AN AMERICAN HAUNTING/THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT: A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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AN AMERICAN HAUNTING/THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT: A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

AN AMERICAN HAUNTING. (2005) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE BELL WITCH: AN AMERICAN HAUNTING’ BY BRENT MONAHAN. DIRECTED/PRODUCED/SCREENPLAY BY COURTNEY SOLOMON. STARRING DONALD SUTHERLAND, SISSY SPACEK, JAMES D’ARCY AND RACHEL HURD-WOOD.

THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT. (2009) DIRECTED BY PETER CORNWELL. STARRING VIRGINIA MADSEN, MARTIN DONOVAN, KYLE GALLNER, AMANDA CREW AND ELIAS KOTEAS.

I’m lumping these two supernatural horror films in together for a couple of reasons. One, I bought ’em on the same day and watched ’em back-to-back so they’re always linked in my mind. Two, I think they actually have quite a lot in common. Each loosely based on true events (Are there any words more thrilling to the horror film viewer than ‘Based on a true story…?’), they both tell of families in crisis being plagued by supernatural forces they can neither see nor understand.

In ‘THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT,’ it’s not hard for the viewer to see where the paranormal problem is oozing from. It’s 1987 and the Campbell family have just moved into a magnificent old country house that used to be a funeral home. What’s more, necromancy and maybe even necrophilia went on in the basement room where the corpses were stored and where the oldest son of the Campbell household is now sleeping. Zoiks, Scoob…!

The hard-done-by and mistreated corpses are restless. They pick on the teenaged boy of the family, Matt, because he’s sick with cancer and is closer to ‘the other side’ than the rest of the family. Matt is terrorised with frightening visions of the ghostly corpses, to the point where he calls in a friend from the cancer ward, a priest, who just so happens to be skilled in the art of exorcism.

What they find out about the hostile spirits in the house scares the living daylights out of both man and boy, but they’ve gotta man up and face these spirits down if they want to stay alive. The scares are mostly of the ‘jump’ variety and there’s a lack of any real horror atmosphere but I still always enjoy the film when I see it.

Virginia Madsen, the beautiful blonde sister of Michael (FREE WILLY and RESERVOIR DOGS), is brilliant as the Mum who’ll do anything to keep her son alive. I love the scene where the drunken Dad angrily removes all the lightbulbs in the house, blissfully unaware that the gaff is haunted to buggery. The cancer scenes involving Matt are hard to watch and were probably the thing I liked least about this otherwise interesting foray into the supernatural.

In AN AMERICAN HAUNTING, which I actually think I like a bit better, we’re back in Ye Oldey Times, early nineteenth century ‘Murica to be exact. John and Lucy Bell’s daughter Betsy, a bewitching little enchantress if ever there was one, is being beleaguered (What a smasher of a word!) by an unseen force that targets only her, Betsy. Why Betsy? Why Betsy, indeed…

John, her father, thinks that the problem is Kate Batts, a woman he’s offended and who just so happens to have a reputation for indulging in the odd bout of witchcraft, but not everyone’s as certain as John is. The episodes of haunting are quite chilling to witness, as Betsy is slapped, dragged around the place, flung into walls and basically physically and emotionally tortured by the unseen force. If only you could, like, hire one of these spiteful entities to bully the bejeesus out of your enemies, haha.

Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek are, of course, horror royalty, having starred in Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW and Stephen King’s CARRIE (the original one) respectively. I couldn’t fault either of ’em in anything they star in.

The daughter Betsy is the spitting image of Rosie Webster from CORONATION STREET, which is funny because that tarty little trollop had an affair with her teacher as well, just like Betsy whose much older teacher is madly in love with her, the filthy pervert…! Still, it was Ye Olden Days. Anything went back then, apparently…

There’s a twist at the end of this movie which I love. As I said, it’s probably the film I prefer out of the two. They’re both well worth watching, though, maybe in a kind of marathon situation. Don’t watch it down in the basement though. Not under any circumstances. I know what your house used to be before you moved in…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ 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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

DER GOLEM. (1920) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

der-golemTHE GOLEM: HOW HE CAME INTO THE WORLD or DER GOLEM, WIE ER IN DIE WELT KAM. (1920) DIRECTED BY PAUL WEGENER. WRITTEN BY PAUL WEGENER AND HENRIK GALEEN. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY KARL FREUND AND GUIDO SEEBER. COUNTRY: WEIMAR REPUBLIC.

STARRING PAUL WEGENER, ALBERT STEINRÜCK, ERNST DEUTSCH, LOTHAR MÜTHEL, LYDA SALMONOVA AND LONI NEST. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This magnificent classic of German Expressionist Cinema, based apparently on an old Jewish folk-tale from the sixteenth century, has a 100% rating on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and is so old that its country of origin doesn’t even exist any more.

The now defunct Weimar Republic was also home to that other marvel of German Expressionist Cinema, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, and it lives now only in the history books. I find that fact endlessly fascinating. Talk about shrouding a movie in the mysterious mists of time…!

It’s a strange enough story, too. It’s about an olde-timey Rabbi who creates a monster out of clay to protect the endangered Jews and then the monster runs amok, as monsters tend to do, and the townspeople end up needing protection from it. I surely hope that the irony isn’t lost on them…

The Rabbi is called Loew. He resides in a Jewish ghetto in medieval Prague, the ghetto sets having been designed by an actual architect and positively astonishing to behold. One day this Rabbi Loew predicts disaster for his people in the stars, and sure enough the next day the Jews are all ordered to leave the city forever by order of the Holy Roman Emperor.

This decree is hand-delivered by the Knight Florian, as gay a chap as you’ll ever meet with a spring in his step and a jaunty flower in his cap, who promptly falls in love with Rabbi Loew’s daughter Miriam. She’s a real silent movie beauty played by Lyda Salmonova, and Knight Florian is by no means the only man around who wants to wuther her heights, as it were.

Rabbi Loew’s assistant, who’s never named as far as I know, is also warm for Miriam’s form. But for sheer style, panache and vigour and vim (Vim? Wtf?), Knight Florian wins out every time over the rather drab but attractive assistant whom Miriam’s probably used to seeing every day by now. There’s a love triangle developing there that’ll bear keeping an eye on.

Meanwhile, however, the good Rabbi is bringing to life his extraordinary creation, The Golem, and sending it down the road to the olde-timey equivalent of Tesco to get the bread and milk. I kid you not, he actually uses the towering and imposing creature as a servant for a bit, before bringing him to the Emperor’s palace to perform his real party piece.

The downside to creating a monster, however, is that occasionally, they turn on their creators. ‘You can’t create a monster,’ says Lisa Simpson in that very funny episode of THE SIMPSONS about ‘the all-new, improved KIDZ NEWZ,’ ‘and then whine when he stomps on a few buildings.’

Indeed you cannot, Lil’ Lisa Slurry. The Golem doesn’t have any buildings in mind for stomping on, as such, but there’s one local lady who’s going to find her Rapunzel plaits being used for a purpose she surely never intended…

Speaking of THE SIMPSONS, there’s an hilarious TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode in which Bart uses a Golem to do his bidding by posting scrolls into its mouth. At the end of the episode, a female Golem is created to keep the male one company, but he’s none too happy as his mate for life is voiced by the annoying Fran Drescher from sitcom THE NANNY. OH. MY. GAAAAAAWD…!

The Golem was one of the cinema’s earliest monsters, but I’ve never seen him as an evil creature. I actually quite like his reassuringly solid build and impassive features. The scene where he’s being gentle and docile with the little girl from the town is eerily reminiscent of the one from Universal’s FRANKENSTEIN over a decade later, where the monster created in the scientist’s laboratory meets an innocent young chum playing by the lakeside.

You know what else is eerily prophetic? The banishment of the Jews from the city totally brings to mind what happened to the Jews in real life as little as thirteen years later or even less. In 1933, Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power and the Jews were hunted and hounded into ghettos like the one in Warsaw, before being ultimately routed out of the ghettos once again and put on trains for their so-called ‘re-settlement in the East.’

We know now, of course, that that was only a euphemism for ‘the Final Solution’ to ‘the Jewish Question,’ or transportation to the death camps. It’s hard not to think about all that when the film ends on a shot of a glowing Star of David.

This silent horror film will just blow you away, with its amazingly intricate sets and the sheer aura of decades-old magic in every frame. It’s as mystical and awe-inspiring as its contemporary, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, and if you haven’t seen it yet you should make it your business to. It’s the bees’ knees and no foolin.’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ 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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

FREE SEXY VAMPIRE BOOK FOR ALL THE SUPER-SEXY VAMPIRE-LOVERS OUT THERE!!!

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Book One of Sandra Harris’s sex-and-spanking Victorian Vampire series FANGS AND FOREPLAY… THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF DRACULA (formerly known as ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA) is FREE, FREE, FREE from 6th Feb-10th Feb!!! Just follow the link below to Amazon and Bob’s your Uncle…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ 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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

HAMMER’S ‘THE WOMAN IN BLACK.’ (2012) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

woman-in-blackTHE WOMAN IN BLACK. (2012) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY SUSAN HILL. DIRECTED BY JAMES WATKINS. STARRING DANIEL RADCLIFFE, CIARAN HINDS, JANET MCTEER, LIZ WHITE, MARY STOCKLEY AND SHAUN DOOLEY. REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Susan Hill sure got lucky when she came up with the idea for this book, heh-heh-heh. Wish I’d thought of it first. What a fantastic story, for a kick-off, a surefire draw for the horror community.

This super-scary and atmospheric movie is a HAMMER film, HAMMER FILM STUDIOS being the company that brought us those wonderful Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing films from the ‘Fifties, ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies. DRACULA (1958) and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1965), to name just a couple. This modern-day venture into horror is definitely worthy of inclusion in the superb HAMMER canon. I personally think it’s a bloody brilliant film, excuse my French.

Daniel Radcliffe, who was the luckiest boy in the world for the whole of the ‘Noughties because he got to play Harry Potter in the films of J.K. Rowling’s stupendously popular books, is the star of the film. He’s grown-up now and quite handsome, but you can still see the Harry Potter in him, haha. You’ll never lose it, Harry…!

Anyway, he plays a young widowed lawyer called Arthur Kipp in this chilling supernatural horror film, set in Edwardian times. That means the times after the Victorian era. I think…! He gets sent to an out-of-the-way village called Crythin Gifford on a legal job.

He’s got to go to a place there called Eel Marsh House to take care of the legal documents of the deceased owner, one Mrs. Alice Drablow. He hates the thought of leaving his four-year-old son Joseph with the nanny, but needs must and all that…

The natives of Crythin Gifford are super-unfriendly. The very mention of Eel Marsh House seems to get everyone’s hackles up. Arthur’s only ally in the place is a rich local landowner called Samuel Daily, marvellously played by one of my favourite actors, Ciaran Hinds.

Eel Marsh House has to be seen to be believed. It’s one of the best haunted houses I’ve ever seen in any film ever, and that’s the truth. It’s a truly magnificent old ramshackle house on the edge of a marsh, hence its name, and it’s only accessible at certain times of the day because of the tides. The grounds are delightfully overgrown and spooky and even contain an old graveyard, and as for the house itself…!

The interior of the house is straight out of the Victorian era, with dusty old drapes and old curios under even dustier glass that look like they were borrowed from the Natural History Museum of the eighteen-hundreds.

There are ornaments and bric-a-brac and old photographs everywhere and all kinds of fantastic Victoriana and old clutter. There’s no electric light, no remaining servants and no neighbours for miles around.

But that’s where all Mrs. Drablow’s legal documents are being stored, so that’s where poor Harry, I mean, Arthur, has to hole up for the duration. But he won’t be alone in the house. No, he’ll have company all right, the grim old residence’s one remaining tenant…

Next to the house itself, which for me is the star of the whole shootin’ match, I love Ciaran Hinds’ character, the rich but decent Samuel Daily, and I loved when Samuel lent Arthur his adorable little dog Spider (what kind of name is that for a cute puppy?) so he wouldn’t lack for company in the house.

Company’s one thing Arthur won’t be lacking, though. Eel Marsh House has a tragic history and its tentacles of terror (I like that, tentacles of terror!) reach as far as the village of Crythin Gifford, a village surprisingly low on children. Why is that, I wonder? Harry will need to draw on every ounce of his wizarding powers to survive a stay in the toxic and deadly dangerous Eel Marsh House…!

There are some really good jump-scares in the film that’ll give you the willies big-time. The old nursery at the top of the house is filled with the freakiest-looking old Victorian-type toys the film-makers could find, or so it seems. It’s got all the old staples in it like the haunted rocking-chair and the old enchanted music-box and it’ll creep the bejeesus out of you if you find Victorian nurseries creepy, which a lot of horror fans do.

There’s also a lovely old crypt in the film, though sadly we don’t get to have a good old snoop around inside it which I would have loved. I simply adore nosing around inside other people’s crypts…!

This is a beautifully-shot, well-acted horror film with magnificent scenery and settings and a really scary ghost. Watch it if you can, but leave all the lights on. She’s coming to get you…

PS, I’m not forgetting that there was an excellent made-for-television version of this story filmed in 1989, as I know a few of you horror fans are going to remind me! As a bonus feature, as it were, I’m including here a review I wrote of that 1989 version but please, please be warned, it contains extreme spoilers as I penned it when I was only a fledgeling of a wee baby bird of a chicklet of a reviewer and I thought that that’s what you were meant to do…!

THE WOMAN IN BLACK. 1989. DIRECTED BY HERBERT WISE. STARRING ADRIAN RAWLINS, BERNARD HEPTON, DAVID DAKER AND PAULINE MORAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Based on the hugely successful novel by Susan Hill, this is the story of young solicitor Arthur Kidd, a family man with two young children. Kidd is sent by his employer to the small town of Crythin Gifford on the east coast of England to attend the funeral of elderly and reclusive widow Mrs. Alice Drablow and afterwards tie up any loose ends pertaining to her estate.

At the funeral, Kidd is uncomfortably aware of the presence first at the back of the church and then outside in the graveyard of a grim-faced woman dressed entirely in black. Kidd travels then to Mrs. Drablow’s home, a cheerless old pile called Eel Marsh House which is connected to the mainland by a tidal causeway periodically obscured by mist.

While rooting about amongst old Mrs. Drablow’s effects, he finds two death certificates and a photograph of someone who looks suspiciously like a younger version of the woman in the black attire. He also listens to some disturbing recordings made by the late Mrs. Drablow that seem to indicate that the house has a troubled past, a past chiefly involving a woman of whom Mrs. Drablow has been wary, to say the least, if not outright afraid.

A few things happen in quick succession, none of them good. Well, it’s a bleedin’ ghost story, innit…? Kidd is plagued by the sound of a pony and trap he cannot see, a horse in difficulties and a child screaming for its mother. In a room in the house decked out as a nursery he hears the laughter of a child and the sound of a child’s voice saying: “Hello…?”

Kidd learns that old Mrs. Drablow and her now-deceased hubby adopted the child of Mrs. Drablow’s sister, a woman who later felt forced into kidnapping her own son and tried to flee with him. She and the child died horribly when their horse and trap sank in the fog-wreathed marsh, and it is the sound of their death-throes that Kidd hears repeatedly now.

Sam Toovey, a local land-owner in whom Kidd has confided his experiences, warns Kidd not to return to the house. He also points out to the increasingly unnerved young solicitor that any appearance of the woman dressed entirely in black usually means that the death of a child is imminent.

Clearly the so-called titular Woman In Black, not content with merely haunting the bejeesus out of the inhabitants of Crythin Gifford, is also wreaking revenge on any poor parents lucky enough to possess that which has been taken from her so cruelly.

Anyway, long story short, Kidd wisely decides to leave Crythin Gifford but before he does, he has one more terrifying encounter with Jennet Goss- that’s her name- that has him fleeing back to London as if Old Nick himself were on his tail. Distance is no object for The Woman In Black, however.

In a starkly chilling scene in keeping with the overall feel of the film, she appears in the middle of a lake on which Kidd and his little family are boating. A tree falls on their boat, killing all four of them. Mean old Woman In Black, offing a perfectly nice family like that. Tsk tsk. What’s the world coming to?

This made-for-television film may not be as flashily atmospheric as the more modern HAMMER version, but it’s an effective little chiller just the same. So effective, in fact, that I fully expected to see the silhouette of The Woman In Black everywhere I looked for the rest of the night.

It’s one of the starkest, grimmest and most realistic-looking horror films I’ve seen lately. The acting is flawless and the scenery and settings are bleakly beautiful. Watch this film if you possibly can, but do be careful. She don’t give no warning, she don’t…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ 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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor