winters as Carly Ryan & Zackary Arthur as Josh Ryan) out of a locked basement. But their wily offspring have an explosive surprise in a sequence that is thrilling and comical.

The music is clearly an intended choice to connect with a young (and knowing) audience as we get Bill $aber’s I Know that You Pussies Don’t Want It alongside punk band Reagan Youth and a twisted use of Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love.

Mom and Dad gleefully says “this is me, I’m here, and this is what I want to do” and does so with reckless abandon although one’s enjoyment is related to what extent you go along with its ideas and ignore its many structural flaws and lack of depth. From Nic Cage barking like a dog and hollering like a coyote to a fun cameo from Lance Henrikson, the film is ultimately nonsense. And it fails the most when it attempts to go beyond its b-movie roots with a somewhat superficial commentary on parenting, children and the stress of family life.

In the end, not without its chilling charms, whatever message Mom and Dad is trying to say, it gets overshadowed and lost against its style and silly theatrics. Beyond its Friday-night frills, it is a muddled mess that may prove too berserk for most audiences.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Dec 30 2017 10:12AM

The Hot List - Midlands Films to Look Out For in 2018

With 2017 nearly at an end Midlands Movies spotlights a number of local projects due for completion in 2018 which have us excited for the region’s filmmaking as we head into the new year. Please check out each of these individual films using the links provided as we highlight 7 of the most anticipated films coming up from the region in the following 12 months.

Songbird by Sophie Black

Described as a ‘modern fantasy for music lovers’ this new film from talented Nottingham director Sophie Black is an exciting new short starring musician Janet Devlin. Songbird comes from multi-award-winning screenwriter Tommy Draper (Stop/Eject, Wasteland) and tells the story of a shy open-mic-night singer called Jennifer, who has her voice stolen by a an ancient creature called The Collector. Also a film for music fans the short is set in the world of the underground music scene and features brand new songs by Janet Devlin herself. As a group of experienced, passionate, award-winning and slightly eccentric filmmakers based in the East Midlands, Songbird will be coming next year with high expectations from filmmakers who have consistently delivered. Catch their latest news at https://twitter.com/sophieblackfilm

The Return of the Ring by Abdulrahman Ugas

This unique take on the world of Tolkien is set right here in the Midlands as new fan-film ‘The Return of the Ring’ is a movie based on Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed film trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings’. In a unique twist on the genre, the story has moved its fantasy world to modern day Britain where it will follow a resilient Elf who finds out the Ring has returned and sets out to re-claim its ownership. With the film planned to be released in early 2018, Abdulrahman hopes his exciting new project can bring the tales of Tolkien back to their roots in the West Midlands. Follow here for updates https://twitter.com/AbdulrahmanUgas

Patient Zero by Pathogen Films

After meeting up at a Business networking event, the 4 members of Stratford-upon-Avon’s Pathogen films have combined their talents to begin producing their own film web series. Their forthcoming set of zombie shorts follow a group of survivors who become involved in a deadly game of betrayal in an attempt to stop a maniacal group bent on turning what's left of humanity into mindless mutations. With their first film Patient Zero: Dead at the Gates premiering in Autumn 2017, the crew are now deep into production on the follow up titled “Semper Protegens”. Follow their updates and future crowd-funding campaigns at https://twitter.com/Pathogen_Films

UK Superhero by Rotunda Films

Rotunda Films is an experienced and creative film and video production company who have over fifteen years experience in production and who are now tackling an original superhero series in the region. The Birmingham filmmakers feel the UK deserves its own superheroes as they launch a new project to create a series of films featuring a unique range of characters. With a new selection of local superheroes in their own shared universe, they are starting this ambitious project with their film Mystic Highway, where they will be creating the first characters in this exciting new world. Follow the production here: https://twitter.com/rotundafilms

