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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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

Movies/Television

Feud: Bette & Joan.

I love old movies, especially those around the time of what’s known to be the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’. Call me old fashioned, but stories really mattered back then. It may sound strange, but thanks to such films, it was these that made me a writer in the first place. Because of such an upbringing, I recently watched the television show Feud: Bette & Joan.

I was fortunate enough to have seen the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane before the show began. It was one of those films that I had always heard about, but never actually took the time to watch. I was glad I did because not only was it a good movie, but it played an important part in Bette & Joan.

I had known of an existing feud between these two actresses, but never understood the reasoning behind it all. Naturally, this show went into that, as well as the personal lives behind the two of them, and what goes on behind the screens within the movie studios. The show also acted as part documentary, where other actresses were questioned regarding the Bette & Joan relationship. One actress questioned included Olivia de Havilland (played by Catherine Zeta Jones), which also hinted at the feud between her and her sister Joan Fontaine. I became interested in that relationship and began to wonder if a show would be made regarding their own feud.

This is a great production; the sets, the fashion, the makeup. I can’t fault the detail that went into it. And above all, of–course was the acting. Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon were brilliant in their roles as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. It was certainly creepy watching Susan Sarandon play Bette Davis in her role in Baby Jane – between her performance and the talents of the makeup artists it was truly frightening (and I mean that in good way). Despite their tough exteriors, Bette & Joan explored the vulnerabilities of both actresses, thus putting a more human face on both of these icons.

Throughout the show, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Mamacita, Joan Crawford’s housekeeper (played by Jackie Hoffman), who is a great character and very loyal. I was also surprised to see Judy Davis and I had to look twice (sorry, but I still picture her as Sybylla in My Brilliant Career), but it just goes to show how versatile an actress she truly is.

With shows like Feud: Bette & Joan, I’d like to think that we are now facing the ‘Golden Age’ of television.

Did you watch Feud: Bette & Joan? Were you impressed with it as much as I was? Do you think we are currently facing the ‘Golden Age’ of television? What show/s have you watched recently that impressed you? Did you grow up watching old movies?

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Books · Crime & Mystery · Movies/Television

Discovering Agatha Christie.

For months now I have been watching a lot of Agatha Christie – mainly Poirot and Miss Marple. I admit I’ve been pretty late on jumping onto the Agatha Christie bandwagon. The main reason, and perhaps foolishly, is because I was never interested in the time period her novels are set. Since watching Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, my opinions about that time period have changed; so too my interest in Agatha Christie.

Until her death a few years back, my mother-in-law was a great reader. Her bookshelves are filled with crime novels, so I have a ready-made library close at hand. Part of her collection includes the entire set of Agatha Christie novels. It was not until Poirot and Miss Marple appeared on television almost simultaneously some months back that I decided to take a look. As a result, I ended up watching every single one and I’d get quite narky if I missed an episode! I love both these characters with their little idiosyncrasies – something I applaud the actors portraying them doing so vividly. I cannot imagine anyone other than David Suchet as Hercule Poirot (and yes, I did shed a tear at the final Poirot episode, it was very sad 😦 ).

I have watched all the Miss Marple, but my favourite actress in the role is Geraldine McEwan (may she rest in peace). She played the role of a sweet and ‘innocent’ older woman so well. She would sit and knit and every now and again, when she was excited she would make little squeals of delight. My Agatha Christie binge wasn’t just centred upon these two characters. I also watched And Then There Were None. The plot was very intriguing and I enjoyed the various twists and turns throughout, especially the ending.

After all these years, Agatha Christie is regarded as the best-selling novelist of all time and named the ‘Queen of Crime’. Now that I’ve seen the shows, I definitely think it’s long past time I began reading the books. I believe this could take me a few years!

When did you discover Agatha Christie? Have you read all her books? Who is your favourite actor as Poirot and/or Miss Marple? Have you yet to discover Agatha Christie?

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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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Movies/Television

Back to the 70s: Life on Mars.

life on marsHave you ever watched something on television that really gets your cogs working; and by those cogs, I mean way back in your memory banks? Although Life on Mars combined elements of science fiction with police procedural, it was set during the 1970s – a decade in which I grew up.

Sam Tyler, a police officer, is hit by a car in 2006, only to find himself waking up in 1973. Back at his station, he learns that he now works under the command of Gene Hunt. It is unclear to both Sam and the audience if he has gone mad, in a comma, died or has travelled back in time.

Two things in particular stand out for me about this show. The first is the job that went into making the time period as realistic as possible. Although I didn’t grow up in the UK and there have been known to be some discrepancies, there were still many things that got my memory working. Seeing the image of the girl with the clown appear on Sam’s television screen made me wince. We used to see that same image here on Australian television (and yes, as I have a dislike for clowns, this could be where that all started). Hearing songs from the era probably stood out the most – some songs that I had completely forgotten and had probably hoped never to hear again (although the more I hear the theme song from David Bowie, the more I like it). The same could be said for the clothes and décor – after having lived it, I can honestly say that I think the 70s were the worst decade when it comes to fashion.

The second thing about the show is the characters and that’s where the writing comes in. Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt may have differences in opinion when it comes to policing due to the eras in which they are used to working, however, they do eventually earn each other’s respect. They play the old ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine, but they get results. They each have flaws and are able to make light of them, which introduces the humour into the show. Above all, it is the characters that stand out and help make the show so memorable; a combination of good writing and acting. Once you’ve watched the show, you can’t forget the ‘Gene Genie’. 😉

I think this video is really well done and sums the show up nicely.

Have you ever watched a television show that reminded you of a time in your life? Have you watched Life on Mars and which version – UK or US? Which era do you think was the worst when it comes to fashion?

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Books · Crime & Mystery · Movies/Television

A Visit to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Exhibition.

Miss-Phryne-Fisher-miss-fishers-murder-mysteriesDuring a recent visit to Parramatta, a suburb of inner western Sydney, I visited Old Government House; Australia’s oldest surviving public building. It was here that the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Costume Exhibition was being held. This series, based on Kerry Greenwood’s novels and produced by the ABC, have run for two seasons, and there is currently debate on whether there will be a third season*. Fans, like myself, are hoping it will be given a green light, as it has proved popular both here and overseas. This particular period in history had never really held much interest for me, but since watching this show, it has changed my mind.

Set in Melbourne during the 1920s, the creators of the show have done a terrific job of displaying the time period. The costumes on the show, as demonstrated in the exhibition were amazing and I was captivated by the level of detail that went into each piece. Unfortunately, given the delicacy of the walls within Old Government House, flash photography could not be used. I tried to take a photo, but my camera insisted using the flash. It was around the time I also noticed that the battery in my camera was also out of charge, so I guess taking any photos were not meant to be. However, that didn’t stop me from inwardly doing my best Homer Simpson impersonation and cursing myself – ‘Not happy Jan!’Phryne Fisher

The exhibition mainly displayed the costumes worn by Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher, but also on display were some costumes worn by Jack, Dot and Aunt Prudence. As well as clothing, the exhibition featured accessories, including hats, shoes and handbags. There were some costumes that I fell in love with just by seeing them up so close.

If you enjoy the show or are interested in the 1920s or vintage fashion, I highly recommend seeing this exhibition. It has certainly made me appreciate the dedication that goes into making high quality television.

Are you a fan of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and would like to see a third season? Have you visited the exhibition – what are your thoughts? Have you watched or read something that changed your mind regarding a certain period in history? Do you have an appreciation for vintage fashion?

* A month after writing this post, it was announced that a third season of Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries will go into production. Filming is due to begin mid October, 2014. 🙂

Images via the ABC and Fanpop