I wasn’t expecting this Netflix horror film to be as good as it is. Loosely based on a real-life Ouija board case from Spain in 1991 in which a girl died mysteriously after using one of those devil-boards, it’s the story of a very ordinary schoolgirl, the titular Veronica.

She experiences hauntings and a bit of the old demonic possession as well after using the Ouija board which comes free with the occult magazine she regularly buys. A free Ouija board? I remember the days when a cheap sparkly nail varnish sellotaped to the front of your magazine was the most you could expect, lol.  

Anyway, poor Veronica seems to be having quite a hard time of it generally, even without the haunting to contend with. Her dad is dead, and her mum works all the hours God sends in the family restaurant/bar to keep a roof over her kids’ heads and food in their mouths.

Mum unfortunately has to put a ridiculous amount of pressure on Veronica, as the oldest child, to care for her two younger sisters, Irene and Lucia, and her adorable little brother with the curly hair and glasses, Antonito. The kids are all likeable and terrific little actors too, but, as their screen sister Veronica knows, they take an awful lot of looking after.

Veronica has to get them up in the morning and see that they’re washed, fed, dressed and ready for school. She does a full day of school herself then, before collecting the young ‘uns, dropping by the restaurant to pick up the food which Mum has prepared for their dinners and bringing everyone home again to feed ‘em, wash ‘em, get ‘em to bed and then do her own homework.

It really is an incredible amount of pressure to put on a teenage girl but, as I said, Mum doesn’t really have any choice. It’s either work or starve and be homeless. Veronica is fifteen and still hasn’t had her first menstrual period. Maybe its onset is delayed by the tremendous pressure the girl is under, who knows?

She’s definitely ripe for a haunting-slash-possession, though, as teenage girls often seem to be, because of riotous hormonal activity and, in this case, because of the death of a father whom she clearly misses. Plus, of course, her dad’s demise left her in the unenviable position of being a second parent to her younger siblings.

She’s been denied the carefree adolescence some girls experience, and she often has to miss out on seeing her friends to babysit her siblings. Also, the film-makers have thrown in a solar eclipse for good measure. Could the stars have been aligned in exactly the right way for a haunting to occur…?

The haunting is pretty damn effective. Veronica starts seeing things, awful things, around the family apartment, and having frightful nightmares, shortly after using the Ouija board in her Catholic school junk room with two of her friends. Her own odd behaviour during the séance causes her friends to be wary of her afterwards. The session scares all three girls witless, anyway.

‘Sr. Death,’ the blind, chain-smoking retired nun who lives at the school, is able to sense that ‘someone’ now walks beside Veronica who was accidentally summoned up by the amateur séance, someone from whom her three siblings must now be protected. Veronica has opened a door, the ancient nun says, that should never have been opened. If Veronica didn’t have the willies up her before, she certainly does now.

I was scared stiff myself watching the hauntings. Poor Veronica. Her friends have ditched her, her mum thinks she’s acting out just to make things difficult for everyone and their downstairs neighbour wants to know what all the racket from upstairs is about when Veronica doesn’t have a clue herself. She’s left to face the horrors alone and the outcome is going to be bloody…

I love ‘paranormal activity’ films and this is a good ‘un. The moral of the story is, of course, that you should never interfere with things you don’t fully understand, and the occult is probably at the top of that list.

I wouldn’t personally use a Ouija board if you paid me to, that’s how spooked I would be at the whole idea of waking sleeping dogs with a sledgehammer, which is the effect the Ouija board seems to have on the spirit world.

The film’s ending is shocking and could maybe have been prevented if only poor Veronica hadn’t been left shouldering so much responsibility by herself, but, as we’ve agreed, Mum has to work and that’s that. There is no-one else, as there’s no-one else for so many real-life single parent families. Maybe that’s the real horror in this story.

Other reviewers have pointed out the very obvious undercurrents of sexual abuse underpinning Veronica’s story and, if they’re right, it makes for a sad tale indeed. Either way, whatever you decide is the reason for all these gruesome happenings, it makes for a really gripping watch.


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:

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 BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW is such a dark, dark sexy film. Yes, I did mean to put in two ‘darks,’ lol, because the film really is incredibly dark. It was made by TIGON, the British film production and distribution company that brought us WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), starring horror legend Vincent Price, and THE CREEPING FLESH (1973), two of my favourite horror films from that period.

What happens is as follows. An entire village falls victim to an outbreak of demonic possession, caused by the unearthing of a deformed skull imbued with a malign influence. In this, we observe the similarities to excellent Hammer film QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, in that everything is grand until people go digging shit up which was better left alone, if you get me.

Anyway, the malignant influence has a terrible effect on the young people of the village in particular. They’re behaving oddly, going insane for no reason, holding black masses, sprouting demonic-looking fur on parts of their bodies where certainly there was no fur before, weird stuff like that. They’re even skipping the Reverend Fallowfield’s excellent religious instruction lessons, and those used to be a huge draw for the kids before Beelzebub came to town…! Not, snigger.

It’s up to good old Patrick Wymark as the local Judge to track down the source of the evil and attempt to eradicate it. Will he be successful?Before he’s even had time to plonk his Judge wig down on his noggin, though, there will be an horrific rape in the village that would never have happened before the Devil strutted into town on his cloven hooves. Wait a minute, where’s everyone gone? Oh right. Off to You-Tube the horrific rape. Ye naughty little brats, ye…!

Michele Dotrice, who’s probably best known for portraying Frank Spencer’s long-suffering wife Betty in superb ’70s sitcom SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM, plays an unexpected blinder in this film as a young ‘un who’s been- ahem- filled with the Devil. Her lascivious expressions when she’s watching the rape would have scandalised poor Frank, who was always very modest and shy when it came to sexual matters, hee-hee. He’s ‘ad a bit o’ trouble, don’t you know…?!

‘Betty’ also does an amazing job in the scene where she’s fleeing from the savage dogs who are pursuing her, a suspected witch, through the olden days woods. The scene where she’s having ‘the devil’s skin’ excised from her leg was so real and powerful that I ended up feeling quite queasy while watching it. There’s something quite sick-making about people’s skin, teeth and nails when you see them up-close in films.

Michele Dotrice is actually a brilliant horror actress, as well as being a great comedienne too. She co-stars with Pamela Franklin in one of the best and spookiest horror movies of the period, AND SOON THE DARKNESS (1970), which you should definitely try to watch if you haven’t already seen it.

The long dark wig that Simon Williams (he played a posh toff in drama serial UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS) is wearing, as lovelorn suitor Peter Edmonton, makes him look like a pre-moustache Freddie Mercury. You know, like when he wore the white lycra suit and played the piano in the video for BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY? Yeah, back then…!

His girlfriend Rosalind Barton (played by blonde beauty Tamara Ustinov) goes screamingly insane after one night spent in Peter’s aunt’s disused attic room, and is carted off to the lunatic asylum the next day sporting a hideous claw where her right hand should be.

So much for spending the rest of their lives together in married bliss. The aunt, a Mistress Banham, goes missing then, increasing local feeling that something in the village is seriously amiss.

The truly gorgeous Linda Hayden is terrific at playing sexually aware young minxes, who are well aware of the power their bodies and beauty have over mere men, who are visual creatures and easily tempted off the straight and narrow.

Her nude scene, in which she tantalises and teases the mortified Reverend Fallowfield with her delectable wares, would surely make red-blooded male viewers long for the days when women had actual pubic hair.

Seriously, do you know that there’s a whole generation of blokes growing up today who think that women naturally don’t have hair down there? Think about it. You know it’s true. Women today are shaved, waxed, tanned, toned, trimmed, straightened and sanitised almost out of existence. And who’s it all benefiting, anyway? Mainly the grooming industry, as far as I can see.

Here’s a naughty thought. Perhaps some of the Devil’s leftover furry bits from this film could be donated to the women of today who’ve all but forgotten how to grow good honest pubes? We could have a sort of charity drive or something, you know, the way people do.

As well as the horrible public rape, the film also features the attempted drowning of a witch.

‘If she swims, she’s a witch!’

‘Yeah, but if she drowns, you’ve done her murder…!’

The way the perpetrators shrug and slink away, unconcerned for the unconscious women they’ve flung into the river, is terrible to witness. I believe it was fairly typical behaviour, however, of the kind of people in those days who went round accusing innocent women of witchcraft and being a witch, just for their own amusement, or for other petty motives, like revenge or maybe coveting that person’s property, and hoping you might come in for it once the rightful owner is deceased. Awful, isn’t it?

How they ever managed to stand in a village square with their friends and neighbours and watch a human female, someone they knew, and maybe even liked or respected, hang or burn to death is beyond mine, and most peoples’, comprehension.

The ruined church and creepy woods are tremendously atmospheric, as is the weird and eerie soundtrack. The way the devil is ‘assembling’ himself piece by piece, with the help of his warped young congregation, is also quite ingenious. Donate a limb and help Satan, there’s a good fellow (or lady)…!

The film is similar to a Hammer film and yet somehow much, much darker, with a vein of genuine evil running through it. It’s as good an example of vintage British folk horror as, say, THE WICKER MAN (1973), and maybe one of the best British horror films ever made, full stop.

Au revoir, horror buddies, until we meet again.


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:

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




I really liked this Spanish-British horror film, which I recently watched on Shudder. It’s about a teenage girl who gets possessed by the devil (none other, lol) after messing about with a ouija board on a boozy night in with her cousins.

Emma Evans is a girl who’s probably ripe for possession. Home-schooled by her writer father on her controlling doctor mother’s orders, because home-schooled kids apparently do better in college, she feels stifled to the point of madness by her boring, academics-driven life.

Her two cousins, Alex and Rose, who conveniently live next door, are allowed to go to parties, wear tons of black goth make-up and pierce themselves stupid (and Alex is a boy!). Fifteen-year-old Emma is jealous of their more liberal lifestyles, and she desperately longs to go to secondary school like most girls her age.

Then Emma becomes possessed and starts having disgusting hallucinations, like seeing imaginary cockroaches everywhere, and levitating, and wanting to grievously hurt family members. The mother has a really narrow escape from a giant pot of boiling water, for example, which I, as a viewer, was glad of, as I’m not sure I could have watched something so gruesome…!

Luckily (or is it…?), Emma’s Uncle Christopher is a priest, and one with experience of exorcism in his background as well, although the one time he attempted it, the girl he was exorcising died and he got a big bollocking from his church.

Still, a priest is a priest, innit, and Emma’s mum and dad (dad looks like David Tennant playing Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen in the ITV television mini-series DES) call him in when it’s clear that Emma isn’t going to get better by herself.

Uncle Chris is a shady character, however, who’s harbouring a nasty secret, and Emma’s parents may live (or not) to regret entrusting their daughter’s safety, and the safety of their whole family, to a man with such a dark side to him…

The actor who plays him, Stephen Billington, used to portray Greg Kelly, one of Sally Webster’s old beaux, in CORONATION STREET, so if you think you recognise him vaguely, that might be from where.

When, as Father Chris, he puts on his little hat and takes up his little bag to go exorcising at night at his niece’s house, it’s a nod to the biggest and best exorcism film of them all, THE EXORCIST (1973), in which Father Lankester Merrin is the big gun roped in by Father Damien Karras to help free the protagonist, Regan MacNeil, from the terrible clutches of the demon Pazuzu.

PS, No-one in the movie says the immortal words ‘the power of Christ compels thee,’ which is fair enough as it would probably be total copycatting, but it’s a bit disappointing nonetheless. I love using that phrase on my kids. The power of Christ compels thee to tidy thy room/give thy mother thy last chocolate finger/take out the rubbish, etc. It’s a handy parenting tool, I find.

Anyway, the things that occur as a result of Emma’s possession by no less a personage than Old Nick himself are dramatic and horrible to witness. The girl who plays Emma does a terrific job of being both Good Emma and Evil Emma, and the film adds a touch of special magic into its mix by casting Doug Bradley, who plays Pinhead in the HELLRAISER series of films, as a priest who tries to undo Father Chris’s bad work. The Doug Bradley character’s name is Father Ennis, by the way, which, if spelled backwards, reads as Father Sinne, an apt name for a cleric…!

The film is a bit long at an hour and forty minutes, but it’s a really good watch. It even taught me a valuable lesson, which is as follows: Don’t stab yourself in the stomach if you really want to die. It doesn’t kill you, but you’ll be really, really inconvenienced and in pain and you might end up in a wheelchair. Eeuw. Lesson learned, EXORCISMUS, lesson learned…


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:

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


devils 2 leads





This is such an incredibly intense film that I generally find I’m holding my breath practically the whole way through it, even though such a feat probably isn’t medically possible. It’s like an assault on the senses, with the fantastic period costumes, the disconcerting (excuse the pun) musical score and the way that, just when you think director Ken Russell surely can’t go any further, he then goes and does exactly that.

The story is set in France in the seventeenth century, and it’s based on actual events, which would kind of blow your mind to think about it. It features Oliver Reed in one of his finest roles. He plays Father Urbain Grandier, chief cleric in the heavily walled town of Loudun. He’s a rogue of a priest who unwittingly becomes the centre of one of the biggest witchcraft cases France has ever known.

He’s a womanising lecher of a priest, who has sex with and even impregnates his prettier female parishioners, then he abdicates all responsibility towards them. ‘And so it ends.’ Then he meets the rather plain, ordinary Madeleine, whose mother has just died horribly from the plague that runs rife through France, and he decides he’s in love, real pure love, for the first time in his whole decadent, dissolute life.

If he were just an ordinary womanising priest, I don’t suppose it would have become much of an issue in seventeenth century France. But Grandier was somewhat of a controversial figure politically as well, even though religion and politics supposedly don’t mix very well. Here’s the deal as I’ve interpreted it.

Cardinal Richelieu at the time wanted to knock down the heavy fortifications of Loudun, and thereby put a stop to its system of independent government and the possibility of a Protestant uprising.

He wanted Loudun and other similarly-governed places to stop ruling themselves independently of the monarchy, and he felt that knocking down their fortifications and leaving them defenseless would accomplish this.

Father Grandier, however, refused to allow this to happen by getting the townspeople to stand firm against any such notion. He maintained that, in Loudun, Catholics and Protestants lived harmoniously side by side, without any pesky uprisings at all, and that they needed their fortifications to protect them from marauders. Moreover, the King himself had said that Loudun could keep her walls. So there, lol.

Therefore, Grandier was a big thorn in the side both of Cardinal Richelieu, and also of Baron de Laubardemont, the official he’s sent to Loudun to knock down the walls. They feel powerless to move against Grandier, who’s so popular in the town. What they need is to get rid of him, but how? Then into their laps lands the gift of a lifetime… a tailor-made excuse to rid themselves of the troublesome priest…

The lead female character, chillingly played by Vanessa Redgrave, is Sister Jeanne of the Angels, head nun of the local convent. Poor Sister Jeanne. Her head is permanently to one side because of a dreadful hump on her back. She constantly shuffles about on her knees in the narrow, claustrophobic confines of the convent and this has the effect of making her personality seem as stunted, deformed and twisted as her physical person. I see her as a figure deserving of pity, yes, but a little creepy too.

Underneath the habit (and the hump), Sister Jeanne is a normal woman with normal, human lusts and sexual appetites. Sometimes these will out, even if you try your hardest to repress them. She has a huge crush on Father Grandier, whom she’s never seen, but the legend of the sexually dynamic and charismatic priest that precedes him wherever he goes is enough for her to hang her hopes on.

A perceived slight from the genuinely unwitting Father Grandier leads the horribly frustrated Sister Jeanne to accuse Grandier of a terrible crime. In comes the church’s leading exorcist, the handsome blonde could-easily-have-been-a-rock-star Father Barre, to get to the truth (let’s not say ‘the bottom,’ please!) of the shocking matter…

What follows is certainly shocking. The scenes of orgy and exorcism, torture and sheer brutality-for-brutality’s-sake are hard to watch. Father Barre believes in putting on a good show, and the farcical spectacle attracts viewers from all over France.

Father Mignon cuts a frightening figure all in black with his pudding bowl haircut, Baron de Laubardemont is in his element, strutting about the place shouting, and King Louis XIII is shown to be a disgustingly decadent and trivial character, with no more real feeling for his subjects than for one of the grapes peeled for him by his lackeys.

Underpinning it all is the magnificent performance of Oliver Reed as the poor tortured Father Grandier, who once played fast and loose with the feelings of all women, but who now believes he really, truly loves a woman, which love has brought him closer to God and shown him the meaning of love and life for the first time in his thirty-something years.

What he undergoes in the name of ‘Christ,’ no man deserves to go through. This film will stay in your mind for a long time after you watch it. And rightly so, because it’s surely Ken Russell’s and one of Britain’s finest.


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:

You can contact Sandra at:


upstairs room



This is the first novel of a woman who worked in publishing for years before moving into freelance editing. She’s also a visual artist who shows her work in galleries. This ‘haunted house’ novel is exactly the kind of book I’d love to have written myself or would hope to write in the future. It kept me literally spellbound from beginning to end, and you honestly can’t hope for better than that.

Eleanor and Richard are a posh English couple in their thirties who have just moved into a new house in a nice area of London. When I say posh, I mean they’re the kind of folks who hold dinner parties for their posh friends and put the foetus’s name down for a fancy school place the minute Dad shouts, ‘I’m gonna come now, honey, okay…?!’ And when I say new house, I mean it’s new to them, but it’s an existing Victorian era house with a history all of its own…

Eleanor and Richard have been sweethearts since University and, though they won’t admit it to each other, they’re a teensy bit bored with married life, with themselves, each other and maybe even with being parents to two little girls, called Rosie and Isobel. Kids are a huge responsibility, after all.

It happens. I mean, one day you wake up married and you realise that that fact prohibits you from having sex with anyone new, ever again. You also realise that the face that’s seated opposite you at the breakfast table is the face that you’ll see opposite you at the breakfast table every day for the rest of your life, unless you break up with the person, which involves a lot of legal arse and division of property and custody battles and such-like, and that’s a really heavy scene, man.

They’re not happy with their respective careers, either. Eleanor works four days a week at a publishing house and takes one day a week to spend with her kids. Richard has also gone part-time from his job because he hopes to do a Master’s degree, upstairs in the study he’s created for himself at the top of the new house. Oh, the literary and deliciously creative things he’s hoping to achieve in those few blissfully free hours every week! Sitting for hours on end staring dissatisfied at a blank screen is certainly not one of them…

To help with the mortgage- they’ll need it if they keep taking all that time off work, lol- they’ve taken a lodger in to their basement room, a girl called Zoe who works in an art shop but who suffers from the same degree of career angst as her two landlords. She gave up an admin job in a charity to work in the art shop because it felt like a creative thing to do.

She has a vague idea that she wants to be a writer, but she never actually writes anything. Instead, she has lots of great innovative sex with Adam, an artist who is living Zoe’s dream, living and working in one of those converted warehousey loft spaces with a group of other artists. Unfortunately, you don’t get paid for having sex. Well, unless you’re, ahem, you know…

Adam’s cheating on Kathryn, his long-distance artistic girlfriend, to have sex with Zoe, but Zoe’s sure she has it all sussed. They’ll have all the brilliant sex in the world, have a great time together in other ways too and, if they’re ever so grown-up about it, no-one need ever get hurt and Kathryn need ever find out. Good luck with that, guys…!

In the meantime, Eleanor has discovered that her house makes her sick. Literally. The longer she spends cooped up in it, the worse she feels and the doctors can’t seem to put a medical diagnosis on it. It’s having a bad effect on her children too, it seems. Rosie has started to bite her Mummy, like, really sink her fangs into Eleanor and hurt her. All kids bite, honey, Richard maintains, and maybe, yes, they do, but not necessarily with such severity and deliberate intent to hurt.

Poor Eleanor doesn’t have a clue what to do about it all. She gets no support from Richard, who really, really needs to believe that their house is not haunted and making Eleanor ill because, if it is, they’ll have to move again, and they can’t afford to, as they’ve sunk everything they’ve got into The New House. They don’t currently even have the money to do the house up as they’d like, so as for moving, forget it!

The unhealthiness in the house seems to stem from the titular ‘upstairs room,’ up on the top floor of the house next door to Richard’s study. It’s an empty room that used to belong to a little girl called Emily, who has scribbled her name- among other things- all over the room.

When you try to enter the room, you encounter resistance. Sometimes you can hear noises and footsteps coming from the empty top floor. Who’s up there, in the silence and the gloom? Is it Emily? Is she alive or dead?

If dead, did she die in the house, and was it a violent death? Has she come back to seek revenge against her killers, or is she just a mischievous poltergeist, messing with the family’s heads because it’s fun, and you don’t get too much of that in the afterlife?

Who is the little girl dressed in black whom Eleanor sometimes sees standing across from the house, looking intently up at it? Is she real, or just a figment of poor exhausted Eleanor’s imagination? Rosie has a new ‘imaginary friend,’ whom she calls Girl or Little Girl. We all know what that means, don’t we, in a haunted house book or film…?

Zoe feels it too, the unhealthy miasma seeping down from the upstairs room. She starts sleepwalking upstairs to the room, waking up cold, frightened and disorientated, and she has night terrors and dreams in which a little girl is in the bedroom with her, looking down at her in the bed. She can’t do a thing about it, though, because she now suffers, for the first time ever in her life, from the very creepy sleep paralysis.

Zoe has a real intruder to contend with too, if she only knew about it, but she doesn’t. Someone very real- and corporeal- has been coming into her basement flat when she’s out to sniff her discarded knickers and poke about in her things, because they- the intruder- are jealous of Zoe’s seemingly bohemian, creative and artistic lifestyle, the one they themselves would have wished for but didn’t quite manage to attain. When a desperate Eleanor arranges an exorcism for the house, will Zoe support her, or quite rightfully flee in terror…?

I just loved the book, and the ending too. It’s the kind of book, like Shirley Jackson’s acclaimed THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, where less is more, the haunting is very subtle and your imagination fills in any blanks. I love that in a book and hope to write one like it myself some day, when the gruesome inspiration finally strikes, lol. Read this one if you can. It’s a proper little belter.


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:

You can contact Sandra at:



vincent diary odette



This isn’t one of the Roger Corman-Edgar Allan Poe adaptations that horror legend Vincent Price made for American International Pictures, but it’s every bit as mysterious, atmospheric and luxurious as those gorgeous films, even if it doesn’t have a crumbling old mist-wreathed castle by the sea for a setting.

Vincent Price stars as Simon Cordier, a rich, well-respected French magistrate living in Paris. He has all the trappings of wealth, but the pain of the death twelve years ago of his wife and baby is his constant bedfellow. Which just goes to show us that money can’t always bring you happiness, even if it can bring you all the snazzy new material stuff you could ever wish for. (Which, of course, is nice…!)

Simon visits a condemned prisoner called Louis Girot in prison on the eve of his execution. Girot, who has requested the meeting, has apparently murdered several people without motive, for which he’s going to get an all-expenses paid trip to Madame La Guillotine. He’s hoping to convince the magistrate of his innocence, by explaining how he wasn’t at all in his right mind when he carried out the killings. He wasn’t really even himself, if you get me.

He tells a sceptical Simon that he was possessed by an evil spirit when he did the murders, a spirit that can order him to kill at any time. When Simon leaves the man’s cell, this murderous curse no longer inhabits Girot’s doomed carcass, but Simon’s vibrant living one…

To soothe his troubled mind, which by the way has started imagining things and hearing voices, Simon takes up sculpting, a subject in which he has always had an interest. He meets a stunning young(ish) artist’s model called Odette Mallotte who, unknown to Simon, is married to a struggling artist called Paul Duclasse and is desperate to claw her way out of the poverty trap in which she is currently enmeshed.

The unscrupulous, materialistic Odette sees Simon as her meal ticket out of the slums. While he is sculpting her perfect head and shoulders, he falls in love with her sunny demeanour and her ability to laugh at life and all its follies. Which was precisely what she was hoping would happen and what she was trying to manipulate into happening…

To Odette’s delight, Simon, who is blissfully unaware of her marital status, proposes marriage. She’s not going to let a little thing like her living husband, Paul Duclasse, stand in the way of her advancement. Surely he can be easily brushed aside?

In the meantime, poor Simon is convinced that he is possessed by the evil spirit that transferred itself to him from the convicted prisoner Louis Girot. The spirit is an invisible entity called the Horla, who speaks to Simon when he is alone.

It has telekinetic powers and can move furniture about and throw things and smash things just like a poltergeist can. Poor Simon can’t decide whether he’s going mad or whether there really is a race of evil spirits known as the Horla, who can inhabit the bodies of men while manipulating their minds into committing the most heinous murders. When the Horla orders him to carry out a killing so dreadful it makes his blood run cold to think of it, he finds out first-hand what’s real and what’s not…

The titular diary is the journal kept by Simon Cordier from the moment he suspects he is going insane. He leaves it ‘to be opened in the event of my death’ and, in it, he hopes to convince the reader- and, by extension, the world- of the existence of the heretofore unknown Horla, and of the very real menace they represent to mankind.

You’ll know if you’ve been possessed by the Horla because a greenish glowing rectangle will appear across both your eyes and you’ll get a sudden uncontrollable urge to go all Norman Bates on someone with a fair-sized carving knife. There’s a definite PSYCHO moment in DIARY OF A MADMAN, complete with metaphorical shower curtains breaking free of their loopy things one by one as a desperate victim clutches at them for support. Very enjoyable stuff, lol.

Ian Wolfe you might recognise. Here, he plays Pierre, Simon Cordier’s devoted old retainer. He’s appeared in a few of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies of the ‘Forties, in at least one case playing- you guessed it!- a faithful old retainer, this time to the cold fish of a toff whose wife was found in the deserted church ringing feebly on the bell to attract attention. To the fact that she’d had her throat torn out by the same fiend who’d torn out the throats of various poor sheep in the area… Anyway, it’s lovely to see Ian Wolfe here in this gorgeous, sumptuously-coloured gothic horror movie. Any friend of Holmes’s is a friend of ours, right?

DIARY OF A MADMAN is as good a horror film as any of Vincent Price’s other works. Nancy Kovack is deliciously seductive as she takes the pins out of her hat and settles herself down on the model’s stool to loosen her long dark hair and pull down the front of her dress to bare her shoulders for Simon’s sculpting chisel to get to work on.

Remember her as Medea, the sexy, dark-haired priestess of the temple at Colchis whom Jason fishes out of the sea in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS? Covered in gold paint and nearly nude, the foxy wench does her frenzied dance with pure abandon in the temple, much to the delight of the watching males. She’s a real hottie, but dames like that ain’t nuthin’ but trouble. Just ask Simon Cordier…


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:

You can contact Sandra at:


haunted warrens


I love haunted house films, as some of you might already know, but even better are the ones that are ‘based on a true story.’ I mean, it’s bad enough to think that some of these poltergeist-y phenomena might happen, but to know that they did happen to some folks in real life, well, that really makes you sit up and take notice.

In this film, it’s the ‘Eighties and a family called the Smurls are moving into a lovely big new house on Chase Avenue in a place called West Pittson in Pennsylvania. Jack and Janet are totally Mrs. and Mrs. Normal America in every way, a nice hardworking couple with four daughters, Erin, Shawn, Colleen and Katie. Jack’s lovely old parents move in with them too, and they have their own entrance to their big new house in the respectable new neighbourhood.

They’re not even unpacked before the new neighbourinos are calling over with fresh-baked brownies, inviting the Smurls to join the Lions Club and the Sacred Heart League. Lands’ sakes, but this sure sounds like a jumpin’ neighbourhood…! I’m sure they hold great yard sales, luaus and block parties too, lol, like every respectable ‘Murican family on television ever, lol.

Anyway, the house is haunted, as you’ve probably already guessed. At first, the mom, Janet, is the only one who experiences the supernatural phenomena with which their home appears to be plagued, so naturally, when she complains about it to her hubby, he thinks she’s over-tired at first. Then he gets angry and starts to make out like it’s all in her head.

But when Jack’s mom starts to experience some of the spooky stuff too, he and his dad are forced to take the situation a bit more seriously. So, what exactly’s been happening? Well, doors slam shut of their own accord, putrid odours are smelled in various places, whispered voices are heard in conversation with each other and humanoid shadows float from place to place in the house. It’s pretty scary stuff.

The creepiest thing for me was the fact that the supernatural entity in the Smurls’ house was able to simulate Janet’s mother-in-law’s voice in order to lure Janet into the basement. That bit was freaky. In the bedroom, a sleeping Janet is made to levitate several feet above her bed and the bedclothes are pulled off Jack and Janet’s bodies while they slumber.

Probably the most horrific supernatural event to which we’re made privy is the rape of the dad Jack by his own teenage daughter, though of course it’s the demon who lives in their house taking the daughter’s form to make the rape all the more terrible.

If you look closely during the rape sequence, you’ll see the real face of the demon who haunts the Smurl house like a deadly and disgusting miasma. Demon or no demon, though, I’m not sure that the dad would ever have been able to look his daughter in the face again after that dread-filled experience.

The Smurls’ call in the church, just like the poor family in AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION, for my money the scariest haunted house/demonic possession film ever made, bar none. The priest blesses the house, but the vengeful demon is only getting started. The Church refuses the priest permission to perform an exorcism or to help the Smurls further.

So, who do the Smurls turn to now? I cheered loudly when ghostbusters- sorry, demonologists!- Ed and Lorraine Warren were called in. I’ve loved the Warrens ever since watching THE CONJURING/ANNABELLE films, but these Warrens aren’t as nice and smiley as their counterparts in THE CONJURING, and Mr. Warren sure doesn’t play Elvis on the guitar to cheer up the Smurls. Mind you, the Smurls didn’t ask him to. Maybe he was just waiting for that invite, lol.

Still, Lorraine Warren, the head ghostbuster of the pair, does manage to confirm that the Smurls are housing three relatively harmless spirits and one demon. Rent-free as well, I’m guessing, those pesky freeloading entities! The demon’s the one you need to watch out for.

His main goal, apparently, is to tear the family apart and destroy their faith in God, because family strength, unity and togetherness and an unswerving faith in the Lord are the only things that can hurt the demon, see?

So, can the Warrens help the Smurls, or will the Smurls be forced to engage in ever more extreme measures to get the help they need? It’s a pretty scary and unnerving film and, because it’s based on a true story, it’ll remind you strongly of the first two original AMITYVILLE HORROR films.

Because of the sexual element, I was also reminded of Barbara Hershey in THE ENTITY, a terrifying film in which a woman is raped repeatedly over time by a sexually aggressive ghost who haunts her house. She sustains actual physical injuries from these assaults, so she knows herself that they’re really happening.

The psychiatrists, however, are falling over themselves to prove that some sort of sexual abuse in the woman’s childhood is causing her troubled mind to invent or imagine the ghost-rapes in her adulthood. It seems to be really, really hard for them to accept that maybe, just maybe, there’s a real ghost in this lady’s house.

When I watched THE ENTITY first, I was clearly still rather immature because I was giggling at the ghost-sex and making out like it was better than no sex at all. Now that I’m older, and with, of course, the benefit of hindsight, I stand by every word I said back then, lol. Any sex, even ghost-sex, is always better than no sex at all…!

I watched THE HAUNTED on Youtube and I put on captions (subtitles), as sometimes the sound isn’t great on these Youtube films. You know the way that these captions are often poorly translated into English and can end up looking like total gibberish?

The funniest bit was when the exhortation to ‘expedite Amish women in glasses’ came up on the screen (and nothing whatsoever to do with the plot, of course!), but a big shout-out must also go the following: ‘Boppity happens when there’s a big stinky.’ I’m not even going to try to follow this one with a comment of my own. I think ‘boppity’ speaks for itself. ‘Nuff said.


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:

You can contact Sandra at:


hereditary mom



‘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…!)


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:

You can contact Sandra at:


michael armstrong younger



‘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…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

but do it with integrity…’

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

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

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

‘Oooooh, what lovely buns…!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can somebody please break out the travel Scrabble…?

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


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:

You can contact Sandra at:


skull april olrich





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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:

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