Brumville by Grant Murphy

Described as a film full of local people and local locations, Birmingham’s Grant Murphy hopes to utilise the West Midlands and Back Country’s pool of talent for his upcoming film Brumville. With filming recently concluded, Grant is not only writer director and producer on the film but will be playing the lead role of Connor as well. With a passion to give local actors more opportunities, the film will show just how bad it can be when friends are mixed up in drugs. The shooting of Brumville began in March 2017 after self-funding and crowd-funding campaigns and you can keep informed of their progress and release plans at https://twitter.com/brumville

The Law of Noir by Duaine Roberts

The Law of Noir started production in September and we cannot wait to see what's in store for this upcoming law-drama story. After the success of Graycon (review here) which saw Duaine Roberts branching out into sci-fi, the Birmingham filmmaker is getting back to basics with his this new drama short. Telling the story of a young law intern who is tasked with defending a client accused of human trafficking, the filmmaker is another trailblazer who is passionate in promoting Birmingham’s acting and production talent. Follow updates at https://twitter.com/CarmaFilmUK

Dead Quiet by Alex Withers

This forthcoming horror drama is another survival film where the last person on earth struggles to stay alive and attempts to hold onto his humanity. Produced in Nottingham the film is written by Dan McGrath who will explore the “importance of the sounds we create and experience as humans in order to connect with each other and the world around us”. Director Alex Withers and a team of talented filmmakers are bringing this unique world to the life on the big screen and wrapped production in August of 2017. Both a “disturbing horror and a bittersweet drama” follow the film here to get updates on its impending release https://www.facebook.com/DeadQuietFilm

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, May 17 2017 01:21PM


Directed by. Carl Timms

Dark Matter Films

“What the fuck made me do this for a living?”

Written, produced and directed by Midlander Carl Timms, his debut short entitled STILL is a zombie-infused story filmed entirely in Birmingham and comes with a unique premise that tackles the often ‘chase-based’ nature of this horror genre.

Starting with a voiceover questioning the main character’s motivation for wanting to perform in the first place, the film begins with a human statue standing in a town centre. Panning around we see the chaos and disaster caused by a horde of zombies who are shown attacking the public in the background.

The human statue conceit may be a nod to Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz (and ergo Shaun of the Dead) but it is a uniquely good idea as it focuses on a protagonist frozen in time when his instincts are to run. Especially since the camera rotates around the static man (painted head to toe in gold no less) and it is revealed he is face-to-face with an infected blood-lusting zombie.

As cramp, heavy breathing and nose itching start to become a concern, the short uses this inactivity to create high tension as the minutiae of human feeling is brought to the forefront as he stares down the closely positioned zombie.

A great score comes from Matthew Steed who uses an alarm-based synthesiser composition to highlight the emergency nature of what is going on, whilst the excellent special make up effects by Stuart Conran (head make-up effects artist on Shaun of the Dead and The Descent) are gleefully gruesome.

The short combines horror and comedy with the living statue soon craving a toilet break at the same time as entrails litter his shoulder and blood and gore splatter his gilded suit.

Still takes time to perfect each beat and as the tension rises, the statue asks who else has possibly survived and we head into another superb sequence. The audience is shown the aftermath of what has happened to a street artist whilst the similar act-copying “wheelbarrow man” is exposed to his own dangers.

The film uses close-ups to great effect as the actor Joe Capella uses all his talents to show his concerned face. This great performance has to display anger, determination and being petrified with very little movement and he delivers a first-rate act.

As a decision is made to leave, an injury is sustained and we get a comedic limping/zombie shuffling chase – possibly the slowest seen since Will Ferrell’s ice-skates-on-land chase in Blades of Glory. Again, another great idea in a film already full to the brim with them.

But is the celebratory escape short lived? Well, you’ll just have to watch it as we’re not giving up any spoilers here.

An outstanding concept, fully realised and delivered with a great cast, huge laughs and some superbly shocking terror, STILL is a great entry into zombie folk-lore, despite the fact the genre has a tendency to easily become stilted. You’ll find no such slowness here in the most fast (and fantastic) short about a statue you’ll ever see.

Midlands Movies Mike

Follow the film at https://twitter.com/zomshortstill & view at www.vimeo.com/ondemand/zomshortstill

By midlandsmovies, Nov 3 2016 01:59PM

Train to Busan (2016) Dir. Yeon Sang-ho

This Korean thriller/horror film sees an absent father attempting to please his disappointed daughter by taking her to Busan via the high speed train only for an infected passenger to cause carnage as a zombie virus begins to spread throughout the carriages.

With echoes of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer – where the confines of a moving train provides similar claustrophobic action – the passengers’ immediate dangers contrast with the wider implications of the infection spreading to cities throughout the country.

The zombies’ crooked shuffles are a particular highlight so huge recognition should go to the choreographer who has injected (pardon the pun) that particular trope with some added zombie zing with twitching and spasming bodies. Arms dangle at awkward angles in a contortion of limbs and appendages. As the film progresses, the passengers work together as a group and fight against the hordes in well edited action scenes with true-to-life risks. An extended bloody punch up with flying baseball bats and swinging fists will be adored by fans of these films.

However, despite the above, the film has the usual zombie tropes which I sadly find so similar to any other zombie film and therefore I can’t really recommend it to anyone other than afficiandos of the genre. I really struggle with the same concept over and over without anything being added to the formula. As although the positives include the film being incredibly well shot with empty stations and crowd chaos along with some fine acting, the family drama dynamics are really no different to a Roland Emmerich disaster film. Selfish father learns to put others first? Wow, what a revelation.

Trains provide an interesting location for some great films and sequences (see our love for loco films in our video blog here) but the zombie sub-genre of horror has never really infected with me with any real sense of appreciation. Fans won’t be disappointed at all but there wasn’t enough new additions to really give the genre a shot in the arm. Zo-zo.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 20 2015 06:52PM

The Diary (2015) Dir. Ash Connaughton

First up, a confession: I don’t get zombies. I don’t get pop culture’s current collective hard-on for a monster which even a heavy smoker like me could escape by keeping up a stiff walk for five minutes, and whose scariest feature is something a good dermatologist could sort out with a 2-week course of cyclosporin.

So it was with a certain amount of “Oh Christ, not again…” that I approached The Diary, a zombie short weighing in at a hefty 11 minutes (plus blooper reel). Would this be a slavish homage to Romero and The Walking Dead, or more along the lines of an arch wink towards the genre a la Zombieland, Shaun of The Dead or (pretty please?) iZombie?

Yep, it was The Walking Dead thing.

It opens with a gunshot, a man running, and two chav zombies (chombies?) who, in spite of travelling at approximately a third of the man’s speed, catch up with him pretty sharpish as he stops to look at a wound on his arm. He does this for a surprisingly long time, considering the chombies are STANDING RIGHT BEHIND HIM. But they continue to very obligingly stand there wobbling until he’s finished looking at his arm, whereupon he turns round in his own sweet time and shoots them in the head. Doesn’t even bother to double-tap; bad form.

So far, so zombie.

This is followed by three minutes of him coughing, an occasional vomit, and intermittent falling down. Because he’s been bitten, y’see, presumably by one of the chombies, and the zombification process apparently requires a lot of coughing, some puking, and a bit of falling over for full gestation to take place.

The rest of the movie is just as formulaic: a couple of zombie hunters out on patrol decide it would be a brilliant idea to split up and search some buildings; Zombie Hunter #1 encounters the now fully zombied-up guy from earlier; his gun jams; he’s saved by Zombie Hunter #2 appearing in the nick of time; there’s a repeat of the close-up of a gun barrel pointing slightly to the right of the camera, smashcut to black, OC gunshot (but still no double-tap).

There’s then a bit of exposition (the newly-dead zombie caused the zombie outbreak in the first place, but he may have found a cure; our two zombie hunters are members of a bigger zombie hunter gang which they don’t much like being in, but what’cha gonna do?), and the film ends. The two young actors who play the zombie hunters try to imbue their characters with a bit of personality, but there’s not a lot of wiggle room in the script for them to fully develop this during their limited time on screen.

Overall, it’s a solid enough piece of amateur genre film-making, hitting all the beats that it needs to hit, even if it does so a little predictably. As a whole the piece would be improved by a bit of judicious editing to make it sharper and punchier, but that’s the sort of thing that’ll come with experience. The director’s a young man, so he has plenty of time yet to find his own voice.

tl;dr version – If you like zombie films, you’ll like this.


Review by J. Sirin

By midlandsmovies, May 16 2015 08:19AM

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2015) Dir. Kiah Roache-Turner

Rated 18 – released by Studio Canal on May 8th 2015

A dusty post-apocalyptic road movie set in Australian outback? No, not Mad Max: Fury Road but you can see why the film is being released around the same time here in the UK. Like Cannon Films in the 1980s where successful films were copied on a much lower budget, the current trend is to infuse your idea with a self awareness of how bad your film actually is and revelling in that awfulness. Wyrmwood isn’t aiming for a “meta” take on the zombie genre though, and in fact begins with a much more serious tone than the rom-com-zom films of late and attempts to find new angles in an already saturated horror market.

In flashback we hear the story of Barry and his family who attempt to escape from a zombie attack but after jumping in their car, his wife and daughter become infected and he has to consider the unthinkable. Meanwhile his sister is kidnapped by a sadistic agency conducting experiments and Barry meets up with an aboriginal survivor called Benny and they begin a journey in the outback to tackle the growing horde. The use of masks looks great visually (again though, this has echoes of the new Mad Max) and it is infused with some unique ideas such as zombie blood being used as petrol. Also, with a low budget and shot at weekends, the film mainly sticks to gruesome prosthetics and make-up effects with a splattering of CGI blood for head shots.

You probably won’t get a bloodier film for $160,000 these days but please take note that the no-budget thrills are for serious aficionados of the genre only. With me never being a fan of zombie flicks and the infinite sub-genres it spawned, I failed to find the fun in this action-filled film and it certainly won’t convince anyone other than serious horror fans to give it a watch. Dialogue not fit for a home movie and me having literally no idea who the characters were are just a few of its many flaws but you’ve got to admire its stab at a few new ideas in the world of the undead. Also, a few dark jokes help entertain the Friday-night fright crowd it’s obviously attempting to reach out to.

The petrol-searching road warriors have got the luck to be piggy-backing on Mad Max’s higher profile release this month despite Wyrmwood being originally released in 2014. A tired film in a tired genre, this is ultimately a pale zombie imitation of life. Or should that be death.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Nov 18 2014 07:35PM

The dead walk…to the Phoenix!

Saturday 15th November 2014 meant only one thing to many British zombie fans – the annual UK Festival of Zombie Culture, held as ever since its inception at the Phoenix Arts Cinema in Leicester.

Now in its eighth year it has become the longest running Leicester film festival and thankfully, unlike its subject matter, shows no sign of dying soon. Following the now established format this year saw around 12 hours of films, the return of the arcade of the dead, retail stalls, author appearances and the fantastic 3 minute zombie killing challenge amongst much more.

In a departure from the programming choice of last years sell out event, a quick glance at this years film schedule showed a return to a more international flavour, featuring two UK premieres and some of the best films of the last four years, many of which are yet to be released over here.

I arrived at the cinema a bit before midday and was immediately greeted by the sight of the undead coming back to haunt the living but thankfully these creatures were not craving (my) human flesh but the freshest slabs of celluloid featuring their kin.

After collecting my composure and an early pint it was time for the first film, a slot which I usually associate at past festivals with zombie classics, particularly the films of Lucio Fulci (City of the Living Dead, Zombie Flesh Eaters) so it was surprising to see a 2014 film scheduled for this time, although less surprising when I saw that it was a Fulci inspired American zombie flick called ‘Bombshell Bloodbath’. Before the film however we were treated to a reading by Birmingham author David Moody, which added a nice touch to proceedings and helped showcase that this festival celebrates all areas of zombie culture, with it being particularly encouraging that Moody is a Midlands born and bred published and successful writer.

On to the film itself, director Brett Mullen combines the eerie-faux Gothicism of Fulci’s unofficial ‘Gates of Hell’ trilogy with a strong grindhouse element via Gordon’s Re-animator combining to make something not quite like any of the other films at the festival. With a script paying homage to the golden age of the Italian zombie cinema but without seeming clichéd and featuring a lead character coming across as a mix of Alice in Resident Evil and the women in Baise Moi it was easy to fall under the spell of this film, which showed there is still plenty to be done with the genre.

Before the next film, it was Wolverhampton based goremonger and author Adam Millard’s turn to treat us to some zombie literature, even if it did heavily contain cowboy masturbation, and was another fine example of talent not only coming from the Midlands but being recognised for their contributions to the genre.

At a festival timing is everything, and sadly for me, both the pace and tone of Exit Humanity fell flat after the action of Bombshell Bloodbath. Despite boasting a stellar cast of genre stalwarts including Bill Moseley (TCM 2, Devils Rejects), Brian Cox (Troy, Manhunter, Trick r’Treat) and Stephen McHattie (300, Watchmen, Pontypool) something just didn’t click and it appeared to be a paycheck and nothing more to these guys.

The film follows Edward Young (Mark Gibson) as he tries to survive in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak during the end of the American Civil War; he joins up with a fellow survivor but soon learns that building a life and keeping ones integrity comes at a heavy price. Although some loved it for me, the film took too long to get going but even more disappointing was that it set itself up as a poignant and character driven film yet lacked the substance to connect on that level and was a clear case of the sum of its parts being greater than the whole.

The third film of the Festival saw its first Indian entry (although not the first south Asian film as previously the Pakistani film ‘Hells Ground’ was shown) with the 2013 zombie comedy ‘Goa Goa Gone’ which followed a group of friends join up with members of the Russian mafia getting stuck on a remote island off the coast of Goa, as they witness a party drug turning ravers into zombies (sounding vaguely similar to the maligned Uwe Boll mess House of the Dead). Unfortunately I missed this film but only heard positive reports regarding it.

Back on track and after a food break was the Australian effort ‘Theatre of the Dead’, also 2013, which saw a dance troupe trapped in their theatre as the zombie apocalypse threatens to get in. Although, as with many zombie films, you need to be just as wary of the living as the dead…especially when events could lead to a bad review.

Perhaps just because of the setting I was immediately put in mind of a zombie take on Soavi’s ‘Stagefright’ and also the many zombie stripper films which are essentially very similar in tone and set up. Theatre of the Dead provided all the right laughs but none of the gore or tension required to pull off this style and essentially left us with a mediocre and derivative siege movie which borrowed liberally from Romero’s films amongst others. However, of special note was the guy who played the director in the film who seemed to have the majority of the best lines and a great presence when he was in screen, channelling Andy Nyman’s asshole character in Brooker’s ‘Dead Set’.

One film that is not average though is Cuba’s ‘Juan of the Dead’, and while almost every zomcom since Shaun of the Dead claims comparison in terms of quality this one genuinely deserves the praise.

In the film, Juan and his down on their luck companions don’t see the destruction caused by the zombie apocalypse, as they already have next to nothing, but the opportunities as they set out to, ironically capitalise on the nations misfortune all while the government claim that the undead are simply dissidents revolting against them and, most likely under U.S. influence.

This film is not only full of fun but, like all the best genre films, also has an underlying message and meaning adding weight to humour and connecting on multiple levels and it is to the credit to Zombie Ed and the festival that they do put on overlooked gems such as this.

The final film was the 2013 film ‘I Survived a Zombie Holocaust’ and considering the countries previous efforts expectations were high for this zombie comedy and it didn’t disappoint which saw a young runner on the set of a zombie film get more than his jobs worth when genuine zombies crash the set.

After over 12 hours of zombie mayhem, the crowd shuffled out back into the night, reverently discussing the movies, costumes and fantastic time that they had at what is undoubtedly the UK’s premier zombie film festival. Same time next year.

To learn more about the festival, visits the Terror4Fun website and add Zombie Ed on Twitter - https://twitter.com/ZombieEdUK

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