FROM HELL. (2001) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

FROM HELL. (2001) DIRECTED BY THE HUGHES BROTHERS. STARRING JOHNNY DEPP, HEATHER GRAHAM, IAN HOLM, ROBBIE COLTRANE, IAN RICHARDSON, SUSAN LYNCH AND LESLEY SHARP. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This film tells the story of notorious English sex-murderer, Jack the Ripper. Well, it tells one of the stories. Theories abound as to the identity of the killer, who was never caught and brought to justice and this film, loosely based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, concentrates on just one of these theories. I bought the graphic novel, and a massive tome it is too, a couple of years ago but I haven’t read it yet. I must get around to it.

Not to give away the plot or anything, but the top-hatted, cloaked and medical-bag-wielding baddie is really, really bad in this film. He brutally murders and eviscerates five East End prostitutes because they were all witnesses to the secret marriage between Prince Edward, the Queen’s grandson, and Alice Crook, their friend and a commoner like themselves. Don’t worry, that’s not really a spoiler, as it’s made dead, dead clear from fairly early on.

Edward, who has clearly been leading a double life, now has a child by Alice, and that child is the legitimate heir to the English throne. Oh, shit… I don’t know if this marriage ever happened in real life or not, but I do know that the prince is supposed to have incurable syphilis in the film and he’s not expected to live too long on it, in which case, what was he doing getting married and having children he wouldn’t be around to help raise…? Bit irresponsible, if you ask me.

The poor prozzies, though, being killed wholesale like that. Yeah, as if their lives weren’t miserable enough already. That’s one of the things that struck me most about the film, the sheer, unrelenting misery, drudgery and uncertainty of their horrible lives, which in all fairness, the film does manage to capture. Every last one of the actresses portraying the ‘bangtails’ turns in an excellent performance. Their on-screen deaths are disturbing to watch and very, very sad.

Anyway, enter handsome devil Johnny Depp as the absinthe-swigging, opium-addled Inspector Frederick Abberline, whose job it is to catch the killer. This he does with the aid of his subordinate and friend, Sergeant Peter Godley, ably played by Hagrid. Ooops, sorry, I meant Robbie Coltrane. Abberline is a smart cookie, if a bit of a loose cannon. He quickly figures out the identity of the villain, but the powers-that-be close ranks to protect said villain.

What happens to poor hapless Alice Crook, mother to the little heir to the throne, is appalling. That was another thing that really struck me about the film, the way that people could be dragged away from their homes and families and locked up for life in a Victorian asylum- the worst kind of asylum- with the front part of their brain missing. Is that even a legitimate medical procedure? Is it still done today?

And all because it was decided that they, the unfortunate, ill-starred patients, knew too much about a delicate matter or even just because someone somewhere didn’t like the cut of their gib. It’s a terrifying concept, and sadly not the sole preserve of the Victorians either, which makes it even scarier to contemplate.

Women in particular seem to have had zero rights and zero say over what happened to them back then. As far as I know, if your husband wanted rid of you, desired control of your fortune and wished to install a new woman in your place, all he had to do was say you were out of your tree with insanity and have you committed, and all with the stroke of a quill from the husband and probably the family doctor as well. The husband might even have promised the doctor a cut of his wife’s inheritance for agreeing to collude with him.

Johnny Depp, whose cockney accent ain’t half bad, guv’nor, makes the mistake as Abberline of falling for one of the hookers. And the film-makers have given him a tragic back-story as well. The poor fellow has been unlucky in love. I can’t imagine that a love affair with the most tragic of all Jack the Ripper’s victims will help advance him much in his own life.

The film is a bit too slick, stylish and sort of Hollywood-y for me, but it still does a more than passable job of capturing the bleakness of life in Victorian Whitechapel and the horrible fates in store for people who had neither money, power, nor control over their own lives.

The hookers, played by Susan Lynch, Lesley Sharp, Katrin Cartlidge, Annabelle Apsion, Samantha Spiro and, of course, Heather Graham, all positively steal the show. Much as I love (and fancy!) Johnny Depp, these so-called ‘bangtails’ act the men off the stage, for the most part.

I do love Ian Richardson as the stiff-upper-lipped and heavily mutton-chopped Sir Charles Warren, though, Ian McNeice as the coroner who clearly hates his job and Robbie Coltrane’s Sergeant Godley, Ian Holm as the Queen’s physician, Dr. Gull, and David Schofield as the thug McQueen.

Quite a good cast here actually, including the beautiful Estelle Skornik as a French or Belgian prozzie who befriends the women. You might know her as the woman who starred as ‘Nicole’ opposite Max Douchin’s ‘papa’ in those famous old Renault Clio advertisements donkeys’ years ago. Fun fact for you there!

If you’re an armchair Ripperologist like myself, you’ll probably be annoyed by any little inconsistencies and liberties taken by the script. Roll with it, though, and you’ve got yourself an entertaining little murder mystery that’ll nicely fill a couple of hours on a dark and stormy night. Make sure you lock your doors and windows, though. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, isn’t it? And they never did catch that fella. Did they…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. (2022) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. (2022) DIRECTED BY DAVID BLUE GARCIA. BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY KIM HENKEL AND TOBE HOOPER.

STARRING SARAH YARKIN, ELSIE FISHER, MOE DUNFORD, MARK BURNHAM, ALICE KRIGE AND OLWEN FOUERE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Question: What do you call Leatherface on a bus full of social influencers and millennial money-makers?

Answer: A good start…

Heh-heh-heh. I nicked that joke from PHILADELPHIA (1993) and WAR OF THE ROSES (1989), in which the original witticism reads as follows:

Question: What do you call a hundred lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean?

Answer: A good start…

Lol. Anyway, I loved this movie, a ‘sequel’ to the original 1974 film which shocked and repulsed cinema-goers everywhere back in the day with its unrelenting gore and truly savage kills. Nowadays, of course, we watch blood and guts in films with eyes deadened from years and years of seeing horror movies become ever more violent, but just remember this: the Daddy of ‘em all was, and still is, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE of 1974.

I’ve heard that this sequel has received terrible reviews. Seriously, who cares? I loved the film. Having spent the last few weeks watching the millennial money-makers like fake socialite Anna Delvey (INVENTING ANNA) and con artist Billy McFarland (FYRE: THE GREATEST PARTY THAT NEVER HAPPENED) embarrassing themselves on Netflix, I was excited to see that TCM (2022) features the same type of people, whom I’m now able to recognise: young, trendy millennial hipsters who have these supposedly brilliant ideas- the Anna Delvey Foundation for Artists and the ill-fated Fyre Festival, to name a couple- and then pester and persuade rich millionaires to invest in them. Whether the ideas ever come to fruition is, of course, another matter.

In this version of TCM, the young money-makers have set their sights on a small, almost deserted wreck of a town in Texas called Harlow. It’s a town with a long history, and which still contains remnants from the Civil War like flags and memorials and statues, etc. Attitudes too, for all anyone knows…

The four main hipsters-slash-social influencers, Dante, his girlfriend Ruth, and two sisters called Melody and Lila, have singled out the town with a view to making it over into a sort of artistic and cultural hub. To which end, they’ve invited a busload of investors, social influencers and interested parties to Harlow to check out the place and get in the party mood on the tour bus.

When pretty much the first act committed by the four head hipsters is to get an old lady wrongly kicked out of her house, after which the old dear ups and promptly dies of the shock, well, you know things aren’t going to go great with the hipsters and their lofty schemes. It’s a bad omen, one of the ‘yoofs’ says, and, boy, she’s not wrong.

The old lady happens to have been the proprietor of a long-defunct orphanage, and her one remaining inmate just so happens to be the same Leatherface who brutally slaughtered Franklin, Jerry, Kirk and Pam all those years ago in the original film.

He’s not happy at the way that these four blow-ins have directly caused the death of the one woman who has cared for him all these long years since 1974 and who has probably shown him the only love he’s ever know. They’ve awoken a sleeping giant. God help us all…

The One Who Got Away, way back in 1974, was Sally Hardesty, who has the privilege of being one of the first ever ‘final girls’ in this kind of situation-slash-movie. Sally, now a tough, hardened Texas Ranger, has spent her whole life waiting to confront the evil Leatherface for what he did to her friends back then and for what she was personally put through during that whole nightmare and in the intervening years.

Her situation is very similar to Jamie Lee Curtis’s as Laurie Strode in the new HALLOWEEN movies. Laurie too has spent her life living in fear, simultaneously dreading and yet longing for the moment when she’s face-to-face with her tormentor, Michael Myers, again. It’s a terrible waste of the two women’s lives, in one way, and yet, in another way, who can blame them for wanting to take some of their power back?

I nearly died of shock when I heard that my long-time Facebook friend, Irish actress Olwen Fouere, plays the kick-ass Texas Ranger, Sally Hardesty. We’ve been FB friends for years and I knew she was an actress, but other than that our paths haven’t really crossed much; you probably know how that can happen. In fact, I thought she worked mostly in theatre, for which I know she’s won a ton of awards. She’s bloody brilliant as the driven Sally Hardesty.

She has long white-blonde hair, classic cheekbone-y features and a figure to rival Marilyn Burns’s, who played Sally in the original film. She’s got her Texas Ranger hat and her shotgun, her bootcut jeans and her cowboy boots, and she is ready to tear up the near-ghost town of Harlow when Leatherface starts his campaign of grisly terror against Dante, Ruth, Melody, Lila and their busload of live-streaming, show-us-something-we’ve-never-seen-before jaded YouTubers. Boy, are they gonna see something tonight that they ain’t never seen before; let’s hope their phones are all set to record…! Snigger. Dumb millennials…

It’s funny, in a good way, that the only two people who can really help the young ‘uns in their horrific predicament are both played by Irish actors. There’s the aforementioned Olwen Fouere, of French descent but definitely Irish, as the butt-larruping Sally Hardesty, and Moe Dunford as Richter, a hot Texan mechanic who befriends Lila, once the witness to a school shooting. Good on the Irish contingent, I say. Way to kick ass in the deadliest franchise of all time…

Olwen Fouere as Sally Hardesty gets one of the spookiest scenes in the film to herself, the one in which she inadvertently comes across a grotesquely hideous ‘shrine’ to Leatherface’s sort-of-adoptive Mommy that has the added bonus of featuring the actual corpse of the lady herself, sans her face… ‘I will fear no evil. I will fear no evil.’ Very reminiscent of FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH 2, which features a similar shrine to the unkillable one’s birth mommy, also starring the lady in question. Or at least her head…

I neither understand nor care why the film received such negative reviews, as I enjoyed it thoroughly myself. A couple of the quotes from critics were funny though:

Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter: Texas Chainsaw Massacre doesn’t exactly offer anything new, but gorehound fans who rejoice at watching people’s innards fall out of their bodies will find much to appreciate.

Brad Wheeler of The Globe And Mail: Texas Chainsaw Massacre is what it says it is. You have your Texas, your chainsaw, your massacre.

That last one is my favourite.

I love the close-knit, I’ll-never-leave-you relationship between the two sisters, Lila and Melody, by the way, and the ridiculous courage they find within themselves in order to fight the chainsaw-wielding maniac we so fondly call Leatherface. Let’s hope they don’t lose their heads when the chips are down.

I certainly hope there’ll be a sequel to this film, anyway. It’s great, gory fun, and there’s terrific scope there for a whole plethora of sequels. So what if it’s not the original 1974 movie? Nothing ever is, my friends. Nothing ever is.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

BLACK CHRISTMAS. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BLACK CHRISTMAS. (2019) BASED ON THE 1974 MOVIE WRITTEN BY A. ROY MOORE.
DIRECTED BY SOPHIA TAKAL. SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY SOPHIA TAKAL AND APRIL WOLFE.
CO-PRODUCED BY JASON BLUM OF BLUMHOUSE PRODUCTIONS.
STARRING IMOGEN POOTS, BRITTANY O’GRADY AND CARY ELWES.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Maybe Brian Huntley will think twice before he rapes another girl.’

This festive slasher movie is the second re-make of the famous 1974 film of the same name, but its’ themes of political correctness and women empowering themselves to stop taking men’s abuse/bullshit/sexual and other violence any more makes it a vastly different film to the original one.

I’m not even sure how men would feel about this re-make, written and directed by women and calling ‘frat boys’ out on their ‘rape culture.’ I don’t think the message of the film is that we should hate men exactly, but it definitely wants us to be wary of anyone with a penis, in case they try to put it in us after slipping us a ‘roofie,’ as per the film’s wonderfully shocking theme song.

Part of me while watching this was going, like, yay, women! You damn well empower yourselves, lol. The part that was seeking sheer holiday escapism, however, was a bit miffed that the film-makers tried to sneak in some modern-day themes of male violence against women, but, hey, maybe that’s what we should be doing nowadays, filling our films with socially conscious messages, I just don’t know.

The sorority girls of Hawthorne College, beautifully decked out for Christmas (the college, I mean, not the girls, although the girls look lovely too!), are getting ready to spend the holiday season on campus, for various reasons. A load of staff and students have already gone home for Christmas, so the college is emptier than usual.

The viewer knows, however, from the opening scenes, that a black-cloaked, masked killer has set his sights on the women of our sorority house. He has already brutally murdered one young lady, in scenes eerily reminiscent of the real-life abduction of college girl Georgann Hawkins by serial killer Ted Bundy in the early ‘Seventies.

Georgann was literally walking the very short distance home at night from the frat house where her boyfriend lived back to her sorority house. They’d been studying for a Spanish test which was to take place the next morning. Ted Bundy intercepted her somewhere along this very short route and walked off with her into the darkness. Georgann was never seen alive again.

Anyway, our sorority girls, led by Imogen Poots as Riley, have really pissed off the male population of Hawthorne College. At the college’s Christmas concert, four of them, dressed in sexy Santa outfits, get up onstage and call out the lads for the above-mentioned rape culture they seem to be embracing.

It’s not just empty words on the girls’ parts, however, as Riley has direct, first-hand experience of being raped by Brian Huntley, one of the top frat boys. Plus, in all seriousness, there probably isn’t a sorority woman alive who hasn’t experienced some form of sexual harassment at some stage at the hands of their counterparts, the college men.

Now the video of Riley and the girls singing their anti-rape song, with Riley accidentally name-checking Brian in a throwaway remark at the end, is online and clocking up the views. The frat boys are not happy…

Cary Elwes stars as a misogynistic professor who is clearly on the lads’ side as far as the whole male-female debate is concerned. Riley has glimpsed a secret ritual involving cloaked, masked and hooded frat boys that seems to revolve around the bust of Calvin Hawthorne, the founder of the college, which has been removed from public display after the sorority women protested at the glorification of a racist slave-owner. Those women sure aren’t standing for any nonsense, are they…? And what are the lads up to, as if we couldn’t guess…?

The slasher stuff is fairly standard, although the bow and arrow is probably a little different, if a bit clunky and awkward to put into practice. It increases the feeling that the women are being hunted down and stalked, as if they’re really just prey, like a deer or a moose, which of course they are in this film.

Bow and arrow notwithstanding, it’s good to see the women, who are being relentlessly stalked by the killer(s), standing up for themselves and fighting back instead of lying down and dying under male domination and violence. It makes a bit of a change.

Is this the shape of films to come, I wonder? Will women refuse to look pretty and be battered/raped/maimed/tortured/killed in the movies any more? Who will be the new victims in the movies of the future? Men won’t want to be, so I suppose we’ll have to invent a new third sex to take the flack. It’s all very complicated. Enjoy the film, though. Slay belles ring, are you listening…?

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

THE THING. (1982) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

JOHN CARPENTER’S ‘THE THING.’ (1982) DIRECTED BY JOHN CARPENTER. BASED ON THE NOVELLA ‘WHO GOES THERE?’ BY JOHN W. CAMPBELL JR.
SCREENPLAY BY BILL LANCASTER. MUSIC BY JOHN CARPENTER AND ENNIO MORRICONE. SPECIAL EFFECTS BY ROB BOTTIN.
STARRING KURT RUSSELL, KEITH DAVID, PETER MALONEY AND A. WILFORD BRIMLEY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Three things to note about supernatural body horror film THE THING: 1. There’s an awful lot of fire in it. 2. There aren’t any women in it, ergo no love story either, the only thing the film is missing. 3. Kurt Russell has the most beautiful eyes. Gorgeous lips too, but, my word, those eyes are to die for…!

It’s shocking nowadays to read over the bad reviews this film initially garnered on its release, and then to compare them with the rave reviews it’s received retrospectively and continues to receive to this day.

Either those early critics really, really got it wrong or it was simply a case, as some people think, of THE THING’s having just found it too hard to compete with two other films that were released at the same time.

Namely, Steven Spielberg’s E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, which of course presents an altogether different, more positive view of alien visitors from Outer Space, and Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER. 1982 was clearly a good year for science fiction movies.

Suffice it to say here that this film is widely regarded nowadays as one of the best horror movies ever made and John Carpenter, its creator, one of the best horror movie directors. Did I mention that I saw him perform his movie soundtracks live in Dublin’s Vicar Street one Halloween Week a few years ago? I didn’t? Well, gather round, friends, and I shall tell you a wondrous tale…!

Haha, I’m only joking. I tell that story enough every year. Today we’ll just talk about THE THING. So, um, well, here’s the thing, geddit? See what I did there? It’s the story of a highly malevolent, parasitic alien life form that somehow finds its way onto an American scientific research station in Antarctica, after thousands of years of being buried nice and cosy-like in the ice.

That’s a hell of a story, isn’t it? Something similar happens in the marvellous horror movie, HORROR EXPRESS, starring Hammer royalty Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and also TV detective Kojak, aka actor Telly Savalas. Who loves ya, baby?

Anyway, once the lads at the research station encounter THE THING for the first time (in their dog pound as it’s initially taken the form of a cute cuddly bow-bow), they still don’t even grasp the enormity of the situation they’re in. This is only the beginning of the horror for the men, whose lives on the station are probably isolated and tough enough as it is.

All there is to do on the station is drink whiskey, smoke weed, watch videotapes of old TV shows, argue with each other, and, erm, presumably masturbate to old memories and any porno mags they’ve been able to lug up there. Do they ever do any, um, scientific research, which after all is why they’re there? Do you know, I’ve never seen it happen…?

THE THING has the power to take on any life-form it chooses, but only if there’s already an existing life-form for it to take the shape and form of, if you get me. It sneakily decides to take on the appearance of various scientists at the station, and the only way for the other brainiacs to tell the difference is by doing a blood test, which isn’t always convenient:

‘Um, excuse me, Mr. Thing, would you mind awfully just taking a seat here and giving me your arm? It’s only a little prick, you’ll hardly feel it, and you can TOTALLY go back to killing us all afterwards, I promise! We even have lollipops here for anyone who gives blood. Hey, how about those Mets, huh…?’

Kurt Russell, deeply attractive in a full beard and with his thermal long johns on under his outer clothing, is the main character, R.J. MacReady, and the scientist who’s the most proactive in trying to track down and destroy THE THING. He’s (Mac) ready for anything, see? His answer to everything is literally fire. It’s hilarious.

Every time he spots anything that remotely resembles THE THING, he turns a flame-thrower on it and no exceptions. If he’s not careful, he’ll forget himself and end up scratching his arse with that flame-thrower or trying to turn on the TV with it. It reminds me of an episode of THE SIMPSONS where they’re trying to figure out something, I forget what, and Marge ends up saying ‘No fires!’ to all of Homer’s pyromaniacal suggestions.

The feeling of suspicion and paranoia that builds up in the station as the men all view each other now as potential enemies is so strong, it’s almost palpable. Everyone’s all, like, let’s just sit here, real nice and quiet-like, where we can all keep an eye on each other, real friendly-like. No-one trusts anyone else any more and, when men’s tempers are frayed in such an isolated and claustrophobic situation, things can be triggered almost accidentally, bad things.

Again, it’s like that episode of THE SIMPSONS in which Bart Simpson, Milhouse Van Houten and Martin Prince each have shares in a rare comic-book, the first RADIOACTIVE MAN comic or something, but they quickly grow to distrust each other, each thinking that the other is planning to commandeer the comic for himself.

There are very few situations in life that can’t in some way be compared to an episode of THE SIMPSONS, as I’m forever telling my kids. There’s also the episode in which Mr. Burns and Homer are trapped together in a mountain cabin during an avalanche of snow, and they begin to mistrust each other pretty damn fast there too.

The special effects in THE THING are amazingly good, stomach-turning and extremely gory. They’re so good it’s actually incredible to think that they were created a whopping thirty-nine years ago and yet they’ve never been bettered since. Please don’t argue with me about this. I am a woman. I am programmed to win every argument, without exception, and I fight dirty, too, and I’ll resort to tears if I have to, lol.

Although there are some excellent horror film franchises on the go today (INSIDIOUS, THE CONJURING, SINISTER, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, to name but a few), no-one’s ever really managed to scale the dizzying heights that John Carpenter and Rob Bottin achieved together all those years ago. Maybe no-one ever will. And Rob Bottin, clearly some kind of genius, was only in his early twenties when he worked on this movie. To have this calibre of work/film on your CV at that tender age is nothing short of fantastic.

I read online that the film is screened every winter, along with THE SHINING, for the lads at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. That’s funny and kinda sweet but it’s also a bit like showing ALIVE as the in-flight movie on an aeroplane or a virus outbreak film in the hospital waiting-room to people experiencing, well, um, a viral outbreak. Funny but inadvisable, maybe even a little tactless. Still, it’s only a movie. Isn’t it…?

I’m off now to make a nice cup of tea to settle my stomach after all those gory special effects.  I only wish there were some way to do it where I didn’t have to get up from my chair, wash a cup, get the teabags, boil the kettle… Wait a minute. What would Kurt Russell do? I know. Where’s my flamethrower…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

THE FOG. (1980) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG. (1980) DIRECTED BY JOHN CARPENTER. WRITTEN BY JOHN CARPENTER AND DEBRA HILL. ORIGINAL MUSIC BY JOHN CARPENTER.
STARRING ADRIENNE BARBEAU, JAMIE LEE CURTIS, JANET LEIGH, TOMMY ATKINS, JOHN HOUSEMAN, NANCY LOOMIS AND HAL HOLBROOK.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Who is that…?’

‘Did you see his eyes…?’

‘Blake, I have your gold…!’

‘We’re honouring murderers…’

‘Why not six, Blake? Why not six…?’

‘Something came out of the fog tonight…’
 
The picturesque little Californian seaside town of Antonio Bay is in serious trouble in this fantastic film by horror icon John Carpenter. The inhabitants of the town are all getting ready to celebrate their centenary, with scream queen Janet PSYCHO Leigh roped in to organise the festivities. She plays Kathy Williams, council-woman and wife of a local fisherman, and she looks smashing in her knee-length red leather boots with her blonde coiffure.

She’s being assisted in her worthy endeavours, by the way, by Nancy Loomis, the woman who played Annie, the annoying teenage babysitter from HALLOWEEN. ‘Sandy, you have a way of saying yes, ma’am that sounds exactly like screw you…!’ To which Sandy immediately replies, ‘Yes, ma’am…!’

But, anyway, a strange glowing fog is rolling in from the sea, and it’s no normal fog, as you might have guessed by the word ‘glowing.’ Fog doesn’t normally glow, does it? Darn tootin’ it doesn’t. Something tells us that the centenary celebrations and the glorification of the town’s founding fathers may not pass off without incident…

Even worse than the fog itself, which is quite disturbing enough on its own, is what it contains. The ghosts of long-dead mariners are in it, see? And they’re coming back to Antonio Bay after a hundred years of being deceased to wreak a deadly revenge on the townspeople for wrongs committed against them by the town’s founding fathers. Well, I nevah…!

They’re being reasonable enough in their quest for a terrible vengeance, though, these spectres. They’re not going on a murderous rampage willy-nilly. They’ll only be slaughtering six people, because that’s how many people dissed ’em a hundred years ago tonight. Aw. It’s nice when ghosts can count. It should encourage any young folks watching the film to stick with their math…

Seriously, though, I had a horrible dream recently about a plague ship or a leper ship that desperately tried to reach land, reach some country where there would be people who could help the sick, suffering and dying people on board. But when they did eventually reach what they called ‘civilisation,’ the so-called ‘civilised’ people were so appalled at the thought of being in close proximity to lepers or plague victims that they chose to burn the ship’s still-living inhabitants to death and then scuttle the ship rather than risk their own skins. I woke up frozen in fear.

What does this all have to do with Antonio Bay? Well, I won’t give the whole plot away, but what happened to poor Blake and his men is just horrible. I don’t blame them for wanting revenge, although it’s awfully hard on people like poor Mrs. Kobritz and little Andy Wayne, the three mariners aboard the Sea Grass and the poor old weatherman who are, one would imagine, completely innocent of any wrongdoing themselves.

From the moment the town starts going all MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE at the start of the movie because of the proximity of the mariners, you know you’re going to be watching something special. The atmosphere is positively electric with a terrifying anticipation right from the get-go.

We know that something evil and dangerous is coming and the tension never lets up the whole way through. I think it’s honestly the most fun I’ve ever had being scared in my whole life. I was breathless with excitement while watching it and, even though I was spooked out of my mind, I wouldn’t have turned my face away for anything in the world. Mind you, when I watched it first at about age sixteen, it scared me so much I actually wet my bed that night…!

The cuddly Hal Holbrook, with a fine head of hair on him and a luxuriant moustache to match, does a top job of playing Father Malone. As a direct descendant of one of The Guilty Six, he seems to be the townsperson with the most to fear from the deadly fog. An alcoholic he may be, but he’s grimly determined to make reparations to Blake and his crew if he can at all.

It’s so nice to see Janet Leigh and her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, acting in the same film, even though they don’t have much to do with each other in it. Certainly Ms. Leigh doesn’t put her naughty hitch-hiker of a daughter over her knee and paddle her behind raw for sleeping with a strange guy who gives her a lift in his truck, and the horny pair don’t even ask each others’ names till after all the sex…!

Tsk, tsk. Jamie Lee, you brazen hussy…! A good spanking is most definitely in order, I fear. The strange guy in question, Nick Castle, is played by actor Tom Atkins, and he gets his kit off in HALLOWEEN 3 as well, the big horny stud.
 
The heroine of the film is, of course, the tousle-haired, husky-voiced Adrienne Barbeau, who plays the sultry but feisty disc jockey Stevie Wayne. Up in her lonely lighthouse studio she warns the townspeople about the approach of the fog and keeps ’em up to date as to its whereabouts.

Even though she knows that her own little boy Andy and his babysitter, the elderly Mrs. Kobritz, are directly in the line of fire of the fog, she won’t leave her post in the lighthouse because of the urgent need to warn everyone in town about the killer fog.

It’s kind of hard not to giggle when she’s telling everyone that the fog is heading up this street and down that avenue and up this hill and over that bridge, etc. One can almost imagine the fog stopping at various pedestrian lights and waiting impatiently for the lights to change before continuing on its rampage, like something out of THE SIMPSONS. Anyway, this lady Stevie Wayne has guts and balls to spare, and the town of Antonio Bay has a lot to thank her for. ‘Look for the fog…’

The loud banging on the various doors is terrifying. So too is the scene on the SEA GRASS when the lads look up and see the sails of a boat from a century ago literally towering over them. A ghost story that has its roots in the sea is scarier, in a way, than some land-based ones.

This film has so much atmosphere and authenticity, it puts some of the more modern stuff to shame. And it’s so simple too, in the sense that it’s not complicated by needless side-plots or trickery or other such nonsense. It relies on the story itself and the superb musical score to keep the audience hooked.

The music, written by the legendary horror director himself, is fantastic. When the fog is heading for the showdown in the old church, the pounding soundtrack ratchets up the fear factor something fierce. And at other times, the music is beautifully eerie and reminds us that John Carpenter also wrote the theme music for his other famous horror film, HALLOWEEN.

Of all the horror films I’ve ever seen in my life, I think THE FOG has to be the one that uses music the most effectively to create a feeling of ever-mounting terror and dread. The whole movie gets a ten out of ten in every possible way.

I think it might even be John Carpenter’s best film, but no doubt fans of his other movies like THE THING and the afore-mentioned HALLOWEEN might fight me on that one. One thing I’m sure we’re all agreed on. John Carpenter is the king of horror directing. All hail the King…!     

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

HALLOWEEN. (1978) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

HALLOWEEN. (1978) DIRECTED BY JOHN CARPENTER. PRODUCED BY DEBRA HILL. SCREENPLAY BY JOHN CARPENTER AND DEBRA HILL. MUSIC BY JOHN CARPENTER. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY DEAN CUNDEY.
STARRING JAMIE LEE CURTIS, NANCY LOOMIS, PJ SOLES, CHARLES CYPHERS AND DONALD PLEASENCE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Death has come to your little town, Sheriff.’

‘No man did that.’
‘He’s not a man.’

This is the big one, the film that kicked off one of the most successful franchises in movie history. It tells the story of serial killer Michael Myers, who in this film stylishly and effortlessly joins fellow horror movie icons- some already in existence, some yet to come- Freddie Kreuger, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, Jigsaw and Co. in the ‘Horror Movie Villain Hall Of Fame.’ (I don’t know if such a thing actually exists, by the way. I’m just speaking metaphorically, lol.)

Michael Myers brutally murders his somewhat slutty older sister Judith when he’s still in short pants. He gets banged up in a mental hospital for his trouble. There he stays for fifteen long years. Then, one dark spooky night, he escapes, much to the disgust and horror of his head-shrink, Dr. Loomis, brilliantly played by Donald Pleasence.

Dr. Loomis knows the score, you see. He might be the only character in the film who does. ‘I met this six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes; the devil’s eyes … I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply … evil.’
 
As Dr. Loomis says himself in the film, he spends the first seven years of Michael’s incarceration trying to get through to him, then the next eight attempting to see to it that the boy never gets out of captivity. Michael is pure evil, you see, without logic, reason or remorse. And you can’t kill pure evil, remember that…

Michael makes his way back to the fictional town of Haddonfield, Ohio, where the abandoned old Myers house has fallen into creepy disrepair. He focuses his attention on schoolgirl Laurie Strode, who spends her free time babysitting local kids and hanging out with her boy-crazy friends, Annie and Linda.

Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of Janet Leigh of PSYCHO fame, is fantastic as Laurie, the character that made her famous. As she goes about her lawful business with her gorgeous long blondey-brown hair swinging free and a pile of schoolbooks under her arm to indicate to us the studiousness of her nature, she gets the feeling that she’s being watched. She’s right to feel that way, dead right.

She is being watched, by a tall, well-built male wearing a dark-blue boilersuit. Oh, and he also wears a terrifying-looking white mask… Nothing to be worried about there, so…! You’ll see so many iconic scenes of Michael in this stalking part of the film.

Michael standing behind the bushes, with half of him squarely in shot on the street and the other half behind the bush. Michael standing amidst the billowing white sheets in the back garden. Michael watching Laurie from across the street as she sits in class, but when she looks back, of course he’s gone, leaving poor Laurie wondering if she’s imagining things…   

Halloween arrives and Laurie is babysitting the neighbours’ sproglet again. Across the street, the confident, curly-haired Annie Brackett is babysitting too, only she’s not a very good babysitter because she palms her little charge off on Laurie so that she can go and pick up her boyfriend Paul and bring him back to her employers’ empty house to have sex. What a little hussy, eh?

Nancy Loomis as Annie, the weed-smoking daughter of Haddonfield’s sheriff, is just fantastic. She carries a whole portion of the film all by herself as she potters about, chatting away loudly to herself, in the house of the little girl she’s babysitting for, Lindsey Wallace.

The whole time she’s there, taking her kit off after she spills food on herself and so on, she’s being watched by a fascinated Michael. Although she feels a little uneasy at times without knowing why, especially in the darkened laundry room which is down the back of the Wallaces’ garden, the first she hears of any possible threat or danger is when Michael Myers strangles her to death in a chillingly realistic scene.

In Annie’s absence, hers and Laurie’s other friend, Lynda, a flirty, sexy blonde cheerleader, brings her bloke Bob into the Wallaces’ empty house and they immediately rush upstairs to engage in sexual shenanigans. Hmmm, the teens of Haddonfield are clearly over-sexed. Maybe there’s something in the water.

Well, Michael Myers is not called the scourge of the Haddonfield Babysitters’ Club for nothing! I made that bit up, by the way, I mean, no-one actually calls him that besides me, but they should do because he seems determined to put a stop to their fun, their dope-smoking, beer-swilling sexual antics, in the only way he knows how… That’s right, folks, killing!

Anyway, after all the sex, Bob goes downstairs in the darkened house to pick up a couple of post-coital beers and gets himself impaled on Michael Myers’ stabby little friend, his huge trademark knife. My favourite scene in the whole movie is the one that comes next.

Annie is sitting up in bed topless, waiting impatiently for her boyfriend to bring her her beer. Well, well. Slutty and bone-idle. I see. Her boyfriend comes to the bedroom door and stands there motionless, not speaking, draped from head to foot in a white sheet. Or is it her boyfriend…? Well, the figure is wearing Bob’s glasses so it must be Bob, right…? I love that the film has a bit of a naughty, cheeky sense of humour as is illustrated clearly here.

Meanwhile, Laurie is doing her nut waiting for her friend Annie to get in touch about picking up the nipper she’s meant to be minding. Eventually, she tires of waiting, pops across the street to the Wallaces’ house where Annie is supposed to be babysitting Lindsey and discovers some things she’ll see in her nightmares for the rest of her life.

The street is empty. No parents, no neighbours are around to help her. Things go from bad to worse for poor Laurie as she is then chased through the Doyles’ darkened house by the knife-wielding masked man. It’s her turn to be killed now, apparently, and Michael has saved her till last. At one stage, she’s even cornered in a closet while Michael Myers stabs his way through the wood.

She is helped in timely fashion by the overcoated Dr. Loomis, who’s been wandering around Haddonfield all night looking for his escaped mental patient. The good doctor shoots the maniac, sending him flying through an upstairs window and into the garden below. He should be dead after all that, right? Wrong. Dr. Loomis turns his back on the ‘boogeyman’ for a minute and he disappears, leaving the way beautifully clear for a sequel or three…

Laurie: That was the boogeyman.

Dr. Loomis: As a matter of fact, it was…

There’s just so much to love about this ground-breaking film, the ‘Daddy,’ if you will, of the slasher movies. The superbly memorable musical score by John Carpenter. The way that Haddonfield looks so pretty, all decked out in rustic browns and oranges for Halloween. The sheer annoying shrillness and over-confidence of Annie that nearly makes us want to root for the slasher.

The scene in the graveyard with the uprooted headstone… ‘He came home…’ The spot-on performances of Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis. Last but not least, Michael Myers himself. His trademark boilersuit, knife and mask ensemble. The way his chalk-white masked face can suddenly materialise out of the shadows and make you jump.

The unhurried, calculated way in which he hunts down his prey, who can never seem to run as fast as he can walk. The way that you can kill him, or think you’ve killed him, but he won’t stay dead. He’s bloody brilliant. He’s my favourite of all the iconic horror movie baddies. I’m even a little sexually attracted to him, rightly or wrongly. He’s the strong silent type. I like that in a guy…

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

HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH. (1982) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

HALLOWEEN 3… SEASON OF THE WITCH. (1982) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY TOMMY LEE WALLACE. PRODUCED BY JOHN CARPENTER AND DEBRA HILL. MUSIC BY JOHN CARPENTER AND ALAN HOWARTH.
STARRING TOM ATKINS, STACEY NELKIN AND DAN O’HERLIHY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love this film. It’s my absolute favourite of all the non-Michael-Myers films in John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN series of films. Haha, okay, it’s the only non-Michael-Myers film in this particular series of films, I know that.

I also know that some critics think it’s not a worthy addition to the HALLOWEEN franchise because it doesn’t have Michael Myers in it, he of the latex mask and decidedly stabby tendencies, but I still think it’s a brilliant movie.

Yes, it’s true that I miss the silent-as-the-grave Michael Myers and his messed-up mind, but HALLOWEEN 3 is a little cinematic gem. It reminds me of WESTWORLD and THE STEPFORD WIVES, two of my favourite flicks, because of the über-creepy robots and even creepier musical score. The plot is actually pretty ingenious as well.

Handsome, well-spoken Irish actor Dan O’Herlihy (g’wan, the Irish!) plays the film’s expensively suited and booted villain, Conal Cochran. He is the megalomaniac founder of Silver Shamrock Novelties, based in the sleepy American town of Santa Mira, which has sort of become the company’s town, if you get me.

Mr. Cochran, unbeknownst to the world at large, has allowed his immense wealth and power to go to his immaculately-coiffed silver head. He’s going all-out for Halloween this year. He intends to revive the ancient Celtic rites of the night known as ‘All Hallows Eve,’ but not in a good way. Oh no, not in a good way at all, dear reader.

He wants to return the night to its original witch-cult beginnings. He intends that there will be mass sacrifices on this coming Halloween night, as there would have been on Halloweens-of-yore, and not just of adults, either. That’s practically the worst part of this fiendish plan.

Half the kids in the country have bought Cochran’s fabulous Silver Shamrock novelty masks- pumpkin, skull or witch- for the fast-approaching Halloween. But when they put the masks over their heads at nine o’clock on Halloween night while watching a ‘special give-away broadcast’ on the television horrorthon, they’ll get a little more than they bargained for… Well, okay, a lot more than they bargained for, but I’m not going to tell you what that is so don’t ask me, lol.

Only two people stand in the way of crazy old Mr. Cochran’s fiendishly evil plan: the divorced alcoholic, Dr. Daniel Challis, who’s witnessed the aftermath of a toy salesman’s horrific death at the hands of one of Cochran’s robotic goons, and the murdered salesman’s daughter, Ellie Grimbridge. The pair find themselves thrown together in the hunt for the truth about what happened to poor old Harry Grimbridge.

Together the two travel to the quiet little American town that houses the Silver Shamrock factory, engaging, incidentally, in some sexy shenanigans when they find themselves sharing a Santa Mira motel room.

Tsk, tsk, how shocking of them, especially as the womanising Challis is twice Ellie’s age if he’s a day. This seduction scene comes as no surprise to fans of John Carpenter’s superb horror movie, THE FOG, of two years’ earlier, however.

In THE FOG, Tom Atkins portrays Nick Castle, a middle-aged man who picks up and sleeps with a practically teenaged Jamie Lee Curtis, whose character, Elizabeth Solley, is engaging in the highly dangerous activity known as hitch-hiking. They go straight to bed, despite the whopping age gap. Castle even allows himself to be paid for his ‘services’ with one of Elizabeth’s drawings, the scoundrel. If anything, he should be paying her…!

Sure, Castle lets Lizzie hang out with him for the duration of the movie, but you can bet your ass that, as soon as the last ancient mariner has slithered back into the deep from whence it came, he’ll be giving her the bum’s rush with the words, see you next fog, baby…! The dastard.    

Anyway, there are no flies about shrewd businessman Conal Cochran’s person, as you might expect, and he figures out in a heartbeat that ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith,’ as the saucy pair of illicit lovers are calling themselves, are onto his little game.

He captures the twosome, though separately, and tells Challis that he will share the fate of the poor unsuspecting children of America, after first giving him a gruesome demonstration of the masks’ power.

Then he slaps an ‘infected’ mask on Challis, and leaves him alone to reflect on the hopelessness of his position until it’s time for the ‘Big Giveaway’ at nine pm. Oh yes, did I mention that it’s now Halloween Night…?

ATTENTION: WHOPPING GREAT SPOILERS AHOY, ME HEARTIES, BIGGER THAN THAT FUCKIN’ ICEBERG, Y’ARRR…!

Challis manages to escape the megalomaniac’s factory of death, staffed entirely by evil robots, though not until he’s managed to screw up Cochran’s machinery of terror, which actually includes a bloody great rock nicked from Stonehenge, if you can believe that…!

Challis then grabs Ellie and starts hightailing it back to his home-town where his own kids, in the care of his estranged wife, are looking forward to putting on their Silver Shamrock masks at nine o’clock in front of the ‘special give-away broadcast.’ Before Challis can make it back to town, however, he is attacked by Ellie, who is no longer human but an evil robot… Eeeek!

Challis eventually makes it back to town, but more important even than reaching his own endangered kids is his effort to get the different television stations not to run the Silver Shamrock ‘special broadcast.’

If he fails at this, the kids watching the broadcast will get one heck of a nasty surprise. One by one, the stations agree. There’s still one more station to persuade before nine o’clock, though. Will Challis get through to them on time? You’ll have to watch the movie and see for yourself, lads…

ATTENTION: WE’RE SAFELY PAST THOSE PESKY SPOILERS, Y’ARRR AGAIN…!  

Apparently, in making this movie that has neither Michael Myers, Laurie Strode nor Samuel Loomis in it, the creators of HALLOWEEN- John Carpenter and Debra Hill- had it in mind to create a sort of anthology series of horror stories that all take place at Halloween.

Personally, I think that that’s a cracking idea but disappointing box-office takings dictated otherwise and the idea was scrapped. The rest of the HALLOWEEN films all featured the strong, silent Masked Slasher known to us as Michael Myers.

That was no bad thing either, of course, as Mikey M. is an unforgettable horror icon. He’s up there with Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, Freddie Kreuger, Jason Voorhees, Jigsaw and Leatherface. Still, a separate horror anthology might have been quite cool, too.

Anyway, watch HALLOWEEN 3. Ah, go on. It’s bloody brilliant. You’ll love it. And don’t forget. EIGHT MORE DAYS TILL HALLOWEEN, HALLOWEEN, HALLOWEEN! EIGHT MORE DAYS TILL HALLOWEEN, SILVER SHAMROCK…! EE-OO, EE-OO, EE-OO, EE-OO, EE-OO, EE-OO, EE-OO, EE-OO, EE-OO, EE-OO, EE-OO, EE-OO…!

And I most certainly will not go and eff myself, thank you very much. I happen to think that this is a highly enjoyable and entertaining jingle that absolutely does not make me want to claw off my own ears with a garden rake every time I hear it, so there. Put that in your pipe and smoke 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 Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

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

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

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

THINGS HEARD AND SEEN. (2021) A NETFLIX HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THINGS HEARD AND SEEN. (2021) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘ALL THINGS CEASE TO APPEAR,’ BY ELIZABETH BRUNDAGE. DIRECTED BY SHARI SPRINGER BERMAN AND ROBERT PULCINI.

STARRING AMANDA ‘MEAN GIRLS’ SEYFRIED, JAMES NORTON, RHEA SEEHORN, KAREN ALLEN AND F. MURRAY ABRAHAM.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I had two things to say about this movie and a quick glance on Wikipedia informs me that they have both been said before. Well, ain’t that a kick in the head? I’m going to say them anyway, because they’re the two things that actually strike me most about the film.

Firstly, this movie would probably have worked much better without the supernatural element, because the ghost story is woefully weak and the story about the car-crash marriage is strong and could have been even stronger if it wasn’t trying to squash in a ghost story as well.

Secondly, the movie is very similar to Robert Zemeckis’s excellent oeuvre, WHAT LIES BENEATH, from 2000, one of my favourite films of all time. Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer absolutely smash it as the cheating, charming gaslighting research scientist/college professor and his wife, who’s being haunted by the ghost of someone intimately known to her husband, if you catch my drift.

The wife is dead-set on bringing the mystery to light. When Michelle PFeiffer says to Harrison Ford: ‘That girl must be brought up,’ the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The husband in WHAT LIES BENEATH is unwilling for his ghastly-slash-ghostly secrets to come under scrutiny, because of the obviously negative repercussions for himself and his nice cosy set-up and career success.

So, he decides to get rid of the one person who knows his secret and is standing in the way of his keeping hold of the reins of his lovely, well-respected rich scientist life. And if that one person in his way can also be shown to be a tiny bit unstable and have a history of seeing things that aren’t there, well, so much the better for Mr. Professor…

THINGS HEARD AND SEEN has a very similar plot and is a very similar film, although the 2000 movie does the ghost story better. It’s 1979. Catherine and George Claire move with their little daughter Franny from their Manhattan apartment to a huge old farm in upstate New York. George, an art professor, is taking up a position in the college there and he’s extremely happy with his promotion.

Their lovely new house has a ‘troubled history.’ You know what that means. Folks died horribly there in the past, lol, and their spirits are not at rest. Not that there’s anything to ‘lol’ about in people dying horribly, haha. Ooops, I did it again…

Anyway, George is confident, handsome, ambitious, superior, smug, and a lying, cheating bastard to boot. He can- and does- charm the knickers off his female students, who all think that Professor Claire is just the swoonsomest swooner that ever swooned, snigger. They think he’s ‘the most,’ which folks may or may not have continued saying into the ‘80s, I just don’t know.

Catherine, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be George’s biggest fan, for some reason. She’s jumpy, edgy, tearful, snappy and struggles with bulimia. She doesn’t seem to have a passion in life the way George is passionate about art. As she and George seem to have gotten married and pregnant straight out of school, maybe she hasn’t had a chance to find out what her true passion in life is yet, besides, of course, her child.

Added to this, she’s ‘seeing things’ around the house, shadows, people, ghosts and suchlike, but she can’t tell George about it because he’s grossly insensitive to her ‘vibes,’ and says he doesn’t want her ruining the new house on everyone by saying it’s haunted. The ghost story really needed to be sharper and more clear-cut, rather than a bit fuzzy and confusing the way it is.

George quickly finds himself a nice bit of stuff to keep him warm on the winter nights, because he’s not getting any nookie at home, what with Franny being in their bed nearly every night.

Catherine is stuck at home with the baby twenty-four-seven, with no-one to talk to but the two young lads who come to do jobs around the place. Even when the Claires get invited out to parties as a couple, George turns into a big, weed-smoking, drunk-driving jerk, so maybe they’d be better off staying at home.

Then comes the revelation that George has committed an illegal act to get the cushy position he’s in now at Saginaw College. It wasn’t hard to guess what happened in the plot from here, but there’s at least one thing in the last twenty minutes of the film that will probably surprise you, so do watch it to the end, even if you think you’ve already guessed the ending.

I liked F. Murray Abraham (SCARFACE, AMADEUS) as the cuddly and genial head of the college’s art history department, Floyd DeBeers- great name!- though I knew exactly what was going to happen to him the minute he said that he was going to have to inform the college of George’s pretty major deliberate act of deception. That isn’t the only thing that George has told lies about, either, so stay tuned.

Karen Allen, a classy lassy probably better known as Indiana Jones’s love interest, Marion Ravenwood, in the action-adventure films RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) and INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008), has a small role in the film as a new acquaintance of the Claires’. There’s that Harrison Ford connection again! 

As I’ve said, the ghost story is as weak as piss, excuse my language, but the toxic marriage story is gripping, and could have been even gripping-er, which isn’t a word at all, if they’d just concentrated on that and nowt else. WHAT LIES BENEATH did it first and also did it better, but THINGS HEARD AND SEEN is worth a watch too, if only for comparative purposes.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

THE OPEN HOUSE. (2018) A NETFLIX HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


THE OPEN HOUSE. (2018) DIRECTED, WRITTEN AND CO-PRODUCED BY MATT ANGEL AND SUZANNE COOTE.
STARRING DYLAN MINNETTE, PIERCEY DALTON, PATRICIA BETHUNE, SHARIF ATKINS AND AARON ABRAMS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This horror film had a predictable beginning, a very exciting middley-bit and a disappointing, unsatisfactory ending. The blurb said that a mother and son have a terrifying experience when they move somewhere new, so I guessed straightaway that the dad of the family was for the chop. And he was. Whoever would have thought that nipping out to buy a half-dozen eggs was fraught with so much peril? I’ll think twice in the future before demanding a chucky egg and soldiers for my brekkie…
 
So, anyway, after Dad pops his clogs, downtrodden Mum Naomi Wallace and her touchy teenaged son Logan, an aspiring runner, leave their house and their debts behind to go and spend some time in Naomi’s rich sister Alison’s holiday home in the mountains. Alison, by the way, comes to the funeral of her brother-in-law (the egg guy) dressed as if she should be wrapping herself around a stripper’s pole, but she’s rich so she can do whatever the fupp she likes.

It’s miles from anywhere, this fancy holiday home that Naomi and Logan are bound for, and if anything happens to their car or the phone service, they’d be basically screwed, being so far away from civilisation, but it’s rent-free and they can’t seem to think of anything else to do in the wake of dad’s demise, so off they go…

The one snag is that the sister is trying to sell the house, so the Wallaces can’t stay there indefinitely. Also, they have to vacate the premises every Sunday between ten and five, so that strangers can nose around the property, re-arrange any carefully-shelved items, cast aspersions on the linoleum in the hall and disparage the fittings in the bog. This phenomenon is known as an ‘Open House,’ and it sounds horribly intrusive and like an invasion of the tenants’ privacy. But the Wallaces are poor now, see, and beggars can’t be choosers…

Any-hoo, after the first Open House has been inflicted on Naomi and Logan, Logan in particular gets the feeling that there’s someone else in the house with them. When they search the place, however, there’s no-one to be seen. But they’re getting hang-up phone calls, their stuff is being moved around like crazy and the hot water in the shower keeps being switched to cold.

Mom spends a lot of the movie in the shower in the nip, then going down to the darkened basement to re-light the pilot light which keeps switching itself off. I’m not sure if we’re meant to infer that the intruder, whom by now we know to be a big man in heavy boots, is hiding out in said basement, but Mom sure does spend a lot of time down there, barely wrapped in her towel while attending to the troublesome water heater

There are quite a few plot-holes in the film, clues that seem to lead nowhere and one or two red herrings in the form of a senile, widowed neighbour, who might or might not have a living husband, and an attractive, would-be suitor of Mom’s. Or, are they red herrings…?

Once the action gets going and the intruder theory starts to really gather momentum, there are some very scary moments, especially when Mom sifts through the newly-developed photographs she’s taken recently in an attempt to re-kindle an old interest…

The violence against the poor defenceless mother is horrific and possibly even gratuitous, likewise what happens to Logan. I’ve already mentioned that I was disappointed with the ending, so I won’t say any more for fear of the dreaded spoilers. You can make up your own mind regarding whether the film is a hit or a miss.

It’s by no means a bad film as such. I’ll just reiterate what I said at the start. THE OPEN HOUSE has a predictable beginning, a very exciting middley-bit and a disappointing, unsatisfactory ending. But that’s only my opinion. You can check out the film yourselves on Netflix and you might even end up thinking that my verdict on it is as suspect as the one in the O.J. Simpson trial, lol. Have fun deciding…

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

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

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

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

HOUSE OF WAX. (1953) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

HOUSE OF WAX. (1953) DIRECTED BY ANDRÉ DE TOTH. BASED ON A SHORT STORY BY CHARLES S. BELDEN AND THE 1933 FILM, MYSTERY AT THE WAX MUSEUM.

STARRING VINCENT PRICE, CAROLYN JONES, PHYLLIS KIRK, PAUL CAVANAGH, DABBS GREER AND CHARLES BUCHINSKY, AKA CHARLES BRONSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

(WRITTEN IN 2016, IN PRE-PANDEMIC TIMES!)

This film is a fantastic horror classic starring legendary horror maestro Vincent Price. I had the great pleasure of watching it recently on the big screen at Dublin’s Lighthouse Cinema. The film was in 3-D and I’ve honestly never been happier to sit in the dark for ninety or so minutes wearing a pair of ridiculous oversized glasses that cut into my poor little ears and nose.

Vincent Price is superb as always as Professor Henry Jarrod, who spends his days lovingly crafting wax sculptures whom he thinks of almost as his children, he loves them so much. He specialises in aesthetically-pleasing historical figures and considers his Marie Antoinette to be the pièce de resistance of his magnificent collection. And rightly so, if you ask me. She’s a proper little corker.

His business partner Matthew Burke is more concerned with the figures on their balance-sheets than with the stunning figures moulded by Jarrod, however. He wants Jarrod to sculpt more sensational pieces that could form the basis of a Chambers Of Horrors-style exhibition and bring more paying customers into their premises. Jarrod is naturally repulsed by the idea and refuses point-blank.

I don’t personally see anything wrong with the idea of a Chamber of Horrors. We have one here in Dublin in our little wax museum with Hannibal Lecter in it and Buffalo Bill from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, as well as Dracula (modelled on Christopher Lee in the Hammer films) in his coffin and Freddie Krueger from the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movies.

I’d love to see a Jack the Ripper waxwork set against a Victorian backdrop, or any other famous serial murderers either from real life or from films; Dr. Crippen, say, or John Christie, the Rillington Place murderer, Burke and Hare, the infamous body-snatchers, or even- thinking outside the box here!- Countess Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary. She supposedly retained her legendary youth by bathing in the blood of virgins, whom she obviously had to murder first. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London probably features some of these lads.

People love a good scare, and they’re more than willing to pay for it if it’s good enough. That’s why we buy horror DVDs and books and true-life crime magazines, and why we go to a Chamber of Horrors or, in the old days, to a travelling freak exhibition or for a ride on the ghost train at a funfair. Although I’m on Vincent Price’s character’s side overall, I kind of see where Matthew Burke is coming from too, wanting to make a few bucks out of a horror show.

Burke is even more desperate for money than Jarrod realises, however. He sets fire to the museum, nearly killing poor Jarrod in the process. Jarrod survives, but he is horrifically disfigured from trying to save his precious creations.

The scene where the wax figures are melting in the terrific heat from the fire is so powerful that it’s one I’ve remembered from my childhood. It’s, quite simply, unforgettable. Unforgettable and so very sad. Those poor wax figures…! They didn’t deserve that horribly gruesome end.

Fear not, gentle readers. The Wax Museum rises again, under the direction of Jarrod once more, but it is a Jarrod with crippled hands who is unable to sculpt the way he used to. His deaf-mute assistant, Igor, played by a young and deliciously muscular Charles Bronson, does the work for him now, following his employer’s instructions, of course.

The Wax Museum, oddly enough, has a new feature, one that is welcomed with positively blood-thirsty glee by the punters of early twentieth century New York. It now features a Chamber Of Horrors, something Jarrod always maintained he wanted no truck with. The juicy crimes and sensational recent events that the public crave can now be seen here, recreated painstakingly in waxen sculptures.

The Chamber Of Horrors even carries, strangely enough, a waxwork likeness of Jarrod’s former business partner, Matthew Burke, who apparently committed suicide, or did he…? Was Burke actually murdered by a mysterious cloaked and disfigured man who then made his death look like a suicide…? I’ll never tell.

And I certainly won’t tell you that Burke’s gold-digging fianceé, Cathy (played by Carolyn Jones, once wed to television producer Aaron Spelling and who starred as Morticia Addams in the original black-and-white television series of THE ADDAMS FAMILY), was murdered soon afterwards and then her body disappeared from the morgue.

Tsk, tsk. If I tell you that, then I might as well tell you that Cathy’s friend, Sue Allen, who herself has been pursued by the same cloaked and disfigured man we mentioned earlier, visits the Wax Museum and is deeply disturbed to observe that Jarrod’s Joan Of Arc bears more than a passing resemblance to her dead friend, Cathy…

This film is great fun. The sets and costumes are all spot-on and Charles Bronson is terrific- and dangerously sexy- as Jarrod’s new right-hand-man, Igor. You might recognise the stiff-upper-lipped Paul Cavanagh, who plays art critic and Egyptologist Sidney Wallace, as having acted in three of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films, made between 1939 and 1945.

Also, you’ll surely know the actor portraying the energetic sergeant Jim Shane from having also played the Reverend Alden in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE for years in the 1970s. He and Dr. Baker were the mainstays of the town of Walnut Creek, along with storekeeper Nels Oleson and upstanding local citizen, Charles ‘Pa’ Ingalls.

A great musical score by David Buttolph adds to the creepy atmosphere and Vincent Price was born to play the creator of the Wax Museum who is driven insane by the unfortunate circumstances in which he finds himself.

The film got bad reviews at the time, but for the life of me I don’t know why. It’s a much better film than the original early talkie on which it’s based, MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM from 1933. This movie features some excellent screaming from Fay Wray of KING KONG fame, but sadly not much else. I didn’t like it half as much as the 1953 re-make, and that’s the truth.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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