“Mindhunter – Showcases The Origins of Criminal Profiling”

I recently finished watching the ten episodes that comprise the compelling first season of the Netflix show “Mindhunter.” The series begins in the late 1970s, and is based on the book “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit,” written by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, which was published by Scribner on October 31, 1995. Douglas, a former United States Air Force veteran, joined the FBI in 1970, where he began his career as a SWAT team member before becoming a hostage negotiator. In 1977, he joined the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, and began teaching criminal psychology and hostage negotiation strategy at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. During that time, he felt that more needed to be done to try to understand what compelled people to become killers. He created the FBI’s first criminal profiling unit, and began interviewing incarcerated criminals. Some of the most notorious killers he studied during the course of his twenty-five year career were: Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Edmund Kemper, Charles Manson, and Richard Speck. Based on his interviews, he co-wrote the book “Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives, with Ann W. Burgess, a professor of psychiatric nursing; she works at the William F. Connell School of Nursing, at Boston College; and former FBI agent, Robert K. Ressler, who in addition to being one of the first people to profile violent offenders, is credited with coining the term ‘serial killer.’  Douglas’ co-author on the “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit” book, Mark Olshaker is a best-selling author, and an Emmy winner for his work on “David Macaulay: Roman City.”    

The series centers on three main characters, FBI Agent, Holden Ford, (Jonathan Groff) –  FBI Agent, Bill Tench, (Holt McCallany) and psychologist, Dr. Wendy Carr. Dr. Carr is portrayed by Anna Torv who won the Saturn Award for Best Actress, four out of the five times she was nominated for her portrayal of the character, Olivia Dunham, on the television show “Fringe.”  Taking the characters in order, Holden Ford is an idealistic, young agent, based on the aforementioned, John Douglas. He feels the FBI is applying outdated methods when dealing with the psychology of violent offenders. Holden is also a bit straight laced; the only time he lets loose is when he’s in the company of his girlfriend, Hannah, (Debbie Mitford) a quick witted, sociology grad student. Bill Tench is the hardened veteran who has seen it all, but unlike most of his closed-minded superiors, even though he is reluctant at first, he is willing to give Holden’s methods a chance to prove that they work. As he states to his and Holden’s superior, Unit Chief Shepard, (Cotter Smith) “How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?”  The third member of the team at first serves as a consultant, before leaving her job as a professor at Boston College to join the FBI full time, is Dr. Carr. She is interested in utilizing the information that Holden and Bill get from the serial killers during their interview sessions, to construct profiles that she hopes will establish, for example, if there are similar patterns in the killers’ backgrounds. She’s also a person who fights for what she thinks is right, no matter who she might alienate. An additional benefit of the work the three agents are doing, is that as the series progresses, their profiling begins to help police departments across America, with cases that might otherwise remain unsolved, if not for the team’s groundbreaking work.

What sets “Mindhunter” apart from other shows of its kind, is that most television series, or even films, for that matter, focus on the capture and incarceration of a killer. In “Mindhunter,”  the killers that are being dealt with have already been imprisoned. There are no flashbacks to the murders committed by the killers the agents talk with. Instead, the acts of violence are spoken about in graphic ways by the killers, and agents show their interview subject the occasional grim crime scene photo, in order to try and illicit a response. The focus during each episode isn’t on what took place during the commission of the heinous acts the killers inflicted on their victims, but instead deals with the following: What motivates a killer to engage in such reprehensible behavior? Can predictors be used in an attempt to recognize a person’s capacity to commit such a crime, thereby preventing the killings from taking place?

Portrayed during the series are real life serials killers, the one who gets the most screen time is Edmund Kemper, (Cameron Britton). The 6’9″ Kemper, who has a genius level IQ of 145, is known as the Co-ed Killer. He began killing in 1964, as a teenager, when after a volatile argument with his grandmother, he killed her, and later on, during the same day, killed his grandfather. After the horrific incident, Kemper was sent to the Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane, but in 1969, he was released. From the time of his release until 1973, when he turned himself into police, he murdered 10 women, including his mother; a person whom he claimed had verbally abused and berated him his entire life, and made him sleep on a mattress in a darkened basement as a child. The same evening he murdered his mother, he also killed her best friend. Kemper asked for the death penalty during the sentencing phase of his trial, but instead received life imprisonment at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, Solano County, California. Britton completely embodies the role of Kemper, and his conversations with the agents are equal parts captivating and repulsive.

“Mindhunter” was created by BAFTA nominee, Joe Penhall, (The Long Firm). The series was released worldwide by Netflix on October 13, 2017. Golden Globe winner, director David Fincher, (The Social Network) directed four of the ten episodes, and also serves as one of the shows executive producers; as does Oscar winner, Charlize Theron (Monster). Additional episodes of the series were directed by: BAFTA and Oscar winner, Asif Kapadia, (Amy); Andrew Douglas (uwantme2killhim?); and Tobias Lindholm, (The Hunt). The series as a whole is engrossing, and the ensemble cast are excellent in their respective roles. The first season ended on an ominous note, and left viewers with more questions than answers, but the good news for fans of the series is that Netflix has renewed it for a second season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Child’s Play – The Film That Launched The Chucky Franchise”

“Child’s Play” doesn’t take time building its opening, but gets to the action immediately. Charles Lee Ray, portrayed by BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), is running through downtown Chicago, attempting to avoid being captured by the police. On his trail is Detective Mike Norris, played by Oscar nominee Chris Sarandon (Dog Day Afternoon). The reason the police are after Ray, is because he is a killer who the press have dubbed ‘The Lake Shore Strangler.’ Ray is attempting to reach a getaway car, driven by his accomplice, Eddie Caputo (Neil Giuntoli). When Eddie sees that the police are closing in on Ray, he drives off. (As an aside: The character’s name, Charles Lee Ray, was taken from the names of three infamous killers: Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, and James Earl Ray. Furthermore, two time Golden Globe winner John Lithgow (Dexter) was at first considered to play the character of Charles Lee Ray and voice Chucky).   

Norris has Ray pinned down outside the doors of a toy store. Ray shoots the locks and enters the store to seek cover. While walking around, Ray realizes he’s been shot, and is wounded to the point where death is imminent. He states aloud that he needs to find a person, but the reasons are not yet made clear. Stumbling into several rows of dolls, known as ‘Good Guys,’ which, the viewer will later learn, are based on a popular children’s cartoon of the same name, Ray knows he is out of time. Removing one of the doll’s from its packaging, Ray places his hands over the doll, and begins reciting an incantation, ending with a plea to be given power, so that he will be able to transfer his soul into the doll. How Ray received the ability to summon the power in the first place is explained to the viewer later on in the film. Lightning crashes through the store’s glass ceiling and an explosion occurs. Thinking that Ray is dead, Norris feels that the case is closed, but in actuality, in that moment, Chucky has been born. Dourif continues his participation in the film as the voice of the possessed ‘Good Guy’ doll. (As an aside: The voiceover work Dourif did for “Child’s Play” was recorded in advance, in order to be able to match up the words with the movements of Chucky’s mouth. The recording of his voice would be played in the scenes where characters were interacting with the doll, however, because his lines were pre-recorded, Dourif infrequently appeared on set when the doll scenes were being filmed).

Early the next morning, the scene shifts to an apartment where a young boy, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent), is making his mother, Karen, portrayed by Emmy nominee Catherine Hicks (7th Heaven), breakfast, or trying to anyway. Karen is a widow who works as a sales person at a jewelry counter in a department store. She knows that more than anything, Andy wants a ‘Good Guy’ doll, for his birthday, but with finances being tight, and only recently finding out that a company was making the dolls, Karen has not had time to save up the $100 dollars needed to purchase the doll. As luck would have it, her co-worker and friend, Maggie (Dinah Manoff), tells her that there is a homeless man, in the alley behind the department store, who is selling a ‘Good Guy’ doll. Karen purchases the doll from him for $50 dollars. Andy is, of course, overjoyed, later that day, when presented with the gift from his mother. Karen must return to the store that evening to work overtime, to fill in for an employee who had to take the night off. Maggie volunteers to babysit Andy. 

Later that evening, Maggie tells Andy something which no child likes to hear – go get ready for bed. Andy lets Maggie know that Chucky wants to watch the 9 o’clock news. Maggie, feeling that Andy, like most children, is just stalling for time, tells him no. Less than a minute later, while Andy is brushing his teeth, Maggie hears the television news playing in the background. She turns around to see the ‘Good Guy’ doll in a chair facing the television. Maggie figures Andy placed him there, but the child says that Chucky did it on his own, which of course she understandably, but unfortunately, doesn’t believe. A short while later, Maggie plunges to her death from the apartment window and lands on a parked car.

When Karen arrives home, she initially fears the worst, and is momentarily relieved, when she sees that Andy is okay, but she can’t believe what happened to Maggie. After a while, she gets the sense from Detective Norris, the same police detective from the start of the film, that Andy is the prime suspect in Maggie’s murder. The notion that Andy had anything to do with Maggie’s death, makes Karen irate. Andy tries to tell Karen, and anyone else who’ll listen, that Chucky is a living entity, and not just a child’s toy, but no one believes him. The more time passes, however, the more the adults, who at first dismissed Andy’s statement regarding Chucky as the product of a child’s imagination, will come to regret that mindset.

“Childs Play” was directed by Tom Holland (Fright Night), who also co-wrote the screenplay with John Lafia (Child’s Play 2), and Don Mancini (Hannibal), based on a story written by Mancini. In addition, Howard Franklin (Quick Change) contributed to writing the screenplay, but was not credited in the final cut of the film. “Child’s Play” was released theatrically in the United States on November 9, 1988. The film is comprised of the horror and thriller genres. The film is well-paced, contains effective performances from its cast, and features a good amount of suspense and tension throughout its 87 minute runtime. BAFTA nominee, make-up effects artist, Kevin Yagher (Bones), is the man responsible for giving, Chucky his look, and is credited in the film as the designer and executor of the now iconic, Chucky doll. Oscar winner Joe Renzetti (The Buddy Holly Story) provides a thrilling score that helps propel the film forward, but at the same time, knows when to hold back, and become hauntingly melodic. If you’re a fan of horror movies, you need do only one thing to enjoy “Child’s Play,” and that is suspend belief regarding the film’s premise, and sit back with your favorite beverage, and snacks, and let Chucky’s exploits entertain you.

 

                                            

                                                                 

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“Vicious & The Prey – Entertaining Short Horror Films From England”

Vicious:

Lydia (Rachel Winters), returns to her home one evening and finds her front door unlocked. She is a bit taken aback because she lives there alone, since her sister, Katie, (Isabelle King) died under mysterious circumstances. Lydia takes a knife from her kitchen, and looks around her home to see if someone has broken in, but she finds nothing; it being late, she opts to go to bed.

Lydia has a nightmare about Katie. Prior to Katie’s passing, she insists that she is able to see a creature – one that absolutely terrifies her, but as stated by Lydia during the short film, it is a creature that Lydia has never seen. The longer she lives alone, however, the more her mind plays tricks on her. For example, a pile of clothing on a bedroom chair frightens Lydia as she lays looking at in the dark. Lydia suspects that it is not just garments on the chair in front of her bed, but the body of a person or creature. She does something, I would imagine many of us have done, especially during our childhood, turns on the light to verify that nothing is there. When she does, the clothing is all that is on the chair. From that moment forward, however, things occur which force Lydia, to confront the fact that Katie was perhaps right about what she claimed to have seen.

“Vicious” was not only written by the English actor, Oliver Park, but it was also his directorial debut. The film had its premiere on October 2, 2015 at the Mile High Horror Film Festival, in Denver, Colorado, and was released in the UK on Halloween of 2015. The 12 minute film is well-executed with excellent use of atmosphere, pacing, and tension. There is nothing during its short runtime that is added just for the sake of a jump scare; everything Park shows in the film is there for a reason. In addition to other members of his crew, aiding Park with “Vicious” is Matthew Walker, whose score synchs up perfectly with everything that is transpiring on screen, and helps in the creation of some unsettling moments for the viewer. “Vicious” can be seen on youtube.com.

 

The Prey: 

Driving home from his sister’s Halloween party, Ethan (James Alexandrou), and Mel (Rebecca Van Cleave), get into an argument. Ethan is under the impression that Mel has been in a foul mood the entire evening, and he is actually right about that, but the reason why is not immediately made clear. Ethan attempts to add some levity to the situation, but makes a rude remark, that even though intended for Mel to only take as humorous, upsets her. She insists that Ethan pull the car over because she wants to get out. Ethan tries to diffuse the situation, but Mel is determined to get out of the car, to the point where she is opening the door, before Ethan even has a chance to pull over to the side of the street. (As an aside: Rebecca Van Cleave was the body double for Golden Globe nominee, Lena Headey, during the infamous ‘walk of shame’ scene that took place in the season five “Game of Thrones” episode “Mother’s Mercy” which aired on HBO on June 14, 2015).  

Mel begins to walk down a sidewalk that is relatively deserted. One man (Sam Gittins) is watching her from the opposite side of the street; she’s hard to miss walking alone in her red dress. He discards the food he is eating and begins to follow her. The viewer can already sense that the man is up to no good, but when he pulls out a blade, as Mel turns a corner and begins walking down a back alley, we know she is in trouble, or is she?

James Webber wrote and directed “The Prey.”  The plot during the film’s 8  minute runtime is straightforward, but that makes it no less enjoyable to watch. While the short film is regarded as horror, and it certainly contains a bit of gore, it also injects a bit of dark comedy. The short film, like “Vicious,” had its premiere on October 2, 2015 at the Mile High Horror Film Festival, in Denver, Colorado, and was released in the UK that same year. The film is well acted, contains good pacing, tension, and features a twist ending, that should bring a smile to your face, after you finish saying ‘yuck.’ This short horror film can also be watched on youtube.com.

               

 

 

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“Salem’s Lot” (1979)

Ben Mears, portrayed by David Soul, (Starsky and Hutch) returns to the town of Salem’s Lot, Maine, where he lived up until the age of 10. Ben is a novelist, and the current book he is working on, has to do with the Marsten House. The decaying house sits atop a hill and, in essence, is a looming presence over the entire town of Salem’s Lot; it is a place that has haunted Ben’s thoughts since childhood. The reason the house has remained in Ben’s psyche from adolescence into adulthood, is that one day, on a dare, he entered the house. When he went inside he discovered that the owner, Hubie Marsten, had hung himself, but what was even more shocking to Ben at the time, was that he was convinced, that Marsten opened his eyes and looked at him. Prior to that, other terrible events had taken place in the house. The question Ben is exploring in the novel he’s working on is: Are places inherently evil? If they are, will other evil forces be attracted to them? (As an aside: A full scale facade was built to represent the Marsten House. The structure was constructed around a smaller home that was sitting on-top of the hill. The estimated cost to get the right exterior look for the Marsten House cost approximately $100,000).

As scared as Ben is of the Marsten House, he attempts to rent the property. He is informed, however, by realtor, Larry Crockett (Fred Willard), that the house has recently gone off the market, after being vacant for twenty-five years. The current occupants of the house are a mysterious pair – a man named Richard Straker, portrayed by Golden Globe winner and three time Oscar nominee, James Mason (A Star is Born), and his business partner, Kurt Barlow (Reggie Nalder), who is away on a buying trip for the new antique shop the two men are opening in town. In actuality, Barlow is a vampire, whose appearance is styled after Vampire Count Orlok in the 1922 film “Nosferatu,  directed by F.W. Murnau, and Straker is Barlow’s daytime servant and protector.

Ben moves into a local boarding house run by Eve Miller (Marie Windsor). He takes a room which has a perfect view of the Marsten House. During his time in Salem’s Lot, before chaos begins to take over the town, he meets a woman, Susan Norton, played by Golden Globe nominee, Bonnie Bedelia (Heart Like a Wheel). Ben begins to date her, much to the ire of her ex-boyfriend, local town plumber, Ned Tebbets (Barney McFadden). Ben also renews a relationship with his grade school English teacher, Jason Burke, portrayed by Oscar nominee, Lew Ayres (Johnny Belinda), a person who Ben credits with inspiring his love of writing.

The aforementioned chaos begins to take place a short while after Straker arranges with Crocket to have an important package picked up for him at an airport warehouse. Crocket thinks he’s giving the assignment to truck driver, Cully Sawyer (George Dzundra). Cully, however, gets two other men, Ned  Tebbets, and town gravedigger, Mike Ryerson, played by character actor and Golden Globe nominee, Geoffrey Lewis (Flo) to pick up the package. The reason Sully opts out, is that he suspects Crocket has been having an affair with his wife Bonnie, (Julie Cobb) and he wants to catch them in the act.

Tebbets and Ryerson are instructed to drive the package – which turns out to be a large sized crate, that is cold to the touch, and moves on its own, while inside the cargo hold of the truck – to the Marsten House. Once there, they are to deliver it into the cellar. Furthermore, they are to padlock the doors to the cellar, as well as the other entrances to the house. Tebbets and Ryerson complete part of the assignment, but get scared to the point that they merely place the crate in the cellar, and leave the padlocks and the keys for the locks on the floor of the cellar. A short while after the package is delivered, The Glick Brothers, Danny (Brad Savage) and Ralphie (Ronnie Scribner) are very late in returning from their friend Mark’s house. Lance Kerwin plays Mark Petrie, who is a lover of all things having to do with horror and magic and, like Ben Mears, has demonstrated to his teachers that he has a talent for writing.

The incident with the Glick Brothers is only the start of the trouble that will engulf the town of Salem’s Lot. Ben Mears is convinced that the horrific events that take place from that moment forward are a direct result of Straker and Barlow moving into the Marsten House. Along with Susan, Jason, Mark, and Susan’s father, Dr. Bill Norton, portrayed by three time, Emmy winner, Ed Flanders (St. Elsewhere), they set out to stop the evil from spreading before it’s too late.

“Salem’s Lot” premiered as a mini-series on CBS television, airing in two parts on November 17, 1979 and November 24, 1979. The mini-series was based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, which was published by Doubleday on October 17, 1975; it marked the first time a work by Stephen King was made into a mini-series. Directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), with a screenplay written by Paul Monash (The Friends of Eddie Coyle), “Salem’s Lot” is effective thanks to several factors. First and foremost, in addition to the leads, as mentioned throughout the post, it has an excellent ensemble cast, who help propel the story forward. Additional members of the cast, include: Emmy winner, Barbara Babcock (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman); versatile character actors, Elisha Cook Jr. and  Kenneth McMillan: James Mason’s wife, actress Clarissa Kaye-Mason; and James Gallery, in the role of  Father Donald Callahan, whose character also appears in books in King’s “Dark Tower” series. (As an aside: “Psycho” author Robert Bloch was originally tasked with writing the script for “Salem’s Lot”).

There are several cuts of the mini-series, the one that I’ve reviewed is the Warner Bros. Blu-ray DVD release which has a runtime of 183 minutes. “Salem’s Lot” relies on atmosphere, story, and tension, instead of gore and gratuitous violence, which didn’t hamper the ratings. In fact, the ratings were excellent, and for a time CBS considered turning “Salem’s Lot” into a television show, but that didn’t happen. The mini-series negatives, for some viewers, will more than likely be, that the look is dated. In addition, for those who love the novel, the character of Barlow is vastly different. He no longer possesses a superior intellect, charm, or sophistication. The mini-series version of Barlow is non-verbal, and monstrous; at first Stephen King objected to the changes made to Barlow, but after watching the mini-series before it aired, he gave his approval. I hadn’t seen “Salem’s Lot” since I was a teenager, and at the time, I remember watching it with my father, on VHS tape, so I was glad I revisited it on DVD. For Stephen King fans, who can look past the differences in the presentation of Barlow’s character, and for those, who like their horror more story driven, “Salem’s Lot” is an excellent adaptation of King’s novel.

                                                                                          

 

 

 

 

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“Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves”

The Cordelle sisters, Kit and Fancy, aren’t typical teenage girls. For starters, their father, Guthrie Cordelle, is an infamous murderer, known as the Bonesaw Killer and is awaiting his execution on death row. The sisters reside in the fictional town of Portero, Texas, where strange occurrences, and the sightings of supernatural creatures, are common place, but still, murder is frowned on by law enforcement. The sisters know, they have to be careful, if they are going to tread the same deadly path as Guthrie. Kit and Fancy, refrain from social interaction with their peers, and with the exception of their mother, Lynne, who they call Madda, the girls spend the bulk of their time together.

The novel begins, as do all subsequent chapters, with what Fancy refers to as a dream diary entry, many of which contain disturbing imagery. When Fancy awakens, in the bedroom she shares with Kit, there is a stranger standing over her bed. While thinking of what she can do to the stranger to harm him, Kit comes to her rescue by knocking him over the head with an item she grabs off her shelf. Fancy and Kit take the strange man’s body down into a cellar located on their property; it is the same cellar their father used to dispose of his victims. The girls learn that the stranger wasn’t in their home to do them harm, but instead, was looking for items that belonged to their father, that he could sell on-line. The girls take turns cutting his body as a punishment for invading their home. Fancy names the man Franken, because of all the stitches they’ve sewn into him, in order to keep him alive after cutting him. Kit wants to kill the man, but Fancy insists on some restraint, which presents a problem. They can’t keep Franken forever, nor can they trust him to keep his mouth shut if they let him leave. The sisters, don’t want to end up like their father, either being incarcerated for life, or put to death by the state.

In the first few chapters of the novel, the reader learns that the sisters are on summer vacation from school. If they think, however, that they can just spend a lazy summer doing nothing, Madda soon reverses their mindset. She has enrolled the sisters in separate art and music classes. Furthermore, Fancy has turned fifteen years old, and because of that she and Kit, who is seventeen, are required by Madda to attend an event known as Juneteenth at Cherry Glade, a town tradition for younger members of the community. For those who attend the event, it is said that everyone will be granted one wish by the ghost of Cherry du Haven. Cherry is the girls’ ancestor, and while she does grant wishes, it is not always in the specific manner a person wants her to.

Fancy uses her wish to insure that she and Kit will always be together. Readers, by this point in the novel, have already learned that Fancy has the ability to see people and places, in transparent objects. A short while after making her wish, Fancy discovers she can open the entranceway to an alternative world, which she will name ‘the happy place.’ Once there, she and her sister, can dispose of bodies and evidence linking them with their crimes. Like Dexter Morgan, Kit and Fancy are driven by an inner compulsion to kill. Additionally, like Dexter, rather than killing indiscriminately, the sisters decide to murder bad people, who they feel deserve it; for example, an abusive step-father, who views beating on his young, step-son as a hobby.

Problems begin to arise between the sisters, when Kit becomes interested in one of the novel’s secondary characters, Gabriel, who she begins to opt to spend time with, instead of being with Fancy all the time. Reeve’s writing makes it clear that Fancy is not easily accepting of change, even to the point of wearing clothes that are too tight on her, not because she is dressing to stimulate the opposite sex, but because the clothing is more befitting of a child. Fancy is not interested in boys, and sees Kit spending time with Gabriel as an act of abandonment. She lost her father to prison, and her mother has to work long shifts at her job to make ends meet. Things, however, start to become even more interesting, when Ilan, Gabriel’s brother, begins to show an interest in Fancy. I don’t want to get into any more specific plot points in the book because I don’t want to hamper the enjoyment for those of you who want to read the novel.

The entertaining, well plotted and written, “Slice of Cherry,” is 505 pages in length, and was published on January 4, 2011 by Simon Pulse; it is the sophomore follow up to Dia Reeves debut novel, “Bleeding Violet.” Slice of Cherry” is, in a manner of speaking, a coming-of-age story. The Cordelle sisters aren’t attempting to become normal, instead they are journeying toward self-acceptance, regardless of how perverse that reality may be. This book will not be for everyone, but for those of you who are looking for an interesting twist to the standard, serial killer story, “Slice of Cherry” delivers.

 

 

 

 

 

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“RAW – Polarizing Film From French Director Julia Ducournau”

“Raw” is a disquieting movie to say the least. The rumors, however, of it causing many people to pass out while watching its premiere, on May 14, 2016, at the Cannes Film Festival, have, from all accounts, been exaggerated. There were several people, who attended the Göteborg Film Festival in Sweden, that did pass out. Furthermore, a little over two-dozen individuals left the theater because they couldn’t handle what was being depicted on screen, but given the number of attendees that did stay to watch the entire duration of the film’s 99 minute runtime, there wasn’t a mass exit. The level of goriness, while part and parcel, germane to the subject matter, is nothing compared to the gratuitous, and over-the-top blood soaked scenes of other films, for example, in the SAW franchise.

At the start of the film, idealistic and introverted, Justine (Garance Marillier), is traveling with her mother (Joana Preiss), and father (Laurent Lucas), to veterinary school. The school is the parents alma mater, and where Justine’s older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is currently in attendance. In addition to the parents being veterinarians, and the two girls training to become vets, the family of four are strict vegetarians. A short time after arriving, however, Justine’s lifestyle choice is put to the test.

The freshman students are hazed by the upperclassman, everything from having their mattresses thrown out their dorm window – to being awakened in the middle of the night, and without even being given time to change their clothes, having to crawl on their hands and knees to a party, where they’re expected to partake of everything. One hazing ritual that Justine is required to endure, as are all incoming, freshman students, is to eat meat. When the request is made of Justine, she is both repulsed and hesitant. As Justine puts off eating the meat, she is spotted by Alexia, and it appears, for a brief moment, as if her older sibling is coming to her rescue. Justine thinks that Alexia will tell her upper level classmates to leave her sister alone, but the opposite is true. In that moment, Justine learns that when it was Alexia’s time to break with the family’s vegetarian lifestyle that she did so, and it wasn’t that bad.

The taste of meat, at first, brings the on-set of a terrible rash on Justine’s body. She seeks medical help for the rash, but afterward begins to develop urges she never knew she had. The feeling of hunger for meat, that  awakens within her, leads to a series of events, some exceptionally grisly, that will propel the film forward. Justine is not stupid, and she soon ascertains that she has serious problems that extend beyond doing well in her classes, which aren’t easy – impressing her professor (Jean-Louis Sbille), who feels there are more deserving students who should have been admitted to the school instead of Justine; and attempting to get along with her classmates, of whom, her only friend is her roommate, Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella).

The director doesn’t plunge her main protagonist into a rapid abyss of unnatural behavior. Instead, the filmmaker takes a gradual approach, letting Justine’s character evolve, bit by shocking bit, from timid teenager into the brazen, cannibalistic predator she will ultimately become. Ducournau, while not judging, does showcase to the viewer, the horrendous consequences that befall certain characters because of Justine’s actions.

“Raw” is a lurid and provocative, debut feature film, by French writer and director, Julia Ducournau. Throughout the film she alternates between scenes where she allows the tension to build to a palpable level, and other scenes where nothing is held back. Aiding Ducournau, was the striking cinematography of Ruben Impens (The Broken Circle Breakdown), who does an excellent job of capturing a bleak cinematic landscape that matches the struggle that is undertaken by Justine. Additionally, the unsettling score, composed by Jim Williams (Kill List), perfectly synchs up to what is taking place on screen. The casting was spot on, as all of the characters in the film come across as organic, especially Marillier, who gives a daring performance.

Leaving aside the gore factor, the film which is parts drama and horror, is a nuanced, coming-of-age movie. I can’t stress enough, that this film is not for the squeamish or faint-of-heart; while fitting in with the overall theme, during various scenes, there is truly disturbing imagery on display. For those of you interested in watching the film, it is currently available for streaming on Netflix.

 

 

 

 

 

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“The Glass Floor – Stephen King’s First Professionally Published Story”

No matter what profession someone aspires to reach the pinnacle of, be it sports, music, medicine, law, or in Stephen King’s case, writing, there has to be a first step. For King, his love of writing, started out by first becoming a voracious reader. He has been quoted as giving the following advice to aspiring writers:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Born in Portland, Maine on September 21, 1947, King’s father Donald walked out on the family, which consisted of Stephen, his brother David, and their mother, Nellie Ruth, when Stephen was a toddler. When the King boys’ mother, being the sole income earner in the household, left  for work, the brothers would take turns reading to one another as a way to keep themselves entertained. From that moment forward, a creative spark to write was ignited in Stephen King. The recent publication of the novel, “Sleeping Beauties,” which he co-wrote with his son, Owen, which was published on September 26, 2017 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, demonstrates that King’s drive toward entertaining the masses with his prose, shows no signs of burning out.

Minus his self-published material, as for example, in his brother’s  mimeographed newspaper “Dave’s Rag,” the story “I Was a Teenage Grave Robber,” was King’s first published work, appearing in Mike Garrett’s fanzine, Comic Review: Number 1 published in 1965. A fanzine, is a non-professional publication. From several of the ones that I’ve read, they are normally contributed to by people who have an abiding passion for the subject matter, but they are considered a non-official publication, and writers are not paid for the work they submit. The title for “I Was a Teenage Grave Robber” was inspired by the 1957 film “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.” The movie was directed by Emmy winner, Gene Fowler Jr. (The Blue Knight), and starred, Golden Globe nominee, Michael Landon (Little House on the Prairie); Yvonne Lime (Father Knows Best), and Whit Bissell (The Time Machine). In 1967, two years after his publication in the fanzine, King submitted the short story “The Glass Floor” to “Startling Mystery Stories.” The story was accepted by “Startling Mystery Stories, editor, Robert A.W. Lowndes, and published in the fall 1967 edition of the magazine. King was paid $35 for the story, which, when adjusted for inflation, equates to approximately $256 in 2017.

King stated that the idea for the “Glass Floor” came to him one day, when he was walking down a dirt road to visit a friend. For no reason at all, according to King, he suddenly began to wonder, what it would be like to stand in a room in which the floor was a mirror. The plot for “The Glass Floor” is for the most part straightforward, and does not reach the high level of intricacy evidenced by a majority of King’s work that would follow in the years to come.

Charles Wharton is upset by the sudden passing of his sister, Janine. He has no details as to the how and why of her death. At the start of the story, Wharton arrives at the Victorian mansion that Janine shared with her husband, Anthony Reynard. There are only three characters in the story; Louise, Mr. Reynard’s elderly housekeeper, who greets Wharton at the door, is the third character. At first, Wharton is told by Louise, that Mr. Reynard isn’t seeing anyone because he is mourning the death of his wife. When Wharton informs the housekeeper, who he is, she leaves to tell Mr. Reynard, who appears seconds later, and ushers Wharton into the house. The two had not met prior to this occasion. Wharton observes that Reynard is a tall man, who like his housekeeper, appears tired and old, there is a haggard look to his eyes, and his clothes are ill-fitting. Reynard offers his condolences to Charles, and as King writes, he is about to say more, but refrains from continuing to speak.

Wharton and Reynard begin to have a conversation, as Wharton tries to learn what happened to Janine. He grows increasingly frustrated by what he feels are Reynard’s ridiculous answers to the questions pertaining to his sister’s death. According to Reynard, Janine was dusting in a room known as the East Room. In addition to the apparent bad luck associated with the East Room, its standout feature is that the entire floor is a mirror. Janine, had been dusting in the room because she wanted, for an unexplained reason, to have the room painted.

While standing on a ladder, that was designed with rubber grips, Janine falls and dies instantly by breaking her neck. When Wharton demands to be shown the room where Janine died, he is told by Reynard that he can’t because it has been sealed off. Insisting, that if only a few nailed boards stands in the way of seeing where his sister met her end, he won’t let that stop him; Reynard lets Wharton know that the room has been completely plastered over. Reynard stresses to Wharton, that he loved Janine very much, and is grief stricken over her loss, but that nothing more can be done for her. Reynard implores Wharton to let things go, but Wharton can’t do that. Wharton feels that Reynard is obfuscating some truth from him, and he is determined to figure out what it is. Wharton takes a trowel and beings removing the plaster that has sealed off the room.

Was Janine’s death just a tragic accident? Does the East Room cause bad things to happen to those who venture into it? What if anything, will happen to Charles Wharton if he enters the East Room? Will he discover that Reynard has been hiding something from him? What could that something be?

In 1990, Stephen King, gave permission to Weird Tales magazine editor, Darrell Schweitzer, to reprint the “Glass Floor,” in the fall edition of the magazine; at the time King provided an introduction to the story. Prior to the reprint, Schweitzer offered King the opportunity to make any changes he wanted to the story, but with the exception of changing a few words, and making one paragraph break, that King felt was a typographical error to begin with, he didn’t alter anything else about the story. King stated that to change the story further, would make it a completely different story, and he didn’t want to do that. From his own admission, King considers the work unremarkable, and self-critiques the first few pages of the story as clumsy and badly written. Furthermore, in the December 2012 edition of Cemetery Dance, “The Glass Floor” was again reprinted. King has not included “The Glass Floor” as part of any of his published short story collections, but has stated, that he hopes the story will provide inspiration to writers who are amassing rejection slips waiting for his or her big break. He makes no secret that he accumulated five years worth of rejection slips before Robert A.W. Lowndes took a chance on him. King feels that if a writer has drive and determination to keep striving toward publication, that probably sooner or later, someone will recognize a new talent, and turn the aspiring writer’s dream into a reality. I’ve always been interested in reading Stephen King’s first professionally published story, and after searching on Google for a bit, came across a PDF of the story, from the 1990 edition of “Weird Tales” magazine.

 

 

 

 

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