Pet Semetary (1989) vs Pet Semetary (2019): Movie review showdown.

Pet Semetary (1989) vs Pet Semetary (2019): Movie review showdown.

**Needless to say there are spoilers in this article so steer clear until you’ve watched the new film.**

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As I mentioned in my last post, my book review of Pet Semetary by Stephen King, my friends and I decided to make a little Stephen King book club. Every month or so, we would read one of his books and watch the screen adaptations because, yes, we are massive nerds and yes, we love horror. So we started with this one because a brand new adaptation just hit the big screens and it felt like fate. So we read the book and every one of us loved it, read my previous post for the full review. So far so good. Now, we were going to watch the two adaptations. One from 1989 starring Dale Midkiff and Star Trek Next generation’s Denise Crosby, before venturing to the cinema to see the new release starring Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz and the beloved John Lithgow. They are both based on the same book so they won’t be that dissimilar, right? WRONG! The two films were worlds apart in both quality, performance and horror, so I thought I should write a review, comparing the two films to both the original book and each other. So here we have it, the ultimate showdown…who are you routing for?

Age before beauty, so let’s start with the 1989 adaptation. I had seen this once as a child, many, many moons ago (I won’t say how long because I don’t want to reveal just how old I am) but truthfully I barely remembered it. Not the best sign I suppose, but at least it meant I was going into it with no preconceptions. I can forgive 80s horror movies for their terrible special effects because they give me nostalgic vibes and sometimes, the way the directors and creators have got around issues with budget and technological constraints can sometimes produce what is often scarier and more tense than the all out CGI we have today. What I cannot forgive is terrible acting. Every single actor in this movie, with the exception of Brad Greenquist who played the ill fated Pascow, was beyond wooden. Honestly, it was like they weren’t even trying. The worst culprits were by far the main characters Louis Creed, played by Dale Midkiff and his wife Rachel, played by Denise Crosby. I’m not sure if they were just phoning it in for the pay cheque or they are honestly just terrible for the roles, but either way it was like watching shop mannequins fumble their way through.

Not a great start, right? But maybe, the script was good? Nope, not particularly. Look, I get that this is a big old book to squeeze into a ninety minute movie, so of course not everything will make it in there but what I have learned over the years is that you can practically throw the original book away as long as the movie captures the books vibe and atmosphere (see Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House for the perfect example of this) but unfortunately this adaptation captured neither. One of the biggest issues with this film may actually be that it stuck TOO CLOSELY to the original book, choosing to go down the same murderous, psycho toddler route. There are two major problems with this: 1) Anyone can overpower a toddler, even a supernatural one and 2) Toddler’s aren’t scary, they are in fact adorable and the one chosen to play Gage in this film, actor Miko Hughes, is particularly cute. No matter how much he attempts to scowl and growl, I find myself cooing and awing at every shot of his chubby cheeks and wide eyes. A scalpel has never been as sweet as when it is being held aloft by this child’s chubby hand. The lesson here is, what works in a book doesn’t necessarily translate well to screen. The movie’s exposition is also ridiculously rushed so it feels like a poor adaptation rather than a movie in its own right. Lesson number two, if you can’t fit it all in Lord of the Rings epic trilogy style, then learn to edit.

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One of the other things that really bothered me was the set, specifically the forest beyond the deadfall. In the book, a dark, otherworldly, misty forest is described whereas this film gives us a very pleasant national park perfect for a Boy Scout’s nature trail. It just all felt rather half assed to be honest. But it did get a few things right. As mentioned, the actor playing Pascow, Brad Greenquist, puts on a great performance as the warning spirit and despite the bad guy being the cutest sweetie pie ever, the bit where he slices clean through Judd’s Achilles heel was painful to watch even with 1980s special effects. Overall though, this film fell flat and in my opinion is only really worth watching for nostalgia purposes.

So what of the new film? This film demonstrates in glorious HD how an adaptation should be done. First of all, the actors are great providing believable performances throughout. I’m a massive fan of Jason Clarke, particularly after his performance in the thoroughly recommended Winchester, and he does a great job of playing Louis perfectly depicting his grief. This movie was also smart enough to ditch the whole killer toddler thing instead having the Creed’s older child Ellie die and be brought back. Whilst toddlers are adorable and cannot possibly be considered scary (with the possible exception of my daughter when she is hangry) older children can make creepy little villains…think Samara in The Ring, Children of the Corn or The Omen. The actress playing Ellie, Jete Laurence makes a very convincing little psychopath and provides that much needed horror to the movie. Whilst it isn’t the scariest film I’ve ever seen, it’s pretty well done, with great sets, convincing special effects (without going overboard with CGI as so many modern films tend to do) and great actors.

I particularly loved this movie’s nods

to the previous adaptation, with the truck driver who kills Ellie being distracted by a text from Sheena (the original truck driver is singing along to Sheena is a punk rocker by The Ramones), with Gage running to the road just as he does in the book and the original adaption as a red herring for Ellie’s death and finally, with that Achilles heel moment mentioned above, except in this version Judd kicks the bed away with no psycho child to be found underneath only to be sliced and diced as he descends the stairs. This self referencing is something Stephen King does throughout his own books, with winks and nods to other stories and novels peppered throughout. This movie perfectly captured this on screen. In fact, at one point Ellie explains to Jud who Winston Churchill is and he exclaims he knows well who he is- the actor John Lithgow plays Churchill in Netflix’s The Crown. Again, that little wink to the audience is exactly the type of thing King himself would do.

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This adaptation completely strays from the book in some ways, some good, others not so good. In this adaptation, Louis tries to offload the now psychotic family cat Church by driving him into the middle of nowhere and abandoning him. Of course, he finds his way home and when the very happy and relieved Ellie runs to him, being struck down in the process, it only goes to increase Louis’ feeling of guilt and fault at her death. If he hadn’t tried to get rid of Church, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened. I also love that, unlike the book, the cat is fully feral in the new adaptation. His issues as described in the book, his odd zombielike motions, his smell of earth and rot and the fact that he causes unease and general discomfort wherever he goes, is not necessarily easy to translate onto the big screen whereas a cat clawing and snarling works well. The ending is dramatically changed from the book and original movie and this is one I had a bit of a problem with. In this ending, Ellie kills Rachel and drags her to the semetary. She then returns and kills Louis, then proceeds to drag him to the semetary, before the entire now evil, regenerated family complete with psycho cat, now walk towards Gage after burning down Jud’s house. I assume Gage will be next on the hit list, or maybe they’ll wait until he is older, who knows. I wasn’t a fan of this ending. I much prefer the ending of the book, and subsequently the original adaption, with Louis killing his zombie child after he has killed Rachel, before taking Rachel to the semetary and bringing her back to life. It ends with her simply dragging her dirt covered feet inside and saying, “Darling” leaving it up to ourselves to decide what happens to Louis and his remaining child. I understand that the writer of this new adaptation wanted a new ending in order to surprise audiences who are well familiar with the original ones as well as satisfy those new to Stephen King’s work, but sadly it just didn’t pull it off for me. Personally, I would have had Louis kill Ellie, then flee with Gage only to have Rachel stumble out of the forest and stare after them, again leaving it up to the viewer to imagine what is coming next. But that’s just me.

Overall though, the new film is thoroughly entertaining and an enjoyable watch for any horror fan whether you like Stephen King or not. I would recommend it to any horror fan.

But these are just my opinions- what did you think of the old and new adaptations? How would you have ended the new film? Comment and let me know and don’t forget to subscribe so you can keep up to date with all my latest posts.

Book Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

Book Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

Happy Sunday readers, I hope you had a wonderful weekend!  For tonight’s blog post, I will be reviewing Birdbox by Josh Malerman.  I think I might be the only person who hasn’t watched the Netflix original adaptation of this, but I really wanted to read the book first (plus I have a rather demanding Toddler so very limited TV time that doesn’t involve cartoon princesses and singalongs).  I will hopefully get watching it this week, but if it is even half as good as this book then I know I am in for a treat.

birdboxFor those of you unfamiliar with Birdbox (have you been living under a rock or something?) the premise is this: A phenomenon is sweeping across the globe where people are going crazy, killing themselves and sometimes others too.  No one knows what is causing this, just that the victims always saw something before it happened. The book moves between the very pregnant Malorie and a rag tag group of survivors in the past, to the present where her and her two children battle their way upriver in the hopes of finding safety from these unknown creatures, the wild animals which have now inherited the earth from man and worse, the crazed people driven homicidally mad by what they have seen.  Sounds awesome right?

I absolutely loved this book, I really did.  The premise is fantastic, the characters are all well developed and believable and the tension and horror is very real.  I love that we as the reader never really find out what’s going on.  Are these creatures from another world or dimension?  Do they mean to cause us harm or are they inadvertently causing this carnage?  There are a few theories shared within the book, my favourite being that these creatures are so unfathomably different from ourselves that our tiny human brains simply cannot comprehend it and promptly go nuts at the slightest glimpse.  Whatever is happening, the creatures are never described which means that whatever they are is left entirely to our own imagination (in mine, they are like a creature shaped void of nothingness, walking black holes in our world, but that’s just me).  But the creatures are by no means the scariest part of this book, as it’s the reaction of the humans to the phenomena that offers the books creepiest moments.  Remember, our characters are literally blind folded, so the mere crack of a tree branch is enough to cause total panic.  Then there are the characters who are driven a different kind of mad by the creatures and the situation at large.  They don’t flip out and immediately kill themselves like most, but slowly go insane, hurting their fellow survivors.  I don’t want to have any spoilers but when things go bad, they really go South fast and it is here we see this maniacal, creepy lunacy played out in full bloody horror.

I really enjoyed the movement from past to present, it kept me hooked, maintained the tension throughout and made me desperate to find out what happened.  I had one of those ‘just one more chapter’ moments resulting in me staying up way past my bed time and suffering for it the following day (it was totally worth it though).

I love Malorie.  As a mother, I recognise that need to keep your children safe at all costs, that guttural feeling inside that says above all else, to protect.  At it’s core, this book is about survival.  It is about the good side and the bad side of humanity when faced with unimaginable horror.  It is about a mother determined to protect her children.  It is about man kind clinging to a world that is no longer theirs, refusing to lie down and give up despite insurmountable odds.  It’s pretty inspiring actually and has had me thinking at length about what I would do if, God forbid, such a thing ever happened for real.  I can’t imagine I would last too long, but I know I would do whatever I could to protect my own daughter, just like our protagonist.

It’s a slow burner, dotted with enough moments of peril and action to pull you along at a good pace to that big and bloody finale.  It’s a tense read and one that I enjoyed thoroughly.  I have to give this one full marks with five stars out of five!

Unboxing: Books that Matter Book Box, the feminist book subscription box.

Unboxing: Books that Matter Book Box, the feminist book subscription box.

booksmatter1Happy Sunday everyone, I hope you had a wonderful weekend.  For this evening’s post, I have an unboxing which I am particularly excited about.  I had never heard of the ‘Books that Matter‘ books subscription box until the founder Molly contacted me and Kindly offered to gift me this month’s box.  After checking out their website and reading about their philosophy, I jumped at the chance! You see, this isn’t your average book subscription box, this is a box with a mission.  This is a woman ran book box who is determined to not only promote great female identifying writers and artists, but seriously marginalised ones such as women of colour, transgender authors, less able women and queer women.  Each box contains a book chosen in order to enlighten the reader on themes of gender, race, culture, class, ethnicity, ability, sexuality, politics, or history, alongside at least two gifts by independent female-identifying or non-binary artists. In short, this is the ultimate feminist book box!  I am so excited by this ethos.  In a world which seems to be filled with so much hate, bigotry, discrimination and marginalisation, it is wonderful to find a company which is determined to promote those voices which are heard less and writers and artists who are all too often overlooked.  I was practically giddy when my box arrived and I saw how wonderful it is, living up to my very lofty expectations.  In fact, I was so impressed, I asked Molly if I could interview her for a future blog post and collaborate again soon with a giveaway (HELL YEAH) and on guest blog posts, so keep an eye out!  But the best bit?  This book subscription box is the cheapest I have ever come across.  At only £13 for the box it is serious value for money and as if things couldn’t get any better, Molly is offering 10% off your first box with discount code MARIE10, so you have no excuse not to immediately buy one!

Whilst I could gush about this box all day, perhaps I should get around to the all booksmatter4important unboxing!  So what did my fabulous feminist box contain?  First up, the all important piece of literature.  This month’s book is Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys. Now anyone who follows me on Instagram will know that I am OBSESSED with penguin classics and that I have an ever growing and very beloved collection of the vintage beauties, so I was so very happy to find this stunner in my box.  So let’s take a look at that all important blurb to get a feel for this 1939 modernist classic:

In 1930s Paris, where one cheap hotel room is very like another, a young woman is teaching herself indifference. She has escaped personal tragedy and has come to France to find courage and seek independence. She tells herself to expect nothing, especially not kindness, least of all from men. Tomorrow, she resolves, she will dye her hair blonde. Jean Rhys was a talent before her time with an impressive ability to express the anguish of young, single women. In Good Morning, Midnight Rhys created the powerfully modern portrait of Sophia Jansen, whose emancipation is far more painful and complicated than she could expect, but whose confession is flecked with triumph and elation. One of the most honest and distinctive British novelists of the twentieth century, Jean Rhys wrote about women with perception and sensitivity in an innovative and often controversial way.

This novel sounds truly inspirational and as a lover of classic literature, I am very excited to read it.  I have read a little about the author and she found her fame with a book depicting an account of Jane Eyre‘s Bertha Rochester and since Jane Eyre is my favourite book, this has gone straight to the top of my wish list, so the box was a total success as far as I’m concerned- I discovered a new writer to get to know!

booksmatter3Along with the book, I got three gorgeous bookish items.  First up, is a sew on patch by Karen from ‘A Rose Cast.’  I am already familiar with this artist and I’m a big fan, because she is a Belfast Lass like me!  The quotation is an Emily Dickinson quote about searching for one’s true self amidst the darkness of life.  It reads, “I am out with lanterns looking for myself.”  I love Karen’s fonts and this black and gold patch is just lovely!  I just have to decide what to sew it onto now.  There was also a super cute bookmark which celebrates mental health awareness month and as someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I appreciate that the ladies of the ‘Books that Matter’ box stand in solidarity with ladies such as myself who find themselves struggling sometimes.  It’s also an important reminder of self care- remember, if you find yourself struggling, don’t do so alone!  Speak to someone, seek help and remember, you are stronger than you know!

The second item is an enamel pin, which I was very impressed with given how expensivebooksmatter2 they can be!  The pin is by the ‘Books that Matter’ in house artist Kate, an obviously very talented woman, which says, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”  A simple but important message for us all, and something I often need to remind myself.

On a minor side note, I love the box itself, with the very cool illustrations of female bookworms on it- I felt very special receiving it in the post and it immediately brightened my day when it arrived.

So there you have it guys, a feminist book subscription box that promotes female identifying and marginalised writers that contains an awesome book and beautiful bookish goodies by independent artists and which is super good value for money to boot!! Perfection!  Don’t forget to use MARIE10 for 10% off at the checkout and keep an eye out for the interview with the fabulous Molly Masters, the box’s creator…in fact, why not subscribe to my blog so you never miss out on my unboxing, book reviews and pieces of original writing!  For now, have a wonderful day and happy reading!

 

Book Review: Decorating a Room of One’s Own by Susan Harlan.

Book Review: Decorating a Room of One’s Own by Susan Harlan.

Happy Sunday readers! For tonight’s blog post I will be reviewing Decorating a Room of One’s Own by Susan Harlan, who Kindly gifted me a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review after seeing my love for classic literature on my Instagram! The basic premise of this book is so original and charming, I’m genuinely obsessed with it.  Imagine an interior design book, where instead of interviewing designers or celebrities about their home style inspiration, it features interviews with some classic literary characters.  People such as Dracula, Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett open the doors of their homes and castles and give the reader insight into their interior design choices, where they get their inspiration from and what their favourite features of their homes are.  It includes tours of famous literary residents such as Pemberley, Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory and Jay Gatsby’s swinging pad, all the while littered with references and quotes from the books and insight into the characters featured.

I think it’s obvious from my introduction that I just adored this book.  It has such adecorating 1 wonderful sense of humour, one of my favourite moments being Miss Havisham from Bleak House, who when referring to the author who wrote her such a depressing storyline stated, “He really put the ‘Dick’ in ‘Dickens.'”  It is littered with little ‘inside’ jokes between the reader and the characters which had me literally laughing out loud.  Every ‘tour’ and ‘interview’ was a little trip down memory lane as I remembered the books I have read and loved in the past, some of which I haven’t picked up in far too long.  It renewed my love of classic literature and as a direct result, there are now multiple re-reads on my TBR pile.  Indeed, there are some classics referred to in the book which I have never taken the time to read but after reading this book, I definitely plan on doing so.

The book is divided into chapters covering specific types of domiciles, everything from ‘Ancestral Estates’ and ‘Crazy Castles’ to ‘Cottages, Cabins and Hovels.’ Whether you live in a big house or a flat, or even castles, ships or wardrobes- there is style inspiration for everyone.  Dotted amongst these main chapters are little funny interludes, like the witch from Hansel and Gretel discussing decorating with the Mama Bear from Goldilocks and the Three Bears.   Whatever your favourite books are, Susan has it covered.

decorating 2It is beautifully illustrated by Becca Stadtlander (I mean check out that drool worthy cover), with images from each resident adorably featured in each interview.  Highlights include paintings of Dracula’s coffin, the Gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel, the wardrobe from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and a full page illustration of Pemberley.  I love the classic style of the images, which for perfectly with the books theme.

Susan Harlan is a great writer and it’s clear how much time and research she put into each character and each interview.  She obviously re-read every single book featured as each interview perfectly captures that particular book and character, whilst giving it a humorous, modern and light hearted twist.

Randomly, I also want to note how beautiful the book actually looks as well as the fact that it is of a really high quality.  It is a hard back, which I love, but also the actual pages are of a really thick and high grade paper.  It’s the type of book you would have sitting on your coffee table for people to peruse.  It makes me sound so old saying something like that, but I genuinely appreciated the weight and appearance of it.  It felt grown up and expensive!

Overall this is a fun, light hearted book which would be perfect for any fan of classic literature and as a side note, it would make a really lovely gift! Definitely 4.5 stars out of 5!

Interview with the Night Worms.

Interview with the Night Worms.

There are plenty of book subscription boxes available these days.  You can get them to suit any age and any taste, featuring every genre from Fantasy to Young Adult, Crime to Horror.  But every now and then, a box comes along that genuinely causes a buzz and in this case, even starts a whole movement!  The Night Worms started off as a group of Horror enthusiasts, determined to promote and review horror, a social media based book club for true horror enthusiasts, before two of its members decided to kick things up a notch and create their own Horror subscription box.  But the Night Worms don’t do things like every one else.  Instead of seeing the other Horror Book subscription boxes available on the market as merely competition, they decided to corroborate with them and create the #promotehorror movement on Instagram and Twitter.  After two very successful boxes, with a third on the way, I chat with the lovely ladies behind the box to get some insight into its creation as well as what is to come…

1) Tell us about the people behind Night worms.

nightwormThe people behind Night Worms are two female horror lovers, Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann and Ashley Saywers. I review horror for Scream Magazine and Cemetery
Dance Online. I’ve been married for 22 years to my best friend and we have three children. Our whole family recently moved from Northern California to the Pacific North West.

Ashley also lives in Washington with her husband and their son. She loves horror too! Both of us repped for a horror subscription box company and several other bookish companies-developing a really close friendship and working relationship before we ever decided to go into business together.

We love that we live so close to each other and we can travel back and forth to each other’s houses.

2) What inspired you to create the box?

Ashley and I became friends on Instagram through our dedicated #bookstagram accounts. During the course of a few years, our taste in books became more closely aligned. We realized we were reading all the same books. We decided to combine our efforts to read, review and promote horror through a book club with five other horror loving friends of ours. Night Worms was born.

After about eight months or so, Ashley and I decided to expand our Night Worms brand to a book club subscription package so that more people could read, review and promote horror with us. We are different in that we put the primary emphasis on the books and less of a thrust on the promotional merchandise. We find that lots of the bookish merchandise is either extra filler/clutter or sometimes infringing on the author’s intellectual property. Everything we include beyond books is just to promote horror book collecting, a book collector’s lifestyle or an enhancement of their reading experience through a one-time use consumable–that way there’s nothing leftover that needs to be stuck in a drawer somewhere gathering dust. We collect books-not things.

3) What is it about horror that you love so much?  

We love that horror is so diverse and that it’s a niche community of people who are very passionate about it.

4) If readers are new or unsure about the genre, but looking for a book to start off their horror journey with, which one would you recommend? What would your horror book for beginners recommendation be?

A lot of horror authors can write in very different sub-genres so if a reader was unsurenightworms 2 because they didn’t want to be scared, horror author Robert McCammon has a few books that teeter on the edge of horror but never cross over like, BOY’S LIFE or THE LISTENER. Stephen King also transcends the horror genre and wrote books like, 11/22/63 which is not traditional horror but more like a time travel, thriller. I would also recommend his newest release, THE OUTSIDER which is like a crime thriller. Paul Tremblay has a book called, THE DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK which has horror undertones but definitely a bit lighter than his book, A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS which is pretty full-on

Grady Hendrix is also a great place to start with his clever, light and sometimes humorous stories in the horror genre. A book like MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM is a great place to start.

5) How do you pick the books and items you feature in your boxes?

Ashley and I hear about a lot of new releases through authors and publishers and sometimes we see a theme or a common thread between certain books so we build a theme around those releases

 

6) Tell us about the #promotehorror movement?  What inspired you to start it?

nightworms 3Basically, horror is a neglected genre in the grand scheme of things. It’s largely ignored for big literature awards due to the fact that people assume it has to be scary or gory to be good and many people aren’t interested in being scared. Many readers of horror actually do a disservice to horror sometimes by rating quality written books lower than they deserve just because they weren’t “scary”. We promote all aspect of the horror genre to help snuff out some of the stereotypes and misinformation out there about horror so that our favourite genre can continue to see an uptick in success.

7) What’s next for the Night Worms?

We have some BIG months coming up. Our February package sold out and it’s going to be a spectacular offering so we are very excited about the unpackagings to go out on social media. April is our Kealan Patrick Burke exclusive package which is generating a lot of buzz and then we have even more signed books and exciting themes coming up for the whole year!

8) How do readers become a part of the Night worm family?

Simply visit our website and click on the most recent, available listing. Add to cart as a one time purchase or click “full details” to subscribe. Join our horror movement on social media: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Thank you so much to Sadie and Ashley for taking the time to answer my questions and agreeing to be featured on my little old blog.  Whilst this box is currently unavailable outside of the US, the team are hoping to expand to an international audience down the line, so fingers crossed people, because I am DYING to get my hands on one!  Go on to their social media and check them out, particularly Instagram, so you can discover some new horror books and authors and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all the latest reviews, collaborations and articles.

 

Witchy Instagram Giveaway!

Witchy Instagram Giveaway!

witch giveaway 1Happy Friday my wonderful readers!  I just wanted to make a quick post to let you know about an awesome giveaway I am running on my Instagram to celebrate reaching 10,000 followers!  The prizes include: A large Star Tarot wall hanging, a moon phase fabric banner, a moon phase bookmark by Louise Makes Believe, Two Tarot prints by Punky Bunny and a notebook from Sostrene Grene.  Head over to my Instagram to find out how to enter!

 

Also, keep an eye on my blog because there are some pretty exciting things coming up! witch giveaway 2 Along with some epic upcoming artist collaborations and book reviews, my next blog post is an interview with the lovely ladies behind the Night Worms horror book subscription box and the #promotehorror movement!

Subscribe to my blog to make sure you stay up to date and never miss a post!

Whatever you are up to- have a fantastic weekend!

Book & TV Show Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

Book & TV Show Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

Hello readers and Merry Christmas!  This week, I will be reviewing The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, but before we get into reviewing the book, I thought I would do a quick review of the television show too, since watching that is what led me to read the book which inspired it.  Although the TV show does not have the same story line or characters as Jackson’s novel, it’s influence is evident after reading.

the-haunting-of-hill-house-wideSo What’s the Netflix original show about?  The story follows the Crane family, Hugh and Olivia and their five children Steven, Shirley, Theodora, Luke, and Eleanora.  Moving between past and present, we see the family as young children moving into Hill House while their parents renovate and flip the property, only to be haunted by increasingly violent and terrifying paranormal activity, then later as adults trying to cope with the tragedies that befell them at the property as well as the ghosts, both real and imagined, which haunt them still.

I absolutely adored this series and quite honestly I could gush and gush about all the reasons it was so incredible.  First of all, the writing and directing by Mike Flanagan is utter perfection.  This series could have been filled with cheap, jumpy scares and horror cliches, but instead the show has a slow burning tension, building to some genuinely scary scenes which stay with you long after you switch off.  Flanagan’s decision to include a multitude of ghosts which have no part in the storyline or reason for being there, only adds to that sense of unease as the viewer constantly feels they are being watched.  I love his slick and subtle directing style.  Of note, is the constant, unedited and seamless shot of episode six at the funeral home which left me in complete awe (I cannot begin to imagine how much work and how many takes that took to pull off, but it was completely worth it).  The show is undoubtedly modern and yet it maintains that sense of old fashioned, gothic horror.  The switching between past and present maintains the suspense, giving the viewer just enough of a taste each episode to have them coming back for more.  The cinematography, set designs and costumes all need their own round of applause and the acting is exceptional, with every single character being perfectly cast and played.

I have read a lot of complaints regarding the ending, with people calling it predictable and hammy, but truthfully I loved how it ended.  With so many horror movies and shows these days ending that same ‘The end…or is it?’ kind of way, I was glad that there was a definite conclusion and I’m ok with it being a happy ending of sorts, because by the time the series ended I genuinely liked the Crane family and I was emotionally invested in their story.  I was glad to see it worked out, for most of them anyway.  But even with the finality of this nicely rounded conclusion, there are just enough questions left unanswered to allow for further series unrelated to the Cranes.  What is the deal with Hill House?  Was it built like that or did it become that way through tragedy of circumstance?  Who are those other ghosts and what are their stories?  And what of Mr Hill himself?  Why did he build such a home?  I for one am excited to find out and cannot wait for season two.

hauntingAfter watching the series, I was excited to read the story which inspired it.  I have often found that a really amazing book can inspire an incredibly bad adaptation, but I have rarely experienced it the other way around, with a show or movie being better than the book.  On this occasion, I loved the book as much as I loved the Netflix reimagining and as I said, whilst they are so different in so many ways, they have all of the important bits in common.  So what’s the plot for the book?

Four seekers have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena; Theodora, his lovely assistant; Luke, the future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past. As they begin to cope with horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers – and soon it will choose one of them to make its own. Twice filmed as The Haunting, and the inspiration for a new 10-part Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House is a powerful work of slow-burning psychological horror.

Jackson is an incredible writer and way ahead of her time.  From the first chapter, she creates an unnerving atmosphere leaving the reader ill at ease throughout.  Whilst the tension builds slowly to its final and terrible conclusion, there is just enough action and paranormal activity throughout to keep you in suspense and make you almost impatiently want to continue reading.  The characters are so well written, particularly the narrator Eleanor and the books exploration of mental health is so beautifully done, that it leads the reader to question whether any of it was even real.  The house is so perfectly evoked and created by her wonderfully vivid descriptions, that it becomes a character in of itself, a living and breathing entity toying with its inhabitants.  Finally, the perfectly creepy and beyond strange Dudley’s constantly warn the visitors and indeed the reader of the dangers that lurk, whilst never specifying what those dangers actually are.  All you know is that something is very wrong with Hill House and at times, you wish the characters would heed those warnings.  What I liked best about this book is that the scares aren’t obvious or cliched, but rather a slow and intense feeling of something being wrong.  Her writing evokes an atmosphere that stays with you long after you have put the book down.

And that brings me to why I think this reimagining was such a success.  There are things in common between the TV series and the books.  Hill House is at the centre of both, of course, and the series keeps the Dudley’s as the housekeepers, uses the same names for the main characters and even lifts direct quotes from the book, but in terms of plot and characters, the two could not be more different.  Unlike the book, where the visitors to Hill House go there knowing and indeed hoping to encounter paranormal activity, in the series the Crane family have no idea what awaits them there.  But what Flanagan was able to do so perfectly, was to capture the ambiance and eery atmosphere of Jackson’s world.  Despite its many differences, the series captures the same suspense and tension as the book as well as the same general feeling of unease.  That’s why I was even more impressed with the TV show AFTER reading the book, because Flanagan has managed to recreate the feeling and vibes of Jackson’s incredible book, whilst updating it for a modern audience.

Both the book and the TV series get Five stars from me! Read and watch immediately.