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/

DOCTOR SLEEP. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

DOCTOR SLEEP. (2019) DIRECTED BY MIKE FLANAGAN. SCREENPLAY BY MIKE FLANAGAN.
BASED ON THE 2013 NOVEL, DOCTOR SLEEP, BY STEPHEN KING. ALSO BASED ON THE 1977 NOVEL, THE SHINING, BY STEPHEN KING, AND THE 1980 FILM OF THE SHINING BY STANLEY KUBRICK.
STARRING EWAN MCGREGOR, REBECCA FERGUSON, CARL LUMBLY AND KYLIEGH CURRAN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Well, hi there…’

Heeeeeeere’s Danny…! (PS, this line doesn’t actually appear in the film, I made it up but you’ll see why…)

It’s been a while now since I read the book DOCTOR SLEEP by horror maestro Stephen King, but I was hugely looking forward to seeing the film version when it came to Netflix. Well, it’s come to Netflix, I’ve seen it and I can now declare it top-notch stuff, lol. Just in case you were hanging on the edge of your seat waiting for my verdict…! It clocks in at a satisfying two and a half hours, so it’s good bang for your buck, and the great cast produces stellar performances.

Ewan McGregor plays Danny Torrance, all grown-up now after the events that traumatised him so much in THE SHINING, the 1980 film by Stanley Kubrick. The traumas were so great that Danny grew up an alcoholic, just like his old man, Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson in the 1980 smash hit film.

He’s in recovery, though, going to his AA meetings and working in a hospice as an orderly. He’s still got his powerful psychic ability known as ‘the Shining,’ and, as he uses it to comfort dying patients, they in turn call him Doctor Sleep. That’s the title explained, at any rate.

His dear old pal from the first movie, Scatman Crothers as Dick Halloran, the chef from the Overlook Hotel, has visited him psychically to help him to deal with his old ghosts from the hotel, who’ve continued to plague and terrorise him.

I love the idea of the lockboxes in Danny’s mind. Catherine Deneuve tried to do something similar in THE HUNGER, but as her lockboxes were physical rather than psychical, her boogeymen all escaped and gave her what for, lol.

I also love the adorable, fluffy hospice cat, who has the ability to suss out who’s about to shuffle off his or her mortal coil. A most intriguing characteristic, unless you’re the one on whose bed the moggy chooses to park his furry butt. Then it’s Goodnight, Vienna…

Anyway, Danny is not without his problems in this excellent sequel. There is a band of very bad nomadic people known as the True Knot on the loose, extending their lives by shortening other peoples’.

They feed off other psychically gifted individuals by inhaling their ‘steam’ at their moment of death. Rose the Hat, a beautiful young woman who just so happens to be one of King’s most interesting characters, is their leader.

When we meet them, though, the cult members are starving for lack of psychic steam. One of their member, Grampa Flick, dies of actual psychical starvation. He’s played by Carel Struycken, an actor with a condition known as acromegaly which gives a person enlarged hands and feet and sometimes enlarged or elongated facial features as well.

Like the actor Rondo Hatton, who suffered from a similar condition, Struycken has used his appearance to his advantage to get acting jobs. He did a fantastic job as Mr. Moonlight in the film adaptation of another Stephen King classic novel, GERALD’S GAME (2017).

Anyway, Danny becomes aware of the True Knot when a little girl with outstanding psychic abilities, Abra Stone, informs him of their existence after they kill a little boy and devour his ‘psychic steam’ as he dies in agony.

Reluctantly, Danny gets involved with Abra and they plan together both to lead law enforcement to the boy’s grave so his parents can have closure, and also to take out the True Knot, and I sure as shit don’t mean for a romantic dinner.

The final showdown happens at the only place where it could ever have happened… at the Overlook Hotel, where you’ll meet some old friends who, if you’re like me, might just have given you nightmares for years after you met them first in the original SHINING film.

I just loved that Danny goes here again after all these years, and that a man who looks a lot like his father but isn’t his father greets him from behind the iconic Gold Bar…

I just love this film. Bruce Greenwood, who plays the rich businessman trying to spice up his flagging sex life in GERALD’S GAME, appears here as the leader of Danny’s AA group and the hospice boss. Jocelin Donahue plays Abra’s beautiful and young-looking mother.

Ms. Donahue is one of my favourite scream queens as she starred in THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, an excellent horror film from 2009, and she was also in INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER TWO (2013), as the young version of Barbara Hershey’s character.

Also, Carl Lumbly, who appears here as the ghost of Dick Halloran, used to play Detective Martin Petrie in CAGNEY AND LACEY, a brilliant cop show from the ‘80s. He wasn’t really the detective I had eyes for, though. That was Detective Victor Isbecki, played by the fantastically muscular Martin Kove who took his shirt off and bared his superb hairy chest in the opening credits every week. Can I get a ‘phwoaaaaar…?’

I must go and read the book again now, if I can remember where I put it. One thing I don’t get about the film. When the Overlook is burning (sorry, spoiler!), how come the authorities get there so dang quickly? Those roads are supposed to be impassable in the snow. Certainly they are in the original film. Ah well. It’s only a technicality. Enjoy the film. Oh, and bring back Rose the Hat, she’s magnificent…!

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

1408. (2007) A BRILLIANT STEPHEN KING ADAPTATION REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

1408. (2007) DIRECTED BY MIKAEL HAFSTROM. BASED ON THE SHORT STORY BY STEPHEN KING.
STARRING JOHN CUSACK, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, TONY SHALHOUB, MARY MCCORMACK AND JASMINE JESSICA ANTHONY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I don’t normally dig John Cusack too much, but he’s really good in this better-than-average Stephen King movie adaptation. Based on his short story, which you can find in the 2002 collection, EVERYTHING’S EVENTUAL, it has John Cusack as Mike Enslin, a writer who once wrote a very good book with feeling and humanity, but who now writes these sort of guide books to America’s haunted places.

He visits them, cynically and rudely dismisses their claims to be haunted, and then pens niche books about them. How does a sceptical non-believer in other worlds or the other side write books about haunted hotels, castles, churches and other places, when he doesn’t even believe in ghosts or life after death? I don’t know, but it’s what he does for a living.

I loved the book signing in the bookstore at the beginning of the film, when only four people come to hear Mike Enslin read from his new book. Writing is such a hard, thankless job. I know how he feels.

He even tells his four listeners that he’d be delighted to experience a ghostly sighting but that there’s no chance of that because there’s no such things as ghosts. Buzzkill… Like, does he even want to sell his bloody books or what? It almost seems like he’s sabotaging himself, carrying on like that.

His next assignment is to stay in the Dolphin Hotel, in the titular Room 1408, which is supposed to be so haunted that no-one stays in the room for longer than an hour. After some hoo-ha designed to prevent a deeply sarcastic Mike from renting the room, 1408 is opened up by the hotel manager, a slick and polished Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Gerald Olin. There’s some good snappy dialogue between the two men when Olin is showing Enslin to his room of choice.

Enslin soon is left alone in the ‘evil’ room, in which fifty-six guests are reputed to have died since the hotel opened. He confides in his micro-walkie-talkie Dictaphone thing that he’s a little disappointed in the lack of any spectral action, but suddenly the sound of the Carpenters’ biggest hit, WE’VE ONLY JUST BEGUN, breaks out into an otherwise silent room and even the non-believing Mike Enslin has to admit that the haunted hotel room is finally starting to kick some ass…

The Carpenters’ music has been used more than once in horror movies, I do believe. There’s the shark attack movie, 48 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED, that I know of for definite. The Carpenters’ music can be rather eerily heard underwater in an area that a scientist is working on, not far from where a giant Great White Shark is prowling.

A shark that’s blind from decades of living underwater in the darkest, murkiest water, but who can still find you, and kill you… Hey, wait a minute, we’re not reviewing 48 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED here, lol, though it is a terrific shark attack flick, and much better than the first film in the series, 48 METERS DOWN.

I don’t know what it is about the Carpenters’ music that makes it so effective on a horror movie soundtrack, but I do know it can be spooky. Maybe it’s the tragic untimely death of the lead singer Karen Carpenter that allows the music to lend itself to feelings of unsettling eeriness.

BIRDS SUDDENLY APPEAR features in terrific chick flick GIRL, INTERRUPTED, in a genuinely unsettling scene in which one girl from the mental institution discovers the suicide of another. And then finally there’s Lisa Simpson from THE SIMPSONS in the Senor Ding-Dong episode, though this isn’t horror: ‘Mom, I have a test tomorrow in BIRDS SUDDENLY APPEAR…!’

John Cusack is so good in this, as the bored, jaded, disaffected writer who finally learns that things that go bump in the night actually do exist. I don’t like the bits with his whingy deceased daughter in them: ‘Daddy, Daddy, don’t you wuv me anymore?’ and so on, but, generally, all the things he sees in Room 1408 are pretty damn scary.

As someone who’s scared of heights, I was actually the most scared by the bit where Mike was out on the ledge of the Dolphin Hotel, dozens if not hundreds of feet above the unforgiving stone sidewalk, trying to make it to the next room along, but then the other rooms all disappear, leaving a petrified Mike with no choice but to return, inch by agonising inch… to Room 1408…

Of course, the movie will remind you of King’s classic ‘haunted hotel’ movie, THE SHINING, in which the entire hotel (The Overlook), not just one room, is haunted to buggery. The film also put me in mind of two Netflix shows featuring those fantastic massive old creepy apartment buildings and New York hotels with hundreds of rooms.

One is CRIME SCENE: THE VANISHING AT THE CECIL HOTEL, which deals with the true life disappearance of young female guest, Elisa Lam. The other is ARCHIVE 81, a fictional show that chronicles the crimes and cultish goings-on in an apartment building called the Visser.

That kind of hotel room/apartment building vibe can also, of course, bring ROSEMARY’S BABY to mind, a wonderful horror movie in which the building itself is part of the evil, almost a character in itself. The friends from FRIENDS all live in a similar apartment building, but the scariest thing that ever happened there was the dessert Rachel once cooked that had minced beef in it…

By the way, Mike’s publisher here is played by the guy who used to be MONK. Remember MONK? Also, Samuel L. Jackson is in this but he doesn’t say ‘muthafucka,’ only one rather mild ‘fuck,’ or shoot anybody or say, ‘I am so sick of these muthafuckin’ snakes on this muthafuckin’ plane!,’ so please be aware of this while watching the movie, as you may be triggered by his atypical, non-threatening behaviour…

Anyway, will Room 1408 defeat Mike, or will Mike conquer Room 1408 and leave the Dolphin Hotel a wiser, humbler man, with more respect for all things occult? You’ll have to watch the film to find out, but it’ll be well worth your while, even if it is about fifteen minutes too long. I do love it when Stephen King writes about writing and writers, though. Talk about write what you know…

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:

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

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

This is an excellent film adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, but, man, it’s as grim as the grimmest thing you can think of on the grimmest day of the year which also happens to be your first day at Grim College where you work grimly towards a Higher Certificate of Grimness. I mean, it is grim. As grim as all get-out. But I happen to like grim, lol.
  
For a start, the times in which the film is set and its physical setting are pretty damn grim. Thomas Jane (aka The Punisher, my kinda tough guy…!) does a superb job of playing Wilfred James, a surly and dour corn farmer in Nebraska, who lives with his wife Arlette and their fourteen-year-old son, Henry.

Wilf talks in that slow, sort of countrified way you hear in the movies. Like, he might say to his wife, ‘Ahrlette, ah bin thinking it might jes’ be time to git that there boy of ours hitched to the Cotterie girl; she’s big in the hips and ah reckon she kin pop out a passel o’ chilluns whut can work the land when ah’m six feet under, if yeh ketch mah meaning.’

Or Arlette might say to him, ‘Wilf, ah’m fixin’ teh leave yer and ah’m bringin’ the boy wid me; there ain’t nuthin’ left here for us no more. You-all can come if you want, but if’n yeh don’t, I ain’t gon’ lose a lick o’ sleep over it no-how. Yo’ pecker ain’t worked right since nineteen-nought-eight, teh speak the Gawd’s honest truth. Ah swear ah’ll take a chopper to it if’n yeh point it in mah direction agin.’

As a matter of fact, the James’s marriage is in a bad way. Arlette is sick to the back teeth of country living and being stuck on their isolated farm in the middle of nowhere. She wants Wilf to sell the eighty-acre farm, which she brought with her to the marriage as her dowry, and buy somewhere for them to live in the city.

Wilf James ain’t fixin’ teh be citified no way, no-how. He digs his heels in and says nope. But Arlette threatens him with selling the land herself, as she has the legal right to do because it’s her family’s land, and she even brings a city slicker solicitor with fancy duds into the equation, which is like a red rag to a bull in Wilf’s eyes.

He decides that there’s only one sure-fire way of stopping Arlette from making good on her threat to sell the farm, which Wilf sees as his legacy and which he hopes to pass on to his boy one day. As the film takes the form of Wilf’s confession from some time in the future when he’s older, greyer and beardier, we’re not entirely surprised when we see what he intends to do.

The biggest surprise is that he involves the boy, Henry, in his nefarious scheme. The murder is horrific to watch and unnecessarily cruel, but to involve the boy and make him an active accessory to the crime is both shockingly irregular and, dare I say, highly unusual in cinema. At least, I personally haven’t seen another movie where this happens.

The stuff with the well and the poor, poor moo-cow and then the rats is all so, so grim. Jes’ like whut ah told yeh right from the git-go, see? And we all know that murder for financial gain never, ever works out, right? As this is an adaptation of a Stephen King novella, you can imagine that the King of Horror is going to make one Wilfred James, Esquire, atone for his dastardly deeds. Crime doesn’t pay.

Someone should have told that to poor little Henry James as well, and he might well have reconsidered his ill-advised crime spree across the country with his knocked-up girlfriend, Shannon Cotterie, that gets the star-crossed pair dubbed ‘the Sweetheart Bandits.’ Crime doesn’t pay…

Nothing in this film ends well, except maybe for the rats, who are going forth and multiplying like nobody’s business. I recently met up with a couple of the rodents who had a big part in the film, hoping to chat with them about their role in this top-notch adaptation, but it wasn’t a huge success, if I’m being honest.

Long story short, before I could glean so much as an anecdote about what it was like to star in a Stephen King adaptation, the furry little bastards ate my notes, and also my purse containing the money with which I intended paying for our lunch. What’s that they say, never work with children and animals? You said a mouthful, bud. You said a mouthful.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

THE MIST. (2017) THE TV SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

THE MIST: THE TELEVISION SERIES BASED ON STEPHEN KING’S NOVELLA OF THE SAME NAME. (2017) WRITTEN BY CHRISTIAN TORPE.
STARRING MORGAN SPECTOR, ALYSSA SUTHERLAND, GUS BIRNEY, LUKE COSGROVE, RUSSELL POSNER, DARREN PETTIE, DANICA CURCIC, OKEZIE MORRO AND FRANCES CONROY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I loved this mini-series, despite the fact that it’s been described by Chris Scott of the Observer as ‘relentlessly bleak, mean, and downright sadistic at nearly every turn.’ It is pretty grim, but I still loved it, though it could have done with some fat-trimming at times.

Released a full decade after Frank Darabont’s film adaptation of THE MIST, Stephen King’s famous novella, it tells the story of a mysterious mist that comes one day without any explanation to the fictional (I think?) town of Bridgeville in Stephen King’s beloved Maine.

The Copeland family is the main on-screen family in the series. Kevin, the dad, is famous for writing one well-known children’s picture book about owls, if you please. Now he thinks he’s da bomb, lol. Hoot, hoot…! It’s his tall, lanky wife, Eve, a high school teacher whom everyone in Bridgeville refers to as the town slut, who wears the trousers in that house, and make no mistake about it.

Eve is beyond furious with the curly-haired Kevin when he unwisely allows their teenage daughter Alex to attend a party, at which she is supposedly date-raped by Jay Heisel, the handsome quarterback of the high school footy team and son of the town’s sheriff.

I say ‘supposedly,’ because there’s a question mark throughout the show as to whether or not Jay really ‘did it.’ He certainly denies it vehemently, but then, he would, wouldn’t he…? Alex’s best pal, the wimpy little goth boy, Adrian, comforts her while steadfastly maintaining that it was definitely Jay who committed the rape.

When the mist comes, Eve and Alex become trapped in the local mall with Jay and a load of other townspeople (Alex shell-shocks her mum by becoming friendly and even romantic with Jay, her alleged rapist), while Kevin the dad and Adrian the goth boy end up hopping between the police station and the hospital in their efforts to get back to the two women.

Kevin and Adrian pick up a couple of waifs and strays on their travels, namely, Mia, a good-looking but intense drug addict with a murky past, and Bryan Hunt, an amnesiac soldier who comes running into town at the start of the first episode (ten episodes in all) to warn everyone about the encroaching mist. He doesn’t have a clue how he knows that the mist is evil, except that he’s aware it killed his poor doggy.

Meanwhile, police chief Connor Heisel, Jay’s dad, is stuck in the church, mediating between the dodgy Fr. Romanov and Nathalie Raven, an old hippy lady whose hubby Benedict was killed by the mist.

Fr. Romanov thinks the mist is caused by the ‘traditional’ God we read about in the Bible, whilst crazy old Nathalie thinks it’s the doing of an angry Mother Nature, hell-bent on reclaiming some of her planet for herself. She refers to the current apocalyptic situation rather ominously as ‘the Black Spring.’

They decide to have a sort of highly risky ‘face-off’ between their respective ‘gods.’ They could each stand to learn some harsh lessons. Fr. Romanov, that you don’t send a boy to do your dirty work for you, and Mrs. Raven, that you really shouldn’t believe your own hype.

The Mist will separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys. Or will it only make things more unclear…? The mist, which seems to personalise and tailor a person’s end to the life they lived and the actions they performed in life, is hardly to be trusted, after all.

(The mist in the 2007 film was filled with horrible monsters, stomach-churning gigantic insects and tentacled beasts. The mist here seems to be more sophisticated, comprising metaphors and appropriate individual torments!)

My favourite part of this extremely violent mini-series was the bit in the mall where everyone has to sort of club together to form a society in order to survive. They have rules and regulations, enforced by Gus Bradley, the mall director (I call him Paul Blart, Mall Cop!), such as if you endanger your fellow mall-dwellers, you’ll be booted out of the mall and expected to take your chances in the mist.

Eve Copeland kindly tells everyone about the ‘nine meals from anarchy’ theory, which only puts the willies up the survivors even more. Some of them might be secretly hoarding food, which is strictly against the rules of this new mall society.

As their position in the mall becomes ever more hopeless, with grub running short, tempers even shorter and no sign either of help coming or the insidious mist dissipating and going away, anarchy in fact looms ever closer.

If the series had gone on for any longer, the mall-dwellers would have been drawing lots as to whom they would have to cannibalise first. Interesting the way, the longer these things go on, the more it’s every man for himself and the less people give a shit about others.

It’s probably an ingrained thing that we can’t help, but it’s kind of grim nonetheless, isn’t it? Even the most complex of societies will break down in a crisis such as this one. And the presence of the crisis, and the mist, seems to give people permission to do things they wouldn’t dream of doing in peacetime, wicked, murderous shameful things. I hope what happens in the mist stays in the mist…

I love the suggestion that the army might somehow be involved with the mist, in a bad way, and I even love the ‘draw your own conclusions’ ending and the way things look open to a sequel at the end. I’m just sad that there probably won’t ever be a sequel to the series, as viewing figures apparently weren’t impressive enough beyond the pilot episode.

Great viewing, anyway, if a little depressing, with little or no levity to lighten the gloom. The series also explores the theme of homophobia, with the character of Adrian, the little goth boy, experiencing severe abuse for his sexuality, both from his father and from his fellow high school student, Tyler. Good work in highlighting this kind of abuse. Good work overall. Over and out.

A telephone rings somewhere.

‘Good morning, this is the Mist speaking, how may I help you today?’

‘Um, hi, I’m Sandra Harris, I’m just phoning to book a Mist-related death, please?’

‘Certainly, Ms. Harris. May I ask if you’ve lived a good life and tried to help others wherever you could?’

‘Oh yes, absolutely, your Worship!’

‘Very good. Have you ever caused harm to anyone through your writings?’

‘Not that I know of, your Eminence.’

‘Very good, very good. Any weaknesses?’

‘Only bad boys and chocolate, if it please your Honour.’

‘Excellent. I’ll schedule you in to be battered to death by giant rubber penises and drowned in a hail of miniature Snickers Bars.’

‘Could I have it the other way around, please, your Grace? Miniature rubber penises and giant Snickers Bars?’

‘You’ll have to pay extra.’

‘That’s okay, I don’t mind. Can I keep any leftover bars?’

A sigh. ‘If you must, though most people don’t. It’s not like you’ll be alive to enjoy them.Can I interest you in a theme tune while you die? Thus Spoke Zarathustra, perhaps, or the music from the ROCKY movies?’

‘Nah, I’m good, thanks, your Highness. Just the standard death is all. ‘Bye then.’

‘Good day, thank you for calling the Mist, your one-stop-shop for all Apocalyptic deaths.’

Dial tone, then silence.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

THE GREEN MILE. (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE GREEN MILE. (1999) BASED ON THE BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED, WRITTEN AND CO-PRODUCED BY FRANK DARABONT.
STARRING TOM HANKS, DABBS GREER, MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN, DAVID MORSE, BARRY PEPPER, JEFFREY DEMUNN, HARRY DEAN STANTON, SAM ROCKWELL, JAMES CROMWELL, BONNIE HUNT, PATRICIA CLARKSON AND DOUG HUTCHISON.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a phenomenal film, three hours and nine minutes of sheer brilliance, although people often have trouble with its length. Not me, though. I loved every second of this intensely emotional and multi-award-winning movie. It was perfect viewing for Christmas Night this year, when we really wanted something to take our minds off the bad COVID news…!

Tom Hanks is absolutely fantastic as prison officer Paul Edgecomb, who, in 1935- during the Great Depression- is in charge of Death Row in America’s Cold Mountain Penitentiary. He runs a tight ship, but with kindness and compassion as his watchwords rather than cruelty and harsh discipline.

Agitated men are likely to riot, he maintains, but treating condemned men with calm dignity goes a long way towards keeping things serene in the sad and lonely part of the prison they call ‘the Green Mile,’ due to the colour of the floor covering…

Paul is helped in his work by Brutus Howell, Dean Stanton and Harry Terwillinger, all of whom are really good, decent men who share Paul’s ideas around keeping the men calm and feeling as good and positive as they can feel, given where they are…

The one bad apple on Paul’s staff is Percy Wetmore, who, because of his connections at the prison, seems to get away with the worst behaviour possible towards the inmates, whom he loves to taunt, bully, torment and openly remind about their destination, the electric chair, as if they needed reminding.

You’ll be rooting for a suitable come-uppance for Percy all the way through the movie, as his actions towards the inmates become ever more despicable. You will not be disappointed, but I’ll say no more. No spoilers here, lol.

The biggest thing happening on Paul’s Green Mile during this particular year is the arrival of the physically enormous but quiet and child-like black man known as John Coffey, ‘like the drink, but not spelt the same.’

Played magnificently by the sadly deceased Michael Clarke Duncan, John Coffey has been accused of the worst crime a black man can commit, the rape and murder of two pretty little white sisters. There seems to be no doubt as to his guilt, as he’s been caught red-handed with the bodies, so to speak.

After John Coffey ‘heals’ Paul of the worst darned urinary infection he’s ever had in his life, simply by laying hands on the affected area- much to Paul’s surprise!- Paul and his staff come to realize that there’s something extraordinary about this gentle giant.

When he brings Mr. Jingles, a very special player in this eye-opening drama, back to life after a particularly disgusting act of violence by the power-crazed Percy Wetmore, there seems to be no doubt at all about John Coffey’s healing powers.

Paul and his men start to wonder if the big man mightn’t be able to do something for the prison governor’s wife Melinda, who is dying an especially horrible death from cancer. Dare they chance it…? It’s all to play for, folks.

In the case of Death Row inmate Edouard ‘Del’ Delacroix, Percy Wetmore’s sadistic act of omitting to wet the sponge that goes on the head during electrocution shows us two things clearly. One, Percy Wetmore is the worst kind of lowlife, and the poorest decision the otherwise sound Paul Edgecomb makes in the whole film is to let Wetmore have a hand in Del’s execution.

Secondly, a method of execution that can cause a man to burn to death in agonising pain if someone neglects, deliberately or otherwise, to wet the sponge that goes on the head, is barbaric and needs to be changed. The electric chair, aka ‘Old Sparky,’ was probably one of the most brutal ways to take a man’s life by order of ‘a judge of good standing.’

I’d personally prefer to see the death penalty abolished worldwide, but, if it must take place, then something painless, something that allows the person just to slip away quietly without knowing that it’s happening, is what’s needed.

The penalty, after all, is to deprive the prisoner of his life for what he’s done, and not to have him endure the physical torments of hell while that life is being taken away from him. Right? Okay, lecture from a bleeding heart liberal over, lol, but there’s a lot of food for thought there.

Except just to say that the recently deceased Harry Dean Stanton plays a prison trusty in the film called Toot-Toot, who is happy to lend his living body to Paul and his men when they need to do a practice run on Old Sparky.

It says a lot about them that they take the job so seriously, and don’t want to make an inmate’s experience of electrocution any worse or more painful than it needs to be because of any mistakes or slip-ups of theirs. Too late for poor Del, though, unfortunately.

The film is book-ended by two modern day pieces in which Dabbs Greer- the Reverend Alden from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE- plays an elderly Paul Edgecomb, relating the story of John Coffey’s miracles to a lady friend in a nursing home.

The film also has a bit of a supernatural twist to it involving the wonderful Mr. Jingles, truly the bestest mouse performer in a film ever. If only Mouseville were a real place! Mr. Jingles would be celebrated every day like the little rodent superstar he is, and dine nightly on the finest cornbread till it was coming out his mousie ears.

THE GREEN MILE is one of Stephen King’s best ever movie adaptations. I’d waste no more time in watching it if I were you, that’s if you haven’t already. Enjoy it, but keep a box of tissues handy. (No, not for that, you perverts!) Trust me, it’s a weepie to rival even TITANIC. Happy Christmas, anyway, and a happy and prosperous New Year to you and yours. And God bless you, Mr. Jingles, wherever you are.

      AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

GERALD’S GAME. (2017) A STEPHEN KING FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

GERALD’S GAME. (2017) BASED ON THE 1992 BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. CO-WRITTEN, EDITED AND DIRECTED BY MIKE FLANAGAN.

STARRING CARLA GUGINO, BRUCE GREENWOOD, HENRY THOMAS, KATE SIEGEL, CHIARA AURELIA AND CAREL STRUYCKEN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Question: What is a woman…?

Answer: A life support system for a cunt…

Wow. I loved this Stephen King movie adaptation of the supposedly ‘unfilmable’ book, GERALD’S GAME. I found it on Netflix during a routine scroll-down and was happily immersed within five minutes.

I love films about troubled marriages, having had my own share of rubbish relationships, and it’s obvious fairly early on that rich couple Jessie and Gerald Burlingame are heading off for some kind of make-or-break romantic weekend away at their super-isolated country house in Alabama.

Gerald, a good ten or fifteen years older than his wife, is some kind of executive business hot-shot, and he’s told his office people he’ll be out of touch for a few days. They have no children, and Jessie has only a few friends but they’re not really close, so there’ll be no-one to disturb them for these few days.

Carla Gugino as Jessie Burlingame is a truly beautiful woman in the Rachel Weisz mode, the kind of delicious, red-lipped, smoky-eyed brunette, perfectly proportioned, who makes us washed-out blondes all look like a sack of crap.

Gerald is clearly lucky to have her, as she seems to be a lovely sweet person as well, but Gerald isn’t entirely happy with their sex life- they currently have none- and he’s hoping that this weekend will rekindle something in them that’s been missing.

Two hundred dollar steaks are his idea of a culinary aphrodisiac, and a prologue to the nookie. Then follows the sex, and a smugly smirking Gerald, hepped up on Viagra, whips out the handcuffs, and not the furry novelty kind either, but the real thing. Sheriff issue handcuffs, lol. ‘Put your hands on the car, boy, or I’ll pepper yo’ ass with buckshot six ways till Sunday,’ and that kind of thing.

Jessie is a little weirded out by the metal love cuffs, but Gerald has made it clear he needs to try out some new stuff, so she feels obliged to go along with him, to save their marriage, see? But only up to a point. When she tells Gerald she’s had enough of his shit, much to Gerald’s angry mortification, something thoroughly unexpected happens that leaves Jessie fighting for her life.

They’ve left the back door open in their eagerness to get to the bedroom. But that’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, the place is in the middle of nowhere, right, and there isn’t a living soul for miles around, which was probably what Gerald, the sneaky sod, had in mind when he was whisking his gorgeous missus away on a dirty weekend for a spot of how’s-yer-favver, lol.

Jessie is in an exceedingly vulnerable position in their lavish holiday home. A stray dog, a stray escaped lunatic and some very disobedient memories from her troubled childhood that just won’t stay buried are some of the things that walk right up to her and get in her face while she’s a sitting duck, trapped in a SAW-style how-far-will-you-go-to-survive-type situation.

Well, they’re the only things that walk up to her, but, trust me, they’re enough. I had a sleepless night over this film, I can tell you. The horrific topic of child sexual abuse is handled very well here, by the way, showing us that the demons that come out of our closets at night are not the only monsters we have to fear.  

The ‘Crypt Keeper’ or grave robber in the film was inspired by none other than Wisconsin serial murderer Ed Gein, the gift that just keeps giving as far as cinema is concerned. PSYCHO, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS were all inspired by Ed, who liked to gut people and make furniture and ornaments out of their skin.

He’s possibly the spookiest of all the ‘famous’ serial killers, is Ed. Anyone who’s as much at home rootling about in a cemetery as in his house, as comfortable around the dead as the living, has the power to make other, so-called ‘normal’ people feel very uncomfortable.

He’s one of the few major serial killers of the twentieth century who doesn’t seem to be the subject of a Netflix documentary. I’d love to think there was one in the pipeline. Ed’s a fascinating, if gruesome, study. We’d all have nightmares after watching his story.

You’ll be rushing to research the condition of ‘acromegaly’ after watching GERALD’S GAME, and, just to warn you, there’s a scene in the film that would take the actual skin off your hand. Shit. I meant to say it would put the heart crossways in you. Forget I said that other thing, would you? The film also covers the grisly but extremely interesting topic of how long can you go without water/food, etc., before you die…?

You’ll be reminded very much of one of King’s other book-to-film adaptations, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, when you watch this film. It seems like a lot of strange, unasked-for things can happen during a total eclipse of the heart, sorry, I mean the sun. I went all Bonnie Tyler there for a minute.

Do the normal laws of God and Man not apply during this short but eerie time-span when the sun is obscured by the moon and dark shadows fall across the earth? ‘Keep watching, Mouse, keep watching!’ ‘Husbands die every day, Dolores.’ We don’t go all out for eclipses over here. Maybe it’s just as well…

‘You’re not real! You’re made of moonlight.’

PS, you might have seen on social media recently that the Bed, which is one of the three main stars of GERALD’S GAME, has finally married the Handcuffs, also an important player in the tightly-knit cast. After meeting on the set of the film and enjoying a whirlwind romance, the couple gave birth during the summer to Baby Futon, an adorable cherub who, according to her mother, the Handcuffs, is the living image of her father, the Bed. The couple have decided jointly that the Handcuffs will stay home and take care of Baby Futon, while Daddy Bed tries out for a part in the new John Lennon retrospective, A Bed for all Reasons.

‘We couldn’t be happier,’ gushed the couple from their new Hollywood home when I caught up with them during a Zoom chat yesterday. ‘We’ll always think fondly of GERALD’S GAME, as obviously that’s how we met. We’ve asked Carla and Bruce to be godparents, but we haven’t heard back from them yet. Of course, they’re very busy with their various careers. Um, did we mention that we couldn’t be happier…?’

Aw, it’s too sweet…

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:

PET SEMATARY. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

PET SEMATARY. (2019) BASED ON THE 1983 BOOK BY STEPHEN KING.
DIRECTED BY KEVIN KOLSCH AND DAVID WIDMYER.
STARRING JOHN LITHGOW, JASON CLARKE AND AMY SEIMETZ.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Sometimes, dead is better…’

I didn’t much care for this re-make of the 1989 film adaptation of Stephen King’s book of the same name. This book is probably one of the most beloved of all of the horror maestro’s weighty tomes, along with CARRIE, THE SHINING, SALEM’S LOT and MISERY. Although, in fairness, Stephen King wrote a lot of books and they all have their fans.

The ones I mentioned are some of my own favourites, lol, along with CUJO, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, CHRISTINE, THE TOMMY-KNOCKERS and a fantastic book of short stories entitled NIGHT SHIFT.

Again though, he’s penned a load of brilliant short stories and novellas as well as full-length books, and so many of them have already been made into films. He’s an amazing writer, with a glittering back catalogue. So jealous…! Long live the King.

Anyway, why didn’t I like this particular adaptation of the famous book? Well, I love the book and the 1989 film, both of which had heart, soul and good, authentic scares. Also, the 1989 film had the adorable Fred Gwynne, aka Herman Munster, as a staunchly believable Jud Crandall. In the re-make, though respected actor John Lithgow undoubtedly does his very best, it’s just not the same.

They’ve tweaked the plot a bit too, which I wasn’t happy about as I loved the book and the original film so much. We still have the Creeds, though, a doctor’s family, moving from Boston to a town in Maine and discovering that they have, of all things, a burial ground for pets somewhere towards the back of their property. They don’t seem to have researched their own property too much this time around!

Dad of the family, Louis Creed, gets to explore a bit of the Pet Sematary by night courtesy of the spirit of Victor Pascow, a student at the university hospital where Louis works. Victor dies horribly near the start of the film, and his spirit seems to have a message it wants to pass on to Dr. Creed. What’s that you say, Victor? The ground out by the Pet Sematary is sour? No shit, Sherlock, lol. I wouldn’t bury any moggy of mine there, I’ll tell you that for nothing…

Anyway, when little Ellie Creed’s beloved pet cat Churchill gets run over on the dangerous road beside their house and dies, kindly old next-door neighbour Jud Crandall lets Louis in on a devastating secret about the Pet Sematary.

To cut a long story short, Church comes back from the dead. But he’s not himself. And that’s not all. Did you know that you can bury more than just pets in the Pet Sematary…? You shouldn’t, but you still can…

They’ve changed the Zelda scenes in this film a little bit, but I think it’s still safe to say that good old Zelda will give you nightmares once more. Rachel, the mom, is severely traumatised from her childhood experiences with her sick sister, and she’ll never be able to cope and move on unless she gets some serious therapy. That bit is really highlighted in this re-make. Mrs. Creed is super, super-screwed up, more than we even knew.

One part where they got it absolutely spot-on is the bit where Ellie ‘comes back’ but she’s ‘not quite right.’ I got genuine shivers at the scene where the dad is bathing the little girl and her hair is tangly and he sees the Frankenstein-like stitches in the back of her head that were put in by the funeral home… Then, when the child just turns plain evil and starts trashing the place, they lose me again. Ah well. It was good while it lasted…!

There was an opportunity for some good folk horror with the kids wearing the animal masks walking in a solemn procession to the Pet Sematary; maybe they could have done a bit more with that and had the whole town in on the gruesome secret of the pet graveyard or something like that, but maybe they felt they had enough on their hands with the Creed family, I don’t know.

The film also raises the issue of how to talk to children about the delicate topic of death. I don’t mean How to Break the News of a Death; the Christmas episode of FATHER TED has that covered.

Priest Number One: Your husband’s gone, and he’s not coming back, get used to it!

Priest Number Two: Remember how your husband used to love a good laugh…?

No, I mean the whole thing of where do you tell the kids their deceased loved ones or pets have gone to when they’ve died? The mum and dad in the film have differing views on the subject, so it might have been useful if they’d had a chat about the whole thing and gotten their metaphysical ducks in a row before their young ‘uns experienced the demise of a pet for the first time. It’s just a thought…!

I’d never advise a Stephen King fan not to watch a certain film or adaptation. This isn’t a bad film per se; I just didn’t dig it personally, and I found it rather lacking in good spooky atmosphere, which the original film had in spades. Maybe it looked good on the big screen and felt a bit more atmospheric then than just me watching it on Netflix did.

Make up your own minds, anyway. A Stephen King adaptation is a Stephen King adaptation, after all, and better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick any day, as we say here in Ireland. Enjoy it, and, listen, before I forget, don’t bother trying to use the dumbwaiter for the moment, will you? I think it’s broken…  

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:

LEARNING CREATIVE WRITING ON THE CHEAP: BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


LEARNING CREATIVE WRITING ON THE CHEAP.
BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I nearly had a heart attack yesterday when I saw that the price for an online self-publishing course was nearly seven thousand dollars. Even in euros, that’s a ridiculous amount of money.

The online course business practically exploded during the pandemic and is still blossoming; all those people staying home and sitting in front of their computers, wanting to learn a new skill or sharpen and hone some existing ones.

I love a good writing course. I signed up to loads during the pandemic. Some of them were free- FUTURELEARN- and some were as cheap as a tenner- UDEMY. I’m not a millionaire, and, even if I were, there’s probably no way I’d pay seven grand for a course in self-publishing or creative writing.

Everyone is hustling nowadays. I sign up to a lot of writing emails and writing blogs because I’m a compulsive signer-upper, lol, and, plus, you never know what little gems of advice or pearls of literary wisdom you might come across in one of them.

Nearly every single one of those emails from bloggers is trying to sell me something. The ‘secret’ to being a successful self-publisher or creative writer, mainly. They want me to book a place on their live ‘training’ class or masterclass, and then buy a super-expensive course or ‘package’ containing all kinds of online writing-related doo-hickeys, some of which might be useful, others less so.

They want me to pay for an ‘in’ to an exclusive online writing community that will supposedly support my writing efforts and make the solitary business of writing a little less lonely. These are often held on Zoom, but I also know of a particular ‘exclusive’ writing group on Facebook that requires you to pay thirty-five quid a month to be in their snobby group.

 I’ve been offered the chance to join and ‘find my tribe,’ but I’m not paying thirty-five quid a month to be in a Facebook group, I don’t care how supportive the other members are! If I have thirty-five quid a month to spare, there’s always a gas bill or a lecky bill it can go towards.

And let’s not forget the books. Everyone’s flogging a book, and the book, like the masterclasses and ‘training’ videos and ‘bundles’ of writing aids which would normally cost thousands of dollars but are now going for a song at a mere fifty bucks, claims to reveal the ‘secret’ you’ve been waiting your whole life to hear.

The ‘secret’ to good writing, the ‘secret’ to keeping your readers engaged from the get-go, the ‘secret’ to selling a million books a year on Amazon, the ‘secret’ to being more successful than Stephen King mashed together with Hilary Mantel, even the ‘secret’ to writing a book without typing a single word, a new one I came across lately that just boggles my mind.

I’ve got news for you guys, though, and it might seem disheartening at first, but it’s actually good news. There is no ‘secret,’ no magic wand, no magic spell, no silver bullet, no special key that will unlock all the success and acclaim you’ve ever dreamed of.

And that’s good news, because it means that you’ve already got the power within you to be a good writer, and it lies in your own mind and your own hands. You don’t need ruby slippers to get there, because you’re already there. Well, nearly.

I’ve been writing for twelve years now myself and I’ve discovered that there really is only one way to do it. You have to sit down at your computer every single day, or as many days a week as you can manage it, and write stuff, and then you just have to keep doing that exact thing, year in, year out.

The more you write, the better at it you’ll get. That’s pretty much guaranteed. When I first started out, I joined a writers’ group and wrote a little something every week along the lines of the prompt they’d given us.

Physical writers’ groups might be thin on the ground at the moment due to Covid, but you can keep in touch with all your own writer friends on Facebook like I do (writing is a lonely business; that’s just the way it is), and I still maintain you don’t need to pay thirty-five quid a month to do it…!

You can also follow book bloggers and writers on social media, and read their posts exhaustively to find out how they do things. I do this, and I learn a lot about writing and books this way.

Books are an invaluable source of information. Not only is reading the number one way, next to practising, to improve your writing, but you can actually buy books- or borrow them from the library- that give you tips on writing and how to maintain good writing practices and a meaningful writing life.

My two favourites, ON WRITING by Stephen King and Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD, are frequently at the top of most peoples’ ‘Best Writing Books’ list, so you won’t go far wrong with them. You can also buy books of writing prompts, if you feel like you’re stuck and need a bit of a leg-up, or get them for free online.

You can also buy books filled with creative writing exercises, which will give you the feeling that you’re doing a self-guided course for next to nothing. Trust me, you don’t need to spend nearly seven grand on a writing course to improve your writing. (Unless you’re doing an actual degree course; that’s different.)

All you need is your writing space and laptop, a few notebooks, pens and how-to books, and, of course, access to the Internet and a positive wealth of free information on everything from good grammar to how to self-publish a book on Amazon for free with Kindle Direct Publishing.

Those are the actual physical, tangible things that you need. You’ll need other things too, like grit and courage and an absolute determination to keep going no matter how shit things get, and they can get quite shit, believe me. But you already have all those things within you, which is how I have a pretty good feeling that you’re going to be okay.

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:

A BOOK OF HORRORS, EDITED BY STEPHEN JONES. (2011) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

A BOOK OF HORRORS. (2011) EDITED BY STEPHEN JONES. PUBLISHED IN ENGLAND BY JO FLETCHER BOOKS, AN IMPRINT OF QUERCUS BOOKS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is my favourite anthology of horror short stories ever, with Stephen King’s NIGHT SHIFT coming a close second. I’ve read A BOOK OF HORRORS several times now, and it still retains its power to spook me and to make me go to sleep at night facing my bedroom door, rather than with my unsuspecting back to it.

Anyway, it’s fitting that I’ve already mentioned the undisputed King of Horror, Stephen King, because he’s the guest of honour here and his story is first in the book. Entitled THE LITTLE GREEN GOD OF AGONY, it’s the story of a billionaire called Newsome, the sixth-richest man in the world, who survives an horrific plane crash, but broken limbs and daily agonising pain is the price he pays for his survival.

Kat is his nurse, and she’s a little brusque and brisk with her billionaire client, because he seems to think that all his fabulous wealth should really entitle him to live a charmed, pain-free existence. For this reason, Kat is a little less sympathetic towards him than she should be, considering she’s his nurse, or, as he calls her, his ‘Queen of Pain.’

When we come in, a minister from the sticks called the Reverend Rideout, has come to ‘cure’ the billionaire of his constant pain. ‘He was tall and very thin, maybe sixty, wearing plain grey pants and a white shirt buttoned all the way to his scrawny neck, which was red with overshaving. Kat supposed he’d wanted to get a close one before meeting the sixth-richest man in the world.’

The sceptical and battle-hardened Kat, whose gig with Newsome is the best-paid job she’s ever had in this or any other life, doesn’t believe for a second that this ascetic-looking minister from the sticks can alleviate the billionaire’s pain for a second.

In fact, she thinks he’s just another charlatan, come to fleece the rich man of a few million bucks in exchange for some muttered words of spiritual mumbo-jumbo over his shattered limbs. She couldn’t be more wrong…

The book features some really gripping horror stories by such esteemed authors as John Ajvide Lindqvist (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, 2004), Ramsey Campbell and Richard Christian Matheson, the son of screenwriter and fiction writer Richard Matheson.

Richard Matheson Senior was a ridiculously talented man, who wrote numerous film and television scripts as well as the novel, I AM LEGEND, which has been filmed under its own name and also as THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964), starring horror legend Vincent Price.

My three favourite stories in the anthology, apart from the Stephen King one that opens the proceedings, are as follows: A CHILD’S PROBLEM, by Reggie Oliver, in which a young boy called George St. Maur is sent to live with his horrible old uncle in pre-Victorian times while his parents live abroad for a bit.

While at the uncle’s country mansion, wee George uncovers a mystery that seems to involve a black man, Brutus, a black spaniel called Dis, and the most beautiful woman that the young George has ever seen, the late Lady Circe St. Maur, his nasty uncle’s deceased wife, a woman from the West Indies of whom very little is known. A never-ending chess game seems crucial to the mystery also.

George’s life is endangered, the closer he comes to the heart of this chilling mystery. But, child or not, he displays a courage, strength of character and even a coldness, rather like his uncle’s, far beyond his years: ‘He considered whether he could live with the possibility that he might have imprisoned a man alive in a coffin with a corpse. It did not take him long to decide that he could…’ Good for you, Georgie boy, lol.

SAD, DARK THING by Michael Marshall Smith puts me in mind of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and other similar films, not because any kind of massacre takes place but because it features a lonely man, driving round the back roads of America with no particular goal, coming across a rather odd ‘attraction’ in the backwoods that at first fascinates him, but which he may just live to regret ever clapping eyes on…

Finally, NEAR ZENNOR by Elizabeth Hand is a sort of folk horror tale set in Cornwall. It scared me so much when I first read it that I immediately gave the story to my daughter to read, with the words: ‘Do you find this story terrifyingly scary too?’ After reading it, she agreed that she did, and I felt so vindicated that I now re-read the story every summer as a mark of respect for its ability to put the willies up me anew, smoothly and effortlessly, with every reading.

This really is a superior horror anthology. Some of the stories I didn’t really get, but even these ones still scared me and made me really ‘see’ them in my mind’s eye, a very impressive feat, as I hope you’ll agree.

There’s no sweeter feeling than having the heart put crossways in you (Irishism, lol) by a creepy story in a book or by a scary film, when you’re not in any personal danger yourself. It’s why we watch horror films and read horror stories. We get all the thrills, but none of the spills, see? Happy reading…

‘George identified the coffin at last because it was the newest and its wood was covered in green baize pinned down with brass tacks, almost untarnished. Jem would not look, so George lifted the lid and peered in by himself.

The figure in its winding sheet was slender and still retained the vestiges of her beautiful shape. The features, too, were almost intact, though the eye sockets were empty. Black lustrous coils of hair hung down on each side of a face whose exquisite bone structure was covered by a delicate membrane of golden skin. Over the folded skeletal hands, on one finger of which a sapphire ring still sparkled, had been laid a pair of common iron slave manacles.

George picked them up, then gently closed the coffin lid on the Lady Circe’s remains…’

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.