BLESS THE CHILD BY CATHY CASH SPELLMAN. (1993)
BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
The child everybody wants… even the DEVIL…
This book had the potential to be absolutely phenomenal, given its premise- a battle to the death between Good and Evil- but, like the film from 2000 based on this book, it turned out to be a really damp squib, a major disappointment.
Mrs. Margaret Cavan O’Connor is an American widow who owns an antiques business. God has sent her one of the worst of all human trials, a daughter who is addicted to heroin. The daughter, Jenna, missing for a good while, presumably off doing drug addict stuff, turns up out of the blue one day with a baby, her baby, in tow.
Mind her for me, she begs Maggie, then she legs it again to God-knows-where. Maggie, shell-shocked at first, grows to worship her little grand-daughter, Cody, which is why it’s so hard to give her up when Jenna turns up again, three years later, demanding the child back.
Things have changed a lot for Jenna in three years. She now has a husband, a handsome, charismatic billionaire businessman called Eric Vannier, who pulls all Jenna’s strings and keeps her provided with the drugs she craves, so long as she goes along with his twisted plans for world domination…
When an anonymous phone call reveals Eric’s link to a sinister and deadly Satanic cult called Maa Kheru, Maggie becomes convinced that Cody’s life, not to mention her immortal soul, are in terrible danger from this evil, sadistic cult.
It turns out that Cody is a very special child known as the Messenger, and Maggie is the Messenger’s protector, by virtue of her past life as a handmaiden dedicated to the goddess Isis. Maggie accesses this past life with the help of her witch friend, Ellie, who’s into Tarot card readings and the cosmic alignment of planets and all that jazz.
Anyone who can capture Cody, control her and correctly harness the power she possesses can rule the world. You can imagine, therefore, that such a child will be popular with people like Eric Vannier, for whom world domination has always been his primary goal. It’s time to unearth that old cliché, stop at nothing; as in, Eric and Maa Kheru will stop at nothing to get their hands on that little girl and her magical powers.
Maggie enlists the help of a New York detective, Lieutenant Malachy Devlin, a man with tragedy in his past, and Father Peter Messenguer, a questioning cleric who’s sailing pretty damn close to the wind as far as his superiors are concerned, to get Cody back from the Vanniers and Maa Kheru.
She has endless and, it has to be said, endlessly boring conversations with these two men about religion, spirituality, past lives and their beliefs and hers, in which the author shows off the prodigious amount of research she’s done into things like the history of magic, ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, the left-hand path versus the right-hand one, astrology and mysticism.
It’s to her credit that she’s done all this painstakingly detailed research, but you can’t read for too long in the book without tripping over one of the many enormous information dumps she’s left scattered throughout the narrative. Quite honestly, I thought I’d never finish reading this particular book, and I normally love reading about all things supernatural.
There is one really cool chapter in which Eric Vannier authorises for Maggie to be the victim of something truly dreadful called a ‘Sending.’ Maggie barricades herself inside a pentagram chalked on the floor of one of the rooms of her house, while Maa Kheru flex their black magic muscles by ‘sending’ her various demons and nightmarish entities to mess with her head and terrify her into submission.
It’s very similar to the scene in the Hammer horror film THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, based on the book by Dennis Wheatley, in which Christopher Lee as Nicholas, Duc de Richleau, and his friends, are forced to defend themselves against a night of black magic attacks sent their way by Mocata, the charismatic leader of the evil cult trying to lure the Duc’s friend’s son, Simon Aron, over to the dark side.
Anyway, there are lots of extremely cool and interesting references to the various aspects of black magic in the book, but the book as a whole could have done with being a lot less long-winded.
Instead, the writer’s gone and heaved the entire bloomin’ kitchen sink at us, which is why it’s genuinely hard to see the wood for the trees here. Less is more, as the fella says, and, in this case, he might just be right…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.
THE RITUAL. (2017) BASED ON THE NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME BY ADAM NEVILL. DIRECTED BY DAVID BRUCKNER. STARRING RAFE SPALL, ARSHER ALI, ROBERT JAMES-COLLIER AND SAM TROUGHTON.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I loved this one, a genuinely spooky folk horror set in rural Sweden but filmed in Romania. It’s kind of like THE BLAIR WITCH, but with adult males instead of excitable and impressionable teenagers.
