This is an excellent film adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, but, man, it’s as grim as the grimmest thing you can think of on the grimmest day of the year which also happens to be your first day at Grim College where you work grimly towards a Higher Certificate of Grimness. I mean, it is grim. As grim as all get-out. But I happen to like grim, lol.
For a start, the times in which the film is set and its physical setting are pretty damn grim. Thomas Jane (aka The Punisher, my kinda tough guy…!) does a superb job of playing Wilfred James, a surly and dour corn farmer in Nebraska, who lives with his wife Arlette and their fourteen-year-old son, Henry.

Wilf talks in that slow, sort of countrified way you hear in the movies. Like, he might say to his wife, ‘Ahrlette, ah bin thinking it might jes’ be time to git that there boy of ours hitched to the Cotterie girl; she’s big in the hips and ah reckon she kin pop out a passel o’ chilluns whut can work the land when ah’m six feet under, if yeh ketch mah meaning.’

Or Arlette might say to him, ‘Wilf, ah’m fixin’ teh leave yer and ah’m bringin’ the boy wid me; there ain’t nuthin’ left here for us no more. You-all can come if you want, but if’n yeh don’t, I ain’t gon’ lose a lick o’ sleep over it no-how. Yo’ pecker ain’t worked right since nineteen-nought-eight, teh speak the Gawd’s honest truth. Ah swear ah’ll take a chopper to it if’n yeh point it in mah direction agin.’

As a matter of fact, the James’s marriage is in a bad way. Arlette is sick to the back teeth of country living and being stuck on their isolated farm in the middle of nowhere. She wants Wilf to sell the eighty-acre farm, which she brought with her to the marriage as her dowry, and buy somewhere for them to live in the city.

Wilf James ain’t fixin’ teh be citified no way, no-how. He digs his heels in and says nope. But Arlette threatens him with selling the land herself, as she has the legal right to do because it’s her family’s land, and she even brings a city slicker solicitor with fancy duds into the equation, which is like a red rag to a bull in Wilf’s eyes.

He decides that there’s only one sure-fire way of stopping Arlette from making good on her threat to sell the farm, which Wilf sees as his legacy and which he hopes to pass on to his boy one day. As the film takes the form of Wilf’s confession from some time in the future when he’s older, greyer and beardier, we’re not entirely surprised when we see what he intends to do.

The biggest surprise is that he involves the boy, Henry, in his nefarious scheme. The murder is horrific to watch and unnecessarily cruel, but to involve the boy and make him an active accessory to the crime is both shockingly irregular and, dare I say, highly unusual in cinema. At least, I personally haven’t seen another movie where this happens.

The stuff with the well and the poor, poor moo-cow and then the rats is all so, so grim. Jes’ like whut ah told yeh right from the git-go, see? And we all know that murder for financial gain never, ever works out, right? As this is an adaptation of a Stephen King novella, you can imagine that the King of Horror is going to make one Wilfred James, Esquire, atone for his dastardly deeds. Crime doesn’t pay.

Someone should have told that to poor little Henry James as well, and he might well have reconsidered his ill-advised crime spree across the country with his knocked-up girlfriend, Shannon Cotterie, that gets the star-crossed pair dubbed ‘the Sweetheart Bandits.’ Crime doesn’t pay…

Nothing in this film ends well, except maybe for the rats, who are going forth and multiplying like nobody’s business. I recently met up with a couple of the rodents who had a big part in the film, hoping to chat with them about their role in this top-notch adaptation, but it wasn’t a huge success, if I’m being honest.

Long story short, before I could glean so much as an anecdote about what it was like to star in a Stephen King adaptation, the furry little bastards ate my notes, and also my purse containing the money with which I intended paying for our lunch. What’s that they say, never work with children and animals? You said a mouthful, bud. You said a mouthful.


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

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

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



Walls rose plumb and sheer to a dizzying height. A staircase climbed into near-dark shadows. Arched doors opened left and right, shadowy furniture crouched shapeless in shroud-like draping.

Something old and evil had happened here, so evil that everything that had come after was just echoes, just spreading ripples in the water so intense that Beale and his family had ultimately abandoned the house and rebuilt in the place he (David Binder) was now moving into.

They ran out choking and retching into the night. The six of them silently aligned before the dark house. It set still and impassive as if it were watching them back.

This book was published after the death of its American author, William Gay, in 2012 of a heart attack. He’d left behind all his notes and drafts for the book, which was then published posthumously in 2015. I came across it in a second-hand bookshop about a year ago, and read it for the first time this week during the Great Covid-19 Lockdown of 2020.
I was wildly excited about the book when I read the blurb, which claimed the book was inspired by the true life Bell Witch haunting in nineteenth century Tennessee and, even though the book ultimately didn’t live up to my, admittedly, very high expectations, it’s still well worth a read by all the horror fans out there and, particularly, the fans of so-called ‘lost’ horror fiction.
The original Bell Witch haunting, now a prominent legend in Southern United States folklore, seems to have happened to a Tennesseean family in the early 1800s. An ordinary slave-owning farming family known as the Bells suddenly became plagued by this entity that physically attacked the father of the family and his favourite daughter, Betsey Bell, pulled the bedclothes off sleeping family members and generally caused havoc in the old Bell homestead.
Strange lights were seen bobbing about the place. Rats were heard gnawing like mad in the walls but no material traces of these rodents were ever found. The noises were so bad, however, that family members felt that their very beds were being gnawed to buggery by the rats and no-one in the house got any sleep, especially not once chains started to be heard dragging across the floors of the house and unseen dogs fought each other to the death.
The entity developed the power of speech, could discuss the Bible and religious texts and church sermons at great length and apparently delighted in telling dirty stories about the Bells and their neighbours.
Sight-seers and looky-loos from all over the county flocked to the Bells’ homestead to see the witch, although I personally would have stayed away.
There’s a line in William Gay’s novel that reads: ‘That thing has followed me home,’ he said…You get where I’m coming from, right?
The Bell witch’s main aims seem to have been bringing about the death of John Bell Senior, the paterfamilias of the Bell family, and the breaking off of young Betsey Bell’s engagement to her sweetheart and school-teacher, Joshua Gardner. In both of these instances, the witch seems to have been successful.
The legend has long outlived the Bell family, and, to this day, you can explore (for a small fee) places like the Bell Witch Cave, the place to which the entity is supposed to have fled after finally leaving the old Bell homestead.
Anyway, let’s move on now to the story, LITTLE SISTER DEATH, named for a line from the writings of William Faulkner, a favourite scribe of the writer in the book, David Binder’s, and presumably of William Gay’s too. As a writer myself, I adore reading books about writers, especially when they’re struggling. It makes me feel less alone on this long arduous journey we’re all taking…!
David Binder is the fictional writer in question. After working as a factory operative in Chicago for x number of years, the novel he’s been working on at night is an unexpected literary success. It doesn’t sell enough copies for David and his family to be able to retire on, but it is at least critically acclaimed.
David writes a second novel, but it’s lacking in the same ‘oomph’ possessed by the first one. Write a horror novel, something we can sell to the paperbacks, his agent tells him. It’ll pay a few bills, something to tide you over until you get your mojo back. Okay, says David, that sounds good to me. I’ll give it a go…
So David moves his family, his pregnant wife Corrie and their little daughter Stephie, to Beale Station in his native Tennessee, the site of the original Bell Witch hauntings of the nineteenth century. He’s fascinated by the legend and thinks it might make an interesting topic for a book. He doesn’t know the half of it…
The ‘ruined backwoods mansion’ to which David has relocated his little family, is as haunted as hell itself. Like in Stephen King’s THE SHINING, to which this book has been likened, it works its evil magic mainly on the father.
Why? Because, as a writer, he’s more imaginative and sensitive than most? Maybe. Maybe the fact that, by moving onto the old haunted homestead, he’s gone out of his way to invite the evil entity that still haunts the place into his life and into his home. As local old-timer Charlie Cagle puts it:
Listen, he said, somebody starts beatin’ on your door in the middle of the night, you don’t have to get up and open the door, do ye? Your telephone rings, you can let her ring, can’t ye? What I’m tellin’ you is you let stuff like that in. Me, let’s just say I heard somebody knockin.’ I left the door shut, though.
He saw with a kind of momentary and ice-cold clarity that the place had attracted them, had drawn them as a magnet draws iron filings, dangling its erotic past before already faulted vessels, biding its time during the tenancy of those it
could not use, waiting.
You let such as that in.
Interspersed throughout the book are the stories of some of the people who have lived on the haunted homestead since it was built. Owen Swaw’s tale from the ‘Thirties is particularly grim.
But spare a thought for David Binder and his little family, alone in the Overlook Hotel for the winter. (Haha.) Does he still deserve everything that’s coming, just because he pretty much deliberately chose to ‘let such as that in…?’ The reader can make up his or her own mind….

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

You can contact Sandra at: