THE FOG. (1980) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG. (1980) DIRECTED BY JOHN CARPENTER. WRITTEN BY JOHN CARPENTER AND DEBRA HILL. ORIGINAL MUSIC BY JOHN CARPENTER.
STARRING ADRIENNE BARBEAU, JAMIE LEE CURTIS, JANET LEIGH, TOMMY ATKINS, JOHN HOUSEMAN, NANCY LOOMIS AND HAL HOLBROOK.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Who is that…?’

‘Did you see his eyes…?’

‘Blake, I have your gold…!’

‘We’re honouring murderers…’

‘Why not six, Blake? Why not six…?’

‘Something came out of the fog tonight…’
 
The picturesque little Californian seaside town of Antonio Bay is in serious trouble in this fantastic film by horror icon John Carpenter. The inhabitants of the town are all getting ready to celebrate their centenary, with scream queen Janet PSYCHO Leigh roped in to organise the festivities. She plays Kathy Williams, council-woman and wife of a local fisherman, and she looks smashing in her knee-length red leather boots with her blonde coiffure.

She’s being assisted in her worthy endeavours, by the way, by Nancy Loomis, the woman who played Annie, the annoying teenage babysitter from HALLOWEEN. ‘Sandy, you have a way of saying yes, ma’am that sounds exactly like screw you…!’ To which Sandy immediately replies, ‘Yes, ma’am…!’

But, anyway, a strange glowing fog is rolling in from the sea, and it’s no normal fog, as you might have guessed by the word ‘glowing.’ Fog doesn’t normally glow, does it? Darn tootin’ it doesn’t. Something tells us that the centenary celebrations and the glorification of the town’s founding fathers may not pass off without incident…

Even worse than the fog itself, which is quite disturbing enough on its own, is what it contains. The ghosts of long-dead mariners are in it, see? And they’re coming back to Antonio Bay after a hundred years of being deceased to wreak a deadly revenge on the townspeople for wrongs committed against them by the town’s founding fathers. Well, I nevah…!

They’re being reasonable enough in their quest for a terrible vengeance, though, these spectres. They’re not going on a murderous rampage willy-nilly. They’ll only be slaughtering six people, because that’s how many people dissed ’em a hundred years ago tonight. Aw. It’s nice when ghosts can count. It should encourage any young folks watching the film to stick with their math…

Seriously, though, I had a horrible dream recently about a plague ship or a leper ship that desperately tried to reach land, reach some country where there would be people who could help the sick, suffering and dying people on board. But when they did eventually reach what they called ‘civilisation,’ the so-called ‘civilised’ people were so appalled at the thought of being in close proximity to lepers or plague victims that they chose to burn the ship’s still-living inhabitants to death and then scuttle the ship rather than risk their own skins. I woke up frozen in fear.

What does this all have to do with Antonio Bay? Well, I won’t give the whole plot away, but what happened to poor Blake and his men is just horrible. I don’t blame them for wanting revenge, although it’s awfully hard on people like poor Mrs. Kobritz and little Andy Wayne, the three mariners aboard the Sea Grass and the poor old weatherman who are, one would imagine, completely innocent of any wrongdoing themselves.

From the moment the town starts going all MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE at the start of the movie because of the proximity of the mariners, you know you’re going to be watching something special. The atmosphere is positively electric with a terrifying anticipation right from the get-go.

We know that something evil and dangerous is coming and the tension never lets up the whole way through. I think it’s honestly the most fun I’ve ever had being scared in my whole life. I was breathless with excitement while watching it and, even though I was spooked out of my mind, I wouldn’t have turned my face away for anything in the world. Mind you, when I watched it first at about age sixteen, it scared me so much I actually wet my bed that night…!

The cuddly Hal Holbrook, with a fine head of hair on him and a luxuriant moustache to match, does a top job of playing Father Malone. As a direct descendant of one of The Guilty Six, he seems to be the townsperson with the most to fear from the deadly fog. An alcoholic he may be, but he’s grimly determined to make reparations to Blake and his crew if he can at all.

It’s so nice to see Janet Leigh and her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, acting in the same film, even though they don’t have much to do with each other in it. Certainly Ms. Leigh doesn’t put her naughty hitch-hiker of a daughter over her knee and paddle her behind raw for sleeping with a strange guy who gives her a lift in his truck, and the horny pair don’t even ask each others’ names till after all the sex…!

Tsk, tsk. Jamie Lee, you brazen hussy…! A good spanking is most definitely in order, I fear. The strange guy in question, Nick Castle, is played by actor Tom Atkins, and he gets his kit off in HALLOWEEN 3 as well, the big horny stud.
 
The heroine of the film is, of course, the tousle-haired, husky-voiced Adrienne Barbeau, who plays the sultry but feisty disc jockey Stevie Wayne. Up in her lonely lighthouse studio she warns the townspeople about the approach of the fog and keeps ’em up to date as to its whereabouts.

Even though she knows that her own little boy Andy and his babysitter, the elderly Mrs. Kobritz, are directly in the line of fire of the fog, she won’t leave her post in the lighthouse because of the urgent need to warn everyone in town about the killer fog.

It’s kind of hard not to giggle when she’s telling everyone that the fog is heading up this street and down that avenue and up this hill and over that bridge, etc. One can almost imagine the fog stopping at various pedestrian lights and waiting impatiently for the lights to change before continuing on its rampage, like something out of THE SIMPSONS. Anyway, this lady Stevie Wayne has guts and balls to spare, and the town of Antonio Bay has a lot to thank her for. ‘Look for the fog…’

The loud banging on the various doors is terrifying. So too is the scene on the SEA GRASS when the lads look up and see the sails of a boat from a century ago literally towering over them. A ghost story that has its roots in the sea is scarier, in a way, than some land-based ones.

This film has so much atmosphere and authenticity, it puts some of the more modern stuff to shame. And it’s so simple too, in the sense that it’s not complicated by needless side-plots or trickery or other such nonsense. It relies on the story itself and the superb musical score to keep the audience hooked.

The music, written by the legendary horror director himself, is fantastic. When the fog is heading for the showdown in the old church, the pounding soundtrack ratchets up the fear factor something fierce. And at other times, the music is beautifully eerie and reminds us that John Carpenter also wrote the theme music for his other famous horror film, HALLOWEEN.

Of all the horror films I’ve ever seen in my life, I think THE FOG has to be the one that uses music the most effectively to create a feeling of ever-mounting terror and dread. The whole movie gets a ten out of ten in every possible way.

I think it might even be John Carpenter’s best film, but no doubt fans of his other movies like THE THING and the afore-mentioned HALLOWEEN might fight me on that one. One thing I’m sure we’re all agreed on. John Carpenter is the king of horror directing. All hail the King…!     

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:
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.com/dp/1781994234

CANDYMAN. (1992) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


CANDYMAN. (1992) DIRECTED BY BERNARD ROSE. SCREENPLAY BY BERNARD ROSE. BASED ON ‘THE FORBIDDEN,’ A SHORT STORY BY CLIVE BARKER. MUSIC BY PHILIP GLASS.
STARRING VIRGINIA MADSEN, TONY TODD, XANDER BERKELEY AND KASI LEMMONS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Remove your underwear…’

‘It was always you, Helen…’

I was confused but also intrigued by this rather strange and iconic horror film. The main thing I loved about it was that, every time something happens in the film that’s so gruesome or awful you just automatically assume that the character is having a nightmare, they’re actually not, and the awful or gruesome thing was perfectly real and did happen. It’s an extremely gory film and not, as they say, for the faint-hearted, so don’t stick the kids in front of it while you nip to Tesco for a loaf of bread, lol.

Anyway, the beautiful Virginia Madsen, sister of actor Michael Madsen, plays the main character, Helen Lyle, in this supernatural slasher movie. She is a graduate student living in Chicago with her cheating and rather weedy-looking university professor husband, Trevor. Helen is studying urban legends and local folklore for her thesis, which she is co-writing with her friend Bernadette.

They decide to focus their thesis on the legends surrounding the Candyman, the evil spirit of a black man called Daniel Robitaille who was born the son of a slave in the late 1800s. He was killed in horrific circumstances by white men after becoming a painter of some repute and impregnating a white woman with whom he was in love.

The ghost has a hook for a hand (I know what you did last summer, by the way!) and a great big hulking chip on his shoulder. If you say his name in the mirror five times, the ghost, now known as the Candyman for some reason that’s not explained, is supposed to appear to you. No-one tells you what’s supposed to happen once he appears, but one would imagine it’s something fairly negative, as he’s a vengeful ghost and not, say, Father Christmas…

Instead of revenging himself on white men, as you might imagine, so far the spectre seems to have killed mainly black people living in notoriously poor housing projects. Helen and Bernadette, armed with cameras and notebooks, head straight to Cabrini Green, one such housing project, where the Candyman is supposed to have murdered a black woman after gaining access to her apartment through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.

Cabrini Green is a terrifying place, even without the lurking presence of the Candyman, whose name seems to be on everyone’s lips. The apartment blocks are disgracefully neglected by whichever local authority authorised their construction. They are filthy, probably overcrowded, daubed in graffiti and faeces, patrolled by gangs of aggressive black males and the lifts don’t work.

Sounds delightful, right? But Helen, our intrepid investigator, can’t seem to stay away from the bloody place, or from the mystery of the Candyman, even after she gets a terrible hiding from some of the local males who don’t take too kindly to posh ‘whites’ like Helen sniffing around their patch. Incidentally, did you see the state of those public toilets…?

But Helen is personally involved now, after a meeting she’s definitely not expecting in a deserted underground car-park. (This dame just can’t stop courting trouble, right? All she needs now is to hang round the tunnel under the old disused bridge at midnight on a bloody full moon…!)

Her discovery that the Candyman is all too real is just the beginning of a nightmare ride for the pretty graduate student with the lying, cheating bastard of a husband. She finds herself accused of the bloodiest, most horrific murders, murders that we know she didn’t commit. Her life changes out of all proportion, if by ‘changes’ you mean ‘fucked up beyond all recognition,’ or even FUBAR, lol.  

But the Candyman, a suave and decidedly sexy, sharp-dressing black ghost with a deep, delicious voice, refuses to relinquish his stranglehold on Helen. Might her resemblance to a woman in a certain portrait possibly hold the key to his obsession…?

The murders are gory and grim and the special effects excellent, but you might not sleep easy for a while after viewing this supernatural slasher flick, especially if, like me, you have a medicine cabinet in your bathroom…!

I loved the social commentary in the film. You could make a whole other film just about Cabrini Green and the people who live there, or in other forgotten housing projects like it. I especially liked the character of Anne-Marie McCoy, the young black single mum who works to take care of her baby, Anthony, whom she obviously adores.

It’s not all drugs and gangs, she tells Helen defensively. It’s not all like you whites read in the newspapers. Some good decent folks live here too. That is undoubtedly true. It must be very hard to live there as a woman on her own, trying to raise a little boy who, as he’s growing up, is going to see crime and gang activity everywhere he looks.

That’s the real horror of CANDYMAN, if you ask me, but, hey, there’s a pretty darned good murderous ghost in the mix too, so enjoy your film. There are two sequels: CANDYMAN 2: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH (1995) and CANDYMAN 3: DAY OF THE DEAD (1999). And watch out for the 2021 direct sequel, CANDYMAN, in your local cinema right about now. Now, all together: Candyman! Candyman! Candyman! Candyman! I just can’t say it a fifth time, lol. Too scared the legend might be true…

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 HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE: THE 2018 NETFLIX TV SERIES. ©

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE: THE TELEVISION SERIES. (2018) CREATED AND WRITTEN BY MIKE FLANAGAN. BASED ON THE BOOK BY SHIRLEY JACKSON.

STARRING CARLA GUGINO, TIMOTHY HUTTON, MICHIEL HUISMAN, ELIZABETH ANN REASER, OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN, KATE SIEGEL, VICTORIA PEDRETTI AND ANNABETH GISH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Whatever walked there, walked alone…’

Wow. This ten-part series makes for excellent television drama, but I suppose we’d better start by saying that it’s not as good as the original film of Shirley Jackson’s superb horror novel; how could it be? But it’s pretty damn good television viewing, even though it wasn’t as scary as I’d been led to believe and there’s an awful lot of talking and repetition in it.

It’s a ghost story, told in a non-linear fashion, so a bit you see in one episode might not make sense at all until another episode repeats the thing and explains it to you. Yes, that might be annoying for some, but the plot is really well written and complex and, even though it seems to have a million things to keep track of and an equal number of loose ends to tie up, it doesn’t do a bad job at all of tying everything up in a nice big bow at the end.

Okay, so it’s the summer of 1992 and the Crain family- the parents, Hugh and Olivia, and their five sprogs Stephen, Shirley, Theodora and twins Luke and Nell, come to live in the titular Hill House to do to it what the Americans call ‘flipping,’ that is, they’re going to do it up a bit and sell it on to make a fortune. That’s the plan, anyway.

But Hill House is haunted to buggery, as we all very well know, and it isn’t long before the house begins to exert its evil supernatural pull over the family Crain. Little Luke has an ‘imaginary’ friend called Abigail, who comes out of the nearby woods to play with him.

He is also haunted by a terrifyingly tall man with a walking stick, who floats a good twelve inches above the ground. His twin, Nell, is tormented by visitations from a scary-sounding someone she calls ‘the Bent-Neck Lady.

Theodora learns that she has a ‘psychic’ touch: if she touches something or someone, she can derive psychic information from it. She takes to wearing gloves every day, however, to prevent this from happening. Well, not everything she learns is necessarily welcome information, so you can’t really blame her, can you?

Dad is severely disturbed by the sounds of scraping, banging and tapping he hears in the basement he’s trying to de-mould, and as for Mom…! Mom probably has a sign tattooed across her forehead that only ghosts can see, a sign saying: ‘Haunt me, please!’

She’s a drippy, hippy-dippy spiritual type to begin with, gliding through the rooms in a succession of fabulous long nighties and robes, with her long dark hair streaming out behind her, but when the house starts to impact on her already fragile-seeming emotional state, she becomes a million times flightier.

She sees dead people and chats away to them as if they’re real, and she’s extremely susceptible to the ghosts’ warped mind games, being highly suggestible when they plant ideas of evil-doing in her increasingly damaged mind.

Something happens in the house in 1992 that sees the family (well, nearly all the family) fleeing for their lives, like the family in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. The story moves back-and-forth over the ten episodes between the past and the present, and it won’t be until the very last few frames in the very last episode that we discover just what happened in that cursed house that fateful summer.

The Crain siblings are very messed-up adults. It’s pretty obvious that their stay in Hill House has impacted upon them big-time in different ways. One is a funeral director and a control freak. One is a heroin addict. Another is a child psychologist, responsible for working out if children have been sexually or otherwise abused. Her job makes her miserable. It’s a good group so far, isn’t it?

Another of the siblings is a flaky mess whom everyone in the family feels is a suicide waiting to happen, and yet another writes books about hauntings in general and Hill House in particular, books that get their entire family’s back up. I told you it was a good group…!

The siblings haven’t had any answers from their parents, in particular from their father, regarding what exactly happened in Hill House to tear the family apart that summer. Now, their lives are so messed-up and mixed-up that they’re going to need some answers, whether their parents want to give them these answers or not. Why not start by asking what was behind the locked door of the Red Room, for which they never had a key when they lived there…?

There are definitely references in the series to the original book by Shirley Jackson. Two of the sisters are called Theodora and Nell, there’s writing on the wall and banging on the doors, and the weird caretaker couple, the Dudleys, won’t stay on in the house in the night, in the dark, when it’s night, after dark, lol.

Some of the scares are extremely effective; others less so. I’d definitely recommend this Netflix series. It’s good writing and good acting; it’s a bit annoying and confusing in places, full of dreams and fantasies and with all the females in it sporting identical hairstyles, but it’s mostly good scary fun that puts me very much in mind of Stephen King’s THE SHINING.

I believe that Stephen King, master of horror and a huge fan of Shirley Jackson’s book, gives THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, the series, his seal of approval. It has mine too, for what it’s worth, so go forth and watch it and enjoy it, and just make sure the Bent-Neck Lady doesn’t find you alone in the house, in the night, in the dark…

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.

R-POINT. (2004) A SUPERB KOREAN HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

r-point bed

R-POINT: A TARTAN ASIA EXTREME KOREAN HORROR FILM. (2004) STARRING KAM WOO-SUNG AND SON BYONG-HO. DIRECTED BY KONG SU-CHANG.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Come in, Butterfly, this is Donkey 30, come in, Butterfly!’

I’ve watched this superb Korean horror film three times in the last week since first discovering it, that’s how good it is. Set against the backdrop of the tail end of the Vietnam War, it’s the story of a bunch of Korean soldiers (they fought in the Vietnam War alongside the Americans, possibly as a thank-you to the Americans for their assistance in the Korean War a decade earlier) sent to Romeo-Point, an island somewhat south of Ho Chi Minh City, to try to find out what’s become of a unit of Korean soldiers who went missing there six months previously.

Distress calls from men in the missing unit have been received at the men’s former base, and the calls are chilling beyond belief. The soldiers sending the distress calls believe that they’re all going to die horribly at R-Point, and it’s frightening to listen to.

The soldiers in this search and rescue unit, led by the handsome Lieutenant Choi and the hard-ass Vietnam veteran Sergeant Jin, are all very young and have been recruited mainly from a local syphilis hospital, seduced into volunteering for this mission by the promise of a ticket straight home to Korea in ten days’ time.

It’s dreadful, really, to think that men so young, some little more than boys, have had to experience the horrors of war and killing their fellow men before they’ve even turned twenty. The hilarious way in which they squabble like kids with each other proves their immaturity.

They should be at home with their wives and children (they’re too young even for marriage, really!) or in college or working at their jobs, not here in the midst of a horrible war they didn’t even start and probably don’t even understand.

This last isn’t at all outside the bounds of possibility. Remember how the guys fighting each other in World War I, the English and the Germans, mostly didn’t really have a clue why they were there? But never mind, eh? Ours is not to question why, ours is just to do and die, and all that, eh what?

The little battalion of men are terrified of R-Point, anyway, a remote uninhabited island lush with green vegetation, trees and grasses and dotted about with the graves of murdered men and the remains of ruined stone temples.

It has an evil supernatural atmosphere right from the get-go, as the first man to get left behind because he needs to pee will tell you. The scene he walks into as he’s searching desperately for his buddies in the unit is as beautifully choreographed as any ballet, and so chilling it’s now one of my Top Three scary scenes of all time. I can’t wait for you guys to see it too and agree with me, lol.

The men bed down in a ruined mansion that looks like it’s come straight out of one of those ‘TEN MOST HAUNTED PLACES IN THE WORLD’ posts on Facebook. They’re all on edge anyway, but once the supernatural occurrences start happening in earnest, they have trouble holding onto their sanity. The whole island is imbued with a terrible evil, and once it gets a hold of a man, it doesn’t tend to let go.

The incident in the cave with ‘Donkey 30’ is a real frightener. Ditto what happens with the French soldiers Jacques and Paul, who say they’re ‘stationed somewhere near here,’ and also with the American soldiers who stop off at the mansion while on business of their own.

The film has been described by Front Magazine as ‘BLAIR WITCH MEETS FULL METAL JACKET,’ but I’d add in John Carpenter’s THE FOG and also THE THING as well, for reasons you’ll get if you’ve seen the film.

The lads have seven days to complete their mission and find out what’s happened to the missing soldiers. At the end of that time, transport will be arriving to take them off the island and then home. If anyone’s left alive, that is.

The American soldiers are already placing bets that the Korean guys won’t survive a week at R-Point, because ‘nuthin’ lives in R-Point.’ Nonetheless, the transport home will come. Whether there will be anyone left alive at R-Point to transport home, remains to be seen. The goddess of evil must have her sacrifices…

This is the best and spookiest horror film I’ve seen all year. I urge you to watch it if you get the chance. You won’t regret it.

‘Come in, Butterfly, this is Mole 3! Come in, Butterfly!’

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

THE DEAD SUMMER: BY HELEN MOORHOUSE. (2012) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

dead summer

THE DEAD SUMMER: A NOVEL BY HELEN MOORHOUSE. PUBLISHED BY POOLBEG IN 2012.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘If you’re a fan of Susan Hill’s THE WOMAN IN BLACK, you’ll love this…!’

This book, written by an Irish woman and set in the English countryside, is a really unusual blend of chick-lit mixed with a top-notch ghost story. I write in both genres myself, mixing ’em both up together big-time, and I love it when other writers do it too. I especially love it when they do it well, as happens here.

Martha Armstrong is a young woman with a baby girl called Ruby. She’s split up from her husband Dan because he’s a big cheating bastard, and now she’s planning to leave her London home and, by extension, the rat-race, to go and live with Rubes in a ramshackle cottage somewhere in the English countryside. She wants to write the children’s story, about a unicorn, that she thinks has been fermenting inside her for years. Eeuw, it sounds right nasty, does that. Surely ‘t doctor can give her summat for ‘t…?

Hawthorn Cottage, or, to give it its other name, Eyrie Farm, seems lovely at first. Martha moves in in the summertime and gets into a routine fairly quickly. In the mornings, she drops Rubes off at the local crèche, run by a woman named Mary Stockwell, then she goes home and faffs about for several hours pretending to write. 

Lady, I can tell you this for nothing. Ain’t nobody gon’ want to read y’all’s daft story about unicorns. The children’s book market is saturated with so many wanna-bees that there’s barely any room for even one more sad hopeful to squish in there.

If I were Martha, I’d find a nice little day-job, on a make-up counter maybe, or behind the till at Tesco, and spend any free time riding Rob, the local landlord, rich property developer and Man Mountain. PS, why am I discouraging another writer, even a fictional one, from writing when I’m clearly a writer myself?

Well, there’s too much bleedin’ competition out there, that’s why. As a writer who’s hoping to bring out her first traditionally published novel next year (the first part of a trilogy, I might add), I know this all too well. I like to commit a little, shall we say, sabotage, every now and then…! Remember, every scribe you can discourage from writing is one less annoying, pushy bastard grabbing for your brass ring, lol. Ah, I’m only joking. Or am I…?

Anyway, up at Hawthorn Cottage, things are starting to get a little hairy for Martha. On her very first night in the cottage, she hears a growling sound on the baby monitor that would have had me reaching for the suitcases there and then. Lights switch themselves on and off too and the temperature in a room can dip to freezing at the drop of a pair of knickers with dodgy elastic.

There’s a terrible scratching and scrabbling sound coming from behind the chimney breast in Ruby’s room, and the sound occasionally also of a baby crying, but when Martha runs in to comfort Ruby, the child is fast asleep.

A black shape is seen lurking by the bathroom door and a spoon is slapped right out of Martha’s hand when she’s playing ‘here comes the aeroplane, and will you please eat your bloody dinner, you aggravating child!’ with an unimpressed Ruby.

Martha’s experiences at Eyrie Farm (Hawthorn Cottage my arse, she thinks; this place is as haunted as all-get-out!) are told alongside our reading of a number of letters penned by a woman who actually lived in Eyrie Farm in the 1950s.

Poor Lily Flynn’s life is ruined forever when her sister Marion gets pregnant out of wedlock in 1950s Ireland, a mortal sin in those terrible, not-so-far-off days. Marion gets shunted off to England to have her baby away from the prying eyes of the neighbours, and Lily is forced to accompany her as her maid, her minder, her cook, her cleaner and her whipping boy. Marion has the temper of a devil and she gives poor Lily a dog’s life that includes terrible physical violence, to the point where Lily begins to think that Marion is actually insane.

It won’t take you too long to figure out who the ghosts are and why they’re haunting Hawthorn Cottage, of all places, but the execution of the ghost story is really well done. If this book were filmed, it would have all the jump-scares and black-mouthed screaming demons in it of THE WOMAN IN BLACK or James Wan’s more recent THE NUN.

It’s clear from the book that this author likes her horror books or films, as I spotted references in it to THE WICKER MAN, THE SHINING, and Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, THE BIRDS and STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. It’s always gratifying when that happens to a horror reader. It makes us feel like we’re not alone, lol.

And the romance isn’t neglected either, readers, never fear. It’s where Will, the handsome young parapsychologist from Scotland, comes in, with his scruffier, bolshier mate Gabriel in tow.

Gabriel has a hotline direct to the spirit world; will he be able to cleanse Hawthorn Cottage of the evil that stalks it, and even more importantly, can he save Baby Ruby from the clutches of another Woman In Black (who may not love her but it would give her great satisfaction to be able to kill the child and take it away from its mother)…?

THE DEAD SUMMER is a cracking little horror story anyway, but it also does a terrific job of recounting the culture of shame that surrounded unmarried sex and pregnancy in mid-twentieth century Ireland. I like the way that the bit of very important social commentary goes hand-in-hand with the ghost story, and I’m really looking forward to reading more from this smashing debut author, Helen Moorhouse.

(PS, that was back in 2012 and Helen Moorhouse has written several other books since then, go check them out!)

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

DEATH SHIP. (1980) A GHOSTLY HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

death-ship

DEATH SHIP. (1980) DIRECTED BY ALVIN RAKOFF. STARRING GEORGE KENNEDY, RICHARD CRENNA, SALLY ANN HOWES, NICK MANCUSO, VICTORIA BURGOYNE AND SAUL RUBINEK.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. This ghostly horror film completely blew me away. I’d been You-Tube-ing ‘ghost ships’ and related stuff, on account of having read some really scary true-life stories about same in John Robert Colombo’s TRUE CANADIAN GHOST STORIES, an excellent book I read over Halloween. Then a clued-in FB friend recommended DEATH SHIP, and I was intrigued enough to give it a go.

It stars George Kennedy as the main character, a Captain Ashland, the captain of a cruise ship who’s on his last cruise before handing charge of the ship over to Richard Crenna’s Trevor Marshall. I love George Kennedy.

He was one of those very masculine old-school actors like Paul Newman or Steve McQueen, although I’m not sure if he was ever treated as romantic lead material. Very unfair, as I’ve personally always fancied him, this big giant bear of a man with his gruff deep voice and commanding demeanour. My ideal man, in fact, lol.

He was terrific in DALLAS as JR Ewing’s enemy, Carter McKay. I also loved him in the Western movie BANDOLERO! as July Johnson, the straight-down-the-line sheriff who pursues a couple of criminals (played by James Stewart and Dean Martin) into Mexican bandit territory because they’ve brought with them as a hostage the woman that he, July, loves. Alas, the woman, played by the stunning Raquel Welch, prefers bad boy Dean Martin to good guy George Kennedy, and in the end no-one really gets what they want. Sigh. Such is life.

Anyway, Captain Ashland is a grumpy bastard who maintains he went to sea to captain a ship and sail the seven seas, not to pander to the gushing socialites who all want to be able to say that they’ve sat at the captain’s table for dinner while they were cruising. I see his point, but on the other hand I see theirs too. No point going on a poxy cruise unless you can say you’ve chowed down at’t’ captain’s table, lol.

His pandering to vacuous socialites gets cut brutally short on this, his last trip, however. The cruise ship is scuppered by another vessel that comes at them out of nowhere and blows the whole lot of ’em out of the water in a POSEIDON ADVENTURE-style maritime catastrophe. This other vessel is the titular DEATH SHIP. Climb aboard at your peril…

The survivors, cast adrift in a lifeboat, have no choice but to board the ghostly vessel. The survivors are, neatly and coincidentally, Captain Ashland; his successor-to-be Trevor Marshall and Marshall’s wife and two cute kids, Robin (a girl) and Ben, who are allowed the full run of the ghost ship in a highly irresponsible manner that would earn their parents a rap on the knuckles today; a sexy young couple called Nick and Lori who were having sex when the iceberg, sorry, the ghost ship, struck (that’s the way I’d like to go, by the way, lol); the ship’s comic (bet he doesn’t find his new gig too bloody funny!) and a random old lady passenger, who are the ghost ship’s first two disposable casualties. Oh yes, the ghost ship wants to kill them all, didn’t I say? Cue evil snigger.

The ‘death ship’ is magnificent in its rusty, cobwebby state of dereliction and decay. We don’t know if it’s a ghost ship as such or what those in the maritime business would call a ‘derelict’ ship, a real ship that somehow lost its crew and passengers and now sails the seven seas rudderless, a navigational hazard if it should happen across another vessel in its path.

What we do know is that the ship is a relic from Nazi Germany, a so-called ‘interrogation ship’ where ‘enemies of the state’ were taken and tortured horribly for what bits of information they possessed. Out at sea, miles from anywhere, who was there to hear you scream? We also know that ghostly, unseen hands operate the rusty, dusty machinery and direct it towards hurting, maiming or even killing the passengers now in its evil clutches.

I love the way that they only show you the bare minimum of ghostliness in the film, and the way that Nazi Germany and the ‘Forties, the time when this ship was peopled with real-life seamen (titter, seamen!), are revealed to us in little bite-sized snatches, rather than in huge chunks of flashback.

There are the bunks with the pin-ups of Betty Grable and stars of ‘Forties German cinema plastered around them; the ‘Forties music on the record player and the home cinema with film footage of Hitler and his minions playing on a loop; the German voice issuing orders through the speakers in the radio room; a mere glimpse of the German naval captain on his bridge.

Then there is the ‘interrogation room’ itself, no more than a brutal torture chamber, and the Freezer Room, possibly the saddest place on the whole entire God-forsaken ship. And God doesn’t seem to have ever had a place on this carrion ship of death and decay and hopelessness, and it’s certainly not God who’s steering its eerie, lonely course now.

The ship of doom is having a very unhealthy effect on Captain Ashland. I love the bit where the sensible, Daddy-ish, woollen jumper-clad Trevor Marshall comes to his wife and says: ‘The ship has caused Captain Ashland to take on the persona of a German naval captain, it’s like it’s possessing him in some way!’ Or words to that effect, anyway.

It’s the funniest bit of the film, which is definitely not a comedy. It’s like something out of THE SIMPSONS, that line is. You half expect to hear Lisa Simpson, the voice of reason, saying: ‘Well, d’uh! Everyone’s already worked that out, Dad…!’

So now, Captain-to-be Marshall has to save his wife (played by Sally Ann Howes, or Truly Scrumptious from CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG) and unruly children and the sexy young couple (who just can’t seem to keep their kit on!) from the gruesome machinations of Captain Ashland, who has a definite kind of ‘The Shining’ thing going on with the ship of death.

And he- Captain Ashland- now resents Trevor Marshall as well, thinking it’s Marshall’s fault he’s losing his captaincy, and not his own complete and utter ability to be a ‘people person.’ He’s out for Marshall’s blood, and, as long as he’s being evil, the ship of death is determined to help him…

The ship itself is terrifyingly creepy, from the untenanted radio room, where a crackly long-dead German-speaking voice issues its instructions through the speakers, to the long echoey corridors where the sound of loudly clanging doors can be heard, unnervingly, from up ahead. It’s kind of like the Overlook Hotel from THE SHINING, peopled by ghosts and the bad energies from the awful deeds that took place there, but on sea instead of on land.

The Death Ship sailed the seven seas (Are there really seven? Can someone actually count them for me, please?) long before there was a Captain Ashland or a Trevor Marshall, and it will sail them long after those two men have returned to the dust from which they came. I can’t recommend this superbly spooky British-Canadian horror film heartily enough. It’s captured my imagination in a way that nothing else this year has. Full steam ahead for frights and frolics…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

LAST SHIFT, A HAUNTING AT SILVER FALLS and HONEYMOON: A TRIPLE-DECKER HORROR FILM REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

honeymoon

LAST SHIFT (2014), A HAUNTING AT SILVER FALLS (2013) AND HONEYMOON (2014): A TRIPLE-DECKER SANDWICH OF JUICY HORROR FILM REVIEWS FOR HALLOWEEN BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Watching these three American supernatural horror flicks back-to-back was a very pleasurable use of my time this weekend. HONEYMOON was particularly good, but we’ll leave that one till last and begin with LAST SHIFT, which was pretty decent itself too.

It concerns a beautiful young rookie policewoman called Jessica Loren, whose very first shift ever as a copper is the titular ‘last shift’ for an old and rundown police station. A newer, bigger and more modern cop-shop has just opened up down the road a bit, and all the police business has been transferred up there and all the emergency calls in the area re-routed there too.

But the old cop-shop has to stay open for just one more night, just one more shift, so that the hazardous materials people can come and collect some old dirty evidence that needs taking away. Jessie draws the short straw, though God knows why they would put a lone woman in charge of a haunted police station when they could easily have picked a big burly man to do the job. Sexist but true.

And yes, by the way, the place is haunted to buggery, lol. No sooner has Jessie parked her butt than the phone starts ringing and a girl called Monica begins sobbing and begging for help, saying she’s been captured and, wherever she is, there are other girls there too and she thinks they’re all dead.

Jessie reports the distress call to the new cop-shop and waits for the frightened girl to ring back. There’s plenty to occupy her time while she waits. An incontinent homeless man takes root in the station and refuses to leave, furniture moves around seemingly all by itself and eerie figures start popping up all over the deserted cop-shop, which will put you nicely in mind of some other films you may have seen involving abandoned lunatic asylums, schools, hospitals, etc. Are the staff merely hazing their newest recruit, or is there a more sinister explanation for the freak- and freaky- occurrences…?

I loved all the Manson Family stuff in the film, especially as I’ve only just finished reading HELTER SKELTER, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s excellent book on the murders, the trial and the aftermath. I’ve also watched the 2004 film of the same name and an absolutely trippy documentary from 1973 called, simply, MANSON.

I think the makers of LAST SHIFT had studied the Manson Family murders carefully and definitely had Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten and Charles Manson himself in mind when they created their disturbing boogeymen… and women…!

A HAUNTING AT SILVER FALLS was the weakest of the three films. A recently orphaned teenage girl called Jordan is sent to live with her sexy Auntie Anne and Anne’s beefcake of a husband, Kevin, in the titular town of Silver Falls. Anne and Kevin are a little fruity.

I think we first discover this when they lock Jordan in the bathroom with a slice of bread when they go on their ‘Date Night.’ Admittedly, Jordan is inclined to be a tad rebellious and has been running around with local nerd Larry Parrish, but still, ‘imprisoning’ her in the john (so she can go potty when necessary, one assumes) is taking the in loco parentis bit a little too far, dontcha think?

Anyway, it’s Larry who first lets it slip to Jordan that Silver Falls is haunted. Haunted? That’s right, by the spirits of two young girls who were apparently murdered by their father, who is on Death Row right now for the crime.

When Jordan puts on a ring she finds in the forest, some weird stuff starts happening and she starts getting ‘visitations’ from the little ghost girls, who need nothing so much as a good scrub and brush-up. Scruffy little ghost girls! Smarten yourselves up and get jobs, the pair of ye. Contribute something to society, besides a few ghostly wails and spooky faces.

Can Jordan and Larry work out what the shabby little ghost girls are trying to tell them before it’s too late? By which I mean, before Larry’s father Dr. Parrish, the world’s meanest psychiatrist, can have Jordan sedated and committed like he’s clearly dying to do, and before the real killer of the two dead girls can have a pop at her too…?

HONEYMOON was super-entertaining from beginning to end. A seriously loved-up couple called Bea and Paul head to Bea’s childhood vacation cottage in the woods for a private honeymoon. (The Irish for ‘honeymoon’ is ‘mí na meala,’ which literally means ‘the month of honey.’ After it’s all over, that’s when things turn to shit, right? Lol.) 

At first, things between the couple are positively idyllic. They have nothing to do but go boating on the lake, walking in the woods and making hot, passionate love all the hours God sends. Nice work, eh…?

The only fly in the ointment initially is when Bea discovers that her childhood mate (possibly sweetheart; she’s not saying!) Will is still living in the district. Now he has a wife, a strange, frightened little thing whom Paul, anyway, thinks might be getting abused by Will. Bea also teases Paul about being less ‘alpha’ than Will. Clearly she doesn’t know the first thing about Men And How To Handle Them, as that is something you never, ever do. Ever.

Anyway, one night Paul, woken up by an unnaturally bright light permeating their holiday home, finds Bea missing from their marital bed. After an unnerving search of the cabin and then the woods, he eventually finds her… in the woods, naked, cold and disorientated. That can’t be good, right…?

Paul takes her back to the cabin and tries to be happy with her rather lame explanation of sleepwalking, but it isn’t too long before he begins to wish that sleepwalking was all his little Honey Bea was up to in the creepy dark woods…

This film actually caused me a sleepless night last night, the Sunday night. Thanks to a household mishap a few years back (let’s just say that someone who ought to have known better was playing at being Tarzan), my bedroom curtains don’t close properly all the way across like they’re supposed to. Every light on the street, therefore, car lights, street lights, police and ambulance lights, traffic lights, etc., penetrates my street-facing bedroom at some point or another throughout the night.

Every time I opened my eyes last night, it was to the kind of hi-viz searchlight beam the FBI might use when sussing out a crime den. And every stick of furniture in my bedroom very kindly took on the shape of a tall, sinister man-being, at no extra charge. I was utterly frazzled, convinced I’d been probed and inseminated in every trembling orifice, by the time the dawn broke. Thanks a bunch, HONEYMOON! Do please let me know when I can return the favour…

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

 

THE GHOST. (1963) STARRING BARBARA STEELE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

barbara steele tree

THE GHOST. (1963) DIRECTED BY RICCARDO FREDA. STARRING BARBARA STEELE, PETER BALDWIN, ELIO JOTTA AND HARRIET MEDIN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Set in Scotland in 1910, this is an absolutely gorgeous Italian gothic horror film, made in colour and starring that most divine of all scream queens, Barbara Steele. If ever a woman was born to wear period costume and the unrelieved black and jet of widow’s weeds in the setting of a fabulous old gothic mansion, it is surely Ms. Steele. With her dark hair, those huge dark flashing eyes with extra-white whites and her pouty pink lips, she is a horror goddess of some considerable distinction.

Here, she plays Margaret Hichcock, the beautiful and much younger wife of eccentric millionaire physician-scientist and occultist, John Hichcock. John is a cripple and confined to a wheelchair. Margaret seems outwardly devoted, loving and attentive to her unfortunate spouse, who lavishes her with jewels and furs and fantastic dresses, with his magnificent mansion in which to store everything.

One is reminded of the words of spoof chat-show hostess Mrs. Merton (Caroline Aherne from The Royle Family) to her guest on the couch, magician’s assistant Debbie McGee: ‘What first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels…?’ Get what she’s implying? Of course you do. Snigger.

John Hichcock has a tendency to feel extremely sorry for himself, despite his millions of pounds, his wonderful seaside mansion and his stunning younger wife. Well, I suppose he doesn’t feel very virile and manly next to his doctor, the younger Charles Livingstone, who is both, and staying in John’s house to boot, so as to be on hand for his patient. Oh, didn’t I mention that poor, crippled John has a love rival in the form of this handsome and bearded medic…? Well, he does, lol.

Unbeknownst to John (though he surely must suspect something), Margaret and Charles are having the kind of deeply passionate sexual love affair that a man in a wheelchair can probably only dream about. Their coupling is urgent and satisfying, but it goes much farther than this.

Margaret, head over heels in love with the attractive, rascally doctor, wants him to prove his love to her by performing the ultimate act of devotion: killing John, so that she and Charles can be together forever, whilst enjoying the material fruits of John’s labour together as well. The dastardly pair can almost taste that lovely money…

It never works out well though, does it? You’ve only got to watch films like Double Indemnity, later re-made as Body Heat, and The Postman Always Rings Twice, Dial M For Murder, A Kiss Before Dying and A Perfect Murder, to know what happens to young lovers who try to kill the wealthy spouse of one or other of them.

Even if they do manage to get the job done and the hated spouse, who’s standing in the way of their perfect happiness, is successfully bumped off, the terror of getting caught almost always leads the guilty parties to begin destroying each other with suspicions, paranoia and fear.

Riddled with guilt and maybe even regrets, they’ll often behave so nervously and carelessly that they give themselves away to the Poirot, Maigret or Morse waiting patiently to catch them and who, quite frankly, has suspected them from the start and was only giving them enough rope with which to hang themselves.

Still, as if any of this would ever prevent a pair of lovers from committing murder if they thought they could get away with it! Charles does the devilish deed, but almost from the moment he does it, Margaret and Charles both are plagued by John’s ghost, which is presenting itself inopportunely around the house in ever more ghoulish manifestations.

Are their guilty minds causing these manifestations? I mean, are they hallucinating or is there something more sinister at work here? Is one of them trying to gaslight the other? It’s happened before in situations like this. And corpses have frequently turned up acting the mickey after death in other movies as well, films like Crucible of Horror, starring Michael Gough, and Hammer’s Taste of Fear with Christopher Lee.

John’s safe has been emptied as well, to make things a million times worse, and Charles and Margaret are doing their utmost to try to recover the wealth, without which they’ll have killed John for nothing. Where is the money, and who or what is trying to drive them mad? Who will triumph, Charles or Margaret or, as is infinitely more likely, neither? Remember that we’re not usually intended to profit from our murder of another…

Barbara Steele’s strikingly beautiful and expressive facial features are the undoubted star of this show. There’s some gorgeous scenery too though, like the graveyard in which stands the Hichcock family crypt, where some deliciously atmospheric scenes of gothic horror are set.

Watch out for the reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which had already been made, and the little similarity to The Changeling, the George C. Scott horror movie which by this stage had not yet been filmed.

The characters of John’s old governess Catherine and the local cleric Canon Owens, a wittering little man who knows full well on which side his bread is buttered, are excellent additions to the little cast of five. The scenes of possession are genuinely creepy. But Ms. Steele’s unusual beauty still comes out on top every time. God save the (scream) queen…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. (1992) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

muppets scrooge

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. 1992. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY BRIAN HENSON. MUSIC BY PAUL WILLIAMS. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY CHARLES DICKENS.

STARRING MICHAEL CAINE, STEVEN MACKINTOSH, MEREDITH BRAUN, ROBIN WEAVER, KERMIT THE FROG, THE GREAT GONZO, RIZZO THE RAT, MISS PIGGY, FOZZIE BEAR, SAM THE EAGLE, ROWLF THE DOG AND KERMIT’S NEPHEW, ROBIN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The years performed their terrible dance.’

The Marleys were dead, to begin with… This is, quite simply, the best Christmas movie ever made. It’s a top-notch reworking of the Charles Dickens’ classic, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, in which Ebenezer Scrooge, the meanest man in Christendom, is visited on Christmas Eve by Three Spirits who show him the error of his ways.

Michael Caine is superb as Scrooge, the Victorian moneylender who’s so mean he wouldn’t give you the steam off his piss, as we say here in Ireland. He underpays his employees, he’s a horrible uncle to his nephew Fred and he gives short shrift to the gentlemen who come collecting for charity on Christmas Eve.

He only lets his workers, among them Bob Cratchit, brilliantly played by Kermit The Frog, have Christmas Day off work because there won’t be any other businesses open to do business with. Tsk, tsk. What a cantankerous old skinflint.

Bob is glad to be rid of him when close of business finally arrives on Christmas Eve because Bob, along with his wife Emily and their four children, twin girls Belinda and Bettina (the living image of their mother Emily, played by Miss Piggy!) and two boys, Peter and the ailing Tiny Tim, do know how to keep Christmas well. Which is more, much more, than can be said for Mr. Scrooge. Humph.

Scrooge goes home alone to his cold, dark gloomy chambers. From the moment he sees the face of one of his long-dead business partners, Jacob Marley, materialise superimposed over the front door knocker of his house, he gets an uneasy feeling that tonight isn’t going to be like most nights. And by Jiminy, he’s dead right!

Statler and Waldorf, the two incorrigible old jokers who sit up in their box at the Muppet Theatre every night and gleefully heckle the performers, turn up to his chambers first as the ghosts of Scrooge’s deceased business partners, Marley and Marley.

Wearing the terrible ‘chains they forged in life,’ the two auld lads try to convince Scrooge that living for his cashboxes the way he does is the way to end up in hell, chained for all time to the things you mistakenly thought were important in life. They don’t have much luck. Scrooge is going to need more convincing.

Next, the Three Spirits, the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future, whose ghoulish coming was foretold by the shades of Marley and Marley, arrive bang on schedule on Christmas Eve night.

They give the terrified Scrooge what for, showing him what a miserably lonely child he was in his youth, how he is scorned and shunned by all in the present, and how little he’ll be missed on his death.

Scrooge, as we all know, repents his tight-fisted ways and pays festive visits to both his gobsmacked nephew Fred and the impoverished Cratchit family, who are delighted to see that he comes bearing gifts.

One of my favourite scenes is where Bob Cratchit, an amiable man who only sees the good in people, tries to get his wife Emily to join him in drinking a toast during Christmas dinner to ‘Mr. Scrooge, the founder of the feast.’ 

She nearly becomes apoplectic with rage, saying things like: ‘Founder of the feast indeed!’ and ‘If he were here, I’d give him a piece of my mind and I hope he’d choke on it…!’ She doesn’t have quite the rosy-eyed view of the world that her husband has, and I don’t blame her.

While Bob is out at work, she’s the one who has to feed her family out of fresh air and find clothes for them and heat their freezing little icebox of a house. She also has to watch her youngest child, Tiny Tim, grow steadily weaker for the want of good food, a bit of warmth and the right medicines.

The wife of a rich Victorian banker may have been able to lie on her chaise-longue all day, pale and languid, but the wives of poor men were up against it all right. It’s no wonder that the spirited Emily Cratchit, fiercely loyal to her husband who busts his hump daily for Scrooge for tiny wages, would dearly love to ‘Hi-yah!’ Ebenezer Scrooge into the middle of next week. You go, girl.

The songs are fantastic, every single one of them an unforgettable Christmas classic. This is a great karaoke film because you and your whole family can sing along as loudly as you like to the tunes, especially if you have the subtitles and therefore the words.

There are some genuinely spooky and atmospheric scenes in Scrooge’s dark, cold old chambers as he awaits the arrival of the spectres. The Ghost Of Christmas Future is particularly grim. I think he’d put the willies up most people, this fella.

The atmosphere of love and togetherness in the Cratchit household, despite their poverty and Tiny Tim’s imminent death, would bring a tear to the eye of the most hard-hearted viewer. They have a sense of family that’s most fitting for the time of year, but that you can imagine sustains them right through the rest of the year as well. And yet they’re not too sickly-sweet, like the Waltons, lol. Bob’s genuine warmth and Emily’s feistiness and fierce protectiveness of her family sees to that.

The film is chock-a-block with typical Muppet comedy too, as you might expect. The Great Gonzo playing Charles Dickens is an inspired piece of casting, and Rizzo the Rat makes an adorably funny sidekick to the great nineteenth-century novelist. It’s the perfect Christmas film and a wonderful tribute to the season that the Victorians are credited with, if not inventing, exactly, then at least putting their own stamp on it.

Let’s not forget either, though, that it’s ultimately a horror story, involving the visitation by ghosts of a man who seriously needs to change his miserly ways. And change them he does, in the many versions of the story committed to celluloid. Could this even be the most often-told ghost story of all time…?

I don’t know, but what I do know is that this little film is top of my Christmas movie-list every single year without fail. It’s a heartwarming, brilliantly-scripted classic. What else can I say about it? Just watch it for yourself. You’ll see what I mean. But make sure you try to get an early night first, okay? After all, there’s only one more sleep till Christmas…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

SCROOGE THE MUSICAL. (1970) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge musical

SCROOGE THE MUSICAL. (1970) BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY RONALD NEAME. STARRING ALBERT FINNEY, DAME EDITH EVANS, KENNETH MORE, DEREK FRANCIS, ROY KINNEAR, GORDON JACKSON, JAMES COSSINS AND SIR ALEC GUINNESS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Awwwww, I never get tired of seeing film adaptations of this timeless story. Albert Finney, as far as I know the only Scrooge young enough to himself play Young Scrooge in these movies, plays, you guessed it, Ebenezer Scrooge, the miser who makes all other misers ashamed of their woeful under-performances.

Albert Finney of course had played the swoonsome Tom Jones (positively not the Welsh crooner!) only a few short years before (1963) in the film adaptation of Henry Fielding’s massive tome of the same name. The book, in fact, was one of the first English-language novels, along with Samuel Richardson’s PAMELA.

I’m always threatening to read both of these huge big books but I haven’t gotten around to it quite yet. The film of TOM JONES was terrific too, made by Woodfall Film Productions and containing such gems of dialogue as ‘Where is she? Where’s Tom’s pussy?’ and ‘Tom, thou art as hearty a cock as any in the kingdom.’ Snigger.

He’s brilliant as Scrooge too, Albert Finney, though it’s a shame to have his handsome face all twisted up into the famous miser’s crotchety countenance. He works away in his freezing cold (cold is good; cold is free, like the dark) moneylenders’ office until 7pm on Christmas Eve, and his poorly-paid clerk Bob Cratchit practically has to boot him out the door, telling him it’s Christmas Eve and time to jack it all in till December the 26th.

Scrooge goes home to his dark, cheerless chambers, where he is met by Alec Guinness as the ghost of his deceased partner in the moneylenders’ business, Jacob Marley. Jacob Marley now dwells in Hell, doomed to carry around with him for all eternity ‘the chains he forged in life,’ the giant cash-boxes and heavy old ledgers that came with his old business.

Not to mention the guilt of knowing that he never did a hand’s turn for his fellow man while he was alive. That dreadful knowledge has manifested itself physically in the form of huge chains that wrap and wind themselves around his body. You can’t miss ’em, lol.

Jacob Marley has a grim message of hope for Scrooge. Change your miserly ways and start being more generous and compassionate towards your fellow man or else. Or else what? Well, or else he’ll end up like Jacob Marley, carting those awful clinking-clanking chains around with him till the cows come home. Which, apparently, they never do.

To reinforce this terrible message, Scrooge will be visited this very night by three ghosts, one at a time, and he’d bloody well better learn the lessons they’ve got to teach him. Dame Edith Evans, as the Ghost Of Christmas Past, shows Scrooge visions of himself as a young boy in school, lonely, motherless, neglected by his harsh father and obliged to spend Christmas at school, catching up on his studies.

Scrooge isn’t at all happy to be reminded by this Lady Ghost of how he loved and lost his devoted girlfriend Isabelle when he was a young man working at Old Mister Fezziwig’s rubber chicken factory. Sorry, I mix up all these versions with The Muppets’ one! They both had such high hopes of marriage and a family, Scrooge and Isabelle, but then she dumps him when she realises that he loves another more than her. His true mistress? Money…

The Ghost Of Christmas Present forces Scrooge to look into the lives of his clerk Bob Cratchit and Bob’s little family. Making merry for Christmas over a scrawny goose and a drop of watered-down punch, they’re as poor as church mice thanks to Scrooge’s scabby wages. Subsequently, they can’t afford a good doctor for Tiny Tim, the youngest member of the family, who will die if he’s not properly treated.

Scrooge has the wind up good and proper by now. He’s already repenting of his terrible stinginess, and by the time the frightening Ghost Of Christmas Future gets to wag a bony finger at him in silent reproach, he’s on his knees begging for a second chance.

The Ghost Of Crimbo-Still-To- Come isn’t taking any chances, though. He gets Alec Guinness’s Jacob Marley to take Scrooge on a terrifying tour of Hell, just in case Scrooge has any ideas about not bothering to change his godless ways.

Everyone loves the ending of all the versions, of course.

Scrooge: You there, boy, what’s today?

Ragged Urchin: Today, Sir, why, it’s Christmas Day!

Scrooge: Christmas Day? Why, then, I haven’t missed it! The spirits must have done it all in one night! Of course they did, they can do anything they like, you know!

Then he raids the butcher’s shop, the toyshop, the confectionery shop and so on and brings the largesse round to the gobsmacked Cratchits (Miss Piggy is the best Mrs. Cratchit, and Robin the Frog is the bestest Tiny Tim!) and to Fred, his sorely neglected nephew.

Fred is the son of Scrooge’s dear deceased sister Frannie, who had asked Scrooge before she died to look after her boy. Up to now, he hasn’t made such a great fist of it, but that was before the Three Spirits came…

This is a musical version, so of course there’s a song at every turn. I especially love Scrooge’s devastatingly honest version of ‘I HATE PEOPLE!’ It’s probably the most honest the old miser has ever been, in fact, in any of the film versions and, some days, I know just how he feels, lol.

It feels a bit like the film is trying to be the new OLIVER! (1968), with the Charles Dickens/Victorian England/Christmas card background, all the big group numbers and everyone singing and dancing in the street but, fun as SCROOGE THE MUSICAL is, it doesn’t even come close to snatching OLIVER!‘s golden crown.

All the old favourite lines of dialogue are in there too:

‘If I had my way, every man who goes around with Merry Christmas on his lips would be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart…!’

‘If they are going to die, then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population…!’

‘Falling in love? Bah! That’s the only thing sillier than a Merry Christmas!’

‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’

‘Bah humbug!’

Bah humbug to you too, Scrooge, you old coot. Don’t get too pissed now on that Milk Of Human Kindness there. That’s some pretty powerful stuff, you know.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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