DARK MONEY. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

DARK MONEY. (2019) DIRECTED BY LEWIS ARNOLD. WRITTEN BY LEVI DAVID ADDAI.
STARRING JILL HALFPENNY, BABOU CEESAY, OLIVE GRAY AND MAX FINCHAM.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This four-part drama mini-series made for perfect viewing for a sort of ‘meh’ Sunday afternoon. It’s very topical and on trend, what with the #metoo movement and the whole thing of people in positions of power being called out on their sexual abuse of the people who work with them or below them.

Most recently, we’ve had Prince Andrew shelling out a hefty whack of dosh to Virginia Giuffre Roberts, the woman who was procured for him by paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and with whom he had sex when she was still underage. Super-rich socialite and Daddy’s Girl Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty of being Epstein’s accomplice, also in recent times.

Then, way back before that, there was Jimmy Savile, who was unfortunately dead by the time the worst stories about him were released and so he was never really called to account for his appalling behaviour. I wonder if monies from his estate were ever donated to his victims or to charities supporting victims of sexual abuse…? That’s a job for Wikipedia, lol.

Anyway, way back before that, of course, a certain musical moon-walking superstar settled a fair-sized sum of money on the family of a boy whom he’d been accused of sexually abusing, and that’s a great segueway into DARK MONEY, a Netflix Limited Series about this exact topic.

The Mensah family are a perfectly ordinary, mixed-race British family living, with the usual financial struggles, in council accommodation. Manny is the big burly dad, Sam the devoted mum, and their kids, Jess the college student and Isaac, the little acting phenomenon who has just returned from a three-month stint in Hollywood filming the latest blockbuster movie, VALIANT & SON, with real bonafide Hollywood movie stars.

Everyone Isaac knows, including his wanna-be actress sister Jess, is green with envy at Isaac’s wonderful opportunity and success. The papers are full of it. Local Boy Makes Good, and that type of thing. He’s a celebrity at school and in the local area. So why isn’t Isaac deliriously happy with himself? The answer is contained within a recording on his iPhone…

Time to put things in a nutshell. Isaac has been sexually abused no fewer than three times by Jotham Starr, the bigshot producer of the blockbuster movie. The Mensah family- to be precise, the dad, Manny- accepts a payment of three million dollars from Starr’s lawyers to keep quiet about it.

It’s not an admission of guilt, the lawyers are quick to point out. It’s just that Jotham doesn’t want negative publicity impacting the film and ruining everyone’s hard work. Oh. Well. That’s all right then, I suppose. The money changes hands. The die is cast…

The series then moves on to a year later, where we see the Mensah family living in a fantastic private house with a magnificent garden and in-house swimming pool and gym, but they’re not happy. You might even say that Jotham Starr’s money has only made things worse. What gives? We are shown then how each family member has coped, or not coped, with the abuse of Isaac and with dad Taking the Money…

What it all boils down to is this. Was dad right to take the money? Or should he have punched Jotham Starr’s lights out for laying a hand on his precious son? Should he have tried to have the fancy pants movie producer prosecuted, which, remember, would have to take place in America, as the British police have no jurisdiction over a bloke who lives in the United States?

Should dad have gone to the newspapers and exposed Starr for the sleazy abuser that he is? Or should he just have taken the money, as he did do, and used it to better his family’s lives? There’s some notion going around that there’s something wrong, something dirty, about taking the money, as if it’ll make you look like a common gold-digger, as if taking the money won’t help get justice for the abused child.

Well, what if instead it helped the child to have a better life? And why shouldn’t an abuser pay financially for what they’ve done? It’s a form of retribution, isn’t it? The Magdalene Laundry Survivors here in Ireland deserve all the financial compensation they can claw out of the system that for decades allowed them to be treated like less than dirt.

I’m glad for Virginia Roberts that Prince Andrew was obliged to pay her such a life-changing sum of money. I hope it really changes her life for the better. The only downside is that it was probably the Queen’s cash that was paid out in the settlement, and not Andrew’s own pocket money, which means that he probably won’t have learned anything from the experience, worse luck.

To be honest, I think I’d take the money if it were my child, God forbid, who’d been in little Isaac Mensah’s place. If I couldn’t uproot my family and go chasing a come-uppance in America for some guy who’d probably wriggle out of it anyway because he’s Hollywood royalty and loaded to boot, then I’d just take the goddamn money and use it to try to improve my child’s life and chances for the future.

That’s the issue, anyway, that the Mensah family are struggling with in this excellent domestic drama. I love Manny’s ‘second’ family, his son Tyrone and Tyrone’s feisty mum, Sabrina, who shows more warmth and affection towards Manny than his actual wife, Sam, who draws farther and farther away from her bewildered husband the more stuff happens. The two, Manny and Sam, are the world’s worst communicators, which doesn’t help matters.  

I love Jill Halfpenny as the wife, Sam. You’ll already know her from soaps, CORONATION STREET and EASTENDERS, but she recently turned up in excellent Netflix drama LIAR as well, as the Afghanistan veteran and wife to a detective in a same sex, mixed race couple.

I must say that television dramas are becoming so inclusive lately of same sex and mixed race couples and people of all genders and ethnicities that it would gladden your heart to see it. Sure, they probably go out of their way at times and end up being a little too politically correct, but surely that’s better than not making any effort at all. Isn’t it?

There’s an interesting point raised in the drama as well about ‘chaperones,’ the people who are paid to look after your child when he or she toddles off to Hollywood to star in the latest blockbuster movie featuring giant ray guns and CGI aliens.

If a child is abused on, or off, set, to what extent is the chaperone culpable? Have they failed in their job? Should they be relieved of their duties? Good question, one that I must admit has never come up for me, but worth a wee ponder, nonetheless. Great drama, this one. Well worth your time.

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:

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

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

IT’S A SIN. (2021) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

IT’S A SIN. (2021) A FIVE-PART DRAMA MINISERIES WRITTEN AND CREATED BY RUSSELL T. DAVIES.
STARRING OLLY ALEXANDER, LYDIA WEST, OMARI DOUGLAS, CALLUM SCOTT HOWELLS, KEELEY HAWES, SHAUN DOOLEY, STEPHEN FRY AND TRACEY ANN OBERMAN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. I binge-watched this drama series in one night on Netflix, as it was so good there was no question of my leaving any of it unwatched till the following night. It’s the story of a group of young people, four or five gay men and a woman, sharing a house and a life in London from 1981 to 1991.

It’s the era that encompasses the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in Britain, and the series shows us how the five young people are affected by the epidemic and how they cope with it when it affects them, either directly or indirectly, either personally or through a friend.

Olly Alexander from the band Years and Years plays Ritchie Tozer, who leaves his painfully traditional upbringing on the Isle of Wight behind him to be a flamboyant, fun-loving and optimistic drama student in London.

His friend and housemate, Roscoe Babatunde, is a black man who works in a bar, having narrowly missed out on being forcibly dragged back to Nigeria by his male relatives to have the ‘gayness’ exorcised- or excised- from his body. Just how they were planning to do that, well, we don’t know, but his sister reckons it might have involved a small bit of Death…

Ash Mukherjee is a handsome young Indian man whom all the lads love. Jill Baxter, the only woman in the group, is kind, fiercely and steadfastly loyal and compassionate and kind of acts like a mother to the group of lads. Her particular best friend is Ritchie, and Ash also favours the popular Ritchie, but as a boyfriend.

Colin Morris-Jones is a young Welsh laddie who comes to the metropolis to seek work and finds it in a posh gentlemen’s outfitters. Gregory Finch, a Scottish bus conductor, is sort of on the periphery of the group, and floats in and out of it when he has the time.

I’m not going to spoil this excellent drama series for you, but I can tell you that at least two of the people in this solid little group of BFF’s will go on to contract the ‘plague,’ as it was also known at the time. By their reactions shall ye know them…

This was the era when a lot of information was coming out of the United States about the so-called ‘gay cancer’ that was decimating the gay communities of America from the early ‘Eighties. Gay cancer, the plague, ‘that’ disease, the one that made your parents disown you and your employer give you the elbow.

First it seems like a disease that infects gay males only. But then the haemophiliacs, drug addicts and those who receive contaminated blood by means of a transfusion become apparent victims too. When it turns out that heterosexual people can get HIV also, and that mothers can pass it on to their babies in utero, AIDS is suddenly a horrible disease that pretty much anyone can catch.

Information, and mis-information, filters over to the UK from the USA. Ritchie, our charismatic drama student, who hasn’t come out yet to his parents and family, practises what can only be described as a promiscuous lifestyle with multiple sex partners and little or no protection being used.

There’s no such thing as AIDS, Ritchie insists to his friends. It’s all a ploy by the drug manufacturers to sell their pills and things to the gay population of the world. He’s an AIDS denier, who doesn’t like using condoms because they reduce the sensations he feels during sex.

Let’s just all keep partying, urges Ritchie, and use poppers to increase stimulation and booze it up till we puke, because life is short and we need to fit in so much living before we check out. Oh, the irony, the tragic irony of it all…!

It all happens quite gradually. A friend falls ill and needs hospitalising. Another friend gets hauled permanently home by his mother when he gets a mysterious sickness. Someone suddenly gets unexplained purple splotches on their body or face, another someone gets a cough they can’t quite shake off.

Words like Kaposi’s Sarcoma, pneumocystis, dementia and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy are introduced into interested parties’ day to day vocabulary.

Suddenly there’s a proliferation of funerals, all young gay men, and sometimes the dead man’s family won’t let the dead man’s lover or even his gay friends come anywhere near the funeral, because they and the ‘gayness’ are what caused this person to die in the first place.

Misinformation abounds, such as, drinking battery acid cures you of your AIDS(!!!). There’s a lot of scare-mongering about too, like, oh, you can get AIDS from simply touching an infected person, or, AIDS victims are bad people and they brought this terrible judgement down upon themselves by behaving so promiscuously.

People are going for AIDS tests under assumed names and men are scared to death that their employers, families or even landlords will find out about their HIV status and give them the push.

Victims of the disease feel fear, paranoia, isolation and rejection and sometimes even experience poverty and homelessness as well. The aura of shame surrounding the whole epidemic is nearly touchable.

There’s a horrible stigma attached to being diagnosed as HIV positive or with full-blown AIDS. The actors, in particular Olly Alexander, do a superb job of communicating their sheer terror and feelings of marginalisation and stigmatisation once the threat of AIDS becomes more than just a mere threat.

Stephen Fry has a small but memorable role as a closeted Tory MP who, in his own words, ‘likes to stick his face in the shit every now and then.’ What a dirty boy. Nanny will have to spank him, clearly. Tracey Ann Oberman, who played Chrissie Watts in EASTENDERS back in the day, turns up briefly also as Ritchie’s acting agent.

Keeley Hawes is brilliant as Ritchie Tozer’s sexually repressed mother who has tremendous difficulty acknowledging that her son is gay, has AIDS and is now dying. Stunned parents often had to learn those three facts all at once, which, in fairness, is a lot to take in.

Ruth Sheen, an actress I think I’ve seen before but I’m not sure, only has a small part in the drama, as another AIDS mum, but her words to Mrs. Tozer in the kitchen of the hospital’s AIDS unit are magnificently delivered. Shaun Dooley as Ritchie’s dad, with his casual everyday racism and homophobia, tells a dying Ritchie that ‘he’ll scour the AIDS out of him.’ It’s powerful, frightening stuff.

The ‘Eighties soundtrack is terrific. Took me right back, did that. Also, it was good to observe the progress of the deadly epidemic from a British point of view, as the AIDS films I’ve seen to date have been mostly American.

This drama series is moving, beautifully acted and super-powerful, and should be seen by pretty much everyone over eighteen. Given that thirty seven million people worldwide are currently living with HIV, the message is as valid and urgent today as it was then.

 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

THE WOMAN IN THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE GIRL IN THE WINDOW. (2022) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE WOMAN IN THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE GIRL IN THE WINDOW. (2022)
A NETFLIX COMEDY SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
DIRECTED BY MICHAEL LEHMANN.
STARRING KRISTEN BELL, TOM RILEY, MICHAEL EALY, MARY HOLLAND, CAMERON BRITTON, SHELLEY HENNIG AND GLENN CLOSE.

‘Bingo…!’

This is a black comedy series in eight less-than-thirty-minutes episodes that would be easy enough to binge-watch in one night. Well, that’s how I did it, anyway, last night, as a matter of fact. It’s a send-up of all those crime thriller books and films that have names like GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

I’ve found the trend a bit tiresome at times, as every second crime book seems to have the words ‘the girl’ or ‘the woman’ in the title. I’ve noticed a similar trend in literary fiction for having ‘the so-and-so’s daughter’ for a title. Apothecary’s daughter, abortionist’s daughter, and we’re still only on the A’s here, lol. The world of books sure could use a shot of originality.

Anyway, this parody series features Kristen Bell, who played Princess Anna in the smash-hit kids’ animated film FROZEN (2013), as Anna, the rather kooky American heroine. Anna lives alone in a fabulous big house on a secluded, exclusive street rather like Wisteria Lane from the drama series DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. Only rich people live there, and you probably have to be vetted by the neighbourhood welcome committee before you ever get permission to buy a house there.

Anna’s marriage to Douglas, an FBI profiler specialising in serial killers, broke up after their eight-year-old daughter Elizabeth dies in hilarious fashion. Well, this is a dark comedy series, after all, and a piss-take of the current annoying trends in crime thriller writing. Anna is an artist, but she hasn’t painted since Elizabeth’s death.

She spends her long, lonely boring days drinking huge full glasses of red wine, popping the pills her therapist gives her, which incidentally cause her to hallucinate, and staring out the window at her neighbours’ comings and goings. She reads books with titles like THE WOMAN ACROSS THE LAKE and THE GIRL ON THE CRUISE. She desperately needs to get a life, but she obviously hasn’t reached that place yet.

One day, a handsome British widower called Neil moves in right across the street with his daughter Emma, who’s about the same age as Elizabeth would have been. Anna immediately falls for Neil and starts bringing him and Emma casseroles- apparently, that’s a recurring trope in these crime thrillers- and encouraging Emma with her drawing.

She’s absolutely horrified to discover, after all the casseroles and meaningful looks, that Neil has a beautiful, but bitchy, young air hostess girlfriend called Lisa. Even more horrifying is the night that a sloshed Anna looks across the street and sees Lisa dying from a cut throat in Neil’s house.

She calls the police, who find no sign of a dead body or even a struggle. What they do find, however, is a drunken Anna who seems to be incapable from telling fact from fiction, imagination from reality and alcohol-and-pills-induced hallucinations from What Really Happened. No-one believes Anna’s story. Even Anna herself doubts it at times. The race is on for the grieving mother to find the truth before… well, before the series ends, I suppose.

For a parody or a spoof of something, it’s not exactly a laugh a minute, like, say, BLAZING SADDLES or YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, but there are a few good laughs in it. The self-help books of the day, for example, and cannibalistic serial killers (Massacre Mike is genuinely funny). People’s ridiculous online profiles and the lengths folks’ll go to to look like they’re carefree and having a great old time, and the very amusing all-over-the-house sex montage between Anna and beefcake Sexy Rexy. I also loved the bitchy, social-climbing Chinese neighbour Carol and Glenn Close’s very classy cameo at the end.

I would never watch this series again though, as one viewing really shows you everything you’ll ever need to know about it. I even feel guilty about spending an entire Friday night on it, as it’s really only chewing gum for the eyes without any particular intellectual merit to it but, what the hell, we’ve all been through a global pandemic together and we deserve some brain-switched-off downtime. That’s my excuse, anyway. What’s yours…?

BOOKS I’M THINKING OF WRITING IN THE FUTURE:

THE WOMAN WHO WAS THERE ONE MINUTE AND GONE THE NEXT.

