PET SEMATARY. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

PET SEMATARY. (2019) BASED ON THE 1983 BOOK BY STEPHEN KING.
DIRECTED BY KEVIN KOLSCH AND DAVID WIDMYER.
STARRING JOHN LITHGOW, JASON CLARKE AND AMY SEIMETZ.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Sometimes, dead is better…’

I didn’t much care for this re-make of the 1989 film adaptation of Stephen King’s book of the same name. This book is probably one of the most beloved of all of the horror maestro’s weighty tomes, along with CARRIE, THE SHINING, SALEM’S LOT and MISERY. Although, in fairness, Stephen King wrote a lot of books and they all have their fans.

The ones I mentioned are some of my own favourites, lol, along with CUJO, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, CHRISTINE, THE TOMMY-KNOCKERS and a fantastic book of short stories entitled NIGHT SHIFT.

Again though, he’s penned a load of brilliant short stories and novellas as well as full-length books, and so many of them have already been made into films. He’s an amazing writer, with a glittering back catalogue. So jealous…! Long live the King.

Anyway, why didn’t I like this particular adaptation of the famous book? Well, I love the book and the 1989 film, both of which had heart, soul and good, authentic scares. Also, the 1989 film had the adorable Fred Gwynne, aka Herman Munster, as a staunchly believable Jud Crandall. In the re-make, though respected actor John Lithgow undoubtedly does his very best, it’s just not the same.

They’ve tweaked the plot a bit too, which I wasn’t happy about as I loved the book and the original film so much. We still have the Creeds, though, a doctor’s family, moving from Boston to a town in Maine and discovering that they have, of all things, a burial ground for pets somewhere towards the back of their property. They don’t seem to have researched their own property too much this time around!

Dad of the family, Louis Creed, gets to explore a bit of the Pet Sematary by night courtesy of the spirit of Victor Pascow, a student at the university hospital where Louis works. Victor dies horribly near the start of the film, and his spirit seems to have a message it wants to pass on to Dr. Creed. What’s that you say, Victor? The ground out by the Pet Sematary is sour? No shit, Sherlock, lol. I wouldn’t bury any moggy of mine there, I’ll tell you that for nothing…

Anyway, when little Ellie Creed’s beloved pet cat Churchill gets run over on the dangerous road beside their house and dies, kindly old next-door neighbour Jud Crandall lets Louis in on a devastating secret about the Pet Sematary.

To cut a long story short, Church comes back from the dead. But he’s not himself. And that’s not all. Did you know that you can bury more than just pets in the Pet Sematary…? You shouldn’t, but you still can…

They’ve changed the Zelda scenes in this film a little bit, but I think it’s still safe to say that good old Zelda will give you nightmares once more. Rachel, the mom, is severely traumatised from her childhood experiences with her sick sister, and she’ll never be able to cope and move on unless she gets some serious therapy. That bit is really highlighted in this re-make. Mrs. Creed is super, super-screwed up, more than we even knew.

One part where they got it absolutely spot-on is the bit where Ellie ‘comes back’ but she’s ‘not quite right.’ I got genuine shivers at the scene where the dad is bathing the little girl and her hair is tangly and he sees the Frankenstein-like stitches in the back of her head that were put in by the funeral home… Then, when the child just turns plain evil and starts trashing the place, they lose me again. Ah well. It was good while it lasted…!

There was an opportunity for some good folk horror with the kids wearing the animal masks walking in a solemn procession to the Pet Sematary; maybe they could have done a bit more with that and had the whole town in on the gruesome secret of the pet graveyard or something like that, but maybe they felt they had enough on their hands with the Creed family, I don’t know.

The film also raises the issue of how to talk to children about the delicate topic of death. I don’t mean How to Break the News of a Death; the Christmas episode of FATHER TED has that covered.

Priest Number One: Your husband’s gone, and he’s not coming back, get used to it!

Priest Number Two: Remember how your husband used to love a good laugh…?

No, I mean the whole thing of where do you tell the kids their deceased loved ones or pets have gone to when they’ve died? The mum and dad in the film have differing views on the subject, so it might have been useful if they’d had a chat about the whole thing and gotten their metaphysical ducks in a row before their young ‘uns experienced the demise of a pet for the first time. It’s just a thought…!

I’d never advise a Stephen King fan not to watch a certain film or adaptation. This isn’t a bad film per se; I just didn’t dig it personally, and I found it rather lacking in good spooky atmosphere, which the original film had in spades. Maybe it looked good on the big screen and felt a bit more atmospheric then than just me watching it on Netflix did.

Make up your own minds, anyway. A Stephen King adaptation is a Stephen King adaptation, after all, and better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick any day, as we say here in Ireland. Enjoy it, and, listen, before I forget, don’t bother trying to use the dumbwaiter for the moment, will you? I think it’s broken…  

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:

THE WOMAN IN BLACK: ANGEL OF DEATH. (2014) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

The Woman in Black 2 Angel of Death

THE WOMAN IN BLACK: ANGEL OF DEATH. (2014) A HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION. DIRECTED BY TOM HARPER. STARRING PHOEBE FOX, HELEN MCRORY, OAKLEE PENDERGAST AND JEREMY IRVINE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Whenever she’s seen, and whoever by,

One thing’s sure; a child will die.’

Funny how the words The Woman In Black conjure up much more frightening images in people’s minds than, say, The Woman In The Sort Of Beigey-Fawn Cardigan or The Man In The Electric Blue Shell-Suit. I’ve no complaints with the title.

As to the rest, it pains me to speak ill of a Hammer film but this one isn’t great. It’s only about half as good as the original film starring Daniel Radcliffe which preceded it. It could have used some sharper scripting, that’s for sure, and maybe some livelier characters too. The characters here are very ‘meh.’ You wouldn’t go out of your way to save a single one of them from being hit by a runaway rickshaw, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, it’s 1941 and London is very busy indeed being bombarded daily- and nightly- by Uncle Adolf’s Blitz. Drippy young schoolteacher Eve Parkins and her snotty headmistress Jean Hogg are shepherding a group of frightened kiddies to the countryside to get them away from all the nasty bombs-es. (Gollum to Hitler: ‘You’re ruining it…! You’re ruining London!’)

Guess where they’re being evacuated to, by the way? This is a hoot. Eel Marsh House, in the isolated market town of Crythin Gifford, where Harry Potter was first terrorised by the spectre of the Woman In Black.

Jennet Humfrye lost her beloved only child, Nathaniel, in a drowning tragedy back in the Victorian times and, being of a vengeful nature, she’s making damn sure it’s everyone’s problem. (She particularly blames her respectable married sister Alice Drablow, who took Nathaniel from the unmarried Jennet and adopted him.) The presence of the children in the house on the damp, misty causeway is all it takes to wake her once more…

Eve is particularly sensitive to the presence of the spectral female because she has something in common with her, something heartbreaking, a desolate secret. She’s the first person to come to the rather chilling conclusion that there’s ‘someone else’ living in the house with them, a ‘tenant’ who hasn’t yet been properly identified.

The ghost has her eye on a particular chubby little fellow called Edward, because he’s just become orphaned and is traumatised and refusing to speak. Time after time, the ghost comes for little Edward and, time after time, is batted resolutely away by Eve. How long can Eve keep up this militant stance against what SKYMOVIES.COM refer to as ‘one of British cinema’s scariest creations…?’

The ghost isn’t terribly scary this time round, I’m sorry to say. Some of the bleak scenery is far spookier. I love the deserted village, although not the madman who resides there. What’s he living on, by the way, rats’ tails and flies? It doesn’t look like there’s much sustenance to be found in the scrubby little village gardens any more.

Come to that, what are the children, Eve and Jean eating up at Eel Marsh House? Not once have we seen a boy on a delivery bicycle wind his way up the causeway path before the sea washes over it and covers it again till low tide. There’s no telephone in Eel Marsh House either, so how do the two women get in touch with the undertaker when they need him, eh…?

I nearly forgot to mention Eve’s boyfriend, possibly because he’s so forgettable. He’s an RAF pilot based at an airfield nearby to Eel Marsh House, and we know for sure he’s a pilot because he always wears the furry collar of his leather jacket turned right up. It’s like he’s afraid to turn it down- even a little bit- in case it means he’s not a pilot any more. What a muppet. Thinks he’s Elvis, lol.

This pilot fella, Harry Burnstow, who has the blankest face, has his own back-story and tacked-on secret, for which he’s seeking redemption. Maybe he’ll find it looking after Eve and the little evacuees and protecting them from the Woman In Black. Or maybe the film-makers will forget to finish his storyline altogether. He’s such a mannequin I honestly wouldn’t blame them.

Having said that this sequel isn’t much to write home about, I would like to see at least two more films in this franchise which, after all, started out very well. One set in the ‘seventies, maybe, with a hippie commune (free love and natural childbirth and all that) coming to live at Eel Marsh House, and one set in modern times, in which a young married couple, together with their child, find out that they’re now the sole descendants of the original owners and decide to come and live in their house themselves rather than sell it. I’d watch the hell outta both of those, lol. Thankfully, there’s life in the old dog yet. (In the franchise, I mean, not in me! There’s loads of life left in me and the franchise yet, lol.)

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

HEREDITARY. (2018) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

hereditary mom

HEREDITARY. (2018) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ARI ASTER. STARRING TONI COLLETTE, GABRIEL BYRNE, ALEX WOLFF, MILLY SHAPIRO AND ANN DOWD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘It’s a neutral view of the accident…!’

Often, my first experience of a film that’s been released in the cinema to great acclaim is to watch it when the DVD comes out and everyone’s moved onto something else. That’s because, being a writer, I genuinely don’t get out much. Always slaving away at my desk trying to leave something worthwhile behind for humanity, lol.

Anyway, this is one film I bloody wish I’d seen on the big screen. Every second I spent watching the DVD was electrifying, it’s that good. Watching it unfold scene by scene at the cinema for the first time ever must have been a fantastic experience, not the kind you’re likely to forget any time soon.

HEREDITARY stars Toni Collette (MURIEL’S WEDDING, ABOUT A BOY, IMPERIUM), an actress who just seems to be getting better and better as she grows older. She steals the show completely in this film. She’s an absolute powerhouse in it. She plays Annie Graham, an artist, wife and mother who, when we meet her first, is getting ready to bury her mother.

It’s possibly most difficult to bury the mothers with whom we didn’t get along and with whom we have a troubled history, because there’s so much guilt involved, terrible, terrible guilt that makes for very heavy carrying. The ones we loved and were loved by, well, those deaths are bad enough to cope with, but anything more complicated, fuhgeddaboutit.

Annie is having trouble coping with her mother Ellen’s death, because they only seemed to get on intermittently and there’s a long complex back-story there. Annie even goes to a bereavement group that meets in town to see if it’s any help to her.

I think she shocks the group with how much detail she goes into about exactly how troubled her family history is. You can almost hear the group facilitator saying: ‘Well, it’s usually enough just to say your name, dear, and that you’re a wee bit sad…!’

Annie is married to Steve, played by Gabriel Byrne. (I know he’s Irish, like me, but I’ve never liked him. Too mopey and unsmilingly craggy-faced!) They’re obviously well-off and have a fabulous big house in the middle of an isolated forested area (the film was shot in Utah).

I’m not sure what Dad does (just Googled it, he’s a psychiatrist! Gabriel Byrne with his mopey unsmilingly craggy face would be perfect at playing a shrink, sitting for hours saying nothing with his legs crossed, bored, fiddling with his pen and polishing his specs, lol.), but Mom is a marvellous artist who works in miniatures and has exhibitions of her work and everything.

She creates the most amazing doll-houses and artistic installations featuring tiny people in various exquisitely-realised scenarios. Some of the scenes in the film actually make us feel like we’re looking at tiny little doll-people in a tiny little doll-house. It’s so cleverly done.

Anyway, Mom and Dad are no longer close after x amount of years together, married and bringing up children. Relationship-wise, they’re just going through the motions now. It happens, unfortunately, after that much time together. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.

Peter, their teenager, is introverted, with not much to say for himself. He’s more interested in experimenting with drugs and trying to get girls to notice him than in interacting with his family. He’s absolutely your typical teenager. Annie in particular feels like every time she talks to him, she gets a sneer back and a rude back-answer. Again, par for the course with teenage boys. And girls…!

The Grahams also have a thirteen-year-old daughter, Charlie, who appears to be autistic or otherwise differently-abled, although we’re not sure because it’s not mentioned. Either way, she’s an odd little girl. I mean, is it normal for little girls to calmly cut the heads off dead birds with scissors, or to see their dead grandmothers sitting on the grass surrounded by a bank of flames and not turn a hair?

I’ll probably be lynched for being crass enough to notice this, but the film-makers have actually gone out of their way to make the little girl an ugly figure of menace, with strange unsettling facial features and a dumpy build that reminds one of the evil dwarf in the red duffel coat from Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW. Like, don’t tell me that they didn’t have this film in the back of their minds when they were creating the look for the little girl…!

When Annie urges Peter to take an unwilling Charlie to a school party one night, in an attempt to socialise a child who clearly resents her efforts, an event occurs that might just be the most shockingly unexpected thing you’ve ever seen in a horror film. I mean, if Annie thought she was sad before, well, this is grief the like of which she didn’t even know existed. The family is in crisis. Joan from the bereavement group makes a timely entrance…

I was gripped by this film for the whole one hundred and twenty-two minutes of its duration. (The standard ninety minutes wouldn’t have been sufficient for this meaty horror plot.) Things start to happen fairly quickly after the night of the party and Toni Collette positively acts up a storm. The viewers begin to wonder exactly what the creepy old Grandma Ellen’s deal was in life, and in what way it’s possibly impacting on the Graham family now.

The scares come thick and fast, but not the flashy every-ten-seconds jump-scare-for-the-sake-of-it thing you’re probably familiar with from other modern horror movies. (James Wan, I do love you and keep making those brilliant CONJURING and ANNABELLE movies but I’m looking right at you, lol.) I’m not telling you guys too much for fear of spoilers, though. The film really is too good for that.

I kept being shocked at the plot twists and the freakish occurrences but in a really good way, and in such a way that I didn’t want the film to ever end. And I loved the way the plot moulded itself into one of my favourite horror movie themes in the end. I wasn’t disappointed with the climax, just stunned, and I feel like if I go back and watch the film again, certain things will now make more sense. Verdict? Top-notch stuff. Watch it, before it watches you…!

(PS, down the line, certain people might have to come to terms with the fact that a child’s treehouse may not be, shall we say, the most dignified location for meetings and gatherings of such magnitude, but any port in a storm, as we say.

After all, the Pope doesn’t hold his conclave thingies behind the wheel of the bumper cars at the local funfair, does he, and Donald Trump, the most powerful man on the planet because he’s the boss of the United States of America, wouldn’t be seen dead inviting his fellow politicians to vote on a Very Important Matter while enjoying some time on a bouncy castle on the grass verge out the back of the Whitehouse? Well, actually, as to that last one, I don’t know. I guess anything’s possible…!)

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:

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 PREMATURE BURIAL. (1962) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

premature burial couple

THE PREMATURE BURIAL. (1962) BASED ON A STORY BY EDGAR ALLAN POE. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ROGER CORMAN. SCREENPLAY BY CHARLES BEAUMONT AND RAY RUSSELL. AN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURE.

STARRING RAY MILLAND, HAZEL COURT, RICHARD NEY, ALAN NAPIER AND HEATHER ANGEL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a visually gorgeous gothic horror film,  a superb addition to Roger Corman’s cycle of Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations for American International and the only one, if I’m not mistaken, not starring horror legend Vincent Price.

I’m not sure why Roger Corman opted to switch one leading man for another at this point but the film still works. It’s a wonderfully Gothic piece of dramatisation, with a setting as atmospheric and fog-wreathed as in all the other Poe films of this period.  

Ray Milland, an excellent actor whose film LOST WEEKEND is one of the best ever made on the horrors of alcoholism, plays the lead role here of Guy Carrell. Guy is a wealthy aristocrat who’s got a bee in his bonnet the size of Notre Dame Cathedral about being buried alive.

Now, you can’t really blame him for that, I suppose. No-one likes the idea of being buried alive, of waking up in their coffin underground, with the lid sealed down and the gathering population of worms sharpening their tiny knives and forks and tucking their napkins into their shirts, while others print up tiny menus that all carry only the one dish.

So, what’s given poor sensitive, touchy Guy the fear of being buried alive? Well, he’s convinced that his Pops, Daddy Carrell, was buried alive in the family crypt while under the influence of catalepsy, a terrifying condition that simulates death.

I’m not keen on the idea of a family crypt myself, having all your horrible dead relatives buried in tombs in the basement of your house. Why can’t they go in the ground in a dreary churchyard miles away, like normal people?

It would have been bad enough being around them while they were alive, without knowing that their rotting corpses are mouldering away beneath you in the family crypt. It’s enough to give you the willies, that is.

Still, it was the aristocratic way, you know. That was how the poshos did it back then, maybe still do for all I know. Probably couldn’t bear to relinquish anything that belonged to them, even if it was in a state of advanced putresence, lol.

Anyway, Guy is obsessed with the notion of being buried alive, just like he thinks his Paw was, much to the concern of his beautiful new younger wife Emily, his young doctor friend and advisor Miles and his older sister Kate Carrell. He won’t go on honeymoon with Emily, because he’d rather stay at home building himself one kickass mofo of a crypt on the grounds of his estate…

This crypt is really quite remarkable. It’s like a small house with a purpose-built coffin filled with tools for breaking out if one should have the misfortune to wake up and find oneself buried alive. There are stores of food and wine so you don’t starve to death while you’re trying to gain, as Guy himself rather splendidly puts it, ‘egress’ from his frightening hand-made mausoleum.

There’s even stores of deadly poison for killing yourself if all else fails and you can’t manage to break out of your tomb. It’s really the most ingenious of contrivances, this tomb, but it’s also the product of a very sick mind. Guy’s wife, sister and doctor are convinced of this once they realise that Guy has practically set up shop in this awful crypt, painting his horrible disturbing paintings and waiting for death.

‘What you fear has already happened, Guy,’ says Emily sharply to him when she’s had enough of his nonsense, ‘because you’re already buried alive.’ She’s right, too, you know.

Guy is being plagued in other ways as well, by the constant popping-up in his vicinity of two sinister grave-diggers who seem to wish him ill, and he’s hearing a creepy tune, Ireland’s Molly Malone of all things, coming from nowhere that’s making the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. He seems to be associating it with death and his old favourite thing to do or to have done to you, premature burial.

So when the worst happens and the thing that Guy fears more than anything else in the world comes to pass, it may not just be the catalepsy that’s put him there. There’s a foul agency at work here and I shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that it might have small feminine hands and genteel girlish fingers…

I love Alan Napier as Emily’s doctor father, Gideon Gault. He does a Peter Cushing here in that he takes delivery of newly dug-up corpses which he intends to dissect for medical purposes. Dr. Frankenstein, much? When he comments with a chuckle that Guy Carrell will be of more use to medical science dead than alive, he may even be right.

Guy is wasting whatever life and talents and time he’s been given. By obsessing night and day, day and night on what might possibly happen to him in his afterlife (which we’ll all find out, soon enough), he’s actually missing out on his one chance to live his actual life. He’s squandering his life. Other people would kill to have what he has, and he’s just throwing it away like so much rubbish.

The sets and costumes here are all stunning and luxurious-looking, as they always are in these Roger Corman productions for American International. The bedrooms, the living-rooms and the family crypt are all decked out in the most fabulously rich autumn colours of russet, brown, orangey-brown and the deepest of reds.

And the Carrolls’ beautiful, atmospheric gothic gardens and estate have got more mist than an X FACTOR final. And that, folks, as any self-respecting X FACTOR fan will tell you, is a whole helluva lotta mist…!

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