RED DRAGON. (2002) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

RED DRAGON. (2002) DIRECTED BY BRETT RATNER. STARRING ANTHONY HOPKINS, ED NORTON, HARVEY KEITEL, PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, RALPH FIENNES, MARY-LOUISE PARKER AND EMILY WATSON. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a superb horror film. There isn’t a single bad thing to say about it. It’s one fifth of the fantastic quintet of Hannibal Lecter films that also includes THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, HANNIBAL and HANNIBAL RISING and MANHUNTER.

This film, though it was made after THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, is actually the prequel to it. It first of all tells us how evil genius Hannibal Lecter came to the attention of the police in the first place, and the gory circumstances of his apprehension and incarceration in that special cell for the criminally insane in which we are accustomed to seeing him. You know, with the mask on and everything so he can’t (literally) bite the hand that feeds him, haha.

Then it tells us a different and equally thrilling story. The story, to be precise, of the deranged serial killer known to the police and the media as The Tooth Fairy. This is a killer who slaughters entire families in the most sickening ways. Who, if anyone, is capable of catching such a maniac…? The FBI are putting all of their eggs in one basket on this one, folks.

These eggs take the form of Special Agent Will Graham, the man who caught Hannibal Lecter. (I’m not really saying he’s an egg, of course, it’s just a metaphor!) Now, Graham adroitly picks Lecter’s brains in an attempt to figure out the identity of The Tooth Fairy.

The scenes of verbal thrust and parry in which the two engage with each other are terrific fun. Anthony Hopkins is just so good as Hannibal Lecter that you feel you could watch him in the role for all eternity. Well, that’s how I feel about his faultless and gripping performances, anyway. The reader, naturally, may have a different opinion…!

Ralph Fiennes is also utterly electrifying as the messed-up photograph-and-home-movies development technician whose upbringing was so abusive you could almost forgive him for turning out so loopy. We see rather a lot of Ralph’s naked butt in the movie. He’s in great shape and one gets the impression that he likes to show off his body.

It’s certainly not the first time we’ve seen his naked butt in a film. Remember THE END OF THE AFFAIR with Julianne Moore and Stephen Ray…? Phwoarrr…! (On another note, one can’t help but wonder what Professor Dumbledore would have made of such flagrantly saucy shenanigans on the part of Voldemort, the Harry Potter villain…!)

In SCHINDLER’S LIST, I think he might have been nekkid as well, just before the famous balcony scene in which he picks off concentration camp inmates with his rifle while his lady love bitches from the bed at him. ‘Amon, you fucking idiot, knock it off!’ Or words to that effect.

Harvey Keitel as FBI Agent Jack Crawford is another actor whose naked butt we’ve also seen on the big screen, THE PIANO with Holly Hunter being a definite case in point. The late great Philip Seymour Hoffman does not show off his naked butt in his film, though he does appear partially-dressed in one scene, haha. He turns in a great performance as the loathsome investigative journalist Freddy Lounds who meets with a gruesome death at the hands of the killer.

There are so many memorable scenes in the film that it’s hard to single out just one or two for special mention. I love when Ralph Fiennes is getting a blow-job from ANGELA’S ASHES lead actress Emily Watson while he’s watching the home movies of the next family he plans to kill.

Reba McClane is blind, you see, so she doesn’t know what he’s looking at. She actually thinks he’s turned-on because of her…! It’s just so twisted and somehow disturbed that it makes for unmissable viewing. 

Can you imagine getting a blow-job off your wan from ANGELA’S ASHES? She’s an excellent actress and I honestly dig her but she’s got such a miserable face, God love her. If she was giving someone a blow-job, it’s probably be with the same pained expression of someone performing a tiresome but necessary chore that she seems to wear in all her films. I also love the tiger-petting scene for the powerful emotions which it unleashes in both Reba and Dolarhyde.

There’s a nice little twist at the end which leads us neatly into THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Watching all five Hannibal Lecter films back-to-back or, say, over the course of one weekend, would make for a great horror movie marathon or film festival theme. Feel free to use my idea. Don’t worry, you won’t be stealing it or anything. It’s already totally patent-pending, I can assure you…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/
 

CASE 39. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

CASE 39. (2009) DIRECTED BY CHRISTIAN ALVART. STARRING RENEE ZELLWEGER, BRADLEY COOPER, IAN MCSHANE AND JODELLE MICAH FERLAND.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘We help families communicate and learn better ways to resolve conflict.’

I quite like Renee Zellweger, from such films as WHITE OLEANDER and the fantastic BRIDGET JONES trilogy of movies, but this supernatural drama film kind of sucks, if I may use the vernacular for a moment.

It seems a lot like a rip-off of ORPHAN, a much better horror film in which a married couple take the titular ‘orphan’ into their home out of the goodness of their hearts, only to find out that she’s the house guest from the very depths of hell itself. The girls in both films even look alike, pale-faced with scraped back long black hair and big eyes.

In CASE 39, Ms. Zellweger plays Emily Jenkins, an over-worked social worker from Oregon. Single, living alone and with a troubled past that still colours her life today, Emily has thirty-eight active cases on her books until her boss dumps a new case, the titular Case 39, into her lap as well.

The multitude of files in the social work department all equate to troubled kids and troubled families, and vice versa. But the files have to remain physically shut until one of the over-tired social workers has the time and energy to open it and engage with it. It’s a flawed and probably under-funded, under-staffed system, but it’s the only one we have.

Also, I’ll be honest, I resent the notion of a childless woman in her twenties or thirties telling me how to raise my children by using a series of throwaway platitudes like the quote at the top of this review.

The film pokes bitter fun at cliched social worker-speak and, I must admit, it’s not unpleasant to see the do-gooder social worker have his own words used against him for a change. That’s not to say, of course, that there aren’t genuinely good social workers out there who do genuinely useful work.

Case 39, aka Lily Sullivan, is a ten-year-old girl whose grades in school have fallen drastically of late and it is assumed that she has problems at home. Emily duly investigates, and finds out that the Sullivan parents are definitely a strange pair.

Lily she finds charming and vulnerable, on the other hand. She develops a friendship with the child, an action that probably would be advised against in the Social Workers’ Handbook. Boundaries and maintaining a distance and not getting too involved, and all that jazz.

When Emily arrives at the Sullivan house in the dead of night in answer to a worrying call from Lily and finds the parents trying to cram the child into a lit gas oven, she quite rightly removes the little girl from her parents’ custody.

Pressure from the sad-faced Lily leads Emily to beg her superiors for a most unusual and unorthodox favour. It’s for the best if Lily comes and lives with me, I absolutely know what’s best for her, she manages to convince her board of management. Lily leaves her temporary children’s home placement and moves in with a delighted Emily. This is the start of Emily’s worst nightmare…

Emily manages to drag her would-be boyfriend and co-worker, Doug, played by Bradley Cooper, into her mess as well. Doug’s one big horror scene is pretty terrifying and probably the scariest scene in the whole shebang, followed by Ian LOVEJOY McShane’s in the car park as Emily’s other close friend, Detective Mike Barron. Thanks a bunch, Emily. Remind me never to apply to be your close friend, yeah? Ian McShane looks bloody amazing in this film, by the way, considering he’s nearly seventy.

The one thing I was really happy about while watching this film was the fact that Emily chooses to save her poor little innocent goldfish from the incineration towards the end of the movie. Why should sweet little JAWS 2 be made to suffer simply because he drew the short straw and wound up as the pet in a Bad Horror Movie…? Good on ya, Moby Dick.

The way the film ultimately plays out is boring and predictable and not at all scary. A few demon voices, some crackly, static-y phone calls with no-one on the line, a broken door, some long pointy demon nails, a few hallucinations and a couple of failed attempts to kill the demon, and Bob’s your uncle. Nothing we haven’t seen before, folks. Unless you count the director’s obvious interest in filming bare female tootsies picking their way delicately through broken glass and other debris

And the least the film could have provided for the viewers was a twist in the tale, but no dice. The ending is just that, an ending. Maybe it’s for the best…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

COMING HOME IN THE DARK. (2021) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

COMING HOME IN THE DARK. (2021) BASED ON THE 1995 SHORT STORY OF THE SAME NAME BY OWEN MARSHALL. DIRECTED BY JAMES ASHCROFT.
STARRING MIRIAMA MCDOWELL, ERIK THOMSON, DANIEL GILLIES AND MATTHIAS LUAFUTU.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This psychological thriller from New Zealand is well worth your time, I promise you. I was gripped by it the whole way through. It’s about a family of four, schoolteachers Jill and Alan and their two teenaged sons, Maika and Jordan. They drive out into the depths of the New Zealand countryside to get away from the rat-race for a few days.

I’m guessing the little holiday is the mum Jill’s idea, as she’s the one who’s gathering up all the phones and other devices and shoving them in the glove compartment so that the members of her little family can actually talk to each other for a change. It’s a common complaint nowadays.

Too many gadgets are killing the art of conversation. How many times have you gone out for dinner and sat beside a couple who spent the whole night on their phones while basically ignoring one another? Or seen a group of four or five friends walking down the road side by side, all bound for the one destination, but each glued to their phones? Or asked for directions from a person who pulled out their earphones with an eyeroll and exaggerated sigh because they’re so annoyed at being disturbed while listening to their music? Exactly. But this is a debate for another day. Don’t get me started, lol.

The family stop for a rest in the most isolated spot imaginable. This is where they are ambushed by two shotgun-wielding lowlifes who have been watching them from higher up in the hills. Tubs is quiet, thin and hungry-looking, and you can tell he’s had a hard life by his face. Mandrake is another kettle of fish, a horse of a different colour altogether.

He’s a complete effing psychopath, is what he is. He’s a smart arse who likes the sound of his own voice. He always has to be showing off how cool and tough he is, and he’s the dominant partner by far in this little crime duo. Poor Tubs has clearly been influenced by his big-mouthed lout of a so-called friend. There might be a chance for him in life if he could get out from under Mandrake’s domination of him. Or maybe it’s too late. Old habits die hard, after all.

Mandrake sports a bizarre hipster moustache and a long overcoat with big boots, he likes to taunt, tease and torment verbally as well as physically and, basically speaking, he should be locked away for the rest of his life for what he does to this little family. We can only imagine what crimes he’s committed prior to meeting Alan and Jill.

Alan is a mild-mannered, weak man who tends to let things happen around him. He’s immediately submissive to the gunmen for fear that, if they antagonise them, things could always get worse. He begs his much ballsier missus, Jill, a ferocious tigress of a mother to her two boys, not to provoke them. Alan’s policy is to keep his head down and hope that things somehow turn out for the best.

There’s a lot to be said for caution and the softly, softly approach, but, when Alan persists with it even after the two thugs commit an act of unimaginable violence and brutality, we might start to wonder what kind of a man is he exactly, and were there other times in his past when he might have stood by and let atrocities happen in front of his very eyes because the path of least resistance felt the safest…?

You can take it from me that there were times like that for Alan, and you can be sure too that Mandrake will wrench them out of him like some kind of mad dentist from hell armed with a rusty drill. It’s painful and shockingly violent to watch, and an agonised Jill in particular has to face up to the fact that, not only is her weak-willed husband not the man she thought he was when she married him, but it’s taken an abduction by a couple of murderous goons to bring the truth out, piece by troubled piece.

This is a top-notch horror film, with some fabulous scenery to enjoy in the beginning. The four leads, particularly Miriama McDowell as Jill, are super-successful at each playing one quarter of the mainly four-handed cast. The script is tight and believable (it COULD happen to you) and there’s a moral and a message in there too; sometimes people are what we as a society turn them in to. Make of that what you will, and enjoy the film.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

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

nick cover

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

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

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor