‘The calls are coming from inside the house…’

The first twenty minutes or so of this film make for pure, perfect cinematic horror. Pretty American babysitter Jill Johnson has no more on her mind when she goes to babysit for a doctor and his wife than whether or not her crush, some guy named Bobby, will give her a tinkle on the old dog and bone. That’s cockney rhyming slang for phone, me old china plate. That’s slang for mate, by the way. Oh, never mind. Let’s get to the film.

Jill does get a call while she’s babysitting, as it happens. In fact, she gets several, but none of them are from Bobby. They’re from a sick and twisted psychopathic killer who phones every few minutes to ask Jill:

‘Have you checked the children…?’

Jill is such a bad babysitter, however, that not once in the whole time she’s there has she so much as peeped in on the two little cherubs. They could’ve gone off clubbing for all she knows. I wouldn’t hire her to watch my precious rugrats, that’s for sure.

Any-hoo, while Jill has been creeping nervously around the darkened house- the best darned darkened house I’ve ever seen on film, by the way- the killer has been doing away with the doctor’s two little sproglets in a particularly gruesome way which we don’t need to go into here.

Jill is saved by a cop named John Clifford and the killer, Curt Duncan, who’s a dead ringer for Hugh Cornwell from The Stranglers, is incarcerated in a mental asylum. I wonder if Hugh Cornwell has seen this film and, if so, what he thinks about being a doppelganger for a murderer in a ‘Seventies horror film…! Anyway, that’s the end of that chapter. Or is it…?

Well, no, it’s not, because we’re only twenty minutes into the film at that point. It’s these opening twenty minutes that have garnered this superb film its cult following, by the way. Also, these same twenty minutes are considered by many horror fans to contain some of the scariest, most nerve-wracking scenes ever to be committed to celluloid. I absolutely agree. There’s no ghost, but then there doesn’t need to be.

What could be more frightening than the thought that there’s someone in your house, an alien being, someone who’s not supposed to be there? Even if you’re only the babysitter and it’s not your own house, that doesn’t make the idea any less chilling. If anything, maybe it’s even more scary to have this happen to you in a strange gaff.

Some years later, the evil Duncan escapes from the mental asylum in which he’d been incarcerated after his grisly deeds. The lovely cuddly John Clifford, now retired from the police force and working as a private detective, is hired to recapture him by the doctor whose kids were killed by Duncan.

John Clifford, by the way, is played by Charles Durning who a few short years later fell heavily for Dustin Hoffman dressed as a middle-aged feminist in the comedy movie TOOTSIE. Boy, was he red-faced when he found out what that feisty little ‘popsy’ was packing in her pantyhose…!

We get to follow Duncan around for a bit then as he kips in hostels for homeless men and tries to pick up embittered, lonely, middle-aged women in bars. Well, one middle-aged woman in particular, anyway.

I love the scenes in which he’s following the afore-mentioned lonely single woman home through deserted streets and tunnels and into her crappy apartment in the dead of night. They’re just so seedy. This part of the film is really quite sleazy and even sad. There are a lot of lonely, dysfunctional people out there, and that’s one of the saddest facts of life there are.

We catch up with Jill the babysitter then who, in the seven years since the murder of the children in her care, has gotten married and acquired two sproglets of her own and also quite a decent life for herself. Nice posh house, charity work and prospects of advancement in her hubby’s job. Huh. Well, let’s just hope she takes better care of her own kids than she did of the doctor’s. Snigger.

Anyway, all-grown-up Jill and her husband Steven go out to dinner in a fancy restaurant to celebrate Steven’s getting a raise at work. I got the most terrible feeling of déja vu when they headed off in their fancy duds leaving the teenaged babysitter in charge of their napping nippers…

You guessed it. Duncan’s tracked Jill down through a newspaper cutting and so poor hysterical Jill gets a call at the posh restaurant from a male caller who says: ‘Have you checked the children…?‘ Well, as you can imagine, the s**t really hits the fan then.

I won’t tell you the ending so as not to spoil it for you, but I will say that there are plenty of shocks and tension along the way and lots of lovely shots of the interior of Jill’s darkened house.

This director does bloody brilliant shots of darkened houses at night. I honestly think that they’re among the best I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen… well, a few, anyway. However, I did keep wanting to scream at the screen: ‘Why don’t you turn on some feckin’ lights, you brainless bimbo…?’

I enjoyed every second of this horror film, especially the legendary first twenty minutes. It was a great ninety-minute romp through some of the best horror movie tropes ever. The babysitter being scared half to death by the anonymous caller. The calls are coming from inside the house.

The retired cop who could never quite get that one horrible murder- and murderer- out of his mind and who won’t retire easily until he’s settled old scores and avenged the innocent. You should watch it. Alone. In the dark. While babysitting. Oh, hang on, listen, is that the phone…? Can you get that? I’ve just done my nails…


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:


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

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

Crisis of Confidence — Matt Fraser

Lately I’ve been suffering from a lack of confidence in my story, and thus in myself as a writer, and it came about not because of any criticism or anything similar that came my way. It came about because of a writing contest, a contest I did not even enter!

Crisis of Confidence — Matt Fraser


This brilliant and iconic horror film reaches out and grabs you by the throat from the get-go. The first thing I noticed about it is the following. The music in THE SIMPSONS when Homer exercises poor judgement and takes the kids to a horror flick that’s totally unsuitable for young ‘uns is actually a clever homage to the ‘la-la-la-la’ music at the start of ROSEMARY’S BABY. I love finding out stuff like that!

When a terrified Bart and Lisa, traumatised beyond belief from being made to watch THE RE-DEADENING, hear the ‘la-la-la-la’ music at the dinner table and howl in fear, Homer casually remarks: ‘Oh yeah, I bought the soundtrack…!’ Good old Homer. Marge, on hearing where Homer’s taken the kids, actually remarks: ‘Homer, that’s a rare lapse in judgement for you!’ or words to that effect. Yes, rare indeed…

Anyway, ROSEMARY’S BABY tells the story of a young couple, Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse, who in 1965 move into one of those gorgeous, huge old New York apartment buildings that are always being featured in films.

SINGLE WHITE FEMALE has one of ’em. You know the kind I mean. They’ve got lifts and doormen and laundry rooms down in the big scary basement and tons and tons of storage space and I’ve always wanted to live in one except I think I’d be too scared.

The building’s not entirely dissimilar to the infamous Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, which recently featured in a Netflix series entitled: CRIME SCENE: THE VANISHING AT THE CECIL HOTEL. The specific ‘vanishing’ to which it refers is that of Canadian student Elisa Lam (1991-2013), who booked into the Cecil Hotel, only a stone’s throw from Skid Row, in January 2013.

Sadly, she went missing while staying there and her body was eventually found in a water tank on the roof of the building. Her death was found to be accidental. Huge Internet interest was aroused by the disappearance and, particularly, by some hotel footage of Elisa in a hotel elevator on the last day she was ever seen alive, in which she is seen to be behaving strangely.

Anyway, Guy and Rosemary’s building is called the Bramford and, according to their pal Hutch, its history is sinister and inextricably bound up with the occult. This doesn’t deter the young marrieds, though.

Rosemary in particular loves all the closet space and, let’s face it, as a dutiful little ‘Sixties housewife, she has plenty of time to line them all with nice stripy shelf paper while hubby Guy is out trying to earn a crust as an actor.

The most interesting thing about the Bramford is the Woodhouse’s new neighbours, a hugely eccentric old couple called the Castevets. Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for her portrayal of Minnie Castevet, the garishly-dressed, extremely nosy and pushy auld one who insinuates herself into Rosemary’s business right from the off. Rosemary, a total doormat, is much too weak and wimpy to tell the bossy old biddy to bog off.

After initial reluctance, Guy becomes chummy with the couple and presumably talks to them in private about how hard he’s finding it to make it as an actor. Then one day, he suddenly tells Rosemary he’s willing to try for the baby she’s always wanted.

Coincidence much? He’s even worked out on a chart when the optimum times for conception are, if you can believe that. Is any man alive that keen to knock up the missus…? Well, maybe some guys are, haha.

Dozey Rosie doesn’t suspect a thing. Not even when one night she gets ‘tipsy’ (with Guy’s encouragement) and has a horribly life-like ‘dream’ in which she is raped by a demonic figure in the presence of Guy and the Castevets and a load of their elderly pals from the Bramford. ‘Dream,’ my Aunt Fanny. As if the whole thing wasn’t arranged by Guy and the Castevets together. For shame…!

Rosemary wakes up the next day covered in claw marks and scrapes and scratches. Guy tries to make out like he had sex with her while she was out for the count so as not to miss out on conception time. He says it was nice, in a necrophiliac kind of way…! What a nice guy. We have a name for that kind of thing nowadays, boyo.

Anyway, as you’ve undoubtedly guessed, Rosemary ends up preggers by Satan after that one night, because apparently His Infernal Majesty always hits the mark on the first time. No faffing about for the Dark Lord. No bullshitting with Beelzebub. No half-assed endeavours for Lucifer. He uses his whole ass when he undertakes something. Oh, and Guy is suddenly on his way to becoming a famous actor. Coincidence, my butt. 

What happens to Rosemary after her unwitting conception of Old Nick’s kid has the quality of a nightmare for the boyishly-coiffed young mum-to-be. Does she get through it unscathed? Does Satan Junior? Does Guy get any kind of come-uppance?

Can the Devil be prevailed upon to pay child support and take his infant to MacDonald’s and a movie at the weekend like every other normal deadbeat dad? And above all, can anything be done about Rosemary’s hair? ‘Tis shocking bad. These and other questions can (mostly) be answered by watching the film.

The book by Ira Levin on which the film is based is one of the few books that I read right through without stopping. JAWS by Peter Benchley was another one, William Peter Blatty’s THE EXORCIST another. It’s in pretty good company, as you can see.

ROSEMARY’S BABY, incidentally, is one of the films that made it on to the American National Film Registry, which means that the Library Of Congress deemed it ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant,’ which is a pretty big honour for any film that makes the cut.

The acting is sublime, the scripting tight and the ending fantastic. The only thing that puzzles me is the bit about Satan’s apparently being such a rough and inconsiderate lover that he leaves his consort covered in savage claw marks.

That’s not the Satan I know. Why, the time he and I… Ooops. I’ve said too much. Never mind. Forget that I said that. We’ll end on a pun based on the movie. ‘Anyone for tannis…?’ Yes, I said tannis, haha. Watch the film. You’ll find out.


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:


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

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





‘I’m not your friend, Fred.’

‘Can I just ask if the appropriate adult’s all right…?’

‘Heather’s not under the patio. She’s in Bahrain, working as a mule for a drugs cartel. Now, whether you believe that or not is entirely up to you.’

I love this made for television crime drama, first shown in two parts on ITV. It’s considered to be the third part in a trilogy of made for television films about Britain’s most notorious murders from the second half of the twentieth century: THIS IS PERSONAL: THE HUNT FOR THE YORKSHIRE RIPPER from 1999 is one of the best true crime movies I’ve ever seen in my life. SEE NO EVIL: THE MOORS MURDERS (2006) is almost equally good.

APPROPRIATE ADULT is not the story of the horrific abductions, rapes and murders of innocent young women carried out by the loathsome serial killers Fred and Rose West in Gloucestershire between 1967 and 1987, although they did very much commit these crimes with which they were charged and of which they were found guilty. (Fred, of course, committed suicide before he could stand trial, but there was never any doubt as to his guilt.)

Rather, it is the extraordinary story of the ordinary woman training to be a social worker- Emily Watson playing Janet Leach- who had put her name down on a list of volunteers to be the ‘appropriate adult’ for when the police have charged someone of limited mental capacity or with learning difficulties, who might have trouble understanding the charges against them.

The appropriate adult would then sit in on the interview sessions between the police and the person charged with the offences and make sure that the person is okay to go on with the sessions and that they have everything they need, etc. It’s kind of like baby-sitting but with more serious implications…!

Janet Leach, thirty-eight, is a divorced mum-of-five with all the usual worries about money, kids and career. Her current partner is bipolar and needs to be hospitalised when he is going through one of his manic phases. So, as we see, this lady is not without her share of problems even before she encounters one of the twentieth century’s worst ever serial murderers.  

This case is Janet Leach’s first time to be chosen as an ‘appropriate adult.’ When she realises that it’s not only a murder case, but a multiple murder case in which heads have been cut off as casually as chopping up a lettuce for a salad and bodies stuffed into suitcases before being buried in the back garden or cellar, you can tell that she’s been knocked for six a bit.

Dominic West (no relation, I’m sure!) does a cracking job of portraying the evil but oddly genial Fred, a labourer for whom no job was too small, too big or too dirty and who liked to present an obliging, pleasantly hail-fellow-well-met face to the world at all times. He gives the impression that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for you if you asked him, he’s so congenial.

Janet is obviously repelled by Fred when she meets him first and hears his dreadful stories of lust murders and the sado-masochistic torture of victims before they were murdered. But Fred takes an immediate liking to his ‘appropriate adult’ and it’s not long before Janet, too, falls under his so-called ‘spell.’

Here’s the thing about Fred, and this is my own personal opinion now. He loves all women, but especially the woman he’s with at any given time. He’d probably love D.C. Hazel Savage, who’s conducting the interviewing, except he’s sneaky and he instinctively knows she’s too smart to fall for his bullshit.

But Janet Leach is a tiny, timid little bird of a thing whose shyness and vulnerability Fred probably sniffs out immediately. Here’s a woman he can manipulate, a woman who’ll believe his lies.

He’s the most complete picture of a pathological liar you’ll ever see; if he told you it was raining, you’d be well advised to stick your own head out the window just to check for yourself.

Janet is probably exactly the kind of easily manipulated little mouse of a woman Fred would have gone for in real life. And now, here she is, in his life every day for a while, hanging on to his every word and giving him her undivided attention, which is all Fred ever wanted from a woman.

How does he manipulate her fragile emotions, then? He tells her she’s special, that she understands him in a way no-one else, not even his precious Rose, does. He implies he can’t do any of this without her, and that there’s a special bond between the pair of them that no-one else, outside of their little protective circle, can possibly ever hope to understand.

Janet is probably immensely flattered. What woman wouldn’t be? Has anyone else ever needed her so thoroughly, she’s probably wondering, has anyone else every placed so much trust in her? God Almighty, she’s probably honoured that she was the chosen one.

When he starts comparing her physical appearance to that of the so-called ‘love of his life,’ poor murdered Anna McFall, she’s more than likely half in love with him already. She starts to help the semi-literate Fred with his ‘autobiography,’ ‘I was Loved by an Angle.’ (Yes, yes, he means to write ‘angel!’)

She continues to visit him in prison, bringing him clothes and offering her support, long after her role as appropriate adult has officially ceased to be a thing. When Fred does what he does over the New Year of 1995, Janet Leach has a very curious reaction which I’m not going to tell you about here for fear of the dreaded spoiler. You’ll have to watch the film yourself to find out…!

I’m not saying that Fred was happy about being caught, but, Lord, he must have been in his element, his absolute element, during those long police interviews with the ever-attentive Janet Leach by his side!

Talking, talking, talking to his heart’s content, always with a captive audience and with a new woman now to ‘woo,’ congratulating himself inwardly on being smarter than the police and sending them on a wild goose-chase or leading them- quite literally- up the garden path as they desperately try to wriggle it out of him where he’s buried his own daughter’s remains. Did he believe his own wild stories? I guess we’ll never know.

A word about Rose, the wife. Here, she’s wonderfully portrayed by Monica Dolan exactly as I imagine she was in real life: a liar, vulgar, loud, aggressive, foul-mouthed, threatening violence, making enemies right left and centre. She won’t be free any time soon, if ever. I would say that’s for the best.


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:


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





‘You Freud, me Jane?’

‘If you tell my Momma about me, I’ll kill you.’

‘We don’t talk smart about the Bible in this house, missy.’

‘Why don’t you love me, Momma? I’ve always wondered why you don’t.’

‘… always pulling her skirt down over her knees as if they were some sort of national treasure…!’

Ah, now this is the stuff. This has long been one of my favourite Hitchcock movies, although it never seems to receive as much attention as, say, PSYCHO or THE BIRDS. It’s every bit as good, though.

It’s a sort of psycho-sexual thriller rather than an outright horror (Hitchcock himself went to great lengths to bill it as a sex mystery, no doubt to give it some extra clout at the box-office), and I have great memories of watching it in the middle of the night during Christmases past, the usual time for the screening of old Hitchcock movies on television, both now and then.

I love the story of how Hitchcock’s first choice for the plum role of Marnie, Princess Grace of Monaco, was discouraged from taking the role by her new subjects in the principality of Monaco.

Apparently, they didn’t want their new Princess playing ‘a sexually disturbed thief’ who gets raped into the bargain. Well, I suppose that that wouldn’t have been too good for the old squeaky clean image, haha.

Some people do maintain, though, that Grace Kelly and Cary Grant would have been better choices for the roles of Marnie and her adversary/husband Mark Rutland than Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. I disagree.

Tippi Hedren was the perfect choice, and she more than justified any faith placed in her. And would Cary Grant have been able to rape his screen bride in the same shockingly decisive way that Sean Connery does it? I don’t know.

I know Cary Grant had his more serious roles- SUSPICION, for one- and I’m not for one moment implying that he was only suited to frothier, lighter, less heavyweight roles, but I just don’t see him as Mark Rutland.

Marnie Edgar is a fascinating character, probably one of Hitchcock’s most complex. Norman Bates in PSYCHO is another prime example of how the great director had a profound understanding of how a person’s childhood can basically f**k them up twelve ways till Sunday, as it were.

Norman, of course, had perfectly acceptable reasons, deeply rooted in his upbringing, for why he grew up into a mother-fixated, sexually deviant transvestite killer. In MARNIE, Hitchcock is delving once more into the end products of a messed-up childhood.

Marnie is probably a slightly more sympathetic character than Norman, though, because she’s stunningly beautiful and doesn’t actually kill anyone…! Let’s go ahead anyway and have a look at the plot of this excellent film.

Marnie is a thief and a compulsive liar and a woman who’s so afraid of men that it’s made her sexually frigid. Long story short, she ends up being unwillingly married to rich, handsome and highly eligible widower Mark Rutland, played by Sean 007 Connery.

Mark is wise to Marnie’s tricks as a kleptomaniacal con-woman with more aliases than Homer Simpson’s fugitive mother Mona in hit animated comedy THE SIMPSONS. Remember Muddy Mae Suggins?

Anyway, Mark is deeply infatuated with the gorgeously blonde Marnie and is endlessly fascinated by her seemingly screwed-up mental condition. I’ve never liked the way he ‘studies’ her as if she’s a butterfly pinned to a bit of card, even when she’s in the midst of the most terrible distress. How about actually helping her there, bud, or is that too radical…?

Fancying himself as something of an armchair psychologist, he’s determined to get to the bottom of Marnie’s terrible fear of men and, incidentally, her seeming over-reaction to the colour red. Some of his methods are highly suspect, to say the least, and could have damaged Marnie irreparably.

Forcing a woman who’s afraid of men to submit to his sexual attentions would probably have disastrous consequences in real life, but this is a film. Maybe he thought a good ride was all she needed to loosen her up a bit. Highly suspect, as I said.

I’ll never forget the time I saw Sean Connery doing a television interview in which he was asked if he ‘minded’ his character in MARNIE having to ‘rape’ the gorgeous blonde Tippi Hedren. Cue a giant cheesy grin and a slow but emphatic shake of his handsome head…! The saucy little devil.

The scenes with Marnie’s mother in Marnie’s childhood home would all make you sympathise solely with poor Marnie. Louise Latham does an excellent job of portraying the messed-up woman whose overwhelming fear of her daughter growing up slutty actually turns said daughter into a psychological ticking time-bomb who can’t bear to be touched by anyone at all, ever. Nice work there, Momma…!

Diane Baker plays the minxy sister-in-law Lil Mainwaring to perfection. What a nosey, spiteful little bitch! She’s just dying of jealousy because Mark loves Marnie and not her.

Clearly she was hoping she’d take her dead sister’s place in Mark’s bed and Mark’s life, not to mention Mark’s chequebook, but it ain’t gonna happen. That being the case, she’s going to stir up as much trouble for Marnie as she can, just as if poor Marnie didn’t already have enough problems to be going on with.

If you’re a horsey person, there’s a lot of equine action in the film for you to oooh-and-aaaah over, plus a very sad animal scene that will probably leave you traumatised for life, haha. Remember Marge and Lisa Simpson in THE SIMPSONS settling down for a girlie afternoon of doing each others’ nails and watching the saddest pony movies Marge could find in their local video store? Great fun altogether…! 

I love all the views of the terraced street on the docks where Marnie’s childhood home in Baltimore is situated. The giant ship looks like a beautiful old painting. Apparently some of Hitch’s crew advised him that the ship looked fake and that they could fix it right up for him, but he refused, and I’m glad he did.

I mentioned earlier that, these days, Hitchcock’s films are only screened on Irish television around midnight at Christmas, after the main evening’s programming has ended.

Before I acquired the DVD, I therefore only usually got to see those iconic closing scenes with the ship in the harbour at around two or three in the morning, through a bleary-eyed fog of exhaustion in which everything on the screen looked surreal. Best way to watch the film really, for me. Happy days.   

I love Hitchcock’s rather mischievous cameo, without which his films wouldn’t be the same, in a deserted hotel corridor. I love all the marvellous early ‘Sixties glamour and Tippi Hedren’s shining blonde hair and perfect voice and face and I love also the similarities to PSYCHO. Both heroines are on the run from their old bosses, after all, with a goodly amount of said boss’s dosh secreted away in a suitcase.

Those poor girls. One of them comes to a bad end. The other might just have a shot at a half-decent life. We’ll have to wait and see if it all pans out for poor dear Marnie, won’t we, dear readers? We’ll just have to wait and see


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:


Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64

10 Proven and Effective Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

Originally posted on Nicholas C. Rossis: This is a guest post by Jayce, the managing director of Seller Interactive, an Amazon marketing agency that offers Amazon SEO services to brands built on Amazon. With content marketing skills that have taken him to top brands such as GoDaddy and Toyota, he has cemented his knowledge and…

10 Proven and Effective Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog