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

IN THE BEDROOM. (2001) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

bedroom

IN THE BEDROOM. (2001) BASED ON THE SHORT STORY ‘KILLINGS’ BY ANDRE DUBUS II. DIRECTED BY TODD FIELD. STARRING TOM WILKINSON, SISSY SPACEK, NICK STAHL, WILLIAM MAPOTHER, WILLIAM WISE AND CELIA WESTON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’ve loved this film since I first saw it years ago. It’s a gorgeous film, with just the right amount of pain and suffering in it to please an emotional wreck such as myself, lol. It’s the story of a family torn apart by love, or at least the love of an eighteen-year-old college boy from a well-to-do family for a much older single mother of two who works part-time as a shop-girl. Get the picture? It could be love, but it’s probably mostly just lust. Bloke’s at his sexual peak at that age, isn’t he, so no wonder the older ladies come sniffing around.

Frank Fowler is the handsome young school-leaver in question. He literally has the world at his fingertips. He shows great promise as an architect and he’s going to college in the fall, after one last long lazy hazy summer fishing for lobster on the coast of Maine, where he lives with his parents.

His dad Matt is the local doctor, well-liked and respected by everyone in the community because he’s genuinely a lovely guy, and he worships his son and only child. Frank’s mother Ruth, a choral music teacher at the local school, loves Frank too; after all, he’s her beloved only child as well. She’s not as likeable as her husband, however. She was the hard-ass parent, apparently, while Matt was the soft touch, which is the opposite to how it probably is in most other families.

She’s prickly, touchy, a bit of a cold fish, even, and over the course of the marriage, the doctor and his wife have drifted apart. The lines of communication are, if not exactly shut down, then at least not as open as they might once have been. It’s sad, but it happens. And it’s not irreversible. It can actually be fixed, by that one little word: communication. But you gotta work at it.

The main (Maine, geddit?) problem the Fowlers have at the moment is that Frank has been seeing a local, much older single mother called Natalie, who’s beautiful in a washed-out, faded, tired kind of way that has captivated the youthful Frank, and, let’s be honest here, his old man Matt as well. Matt and his bezzie mate Willis can hardly keep their eyes off Natalie at family gatherings, she’s such a tidy piece of ass.

Natalie comes with complications, however. She has two young sons who are at the age where they need a man to look up to, and they’re already getting dangerously attached to Frank. If/when the young couple break up, as Frank’s mother certainly wants them to do, it will be hard on the two young lads. They do have a father of their own, though, and he’s the biggest fly in Frank and Natalie’s ointment…

Richard Strout is an obnoxious, womanising, beer-swilling yobbo. He even looks the part, with the sleazy little douchebag moustache he wears. He can’t stand that his ex-wife is seeing someone, especially someone to whom Strout clearly feels socially and educationally inferior.

He’s jealous and possessive, and yet he was such a bad husband and unreliable father in the past that Natalie wants nothing to do with him now. So it’s all his own fault he’s in the position he’s in, but people like him will always find someone else to blame for their own shortcomings. In this case, that person is College Boy Frank Fowler…

Frank assures his mum, when pressed, that he and Natalie are just a ‘summer fling’ before he goes off to college in the fall, but Natalie and her boys are already coming to depend on Frank. Someone’s going to get hurt if there’s a break-up. And, if the violent sociopath Richard Strout has his way, someone’s going to get hurt even before there’s a break-up. Can the Fowler family withstand the aftershocks of inviting someone with Natalie’s kind of baggage into their little domain…?

Tom Wilkinson (Gerald from THE FULL MONTY, 1997) does a fantastic job as the father whose heart is broken by the one thing guaranteed to break any father’s heart. It takes guts to take the stand he takes and to do the things he does, and his bitchy, passive-aggressive wife had damned well better stand by him for doing them.

Sissy Spacek (the original Carrie) is superb here also as the mother of Frank. You can tell how much she loathes the idea of her precious baby boy sleeping with the shop-soiled Natalie by the way she’s so passive-aggressively polite to Natalie in person…! There’s no way she thinks Natalie is good enough for her boy.

Matt’s lifelong friends the Grinnells, Katie and Willis, are the perfect example of a big sprawling American family, with their ten or eleven grandchildren and all the photo albums and scrapbooks that record every triumph, every disappointment, every skinned knee and every Prom Night.

That scene where poor Ruth has to listen to Old Ma Grinnell counting her grandchildren while Ruth is having to fake an interest in each one individually is hard and sad to watch, but it happens. Life goes on, and people tend to forget after a while that you’re still nursing a tragedy in your bosom. It’s not their fault. It’s just the way life is.

The Eastern European choral music Ruth is teaching the schoolgirls is beautifully haunting, and the scenery in the film is just gorgeous. Maine is Stephen King country, isn’t it? No wonder he loves it so much. I’d love to go there sometime and wander around and see the things he’s seen and walk in the places where he’s walked. Maybe one day…

By the way, Karen Allen from the INDIANA JONES films has a small role in the film. And the reason the film is called IN THE BEDROOM is lobster-related, of all things. It took me many viewings to work this out for myself, lol, and here I am giving it to you lot for free. Enjoy the film, anyway. I certainly hope you get as much out of it as I did. I’ve watched it many times and it’s lost none of its beauty or poignancy yet.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. (1977) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

nick cover

NICHOLAS NICKLEBY. (1977) BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER BARRY.

STARRING NIGEL HAVERS, PETER BOURKE, DEREK GODFREY, ROBERT JAMES, KATE NICHOLLS, HILARY MASON, DEREK FRANCIS, PATRICIA ROUTLEDGE, PATRICIA BRAKE, DAVID GRIFFIN, PATSY SMART AND LIZ SMITH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Charles Dickens does good misery. GREAT EXPECTATIONS is rife with it. OLIVER TWIST positively overflows with it. DAVID COPPERFIELD has a goodly amount also. NICHOLAS NICKLEBY is no exception to the rule. The misery oozes out the sides if you are unwise enough to squeeze it.

The titular Nicholas Nickleby is barely out of his teens when his papa has the bad taste to pop his clogs without leaving his small family provided for. In Victorian society, this almost amounts to a death sentence.

Certainly, it is a sentence of shame, penury and humiliation in the eyes of your betters as you are forced to seek a situation almost certain to be beneath you socially, or worse, seek the charity of others or the state. (‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’)

Nicholas, his pretty younger sister Kate and their silly flutterbudget of a mother are obliged to throw themselves on the mercy of their late father’s/husband’s brother Ralph Nickleby, a wealthy but heartless businessman in whose person the milk of human kindness appears to have dried up somewhat.

Think Ebenezer Scrooge, but without the benefit of that gentleman’s three ghostly visitations. Ralph dislikes Nicholas on sight, thinking him uppity and too opinionated, but our Nicky just says straight out what he thinks. He calls it like he sees it, and has a strong sense of justice and fair play which is to be commended.

Uncle Ralph is instrumental in Kate’s getting a situation as an apprentice milliner and dressmaker at Madame Mantalini’s, of which more later, and in Nicholas’s acquiring a position as assistant schoolmaster at Dotheboys (pronounced, my dear readers, pho-net-ic-ally!) Hall. This is a school in rural England (Yorkshire, in fact) so horrible it makes Old Creakles’ Salem House in DAVID COPPERFIELD look like a luxury spa by comparison.

The revolting gammy-eyed and snaggle-toothed Mr. Wackford Squeers, a rum cove indeed, charges twenty guineas a year to board boys unwanted by their families at his dreadful so-called ‘school,’ in which food is scarce, holidays scarcer and physical abuse plentiful.

Mr. Squeers has a fat objectionable son, a game-eyed objectionable daughter and a thin objectionable wife. Altogether they are a most objectionable family, and allowing them to run a school is a bit like putting a cat in charge of a small platoon of mice.

Still, anyone who wanted to run a school was allowed to run a school back then, no questions asked. Fred and Rose West and Jimmy Savile could have gone into the boarding school business together and no-one would have said ‘boo!’ to ’em. I’n’t that a shockin’ thought?

