Archives For Blog

Over at Screen Realm, I take a look at Lean on Pete

https://screenrealm.com/lean-on-pete-movie-review/

When my husband, Martin, leaves for work, counting down the days until he can finally retire, I will often find myself sat in our kitchen, with my dog Gladstone by my side, reminiscing on my life and my days with Shelley Holmes. I have written about how my friendship with that incredible woman left such an indelible mark on myself, and how our time together in her detective agency was some of the most exhilarating of my life. Had things not ended the way they had, I like to think we would still be running through the streets of Manchester righting wrongs.

Often, my dives into memory are nothing more than day trips, a fleeting remembrance of a life that was. On this day, however, my thoughts circled around the same topic they had done for some time. At the weekend, Martin encouraged the children – lord knows why I still refer to them as children now that they’re both nearly three decades on this – to help carry some things down from the attic, in the hopes of finding things suitable for a car boot sale.

Amongst the bric-a-brac and items stored away with a half-arsed notion to retrieve them one day, my old keepsake box. A metal tin in which I kept various items I believed, in my 20s at least, would be of sentimental value in my later years.

Rifling through numerous flyers for bars no longer open, and photos of men I would rather not discuss with my husband, it was evident that younger me was a bit of an idiot; overzealously placing a higher value on these items than I would today. Underneath these trinkets though, rattling at the bottom of the box, was a small tape recorder.

‘Good lord,’ whispered my husband. ‘Not seen one of those in years.’

My eldest, intrigued by his father’s ‘old fashioned’ item, quickly formulated a campaign to have me play the contents of the tape so we could all laugh at my more idealistic self. Having taught at a city college for several decades now, it was often remarked upon by my loved ones that I had become quite serious. The prospect of hearing me without the baggage of the education sector having worn me down would apparently be amusing.

Bowing to peer pressure, I agreed and Martin, with a devilish grin, pressed play. And yes, the first twenty minutes were entertaining enough as I listened to the John Watson of yesteryear, dictating his stories into the tape, and cursing himself when something didn’t work. Then, after one particularly impressive bout of swearing due to being unable to recall a particular synonym, the recorder skipped to the next file and I heard her voice.

‘Right,’ She said. ‘Is this on?’

I snatched the tape out of my husband’s hand and pressed the off button. Whilst there was much protestations and accusations of me spoiling everyone’s fun, I quickly left the room as if being pulled by some unknown force. Guided by this spirt,  I made my way to office and dropped the tape recorder into my top drawer, locking it away. I couldn’t have it listened to, I simply couldn’t.

Returning to the living room, I played up my sudden departure by joking that the voice on the tape was that of a former lover. Martin feigned a jealous, but jokey, anger, whilst my children seemingly regressed several decades to that of stroppy teenagers. Sensing the conversation was hurtling towards discussions about S-E-X, they stuck their fingers in their ears whilst making spewing noises.

‘Oh, Dad. Bleurgh. Just don’t. Bleurgh.’

Later that night, after the children left, my husband politely, but bluntly asked me why I did not just own up to the room that it was SH’s voice on the tape. I offered up an explanation that to do so would only encourage them to want to listen to the rest of it. Growing up, they had had an insatiable appetite for SH and their father’s time as a detective. Even now, they will ask me to read out one of my adaptations of our  adventures. Of the ones that I have self-published, their reviews are always the boldest online.

 

This case though, I told my husband, was not my story to tell. The things that happened, that SH talked about on that tape, cut my friend to her very core. To the rest of the world, it did not change her, but I saw the signs that said the Baskerville Case had taken its toll.

I am blessed that my husband is an extremely understanding man and knowing he wasn’t going to get

anything more out of me, retired to bed whilst I stayed up with wine and cigarettes.

It has been several decades since the Baskerville Case happened and as I type this, I am reminded of the numerous online conspiracies that plagued SH. Although she was forcibly distanced from the aftermath, I knew of the weight of it hung from her neck for some time.

The media speculated over how it could have ended the way it did, and the official account was seemingly clear cut. For SH, though, the case became an example of every negative point of the temptations she fought hard against, and which, despite her cavalier attitude, steeled her resolve to ensure nothing like this would happen again.

This is the case that has been dominating my daily musings. Looking back on that time, I feel I wasn’t there enough for SH. Back then, I was drifting from the agency a touch and finding love in all the wrong places. I should have tried harder to break the long periods of silence that greeted me when I returned to our home. Instead, I just waited it all out until she was back to semblance of her usual self. All done, nothing to worry about, let’s go on an adventure.

I’m not sure if Shelley ever reads my work; I have never received evidence to suggest she does. I know the very idea of it would appal her, but I think it’s why I do it. To prove to someone, anyone, that she was deserving of praise, even when fate was against her.

Spilling everything on to the page like this, I realise, has merely been a ruse to convince myself of what I should do.

 

Terrifier (2018)

September 9, 2018 — Leave a comment

What do a clown, a hacksaw, a brutally murdered journalist and a reference to Silence of the Lambs have in common? Well, they all play a part in Damien Leone’s Terrifier, a brutally violent slasher that plants both its feet firmly in the aesthetic of the 80s.

After an opening that gives more than a discreet nod to Nightmare on Elm Street, the film sees two college students being stalked by the maniacal  Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton), a monochrome killer whose creepiest affectation is the distinct lack of noise he makes. Even when screaming in a violent rage, barely a peep comes out.

Based on Leone’s short film of the same name, which ended up playing a large part in the anthology All Hallow’s Eve, Terrifier is aimed squarely at those people who found Hostel to be too plot heavy. From the minute Art catches sight of his two victims, Tara (Jenna Kannell) and Dawn (Catherine Corcoran), the film becomes nothing more than a long chase sequence loaded with gore. The only real plot development is the arrival of Tara’s sister, Vicky (Samantha Scaffidi), and several disposable men. Not that that is a bad thing. Terrifier’s raw simplicity is actually one of its strengths. You just may want to look elsewhere if you’re after anything with a bit more meat on the bones. Speaking of meat, Leone is clearly a man who delights in making his audience squirm with scenes of vulgarity that make good work of the film’s limited budget.

So, sure, if this sounds like your cup of tea, then drink up. However, before diving in it seems fair to point out that at times Terrifier relies too strongly on the torture porn tropes we all assumed had died after the straight to DVD effort that was Hostel 3. Case in point: a centrepiece of the film sees someone being split down the middle in an excruciatingly blunt manner. It’s uncomfortable and not in the way you’re expecting. It’s hard to say why, in a film that sees a clown running people over whilst listening to freestyle jazz, scenes like this unsettle the most. Perhaps it’s in Leone’s execution (pun not intended) which walks a thin line between the depraved and the titillating. This critic is no prude, but sometimes you just have to say, ‘nope’.

If you can overlook these moments, then you’ll certainly get a kick out of Terrifier. Particularly Thornton’s performance as the mute Art. Terrifying? Maybe not. Uncomfortable? For sure. It’s certainly one of the bleaker films streaming on Netflix right now.

Earlier this year, I entered Big Finish’s Paul Spragg Memorial competition, The lucky winner got to have their Doctor Who Short Story published. Whilst I didn’t make the shortlist, I did receive some fantastic feedback that has encouraged me to finish it. I’ll be chipping away at it over the next few months, in between my other projects.

The writing sample I provided acted is my first scene, so it only seems right that we start there. 

Doctor Who: Them What Lives Here Knows

The snowstorm the night before had covered everything in a thick layer of white. The news said no one was expecting it. Particularly not in June. No one else dared come out to play despite there being no school, but I had used my parents’ latest fight as cover to escape into this surprise winter even if for only a few hours.

That’s when I’d found the man sat cross-legged on top of the wooden playhouse built in the centre of the playground; a much-coveted item amongst the girls and boys of my village. Some saw it as a castle to be protected from hordes of unnameables, whilst others would use it as a club house for meetings about what stickers were available for swapsies and who was willing to offer them up.

‘What are you doing up there?’ I asked the man.

He didn’t appear to hear me. He just took a deep breath and exhaled. Still cross-legged, he brought his arms together at the elbow, with his palms touching as if in prayer. You could have said he seemed quite stern. In his black leather jacket, dirty jeans, and shaven head, he looked like what my mum would have called, ‘one of them rum types.’

‘Excuse me,’ I said a little louder. ‘What are you doing?’

He opened one eye, which did as good a job as two as it stared through me.

‘It’s Venusian body manipulation,’ He replied in a broad northern accent. ‘I’m focussing my energies on what’s happening inside me, so I am prepared for eventualities outside of me. The stretches I’m performing are movements borne from eons of spiritualism, atheism and, in some cases, gods themselves.’

‘My mummy has a Geri Halliwell video where she does the same pose,’ I replied.

Both eyes were open now, ‘Of course she does.’

‘Why are you sat on the roof?’

‘Because there’s no chairs inside.’

I giggled, ‘You can’t sit on a roof.’

‘I’m doing a pretty good in spite of your protests, don’t you reckon?’

I brought my hand up to my face to stifle another giggle. Grandma said you should never laugh in someone’s face if you weren’t sure they weren’t telling a joke. As if trying to tempt more laughs out of me, the man began to wriggle his big ears.

‘Is that part of your body manipulatation?’

‘Maybe,’ He replied. ‘Maybe not.’

He stuck out his tongue and I let out a full belly laugh. It wasn’t even lunchtime and I was already having the best day. First the unexcepted snowstorm, school closing and now my own personal clown.

‘Bit funny all this snow, isn’t it?’ the man said. ‘For July I mean.’

‘I guess.’ I shrugged. ‘Mummy said it’s because of Ceefax gases.’

‘CFC.’

‘What?’

‘Nothing.’

The man uncrossed his legs and jumped off the Wendy house with an elegance that betrayed his bulky demeanour.

‘What’s your name?’ He said, holding out a rough looking hand.

‘I’m Sarah.’ I smiled, shaking his hand.

‘Hello, Sarah.’ He said. ‘I’m the Doctor. Are you ready to go to war?’

I didn’t know what to say. I was only 6 years old.

Dorian Gray (2009)

So, how do you turn a novella which is mostly exposition and suggestion into a ‘summer’ movie? Well, if you’re director Oliver Parker (St Trinian’s), you add a load of nudity, some wooden acting, and finish it off in the 1910s just so you can have a car chase…

Any subtlety of the first hour is lost in a sea of floating CGI nonsense in the final act. You’re left wondering what the point of it all is? That said, it’s not as bad as that abomination, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Jurassic Shark (2012)

Another entry in the ‘Big Shark is Bigger Than is Expected! Ooh Scary!’ genre is Jurassic Shark. Reminiscent of Roger Corman’s school of filming – take a heist script and stick a monster in it – the film sees a group of ker-razy kids getting caught up in the playful shenanigans of a bunch of art thieves. Oh, and a Shark from the Jurassic period, because history.

After losing their booty in the middle of a Jurassic Shark infested lake, the group of art thieves try to formulate plans to get it back. Nearly 90% of these involve wading into the water and being killed instantly. You may not be surprised by this,but there are much better Giant Shark movies to be found.

100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck (2012)

Following on from the exploitative nature of 8213 Gacy House, the Asylum crew build their latest cheapovision horror around the legend of real life serial rapist and murderer, Richard Speck. People run through dark corridors, then walk, then run some more, then shout, ‘What, what the eff was that?!’ whilst running. It’s all very tedious and reaches the pinnacle of vulgarity when we, the viewing public, are treated to a two-minute sexual assault scene by Richard’s Ghost. 100 Ghost Street plays like a bingo card for all other found footage horrors, showing a lack of originality I haven’t seen since Exorcismus. Avoid like the plague!