It’s finally Hallowe’en…and because my job is what it is, I’ve spent all day and evening doing work for clients. I’ve also had a lot of Treehouse Of Horror and Now ’80s Hallowe’en playlists (including the full version of Thriller! nice touch) on in the background, though, so it’s not been all bad!
Geth and I also had our very first guisers ever knocking on the door for treats! In all of our eleven years living together at previous residences, we’ve never had them before. It’s a nice sign that we’re living in a proper suburban location now!
(Of course we had treats ready, ’cause every Hallowe’en we buy them just in case. It’s just that it’s usually us who ends up eating them!)
Today’s earworm playlist:
Lionel Richie – Hello
Wham! – The Edge Of Heaven
Duran Duran – Rio
Feargal Sharkey – A Good Heart
Spagna – Call Me
NSYNC – Tearing Up My Heart
Brian May – Too Much Love Will Kill You
It’s the thirty-first and last day of the horrorthon – Hallowe’en itself – and so I’m finishing with the grandfather of slasher horror, the original Psycho (1960).
After the awesomely Herrmann-scored opening credits, we get a rather specific caption reading ‘Phoenix, Arizona, Friday December 11, 2:43pm’, which places the setting as 1959 rather than the release year of 1960.
Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and her boyfriend Sam Loomis (he who Dr Sam Loomis from Halloween was named after!) are meeting for an illicit ‘lunch’ in a hotel. Marion is done with being secretive, but the relationship is difficult, seemingly because of Sam’s ex-wife and money issues.
Marion goes back to work to find that her boss is making a good deal today – a client is buying a house as a wedding present for his daughter, paying with $40,000 in cash. ‘He was flirting with you! I guess he must have noticed my wedding ring,’ says the other secretary when the men go to the back room for a meeting. Marion’s boss asks her to put the money in the safe deposit box at the bank, ’cause he’s nervous about keeping it in the office over the weekend. Marion says she has a headache, and gets permission to go home after putting the money in the bank.
Marion doesn’t put the money in the bank. Instead, she takes it home and packs a suitcase instead, seemingly deciding to steal the money and travel to Sam’s office in California. As she drives out of town, her boss sees her in her car.
In the morning, a policeman bangs on the window of Marion’s car, where she’s been sleeping. She’s nervous while being questioned, which arouses suspicion in the policeman, and when she goes to trade in her car for a new one in order to cover her tracks, she sees the policeman watching her. She insists on rushing the purchase, much to the car salesman’s confusion, and just about escapes before the policeman catches up with her.
I like the mechanic of Marion imagining what people will say about the situation as she drives! It’s really nicely done. At this point, the rain gets too heavy for the windscreen wipers and Marion pulls into the Bates Motel.
The proprietor, Norman, says they’ve lost a lot of business since the highway moved away. He comes across as really normal and a bit dorky – he invites Marion to eat with him, and goes to prepare a meal. While Marion sorts stuff out in her room and hides the cash in a newspaper she bought earlier, she overhears a loud argument up at the house between Norman and his mother – the mother is very old-fashioned/unpleasant and doesn’t want Norman consorting in any way with women.
Norman returns, and they eat in the office to avoid his mother. He takes Marion into a creepy parlour full of stuffed birds, and starts to reveal his weirdness. ‘You eat like a bird,’ he says, but then immediately imparts the random factoid about birds that they actually eat quite a lot. However, he says he’s not an expert on birds – taxidermy is his hobby.
The conversation turns to Norman’s mother and the fact he doesn’t have any friends. ‘A boy’s best friend is his mother,’ he says, which should ring instant alarm bells. He explains that his mother is mentally ill, but gets upset and mad-looking when Marion suggests putting her in an institution. He says she’s harmless, just a bit mad, and ‘we all go a little mad sometimes’.
Marion has decided to go back to Phoenix and try to make things right. As she says goodnight to Norman, she tells him her name’s Miss Crane, contradicting the guest signatory book where she signed her name as ‘Marie Samuels’.
After spying on Marion getting changed through a creepy peephole that he’s set up in the office, Norman goes back to the house. Marion does her sums, working out on paper how much she’ll have to make to pay back the $40,000 in full, then rips up the paper and flushes it down the toilet. She then gets ready for a shower, and we all know where this is going.
There’s not much to say about the infamous shower scene that’s not been said before, but I do like the fact that when Janet Leigh screams she looks just like her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis.
‘Mother, oh god, mother, blood, blood!’ Norman finds Marion’s body and immediately sets about covering up the murder. He puts Marion’s body and possessions in her car – including the money in the newspaper, which he thinks is just a newspaper – and pushes the car into a nearby swamp.
Cut to Sam at his shop in Fairvale, California, where he’s writing a letter to Marion. Marion’s sister Lila arrives looking for him, along with the private investigator Arbogast, who has been put on the case because Marion’s boss doesn’t want to involve the police – he just wants the money back. Arbogast is convinced she’s in Fairvale and that Sam knows where she is. He proceeds to ask around at every hotel and boarding house in town.
Two days later, Arbogast arrives at the Bates Motel, which is apparently near Fairvale – this was not really made clear earlier, and I hadn’t realised Marion had got so close to her destination. Norman claims there’s been nobody staying there for two weeks, but quickly gets caught out by contradicting himself – he’s not a very good liar. Arbogast is good at baiting people, causing Norman to burst out at one point, ‘She didn’t fool my mother!’, meaning Arbogast naturally wants to talk to the mother. Norman won’t let him, and Arbogast leaves, saying he’ll go and get a warrant.
Arbogast calls Lila to tell her about the Bates Motel. He tells her he’s going back to see if he can talk to the mother, and will join them in about an hour. He’s now sure that Sam didn’t know Marion was in town. Returning to the motel, Arbogast finds that Norman’s not around. He goes up the stairs in the house, but immediately gets attacked and killed by Mrs Bates.
Three hours later, Lila and Sam are getting worried. Sam goes alone to check out the motel, telling Lila to wait in the shop. Norman hears Sam calling for Arbogast, but doesn’t approach him. Sam returns to Lila without having found anyone, and suggests they speak to Al Chambers, the local deputy sheriff.
Chambers thinks that Arbogast must have got a lead and gone after the $40,000 without telling them. He also tells them that Mrs Bates has been dead for ten years – she killed her lover and herself in a murder-suicide. Meanwhile, at the Bates house, Norman insists on moving his mother down to the fruit cellar, despite her angry protests.
The next day, at church, Lila and Sam bump into Chambers and his wife again. They say they’ve been over to the motel, searched the whole place and the house, and found nothing – no mother. Once they’ve gone, Lila insists to Sam that they go to the motel again. She suspects Norman murdered Marion to steal the $40,000.
Checking into the hotel as a married couple, Lila and Sam search the room where Marion stayed. Lila finds Marion’s sums in the toilet, but it’s not enough evidence. She’s sure there’s more to find, though, and they decide that Sam will distract Norman while Lila goes looking for the old woman in the house. Lila finds nobody in Mrs Bates’ room, but does find a fetching array of old lady dressing gowns and the impression of a body on the bed.
Norman is not at all forthcoming in his conversation with Sam, in contrast to his previous chatty self when he was with Marion, and gets annoyed at Sam’s suggestion that he would move the motel to a more profitable location if he could. Sam starts accusing Norman, which is a pretty daft idea when Lila’s in a vulnerable position. Norman whacks Sam with a vase and goes to find Lila, causing her to hide in the fruit cellar and find Mrs Bates, who turns out to be a decomposed skeleton in a great reveal that has been often copied but never equalled! Norman comes in with a mad face and a knife, dressed as his mother, and nearly kills Lila, but Sam shows up and overpowers him.
At the police station, the resident psychiatrist has got the whole story from ‘Mrs Bates’, who has completely taken over Norman’s mind. This means that the psychiatrist can spend about ten minutes explaining the whole plot to everyone, like at the end of a Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie story!
Finally, we get a creepy scene with the possessed Norman, who, as his mother, believes the authorities will never think the murders were committed by a defenceless old woman. ‘Why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly!’ Roll credits.
Great film, great HD Blu-ray transfer, great way to end the horrorthon. I’ll be watching some more horror films next year!
Because I’ve been doing my month-long horrorthon and have properly decorated the house this year, I feel, for once, like I’m properly celebrating Hallowe’en. Geth and I had guests round to play horror boardgames last night, I’ve been doing my annual Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror rewatch, and I’ve eaten far too much Hallowe’en chocolate already!
I also finished my outline for this year’s NaNoWriMo novel today. I’ve got an 8,100-word outline, which is more detail than I’ve ever done for any novel in the past, and I am so excited to start writing on Thursday.
One more day of horror films and delicious sweet things to get through first, though!
Today’s earworm playlist:
The Housemartins – Happy Hour
Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf
Danny Elfman – This Is Hallowe’en
Arcadia – The Flame
Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin – It’s My Party
Duran Duran – Late Bar
My Bloody Valentine (1981) was a favourite of mine in my teens. It’s one of the many examples of the ‘holiday-themed slasher’ craze that took off in the early ’80s after the Halloween and Friday the 13th series started to get big. It’s also much, much better than Valentine from twenty years later, although I do have a soft spot for that one as well.
This film’s Canadian – most people will probably be able to tell that from the accents, but I’m terrible at discerning between American and Canadian accents (you’d think I’d be better at that now that I have a Canadian sister-in-law, but no!), so it’s other little details that give the film its Canadian charm for me.
We start off with a couple of miners exploring a mine. Oh, hang on, they turn out not to be miners but a couple looking for a secluded location for getting it on. The lady seems to have a miner mask fetish, and also has a tacky heart tattoo above her left breast (I love this detail ’cause you hardly ever see women with tattoos in ’80s media!). The dude turns out to be the killer and she gets pickaxed fairly quickly.
A caption reads ‘Thursday, February 12th’ (placing the film in its year of release, 1981), and we see a group of miners finishing work and getting showered – the focus is on a guy called TJ, who has apparently only recently returned to town, and whose ex-girlfriend Sarah is now going out with another guy called Axel. We get some redneck banjo music as they all drive off, similar to the music that annoyed me in Friday the 13th when Jack, Marcie, and Ned were driving to camp. The small town where the film is set is called Valentine Bluffs (‘The Little Town With The Big Heart!’), and a Valentine’s Day dance is being advertised everywhere.
The miners go in to meet the town girls who are setting up the hall for the dance. An older lady, Mabel, is in charge of decorating, and is very excited about the ‘first Valentine dance in twenty years’. The town mayor, Hanniger, asks her not to emphasise the fact. ‘Let’s put all that other business to rest,’ he says, although the younger residents are clearly not on the same page – Howard, this film’s prankster and hence someone who probably won’t survive very long, scares Mabel in the usual fake-blood-and-screaming way that people prank each other in horror films.
Mayor Hanniger is soon joined by the police chief, Jake Newby. They seem a bit cautious about the dance, presumably due to whatever happened before. TJ leaves grumpily after getting fed up at the sight of Sarah with Axel, and Mayor Hanniger dumps some backstory about TJ, who’s his son. TJ apparently failed to make a life for himself ‘out west’, which is why he’s come home. Mayor Hanniger owns the mine, in addition to being mayor, and so has sent TJ back down the mine, which is where seemingly every other young guy in town also works.
A box of Valentine chocolates arrives for Mayor Hanniger, which he’s very happy about – apparently Mrs Hanniger has him on a diet – but when he opens it in Chief Newby’s car, it turns out to be a human heart in the box. Horrified, he realises that what happened twenty years ago is happening again.
At the Cage, which is a daft redneck bar where all the young people in town go (the younger characters in this film are constantly referred to as ‘kids’ by the older characters, but the dialogue puts them at about twenty-five and some of them look closer to forty, so I’m not going to use that term!), Axel and Hollis (who’s overweight and has a giant moustache but is somehow dating Patty, the hottest girl in town) are playing five-finger fillet, and the barman is doommongering. ‘This town is accursed!’ I love a doommongering old man character.
Thanks to the barman, we get a narrated flashback to what happened before, complete with really well-done 1960-1961 fashions! In 1960, two mine supervisors were impatient to get to the Valentine dance and so failed to check that all men were safely out of the mine. Five men were buried alive as a result. After six weeks, the townspeople were only able to rescue one of them, Harry Warden, who had gone mad by that point. The barman was the one who found Harry. Harry spent a year in a mental insitution, then escaped and returned to get his revenge by murdering the two supervisors on Valentine’s Day 1961, twenty years before the events of the film. There’s not been a Valentine dance since, because of the fear that Harry might return.
The young people laugh at the barman’s story (a good sign that they won’t survive!) and get on with singing a bawdy song about Harriet, the barmaid. TJ is clearly not over Sarah no matter what he says, and is grumpily playing pool shots by himself.
Chief Newby calls the head nurse at Eastfield sanatorium, where Harry was committed, but she doesn’t know offhand whether Harry is there. The coroner tells him that the heart in the chocolate box is that of a thirty-year-old woman (presumably the woman in the intro sequence, although she looked a lot older than thirty!) and that it’s been cut out of the body without any skill. ‘Looks like Harry Warden’s back in town.’
At the launderette where she works, Mabel is sorting stuff out for the dance. (There’s a Moosehead beer crate on the table, which is a Canadian touch I really appreciate!) She comes out of the back room to find a chocolate box with an ominous rhyme inside:
Roses are red Violets are blue One is dead And so are you
As promised, the killer soon takes care of Mabel.
The miners have moved out to the bar’s car park – some to get late-night food, some to brood about stuff. Axel is playing harmonica. TJ wants a word with him and so joins in with the harmonica playing (I guess everyone has one in their pocket in Valentine Bluffs). They soon get into an argument about Sarah – Axel feels that she was fair game given that TJ left town – and Axel storms off. Hollis comes over to calm TJ down, and TJ says he doesn’t blame Axel – he just doesn’t know what to do. This whole love triangle subplot is kind of uncomfortable, because neither of them ever seem to care about Sarah’s wishes at all.
The next day, Chief Newby is still finding it difficult to get answers from Eastfield sanatorium. The nurse tells him that they’ve got no file on Harry, so he must have either transferred, been released, or died, but the records don’t go back that far – she’d have to check the microfiche, and that will take days. Chief Newby tells her to get on it fast.
Sarah and Patty are shopping in town. Sarah feels down about the TJ/Axel situation and doesn’t want to go to the dance, but Patty insists she comes and has a good time. ‘Besides, you gotta see the dress I got – cut down to here, slit up to there, I may not make it out alive!’ she says, with a nice frisson of foreboding for the audience. Meanwhile, in the launderette, Chief Newby finds that all the heart decorations have been turned upside down, and that Mabel’s dead body is in one of the driers.
The miners are down the mine again for the day’s work, and Axel is giving TJ a hard time because of the Sarah situation. Their supervisor breaks the fight up and sends TJ for an early shower.
Chief Newby and Mayor Hanniger decide to cover up the fact that Mabel was murdered, ’cause they don’t want to cause panic. They put out the word that she died of a heart attack instead. Is this actually legal? Mabel’s heart is found inside another chocolate box with another cheery rhyme:
It happened once It happened twice Cancel the dance Or it’ll happen thrice
Mayor Hanniger tells Chief Newby to cancel the dance and lock up Union Hall, where the dance was due to take place, much to the disappointment of the girls who have come to make final preparations. Meanwhile, TJ, taking advantage of his early shower to avoid another fight with Axel, leaves work, picks up Sarah, and takes her for a drive to their previous favourite romantic spot in order to apologise. She kisses him, but is clearly still torn between the two boys. As such, while TJ joins the others at the Cage, Sarah walks home alone, ruminating.