The fiercely principled young Nicholas falls afoul of the dastardly Squeers when he rescues a pathetic young orphaned slave called Smike, who has worked and lived in the school since he was a lad, from Squeers’ clutches. Nicholas gives Squeers a goodly dose of his own medicine while he’s at it, and Squeers is not one iota thankful for it.

Smike gladly returns to London with young Nickleby, but the pair must flee again when dear kindly old Uncle Ralph threatens to cut off his financial assistance to Kate and Mrs. Nickleby if Nicholas lives with them. The two lads go as far as Portsmouth, where they stay for a brief spell as part of Mr. Crummles’ theatre company. But then a mysterious note arrives for Nicholas, telling him that his sister Kate is in grave danger…

Nicholas arrives in London just in time to save his much-desired sister Kate from deflowerment and dishonour at the hands of two boorish swells, namely Sir Mulberry Hawk, by far the more offensive of the two and a proper Bentley Drummle to boot, and the aptly named Lord Verisopht, snigger, who represents about as much danger to the Nicklebys as a two-day-old trifle. Hawk, now, he’s one to watch, all right…

The timely entry into Nicholas’s life of the two identical twin brothers, the aptly-named Charles and Edwin Cheeryble, provides Nicholas with both a well-paid situation and also a cottage for himself, his mum and his sister Kate to live in. Now that Nicholas is earning a good wage, there is no need for Kate to work any longer for the Mantalini’s, who in any case have gone bankrupt, thanks to the poor spending habits of Mr. Mantalini.

The Mantalinis are a funny couple. Mr. Mantalini is a dandy, a gigolo, a popinjay, a fop with an eye for the ladies, whom I bet talks with a pure Cockney accent under his posh flowery foreign affectations. He’s a bit like Mr. Micawber in DAVID COPPERFIELD, always in pecuniary difficulties, always threatening suicide in scenes of high drama when he gets in too deep but never going through with it. Mainly because he’s, like, one hundred percent putting it on. Like Wilkins Micawber, he too has a devoted spouse of whom he’s not worthy.

The long-suffering and much older Mrs. Mantalini is played by Patricia Routledge (Hyacinth from KEEPING UP APPEARANCES). She keeps her dressmaking and millinery business going with the help of Mrs. Knag (Gretchen Franklin, or Ethel from EastEnders), while her husband eyes up her female workforce and runs up so many bills that she actually has to go to Ralph Nickleby’s place of business to ask him to put her spendthrift hubby on a fixed allowance. Much to Mr. Mantalini’s horror, I might add. He’s determined to put an end to it all, but if Wifey will only reconsider about the fixed allowance thing, well, he might just consider putting off suicide for a day or two. Just for a day or two, mind! He’s still going to do it, my life, my sweet, my love, just you watch him and see!

Anyway, Nicholas is happy and settled working for the two lovely Cheeryble brothers, but who’s that coming down the chimney at the cottage, of all places? Had Santa Claus been invented by that stage? You know, I don’t actually know. But what I can tell ya is, it ain’t him…!

And why is Nicholas so determined to prevent the marriage of the hideous old codger-slash-miser Arthur Gride to the beautiful, good-natured young Miss Madeline Bray? Could he have a vested interest, perhaps? A romantic vested interest, maybe?

(Gride’s frowsy old gin-sodden maid has the marvellous name of Peg Sliderskew; Dickens is great for making up hilarious names. Don’t tell me he didn’t have a giggle when he connected Kate to the household of a Mrs. Wititterly, or when he decided to call his wimpiest fop Lord Verisopht…!)

And to whom is Emmett from KEEPING UP APPEARANCES (‘She’ll sing at me, Liz, she will!) hoping to pay court, the old romantic? Just wait till Hyacinth finds out about this, there’ll be noses out of joint all over the shop. Yoo-hoo, coffee in ten minutes, Elizabeth…!

Newman Noggs, assistant to Ralph Nickleby, is a great character. He’s a true friend to Nicholas, as is Mr. Jagger’s clerk Wemmick to Pip in GREAT EXPECTATIONS, and is very helpful to the young Nickleby in the matter of the poor, miserable runaway Smike.

Can the deplorably ill-treated Smike, perpetually sickly and simple-minded, by the way, be kept out of the clutches of the abominable Wackford Squeers, and what is the mystery surrounding Smike’s birth? Where or what is that little attic room with the trapdoor in it he seems to remember? And what does the disreputable blackmailer Brooker have to do with it all?

(I’m afraid I don’t like Smike at all, even though he’s been ill-used and Charles Dickens is clearly presenting him as the victim here. I don’t like his soft, whispery way of talking and the way his mouth goes all over to one side when he speaks. To think he has the audacity to admire Miss Kate, and he a drooling simpleton! He must be out of his mind to even give the thought house room. Humph. Miss Kate, indeed! She may as well marry a chimney sweep who’s come down with the chilblains…!)

Also, can the animosity between the fair-minded Nicholas and his Scrooge-like Uncle Ralph ever be resolved? (Ralph Nickleby has a secret but he doesn’t even know it; can Nicholas ferret it out sometime soon, before it’s too late?) And if never the twain shall meet, how will it all come out? You’ll have to watch this six-part serial to find out, dear readers. Or you could read the book, whatever. It’s all good…!

(I believe that this story is still available in, erm, whatchamaycallem, books, in book form, anyone with eyes can, erm, whatsit called now, erm, gottit, readit…!)

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

HEREDITARY. (2018) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

hereditary mom

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

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE DARK (2018) and WHISPERS (2015): A PAIR OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

whispers catherine

THE DARK (2018) and WHISPERS (2015): A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I watched these two modern horror movies back-to-back yesterday and, while I enjoyed the break and found them both entertaining enough, they’ve got a few flaws as well that kept me from enjoying ’em wholeheartedly.

THE DARK would have been better called ‘THE DEVIL’S DEN,’ as that’s the part of the forest in America where the action all takes place. That’s not really a flaw though, just a matter of opinion, lol.

A lot of horror movies today have such generic, similar-sounding titles that it actually makes them hard to find when you go to look for them online. That’s one major grouse I have with the horror films of today.

Like, how many movies are called THE WOODS, INTO THE WOODS, BEHIND THE WOODS, WHAT’S IN THE WOODS?, DON’T GO IN THE WOODS, STAY OUTTA THE WOODS, I TOLD YOU NOT TO GO NEAR THE WOODS, THE DARK WOODS, IF YOU GO DOWN TO THE WOODS TODAY, THE HAUNTED WOODS, CABIN IN THE WOODS, CABIN IN THE HAUNTED WOODS and so on. Makes ’em very difficult to Wikipedia. Film-makers, take note…!

Anyway, THE DARK is the story of a kidnapper called Josef, who takes an abducted boy called Alex into the woods that locals say is cursed by the vengeful ghost of a girl who died near there years before.

The kidnapper expertly locates an old abandoned house in the woods with which he seems to have a connection, but we never find out what that is, disappointingly. Instead, he gets himself bumped off straightaway by the so-called ‘entity’ that haunts the woods.

A bond forms between the kidnapped boy Alex and the teenage girl who’s been living in the grotty old abandoned house, the girl that locals say is the ‘ghost.’ She’s been living rough in the house, eating whatever scraps of food she can scrounge and drawing dozens of pictures of scary faces, for which she’d need to have an endless supply of art stuff, but let’s gloss over how come she’s so well-equipped in the artistic department, shall we, when she hasn’t got two cents to rub together…?

Both kids have been horrifically physically abused by the grown-ups in their lives, to the point where their ruined faces are actually hard to look at for too long. We never find out why Josef the Kidnapper has done what he’s done to poor Alex, which is a huge swizz. And what exactly was he intending to do with him when he got him alone in the cabin? Maybe it doesn’t exactly bear thinking about.

Mina’s back-story- that’s the wild girl- is shown in graphic detail in flashback and it’s truly terrible. Terrible what’s been done to her, that is. The film seems to have many plotholes, though, that do detract from your enjoyment of it, and the ending leaves you with more unanswered questions than one of Ireland’s many tribunals. Yes, yes, that money was only resting in your account, I’m sure, lol. I believe you, thousands wouldn’t. Verdict on THE DARK? Unsatisfactory and hard to stomach.