THE WOMAN’S DAUGHTER, WHO WAS ALSO SOMEONE’S SISTER.

THE WOMAN AND THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN MEET THE WOMAN WHO WAS THERE ONE MINUTE AND GONE THE NEXT.

YOU TOO CAN BE A SERIAL KILLER.

THE SERIAL KILLER’S DAUGHTER.

THE ALCOHOLIC’S DAUGHTER.

YOU TOO CAN BE AN ALCOHOLIC SERIAL KILLER.

THE DAUGHTER OF THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW WHO USED TO BE THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN BUT IS NOW GONE.

THE WOMAN WHO LIVED IN THE HOUSE WITH THE WINDOWS.

THE WOMAN WHO LIVED IN THE HOUSE WITH THE WINDOWS BUT NO DOOR.

THE ALCOHOLIC WOMAN WITH THE DAUGHTER IN THE HOUSE.

THE ALCOHOLIC WOMAN WITH THE SERIAL KILLER DAUGHTER WHO WAS ALSO A WOMAN BUT NOT AN ALCOHOLIC ONE.

YOU TOO CAN LIVE IN A HOUSE WITH WINDOWS.

Let me know if you can come up with any more…

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:

ARCHIVE 81. (2022) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ARCHIVE 81. (2022) A NETFLIX HORROR SERIES BASED ON THE PODCAST, ARCHIVE 81, BY DANIEL POWELL AND MARK SOLLINGER.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY REBECCA SONNESHINE, PAUL HARRIS BOARDMAN AND JAMES WAN OF SAW, INSIDIOUS AND THE CONJURING FAME.

STARRING MAMOUDOU ATHIE, DINA SHIHABI, EVAN JONIGKEIT, JULIA CHAN, MATT MCGORRY AND MARTIN DONOVAN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Stay away from the sixth floor.’

Wow. I loved this series, binge-watching the eight delicious episodes over two nights this week and being left reeling- in a good way!- by the number of horror films, authors and tropes it manages to lovingly reference.

It’s the story of a young American man living in the present day called Dan Turner. Dan has terrible sadness and trauma in his past, and he is given a job one day out of the blue that might actually help him to unlock the trauma and even put part of it right, after many years. But not without great personal risk to himself and his mental health, I hasten to add, so it’s not all moonlight and roses.

The job is offered to him by one Virgil Davenport, the rich, reclusive billionaire owner of a company called LGM, of which there is very little known in the public domain. The job is to go and stay in LGM’s isolated compound in the Catskills, completely on his own, for as long as it takes him to restore the videotapes of a young woman’s PhD dissertation…

Dan is a qualified restorer of nearly-destroyed videotapes, you see, and as we watch the series, we will see why he has such a personal connection to these videotapes and why the enigmatic and omniscient Virgil has hand-picked Dan, a bit of a loose cannon because of his past traumas, for this particular job.

We also meet Melody Pendras, the beautiful, dark-haired young college student who, in 1994, takes an apartment in the Visser Building, one of those fabulous old steeped-in-history New York apartment buildings that people are always getting murdered in in films.

She does this specifically because she is doing her college dissertation on the Visser Building, its history and its inhabitants, and she is never seen without her camcorder in her hand, the main tool of her trade.

She’s not just doing her dissertation purely because of the many attractions of the old Visser Building. She has a personal reason both tragic and seemingly impossible to achieve, and Melody is not the kind of person to give up.

She quickly finds out, though, that the Visser Building can be a very scary place to live, and that the exotic, eccentric inhabitants are doing something very sinister and highly suspect in the building’s Community Room every night after midnight. It’s something that harks back to the 1920s and a snuff film starring the beautiful but flawed and ultimately doomed Iris Vos, a member of ‘Twenties society with a very dark secret…

Melody finds out also that her own life could be in jeopardy here in the Visser Building, a full seventy years after the awful events occurred that first put the Visser Building on the map. Dan, watching the tapes in the dreadful isolation of the compound, senses too that Melody is in danger, not least from the eerie face that keeps appearing randomly on the videotapes.

Who or what is on the tapes? Is it after Dan too, whatever it is, and can Dan, who’s obviously smitten with the gorgeous feisty Melody, travel back in time to save Melody from the horrible fate that awaits her in the shadows…? And, even if he saves Melody, will he be able to save himself from a ghastly half-life lived in the place known as… The Other World…? You’ll have to watch the show till the end to find out, folks…

I love the séance in the Visser with all the crazy Visser tenants, like the horrible art collector Cassandra, the tormented psychic Beatriz and the bitchy opera composer Tamara. Not to mention the creepy college professor Samuel Spare, who would pass for a modern-day hipster, but who is clearly the ringleader of whatever it is that goes on in the Community Room after dark…

I love the character of Mark Higgins, Dan’s best- and only- friend, who is pretty much the template for every horror-and-science-fiction-crazed megasuperfan ever. He lives for horror and weird stuff and his horror podcast, and the friendship between him and Dan is so real and warm and genuine that he is actually willing to risk life and limb for his tragic friend. I also love Ratty, whom I kind of wish had had an even bigger part, as the friendship between him and Dan was also a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

I’ll leave you with a list of the horror films, things and characters either directly referenced in the series or indirectly hinted at, or even things that just came into my own mind as I watched it:

Stephen King’s THE SHINING; Jack Torrance; the Overlook Hotel; the maze on the grounds.

Stephen King’s DOLORES CLAIBORNE; the Eclipse that brought the whole town out in force to look at it and celebrate it.

Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY.

H.P. Lovecraft.

Christopher Lee.

Hammer’s TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER; THE DEVIL RIDES OUT.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.

DON’T LOOK NOW; a deliberate reference!

Nigel Kneale’s THE STONE TAPES.

NIGHT OF THE DEMON, one of Britain’s best-loved horror films.

THE WICKER MAN, and anything else featuring a human sacrifice.

BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW.

THE EXORCIST.

Andrei Tarkovsky and his cult movie, SOLARIS.

WHAT LIES BENEATH; the movie, and the title of Episode 8 of the series.

Lin Shaye, beloved horror actress, going into ‘the Further’ in the INSIDIOUS movies. James Wan is one of the executive producers of ARCHIVE 81, after all.

PANIC ROOM and ‘90s sitcom FRIENDS, purely for those magnificent old brownstone apartment buildings!

That’s all I can think of for now, but there might be more, and you might even spot a few new ones yourself. I just love that this show was created by people with an absolute adoration, respect and obsession for horror; it comes across as a real labour of love when you watch it.

Just three further comments; One, I wish THE CIRCLE was a real show, it really speaks to me! Two, my daughter, who was born in the ‘Nineties, and who watched the show with me, was hopping mad that the film-makers of today are now referring to the ‘Nineties as the distant past. It makes her feel old, lol.

And three, the show features some highly intelligent and talented ‘mold,’ as the Americans call it, which is capable of forming itself into other-worldly swirls and patterns all by itself. I just want to say that I have exactly similar patches of talented and creative mould behind my toilet, at the back of all the wardrobes and creeping round my bedroom ceiling.

If it ever morphs into the portal to another dimension, you guys will be the first to know. If, as is more likely, it just causes me to hallucinate and go permanently off my noodle, well, then, I guess you guys will be hearing about that too.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and 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 HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR. (2020) BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF HENRY JAMES. A NETFLIX DRAMA CREATED BY MIKE FLANAGAN.
STARRING VICTORIA PEDRETTI, CARLA GUGINO, HENRY THOMAS, AMELIA EVE, OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN, TAHIRAH SHARIF, T’NIA MILLER, RAHUL KOHLI, KATE SIEGEL, BENJAMIN EVAN AINSWORTH AND AMELIE BEA SMITH.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is the companion series to THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, and, as far as I know, there are more to come, so yay. I enjoyed them both but, as in HILL HOUSE, there’s an awful lot of repetition in BLY MANOR that could have been chopped out, reducing the sprawling series from nine episodes to a tighter, more condensed six or even seven.

The story is basically a modern day re-telling of Henry James’s chilling novella, THE TURN OF THE SCREW, brilliantly filmed as THE INNOCENTS in 1961, in which two wealthy orphaned children are haunted, if not possessed, by the ghosts of two deceased servants. Bly Manor is the seat of most of the action, and fans of a good linear style of story-telling will be tearing their hair out after only a couple of episodes, so be warned, lol.

Dani Clayton is the pretty young American au pair who comes to Bly Manor to care for eight-year-old Flora and ten-year-old Miles, whose parents died in an accident in India, where they’d gone to try to repair a troubled marriage.

Dani is engaged by the children’s uncle, the stiff-upper-lipped business toff, Henry Wingrave, who only wants to be notified by Dani if someone actually dies or has a leg hanging off. And, even then, the doctor should still be the first port of call. Henry has his reasons for being stand-offish. Henry has his secrets. They will all out, in time.

The staff at Bly, besides Dani, includes Hannah Grose, the housekeeper, Owen the chef- yep, little Timmy and Tammy Snot-Nose have their own Paris-trained chef, the little snots!- and Jamie, the female gardener (yes, I suppose women can do that job now if they like), who takes a shine to Dani. A shine which is reciprocated. A reciprocated shine. In short, lesbians, lol. In a Henry James television adaptation, of all places, who’d have thunk it…? Well, it’s 2020 here, after all.

There are a lot of dead people floating around Bly Manor, including but not limited to Miss Jessel, the previous governess who committed certain deeds upon her own person, and Peter Quint, her lover and Henry Wingrave’s sort of go-fer or valet. Dominic and Charlotte, the children’s posh parents, are still hanging around as well.

People who die at Bly don’t seem to know they’ve died. It’s a real problem, and causes a lot of congestion in the passageways. I won’t spoil it for you by hinting at who’s dead and who’s not. Suffice it to say, in the immortal words of Homer Simpson, that Bly Manor is the kind of place where people throw ducks at balloons and nothing is as it seems.

Doors open here into the past, the present and even the future. Faces appear at the window, or in the bath-water. It’s like a carnival of the dead, and no-one ever moves on to wherever they’re supposed to go to when they croak. What they need here is some kind of conductor, you know?

‘That’s right, move along here now, no queue-jumping, we’ll all get where we’re going in plenty of time. ‘Ere, wot you fink you’re doing, skipping the queue wivvout a ticket? Lord luv-a-duck! You’ll be the death of me one day, you lot will. ‘Ere, you! I thought I said NO BLEEDIN’ QUEUE-JUMPING…!’ And so on, etc.

The episodes in the middle are so repetitive they’ll do your head in and could easily have been slimmed down to make for easier viewing. The presence of the plague-doctor and the Lady in the Lake are explained eventually, which I appreciated.

Ironically, my favourite of all the nine episodes was the black-and-white one near the end, in which the origin story of the ghosts of Bly Manor is laid out for us. The story of the two noble sisters, Viola and Perdita Willoughby-Lloyd, is gripping and really, really sad.

The scenes with Viola locked in the room that represents death, until such time as her sister inadvertently frees her, really captured my imagination, and as for the Lady of the Lake, doomed to fade over time like cushion covers in the sun (Every mother ever in the summer; ‘Quick, the sun’s out, close the curtains! The sun will fade the cushion covers!’), well, I loved that story but wept over it too. It’s just too sad, and yet, we’ll all end up the same way, won’t we? It’s too sad to even contemplate…

The gorgeous Carla Gugino from GERALD’S GAME and THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is narrating the story to an American wedding party. Victoria Pedretti is excellent as the au pair who won’t give in to the ghosts who are trying to take Miles and Flora. There’s more to like than dislike about this Gothic drama-slash-ghost-story, I think, and, overall, I enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to the next instalment in the series.

THE HAUNTING OF WOKING PIZZA EXPRESS, maybe, an emporium sure to be haunted one day in the future by the ghost of a non-sweating monarch who only ever wore a suit when he came to town and had never been upstairs in a certain person’s house, so that couldn’t be him in the photograph? We viewers are eagerly awaiting confirmation…

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: