Movies/Television

Revisiting ‘Sleepy Hollow’

Halloween is rapidly approaching, so I’ve decided to get in a bit early on watching movies for the season. Recently, I re-watched Sleepy Hollow (1999), and with scary pumpkin heads (amongst other things), makes this a good Halloween movie.

Johnny Depp plays Ichabod Crane, a young police constable sent to the village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate some gruesome murders.

Classified as a Gothic supernatural horror film, there is a suitable amount of gore without overwhelming the audience. Beheadings, digging up graves, and dissecting corpses is balanced with the arrival of impending doom of the headless horseman.

Despite the horror, the film has some lighter moments, mainly through Johnny Depp’s character, who at first comes across as awkward, weak and a bit eccentric. It is his unconventional approach to the investigation that helps him to solve the case, as well as become a stronger person.

There is a good cast alongside Johnny Depp, including Michael Gambon and Richard Griffiths (both of Harry Potter fame), Jeffrey Jones (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter, Blackadder), and of-course the legendary Christopher Lee (always a winner in my book 😉 ).

Boo! I love the gloomy atmosphere of this film.

My favourite moments throughout the film would have to be the headless horseman and the outdoor scenes.

The combination of set design and visual effects helps make this film one of the best in terms of gloomy atmosphere. The village is a perpetual dark and eerie place, and the nearby forest is surrounded in a thick fog. The appropriately named ‘Tree of the Dead’ is old and gnarled, with a bloodied past.

The headless horseman, played by Christopher Walken, has a facial appearance every bit as horrific as the rest of him, with wild hair and eyes, and sharp, pointed teeth.

With such a menacing presence, the film comes to a satisfying, but frightening conclusion.

What films do you have planned to watch this Halloween?

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Movies/Television, My Books

The Romance of ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’ (1947).

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir has always been one of my favourite movies. A romance with a ghost— what’s not to love? And with Valentine’s Day upon us, February is the perfect time to watch it.

If you’re unaware of the plot, the story involves Mrs. Lucy Muir, a widow with a young daughter. She decides to move into a seaside cottage, despite being told that it has a ghost. In fact, she rather relishes the idea! She encounters the ghost of a former sea captain, Daniel Gregg, and soon become friends.

One of the things I’ve always liked about this film is the banter between the two main characters, which demonstrates their growing relationship. Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison) even has a special name for Lucy Muir, which I think is rather sweet. Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney are perfectly suited in the roles, and it would have to be my favourite film of Rex Harrison’s. Seeing George Sanders in the role of Miles Fairly (children’s author ‘Uncle Neddy’) always felt appropriate to me. He played the role of Jack Favell in Rebecca (1940), so he plays a charming rake very well. It’s great to see a young Natalie Wood as Anna, and I enjoy her performance, although her American accent does stand out amongst the English setting.

The music and lighting help adds to the atmosphere and gives it a sense of place. The special effects are deftly done, blending in well, and do not detract from the story. Although sometimes, I can’t help but look at the seagulls outside the bedroom window!

My favourite romantic ghost story, I had to get my own copy.

I really like the sets, especially ‘Gull Cottage’, where the story mainly takes place. It makes me wistful for a seaside cottage of my own. I also like the set of the lavishly appointed home of Miles Fairly and wish there were more scenes shot here (yes, I’m a hopeless romantic and a sticky-beak 😉).

The most heart-breaking scene of the film is where Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison) leaves, saying goodbye to Lucy as she sleeps. It’s such a touching scene and beautifully done.

The ending, although sad, is to be expected, but it is also a happy ending, of sorts.

If you’re looking for a romantic movie with a difference this Valentine’s Day (or any day, for that matter), I highly recommend this film.

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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.

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 have you been watching this month? Have you been re-visiting some old favourites?

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?