WHISPERS is gorgeous to look at because the film-makers have had the use of the most magnificent country house and grounds to film in. The plot, however, is all over the place. It’s supposed to be the story of a young couple, called Catherine and Harvey Caldwell, who’ve lost their daughter and who’ve come to the countryside to grieve and work on their failing marriage.

All that makes perfect sense, or would if the film-makers hadn’t put in this mad bit in the beginning from when the woman of the couple was supposedly a child. She has a ‘painted harlot’ for a mother and an eccentric madwoman for a granny. (You’ve heard of LOVE IN AN ELEVATOR? Now meet GRAN IN AN (unexplained) ELEVATOR…!)

The child appears to be evil, or to have an evil doll. Either way, a small boy is murdered in his bath, and only the little girl and her decidedly odd, affection-shunning Granny attend the funeral. Who is this boy and why- and by whom- was he killed? It’s never explained.

Now Catherine (played by former Page 3 stunna Keeley Hazell), the little girl, is all grown up and married to Harvey, who looks like he might be Danny O’Donohue from The Script’s slightly uglier brother.

In the magnificent country house where they’re meant to be recuperating from the death of their daughter, Catherine keeps hearing her child’s voice and one of the rooms keeps turning into a nursery, complete with lavish crib, whenever she walks into it.

The husband wants them to get over their grief together and make their marriage work, but Catherine’s too far gone down the road of paranoia and despair. A Little Grudge Girl- a girl in a white shift with long black hair covering her face- is everywhere in the house, locking Catherine in the wine cellar and generally being menacing. Who the bloody hell is she? Is she the evil spirit of Catherine’s ratty, tatty childhood doll that got destroyed? Damned if I know.

When, oh when, will film-makers stop bringing the Little Grudge Girl into every single horror film they make? I’m so sick and tired of seeing these Girls trudge silently, head-down, lank hair trailing like the hems of their white nighties, between the rooms of a house and looking out of windows. As a horror movie trope, it’s well worn out by now. It doesn’t even really work any more.

And when, by the way, will it be possible once more to watch a horror film that doesn’t have kids in it? It seems like there are kids in every single bloody horror film that comes out nowadays.

The girls are all cute and over-sexualised, with long brownish-blonde hair and red rosebud mouths and the boys aren’t much different. They all have long floppy hair too and full, over-emphasised lips, just like the girls. Lay off the kids, will ya, guys, and give the horror genre back to the adults who are old enough to stay up after the watershed to watch the damn films…? 

Simon and Sasha, friends of Catherine’s husband’s, come to stay at the house for a bit. Which is odd, because weren’t the Caldwell couple supposed to be recovering from their grief together, alone and in peace? Why the feck would you invite friends to stay at a time like that? Especially such high-maintenance friends as Simon and his sexy supermodel of a significant other.

Simon has an hilarious spiv moustache and his foreign totty girlfriend Sasha, played by Barbara Nedeljakova from HOSTEL, is an absolute knockout. She has huge lovely boobies and the director, a woman if I’m not mistaken, gets lots of great shots of her in the pool in her bikini.

There are loads of lovely shots in the film, of the two women who are undoubtedly stunning-looking wearing different lovely dresses, and also of the house and the fabulous grounds that surround it. There’s a lot more style than there is substance in the film, not to mention plotholes through which you could drive a whole convoy of trucks.

Still, the film’s got the house and the grounds, a smashing end twist, a psychiatrist with an accent you’ll have great fun trying to decipher and, above all, it’s got Sasha’s Glorious Titties. He who is tired of Sasha’s Glorious Titties is tired of life, and is furthermore a man I should not care to know. Sasha’s Glorious Titties, we totally salute you. Over and out.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

JESSABELLE. (2014) A SUPERNATURAL HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

jessabelle

JESSABELLE. (2014) DIRECTED BY KEVIN GREUTERT. WRITTEN BY ROBERT BEN GARANT. STARRING SARAH SNOOK, MARK WEBBER, DAVID ANDREWS, JOELLE CARTER AND ANA DE LA REGUERA.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is the story of a haunting and a possession set in modern times down on the good old Louisiana bayou. Jessie, short for Jessabelle, is the unluckiest girl in the whole world, having just lost her boyfriend and her unborn baby in a car crash that happens just as they’re all driving off happily together to their new home and their new lives. That’s when Fate reckons you’re at your most vulnerable and strikes like a deadly cobra, lol.

Now, after the accident, Jessie is wheelchair-bound and forced to go and live with her one remaining relative, the father she hasn’t seen since she shook the dust of their small town off her feet years ago to go to college. It seems as if she went off to college mainly to get away from her kippy home town and her surly mean father, and you can’t really blame her for that.

When she gets to the house, the Dad opens up a secret cobwebby room that’s been all locked up for at least twenty years and says, well, here, in ya go to the bedroom your mother died in, giving birth to y’all way back when.

God help the girl if she’s of an imaginative bent or in any way given to dwelling on things too much, which of course all young girls are, especially if they’ve suffered a lot or undergone a trauma like bereavement, and Jessie’s life is chock-full of bereavements.

Her mother, her boyfriend, her unborn baby and, by extension, the wonderful life she and her bloke were going to have in their new home with their new baby. All gone up in smoke, the whole kit-and-kaboodle. That’s a lot of bereavements, enough to give any woman the heebie-jeebies.

There’s no furniture in the room barring a giant four-poster bed and a box of video-tapes the mother made for Jessabelle while she was still pregnant with her. The Momma is the kind of hippy-dippy type who believes in psychic readings and fortune-tellings and all that kind of thing.

In the video-taped psychic readings Momma performs for her as yet unborn daughter, she keeps turning up scary shit like death and burnings and an angry female presence in the house that wants Jessie out, because the ghost thinks the house is hers by rights.

Jessie is, not unnaturally, scared shitless by these dire premonitions which, if you’ll excuse my authorial interjection here, was a very unfair and insensitive legacy for any mother to leave for her child to see, long after the mother has died of the cancer that blighted her last months of life. Jessie should be thrilled when her father tries to burn the evil tapes, instead of bitching at him about it.

Unfortunately Pops, who’s clearly no luckier at the game of life than his daughter Jessabelle, only succeeds in burning himself, leaving Jessie in the haunted house alone with no-one to help her with anything. This is where she gets her claws back into her childhood sweetheart Preston, whom she left without a second glance when she quit town.

Preston is unhappily married now to poor Samantha, who is really not thrilled about the helpless little Jessie, with her soft blonde hair and her braless bosoms hanging out of her low-cut dresses, sleeping on their couch because her own house is too haunted to live in for now.

I don’t blame the hardworking, sensibly-dressed-in-sweatpants Sam at all for resenting Jessie. When was the last time Preston unhinged her, Sam’s, flaps in the tender, devoted way he does Jessie’s? (You’ll have to watch the film to decipher this naughty in-joke, lol!)

There’s definitely an angry, jealous female spirit present in Jessie’s house. There’s a tiny coffin buried out on the bayou as well with the skeleton of a newborn baby in it. That’s some real creepy shit right there.

There’s voodoo and superstitious locals who believe in what Preston refers to as ‘all that mumbo-jumbo’ but, as Jessie’s witnessing a lot of strange things since her return to the bayou, she can’t help wondering what evil supernatural forces are at work here and what exactly they want her to do…?

This is a very water-based horror film, with baths and lakes in it. It puts me in mind of THE CHANGELING, WHAT LIES BENEATH and the film adaptation of Stephen King’s excellent novel BAG OF BONES for exactly that reason.

The film’s a bit messy and implausible at times, but it’s not the only film ever to put a wheelchair-bound person in an isolated setting with no possible way of doing certain things for themselves, so we won’t berate it too harshly for that.

I enjoyed the film, though, even the cheesy ending, and I’d certainly recommend it as a one-time-viewing for horror fans. It’s like a floaty supernatural dream or something, with voodoo and some stunning visuals thrown in and some good old-fashioned sexual jealousy to boot. Enjoy it, with my humble blessing, lol.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor