THE HOLE. (2001) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE HOLE. (2001) DIRECTED BY NICK HAMM. BASED ON THE BOOK ‘AFTER THE HOLE’ BY GUY BURT.

STARRING THORA BIRCH, KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, LAURENCE FOX, DESMOND HARRINGTON, DANIEL BROCKLEBANK AND EMBETH DAVIDTZ.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I absolutely love this film. It’s one of my favourite horror films of all time. That’s because it feeds into some very dark fears of mine about finishing my days walled up or trapped somewhere from which there’s no escape.

First the food supplies get eaten. Then there’s no more water to drink. Then the lights go off and you’re left in the dark, alone and frightened. Then the horrific process known to us as ‘death by starvation’ moves in and sets up camp.

Hi, I’m your body literally eating itself. Pleased to meet you. I’m sure we’re going to have loads of fun together. This would be a good point in the process to wake up screaming and discover you’ve been dreaming all along, having a nightmare. If you don’t wake up screaming, then, I guess, may God have mercy on your soul…

This story concerns four teenagers from a super-posh, super-expensive English boarding school (thirty thousand buckaroos a year in school fees alone!) who willingly go down into an abandoned old war bunker on school property for several days, rather than go on a stupid old geography field trip.

To them, the bunker is just a really cool place to party and smoke weed and have illicit sex for three days, in much the same way as they’d enjoy having a rave in a crumbling old deserted warehouse down by the docks for an evening.

Liz, who arranges the whole escapade with Martyn, the school’s computer genius and hacker, is ordinary and mousy-looking and desperately in love with Mike Steel, the handsome, rebellious son of rock guitarist Stevie Steel. That’s why she’s so desperate to spend a few uninterrupted days in the hole with him.

She can’t let on to him, though, that she’s in love with him, so Frankie and Geoff have to come too, for cover purposes. Frankie, played by the gorgeous Keira Knightley, is the undisputed Queen of the School. All the guys want her, all the girls want to be like her. Frankie and Liz are only friends because, well, as Frankie says, ‘My coursework doesn’t write itself, you know…!’

Posh boy Geoff, played by Laurence Fox from LEWIS with Kevin Whately, is Frankie’s big admirer. Martyn the hacker is in love with Mousy Liz, and is deeply hurt that she prefers Mike Steel, the Hollywood heart-throb, to him. But he’s still prepared to help her spend several days in ‘the hole’ with her idol, as she seems to want it so much. And here begins the nightmare…

I literally won’t tell you anything else that happens for fear of spoiling the movie for you. As the truth comes out bit by agonising bit, it’ll leave you tense and all shook up, like it did me when I watched it for the first time.

I genuinely think this is a superior horror film, and I don’t know why it isn’t more talked about. Have fun when you watch it. Oh, you’ve got a fear of enclosed spaces, have you? So much the better…

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 WITCHFINDER GENERAL. (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WITCHFINDER GENERAL. (1968) BASED ON THE NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME BY RONALD BASSETT. PRODUCTION COMPANIES: TIGON BRITISH FILM PRODUCTIONS AND AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES. DIRECTED BY MICHAEL REEVES.

STARRING VINCENT PRICE, IAN OGILVY, ROBERT RUSSELL, RUPERT DAVIES, PATRICK WYMARK AND HILARY DWYER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a perfect film. A perfect film. Don’t try to argue with me on this one, haha. Alongside THE WICKER MAN (1973) and THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (1971), it’s probably the best British horror film of all time. I love watching it on BBC2 late on Halloween night or the night before or after. I love watching it anytime, to tell you the truth.

It makes every fibre of my being literally ache with longing for an era of superb British film-making that ended before I was born. THE WICKER MAN has the same effect on me, especially the bit where the giant head drops off into the sea while a blazing sunset paints the sky blood-red and the haunting music that accompanies the end credits gets into its stride. I’m getting shivers just thinking about it. Better move onto THE WITCHFINDER before I get too emotional.

There are so many things that make this film both memorable and, as I may have mentioned earlier, perfect. The tragic death by accidental overdose of its brilliant young director just a few months after the film’s release, for one thing. The accusations of tasteless violence and a disgusting level of sadism levelled towards the film upon its arrival into the public eye, for another.

Another reason for the film’s memorability is Vincent Price’s brilliant performance as Matthew Hopkins the Witchfinder, possibly the legendary horror icon’s most evil and wonderfully-played character ever. He plays the Witchfinder with none of his usual flamboyant campiness, but instead with nuanced cruelty and sinister subtlety.

There’s also the admirable debut performance of the beautiful Hilary Dwyer as Sara Lowes, and, of course, the fact that Ian Ogilvy, surely the handsomest man in England in his day, is playing the romantic lead, and with as much swash ‘n’ buckle as you could ever reasonably hope for…

The year is 1645. The English Civil War (1642-1651), Roundheads or Parliamentarians on one side and Cavaliers or Royalists on the other, is currently tearing the country apart.

Matthew Hopkins is riding around East Anglia with his odious sidekick John Stearne in tow. What are they up to? In the words of indie band BLOC PARTY, the nasty pair are hunting for witches… See what I did there?

Anyway, with no real mandate from government, as far as I know, or at least not much of a one, they hang and burn so-called witches, both male and female, after first torturing them horribly in order to extract ‘confessions’ from the poor souls.

The scenes of torture and execution in the film are chillingly realistic, especially Hopkins’s ‘revolutionary’ ‘new’ method of burning ‘witches,’ which is just awful to watch. I meaning, burning someone is quite bad enough in the first place without doing it this way to boot. Being pricked with a knife all over your body in the hideously painful search for ‘the Devil’s mark’ is assuredly no picnic either.

You’d have to be a particular kind of sadist to enjoy doing what Hopkins and Stearne are doing. I think they just enjoy the power it gives them, being able to beat up defenceless old men and women and rape any choice females unlucky enough to fall into their grubby hands. At the heart of it, they’re probably cowards, as most bullies seem to be, and would probably snivel and beg cravenly for their own lives if the shoe were on the other foot.

Sara’s elderly uncle, John Lowes, the priest or vicar of the pretty, picturesque little Brandeston village in Suffolk, is one of Hopkins’s victims. So too is the gorgeous young Sara, as the evil Hopkins forces her to submit to sex with him on the off-chance that he might spare her uncle. The dirty rotten liar…!

Ian ‘Handsome’ Ogilvy is Sara’s Roundhead lover (well, Roundhead in the sense that he’s a soldier, anyway; I haven’t examined his particulars, more’s the pity…!), Richard Marshall, and he takes mighty umbrage at the rape of his buxom fiancée by both Hopkins and his repulsive lackey Stearne. He vows revenge against the foul pair. They’re surely in for it now, folks…

‘Handsome’ spends a lot of the film riding. I wasn’t actually referring to his swoonsome sex scene with the lovely Sara, but since you mention it…! No, I mean riding horses, all the livelong day in search of Hopkins and Stearne, past some of the most glorious autumnal scenery ever committed to celluloid. Does he catch up with the noxious pair and introduce ’em both to The Fist Of Justice and The Riding-Boot Of Retribution And Vengeance? Now, you know I can’t tell you that, you naughty lot…

I kind of feel about Richard Marshall, aside from his handsomeness, that it’s not really Sara’s being raped he’s angry about and sorry for, but rather that Hopkins and Stearne have dared to defile what is his, what he owns, what belongs to him.

Even when Sara is being tortured in the castle by the gruesome pair, Richard has the power to stop the torture by himself spouting a phoney confession. He doesn’t, though, because Sara’s pain means less to him than revenging himself violently on the vile Witchfinder and his equally vicious lackey. His male pride won’t allow him to submit to Hopkins and Stearne or beg them for mercy, even if Sara has to suffer all the more for it.

By the way, the excellent character actor Patrick Wymark has a cameo role in the film as Oliver Cromwell, who led the Parliamentarians against King Charles the First during the English Civil War.

Wymark has also had prominent roles in Amicus’s THE SKULL (1965), co-starring alongside Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and that other benchmark in English folk horror which we mentioned earlier, THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (1971).

Anyway, roll on next Halloween, which will probably be the next time I get to watch this unmatchable British folk horror film on BBC2 late at night, which is surely the best way of all to view it. Luckily, I have it on DVD though, so I can at least watch it that way as often as I like.

So remember, don’t be alarmed if you hear blood-curdling screams and the sounds of unimaginable suffering and hell-on-earth issuing spookily from behind my closed doors this winter, folks. It’s only The Witchfinder…

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.

HIS HOUSE. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

HIS HOUSE. (2020) DIRECTED BY REMI WEEKES. BASED ON A STORY BY FELICITY EVANS AND TONY VENABLES. STARRING SOPE DIRISU, WUNMI MOSAKU AND MATT SMITH. ©

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘He’s big, he’s red, his feet stick out the bed: Peter Crouch…!’

This moving and deeply disturbing horror film is as much a searing indictment of the refugee system in Britain as a study in psychological and actual terror. It’s the story of a young-ish married couple from South Sudan, a country beset by civil war since 2013.

Their names are Bol and Rial, and a frightening flashback shows us that they came to Britain by boat, a boat that got into difficulties en route, causing some of the passengers to drown. When we meet them again, they’re being held in a British detention centre for refugees.

The staff there treat them like criminals. They barely tolerate them and are rude, offhand and dismissive towards them. What happens at the meeting to inform the pair that they are going to be ‘freed,’ as if they’re prisoners who’ve committed actual crimes, is uncomfortable to watch and a disgrace on the part of the British case-workers. And just look at the physical distance between the refugees and the case-workers! It kind of says it all, that yawning chasm of floor.

They’re getting seventy-four quid a week (each, or jointly?), they can’t supplement this in any way, whether by working or whatever, they can’t move somewhere else, they have to live only in the house they’re assigned to and they have to report regularly to the people in charge of them, as if they’re prisoners out on bail or on parole or something.

No reassurances, no words of comfort, not so much as a smile or one friendly word. Just, you’re free to go but, if you fuck it up, back you both go to the Sudan, and we don’t give a fiddler’s feck how bad it is over there. For shame, you heartless bureaucrats. For shame.

It’s a wonder they don’t actually say to the poor couple, you can have sex, but you’d better not get knocked up or we’ll send you back to the Sudan. We can’t afford to be funding your lifestyle or your offspring, so keep it in your pants, okay? So very patronising, rude and intrusive.

Next thing you know, Bol and Rial are packed onto a bus in the lashing rain and driven to a dump of a house in a kip of an estate on the outskirts of London. They haven’t even been told where they’re going. Matt DR. WHO Smith plays their social worker or case-worker, Mark. He meets them at the house with the keys.

Mark really hates his job and has no love for his clients. Here you go, he says, don’t light any candles, don’t smoke, don’t make a mess, this is your home now. The couple aren’t hugely impressed by the house. It’s filthy and rundown and surely to God someone could have been hired to give it a bit of a clean up for the new occupants.

The neighbours, even the black ones, are racist and hostile towards the couple. Go back to Africa, yell the local black boys, much to the couple’s bemusement. Why should people be so horrible and cruel? Don’t people know what they’ve been through?

Bol adapts and adjusts to English life much better and faster than poor Rial. It’s because he likes it there, and wants to be one of them, one of the English locals.

He gets a haircut (they still don’t know where they’ve been put living, so Bol has to ask the barber!), he sings footy songs down the local pub with the local men and he’s given a care package by the local church. He buys new cheap clothes and cutlery for their food.

But poor Rial! She can’t, or won’t, adapt in the same way as her hubby. She still wants to sit on the floor for meals and eat with her fingers. She still wants to wear the colourful clothes of her homeland and adhere to its traditions, customs and mannerisms.

Added to this obvious conflict within the marriage, it’s starting to become clear that there’s something very wrong with this house they’ve been assigned. (‘It’s bigger than my house,’ says one of the social workers grudgingly when Bol makes a complaint.)

Strange noises, apparitions and voices come from behind the walls, lights turn themselves on and off, shadowy figures appear and murmur to the occupants and that’s not all…

The viewer quickly works out that it may not be the house itself that’s at fault, but rather that Bol and Rial have brought something back with them from Africa, a demon that feeds on guilt and demands vengeance for a crime committed, a life stolen.

Just what is it exactly that Bol and Rial are running away from, and what have they done that they are being plagued by demons in their new home night and day…?

It’s one of those horror films where you end up asking yourself, which is the real evil here, the supernatural demons we can see on the screen or the way we treat our refugees?

It works really well as either a horror film or a social commentary, or the two rolled into one if you prefer. Don’t worry, though, if you don’t like having your conscience pricked during a horror film, there are plenty of ghosties and ghoulies in the frame to thoroughly distract you.

The man who plays the lead demon or ghost in this excellent movie suffers in real life from a very interesting but unnerving condition called Marfan Syndrome. It’s made me wonder if other actors in horror films like IT FOLLOWS or the BLAIR WITCH sequel might have had it too. No, I’m not saying any more, you lazy lot, you can google it yourselves…!

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.

DON’T KNOCK TWICE. (2016) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

don't knock twice

DON’T KNOCK TWICE. (2016) DIRECTED BY CARADOG JAMES. STARRING KATEE SACKHOFF AND LUCY BOYNTON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This isn’t the world’s greatest horror film, and it’s a bit confused and even confusing at times, but I liked it enough to watch it twice (the second time was to fill in the gaps left by the first viewing), so it must be review-worthy. In any case, you’re getting this review and liking it, lol.

It’s a mother-child horror film, except the child isn’t an adorable cute baby but a surly teenage girl called Chloe. Chloe was put in an orphanage when she was a nipper because her mother, Jess, was doing drugs and didn’t feel capable of giving Chloe the care she deserved.

Most people would consider that Jess did the right thing in giving the care of Chloe over to someone who could actually do the job properly, but Chloe’s feelings of abandonment, rejection and hurt understandably run really deep.

So, when Jess turns up several years later and asks to have Chloe back, Chloe’s reaction is initially one of hostility. Jess has her life together now. She’s a successful sculptor, married to a rich prick of a businessman (he’s not exactly Mr. Understanding) and living in a fabulous mansion with her hubby.

But Chloe is grateful for a safe place to stay (ie, Jess’s house) when it turns out that a silly game she played with her boyfriend from the children’s home, Danny, has resulted in a nasty female demon being woken from the dead. Dontcha just hate it when that happens, lol.

The demon has taken Danny with her to her underworld hell, but that’s not the end of the matter. Now she’s after Chloe, because Chloe was as responsible for waking her as Danny was. Fair enough, I say. Ya reaps what ya sows.

Chloe flees to Jess’s house, thinking it a safe space to hide from the demon, who takes the form of a horrible black-coloured, crawling, groaning female with elongated stick-arms and stick-legs that give her the appearance of a giant scuttling Shelob-type spider. Poor Chloe doesn’t reckon on the demon being able to travel a lousy couple-a miles. Clearly it has some class of travel card…!

Jess’s house, garden and studio where she sculpts her creepy statues form a good spooky base of operations for the demon. Throw into the mix the following: the ghost of an elderly woman who killed herself after being accused of the abduction of a small boy years ago; the detective who accused her of the child’s abduction; the small boy himself, and, finally, a friend of Jess’s, an artist’s model who pales with fright and heads for the hills when she meets Chloe, because Chloe has been ‘marked’ for possession by a terrible supernatural entity, and there you have yourself the recipe for a pretty good little horror flick.

The film peeps clearly had access to a nice little bit of forest also, which worked really well in the scenes in which Chloe and Jess were pulled through a portal into another dimension.

The so-called ‘witch’s house’ in the film, in which the demon was said to be ‘resting,’ is like the spooky old abandoned house in the two recent IT: CHAPTERS 1 & 2 films, where Pennywise’s domain can be accessed more or less by accident. I don’t know why the people in films get the urge to go into houses like these which are clearly evil and the devil’s own personal stamping-ground, but how-and-ever. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have some of our greatest horror films, I guess.

The film has been likened by Forbidden Planet to DON’T LOOK NOW and CANDYMAN, and the same Forbidden Planet also says that DON’T KNOCK TWICE is ‘one of the best mother-child horror movies since THE ORPHANAGE.’ I’m not saying it’s that good (I don’t think it is!), but it’s definitely worth one watch, anyway. Just don’t do what I did. DON’T WATCH TWICE…

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

FRIGHT. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

fright

FRIGHT. (1971) A BRITISH LION FILM. WRITTEN BY TUDOR GATES. DIRECTED BY PETER COLLINSON. STARRING SUSAN GEORGE, HONOR BLACKMAN, GEORGE COLE, DENNIS WATERMAN, JOHN GREGSON, TARA COLLINSON AND IAN BANNEN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a terrific horror-thriller movie in the sub-genre of what we would call ‘babysitter horror.’ Remember the original version of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (Carol Kane), the first twenty minutes of which are pure unadulterated perfect horror? Damn right. ‘Have you checked the children?’

There’s also HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (Jocelin Donahue), in which a young American college student desperate for rent money is lured out into the sticks on the pretext of a babysitting job, but when she gets to the creepy old house in the country, she discovers two things. One, the baby she’s been called out to sit for isn’t a baby at all, but an elderly lady; and two, that the entire family are up to their tits in a devil cult. Lol. Dontcha just hate it when that happens?

And then, of course, there’s the original babysitter horror itself, HALLOWEEN, with Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode doing duty as the babysitter and the masked escaped criminal Michael Myers providing the chuckles, I mean, the murders.

FRIGHT stars the delectable Susan STRAW DOGS George as Amanda, the young babysitter and child welfare student who comes to the isolated house of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd to watch their son Tara, while they go out to the Plover Inn in the village a few miles away and celebrate ‘a sort of anniversary.’

The real star of the film is Susan George’s infinitely expressive, mobile face, with the huge eyes, the lush trembling lips and the slightly gammy but still charming teeth. This woman can really show fear in her face. Her long blonde hair and perfect, petite little body all go to complete the package.

The camera loves her, and her face can be shot endlessly in close-ups and you’d never get tired of it. Also, she’s rather smashing at portraying women who are being pushed around and abused by men. You can see this here, and also in STRAW DOGS which she made later in the year for Sam Peckinpah.

Anyway, as Amanda, she shows up at the Lloyds’ house in her fab little woolly pinky-purple mini-dress with the kinky black knee-boots, all set to babysit their little blond cherub of a son, Tara. By the way, in Ireland, Tara is a girl’s name. Just sayin.’

The Lloyds are played by George Cole (MINDER, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS) as Jim and the super-posh and classy Honor Blackman (GOLDFINGER, THE AVENGERS, TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER) as Helen. They are an uneasy pair.

Helen is obviously on edge, and doesn’t really want to leave the house, or her baby son, at all, but she’s going to go out to dinner for her husband’s sake and for the sake of living life as normal. Even though they clearly have a secret, one that might possibly place Amanda and the baby in danger if things pan out the way Helen clearly fears they’re going to.

The Lloyd house is big and old and creaky. Amanda gets a few scares initially that turn out to be no more than taps dripping or washing-lines tapping off the branches of trees. But when she sees a distorted man’s face through a ground floor window-pane, she can’t pass this off as a mere commonplace event.

She gets really scared and is glad when her male friend Chris (Dennis Waterman; MINDER, THE SCARS OF DRACULA) pops round to try and get in her knickers. She resists him at first, then gives in part of the way, then throws him out on his ear. Women, eh? Talk about moody and inconsistent. Men are like children. They need consistency in a woman. No means no and all that. Chris leaves, angry, confused and in a danger he’s unaware of…

In the meantime, there’s someone in the Lloyd house who shouldn’t be there and poor little Amanda, in her skimpy mini-dress that opens at the front to show her brassière and her perfect little boobies, is about to be subjected to a nightmare that will only be topped when Susan George films STRAW DOGS later in the year for Sam Peckinpah, the Daddy of Movie Violence. Will Amanda make it out alive? Will Tara? And what is the secret that’s eating Helen Lloyd up from the inside out…?

I love the shots of Helen and Jim boogey-ing on the dance floor in the Plover Inn, and also the fact that Amanda is watching Hammer’s PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES on the Lloyds’ ancient telly. FRIGHT could so easily pass for a Hammer film itself. 

I also love the confident, ginger-moustached cop who’s clearly in charge of the station’s one gun, and the way the desk sergeant won’t tell the Inspector a single solitary dicky-bird until he’s painstakingly made out a handwritten report.

‘Oh, you’ve been shot in the ‘ead there, ‘ave you, sir? Well, just hang on out here, sir, will you, while I go and fetch a pen and paper and write all this down for the Inspector, sir. Now where did I put that darned pen? It were ‘ere a minute or two ago. ‘Ere, you, Davies, ‘ave you had me pen? Blue it is, with a chewed cap where I chewed it myself. Oh, you’ve given up and died, ‘ave you, sir? Right on the floor down there? Fair enough, sir, I can’t say I blame you, but just hang on a minute, will you, while I make a note of it for the Inspector? Oh yes, that’s right, I’ve lost me pen, ‘aven’t I…?’

Cracking stuff. Watch FRIGHT. It’s a good atmospheric watch with loads of shocks and scares along the way. Out now from STUDIOCANAL, it features interviews with Susan George (she’s still alive and looking very well) and good-humoured cinema critic and snappy dresser Kim Newman. I saw him give a talk once, but unfortunately didn’t get close enough to him afterwards to ask for an autograph. You snooze, you lose.

But please don’t snooze while you’re on your own in a strange house, with their telly and your refrigerator privileges. That could be the very chance a boogeyman needs to gain access. And, once he’s in, he can be very hard to get rid of…

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

AND SOON THE DARKNESS. (1970) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

and soon the darkness

AND SOON THE DARKNESS. (1970) SCREENPLAY BY BRIAN CLEMENS. DIRECTED BY ROBERT FUEST. STARRING PAMELA FRANKLIN, MICHELE DOTRICE, JOHN NETTLETON AND SANDOR ELES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is exactly the kind of super-atmospheric 1970s British chiller I adore. It reminds me very much of ASSAULT (1971), aka IN THE DEVIL’S GARDEN, starring James Laurenson and featuring Lesley-Anne Down in her debut role. In it, a serial killer-slash-rapist terrorises the students of a girls’ college situated near a creepy forest.

In AND SOON THE DARKNESS, two pretty little English nurses from Nottingham taking a cycling holiday in northern France are terrorised in a similar fashion by an unknown assailant, and the film becomes a bit of a who-dunnit in that we have at least four plump, juicy, positively succulent suspects to choose from.

The two girls are Jane, played by Pamela Franklin (from THE INNOCENTS (1961) with Deborah Kerr), who actually looks as French as French can be with her chic bobbed brown hair and the little blue scarf knotted jauntily about her neck, and Cathy Mercer.

Cathy, a luscious blonde with long hair and a delectable figure, is portrayed superbly by none other than Michele Dotrice. Michele went on to experience television immortality for playing Betty Spencer, the long-suffering wife of the accident-prone Frank Spencer (Michael Crawford) in the hugely successful sitcom, SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM.

Jane and Cathy are, as I said, cycling through northern France on their holidays. Jane seems to be enjoying the fresh air and the scenery, but Cathy is bored to death with the empty roads, the wide-open spaces and the lack of hot night-spots. Or night hot-spots, if you prefer.

They are being followed at a distance by a strikingly attractive dark-haired French male on a moped, and having a good time with this stranger, to whom she’s never addressed so much as a word, would be much more the flirtatious Cathy’s idea of fun than endlessly cycling along these deserted French roads till her butt grows numb.

The two girls argue about this very subject. Cathy decides to mutiny and she downs tools- ie, her bicycle- and proceeds to lie down to sunbathe in a little clearing by some woods at the side of the road. You might as well bugger off, she tells Jane, if you’re so eager to keep cycling all bloody day. Me, I’m stoppin’ ‘ere! Ooooooh Betty…! You never made a worse decision.

Jane gets the hump and cycles off, stopping for a drink outside a really crappy café down the road a bit. After a while, she grows uneasy and decides to go back for her friend. But Cathy is gone. So is her bicycle, her backpack and the knickers she draped over the bushes so that they could dry in the sunlight. Jane doesn’t know what to think.

Thanks to a British woman who lives in the area and works as a teacher, she knows that a young tourist girl was murdered hereabouts only two or three years ago. More than just murdered, the British woman tells her with a snooty, disapproving face that can only mean that the girl was raped as well. It was a sex murder. But it was the girl’s own fault, of course, the woman is quick to point out, for being ‘alone on the road…’ Well, Jane is ‘alone on the road’ now. And so was her missing friend, Cathy…

Jane is starting to dread that something awful, something unthinkable, has happened to Cathy. The feeling of dread, for me, begins building up in this film right from the start, when you first see the two girls, cycling two abreast (cycling to a breast, tee-hee-hee) on a foreign country road.

Nothing but miles of open road and open sky. There is as much capacity for horror in wide-open spaces as there is in cramped basements and dusty attics, and this film portrays that really, really well. I mean, when there’s nobody around for miles and miles it can be nice and peaceful, sure, but it also means that there’s no-one around to come to your assistance if you get into trouble. The suspense and tension here just keep on being ratcheted up, until our jangling nerves are in shreds and we want to screech, tell us who it is already!

It’s one of those films that portrays not only sexy, half-dressed young women (come on, just LOOK at those short shorts!) in peril but also the holiday-maker in distress. Jane is careering around madly, looking for someone to help her find her friend, and she keeps coming up against both the language barrier (her French is barely functional) and also the difficulties inherent in trying to impress upon bored policemen who don’t speak your language that there really is a missing girl. Pamela Franklin’s face, like that of Michele Dotrice, is just so incredibly expressive. I’d give ’em both Oscars just for their brilliant facial expressions alone.

Hungarian actor Sandor Eles as the smoulderingly sexy Paul Salmont is just fantastic. Is he evil or does he really just want to help out Jane, a damsel in some very obvious distress? Frankly, I wouldn’t care how evil he was, he’s so devastatingly good-looking, and so super-cool too in his sunglasses and with his little moped tightly clamped between his brown-trousered thighs, lol. Hold me, he commands Jane. Phwoar! He wouldn’t have to ask me twice.

Locations of note? The little clearing by the woods at the side of the road where Cathy decides to have her nice lie-down, and the derelict caravan park. It’s not exactly Tom and Pippa’s homely, wholesome family-run caravan park from Antipodean soap opera HOME AND AWAY, is it? What horrors will we find there? God alone knows.

The scene at the edge of the woods reminds me of the five minutes at the beginning of another superb old British horror film called THE APPOINTMENT (1981). A schoolgirl called Sandie is making her way home from school by way of… you guessed it… a short-cut through the woods. It’s the last thing she ever does. It’s terrifically spooky.

Woods can be perilous, as well we know. As can going abroad on holiday to a place where you don’t speak the language, and the three inhabitants of the one village you pass all seem so inbred as to make the guys in that fine example of French extremity cinema, THE ORDEAL, look like models of deportment and sanity. The moral of the story? Forget your foreign holidays and bloody well stop at home. End of.

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

 

NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT. (1973) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

nothing night lads

NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT. (1973) DIRECTED BY PETER SASDY. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY NELSON KEYS. SCREENPLAY BY BRIAN HAYLES. STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, PETER CUSHING, DIANA DORS, GEORGIA BROWN, GWYNETH STRONG AND KEITH BARRON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an odd little curiosity of a film which I was thrilled to discover recently on DVD. It stars two of Britain’s most iconic horror stars, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, as well as the ravishing Diana Dors, one of that country’s most beautiful actresses ever.

I would have given the film a different title, as I’m not sure exactly what ‘Nothing But The Night’ refers to and it sounds a bit wishy-washy. Maybe it’s part of a quotation or something. Even something like ‘Island Of Terror’ or ‘Island Of Horror’ might have been a slight improvement. Weak as both suggested alternatives undoubtedly are, at least you’d know from the off what kind of film you were dealing with.

It starts off with a group of annoying schoolchildren on a bus. Was it their screechy rendition of ‘Ten Green Bottles Standing On A Wall’ that caused the bus driver to crash the bus and kill himself? Whatever it was, the bus driver is dead and the lead child, a girl called Mary, is hospitalised.

A doctor called Peter Haynes decides that she’s suffering from repressed trauma because she has repeated nightmares about fire. He enlists Peter Cushing, as his supervisor and the head pathologist of the hospital Dr. Mark Ashley, to help him get to the bottom of it. What can a pathologist do to help? Well, if Mary dies in a fire, I suppose he can perform the autopsy, lol.

Christopher Lee as a retired copper called Colonel Bingham then asks his friend Mark Ashley- yes, our pathologist- for help as well, because a good chum of his has died and Colonel Bingham suspects foul play. The chum who died was a Trustee of the Van Traylen Foundation, a foundation which runs an orphanage in Scotland, and three Trustees in all are dead by now in mysterious circumstances. That’s well suspicious, obviously.

By an incredible coincidence, Mary Valley, the fire girl (played by Gwyneth Strong, aka Rodney’s bird from ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES), is one of the Trustees’ orphans. Also, there were three more Trustees aboard the bus that crashed. Curiouser and curiouser, as they say.

Dr. Haynes is convinced that there’s more to Mary’s case than meets the eye. He gets involved with a sexy, supercilious reporter lady called Joan Foster, who thinks she knows it all and who is trying to re-unite Mary with her birth mother Anna Harb, and therein hangs an interesting tale. Could there be a story in it for Joan?

Played by Diana Dors in a messy red wig, Anna Harb is portrayed as a crude, common-as-muck ex-prostitute who spent ten years in Broadmoor and had Mary taken away from her for working as a prostitute while the child was in her care. That seems unfair, as clearly Anna Harb was only doing it so that she and Mary could eat, but whatever. The state (in most countries) has always been unfair to women.

Now Anna wants her child back but the Trustees are determined that this won’t happen. They whisk Mary from the hospital off to the island on which their orphanage is situated, leaving poor distraught Anna Harb with no choice but to follow her daughter to the island in secret.

Sir Mark and Colonel Bingham head to the island also, to investigate the deaths (suicides or murders?) of the three former Trustees. They are accompanied by Inspector Cameron, well played by Fulton Mackay (one of the stars of the sitcom PORRIDGE) with his brilliant Scottish accent.

What they discover on this isolated island would put you in mind of poor old Sergeant Neil Howie coming to Summerisle to investigate what he thinks is the case of a missing child in the 1973 mystery film THE WICKER MAN. What he discovers there is the stuff of nightmares, and Christopher Lee as the arrogant and aristocratic Lord Summerisle is the puppet-master expertly pulling the strings behind the nightmare.

Now the boot is on the other foot for Christopher Lee. Here, as the terribly English and upper-crust ex-copper Colonel Bingham, he experiences first-hand the terrors that the island holds for strangers and outsiders such as himself, while his chum Sir Mark unravels scientifically the exact truth behind what has been happening here on the mysterious island.

There’s at least one very gruesome death in the film, as well as a rather spectacular end scene involving Christopher Lee which, without giving anything away, made me want to yell at the screen: ‘Come on Chris, you’re Dracula, you’re Saruman, kick their asses! Knock ’em down! Flatten the little bastards! Are you gonna let them tread all over you like that?’ It felt rather demeaning to see him lying in the mud like that, but he was clearly overpowered, lol.

He looks so handsome too in his lovely hound’s-tooth jacket and beige overcoat (probably both his own), with that furry caterpillar of a moustache clamped to his upper lip for dear life. I prefer him without the moustache but it does make him look even more distinguished than usual. He’s more than manly enough to carry it off.

Peter Cushing looks and sounds immaculate here, as always, and the two leading men are so natural and easy with each other that it’s not at all hard to picture them being friends with each other in real life, two good mates who worked together and genuinely liked and respected each other. God bless ’em both. They were magnificent. Hope they’re resting in peace together now, the pair of ’em.

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, 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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S SCREENPLAYS: THE DARK. (1960) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

horror house jill

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘THE DARK.’ (1960) PUBLISHED IN 2019 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

Some of my regular readers might have heard me mention a certain Michael Armstrong, a screenwriter and film director whose luxurious script-books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing over the past eighteen months or so, according as they roll off the presses at Michael’s publishers, PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS. If you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS are not only publishing the screenplays of Michael’s that got made into films, but also the ones that didn’t, for one reason or another. He’s written a load of horror movie scripts, some of which were extremely progressive and before their time, for example, BEELZEBUB, the story of a haunted computer which could have- should have- been made into a fantastic horror film, and OUIJA-BOARD. Of course, nowadays every second horror film-maker does a ouija-board film, so I’ll just point out that Michael wrote his script in 1989, people. 1989, while the hot-shot directors of today were still in nappies…! Check out some of my favourites quotes from THE DARK:

‘The moon’s full. Let’s hunt for ghosts.’

MADGE: ‘How the hell did I ever get talked into coming here?’

CHRIS: ‘Because you’re like the rest of us, dear. Bored with life.’

‘Maybe the house’ll catch fire again… I like fire.’

Something curved flashes: The sharp blade of a kukri.

‘We get rid of the body. Act as though we didn’t even know that he’d been- that this had happened.’

‘He was there!- He came out of that room!- He saw me and he beckoned!- He was covered in blood!’

‘Madmen are affected by the moon, aren’t they? The moon to me isn’t anything horrid, though… It’s beautiful… You know?… Maybe because I’ve always been afraid of the dark… and the moon gives me light when it’s dark.’

THE DARK (1960) is a script along the same lines as BEELZEBUB and OUIJA-BOARDIt’s the script of a slasher film penned long before slasher films were even popular, and it was deservedly made into a film by Tigon British Film Productions and American International Pictures in 1968/9, although the production was definitely what you might call ‘troubled.’

You can read all the gory, behind-the-scenes details in Michael’s book, you scurvy gossip-mongers, you! Michael directed this one himself, by the way. He was super-young when he did it and I’m guessing that he knew even long before this point just exactly what he wanted to do with his life. It’s good to have that clear sense of direction early on, ba-dum-tish…

The film was re-titled prior to release as THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR in the UK and HORROR HOUSE (USA). To be brutally honest, although both of these new titles are perfectly fine, Michael’s own title suits the script better because he was calling it ‘THE DARK’ for a very particular reason, which you’ll see for yourselves when you read the book.

THE DARK is the story of a bunch of no-good young ‘uns in Swinging Sixties’ London, some of them creative types like artists, singers and songwriters. They’re young, bright, rich (well, some of ’em are), beautiful (again, some of ’em are!), bored and looking for what used to be called kicks. Thrills. Spills. You know the type of thing. Fun.

They have sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, but all that’s not enough for them, the greedy young ‘uns. They want more. More what, I hear you ask? Well, more excitement, I suppose, as if the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll weren’t enough for most people. The beautiful people are like that, of course. Always looking for more. And they usually get it too. ‘Cause they’re beautiful, d’uh…!

They’re like the Bright Young Things in Hammer’s DRACULA AD 1972, Caroline Munro and Johnny Alucard and the rest, who hold a Satanic ceremony in a deserted ruined church in London and end up bringing Count Dracula back from the dead. Which was exactly Johnny Alucard’s intention, but of course his dopey chums don’t know that and they get a helluva fright, especially Caroline Munro who’s stuck right there in the firing line.

But it proves the point that kids who already have sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll do sometimes turn to black magic, the occult and the dark arts for that little something extra when they’ve grown tired of everything else in their lives. It’s the next step up on the ‘kicks’ ladder, as it were. The kids in THE DARK are no exception. One of them, Chris, says about another one of their member, Sheila:

‘I think she’s seen every horror film that’s ever been made.’

To which Sheila promptly replies:

‘Well, they’re such fun. I like monsters… They amuse me. I think being frightened is fun.’

Thank you, Sheila! You’ve hit the nail on the head there. We all think being frightened is fun. Why else would we read books like this or watch films like THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR? Because we want a good old fright, that’s why. I personally think it’s because it takes our minds temporarily off our own crappy little lives, haha. Later on, Chris says of Sheila:

‘The way you relish blood, Sheila, anybody’d think you were a vampire.’

To which she (jokingly?) replies:

‘Yes, well, you’d better watch out next time I give you a love-bite, then.’

The kids jump at the chance to drive out into the countryside in the middle of the night, in the middle of a party, just because one of them says he knows of an old deserted house that might be haunted.

In my day- harrumph!- the party was the party, and was plenty good enough for us. Just like in my day, we didn’t get expensive goody-bags to take home after a party because we’d just been to a fucking party. That WAS the party. Harrumph again!

The cars draw up outside the house;

An old dilapidated building; huge and sinister.

Then:

They enter the room…

Where there are still pieces of old furniture,

Even torn curtains hanging.

Most of the glass in the windows is broken

And there has been a vague attempt at boarding them up.

A great deal of damage obviously the result of hooliganism.

If this house isn’t haunted to buggery, I’ll eat my… well, I’m not a hat person but I’ll eat something, anyway. A large slice of chocolate cake, maybe. There’s some in the cupboard. Anyway, Richard, the guy whose idea it was to come to this house in the first place, tells us a bit about the house’s history:

‘Apparently, the family who owned this house were all bumped off one dark night. One of them went mad, for some reason, and killed all the rest.’

Then, a little later:

‘The story goes that one dark night, one of the sons- for no apparent reason- went raving berserk and hacked his entire family to death.’

Oooooooooh. Shades of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR here and the Ronald DeFeo murders, a full decade and a bit before they happened too so we know that Michael came up with the idea himself and wasn’t inspired by the Amityville phenomenon. Another girl, Sylvia, states clearly her opinion of the house:

‘I can feel an evil presence here. There’s an aura about the place.’ Also: ‘That house is evil. I could feel it. It’s evil.’

And Richard adds, after informing us that the abandoned old mansion is now supposedly the property of an aged cousin of the deceased owners who now lives in a mental home (that’s nice and cheerful, innit?), that the place is ‘the house of the dead.’ So now we know…

It’s not altogether surprising when one of the young ‘uns is brutally murdered while the kids are holding their makeshift séance in the obviously haunted house. But when Chris makes the stunning discovery that ‘the (front) door’s still bolted,’ it clearly means that the calls are coming from inside the house…!

Lol, it doesn’t mean that, but it does mean that whoever killed the murder victim is still in the house. It could even be one of them and, as they can’t find another perpetrator when they search the house, it means that it probably is one of them.

So how do they cope with this staggering knowledge? Well, I can totally assure you that they do all the wrong things and get themselves into such a tangled muddle that it’s hard to see how they can ever get out of it, which is exactly what you want from a horror movie.

There’s a wonderful scene set in the British Museum, a place which I’ve always wanted to visit. It sounds so atmospheric and spooky, with the weight of thousands of years of history inside its walls. I want to visit it even more now that I know that they have stamp rooms and literary rooms as well as the Egyptian rooms. They’d better still have those, lol. They’d jolly well better not have changed anything in the last sixty years or else. Or else what? Well, I’ll just be very pissed off, that’s all.

All kinds of sexual tensions and forbidden attractions are simmering away below the surface as well, as couples come together and break apart with all the frequency you might except from a large mixed group of horny young ‘uns in their twenties. There’s some gorgeous writing in there too which is brilliantly evocative of the atmosphere Michael tries successfully to create:

The shadows loom like gigantic veils… Draped over the walls.

The sky is slashed with clouds.

The house stands alone; Bathed in the moonlight.

You can really see the house standing there, can’t you, all dark and brooding and evil, like in THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, where whatever walked there, walked alone…? You see the house in your mind’s eye and then you immediately know that some really bad shit is going to go down in there. How could it not, in a house that’s obviously so chock-full of bad mojo and as malignant as a particularly persistent cancerous tumour? 

There are some fantastic full colour and black-and-white movie poster photos towards the back of the script-book which will be invaluable to the collector of movie memorabilia, and the book itself- or indeed, any or all of the books- would make a wonderful gift for any film buff or movie lover. As usual, all the books are available to buy from Michael’s own website and his publishers, PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS. So, until next time, for God’s sake don’t go in the house…!

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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, 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 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

CRUCIBLE OF HORROR. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Crucilbe-Horror-1000-06

CRUCIBLE OF HORROR. (1971) DIRECTED BY VIKTORS RITELIS. STARRING MICHAEL GOUGH, SIMON GOUGH, JANE GURNEY AND YVONNE MITCHELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This psychological horror-thriller, also known as THE CORPSE and THE VELVET HOUSE, is a really dark film, and the darkest starring role Hammer actor Michael Gough (DRACULA, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) probably ever had. He plays Walter Eastwood, a wealthy middle-aged financier who’s the very model of a prim and proper English businessman of the period.

He discusses stocks and shares and reads the financial news over breakfast with his son Rupert, who works alongside him in the family insurance firm. He likes listening to classical music and going hunting with his posh friends. He loves his guns. ‘Who touched my guns?’ His accent is pure cut-glass British toff and his behaviour, I am sure, is circumspect in every particular but one.

To his terrorised wife Edith, an artist, and his beautiful teenage daughter Jane, he is a monster. He controls their every move and watches them like a hawk, even going so far as to read their mail right in front of them. He controls the purse-strings too and gives Jane no pocket money whatsoever, which assures that her friends tire of her quickly as she never has any money of her own to pay her way.

Worse than this, however, he abuses Edith and Jane physically in the most savage of ways, whipping them with his riding crop when they fail to measure up to his exacting standards, which seems to be often.

Early on in the film, he whips Jane brutally for stealing the kitty from his precious golf-club, which she probably only pinched in the first place because he never gives her any money of her own to hang out with her friends, of whom he naturally disapproves anyway. What’s she meant to do?

Jane is a real looker and Walter’s whipping of her in her bedroom definitely seems to have a strong sexualised element to it. Even if he hasn’t raped her or misused her sexually before, he certainly seems obsessed with her and gets enjoyment from chastising her physically.

It will transpire later in the film that Edith, who seems so brutalised from her husband’s ill-treatment that she has become languid, vague and spaced-out (she will almost certainly be taking prescription sleeping pills and/or tranquilisers), has given the works of the Marquis de Sade to Jane to read. In order, presumably, to make Jane understand why her father behaves towards her the way he does.

Both women seem to have him pegged pretty much correctly as a sexual sadist. If I were Jane, I’d keep my bedroom door permanently locked, although it doesn’t seem like Walter Eastwood is the kind of man to permit his women-folk to lock him out in his own house. He thinks nothing of barging in when Jane is only half-dressed, either, although maybe that’s exactly the state of deshabillé he’s hoping to find her in.

No support whatsoever is forthcoming from Rupert, Edith’s son and Jane’s big brother. He seems to enjoy witnessing his father’s savage sarcasm and controlling behaviour towards Edith and Jane, and one wonders whether he will take his father’s place as the dominant male figure in the family when his father grows too old- or too dead- to do it.

The morning after the golf club money whipping, when poor Jane is barely able to walk from the severity of the injuries inflicted upon her, Mum whispers to her daughter once the men have taken leave of the breakfast table: ‘Let’s kill him.’ It’s the only way they can both be free of Walter and his psychological, financial and physical cruelty…

This bit reminds me of when Mandy and Beth Jordache in Scouser soap opera BROOKSIDE murdered Trevor Jordache in the soap in the early 1990s. Trevor, Mandy’s husband and Beth’s father, had inflicted years of brutal physical and mental abuse- and also the sexual abuse of his daughter Beth- on his little family and they were quite simply driven to the edge of despair by it.

It’s a long time ago now since this happened and even BROOKSIDE itself is now sadly defunct, but I think that Mandy and Beth decided to kill Trevor when he started sexually abusing Rachel, Beth’s younger sister. It was a bridge too far for the two women.

Either way, THE BODY UNDER THE PATIO was one of the most exciting and dramatic storylines ever attempted by a British soap opera and the part of Trevor Jordan was brilliantly played by Irish actor Bryan Murray.

I met Bryan Murray on the LUAS (our Dublin trains!) a few months ago and we had a nice chat about BROOKSIDE and he signed an autograph for me in the book I was reading at the time, which was THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, the 2008 book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Which was nice, as yer man says on THE FAST SHOW…!

Anyway, things get a bit messy and confusing in CRUCIBLE OF HORROR once the decision has been taken by Edith and Jane to put an end once and for all to their terrible sufferings by offing Walter Eastwood, the fountainhead of all their misery. I do love the ending, though, it’s so deliciously black and grim and hopeless!

Rupert Eastwood is played by Michael Gough’s real-life son Simon. What must have been even odder for them both is that Jane is played by Simon Gough’s real-life wife Sharon Gurney. Michael Gough as Walter Eastwood had to pretend to lust after and get turned on by whipping his very own daughter-in-law, in other words…!

There’s a very funny flashback scene which I’m quite certain was added gratuitously by the film-makers, in which a naked, dripping wet Jane is hauled out of a lake and slapped around the place by Walter for skinny-dipping. It’s not funny that Walter’s being violent, but they didn’t have to include a nudie skinny-dipping scene, it’s purely for sexy kicks, lol.

The film is based on an old French movie called LES DIABOLIQUES which, if I describe the plot of same to you guys now, would be a spoiler as to how CRUCIBLE OF HORROR pans out. I haven’t seen LES DIABOLIQUES myself yet but I intend to dig it out. It’s a French psychological thriller from 1955 directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot starring Simone Signoret, by the way.

There’s a feeling of dread throughout CRUCIBLE OF HORROR because of the dreadful quality of life handed down to Edith and Jane by the tyrannical Walter, whom I must say is the worst, most evil movie-father I’ve ever encountered. And that makes him the best in my book, lol.

I would have given the film a different title as I’m not sure to what the titular ‘crucible’ refers (unless it’s the bowl that Jane… No, wait, I’ve said too much!), but that’s only nit-picking. I loved this film. Try and see it if you can at all.

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