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

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

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

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

THE BBC DRACULA. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

bbc dracula

THE BBC DRACULA. (2020) (LOOSELY) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY BRAM STOKER. STARRING CLAES BANG AND DOLLY WELLS. CO-CREATED AND WRITTEN BY MARK GATISS AND STEVEN MOFFAT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I’ve been just DYING to meet you.’

‘Food should never answer back.’

‘Always take the weather with you.’

‘I’m a five-hundred-year-old warlord.’

‘My God, I can’t wait to eat some atheists.’

‘One learns to keep a tidy slaughterhouse.’

‘Please avert your eyes- I have to murder a child.’

‘After four hundred years, it’s nice to be understood.’

‘This will be the most nuns I’ve ever had in one sitting.’

‘In the matter of blood, I am a connoisseur. Blood is lives.’

‘I’ve acquired some of your husband’s memories. You could say that I’ve downloaded them. Orally.’

‘There are many advantages to being a vampire, but it does make it hard to be a morning person.’

I don’t really know where to begin with this one, except to say that there’s something inherently wrong with the sight of Dracula texting on a smartphone. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored Hammer Horror’s two attempts to place Count Dracula in the modern era, ie, DRACULA AD 1972 and DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDES. In fact, these are two of my favourite films in the whole Hammer Dracula canon. But the BBC DRACULA, first broadcast on the BBC over New Year’s in 2020, is kind of… well, a mess. Tons of gore but zero atmosphere.

The first episode was tolerable and at least kept more or less to the plot of Stoker’s marvellous book. Jonathan Harker arrives at the Count’s magnificent crumbling abode in the wilds of Transylvania to finalise with him the sale of a house, Carfax Abbey in England. He discovers there that the ancient Count is in fact a vampire, who replenishes himself each time he drinks from the blood of his captive-guest, Jonathan Harker.

Once the Count re-appears as a tall, dark and dashing Englishman, with the posh charming suavity of Hugh Grant and the sex appeal and comic timing of a James Bond, one kind of gets the feeling that we’re not in Kansas any more. In fact, the drama degenerates into farce as the handsome Dracula quips all around him with lines such as ‘You are what you eat,’ ‘One should never rush a nun’ and, to a victim, ‘I must say you’re looking a little drained.’

I must admit that I was unnerved by Jonathan’s accidental discovery of the living dead, incarcerated for all eternity in locked boxes, in the labyrinthine wilderness of the Count’s castle. It’s an idea that puts me very much in mind of the vampire movie THE HUNGER. Also, David Bowie’s accelerated ageing from that very film is reminiscent of what happens here to Jonathan Harker each time the Count drinks his blood.

A bald-headed Harker, covered in sores and (disgustingly!) missing his fingernails is relating his tale of terror and homosexual sex (yep, Dracula’s bi!) to a toothsome Dutch nun called Sr. Agatha Van Helsing. This ballsy dame is an intelligent and courageous woman who is determined not to flinch or to be found wanting when Dracula attacks her convent in Budapest where Jonathan Harker is hiding out.

She and the staunchly sensible Reverend Mother do very well indeed to bat no eyelids at the sight of a gloriously naked Count Dracula emerging outside their convent gates from the bloodied belly of a wolf. Magnificent butt, but no willies are observed, worse luck.

Episode Two sees Dracula spending the four weeks aboard the Demeter it takes to get to England engaged in, well, eating the passengers and selected crew members. He murders his old flame the Grand Duchess Valeria, Lord and Lady Ruthven (the name derived from Dr. Polidori’s story, The Vampyre, in which he based his aristocratic vampire on Lord Byron) and a couple of (male) sailors, proving yet again that he doesn’t discriminate on the grounds of sex.

I liked Olgaren, the gigantic, bald-headed and heavily bearded cook with a hook for a hand, and also the quip Dracula makes in this episode about having worked with ‘skeleton crews’ before. I bet he has, lol. And remember in Hammer’s DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, in which Christopher Lee’s Dracula is drowned by a little bit of running water? Well, this Dracula can swim, so be warned…

I hated the last episode. The action moves to the present day, and there they lost me completely. Dracula’s main focus here is getting with Lucy Westenra, a cool and glamorous disco chick who glitters and sparkles (might fit in well in TWILIGHT, so!) and takes hundreds of selfies, is never off the phone and has a Gay Best Friend to discuss her many romantic dalliances with.

Lucy is a vain and shallow person who prizes her looks above all else. Dracula doesn’t hold this against her. Why do you always want to meet up in a graveyard, she asks her midnight lover at one point. I like to spend time with people my own age, immediately quips back this smart-ass Dracula…!

The ‘Bloofer Lady’ and cremation scenes were actually quite creepy and there’s no denying that this episode of the drama mini-series made use of some very cool special effects, but otherwise it was a mess, especially the bit involving the modern day descendant of Sr. Agatha, Dr. Zoe Van Helsing.

I liked Dracula’s witty reference to someones’s ‘bringing a bottle to the party,’ and the nod to the original Hammer Dracula from 1958, when Peter Cushing leaps up on to a table and pulls down the curtains, thereby letting in the sunlight that devastates the vampire and crumbles him to dust, but otherwise this episode was a wash-out.

The notion of some people’s still being sentient (feeling, or being aware) when they are buried or cremated was quite a terrifying one, especially for someone as impressionable as me. I can’t be cremated now (normally my first choice) after seeing what happened to wee Lucy, and I don’t just mean Robbie Williams’s Angels being played at the ceremony, lol.

On the other hand, neither do I fancy being one of those poor unfortunates ‘doomed to spend all eternity scratching at the inside of a coffin lid…’ What a genuinely disturbing thought. And those are our only two choices as well. Clearly, we need more options urgently in this area.

Anyway, if they hadn’t moved the action to the present day in the third episode, I might have quite enjoyed this three-parter, although I probably still would have considered it a little unorthodox. I genuinely don’t see why the Count couldn’t have had some perfectly adequate and even exciting adventures in Victorian England after the journey to Whitby, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

Also, in a drama mini-series so obviously intent on shocking the viewer, why wasn’t there any sex, especially seeing as their Dracula was so handsome and had such a fit body that he had no problem with appearing in the buff at the age of fifty-two? Alas, that wasn’t to be, either. Looks like it’s back to using my imagination for me. Good job I have one, eh…?

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