She then bumps into Chief Newby in a total copy of the Sheriff Brackett ‘I guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare’ scene from Halloween, complete with similar dialogue and everything!
At the Cage, the barman suspects what really happened to Mabel, and is telling everyone she was murdered. The young people aren’t listening, and TJ suggests using the recreation room of the mine for a Valentine party – because it’s his dad’s mine, he has access to the keys.
The barman is fed up of nobody listening to him, and breaks into the mine to prepare a fake scare with a pickaxe for the partygoers, so that when they open the door to the recreation room, they’ll think Harry Warden is attacking them. He’s far more amused than he should be by his own prank, so he keeps opening the door to give himself a laugh. Of course, the fourth time, it’s a real killer with a real pickaxe, who quickly finishes him off!
The next day, Chief Newby is pensively standing at the door of the police station, with ominous Valentine streamers blowing everywhere. Meanwhile, the young people go into the recreation room to start setting up for the party. One of the partygoers, Dave, goes to get sausages from the kitchen and immediately gets murdered-by-boiling-water.
Chief Newby receives a chocolate box, and steels himself to find another heart, but it turns out to be an actual chocolate box, sent by Mabel before she died. He has a bad feeling about the mine, though, and decides to go and check it out. On the pavement outside, some stray dogs are nibbling at another heart in a chocolate box. You didn’t stop the party! says the note, and frankly, I’m a bit disappointed in the killer for giving up on his poetry attempts.
After Patty building up the sexiness of her dress earlier, it isn’t that exciting. It’s a perfectly nice timeless red shift, though, and I’d probably buy it if I saw it at a vintage fair. There’s another showdown between TJ and Axel, but Hollis breaks up the fight and sends Axel outside.
Meanwhile, a couple from the party, John and Sylvia, have gone off to make out in the changing room. I love Sylvia’s outfit – her boots and jumper are soooo 1981! Before they get down to business, she decides they need beer, so John heads to the kitchen to collect some. As he passes a couple of girls who are helping themselves to sausages, one of them shrieks slightly – she’s found Dave’s cooked heart in the pot, but doesn’t know what it is. Because of this distraction, John doesn’t notice Dave’s body in the fridge as he takes out the beer.
In the changing room, Sylvia hears strange noises, and notices the showers being turned on. Escaping from a maze of mining clothes falling on top of her, she meets up with the killer. John returns, and gets excited when he thinks Sylvia’s in the shower room. She is, but she’s dead.
Chief Newby arrives at the mine, but before he can go in, he immediately has to turn around due to getting a report from the station about Eastfield sanatorium calling back. Patty wants to cheer Sarah up, so she persuades Hollis to take some of the partygoers down into the mine. TJ’s not happy about it, but Hollis says they’ll be quick, and gets the lift down with Patty, Sarah, Howard, Mike, and Harriet.
They end up staying in the mine for longer than Hollis intended, mainly because Patty and Harriet want to explore the abandoned part of the mine. Howard hears a noise, but it’s dismissed as rats, and Mike and Harriet decide to split off from the party so they can have some alone time (which is always such a great idea!).
Upstairs, the partygoers have realised that Dave and Sylvia are dead. TJ takes charge, and sends the others off to call the police. He and Axel bury their differences and go down to rescue the mine party. Howard is still pulling pranks, dropping down from the roof to scare the girls when Hollis tells them the story about Harry Warden.
At the police station, the fleeing partygoers tell Chief Newby about what’s happening at the mine. He immediately heads over, calling the reinforcements in as he drives.
TJ finds the group in the mine and tells them what’s going on, and he and Hollis go off to find Mike and Harriet, leaving Howard to look after the girls. Hollis finds Mike and Harriet dead, and is fatally wounded himself, but makes it back before succumbing to his injuries. Patty becomes hysterical as a result, meaning she won’t leave Hollis’ body, and Howard runs off without waiting for the girls (cowardly behaviour, which is another sure indication of a character not surviving!).
Axel finds the girls instead, and takes them towards the lift, where they meet up with TJ. The control panel for the lift has been sabotaged, so they have to climb up the ladder instead, including the girls in their heels (love those 1981 heels! they’re actually quite practical for ladder-climbing, not like today’s five-inch stilettos). Sarah yells for Axel not to go too fast, as Patty is a slow climber due to fear of heights (or something – she’s turned into a total useless muppet after witnessing Hollis’ death!).
Unfortunately, Howard’s corpse drops past them, spattering everyone with blood, and they realise the killer must be at the top of the ladder. They climb back down and head to the railcarts instead. In order to start the carts, Axel tells TJ to take the girls over and yell when they’re across. However, they soon hear the sound of a groan and a splash, so they assume Axel’s been killed and thrown into the water.
TJ sends the girls ahead along the tunnel while he goes to start the cart. There’s a loud crash from his direction, however, and so the girls run back. This was not a good idea, as the killer suddenly swings around the corner and kills Patty.
Meanwhile, the police reinforcements are arriving, and Mayor Hanniger and Chief Newby lead them down the mine tunnel. TJ finds Sarah, but the killer arrives just as he starts the cart. There’s then a great chase sequence along the cart, followed by a fight between TJ and the killer next to the track.
Backing the killer into a side room, Sarah pulls his mask off, revealing Axel’s face. ‘Axel! Why?’ gasps TJ. The question is answered by a daft flashback to Axel as a small boy witnessing the murder of his father, who was one of the negligent mine supervisors. Surely this is the kind of thing that should have been seeded already – why would the other young people in the town act so cavalier and jokey about the Harry Warden story if they knew that their friend had witnessed the brutal murder of his father at the hands of Warden? (In fact, thinking about it, it’s kind of odd that the young people dismiss the whole thing as a ‘legend’ before it starts happening again. They’re all in their early-to-mid-twenties, so the Warden murders happened within their lifetime – and in a small town like that, the events should have cast a huge shadow when they were growing up, with everyone knowing exactly what happened.)
The police arrive as the room collapses, TJ and Sarah only barely escaping the collapse, and Chief Newby explains that he took the call from Eastfield – they confirmed that Harry Warden died five years ago. TJ tells him that it was Axel, and Chief Newby and Mayor Hanniger are both like ‘of course! the witnessing-his-father’s-murder thing!’ like they should have known it all along.
‘He’s alive!’ yells someone, and Sarah runs back to the collapsed room, followed by TJ. Axel is crawling away through the wreckage, having gone totally mad, and is spouting mad pronouncements. Among them is the best attempt at Valentine poetry he’s made throughout the whole film:
Harry, Harry, I’m coming! This whole f***ing town is going to die! We’re coming back, you bastards! Sarah, be my bloody Valentine.
(The word ‘bloody’ is probably not used in the mild British expletive sense, but I’m going to pretend that it is, because it makes the poem EVEN BETTER.)
There’s then a very silly folk-rock song over the end credits, which I’d totally forgotten about!
I really enjoy this film. Won’t wait so long before watching it again!
The Shining (1980) is one I’ve not watched for ages. Definitely due a rewatch!
I love the pretty scenery in the opening. I’ll have to put Montana on my list of places to visit someday! The helicopter footage is kind of stomach-turning though.
After the credits, Jack Torrance arrives at the Overlook Hotel for an interview with the proprietor, Stuart Ullman. The hotel seems so nice and normal during the on-season!
Back at home in Denver, Jack’s son Danny is sceptical about living in a hotel for the winter, but says he doesn’t have any friends in Denver anyway. His only friend appears to be an imaginary one called Tony.
In the interview, Jack explains to Ullman that he wants five months of peace for his new writing project, and loves solitude. Ullman mentions a tragedy that happened in 1970 – a man called Delbert Grady came to act as caretaker and went mad, killing his family with an axe then shooting himself. Jack’s not bothered – he says his wife Wendy loves ghost stories and horror films (though we never see any evidence of this in the film!)
Danny is shown talking to Tony. Tony knows Jack got the job and is about to call Wendy, and indeed the phone immediately rings – Tony is basically Danny’s psychic side and knows there’s something bad about the hotel, showing him a vision of blood flooding a foyer and some creepy-looking twin girls.
(Apparently in the original cut, there’s an explanatory scene here where Wendy explains to a doctor that Jack gave up drinking because he accidentally hurt Danny’s shoulder when drunk, but this has been removed from the European cut. It would have helped things make a bit more sense later in the film!)
When the family arrive at the hotel, Danny sees the twins again. Ullman explains that the hotel was built on the site of an Indian burial ground! Clearly, this place was cursed from the start.
Wendy and Danny are being introduced to Mr Hallorann, the hotel chef, who is clearly also psychic as he calls Danny by his nickname of ‘Doc’ without anyone telling him the nickname. The storeroom is full of Heinz cans – I love how they’ve not changed in design since 1980! Hallorann psychically talks to Danny, letting him know he’s psychic too.
Hallorann explains to Danny about ‘the shining’ – at first, Danny doesn’t want to talk about it because Tony won’t allow it. Hallorann says that ‘when something happens, it can leave a trace of itself behind’, explaining why Danny is having visions of what happened in 1970. Apparently, only people with the shining can see it. ‘What about room 237?’ asks Danny. Hallorann says there’s nothing there, but tells him to stay out of the room.
A month later, Danny is riding his toy car around the hotel, while Wendy brings Jack his breakfast. Jack is only waking up at half past eleven at the moment, and hasn’t been getting any writing done (I know that feeling). He turns down Wendy’s offer of a walk outside, as he really needs to start work. Wendy is giving the kind of irritating writing advice that non-writers always give writers about how it’s just a case of getting in the habit every day, which nobody wants to hear if they’ve got writer’s block! Wendy and Danny go out to explore the giant maze outside, while Jack studies the model version of the maze instead of getting on with his writing.
On Tuesday (the caption doesn’t make it clear how many days later this is), Danny is riding his toy car again, and passes room 237 – it’s locked. Jack is working late on his typewriter, and is very grouchy and irritable with Wendy – he tells her not to interrupt him and sends her away. The next day, Wendy and Danny go out to play in the snow that has fallen overnight, while Jack stares vacantly into mid-air – he’s clearly already going mad.
On Saturday, Jack is still typing away. Wendy can’t get through to anyone on the phone and radios the local police – they reckon the phone lines are down because of the storm and that they won’t be fixed until the spring. Danny is on his toy car and runs into the twins again. ‘Hello, Danny, come and play with us!’ The vision is interspersed with their axe-murdered bodies, but they’re so creepy when alive that I’m not sure which is worse!
On Monday, Jack asks Danny to come to him for a hug, which is a really creepy scene due to Jack Nicholson brilliantly playing his onset of madness. Danny asks if Jack would ever hurt him and Wendy. Jack is sure that Wendy must have put the idea in his head.
On Wednesday, Danny is playing with miniature cars, and a ball rolls to him from somewhere – room 237 is now open, and he goes to investigate. Wendy, meanwhile, is working on the boiler downstairs, but hears a scream. Jack is having nightmares while sleeping at his desk, until Wendy wakes him. He says he dreamt that he killed Wendy and Danny, and seems to be having brief flashes of sanity – ‘I must be losing my mind’.
Danny comes in and won’t listen to Wendy’s exhortations to leave. His jumper is ripped and he has bruises at the neck, but won’t tell Wendy what happened. Wendy accuses Jack of being responsible, which would make a lot more sense if they’d left the scene with the doctor in this cut of the film!
Jack goes to the Gold Room bar and has a conversation with the not-really-there bartender Lloyd, complaining that Wendy won’t forgive him for accidentally hurting Danny three years previously. Wendy arrives in the bar in a panic – Danny has told her he was hurt by a crazy woman in room 237.
Meanwhile, Hallorann is watching TV in his room in Florida. I always love the discotastic nudes he has on his wall! He gets a psychic message from Danny about what’s happening.
Jack goes to visit the crazy woman in the bathtub in room 237. She’s naked and beautiful, so he kisses her, and the whole thing’s just weird – she turns into a decomposing corpse, laughing away. Meanwhile, Hallorann finds he’s unable to get through to the hotel by phone.
Jack is still able to come across as sane to Wendy – he suggests Danny caused the bruises to himself. Danny, meanwhile, is having visions of the word ‘redrum’ written on a door, and Jack goes totally mad at Wendy’s suggestion that they leave the hotel. Halloran gets the police to radio the hotel to make sure everything is all right.
Jack goes back to the Gold Room bar, and now sees it as totally full of people dressed up in ’20s fashions. He tries to pay Lloyd for his drink, but Lloyd says, ‘Your money’s no good here – orders from the house.’ It’s not really clear what this is about, so I’m going to assume that it’s because Jack’s ten-dollar bills are ’70s in design and thus unusable in the ’20s.
There’s then a strange bit of business with Delbert Grady, here acting as a waiter, cleaning Jack’s jacket in the bathroom after accidentally spilling advocaat on it. Grady claims never to have been the caretaker of the hotel, but does have a wife and two daughters. Jack tries to get Grady to recall the murder of his wife and children, but Grady insists Jack is the caretaker and always has been – ‘I should know, sir, I’ve always been here.’
Grady somehow knows about Danny calling Hallorann. Both he and Jack rather unpleasantly use the n-word to describe him, and I’m not sure what this is meant to prove. Grady seems to represent whatever weird supernatural power is sending Jack mad.
Jack intercepts the radio call from the police by breaking the radio, but Hallorann is already on a flight, and then drives through the snow towards the hotel. Meanwhile, Wendy, armed with a baseball bat and calling for Jack, finds that every sheet of the play Jack has been writing is just ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ typed over and over again. Jack startles her by arriving in the room, and is now clearly mad.
Danny is multitasking on the psychic stuff, listening to his parents’ conversation while having visions of the flood of blood and the ‘redrum’ writing. Wendy eventually whacks Jack with the baseball bat and puts him in the storeroom, locking it and grabbing a knife. However, she and Danny can’t leave the hotel, because Jack has sabotaged the snowmobile.
At 4pm, Jack wakes up in the storeroom due to hearing a knock on the door. It’s Grady, come to complain about Jack not having killed his family yet. When Jack promises that he’s not having second thoughts, Grady somehow unlocks the storeroom door. Meanwhile, Hallorann makes his way to the hotel in another snowmobile.
‘Redrum’, Danny keeps saying, having picked up a knife and lipstick, and writes the word on the door. Wendy wakes up just in time, as Jack is hacking his way through the door with an axe. She sees the reflected ‘redrum’ phrase ‘ – ‘murder’ – in the mirror, and tries to get the bathroom window open. She manages to send Danny through the window, but the gap is too small for her. Jack smashes through the bathroom door in the infamous ‘Here’s Johnny!’ scene, but Wendy stabs him in the hand, and then they both hear Hallorann’s vehicle arriving outside.
Danny runs through the kitchen and hides in one of the cupboards. Hallorann, meanwhile, has had a wasted journey, ’cause he immediately gets killed by Jack, causing Danny to scream and reveal his location. Danny escapes from the cupboard and runs outside. Wendy, meanwhile, has a weird vision of a man in a bear costume and another man in normal clothes in one of the bedrooms. I have no idea what this has to do with anything else at all.
Jack turns on the outdoor lights to try and find Danny, who runs into the maze. Jack follows his trail of footprints. Wendy finds Hallorann’s body, then has a vision of a party guest with a bloody head (again, I’m not sure why Wendy is suddenly seeing all these things!). Danny cleverly retraces his exact footprints and hides, in order to throw Jack off the trail.
Wendy has another vision – this time of the flood of blood that Danny has been seeing for the whole film. Danny escapes the way he came, leaving Jack in the maze, and finds Wendy; both of them escape in Hallorann’s vehicle. Jack collapses in the maze and freezes to death.
For the final scene, in the gold room, Jack is shown in a 1921 photo. This doesn’t really make any sense – does he transfer to another world in the past or something? Also, the image has to be super zoomed-in-on so that audiences watching on 1980 projection screens could actually see it!
A good quiet day for getting on with stuff. I got a lot of writing done again, and Geth and I went to Asda to get Hallowe’en supplies for the next few days. I’m now settling in for my autumn Sunday evening of Doctor Who and the Strictly results! The clocks having gone back today makes it feel even cosier.
Being so pushed for time at the moment, I REALLY appreciated the extra hour, too!
Today’s earworm playlist:
Nicole Scherzinger – Poison
Michael Jackson – Thriller
Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World
Irene Cara – Fame
I think you all know how this post is going to start. Cue the gratuitous Sex Pistols.
The Doctor and companions finally arrive back in 2018 Sheffield, but they find the spiders in the city are acting very strangely. With the help of spider expert Jade and Yasmin’s mum Najia, they track the source of the infestation to a new hotel owned by American Trump-a-like presidential wannabe Jack Robertson (Chris Noth, doing a fantastic turn as a villain – I only knew him as Mr Big in Sex and the City before!) and find out that an incompetent waste company has been dumping spider experimentation waste plus industrial waste in an old mine to create a toxic cocktail of GIANT SPIDERS. The Doctor has a plan to let the spiders live out a dignified natural existence, but it’s abruptly ended by Robertson shooting the giant mother spider and spouting a lot of stuff about how this (gun-waving and warmongering?) is what’s going to get him into the White House, then storming off. I expect we’ll see him again.
At the end of the episode, the companions make their own decision to travel with the Doctor full time. I much prefer this to the imperious RTD-era ‘I only take the best’ smugness on the Doctor’s part.
It’s interesting that the threat in this episode was purely human-created – no alien involvement in the story at all, other than the Doctor showing up! I think that’s the first time we’ve seen a completely non-alien episode since the series came back in 2005.
It was also a great episode for characterisation. There was more development of the relationship between Ryan and Graham (I love the moment where Ryan gets upset about his dad implying that Graham’s not his ‘proper’ family). Bradley Walsh gave a really touching performance to show how Graham is mourning wife Grace. Also, we finally got some proper characterisation for Yasmin with the introduction of her family and her relationships with them! Her parents and sister are lovely characters, especially Shobna Gulati as Najia.
Next week’s episode is set in an alien hospital and looks like a proper classic tech-going-wrong adventure! Can’t wait.
The Woman In Black (2012) is another one I’ve not seen before. I’ve not been fully keeping up with horror films this century because it’s mostly been really bad remakes and over-the-top gorefests. This looks like a nice sedate ghost story, so I decided to give it a go.
It was made by Hammer! I had no idea they were still making films!
It’s a Victorian setting, and we open with three creepy little girls playing with dolls. Some unseen force compels them to jump out of the window, and we hear screaming from below. Roll opening credits.
The lead in this is Daniel Radcliffe, in probably one of the biggest roles he’s done since Harry Potter. Arthur Kipps is a young widower who has to go away a lot, so his son is mainly cared for by the nanny. He’s a lawyer, but hasn’t been on form since his wife’s death; his boss at the law firm is giving him one final chance to prove himself by asking him to sort out the paperwork for the house of Alice Drablow, a woman who’s recently died.
On the train out to the village where the house is, Arthur has a flashback to his wife’s death in childbirth. Waking up, he meets local resident Samuel Daily, who owns one of these newfangled car things and can give Arthur a lift. The landlord clearly doesn’t want Arthur to stay, claiming the inn is full, but the landlady takes pity on him and gives him the attic room. The attic has a creepy picture of the girls from the start of the film – it’s the room that they jumped from, which is presumably why the inn owners don’t usually put people up in there.
It’s a really creepy small English village, with everyone staring at Arthur as he goes past. The exact year of the setting, at this point, is unclear – there are early cars and telephones (both only owned by Samuel Daily, mind), so coupled with the costumes, I’m guessing it’s meant to be the 1890s-1900s. The film’s Wikipedia entry claims it’s actually 1910, but I don’t think this is clarified in the film.
Arthur meets up with Mr Jerome, the local solicitor, who is desperate to get rid of him and has already paid a guy with a horse and cart to take Arthur back to the train station! Arthur knows he’ll get fired if he doesn’t get the job done, though, and pays over the odds for the coachman to take him to Eel Marsh House instead.
At the house, Arthur starts to go through the paperwork. He finds a death certificate for Alice’s son, Nathaniel, who died age seven – he drowned in marshland and his body was never recovered. Hearing screaming in the woods, Arthur goes outside and runs around in the mist, thinking he sees images of a woman’s face. The coach driver comes back for him at that point.
While Arthur is at the police station attempting to report what he saw, three children arrive. The young girl has drunk lye and dies in Arthur’s arms before anyone can help her. Back at the inn, the landlady begs Arthur to go home to his son.
Arthur meets up with Samuel Daily again, as he needs somewhere to stay seeing as the inn could only put him up for one night. Samuel asks Arthur not to mention the young girl’s death to his wife, Elisabeth, as she is still affected by the loss of their son. Elisabeth is shown to be an eccentric who dotes on her dogs, but things take a sinister turn when she becomes possessed by her son while at dinner. Samuel thinks it’s all in her mind.
The next morning, Arthur and Samuel go looking for Jerome, as Arthur could use his help with the paperwork. He’s not in his home – although Arthur does think he sees a girl locked in the cellar – but they soon find him with the rest of the superstitious townsfolk, who are blocking the road to Eel Marsh House. Samuel forces them into letting them through by driving through anyway. He says he’ll pick Arthur up later, but Arthur wants to work through the night. Samuel leaves his dog with Arthur for company.
During his exploration of the house, Arthur comes across lots of old photos, hears lots of spooky noises, and finds some violently scribbled correspondence full of medieval images and captions like ‘go to hell you harlot’ and ‘God protects me’. The dog starts barking about something outside, and Arthur finds a grave marker outside reading 1882-1889, which is presumably for Nathaniel, as well as one for a woman called Jennet, who also died in 1889. He then sees the figure of a woman in the window.
Arthur reads more of the correspondence, and it becomes clear that Jennet was the real mother of Nathaniel, who was forcibly adopted away by Alice, her sister, due to Jennet’s mental issues. Jennet believed that her sister didn’t try hard enough to save Nathaniel from the marsh, and wrote that she would never forgive her. Jennet’s death certificate says she hanged herself in Eel Marsh House later in 1889.
Arthur has fallen asleep in his chair, but the dog starts barking at a presence again, and Arthur finds that the faces of Alice and her husband have been scratched out on the photo in front of him. There’s then a long sequence with lots of spooky ghost stuff happening, like a rocking chair rocking invisibly, a carved inscription found behind wallpaper, a storm starting up outside (these are always so conveniently timed in horror movies!), a figure in black walking towards the house, and a doorknob rattling without anyone there to rattle it. Eventually, when Arthur goes outside to investigate, he sees a group of dead children staring at him, and runs back inside. There’s more scares in the house, including a creepy-sounding music box playing, the toys in Nathaniel’s old room moving by themselves, and a vine-esque thing rising from a sheet.
Samuel picks Arthur up the next day. The scene here is odd, because the car is really badly and obviously superimposed against the moving background. I also noticed this poor effect in The Wolf Man the other day, but I can forgive it in a film released in 1941 – not so much one released in 2012!
Back at the village, they find Jerome’s house aflame. Arthur tries to rescue the girl in the cellar, but she sets herself alight. Arthur realises that Jerome and his wife had hidden her in the cellar to try and protect her.
In the graveyard, Arthur meets up with Elisabeth by the grave of her son Nicholas. She explains about sightings of the woman in black resulting in the deaths of children; possessed by Nicholas, she explains, ‘She makes us do it.’ Elisabeth then draws the same picture that Arthur’s son, Joseph, had drawn and shown to Arthur at the start of the film.
Failing to contact Joseph’s nanny in time to stop them arriving in the village, where they’re scheduled to be meeting Arthur, Arthur and Samuel go back to Eel Marsh House to try and reunite Jennet and Nathaniel by pulling the latter’s body out of the marsh using Samuel’s car. Arthur knows they have to attract Jennet so she can find Nathaniel, so he goes back up to Nathaniel’s room and starts the music box.
There’s more spooky ghost stuff – Samuel sees the woman in black, follows her, and gets trapped in a room. The rocking chair starts rocking again, the candles all extinguish themselves, and a scary face is shown – but then the house goes quiet. ‘I think she’s gone,’ says Arthur to Samuel, and they bury Nathaniel’s body in the family grave with Jennet.
Joseph and his nanny arrive at the train station, and Arthur is there to greet them – he tells the nanny they’re going straight back to London, and sends her to buy tickets. However, while Arthur is saying goodbye to Samuel, Joseph sees the woman in black, lets go of Arthur’s hand, and walks into the path of an oncoming train. Arthur goes to grab him, but it’s too late – they’re both killed by the train.
Arthur and Joseph wake up in the ghost world and are reunited with Arthur’s wife. The woman in black is shown watching them, so it’s not clear at all if the curse has actually been lifted or if the village is going to be left in peace. Roll credits.
Apparently Jane Goldman wrote the screenplay! Love her stuff.
I quite enjoyed this one, but I didn’t find it very scary, ’cause I’m not scared of ghosts and I don’t get affected by child characters dying.
After a couple of weeks off running since the Yorkshire 10 Mile, I went to parkrun today. It was freezing cold and miserable out on the Town Moor, with the wind blowing sleet into my face and giving me a sleet headache (which I didn’t know was a thing until this morning), and so I wasn’t nearly as fast as I have been recently. That’s a bit disappointing, but hopefully the conditions will be better next week.
I’ve been able to have a nice afternoon catching up with It Takes Two before the main Strictly show tonight, as well as getting on with my writing. Another nice quiet day tomorrow.
Today’s earworm playlist:
Bucks Fizz – Piece Of The Action
Wham! – Wham! Rap (Enjoy What You Do)
Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know?
Lisa Stansfield – All Around The World
Adam Ant – Puss In Boots