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

THE SHINING. (1980) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY STEPHEN KING. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY STANLEY KUBRICK. SCREENPLAY BY STANLEY KUBRICK AND DIANE JOHNSON.

STARRING JACK NICHOLSON, SHELLEY DUVALL, SCATMAN CROTHERS AND DANNY LLOYD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a good ‘un. Some Stephen King novels- not all of them, admittedly- make for fantastic films. CARRIE is one of these. Ditto MISERY, THE MIST, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, SALEM’S LOT, BAG OF BONES, GERALD’S GAME and DOLORES CLAIBORNE. THE SHINING is definitely another. To be honest, it’s probably the best Stephen King book-to-movie adaptation ever made to date. The plot is a real corker. Let’s have a brief overview.

Jack Torrance is clearly not one of life’s winners. He’s a sarcastic, bad-tempered recovering alcoholic and aspiring writer, a terrible combination. He also desperately needs work, any work, so he takes a job as seasonal caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel. He and his wife Wendy and young son Danny will live by themselves in the hotel all winter and keep things ticking over until the staff and guests return in the summer.

Sounds like a cushy number, but there are downsides. One of these is the sheer isolation of the hotel’s location. There won’t be a soul for miles around, added to which they’ll definitely be snowed in at some point as well, unable to get to even the nearest town, Sidewinder. No TV and no beer make Homer go something something…

More importantly, though, is the fact that a previous caretaker went cuckoo-bananas during the long cold winter at the Overlook Hotel and ran amok with an axe, killing his wife and twin daughters. It’s just a trifling matter, you know. It shouldn’t be an issue. Will Jack be able to handle the job, his new employers ask him? Sure thing, he tells them. No problem. When do I start…?

The Torrance family move into the hotel, lock, stock and barrel. Straight-away we observe that Jack, brilliantly played by Jack Nicholson, is a little below par as a husband and father, maybe even verging on the abusive. As if we didn’t know this already. A month at the Overlook does nothing to improve his foul temper.

Jack sits around the place pretending to write his version of the great American novel, all the while growing weirder and less and less communicative and civil towards his long-suffering wife. Writing is hard, and there’s nothing worse than a bad bout of Writer’s Blockage. Even a hefty dose of Syrup of Figs can’t shift that.

Then one day cute little Danny, who has the ability to read minds and predict the future (the shining), encounters a ‘crazy lady’ in the bathtub of one of the supposedly empty bedrooms, and what’s more, he has the scars to prove it. What the hell are Momma and Poppy gonna do now…?

THE SHINING is a masterclass in tension-building. Not only do we already know that something horrible has already happened in this accursed hotel, but at every turn we’re confronted with hints and indications that something just as bad, or maybe even worse, is fast coming down the track.

Jack Nicholson gives a faultless performance as the man who is growing crazier with each passing day. In fairness though, I think Jack Torrance may have been a little unhinged to begin with. He gives every indication of being a man on the edge, even before he’s cocooned at the hotel.

He’s absolutely foul to his downtrodden wife. Today, we’d call him a domestic abuser and cancel his sorry ass before you could say get my wife’s name out your mother-fucking mouth in front of an audience of millions at a glittering awards ceremony, lol. Sorry, couldn’t resist that.

Shelley Duvall is equally convincing as the wife who has to face the fact that her husband, the man who’s supposed to love and protect her and little Danny, is quite possibly the biggest threat to her and her little boy’s safety. Nowadays, she’d be calling a helpline to assist her and her young son to get as far away as they could from Jacky Boy, who’s possibly the worst and most abusive husband in cinema history.

Scatman Crothers is superb as Dick Halloran, the old chef at the Overlook Hotel who shares little Danny’s ability to ‘shine.’ He proves to be Danny’s only real ally, besides his mother, against the terrible evil that haunts the hotel.

Lisa and Louise Burns truly ‘shine’ too as the Grady twins (‘Come play with us Danny!’), and Danny Lloyd himself is fantastic as Danny ‘Doc’ Torrance, and he was only eight at the time, which is amazing. The hotel guests are all deliciously twisted and great fun. Watch out for the classic scene with Jack Torrance at the supposedly closed bar in the supposedly closed hotel…
 
The colours and patterns used in the hotel’s decor- the burnt orange, brown and yellow swirls and checks so popular in the ‘Seventies- add to the claustrophobic feel of this supposedly spacious location. What little Danny’s doing on his wee trike along the corridors of the hotel actually looks like tremendous fun. Giz a go of yer trike, Danny…!

Throw in a great script, great direction and a catalogue of ever-increasing shocks and you’ve got yourself a masterpiece. I don’t think there’s any more that I can add, really. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go take my bath now. I’ll leave the door open though, if you fancy joining me. You can help me scrub the mould and algae off my back. It’s Room 237, by the way. Come on up when you’re ready. I’ll be waiting…

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: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/

BURNT OFFERINGS. (1976) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BURNT OFFERINGS. (1976) DIRECTED, WRITTEN AND CO-PRODUCED BY DAN CURTIS. BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY ROBERT MARASCO.
STARRING KAREN BLACK, OLIVER REED, BETTE DAVIS, BURGESS MEREDITH, EILEEN HECKART, DUB TAYLOR, ANTHONY JAMES AND LEE MONTGOMERY. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Mrs. Allardyce! Mrs. Allardyce! It’s me, Marian Rolf. I’m really worried about you, Mrs. Allardyce!’

I honestly think that watching this film is the most fun I’ve ever had, cinematically speaking. It’s definitely the best ‘haunted house’ film I’ve ever seen, bar none, and I’ve seen THE HAUNTING (1963), based on the novel by Shirley Jackson, which is bone-rattlingly scary and leaves you wondering exactly whose hand you were holding in the dark…

I’m very susceptible to the whole there’s-a-scary-old-woman-in-the-attic-who-never-goes-out kind of thing in movies, and this vintage horror classic has this in spades. The suspense that is present all the way through the movie continues right to the ending, leaving the viewer both shocked and, ultimately, feeling like they’ve had one hell of a roller-coaster ride.

BURNT OFFERINGS tells the story of a nice normal family, the Rolfs, who rent out a magnificent but somewhat ramshackle nineteenth-century mansion in the California countryside for the summer. Ben the dad is a writer, Marian the mom is a housewife and then there’s twelve-year-old Davey, the tousle-haired All-American kid who loves his sport and his big old rough-housing bear of a Pa.

The owners of the house, the decidedly odd brother-and-sister duo, Roz and Arnold Allardyce, smilingly inform the Rolfs that the only condition attached to their staying at the house is as follows: while Roz and Arnold are away, their elderly mother will continue to live in her suite of rooms at the top of the house for the duration of the Rolfs’ tenancy. She likes her privacy and will require nothing from the Rolfs but three meals a day brought on a tray to her rooms.

The first shiver of the night courses down my spine at this point. An eighty-five-year-old woman they never get to see, living behind closed doors at the top of the house…? Feck that for a game of soldiers. I’d be out of there before you could say ‘breach of tenancy.’

I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night for fear that I’d wake up to see the old lady standing over my bed with a carving knife. I immediately get a sort of PSYCHO vibe from the whole thing here. I’m not the only one…

Ben Rolf, the husband, played by beefy heart-throb Oliver Reed, isn’t too keen on the idea either. He tells his wife Marian- the beautiful Karen Black- that he’s having second thoughts. It’s too late, however.

Marian has already fallen head over heels with the place, which in fairness could be truly beautiful if it were tidied up a bit, so in they all duly move for the summer. Ben, Marian, their son Davey and Ben’s Auntie Elizabeth, played by a wonderfully game old Bette Davis.

Shit gets real serious real fast, if you’ll excuse my French. In an unprecedented break from character, Ben Rolf almost drowns his son in the swimming-pool out back of the house. The previously feisty Auntie Lizzie feels like the energy is being sucked out of her by an unseen force.

Both Lizzie’s hair and Marian’s is turning grey at an astonishing rate, as if something- or someone– is draining the colour out of it. Davey is almost killed by a gas heater in his bedroom that no-one can remember switching on.

Marian has taken to wearing old-fashioned, Victorian-style clothing and spending hours up in Mrs. Allardyce’s ante-chamber, looking at the old lady’s vast collection of framed photographs of generations and generations of men, women and children, who’ve presumably all lived in the house at one time or another, and playing her music-box.

Ben accuses Marian of becoming too obsessed with the house to give a toss about him or Davey. He’s right. Marian has developed a strange relationship with the house that bodes ill for her and Ben’s marriage and for the Rolf family as a whole.

Ben has started, or, more accurately, re-started having horrible visions from which he has suffered since his mother’s funeral years ago. The vision involves a funeral-car driven by a grinning ghoul of a chauffeur. Ben’s relationship with the greatly-changed Marian is at breaking-point and, to top it all, not a single member of the family has seen the elusive Mrs. Allardyce since they moved in.

The door to her bedroom remains resolutely locked. That consistently, uncompromisingly locked door is probably the single most frightening thing about the film for me. Not even once is it ajar a smidge. Not one clue do we get as to what lies beyond the locked door.

Don’t let it be a horrible corpse, I prayed throughout the film, the first time I saw it. My fear of horrible corpses definitely started with PSYCHO, just in case you’re interested. Bloody film. It has a lot to answer for, even if it is one of the best horror films ever made, and one of my all-time personal favourites.

Anyway, massive spoilers ahoy, poor old Auntie Lizzie falls violently ill and dies. After her funeral, Ben sees the house physically ‘regenerating’ itself in a terrifying scene that involves falling slates and crumbling brickwork, but at whose expense is the house actually regenerating itself? Ben thinks he’s worked it out. He grabs his son and makes a dash for it in the car.

The house prevents their leaving, however, by uprooting a tree and throwing it into their path. Ben hits his head and is driven back to the house by Marian who, somewhere along the line, has turned into the evil death-car driver of Ben’s nightmares…

Things don’t end there, believe it or not. Ahoy, me hearties, there be more massive spoilers ahead, yarr. As big as the white whale itself. Tell me, have ye seen the white whale on yer travels? A fair whopper be he, and this gold doubloon be for the man who sights him first, yarr, and, um, yay…! Ooops, wrong film. Sorry, folks.

Marian finally agrees to leave the house after Davey is almost drowned in the pool again. The pool? Again? Seriously? The three remaining members of the family pack up and are ready to leave when Marian tells Ben that she needs to just run upstairs for a minute to tell Mrs. Allardyce that they are leaving. Ben begs her not to go back in the house but she goes back in anyway. And doesn’t come back out…

Ben goes upstairs after her and finds the door to the old lady’s bedroom unlocked for the first time… That’s it. I’m not telling you a single other thing in case I give away the ending, not even if you tickle my neck. That’s my Achilles heel. I’ll be watching this fantastic horror film again tonight, that much I’ll admit to. I’ll be watching it with the lights on, however. And I won’t be watching it alone.

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

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:

FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN. (1967) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN. (1967) BASED ON THE BOOK BY MARY SHELLEY. DIRECTED BY TERENCE FISHER. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY NELSON KEYS. WRITTEN BY JOHN ELDER (ANTHONY HINDS).

STARRING PETER CUSHING, THORLEY WALTERS, SUSAN DENBERG, ROBERT MORRIS, DUNCAN LAMONT, PETER BLYTHE, DEREK FOWLDS, BARRY WARREN, PETER MADDEN AND COLIN JEAVONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

O-ho. The cunning and self-serving, though undoubtedly charming-when-he-wants-to-be, Baron Frankenstein is up to his old tricks again, this time in the little village of Karlsbad in the Hammer-created ‘mitt-Europe’ that often features people in traditional Tyrolean dress and has stunning mountain ranges and forestry as its backdrop.

This time, the ambitious Baron, always greedy for still more knowledge and scientific advancement, has managed to capture the soul of an executed man and transplant it into the body of a woman who, before her suicide, suffered from terrible distortion and paralysis of the body and extensive scarring and disfigurement of the face.

The young man in question is Hans, the attractive, well-built but also decent and compassionate assistant to Baron Frankenstein and Dr. Hertz, the village doctor, who work together. When Hans was a child, he saw his father executed by the village guillotine, which stands on a little hillock on the way out of town.

Despite his criminal antecedents, Hans grows up as the kind of man who knows right from wrong and who will stand up for what’s right if he sees people around him acting the maggot.

Because he’s poor, though, and his father was a known executed criminal, the villagers tend to look down on him and not defend him when his own neck is on the line after a terrible crime has been committed in the village. Poor Hans is an easy target. Talk about round up the usual suspects.

The young woman is Christina Kleve, daughter of the local innkeeper. Because of her facial deformities and physical handicaps, she runs afoul of three local fops, Anton, Karl and Johann, who mock her afflictions mercilessly in the cruellest way imaginable. They’ve even composed a horrible personalised song to taunt her with, if you can believe that. Fops can be so cruel…!

Not only is Christina devastated by their mockery, but her lover (yes, she has a lover!) is aroused to ire on her behalf also. When the new and improved Christina emerges from her Baron Frankenstein-imposed chrysalis in the Baron’s house, under the ‘care’ of said Baron and the doddery but well-meaning Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters), a campaign of murderous revenge is entered into by a mysterious and unknown killer that appals and frightens the villagers in general and the fops in particular. They can’t say they didn’t have it coming…

Peter Cushing is ice-cool, calm and collected once more as the Baron, and Susan Denberg is a beautiful addition to the range of stunning actresses known collectively as Hammer Glamour.

The ‘science’ in this one is very dodgy, far-fetched and tenuous indeed, perhaps more so than in any other Hammer film featuring the rather dubious experiments of Baron Frankenstein. I daresay it wouldn’t stand up to too much scrutiny.

But then, we don’t watch Hammer horror for the accuracy of its scientific knowledge, do we? We watch it for the blood-lust, the boobs, the costumes and the settings, innit? We watch it for the high production values and everything else the Hammer brand stands for.

But FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN‘s metaphysical elements and all the talk of ‘capturing the soul’ put me very much in mind of a 1972 British horror film called ‘The Asphyx,’ starring Robert Powell and Jane Lapotaire, in which a Victorian gentleman scientist attempts the same feat with no less disastrous consequences. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. It’s an eccentric little gem of a film.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

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

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

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

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

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Whatever walked there, walked alone…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

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

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. (1961) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. (1961) BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF EDGAR ALLAN POE. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ROGER CORMAN. SCREENPLAY BY RICHARD MATHESON. STARRING VINCENT PRICE AND BARBARA STEELE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a really gorgeous and sumptuous film version of Edgar Allan Poe’s creepy story, and one of the cycle of film adaptations of Poe’s works undertaken by legendary director, Roger Corman.

The magnificent horror legend Vincent Price plays Nicholas Medina, a wealthy nobleman living in (almost) solitary grandeur in his cliff-top Spanish castle by the sea in the middle of the sixteenth century. It’s 1546, to be precise. Nearly time to be getting the dinner on, so…!

Nicholas doesn’t receive many visitors, as a rule, but, as the film starts, a man called Francis Barnard comes to his castle door, demanding to be let in and to be given the details of his sister, Elizabeth’s, recent demise. Nicholas’s sister, Catherine, feels that they have no choice but to let the man in and try to endure his pointed, suspicious questions about his sister Elizabeth’s death.

Elizabeth, by the way, was Nicholas’s beloved wife, who passed away recently under rather mysterious circumstances. Nicholas is still distraught and absolutely bereft at her passing. He loved her with all the intensity and possessiveness of his autocratic heart, and now he almost wishes that he were in the grave alongside her.

We see flashbacks of Nicholas’s perfectly idyllic life with Elizabeth (Barbara Steele), in which they dined, chatted eagerly and played music together, Elizabeth’s speciality being the harpsichord. Their life together might seem a little dull to outsiders, but Nicholas certainly seems to be having a ball with his ravishing young wifey in the flashback clips, and so does Elizabeth, to be fair.

But now Elizabeth is dead, under circumstances that her brother Francis finds highly dubious. Not only that, but harpsichord music is now being heard all over the castle, when everyone knows that the harpsichord was Elizabeth’s favourite instrument and that she was the only person in the house who ever played it.

The maid is claiming to hear her dead mistress’s voice in her bedroom and, then, when Nicholas hears it too, a grisly decision is taken. There is nothing for it but to go down to the crypt in the castle’s cellars and exhume the corpse of Elizabeth Medina. Just to check that she’s really dead, and not wandering around the draughty castle in her flimsy burial shroud saying ‘boo!’ to people when she pops out from behind the drapes to give ’em a heart attack.

Nicholas’s mental state is hanging by a thread at this stage (he physically swoons in virtually every second scene), but down they go, he, Catherine, Dr. Leon (who pronounced Elizabeth dead at the time of her demise) and Francis, Elizabeth’s brother. Down, down, down they go into the dusty, cobwebby bowels of the Medina castle…

Vincent Price is superb at playing widowers-in-mourning. He’s just terrific at it, and also at wearing the doublets and hose and long luxurious dressing-gowns and velvet slippers of Ye Olden Times.

Barbara Steele is the most beautiful and fascinating actress to ever don a wasp-waisted gown in which to play the ghost of herself, and the sets are gloriously-coloured and the torture chamber splendidly, if ghoulishly, equipped. Still, you’d expect that from a torture chamber, wouldn’t you?

Adding the Spanish Inquisition to the plot and the torture chamber as well was an inspired piece of writing, and the possession of Nicholas Medina by his father’s evil ghost a fiendishly delicious twist in its tail. The whole film is truly a feast for the eyes, and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the viewer’s interest.

The only thing I found puzzling was that the film-makers hired three very similar-looking men to play Dr. Leon, Francis Barnard and Nicholas’s man-servant, Maximilian, who saves the day at the end of the movie.

All three men have short dark hair and similar nondescript faces and are pretty much of identical height and build. Why would the film-makers do that? The men look like three fraternal triplets. I just found the whole thing kind of confusing. It doesn’t detract from the movie in any way; it’s just weird that they didn’t hire actors between whom it was easy to tell the bleedin’ difference…!

You’ll love THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. It does credit to Poe’s work, and it’s one of the many jewels in both Roger Corman’s and Vincent Price’s crowns. And scream queen Barbara Steele’s majestic presence is truly the icing on an already fabulous cake.

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

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

r-point bed

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

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

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

LOST HEARTS (1973), THE TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS (1974) and THE ASH TREE (1975): MORE GHOSTLY ADAPTATIONS FROM THE BBC REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

lost hearts

CLASSIC GHOST STORY ADAPTATIONS FROM THE BBC: LOST HEARTS (1973), THE TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS (1974) AND THE ASH TREE (1975). BASED ON THE STORIES OF MONTAGUE RHODES JAMES.

STARRING SIMON GIPPS-KENT, JOSEPH O’CONOR, MICHAEL BRYANT, PAUL LAVERS, EDWARD PETHERBRIDGE AND BARBARA EWING.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

These three ghost stories in the BBC’s A Ghost Story For Christmas series are just gorgeous. They’re beautifully photographed and the stories are good and creepy too. As the little booklet accompanying the DVD box-set tells us so descriptively, they would have appeared on television late at night, probably the last programme before the station shut down for the night.

This was back in the days when television wasn’t a twenty-four-hour thing, remember, and you had a choice sometimes of only two, three or four channels. The viewer would have watched the programme in front of the dying embers of that day’s fire, and gone straight up to bed afterwards with the disturbing imagery from the ghost story weighing heavily upon his mind. By Jove, if that isn’t the way to do it…!

Lost Hearts tells the story of a recently orphaned boy called Stephen coming to live with his ancient aristocrat uncle/first cousin twice removed Abney, in said uncle’s fabulous stately home set in acres of rolling parkland.

Uncle Abney is, quite simply, too good to be true. He’s chuckle-y and funny and so kindly disposed towards the soon-to-be-twelve-years-old lad that we wonder in earnest what his deal is. Things –– and people –– that seem to be too good to be true often are, after all . . .

If I were Stephen, I’d be extremely worried about the well-meaning but thoroughly unnerving tales told by the housekeeper about children who were invited to stay at the house by the kindly old Mr. Abney in the past, but who then disappeared into thin air shortly afterwards. Still, the boy is powerless to act, isn’t he? What can he do in a situation like that? He’s orphaned, after all, and the older gentleman in whose home he currently resides is now his legal guardian.

The fog-wreathed landscape looks wonderful in this film. The supernatural beings are present in the narrative almost from the beginning, but they’re no less creepy for all that, the Italian hurdy-gurdy gypsy boy in particular. The music is marvellous and the graveyard scene at the end is just beautiful to look at. Apologies for the fulsome nature of my adjectives, but really, this short film is just too visually delicious to resist.

In The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, an intellectually arrogant cleric by the name of the Reverend Justin Somerton is engaged on what amounts to a secret treasure hunt, for the gold said to have been secreted away by the titular Abbot Thomas in the ancient church-slash-seat of learning where Somerton is now doing some research. It has to be kept secret because it would fatally damage Somerton’s academic reputation to be seen to be grubbing around after a handful of gold coins.

Somerton is assisted in his treasure-hunting by the aristocratic young Lord Peter Dattering, whose father is recently deceased. I love the bit where Peter invites his mentor Somerton to a séance in his home. Peter’s mother is convinced that her medium and the medium’s husband are able to contact her dear dead spouse for her, but the snobby show-off Reverend Somerton soon puts paid to the medium couple’s little scam . . .

Somerton and Peter have great fun flexing their intellectual muscles in trying to solve the puzzle left by long-deceased alchemist and suspected sorcerer, the Abbot Thomas. Imagine Somerton’s fright, though, when he realises that the mischievous, malevolent Abbot Thomas has not been trying to keep him away from his precious treasure, but has in fact been trying to lure him into a horrible, deathly trap, using the treasure as bait. The scene in the catacombs is delightfully gruesome, and I love the end bit, of which we get a satisfying bird’s-eye view. He looks down on what is hidden . . .

The Ash Tree is arguable my favourite story of the three short films. The handsome, aristocratic young Sir Richard Fell is the newest incumbent of Castringham hall, his predecessor Sir Matthew having died a strange and mysterious death.

Sir Richard straightaway begins to experience moments of possession, when he finds himself occupying the body and mind of the late Sir Matthew. But Sir Matthew lived in witch-finder times, when innocent women were hanged and drowned and burned to death after being found ‘guilty’ of so-called witchcraft.

Sir Matthew’s mind, once he has reluctantly accused a beautiful local woman, Anne Mothersole (played by Hammer actress Barbara Ewing), of witchcraft and condemned her to a horrible death by hanging, is not a comfortable place to be. Sir Richard becomes more and more discombobulated by the periods of possession. Is it only a matter of time before he suffers the same grisly fate as his unfortunate ancestor . . . ?

Sir Richard has a saucy little sexpot of a girlfriend called the Lady Augusta, by the way, who seems to be permitted an extraordinary amount of freedom for a woman of the time. Gadding about on her horse, swanning over to Paris for her wedding trousseau and daring to chide her husband-to-be over his inclusion of Henry Fielding’s The Adventures of Tom Jones in his library. A woman who reads? Heaven forfend . . . 

It is sincerely to be hoped that Sir Richard beats this distinct tendency towards independence out of her once they are lawfully wed, which was the style of the time, and fills her belly with enough regularity to take her mind off gadding about and keep it where it belongs, in the nursery. Humph.

There’s an hilarious passage in the booklet which accompanies this DVD box-set, in which director Lawrence Gordon Clark tells us about how it was the ash tree in his very own garden that served as the downfall of poor Sir Richard.

Months later, the following summer, in fact, Clark was entertaining friends in his garden when a hideous spider baby, that seemingly hadn’t been boxed away with the other hairy monstrosities after filming ended, fell suddenly out of the tree into the lap of a terrified female guest. If that had been me, the speed of my departure would have put the Road-Runner to shame. Sweet suffering Jesus.

‘Mine shall inherit . . .’

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

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

death-ship

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

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor