THE VIGIL. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

THE VIGIL. (2019) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY KEITH THOMAS.
STARRING DAVE DAVIS, MENASHE LUSTIG, LYNN COHEN, RONALD COHEN, FRED MELAMED AND MALKY GOLDMAN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I really liked this American supernatural horror film, although it’s not without its flaws. It takes place over the course of one dark night in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Borough Park neighbourhood.

The hero is Yakov, a former Hasidic Jew who seems to be attempting to shake off his Jewishness because of a traumatic incident in his past, of which we catch glimpses.

He even takes anti-psychotic pills and attends some sort of group therapy, possibly for people with PTSD who are learning to live again after whatever it was that traumatised them.

He’s just getting used to his new smartphone and he’s only now learning how to talk to women, so being immersed in his Orthodox Jewish community seems to have kept him fairly protected from the materialistic and romantic effects of society at large.

He seems to be learning for the first time how to live in the world without the nice insulating cushion of his Jewish community, and learning to live without your ‘cushions’ can be tough, as those of us who’ve ever tried it will know.

He’s desperately short of money at the moment, which is why he agrees when his former friend and mentor from the Jewish community, Reb Shulem, asks him to be the ‘Shomer’ for someone who’s just died.

A ‘Shomer’ is someone who will sit and hold a ‘vigil’ over the dead person overnight, before the lads from the undertaker’s come round and cart the body away. People can be paid to do this job in the absence of available friends or family.

Yakov really needs the money, so he goes with Shulem to the home of the Litvaks. Rubin Litvak is the deceased, and his widow, Mrs. Litvak, has dementia, which, I presume, is why she can’t do the ‘Shomer’ job.

Shulem leaves Yakov alone in the gloomy, ill-lit house in the quiet neighbourhood, telling him he’ll be back in the morning with the undertakers. That’s when the fun really starts…

Rubin Litvak was haunted by a demon when he died, a demon known as ‘the Mazzik.’ It latched onto him when he was a concentration camp prisoner faced with a hellish choice in Buchenwald in World War Two. Well, those places were probably awash with demons and evil spirits, given what we know of what went on in them.

Now that Old Man Litvak is deceased, the Mazzik needs a new host body in order to survive. Old Lady Litvak is pretty much a walking corpse, therefore the demon is not interested in her. The Mazzik feeds on pain and suffering. He has Yakov, and his tortured past and crippling, almost debilitating, guilt over past events, firmly in his sights…

The haunting is quite effective, but the physical demon itself, with root vegetables for hands, could be better. His little tricks, especially the fact that his head faces backwards into the past, are quite cool, but his overall appearance was a bit all over the place.

I like that Yakov fought the demon off with his faith, the faith he’d been trying to renounce, so maybe he can get back into the community he’d previously shunned after the action ends.

After all, it wasn’t his faith or his religion that was the problem in the first place, but the racist attitudes of the jerks who messed with him and his little brother. Yakov desperately needs his belief in his religion. If grappling overnight with this demon gives it back to him, then it’s all to the good, right?

Let’s hope that the Night of the Demon (great film, that!) brings Yakov a peace of sorts, and that the shadowy figure that pursues him down the street the morning after ‘the vigil’ isn’t what we fear it might be. If anyone deserves a break, I reckon it’s this guy.

I did enjoy the film, despite the hodge-podge, higgledy-piggledy physical appearance of the demon, and it was great to see the Jewish faith and culture featuring in a horror film for once. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. I say give us loads more of that, because it’s super-interesting, and practice will eventually make perfect.

   AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

Top 10 Best Book Opening Lines — A Writer’s Path

Sometimes, you can tell whether or not a text is worth your time just by its opening line. There are some books that you pick up, turn to the opening page, and–nothing. It’s a dud. A failure. There’s no point reading a book if the author hasn’t got a cracking opening. First impressions are everything […]

Top 10 Best Book Opening Lines — A Writer’s Path

Writer’s Block: Is It Laziness or a Critical Part of Being a Longtime Author? – By Kristen Lamb… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

Writer’s block is a very controversial subject in the publishing world. Everyone has an opinion and everyone is right. Okay, maybe not everyone. I am right…and also NUMBER ONE AT HUMBLE! *gets cramp patting self on back* I believe that, when it comes to discussing writer’s block, there is a real danger of oversimplifying a […]

Writer’s Block: Is It Laziness or a Critical Part of Being a Longtime Author? – By Kristen Lamb… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

WRONG TURN. (2021) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WRONG TURN. (2021) DIRECTED BY MIKE P. NELSON. WRITTEN BY ALAN B. MCELROY AND BASED ON ‘WRONG TURN’ BY ALAN B. MCELROY.
STARRING CHARLOTTE VEGA, MATTHEW MODINE AND BILL SAGE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. I love all these ‘WRONG TURN’ movies to bits. This one is what’s known as a franchise re-boot, I think, and it was hugely entertaining. I don’t think I was bored at all during the one hour and fifty minutes it was on.

It’s sort of a ‘WRONG TURN’ for the digital age, which I thought might put me off, but strangely enough it didn’t. It’s ‘MIDSOMMAR’ meets ‘THE HILLS HAVE EYES,’ combining a weird cult with the usual inbred and terrifying mountainy folk we’ve come to expect from this kind of film.

Matthew Modine plays Scott Shaw, a concerned dad trying to find his daughter Jen, who seemingly went missing recently while hiking with some college friends along the Appalachian Trail.

According to Wikipedia, this trail is a marked hiking route about 2,200 miles long which extends from Georgia to Maine in the Eastern United States, and is said to be used by about two million tourists a year. Popular trail.

The viewers quickly find out what happened to Jen and her five mates. First, they wind up in the kind of old ‘Confederate’ town in Virginia where some of the older folks still retain the mores and morals, customs and mind-sets of a much earlier time. This often means that the community is rife with racism, sexism and homophobia.

The little group of six college students rouse a lot of suspicion and contempt in the town. Jen, the lead girl and a student of the arts who is unsure of what to do with her life, is an all-American white girl who is dating Darius, a black guy.

That’s frowned upon by the townspeople, as is the gay relationship and ethnicities of Gary and Luis. Gary is an Indian chap (not a native American Indian) and Luis is of Hispanic origin.

Milla and Adam, a trainee doctor and app developer respectively, are just an ordinary white American couple. Clearly, the film-makers couldn’t think of a way to make them into some kind of a minority, lol.

Anyway, the six students head off happy as Larry on the self-guided trail, but tragedy strikes when the group take a ‘wrong turn’ in search of an old civil war fort and one of their number is horribly killed.

The remaining five students decide that they need to get back to civilisation and safety straightaway, but the unseen presence on the mountain that’s been dogging their footsteps since they arrived in town has other ideas. Nasty, painful, dangerous and horrible ideas…

I love the idea of the mountainy cult known as ‘the Foundation’ that actually pre-dates the Civil War. You’d expect them to be as racist as the townspeople, so it’s a pleasant surprise, if a tad confusing, when it turns out they’re not. They’re no saints, though, and what they have, they hold. Remember that…

They have such evil reputations for murdering and torturing outsiders that even the townspeople are scared to death of them and won’t go near their hunting grounds, which are lethally equipped with booby-traps.

The sheriff and the townsfolk prefer to act like the strange, spooky mountainy folks just don’t exist, which is why they- mostly- elect not to help Jen’s distraught dad Scott when he comes looking for his missing daughter.

I don’t mind the bear costumes, but I’m not sure why the culties have to talk in weird Scandinavian-type accents, though. I loved the cult leader, Venable, whom I nicknamed ‘Poppa Bear,’ not just because of the bear costume, but also because he’s exactly the type of burly, beardy middle-aged bloke I go for now. I would have volunteered for ‘wifey duties’ in a heartbeat, and you wouldn’t have needed to force me either, lol, but that’s just me.

The violence in the film is pretty shocking. It seems to be the fashion since ‘MIDSOMMAR,’ a sort of modern day re-imagining of THE WICKER MAN, to portray in horror movies of this nature the complete obliteration of the human head and face, and this film has that kind of thing in spades. It also has the horror movie trope of the ‘lost and found’ shed, filled with the backpacks and dead cell-phones of legions of murdered tourists.

I liked that we find out what happened to Jen in her life ‘post-Foundation,’ but I can’t help feeling that she’s going to have a lot of explaining to do to the authorities after that ending. Still, that’s not our problem, I guess.

I’d love to see more films in the re-booting of this excellent franchise, although it’d be a challenge to come up with a better premise than this one. If the film-makers do run out of ideas, I for one would be happy enough to go back to basics with the cannibalistic hillbillies from the backwoods. Now there’s an idea that just never gets old.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Advice from Professional Writers (1) — Mustang Patty Talks Writing

Over the past four years, I’ve been collecting bits and pieces of advice from writers whose work impacts the writing world. Over the next few posts, I’d like to share these with you. While every rule or suggestion might not apply to you and your writing – you, like me, should discover some gems. (If […]

Advice from Professional Writers (1) — Mustang Patty Talks Writing

Creating a Writing Tool Box by Stephen King — Sheila Says … The Daily Report

To create your writing toolbox, commonly used tools go on the top layer. They are vocabulary and grammar. Vocabulary is the bread of writing. Put your vocabulary on the top shelf of your tool box and don’t make any conscious effort to improve it. You’ll be doing that automatically as you read. One of the […]

Creating a Writing Tool Box by Stephen King — Sheila Says … The Daily Report

VERONICA. (2017) A NETFLIX HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

VERONICA. (2017) A SPANISH HORROR FILM FOR NETFLIX DIRECTED BY PACO PLAZA AND STARRING SANDRA ESCACENA. LOOSELY BASED ON REAL EVENTS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I wasn’t expecting this Netflix horror film to be as good as it is. Loosely based on a real-life Ouija board case from Spain in 1991 in which a girl died mysteriously after using one of those devil-boards, it’s the story of a very ordinary schoolgirl, the titular Veronica.

She experiences hauntings and a bit of the old demonic possession as well after using the Ouija board which comes free with the occult magazine she regularly buys. A free Ouija board? I remember the days when a cheap sparkly nail varnish sellotaped to the front of your magazine was the most you could expect, lol.  

Anyway, poor Veronica seems to be having quite a hard time of it generally, even without the haunting to contend with. Her dad is dead, and her mum works all the hours God sends in the family restaurant/bar to keep a roof over her kids’ heads and food in their mouths.

Mum unfortunately has to put a ridiculous amount of pressure on Veronica, as the oldest child, to care for her two younger sisters, Irene and Lucia, and her adorable little brother with the curly hair and glasses, Antonito. The kids are all likeable and terrific little actors too, but, as their screen sister Veronica knows, they take an awful lot of looking after.

Veronica has to get them up in the morning and see that they’re washed, fed, dressed and ready for school. She does a full day of school herself then, before collecting the young ‘uns, dropping by the restaurant to pick up the food which Mum has prepared for their dinners and bringing everyone home again to feed ‘em, wash ‘em, get ‘em to bed and then do her own homework.

It really is an incredible amount of pressure to put on a teenage girl but, as I said, Mum doesn’t really have any choice. It’s either work or starve and be homeless. Veronica is fifteen and still hasn’t had her first menstrual period. Maybe its onset is delayed by the tremendous pressure the girl is under, who knows?

She’s definitely ripe for a haunting-slash-possession, though, as teenage girls often seem to be, because of riotous hormonal activity and, in this case, because of the death of a father whom she clearly misses. Plus, of course, her dad’s demise left her in the unenviable position of being a second parent to her younger siblings.

She’s been denied the carefree adolescence some girls experience, and she often has to miss out on seeing her friends to babysit her siblings. Also, the film-makers have thrown in a solar eclipse for good measure. Could the stars have been aligned in exactly the right way for a haunting to occur…?

The haunting is pretty damn effective. Veronica starts seeing things, awful things, around the family apartment, and having frightful nightmares, shortly after using the Ouija board in her Catholic school junk room with two of her friends. Her own odd behaviour during the séance causes her friends to be wary of her afterwards. The session scares all three girls witless, anyway.

‘Sr. Death,’ the blind, chain-smoking retired nun who lives at the school, is able to sense that ‘someone’ now walks beside Veronica who was accidentally summoned up by the amateur séance, someone from whom her three siblings must now be protected. Veronica has opened a door, the ancient nun says, that should never have been opened. If Veronica didn’t have the willies up her before, she certainly does now.

I was scared stiff myself watching the hauntings. Poor Veronica. Her friends have ditched her, her mum thinks she’s acting out just to make things difficult for everyone and their downstairs neighbour wants to know what all the racket from upstairs is about when Veronica doesn’t have a clue herself. She’s left to face the horrors alone and the outcome is going to be bloody…

I love ‘paranormal activity’ films and this is a good ‘un. The moral of the story is, of course, that you should never interfere with things you don’t fully understand, and the occult is probably at the top of that list.

I wouldn’t personally use a Ouija board if you paid me to, that’s how spooked I would be at the whole idea of waking sleeping dogs with a sledgehammer, which is the effect the Ouija board seems to have on the spirit world.

The film’s ending is shocking and could maybe have been prevented if only poor Veronica hadn’t been left shouldering so much responsibility by herself, but, as we’ve agreed, Mum has to work and that’s that. There is no-one else, as there’s no-one else for so many real-life single parent families. Maybe that’s the real horror in this story.

Other reviewers have pointed out the very obvious undercurrents of sexual abuse underpinning Veronica’s story and, if they’re right, it makes for a sad tale indeed. Either way, whatever you decide is the reason for all these gruesome happenings, it makes for a really gripping watch.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The Spectre of Sexual Abuse Haunting Verónica (2017)

2017’s Verónica, directed by Paco Plaza (REC) and co-written by Plaza and Fernando Navarro, is a Spanish horror film that has become the victim of its own marketing, facing backlash from many viewers who felt that its scares fell short of the extravagant terrors that they had been promised. Ostensibly based on true events, the film follows the story of Verónica, a young woman whose family life is anything but tranquil. Following the loss of her father, Verónica is forced to take on the involuntary role of surrogate parent to her three young siblings while her mother works long shifts at a local cafe to support the family. After an ill-fated bout with a ouija board in which she attempts to make contact with her father, Verónica and her younger siblings seem to be stalked by a terrifying paranormal presence in their home.

Taken at face-value, the…

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1, 4 or 5 Stars: Why to Review Right Now — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog

You can do something for me today. For every author you know. For even the authors you don’t. An act of literary citizenship that takes 7-10 minutes. Sure, you can spend time and/or money to be a literary citizen—hosting events, blogging, editing or reading for a journal—or contribute gently to your community by giving thoughtful […]

1, 4 or 5 Stars: Why to Review Right Now — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog