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 Silent Fear of ‘A Quiet Place’.

‘A Quiet Place’ is one of those films that I had heard about, but it took a while for me to get around to seeing. These days, when it comes to watching horror, I tend to be a bit selective. I am after a good story, not just shock value.

*This comes with a spoiler alert if you haven’t already seen the film.

I’ve watched ‘A Quiet Place’ a couple of times now, and I foolishly have to admit that when I watched it the first time, I missed out on one very vital piece of information. I don’t know how I missed the fact that the daughter, Regan, is deaf and it left me confused for a little while. I couldn’t figure out how these people knew how to speak sign language*. Eventually, it twigged, but if you miss that scene where the viewer sees Regan’s hearing aid for the first time (I picked it up on my second viewing), it can make the story a bit confusing during the early scenes.

The viewer is immediately thrust into a dystopian future, and one is left wondering what had happened. We are given hints through various newspaper clippings and posters of missing people, as well as how long it has been since the first day it all took place. This is the only background the viewer is given, so hopefully in ‘A Quiet Place II’, this question will be answered.

Although a horror film, ‘A Quiet Place’ focuses on family and how they need to work together to survive. The title also suggests that after the tragic death of one of their own, each of them is struggling with their grief and have difficulty in expressing their feelings.

I liked the idea that their survival depends on sound (or lack thereof), and that the family’s survival depends on their daughter, Regan, being deaf. That, I thought, was an interesting approach.

Visually, these alien creatures reminded me of the demogorgons in ‘Stranger Things’. As with ‘Aliens’, they are intelligent and fast-moving. I found them to be more weird-looking than frightening. I think the horror lay in the build-up of tension throughout the film, knowing that even the slightest noise attracts them. This is what had me on edge.

Added to the tension was the fact that the mother was pregnant and due to give birth at any time. This poses new difficulties, not only after the baby’s birth but during delivery.

My only real issue with the film was the ending, although I get why it was done. No sooner does the audience get some resolution, we jump straight into the next problem and that is where it ends. Cliff-hanger ending in anticipation for the next film.

I watched ‘A Quiet Place’ earlier in the year in preparation to see the next one. Sadly, COVID-19 put an end to that. Cliff-hanger ending indeed!

*Yes, I know – ‘Duh!’ 😉

What I’ve been watching this past month: –

Lost Girls (Netflix)

This film is based on the true story of one mother’s quest to find her missing daughter, and in the process, uncovers a connection to those of the Long Island serial killer. This story reveals what a strong woman Mari Gilbert was, and is even sadder knowing what happened after these events.

Ice-Cold Killers, Seasons 1-4 (Foxtel)

This is a true-crime documentary series, set in the harsh climates of Alaska and other states of America where it can get quite cold. I found the first two seasons, which were based in Alaska, to be interesting due to their remote location.

Abducted in Plain Sight (Netflix)

This documentary is about the double abduction of a young girl by a trusted friend of the family. I found this difficult to watch, and at one point, literally had to cover my mouth in shock. A remarkable true story of trust, betrayal, and manipulation. Quite extraordinary!

Have you watched ‘A Quiet Place’? What are your thoughts on cliff-hanger endings? Are you selective of your viewing habits these days? What have you been watching 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, This Writer's Life

How are You Coping with Life in Isolation?

Life has begun to settle down here in this ‘new normal’. The reality is this was pretty much what my life has been like even before COVID-19. Being an introvert now has some advantages. 😉

Of course, I’m not immune to what is happening in the world and what is happening in some other countries is truly shocking, but in order to not let it overwhelm me, I have cut down my news intake. And I make sure I get my news from reliable sources as there is a lot of misinformation going around, which doesn’t help.

Fortunately, my family and I have not come into contact with the virus, nor faced any real issues of unemployment (although I do naturally worry about the future of my children). I try to keep myself as busy as possible, focusing on my writing and my health and those of my loved ones. Trying to be positive and keeping a sense of humour is also helping to get me through.

I’m gradually returning to early morning walks and yoga, and now that we’re in autumn, I can get back to doing some gardening. When I’m not writing I’m reading, watching Netflix, et al and playing Animal Crossing (both New Horizons and Pocket Camp). I’m finding Animal Crossing a happy place to be during these uncertain times.

As far as writing goes, I have been focusing on doing some on-line courses and learning as much as I can, as well as experimenting with Canva and Book Brush. I am currently undergoing re-writes on two novellas before finishing off the first draft of a third. It’s a series of novellas, which I’m really getting into at the moment and has been a great help during this crazy time.

I also need to get back into blogging. There has been so much going on of late, that some things have fallen through the cracks. I hope to remedy that situation because, without social media, I probably would be going crazy right now! During this time, I want to make my blog a happy place as much as possible (although that has always been my intention). And writing a blog post keeps me happy!

Today, I’ll leave you with what I have been watching this past month. I aim at making this a regular feature, so if you’re ever stuck for something to watch in isolation, I’ll be giving you some recommendations. I watch just about anything, but mainly crime and paranormal. 😉 Stay safe everyone!

What I’ve been watching this past month:-

The Stranger (Netflix)

Based on the novel by Harlan Coben, a mysterious woman tells a man a secret concerning his wife. When his wife goes missing, he undertakes a desperate bid to find her. Uncovering more secrets along the way, this was a show that hooked me in, so I was guilty of binge-watching. With Richard Armitage in the lead role, it’s all the more reason to watch! 😉

The Valhalla Murders (Netflix)

Murders take place in Reykjavik, Iceland, where those killed reveal they have become victims of a serial killer. Delving into the murders, as well as the personal lives of the lead investigators, the story has some interesting twists. This series threw me a bit at the beginning as the voices have been dubbed (I’m used to reading sub-titles), but I soon went with it. The story also captured my attention due to its location, as I’ve rarely watched shows from Iceland.

Haunted Hospitals (Foxtel)

Hospitals are places of birth and death; we are told in the introduction to this series. This docudrama tells the real-life stories of experiences by medical staff within the UK, US, and Canada. Whether you are a believer or not, this series raises the possibilities of what happens to us after death.

Murder Wall (Foxtel)

This docudrama of true crime cases focuses on how a visual murder wall can work as an aid to help police investigations and eventually solve the crime. There were some interesting cases here that I hadn’t heard of before.

How are you coping with the isolation? Have you been writing lately or taken up a new hobby? What have you been watching lately?

Main image courstesy Pixabay