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

Picnic at Hanging Rock: Re-adapting a Classic.

When it comes to movies, I’m pretty much a stickler to the originals (so, I’m old-fashioned 😉 ). I tend to go by the rule ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t bother fixing it’. I believe that if a movie was originally well made, then why bother tampering with it? There are a lot of movies out there with the label ‘classics’ for good reason.

When I first heard they were making Picnic at Hanging Rock into a six part series for television, of-course my initial reaction was ‘Why?’ The movie made back in 1975, is one of my all-time favourite films and is a classic in Australian cinema history. I began to wonder if suddenly, like Hollywood, television was out of ideas.

Then came the how? How could it be stretched to six hours? Sure they could show parts of the book that weren’t in the film, and would that also include the ‘missing chapter’? I didn’t see how that could all be done to justify six hours of television.

It was then that I discovered that it’s not actually a remake, but a re-adaptation.

Seriously?

Again, why?

Personally, I don’t see the point. However, part of the reasoning behind it is that it offers a ‘fresh take’. In an effort to attract viewers, it would appear that some of the familiar characters have been ‘fleshed out’, so to speak. There is more emphasis on Mrs Appleyard and her background, and from what I’ve seen, it would appear that there is also more to other characters, including Miranda. Both within the film and the book, we are told all we need to know about these characters. The mystery, its domino effect and the rock itself is the focus and the appeal of the entire story. An article about the re-adaptation understands that ‘the enduring appeal may now lie in the unanswered question it poses’.

I have read many comments regarding this re-adaptation and it would appear that many people agree with my sentiments. People are very sceptical, believe that originals can’t be bettered and that there is a lack of creativity as this is the era of remakes. There were some points made about Peter Weir’s version that resonated. It is believed that in Weir’s version, much was left to the imagination; that the original had a spell-binding feeling that cannot be replicated.

There is no harm in younger audiences appreciating such films for what they are and it wasn’t all that long ago that I sat with my kids and watched the movie. Both my children are teenagers, so perhaps well within the age bracket this re-adaptation is aimed for. My children sat through the whole thing, and with the short attention span people have these days, it managed to hold their attention and neither one found it ‘boring’. At the end of the movie, my son said ‘that rock is evil’. Somehow, I don’t think the idea of the story being re-adapted will hold any appeal to either of them.

I saw Picnic at Hanging Rock when it first came out (yes, showing my age here) and as a young child it captured my imagination. This movie, above all others, made me the writer I am today (Alfred Hitchcock’s work a close second). Will I still watch it? I may sneak a peek at the first episode to get some sense of it, mainly because my curiosity usually gets the better of me. Whether it will hold my attention completely though, remains to be seen*.

The re-adaptation will have its world television premiere 6 May on Foxtel.

*Update: I did happen to watch the first episode and I stick by the opinions I have stated above. You can also read a review from The Guardian, which gives this re-adaptation 2 out of 5 stars.

What are your thoughts on re-adaptations? Do you believe that some films should be respected and left alone? Do you know of a film or television series that is better than the original? Will you be watching this re-adaptation?

Ghosts & The Paranormal · Movies/Television

Paranormal Investigation: Most Haunted.

Because of my fascination for all things paranormal, it is my habit of watching paranormal investigation shows. I come with an open mind; I am interested in the techniques used and what proof, if any, is found. After having experienced some ghostly encounters of my own, I am even more curious as to how such things are portrayed on television.

Recently, I binged watched some Netflix, including three seasons of Most Haunted. I have never seen this particular show before, so for those of you who have, bear with me. There are quite a few I haven’t seen and only Seasons 14-16 were available. Performing séances was probably as technical as it got during Season 14, however, the other two seasons they began using EVPs.

There was one episode in particular that really caught my attention. It was during the investigation of Annison’s Haunted Funeral Palour in Hull, England (you can read more about it here). During a séance, they believed they had picked up the spirit of a murdered girl who told them the name of her murderer. Not only did they pick up her spirit, but that of her murderer as well. When they mentioned the name, Fredrick Bailey Deeming, I was somewhat baffled as serial killers are of a particular interest of mine. Deeming murdered his first wife and four children in the U.K and is suspected of being Jack the Ripper. He murdered his second wife in Melbourne, burying her in one of the fireplaces in their home. He was convicted and executed for the crime and his bust is on display in Old Melbourne Gaol. How the spirit of a man who died here in Australia could travel back over to the U.K to haunt a building was beyond my comprehension. Maybe it’s just me, but I have to say I have never heard of that one before!

The last episode I saw was a two-part episode, which involved the investigators spending the night in a haunted suburban house. This particular house and its haunting was the basis for the movie When the Lights Went Out. The house was lauded as having the most ‘evil ghost in the world’. One was led to believe therefore that something really bad was going to happen. Sure a few things may have ‘happened’, but nothing quite as dramatic as one might have expected from such an evil entity. As the spirit is believed to be a priest, then why did he turn so bad? This was never explained and therefore made no sense to me. There is also a demonologist amongst the crew and if this house is supposed to have a real bad spirit there, I couldn’t help but wonder why he was not part of this particular investigation.

No actual spirits were caught on camera (although in a more recent episode, the team apparently filmed one, so I’ll let you be the judge of that) however some objects were shown to have moved. This can easily be explained away by trick photography. Objects were also thrown, but were usually done off camera. At one point, I thought it interesting that when an object fell from the ceiling, the cameraman did not point the camera in that direction – anywhere else but there it would seem.

All this this then begs the question that if these are actual haunted locations then where are the ghosts? Wouldn’t they have caught at least some real evidence while they were there? And if they did, would they be taken seriously? Yes, I do believe in the paranormal, but I also like to think rationally. I had previously watched a few seasons of Great British Ghosts, and I am therefore aware there have been reported incidents and sightings from people at some of these locations. I guess we may never know.

Yes, Most Haunted is not to be taken seriously and if given the chance, I probably would watch more of them, however, when it comes to more serious investigations though, I think I’ll look elsewhere.

Do you watch paranormal television shows? Do you keep an open mind when it comes to the paranormal or are you a sceptic? Do you find a lack of research jarring? Do you watch certain television shows for research purposes?

This Writer's Life

New Year, New Beginnings.

It would appear that Christmas came and went in barely a blink of an eye and now here we are almost at the end of January within the new year. I don’t know about time flying when you’re having fun; the time seems to fly on regardless!

Over the holidays, I’ve been sticking with my goal of spending less time on social media, which has allowed me to do other things. More time with family for one thing. I’ve been kept busy now that my son has finished studying and joined the workforce and have been getting things organised for my daughter to start her final years in High School. So there is a distinct change in the air within my household.

One of the things I have been doing is listening to podcasts and one in particular I have taken to is Casefile: True Crime Podcast. As I have an interest in crime, I have been listening to quite a few of these and I’m now about half way through. The podcast focuses on cases from Australia and around the world. It’s very well researched and has received awards and international recognition. So if you’re interested in true crime and haven’t listened to this podcast yet, I thoroughly recommend it.

I have also been spending some time watching Netflix. This has involved some family time watching such things as Stranger Things and all the Hunger Games films, but I have also been going through shows on true crime and the paranormal. Of-course, these endeavours are not a complete waste of time, because as these topics are of particular interest to me, they are a great help when it comes to research for my stories.

My writing itself has not been completed ignored. These past few weeks, I feel I have resolved a few issues and am now in the process of re-writing one of novels. Rather than multi-task, I know that I work best concentrating on one thing at a time, which has helped me plan my goals for the rest of the year. They are achievable, so long as I keep my head down. 😉

The holiday is over now folks; it’s time to get back to work!

What have you been doing over the holidays? It’s still early days, but how have your goals been progressing so far or have they had to be altered? Do you find yourself struggling to do other things when bingeing on things like, oh I don’t know, Netflix or listening to podcasts?

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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