THE WOMAN IN THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE GIRL IN THE WINDOW. (2022) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE WOMAN IN THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE GIRL IN THE WINDOW. (2022)
A NETFLIX COMEDY SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
DIRECTED BY MICHAEL LEHMANN.
STARRING KRISTEN BELL, TOM RILEY, MICHAEL EALY, MARY HOLLAND, CAMERON BRITTON, SHELLEY HENNIG AND GLENN CLOSE.

‘Bingo…!’

This is a black comedy series in eight less-than-thirty-minutes episodes that would be easy enough to binge-watch in one night. Well, that’s how I did it, anyway, last night, as a matter of fact. It’s a send-up of all those crime thriller books and films that have names like GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

I’ve found the trend a bit tiresome at times, as every second crime book seems to have the words ‘the girl’ or ‘the woman’ in the title. I’ve noticed a similar trend in literary fiction for having ‘the so-and-so’s daughter’ for a title. Apothecary’s daughter, abortionist’s daughter, and we’re still only on the A’s here, lol. The world of books sure could use a shot of originality.

Anyway, this parody series features Kristen Bell, who played Princess Anna in the smash-hit kids’ animated film FROZEN (2013), as Anna, the rather kooky American heroine. Anna lives alone in a fabulous big house on a secluded, exclusive street rather like Wisteria Lane from the drama series DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. Only rich people live there, and you probably have to be vetted by the neighbourhood welcome committee before you ever get permission to buy a house there.

Anna’s marriage to Douglas, an FBI profiler specialising in serial killers, broke up after their eight-year-old daughter Elizabeth dies in hilarious fashion. Well, this is a dark comedy series, after all, and a piss-take of the current annoying trends in crime thriller writing. Anna is an artist, but she hasn’t painted since Elizabeth’s death.

She spends her long, lonely boring days drinking huge full glasses of red wine, popping the pills her therapist gives her, which incidentally cause her to hallucinate, and staring out the window at her neighbours’ comings and goings. She reads books with titles like THE WOMAN ACROSS THE LAKE and THE GIRL ON THE CRUISE. She desperately needs to get a life, but she obviously hasn’t reached that place yet.

One day, a handsome British widower called Neil moves in right across the street with his daughter Emma, who’s about the same age as Elizabeth would have been. Anna immediately falls for Neil and starts bringing him and Emma casseroles- apparently, that’s a recurring trope in these crime thrillers- and encouraging Emma with her drawing.

She’s absolutely horrified to discover, after all the casseroles and meaningful looks, that Neil has a beautiful, but bitchy, young air hostess girlfriend called Lisa. Even more horrifying is the night that a sloshed Anna looks across the street and sees Lisa dying from a cut throat in Neil’s house.

She calls the police, who find no sign of a dead body or even a struggle. What they do find, however, is a drunken Anna who seems to be incapable from telling fact from fiction, imagination from reality and alcohol-and-pills-induced hallucinations from What Really Happened. No-one believes Anna’s story. Even Anna herself doubts it at times. The race is on for the grieving mother to find the truth before… well, before the series ends, I suppose.

For a parody or a spoof of something, it’s not exactly a laugh a minute, like, say, BLAZING SADDLES or YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, but there are a few good laughs in it. The self-help books of the day, for example, and cannibalistic serial killers (Massacre Mike is genuinely funny). People’s ridiculous online profiles and the lengths folks’ll go to to look like they’re carefree and having a great old time, and the very amusing all-over-the-house sex montage between Anna and beefcake Sexy Rexy. I also loved the bitchy, social-climbing Chinese neighbour Carol and Glenn Close’s very classy cameo at the end.

I would never watch this series again though, as one viewing really shows you everything you’ll ever need to know about it. I even feel guilty about spending an entire Friday night on it, as it’s really only chewing gum for the eyes without any particular intellectual merit to it but, what the hell, we’ve all been through a global pandemic together and we deserve some brain-switched-off downtime. That’s my excuse, anyway. What’s yours…?

BOOKS I’M THINKING OF WRITING IN THE FUTURE:

THE WOMAN WHO WAS THERE ONE MINUTE AND GONE THE NEXT.

THE WOMAN’S DAUGHTER, WHO WAS ALSO SOMEONE’S SISTER.

THE WOMAN AND THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN MEET THE WOMAN WHO WAS THERE ONE MINUTE AND GONE THE NEXT.

YOU TOO CAN BE A SERIAL KILLER.

THE SERIAL KILLER’S DAUGHTER.

THE ALCOHOLIC’S DAUGHTER.

YOU TOO CAN BE AN ALCOHOLIC SERIAL KILLER.

THE DAUGHTER OF THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW WHO USED TO BE THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN BUT IS NOW GONE.

THE WOMAN WHO LIVED IN THE HOUSE WITH THE WINDOWS.

THE WOMAN WHO LIVED IN THE HOUSE WITH THE WINDOWS BUT NO DOOR.

THE ALCOHOLIC WOMAN WITH THE DAUGHTER IN THE HOUSE.

THE ALCOHOLIC WOMAN WITH THE SERIAL KILLER DAUGHTER WHO WAS ALSO A WOMAN BUT NOT AN ALCOHOLIC ONE.

YOU TOO CAN LIVE IN A HOUSE WITH WINDOWS.

Let me know if you can come up with any more…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR. (2020) BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF HENRY JAMES. A NETFLIX DRAMA CREATED BY MIKE FLANAGAN.
STARRING VICTORIA PEDRETTI, CARLA GUGINO, HENRY THOMAS, AMELIA EVE, OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN, TAHIRAH SHARIF, T’NIA MILLER, RAHUL KOHLI, KATE SIEGEL, BENJAMIN EVAN AINSWORTH AND AMELIE BEA SMITH.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is the companion series to THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, and, as far as I know, there are more to come, so yay. I enjoyed them both but, as in HILL HOUSE, there’s an awful lot of repetition in BLY MANOR that could have been chopped out, reducing the sprawling series from nine episodes to a tighter, more condensed six or even seven.

The story is basically a modern day re-telling of Henry James’s chilling novella, THE TURN OF THE SCREW, brilliantly filmed as THE INNOCENTS in 1961, in which two wealthy orphaned children are haunted, if not possessed, by the ghosts of two deceased servants. Bly Manor is the seat of most of the action, and fans of a good linear style of story-telling will be tearing their hair out after only a couple of episodes, so be warned, lol.

Dani Clayton is the pretty young American au pair who comes to Bly Manor to care for eight-year-old Flora and ten-year-old Miles, whose parents died in an accident in India, where they’d gone to try to repair a troubled marriage.

Dani is engaged by the children’s uncle, the stiff-upper-lipped business toff, Henry Wingrave, who only wants to be notified by Dani if someone actually dies or has a leg hanging off. And, even then, the doctor should still be the first port of call. Henry has his reasons for being stand-offish. Henry has his secrets. They will all out, in time.

The staff at Bly, besides Dani, includes Hannah Grose, the housekeeper, Owen the chef- yep, little Timmy and Tammy Snot-Nose have their own Paris-trained chef, the little snots!- and Jamie, the female gardener (yes, I suppose women can do that job now if they like), who takes a shine to Dani. A shine which is reciprocated. A reciprocated shine. In short, lesbians, lol. In a Henry James television adaptation, of all places, who’d have thunk it…? Well, it’s 2020 here, after all.

There are a lot of dead people floating around Bly Manor, including but not limited to Miss Jessel, the previous governess who committed certain deeds upon her own person, and Peter Quint, her lover and Henry Wingrave’s sort of go-fer or valet. Dominic and Charlotte, the children’s posh parents, are still hanging around as well.

People who die at Bly don’t seem to know they’ve died. It’s a real problem, and causes a lot of congestion in the passageways. I won’t spoil it for you by hinting at who’s dead and who’s not. Suffice it to say, in the immortal words of Homer Simpson, that Bly Manor is the kind of place where people throw ducks at balloons and nothing is as it seems.

Doors open here into the past, the present and even the future. Faces appear at the window, or in the bath-water. It’s like a carnival of the dead, and no-one ever moves on to wherever they’re supposed to go to when they croak. What they need here is some kind of conductor, you know?

‘That’s right, move along here now, no queue-jumping, we’ll all get where we’re going in plenty of time. ‘Ere, wot you fink you’re doing, skipping the queue wivvout a ticket? Lord luv-a-duck! You’ll be the death of me one day, you lot will. ‘Ere, you! I thought I said NO BLEEDIN’ QUEUE-JUMPING…!’ And so on, etc.

The episodes in the middle are so repetitive they’ll do your head in and could easily have been slimmed down to make for easier viewing. The presence of the plague-doctor and the Lady in the Lake are explained eventually, which I appreciated.

Ironically, my favourite of all the nine episodes was the black-and-white one near the end, in which the origin story of the ghosts of Bly Manor is laid out for us. The story of the two noble sisters, Viola and Perdita Willoughby-Lloyd, is gripping and really, really sad.

The scenes with Viola locked in the room that represents death, until such time as her sister inadvertently frees her, really captured my imagination, and as for the Lady of the Lake, doomed to fade over time like cushion covers in the sun (Every mother ever in the summer; ‘Quick, the sun’s out, close the curtains! The sun will fade the cushion covers!’), well, I loved that story but wept over it too. It’s just too sad, and yet, we’ll all end up the same way, won’t we? It’s too sad to even contemplate…

The gorgeous Carla Gugino from GERALD’S GAME and THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is narrating the story to an American wedding party. Victoria Pedretti is excellent as the au pair who won’t give in to the ghosts who are trying to take Miles and Flora. There’s more to like than dislike about this Gothic drama-slash-ghost-story, I think, and, overall, I enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to the next instalment in the series.

THE HAUNTING OF WOKING PIZZA EXPRESS, maybe, an emporium sure to be haunted one day in the future by the ghost of a non-sweating monarch who only ever wore a suit when he came to town and had never been upstairs in a certain person’s house, so that couldn’t be him in the photograph? We viewers are eagerly awaiting confirmation…

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: