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By midlandsmovies, Dec 5 2019 05:20PM



Rachel


Directed by David L Knight


2019


“This won’t bring her back”.


Rachel is a new film from Midlands filmmaker David L Knight and throws us straight in to a world of drugs, violence and former wrongdoings.


Opening with a dishevelled man in a hoodie playing with a lighter, the voice of a female tells him that his pain must be “unbearable”, before we are shown her standing nearby in an angelic white dress.


However, the junkie quickly turns his aching addiction into an abduction as he drags a well-dressed woman off the street and into the alley. But here, we are shocked as a hard cut to black then takes us to a warehouse with the man now tied to chair in a brutal opening twist.


With tape over his mouth gagging his cries for help, the ghostly woman reappears laughing before two strangers arrive. “Rachel” builds up its world quickly and efficiently and with just a few lines of dialogue the short sets up a number of intriguing mysteries that help push the narrative along.


Owing to the setting and situation, the filmmaker also delivers a locally-infused Reservoir Dogs aesthetic with the tied victim attempting to speak, but also suspecting the worst. He’s definitely stuck in the middle with them!


“There’ll be plenty of time for noise later”, says one of the captors as they toy with their victim and the short builds up some good tension as we are thrown into this dark standoff.


As per the three-act structure, at about two-thirds of the way in the film finally reveals that one of the tormentors has lost his daughter and is seeking some rough justice. But although our victim claims to have no knowledge of the man’s 17 year-old, a photo thrust under his nose proves otherwise.


The presence of a person as a metaphor for a haunted past is a little over-used in films but Knight uses the apparition sparingly enough, especially as she is often glimpsed over the captor’s shoulder – haunting both the dad and his bloodied victim.


As we draw to the film’s conclusion, the verbal torture ends and physical torture begins in a brief flash of violence straight out of Taken. Rachel slowly builds a sense of concern AND revulsion for both of the main characters as we are shown the two sides of a moral quandary.


However, as the mysteries unravel so do the captors and the short ends on a cliffhanger of horror. A cautionary and mostly successful tale of drug abuse and revenge, and despite a cliché here or there, Rachel ends up a satisfyingly tense 9 minutes of drama where past mistakes haunt the present.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Dec 3 2019 05:45PM



Unstable


Directed by Luke Allen


2019


Bottle O Productions


Unstable takes place as a growing substance abuse problem descends on a young man, Adam (Alexander Westwood) who has had the paralysing news that his father has a terminal illness and won’t see another year.


In a wooded park, alone, before he gets the news, he carefully sprinkles cannabis in a roll up. Before he can seal it up and enjoy his form “stress relief” he is disturbed by a girl he hasn’t met before called Sophie (Helen Austin).


As she sits down beside him and questions him regarding his drug use, her curiosity could be initially mistaken for intrusiveness. However after a few moments of genuine conversation it is clear her intentions are pure. An attraction between the two is ignited and in a show of defiance Adam throws away his cannabis joint.


Written and directed by Luke Allen, he makes sure to shape certain images and montages to show what his future might look like depending on which path he takes. Allen seems to have a clear agenda whilst making Unstable, to showcase how one’s problems are better dealt when they are shared with friends or family, which in the current climate is more important now than ever.


As Sophie extends an offer to always be there if Adam wants to talk, he receives a call from his distraught mother who has told him to come home as his father only has a few months left to live. Visibly distracted by the call he makes his excuses and leaves but not before being offered cocaine by a drug dealer operating in an underpass. His initial refusal is quickly ignored, and his earlier strength is tested as the dealer reiterates a line Sophie said earlier albeit with a different meaning “life’s shit mate, no point in letting it get worse”.


There is a sense of an impending burst of emotion in one of the film's final scenes as Adam sits down with his parents for dinner. They ponder when they will finally meet Sophie which prompts him to come clean regarding his drug habit. Allen cleverly leaves Adam out of shot the entire scene, concentrating on his mother and father instead. An odd choice as this is the film’s most significant moment however I think this paid off as the viewer can focus completely on the dialogue.


Whilst the sound and the mix needed more attention, as I thought it was slightly off, such technological aspects can be improved on during the director's next effort. Unstable can boast however of its performances. The acting is relaxed and good straight through the line with its key players Alexander Westwood and Helen Austin exuding chemistry making their romance believable.


In the end, Unstable is a well-made film from a young filmmaker and the story remained the priority and the plot engaging, which for a zero-budget film is wholly impressive.


Guy Russell

Twitter @BudGuyer


By midlandsmovies, Sep 6 2018 10:00AM



Margie's Garden


Directed by Ash Morris


An official selection of the NO/GLOSS Film Festival, Margie’s Garden is a new dark comedy-drama from regional filmmaker Ash Morris.


We open with a pensioner – Abigail Hamilton as Margie – who watches a bomber-jacket clad man working on an allotment as she takes a sip of a warm drink from a flask. Appearances can be deceiving however as we soon discover that this kindly old lady – next seen as high as a kite in her front room – is a local drug dealer with her home filled to the ceiling with cannabis plants.


Her similarly aged friends also seem to be enjoying the “high” life where copious amount of munchies in the form of sugary cakes and chocolate eclairs being consumed.


The film uses a realistic slice-of-life handheld aesthetic which gives it an air (smoke-filled of course) of authenticity despite the large leaps in imagination.


The story continues as Steven Arnold – from Morris’ previous film BARE (see Midlands Movies review here) – plays the mysterious Adam. And he suspects the house is a drug den, and one he could exploit for his own nefarious ends.


Showing up uninvited, the dope appears at the front door and threatens to expose the operation to the authorities unless he gets his slice. Margie seems less than fazed by the pressure and reminds him of his manners as he greedily downs tea and biscuits.


The film cross-cuts the main narrative with dream-like shots of people getting high on bongs and reefer. This is reflected in the cinematography where backlit rooms are filled with smoke and an air of hippie-infused haze. And slow motion, Dutch angles and heavily reverbed voices all lend the film an eerie tone too.


A strange comparison admittedly, these sequences reminded me of the melancholic slo-mo drug taking scenes in sci-fi reboot Dredd (2012) but they are hilariously cut with shots of domestic chores. Margie indulges herself in washing up and (pot?) tea served up in her best china as a lullaby style soundtrack plays in the background.


Margie then sends her son Kieron (This Is England’s burly George Newton) to face Adam in order to “tenderise the meat” in a brutal scene of retribution. She’s one old lady not to mess with! But after he returns to apologise, her nice side returns by offering him a pain-relieving spliff. Perhaps gaining a new customer in the process? Well, actually no. As he passes out from the herb, his ultimate outcome is far, far worse than you could imagine.


Written by Nicola Monaghan, she channels the British eccentricity of Ben Wheatley and a hint of The League of Gentlemen. And whilst it has a story similarity to the French film Paulette (2012), Monaghan balances the difficult task of being humorous yet grim and serious just moments later.


But the true star is the funny and sweet, yet very menacing, Abigail Hamilton as Margie herself. Seeing an old lady using the vernacular of the streets is comical alongside her animated face when in a drug high. However, as the tale turns more dark so does she, and her intense stare may haunt audiences' dreams for nights to come. Clever, and well shot on a technical level, I’d highly recommend checking out this strange Scarface of suburbia.


Mike Sales


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