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?

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Horror · Movies/Television

Do You Dislike Clowns?

Why do some people dislike clowns? Clowns are supposed to make people laugh, yet in others (myself included) they can provide the opposite effect. A fear of clowns has been termed coulrophobia and as recently as 2016, there was a creepy clown epidemic, where some cities in the United States experienced menacing looking clowns, and eventually would become sighted world-wide.

With the remake of Stephen King’s ‘It’, I wonder if this was the reason behind last year’s clown epidemic. I read the book back in the 1980s and naturally, the only part that stayed in my mind was Pennywise. How could you not be afraid of a clown carrying red balloons and trying to lure small children down sewers? Watching the telemovie only heightened my dislike. I’m still debating whether to go see this new version.

Recently I read an article that Nevada’s Haunted Clown Motel is for sale. A haunted clown motel situated on a deserted highway, next to a cemetery and I instantly had images of ‘Psycho’ in my head, amongst other things. My muse turned to overdrive with the possibilities and I wondered why on earth anyone would want to own a clown motel. Each to their own, I guess, but despite the possibility of it being haunted, I’ll keep my distance thanks! 😉

A dislike of clowns are only heightened (as least for me) when it comes to John Wayne Gacy. It wasn’t until the 1980s that I learned about him, and perhaps he was Stephen King’s inspiration for Pennywise, but either way, he only cemented my dislike of clowns ever since. Dressing up as ‘Pogo the Clown’, performing at parties, charitable events and children’s hospitals was all part of his act in being a valuable member of society. This would eventually earn him the name the ‘Killer Clown’. In the telemovie ‘To Catch a Killer’, Brian Dennehy did such a wonderful job as John Wayne Gacy, that I will always picture him in that role. It was so creepy; I’m not surprised he was nominated for an award for his performance.

I can only speak for myself, but I think one of the reasons for my dislike of clowns is their faces. With their entire faces painted, one cannot see the real person behind them and in the cases of John Wayne Gacy and Pennywise, what lies behind is not good. It can be the same with people wearing masks and why they tend to appear in horror movies. Such things can either frighten or deceive. For me, that’s what makes clowns so scary.

Do you dislike clowns or do you rather like them? Are you going to watch ‘It’? If you’ve already seen ‘It’, what did you think? Would you stay in a haunted clown motel? Did John Wayne Gacy make you dislike clowns or was it Pennywise or perhaps another clown entirely? What do you think makes clowns so scary?

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Horror · Movies/Television

The Slow Horror of The Orphanage.

When I was younger I used to watch a lot of horror movies, but I soon tired of the slasher films and stopped watching altogether. Recently, though, I’ve gone back to watching some more horror movies and one of those included The Orphanage.

The plot involves a couple and their adopted son, who move into the mother’s childhood home, which was once an orphanage. The mother, Laura, plans to turn it into a home for disabled children, but at a party for the opening of the home, their son goes missing.

I was pleasantly surprised with this movie and I’m glad it is an old-fashioned ghost story in that the horror is revealed by the building up of suspense. As I grew up on Hitchcock, this type of horror appeals to me more. To be perfectly honest, one thing that I did find disturbing was the young boy, Tomas. The way he followed the mother around was rather creepy; however, his story is drip-fed to the audience that one eventually feels sympathy for him.

The film is in Spanish and I didn’t have an issue with having to read sub-titles, as I’ve watched quite a few foreign films and television shows over the years. I enjoyed the cinematography, which helped create the atmosphere of isolation, darkness and abandonment. The only problem I had with the movie was self-inflicted in that I didn’t see the ending earlier that I may have done otherwise. I was clearly taken along with the ride and when the resolution was revealed it all made perfect sense. The ending was satisfying and rather poignant.

Even if you are not a fan of the horror genre, this film is still worth watching. It portrays a message of love between a mother and her child and for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Have you watched The Orphanage? Do you prefer the slow build of suspense or slasher flicks? Do you like to guess the ending or prefer to just go along for the ride? Do you have problems with watching foreign films?

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Back to the 80s · Horror · Movies/Television

Child’s Play: When Horror’s Not So Scary.

Back in the 1980s, I had never seen the movie Child’s Play and recently when it aired on television, I thought I’d have a look. Sure I knew of Chucky, but the film itself I had no interest in.

I watched the movie with my teenage son. Years earlier, he had been at a friend’s place and they had a Chucky doll in their bedroom. When my son pointed it out to me I shuddered.

‘Eww, Chucky’, I said.

‘Told you’, he said to his friend.

I guess creepy looking dolls rate high up on the list with clowns for me. Hate clowns, hate creepy looking dolls. My mum has a creepy looking puppet in her house and one day I told her what I thought of it. Of-course she thought I was mad. Maybe, but I can’t stand looking at it. So when I began to watch Chucky, it met my expectations.

Just looking at the doll even before it was taken over by the guy gave me the horrors. How that kid desperately wanted one was beyond me. It’s horrible! That kid looked like he had a struggle walking around with it too; they were pretty much the same size. Then there was the horror element. Hardly scary; in fact I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In the end, I did laugh. What made me laugh more than anything was watching Chucky run. I loved that!

‘This is supposed to be a horror movie?’ my son said at one point, but I was too busy laughing. Well, it was the 80s!

I know there have been other Chucky movies since then, but one was enough for me. I don’t think I could tolerate anymore. After watching it at long last, I think it’s hardly scary. When I look at Chucky now, I just think of those little legs running and his arms swinging by his side (even if he does have a knife in his hand).

Chucky just might have made creepy looking dolls appear somehow less creepy. Well, almost. 😉

Have you watched Child’s Play? Did it scare you or make you laugh? Have you watched all the Chucky movies? Do you hate creepy looking dolls too? What’s a horror movie you’ve seen that actually made you laugh instead?

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Movies/Television

Goodbye Penny Dreadful.

PennyDreadfulCastRarely does a television show come along and capture my imagination, but Penny Dreadful has proved to be one of them. Beautifully written and acted, with delightful imagery, the season finale had me both shocked and upset; doubly so when I discovered that Season 3 was the end of the show altogether.

From the very beginning, part of the appeal for me had been the characters drawn from English literature, including Dorian Gray, various characters from Dracula, Frankenstein and in Season 3, the introduction of Dr Jekyll. Other characters, such as Vanessa Ives, Ethan Chandler and Sir Malcolm had their own demons to contend with, making the show an interesting mix. In Season 3, new characters such as Dr Seward and Catriona Hartdegen were introduced and I would have liked to have seen more of them; two strong women whose characters had the potential for further development.

With the various main characters in Season 3 scattered all over the globe, I began to wonder how and when they would all come together for the resulting climax. In the end, however, I felt the ending was a bit rushed and one scene in particular jarred with me. In the final episode, when Sir Malcolm and Dr Frankenstein meet up for the first time in the entire season, Sir Malcom says something along the lines of:- ‘Dr Frankenstein, fancy meeting you here; long time, no see! Vanessa’s in trouble, do you want to help us? Good. Let’s go’.

I felt the highlight of Season 3 was the episode ‘Blade of Grass’. The episode explained a particular time in Vanessa’s past, and it was a brilliant performance by Eva Green. With the two main characters of Vanessa and John Clare (Frankenstein’s creature), as the main performers, it was very emotional. Viewers finally understood the connection between these two; showing their strong bond and eventual love for one another. It was after this episode that I had hoped John Clare would come to Vanessa’s aid. As much as I liked to see Vanessa and Ethan together, her relationship with John Clare was special, which helped make the show’s ending so moving. (And yes, I’ve always had a soft spot for Frankenstein’s creature). It was only natural, that my reaction to the ending went something like this:- ‘What? No! That can’t be right. This isn’t really happening. You’ve got to be kidding me. Arrr!’ *sob*

Penny Dreadful is testament to the high quality of television that has been produced in recent years. Although some questions remained unanswered, there is very little about this show that I can find fault with – it really has been that good, and in case you missed it, I recommend you take a look. As sad as I am to see its final curtain, I can understand why writer/creator John Logan ended the show the way he did (who can forget the ending of Dexter?).

Goodbye Penny Dreadful. It has been a real pleasure knowing you.

Have you been watching Penny Dreadful? What are your thoughts on the end of the show? Did you have a favourite character?

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Authors · Horror · Movies/Television · Writers

At the Movies with Stephen King.

Monsters are real

Some time back, I had written a post regarding the influence of film when I was younger. It was watching movies that made me want to become a writer. Recently, I watched A Night at the Movies – Stephen King. As I had read some of his books when I was a teenager (and of-course had seen a number of those film adaptations), I found it interesting to hear what he had to say regarding the horror genre within the movie industry.

  • The first movie that ever scared him was ‘Bambi’ as he was terrified of the forest fire.
  • The terrifying thing about zombies is they won’t stop – death is not the end.
  • The ghost story that scared him the most was ‘The Changeling’.
  •  He believes the big films of the horror genre are ‘Psycho’, ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’.
  •  The ending of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ has no real explanation, which is where the real horror lies.
  • Favourite movie versions of his books include ‘The Dead Zone’,’ Misery’ and ‘Cujo’. He describes the movie version of his book ‘The Shining’ as ‘a beautiful car that has no engine’.
  • He still has a big affection for the monster movies – the B grade movies from the 50s and 60s.
  • If anyone gives us a run for our money in the horror genre, it’s the Japanese.
  • The reason he goes to see horror movies are to lay down his fears for a while and indulge some of his darker emotions. If the movies have supernatural elements to it, it’s a chance to exercise his imagination, to give it wings and let it fly.

These are just a few items that stood out to me – especially that one about poor innocent, Bambi. Who knew? That’s my favourite Disney movie! There are a couple of movies on his list that I still have yet to see, but I find it a fascinating insight into the mind of one of the greatest writers of our time.

Do you have a favourite Stephen King movie? What horror movie scared you the most? Do you enjoy watching movies that make you think? Do certain movies ‘exercise your imagination’?

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Horror · Movies/Television · Spooky Stories

The Twilight Zone & ‘The Dummy’.

The Twilight Zone & The DummyWhen I was growing up, television and old movies were a big influence in my life. One of the television shows I always watched was The Twilight Zone. These stories always caught my imagination, for just when you thought you had it all worked out, there was always that element of surprise. I have enjoyed reading stories with a twist in the end ever since.

One story in particular I have never forgotten was ‘The Dummy’. Believing that his dummy, Willie, is alive and talks to him, Gerry begins drinking. His agent does not believe Gerry and tells him he should see a psychiatrist. The story is psychological horror; is Willie alive or not, and if so how can Gerry escape? The plot resonates with our anxieties regarding mental illness; in this case schizophrenia. Horror does not always need to be physical, yet this episode reveals horror in both its physical and psychological forms.

There have been many stories of objects that are possessed, including dolls. Robert the Doll, believed to be cursed and possessed by evil spirits, is said to be the influence of Chucky in Child’s Play. More recently, in the film The Conjuring, is the story of Annabelle, The Haunted Doll. Although Willie is not possessed, as such, he does come to life only for Gerry, which causes much mental suffering.

My mother has a wooden puppet that I cannot stand looking at; I find it ugly and creepy.  When I mentioned that to her, she could not understand why I felt that way. Such is the influence of this particular episode from The Twilight Zone.

If you have never seen this episode, or would like a trip down memory lane, here’s a short clip:-

Is there an episode of The Twilight Zone that you have never forgotten? Do you find ventriloquist dummies give you the creeps? Do you prefer psychological horror rather than in its physical form? Do you believe inanimate objects can be possessed?

Image via Wikimedia Commons.