DARK MONEY. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

DARK MONEY. (2019) DIRECTED BY LEWIS ARNOLD. WRITTEN BY LEVI DAVID ADDAI.
STARRING JILL HALFPENNY, BABOU CEESAY, OLIVE GRAY AND MAX FINCHAM.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This four-part drama mini-series made for perfect viewing for a sort of ‘meh’ Sunday afternoon. It’s very topical and on trend, what with the #metoo movement and the whole thing of people in positions of power being called out on their sexual abuse of the people who work with them or below them.

Most recently, we’ve had Prince Andrew shelling out a hefty whack of dosh to Virginia Giuffre Roberts, the woman who was procured for him by paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and with whom he had sex when she was still underage. Super-rich socialite and Daddy’s Girl Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty of being Epstein’s accomplice, also in recent times.

Then, way back before that, there was Jimmy Savile, who was unfortunately dead by the time the worst stories about him were released and so he was never really called to account for his appalling behaviour. I wonder if monies from his estate were ever donated to his victims or to charities supporting victims of sexual abuse…? That’s a job for Wikipedia, lol.

Anyway, way back before that, of course, a certain musical moon-walking superstar settled a fair-sized sum of money on the family of a boy whom he’d been accused of sexually abusing, and that’s a great segueway into DARK MONEY, a Netflix Limited Series about this exact topic.

The Mensah family are a perfectly ordinary, mixed-race British family living, with the usual financial struggles, in council accommodation. Manny is the big burly dad, Sam the devoted mum, and their kids, Jess the college student and Isaac, the little acting phenomenon who has just returned from a three-month stint in Hollywood filming the latest blockbuster movie, VALIANT & SON, with real bonafide Hollywood movie stars.

Everyone Isaac knows, including his wanna-be actress sister Jess, is green with envy at Isaac’s wonderful opportunity and success. The papers are full of it. Local Boy Makes Good, and that type of thing. He’s a celebrity at school and in the local area. So why isn’t Isaac deliriously happy with himself? The answer is contained within a recording on his iPhone…

Time to put things in a nutshell. Isaac has been sexually abused no fewer than three times by Jotham Starr, the bigshot producer of the blockbuster movie. The Mensah family- to be precise, the dad, Manny- accepts a payment of three million dollars from Starr’s lawyers to keep quiet about it.

It’s not an admission of guilt, the lawyers are quick to point out. It’s just that Jotham doesn’t want negative publicity impacting the film and ruining everyone’s hard work. Oh. Well. That’s all right then, I suppose. The money changes hands. The die is cast…

The series then moves on to a year later, where we see the Mensah family living in a fantastic private house with a magnificent garden and in-house swimming pool and gym, but they’re not happy. You might even say that Jotham Starr’s money has only made things worse. What gives? We are shown then how each family member has coped, or not coped, with the abuse of Isaac and with dad Taking the Money…

What it all boils down to is this. Was dad right to take the money? Or should he have punched Jotham Starr’s lights out for laying a hand on his precious son? Should he have tried to have the fancy pants movie producer prosecuted, which, remember, would have to take place in America, as the British police have no jurisdiction over a bloke who lives in the United States?

Should dad have gone to the newspapers and exposed Starr for the sleazy abuser that he is? Or should he just have taken the money, as he did do, and used it to better his family’s lives? There’s some notion going around that there’s something wrong, something dirty, about taking the money, as if it’ll make you look like a common gold-digger, as if taking the money won’t help get justice for the abused child.

Well, what if instead it helped the child to have a better life? And why shouldn’t an abuser pay financially for what they’ve done? It’s a form of retribution, isn’t it? The Magdalene Laundry Survivors here in Ireland deserve all the financial compensation they can claw out of the system that for decades allowed them to be treated like less than dirt.

I’m glad for Virginia Roberts that Prince Andrew was obliged to pay her such a life-changing sum of money. I hope it really changes her life for the better. The only downside is that it was probably the Queen’s cash that was paid out in the settlement, and not Andrew’s own pocket money, which means that he probably won’t have learned anything from the experience, worse luck.

To be honest, I think I’d take the money if it were my child, God forbid, who’d been in little Isaac Mensah’s place. If I couldn’t uproot my family and go chasing a come-uppance in America for some guy who’d probably wriggle out of it anyway because he’s Hollywood royalty and loaded to boot, then I’d just take the goddamn money and use it to try to improve my child’s life and chances for the future.

That’s the issue, anyway, that the Mensah family are struggling with in this excellent domestic drama. I love Manny’s ‘second’ family, his son Tyrone and Tyrone’s feisty mum, Sabrina, who shows more warmth and affection towards Manny than his actual wife, Sam, who draws farther and farther away from her bewildered husband the more stuff happens. The two, Manny and Sam, are the world’s worst communicators, which doesn’t help matters.  

I love Jill Halfpenny as the wife, Sam. You’ll already know her from soaps, CORONATION STREET and EASTENDERS, but she recently turned up in excellent Netflix drama LIAR as well, as the Afghanistan veteran and wife to a detective in a same sex, mixed race couple.

I must say that television dramas are becoming so inclusive lately of same sex and mixed race couples and people of all genders and ethnicities that it would gladden your heart to see it. Sure, they probably go out of their way at times and end up being a little too politically correct, but surely that’s better than not making any effort at all. Isn’t it?

There’s an interesting point raised in the drama as well about ‘chaperones,’ the people who are paid to look after your child when he or she toddles off to Hollywood to star in the latest blockbuster movie featuring giant ray guns and CGI aliens.

If a child is abused on, or off, set, to what extent is the chaperone culpable? Have they failed in their job? Should they be relieved of their duties? Good question, one that I must admit has never come up for me, but worth a wee ponder, nonetheless. Great drama, this one. Well worth your time.

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:

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

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

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