HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER. (1998) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

HALLOWEEN H20… TWENTY YEARS LATER. (1998) DIRECTED BY STEVE MINER. THEME TUNE BY JOHN CARPENTER. STARRING JAMIE LEE CURTIS, JANET LEIGH, LL COOL J, ADAM ARKIN, MICHELLE WILLIAMS, NANCY STEPHENS, CHRIS DURAND AND JOSH HARTNETT.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love this film. It’s one of my favourite movies in the HALLOWEEN franchise, started in 1978 and based on characters created by Debra Hill and the legendary John Carpenter. Serial killer Michael Myers, he of the white William Shatner mask, sensible boiler suit and work boots ensemble and distinctly stabby tendencies, is back and guess what…? He’s totally up to his old tricks again.

Once again, we see him chasing after his sister Laurie Strode, brilliantly played by Jamie Lee Curtis. This time around, however, Laurie is no longer the fearless teenage babysitter she once was. She’s all grown-up and neurotic now, possibly an alcoholic as well, albeit a functioning one. She’s the headmistress of a posh private boarding school in a charming little town where, one presumes, nothing really bad ever happens. Till now…

Laurie’s teenage son, played by heart-throb in the making Josh Hartnett, is a pupil at the school. Mom is having a hard time loosening the apron strings because she’s still very much hung-up on the whole being-nearly-killed-by-her-psychopathic-brother thing. She’s even faked her own death and changed her name to Keri Tate since HALLOWEEN 2. That’s how scared she is of Michael returning, and how much she wants to be prepared for it if he ever does return.

The events of HALLOWEENs 4, 5 and 6, known collectively as The Thorn Trilogy, have been set aside completely for this film. I believe the proper word is retconned, people, they’ve been retconned, although, between retcons, reboots and remakes, my poor head is completely fried. Anyway, this film is supposed to be a continuation of HALLOWEENs 1 and 2 only, and leaves out the storyline concerning Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd, Michael’s niece and Laurie’s daughter.

Laurie still has nightmares about Michael and her alcoholism is a condition that ably demonstrates her very human frailty and inability to come to terms with the worst thing that’s ever happened to her. Well, it’s the worst thing that can happen to anyone really, isn’t it? Not all of us have a psychotic murderer in the family, thankfully.

Laurie’s/Keri’s teenage son John is driven mad trying to convince Mom to loosen up a little and put the past behind her. She sure picks an ill-advised time to do just that. It’s Halloween (naturally!) and Michael Myers arrives at the nearly empty school- most of the students and teachers are away on a school trip to Yosemite- all ready to create his own particular brand of stabby, head-crushing havoc.

Laurie has reluctantly given John permish to go on the trip, but, unbeknownst to her, he and his girlfriend Molly and two of their friends are actually all secretly planning to stay behind. Oh, not to study or anything productive like that, but to booze it up and make out with each other in typically irresponsible horny teen fashion.

Laurie and her teacher boyfriend, Will Brennan, are planning something similar while the kids are away. Sexy hi-jinks ahoy, lol. But their presence, and the presence of the four teens, in the empty school merely makes it easier for Michael Myers to pick them off one-by-one, like  the proverbial fish in a barrel…

The unhurried, impassive-faced but undoubtedly lethal serial killer cuts a murderous swathe through the remaining staff and students in an effort to get to Laurie. When an opportunity for escape presents itself, however, does Laurie grab it with both hands or does she decide to finally make a stand and face down the man who’s haunted her dreams since forever…? I think I’ve probably given the game away with that last bit so just try to look surprised when it happens, haha.

The gorgeous browns and oranges of America in the Fall give the film a lovely warm cosy feel, despite the fact that it’s a slasher movie. The Americans really know how to do Halloween, as we know from THE SIMPSONS and MODERN FAMILY and the HALLOWEEN franchise itself. That’s certainly reflected in their beautiful scenery, foliage and unerring ability to decorate their homes and gardens to absolute perfection during the spooky season.

Michael Myers is, as always, amazing in everything he does: getting up every time he’s been hit even when you think it’s impossible, dropping one-handed down from the ceiling and walking calmly and unhurriedly after his scattering, scrambling prey without ever breaking a sweat. He’s cooler than a swig of ice-cold lemonade on a melting hot day, and just as welcome.

LL Cool J as the school security guard who wants to write torrid romances while being berated down the phone by his gobby wife is great fun too. Also, the late great Donald Pleasence, who played the now-legendary Dr. Loomis, Michael’s psychiatrist, in some of the earlier films, is affectionately acknowledged here in photograph form, which is sweet. Nancy Stephens as Nurse Marion Chambers, is here again too, and, boy, is she kick-ass…!

My favourite thing about about this film is the presence in it of Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee’s still-beautiful mammy and undisputed horror movie royalty. Thirty-eight years before this film was made, she starred as the heroine of Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, still considered to be one of the scariest movies ever made.

It’s a personal favourite of John Carpenter’s, if not his absolute fave horror flick of all time. He refers to it as ‘the Grand-Daddy of all the slasher horror movies ever made’ in an extra feature on the DVD I have of HALLOWEEN H20.

HALLOWEEN H20 gives a couple of much-appreciated little nods to the earlier film, such as subtly playing the famous theme tune when Leigh’s character Norma (Norma…? Geddit…?), the school secretary, is walking away from the school to her car. Which, by the way, was the car she drove in PSYCHO as she was running away from her old life with a stolen forty grand in her handbag, only to come a terrible cropper at the Bates Motel.

Also, Marion the nurse is named after Leigh’s character Marion Crane in PSYCHO. One certainly gets the impression that this is one film that John Carpenter wishes he himself had made. I’m so glad Janet Leigh doesn’t get killed in HALLOWEEN H20. She’s been through enough, God bless her. Shee-it. That was a spoiler too, wasn’t it…? Dagnammit…

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:

CANDYMAN. (1992) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


CANDYMAN. (1992) DIRECTED BY BERNARD ROSE. SCREENPLAY BY BERNARD ROSE. BASED ON ‘THE FORBIDDEN,’ A SHORT STORY BY CLIVE BARKER. MUSIC BY PHILIP GLASS.
STARRING VIRGINIA MADSEN, TONY TODD, XANDER BERKELEY AND KASI LEMMONS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Remove your underwear…’

‘It was always you, Helen…’

I was confused but also intrigued by this rather strange and iconic horror film. The main thing I loved about it was that, every time something happens in the film that’s so gruesome or awful you just automatically assume that the character is having a nightmare, they’re actually not, and the awful or gruesome thing was perfectly real and did happen. It’s an extremely gory film and not, as they say, for the faint-hearted, so don’t stick the kids in front of it while you nip to Tesco for a loaf of bread, lol.

Anyway, the beautiful Virginia Madsen, sister of actor Michael Madsen, plays the main character, Helen Lyle, in this supernatural slasher movie. She is a graduate student living in Chicago with her cheating and rather weedy-looking university professor husband, Trevor. Helen is studying urban legends and local folklore for her thesis, which she is co-writing with her friend Bernadette.

They decide to focus their thesis on the legends surrounding the Candyman, the evil spirit of a black man called Daniel Robitaille who was born the son of a slave in the late 1800s. He was killed in horrific circumstances by white men after becoming a painter of some repute and impregnating a white woman with whom he was in love.

The ghost has a hook for a hand (I know what you did last summer, by the way!) and a great big hulking chip on his shoulder. If you say his name in the mirror five times, the ghost, now known as the Candyman for some reason that’s not explained, is supposed to appear to you. No-one tells you what’s supposed to happen once he appears, but one would imagine it’s something fairly negative, as he’s a vengeful ghost and not, say, Father Christmas…

Instead of revenging himself on white men, as you might imagine, so far the spectre seems to have killed mainly black people living in notoriously poor housing projects. Helen and Bernadette, armed with cameras and notebooks, head straight to Cabrini Green, one such housing project, where the Candyman is supposed to have murdered a black woman after gaining access to her apartment through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.

Cabrini Green is a terrifying place, even without the lurking presence of the Candyman, whose name seems to be on everyone’s lips. The apartment blocks are disgracefully neglected by whichever local authority authorised their construction. They are filthy, probably overcrowded, daubed in graffiti and faeces, patrolled by gangs of aggressive black males and the lifts don’t work.

Sounds delightful, right? But Helen, our intrepid investigator, can’t seem to stay away from the bloody place, or from the mystery of the Candyman, even after she gets a terrible hiding from some of the local males who don’t take too kindly to posh ‘whites’ like Helen sniffing around their patch. Incidentally, did you see the state of those public toilets…?

But Helen is personally involved now, after a meeting she’s definitely not expecting in a deserted underground car-park. (This dame just can’t stop courting trouble, right? All she needs now is to hang round the tunnel under the old disused bridge at midnight on a bloody full moon…!)

Her discovery that the Candyman is all too real is just the beginning of a nightmare ride for the pretty graduate student with the lying, cheating bastard of a husband. She finds herself accused of the bloodiest, most horrific murders, murders that we know she didn’t commit. Her life changes out of all proportion, if by ‘changes’ you mean ‘fucked up beyond all recognition,’ or even FUBAR, lol.  

But the Candyman, a suave and decidedly sexy, sharp-dressing black ghost with a deep, delicious voice, refuses to relinquish his stranglehold on Helen. Might her resemblance to a woman in a certain portrait possibly hold the key to his obsession…?

The murders are gory and grim and the special effects excellent, but you might not sleep easy for a while after viewing this supernatural slasher flick, especially if, like me, you have a medicine cabinet in your bathroom…!

I loved the social commentary in the film. You could make a whole other film just about Cabrini Green and the people who live there, or in other forgotten housing projects like it. I especially liked the character of Anne-Marie McCoy, the young black single mum who works to take care of her baby, Anthony, whom she obviously adores.

It’s not all drugs and gangs, she tells Helen defensively. It’s not all like you whites read in the newspapers. Some good decent folks live here too. That is undoubtedly true. It must be very hard to live there as a woman on her own, trying to raise a little boy who, as he’s growing up, is going to see crime and gang activity everywhere he looks.

That’s the real horror of CANDYMAN, if you ask me, but, hey, there’s a pretty darned good murderous ghost in the mix too, so enjoy your film. There are two sequels: CANDYMAN 2: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH (1995) and CANDYMAN 3: DAY OF THE DEAD (1999). And watch out for the 2021 direct sequel, CANDYMAN, in your local cinema right about now. Now, all together: Candyman! Candyman! Candyman! Candyman! I just can’t say it a fifth time, lol. Too scared the legend might be true…

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:

PEEPING TOM. (1960) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

PEEPING TOM. (1960) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY MICHAEL POWELL. WRITTEN BY LEO MARKS.

STARRING CARL BOEHM, ANNA MASSEY, MOIRA SHEARER, MAXINE AUDLEY, MICHAEL POWELL, COLUMBA POWELL AND MILES MALLESON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

(Severe Warning: Written early on in my reviewing days and chock-a-block with spoilers!!! It’s virtually all spoilers, so read on at your peril and don’t come complaining to me, lol.)

Mark Lewis is a very, very naughty boy. Do you know what he does? Can you guess? You’ll never guess, so I suppose I’ll have to tell you, just this once. He murders women, but that’s not all.

He also likes to film their final moments, and the terror on their faces as he stabs them in the throat with a nasty spike that sticks out of his camera… That’s a new one, isn’t it? I bet you haven’t heard that one before.

He’s not just committing these atrocious deeds willy-nilly, however. Certainly not. He had an exceptionally messed-up childhood. Yes, yes, I know we all did, but Mark’s was more messed-up than most.

His father, a writer of dreary scientific tomes, filmed Mark constantly throughout his formative years. What’s wrong with that, you say? Nothing wrong with keeping a record of your son’s childhood. Is there…?

No, no. You don’t understand. Scientist Professor Lewis filmed his son’s reactions to the most sinister and inappropriate situations, like his mother’s death and subsequent burial, and having his father deposit a lizard in his bed without warning. Now do you see…?

Professor Lewis was one sick dude- you can take that to the bank- and he’s pretty much wholly responsible for his son Mark’s turning out the same way.

Mark has become a ‘scoptophiliac,’ a voyeur, a Peeping Tom, someone who gets pleasure out of watching someone else who is unaware that they are being watched.

The technical, textbook definition of a Peeping Tom is ‘a person who derives sexual pleasure from secretly watching people undressing or engaging in sexual activity.’

However, Mark Lewis in this film just seems to like filming people in general, and their reactions to things in particular, just like his own father did. Although Mark still suffers from a paraphilia, or sexual disorder, ie, voyeurism, we are not aware that he is thinking about sex the whole time he’s filming people. He is getting excited, however, so maybe that’s the same thing.

Anyway, he’s never seen without his camera. He’s made a career out of his passion. He works as a focus-puller for a film studio, and on the side he shoots so-called ‘glamour’ pics for a seedy Soho newsagent. Nudes, and so on.

The scene where a ‘respectable’ middle-aged, obviously married man (Hammer’s Miles Malleson) comes into the newsagent asking to see the shopkeeper’s ‘views’ and the shopkeeper produces a book of nudie photos from under the counter for the man to choose from is hilarious. Hilarious in the sense that that was how they did porn in the Fifties…! Nowadays porn is freely available at the touch of a button. Back then, you had to take what you could get.  

Mark murders a hooker, a two-bit stand-in actress/dancer from the studio where he works and a stunning blonde nude model he was meant to be photographing. He films all three of their agonised deaths and watches the films back afterwards in his flat.

I think it’s safe to say that he masturbates while watching them and they’re how he attains his climax. I’d even venture to say that, without the stimulus of the voyeurism which is his particular paraphilia or sexual disorder, he might find it difficult or even impossible to ejaculate. I’m guessing, therefore, that, in such a situation, he’d have to fantasise about the voyeurism or a voyeuristic situation in order to achieve a successful conclusion, as it were.  

He even attempts to murder the blind mother of his sort-of girlfriend, Helen, but he can’t quite go through with it. His sort-of girlfriend, Helen, played by the fantastically watchable Anna Massey (Alfred Hitchcock’s FRENZY, 1972, the story of another paraphiliac serial murderer!) lives in the flat underneath Mark’s one with her mother, in the house bequeathed to Mark by his father.

Helen, a writer of children’s stories, seems to have fallen pretty heavily for Mark’s extreme shyness and his blonde good looks. Mark’s quite taken with her too, to the point where he chooses to kill himself rather than Helen when she works out that he’s a psycho-killer extraordinaire and the local constabulary are banging his door down over the death of the actress, whose body he stuffed in a trunk in the studio where he works.

The film was savaged by British critics when it first came out for its shocking content (very different from what they’d come to expect from Michael Powell of A MATTER OR LIFE AND DEATH fame), but today it’s seen as something of a classic. Rightfully so, in my humble opinion.

It’s grim and it’s grisly and it won’t exactly cheer you up when you’re feeling down- well, not unless you’re seriously warped in the mind, lol- but if you’re looking to watch a film that’s intelligent, frightening and almost poetic in its execution, then watch this one. More Hitchcock than Hitchcock himself, it’s a goodie and a stand-out in its genre. Enjoy…

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:

APPROPRIATE ADULT. (2011) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

APPROPRIATE ADULT. (2011) BASED ON TRUE EVENTS. WRITTEN BY NEIL MCKAY. DIRECTED BY JULIAN JARROLD.

STARRING EMILY WATSON, DOMINIC WEST, MONICA DOLAN, SYLVESTRA LE TOUZEL AND ROBERT GLENISTER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I’m not your friend, Fred.’

‘Can I just ask if the appropriate adult’s all right…?’

‘Heather’s not under the patio. She’s in Bahrain, working as a mule for a drugs cartel. Now, whether you believe that or not is entirely up to you.’

I love this made for television crime drama, first shown in two parts on ITV. It’s considered to be the third part in a trilogy of made for television films about Britain’s most notorious murders from the second half of the twentieth century: THIS IS PERSONAL: THE HUNT FOR THE YORKSHIRE RIPPER from 1999 is one of the best true crime movies I’ve ever seen in my life. SEE NO EVIL: THE MOORS MURDERS (2006) is almost equally good.

APPROPRIATE ADULT is not the story of the horrific abductions, rapes and murders of innocent young women carried out by the loathsome serial killers Fred and Rose West in Gloucestershire between 1967 and 1987, although they did very much commit these crimes with which they were charged and of which they were found guilty. (Fred, of course, committed suicide before he could stand trial, but there was never any doubt as to his guilt.)

Rather, it is the extraordinary story of the ordinary woman training to be a social worker- Emily Watson playing Janet Leach- who had put her name down on a list of volunteers to be the ‘appropriate adult’ for when the police have charged someone of limited mental capacity or with learning difficulties, who might have trouble understanding the charges against them.

The appropriate adult would then sit in on the interview sessions between the police and the person charged with the offences and make sure that the person is okay to go on with the sessions and that they have everything they need, etc. It’s kind of like baby-sitting but with more serious implications…!

Janet Leach, thirty-eight, is a divorced mum-of-five with all the usual worries about money, kids and career. Her current partner is bipolar and needs to be hospitalised when he is going through one of his manic phases. So, as we see, this lady is not without her share of problems even before she encounters one of the twentieth century’s worst ever serial murderers.  

This case is Janet Leach’s first time to be chosen as an ‘appropriate adult.’ When she realises that it’s not only a murder case, but a multiple murder case in which heads have been cut off as casually as chopping up a lettuce for a salad and bodies stuffed into suitcases before being buried in the back garden or cellar, you can tell that she’s been knocked for six a bit.

Dominic West (no relation, I’m sure!) does a cracking job of portraying the evil but oddly genial Fred, a labourer for whom no job was too small, too big or too dirty and who liked to present an obliging, pleasantly hail-fellow-well-met face to the world at all times. He gives the impression that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for you if you asked him, he’s so congenial.

Janet is obviously repelled by Fred when she meets him first and hears his dreadful stories of lust murders and the sado-masochistic torture of victims before they were murdered. But Fred takes an immediate liking to his ‘appropriate adult’ and it’s not long before Janet, too, falls under his so-called ‘spell.’

Here’s the thing about Fred, and this is my own personal opinion now. He loves all women, but especially the woman he’s with at any given time. He’d probably love D.C. Hazel Savage, who’s conducting the interviewing, except he’s sneaky and he instinctively knows she’s too smart to fall for his bullshit.

But Janet Leach is a tiny, timid little bird of a thing whose shyness and vulnerability Fred probably sniffs out immediately. Here’s a woman he can manipulate, a woman who’ll believe his lies.

He’s the most complete picture of a pathological liar you’ll ever see; if he told you it was raining, you’d be well advised to stick your own head out the window just to check for yourself.

Janet is probably exactly the kind of easily manipulated little mouse of a woman Fred would have gone for in real life. And now, here she is, in his life every day for a while, hanging on to his every word and giving him her undivided attention, which is all Fred ever wanted from a woman.

How does he manipulate her fragile emotions, then? He tells her she’s special, that she understands him in a way no-one else, not even his precious Rose, does. He implies he can’t do any of this without her, and that there’s a special bond between the pair of them that no-one else, outside of their little protective circle, can possibly ever hope to understand.

Janet is probably immensely flattered. What woman wouldn’t be? Has anyone else ever needed her so thoroughly, she’s probably wondering, has anyone else every placed so much trust in her? God Almighty, she’s probably honoured that she was the chosen one.

When he starts comparing her physical appearance to that of the so-called ‘love of his life,’ poor murdered Anna McFall, she’s more than likely half in love with him already. She starts to help the semi-literate Fred with his ‘autobiography,’ ‘I was Loved by an Angle.’ (Yes, yes, he means to write ‘angel!’)

She continues to visit him in prison, bringing him clothes and offering her support, long after her role as appropriate adult has officially ceased to be a thing. When Fred does what he does over the New Year of 1995, Janet Leach has a very curious reaction which I’m not going to tell you about here for fear of the dreaded spoiler. You’ll have to watch the film yourself to find out…!

I’m not saying that Fred was happy about being caught, but, Lord, he must have been in his element, his absolute element, during those long police interviews with the ever-attentive Janet Leach by his side!

Talking, talking, talking to his heart’s content, always with a captive audience and with a new woman now to ‘woo,’ congratulating himself inwardly on being smarter than the police and sending them on a wild goose-chase or leading them- quite literally- up the garden path as they desperately try to wriggle it out of him where he’s buried his own daughter’s remains. Did he believe his own wild stories? I guess we’ll never know.

A word about Rose, the wife. Here, she’s wonderfully portrayed by Monica Dolan exactly as I imagine she was in real life: a liar, vulgar, loud, aggressive, foul-mouthed, threatening violence, making enemies right left and centre. She won’t be free any time soon, if ever. I would say that’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 debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

HELTER SKELTER. (2004) THE STORY OF THE MANSON FAMILY MURDERS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

charlie

HELTER SKELTER. (2004) A RE-MAKE OF THE 1976 MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE. DIRECTED BY JOHN GRAY. BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY VINCENT BUGLIOSI WITH CURT GENTRY.

STARRING JEREMY DAVIES, CLEA DUVALL AND MARGUERITE MOREAU.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This film, based on true events, will give you the willies. At the moment of writing this, I’m about one third of the way through the book on which it’s based, and the book tells you- and shows you- all the things over which the film, of necessity, has to draw a veil of discretion. The film tells the story of the dreadful events which are collectively known as the Manson Family Murders, and it’s told from the point of view of a young girl called Linda Kasabian.

In 1969, the teenaged Linda breaks up with her husband, who basically abandons her and their baby daughter Tanya. Linda, already used to commune life, is invited to join one located on the Spahn movie ranch in the hills outside Los Angeles.

The head of the commune is Charles Manson, a scrawny little beardy weed of a guy who, for the members of his ‘Family,’ has come to represent God, Jesus Christ, the Devil, good and evil, Heaven and Hell. He is the heart and particularly the Soul of the Family.

Charlie Manson tells Linda Kasabian exactly what she wants and needs to hear at this time. ‘No-one will ever throw you away again,’ he assures the emotionally insecure young girl who has already admitted to him that her husband and stepfather have both made her feel ‘disposable.’

They have sex- Charlie has sex with all the long-haired hippy girls, on whom he also bestows aliases- and soon she’s pregnant again. I don’t think the Family feel kindly disposed towards contraceptives and the notion of keeping oneself safe from sexually transmitted diseases!

Life on the commune is weird, man. Everyone has sex with everyone else and the babies and children are communally cared for, although, in some cases, it would seem like they were communally neglected, ie, left out in the sun all day to burn, stuff like that. Women are indoctrinated into believing that their function is to have babies and look after them and their men.

The guy who plays Charlie here does a terrific job. You can well imagine abused or needy women lapping up his freaky-ass nonsense, silly maxims like ‘No sense makes sense’ and ‘Come to the Now, man!’ He loves the sound of his own voice, which is probably why he founded his own cult.

I could never personally buy into his ridiculous notion that you’re doing people a favour by killing them because you’re ‘bringing them to the Now,’ and it’s hard to imagine how anyone ever did, but they did and that’s how the murders were able to happen. 

Linda is taken out at night by Charlie and various other members of the cult for what they call ‘creepy crawls.’ They wear dark clothing, break into rich peoples’ homes and disarrange stuff so that the occupants of the house will wake up and be freaked out to find that everything’s different.

The ‘creepy crawlers’ all carry knives. If any one of their victims had had the extreme misfortune to wake up during one of these night raids on their homes, I feel confident in saying that murder would have been committed without compunction by the culties.

In August 1969, the ‘creepy crawls’ get really real. In the house known as 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, five horrific murders are committed one sultry night. The victims are as follows: Sharon Tate, the beautiful, eight-months-pregnant actress wife of director Roman Polanski, who’s away filming in London when the murders happen; Jay Sebring, thirty-five, Sharon’s ex-boyfriend (they’re still good friends) and head of an international men’s hairdressing corporation; Abigail Folger, the heiress to a coffee fortune, and her Polish lover Voytek Frykowski; and finally, poor Stephen Parent, a young guy who was only visiting the caretaker of 10050, Cielo Drive, William Garretson, in the lodge house that night to try to sell him a clock radio. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

By the time Manson’s besotted followers had done their leader’s dirty work, the house and gardens at 10050 Cielo Drive resembled a slaughterhouse. The following night, a rich businessman called Leno LaBianca, who owned a chain of grocery stores, was brutally murdered in his own sitting-room along with his attractive wife Bianca. The two sets of killings were soon being referred to as the Tate-LaBianca murders, and it wasn’t too long before the hippies out at Spahn movie ranch were squarely in the frame for them.

Linda Kasabian ran away from the Family after she witnessed the murders and was utterly sickened and shocked by them. Unlike the other girls, whom Charlie controlled through sex and drugs and the undeniable power of his words, Linda still had a reasonably unskewed sense of right and wrong.

‘Death to piggies’ might have been Charlie’s and his sick-in-the-head followers’ raison d’être, but it wasn’t Linda’s. Although she ran away from the cult, initially without her daughter Tanya so as not to arouse the suspicions of the other cult moms, she came back of her own accord, to tell the police what she knew.

I’ve been reading in prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s book about failed musician, Beatles’ fan and ex-pimp Charles Manson’s disadvantaged upbringing. The child of a teenaged prostitute with no father to speak of, he had spent most of his life before the murders in and out of institutions, from juvenile detention centres to adult prisons. Well, that’s no excuse for any of the things he did. Ted Bundy had only a single mother for a parent too and he never did any of the things… Oh wait, he did. Sorry, bad example, lol.

I must tell you about something absolutely mad that’s referred to in the film but which the book explains in a bit more detail. Before they were all arrested for the murders, the Family were planning en masse to follow their crazy-as-batshit leader out into the desert because there was a ‘hole’ in Death Valley which, if you followed it deep down inside to the very centre of the earth, would lead you to an entire civilization, all apparently living and thriving away underneath the earth. It’s straight out of Jules Verne, is that.

Only Charlie knew where this hole was, and the Family were going to hide out with this other civilization while ‘helter skelter,’ the race war to end all wars, played itself out above ground.

I have only one word to say with regard to this ‘plan,’ which is worse than Homer Simpson’s plan to take his whole clan to live with him under the sea when the heat from his sexual harassment suit becomes too much to bear. (Remember? There’ll be no accusations, just friendly crustaceans, under the sea…!) What is this one word? Well, in a nutshell… Cuckoo…!

Manson, in the end, was sentenced to death for his part in the excessively brutal killings but had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. That was fifty years ago this very year, and he only died recently there, in 2017. Same year as Moors murderer Ian Brady. He was probably still a nut-job when he passed away, a basket-case, a fruit loop.

That’s nearly fifty years that he was living at the American taxpayers’ expense, and every year he remained on earth was probably another slap in the face for the loved ones of the people he ordered his culties to murder in cold blood, simply because they were rich and ‘rich whites’ represented the ‘establishment, the ‘man.’

Oh well. He didn’t live forever, contrary to the impression he might have been trying to give his brainwashed followers. One day he too, the great Charlie Manson, had to answer for his crimes before a higher power, like we all will have to some day. Only then would real justice have been done.

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