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

Movies/Television

The Horror of Marianne.

Recently, I watched the Netflix horror series Marianne. It has proven to be a much talked-about series on the internet, as well as garnering good reviews.

Famous French horror writer, Emma Larsimon, has decided to put an end to her series with her character Marianne. However, she is soon forced to return to her hometown after an absence of fifteen years. Here, she is confronted with the knowledge that the nightmares from her stories are coming to life.

I like the fact that in this series, the main character of Emma, is a writer. Yes, it has been done in horror before, but part of this attraction comes from the character herself. When we first meet Emma, she comes across as an obnoxious, rude and at times, childish character. However, we do get to see another side to her, so that we start to feel for her.

Like Emma, the rest of the cast of characters is compelling and well-developed. Emma gets to meet her old school friends and we become engaged in their secrets and histories and we get to care about them. There are some dark and disturbing moments throughout this series, which can at times be hard to watch, and it’s because of these relationships between the characters that we remain invested.

Located on a coastal town, the scares are maintained throughout the entire series. There were moments when even I was gripped and wondered what to expect next, but such tension is released with humour. This series even met with Stephen King’s seal of approval (and yes, I’m one of those sickos 😉 )

The cinematography and imagery are wonderful to look at and there is also a great musical score. During one scene, the music reminded me of Halloween and in another scene, the imagery reminded me of It, so there is homage to the classics of the horror genre. And yet, it does have its own unique style. The narrator has a suitably eerie voice and I really like the use of flipped pages of a book to illustrate flashbacks, for example.

Of-course, there is one character above all that really stands out and that is Madame Daugeron, the mother of one of Emma’s schoolfriends. This woman is seriously creepy and is played so well by Mireille Herbstmyer; her facial expressions, combined with the dubbed voice and laugh create some scary scenes. Yes, this show is dubbed in English, although I have heard some people have managed to watch it in original French. I would have loved to have seen that version. Not only do I love the French language, but it would help to get another feel for the series.

The twist ending may come as a surprise however, the narrator does hint at what’s to come. Such an ending means that there is scope for a second season. Given the positive reception, one can hope that we shall see that soon.

Have you watched Marianne? Did you find it scary or did it not grab your attention? What have you been watching recently?

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

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?

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?