THE CRAFT. (1996) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE CRAFT. (1996) DIRECTED BY ANDREW FLEMING AND CO-WRITTEN BY ANDREW FLEMING AND PETER FILARDI.

STARRING ROBIN TUNNEY, FAIRUZA BALK, NEVE CAMPBELL, RACHEL TRUE AND SKEET ULRICH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Bus driver- Watch out for weirdos, ladies!

Nancy- We ARE the weirdos, mister…

Light as a feather, stiff as a board…

This is a terrific, highly entertaining cult horror film from the ‘Nineties. It gave me such a huge nostalgia buzz to re-visit it this weekend. It’s a supernatural horror-drama set in and around a private, mixed-sex high school run by nuns.

The ‘popular’ girls who attend the school are absolute bitches and the ‘popular’ boys, the good-looking lads hoping to get into college on a football scholarship because they’re usually too thick to get in on intellect alone, are utter jerks. If one of these boys and one of these girls sleep together, the girl is a slut and the boy is a massive stud who’ll shout his triumphs and conquests all over school.

Moving to a new area and a new high school is bad enough, but having to move to a bitchy American high school (those are the bitchiest!) must be tough. Sarah Bailey has just relocated with her father and stepmother from San Francisco to Los Angeles and has to do the new school thing, and she’s not exactly happy about it.

Sarah is beautiful but slightly unusual in that she has psychic powers. At school, she is immediately drawn to three other girls of similar inclinations.

These are Nancy, who’s fed up with living in a crappy trailer with her alcoholic mum and abusive step-father; Bonnie, whose body has been horribly scarred by fire; and Rochelle, a black girl who is subjected to racist taunts by one of the pretty and popular white girls at school, Laura Lizzie.

These three school outcasts have been secretly worshipping a Satan-like god they call ‘Manon.’ It’s not until they combine their powers with Sarah’s that Manon finally starts kicking ass for them, and the quartet of would-be witches realise that their greatest desires might just be only a magic spell away…

Nancy, the mouthy one with the bad attitude, wishes not to be white trash any more. Bonnie wants to be rid of her scars and be ‘beautiful outside as well as in.’ Rochelle wants to be free of her tormentors, and Sarah works a love spell on Chris, a guy from school whom she fancies but who was a total douchebag to her and about her in front of his awful friends.

Remember these lines from WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY?

Willy Wonka to Charlie Bucket: Did you hear what happened to the boy who suddenly got everything he ever wanted?

Charlie, spellbound: No, what?

Willy Wonka: He lived happily ever after…

Well, that doesn’t happen in THE CRAFT, thank heavens, or the movie would only be about half its length. Things seem to be going along swimmingly at first, with the girls getting their wishes granted and more by the mighty and powerful Oz, sorry, Manon, but then everything just seems to turn to crap, with a dangerously love-struck Chris trying to rape Sarah on a deserted beach one night.

Sarah, realising that things have gone too far, wants out of the coven. But there’s a price to pay for leaving the coven, and, for Sarah, it might just be more- way more- than she’s prepared to pay. Strap yourself in and get ready for the witchy face-off to end all witchy face-offs…

You’ll recognise Neve Campbell (Bonnie) and Skeet Ulrich (Chris) from the SCREAM movie franchise (1996-present). And if the doctor who operates on Bonnie’s scars looks familiar, it’s because she used to play Mary Alice Young, a character but also the narrator, in the comedy-drama soap opera series, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.

The film has a memorable soundtrack, with songs on it that were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Harry Nilsson, Johnny Marr from the Smiths, Peter Gabriel from Genesis, Ric Ocasek from the Cars, Marianne Faithfull and Justine Frischmann from Britpop bands Suede and Elastica. The only thing I can ever remember about Justine Frischmann is that she dated your man from Blur for a while, Damon Albarn.

Father Damo to Father Dougal in ‘Nineties clerical sitcom FATHER TED: ‘Here, who’d’you prefer, Oasis or Blur?’

Father Dougal: ‘Erm, Blur…?’

Father Damo, roaring: ‘Wha’?’

Father Dougal, placatingly: ‘I mean, Oasis, Oasis…!’

THE CRAFT is still a popular film years later, with a cult following of its very own. There are some really good spooky scenes in it, and its moral of not tampering with things that are bigger and more powerful than you is pretty clear.

Our four little witches thought they could employ witchcraft to summon up this fella Manon and use him for their own ends. But, once they start abusing this power, Manon, like any self-respecting Satan-like god dealie, has to step in and take it back. There’ll be tears before bedtime for sure…

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.

BLESS THE CHILD. (1993) BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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 HAUNTED PALACE. (1963) A VINCENT PRICE/ROGER CORMAN FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Vincent-Price-Blu-ray-Collection

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THE HAUNTED PALACE. (1963) BASED ON THE POEM BY EDGAR ALLAN POE AND ON THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD BY H.P. LOVECRAFT.

DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ROGER CORMAN.

STARRING VINCENT PRICE, DEBRA PAGET, LON CHANEY JR., FRANK MAXWELL, LEO GORDON AND CATHIE MERCHANT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘And travellers now within that valley,

Through the red-litten windows, see

Vast forms that move fantastically

To a discordant melody;

While, like a rapid ghastly river,

Through the pale door,

A hideous throng rush out forever,

And laugh- but smile no more.’

This is such a lush luxurious film, sort of the cinematic equivalent of a really fancy box of chocolates. The same can be said of all of the films in American International Pictures/Roger Corman’s Poe cycle: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, TALES OF TERROR, THE PREMATURE BURIAL, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, THE RAVEN and THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. All of these star Vincent Price in the lead role, except for THE PREMATURE BURIAL, in which Ray Milland is on leading man duty.

This film is book-ended by part of a Poe poem, which allows it to be included in the Poe cycle of films, but it’s mainly based on the Lovecraft story, THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD.

I much prefer Poe to Lovecraft; the tentacles thing espoused by the latter isn’t really for me. I love a nice psychological horror story or haunted house tale, and my preferred ‘monsters’ are the Universal ones, lol. Still, there’s much to praise in this visually sumptuous first major filming of a Lovecraft work, even if you can’t help noticing the odd plot-hole.

Vincent Price plays the titular Charles Dexter Ward who, together with his lovely wife Ann, arrives at the spooky New England harbour village of Arkham in order to take possession of the family residence, the titular Haunted Palace, abandoned for a century or more.

The villagers are all horrified because Ward is the spitting image of his evil ancestor, Joseph Curwen, who was burned at the stake exactly one hundred and ten years earlier for being the male equivalent of a witch.

Curwen was a much more interesting individual than his insipid descendant Ward. In the  mid-1700s, he lured the virginal young women of Arkham to his house and tried to mate them with ancient deities spawned in his vast underground dungeon. Kick-ass, huh…? His ultimate goal was the resurgence of a master race of Old Gods, ‘such as Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth.’

Unfortunately, these dubious ‘matings’ gave rise to several generations of hideous mutant or mutated eyeless monstrosities, some of whom are still alive and kicking and hidden in the locked rooms of the villagers of Arkham by the villagers themselves, whose progeny they are.

Some of the less dangerous, but no less physically shocking, mutants are brought out in force to scare the Wards away from Arkham, but Charles Dexter Ward has a destiny to fulfil, even if he doesn’t quite know it yet, and he opts to stay in his newly-acquired residence. There’s no law against a man living on his own property, is there? Of course there isn’t, more’s the pity for the poor doomed villagers…

To the horror of his loving wife Ann, Ward becomes possessed with the evil spirit of Joseph Curwen, through a magnificent portrait of the latter which hangs in the palace. Determined to carry out Curwen’s unfinished work of creating the master race of ancient gods through the mating of local young beauties with his basement ‘experiments,’ Ward/Curwen gathers around him his undead assistants of old, Simon Orne (Lon Chaney Jr., aka the Wolfman) and Jabez Hutchinson. Now he can pick up where he left off…

He seems to waste a lot of his newly-recovered time in trying to revive his long-dead mistress Hester Tillinghast, and also in revenging himself against the villagers who are direct descendants of the ones who burned Joseph Curwen to death over a century ago.

His two helpers beg him not to waste his time in petty vengeance, but Curwen feels that, after being dead for a hundred and ten years, he’s entitled to a little fun. Well, okay, fine, Master, but will there still be time to create a master race by forcibly mating your terrified wife Ann to the ungodly thing you’ve got hidden in your basement prison? If there is, there is, lol. We’ll have to see…

The movie, as well as being the first of Lovecraft’s works to be filmed, marks the first screen appearance of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, a sort of mythical Book of the Dead which contains spells for conjuring up those ancient deities we mentioned earlier.

It’s the sort of really cool book which, if it really existed, you’d need permission from the Vatican to consult it, and you could only consult it by accompanying a grim-faced, disapproving elderly clerk in rusty black togs through several locked doors, the keys to which he keeps about his person.

In a huge, book-lined room, he’d take the book out of a locked safe, blow the dust off it and place it reverently on a table, and then he’d watch you like a hawk while you leafed nervously through its yellowed pages, looking for the bits you want to read. Oh, and you’re only allowed to consult the specific pages you’ve requested to see and no more. Can’t you just picture it…?

Vincent Price is perfectly at home in his two roles. Joseph has fancier, frillier togs and a sneerier, more menacing tone of voice than his nineteenth century counterpart, but Vincent Price is well able to chop and change between the two characters.

The sets are gorgeous, the costumes exquisite and the fog rolling in from the sea good and plentiful. The mutants are disturbing, the silhouette of the palace awe-inspiring and Lon Chaney Jr. as cuddly and loveable as ever he was in his Universal Wolfman films of the 1940s.

(I’m sure he thought he was being terribly frightening in that role, lol, but I’ve only ever thought of him as cuddly and loveable, with his cute little furry face and matching clodhoppers…!) 

I heartily recommend this Poe-Lovecraft mash-up. The critics had a lot to say about it- and not all good, either- but that doesn’t mean that it’s not both enjoyable and entertaining. Never mind the critics. What do they know? We’ll make up our own minds. Can I get an answering harrumph…?

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: OUIJA-BOARD. (1989) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong younger

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: OUIJA-BOARD. (1989) PUBLISHED IN 2018 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

I absolutely loved this latest book of Michael Armstrong’s, OUIJA-BOARD. Michael, as the piece above taken from his website informs us, is actually making history by being the first scriptwriter to publish almost everything he’s ever written in book form. So the history he’s making is both cinematic and literary, and I’m thrilled to bits to be a part of it.

I usually begin these reviews with a brief recap of the books of Michael’s that I’ve read so far, all of which are available to buy direct from Michael’s own website and also from Michael’s publishers, the lovely people at Paper Dragon Productions.

The books all have gorgeous glossy covers and they’re greatly improving the look of my personal library, I must say. Thus far I’ve read, or should I say devoured in one sitting, the following works:

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1982), filmed in 1983, is my favourite of all of Michael’s marvellous scripts, and there’s a lot to choose from. It’s a wonderful ‘haunted house’ story, which I would have adored anyway on its own merits.

The fact, however, that it features horror icons Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine in the first and only film to ever star all four of them together, is the icing on an already terrific cake.

THE BLACK PANTHER (1976) was the name given to Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer whose abduction of wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975 was the subject of Michael’s controversial 1976 screenplay. The 1977 film was even banned for a bit but a change of heart by the British Film Institute saw it taking its rightful place amongst other important British films of the period.

Michael’s first movie was a short film called ‘THE IMAGE.’ (1964) It marked the first screen appearance of a certain David Bowie, who later went on to make flicks like THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, LABYRINTH and THE HUNGER.

Michael Armstrong had the pleasure, and it must have been a huge one, of directing Mr. Bowie first, though, and now the book of that script is also available to buy as part of Michael’s gorgeous collection.

GHOST TOWN (1969) is a terrific tongue-in-cheek Western comedy while A STAR IS DEAD (1977), another riotously irreverent comedy, was actually commissioned by Malcolm McLaren and intended to star The Sex Pistols in their screen acting debut. What a film that would have made!

BEELZEBUB (1984) is the story of a haunted computer that also would have made a great film and DEATH MASQUE (1988) is simultaneously an intellectual mystery thriller, a comedy and a social allegory, if you please. It contains the immortal words of operatic legend Anna Morenzi:

‘Always give the audience what it wants. Lots of T. & A. Never fails, dear: ‘Tits & Art.’ If they don’t like the show, at least give ’em something to drool over. Helps keep the snoring down.’

ESKIMO NELL (1975), starring Roy Kinnear and a ridiculously young and handsome Michael Armstrong in the flesh, is one of Britain’s most famous sex comedies. The dialogue is just so funny. Here are a few choice snippets:

‘I can’t do it, Benny, I just can’t do it! I’m just not capable of writing the first all-British pornographic Kung Fu musical western: least of all when three different girls and a drag queen all think they’re going to be playing the same part!’

‘Right then, the opening shot of the film is a big close-up of this bleedin’ great pair of tits…

but do it with integrity…’

‘Acting? Acting? You didn’t tell me I had to act! Listen, I don’t mind getting screwed but I’m not doing any of that acting stuff! What sort of a girl do you take me for?’

‘It’s all terribly wholesome family entertainment, like Hamlet… but nicer.’

‘Yes, but what’s my motivation for having an erection…?’

‘Oooooh, what lovely buns…!’

OUIJA-BOARD (1989) is a horror film-script that sadly never got made into a film, for reasons which Michael goes into, frankly and honestly, in the chapter entitled ‘THE HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY.’

It should serve as a cautionary tale to any budding young scriptwriters out there who still wear their rose-tinted glasses and think that everyone in the movie industry is as scrupulous as themselves…!

Michael admits himself that he wrote this script to a formula, the one that works so well for the horror movies we know and love and have been watching for years. It’s a deceptively simple formula that can be staggeringly effective.

You put a group of attractive young people in their twenties into a situation from which they absolutely can’t extricate themselves for a bit. In a ‘Cabin In The Woods,’ for example, on a weekend break from the city, and maybe their car’s broken down so they can’t go anywhere for the moment, or at least until the Park Ranger drives by on Monday morning to check on ’em. But by Monday morning, every last one of them could be stone-dead…

Throw in some booze and drugs, of course, to loosen everyone up a bit and lower their inhibitions, and make sure that several characters are wildly attracted to each other so that the chances of them having sex together are greatly improved. This beefs up the action no end, as any director worth his salt will tell you.

While all their guards and defences are down, a crazed serial killer will have no problem at all picking the horny young ‘uns off one by one, until no-one remains but the least slutty of the girls and maybe one guy, the guy she likes but thought was into the skank with the fake tits. And you can be sure that he was into her, at least at first. Until he found out that the skank with the fake tits is always the first to die…

In OUIJA-BOARD, we have a pair of young heart-throb teenage boy musicians, Brad Jackson and Li Lin, in a beach location filming a pop music video together. Also present are their three attractive backing singers, Sophie, Luanne and Marie. 

Then there’s Hugh, who’s directing the video, even though he’d rather be off directing an art-house movie somewhere and is only making this crappy video to pay the bills. I’m sure we can all relate. There’s also Larry, Brad’s manager, and Paul and Joe, two young cameramen. Debbie is Brad’s sort-of girlfriend.

Early on in the script, the young people- except for Debbie, who’s rightly nervous- all mess around with a ouija-board. Even though Sophie is initially the one who’s all for it, she gets scared quickly when the board makes it clear that it really, really wants to play games with the young folks. It also loves the words blood, death and danger. A good sign? You tell me…!

Sophie: ‘You see? It’s warning us. You start asking it things like that, you might attract the wrong kind of spirit.’

And:

Sophie: ‘I think we’re in touch with something real bad. I think we should stop.’

And:

Sophie: ‘They’re always looking for ways in, you know? To our world. That’s how people become possessed.’

And:

Sophie: ‘It’s all down to the vibrations our emotions give off. They all have different wavelengths and some of them can lay us open to- well, it’s like the radio- tuning into the wrong station.’

She’s bang on the money there. But remind us again, Sophie, why you wanted to fool around with the ouija-board in the first place? We all know the deal with ouija-boards by now. You might think you’re only trying to get in touch with your dear deceased old granny or Tweety the canary, who sadly departed this life when he mistook a pane of glass for the open air, but when you open that door to the Afterlife there’s no telling what kind of horrors you’re allowing in to your world.

A ghost is one thing, the ghost of someone who once lived, but if you attract the attention of a demon, something that’s never walked the Earth in human form, you are basically fucked. I learned this from demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren in James Wan’s THE CONJURING movies, lol. Who says you can’t learn anything from watching movies…?

Anyway, when something gory happens to Luanne as a direct result of the ouija-board session, Hugh and Larry decide that everyone on the team must move up to their mountain location and hang loose there while they, Hugh and Larry, take Luanne to the hospital. Larry comes out with what I can only refer to as Famous Last Words:

Larry: ‘There’s not much that can happen to them stuck on top of a mountain miles from nowhere.’

The demon unleashed by the young peoples’ unwise dabblings with the ouija-board of course follows Brad, Li Lin, Sophie, Marie, Debbie, Paul and Joe up the mountain, to the lodge where they’re supposed to be filming the mountainy parts of their pop video.

Oh Larry, you poor sweet fool! ‘There’s not much that can happen to them stuck on top of a mountain miles from nowhere.’ Are you FKM…? Killing this group of unsupervised high ‘n’ horny young ‘uns is going to be a piece of cake for the demon. The words shooting, fish and barrel come immediately to mind.

Brad, a cocaine addict, intends to spend this enforced sabbatical getting high and partying. Fair enough. With a blonde-haired-captain-of-the-football-team name like Brad, I guess he’s kind of morally obliged to.

Debbie wants to talk to Brad about Their Failing Relationship, but Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That. Marie wants to have sex with Li Lin, but there’s something pretty important she needs to learn about him first.

The sneaky Demon, meanwhile, has decided to confuse the issue by possessing first one and then another of the horny young ‘uns in turn, rather in the style of John Carpenter’s THE THING.

The killing scenes are gloriously gory (Now (s)he is cleansed from the squalor of the kill) as things go from seriously bad to much, much worse for the group of pop teens and their entourage abandoned, for the moment, to their own devices on the mountain-side.

When shit really starts going down, Paul the camera-man has kind of a Famous Last Words moment himself when he says:

‘Look… We’ll be okay. Nothing’s gonna happen to us just as long as we all stick together and don’t go wandering off on our own.’

Well, if everyone in horror movies paid attention to this little maxim, we’d have nothing good to watch. Thankfully, the dopes never do. Sophie, at whose door can be laid the blame for everything that’s gone wrong as the whole ouija-board thing was her idea, hits the nail on the head when she says:

‘It’s like it’s playing this horrible game with us. We’re its entertainment.’

Why don’t we ask the Demon itself what it wants…?

The Demon: ‘I want to play! Blood! Killing! I want to play!’

Can somebody please break out the travel Scrabble…?

OUIJA-BOARD and Michael’s other new book, THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER, are hot off the presses right now, direct from Michael’s own website and that of his publisher’s:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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

WHITE ZOMBIE. (1932) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

white zombie bela closeup

WHITE ZOMBIE. (1932) BASED ON THE 1929 NOVEL BY WILLIAM SEABROOK, THE MAGIC ISLAND. DIRECTED BY VICTOR HALPERIN AND PRODUCED BY EDWARD HALPERIN.

STARRING BELA LUGOSI, MADGE BELLAMY, JOHN HARRON, ROBERT W. FRAZER AND JOSEPH CAWTHORN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is such a marvellously atmospheric old horror movie, starring Bela Lugosi who was still fresh from his success as UNIVERSAL’s DRACULA (1931). He looks young, extremely handsome, charismatic and devilish here as the white Voodoo Master of Haiti who puts a spell on a beautiful young woman on whom he has personal romantic designs. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The beautiful young woman in question is a blonde ‘Twenties bombshell called Madeleine Short, and she’s come to Haiti to marry her fiancé Neil Parker, who’s already there for some reason. I think he has a plantation there. On the boat over to Haiti, she meets a rich young man called Charles Beaumont who’s determined to befriend the young married-couple-to-be for reasons known only to himself.

On the coach-ride to Mr. Beaumont’s plantation, the young couple pass a funeral party that is burying the deceased in the middle of the road. This is to deter anyone who might have a mind to steal the corpse and turn it into one of the ‘undead,’ explains their Haitian coachman matter-of-factly. And, speaking of which, here come a party of these eerie ‘undead’ rascals right now!

The coachman whips up the horses to a frenetic degree.

‘What the hell are you playing at, driver?’ demands Neil irately. ‘We might have been killed!’

‘Or worse, Mister Neil,’ replies the coachman sagely, ‘we might have been CAUGHT…!’

Apparently, Haiti is swarming with these ghouls, who once walked the earth as human beings but whom the most nefarious black magic has raised up from the dead and turned into mindless zombies who work night and day in the islands’ sugar-cane mills. What a life, or should I say what an un-life…?

Mr. Beaumont is a wealthy plantation owner and it soon becomes clear that he’s fallen madly in love with the gorgeous Madeleine, with her huge doe eyes, Clara Bow lips and short blonde ‘Twenties hair.

She’s the very image of a ‘Twenties babe, despite the fact that we’re now in the ‘Thirties. The fashions here are very much still of the ‘Twenties. It gives the whole production the look of a silent movie and, as I’m a huge fan of silent movies, that’s no bad thing in my opinion.

In fact, the film would have worked very well as a silent movie. There’s kind of minimal dialogue in it anyway and the fantastic music score would have been ideal for a silent horror flick.

There’s a long stretch of the film at the end, the bit where Neil is fighting off the zombies by himself, where there’s little or no dialogue and the music is extremely dramatic. You could easily imagine yourself to be watching a terrific old silent movie at this point.

Mr. Beaumont wants to stop the marriage between Madeleine and Neil. He seeks out Bela Lugosi’s evil Voodoo Master, a white creator of zombies with the fantastically memorable name of ‘Murder Legendre,’ to help him. He wants the marriage stopped, but when he realises that the Voodoo Master’s method of doing it is to turn Madeleine herself into one of these ‘living dead’ zombies, he freaks out.

When the Voodoo Master in turn works a spell on Beaumont to immobilise him while he, Murder Legendre, claims Madeleine for his own, the situation becomes desperate. Can Neil rescue the lovely Madeleine from Murder’s evil clutches and, whether he can or he can’t, what will happen now to poor zombified Mr. Charles Beaumont, himself a rich plantation owner but who is now under one of Murder’s terrible spells?

Is he doomed for all time to slave in the Voodoo Master’s mills as one of the undead? And why am I calling him ‘poor’ Mr. Beaumont? If he hadn’t tried to break up Madeleine and Neil in the first place, none of this stuff would now be happening…! He’s only got himself to blame but still, being a zombie is probably a lot less exciting than it sounds.

The bit where Beaumont meets Murder Legendre in the Voodoo Master’s sugar-cane mill is quite chilling. Not only has the VM turned hundreds of once-living people into mindless zombie workers for profit (they work long hours for no pay and never quibble about anything because they can’t), but he’s also turned a specific coterie of them into his own personal group of bodyguards.

‘See these lads here?’ he tells the horrified Beaumont with his trademark evil Bela Lugosi smile. ‘These all used to be my enemies. This one here used to be my master.’

Beaumont is clearly shocked.

‘What happens if the spell you put on them is ever broken?’ he asks nervously.

‘Why, then they will tear me to pieces,’ says Bela matter-of-factly, still smiling. ‘So that can never be allowed to happen…’

By the way, here are some random facts about the film. The film was savaged by the critics upon release for the very things I love about it, the slightly hammy acting and the silent movie look and feel of the thing. The critics were nuts. This is possibly the best zombie movie ever made. Certainly it was the first full-length one.

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE from 1943 has the same dark, shadowy atmospheric look and feel to WHITE ZOMBIE. It’s an excellent film as well, though with a slightly more modern feel to it because it’s a full decade older.

Rob Zombie’s metal band WHITE ZOMBIE took their name directly from the film and they wouldn’t have done that unless they thought it was the coolest movie ever, which it is, so take that, moronic critics. I still can’t believe they dissed this film.

The huge stone tower or cliffside castle where the zombified Madeleine is being held prisoner is actually a painting. It’s just like a black-and-white version of the fabulous painted castles in Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations for AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES. It’s a gorgeous castle, very atmospheric-looking and quite like something out of the 1931 UNIVERSAL DRACULA too.

The two little maids assigned to care for Madeleine are scared to brush her hair because they know she’s one of the undead. They’re also too afraid to run away because the wicked and cunning VM will find them and turn them into zombies too. It’s quite a creepy no-win situation in which they find themselves.

Madeleine looks like a medieval princess when she comes out onto the balcony with that long dress on her with the low-slung belt around the waist. If her hair was several feet longer, she’d make a great Rapunzel. She’s the perfect damsel in distress, waiting patiently in her medieval tower to be rescued. There ain’t nothing remotely proactive about this dame. 

I’m not sure, though, why Neil is in such an all-fired great hurry to snap her out of the vacant, glassy-eyed zombified state she’s in. At least while she’s checked out like this, she won’t be nagging him to change his socks or get up from the sports on the telly to put the bins out. Some blokes clearly don’t know they’re born.

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

THE SKULL. (1965) AN AMICUS FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

skull april olrich

THE SKULL. (1965) AN AMICUS PRODUCTION. BASED ON THE SHORT STORY ‘THE SKULL OF THE MARQUIS DE SADE’ BY ROBERT BLOCH.

DIRECTED BY FREDDIE FRANCIS. PRODUCED BY MILTON SUBOTSKY AND MAX J. ROSENBERG.

STARRING PETER CUSHING, CHRISTOPHER LEE, PATRICK WYMARK, PATRICK MAGEE, NIGEL GREEN, MICHAEL GOUGH, PETER WOODBRIDGE, APRIL OLRICH, MAURICE GOOD, GEORGE COULOURIS AND JILL BENNETT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an utterly gorgeous film, one of my favourites of all the films in which horror icons Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee appeared together. THE SKULL isn’t exactly one of their double acts, however, as Peter Cushing is undoubtedly the star of the film and he appears in nearly every scene, unlike the handsome Mr. Lee who appears in just four scenes. I must stress that it’s not a competition, however, as there’s more sexiness and acting talent in Sir Chris’s four scenes than there would be in most actors’ entire Curriculum Vitae, lol.

Peter Cushing does a magnificent job here of playing Professor Christopher Maitland, a writer of books relating to the occult and an obsessive collector of all and any items relating to his passion. Books, skulls, masks, bric-a-brac, you name it and he’s probably got it, stashed away on his shelves or on display in a glass cabinet in his huge sprawling study.

His study is one of the finest Amicus sets I’ve ever seen. It’s been referred to as cluttered and practically ‘unlive-able in’ but I disagree. I could make myself perfectly comfortable in a gaff like that. I live surrounded by books anyway. I’m very much at home in that milieu, although I don’t go a bundle on the old bric-a-brac.

Someone who owns- or hoards!- as many books as I do can’t be seen to be collecting old bits of rubbish as well or else they’d look mad, lol. Like a crazy hoarder, the like of which you’d see on one of those TV shows, IRELAND’S BIGGEST HOARDER or something like that. Still, Peter Cushing’s study here is a marvel of set design, and kudos to the props person too. Wherever they sourced all their materials from, they’ve done an absolutely smashing job.

Professor Maitland is one day offered a book on the life of the Marquis de Sade, that jolly chappie from French history and literature who died in a lunatic asylum in 1814 and incidentally from whom we’ve derived the word ‘sadism.’ A sadist is a person who derives pleasure from giving others pain.

While, yes, the word can technically apply to employees of the Post Office who put up the sign ‘THIS WINDOW IS CLOSED’ just when you reach their counter after queuing for an hour, the word is more correctly applied to pervy types who like to whip or flagellate others during sex or cause pain by dripping hot candle wax onto the private parts of others, and so on.

That’s the pure meaning, I suppose you could say, of the word ‘sadist,’ although the word is frequently applied to people in all manner of other professions too: mean bosses, bitchy teachers who pile on the homework, auditors, employment officers who quiz you on your skill-set and then get you to apply for a job wholly unrelated to your field of expertise just because they can, etc.

Anyway, the book on the life of the Marquis de Sade is ever so beautifully bound… in human skin. It’s a mere snip at two hundred smackers. Maitland snaps it up, as Marco, his unsavoury and maybe even slightly dodgy ‘source’ for such rare materials, knows he will.

Marco, marvellously played by Patrick Wymark (an actor I’m always confusing with Patrick Magee, who’s also in the film, and Patrick McNee and Patrick McGoohan who are not), returns the next night with an item of even more interest to the nutty professor. This time it’s the actual skull of the aforementioned Marquis de Sade. One thousand pounds and it’s Maitland’s to keep. For ever and ever, Amen…

The skull comes with a back-story from Ye Olden Times which is told in a flash-back. The young woman who plays the phrenologist’s mistress, April Olrich, is stunning to look at and her dresses and hats are fabulous. Well, you know how chic the French broads are, lol. I love when she’s nervously clearing the bathroom of her bath oils and skin lotions, careful not to go too near the bath-tub where the phrenologist, her lover, met his lonely, eerie death.

That’s the thing about the Skull, you see. It has a strange effect on the people who possess it, making them suddenly want to destroy themselves and/or others. Christopher Lee’s Sir Matthew Philips, first seen purchasing four statues of occult figures for well over the odds without knowing why he’s doing it, knows full well how evil the Skull can be, and how strong a will you’d need to have to be able to withstand it.

Maitland ignores his old friend Sir Matthew’s advice and dire warnings, however, and decides to keep the Skull. Whatever happens from here on in is pretty much a case of ‘well, on his own head be it, then.’ Will he rue the day he acquired such an oddity for his prized and treasured collection? You might say so…

Michael Gough from the original Hammer DRACULA (1958) and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962) has a cameo role here as the auctioneer who sells Christopher Lee’s Sir Matthew the occult figurines.

Peter Woodbridge- Zoltan the Hypnotist from Hammer’s THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN- does a brilliant job of playing the sly and sleazy Bert Travers, the landlord or caretaker of Marco’s apartment building. What a sneaky, nasty self-serving little individual Bert Travers is! Just like Zoltan, so.

Nigel Green (JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, COUNTESS DRACULA, ZULU) plays Detective Inspector Moustache (my personal nickname for his splendidly moustached person), the copper who comes into the picture to investigate certain Skull-related shenanigans.

Patrick Magee, who stars in one of the vignettes in Amicus’s star vehicle and most famous anthology film, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, is here also as the police surgeon who wonders aloud about who- or what- could have severed this or that jugular.

It’s interesting that he’s here because he once created the role of the Marquis de Sade in the original stage and screen productions of MARAT SADE, otherwise known as: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. Yes, I know, try saying that little lot when you’ve had a skinful.

Jill Bennett (Hammer’s THE NANNY) does a good serviceable job as Maitland’s wife, who worries about her husband’s terrible obsession with the occult and all things supernatural. People do generally say that when you start messing about with all that weird stuff, you never know what bad mojo it’ll lead to. In the case of Professor Maitland, this sadly turns out to be more than apt…

There are some terrific Skull’s-eye-view shots that frame Peter Cushing neatly in the centre of the gaping nose socket, if you get me. Apparently, the director Freddie Francis shot these scenes through a giant replica of the Skull while whizzing about on roller-skates like a mad thing. How cool is that…?

The Skull itself is extremely proactive. It travels around the place with impunity, on strings that you can sometimes see but mostly you can’t. It likes to sit on a certain table marked with the sign of the pentagram and God help you if you’re in its place.

The power it has is quite similar to the eye-power the Creepy Kids have in VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. They can ‘make people pitchfork each other and junk,’ according to one Milhouse Van Houten from THE SIMPSONS, and so can the Skull. And I daresay the Skull cost less to feed and house than those pesky child actors and actresses did, lol.

One scene I don’t get in the film is Maitland’s nightmare scene, although other critics enthuse over it. As De Sade was known for his sexual sadism as practised on women, I personally would have replaced Maitland’s sexless nightmare with a nice sexually-charged whipping scene.

A stripped-to-the-waist Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing take turns whipping a stunning topless Hammer Beauty… whoops, Amicus Beauty, I mean, whom they then take turns ravishing, although she’s perfectly willing and ready for their loving. I might even add in a little oral pleasure at this point. I don’t suppose that this scene would have ever gotten past the censors, though. Sigh. Still, I know what’ll be in my dreams tonight…!

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