Movies/Television

The Horror of ‘Seven’.

Recently, I was prompted to revisit the film ‘Seven’. I have not watched the film in years, so had therefore forgotten how good it is.

After the opening credits with a nod to Nine Inch Nails, we are quickly introduced to the jaded Lieutenant Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and ambitious Detective Miller (Brad Pitt). The film is set in an unknown city, a place where Miller wanted to transfer to, surprising Somerset and perhaps also, the audience. The city is portrayed as a dark, miserable place full of crime and drug users. Miller and his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) having recently moved to the city, live in an apartment where trains pass and rattle their living quarters whenever they go by. The local library is seen as the only redeeming feature within the city, a place where Somerset is a frequent visitor.

The film is certainly gruesome as the killer works his way through the seven deadly sins; gluttony and sloth, in particular. It is not just the imagery of the victims themselves, but also what we learn the killer does to them, that adds to the horror and the tension.

I don’t want to give anything away in case anyone has not seen the film, but the killer (Kevin Spacey) is patient and methodical, and as Somerset points out ‘he’s not the devil, he’s just a man.’

In the final scene, where we really get to see the killer, known as John Doe, we are taken out of the city to a remote desert location. It is here, where both detectives and the viewer are transported into the unknown, that culminates into a memorable gut-wrenching scene, making John Doe a notorious on-screen villain.

What I’ve been watching this past month: –

John Wayne Gacy: Killer Clown’s Revenge (Foxtel)

I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers and John Wayne Gacy has always been high on my list. This show is in four parts, covering his childhood all the way to his arrest. It was interesting to hear tape extracts of Gacy’s interviews, as well as hearing from detectives on the case. Although the narrator’s voice and the occasional ‘clown laugh’ irritated me, I found this compelling viewing.

The Dark Crystal – Age of Resistance (Netflix)
I admit to having watched this show before; in fact, this is my third viewing. I enjoy the plot, the characters, and the little snippets of humour. I never tire of the sheer magic of the puppetry and set designs, that there are moments I get so caught up in it, I forget I’m watching puppets. I’m really looking forward to the second season (and hope there will continue to be one).

What have you been watching? Have you been preparing yourself for Halloween? Have you revisited some favourites lately?

Movies/Television

The Allure of ‘My Cousin Rachel’.

Some years ago, I listened to the audiobook of ‘My Cousin Rachel’, and like her previous work, I was drawn into Daphne du Maurier’s world. As Olivia de Havilland celebrated her 104th birthday this month, I felt it appropriate to watch one of her films.

One of the things that drew me in straight away was seeing Richard Burton as Philip Ashley, which was his first Hollywood role. I’ve always liked Richard Burton and absolutely love his voice and he does well in this role. He plays a convincing angry, tormented, even obsessed character which shifts from revenge to love and back again. Olivia de Havilland portrays a friendly, charming widow, where on occasion, the audience sees another side to her, leaving one to question if she is all she appears to be.

Suspicious of his cousin, Philip enters Rachel’s bedroom, searching her drawers for evidence. Here he discovers seeds. Sadly, though, I think more could have been made leading up to this discovery. Perhaps the hints were too subtle, like when Rachel makes tea. Other than the mention of a tree in Italy in passing towards the end of the film, there is no indication of Rachel’s interest in botany or of laburnum and its poison.

I was impressed with both the film’s costumes and set design. The sets include a couple of scenes in Italy, but mainly those of Ashley House in Cornwall. The architecture within Ashley House, with its timber and stonework, give it a very Gothic atmosphere.

Overall, though, my takeaway from the entire film was Richard Burton’s performance. Perhaps it may also have to do with the fact that he is the main character and the story is told from his point of view. We see his anger and mistrust turn into an obsession so that at times he verges on madness.

This 1952 film version is a good adaptation of the novel, filled with atmosphere and suspense. I just think more could have been made of the possibility of poison to further heighten the suspicion towards Rachel for the viewer, as it had done for Philip Ashley.

What I’ve been watching this past month: –

Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix)

Netflix has resurrected this series I used to watch in the 1980s, once hosted by Robert Stack. This season of six episodes involves disappearances, shocking murders, and UFO encounters. I love a good mystery and I binge-watched this show. I’m really looking forward to a second season. It’s made me want to revisit the original series, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Dark Angel (Amazon Prime Video)
This is a drama miniseries, based on the life of Mary Ann Cotton. Played by Joanna Froggatt (of Downton Abby fame), she portrays Britain’s first female serial killer. I enjoyed this show, and Froggatt does well in the role. Maybe it’s because I have seen her in other more ‘nicer’ roles, seeing her in this one made me feel uneasy.

Doc Martin, Season 8 (Netflix)

For something a bit lighter this month, I returned to Portwenn. I really like the Doc (his lack of social skills included), and this fictional Cornish town with its quirky characters. I especially enjoyed the final episode, with a special appearance by Sigourney Weaver, and her interchanges with Mrs. Tishell. 🙂

Do you enjoy watching old movies? What have you been watching this month? Have world events inspired you to watch something lighter or has it made little difference to your viewing habits?

Movies/Television

Revisiting the film ‘Rebecca’.

A few months ago, I listened to the audiobook of Rebecca, which was the perfect excuse to watch the 1940 film version all over again. This film introduced me to the book when I was a kid and has been one of my favourites ever since.

The film stays reasonably close to the book, where the young, nameless protagonist marries Maxim de Winter, owner of Manderley. Here she is witness to constant reminders of Rebecca, his former wife so that she believes Maxim is still in love with her. The constant reminder of his first wife is strengthened by the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. Played by Judith Anderson, she does a brilliant job of portraying a cold, vindictive, and jealous character. Mrs. Danvers is loyal to Rebecca, almost to the point of obsession.

This obsession is revealed in its full glory during the scene where Mrs. Danvers shows the new Mrs de Winter around Rebecca’s bedroom for the first time. The room has not changed since the day Rebecca died and is immaculate. The curtains, the furniture, even down to the embroidery, it truly is a beautiful room. Like many of the other sets, a lot of work went into making this one. So much so, I wouldn’t have minded a room like that myself. 😉

Joan Fontaine does a great job as the shy, tormented Mrs de Winter and Laurence Oliver also portrays a convincing Maxim de Winter. Perhaps it was due to his portrayal that I have always seen Maxim and the new Mrs de Winter in a father/daughter relationship, rather than any great romance.

The suspense in this film has a slow, gradual build, heightening the tension and the mystery surrounding Rebecca. You do not see any images of her, but one does not have to because the characters help to build a picture in the viewers’ minds, adding to the suspense. This is what Alfred Hitchcock excelled at.

The special effects are of-course dated, but it still helps with the overall mood of the film, especially when it comes to Manderley itself. Despite this, I think the film is a masterpiece of the Gothic genre and one of Hitchcock’s greatest works.

What I’ve been watching this past month:-

Supernatural, Season One (Amazon Prime Video)

This series follows brothers Sam and Dean Winchester as they search for their missing father, who is on the trail of the daemon that killed their mother over twenty years ago. I had watched this season of Supernatural some years ago, but then somehow forgot all about it. I enjoy the stories, which include urban legends, as well as the banter between the brothers, and the efforts they go to when it comes to involving themselves in investigations. I now have a lot of catching up to do with the Winchester brothers!

Deadwater Fell (Foxtel)
After a house fire kills a mother and her three children, the only remaining survivor is her husband. Investigators discover all five were drugged, and that this ideal family was far from happy. There are a few twists in this show so that the viewer questions who is responsible. With David Tennent in the lead role, he plays a character I was not at all expecting.

Downton Abbey, Season One (Amazon Prime Video)

The first series of this popular drama follows the lives of the Crawley family and their staff after the sinking of the Titanic, leading up to the events of WWI. I have watched the first five seasons of this show before, but have never seen the sixth, and final season. I am watching them all again for this very purpose, as well as taking note of the first couple of seasons for research. My favourite characters were always Sybil Crawley and the Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith.

What have you been watching this month? Have you been re-visiting some old favourites? Do you have a favourite character from Downton Abbey or Supernatural?

Movies/Television

Revisiting the film ‘Dragonwyck’.

In a previous post, I mentioned watching the film Dragonwyck for the first time when I was younger. This was shortly after I had read the book. It was only a few weeks ago, that I happened to come across the film once again.

Dragonwyck is based on the historical novel of the same name, set against the backdrop of the anti-rent war in New York during the 1840s. It tells the story of a young country girl, Miranda Wells, and her marriage to her cousin, the rich patroon, Nicholas Van Ryn.

Watching the film a second time around, now as an adult, I discovered that this was apparently Vincent Price’s first major movie role. When I was younger, I didn’t fancy him in the role of Nicholas Van Ryn, but now, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in it. The character of Nicholas has a commanding presence, one which Vincent carries extremely well.

The character of Miranda Wells is a young, naive, country girl, and I liked Gene Tierney in the role. Perhaps having to condense a book into a film, the change to Miranda’s personality was not entirely gradual. Hints of an inner strength do appear early on, which comes to great effect during one particular scene in the film. This event dramatically changes her, both in the film and in the book.

There were scenes within the book that never appeared or had changed dramatically. This was a shame because this would have given the viewer an even better understanding of Nicholas’ character. Some of these scenes and issues may well have been too sensitive during the time the film was made (1946). As a result, some of the events that took place felt a bit rushed to me, denying a build-up of character, like Dr. Jeff Turner, for example, and his relationship with Miranda, as well as his views against the establishment.

I was disappointed with the ending, for it was very different from that of the book, which again, revealed more to Nicholas’ character. I remember feeling this disappointment when seeing the film for the first time as a child after reading the book.

On the whole, I still enjoyed the film, after all, with Vincent Price in the main role, really, how could I not? 😉 The film manages to reveal Nicholas’ arrogance, his cruelty, and his descent into madness. It’s a good introduction to the novel for those who have never read it before.

What I’ve been watching this past month:-

Tiger King (Netflix)

Words fail me on this one. This was a show I had to watch a little bit at a time, for it was like watching an episode of Jerry Springer. Joe Exotic, Tiger King, is being investigated by the FBI. By the time this show comes to the inevitable conclusion, we learn that some people are beyond redemption, and the only real victims here are the animals.

Big Little Lies, Season 1 (Foxtel)

Based on the novel by Liane Moriarty, this tells the story of five women and their involvement in a murder investigation. I came a bit late to this one, and never having read the book either, I was impressed with it. I was appalled by the teacher’s actions at the start concerning an incident between two students, making me question her skills, and I had to look twice at Laura Dern, as I haven’t seen her since Jurassic Park. I found this show addictive, well-acted, and having just the right amount of humour thrown in around the subject matter. I’ll be sure to watch the second season.

Safe (Netflix)

This is another show based on a novel by Harlan Coben. It tells the story of a widower, Tom, and his frantic search for his daughter, Jenny, who goes missing after a party. It took me a few episodes to get used to Michael C. Hall, of Dexter fame, speaking with an English accent, and despite the plot devolving into some strange territory, it was another binge-worthy show. This murder-mystery has plenty of twists, with the ending being the biggest one of all.

What have you been watching this month? Do you prefer to read the book before or after the film? Do you think reading the book before the film ruins the experience for you?

Movies/Television

A Ghostly Love Story: Revisiting ‘Ghost’.

With Valentine’s Day almost upon us (just let that sink in), I thought it was a suitable time to revisit the movie Ghost. And if you’ve never seen it, this comes with a spoiler alert!

What might start off as a romantic movie soon turns to tragedy when Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is shot and killed. Finding himself between worlds, his only hope is ‘medium’ Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg).

Spirits are said to inhabit our world if they have some unfinished business to attend to, and following this assumption, Sam wants to see justice done. By doing so, he also wishes to ensure the safety of his girlfriend, Molly (Demi Moore).

Watching the scene of them both working on a slab of clay will never be the same again, I think, after all the humourous send-ups that have been done to it over the years.

Who could forget this version?

The movie gets a bit weird when Sam inhabits Oda Mae Brown’s body in order to touch Molly again, but the audience gets it – it’s Sam’s last and only chance of physically being with Molly.

The movie introduced to a whole new audience at the time (myself included) Unchained Melody from the Righteous Brothers. Released in 1965, even listening to the song today, it has stood the test of time. As for the movie, itself, it was released in 1990, so the special effects have become a bit dated over the years as has, of course, the computers and the fashion. It’s times like these when I really start to feel my age! 😉

I have nothing against the other actors, and I really miss Patrick Swayze, but personally, I believe that Whoopi really steals the show in this one. Her comedic skills helped lighten the subject matter and it looked like she and Patrick had fun working together.

If not for Oda Mae Brown, Sam would be stuck between worlds and Molly could have ended up with the guy who betrayed Sam (eek). Thank heavens for Whoopi!

Do you have a special Valentine’s Day movie? Is there a ‘ghostly’ romance that you recommend? Do you think Whoopi stole the show in Ghost?

Gothic Fiction, Inspiration, Movies/Television

What is Australian Gothic?

Recently I watched my favourite film, Picnic at Hanging Rock. I make sure I watch it at least a couple of times a year. With its constant sense of dread, this film made a big impact on my life and as a result, my writing tends to naturally gravitate towards Australian Gothic.

So, what is Australian Gothic?

The Gothic genre came to Australia as an imported genre (you’ll find a helpful post here on the ten elements of Gothic Literature) and took on many qualities of the traditional gothic, including the supernatural, romance and gloomy atmosphere. Like traditional Gothic, Australian Gothic has an element of mystery and fear.

Within Australia, the Gothic soon developed its own characteristics. The unique landscape of the country became an important element, therefore, becoming a character all of its own. The Australian bush transformed into a monstrous, spectral place, becoming the setting for nightmare and terror.

During the colonisation of the country, earlier stories were tied to the violence of settler life, including stories of death and brutality where murder victims returned from the dead, and burial grounds were uncovered. Stories involved the protagonist becoming lost or disorientated, sometimes even abandoned, so that the protagonist is isolated from others in order to be confronted by events. Such events either took place on the edge of civilisation or within the colonial homestead.

Australia ‘was a world of reversals, the dark subconscious of Britain. It was, for all intents and purposes, Gothic par excellence, the dungeon of the world. The familiar transposed to unfamiliar space. Nature, it seemed to many, was out of kilter. From its inception, the Gothic has dealt with fears and themes which are endemic in the colonial experience: isolation, entrapment, fear of pursuit and fear of unknown’.*

In an article on Australian horror films, The Sydney Morning Herald describes Australia as ‘a scary place. The size of the United States but with only the population of greater Los Angeles, its outback means you can get about as far away from civilisation as it’s possible to get.’

“We call what we do ‘Australian Gothic’,” says Everett DeRoche, a key figure in Australian horror who wrote the scripts for classics such as Patrick (1978), The Long Weekend (1978) and Razorback (1984). “Australia doesn’t have that iconic ‘haunted house’ that we are familiar with from American movies. But it does have the outback, and people’s fear of that, that agoraphobia.”

If you have ever watched such films as Mad Max and Wolf Creek, then you are familiar with the horrors such a landscape can represent. For me, the combination of the traditional Gothic with elements that are uniquely Australian make for an intriguing mix, full of many possibilities.

Do you enjoy Gothic Fiction? Do you have a favourite book or film within the Gothic genre? What film has made an impact on your life?

*Turcotte, G. The Handbook to Gothic Literature, Mulvey-Roberts M. (Ed.) New York University Press, 1998, pp.10-11.

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

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, 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?