The effect of this was to make the film’s concept even more scary, I thought, because when adult males are fleeing in terror from something, then you damn well better flee too, lol, ’cause it means that something bad is coming.
So, we’ve got our four lads anyway, Luke (Rafe Spall), Hutch, Phil and Dom, all proper English blokes who’ve been mates since college and who still try to keep up with each other and with their heavy laddish boozing, even though they all seem to have wives and kids at home.
They’re planning a lads’ holiday when we first meet them. They’re even mentioning Ibiza as a possible destination, which is a bit ridiculous as the kids who go to Ibiza would all regard these four lads as pipe-and-slippers-category auld fellas. Go home to your cocoa, Grandad, type of thing.
In the end, the lads go to Sweden on a very out-of-character outdoorsy hiking holiday, to honour one of their original five who has died a horrible death in an off-licence hold-up.
Luke, who was involved in the same hold-up, is suffering from terrible survivors’ guilt, and he’s also guilty because his own instinct to survive saw him not coming to the aid of his chum. The remaining lads seem also to be harbouring a grudge against Luke for not saving their mate, so some of these resentments may come vomiting out of them later.
They leave a touching memorial to their fallen comrade on a rain-washed Swedish hillside, then they promptly get lost in the forest, miles from civilisation, because they think that cutting through the woods for a short-cut on the way to the lodge they’ve booked into is a good idea.
Come again? A short-cut through the deserted woods in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the night, a good idea…? That’s bound to turn out well, eh, fellow horror fans…? Jesus H. Christ, lol. Are these men or weak-witted morons?
The abandoned ‘cabin in the woods’ in which they spend their first night of being lost makes the Blair Witch house look welcoming. It makes it look like your granny’s house when you went there on holiday as a kid and you knew she was baking up a storm to prepare for your arrival.
Or your own little bed after a night on the lash fuelled by cider and onion rings that’s ended in disgrace as you puke in the taxi and arrive home wasted and without your knickers. I’ve never done that myself, of course, but it just seems like the kind of awful thing that might happen to people. Other people, naturally. Not to me. Never to me. Ahem. Let’s move on…
The cabin is dark, damp, cold, gloomy, sinister, deserted, unliveable-in, and that’s just the downstairs. Upstairs is a hideous humanoid effigy with no head and antlers for hands, but which self-respecting cabin in the woods hasn’t got one of these, especially in Nordic climes? You can get them from IKEA and assemble them yourself, shure…!
The effigy has a very strange, very unsettling effect on the four lads. After a night spent in its malevolent company, they’re all having nightmares or experiencing nightmarish flashbacks to terrible events, eg, it gets into Luke’s head and so poor Luke is being constantly dragged back to that awful night in the off-licence where his mate Rob was brutally slaughtered. They need to get out of the cabin, and out of the woods which stretch for literally miles around, as soon as is humanly possible.
It’s when they’re fleeing through the woods that they discover that whatever was affecting them in the cabin is still with them. (‘Yes Bart, I never left you…!’ Hugo to Bart, THE THING AND I, THE SIMPSONS’ TREEHOUSE OF HORROR, Episode 7) Only it seems bigger, much bigger now, and it makes rustling noises in the trees (which, incidentally, are carved all over in mysterious, runic-looking symbols) as it approaches and it seems like very much a real and physical thing that the lads need to run from. Before it catches them, and kills them…
I was a tiny bit disappointed with the ending but otherwise, this is a perfectly acceptable horror film with some really spooky moments in it. The Swedish scenery and those miles and miles of isolated forestry are all staggeringly beautiful to look at, until you come to the credits and see that it says there: Filmed in Romania.
So, is this Romanian scenery we’ve been admiring then, or is it Swedish scenery? Never having been to either country, I haven’t a clue, but it’s a gorgeous-looking film either way, and one you should check out if you get the chance. Tell ’em Loki sentcha…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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