CHILDREN OF THE CORN. (1984) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

CHILDREN OF THE CORN. (1984) BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY FRITZ KIERSCH. SCREENPLAY BY GEORGE GOLDSMITH.

STARRING PETER HORTON, LINDA HAMILTON, R.G. ARMSTRONG, JOHN FRANKLIN AND COURTNEY GAINS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Isaac: Malachaiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

Malachai: Whaaaaaaaat?

Isaac: Tell Bart to come home!

Malachai: He’s not here! I think he’s at Nelson’s!

Isaac: Whooooooooo’s Nelson…?

Heh-heh-heh. I just had Isaac and Malachai re-enact a shouted conversation between Homer and Milhouse from THE SIMPSONS for the hell of it, just because they seem to be in such fine voice all the time.

Anyway, I love the first thirty-five or forty minutes of this Stephen King horror film adaptation. I love watching the dynamics of the relationship between newly-graduated doctor Burt Stanton (played by Peter ‘Thirty-Something’ Horton) and his try-too-hard girlfriend, Vicky Baxter. I could watch this pair bicker passive-aggressively all day. Burt is a Grade-A commitment-phobe, and slithers away from all of Vicky’s cringeworthy attempts to bring them closer together.

I also love the bits where they’re driving round in circles in ‘corn country’ trying to find the town where Dr. Burt is supposed to begin his doctoring career, but all they find after hours and hours of driving and getting more and more bad-tempered and narky with each other is a dead boy whom they may or may not have run over.

Oh, and a cranky old man running a gas station whut don’t have no gas no-how. And as for this old-timer giving the young couple some directions to where they’re going, well, talk about ‘There ain’t no Mono-rail and there never wuz…!’ Something strange is definitely going on around these here parts…

Those bits are great. It’s only when they get to the bits with the small blonde-haired girl in the LITTLE HOUSE AND THE PRAIRIE get-up who can draw the future (sometimes, she even whittles the future) that I settle back for a swift kip.

These kids are super-boring and have little to recommend them. Outmoded fashions, a funny old-fashioned Biblical way of talking and ridiculous restrictions on their own lives (‘She was listening to music and drawing and doing puzzles!’) and mental health.

They’ve killed all the adults in their town, on the orders of their teenage leaders, Isaac and Malachai (these two are brilliant!) and therefore only have corn to eat. It seems to me that they’re a tad over-reliant on the corn, plentiful though it may be:

Isaac: Hey, Malachai, whatcha get for your birthday?

Malachai: Um, some corn, I guess.

Isaac: Oh yeah, right. Corn…

And what about when they go to the job centre?

Official: And what other jobs have you had?

Isaac: I’ve worked in, erm, corn some.

Official: Hmmm. I see. What are your strengths?

Isaac: Erm, I’m good with, um…

Official: Corn…?

Isaac: Yeah.

Official: I see…

And their phoney, makey-uppy god, a malevolent entity who apparently ‘walks behind the rows’ (of corn? What else?), has got these dumb, poorly-dressed hicks committing suicide at nineteen, the age at which their lives are just about to open up like a flower.

Why? Well, the dopes believe they’re going to live in their version of Heaven with ‘He Who Walks Behind the Rows,’ but of course they’re so not. It’s all a big fat religious con, if they could but see it, the poor fools.

I like Isaac and Malachai tearing verbal strips off each other near the end, but the end itself is messy and confusing and there’s probably just a little too much fire. I love when the couple end up with the two ‘normal’ kids at the end and Burt says playfully: ‘How’d you kids like to come and stay with us for a week?’

Vicky is ecstatic, probably because she feels that the kids will bring herself and Burt closer together, much like having a baby of their own. I just can’t wait till Dr. Burt finds out that you have to keep kids for longer than just a week. Would sure love to be a fly on that wall…

Hey, how’d you get Isaac or Malachai off your back?

Just point to somewhere in the distance and yell: ‘Dang me, it’s an Outlander…!’ Lol.

Also, right, I’m now officially coining the term, ‘corn horror.’ There are loads of films that would come under this category: HUSK, SIGNS… Well, there’s bound to be a few more when I sit down to have a good think about it.

PS, RIP, Sarge, you poor good doggy, you. That was well out of order, what happened to you.

I’ll leave you with an hilarious quote on the film from Roger Ebert:

‘By the end of Children of the Corn, the only thing moving behind the rows is the audience, fleeing to the exits.’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

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

YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER. (2021) AN IRISH FOLK HORROR REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER. (2021) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY KATE DOLAN. STARRING HAZEL DOUPE, JORDANNE JONES, CAROLYN BRACKEN AND INGRID CRAIGIE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Damn you, scary Irish horror films about changelings and the wee folks and so on! Scared the Christ out of me there the other night, making me close my bedroom door at bedtime instead of leaving it invitingly open for Dracula as usual. Well, you know, just in case he’s ever free for a supernatural shag, like.

This film, which feels to me to be primarily a woman’s film with a mainly female cast, is set on an Irish housing estate with mountains and woods nearby. Char, short for Charlotte, is the protagonist. She is a schoolgirl with a really miserable life. I mean, seriously, you’d feel actively sorry for her.

She has no dad. Her mum Angela has untreated mental problems. They live with Angela’s mum Rita, who, though kindly, is elderly with health and mobility problems, and Angela’s brother Aaron, who lives nearby, pops round from time to time to throw an eye over things.

There’s not enough food in the house for a growing schoolgirl, and you get the impression that poor miserable Char, with an unexplained burn on her face to boot, has to fend for herself much of the time. She gets bullied in school by a trio of really disgustingly horrible female bullies, and, to be honest, her life is just one long round of misery piled on top of misery.

Anyway, one day Char’s mentally unstable mother Angela, who clearly needs to be treated for her obvious depression, goes missing for a day and a night. The Guards aren’t a whole lot of help.

Then, Angela just suddenly turns up back at the house, seemingly none the worse for wear. Where the fuppin’ hell has she been…? ‘I can’t tell you… yet,’ Angela tells her daughter Char ominously. Well, that’s not bone-chillingly disturbing at all…

It’s clear to the viewer that Granny Rita thinks there’s something radically wrong with the Angela who’s returned from God-knows-where. A terrified Char notices some pretty big differences herself between her old mother and this frighteningly upbeat new mother.

There are some really creepy scenes as she tries to keep herself safe from the eerily manic ‘New Mom.’ (Including one set to the music of Irish, erm, heart-throb, singer Joe Dolan. I haven’t been able to find out whether writer and director Kate Dolan is any relation…!)

Where has Mum been, and what if anything does it have to do with the burn on Char’s face, which her family have always tried to persuade her is a birthmark? And why do the neighbours think that Char’s family is weird, and why does the dad of one of Char’s bullies order his daughter to stay the hell away from Char?

It’s all tied up with the fascinating but terrifying world of Irish folklore and mythology, where changelings and fairy folk and curses and spells abound. Trust me, you don’t want to piss off the little people, whether it’s by demolishing their fairy fort in order to build a new road, or by trying to swap a changeling back for your original child. Nothing but thorns and sadness, or even madness, lies in store for such a person.

YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER, on Netflix at the moment, gave me a right good scare, so I’ll score it highly and recommend it to fans of Irish folk horror. Almost as frightening as the scary story itself is the bullying element of the movie.

If girls today are really as vicious to each other as they appear in the film, then teachers and parents are not properly doing their respective jobs of keeping an eye on the little brats. Parents in particular need to start looking into what the hell their kids are doing in their after-school hours and clamping down on it where necessary.

The film is set at Halloween, by the way, and revolves around a bonfire built by the schoolies (handle fire carefully and responsibly, kids!), so it’s the perfect film to watch this October. Happy viewing.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

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

ALISON’S BIRTHDAY. (1981) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

ALISON’S BIRTHDAY. (1981) AN AUSTRALIAN FOLK HORROR FILM WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY IAN COUGHLAN. PRODUCED BY DAVID HANNAY.
STARRING JOANNE SAMUEL, LOU BROWN, BUNNEY BROOKE, JOHN BLUTHAL, VINCENT BALL AND BRIAN WENZEL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I watched this Australian folk horror film on Shudder at the weekend for the first time and I really liked it, although it wasn’t too difficult to work out the plot, based on the information that we’re given in the first scenes when the titular Alison and her school mates ‘mess about’ on a Ouija board after school.

In the first place, you do not ‘mess about’ on Ouija boards; they are much too dangerous for that and should be taken seriously. Secondly, if we’ve learned anything from every horror movie that ever featured a Ouija board as its means of communicating with the ‘other side,’ it’s that when you open that door to the other dimension for someone to step through, it may not always be your sweet old deceased granny or your childhood pet who does so. It could be a raging demon or a malevolent spirit who’s thrilled with the chance to be back in the world again.

In Alison’s case, she gets a deadly warning from her dead father; her parents died in a car accident when she was a child. She’s been brought up by her Aunt Jennifer and Uncle Dean. The message involves a certain birthday, and, as I said, a deadly warning concerning same. The Ouija board session has serious enough consequences for Alison to never fully be able to put the warning to the back of her mind…

Jump forward nearly three years later, and Alison and her boyfriend Pete are motoring to Aunt Jenny and Uncle Dean’s house in the country for Alison’s nineteenth birthday celebrations. Birthday, you say? But wasn’t there something about a birthday, and a warning, or something…? You’re right. There was…

Auntie and Uncle are a bit dismayed to see that Alison and Pete are practically joined at the hip. It seems that whatever they have planned for Alison, they’ve reckoned without an ultra-protective boyfriend who genuinely only has Alison’s best interests at heart.

How to get rid of him without arousing Alison’s suspicions? How to do the thing they’ve lured Alison here for without arousing his…? They seem like a resourceful couple, dearest Auntie and Uncle. (They remind me of Roz and Brother in the brilliant 1976 supernatural horror film, BURNT OFFERINGS). I’m sure they’ll rig up something…

Two horror movie tropes of great interest here; firstly, the shocking presence of a one-hundred-and-three-year-old woman in a bedroom at the top of the house, whom Alison’s Auntie and Uncle have the cheek to tell her is a granny of hers she’s just forgotten. You don’t just forget you have a living granny. The nerve…

Secondly, there’s a wild, overblown space beyond the end of Auntie and Uncle’s back garden filled with old standing stones that you immediately understand will figure in whatever ghoulish fate Alison’s relatives have in store for her.

Standing stones rock, if you’ll excuse the pun, associated as they are with ancient runes and ancient rites and other ancient things that may or may not begin with ‘r.’ Watch NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957) for a truly cracking example of same.

Australia is such a mystical, mysterious country, isn’t it? It has its indigenous ghosts and spirits and mythical creatures, and so much open, untamed space that you could well imagine strange, wild things happening there.

The dreamy, atmospheric PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975) is a fantastic example of Australian mystery/horror cinema, but even modern Aussie horror films like WOLF CREEK (2005) and WOLF CREEK (2013), both starring John Jarratt who, coincidentally, was also in PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, also compellingly feature treacherous Australian landscapes, and not always treacherous for their wild animals and legendary ghosts, either. Sometimes, it’s the people you have to look out for, eh, Mick…?

WALKABOUT (1971), starring Jenny Agutter of THE RAILWAY CHILDREN fame, is another film which, while more survival and adventure than horror, showcases the wild barrenness and dangerous beauty of the magnificent, but unforgiving to the uninitiated, Australian Outback.

Even A CRY IN THE DARK (1988), probably better known as ‘The Dingo took my Baby’ film, features the massive primeval sandstone formation known as Ayers Rock, a place where you could well imagine bad things might happen…

I was pleased to see Brian Wenzel from A COUNTRY PRACTICE, the popular Australian soap opera, turn up at Alison’s house as a middle-aged copper. Who did he play in A COUNTRY PRACTICE…? Oh, a middle-aged copper, Sgt. Frank Gilroy.

He was married to Shirley and his daughter Vicki was a vet, remember? I loved A COUNTRY PRACTICE, which ran from 1981 to 1993. It’d still be on today if it hadn’t been elbowed out by NEIGHBOURS, grumble grumble.

Anyway, ALISON’S BIRTHDAY is interesting straightaway for being both Australian and cast in the folk horror mould. The opening scene, with the schoolgirls and the Ouija board, is not quite as good as the opening five minutes of THE APPOINTMENT (1981), but it’s still pretty good.

THE APPOINTMENT, by the way, is a British supernatural horror film starring Edward THE EQUALISER Woodward, who also appeared as the ill-fated Sergeant Neil Howie in the Mammy and Daddy of all the folk horror films, THE WICKER MAN (1973).

Other English folk horror films of note include THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), starring Vincent Price, and BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (1971), which is the film to watch if you’ve ever sat down and actively thought, Eeeeeeh, I wonder what Frank Spencer’s missus Betty would be like if she were in a folk horror film, attending an orgy as a dead sexy imp of Satan’s…? This fillum answers that question.

I think I’ve imparted enough of my wisdomness to you lot for today, lol. I’d best be off now, anyway. It’s time to keep my appointment with the Six o’Clock News and a baked potato…

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

 
 

THE FALLING. (2014) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE FALLING. (2014) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY CAROL MORLEY. PRODUCED BY LUC ROEG AND CAIRO CANNON. DISTRIBUTED BY METRODOME UK.

STARRING MAXINE PEAKE, MAISIE WILLIAMS, FLORENCE PUGH, JOE COLE, MONICA DOLAN AND GRETA SCAACHI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a strange, but strangely compelling, mystery drama film. You can’t really call it a horror film, as it doesn’t have all that much horror in it, but at first or second glance you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a folk horror movie, as it definitely contains elements of same. Confused? You said it, lol. Let’s have a look at the plot…

We’re in a posh girls’ day school in England in 1969, where the beautiful Abbie, played by Florence MIDSOMMAR Pugh in her rather impressive acting debut, is best friends with Lydia, who’s not quite such a raving beauty.

The blonde Abbie is at the age where she’s starting to explore her sexuality, so she has sex with Lydia’s brother Kenneth (never Ken!) to try to dislodge a pregnancy that’s been implanted in her womb by another boy. Lydia is, understandably, jealous of her friend’s popularity with the lads. She needn’t worry. Kenneth Never Ken is as happy to have sex with his sister as he is to copulate with Abbie…

We never once see Abbie’s parents, and I can’t help thinking that if they’d been a little more present in their daughter’s life, she might never have gotten into quite such a pickle. As it is, the kids in this film seem to be able to come and go as they please without any kind of parental interference whatsoever, except for rare interventions by Lydia’s mum, Eileen.

Eileen is an interesting character. Played by Maxine Peake, who portrayed Myra Hindley in the absolutely superb television drama about the Moors Murders, SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, Eileen is an agoraphobic single parent who runs a hairdressing business from home.

Her husband is out of the picture and her children, Lydia and Kenneth Never Ken, seem to mostly do what they like. Lydia in particular gives her poor mum a ton of verbal abuse, especially about her agoraphobia, but Eileen has her own perfectly sensible reasons for not wanting to leave the house…

Anyway, after Abbie has sex with Kenneth, she starts having strange fainting fits. Soon, Lydia and the other teenaged girls at the school are all having these fits of fainting, in which they all swoon elegantly and artistically to the floor without ever hurting themselves or braining themselves off table corners and things like that.

It’s like a choreographed ballet of fainting, an orgy of delicate swooning that drives the headmistress Miss Alvaro and her second-in-command, Miss Mantel played by Greta Scaachi, batty with anger and exasperation. They become especially irked when the school has to be shut down after a mass fainting fit during a special assembly.

Neither the head nor Miss Mantel are prepared to believe any explanation for the fainting fits other than, one, the girls are faking it for the laugh, or, two, the girls are being unduly influenced by Lydia, Abbie’s best friend and sidekick. Lydia is acting out for reasons she’s unsure of, but a good therapist, and I don’t mean the snobby toff attached to the hospital, could probably help her to work it out.

Instead of feeling compassionate towards the greatly disturbed Lydia or trying to help her, however, Miss Alvaro decides to expel the unfortunate teenager. It’s then up to the psychiatrist treating the remaining girls to decipher whether their fainting fits are caused by a surfeit of female hormones or hormone imbalance coupled with menstruation and the onset of sexuality, or whether a thing called ‘mass hysteria’ could possibly be at work here, and the girls are picking up the ‘infection’ or the ‘bug’ from each other.

It could also be a sort of mass demonic possession, couldn’t it? The teenage girl is more likely to be susceptible to this type of thing than any other age group, due to hormones and changes in their bodies and maybe even a general propensity for drama and such. That’s just one theory, anyway.

The director here is clearly channelling PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, the floatiest, dreamiest mystery film about missing schoolgirls ever to hit the big screen. The school in THE FALLING has a lake and the most dazzling scenery, forestry, little hidden wooded paths and other natural charms on its very doorstep, giving rise to the notion that here be folk horror, and the girlies read poetry by choice, listen to music and draw and paint to their little hearts’ content. All the subjects guaranteed to arouse romance, glamour, sex and romantic longing in young girls.

If something floaty, dreamy and utterly mysterious doesn’t happen to the girls in this film, then I don’t know who it would happen to. Teenage girls are always doing something weird, whether it’s going for a Picnic at Hanging Rock and getting lost in the Rock or mass-fainting in a delightfully artistic pile of arms and legs and long, long swathes of hair in The Falling. Personally, I wouldn’t mind getting lost in the Rock myself, as long as that Rock was the former wrestler and now actor, Dwayne the Rock Johnson, but that’s another matter…

Guys probably won’t dig this flick, what with its being artsy and slow-moving and quiet and such-like. But women will like it, and fans of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK will like it, so it will have its fans.

The Rock, good old Dwayne Johnson himself, probably won’t like it because it’s a movie where no-one really punches anyone or throws someone out of a speeding car whilst punching them in double time, but don’t you worry your head about that. There are plenty of other films out there for the Rock to enjoy. He’s gonna be all right…  

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

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

WITHOUT NAME. (2016) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WITHOUT NAME. (2016) DIRECTED BY LORCAN FINNEGAN. WRITTEN BY GARRET SHANLEY. STARRING ALAN MCKENNA, NIAMH ELGAR, JAMES BROWNE, DONNCHA CROWLEY AND OLGA WEHRLY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

There’s not a whole lot to say about this Irish eco-horror film, and I still can’t really decide if I liked it or not. It’s about a bloke called Eric who accepts an assignment to survey a forest in Dublin from a businessman who won’t tell him what the survey is for. Don’t get too excited about that last bit, lol, as it doesn’t turn out to be relevant.

Eric is more than happy to take on the assignment, as it means he’ll have to live on the job for as long as it takes, and not with his family. He has a disastrous relationship with his wife Margaret, and we get the distinct feeling that it’s Eric’s appalling lack of communication that’s to blame. His desperate wife is just about ready to give up on him, and even his teenage son Justin is getting in trouble at school purely, we feel, to grab his dad’s attention at long last.

While doing the surveying job, Eric will live in a creepy old house on the edge of the forest we later find out is called Without Name, or Gan Anam, pronounced ‘Gone Annem,’ in the Irish.

He hears from the regulars in the tiny local pub (anyone hear the sound of duelling banjos?) that the previous incumbent of the house, an old man called Devoy, was found naked and gibbering in the forest one fine day, his mind gone. We know this to be true because we see Devoy in the mental hospital. In. His. Pyjamas, if you please.

Eric’s student assistant Olivia, a beautiful young blonde woman with whom he’s having an extramarital affair, comes to the house and they have wild, passionate sex before commencing on the job.

Olivia is no happier than Margaret, the wife, because Eric is uncommunicative with her too, on top of which he’s clearly going back on his promise to leave his wife for her, citing the teenage Justin as an excuse. Quite hypocritical of him, as he hasn’t done a whole lot for the lad lately.

The forest gives both Eric and Olivia the creeps. More than that, Eric keeps thinking he sees a dark, eerie silhouette of a human figure through the trees. His visions don’t exactly improve after a night of ingesting magic mushrooms with Olivia and Gus, a weirdo who lives in a caravan in the forest. In fact, things get much, much worse.

Is Eric doomed to go the way of poor, mentally ruined Devoy, and just how much of what he’s seen and heard is real, and how much is just a figment of his crumbling sanity…? The woods and scenery in this are gorgeous, but then Ireland is filled with such fabulous woods. It’s plot, narrative and storyline the film is short of. Sorry, but not a lot is happening here horror-wise to satisfy your average fan.

The most interesting thing to me about this film was that the part of the publican in the miniscule local pub is played by Donncha Crowley, who was Father Billy in the Christmas episode of FATHER TED, one of the priests who gets lost in the lingerie department on Christmas Eve.

I’m not sure if he’s the one was was ‘messing with the bras and the strap flung back and hit him in the eye,’ and the next scene he’s in he’s wearing an eyepatch. That’s just the funniest Christmas episode of a sitcom ever, bar none. Given a choice between it and WITHOUT NAME, A VERY CHRISTMASSY TED wins hands down. WITHOUT NAME? WITHOUT PLOT, more like.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

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

THE RITUAL. (2017) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE RITUAL. (2017) BASED ON THE NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME BY ADAM NEVILL. DIRECTED BY DAVID BRUCKNER. STARRING RAFE SPALL, ARSHER ALI, ROBERT JAMES-COLLIER AND SAM TROUGHTON.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I loved this one, a genuinely spooky folk horror set in rural Sweden but filmed in Romania. It’s kind of like THE BLAIR WITCH, but with adult males instead of excitable and impressionable teenagers. The effect of this was to make the film’s concept even more scary, I thought, because when adult males are fleeing in terror from something, then you damn well better flee too, lol, ’cause it means that something bad is coming.

So, we’ve got our four lads anyway, Luke (Rafe Spall), Hutch, Phil and Dom, all proper English blokes who’ve been mates since college and who still try to keep up with each other and with their heavy laddish boozing, even though they all seem to have wives and kids at home.

They’re planning a lads’ holiday when we first meet them. They’re even mentioning Ibiza as a possible destination, which is a bit ridiculous as the kids who go to Ibiza would all regard these four lads as pipe-and-slippers-category auld fellas. Go home to your cocoa, Grandad, type of thing.

In the end, the lads go to Sweden on a very out-of-character outdoorsy hiking holiday, to honour one of their original five who has died a horrible death in an off-licence hold-up. Luke, who was involved in the same hold-up, is suffering from terrible survivors’ guilt, and he’s also guilty because his own instinct to survive saw him not coming to the aid of his chum. The remaining lads seem also to be harbouring a grudge against Luke for not saving their mate, so some of these resentments may come vomiting copiously out of them later.

They leave a touching memorial to their fallen comrade on a rain-washed Swedish hillside, then they promptly get lost in the forest, miles from civilisation, because they think that cutting through the woods for a short-cut on the way to the lodge they’ve booked into is a good idea.

Come again? A short-cut through the deserted woods in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the night, a good idea…? That’s bound to turn out well, eh, fellow horror fans…? Jesus H. Christ, lol. Are these men or weak-witted morons? Morons who don’t watch horror fillums on d’television…?

The abandoned ‘cabin in the woods’ in which they spend their first night of being lost makes the Blair Witch house look welcoming. It makes it look like your granny’s house when you went there on holiday as a kid and you knew she was baking up a storm to prepare for your arrival.

Or your own little bed after a night on the lash fuelled by cider and onion rings that’s ended in disgrace as you puke in the taxi and arrive home wasted and without your knickers. I’ve never done that myself, of course, but it just seems like the kind of awful thing that might happen to people. Other people, naturally. Not to me. Never to me. Ahem. But I don’t even like onion rings, so there! Let’s move on…

The cabin is dark, damp, cold, gloomy, sinister, deserted, unliveable-in, and that’s just the downstairs. Upstairs is a hideous humanoid effigy with no head and antlers for hands, but which self-respecting cabin in the woods hasn’t got one of these, especially in Nordic climes? You can get them from IKEA and assemble them yourself, shure…!

The effigy has a very strange, very unsettling effect on the four lads. After a night spent in its malevolent company, they’re all having nightmares or experiencing nightmarish flashbacks to terrible events, eg, it gets into Luke’s head and so poor Luke is being constantly dragged back to that awful night in the off-licence where his mate Rob was brutally slaughtered. They need to get out of the cabin, and out of the woods which stretch for literally miles around, as soon as is humanly possible.

It’s when they’re fleeing through the woods that they discover that whatever was affecting them in the cabin is still with them. (‘Yes Bart, I never left you…!’ Hugo to Bart, THE THING AND I, THE SIMPSONS’ TREEHOUSE OF HORROR, Episode 7.) Only it seems bigger, much bigger now, and it makes rustling noises in the trees (which, incidentally, are carved all over in mysterious, runic-looking symbols) as it approaches and it seems like very much a  real and physical thing that the lads need to run from. Before it catches them, and kills them…

Rafe Spall is excellent as Luke, the lead character. He makes a great sort of Everyman, just an ordinary bloke living an ordinary life who gets caught up in a situation way, way outside of his normal comfort zone. He has to really dig deep down inside himself to find the courage to extricate himself- and his mates- from the hairy circumstances in which they find themselves. I’d love to see him as the dad in a story about a failing marriage, or about a man losing his kids because he can’t afford to pay the child support, stuff like that.

I was a tiny bit disappointed with the ending but otherwise, this is a perfectly acceptable horror film with some really spooky moments in it. The Swedish scenery and those miles and miles of isolated forestry are all staggeringly beautiful, until you come to the credits and see that it says there: Filmed in Romania.

So, is this Romanian scenery we’ve been admiring then, or is it Swedish scenery? Never having been to either country, I haven’t a clue, but it’s a gorgeous-looking film either way, and one you should check out if you get the chance. Tell ’em Loki sentcha…   

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

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

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

WRONG TURN. (2021) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WRONG TURN. (2021) DIRECTED BY MIKE P. NELSON. WRITTEN BY ALAN B. MCELROY AND BASED ON ‘WRONG TURN’ BY ALAN B. MCELROY.
STARRING CHARLOTTE VEGA, MATTHEW MODINE AND BILL SAGE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. I love all these ‘WRONG TURN’ movies to bits. This one is what’s known as a franchise re-boot, I think, and it was hugely entertaining. I don’t think I was bored at all during the one hour and fifty minutes it was on.

It’s sort of a ‘WRONG TURN’ for the digital age, which I thought might put me off, but strangely enough it didn’t. It’s ‘MIDSOMMAR’ meets ‘THE HILLS HAVE EYES,’ combining a weird cult with the usual inbred and terrifying mountainy folk we’ve come to expect from this kind of film.

Matthew Modine plays Scott Shaw, a concerned dad trying to find his daughter Jen, who seemingly went missing recently while hiking with some college friends along the Appalachian Trail.

According to Wikipedia, this trail is a marked hiking route about 2,200 miles long which extends from Georgia to Maine in the Eastern United States, and is said to be used by about two million tourists a year. Popular trail.

The viewers quickly find out what happened to Jen and her five mates. First, they wind up in the kind of old ‘Confederate’ town in Virginia where some of the older folks still retain the mores and morals, customs and mind-sets of a much earlier time. This often means that the community is rife with racism, sexism and homophobia.

The little group of six college students rouse a lot of suspicion and contempt in the town. Jen, the lead girl and a student of the arts who is unsure of what to do with her life, is an all-American white girl who is dating Darius, a black guy.

That’s frowned upon by the townspeople, as is the gay relationship and ethnicities of Gary and Luis. Gary is an Indian chap (not a native American Indian) and Luis is of Hispanic origin.

Milla and Adam, a trainee doctor and app developer respectively, are just an ordinary white American couple. Clearly, the film-makers couldn’t think of a way to make them into some kind of a minority, lol.

Anyway, the six students head off happy as Larry on the self-guided trail, but tragedy strikes when the group take a ‘wrong turn’ in search of an old civil war fort and one of their number is horribly killed.

The remaining five students decide that they need to get back to civilisation and safety straightaway, but the unseen presence on the mountain that’s been dogging their footsteps since they arrived in town has other ideas. Nasty, painful, dangerous and horrible ideas…

I love the idea of the mountainy cult known as ‘the Foundation’ that actually pre-dates the Civil War. You’d expect them to be as racist as the townspeople, so it’s a pleasant surprise, if a tad confusing, when it turns out they’re not. They’re no saints, though, and what they have, they hold. Remember that…

They have such evil reputations for murdering and torturing outsiders that even the townspeople are scared to death of them and won’t go near their hunting grounds, which are lethally equipped with booby-traps.

The sheriff and the townsfolk prefer to act like the strange, spooky mountainy folks just don’t exist, which is why they- mostly- elect not to help Jen’s distraught dad Scott when he comes looking for his missing daughter.

I don’t mind the bear costumes, but I’m not sure why the culties have to talk in weird Scandinavian-type accents, though. I loved the cult leader, Venable, whom I nicknamed ‘Poppa Bear,’ not just because of the bear costume, but also because he’s exactly the type of burly, beardy middle-aged bloke I go for now. I would have volunteered for ‘wifey duties’ in a heartbeat, and you wouldn’t have needed to force me either, lol, but that’s just me.

The violence in the film is pretty shocking. It seems to be the fashion since ‘MIDSOMMAR,’ a sort of modern day re-imagining of THE WICKER MAN, to portray in horror movies of this nature the complete obliteration of the human head and face, and this film has that kind of thing in spades. It also has the horror movie trope of the ‘lost and found’ shed, filled with the backpacks and dead cell-phones of legions of murdered tourists.

I liked that we find out what happened to Jen in her life ‘post-Foundation,’ but I can’t help feeling that she’s going to have a lot of explaining to do to the authorities after that ending. Still, that’s not our problem, I guess.

I’d love to see more films in the re-booting of this excellent franchise, although it’d be a challenge to come up with a better premise than this one. If the film-makers do run out of ideas, I for one would be happy enough to go back to basics with the cannibalistic hillbillies from the backwoods. Now there’s an idea that just never gets old.

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 GIRL IN A SWING. (1980) BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE GIRL IN A SWING. (1980) A NOVEL BY RICHARD ADAMS.

BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Beautiful, haunting erotic love and an absolutely terrifying ghost story.’

The New York Times Book Review.

A Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection.

At the time of writing this book review, I haven’t actually seen the 1988 film that was made from the book, but reading the film’s entry on Wikipedia certainly helped to clarify a few things that were left unexplained in the book, lol.

Not that I didn’t enjoy reading the book. Quite the contrary. I loved reading it. It gave me something to look forward to on those cold dark January nights just gone. It was a fantastic read right up until the last thirty-five pages or so, after which things became positively baffling and I admit I was disappointed by the ending, because I felt that the mystery surrounding Käthe, the joint lead character, hadn’t been resolved at all.

The book is an erotic mystery/suspense novel, written by the guy who wrote WATERSHIP DOWN. You know, the anthropomorphic rabbits? ‘Bright eyes, burning like fire…?’ Song made everybody cry? Ah, you know it. Well, this sexy, bordering-on-pornographic oeuvre was a bit of a change of pace from the poor wee bunnies. It’d really make you wonder how you’d go on to write one after the other…!

Anyway, the book is the story of Alan Desland, a quiet young intellectual Englishman who has made himself an expert in pottery and ceramics after the death of his father, whose ceramics shop he’s inherited.

The cultured Alan lives quietly with his widowed mother, in the very house where he and his sister Flick, now married with a child of her own, grew up. They live in a lovely quiet country town and it sounds idyllic, except for the fact that Alan hasn’t met the right woman yet and he’s starting to wonder if he ever will…

He stops wondering when he meets Käthe, a beautiful, mysterious young German secretary, on a ceramics-related trip to Copenhagen. Without knowing the first thing about the girl (indeed, he never really does), he falls head-over-heels in love with her and proposes marriage to her.

They get married and honeymoon in Florida, on the suggestion and offer of free accommodation from a business acquaintance of Alan’s. Then they come home to England, and straightaway Käthe is a huge success with Alan’s friends and family and even the women who work in his pottery shop.

Käthe really is the perfect wife. She’s a superb cook, she knows how to save Alan a few pennies here and there on the housekeeping, she becomes knowledgeable about ceramics and even acquires for a gobsmacked Alan the pottery find of a century (The Girl In A Swing), although to call it the find of several centuries might be nearer to the mark.

And the sex! My God, the sex. Alan goes from being impotent with her to becoming almost like one of his creator’s anthropomorphic bunny rabbits, rutting with his lovely young wife all the livelong day and night. They even have sex on the kitchen table once, while a whole roomful of acquaintances and friends wait for them just next door in the sitting-room. The dirty beasts!

Alan comes home from somewhere once to find Käthe naked as a jaybird and ready for loving on the swing in the back garden. Naturally he obliges her, and, when she wants them to have sex on the public beach as well one day, he obliges her in that too, the lovesick fool. (Their simple garden swing becomes the ‘sex swing’ of Joey Tribiani’s dreams in sitcom FRIENDS, lol!)

You know the word, uxorious, right? As in having or showing an excessive fondness for one’s wife? Well, that’s Alan Desland for you. As Käthe is unlike anyone he’s ever known before, and possesses a deeply ingrained sexuality that entraps, enslaves and enchants him, she quickly becomes the thing he cares about most in the world, maybe even more than his precious ceramic figurines.

But some things are happening around the young couple which give Alan no slight cause for concern, and which seem to be connected with Käthe in some way. There’s the sound of rushing water in the night, with no visible source for the noise. There’s the sighting of a corpse on a Florida river-bed, and the morphing of a seemingly harmless green cushion into a stuffed green tortoise toy for some reason…

Then there’s the sound of a child crying in the garden, but, if she’s only in the garden, why can’t Alan find her? Whose is the big black dog on the heath, and why is he hostile to Alan but not to Käthe? What’s Mrs. Taswell got to do with the price of fish? And why does she put me in mind of Billie Whitelaw as Mrs. Baylock in DAMIEN: THE OMEN (1975)?

Then there are all the dreams of drownings and drowned people, and then comes a night of such horror in Alan’s childhood home that he doesn’t demur when his distraught missus begs him to take her away from their house and bring her to… the sea, of all places. But, what with all the water-based ill omens that have been plaguing Alan so far, what on earth makes him think that the sea is a safe place to which to bring Käthe…?

The book falls apart at this point. Nothing makes sense any more. There’s a REBECCA-style inquest and a shame-faced confession of nudie seaside lovemaking but nothing that explains the dog, Mrs. Taswell or the dreadful night of terror in the house.

As I said, I probably learned more from reading the film’s Wikipedia entry than I did by reading the end of the book. I’d read 325 pages looking for a pay-off that never really came, which was immensely disappointing.

One minute, I’m reading what I feel might be a genuinely spooky piece of folk horror set in a breath-taking countryside location (the countryside is a surprisingly fabulous setting for a good horror story!), and the next, kablam-o…!

Still, the first 325 pages were spellbinding and breath-taking, and you should still read the book if ever you come across it. So long as you know that the end is confusing and doesn’t really explain much.

And that The Girl In A Swing is a real group of porcelain figurines, which lends a good deal of authenticity to the plot of the book. Unfortunately, it’s not authenticity it needs, but some clarity as to what really happens in the end. Oh well. Win some, lose some. It’s all grist for the mill at the end of the day. Happy Swinging…!

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 BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW. (1971) TIGON BRITISH FILM PRODUCTIONS. DIRECTED BY PIERS HAGGARD. WRITTEN BY PIERS HAGGARD AND ROBERT WYNNE-SIMMONS.

STARRING PATRICK WYMARK, BARRY ANDREWS, SIMON WILLIAMS, TAMARA USTINOV, LINDA HAYDEN, MICHELE DOTRICE, WENDY PADBURY, CHARLOTTE MITCHELL AND ANTHONY AINLEY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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.

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 WITCHES. (1966) A HAMMER FOLK HORROR REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE WITCHES. (1966) A HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION. ADAPTED BY NIGEL KNEALE FROM NORAH LOFTS’ BOOK, ‘THE DEVIL’S OWN.’ DIRECTED BY CYRIL FRANKEL.

STARRING JOAN FONTAINE, ALEC MCCOWEN, KAY WALSH, MICHELE DOTRICE, GWEN FFRANGCON-DAVIES, INGRID BRETT AND LEONARD ROSSITER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is not my favourite Hammer horror film, as it’s a little short on sex, Hammer glamour and ginormous boobies, but it’s still a really decent, unsettling folk horror movie, which is one of my favourite sub-genres of horror.

Set in a little English village in modern times (well, the ‘Sixties), it stars Hollywood Golden Age actress Joan Fontaine (REBECCA, SUSPICION, JANE EYRE) in the lead role of Gwen Mayfield.

Joan is the sister of the Little Johnny Live-A-Lot also known as Hollywood Golden Age actress Olivia de Havilland, who died over the summer (yes, this summer!) at the staggering age of 104. What great longevity some of these old Hollywood broads had! Their male contemporaries rarely lived this long.

Anyway, Gwen Mayfield is a school teacher who takes up a post in a tiny rural English village called Heddaby. Her last post before this was in Africa, where her run-in with the witchcraft practised by the natives caused her to have a breakdown.

Her new employer is the strange and rather monosyllabic Reverend Alan Bax, played by Alec McCowen, who might be best known for his wonderful portrayal of a homicide detective, Chief Inspector Oxford, driven culinarily demented by a wife who’s been doing a gourmet cookery course, in Alfred Hitchcock’s FRENZY (1972).

God Almighty, all the poor chap wants is a decent dinner after a hard day’s detecting, but the weird and sometimes inedible fare his wife serves up is barely enough to feed one of the poor quails who sadly died and found its way on to her menu.

Anyway, as for the Reverend Alan Bax, well, there’s a mystery there all right, but it will be a while before Miss Mayfield is able to determine whether he’s a friend or a foe in the strange situation in which she finds herself enmeshed in Heddaby.

Odd things happen in her new locale that makes Gwen wonder if perhaps her parish of superstitious villagers back in Africa isn’t too different from the quaint little backward-thinking village of Heddaby after all, where the locals favour healing with herbs over calling in a medically-trained doctor.

A teenage boy falls ill and is spirited away by his mother, just as a headless boy doll is found in a tree with a bunch of voodoo pins stuck all over him. The boy’s father is found drowned. A teenage girl is allegedly being abused by the grandmother she lives with and then the girl goes missing. There’s a very WICKER MAN vibe about the whole thing.

If Gwen hadn’t actively come up against witchcraft in her little African village, she might not now be so quick to come to the conclusion that the villagers of Heddaby are practising the black arts.

But come to it she does, and not only that. She also comes to another conclusion, that a young girl’s life is in danger (think Rowan Morrison), and that no-one’s efforts but her own can save the girl now…

I love Leonard Rossiter (RISING DAMP, THE FALL AND RISE OF REGINALD PERRIN) as Dr. Wallis, and Michele Dotrice (Betty Spencer, Frank’s long-suffering wife, in sitcom SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM) as Miss Mayfield’s sort of maid-cum-cleaning lady.

Michele Dotrice, a terrific actress, and not just in comedy roles, also appears in two other fabulous horror films, BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW, which is very definitely a folk horror, and also AND SOON THE DARKNESS, a murder mystery which is very folky in its setting, in my humble whatsit.

I also love Kay Walsh, once married to film director David Lean, as Alan Bax’s bossy middle-aged sister Stephanie, a magazine writer and the type of woman who’ll wear wellies to walk the dogs and who tells people what they ought to do in any given situation without having been asked for her advice even slightly.

I would have loved it if, instead of magazine articles, she’d been an Agatha Christie-style writer of crime novels or murder mysteries, like Auriol Lee as Isobel Sedbusk in Alfred Hitchcock’s SUSPICION (1941), for her role in which superb suspense thriller Joan Fontaine actually won a Best Actress Oscar, incidentally.

Anyway, THE WITCHES is a tiny bit hokey but it looks gorgeous, and Joan Fontaine, sporting the most bouffant of bouffant hairstyles, is absolutely brilliant at looking shocked, surprised and frightened in it. Joanie channels her best Tippi Hedren (THE BIRDS) here, in her olive-green ensemble, and Kay Walsh is a dead ringer for dear old Bette Davis in her horror cossie.

There’s a smart cat called Vesper in it, and also a sort of wild, fruit-based orgy amongst the natives in which you’ll probably be praying, like me, for the participants to please keep their clothes on. You’ll enjoy watching this horror classic, I promise you. It’s great fun.

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.