“The Ledge From Stephen King’s Night Shift Collection”

February 1978, marked the first time that a collection of bestselling author Stephen King’s short stories were available to be read in one publication. Doubleday published “Night Shift” which contained twenty stories in all, sixteen of which, had been previously published in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Ubris. The four stories that were published for the first time were “Jerusalem’s Lot,”“The Last Rung on the Ladder,” “The Woman in the Room,” and “Quitters, Inc.” Furthermore, this was the first time King had ever written a forward to one of his works. In addition, prolific writer, John D. MacDonald (The Executioners), who King has called “the great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller,” wrote the introduction to the collection. MacDonald, who passed away on December 28, 1986 was an accomplished author in his own right, who in 1980, among many career accolades, won the National Book Award for Mystery for his novel “The Green Ripper.”

One story, in the collection, which I felt was worthy of singling out for review, especially for King fans, who may never have read it, is “The Ledge.” The short story was originally published in the July 1976 issue of Penthouse Magazine. The method King uses to advance the story forward is first person narrative. Stan Norris is the main protagonist. He is a local tennis-club pro who has been having an affair with Marcia, the wife of a crime boss. Cressner is the criminal’s name, and at the start of the story, he offers Norris a proposition; which at first seems hopelessly one sided. While Cressner doesn’t threaten to kill Norris outright, in a manner of speaking, the terms of his proposal, most likely spell certain doom for Norris.

Cressner is a gambling man, and he makes a wager, which Norris really has no choice, but to accept. Cressner is wagering that Norris will not be capable of making his way all around the building, on the five-inch wide ledge of Cressner’s penthouse apartment, which is forty-three stories up. If successful, Norris will not only get Cressner’s wife, but he will also receive the sum of twenty-thousand dollars cash, all in twenties, in a shopping bag, which Norris confirmed by dumping the money onto the carpet. If Norris refuses to take the wager, he will be framed for possession of heroin. Tony, one of Cressner’s men, has stolen Norris’s car, and moved it into a parking lot. If Cressner calls him, Tony is to plant over six ounces of heroin in the trunk of the car, and then alert the police as to where to find it. Cressner informs Norris, that he has made the same wager to six other people, three of whom were professional athletes, the other three people owed Cressner money; five of the six refused to take the wager, the sixth, started and backed out immediately, offering Cressner, six months of unpaid employment.

Norris, knowing that Cressner is not the sort of man to bluff, begrudgingly takes the wager, as he seemingly has no other choice. The weather is against Norris; it’s nighttime so he has less visibility; he’s wearing a light jacket, and it is the middle of winter. The narrowness of the ledge is also very much against him, and the pigeons occupying the ledge’s perch, will probably not be welcoming to Norris. King lets the reader know Norris’s fears:

“My eye had fastened on something else outside the window . . . something that made my blood temperature sink several degrees. It was a wind gauge. Cressner’s apartment was quite close to the lake, and it was high enough so there were no higher buildings to act as a windbreak. That wind would be cold, and it would cut like a knife. The needle was standing at ten pretty steadily, but a gust would send the needle almost up to twenty-five for a few seconds before dropping off.”

“Ah, I see you’ve noticed my wind gauge,’ Cressner said jovially. ‘Actually, it’s the other side which gets the prevailing wind; so the breeze may be a little stronger on that side. But actually this is a fairly still night. I’ve seen evenings when the wind has gusted up to eighty-five . . . you can actually feel the building rock a little. A bit like being on a ship, in the crow’s nest. And it’s quite mild for this time of year.”

Norris lowers himself onto the ledge, beyond the railing there is nothing for him to grip with his hands, but, even with that fact, he begins his perilous journey. His motivation is simple, he doesn’t want to spend four decades in prison, which is the going sentence for the possession of the amount of heroin, that has been planted in his car. He also, as he indicates at the start of the story, genuinely loves Marcia, and wants to be with her. The money he could win, offers him, not only his freedom, but a chance to leave town, along with his lover, and start over.

“The Ledge” was included as one of two stories from “Night Shift” in the film “Cat’s Eye.” The other story is “Quitters, Inc.” Originally “Sometimes They Come Back,” which is also part of the “Night Shift” collection, was going to be adapted to be part of the film, but Oscar winner Dino De Laurentis (La Strada), who co-produced the film, along with his wife, Martha De Laurentis, and Milton Subotsky, felt that it was a good enough story to have its own film adaptation. “Cat’s Eye” was directed by Lewis Teague (The Jewel of the Nile), and the screenplay was written by Stephen King. The stories in the film, are linked together by a seemingly, supernatural cat named General. The film, which was released theatrically on April 12, 1985, is parts comedy – horror and thriller. The film features Golden Globe winner Drew Barrymore (Grey Gardens); two time Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner James Woods (Salvador); and Oscar nominee Candy Clark (American Graffiti), among numerous others. “The Ledge” segment stars Robert Hays (Airplane) playing the part of Norris, renamed Johnny for the movie; Kenneth McMillan (Blue Skies Again), portrays Cressner; Patricia Kalember plays the part of Marcia; and Tony Munafo, is cast in the role of Tony, who has been renamed ‘Junk’ for the film. The music of Oscar winner Alan Silvestri (Cosmos), is heard throughout all of the segments.

In 1979 “Night Shift” was nominated for a Locus Award, which since 1971, are annual literary awards given by the monthly science fiction and fantasy magazine “Locus.” The winners are selected by the magazine’s readers through voting. The same year, the collection was nominated for the World Fantasy Award,  which has been given yearly since 1975, and awards the best fantasy work published during the previous year. In 1980, “Night Shift” received the Barlog Award, which was given annually from 1979 through 1985 to the best works and achievements in speculative fiction from the previous calendar year.  

“The Ledge” is a well written and excellently paced story. The horror King presents to the reader is plausible, given Cressner’s criminality. Gangsters frequently engage in crazy antics, especially when they are trying to get retribution against an enemy. This is the type of story, that, when you read it for the first time, has the ability to raise your anxiety level, because King puts the reader into Norris’s mindset. Every step Norris takes out on the ledge, while reading it, I felt like I was right there with him, even though I was in the safety of my own home. King, even early on his career, was able to masterfully keep building the tension with each sentence; as readers, we join Norris, as he faces what can be, at any second, his impending death. Once Norris begins his journey out on the ledge, the story should grip most readers, especially fans of King’s work, until its conclusion.

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“The Night Stalker” (1972)

“Judge for yourself its believability and then try to tell yourself, wherever you may be, it couldn’t happen here.”

Carl Kolchak

“The Night Stalker” premiered on ABC television (American Broadcasting Company) on January 11, 1972. The television movie garnered record numbers, becoming at the time, the most watched television movie in history, receiving a 33.2 rating and a 54 share; it would remain at the top for years after its initial airing. The movie opens in a dingy hotel room, where journalist Carl Kolchak, wonderfully portrayed by the late, great character actor, Emmy nominee Darren McGavin (A Christmas Story), is listening to his voice coming from a handheld tape recorder. He has been recounting what took place during his last assignment in Las Vegas.

While leaving to begin a two week vacation, Kolchak is summoned back to the Las Vegas newspaper he works for by his editor, Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland). The piece he is assigned seems the sort of article that any rookie reporter could cover, the unfortunate homicide of a Las Vegas cocktail waitress. What at first seems like an ordinary story becomes anything but, as Kolchak begins to investigate the woman’s death. Kolchak even begins to believe the story could be so big, that he might be able to leave his job in Las Vegas, and go to work in New York, where he’s worked before, and desperately wants to get back to. The first aspect of the woman’s murder Kolchak latches on to, is that her body has been completely drained of blood. In the coming days, other women begin to turn up dead, who have also had the blood drained from their bodies. Furthermore, there have been robberies at blood banks. All of that information makes Kolchak speculate that the killer is a deranged person who believes he is a vampire.

Law enforcement, led by District Attorney Paine (Kent Smith); Sheriff Butcher (Claude Akins); and the head of police, Chief Masterson (Charles McGraw) are quick to dismiss, what they consider, Kolchak’s wild theory. In fact, they demand that he not put what he suspects in print, so as not to hurt business. Dr. Makurji, the police coroner, portrayed by Larry Linville, who is most famous for playing the character Major Frank Burns on “M*A*S*H,”  insists that, based on his own findings, Kolchak’s theory shouldn’t be ignored, but he is also dismissed outright. Kolchak’s only friend in law enforcement, FBI agent Bernie Jenks (Ralph Meeker), who is stationed at the FBI’s Las Vegas field office, keeps Kolchak informed as best he can, but the aggressive Kolchak has to circumvent the police, whom he has a contentious relationship with, in order to pursue his story. Kolchak is able to do this by relying on a network of informants he has built up, which include: his girlfriend Gail Foster, who works at one of the popular casinos, is played by two time Golden Globe nominee Carol Lynley (The Poseidon Adventure); hospital coroner Dr. O’Brien (Jordan Rhodes); regular casino gambler, Mickey Crawford  (Elisha Cook Jr); and a switch board operator (Peggy Rea).

As viewers, we know from the outset, that Kolchak is right. The man committing the murders is not, however, pretending to be a vampire, but is, in actuality, a vampire. His name is Janos Skorzeny (Barry Atwater), born in 1899. He has traveled the world extensively, and now is stalking the streets of Las Vegas for victims. He’s intelligent, extraordinarily strong, and seemingly impossible to stop; everywhere he has gone, a series of murders, the likes of which are happening in Las Vegas, have occurred. What is done with the Skorzeny character advances the vampire narrative past its usual story. Prior to “The Night Stalker” television movie, vampire films and television depictions usually took place during the Victorian era, and featured a cape wearing vampire who resided in a castle. “The Night Stalker” brings the vampire into the modern era, imagining how the vampire would have to adjust to living in the early 1970s. The movie focuses on several key questions: What lengths would he or she have to go to in order to get blood, to perpetuate their existence? How would law enforcement go about stopping such a creature? Would those in charge, even be willing to entertain the notion that vampires really exist?

“The Night Stalker” was directed by John Llewellyn Moxey (Murder She Wrote), and produced for television by Emmy winner Dan Curtis (War & Remembrance). Curtis would later state that he regretted not releasing the 74 minute movie as a feature film, because the test screenings that were held before it aired on television were overwhelmingly positive. The teleplay was written by Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone) based off of an unpublished novel by Jeff Rice (The Night Strangler). “The Night Stalker” was so successful that, it was followed up by a second television movie, “The Night Strangler,” which aired on January 16, 1973. There were plans for a third television film which was to be titled “The Night Killers,”  the plot of which centered on Kolchak accepting a job in Honolulu, Hawaii, and while on assignment, he discovers that there has been a cover-up that involves UFOs, a nuclear power plant, and people being replaced by androids. Instead of producing the third television movie, ABC decided to turn Kolchak into a television series. The series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” aired on ABC from September 13, 1974 through March 28, 1975. The series lasted a mere 20 episodes, and primarily consisted of a ‘monster of the week’ format. McGavin was dissatisfied with the material, he wanted it to branch out into more intricate and entertaining stories. Chris Cater the creator of the “X-Files,” was enamored with the television movies, as well as the short lived series; he credits both as major sources of inspiration. Carter approached McGavin about reprising his role of Kolchak for the “X-Files,” but McGavin politely declined, citing the passage of too much time. McGavin did, however, very much like what Carter was doing with the “X-Files,” and appeared in the series. McGavin portrayed the character of Arthur Dales, a retired FBI agent, known as the ‘father of the ‘X-Files.’ (As an aside: Richard Matheson won the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA).

Will Kolchak be able to convince law enforcement that they are dealing with a real life vampire? What lengths will he go to in order to pursue the story? Can Kolchak stop Skorzeny from killing again? Will the vampire be caught, or move on to another town to kill more helpless victims in order to satisfy his needs? All of those questions and more, will be answered by the conclusion of the television movie.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Film in Texas Chainsaw Franchise Stars Two Oscar Winners”

On October 1, 1974, in Dallas, Texas, the original “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” premiered. Tobe Hooper (Salem’s Lot) directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Kim Henkel (Texas Chainsaw 3D), based off of Henkel’s story. The 83 minute film, was shot over a grueling four week period, where the daytime temperatures in Texas consistently reached 100 degrees. Did either man know, at the time, that they were working on a film that would be considered an icon of the horror genre? Did Gunnar Hansen, who portrayed the original Leatherface, ever think his character would live on in seven prequels and sequels? Would Hansen have ever imagined, in his wildest aspirations for the film, that his character would be turned into a video game? On March 14, 1983, a video game based on the film was released by Wizard Video Games for play on the Atari 2600. Could Hooper have predicted that the film he made for a budget of approximately three hundred thousand dollars, would go on to gross over thirty millions dollars? The answer is ‘doubtful’ to all the aforementioned questions. On April 2, 2015 “Entertainment Weekly” compiled a list of the scariest films ever made, and ranked the movie, second, only to “The Exorcist.” There is no doubt that the original “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” has earned a place among the best horror films of all time, but “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation,” the film, which stars not one, but two Oscar winners, doesn’t even come close.

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” begins with four teenagers, who have left their senior prom. Three of the teens are Barry (Tyler Shea Cone), Heather (Lisa Marie Newmyer), and Sean (John Harrison). The fourth teen is Jenny, who is played by Oscar winner Renée Zellweger (Cold Mountain). The teens are not only lost, but they get into an accident, requiring their car to be towed. After making their way on foot to a real estate office, they call for a tow truck. Unfortunately, for the teens, Vilmer, the tow truck driver, replete with an electric leg, portrayed by Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), comes to their aid. He will turn out to be the last person they can depend on to get them out of trouble.

The teens eventually will get to meet Vilmer’s family, in a manner of speaking. The family, who for whatever unexplained reason, has had their last name changed, in this installment of the franchise, from Sawyer to Slaughter. Members of the murderous, cannibalistic clan include: Darla (Tonie Perensky), who is Vilmer’s love interest, as well as the poetry quoting, W.E. (Joe Stevens). Lastly, there is Leatherface (Robert Jacks). If the overall film hadn’t been so poorly executed, one of my main issues with it would’ve been, that Leatherface, in this movie, is reduced to a secondary character. Leatherface is the first and, in fact, the only person I think of, when I hear the title “Texas Chainsaw.” He has not only been reduced to a minor role, but the chainsaw which he is known to wield with such destructive force, doesn’t kill anyone during the entire duration of the film, hence making the title, in a sense, a rip-off. He does, however, continuously wail out-loud, while chasing victims, which contributes to his character coming across as more annoying than scary. Unlike the original film, the mask that Leatherface uses looks two sizes too big for Jacks, who is playing the part.

Unfortunately for all involved with the production, McConaughey and Zellweger, can’t save the film from being a complete mess. The two actors, who are excellent representatives of their profession, do the best they can with the material, or lack thereof, that they have to work with, but it’s just not enough. In addition to the problems with Leatherface, one of the other issues the film deals with, is that it doesn’t seem to know what it is trying to be. There is no consistent tone presented to the viewer throughout its runtime. The majority of the scenes are forgettable, and the ending defies logic. During several scenes in the film, hints are dropped to the viewer, that there is more going on than appears on the surface with the Sawyer / Slaughter family. The ending, blames The Illuminati, as those responsible for the carnage that has taken place. The Illuminati has apparently placed the crazed family in the backwoods of Texas, and has allowed them to do whatever they wanted to those unfortunate enough to cross their paths. The reason given, is in order to invoke a spiritual awakening in those few people who manage to escape. When the representative from The Illuminati makes his presence known, he states that the organization should have shut down the family a long time ago. In fact, the entire production should’ve been shut down before filming even commenced, but that’s just my opinion.

“Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” was written and directed by Kim Henkel, who as mentioned earlier, co-wrote the screenplay for the original 1974 “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” based off of his story. The film premiered on March 12, 1995 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. There are two versions of the film; the original theatrical cut is 87 minutes in length, and the director’s cut, which has been released on Blu-ray has a runtime of 94 minutes. Trivia buffs take note: There is a scene which takes place in a hospital at the end of the movie, which features three of the actors from the original 1974 film: Marilyn Burns, John Dugan, and Paul A. Partain.

I can’t recommend this film. If those of you who are reading this count either McConaughey or Zellweger among your favorite actors, and you want to see them star together, in what was for each of them, one of their first film roles, then watch the movie. If you’re like me, and once you start watching a film franchise, you need to see all of the franchise’s offerings, then like me, you’ll have to sit through the movie, and more than likely, will be thankful when the ending credits begin to roll. For the rest of you, do yourselves a favor, and give this a pass.

 

 

 

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“NOS4A2 – Season One Based on Joe Hill’s Novel”

The first season of “NOS4A2” centers on Vic McQueen, played by Ashleigh Cummings, who completely embodies her character. She is a teenager, who helps her mother earn money by cleaning houses. Additionally, Vic is a very talented artist, who wants to attend RISD (The Rhode Island School of Design). Besides being a talented artist, unbeknownst to her, she possesses a special ability; Vic is a ‘strong creative,’ as it is referred to on the series, one of a select few. She discovers her power, while fleeing into the woods, on her motorcycle, to get away from her parents, her alcoholic father, Chris (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and her pessimistic mother, Linda (Virginia Kull), who are fighting, yet again. Vic discovers a bridge; the discovery wouldn’t be that big a deal, if not for the fact, that the bridge was demolished years earlier, because it was deemed too dangerous to ride over. The bridge, which will come to be referred to as ‘the shorter way,’ is known among those who have Vic’s abilities as an ‘inscape.’ The bridge allows Vic to travel, virtually anywhere she needs to, in order to retrieve things that are missing. What begins with her locating her mother’s lost credit card, evolves over time, into something much bigger than Vic could’ve ever envisioned.

Vic is not the only character with magical powers in “NOS4A2;” her polar opposite, the enigmatic, Charlie Manx, portrayed by Emmy nominee Zachary Quinto (Star Trek: Into Darkness), also possess special abilities. Manx drives a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith, which he seemingly can’t live without. He and the car are bound together. For example, if the car has a problem that needs fixing, Manx’s health will deteriorate. The longer the car is out of commission, the worse Manx will get. Manx is also the proprietor of a place called ‘Christmasland,’ which sounds magical, and in many respects is, but there is a steep price that needs to be paid in order to maintain it for the children who he brings there. The children Manx lures to ‘Christmasland,’ with promises of candy and toys, are for the most part ignored by their parents. Manx is not doing anything for altruistic reasons, but like the car, he needs to metaphorically feed off of the souls of the children, in order to maintain his own mortality; it is an interesting take on the traditional vampire story. When Manx feeds, he becomes younger looking, and the children he kidnaps, take on a more monstrous appearance, replete with sharp fangs for teeth. (As an aside: Like Manx, even though Vic is a force for good, the more she uses her power, the weaker she becomes).   

Vic has a very small circle of friends, in her town of Haverhill, Massachusetts. One of those friends is Craig (Dalton Harrod), who has a crush on her. Additionally, Vic likes, and shares her artistic talents with the high school janitor, Bing Partridge (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson). Bing might seem at first to be a good natured oaf, but he’s hiding a dark secret from his past, that would have people view him differently if they knew the truth about his background. He’s also rather gullible and easily manipulated. When he reads an advertisement to become an employee at ‘Christmasland,’ he jumps at the opportunity. He will come to be of great service to Manx, as the first season of the series plays out during its ten episodes.

As the first season progresses, Vic will find an ally, in Maggie (Jahkara Smith), who is another ‘strong creative.’ She is a librarian, living and working in Iowa, who, like Vic, has problems with her parents. Maggie is looked after by the head of her town’s law enforcement, Sheriff Bly (Chris McKinney), who acts as a surrogate father toward her. The disappearance of one of the town’s children, who has been kidnapped by Manx, someone whom Maggie is close to, is what initially leads her to Vic, in order to seek Vic’s help in locating the missing child. Maggie learns of Vic’s existence, because of her gift. She is in possession of a scrabble bag, that when she asks questions out loud, the scrabble tiles, that she pulls out of the bag, spell out the answer to her questions.

Vic feels overwhelmed, and rightfully so, by her new powers. She has been searching for a way out of her town, and an escape from the dread of living a dead end life, but her abilities have brought her more than she bargained for. Still, Vic is a good person, and she’s not about to let Manx continue what he has been doing for decades, without putting up a fight. Will she be successful in stopping Manx? What price will she have to pay, if she does succeed?

The series is an adaptation of bestselling author Joe Hill’s novel of the same name. “NOSA42 was published by William Morrow and Company on April 30, 2013. The series premiered on March 11, 2019 at the South by Southwest Film Festival, before debuting on AMC (American Movie Classics) on June 2, 2019. Parts drama, fantasy, horror and mystery, each episode has an approximate runtime of 60 minutes. The first season garnered strong ratings for AMC, prompting the network to renew the series for a second season. As of the writing of this post, season 2 will begin filming this fall, and premiere sometime next year.

 

 

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“Lock Every Door by Riley Sager”

Riley Sager’s psychological thriller “Lock Every Door,” opens with a woman waking up in a hospital. She has been struck by a car and injured, and can’t remember much of what took place before the accident. Sager soon reveals to the reader, that the woman is Jules Larsen, the main protagonist of the novel. She is a young woman in her twenties, who, in addition to the accident, has experienced a good deal of tragedy in her life. Jules younger sister, years earlier, either ran away from home or was abducted, no one knows the exact truth. Additionally, her parents, not being able to cope with the sister’s disappearance, as well as some other issues, have committed suicide.

After the opening at the hospital, the story shifts back to six days prior to the accident. From that moment forward in the novel, Sager begins to reconstruct what happened to Jules during the previous six days, and what led up to her getting hit by a car. The novel shifts effortlessly from past to present, creating mounting tension along the way.  The reader learns that Jules has not only lost her job, has little in the way of finances, but also has caught her live-in boyfriend, Andrew cheating on her. Jules moves out of Andrew’s apartment, and into her best friend Chloe’s place, where she takes up residence on the couch, and begins searching for jobs on her laptop. While searching the employment adds on Craigslist, she comes across an unbelievable offer, that seems too good to be true. The job is for an apartment sitter, but not for some normal building, but instead, for the historic Bartholomew, which overlooks Central Park. Jules applies immediately, expecting never to hear back from the person who has placed the add, but she does hear back rather quickly, and an interview is set.

Jules can’t believe the particulars of the job. She will be paid $1000 dollars a week, but before she can take the job, she has to agree to live by certain non-negotiable rules. She is not allowed to have visitors, it doesn’t matter if it is during the day or at night, no visitors are permitted at anytime. She is told that the residents of the Bartholomew very much value their privacy. Jules also must spend every evening in the apartment, if she spends even one night away, she will be fired. Lastly, she is only permitted to speak to residents if they address her first. While Jules feels the rules are a bit much, the chance to earn $1000 dollars a week for three months, is too great an opportunity for her to pass up. She agrees to the rules, and is given the job. One of the other draws for Jules, apart from the financial compensation, is that her favorite fictional novel, “Heart Of A Dreamer” written by Greta Manville, takes place at the Bartholomew. Manville, also happens to be a resident of the building. Manville’s novel is special to Jules, because it was her younger sisters’ favorite book as well, one which Jules used to read to her.

The way Sager writes about The Bartholomew, the building becomes a character in its own right. For example, as mentioned earlier the building overlooks Central Park, and certain apartments, including the one Jules is staying in, have a spectacular view of the park. Jules is not only taken with the view, but also one of the many gargoyles that adorn the building’s exterior. The one located outside of her bedroom window, she names George. Furthermore, the Bartholomew features, among other things, an old fashioned elevator, spiral staircases, and spacious furnished apartments. There is also the creepy wallpaper, that Jules could do without, because when she looks at it for too long, she feels like she’s being watched.

Jules befriends Ingrid, a fellow apartment sitter. The two meet for lunch in Central Park, and hit it off. Ingrid confides in Jules that the Bartholomew has had its share of mysterious events take place there, which have led people to believe that the building is haunted. Ingrid doesn’t mind telling Jules that she doesn’t feel entirely safe there, but is keeping the job because, like Jules, she needs the money. Ingrid makes Jules promise that she will spend time with her on a regular basis, while they’re both working at the Bartholomew, Jules agrees. The next day, however, Ingrid fails to show up to meet Jules. Normally, Jules wouldn’t worry, but the previous evening, she heard strange noises emanating from the apartment Ingrid is watching; when she went to check on Ingrid, she acted strange. Making matter worse, Chloe has been sending Jules links to articles on-line, which talk about the deadly occurrences that have taken place at the Bartholomew over the years.

Scary stories aside, Jules senses that something sinister has happened to Ingrid. She doesn’t want history to repeat itself, and for Ingrid to suffer the same fate that might have happened to her sister, so she goes in search of her new friend. When Jules confronts people in the building such as the doorman, and the woman who hired her for the position, she is informed that Ingrid quit, and left in the middle of the night. The further Jules looks into what happened to Ingrid, the more she learns about the suspicious goings on at the Bartholomew, not the least of which, is that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to apparently quit before finishing the job.

What happened to Ingird? Is she the victim of foul play? Did she merely leave, as stated by Bartholomew employees? What exactly is going on at the Bartholomew? Is it haunted as some people have suggested? Does the building’s past have anything to do with what is taking place in the present? Will Jules find Ingrid or is she in over her head? All of those questions and more will be answered by the novel’s conclusion.

“Lock Every Door,” Riley Sager’s third novel, was published by Dutton on July 2, 2019. The 384 page novel, like his previous two, is a real page turner. I wanted to keep reading further to discover not only what happened to Ingird, but what if anything was taking place at the Bartholomew. In addition, I was rooting for Jules to succeed, not only in her investigation, but to be able to get her life back on track in a positive direction. In conclusion, Sager’s well written novel offers up numerous twists and turns, which should keep readers guessing, until toward the end when all is revealed as to what is really taking place.

 

 

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“Mindhunter Season 2”

The Netflix series “Mindhunter” takes its source material from the nonfiction book “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit,” written by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The book was published by Scribner on October 31, 1995. Douglas, a former United States Air Force veteran, joined the FBI in 1970. He started his career with the bureau as a SWAT team member before transitioning to become a hostage negotiator. In 1977, Douglas became a member of the now famous FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. When he initially joined the unit, he taught criminal psychology and hostage negotiation strategy at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. It was while teaching, that Douglas first formulated the opinion, that more interaction needed to be done as far as research was concerned. Douglas felt talking to people, who were able to commit horrific crimes, especially those who did it on multiple occasions, seemingly without remorse, would perhaps be useful in knowing what to look for, while tracking murderers. Douglas wanted to understand what made serial killers like Ted Bundy, Edmund Kemper and John Wayne Gacy, feel the overwhelming need to commit murder; and during his twenty-five year career, he interviewed the aforementioned, as well as numerous other infamous individuals. In the earlier years of Douglas’ study of serial killers, he took what he learned from his interviews, and co-wrote the book “Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives, with Ann W. Burgess, a professor of psychiatric nursing, who works at the William F. Connell School of Nursing, at Boston College. Furthermore, he teamed with former FBI agent, Robert K. Ressler, who is credited with coining the term ‘serial killer.’ Mark Olshaker, the person with whom Douglas’ co-authored “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit,” is both an Emmy winner and a best-selling author.

The second season of “Mindhunter” begins with a scene involving Dennis Rader (Sonny Valicenti), portraying the infamous killer, BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill). He is shown wearing women’s lingerie, while engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation. Rader is caught in the act by his wife, prompting him to put his fantasies on hold for a while. As the season progresses, Rader will appear time and again, in short scenes, which showcase to the viewer, that he can’t control his urges, and, that no matter what, he will find a way to continue living out his fantasy life. The BSU does begin to hunt BTK during the second season. In fact, an interview with his only surviving victim, Kevin Bright (Andrew Yackel), lends itself to one of the most compelling scenes of the second season, but for this season, at least, BTK, is not the primary focus of the BSU.

The three main characters that season one centered on, all return in season two: FBI Agent, Holden Ford, (Jonathan Groff);  FBI Agent, Bill Tench (Holt McCallany); and psychologist, Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv). Once Ford is released from the hospital, after having suffered a mental breakdown in the last episode of the first season, the trio of agents resume their work of interviewing and compiling information on serial killers. This season among the killers they interview are David Berkowitz (Oliver Cooper), and Charles Manson (Damon Herriman). The series, however, goes further than the interview process of the first season, and focuses more on the personal lives of Tench and Dr. Carr.

Tench is dealing with an issue involving his young son, Brian (Zachary Scott Ross), that has the potential to ruin his family. Brian’s actions force the Tench family to have to meet with a child psychiatrist on a weekly basis, and they’re assigned a caseworker from the Department of Family Services. Tench does what he needs to do for work; his time and energy, however, is definitely split between the bureau, and trying to save his marriage with his wife Nancy (Stacey Roca). The problem for Tench, is made more complicated, by the fact that on a regular basis, he’s away from home, working in other parts of the country.

Dr. Carr also receives a good amount of screen time devoted to her personal life. During the second season, she begins dating Kay (Lauren Glazier), a bartender she meets by chance one evening, after work, while getting a drink with Tench. The relationship she is in, allows her to break free from the restraints she feels imposed on her at work, where she has to keep hidden who she really is. Furthermore, she feels her professional life at the bureau has been hampered, thanks to Gunn (Michael Cerveris), the new Assistant Director who oversees BSU. He, more often than not, wants Dr. Carr to remain at headquarters, while Ford and Tench, go off to conduct interviews. Gunn wants Dr. Carr to be constantly providing analysis, as opposed to doing field work. Gunn is an ambitious individual, who unlike his predecessor, Shepard (Cotter Smith), believes in the work the BSU is doing. He not only is willing to let Ford do what he needs to do while conducting interviews, but wants the BSU to eventually become the standard bearer for the rest of the bureau.

Unlike the first season, the latter part of the second season deals with one investigation, that takes place in Atlanta, Georgia. During the years 1979 through 1981, someone abducted and murdered twenty-eight children, mostly young boys. The African American community, which the killer targeted, was understandably growing restless for answers and an arrest. Ford becomes personally involved in the case, thanks to Tanya (Sierra Aylina McClain). She is a hotel clerk, who asks Ford out to dinner, under false pretenses. Once they are out, she leads him to a group of mothers of abducted boys, who are extremely frustrated with the police investigation, and are attempting to find out answers on their own.

Ford constructs a profile of the killer. He believes that the crimes are being committed by an African American man, even though many in law enforcement think that the killer or killers are white and members of the KKK. Ford finds that theory laughable. He  stated that a white man, picking up children in predominately African American neighborhoods, during the daytime, when many of the abductions occurred, would never be able to go unnoticed. He even tests the theory, and has a member of the BSU team, Gregg Smith (Joe Tuttle), approach children in one of the neighborhoods. None of the children are interested in going off with Smith, even though he offers them money to do some work for him. At one point, Smith is even yelled at by a mother, who isn’t happy with his presence around her child.

Ford believes that if he and Tench, along with the help of FBI agent, Jim Barney (Albert Jones), can identify and stop the killer, that it will validate the importance of the work of the BSU. Ford learns quickly, that finding the killer is only one of his problems, as he must, at every turn, seemingly appease both politicians and work through the red tape of law enforcement, in order to get anything accomplished.

The second season of “Mindhunter” premiered on Netflix on August 16, 2019. The series was created by BAFTA nominee Joe Penhall (The Long Firm). BAFTA, Emmy and Golden Globe winner David Fincher (The Social Network) directed three of the nine episodes. He also serves as one of the series executive producers. Additional episodes of the series were directed by Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly), and Emmy nominee Carl Franklin (House of Cards). As of the writing of this post, Netflix has not officially renewed “Mindhunter” for a third season, but in an interview, actor Holt McCallany stated that David Fincher has expressed that he would like to do at least five seasons of the show.

 

 

 

 

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“Derry Girls Season 2 – Now Streaming on Netflix”

The Irish sitcom, BAFTA nominated “Derry Girls,” first aired in the UK on January 4, 2018. Recently, Netflix released its second season, which, as was the first, is comprised of six episodes. The second season, like its predecessor, takes place in the early 1990s, during the last years of The Troubles. The series revolves around five friends in their teens, who reside in the town of Derry, which is located in the north-western part of Ireland. The teen girls consist of: Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), she is the main protagonist of the series, who is intelligent and a bit self-centered. Erin’s behavior is indicative of typical teenage behavior, where everything is magnified ten-fold, whereas an adult, would find Erin’s impending sense of doom laughable. There is also Erin’s cousin, Orla (Louisa Harland), who more than occasionally, in spite of being physically present, has her mind somewhere else. Next, there is Clare (Nicola Coughlan), a girl who is perpetually worried about, well, just about everything, especially getting in trouble at school. She’s the moral compass of the friends, who is always there to lend her unsolicited and ignored advice, when it comes to the group avoiding getting into their  latest dilemma In addition, there is Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), who, in spite of being the foul-mouthed, rabble-rouser of the group, is still a generally good person, at the core of her nature. Lastly, there is Michelle’s cousin, the kind-hearted, James (Dylan Llewellyn), who is from England. He socializes with the girls, because he doesn’t have much choice in the matter, but is often taunted and teased by them. James is, in fact, the only male student that has permission to attend school with the girls, at Our Lady Immaculate College. The reason for this is his family fears, given the time period, for his well being, if he were to attend the all boys school. (As an aside: The Troubles in Northern Ireland lasted from 1968 through the Good Friday Agreement, which took place in Belfast, on April 10, 1998. The Troubles centered on a political and nationalistic conflict, between those in Ireland, who yearned for a united Ireland, apart from British rule, and the largely protestant population of Irish people, who wanted to remain loyal to England. The violence that sprang from it, produced a great deal of bloodshed, as well as several thousand deaths. Those of you who are interested, should delve deeper into the subject, because it is a very involved history).

One of the aspects of the show that I like, is that it doesn’t focus on The Troubles, to an overwhelming degree. The Troubles exist, but for the most part, they are relegated to the periphery of the show. The series creator, BAFTA nominee Lisa McGee (Being Human), has stated in interviews, that she purposely structured the series, in the aforementioned way. She had no desire to present Ireland as a dark, dreary place, where everyone was walking around on guard, and feeling miserable.

The five friends frequently get themselves into trouble, usually of their own making. One of the things I enjoy most about the show, is seeing how they collectively come together to figure a way out of whatever predicament they find themselves in. The friends’ decisions, on how best to proceed to get themselves out of trouble, more often than not, yields very funny results. For example, in the episode “The Concert,” a polar bear has escaped from the zoo, which coincides with the girls wanting to go to Belfast to see a fictional boy band called “Take That.” This is the first time the band has appeared in Northern Ireland, and the girls fear it might be their only chance to see the band. The girls decide no escaped animal is going to keep them from seeing the concert, so they lie to their parents and get on a bus to Belfast. The only problem is, that while on the road, the bus is stopped by British soldiers, and when one of them asks the girls if a suitcase belongs to them, they deny it, causing everyone to have to evacuate the bus, so it can be searched by the bomb squad. The truth is, that the suitcase belongs to Michele, who has loaded it up with vodka, but is afraid to admit it. The series’ creator, who based parts of “Derry Girls” on her own upbringing, has a good deal of sympathy for her characters, so while they do get themselves into trouble, which is sometimes exaggerated for comedic purposes, they’re never placed in too much peril.

Nostalgia for the 1990s, especially as it pertains to the music of the early 90s, also plays a part in “Derry Girls,” much in the same way that pop culture references frame the 1980s in “Stranger Things.”  As with “Stranger Things,” the world was a more innocent place, as pertained to the use of technology, back in the early 1990s. The girls and James, can’t interact via text-message on their smart phones, or instant message one another on a computer, but must actually meet up face to face to converse, or at the very least, call one another on a landline phone. Furthermore, bullying, as wrong as it is in any form, was confined mostly to school in those years; social media, and the way it is used today as a tool by some cretins to go after certain students for a variety of reasons, wasn’t in existence back when the show takes place.

Additional members of the cast, who appear in each of the episodes include, Erin’s family: her father, Gerry (Tommy Tiernan); her mother, Mary (Tara Lynne O’Neill); her aunt Sarah (Kathy Kiera Clarke); and her grandfather Joe (Ian McElhinney). There is also the school’s resident snitch, Jenny Joyce (Leah O’Rourke). In addition, the role of Sister Michael, the headmistress of Our Lady Immaculate College, is portrayed by Siobhan McSweeney (Porters). McSweeny brings a good deal of nuance to her portrayal, and her commentary, that is often laced with cynicism, is some of the funniest dialogue on the show. The adults, in general, on “Derry Girls” are neither intrusive, dull, nor are they more entertaining than their teenage protagonists. They have the right amount of screen time, to let the viewer know, that the girls and James are cared for, but it doesn’t take the focus off the teens, where it should be, for any great length of time.

As I stated when I reviewed season one, the series certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but for those of you who are not easily offended, I would recommend giving it a chance. The episodes are no longer than 30 minutes in length, so after an episode or two, you’ll get a general sense of what the series consists of. The first and second seasons are currently available to stream on Netflix. As of the writing of this post, “Derry Girls” has been renewed for a third season. The series will continue to air on Channel 4 in the UK. No word yet, on when the third season will begin filming, or when it is expected to premiere.

Overall, “Derry Girls” tends to steer away from pathos, and focus more on lighthearted, comedic moments in the girls’ and James’ lives, even though, they are living during a tumultuous time in Ireland’s history. I would imagine, that most people, regardless of where they grew up, will be able to identify with a great deal of what the girls and James are going through as teenagers, where, as stated earlier, every problem is magnified. My only problem with the second season of “Derry Girls” is that it takes next no time to watch, so I would have welcomed more episodes.

 

 

                                                                                                                    

   

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