WORST ROOMMATE EVER. (2022) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WORST ROOMMATE EVER. (2022) A NETFLIX TRUE CRIME DOCU-SERIES DIRECTED BY DOMINI HOFMANN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’d been avoiding this American true crime docu-series as I didn’t think it looked much cop, excuse the pun, but it’s actually a really good, gripping watch about some of the most awful people you could ever possibly imagine moving into your house or flat and living with you as your roommate.

The first of the episodes concerns Dorothea Puente, a sweet-looking little old lady granny-type-figure from Sacramento, but don’t be fooled by the pinnies that she wears, lol. Underneath the mauve eyeshadow and the shampoo and set, Puente was a stone-cold serial killer.

She murdered several of the lonely, elderly tenants who rented rooms in her boarding house in the ‘Eighties and buried their remains in her back garden, like a sort of transatlantic Fred and Rose West. Why did she do it? Mainly so that she could steal their often pitiful Social Security checks, which is the way they spell it in ‘Murica.

By the way, today is Happy ‘Murica Day, isn’t it, so fire up those barbecues and illegal fireworks and have yourselves a great day, but for gosh sakes’ don’t go in the waters round Amity Island because word has it there’s been a sighting of a Great White Shark thereabouts. Hey, y’all can ask Chief Brody if you don’t believe me. He’s right over there, talking to Mayor Murray Hamilton and some square from the Oceanic Institute…

The second episode features a Korean man called K.C. Joy (kind of a misnomer, that), who murdered his roommate, the beautiful college student and former US soldier, Maribel Ramos, probably because she rejected him in love. Men sure don’t take too well to hearing the word ‘no’ sometimes, do they…?

Episode three is about a tall, dark and handsome athlete called Youssef Khater who commits multiple frauds on the people he meets; on his roommates concerning a new apartment building, on a fellow marathon runner regarding property investment, and on the entire Palestinian nation by pretending to be from Palestine in order to weasel sponsorship for his ‘marathons’ from a group of genuine people who try to maintain and improve the good name of Palestine through acts like the sponsorship of a fellow countryman in a big race, the proceeds of which go to charity. He’s Danish, by the way, in case you were wondering…

What a jerk. He’s violent and dangerous too, though, this Youssef fellow, and resorts to attempted murder when his schemes go awry, as they often do. He’s not a very good crook, methinks, hence the ‘attempted’ murders, and doesn’t always seem to think things through, the muppet.

This guy’s currently on the loose, I believe, after serving some jail time, so be warned. His modus operandi is a lot like the Tinder Swindler, the guy who fascinated us briefly earlier in the year. How fleeting is our moment of fame on Netflix. One minute you’re SQUID GAME and flying high, next minute you’re old news and we’re skipping and scrolling merrily in fine fickle fashion down to ‘New Releases…’

The next bad roommate is so awful he has the last two episodes devoted to him. He’s the loathsome Jed Creek, aka Jamison Bachman. Yes, he used aliases! His modus operandi was to use his handsome looks- another tall, dark and handsome criminal- and charm, and even his lovely dog Zachary, to worm his way into an apartment-share, without references and often without even a deposit.

Once in, he’d dig his heels in and refuse to leave, pay rent or stump up for bills. He’d become aggressive and weird as well, obviously his real nature showing through, and rearrange the furniture in the flat or take some of it into his own locked bedroom for his own use.

He seems to have targeted only women for his vile shenanigans, as another man would probably tell him to fuck off or even threaten to punch his lights out if he started in on them. What a despicable coward, seriously, to only choose women as his roommates because he could bully and terrorise them.

The fourth episode shows us Jed Creek in all his awfulness, and in the fifth the three women who had the misfortune to room with him tell us about the lengths they had to go through, both legal and psychological, to get rid of him.

In each case, the women lost the homes that meant so much to them (in one case, someone lost their beloved cats to this man), and it’s all because they were unlucky enough to have the psychopathic Jed Creek answer their hopeful ads on Craigslist.

I guess it just goes to show you that you can never be too careful about who you let in your home, and also just what a lot of crazy people are out there. This series really gives you a glimpse into the dark side of advertising for a roommate.

There are some terrific animated sequences in the programme as well, that serve as reconstructions of the crimes. It’s kind of funny, though, when you see the bad guys’ eyebrows drawing together in a ferocious scowl, ‘cause that’s how you know they’re evil, lol.

Anyway, I won’t say ‘Happy Viewing’ because this is pretty harrowing stuff you’ll be seeing, so I’ll just say Happy Fourth of July, peeps, and watch those fingers when you’re lighting your sparklers, Catherine wheels and assorted rockets. Fireworks can be dangerous…

  AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

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

A GOOD MARRIAGE. (2014) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

A GOOD MARRIAGE. (2014) BASED ON THE NOVELLA BY STEPHEN KING.  SCREENPLAY BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY PETER ASKIN. STARRING JOAN ALLEN AND ANTHONY LAPAGLIA.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’ve recently watched some absolutely terrific Stephen King film adaptations- DR. SLEEP, GERALD’S GAME, 1408, 1922- but this one is really disappointing, even weak. We know almost straight away who the killer is, when the protagonist discovers proof early on in the film.

Then the killer finds out almost immediately that the protagonist knows their secret. There are no twists, no more secrets, no more mysteries left to unearth. All that remains is to see what the protagonist does about the terrible knowledge they’ve acquired.

Joan Allen plays Darcy Anderson, a woman with two grown-up kids who’s just celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary with her husband, Bob, played by Anthony LaPaglia. (Does anyone else think that he could play George Bush Jr. in a biopic about, well, George Bush Jr.?)

As a couple, they still seem to have love and affection and even lust for each other after all this time. I mean, they still have sex with each other, despite their advanced years. Eeuw, wrinkly, old people sex, lol. Can you imagine…?

Anyway, Bob is always popping off on business trips and leaving Darcy alone for the night. On one such night, there’s a storm brewing when Darcy pops out to the shed in the rain and the dark to get batteries for the TV remote control, which has left her stuck on an unsavoury slasher horror film, tsk tsk. Whoever watches those must be properly out of their tree, ahem. (Don’t look at me, don’t looooook at me!)

And isn’t that terrible planning on the family’s part, to keep batteries for the TV remote control across the garden in the shed, instead of somewhere in the house, like in a kitchen drawer or something? People in horror movies are crazy.

I mean, you don’t keep your phone charger in next door’s attic, do you, or in the bird feeder down the end of the garden? You keep it somewhere to hand. Jeez. That’s housekeeping 101, is that. Unless the film-makers are using it as a device in order to give Darcy a reason to go into the shed while Bob is away, which they are…

(My housekeeping advice still holds good, though. Keep things close to the place where you’ll be using the things, and you won’t go far wrong. No doubt you’ll be using your boyfriend, husband or significant other for sex and suchlike bedroom shenanigans, so store them upright during the day when you’re not using them in a wardrobe or similar. I keep mine in a tall, narrow alcove when I’m not using them. Dustsheets are optional, but are especially useful if you’re going away without them, say, and won’t be needing to use them any time soon. That way, they should be still in pristine condition when you get home.)

Whilst rootling about for batteries, Darcy accidentally uncovers the identity of the serial killer of women who’s been operating out of their area for a good few years now. Let’s call him Mr. X, shall we, so as not to give away his identity? When Mr. X comes back from his business trip… No, that’s no good. It’s immediately obvious who the killer is from that.

What about this? Try this. While Bob is away on his business trip, Mr. X spies a woman he likes the look of on the road and follows her in his car. When Bob returns home from his so-called business trip, he makes it clear to Darcy that he knows she knows. About Mr. X being the killer, I mean.

Now it’s up to Darcy to decide what her next course of action is going to be. Staying married to Mr. X, erm, I mean, to, um, Bob, of course (Mr. X isn’t Bob, and Bob isn’t Mr. X, how could you possibly infer that from what I said???), isn’t going to be easy, under the circumstances.

By the way, how dare Mr. X keep his murder souvenirs and trophies in a special super-secret hiding place in Bob’s shed, which no-one ever goes into or uses but Bob Anderson? Damn and blast you, Mr. X! Get your own damn shed! Oh Lord. You all know who the killer is, don’t you? It’s just so obvious. We might as well wind this up, lol.

And I will, except to say that the film seems to be setting Busty Betty, Darcy’s younger, sexier friend, up for a bit of the old ultra-violence, courtesy of Mr. X, but then it simply never comes to pass, which feels like a massive swizz.

The whole feeling I get from this movie adaptation is one of incompleteness, or of something that isn’t properly finished or that someone hasn’t put enough thought into. Or a massive swizz, if you prefer.

Joan Allen is great in it, to give her her due, but the script is weak and the finished product is not as good as it could have been. Sorry, Steven King! I- mostly- love everything else you’ve done, but this one, erm, sucks a bit. Over and 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 Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

LIAR. (2017/2020) A TERRIFIC NETFLIX THRILLER SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

LIAR. (2017 AND 2020) A NETFLIX THRILLER SERIES CREATED BY HARRY WILLIAMS AND JACK WILLIAMS. CO-PRODUCED BY ITV AND SUNDANCE TV.
STARRING JOANNE FROGGATT AND IOAN GRUFFUDD.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

It feels like I’ve been watching this thriller series for weeks and weeks and weeks, because it actually has two seasons of six episodes each, one of which aired in 2017 and one in 2020. It’s bloody brilliant, though, so I don’t at all begrudge the time spent viewing it, and I haven’t even finished it; I still have one tension-filled episode left to go!

Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd are phenomenal as the two leads, Laura Nielson and Andrew Earlham respectively. You will recognise the marvellous Joanne Froggatt from such roles as that of Zoe Tattersall in CORONATION STREET from 1997-1998, in which she played the troubled teenaged mother of Baby Katie, whom childless couple Judy and Gary Mallett wanted to adopt but it all went tragically pear-shaped.

She was also terrific as Myra Hindley’s sister, Maureen Smith, in the 2006 ITV mini-series, SEE NO EVIL: THE MOORS MURDERS. Maureen Hindley, married to David Smith at a young age, had no idea what her older sister Myra was up to with her twisted and sadistic lover and co-worker, Ian Brady, and it ruined her life when it all came out, as it destroyed the lives of so many other people affected by the murderous actions of Brady and Hindley.

Ioan Gruffudd (I have no idea how to pronounce his name, be it Owen, Ewan, Ian or whatever else!) has apparently been in a load of things, but I mainly remember him from James Cameron’s blockbuster movie, TITANIC, from 1997. He was the officer who came back to see if there were any survivors left after the massive ship had sunk, shouting, ‘Is there anybody alive out there…?’ while someone else pheep-pheeps on a tiny whistle, lol.

In fact, his shouting provided the stimulus for that selfish wagon Rose Dawson to shove poor old frozen Leonardo DiCaprio off that door to which they were both clinging for life and into the icy ocean so that she and she alone could be saved, the self-centred mare. Have you ever seen a frozen woman move so fast? No? I rest my case…

Anyway, Joanne Froggatt plays Laura Nielson, an attractive and outgoing secondary school teacher who, one fateful night, goes on a date with surgeon Andrew Earlham (played by Unpronounceable Gruffudd), the father of one of her pupils, Luke.

Andrew is handsome, charming, witty and widowed, and doesn’t look a day older than when he was hanging out of the rescue boat yelling, are any a’ youse rich bastards still alive out there, or words to that effect. Laura certainly can’t resist his not inconsiderable charms. She invites him in to her charming little seafront house for a nightcap, while he supposedly waits for a taxi…

When Laura wakes up the next morning, she gets the distinct impression that she’s been, well, drugged and raped. Drug-raped. By Andrew Earlham, the handsome, widowed surgeon who’s supposedly just looking to dip his big toe back in the dating pool again, as it were.

Laura is extremely vocal and loses no time in reporting what she sees as a heinous crime. Andrew, of course, denies all culpability. Oh, we had all the sex all right, but it was wholly consensual, he bleats hopefully. Well, you can’t consent to what you don’t know is happening, can you…?

Laura will spend the whole series trying to prove, not only that Andrew Earlham drug-raped her, but also that he has done it to other women before and certainly will again if he gets the chance. Laura becomes a thorn in Andrew’s side like he has never known before and probably won’t again. Who will come out on top…?

It’s like a soaps reunion here at times, which is great fun. Jill Halfpenny, who once played Martin Platt’s secret mistress while he was married to Gail in CORONATION STREET, is cast here as the gay soldier-slash-wife of the woman in charge of Laura’s rape case.

Katherine Kelly, who played mouthy Becky McDonald in CORONATION STREET from 2006 to 2012, portrays a tough and not very likeable cop in the second season of LIAR, but I can’t tell you what criminal case she’s in charge of because that would be a massive spoiler, and I don’t do massive spoilers. Only little to middly ones, lol.

Amy Nuttall, aka Chloe Atkinson in EMMERDALE, plays another possible victim of Andrew Earlham’s, and Lucy Speed, whose character Natalie was married to Barry Evans in EASTENDERS back in the day, here plays a counsellor to Andrew Earlham’s messed-up son, Luke. Told you it was like a soaps reunion here…!

The show gets very confusing at times, especially in the second season as it becomes a tense and fast-moving whodunnit. And the ease with which the characters apparently break in and out of each other’s cars, houses and work lockers and hack in and out of each other’s laptops and mobile phones is just plain ridiculous, but we can overlook all this in favour of the show’s stronger points, such as the superb characterisation of the two leads.

Laura seems incapable of giving up, or of keeping her mouth shut where she perceives she’s being given the shaft, whereas Andrew’s deviousness and his ability to gaslight, deceive and manipulate people just seems to know no bounds. It’s extremely interesting, therefore, to watch the cracks appear in his previously cool, calm and collected façade.

I hope to finish LIAR tonight before my son comes to hog the telly for the Europa League footy final (Frankfurt vs. Rangers, I’m reliably informed), but I can already advise you to watch this excellent Netflix series if you want a nice long escape from your own problems.

You’ll have to hold on tight, as the twists and turns become almost too twisty-turny to keep up with, but you’ll also have great craic playing spot-the-soap-star and marvelling at Laura’s persistence (past the point of all wisdom, mind!) and Andrew’s utter villainy. Happy watching…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. (2007) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. (2007) DIRECTED BY TIM BURTON.
BASED ON SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, THE MUSICAL, BY STEPHEN SONDHEIM AND HUGH WHEELER.
STARRING JOHHNY DEPP, HELENA BONHAM CARTER, ALAN RICKMAN, TIMOTHY SPALL AND SACHA BARON COHEN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I only saw this film for the first time recently, and was blown away by it, even though I’d been expecting to find it annoying after hearing that there was singing in it, lol. But the singing is fantastic, and so is pretty much everything else about this film based on a musical that in turn was based on a Victorian legend.

It’s the legend of the titular Sweeney Todd, the barber of old London who slits his customers’ throats and trapdoor-s the corpses deep down below into his girlfriend’s pie shop, where the flesh is baked into some of the ‘worst pies in London.’ Quite a neat little scam, though how they expected to get away with such a bold scheme indefinitely is a mystery to me.

Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, formerly the barber Benjamin Barker, returns to London in 1846, after spending fifteen long years in exile in Australia, even though he’d committed no crime. The evil Judge Turpin, played by Alan Rickman, had him sent there on a pretext, purely so that he could put the moves on Sweeney Todd’s beautiful wife, Lucy…

Now Lucy is dead, and her and Sweeney Todd’s daughter Johanna is Turpin’s captive. He’s basically waiting till she’s old enough to take her as his wife, then she’ll be lost to her father, Sweeney Todd, forever…

Sweeney Todd, played bitterly and broodingly by the great Johnny Depp, teams up with Helena Bonham Carter as his literal soulmate, his perfect other half, the missing piece of the puzzle, one Mrs. Lovett who runs the pie shop. Helena Bonham Carter, by the way, was born to dress this way and play this kind of role. She’s practically perfick for it.

As the film is very faithful to the source material, Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett do exactly what I mentioned in an earlier paragraph: he slashes his customers ‘froats,’ as they say in London, then she bakes their nice juicy flesh into her pies in the bakehouse below.

They are assisted in this grisly work by local urchin, the highly Dickensian Tobias Ragge. He’s the former employee of one of Sweeney’s rival barbers, the faux-Italian Adolfo Pirelli. Wonderfully played by comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen, Pirelli finds out what it means to incur the wrath of Sweeney Todd and end up in a trunk with yer froat cut and yer features re-arranged by forty whacks with a boiling kettle…

Business for both the barber and the pie shop goes really well for a time, and it’s not long before Sweeney gets a crack at swiping a cut-throat razor across the manly jaw and chin of the hanging Judge, the whipping Judge, the nefarious Judge Turpin, and also that of the Judges’ toady and yes-man, the rat-faced Beadle Bamford, marvellously played by Timothy Spall.

There’s also a lovesick young man looking to rescue Johanna, Sweeney Todd’s daughter, from the clutches of Judge Turpin, who has placed his beloved ward in an insane asylum for refusing to marry him. But we won’t worry too much about that.

It’s much more interesting to watch the dead-inside Sweeney Todd interact with Mrs. Lovett, who’s pining away with unrequited love for him. Does she deserve her truly awful fate…? The movie’s not an 18s for nuffink, folks…

A suitably dark, brooding and heavy atmosphere hangs over London town the whole time. I also have a question, and this never occurred to me before: Did the female inmates of the insane asylums have their hair butchered against their will by the orderlies and sold to the wig-makers, to whom real, natural hair is always a boon and a bonus…? Just one of many violations of their human rights, I reckon.

The song lyrics are so funny and well-written, even razor-sharp if you’ll excuse the pun, and Depp and Bonham Carter can’t half sing! The costumes and grim settings are fabulous too, and, as is evidenced in nearly every attempt to film the Victorian era, the class differences between the rich and poor stand out a mile.

As a poor person, you can get hung for stealing a loaf of bread, or sent to Australia, branded a convict and a wrong ‘un forever, just because some high-faluting Judge has the hots for your wife. Well, I suppose, as in the case of Sweeney Todd, you can always come back and get revenge. Even revenge set to music. All together now: ‘It’s a hard knock life… for us…’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

CASE 39. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

CASE 39. (2009) DIRECTED BY CHRISTIAN ALVART. STARRING RENEE ZELLWEGER, BRADLEY COOPER, IAN MCSHANE AND JODELLE MICAH FERLAND.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘We help families communicate and learn better ways to resolve conflict.’

I quite like Renee Zellweger, from such films as WHITE OLEANDER and the fantastic BRIDGET JONES trilogy of movies, but this supernatural drama film kind of sucks, if I may use the vernacular for a moment.

It seems a lot like a rip-off of ORPHAN, a much better horror film in which a married couple take the titular ‘orphan’ into their home out of the goodness of their hearts, only to find out that she’s the house guest from the very depths of hell itself. The girls in both films even look alike, pale-faced with scraped back long black hair and big eyes.

In CASE 39, Ms. Zellweger plays Emily Jenkins, an over-worked social worker from Oregon. Single, living alone and with a troubled past that still colours her life today, Emily has thirty-eight active cases on her books until her boss dumps a new case, the titular Case 39, into her lap as well.

The multitude of files in the social work department all equate to troubled kids and troubled families, and vice versa. But the files have to remain physically shut until one of the over-tired social workers has the time and energy to open it and engage with it. It’s a flawed and probably under-funded, under-staffed system, but it’s the only one we have.

Also, I’ll be honest, I resent the notion of a childless woman in her twenties or thirties telling me how to raise my children by using a series of throwaway platitudes like the quote at the top of this review.

The film pokes bitter fun at cliched social worker-speak and, I must admit, it’s not unpleasant to see the do-gooder social worker have his own words used against him for a change. That’s not to say, of course, that there aren’t genuinely good social workers out there who do genuinely useful work.

Case 39, aka Lily Sullivan, is a ten-year-old girl whose grades in school have fallen drastically of late and it is assumed that she has problems at home. Emily duly investigates, and finds out that the Sullivan parents are definitely a strange pair.

Lily she finds charming and vulnerable, on the other hand. She develops a friendship with the child, an action that probably would be advised against in the Social Workers’ Handbook. Boundaries and maintaining a distance and not getting too involved, and all that jazz.

When Emily arrives at the Sullivan house in the dead of night in answer to a worrying call from Lily and finds the parents trying to cram the child into a lit gas oven, she quite rightly removes the little girl from her parents’ custody.

Pressure from the sad-faced Lily leads Emily to beg her superiors for a most unusual and unorthodox favour. It’s for the best if Lily comes and lives with me, I absolutely know what’s best for her, she manages to convince her board of management. Lily leaves her temporary children’s home placement and moves in with a delighted Emily. This is the start of Emily’s worst nightmare…

Emily manages to drag her would-be boyfriend and co-worker, Doug, played by Bradley Cooper, into her mess as well. Doug’s one big horror scene is pretty terrifying and probably the scariest scene in the whole shebang, followed by Ian LOVEJOY McShane’s in the car park as Emily’s other close friend, Detective Mike Barron. Thanks a bunch, Emily. Remind me never to apply to be your close friend, yeah? Ian McShane looks bloody amazing in this film, by the way, considering he’s nearly seventy.

The one thing I was really happy about while watching this film was the fact that Emily chooses to save her poor little innocent goldfish from the incineration towards the end of the movie. Why should sweet little JAWS 2 be made to suffer simply because he drew the short straw and wound up as the pet in a Bad Horror Movie…? Good on ya, Moby Dick.

The way the film ultimately plays out is boring and predictable and not at all scary. A few demon voices, some crackly, static-y phone calls with no-one on the line, a broken door, some long pointy demon nails, a few hallucinations and a couple of failed attempts to kill the demon, and Bob’s your uncle. Nothing we haven’t seen before, folks. Unless you count the director’s obvious interest in filming bare female tootsies picking their way delicately through broken glass and other debris

And the least the film could have provided for the viewers was a twist in the tale, but no dice. The ending is just that, an ending. Maybe it’s for the best…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

STEPHEN KING’S 1922. (2017) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

1922. (2017) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ZAK HILDITCH. BASED ON THE 2010 NOVELLA OF THE SAME NAME BY STEPHEN KING.
STARRING THOMAS JANE, MOLLY PARKER, NEAL MCDONOUGH, DYLAN SCHMID, KAITLYN BERNARD AND BRIAN DARCY JAMES.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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.

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:

CASTING JONBENET. (2017) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


CASTING JONBENET. (2017) DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY KITTY GREEN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I watched this eighty-minute documentary on Netflix recently, and was struck by how it managed to tell a twenty-five-year-old story in a new and unusual way. Various actors and actresses, adults and children alike, are taking part in auditions for the roles of players in the story of the real-life murder of a little American girl called JonBenet Ramsey.

The story is told through the auditionees’ recital of their various lines and actions, and frequently they get to voice their own opinions as well regarding the guilt- or innocence- of the various characters in the real-life drama. The still-unsolved murder has been referred to as ‘the ultimate cold case,’ and seemingly everyone has an opinion on it.

So, what are the facts as we actually know them? Well, on the day after Christmas in 1996, a wealthy and outwardly happy family called the Ramseys, resident in Boulder, Colorado, had their lives turned upside-down forever by the discovery of the death of its youngest member, pretty little blonde angel JonBenet, aged only six.

This is what supposedly happened. The mom of the family, Patsy, who never appeared in public without her flawless make-up on and co-ordinating outfits, came down the back staircase of their home between five and six in the morning. Lying across the bottom step of this spiral staircase were three pages of closely-written handwriting.

Patsy read part of the first page. Realising that it was a ransom note that stated that ‘a small foreign faction’ had taken her daughter and wanted $180,000 for her safe return, she ran back upstairs to check JonBenet’s bedroom. Finding it empty, she screamed for her husband John, a very rich and successful businessman. Their nine-year-old son Burke apparently ‘slept through the whole thing.’

The Ramseys called the police, who did an initial search of the house that yielded no results. The Ramseys also phoned various friends and asked them to come over. Soon the house was crowded with people wandering all over the place. Shortly before lunch, John Ramsey and a male friend wandered away from the crowd and found little JonBenet’s body on the floor under a white blanket in a room off their basement.

Seemingly forgetting that a crime scene should be left untouched in order for the police to be able to investigate a case properly, John Ramsey removed the duct tape over the child’s mouth and loosened some of the ties that bound her. Then he carried her up to the living room and laid her under the Christmas tree, almost like a little wrapped present.

The media went nuts for the case. It was a slow news period, those quiet days between Christmas and New Year, and the case was ‘sexed-up’ considerably once it emerged that Patsy Ramsey, a former Miss West Virginia, had entered her beautiful little daughter into beauty pageants, and had been planning to ‘put her through the pageant system’ all the way had the child not passed away.

Photos began to appear in the media of JonBenet in full pageant make-up and regalia. She was a darling little girl and looked lovely in photos, being super-photogenic, but some of the pictures sexualised her and basically turned her into a certain type of paedophile’s dream: a little blonde angel in make-up and high heels.

Some of the professional photos of Jonbenet that Patsy had paid big money for made the child look about ten years older. Even in some of the family photos, JonBenet is pouting in a highly suggestive manner with heavy red lipstick on.

Some people were very critical of Patsy for decking her daughter out to look like a tiny, pocket-sized Lolita. She was accused of trying to live vicariously through her daughter. Seriously, six years old is a bit young for that kind of adult carry-on, surely…?

The autopsy conducted on JonBenet’s body found that she had been killed by asphyxiation. She’d also had a blow to the head and, distressingly, as if all that wasn’t bad enough, there was some blood in her underwear and signs of rough handling in her vaginal area.

It was thought at the time that semen was found on her corpse, which immediately put a sexually mature, adult male in the frame. I’m not entirely sure of myself here, but I think that later investigators were found to have been mistaken about the presence of semen on the body. But what about the ‘rough handling’ of the child’s vagina, and the fact that someone had supposedly wiped down her genital area with a cloth…?

Theories abounded, some of which you’ll hear from the actors auditioning for the parts of Patsy and John. Did Burke kill his pageant queen sister in a fit of jealous rage, and his parents then covered up for him by staging a kidnapping?

Did Patsy slam the little girl’s head against a wall in response to yet another aggravating bed-wetting by JonBenet? Did a complete stranger, or a friend, neighbour or disgruntled former employee of John’s sneak into the house and kill the little girl? Was it planned or opportunistic? Or purely accidental?

The three-pages-long ‘ransom’ note, addressed to John Ramsey, was found to have been written in the house, with a pen and pad of paper belonging to Patsy. The note was thought to have contained certain stock phraseology from crime movies. The Ramseys were known to be big movie fans and had some movie posters on display in the house.

I read the note myself and thought some of it honestly sounded like a pissed-off wife taking the opportunity to have a few sly digs at her ‘perfect’ husband. Don’t try to grow a brain, John…! Why not use some of that famous Southern common sense of yours, John…?  The tone of the note was thought to be more likely female than male, and plenty of people seem to think that Patsy Ramsey wrote it.

A garotte was found around the child’s neck and included part of a paintbrush also belonging to Patsy. The police were unable to find evidence of any forced entry into the house, all of which suggests it may have been an ‘inside job,’ rather than a crime committed by an outsider.

Also, for quite a while Patsy and John Ramsey more or less refused to co-operate with police or be interviewed by them at the police station, but their considerable wealth allowed them to hire expensive attorneys, private investigators and even a publicist to handle their TV and other media appearances. They appeared on CNN shortly after the murder, before they’d even spoken to the police, and body language analysts had a field day deconstructing their on-screen behaviour.

This film makes the most of a strikingly different approach to story-telling. I can’t get the image of all those red-sweatered, fully made-up Patsies all acting out scenes from the murder/kidnapping out of my head.

Ditto the house all dressed up for Christmas. One of the boys auditioning for the part of Burke walloping a water-melon with a blunt object to see if a young lad would have the strength to kill a younger child in such a way. The beefy chap who works nights as a ‘sex educator’ who’s auditioning for the part of one of the cops. In a film about a genuinely tragic event, this guy is a ray of sunshine.

 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

SOPHIE: A MURDER IN WEST CORK. (2021) A NETFLIX SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SOPHIE: A MURDER IN WEST CORK. (2021) A NETFLIX TRUE CRIME DOCUMENTARY SERIES DIRECTED BY JOHN DOWER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Once upon a time at Christmas, a beautiful young French woman travelled from France to West Cork in Ireland to stay in her isolated holiday home by the sea. Left behind in France, her husband and young son eagerly awaited her return.

She pottered round the small village of Schull, getting in a few groceries and probably passing the time of day and exchanging season’s greetings with the locals she met. Most of them knew her by sight, if not to speak to. She was a popular visitor to the town. The lights could be seen on in her house at night, indicating that the desolate cottage was occupied for the festive season.

Then, one fateful morning just before Christmas, the beautiful French woman was found beaten to death by the gateway to her house, clad in only her nightdress and a pair of boots. That woman was Sophie Toscan du Plantier, and this Netflix documentary attempts to tell her story…

Sophie was thirty-nine years old when she was brutally murdered outside her holiday home in Schull, prounounced ‘Skull.’ It was a quiet seaside town peopled with lots of artistic ‘blow-ins’ as well as the native inhabitants.

The ‘blow-ins’ were people who came to this isolated part of the world to paint and draw and write and sculpt and craft things and design things, because it’s a dream location for anyone who wishes to create anything.

Sophie herself was a writer, a film-and-television producer in her native France and a lover of Irish poetry. I’m guessing William Butler Yeats & Co. She was married to a famous French film producer called Daniel Toscan du Plantier, and their life together sounds like a hectic showbizzy round of red carpets and movie premieres and glittering parties attended by celebrities like themselves.

She was Daniel’s third wife, and a good sixteen years younger than him. She had a son from her first marriage, Pierre Louis, who was about fifteen at the time of his mother’s murder. In the photos of Sophie and her son, with their identical freckly faces and giant grins, Sophie looks like the happiest woman in the world.

So, who called to Sophie’s windswept cottage long after dark on the cold, frosty night of the 23rd December, 1996, somehow inveigled her out of the house wearing only her nightie, chased her across the fields, maybe, to the gateway to her property and there bashed her brains out with a concrete block and then left her there to die…?

Two upturned wine glasses were found on the draining board of her sink, leading the police to think that maybe she’d offered hospitality to her killer before he turned nasty and frightened her enough to flee from him. Sophie, who’s been described by friends and family as having a side to her that was attracted to all things gothic and mysterious, had had unsettling premonitions of doom shortly before her murder…

This Netflix documentary is possibly unique in the history of documentaries in that it features, alive and well and actually walking and talking, the man accused of Sophie’s murder but never charged with it, Ian Bailey. He’s a former journalist from Manchester and a massive hulking brute of a man who moved to Ireland in 1991 after the failure of his marriage.

He has lived in Schull since then, and, from 1992 to earlier on this year, he lived with his partner of thirty years, Jules Thomas, an artist with three daughters. Ian Bailey, according to nearly everyone who takes part in the documentary, especially the locals of Schull, is not a man you would want to see within a mile of your daughter, sister, mother or female friend…

The account of the injuries he inflicted on Jules Thomas while drunk is so sickening I won’t recount it here. That just means, of course, that he’s a man who’s committed violence towards a woman, and it doesn’t necessarily mean he murdered Sophie. So, what makes so many people think it was him?

On the night of the murder, he claimed to have been in bed with Jules all night. Then he admitted having got up, after all, and gone down to his writing studio a little way down the road and stayed up all night working. A witness who later strangely retracted her statement said she’d seen him on the bridge near Sophie’s house at 3am on the night of the murder, wearing his trademark long black coat and acting oddly.

As a local journalist ‘on the spot,’ so to speak, he covered the story himself for different newspapers, often suggesting that the clue to Sophie’s death lay in France and not Schull. There were things he knew about before other people knew about them that suggested he had some ‘insider knowledge’ of the murder.

A guest at the Thomas house around this time claimed to have seen Bailey’s long coat soaking in a bucket of cold water in the shower of the house, not the usual way of cleaning such a garment. You normally only soak a garment like that if it has blood on it.

On St. Stephen’s Day- the day after Christmas Day- Bailey lit a bonfire in his back garden. Forensic experts later found the remains of a coat and wellington boots amongst the ashes, but nothing that constituted solid evidence, apparently.

Strangest of all, Bailey confessed to more than one inhabitant of Schull that ‘he’d done it; he’d gone too far and bashed her head in with a rock.’ He denied knowing Sophie, but locals say otherwise.

Bailey, an obvious narcissist and known attention-seeker who apparently, when he moved to Schull, would shush an entire pub without warning so he could dramatically recite one of his poems, was the man whose name was on everyone’s lips. (In the film, he quotes his own poetry whenever a chance crops up.) To hear him talk, he seems to relish the publicity and being in the limelight, even if it’s mostly notoriety he’s gaining.

He was arrested more than once, but released each time for lack of evidence. Files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the fellow who decides if there is enough evidence to go ahead and charge someone and commit them for trial, but they came back with the directive that the evidence against Ian Bailey was all circumstantial and not hard fact.

So, the man who nowadays effects an eccentric style of dress- in the film, he’s writing a poem on a public bench dressed in shorts, sandals, a big wide-brimmed hat and fringed scarf- still walks free. He apparently runs a village stall in Schull these days selling pizzas, if I’m not mistaken, and, erm, his poems, and Jules Thomas has finally ditched him…

The French held their own trial, urged on by Sophie’s now grown-up son and her friends and relatives. They found Ian Bailey guilty of murder in absentia and sentenced him to twenty-five years in prison.

The Irish courts apparently are not going to boot him across the Channel to face the music, so, to all intents and purposes, he’s a free man. Until the next development in this sensational case, and, trust me, it’s not the last we’ve heard either of Ian Bailey or Sophie Toscan du Plantier, the beautiful Frenchwoman who met a horrible death in a lonely field in the dead of night one fateful Christmas…

It was kind of chilling, yet strangely endearing, to see all the old television news reports and the coverage of the death by the Irish state broadcaster, RTE, and watch all the old familiar faces reading the News and commenting on the murder. Marian Finucane is dead now; Brian Dobson retired. Pascal Sheehy is still going strong. The scenery is stunning and as gothic as Sophie could ever have wished for; the haunting music ditto. A few local legends and rumours of hauntings are thrown in for good measure.

The film is crystal-clear about who is the villain. They might as well put horns and a tail on Ian Bailey. Is he just a bullying, controlling asshole who beats women and craves and cultivates constant attention, or is he something even worse?

Feel free to convict him yourself in your own mind, as the Irish courts seem oddly reluctant to do so, or you can of course plump for ‘innocent until proven guilty.’  Or does the latter go out the window when a man has already been convicted by the court of public opinion? If Ian Bailey isn’t actually guilty of Sophie’s murder, then he’s had a hell of a rough quarter of a century…

     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:

HOUSE OF WAX. (1953) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

HOUSE OF WAX. (1953) DIRECTED BY ANDRÉ DE TOTH. BASED ON A SHORT STORY BY CHARLES S. BELDEN AND THE 1933 FILM, MYSTERY AT THE WAX MUSEUM.

STARRING VINCENT PRICE, CAROLYN JONES, PHYLLIS KIRK, PAUL CAVANAGH, DABBS GREER AND CHARLES BUCHINSKY, AKA CHARLES BRONSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

(WRITTEN IN 2016, IN PRE-PANDEMIC TIMES!)

This film is a fantastic horror classic starring legendary horror maestro Vincent Price. I had the great pleasure of watching it recently on the big screen at Dublin’s Lighthouse Cinema. The film was in 3-D and I’ve honestly never been happier to sit in the dark for ninety or so minutes wearing a pair of ridiculous oversized glasses that cut into my poor little ears and nose.

Vincent Price is superb as always as Professor Henry Jarrod, who spends his days lovingly crafting wax sculptures whom he thinks of almost as his children, he loves them so much. He specialises in aesthetically-pleasing historical figures and considers his Marie Antoinette to be the pièce de resistance of his magnificent collection. And rightly so, if you ask me. She’s a proper little corker.

His business partner Matthew Burke is more concerned with the figures on their balance-sheets than with the stunning figures moulded by Jarrod, however. He wants Jarrod to sculpt more sensational pieces that could form the basis of a Chambers Of Horrors-style exhibition and bring more paying customers into their premises. Jarrod is naturally repulsed by the idea and refuses point-blank.

I don’t personally see anything wrong with the idea of a Chamber of Horrors. We have one here in Dublin in our little wax museum with Hannibal Lecter in it and Buffalo Bill from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, as well as Dracula (modelled on Christopher Lee in the Hammer films) in his coffin and Freddie Krueger from the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movies.

I’d love to see a Jack the Ripper waxwork set against a Victorian backdrop, or any other famous serial murderers either from real life or from films; Dr. Crippen, say, or John Christie, the Rillington Place murderer, Burke and Hare, the infamous body-snatchers, or even- thinking outside the box here!- Countess Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary. She supposedly retained her legendary youth by bathing in the blood of virgins, whom she obviously had to murder first. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London probably features some of these lads.

People love a good scare, and they’re more than willing to pay for it if it’s good enough. That’s why we buy horror DVDs and books and true-life crime magazines, and why we go to a Chamber of Horrors or, in the old days, to a travelling freak exhibition or for a ride on the ghost train at a funfair. Although I’m on Vincent Price’s character’s side overall, I kind of see where Matthew Burke is coming from too, wanting to make a few bucks out of a horror show.

Burke is even more desperate for money than Jarrod realises, however. He sets fire to the museum, nearly killing poor Jarrod in the process. Jarrod survives, but he is horrifically disfigured from trying to save his precious creations.

The scene where the wax figures are melting in the terrific heat from the fire is so powerful that it’s one I’ve remembered from my childhood. It’s, quite simply, unforgettable. Unforgettable and so very sad. Those poor wax figures…! They didn’t deserve that horribly gruesome end.

Fear not, gentle readers. The Wax Museum rises again, under the direction of Jarrod once more, but it is a Jarrod with crippled hands who is unable to sculpt the way he used to. His deaf-mute assistant, Igor, played by a young and deliciously muscular Charles Bronson, does the work for him now, following his employer’s instructions, of course.

The Wax Museum, oddly enough, has a new feature, one that is welcomed with positively blood-thirsty glee by the punters of early twentieth century New York. It now features a Chamber Of Horrors, something Jarrod always maintained he wanted no truck with. The juicy crimes and sensational recent events that the public crave can now be seen here, recreated painstakingly in waxen sculptures.

The Chamber Of Horrors even carries, strangely enough, a waxwork likeness of Jarrod’s former business partner, Matthew Burke, who apparently committed suicide, or did he…? Was Burke actually murdered by a mysterious cloaked and disfigured man who then made his death look like a suicide…? I’ll never tell.

And I certainly won’t tell you that Burke’s gold-digging fianceé, Cathy (played by Carolyn Jones, once wed to television producer Aaron Spelling and who starred as Morticia Addams in the original black-and-white television series of THE ADDAMS FAMILY), was murdered soon afterwards and then her body disappeared from the morgue.

Tsk, tsk. If I tell you that, then I might as well tell you that Cathy’s friend, Sue Allen, who herself has been pursued by the same cloaked and disfigured man we mentioned earlier, visits the Wax Museum and is deeply disturbed to observe that Jarrod’s Joan Of Arc bears more than a passing resemblance to her dead friend, Cathy…

This film is great fun. The sets and costumes are all spot-on and Charles Bronson is terrific- and dangerously sexy- as Jarrod’s new right-hand-man, Igor. You might recognise the stiff-upper-lipped Paul Cavanagh, who plays art critic and Egyptologist Sidney Wallace, as having acted in three of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films, made between 1939 and 1945.

Also, you’ll surely know the actor portraying the energetic sergeant Jim Shane from having also played the Reverend Alden in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE for years in the 1970s. He and Dr. Baker were the mainstays of the town of Walnut Creek, along with storekeeper Nels Oleson and upstanding local citizen, Charles ‘Pa’ Ingalls.

A great musical score by David Buttolph adds to the creepy atmosphere and Vincent Price was born to play the creator of the Wax Museum who is driven insane by the unfortunate circumstances in which he finds himself.

The film got bad reviews at the time, but for the life of me I don’t know why. It’s a much better film than the original early talkie on which it’s based, MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM from 1933. This movie features some excellent screaming from Fay Wray of KING KONG fame, but sadly not much else. I didn’t like it half as much as the 1953 re-make, and that’s the truth.

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:

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. (2006) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


WHEN A STRANGER CALLS- THE RE-MAKE. 2006. DIRECTED BY SIMON WEST. STARRING CAMILLA BELLE, TOMMY FLANAGAN, LANCE HENRIKSEN, KATY CASSIDY, DEREK DE LINT AND KATE JENNINGS GRANT.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The calls are coming from inside the house…’

The original film of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979), directed by Fred Walton, has one of the best opening sequences of any horror film I’ve ever seen. The first twenty minutes, with the babysitter alone in the house getting increasingly frightening phone calls from an anonymous psychopath, is pure cinematic perfection. The rest of the film is good too, but it’s those first twenty minutes that really grab you by the throat and scare you witless.

I was surprised to find out that such a great film had been re-made. But hey, unnecessary remakes of brilliant films are seemingly where it’s at these days. This time round, Camilla Belle- what a pretty name!- plays Jill Johnson, the high school student who has to babysit for the super-rich doctor and his wife as punishment for running up a massive bill on her cellphone gabbing to her boyfriend.

Jill isn’t too keen on the prospect as all her friends are at the school bonfire party and she would much rather be with them. She’s also fed-up because her so-called boyfriend has recently been caught snogging her bezzie mate, the slutty blonde alcoholic Tiffany. Ouch. Dontcha just hate it when that happens…!

Her dad drives her to the doctor’s fantastic big house, with a lake and tons of polished decking and a little forest and a posh guesthouse and everything. He drops her off without even checking that it’s the right house. He could have been dropping her off at the Manson compound or Ted Bundy’s gaff for all the attention he pays, the self-involved git. It’s not like he was even keen to get to that chamber music concert his wife’s making him go to, haha.

The filthy-rich doctor and his glamorous missus toddle off to their swanky soirée and Jill is left all alone in the huge, remote house in the middle of nowhere. Then the phone starts ringing and the anonymous caller starts asking:
‘Have you checked the children…?’

They’ve done a few things differently this time round. They’ve added a live-in maid, a son who may conceivably return from school at any time to the guesthouse where he lodges, and a completely implausible visit from a schoolfriend, incidentally the one who got off with Jill’s boyfriend.

I mean, this chum (the slutty blonde alcoholic Tiffany) is apparently able to find this out-of-the-way house in the arse-end of nowhere in the dark without any difficulty and get herself inside the doctor’s posh fortress of a house without setting off the alarm. A bit far-fetched, if you ask me. They’ve also gotten the children up and about and running around the place like mad things, something which didn’t happen in the original film.

Mind you, in this re-make the killer isn’t remotely interested in the children, thanks be to God. They’ve changed him into your average sex-killer this time round. Young women are his focus and he’s concentrating his energies on tormenting, terrifying and tracking down the vulnerable Jill with a view to doing (presumably) you-know-what to her when he gets her in his clutches.

God love her, though. She’s a nice enough girl but she’s sooooo dumb. She says every stupid wrong thing imaginable to the anonymous phone-caller.

‘Who are you? How do you know my name? Why are you doing this to me? Are you trying to scare me? Can you see me? How do you know I’m here? Why won’t you leave me alone?’ And of course, the classic ‘victim’ line:
‘Why are you doing this to me…?’ And so on and so forth.

That’s right, love. Keep saying the stuff he wants to hear. Keep reacting to him and feeding his ego and letting him know how scared you are. That way, he’s bound to stop. He’ll probably be all contrite and all like:

‘Oh, I’m sorry, I totally didn’t know I was scaring you! I am sooooo sorry, I’ll just toddle off right away to the nearest cop-shop and turn myself in. Goodnight now and, once again, a thousand apologies for the misunderstanding…!’

That reminds me of that funny post that’s doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment. You hear an intruder in the darkened house at night (or whenever) and you call out:
‘Who’s there? Who is it?’
The joke is, of course, that the killer or intruder is hardly like to call back:
‘Oh hi, it’s only me, I’m just in the kitchen making a sandwich! Would you like me to fix you one…?’

The film-makers basically expanded the first twenty minutes of the original film and made an entire movie out of it, which I suppose is good because after all those were the best twenty minutes of the whole thing. There’s plenty of scope for a good horror flick in a scenario like that. You could come up with probably a million variations on ‘The calls are coming from inside the house’ and some of them could actually be quite effective. Remember the horror movie BLACK CHRISTMAS? Such a good film.

They’ve left out the killer’s back story, though, and the bit where Jill’s a grown woman with kids of her own and a husband. They’ve also left out the sub-plot which sees the detective searching for the killer on the orders of the bereaved Dr. Mandrakis. They’ve literally just concentrated on the babysitter’s night of horror alone in the house with the killer and the sleeping children. Fair enough, I suppose.

The ending is good and the atmosphere throughout is actually pretty spooky, thanks to the amazing house with all its creepy little nooks and crannies, so this is by no means a bad re-make. It’s really more a question, I feel, of whether the re-make was strictly necessary in the first place. Some might say it wasn’t. Others probably feel that anything that’s out there is fair game for a re-make.

And me…? I love ’em both, but the original edges it for me every time because of the era in which it was made. That was a great era for horror. You can make up your own minds, though. There’s a lot to be said for both films. Let me know what you think.

Don’t phone me, though. For the love of God don’t phone me. I’ve been scared off phones for life thanks to these two films. Send me an e-mail instead. Or write me a letter. No harm ever came from reading a letter, did it? Did it…? 

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: