THE INVISIBLE MAN. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE INVISIBLE MAN. (2020) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY LEIGH WHANNELL. BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY H.G. WELLS.
STARRING ELISABETH MOSS, OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN, MICHAEL DORMAN, ALDIS HODGE, STORM REID AND HARRIET DYER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I absolutely loved this sort of modern re-boot of THE INVISIBLE MAN, the film(s) based on H.G. Wells’ classic novel. It totally reminded me of my favourite Julia Roberts’ film, SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, in which the toothsome one plays a battered wife escaping from her husband’s magnificent but soulless beach house and faking her own death at the same time, so he won’t be able to track her down.

I love that scene when she pitter-patters soaking wet through the empty, darkened beach house on the night of her own ‘death,’ grabbing the emergency bag of clothes and money she’s had ready for God knows how long, chopping her long hair shorter and disposing of her wedding ring in the toilet. Here it sits silently as a damning clue to her actions until the husband, chillingly played by Irish actor Patrick Bergin, finds it some time later and draws his own devastating conclusions…

In THE INVISIBLE MAN, Elisabeth Moss, an actress I’m not familiar with, does a phenomenal job as battered wife Cecilia Kass, an architect and a perfectly decent person in her own right. But her utter scumbag of a scientist husband, Adrian Griffin, has reduced her to a mere shadow of her former self with his violence and controlling ways. So, when the movie opens, Cecilia is escaping from the beach house and her sleeping husband, and desperately hoping he’ll stay asleep until she’s far, far away…

Safe in the home of her younger sister Emily’s boyfriend James’s house- he’s positively dreamy, this fella, and a cop as well- Cecilia hasn’t even really begun to pick up the pieces of her shattered life when she receives a bombshell from Emily in the form of a piece of almost unbelievable news… the news that abusive hubby Adrian has seemingly taken his own life…

That’s all well and good, but, if Adrian is dead, why does Cecilia feel like she’s being stalked by him? Little things are happening that no-one else would really take seriously, but that Cecilia knows are signs that Adrian is back in her life again. But how? He’s dead, innit, and, not only that, but he certainly doesn’t have powers of invisibility that would permit him to shadow his terrified wife without being seen, or does he…?

You can’t blame James and Emily for thinking that poor CeeCee has a screw loose. Dead people don’t suddenly rise from the dead and stalk their bereaved and grieving loved ones under cover of a cloak of invisibility.

But they’ve reckoned without Adrian’s expertise in the field of optics, his passion for making himself invisible one day and his overwhelming need to dominate and control what’s his… and that very definitely includes his wife, Cecilia…

There are a few loopholes in the film, such as, who’s been feeding Zeus the dog if the beach house has been empty all this time? Or has Adrian been staying there on the sly the whole time and feeding his pet? Fear not, folks!

On a recent Zoom call with the actor who plays Zeus the dog, I was reliably informed that the local eateries and take-out emporia kept him well supplied with tasty nosh during filming, on condition, of course, that he mentioned their names wherever possible. Yum Thai, Yum Thai, Yum Thai, Yum Thai, Yum Thai, etc. Woof woof…!

You might recognise Oliver Jackson-Cohen, the actor who plays Adrian the jerky husband, as having also played a jerk in two terrific Netflix spooky series of recent times, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR. Clearly, he’s not going to be called upon to play Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela any time soon. Only cocky young jerks, lol. He’s scarily good at portraying an abuser.

The theme of domestic abuse (sexual abuse and control feature here also) is incredibly timely as, everywhere we look today, men’s violence against women and control over them is being called out, even in cases where the abuser is rich and famous, which is immensely heartening to see.

In days gone by, we would have expected to see people like Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell get away with their crimes, but no more. Hopefully this is the way things will stay. They were the other way for far too long.

By the way, the film is written and directed by Leigh Whannell of INSIDIOUS and SAW fame, which I love, though there’s no sign of his usual film-making partner, James Wan. Were they on a break, like Ross and Rachel? Were they sick of being always mentioned in the same breath, like Bonnie & Clyde, or Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid? If you asked Leigh Whannell where’s his sidekick James Wan, would he mutter, Father Damo-style, he’s not the boss of me…? Or is this just a coincidence? Probably, to be honest, lol.

Cecilia’s NIKE trainers are in full view for most of the film, by the way, so I guess she must really dig those trainers, lol. Well, what else could it mean? I’m off now, anyway, to filch some grub from somewhere. For some reason, I’m pining for a huge feast of Yum Thai. Wonder if we have a menu anywhere…?

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

ARCHIVE 81. (2022) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ARCHIVE 81. (2022) A NETFLIX HORROR SERIES BASED ON THE PODCAST, ARCHIVE 81, BY DANIEL POWELL AND MARK SOLLINGER.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY REBECCA SONNESHINE, PAUL HARRIS BOARDMAN AND JAMES WAN OF SAW, INSIDIOUS AND THE CONJURING FAME.

STARRING MAMOUDOU ATHIE, DINA SHIHABI, EVAN JONIGKEIT, JULIA CHAN, MATT MCGORRY AND MARTIN DONOVAN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Stay away from the sixth floor.’

Wow. I loved this series, binge-watching the eight delicious episodes over two nights this week and being left reeling- in a good way!- by the number of horror films, authors and tropes it manages to lovingly reference.

It’s the story of a young American man living in the present day called Dan Turner. Dan has terrible sadness and trauma in his past, and he is given a job one day out of the blue that might actually help him to unlock the trauma and even put part of it right, after many years. But not without great personal risk to himself and his mental health, I hasten to add, so it’s not all moonlight and roses.

The job is offered to him by one Virgil Davenport, the rich, reclusive billionaire owner of a company called LGM, of which there is very little known in the public domain. The job is to go and stay in LGM’s isolated compound in the Catskills, completely on his own, for as long as it takes him to restore the videotapes of a young woman’s PhD dissertation…

Dan is a qualified restorer of nearly-destroyed videotapes, you see, and as we watch the series, we will see why he has such a personal connection to these videotapes and why the enigmatic and omniscient Virgil has hand-picked Dan, a bit of a loose cannon because of his past traumas, for this particular job.

We also meet Melody Pendras, the beautiful, dark-haired young college student who, in 1994, takes an apartment in the Visser Building, one of those fabulous old steeped-in-history New York apartment buildings that people are always getting murdered in in films.

She does this specifically because she is doing her college dissertation on the Visser Building, its history and its inhabitants, and she is never seen without her camcorder in her hand, the main tool of her trade.

She’s not just doing her dissertation purely because of the many attractions of the old Visser Building. She has a personal reason both tragic and seemingly impossible to achieve, and Melody is not the kind of person to give up.

She quickly finds out, though, that the Visser Building can be a very scary place to live, and that the exotic, eccentric inhabitants are doing something very sinister and highly suspect in the building’s Community Room every night after midnight. It’s something that harks back to the 1920s and a snuff film starring the beautiful but flawed and ultimately doomed Iris Vos, a member of ‘Twenties society with a very dark secret…

Melody finds out also that her own life could be in jeopardy here in the Visser Building, a full seventy years after the awful events occurred that first put the Visser Building on the map. Dan, watching the tapes in the dreadful isolation of the compound, senses too that Melody is in danger, not least from the eerie face that keeps appearing randomly on the videotapes.

Who or what is on the tapes? Is it after Dan too, whatever it is, and can Dan, who’s obviously smitten with the gorgeous feisty Melody, travel back in time to save Melody from the horrible fate that awaits her in the shadows…? And, even if he saves Melody, will he be able to save himself from a ghastly half-life lived in the place known as… The Other World…? You’ll have to watch the show till the end to find out, folks…

I love the séance in the Visser with all the crazy Visser tenants, like the horrible art collector Cassandra, the tormented psychic Beatriz and the bitchy opera composer Tamara. Not to mention the creepy college professor Samuel Spare, who would pass for a modern-day hipster, but who is clearly the ringleader of whatever it is that goes on in the Community Room after dark…

I love the character of Mark Higgins, Dan’s best- and only- friend, who is pretty much the template for every horror-and-science-fiction-crazed megasuperfan ever. He lives for horror and weird stuff and his horror podcast, and the friendship between him and Dan is so real and warm and genuine that he is actually willing to risk life and limb for his tragic friend. I also love Ratty, whom I kind of wish had had an even bigger part, as the friendship between him and Dan was also a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

I’ll leave you with a list of the horror films, things and characters either directly referenced in the series or indirectly hinted at, or even things that just came into my own mind as I watched it:

Stephen King’s THE SHINING; Jack Torrance; the Overlook Hotel; the maze on the grounds.

Stephen King’s DOLORES CLAIBORNE; the Eclipse that brought the whole town out in force to look at it and celebrate it.

Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY.

H.P. Lovecraft.

Christopher Lee.

Hammer’s TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER; THE DEVIL RIDES OUT.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.

DON’T LOOK NOW; a deliberate reference!

Nigel Kneale’s THE STONE TAPES.

NIGHT OF THE DEMON, one of Britain’s best-loved horror films.

THE WICKER MAN, and anything else featuring a human sacrifice.

BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW.

THE EXORCIST.

Andrei Tarkovsky and his cult movie, SOLARIS.

WHAT LIES BENEATH; the movie, and the title of Episode 8 of the series.

Lin Shaye, beloved horror actress, going into ‘the Further’ in the INSIDIOUS movies. James Wan is one of the executive producers of ARCHIVE 81, after all.

PANIC ROOM and ‘90s sitcom FRIENDS, purely for those magnificent old brownstone apartment buildings!

That’s all I can think of for now, but there might be more, and you might even spot a few new ones yourself. I just love that this show was created by people with an absolute adoration, respect and obsession for horror; it comes across as a real labour of love when you watch it.

Just three further comments; One, I wish THE CIRCLE was a real show, it really speaks to me! Two, my daughter, who was born in the ‘Nineties, and who watched the show with me, was hopping mad that the film-makers of today are now referring to the ‘Nineties as the distant past. It makes her feel old, lol.

And three, the show features some highly intelligent and talented ‘mold,’ as the Americans call it, which is capable of forming itself into other-worldly swirls and patterns all by itself. I just want to say that I have exactly similar patches of talented and creative mould behind my toilet, at the back of all the wardrobes and creeping round my bedroom ceiling.

If it ever morphs into the portal to another dimension, you guys will be the first to know. If, as is more likely, it just causes me to hallucinate and go permanently off my noodle, well, then, I guess you guys will be hearing about that too.

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 DOLL TRILOGY: REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE DOLL (2016), THE DOLL 2 (2017) AND SABRINA (2018): A TRIPLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
DIRECTED BY ROCKY SORAYA AND STARRING LUNA MAYA AND SARA WIJAYANTO.

I was thrilled to bits to find these three Indonesian horror films on Netflix recently. Well, to tell you the truth, I’d scrolled past them a few times thinking, yeah, yeah, a scary doll, oooooh, I’m so scared…! And that’s sarcasm, by the way. But then one night late last week, I decided to give ‘em a chance and watched one a night for three nights, and I loved them.

At nearly two hours long each, they’re terrific value for money, and, the best thing of all, they’re like the Indonesian version of the ANNABELLE and CONJURING films! Which I adore, by the way, so coming across these three little gems felt like Christmas Mark 2.

In each film, a haunted doll plays havoc with the lives of a well-to-do, attractive young Indonesian couple on the up-and-up. They live in the most magnificent modern houses that seem much bigger on the inside than they look from the outside, with all the endless passages and hidden rooms, etc. Plus, up-and-coming they might be, but how can such young couples afford such fabulous mansions…?

The husbands are young and fit, usually working in finance or construction, and the wives are young and beautiful with lovely long hair and have nothing to do while their husbands are off out, bringing home the bacon. They have too much time on their hands, which is why sooner or later they’re bitching at their husbands about haunted dollies.

In the first first film, the haunted doll of a murdered child causes chaos in the life of the young couple, who might not have acquired their dream lifestyle quite by honest means. The doll was found up a haunted tree, by the way, and it’s not good karma to do a whizz up agin it, lol. Not illegal, mind you, but just not good karma.

The exceptionally dopey wife, egged on by another bored housewife across the street (give these women something to do, for Gawd’s sake!!!), stupidly welcomes a DON’T LOOK NOW-style ghost into her home, mistaking it for a child that needs shelter, and then runs around like a headless chicken for the rest of the movie trying to shake it off.

In THE DOLL 2, possibly my favourite of the three films, the stunningly beautiful Luna Maya plays Maira, whose daughter Kayla dies in a horrible car crash, but later returns- in ghost form, natch- through the medium of a haunted doll.

The doll, Sabrina, was Kayla’s own in life, and so ugly and frightening it should come with a health warning. The ‘doll’ in the first film was cute and mischievous-looking. Sabrina is a proper horror. And it keeps moving around the place, seemingly without recourse to human agency. Talk about Elf on the Shelf gone bad.

Luna Maya is brilliant as Maira, the grieving mother who is convinced her dead child has come back to her. I was more than happy to see her reprising her role in the third movie, this time with a new hubby in tow, the owner of a famous toy factory, and a new child, though not her own. Her husband is playing guardian to his orphaned niece, but how was she orphaned, o-ho…? That’s a question for nearer the end of the film…

Little Vanya, the niece, not unnaturally misses her mom, who is easily summoned back from the dead by means of a sort of Ouija board game. Summoning folks is easy-peasy. It’s getting rid of them, that’s the hard part. You’ll know the trouble with inviting the dead into your life, of course, if you’ve watched all the same movies I have.

Sometimes, if that door is left open a mite too long, something else can slip unnoticed into the world of the living, and then they’re harder to get shut of than herpes. Maira is terrorised on a harmless family trip to the beach by something from another dimension that wishes terrible harm on her. Who’s she gonna call? Why, the Indonesian version of Ed and Lorraine Warren, of course!

Miss Laras, the beautiful and elegant Ghost-Buster lady, features in all three films, each time with different blokes who might be a husband, a brother, or just a work colleague, I’m not really sure. There are plenty of loopholes, not to mention whopping great plotholes, in all three films, but I didn’t care because the movies are such great fun.

They’re incredibly violent as well, just to let you know. Every second cast member is walking around possessed and equipped with a big knife for stabbing. And, if you’re a director who’s budgeted for a certain amount of knives for your film, you sure as hell ain’t gonna wanna waste them.

What’s strange about these knives, however, is that a load of people are stabbed with them, then they get up and seem perfectly fine again just a few minutes later. ‘I’ve been stabbed? Ah shure, that’s nothing! I’m grand again, anyway.’ Maybe they’re trick knives, lol.

And I love the way the characters in this universe don’t seem to have to endure any tiresome legal repercussions for their actions, in particular the numerous stabbings. The cops are rarely called and, if they are, you can always put ‘em off by saying things like, ‘Don’t worry, Officer, we’ve got this,’ or ‘Shure, youse can go on home, it’s a bit dangerous for you lot here,’ and then they just bugger off as meek as lambs. Makes me wonder what we pay our own police force here for, when we could just be dealing with crimes ourselves like the guys in these three films.

Anyway, I relished every stabby minute of this excellent trilogy (It could also have been named ‘RICH MARRIED LADIES WHO DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TO DO START IMAGINING SHIT AND THIS LEADS TO ALL KINDS OF EVEN MADDER SHIT AND STUFF’) and I encourage you guys to watch it too. It’s great escapism for the auld COVID times. And that, as we all very well know, is nothing to be sneezed at…

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:

ANNABELLE COMES HOME. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

annabelle comes home

ANNABELLE COMES HOME. (2019) STARRING VERA FARMIGA AND PATRICK WILSON. DIRECTED BY GARY DAUBERMAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love all the other movies in The Conjuring universe and in the Annabelle franchise, but I wasn’t crazy about this one. It starts off promisingly enough, when the cutest couple in the acting world, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson playing real-life demonologists Lorraine and Ed Warren, offer to take the evil doll Annabelle off the hands of the current owners, who are being plagued by the pesky thing.

They soon realise on the journey home with Annabelle that the doll is ‘a beacon for other spirits,’ and attracts them the way a sugar daddy with an open wallet will draw hos, skanks and gold-diggers, pardon my French. Like I said, a really promising start to this hotly-anticipated addition to the Annabelle canon, but things do go kind of downhill from there.

For the rest of the movie, the gorgeous, loved-up Warrens (they are sooooo cute!) are absent, away on some kind of a trip while their mopey pre-teen daughter Judy is ‘cared for,’ and I use the term loosely, by two truly dopey teenage girls, Mary Ellen and Daniela.

Mary Ellen is the soft-pink-sweater-wearing, blonde, fluffy dim cheerleader type, but not slutty with it; in fact, she’s positively coy and vapid around her would-be boyfriend, the ‘hilariously’ named ‘Bob’s-got-Balls.’

Daniela is the troublesome one, the precocious little brat who routinely sticks her nose into things that don’t concern her. She blames herself for her part in her father’s premature death in a car accident (guess who was driving?), and unwisely thinks that she can use the absent Warrens’ haunted artefacts’ room as a way of summoning her ‘darling dad’ back from the dead so she can apologise to him.

The rest of the movie is basically the three girls and Bob’s-got-Balls being chased around the house by artefacts from the haunted room, the keys to which the Warrens have left lying around carelessly, tsk tsk. And Daniela seems to have  brought the artefacts to life, which seems ridiculously easy to do. Just say, c’mon, I’ll be your friend if you come alive, stuff like that, and they say, why not, yeah, let’s do it. Stuff like that.

The ghosts include the murderous bride who likes to go stabby-stabby, the Japanese samurai dude in battle dress, the accordion-playing monkey, a sort of horned green goat man who slightly resembles Jim Carrey’s character in The Mask and, last but not least, some kind of a giant hell-hound who can be subdued, fear not, by an old beat-up guitar. Oh, and, of course, Annabelle the doll herself keeps popping up around the house in various positions and places. In the bed, under the couch, sitting in the rocking chair, etc. Meh.

The film is more of a Goosebumps/Jumanji/Scooby Doo-style kids’ adventure film than anything else. It that’s what you’re after, well, fair enough, but it was scary adult horror I was after myself, and I’m pretty sick of the way kids are taking over the horror genre. It’s the Warrens themselves I want to see, not their boring, dull-as-dishwater offspring who ‘sees’ priests who aren’t really there, and her ditzy bloody babysitters.

The most interesting thing about this movie is that someone on the film-making team has used it to showcase the superb music of Badfinger, a pop rock band from the late ‘Sixties (when they were known as the Iveys) and the early ‘Seventies, whom a lot of people figured were going to be the next Beatles.

In fact, as they’d been signed to the Beatles’ Apple record label and their Number One hit Come And Get It had been penned by Paul McCartney and given to them to use, they had a lot of quite close ties to the famous band and, when Badfinger toured America, a lot of people even thought they were the Beatles in disguise . . . !

The band consisted of Pete Ham (vocalist, guitar, piano) and Mike Gibbons (drums) from Wales and Tommy Evans (vocals, bass) and Joey Molland (vocals, guitar) from Liverpool. They had started to make it very, very big when the shit hit the fan.

Unscrupulous management saw the band benefit very little from all the work they’d done and, in 1975, lead singer Pete Ham took his own life, unable to live any longer with the stress of what mis-management had done to them.

It was an absolutely tragic waste of a life and a huge talent. Pete’s death devastated his friends and family. His girlfriend was pregnant at the time and would eventually give birth to a daughter who never knew her father.

Pete’s closest friend and band-mate Tommy Evans, both of whom co-wrote the best and biggest love song of all time, Without You, taken to the top of the charts at different times by Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey, never recovered from the loss of his mate and writing buddy. He, too, took his own life, a few years later in 1983.

Joey Molland is the only member of the band alive today. As far as I know, he’s still writing and performing music and touring it. In the film Annabelle Comes Home, the Badfinger Hits Day After Day and Baby Blue are heard towards the start of the movie and there’s a copy of one of the band’s albums on the coffee table too; you can clearly see the band’s faces. All good-looking lads they were, too.

If there were any justice in the world, they’d be around today, still playing and performing their startlingly pure and honest blend of pop rock that was right on the verge of hitting it big when disaster struck. If this film leads to a new and excited audience for Badfinger, brilliant. But, as a horror movie, whether you view it as a stand-alone film or as part of the wider franchise, it’s kind of a disappointment. Sorry.

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