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:

ARCHIVE 81. (2022) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ARCHIVE 81. (2022) A NETFLIX HORROR SERIES BASED ON THE PODCAST, ARCHIVE 81, BY DANIEL POWELL AND MARK SOLLINGER.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY REBECCA SONNESHINE, PAUL HARRIS BOARDMAN AND JAMES WAN OF SAW, INSIDIOUS AND THE CONJURING FAME.

STARRING MAMOUDOU ATHIE, DINA SHIHABI, EVAN JONIGKEIT, JULIA CHAN, MATT MCGORRY AND MARTIN DONOVAN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Stay away from the sixth floor.’

Wow. I loved this series, binge-watching the eight delicious episodes over two nights this week and being left reeling- in a good way!- by the number of horror films, authors and tropes it manages to lovingly reference.

It’s the story of a young American man living in the present day called Dan Turner. Dan has terrible sadness and trauma in his past, and he is given a job one day out of the blue that might actually help him to unlock the trauma and even put part of it right, after many years. But not without great personal risk to himself and his mental health, I hasten to add, so it’s not all moonlight and roses.

The job is offered to him by one Virgil Davenport, the rich, reclusive billionaire owner of a company called LGM, of which there is very little known in the public domain. The job is to go and stay in LGM’s isolated compound in the Catskills, completely on his own, for as long as it takes him to restore the videotapes of a young woman’s PhD dissertation…

Dan is a qualified restorer of nearly-destroyed videotapes, you see, and as we watch the series, we will see why he has such a personal connection to these videotapes and why the enigmatic and omniscient Virgil has hand-picked Dan, a bit of a loose cannon because of his past traumas, for this particular job.

We also meet Melody Pendras, the beautiful, dark-haired young college student who, in 1994, takes an apartment in the Visser Building, one of those fabulous old steeped-in-history New York apartment buildings that people are always getting murdered in in films.

She does this specifically because she is doing her college dissertation on the Visser Building, its history and its inhabitants, and she is never seen without her camcorder in her hand, the main tool of her trade.

She’s not just doing her dissertation purely because of the many attractions of the old Visser Building. She has a personal reason both tragic and seemingly impossible to achieve, and Melody is not the kind of person to give up.

She quickly finds out, though, that the Visser Building can be a very scary place to live, and that the exotic, eccentric inhabitants are doing something very sinister and highly suspect in the building’s Community Room every night after midnight. It’s something that harks back to the 1920s and a snuff film starring the beautiful but flawed and ultimately doomed Iris Vos, a member of ‘Twenties society with a very dark secret…

Melody finds out also that her own life could be in jeopardy here in the Visser Building, a full seventy years after the awful events occurred that first put the Visser Building on the map. Dan, watching the tapes in the dreadful isolation of the compound, senses too that Melody is in danger, not least from the eerie face that keeps appearing randomly on the videotapes.

Who or what is on the tapes? Is it after Dan too, whatever it is, and can Dan, who’s obviously smitten with the gorgeous feisty Melody, travel back in time to save Melody from the horrible fate that awaits her in the shadows…? And, even if he saves Melody, will he be able to save himself from a ghastly half-life lived in the place known as… The Other World…? You’ll have to watch the show till the end to find out, folks…

I love the séance in the Visser with all the crazy Visser tenants, like the horrible art collector Cassandra, the tormented psychic Beatriz and the bitchy opera composer Tamara. Not to mention the creepy college professor Samuel Spare, who would pass for a modern-day hipster, but who is clearly the ringleader of whatever it is that goes on in the Community Room after dark…

I love the character of Mark Higgins, Dan’s best- and only- friend, who is pretty much the template for every horror-and-science-fiction-crazed megasuperfan ever. He lives for horror and weird stuff and his horror podcast, and the friendship between him and Dan is so real and warm and genuine that he is actually willing to risk life and limb for his tragic friend. I also love Ratty, whom I kind of wish had had an even bigger part, as the friendship between him and Dan was also a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

I’ll leave you with a list of the horror films, things and characters either directly referenced in the series or indirectly hinted at, or even things that just came into my own mind as I watched it:

Stephen King’s THE SHINING; Jack Torrance; the Overlook Hotel; the maze on the grounds.

Stephen King’s DOLORES CLAIBORNE; the Eclipse that brought the whole town out in force to look at it and celebrate it.

Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY.

H.P. Lovecraft.

Christopher Lee.

Hammer’s TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER; THE DEVIL RIDES OUT.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.

DON’T LOOK NOW; a deliberate reference!

Nigel Kneale’s THE STONE TAPES.

NIGHT OF THE DEMON, one of Britain’s best-loved horror films.

THE WICKER MAN, and anything else featuring a human sacrifice.

BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW.

THE EXORCIST.

Andrei Tarkovsky and his cult movie, SOLARIS.

WHAT LIES BENEATH; the movie, and the title of Episode 8 of the series.

Lin Shaye, beloved horror actress, going into ‘the Further’ in the INSIDIOUS movies. James Wan is one of the executive producers of ARCHIVE 81, after all.

PANIC ROOM and ‘90s sitcom FRIENDS, purely for those magnificent old brownstone apartment buildings!

That’s all I can think of for now, but there might be more, and you might even spot a few new ones yourself. I just love that this show was created by people with an absolute adoration, respect and obsession for horror; it comes across as a real labour of love when you watch it.

Just three further comments; One, I wish THE CIRCLE was a real show, it really speaks to me! Two, my daughter, who was born in the ‘Nineties, and who watched the show with me, was hopping mad that the film-makers of today are now referring to the ‘Nineties as the distant past. It makes her feel old, lol.

And three, the show features some highly intelligent and talented ‘mold,’ as the Americans call it, which is capable of forming itself into other-worldly swirls and patterns all by itself. I just want to say that I have exactly similar patches of talented and creative mould behind my toilet, at the back of all the wardrobes and creeping round my bedroom ceiling.

If it ever morphs into the portal to another dimension, you guys will be the first to know. If, as is more likely, it just causes me to hallucinate and go permanently off my noodle, well, then, I guess you guys will be hearing about that too.

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:

STEPHEN KING’S ‘PET SEMATARY.’ (1989) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

stephen-king-in-a-cameo-in-the-movie-version-of-pet-cemetery

PET SEMATARY. (1989) BASED ON THE BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. SCREENPLAY BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY MARY LAMBERT. STARRING DALE MIDKIFF, DENISE CROSBY, MIKO HUGHES, BLAZE BERDAHL AND FRED GWYNNE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Sometimes dead is better…

With a re-make of this film in cinemas fairly soon, I thought it might be a good time to re-visit it. It’s based on one of horror maestro Stephen King’s best books, and I hope I’m not alone in thinking this. It’d be right up there with THE SHINING, a tale of madness and ghostly visitations set in an isolated hotel that’s closed to the public in the winter, and SALEM’S LOT, possibly the best vampire novel of modern times. (Yes, yes, I’m aware of the works of Pablo Neruda, by which I mean Anne Rice…!)

CARRIE, the maestro’s first book, was also a terrific read and made a great film, starring Sissy Spacek as the telekinetic high school outsider who wreaks a terrible revenge on the teenagers who’ve made her life a misery, and who could blame her? They were proper little bitches to her, lol. They had it coming.

There are loads of other brilliant Stephen King books, short stories and novellas that were made into films too, like MISERY, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, THE LANGOLIERS, BAG OF BONES (a personal favourite starring the swoonsome pairing of Pierce 007 Brosnan and Melissa George from Antipodean soap opera HOME AND AWAY), THE DARK HALF, THINNER, CUJO, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, IT, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, STAND BY ME, SECRET WINDOW, SECRET GARDEN, THE STAND (which I adored), THE MIST (with the saddest ending of any horror film ever, bar none) and probably a few more which I’ve forgotten. You can remind me if you like!

He’s had a career to be super-proud of, anyway, the King, probably the most commercially successful career of any writer who ever lived, God bless him. If anything ever happens to him, and we hope nothing will (I’m personally hoping he might be immortal!), he’ll be leaving behind millions of devastated fans, that’s for sure. Yes, we have plenty of talented horror scribes writing away today, and that’s great, but there can never be another Stephen King.

Anyway, PET SEMATARY is the story of a small family from Chicago who move to a lovely big house in a small American town in Maine. The Dad, Louis Creed, is going to work as the town’s doctor. His wife Rachel is strangely uptight, but then she had a really rough childhood.

She still keeps in touch with her parents, whom she seems to love, but her childhood experiences with her sick sister Zelda were truly the stuff of nightmares. It’s jolly decent of her to still maintain a relationship with her parents after the way they left her alone, at her age, with the dying girl. It was irresponsible of them at best, and cruel beyond belief at worst.

Louis and Rachel have two children, Ellie and Gage. Ellie is a little girl who’s got a bit of a ‘shining’ thing going on, or even a ‘shinning,’ if you’re a fan of THE SIMPSONS. She has disturbing, distressing dreams that accurately predict the future, although her parents don’t take her seriously at first. There’s also the aforementioned Gage, their adorable little baby son, and a cat rather coolly called Winston Churchill. That’s the Creed family, anyway.

Now, they don’t seem to realise that they’ve purchased a property that has no fencing around it and that gives on to the most dangerous road in the whole of the Western hemisphere. Trucks and lorries tear up and down this road day and night, and nearly the whole of the town’s population of cats and dogs has ended up as roadkill beneath the wheels of these diesel-guzzling monsters.

The Creeds’ new neighbour, the lovely old widower Judd Crandall, leads them down a worn woodland path on their property to a clearing known as the ‘Pet Sematary.’ It’s a place of burial for all the beloved pets of the town’s children.

I presume they were all killed prematurely trying to cross that damned road, lol. Anyway, it’s at least handy to know that there’s a place to bury old Church the kitty if he ever decides to get to the root of the old joke, why did the chicken cross the road…? It’s meant to be a place of peace and rest but it’s a wee bit creepy too.

Things get much creepier when Church in fact does get run over while Rachel, Ellie and Gage are away at Rachel’s parents for Thanksgiving, leaving Louis in charge of the house. Well, that’s what you get for leaving a man to hold the fort. Remember that auld fella from FATHER TED who tried to make a cup of tea and he ended up breaking his leg? That’s the kind of thing you’re up against.

Old Judd Crandall decides that this is the time to let a stunned Louis into a secret he’s known about for years, a secret about the strange little place in the woods the kids call the ‘Pet Sematary.’ It’s the original ‘Indian burial ground’ horror story. 

What happens after Louis becomes privy to the secret of Pet Sematary is so nightmarish, I won’t ruin it for you by dropping spoilers. Suffice it to say that Louis actually feels he’s in a nightmare from this point onwards, a nightmare from which he can’t wake up.

Stephen King makes his usual cameo appearance as the minister who presides over the funeral of the poor miserable Missy, and very handsome he looks too, with a full healthy head of thick black hair. What’s your favourite Stephen King cameo? The one in MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE where he says to his wife of the cash machine that’s behaving erratically: ‘Honey, the machine just called me an asshole…!’ Yeah, mine too!

The ghastly supernatural appearances of the decidedly dead Victor Pascow seem to make little sense at first but gradually his true purpose becomes all too clear. I love the bit where Louis wakes up in his bed after having a nightmare where he’s following a mutilated Victor through the woods and, when he wakes up, his legs and feet are covered in muck and debris. I love Victor’s dire warnings about how ‘the barrier’ shouldn’t be ‘crossed’ because ‘the ground is sour.’ It’s blood-chilling stuff.

The terrible story of poor old Timmy Baterman is a great addition to the movie also. The film as a whole, like the old cautionary story of ‘The Monkey’s Paw,’ proves without a doubt the truth of the adage: ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ And Judd Crandall (played by Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster from THE MUNSTERS) is right too, dead right, when he intones to Louis in sombre tones that ‘Sometimes dead is better.’

The thing is, will Louis take his wise old neighbour’s advice? Louis Creed is young and hot-headed and he still thinks he knows what’s best for his family. He doesn’t respect the old adages, which are there for a reason, to guard us against the urges of our less-than-better natures. He’ll have to learn the hard way so, and learn he must.

Oh and, by the way, before I watched this movie I didn’t realise that the word ‘Sematary’ was a deliberate childish mis-spelling on the part of Stephen King, I thought it was how the Yanks spelled the word. D’oh…!

Do try to watch or re-watch this old gem before you catch the re-make in the cinema next month, just to give you something to compare the newbie to. And always remember to be careful what you wish for, just like poor Louis Creed isn’t careful. And why be careful? Because you just might get it, that’s why…

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, womens’ 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:

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