Movies/Television

The Horror of Marianne.

Recently, I watched the Netflix horror series Marianne. It has proven to be a much talked-about series on the internet, as well as garnering good reviews.

Famous French horror writer, Emma Larsimon, has decided to put an end to her series with her character Marianne. However, she is soon forced to return to her hometown after an absence of fifteen years. Here, she is confronted with the knowledge that the nightmares from her stories are coming to life.

I like the fact that in this series, the main character of Emma, is a writer. Yes, it has been done in horror before, but part of this attraction comes from the character herself. When we first meet Emma, she comes across as an obnoxious, rude and at times, childish character. However, we do get to see another side to her, so that we start to feel for her.

Like Emma, the rest of the cast of characters is compelling and well-developed. Emma gets to meet her old school friends and we become engaged in their secrets and histories and we get to care about them. There are some dark and disturbing moments throughout this series, which can at times be hard to watch, and it’s because of these relationships between the characters that we remain invested.

Located on a coastal town, the scares are maintained throughout the entire series. There were moments when even I was gripped and wondered what to expect next, but such tension is released with humour. This series even met with Stephen King’s seal of approval (and yes, I’m one of those sickos 😉 )

The cinematography and imagery are wonderful to look at and there is also a great musical score. During one scene, the music reminded me of Halloween and in another scene, the imagery reminded me of It, so there is homage to the classics of the horror genre. And yet, it does have its own unique style. The narrator has a suitably eerie voice and I really like the use of flipped pages of a book to illustrate flashbacks, for example.

Of-course, there is one character above all that really stands out and that is Madame Daugeron, the mother of one of Emma’s schoolfriends. This woman is seriously creepy and is played so well by Mireille Herbstmyer; her facial expressions, combined with the dubbed voice and laugh create some scary scenes. Yes, this show is dubbed in English, although I have heard some people have managed to watch it in original French. I would have loved to have seen that version. Not only do I love the French language, but it would help to get another feel for the series.

The twist ending may come as a surprise however, the narrator does hint at what’s to come. Such an ending means that there is scope for a second season. Given the positive reception, one can hope that we shall see that soon.

Have you watched Marianne? Did you find it scary or did it not grab your attention? What have you been watching recently?

Movies/Television

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

Some months back, when hearing that The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance was coming out in August, I just couldn’t wait. After having seen The Dark Crystal when it first came out in the 1980s (yes, saying that makes me feel old), I fell in love with that movie. I loved the puppetry, the story, of-course the dark elements and yes, even the creepy Skeksis. So, when it came to this series, I had high expectations.

I have just finished watching it and I have been blown away. It is absolutely brilliant! It went beyond my expectations and I enjoyed it as much as the movie. There were actually moments when I had become so engrossed in the story, that I had forgotten I was watching puppets. Yes, I knew they were puppets, but sometimes, by the end of a particular scene, I had to stop myself and wonder how they did it. It was good to watch The Crystal Calls, a behind the scenes look at how it was created, once I had finished watching the show.

My favourite characters would have to be Hup and Deet. I love these two! It was sad to see the two of them separated, so I hope they get to see each other again. And, seriously, how can one resist Hup and his spoon? 😉

Humour is dispersed throughout the series, which helps to lighten the darker moments of the story. A scene involving the podlings (which are so cute, by the way), where they need to take a bath was a nice touch, as well as a way of learning more about them. The character Cadia, who has a habit of saying ‘Hello’, after an event early within the series, appears a couple of times, including just before an important battle scene, which also adds to the humour.

Another nice touch was the mythology, so that we learn more about the various Gelfling clans and the background to Aughra, the Skeksis and the crystal itself.

There’s a huge cast of actors who voice the characters, including Jason Isaccs (Star Trek: Discovery, Harry Potter), Helena Bonham-Carter (Harry Potter), Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones), but the big surprises for me came from Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead), who does the voice of everyone’s favourite Skeksis, SkekSil, The Chamberlain, who I think sounds so much like the original it’s spooky, and Mark Hamill (Star Wars) as Skeksis SkekTek, The Scientist.

I’ve enjoyed this series so much, I’m likely to watch it all again, it really is that good. We might have to wait a bit for Season 2, but after watching this first series, I know it will be worth the wait. 😊

Have you watched The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance and if so, what did you think? Were you so caught up with the story, you forgot you were watching puppets? Who is your favourite character/s? Do you find the Skeksis creepy?

Movies/Television

American Horror Story: Freak Show.

Recently, thanks to Netflix, I have been catching up with American Horror Story. Some years back I had watched the first in the series, Murder House, and that’s where I left it; I didn’t know back then that every season told a different story.

I really enjoyed season two, Asylum and thought that was even better than the first, however, I was disappointed in season three, Coven. The story just didn’t interest me as much as the first two seasons and I didn’t finish watching it, so went straight on to Freak Show.

After watching the first episode, I was hooked. Maybe it had something to do with the characters and their stories; feeling empathy for the ‘freaks’, fascination for the wealthy but spoilt Dandy, a serial killer on the loose and the dark humour. I really enjoyed the storyline in this one, as well as the setting and the acting. A credit to everyone in this season, but I couldn’t help but feel that Jessica Lange really steals the show.

I had some personal favourites when it comes to characters. I thought the ‘freak’ Ma Petite was gorgeous, played by Jyoti Amge, the world’s smallest woman, and I enjoyed the character Edward Mordrake whenever he made an appearance (there are two episodes dedicated to him). And yet, it was the spoilt Dandy and his dark personality that I really enjoyed watching. There was never going to be a happy ending for him and neither did I wish it but there is something about the dark side of our humanity that fascinates. The final episode where he erupts into a psychotic rage was truly horrifying.

Although Jessica Lange believes that she is not a singer, her cover for the song ‘Gods and Monsters’ became popular. One of the things I like about this song in the video is Edward Mordrake’s entrance and departure, which is really well done. If nothing else, this version introduced me to Lana Del Ray. 😉

Yes, I have yet to watch more in this series (Hotel and Roanoke are currently on my list), but I have to wonder if they will be anywhere near as good as Freak Show. Time will tell!

Do you have a favourite season from American Horror Story? Is there a particular season in this series that didn’t work for you? Are you fascinated by dark/bad characters?

Movies/Television

A Visit to The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition.

Recently, on a visit to Canberra, I visited the National Film and Sound Archive. They were holding a costume exhibition from the movie The Dressmaker. I had never been there before, and I was fortunate that the exhibition had recently started.

The costumes were created by award-winning designer and vintage specialist Marion Boyce. I’ve admired her work after seeing the costume exhibition a few years ago for Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I have to admit that I haven’t seen this movie, however, seeing this exhibition was quite fitting as the 1950s is one of my favourite eras.

The exhibition included clothing worn at Gertrude’s/Trudy’s wedding, including the wedding dress, Sergeant Farrat’s clothing and kimonos from The Mikado. Just like Miss Fisher’s exhibition, the level of detail that went into making these outfits is quite remarkable. I couldn’t help but have a few favourites.

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If you’ve watched the movie or are interested in the 1950s or vintage fashion, I highly recommend seeing this exhibition.

I may have to watch this movie now. 😉

Do you have an appreciation for vintage fashion? Have you visited the exhibition – what are your thoughts? Did you ever get it back-to-front and watched a movie/television show after seeing an exhibition?

Movies/Television

Discovering Dr. Who.

A couple of years ago, I discovered Agatha Christie, although discovering may not be the right word, but the fact that I watched/read her works for the first time after all these years was an eye-opener as well as a pleasure. So too, recently with Dr. Who. I grew up knowing about the show, particularly Tom Baker as the fourth doctor, but I never actually watched it. It was not until late last year, we decided as a family to watch Dr. Who over the evening meal.

Watching the doctor soon became an addiction; buying some pop vinyl figures and my husband buying me a T-shirt (Keep Calm and Alons-y). The show did not attract my son’s interest and he stated that the Daleks were ‘not scary’. We have found the Daleks to be annoying more than anything else as there is only so much one can take of their voices, so we can hardly blame the doctor there.

Although my husband wasn’t overly fond of Donna, we’ve enjoyed the various companions and characters and have a soft spot for Strax. 😉

The stories mixing both science and history have been good (I’m all for the Victorian era), although some issues involving characters can become confusing when it comes to various time lines (no spoilers). My husband commented once that he could predict the ending of one episode, which surprised him because you never know what to expect with this show. And that’s part of its appeal.

The tenth doctor, played by David Tennant is our favourite and we weren’t entirely sure how Matt Smith would go as his replacement, but he soon managed to win us over. It was only when the twelfth doctor arrived that we managed to struggle for the first time. It’s been difficult to put our finger on it, but we just haven’t warmed to him as much as the others. Perhaps it’s because the other three demonstrated eccentricity and humour, and an almost childish quality that we found appealing. We’ve found the twelfth doctor, now ‘older’, will take some getting used to. Try as we might, I have to admit we are struggling. Which is a shame as up until this point we have enjoyed the show and would like to see how things work out with the thirteenth doctor being a woman.

Whether we persist or not, I don’t think it would really matter. We have watched several seasons of Dr. Who and have become converts. As the good doctor himself says ‘We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one’.

Are you a Whovian? Do you have a favourite doctor? Have there been any doctors after regeneration that you’ve struggled with?

Movies/Television

Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House.

Recently, I watched the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. I admit that as the show was inspired by the book by Shirley Jackson, I had my reservations. This wasn’t helped by the fact that by the end of the second episode, I really began to wonder if I would continue watching. This is because the series has a bit of a slow build, however, it didn’t pick up for me until the third episode, where I felt things were starting to get interesting. After that episode, I binged the next three. What a turn-around!

So, what happened?

The first six episodes focuses on one family member, telling their side to the story about the events that happened at Hill House and how it had affected their lives. It was Theo’s story in episode three that intrigued me and as the show progressed, it soon became apparent that it was the characters themselves that draws the viewer in, so that by the time we see Nell’s story, the viewer is seeing a horror show that makes you sad as well as scared.

The camera work in episode six is brilliantly done – apparently a seventeen-minute-long unbroken single shot and this episode demonstrates that it’s a family drama as much as it is a horror story. There were a couple of times where I actually jumped in my seat (which is rare for me these days), noticeably one of the car scenes.

This show tends to be more of a psychological horror series, than straight out horror, although it did have some truly scary moments. I’ve read that some people have even wanted to watch it again, so they could count how many ghosts there actually are!

The Haunting of Hill House is a terrific piece of television that weaves past and present narratives together with characters you soon become attached to. I mean, I couldn’t resist young Nell and Luke – they’re so cute! 🙂

Have you watched The Haunting of Hill House and what are your thoughts? Did you find the show had a bit of a slow build? Which characters did you like the most?

Movies/Television, Writing

Has Film & Television Influenced Your Writing?

Over the years, I have heard many writers discuss certain authors they grew up with and what their favourite book was during childhood and there was one or two books in particular that stands out for me. Mainly, though, I was one of those kids who had a tendency to spend a great deal of their time out of doors and involved in imaginative play, rather than keep their nose in a book. Evenings were a time spent indoors in front of the television and it was this medium that would eventually influence my writing.

My family and I would also spend a lot of time going out to the movies and the drive-in (remember them?). Once, during one of these family outings to the movies, I saw a film that would play a large part in my writing. When I was about eight years old, we saw Picnic at Hanging Rock, and because it remained a mystery, I was hooked. People don’t just disappear; there had to be an answer. This was the first time I had seen a story that did not have a clean ending. Questions remained, leaving the audience to fill in the blanks for themselves. My father bought a copy of the novel for me, which became one of my favourite books; I began to crave the unexpected plot twists and unhappy endings, knowing this was all a part of the suspense.

It wasn’t until I was about twelve years old I began reading in earnest and read just about anything I could possibly get my hands on. Because of Picnic and enjoying such television shows as The Addams Family and The Twilight Zone, as well as such films as Psycho, Rebecca and The Birds from Alfred Hitchcock, I naturally steered towards stories that scared me. Stories full of suspense which kept me guessing with what might happen next, continued to hold the greatest appeal.

It was film and television that made me a reader. And who did I start reading? Why, Stephen King, of-course! 😉

Years later, when I completed my first short story, I gave it to my husband to read, who called it ‘macabre’. When in consultation with the Director of Varuna Writer’s Centre at the time, after having read the first three chapters of a work in progress, I was told that my story reminded him of Alfred Hitchcock. Having myself compared to one of the influences of my childhood, naturally I considered this to be high praise. This, together with the ‘macabre’ label, I knew I was onto something.

After having studied film and television at University, I have learned more about the importance of genre tropes, characters and settings. The knowledge I have gained from this has been invaluable to my stories. These days, with people having shorter attention spans, film and television appears to have become even more popular (hello, Netflix).

It was the influence of film and television that helped made me both a reader and a writer; my imagination was there, all it needed was the spark.

*Side Note: Ron Howard is currently running the #20MovieChallenge on Twitter. Twenty films that have had an impact on you for twenty days – only post a pic, no film title or comment. I’m participating and also posting them onto my Instagram feed, so if you’re on Twitter or Instagram, you can check out my choices there. If you are also participating, I’d love to see your choices, so drop a link in the comments. 🙂

Has film and television ever influenced your writing? Does watching film and television help you with your chosen genre? Has watching certain movies and/or television shows influenced your choice of reading?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Back to the 80s, Movies/Television

Back to the 80s: The Breakfast Club.

I have a confession to make. Until recently I have never seen The Breakfast Club (yes, cue surprise). To be perfectly honest with you, this movie back in the day never even made it on my radar (I guess living the reality may have had something to do with it). Even though I watched plenty of movies at that time, well, yeah, I missed it.

Watching it for the first time, now that I’m older, I know I see this movie in a different light than what I would have done had I watched it all those years ago. It was a fun movie and as an adult I did enjoy it and I would have liked it as a teen, however, back then I probably would have laughed more.

There were a couple of scenes that did disturb me, like that one where John Bender was under the desk where Claire (Molly Ringwald) was sitting as he hid from the principal. As a teen I might have laughed at that situation, but these days as a mother with a teenage daughter and during the age of the #MeToo movement, not so much (and as a mother herself, Molly Ringwald agrees). The other scenes that disturbed me were the ones between John Bender and Claire, where he was constantly harassing her. This only made me feel uneasy. These scenes, had I watched the movie in the 80s, would have had the same reactions from me, as anyone else who has been harassed and/or bullied would know and can therefore relate to Claire.

All that aside, it was otherwise a good, fun movie, delving into the issues of teenage life. Before watching it, I could easily pick out who each character represented, so they fitted their stereotypical roles very well. Despite their differences, throughout their short time together, they discover that in reality, they’re not so different after all. The principal, an adult bully with an axe to grind (and I’m being nice here), representing those ‘boring’ adults where life doesn’t live up to their expectations, makes the adult audience question their own lives. At the end of the day, the audience is left to wonder if these characters would go on to follow in their parent’s footsteps or ultimately break free. The ending at least, gives the audience some hope. I understand this movie is a cult classic for some people, but for me personally, I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t go that far.

I found the music to be a bit of a disappointment except for ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’, by Simple Minds which I guess explains one of the reasons why it stands out so much (or maybe that’s just me). This is a great song to listen to live in concert and I finally have a reason to put the video on my blog. 😉

Have you seen The Breakfast Club? Did you first watch it as a teen? As an adult, has your opinion of the movie changed at all?

Movies/Television

Picnic at Hanging Rock: Re-adapting a Classic.

When it comes to movies, I’m pretty much a stickler to the originals (so, I’m old-fashioned 😉 ). I tend to go by the rule ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t bother fixing it’. I believe that if a movie was originally well made, then why bother tampering with it? There are a lot of movies out there with the label ‘classics’ for good reason.

When I first heard they were making Picnic at Hanging Rock into a six part series for television, of-course my initial reaction was ‘Why?’ The movie made back in 1975, is one of my all-time favourite films and is a classic in Australian cinema history. I began to wonder if suddenly, like Hollywood, television was out of ideas.

Then came the how? How could it be stretched to six hours? Sure they could show parts of the book that weren’t in the film, and would that also include the ‘missing chapter’? I didn’t see how that could all be done to justify six hours of television.

It was then that I discovered that it’s not actually a remake, but a re-adaptation.

Seriously?

Again, why?

Personally, I don’t see the point. However, part of the reasoning behind it is that it offers a ‘fresh take’. In an effort to attract viewers, it would appear that some of the familiar characters have been ‘fleshed out’, so to speak. There is more emphasis on Mrs Appleyard and her background, and from what I’ve seen, it would appear that there is also more to other characters, including Miranda. Both within the film and the book, we are told all we need to know about these characters. The mystery, its domino effect and the rock itself is the focus and the appeal of the entire story. An article about the re-adaptation understands that ‘the enduring appeal may now lie in the unanswered question it poses’.

I have read many comments regarding this re-adaptation and it would appear that many people agree with my sentiments. People are very sceptical, believe that originals can’t be bettered and that there is a lack of creativity as this is the era of remakes. There were some points made about Peter Weir’s version that resonated. It is believed that in Weir’s version, much was left to the imagination; that the original had a spell-binding feeling that cannot be replicated.

There is no harm in younger audiences appreciating such films for what they are and it wasn’t all that long ago that I sat with my kids and watched the movie. Both my children are teenagers, so perhaps well within the age bracket this re-adaptation is aimed for. My children sat through the whole thing, and with the short attention span people have these days, it managed to hold their attention and neither one found it ‘boring’. At the end of the movie, my son said ‘that rock is evil’. Somehow, I don’t think the idea of the story being re-adapted will hold any appeal to either of them.

I saw Picnic at Hanging Rock when it first came out (yes, showing my age here) and as a young child it captured my imagination. This movie, above all others, made me the writer I am today (Alfred Hitchcock’s work a close second). Will I still watch it? I may sneak a peek at the first episode to get some sense of it, mainly because my curiosity usually gets the better of me. Whether it will hold my attention completely though, remains to be seen*.

The re-adaptation will have its world television premiere 6 May on Foxtel.

*Update: I did happen to watch the first episode and I stick by the opinions I have stated above. You can also read a review from The Guardian, which gives this re-adaptation 2 out of 5 stars.

What are your thoughts on re-adaptations? Do you believe that some films should be respected and left alone? Do you know of a film or television series that is better than the original? Will you be watching this re-adaptation?

Ghosts & The Paranormal, Movies/Television

Paranormal Investigation: Most Haunted.

Because of my fascination for all things paranormal, it is my habit of watching paranormal investigation shows. I come with an open mind; I am interested in the techniques used and what proof, if any, is found. After having experienced some ghostly encounters of my own, I am even more curious as to how such things are portrayed on television.

Recently, I binged watched some Netflix, including three seasons of Most Haunted. I have never seen this particular show before, so for those of you who have, bear with me. There are quite a few I haven’t seen and only Seasons 14-16 were available. Performing séances was probably as technical as it got during Season 14, however, the other two seasons they began using EVPs.

There was one episode in particular that really caught my attention. It was during the investigation of Annison’s Haunted Funeral Palour in Hull, England (you can read more about it here). During a séance, they believed they had picked up the spirit of a murdered girl who told them the name of her murderer. Not only did they pick up her spirit, but that of her murderer as well. When they mentioned the name, Fredrick Bailey Deeming, I was somewhat baffled as serial killers are of a particular interest of mine. Deeming murdered his first wife and four children in the U.K and is suspected of being Jack the Ripper. He murdered his second wife in Melbourne, burying her in one of the fireplaces in their home. He was convicted and executed for the crime and his bust is on display in Old Melbourne Gaol. How the spirit of a man who died here in Australia could travel back over to the U.K to haunt a building was beyond my comprehension. Maybe it’s just me, but I have to say I have never heard of that one before!

The last episode I saw was a two-part episode, which involved the investigators spending the night in a haunted suburban house. This particular house and its haunting was the basis for the movie When the Lights Went Out. The house was lauded as having the most ‘evil ghost in the world’. One was led to believe therefore that something really bad was going to happen. Sure a few things may have ‘happened’, but nothing quite as dramatic as one might have expected from such an evil entity. As the spirit is believed to be a priest, then why did he turn so bad? This was never explained and therefore made no sense to me. There is also a demonologist amongst the crew and if this house is supposed to have a real bad spirit there, I couldn’t help but wonder why he was not part of this particular investigation.

No actual spirits were caught on camera (although in a more recent episode, the team apparently filmed one, so I’ll let you be the judge of that) however some objects were shown to have moved. This can easily be explained away by trick photography. Objects were also thrown, but were usually done off camera. At one point, I thought it interesting that when an object fell from the ceiling, the cameraman did not point the camera in that direction – anywhere else but there it would seem.

All this this then begs the question that if these are actual haunted locations then where are the ghosts? Wouldn’t they have caught at least some real evidence while they were there? And if they did, would they be taken seriously? Yes, I do believe in the paranormal, but I also like to think rationally. I had previously watched a few seasons of Great British Ghosts, and I am therefore aware there have been reported incidents and sightings from people at some of these locations. I guess we may never know.

Yes, Most Haunted is not to be taken seriously and if given the chance, I probably would watch more of them, however, when it comes to more serious investigations though, I think I’ll look elsewhere.

Do you watch paranormal television shows? Do you keep an open mind when it comes to the paranormal or are you a sceptic? Do you find a lack of research jarring? Do you watch certain television shows for research purposes?