DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS. (1990) A HORROR FILM REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

daughter trio

DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS. (1990) DIRECTED BY STUART GORDON. STARRING ANTHONY PERKINS, MIA SARA, ROBERT REYNOLDS AND JACK COLEMAN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘They don’t have fangs; they have a thing with their tongue…!’

This is definitely a made-for-television movie because you can see where the breaks slot in, lol. It’s a strange little film but it had its attractions for me, in the form of Anthony Perkins from PSYCHO (1960) and a Romanian backdrop, which will always draw me in. (That whole little-known Transylvania-Dracula connection, don’t you know?)

Mia Sara plays the lead role of Catherine here. She looks very similar to the actress Alyssa Milano (WHO’S THE BOSS?, CASUALTIES OF LOVE: THE ‘LONG ISLAND LOLITA’ STORY), and for much of the movie I forgot that she wasn’t, if you get me. Catherine is an American teacher who comes to Romania in search of the father she never knew, a chap called Paul Alexandre.

She feels able to do it now because her mother has just died, and she’s been having strange- and strangely gothic- dreams about her father and what she thinks might have happened to him. All her dreams seem to be urging her to go to Romania and find out the truth about him.

Paul impregnated Catherine’s mother twenty or so years ago, then disappeared without a trace. I see nothing unusual about this behaviour. Irish guys do this literally all the time, which is why Ireland has such a high percentage of single-parent families on their books. Yes, I know. Miaow…! Catherine, however, clearly has a higher opinion of human nature than I do and she thinks it means that her Pops became a victim of foul play in a police state, God bless her innocence.

So she comes to Nikolae Ceausescu’s Romania, a dictatorship where the Secret Police run the show and everyone who comes into the country can be suspected of spying. Catherine is looking for a man who disappeared without a trace donkeys’ years ago, and all she has to assist her in her search are an old faded photograph of him and a fancy pendant of a gold dragon set in a cross, which her father gave to her mother. So the sperm wasn’t his only legacy then, lol.

Catherine is a friendly, personable and beautiful young woman, so it’s not long before she has enlisted some human resources as well, in the form of madcap Romanian taxi driver Max and an attractive young diplomat from the American Embassy called Jack Devlin who, despite his single-minded devotion to career advancement, just can’t resist the pretty face of this particular damsel in distress.

Devlin is played by Jack Coleman and, if you think you know him from somewhere, you do. He played Steven Carrington on soap opera DYNASTY from 1982-1988, his character being one of the earliest gay characters in mainstream American television. DYNASTY, THE COLBYS, DALLAS and FALCON CREST were HUMONGOUS here in Ireland in the ’80s. They brought us the glamour, the back-stabbing and the bed-hopping our own shows were sadly lacking at this time, lol.

It’s a good thing that Catherine is amassing a little team of supporters around her. She’ll need it when she unwittingly comes in contact with the handsome Romanian man Grigore and his little team of vampires (yes, this is a vampire film!), who are currently waging a war against their leader because he won’t do things the way they want him to. Have you guessed who the lead vampire could possibly be yet…? Heh-heh-heh.

Grigore’s sexy ’80s vampires, with their fabulous big dyed blonde ’80s hair and ’80s leather and denim-style outfits- and that’s just the blokes!- all live underground in an abandoned church-type structure, with a nightclub at street level as their cover. Their cult is dying out because the men who hunt them down can pick them off easily while they are sleeping during the day, which of course, as vampires, they are obliged to do. To their enemies, therefore, they are no more than sitting ducks.

If only the vampires didn’t have to fear daylight and could strut coolly about in it like the Bee Gees in that great video for ‘Staying Alive,’ they could overcome their attackers and rule the world. Grigore thinks that if he could only mate with Catherine and have a child with her, that half-human, half-vampire offspring could save the endangered race of vampires known as the Cyprians.

One man is determined to save Catherine from this awful fate, or two men, if you count the diplomat, Jack Devlin. Now, I’d happily have vampire sex with Grigore myself, as he’s bleedin’ gorgeous, but Catherine is pure and innocent and goody-goody and anyway, she’s repulsed by the idea and begs Grigore repeatedly not to rape her.

Can the one person who’s supposed to protect and help Catherine in her hour of need come through for her, even if he has to be roasted half to death while still alive first? Or will the handsome ’80s rock star lookalike Grigore get to her first and fertilise her eggs with his little toy soldiers…? I’d take either option myself, as I’ve already mentioned, but I think Catherine might be saving her eggs for someone special, so I guess we’d better hope that they- the eggs!- make it out of Romania unfertilised, lol.

Anthony A boy’s best friend is his mother Perkins is marvellously tragic and sinister here at the same time. He still looks so good, nearly thirty years after he played Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s game-changing horror movie PSYCHO. He hasn’t put on any weight or lost his hair and he still looks handsome.

I’ve always quite fancied him, but I could never have married him or slept with him or anything like that. You know that old Rita Hayworth quote about the men she met going to bed with Gilda, her famous screen character, and waking up with her, Rita, and being disappointed about it, the ingrates?

Well, I still think that that’s a pretty good deal, but, applying the quote to Anthony Perkins, I’d be much too scared of going to bed with Norman and waking up with Mother. That film scared the Christ outta me when I was a young ‘un and it’s never lost its power to scare me. Donkeys’ years later, Anthony Perkins’s performance as both characters is as effective as it ever was. Given a choice, I’d take my chances with the vampires, ta…!

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 Film-Making. 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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

GODDESS OF LOVE. (2015) A SEXY-AS-HELL HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

goddess of love venus

GODDESS OF LOVE. (2015) WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY ALEXIS KENDRA AND JON KNAUTZ. DIRECTED BY JON KNAUTZ. STARRING ALEXIS KENDRA, WOODY NAISMITH AND ELIZABETH SANDY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I absolutely loved, loved, loved this one, a kind of FATAL ATTRACTION or PLAY MISTY FOR ME for the modern era, with its themes of love, obsession and bloody revenge and the intriguing tagline of: Her Love Will Never Die. I only bought it by accident, too, which is what makes it all the more amazing.

A sweet old dear in a charity shop pointed out to me, when I was buying a DVD from their Halloween movie section, that for one extra euro I could get another DVD. So back I dutifully trot to the DVDs and I pick out GODDESS OF LOVE, only half expecting it to be any good. When it turned out to be one of my films of the year, I was thrilled with myself.

It was written and produced by the lead actress, and the reason it’s so good is that She. Knows. Women. She has clearly been through bad break-ups in her time (haven’t we all, lol) and known other women who have too, and she’s drawn on her knowledge and life experiences to make a devastatingly true-to-life film that most women will identify with.

Venus (hence the title) is an American stripper. That’s her real name in the film, by the way, even though her clients might doubt it. She’s a beautiful young woman who can make a fair few bob a night with her pole-dancing, her stripping and her lap-dancing, and she has a gorgeous flat with a balcony view but, as is probably the case with a lot of women who work in the sex industry, she isn’t a happy camper underneath the sexy exterior.

She drinks too much, she takes drugs and she also sees things. She has full-on visions, hallucinations of things that aren’t happening or aren’t there. Whether this is as a result of the drugs or a full-blown mental illness, we don’t know.

And there could be other underlying reasons why this happens. Sexual or other kinds of abuse in childhood, maybe. There could be many reasons why poor Venus is as messed-up as she is.

A lot of women who are abused in childhood end up working in the sex industry. To them, sex maybe equals love, and if they can get love this way, well, then, they will. And who could blame them, or judge them? Very few of us are morally fit to throw that first stone.

Anyway, one night at work Venus meets a punter called Brian, the guy whom all of us women are secretly dying to nab for ourselves. He’s tall, dark, bearded, handsome, rich, he drives a huge glossy SUV, he’s a successful photographer and… get this… he’s a widow to boot! His wife committed suicide and he’s very messed-up because of it. He’s hurt, grieving, wounded, sad… and gagging for sex. The perfect man, lol.

Venus, who can’t believe her luck, takes him home and makes love to him. They start a relationship, in which Venus immediately pulls out all the stops in order to make Brian’s life sweet, easy, loving and meaningful again. She completely forgets about her own life, needs and personality in order to make Brian’s life better and whole again.

I’ve done this many times myself in the past so I know how she feels and why she’s doing it. I got exhausted watching her do all the things I used to do with certain guys. Concentrating on her appearance to the point where she’s worn out, never able to just relax in her pyjamas in case he calls over for sex.

Cooking for him, keeping her flat exhaustively clean and tidy for him, dressing up in her hooker clothes to have sex with him, working hard to keep him amused, satisfied and interested in the bedroom and forgetting her own needs entirely.

There’s one really uncomfortable scene in which she’s all strippered up, doing a lap-dance for a bored and snoozy Brian, who says all he wants to do is sleep. How is it nice and relaxing for her to have sex with him, when she feels obliged to treat him like a punter who must always get his money’s worth? She feels like she has to put on a performance, a great big spectacular show, for him every time. It’s awful to watch, but it’s her own fault.

Clearly, like many of us, she feels like her own looks and personality aren’t enough to keep him. She has to become a complete and utter doormat for him as well. It’s so sad to watch, and yet we women do this for men all the time.

The only reason I’m not doing it myself for some guy right this very minute is because I took my frozen heart out of circulation for a bit so that I’d have time to write my romantic fiction novel, which I did. At least I did that. Maybe it was something of a self-protection thing too.

I pride myself on having learned from my previous mistakes, but probably all it’d take for me to be back living for some bloke twenty-four-seven would be for ‘some bloke’ to crawl out of the woodwork claiming he loved me too. That’s how easy it is to steal away a woman’s heart.

Anyway, even more embarrassing to watch is when Venus presents Brian with a beautifully wrapped package containing a statuette of the famous Venus De Milo after which Venus was named, the Goddess of Love with the arms lopped off at the elbows.

Not only does Brian, supposedly a photographer and connoisseur of beauty, not know who this iconic creature is, but he hasn’t a clue why Venus is giving him such a thoughtfully chosen gift. The cretinous philistine. Who doesn’t know who the Venus De Milo is, and what kind of photographer worth his salt hasn’t heard of it?

The work in the relationship is all being done by Venus. She sends the little loving ‘miss you’ texts, she arranges all the dates and the nights out, she puts her own life completely and utterly on hold while she waits for Brian to phone.

She even spies on him, sitting on the cold damp ground by the trees across from his fabulous gaff, for hours on end in the dark, to see if he’s doing what he said he’d be doing on nights when he can’t see her, ie, working away quietly at home by himself.

She has good reason to believe that he might be seeing another woman, a stunning-looking antiques shop owner called Christine LeGrande. Christine was his deceased wife’s best friend, she’s posed nude for his photography sessions and they had a ‘brief fling’ when Brian’s wife killed herself, because they each knew the kind of pain the other was going through.

I’d be 99.99% certain that Christine’s ‘pain’ on losing her friend was 100% assuaged by gaining the friend’s husband, whom I’ve already stated is the kind of man most women would kill for. And what an irony that is, given what happens in the second half of the film when poor, poor Venus goes round to Brian’s house one night and discovers the real truth about her snivelling, gutless and faithless so-called boyfriend…

I won’t tell you how the film ends because it’s just too good to spoil, but Venus’s descent into what the DVD box calls ‘the dark side of psycho-sexual insanity’ is fantastic to watch but we feel awful for Venus at the same time.

And the sad thing about it is that guys watching this film will just dismiss Venus as another mental-as-f*ck bunny-boiler, because doing that means that they won’t ever have to look at their own possibly faulty, irresponsible behaviour towards women. Guys never learn, and women continue to suffer.

That’s not to say that Venus is entirely blameless and put-upon in this whole mess. She doesn’t derive her self-esteem from herself (the clue’s in the name, apparently!), but has grown used to deriving it from the men in her life. As someone who’s done this their whole life, I can’t help but relate to this. At least I have the awareness about this now, but having the awareness is only half the battle, sadly. Lol…! Why can’t it ever be the whole battle?

Venus only feels good about herself when her relationships are going well; when they begin to unravel, so do her good feelings about herself. And then the downward spiral into drink, drugs and feeling shit about herself will begin to bubble over, and it’s never that far from the surface at any time anyway. Alexis Kendra is a film-maker whose work I’d love to see more of. I’ve said it earlier and I’ll finish on it. She knows women, and she knows the struggle too.

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 Film-Making. 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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

 

LAST SHIFT, A HAUNTING AT SILVER FALLS and HONEYMOON: A TRIPLE-DECKER HORROR FILM REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

honeymoon

LAST SHIFT (2014), A HAUNTING AT SILVER FALLS (2013) AND HONEYMOON (2014): A TRIPLE-DECKER SANDWICH OF JUICY HORROR FILM REVIEWS FOR HALLOWEEN BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Watching these three American supernatural horror flicks back-to-back was a very pleasurable use of my time this weekend. HONEYMOON was particularly good, but we’ll leave that one till last and begin with LAST SHIFT, which was pretty decent itself too.

It concerns a beautiful young rookie policewoman called Jessica Loren, whose very first shift ever as a copper is the titular ‘last shift’ for an old and rundown police station. A newer, bigger and more modern cop-shop has just opened up down the road a bit, and all the police business has been transferred up there and all the emergency calls in the area re-routed there too.

But the old cop-shop has to stay open for just one more night, just one more shift, so that the hazardous materials people can come and collect some old dirty evidence that needs taking away. Jessie draws the short straw, though God knows why they would put a lone woman in charge of a haunted police station when they could easily have picked a big burly man to do the job. Sexist but true.

And yes, by the way, the place is haunted to buggery, lol. No sooner has Jessie parked her butt than the phone starts ringing and a girl called Monica begins sobbing and begging for help, saying she’s been captured and, wherever she is, there are other girls there too and she thinks they’re all dead.

Jessie reports the distress call to the new cop-shop and waits for the frightened girl to ring back. There’s plenty to occupy her time while she waits. An incontinent homeless man takes root in the station and refuses to leave, furniture moves around seemingly all by itself and eerie figures start popping up all over the deserted cop-shop, which will put you nicely in mind of some other films you may have seen involving abandoned lunatic asylums, schools, hospitals, etc. Are the staff merely hazing their newest recruit, or is there a more sinister explanation for the freak- and freaky- occurrences…?

I loved all the Manson Family stuff in the film, especially as I’ve only just finished reading HELTER SKELTER, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s excellent book on the murders, the trial and the aftermath. I’ve also watched the 2004 film of the same name and an absolutely trippy documentary from 1973 called, simply, MANSON.

I think the makers of LAST SHIFT had studied the Manson Family murders carefully and definitely had Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten and Charles Manson himself in mind when they created their disturbing boogeymen… and women…!

A HAUNTING AT SILVER FALLS was the weakest of the three films. A recently orphaned teenage girl called Jordan is sent to live with her sexy Auntie Anne and Anne’s beefcake of a husband, Kevin, in the titular town of Silver Falls. Anne and Kevin are a little fruity.

I think we first discover this when they lock Jordan in the bathroom with a slice of bread when they go on their ‘Date Night.’ Admittedly, Jordan is inclined to be a tad rebellious and has been running around with local nerd Larry Parrish, but still, ‘imprisoning’ her in the john (so she can go potty when necessary, one assumes) is taking the in loco parentis bit a little too far, dontcha think?

Anyway, it’s Larry who first lets it slip to Jordan that Silver Falls is haunted. Haunted? That’s right, by the spirits of two young girls who were apparently murdered by their father, who is on Death Row right now for the crime.

When Jordan puts on a ring she finds in the forest, some weird stuff starts happening and she starts getting ‘visitations’ from the little ghost girls, who need nothing so much as a good scrub and brush-up. Scruffy little ghost girls! Smarten yourselves up and get jobs, the pair of ye. Contribute something to society, besides a few ghostly wails and spooky faces.

Can Jordan and Larry work out what the shabby little ghost girls are trying to tell them before it’s too late? By which I mean, before Larry’s father Dr. Parrish, the world’s meanest psychiatrist, can have Jordan sedated and committed like he’s clearly dying to do, and before the real killer of the two dead girls can have a pop at her too…?

HONEYMOON was super-entertaining from beginning to end. A seriously loved-up couple called Bea and Paul head to Bea’s childhood vacation cottage in the woods for a private honeymoon. (The Irish for ‘honeymoon’ is ‘mí na meala,’ which literally means ‘the month of honey.’ After it’s all over, that’s when things turn to shit, right? Lol.) 

At first, things between the couple are positively idyllic. They have nothing to do but go boating on the lake, walking in the woods and making hot, passionate love all the hours God sends. Nice work, eh…?

The only fly in the ointment initially is when Bea discovers that her childhood mate (possibly sweetheart; she’s not saying!) Will is still living in the district. Now he has a wife, a strange, frightened little thing whom Paul, anyway, thinks might be getting abused by Will. Bea also teases Paul about being less ‘alpha’ than Will. Clearly she doesn’t know the first thing about Men And How To Handle Them, as that is something you never, ever do. Ever.

Anyway, one night Paul, woken up by an unnaturally bright light permeating their holiday home, finds Bea missing from their marital bed. After an unnerving search of the cabin and then the woods, he eventually finds her… in the woods, naked, cold and disorientated. That can’t be good, right…?

Paul takes her back to the cabin and tries to be happy with her rather lame explanation of sleepwalking, but it isn’t too long before he begins to wish that sleepwalking was all his little Honey Bea was up to in the creepy dark woods…

This film actually caused me a sleepless night last night, the Sunday night. Thanks to a household mishap a few years back (let’s just say that someone who ought to have known better was playing at being Tarzan), my bedroom curtains don’t close properly all the way across like they’re supposed to. Every light on the street, therefore, car lights, street lights, police and ambulance lights, traffic lights, etc., penetrates my street-facing bedroom at some point or another throughout the night.

Every time I opened my eyes last night, it was to the kind of hi-viz searchlight beam the FBI might use when sussing out a crime den. And every stick of furniture in my bedroom very kindly took on the shape of a tall, sinister man-being, at no extra charge. I was utterly frazzled, convinced I’d been probed and inseminated in every trembling orifice, by the time the dawn broke. Thanks a bunch, HONEYMOON! Do please let me know when I can return the favour…

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 Film-Making. 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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

 

THE WICKER MAN… BUT NOT THE GOOD ONE! THE 2006 RE-MAKE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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THE WICKER MAN. (2006) BASED ON A SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY ANTHONY SHAFFER AND THE 1967 NOVEL ‘RITUAL’ BY DAVID PINNER. DIRECTED BY NEIL LABUTE.

STARRING NICOLAS CAGE, ELLEN BURSTYN, KATE BEAHAN, FRANCES CONROY, MOLLY PARKER, LEELEE SOBIESKI AND DIANE DELANO.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I can tell what she sees in you. A kind of rough potential…’

‘Step away from the bike…!’

‘Not the bees…!’

Nicolas Cage on the re-make: “There is a mischievous mind at work on The Wicker Man, you know? You know what I mean? And I finally kind of said, ‘I might have known that the movie was meant to be absurd.’ But saying that now after the fact is OK, but to say it before the fact is not, because you have to let the movie have its own life.”

Christopher Lee on the re-make: “I don’t believe in remakes. You can make a follow-up to a film, but to remake a movie with such history and success just doesn’t make sense to me.”

The 1973 WICKER MAN, on which this film is based, is one of the best British horror films ever made. Starring Christopher Lee as the eccentric and charismatic Lord Summerisle and Edward Woodward as Sergeant Neil Howie, it tells the story of a prim and proper Christian copper- Howie- visiting a pagan island off the coast of Scotland to search for a missing child.

Once on the island of Summerisle, with its close-mouthed and strange inhabitants leading him a merry dance for most of the film, he discovers the real reason behind his mysterious summons to the out-of-the-way place. Therein lies the horror, the kind of real lasting horror that outlives the mere boogeyman-under-the-bed story.

Nicolas Cage’s re-make of this superb film has not only been deemed unnecessary (I mean, you don’t re-paint the Mona Lisa, do you, or get some hack to re-write Shakespeare’s plays?) but also, erm, if I may say so, diabolical. Diabolically bad, lol.

Personally, I feel rather sorry for poor Nicolas Cage as Edward Malus, as he bumbles around the female-dominated island of Summersisle in his hot heavy city suit (he’s clearly suffering from excessive heat the whole way through the film), making himself look more and more ridiculous in the eyes of the snotty, superior natives. They are really, really mean to him, the bastards. Or should I say bitches…

Edward Malus is a big, burly California cop who, one day right out of the blue, is gobsmacked to receive a letter from his ex-fiancée, Willow Woodward, who dumped him and ran off under mysterious circumstances many moons ago. She lives on Summersisle now, a privately-owned island off Puget Sound in Washington, and it is from here that her daughter Rowan has gone missing. She’s appealing to him because she trusts him and also because he’s a cop, see?

Malus can’t get himself to Summersisle fast enough, so obviously he still has feelings for the anorexically skinny Willow with the moon-face and the bee-stung lips. And they might actually be bee-stung, because the island’s main export is their honey, for which they keep, like, a million bees, to which poor Malus is unfortunately allergic and must keep a shot of adrenaline to hand, just in case.

It’s not the only thing he’s allergic to. He’s also very much allergic to the smart-ass, lying backtalk he gets from the members of the weird, isolated community that resides on the island of Summerisle. From the moment he lands, he is led on the same kind of soul-destroying wild-goose chase we remember from the 1973 original movie.

Who’s Rowan? Rowan is alive, Rowan is dead. I’ve never seen this child before in my life, but lo and behold, here’s her name in the school register. Rowan was burnt to death, Rowan is being held somewhere. Something terrible is going to happen to Rowan and, last but definitely not least, Rowan is your daughter, Edward Malus, and this stirs Edward to action like nothing else could have done.

Round and round he goes in circles, re-tracing- or trying to!- the steps taken by Edward Woodward in the original movie. The tavern is run by the sarcastic and gigantic Sister Beech, who might just possibly maim the gnome-like, poisonous little Alder McGregor for life if she were to accidentally sit on him.

The school is the province of the snooty, smirky Miss Rose, who propagates the same kind of phallocentric ‘filth’ in her class of ‘little liars’ as does Diane Cilento in the original, but this Miss Rose doesn’t run rings around the bamboozled copper with the same panache with which Diane Cilento does it. Diane Cilento was the kind of mature sexpot who would eat Edward Malus- and Nic Cage!- for breakfast, lol.

Then, of course, there’s the obligatory trip across the island to meet the boss of the whole kit and kaboodle, the smilingly enigmatic Sister Summersisle whom poor Malus just can’t fathom out at all, with all her ‘Goddess of the Island’ gibberish that Malus can’t quite believe he’s hearing spouted in the twenty-first century. (She’s played by Ellen Burstyn, Regan’s mom in THE EXORCIST, by the way, so there’s no questioning her horror pedigree.)

She even takes him on the obligatory tour of the grounds on which she gives him a potted history of her ancestors and their wacko beliefs and how they came to be keeping bees on Summersisle. It doesn’t measure up to Christopher Lee’s immaculately sardonic and memorable sound-bites in the slighest: ‘A heathen, conceivably, but not, I trust, an unenlightened one…’

There’s the visit to the offices of the doctor-cum-photographer, who takes the pictures of the harvest festivals every year (I liked Frances Conroy as Dr. Moss; she was possibly my favourite character in a film in which you’re not exactly spoiled for choice), and the house-to-house search of the island that reveals nothing near as elegant as the gorgeous Ingrid Pitt, resplendently nude in her hip-bath. Nic Cage’s normally fairly wooden acting (sorry, Nic!) is ridiculously over-the-top in places, which kind of gives the film a comedic value the film-makers probably didn’t intend it to have.

There’s a bit more violence against Malus’s person in the climactic scenes than in the original, as the twisted islanders make full use of his allergy to bees, and they decide to break his legs as well into the bargain to incapacitate him (My God, weren’t the bees enough???), but the climax- the procession, the chase, the walk to the Wicker Man- lacks the fantastic atmosphere and high drama of the original film, even if it does try to replicate the ending.

But the ending of the 1973 WICKER MAN could, quite simply, never be replicated. When the burning head topples majestically while the sun sinking over the ocean is itself a huge ball of fire, and then the words British Lion come up and the credits as well, I get shivers down my spine every time that don’t stop until the screen has gone blank. That ending is legendary. You can try to emulate it, if you wish, but you’ll never repeat what cannot be repeated.

Of course, the marvellous music is also a substantial part of what makes the 1973 film what it is, and this 2006 version obviously doesn’t have that advantage. On the other hand, the 1973 film doesn’t have Nic Cage dressed as a rather shabby-looking bear, for some reason, or Nic Cage punching three women in the face and karate-kicking one of them, or Nic Cage in what I believe to be the funniest scene in the whole movie, the one where he’s pointing a gun at a schoolmarm on a bicycle and shouting in typical heavy-handed California-cop fashion: ‘Step away from the bike…!’ It also doesn’t have the Evil Twins from THE SHINING in it, horribly aged to resemble hideous old crones, lol. So there you are, it’s all swings and roundabouts with these things, isn’t it?

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 Film-Making. 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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

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HEREDITARY. (2018) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

hereditary mom

HEREDITARY. (2018) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ARI ASTER. STARRING TONI COLLETTE, GABRIEL BYRNE, ALEX WOLFF, MILLY SHAPIRO AND ANN DOWD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘It’s a neutral view of the accident…!’

Often, my first experience of a film that’s been released in the cinema to great acclaim is to watch it when the DVD comes out and everyone’s moved onto something else. That’s because, being a writer, I genuinely don’t get out much. Always slaving away at my desk trying to leave something worthwhile behind for humanity, lol.

Anyway, this is one film I bloody wish I’d seen on the big screen. Every second I spent watching the DVD was electrifying, it’s that good. Watching it unfold scene by scene at the cinema for the first time ever must have been a fantastic experience, not the kind you’re likely to forget any time soon.

HEREDITARY stars Toni Collette (MURIEL’S WEDDING, ABOUT A BOY, IMPERIUM), an actress who just seems to be getting better and better as she grows older. She steals the show completely in this film. She’s an absolute powerhouse in it. She plays Annie Graham, an artist, wife and mother who, when we meet her first, is getting ready to bury her mother.

It’s possibly most difficult to bury the mothers with whom we didn’t get along and with whom we have a troubled history, because there’s so much guilt involved, terrible, terrible guilt that makes for very heavy carrying. The ones we loved and were loved by, well, those deaths are bad enough to cope with, but anything more complicated, fuhgeddaboutit.

Annie is having trouble coping with her mother Ellen’s death, because they only seemed to get on intermittently and there’s a long complex back-story there. Annie even goes to a bereavement group that meets in town to see if it’s any help to her.

I think she shocks the group with how much detail she goes into about exactly how troubled her family history is. You can almost hear the group facilitator saying: ‘Well, it’s usually enough just to say your name, dear, and that you’re a wee bit sad…!’

Annie is married to Steve, played by Gabriel Byrne. (I know he’s Irish, like me, but I’ve never liked him. Too mopey and unsmilingly craggy-faced!) They’re obviously well-off and have a fabulous big house in the middle of an isolated forested area (the film was shot in Utah).

I’m not sure what Dad does (just Googled it, he’s a psychiatrist! Gabriel Byrne with his mopey unsmilingly craggy face would be perfect at playing a shrink, sitting for hours saying nothing with his legs crossed, bored, fiddling with his pen and polishing his specs, lol.), but Mom is a marvellous artist who works in miniatures and has exhibitions of her work and everything.

She creates the most amazing doll-houses and artistic installations featuring tiny people in various exquisitely-realised scenarios. Some of the scenes in the film actually make us feel like we’re looking at tiny little doll-people in a tiny little doll-house. It’s so cleverly done.

Anyway, Mom and Dad are no longer close after x amount of years together, married and bringing up children. Relationship-wise, they’re just going through the motions now. It happens, unfortunately, after that much time together. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.

Peter, their teenager, is introverted, with not much to say for himself. He’s more interested in experimenting with drugs and trying to get girls to notice him than in interacting with his family. He’s absolutely your typical teenager. Annie in particular feels like every time she talks to him, she gets a sneer back and a rude back-answer. Again, par for the course with teenage boys. And girls…!

The Grahams also have a thirteen-year-old daughter, Charlie, who appears to be autistic or otherwise differently-abled, although we’re not sure because it’s not mentioned. Either way, she’s an odd little girl. I mean, is it normal for little girls to calmly cut the heads off dead birds with scissors, or to see their dead grandmothers sitting on the grass surrounded by a bank of flames and not turn a hair?

I’ll probably be lynched for being crass enough to notice this, but the film-makers have actually gone out of their way to make the little girl an ugly figure of menace, with strange unsettling facial features and a dumpy build that reminds one of the evil dwarf in the red duffel coat from Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW. Like, don’t tell me that they didn’t have this film in the back of their minds when they were creating the look for the little girl…!

When Annie urges Peter to take an unwilling Charlie to a school party one night, in an attempt to socialise a child who clearly resents her efforts, an event occurs that might just be the most shockingly unexpected thing you’ve ever seen in a horror film. I mean, if Annie thought she was sad before, well, this is grief the like of which she didn’t even know existed. The family is in crisis. Joan from the bereavement group makes a timely entrance…

I was gripped by this film for the whole one hundred and twenty-two minutes of its duration. (The standard ninety minutes wouldn’t have been sufficient for this meaty horror plot.) Things start to happen fairly quickly after the night of the party and Toni Collette positively acts up a storm. The viewers begin to wonder exactly what the creepy old Grandma Ellen’s deal was in life, and in what way it’s possibly impacting on the Graham family now.

The scares come thick and fast, but not the flashy every-ten-seconds jump-scare-for-the-sake-of-it thing you’re probably familiar with from other modern horror movies. (James Wan, I do love you and keep making those brilliant CONJURING and ANNABELLE movies but I’m looking right at you, lol.) I’m not telling you guys too much for fear of spoilers, though. The film really is too good for that.

I kept being shocked at the plot twists and the freakish occurrences but in a really good way, and in such a way that I didn’t want the film to ever end. And I loved the way the plot moulded itself into one of my favourite horror movie themes in the end. I wasn’t disappointed with the climax, just stunned, and I feel like if I go back and watch the film again, certain things will now make more sense. Verdict? Top-notch stuff. Watch it, before it watches you…!

(PS, down the line, certain people might have to come to terms with the fact that a child’s treehouse may not be, shall we say, the most dignified location for meetings and gatherings of such magnitude, but any port in a storm, as we say.

After all, the Pope doesn’t hold his conclave thingies behind the wheel of the bumper cars at the local funfair, does he, and Donald Trump, the most powerful man on the planet because he’s the boss of the United States of America, wouldn’t be seen dead inviting his fellow politicians to vote on a Very Important Matter while enjoying some time on a bouncy castle on the grass verge out the back of the Whitehouse? Well, actually, as to that last one, I don’t know. I guess anything’s possible…!)

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 Film-Making. 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

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

STEPHEN KING AND GEORGE A. ROMERO PRESENT: CREEPSHOW 2. (1987) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

creepshow_2_main_1

CREEPSHOW 2. (1987) PRESENTED BY STEPHEN KING AND GEORGE A. ROMERO. BASED ON STORIES BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY MICHAEL GORNICK.

STARRING LOIS CHILES, GEORGE KENNEDY, DOROTHY LAMOUR, STEPHEN KING AND TOM SAVINI AS ‘THE CREEP.’

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a loving tribute to the timeless era of EC comics. Can’t you just see Stephen King as a nipper in the ‘Fifties and ‘Sixties, running to spend his pocket money on the horror comic books that must have at least partially inspired him to write his novels? Bless his buttons. What a gory-minded kid he must have been, lol. A delight to have in your class at school or on your Halloween sleepover. ‘Now Stephen dear, it’s your turn to tell a spooky story…!’

Anyway, this is an anthology film like its predecessor CREEPSHOW (‘I want my cake…!’) and features three scary tales, only one of which I found actually scared me, haha. The first vignette features Hollywood actors George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour as an elderly couple of store-keepers, Ray and Martha Spruce.

Their general store is dying on its feet, situated as it is in the town of Dead River, whose name says it all. The town is all but deserted, and it’s been a long time since any customers were able to pay cold hard cash for their purchases. The local Indian Chief is a case in point.

He comes into the store one day and presents Ray and Martha with a little bag of Indian treasures. You keep these until we can afford to pay you for all the goods we’ve bought on credit, he tells them. Don’t make beggars out of us now, he warns when Ray tries to give the stuff back. He leaves the shop all pleased with himself, unaware of the tragic little tableau that’s going to play out at the general store when his back is turned.

The store is robbed at gunpoint by none other than the Indian Chief’s nephew Sam Whitemoon. Sam, a real asshole of a guy with a whole bag of chips on his shoulder, is sick to the back teeth of being an impoverished Indian in a deadbeat town.

He’s inordinately proud of his good looks and long shining black Indian hair and he hopes to go to Hollywood to make his fortune in the movies. Well, why not? After all, there are a million other good-looking guys in Hollywood just queuing up to be busboys or barmen or waiters, so why shouldn’t Sam Whitemoon be one of them, lol…?

He and his two accomplices have to leave town for the bright lights of Los Angeles a little sooner than they’ve anticipated, however, when a double tragedy occurs during the robbery. They’ve reckoned without the retribution dished out by Old Chief Woodenhead, the wooden sculpture of an Indian Chief that’s stood outside the poor old general store since time immemorial. There’s gonna be a massacre tonight…

I loved THE RAFT, the middle vignette, in which four really annoying college students all get as high as kites and drive out to this lake that’s all deserted for the winter. They strip off and swim out to this raft thing in the middle of the lake. That’s when they notice this sort of moving floating mass on top of the water that’s getting closer and closer to them.

They reckon it’s some kind of oil slick and it’s certainly gooey enough and messy enough to be an oil slick, but what kind of oil slick pulls you under and strips the flesh from your bones like a school of starving piranha fish? No oil slick these college jocks and stoners have ever heard of, anyway.

On their floating raft in the middle of the lake, in full sight of their car and dry land, they’re trapped as effectively as if the lake were an ocean and there was no dry land for miles and miles and miles. I read the short story that inspired this particular vignette and it was eerily effective.

The final vignette, THE HITCH-HIKER, tells the story of a super-privileged married woman who clearly doesn’t know on what side her bread’s buttered. She risks her position as the wife of a rich lawyer to have sex with a much-younger-and-handsomer-than-her-husband male prostitute, for whose favours she has to pay cash. Well, I suppose if you’re highly-sexed and you’re not getting the good stuff at home… But still, paying for it when you’re a woman? It seems like madness to me. Men should be bloody well paying us, lol.

Anyway, one night when she’s driving back home from a vigorous sex session with Mr. Gigolo, she runs over a hitch-hiker in a yellow rain-slicker who’s looking for a ride to Dover. She decides to scarper from the scene of the crime and is horrified when she realises that the hitch-hiker she’s sure she killed is following her home…

Stephen King has a cameo in this one as a truck-driver who stops on the road when he sees a crowd gathering around the fallen hitch-hiker. He has a whole vignette to himself in the original CREEPSHOW movie as a goofy farmer. My favourite cameo of his in his own films is the one he has in MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE. Remember when he was trying to get money out of the ATM machine: ‘Honey, this machine called me an asshole…!’

Did this vignette form the basis for the movie I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, by the way? It’s got the just-won’t-stay-dead hitch-hiker in the yellow rain slicker and the night-time hit-and-run accident that left him for dead on the freeway. It certainly seems likely.

Anyway, enjoy CREEPSHOW 2 which, as I said initially, won’t really scare you but it’s a loving homage to the creepy comics you might have perused as a young ‘un if you’re an American male of a certain age, lol.

Here in Ireland I don’t think we ever really did the creepy comics thing. I only ever remember being able to get the English BEANO and the DANDY and the girly comics like the BUNTY and the MANDY.

These comics were great too, don’t get me wrong, but American kids were privy to an entire horror-and-superhero comic-book culture that we never really had over here so we Oirish were deprived in that way, sadly. However, in our favour we do have Mr. Tayto and Father Ted. Enough said.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-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

A QUARTET OF GRISLY HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

shrine

THE CABIN AT SORROW CREEK, DARK SILENCE, BOO AND THE SHRINE: A QUARTET OF GRISLY HORROR MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I bought all four of these American horror flicks cheaply enough in a second-hand shop during the week and I thoroughly enjoyed watching ’em two-at-a-time over the course of two nights. One was creepy enough and well-made but the ghosties were lame and one had great potential but didn’t really live up to it.

Another one was just baffling and a chaotic mess, but with a fantastic setting. And yet another was so scary and well-made that it gave me freakin’ nightmares. Let’s dive in and see which one is which. Mind you, as I’ve pretty much gone in order, you guys shouldn’t have any difficulty in working it out, lol.

THE CABIN AT SORROW CREEK (2007) started off brilliantly. Four young people are trekking through the woods to find the cabin where two of their number, sisters Kayla and Jesse, used to spend their childhood summers.

It belongs to their grandfather, see? They’re dragging two guys along as well, Kayla’s hot boyfriend Dean and another lad called Tobe who has heart problems. You just know that that’s gonna come into play at some point when things all start kicking off, dontcha…?

Things are okay until Jesse decides to linger in the spooky forest to take a bark rubbing of some trees. She’s the last to reach the cabin, and when she finally arrives, she’s been savagely mauled by person or persons unknown and she tells the others that ‘they’ are coming for her and also, she presumes, for the rest of her party as well…

Things start to disintegrate for the buddies pretty quickly as it emerges that Jesse was telling the truth and the cabin is, in fact, under siege by a couple of strange creatures. This is where an otherwise atmospheric and creepily effective horror film sadly falls apart. The two ghosts are lame and even clichéd and let the film down a good bit. If it wasn’t for this, this movie would be a top-notch little chiller.

DARK SILENCE (2016) is like a lower-budget version of HIDE-AND-SEEK starring Robert DeNiro. It’s about a man called Craig whose young daughter Jennifer has been left unable to talk after the suspicious death of her mother, Craig’s wife, with whom we know (through flashbacks) he had a troubled relationship.

Craig and Jennifer move into a big old house which is quite obviously haunted. The fact that Craig doesn’t immediately work this out shows us just how remiss he is a parent. His sister Susan, who doesn’t seem to like Craig very much and who seems to be blaming him for something pretty major, is the only person from the outside world they ever seem to see.

Jennifer, who communicates now only through her drawings, begins to include a tall, faceless dark-cloaked figure in her pictures. The figure is pictured coming out of her wardrobe and Craig is torn between being afraid for her safety and berating the shit out of the child for her over-active imagination. When Jennifer disappears, Craig knows that she was telling the truth about the sinister black-clothed figure.

Craig has been having nightmares in which the sinister figure also figures. When Craig realises that he himself can get into the missing Jennifer’s dreams as well, he knows that that’s where he needs to go to find her and rescue her from the clutches of Mister Razor-Teeth. That’s the villain, see?

But Craig has a guilty secret or two hanging over him. Will these effect the eventual outcome, and who will come off best in the inevitable showdown, Craig or Mister Razor-Teeth? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s by watching the film, dear readers. Or maybe someone who’s already seen the film could tell you what happens. Or you could check on Wikipedia. I guess there’s more than one way to skin a cat, as they say…

BOO (2005) is a fun bit of nonsense that you needn’t take too seriously. It basically involves two separate groups of people running madly around the same abandoned mental hospital called the Santa Mira Hospital one Halloween night.

One group is, of course, the sexy teens, two of whom are cheating on the pretty blonde lead girl, Jessie Lynn. The other group is a couple-a half-assed cops who are looking for the missing sister of one of them. Why they think she’d be wandering around in an abandoned old mental hospital on Halloween Night of all nights is anybody’s guess, but whatevs.

Anyway, the back-story to the hospital’s being haunted is that a male inmate, a paedophile, once set the third floor on fire while trying to escape and a load of people, himself included and also the nurse in charge of his ward and a little girl on whom he was preying, all burned to death.

Now, his evil spirit needs a living human body to take over and possess, so that he can walk out of the place a free- and living- man. As there are any number of dopes running around the old asylum on this particular night, I’d say that he can have his pick, lol.

A lot of what happens makes no sense whatsoever. Also, why would the ghost of a clown be haunting an old asylum, unless he was doing a show there to entertain the inmates on the day of the fire and burned to death and so became trapped there forever? Some of the stuff that happens in this film is just too bizarre to even attempt to explain.

On the other hand, the film references other classic horror movies like SCREAM (which I hate!) and John Carpenter’s THE THING (which I adore!) and the asylum itself is deliciously creepy. Another horror film might have made better use of such a marvellous setting.

Also, veteran scream queen Dee Wallace Stone is fantastic here as the nurse who refuses to take any shit from the creepy paedophile inmate. Well, taking shit from patients isn’t in her job description, obviously. They have latrines and commodes for that type of thing…

THE SHRINE (2010) is the cream of this crop, the jewel in the crown, the icing on the cake, the bees’ knees, the spiders’ ankles and the cats’ pyjamas, all rolled into one. It was so good that it was the first horror film to give me the major creeps and even nightmares since I saw Mario Bava’s BLACK SABBATH back in January of this year. Can’t believe it’s bloody well March already. I haven’t even begun to achieve my life goals for last year, never mind this year, fuss fuss.

Anyway, THE SHRINE…! Well, what can I say about such a killer horror flick? A gorgeous brunette journalist called Carmen travels to a remote Polish village to solve the mystery of some disappearances that have been happening there.

Rumours of cult activity and even human sacrifice convince the ambitious Carmen that there’s a story here that could give her flagging career the shot-in-the-arm it badly needs. Her boss doesn’t even know she’s high-tailing it off to Poland, so everything rests on Carmen being able to get her story.

She drags along her unwilling photographer boyfriend Marcus and a journalist intern from her office called Sarah. When they get to the village, peopled mostly by drop-dead sexy Polish guys who attend to their work sans jumpers or shirts, they find a ton of stuff that puts the willies up them big-time.

Firstly, the Polish men are extremely hostile to the three of them and warn them to leave or else. Or else what? Well, threats of violence have been made, that’s what. Serious threats too, unless I miss my mark. The three Americans decide unwisely to continue poking about anyway. First on the must-visit list is the mysterious fog that hangs like a pall over the forest.

Off they go into the fog, or at least the two girls do, leaving a chicken Marcus to hang back. The thing that’s in the fog is mainly what gave me the nightmares. Then the trio find the creepy bunker in the forest that has all the coffins in it.

The occupants of the coffins have had something absolutely appalling done to their bodies and faces. Is this the fate in store for Carmen, Marcus and the timid little Sarah if they stick around? Just what heinously Godless atrocities have these freaky-ass villagers been committing, and why? The answers may surprise you. Carmen will get her story all right. But will she remain alive to write it up, that’s the real question…

I’m off now to batten down the hatches for Storm Emma, due to ravage our snowy shores later on today. Storm Ophelia back in October may have been a damp squib for most of us Dubliners, but we’ve been informed that Storm Emma is the real deal.

Some pretty big shit will be going down later. Our very own Taoiseach has guaranteed it, and would a politician lie to the public? Certainly not. Snuggle up with a few good horror films (THE SHRINE, if you have it!) and stay safe. It’ll all be over by Christmas…!

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

shrinehttps://twitter.com/SandraAuthor