Movies/Television

American Horror Story: Freak Show.

Recently, thanks to Netflix, I have been catching up with American Horror Story. Some years back I had watched the first in the series, Murder House, and that’s where I left it; I didn’t know back then that every season told a different story.

I really enjoyed season two, Asylum and thought that was even better than the first, however, I was disappointed in season three, Coven. The story just didn’t interest me as much as the first two seasons and I didn’t finish watching it, so went straight on to Freak Show.

After watching the first episode, I was hooked. Maybe it had something to do with the characters and their stories; feeling empathy for the ‘freaks’, fascination for the wealthy but spoilt Dandy, a serial killer on the loose and the dark humour. I really enjoyed the storyline in this one, as well as the setting and the acting. A credit to everyone in this season, but I couldn’t help but feel that Jessica Lange really steals the show.

I had some personal favourites when it comes to characters. I thought the ‘freak’ Ma Petite was gorgeous, played by Jyoti Amge, the world’s smallest woman, and I enjoyed the character Edward Mordrake whenever he made an appearance (there are two episodes dedicated to him). And yet, it was the spoilt Dandy and his dark personality that I really enjoyed watching. There was never going to be a happy ending for him and neither did I wish it but there is something about the dark side of our humanity that fascinates. The final episode where he erupts into a psychotic rage was truly horrifying.

Although Jessica Lange believes that she is not a singer, her cover for the song ‘Gods and Monsters’ became popular. One of the things I like about this song in the video is Edward Mordrake’s entrance and departure, which is really well done. If nothing else, this version introduced me to Lana Del Ray. 😉

Yes, I have yet to watch more in this series (Hotel and Roanoke are currently on my list), but I have to wonder if they will be anywhere near as good as Freak Show. Time will tell!

Do you have a favourite season from American Horror Story? Is there a particular season in this series that didn’t work for you? Are you fascinated by dark/bad characters?

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Movies/Television

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

I had known for a while that Netflix was making a series of The Dark Crystal and wondered when it was going to come out. The teaser for the new series was released recently and I’m super excited over this news!

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal was a film I remember seeing at the cinemas with my best friend at the time when it was released back in 1982. And doesn’t saying that make me feel old! 😉

I grew up on Sesame Street and The Muppets, so I always enjoyed puppets. I was fascinated by how they were made and how they all worked. The puppets used within this film were quite remarkable and I learned to appreciate Jim Henson’s talents.

When my children were old enough, I watched the film with them. My daughter was interested in rocks and gemstones at the time, so it seemed appropriate. The film certainly left an impression upon them, as all these years later, they remember it well. They both seemed freaked out by the Skeksis and even now my son refers to them as ‘creepy’.

The series is a prequel to the movie, set on the planet Thra. The story follows three Gelflings, who uncover a plot by the Skeksis to amass power, leading them to start a rebellion.

The teaser looks amazing and I’m so glad it remained faithful to the original film. The series premieres on Netflix on 30th August 2019.

Have you ever watched The Dark Crystal, and will you be watching Age of Resistance? Does this bring back memories of your childhood? Do you find the Skeksis creepy?

Movies/Television

Discovering Dr. Who.

A couple of years ago, I discovered Agatha Christie, although discovering may not be the right word, but the fact that I watched/read her works for the first time after all these years was an eye-opener as well as a pleasure. So too, recently with Dr. Who. I grew up knowing about the show, particularly Tom Baker as the fourth doctor, but I never actually watched it. It was not until late last year, we decided as a family to watch Dr. Who over the evening meal.

Watching the doctor soon became an addiction; buying some pop vinyl figures and my husband buying me a T-shirt (Keep Calm and Alons-y). The show did not attract my son’s interest and he stated that the Daleks were ‘not scary’. We have found the Daleks to be annoying more than anything else as there is only so much one can take of their voices, so we can hardly blame the doctor there.

Although my husband wasn’t overly fond of Donna, we’ve enjoyed the various companions and characters and have a soft spot for Strax. 😉

The stories mixing both science and history have been good (I’m all for the Victorian era), although some issues involving characters can become confusing when it comes to various time lines (no spoilers). My husband commented once that he could predict the ending of one episode, which surprised him because you never know what to expect with this show. And that’s part of its appeal.

The tenth doctor, played by David Tennant is our favourite and we weren’t entirely sure how Matt Smith would go as his replacement, but he soon managed to win us over. It was only when the twelfth doctor arrived that we managed to struggle for the first time. It’s been difficult to put our finger on it, but we just haven’t warmed to him as much as the others. Perhaps it’s because the other three demonstrated eccentricity and humour, and an almost childish quality that we found appealing. We’ve found the twelfth doctor, now ‘older’, will take some getting used to. Try as we might, I have to admit we are struggling. Which is a shame as up until this point we have enjoyed the show and would like to see how things work out with the thirteenth doctor being a woman.

Whether we persist or not, I don’t think it would really matter. We have watched several seasons of Dr. Who and have become converts. As the good doctor himself says ‘We are all stories in the end, just make it a good one’.

Are you a Whovian? Do you have a favourite doctor? Have there been any doctors after regeneration that you’ve struggled with?

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?

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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