CASE 39. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

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

JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG. (1980) DIRECTED BY JOHN CARPENTER. WRITTEN BY JOHN CARPENTER AND DEBRA HILL. ORIGINAL MUSIC BY JOHN CARPENTER.
STARRING ADRIENNE BARBEAU, JAMIE LEE CURTIS, JANET LEIGH, TOMMY ATKINS, JOHN HOUSEMAN, NANCY LOOMIS AND HAL HOLBROOK.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Who is that…?’

‘Did you see his eyes…?’

‘Blake, I have your gold…!’

‘We’re honouring murderers…’

‘Why not six, Blake? Why not six…?’

‘Something came out of the fog tonight…’
 
The picturesque little Californian seaside town of Antonio Bay is in serious trouble in this fantastic film by horror icon John Carpenter. The inhabitants of the town are all getting ready to celebrate their centenary, with scream queen Janet PSYCHO Leigh roped in to organise the festivities. She plays Kathy Williams, council-woman and wife of a local fisherman, and she looks smashing in her knee-length red leather boots with her blonde coiffure.

She’s being assisted in her worthy endeavours, by the way, by Nancy Loomis, the woman who played Annie, the annoying teenage babysitter from HALLOWEEN. ‘Sandy, you have a way of saying yes, ma’am that sounds exactly like screw you…!’ To which Sandy immediately replies, ‘Yes, ma’am…!’

But, anyway, a strange glowing fog is rolling in from the sea, and it’s no normal fog, as you might have guessed by the word ‘glowing.’ Fog doesn’t normally glow, does it? Darn tootin’ it doesn’t. Something tells us that the centenary celebrations and the glorification of the town’s founding fathers may not pass off without incident…

Even worse than the fog itself, which is quite disturbing enough on its own, is what it contains. The ghosts of long-dead mariners are in it, see? And they’re coming back to Antonio Bay after a hundred years of being deceased to wreak a deadly revenge on the townspeople for wrongs committed against them by the town’s founding fathers. Well, I nevah…!

They’re being reasonable enough in their quest for a terrible vengeance, though, these spectres. They’re not going on a murderous rampage willy-nilly. They’ll only be slaughtering six people, because that’s how many people dissed ’em a hundred years ago tonight. Aw. It’s nice when ghosts can count. It should encourage any young folks watching the film to stick with their math…

Seriously, though, I had a horrible dream recently about a plague ship or a leper ship that desperately tried to reach land, reach some country where there would be people who could help the sick, suffering and dying people on board. But when they did eventually reach what they called ‘civilisation,’ the so-called ‘civilised’ people were so appalled at the thought of being in close proximity to lepers or plague victims that they chose to burn the ship’s still-living inhabitants to death and then scuttle the ship rather than risk their own skins. I woke up frozen in fear.

What does this all have to do with Antonio Bay? Well, I won’t give the whole plot away, but what happened to poor Blake and his men is just horrible. I don’t blame them for wanting revenge, although it’s awfully hard on people like poor Mrs. Kobritz and little Andy Wayne, the three mariners aboard the Sea Grass and the poor old weatherman who are, one would imagine, completely innocent of any wrongdoing themselves.

From the moment the town starts going all MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE at the start of the movie because of the proximity of the mariners, you know you’re going to be watching something special. The atmosphere is positively electric with a terrifying anticipation right from the get-go.

We know that something evil and dangerous is coming and the tension never lets up the whole way through. I think it’s honestly the most fun I’ve ever had being scared in my whole life. I was breathless with excitement while watching it and, even though I was spooked out of my mind, I wouldn’t have turned my face away for anything in the world. Mind you, when I watched it first at about age sixteen, it scared me so much I actually wet my bed that night…!

The cuddly Hal Holbrook, with a fine head of hair on him and a luxuriant moustache to match, does a top job of playing Father Malone. As a direct descendant of one of The Guilty Six, he seems to be the townsperson with the most to fear from the deadly fog. An alcoholic he may be, but he’s grimly determined to make reparations to Blake and his crew if he can at all.

It’s so nice to see Janet Leigh and her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, acting in the same film, even though they don’t have much to do with each other in it. Certainly Ms. Leigh doesn’t put her naughty hitch-hiker of a daughter over her knee and paddle her behind raw for sleeping with a strange guy who gives her a lift in his truck, and the horny pair don’t even ask each others’ names till after all the sex…!

Tsk, tsk. Jamie Lee, you brazen hussy…! A good spanking is most definitely in order, I fear. The strange guy in question, Nick Castle, is played by actor Tom Atkins, and he gets his kit off in HALLOWEEN 3 as well, the big horny stud.
 
The heroine of the film is, of course, the tousle-haired, husky-voiced Adrienne Barbeau, who plays the sultry but feisty disc jockey Stevie Wayne. Up in her lonely lighthouse studio she warns the townspeople about the approach of the fog and keeps ’em up to date as to its whereabouts.

Even though she knows that her own little boy Andy and his babysitter, the elderly Mrs. Kobritz, are directly in the line of fire of the fog, she won’t leave her post in the lighthouse because of the urgent need to warn everyone in town about the killer fog.

It’s kind of hard not to giggle when she’s telling everyone that the fog is heading up this street and down that avenue and up this hill and over that bridge, etc. One can almost imagine the fog stopping at various pedestrian lights and waiting impatiently for the lights to change before continuing on its rampage, like something out of THE SIMPSONS. Anyway, this lady Stevie Wayne has guts and balls to spare, and the town of Antonio Bay has a lot to thank her for. ‘Look for the fog…’

The loud banging on the various doors is terrifying. So too is the scene on the SEA GRASS when the lads look up and see the sails of a boat from a century ago literally towering over them. A ghost story that has its roots in the sea is scarier, in a way, than some land-based ones.

This film has so much atmosphere and authenticity, it puts some of the more modern stuff to shame. And it’s so simple too, in the sense that it’s not complicated by needless side-plots or trickery or other such nonsense. It relies on the story itself and the superb musical score to keep the audience hooked.

The music, written by the legendary horror director himself, is fantastic. When the fog is heading for the showdown in the old church, the pounding soundtrack ratchets up the fear factor something fierce. And at other times, the music is beautifully eerie and reminds us that John Carpenter also wrote the theme music for his other famous horror film, HALLOWEEN.

Of all the horror films I’ve ever seen in my life, I think THE FOG has to be the one that uses music the most effectively to create a feeling of ever-mounting terror and dread. The whole movie gets a ten out of ten in every possible way.

I think it might even be John Carpenter’s best film, but no doubt fans of his other movies like THE THING and the afore-mentioned HALLOWEEN might fight me on that one. One thing I’m sure we’re all agreed on. John Carpenter is the king of horror directing. All hail the King…!     

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

THE VIGIL. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

THE VIGIL. (2019) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY KEITH THOMAS.
STARRING DAVE DAVIS, MENASHE LUSTIG, LYNN COHEN, RONALD COHEN, FRED MELAMED AND MALKY GOLDMAN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I really liked this American supernatural horror film, although it’s not without its flaws. It takes place over the course of one dark night in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Borough Park neighbourhood.

The hero is Yakov, a former Hasidic Jew who seems to be attempting to shake off his Jewishness because of a traumatic incident in his past, of which we catch glimpses.

He even takes anti-psychotic pills and attends some sort of group therapy, possibly for people with PTSD who are learning to live again after whatever it was that traumatised them.

He’s just getting used to his new smartphone and he’s only now learning how to talk to women, so being immersed in his Orthodox Jewish community seems to have kept him fairly protected from the materialistic and romantic effects of society at large.

He seems to be learning for the first time how to live in the world without the nice insulating cushion of his Jewish community, and learning to live without your ‘cushions’ can be tough, as those of us who’ve ever tried it will know.

He’s desperately short of money at the moment, which is why he agrees when his former friend and mentor from the Jewish community, Reb Shulem, asks him to be the ‘Shomer’ for someone who’s just died.

A ‘Shomer’ is someone who will sit and hold a ‘vigil’ over the dead person overnight, before the lads from the undertaker’s come round and cart the body away. People can be paid to do this job in the absence of available friends or family.

Yakov really needs the money, so he goes with Shulem to the home of the Litvaks. Rubin Litvak is the deceased, and his widow, Mrs. Litvak, has dementia, which, I presume, is why she can’t do the ‘Shomer’ job.

Shulem leaves Yakov alone in the gloomy, ill-lit house in the quiet neighbourhood, telling him he’ll be back in the morning with the undertakers. That’s when the fun really starts…

Rubin Litvak was haunted by a demon when he died, a demon known as ‘the Mazzik.’ It latched onto him when he was a concentration camp prisoner faced with a hellish choice in Buchenwald in World War Two. Well, those places were probably awash with demons and evil spirits, given what we know of what went on in them.

Now that Old Man Litvak is deceased, the Mazzik needs a new host body in order to survive. Old Lady Litvak is pretty much a walking corpse, therefore the demon is not interested in her. The Mazzik feeds on pain and suffering. He has Yakov, and his tortured past and crippling, almost debilitating, guilt over past events, firmly in his sights…

The haunting is quite effective, but the physical demon itself, with root vegetables for hands, could be better. His little tricks, especially the fact that his head faces backwards into the past, are quite cool, but his overall appearance was a bit all over the place.

I like that Yakov fought the demon off with his faith, the faith he’d been trying to renounce, so maybe he can get back into the community he’d previously shunned after the action ends.

After all, it wasn’t his faith or his religion that was the problem in the first place, but the racist attitudes of the jerks who messed with him and his little brother. Yakov desperately needs his belief in his religion. If grappling overnight with this demon gives it back to him, then it’s all to the good, right?

Let’s hope that the Night of the Demon (great film, that!) brings Yakov a peace of sorts, and that the shadowy figure that pursues him down the street the morning after ‘the vigil’ isn’t what we fear it might be. If anyone deserves a break, I reckon it’s this guy.

I did enjoy the film, despite the hodge-podge, higgledy-piggledy physical appearance of the demon, and it was great to see the Jewish faith and culture featuring in a horror film for once. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. I say give us loads more of that, because it’s super-interesting, and practice will eventually make perfect.

   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

VERONICA. (2017) A NETFLIX HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

VERONICA. (2017) A SPANISH HORROR FILM FOR NETFLIX DIRECTED BY PACO PLAZA AND STARRING SANDRA ESCACENA. LOOSELY BASED ON REAL EVENTS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I wasn’t expecting this Netflix horror film to be as good as it is. Loosely based on a real-life Ouija board case from Spain in 1991 in which a girl died mysteriously after using one of those devil-boards, it’s the story of a very ordinary schoolgirl, the titular Veronica.

She experiences hauntings and a bit of the old demonic possession as well after using the Ouija board which comes free with the occult magazine she regularly buys. A free Ouija board? I remember the days when a cheap sparkly nail varnish sellotaped to the front of your magazine was the most you could expect, lol.  

Anyway, poor Veronica seems to be having quite a hard time of it generally, even without the haunting to contend with. Her dad is dead, and her mum works all the hours God sends in the family restaurant/bar to keep a roof over her kids’ heads and food in their mouths.

Mum unfortunately has to put a ridiculous amount of pressure on Veronica, as the oldest child, to care for her two younger sisters, Irene and Lucia, and her adorable little brother with the curly hair and glasses, Antonito. The kids are all likeable and terrific little actors too, but, as their screen sister Veronica knows, they take an awful lot of looking after.

Veronica has to get them up in the morning and see that they’re washed, fed, dressed and ready for school. She does a full day of school herself then, before collecting the young ‘uns, dropping by the restaurant to pick up the food which Mum has prepared for their dinners and bringing everyone home again to feed ‘em, wash ‘em, get ‘em to bed and then do her own homework.

It really is an incredible amount of pressure to put on a teenage girl but, as I said, Mum doesn’t really have any choice. It’s either work or starve and be homeless. Veronica is fifteen and still hasn’t had her first menstrual period. Maybe its onset is delayed by the tremendous pressure the girl is under, who knows?

She’s definitely ripe for a haunting-slash-possession, though, as teenage girls often seem to be, because of riotous hormonal activity and, in this case, because of the death of a father whom she clearly misses. Plus, of course, her dad’s demise left her in the unenviable position of being a second parent to her younger siblings.

She’s been denied the carefree adolescence some girls experience, and she often has to miss out on seeing her friends to babysit her siblings. Also, the film-makers have thrown in a solar eclipse for good measure. Could the stars have been aligned in exactly the right way for a haunting to occur…?

The haunting is pretty damn effective. Veronica starts seeing things, awful things, around the family apartment, and having frightful nightmares, shortly after using the Ouija board in her Catholic school junk room with two of her friends. Her own odd behaviour during the séance causes her friends to be wary of her afterwards. The session scares all three girls witless, anyway.

‘Sr. Death,’ the blind, chain-smoking retired nun who lives at the school, is able to sense that ‘someone’ now walks beside Veronica who was accidentally summoned up by the amateur séance, someone from whom her three siblings must now be protected. Veronica has opened a door, the ancient nun says, that should never have been opened. If Veronica didn’t have the willies up her before, she certainly does now.

I was scared stiff myself watching the hauntings. Poor Veronica. Her friends have ditched her, her mum thinks she’s acting out just to make things difficult for everyone and their downstairs neighbour wants to know what all the racket from upstairs is about when Veronica doesn’t have a clue herself. She’s left to face the horrors alone and the outcome is going to be bloody…

I love ‘paranormal activity’ films and this is a good ‘un. The moral of the story is, of course, that you should never interfere with things you don’t fully understand, and the occult is probably at the top of that list.

I wouldn’t personally use a Ouija board if you paid me to, that’s how spooked I would be at the whole idea of waking sleeping dogs with a sledgehammer, which is the effect the Ouija board seems to have on the spirit world.

The film’s ending is shocking and could maybe have been prevented if only poor Veronica hadn’t been left shouldering so much responsibility by herself, but, as we’ve agreed, Mum has to work and that’s that. There is no-one else, as there’s no-one else for so many real-life single parent families. Maybe that’s the real horror in this story.

Other reviewers have pointed out the very obvious undercurrents of sexual abuse underpinning Veronica’s story and, if they’re right, it makes for a sad tale indeed. Either way, whatever you decide is the reason for all these gruesome happenings, it makes for a really gripping watch.

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:

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘DELIVER US FROM EVIL.’ (1969) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL. (1969)

PUBLISHED IN 2020 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘… but I guess you knew I’d come back once we were both older.’

‘I’ve run things far too long to see them jeopardised by anyone- including you! The past’s the past, Nikki! What happened is over; gone! This whole neurosis about your childhood- it’s all in your head! That’s all!’

‘Blackmail? How can you accuse me of that when you know why I’m really here… that I’ve finally come back for you after all these years!’

Downstairs …

The darkness of the hall …

The empty rooms …

The stairs …

Upstairs …

The closed bedroom doors …

Silence.

I’ve been reading and reviewing Michael Armstrong’s gorgeous glossy-covered film script books for about three years now, and, next to HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, I actually think DELIVER US FROM EVIL might just be my favourite, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute.

But for those who might not yet know (what’s the weather like up there on Pluto, by the way? Not too inclement for the time of year, I hope!), HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, the screen-writer’s addition to the canon of ‘Old Dark House’ movies, is one of Michael’s most well-known films.

Not just because it’s brilliantly written and full of terrific comic turns and horror movie references that’ll make you feel very pleased with yourself for spotting them, but because it’s the only film ever made that features horror icons Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all under the one roof, so to speak.

Incidentally, former BROOKSIDE actress Julie Peasgood, who has penned the foreword to DELIVER US FROM EVIL (all the forewords are written by movie industry insiders, including ME; I did the one for SCREAMTIME!), was the sexy blonde love interest in HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS.

Her co-star was Desi Arnaz Jr.. He played an American writer who agreed to hole up in the titular ‘House’ for a weekend, in order to speed-write a novel and thereby win a bet with his literary agent. But he didn’t, of course, reckon on the fact that four of the greatest horror actors on the planet were going to drop by and grievously interrupt him…!

Anyway, now we move onto DELIVER US FROM EVIL. Like Julie Peasgood, I devoured it in one sitting, because it’s just so easy to read (all the books are supremely reader-friendly) and a fantastically gripping storyline. It’s the story of the beautiful young Nikki Wynter, a woman who’s had rather more of a traumatic childhood than most of us can lay claim to …

Nikki: ‘If- if Mommy ever got better … if they ever let her out of that place …?’

And, later … Doctor: ‘You’re still worried it’s hereditary, aren’t you?’

Heh-heh-heh. The plot reminds me a little bit of John Carpenter’s fantastic serial killer horror film from 1978, HALLOWEEN. In this movie, a man who murdered his teenage sister when he was a little boy escapes from the mental institution in which he’s been incarcerated for years and returns to his hometown, where he immediately starts stalking a teenage babysitter and her unfortunate group of friends.

(Did I ever tell you that I met John Carpenter back in October 2016 when he played the music from his films live at Vicar Street in Dublin? Well, I say I met him, and I WAS there, but it’s probably closer to the truth to say that I glimpsed a teensy bit of his black jumper from my seat near the back while hundreds of big hairy male John Carpenter fans, every one of them wearing black movie T-shirts and holding up phones, blocked all but a tiny percentage of my view. Bastards, lol.)

Anyway, Michael’s story, which, incidentally, was penned nearly a whole decade before the release of HALLOWEEN, sees the return into Nikki’s life, not of an escaped mental patient, but of someone whom you’d imagine would have an even tougher time materialising back in someone’s life than an escaped lunatic.

All the lunatic has to do, if horror movies have taught us anything, is to slip his and his fellow inmates’ sleeping pills into the cup of tea or coffee of the orderly in charge of the ward. Wait a few minutes, then bada-bing bada-boom, Bob’s your uncle and a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse and so on.

But to come back from where Nikki’s unwelcome visitor has been, well, I can’t even imagine what you’d have to do. At the very least, the paperwork you’d have to fill out …!

After her horrific start in life, Nikki is now a rich privileged heiress to the fortune of her deceased adoptive parents, the Wynters. The action moves from a New York tenement in the ‘Fifties to Nikki’s swish villa in Nice in 1967.

Nikki’s adoptive parents are now dead and gone, and she has no-one to look out for her but her devoted boyfriend Ben Anderson and the family solicitor, Howard Doyle.

One fateful night, as they say, she goes for a solitary walk on her very own private beach, the lucky cow!

The twilight before dark …

A half-real, half-unreal world …

In which Nikki stands, deep in her own thoughts.

She moves further along the beach …

Enjoying the seemingly timeless solitude and the stillness …

Only the sound of the waves soothingly caressing the beach.

She glances back-

To see a figure approaching her some distance away;

Indistinct in the fading light.

Nikki turns

And tries to make out who it is in the onrushing darkness-

The figure draws nearer to her

Across the darkening and deserted beach.

Nikki struggles to make out his features-

This is the beginning of Nikki’s nightmare. And I don’t mean the nightmare of having some peasant trespassing on your personal beach, possibly just yards from where your own private yacht is moored. God knows, I’ve had terrible trouble with that type of thing myself. And don’t even talk to me about servants …! Can’t anyone starch a collar properly nowadays?

I mean the nightmare of knowing that someone who couldn’t possibly be there is nonetheless standing right in front of you on a darkened beach at night. And they don’t have any intention of going away now they’re back. And that’s all I’m going to say, even though my fingers are itching to type more. And more and more and more, lol.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL is a cracker of a story that would have played so well on the big screen had it been filmed. It would make a fantastic Christmas present for the film fan in your life, as indeed would any of Michael’s collection of gorgeous film-script books. DELIVER US FROM EVIL and all of Michael’s books are available to buy from the following links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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

HIS HOUSE. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

HIS HOUSE. (2020) DIRECTED BY REMI WEEKES. BASED ON A STORY BY FELICITY EVANS AND TONY VENABLES. STARRING SOPE DIRISU, WUNMI MOSAKU AND MATT SMITH. ©

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘He’s big, he’s red, his feet stick out the bed: Peter Crouch…!’

This moving and deeply disturbing horror film is as much a searing indictment of the refugee system in Britain as a study in psychological and actual terror. It’s the story of a young-ish married couple from South Sudan, a country beset by civil war since 2013.

Their names are Bol and Rial, and a frightening flashback shows us that they came to Britain by boat, a boat that got into difficulties en route, causing some of the passengers to drown. When we meet them again, they’re being held in a British detention centre for refugees.

The staff there treat them like criminals. They barely tolerate them and are rude, offhand and dismissive towards them. What happens at the meeting to inform the pair that they are going to be ‘freed,’ as if they’re prisoners who’ve committed actual crimes, is uncomfortable to watch and a disgrace on the part of the British case-workers. And just look at the physical distance between the refugees and the case-workers! It kind of says it all, that yawning chasm of floor.

They’re getting seventy-four quid a week (each, or jointly?), they can’t supplement this in any way, whether by working or whatever, they can’t move somewhere else, they have to live only in the house they’re assigned to and they have to report regularly to the people in charge of them, as if they’re prisoners out on bail or on parole or something.

No reassurances, no words of comfort, not so much as a smile or one friendly word. Just, you’re free to go but, if you fuck it up, back you both go to the Sudan, and we don’t give a fiddler’s feck how bad it is over there. For shame, you heartless bureaucrats. For shame.

It’s a wonder they don’t actually say to the poor couple, you can have sex, but you’d better not get knocked up or we’ll send you back to the Sudan. We can’t afford to be funding your lifestyle or your offspring, so keep it in your pants, okay? So very patronising, rude and intrusive.

Next thing you know, Bol and Rial are packed onto a bus in the lashing rain and driven to a dump of a house in a kip of an estate on the outskirts of London. They haven’t even been told where they’re going. Matt DR. WHO Smith plays their social worker or case-worker, Mark. He meets them at the house with the keys.

Mark really hates his job and has no love for his clients. Here you go, he says, don’t light any candles, don’t smoke, don’t make a mess, this is your home now. The couple aren’t hugely impressed by the house. It’s filthy and rundown and surely to God someone could have been hired to give it a bit of a clean up for the new occupants.

The neighbours, even the black ones, are racist and hostile towards the couple. Go back to Africa, yell the local black boys, much to the couple’s bemusement. Why should people be so horrible and cruel? Don’t people know what they’ve been through?

Bol adapts and adjusts to English life much better and faster than poor Rial. It’s because he likes it there, and wants to be one of them, one of the English locals.

He gets a haircut (they still don’t know where they’ve been put living, so Bol has to ask the barber!), he sings footy songs down the local pub with the local men and he’s given a care package by the local church. He buys new cheap clothes and cutlery for their food.

But poor Rial! She can’t, or won’t, adapt in the same way as her hubby. She still wants to sit on the floor for meals and eat with her fingers. She still wants to wear the colourful clothes of her homeland and adhere to its traditions, customs and mannerisms.

Added to this obvious conflict within the marriage, it’s starting to become clear that there’s something very wrong with this house they’ve been assigned. (‘It’s bigger than my house,’ says one of the social workers grudgingly when Bol makes a complaint.)

Strange noises, apparitions and voices come from behind the walls, lights turn themselves on and off, shadowy figures appear and murmur to the occupants and that’s not all…

The viewer quickly works out that it may not be the house itself that’s at fault, but rather that Bol and Rial have brought something back with them from Africa, a demon that feeds on guilt and demands vengeance for a crime committed, a life stolen.

Just what is it exactly that Bol and Rial are running away from, and what have they done that they are being plagued by demons in their new home night and day…?

It’s one of those horror films where you end up asking yourself, which is the real evil here, the supernatural demons we can see on the screen or the way we treat our refugees?

It works really well as either a horror film or a social commentary, or the two rolled into one if you prefer. Don’t worry, though, if you don’t like having your conscience pricked during a horror film, there are plenty of ghosties and ghoulies in the frame to thoroughly distract you.

The man who plays the lead demon or ghost in this excellent movie suffers in real life from a very interesting but unnerving condition called Marfan Syndrome. It’s made me wonder if other actors in horror films like IT FOLLOWS or the BLAIR WITCH sequel might have had it too. No, I’m not saying any more, you lazy lot, you can google it yourselves…!

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.

BLESS THE CHILD. (2000) FILM REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BLESS THE CHILD. 2000. BASED ON THE 1993 BOOK BY CATHY CASH SPELLMAN. DIRECTED BY CHUCK RUSSELL.

STARRING KIM BASINGER, RUFUS SEWELL, JIMMY SMITS, IAN HOLM, ANGELA BETTIS AND CHRISTINA RICCI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a pretty poor film. I was personally disappointed when I realised that it wasn’t a film about an evil child, like in THE OMEN or THE EXORCIST, but a good child. A super-good child, in fact. A child so good that for centuries the forces of evil have been waiting to get their grubby mitts on her. I would have much preferred an evil child but, even aside from that, it was still a poor film.

Kim Basinger, whom I’ve always felt was just a trifle bland, or blank even, as an actress, plays Maggie O’Connor, a psychiatric nurse at a busy New York hospital. One day out of the blue, Maggie’s younger, not-so-together sister Jenna, whom she hasn’t seen for years, turns up on her doorstep clutching her newborn baby, the niece that Maggie never even knew she had. Jenna disappears again the same day, leaving a shocked Maggie literally holding the baby…

The child, a little girl called Cody, grows up autistic. Her Aunt Maggie dotes on her and gives her the best of everything. She’s not happy, therefore, when six or so years later Jenna turns up unannounced once more.

This time, she has a new husband in tow, the revoltingly smarmy Eric Stark. Eric belongs to a cult called New Dawn. He knows that Cody is a very special child. She has powers that Eric and his chums want to exploit, but not for good. For evil…

The second half of the film basically sees Kim Basinger running around like a headless chicken, trying to get Cody back from the mad culties who’ve kidnapped her so they can use her in their quest for world domination. She enlists the aid of Jimmy Smits’s FBI specialist in occult-related crimes to back her up when the final, inevitable showdown between good and evil occurs.

I don’t like to get personal, but I kind of feel the same way about Jimmy Smits as I do about Kim Basinger. Bland, bland, bland. Is there anything going on behind the bland good looks…? Who knows…?

The ending is disappointing, as are the practically non-existent special effects. A clash between Satan’s minions and God’s army has the potential to be utterly spectacular. Sadly, this is not the case with BLESS THE CHILD. There are contributions by Bilbo Baggins and Wednesday Addams, aka Ian Holm and Christina Ricci, but they’re only worth mentioning in passing.

I really hate being this negative about a horror film but I just felt so let-down by this one. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t watch it, though. You never know, you might see something in it that I don’t. Unlikely, haha, but it’s a free country after all and y’all can do what y’all wants to do…!

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.

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

r-point bed

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

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

KWAIDAN. (1965) A STUNNING JAPANESE ANTHOLOGY HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

kwaidan

KWAIDAN. (1965) BASED ON THE STORIES OF PATRICK LAFCADIO HEARN. DIRECTED BY MASAKI KOBAYASHI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a magnificently-coloured supernatural fantasy anthology film, beautifully photographed entirely on handpainted sets. Based on the ghost stories/Japanese folk tales of Lafcadio Hearn, an Irish-Greek American writer who adored Japan and who settled there permanently in 1889, the four stories feature ghosts who were once human beings, wraiths, phantasms, demons (who were never human to begin with) and the terrified Earth-folks on which they preyed.

THE BLACK HAIR tells the story of a bloke who’s married to the most beautiful, loving, faithful hard-working woman he could ever hope to meet, and yet, because they’re poor and the whole village in which they live is poor, he allows his greed and ambition to get the better of him. He leaves his wife in search of richer pickings.

He gets his wish, anyway. He finds a rich wife and a fancier lifestyle in another town, but his new young wife is spoilt and selfish, and the man finds himself yearning for the loving good nature and undying devotion of his first wife. He decides to go back to her. He makes the long trek back to his village, only to find things not quite as he left them. ‘Undying’ is right…

THE WOMAN OF THE SNOW sees a young man witnessing the strange murder of a friend one freezing cold, snowy night in winter. The murderer lets him go free, probably because he’s young and handsome, on the strict proviso that he never, ever breathes a word of what he’s seen to another living soul. Fair enough. The guy goes forth to live his life.

Ten years later, he has a good living making shoes, he has three happy children and a beautiful, loving wife who never seems to age, no matter how many children they have or how hard they have to work. One night while she’s trying on some rather snazzy sandals he’s made for her, he catches a sudden, shocking glimpse of someone he thought never to see again…

HOICHI THE EARLESS is the longest and probably the saddest and most gorgeously-photographed of all the vignettes. It begins with a terrific battle between two clans of ancient Japan, the Heike and the Genji. The Heike lose the battle, and huge numbers of the clan are drowned or commit suicide in the sea that runs red with their blood.

The sea where the tragic battle was fought and so many Heike perished has been haunted ever since. Ships that sailed that sea afterwards and swimmers who sought recreation in it were pulled to their deaths by the vengeful spirits, who clearly want everyone they come across to be as miserable and restless as they are themselves.

To appease the spirits, a Buddhist temple was established near the beach, and a cemetery also, containing monuments inscribed with the names of the drowned infant emperor and his many dead vassals.

Time passes, and a gentle, blind young man called Hoichi comes to live at the Buddhist temple, under the care of the monks. He is extremely skilled at playing a stringed instrument called the biwa, and he is particularly masterful at reciting stories and poems about the great battle between the Heike and the Genji.

So much so that, one misty night, the ghost of a long-dead Samurai comes to visit Hoichi at the temple and tells him that his masters require the presence of the blind biwa-player at their palace.

They are keen to hear his wonderful recitations of the epic battle story and all the songs and poems that go with it. Hoichi, as always anxious to please, agrees immediately and goes with the Samurai willingly…

IN A CUP OF TEA is a rather strange story about a man who finds that it is not always prudent to try to fight a man whose image you first encounter… you guessed it… in a cup of tea!

This last one feels somewhat unfinished, and is probably the weakest link in an anthology that still remains one of the most breath-takingly beautiful things to come out of Japan. And that’s saying something, considering how many weird and wonderful things have come out of Japan since the dawn of time.

I hope you get to watch this film, which, by the way, clocks in at a whopping three hours and three minutes long, and which contains one brief flash of bare boobs. In fact, now that we’re in lockdown and have, supposedly, all the time in the world in which to amuse ourselves, this might be the ideal time to do it. Enjoy it, and stay safe, y’all!

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