HEREDITARY. (2018) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

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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

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

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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. ©

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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