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:

PARASITE. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

PARASITE. (2020) DIRECTED BY BONG JOON HO. STARRING SONG KANG HO.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Act like you own the place…’

This Korean family drama film won four Oscars, including the one for Best Picture, the Palme d’Or and two Baftas. It’s been described by various media outlets as ‘a masterpiece,’ ‘thrilling, mischievous, dazzling,’ ‘wickedly funny’ and ‘an international phenomenon.’

That’s a helluva lot of good press, isn’t it? I’m not really going to say anything negative about the film, other than that it’s ridiculously far-fetched at times, and we’re expected to suspend disbelief in a big way more than once. If you can live with that, and take the film at face value, then PARASITE is actually a hugely enjoyable watch.

Mr. Kim is the dad of a poor Korean family, two parents and a daughter and son. They live all squashed together in a tiny basement flat, and they scrape a meagre living out of folding cardboard pizza boxes into the shape in which they arrive at our homes. They steal their Wi-fi from the lady upstairs, so don’t feel too sorry for them! They all have street-smarts, and they know a good thing when they see it.

A particularly ‘good thing’ comes along in the shape of the Park Family. Nathan Park is a rich businessman, his wife is a rather empty-headed lady of leisure, and their two children are spoiled with toys and gadgets and an expensive education, but very little in the way of quality time with their parents who, like a lot of rich folks, have their priorities arse-about-face.

One day, somewhat out of the blue, Mr. Kim’s son, Ki Woo, is offered a job tutoring the teenage daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Park. He looks around their cold, half-empty palace of a house with the huge rooms, long corridors and the objets d’art all locked away in cabinets (for looking at, not touching), and he decides that his own family deserve a bit of this rich-people action…

What happens next is very funny, but quite sneaky and under-handed too. Ki Woo contrives things so that his older sister is employed by the Parks as an extremely expensive art therapist for their troubled young son, even though the sister has to google ‘art therapy’ before she arrives for her first lesson so she can appear knowledgeable on the subject…!

The two siblings then fix it so that their dad, Mr. Kim, who apparently smells like a boiled rag for some reason (don’t ask!), is hired by Nathan Park as his chauffeur, and Mr. Kim’s wife as the Park family cook and housekeeper.

Mr. Kim’s family don’t let on to the Parks that they are a family, so at the very least, they’ve taken on their various jobs under false pretences and are lying to their new employers. They do their respective jobs well, but I’m sure that Mr. and Mrs. Park won’t like being kept in the dark as to the true identity of their new staff.

And besides this deception, Mr. Kim and his family have contrived together to get the previous chauffeur and housekeeper sacked, so that they can take their jobs. They’ve really been quite ruthless and conniving about infiltrating the Park family, so, naturally, there will have to be consequences for their actions. These consequences are bloody, hilarious, extreme and genuinely startling, given that we see the film as just a bit of a black comedy at first.

But it’s not just the poor low-lifes who are at fault here. There’s fault on both sides in this case. Nathan Park is a cold, distant man, more interested in his work and the trappings of his material success than in his family. His marriage is not a strong one. The wife is obsessed with getting her children the best of everything, and seems to forget that, sometimes, all a child needs is his or her parents’ individual attention. Both the Park parents seem to have lost sight of this universal truth.

Nathan Park and his wife, while they’re not at all abusive or stingy with their cash, treat their staff as less than human beings. They are so spectacularly caught up in their own hollow lives (the huge birthday party for the son is a good example of this) that they fail utterly to see their staff as anything but automatons, just robots there to do their bidding, robots without feelings, sadnesses, triumphs, troubles and catastrophes of their own to contend with.

Therefore, there will have to be consequences on the Park side too, so that they can have the chance to change their selfish, self-absorbed ways and start to look at all other human beings as just that… other human beings, who have the same rights, hopes, dreams and aspirations as rich people; they just haven’t been blessed with the same material gifts as rich people.

This was one of the last films to be shown in the cinema before the Great Coronavirus Lockdown of 2020. It’s quite a long picture- a whopping two and a half hours long, and there isn’t even a war in it!- but, if you have an evening to spare and a bag of popcorn in the cupboard just begging to be eaten, I’d recommend PARASITE. It’s as good a see-how-the-other-half-lives movie as any you’ll watch this year.

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

THE ANNIVERSARY. (1968) A BITCHY BLACK COMEDY FROM HAMMER FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE ANNIVERSARY. (1968) HAMMER FILM PRODUCTIONS/SEVEN ARTS PRODUCTIONS. BASED ON THE PLAY OF THE SAME NAME BY BILL MCILWRAITH. DIRECTED BY ROY WARD BAKER. PRODUCED BY JIMMY SANGSTER. SCREENPLAY BY JIMMY SANGSTER.

STARRING BETTE DAVIS, JAMES COSSINS, JACK HEDLEY, CHRISTIAN ROBERTS, SHEILA HANCOCK AND ELAINE TAYLOR.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This film is a Hammer black comedy rather than a Hammer horror. Or, to look at it another way, it’s only a horror in the sense that it’s a film about one of the most horrible families you could ever hope to watch on a cinema screen.

I believe the movie was a commercial success, and it’s certainly very well acted (it was a stage play to begin with), but there’s something about it that makes my skin crawl a little bit. Am I in the minority here, or does anyone else feel a little bit uncomfortable watching THE ANNIVERSARY…?

Bette Davis, the grande olde dame of the silver screen, is undoubtedly magnificent here as Mrs. Taggart, a shrewdly manipulative old biddy who rules her family with an iron fist in a glove carved from solid granite.

From her entrance at the top of the stairs in her palatial family home, clad in a fire-engine red dress to match the eye-patch over her damaged left peeper, she steals every single scene she’s a part of and leaves the younger ones standing, though they’re no slouches either in the acting stakes.

Old Ma Taggart’s husband has been as dead as the dodo for a good ten years. Nonetheless, every year on the anniversary of their marriage, Ma gathers her ‘beloved’ family around her for an excruciating, nails-on-a-blackboard-style get-together in which the suspicions, the rivalries and the dislike-verging-on-hatred that simmer inside the individual family members during the year bubble to the surface and spill over into all-out war.

Ma is at the centre of everything that’s rotten about the Taggart family. She controls the family purse strings and, therefore, her three sons. By choosing to remain at the head of the Taggart construction company herself and make her minions dance to her tune, it’s clear she sees herself as the boss of all she surveys. My money, my rules, is how she sees it, and divide and conquer is, seemingly, how she prefers it.

She dispenses insults, barbs and little digs with the same coldly glittering panache with which she might mix you a drink at the family bar. The dialogue is bitchy, quite witty in places and comprises the blackest of black comedy, and the very best lines, of course, all go to the girl with the Bette Davis Eyes, La Davis herself.

Her three sons have all the problems you might expect in a family where the mother is the dominant one, the driving force in their lives. It would be hard for any of them to be truly successful in their lives and happy in their relationships without first getting out from under the thumb of their dreadful mother, whose modus operandi is to ferret out a person’s weak spot and beat them over the head with it until they cry ‘mercy!’

James Cossins (FAWLTY TOWERS, SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM) plays the eldest son Henry. He seems like a gentle, sweet man, but he so far has been unable to sustain a romantic relationship and probably never will, not while his malicious mumsy continues to manipulate him regarding his cross-dressing and knicker-nicking tendencies.

Ma alternately shields him from the legal repercussions of his crimes (well, stealing women’s knickers off a clothesline is illegal, isn’t it?) and holds it over him and his brothers as a threat. As in: ‘If you won’t do exactly what I want, I’ll hand poor dear Henry over to the police and he can get treatment for his ‘ailments’ in a mental hospital…!’ The auld bitch. How can she threaten poor dear Henry like that? Poor guy doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going.

Terry, the middle son, isn’t up to much. Sure, he’s given his old bag of a mother five grandchildren with his wife Karen, but he gets constantly bawled out by Karen for not standing up to Mrs. Taggart. Karen is a relentless nag.

Watch her in CARRY ON CLEO, giving endless grief to her hen-pecked husband Hengist Pod, played by Kenneth Connor, and you can easily imagine her tearing strips out of Terry too. Terry is not his own man. He gets dominated by his overbearing mother and nagged to death by his wife. I don’t think he’s happy.

Tom, the youngest, is a womaniser who brings a different girl to ‘the Anniversary-with-a-capital-A’ every year. This year he’s brought the pretty blonde Shirley to flaunt in his mother’s face.

There are rather dark sexual undertones in this storyline. Ma Taggart is horribly jealous of anyone who grabs her precious youngest son’s attention, and she’s used to dispatching his girlfriends swiftly before they get their claws into Tom and their feet under the Taggart table.

Old Ma Taggart might have some slight bit of difficulty in dislodging this little lady from out of the family tree. Shirley is determined to be Tom’s wife, and, as she’s pregnant, she might just have more of a chance than any of the others did.

She seems to want to dominate Tom in the same way that his mother does, though, and Tom seems to have a bit more gumption than either Henry or Terry, so he may not tolerate this from Shirley. ‘Out of the frying pan…’

Shirley makes the mistake of trying to ‘stand up’ to Mrs. Taggart. This, as the mouthy Karen could have told her, is a terrible road to go down. No woman will ever be good enough for one of Mrs. Taggart’s precious sons. Even the flawed, broken ones, she wants to keep close to her for ever. That’s probably the way she likes ’em best, to be honest with you.

It’s an unhealthy foursome, Ma Taggart and her three sons, like a stinking pulsating mass of something icky from a science fiction movie that needs to be zapped, incinerated and then scraped away the next morning by the council. And what happens on the night of ‘the Anniversary?’ itself? Well, it’s family-only, I’m afraid. No randomers need apply. Mummy wouldn’t like 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 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