I’ve started watching Scream Queens, finally

I’ve been a fan of American Horror Story for a few years now – since Hotel first aired. So you’d think I’d have been all over Scream Queens too, given it was also created in part by both Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy.

But for some strange reason, known only to me I guess, I have only just decided to sit down and watch it.

And it is freakin’ incredible!

The comic timing and sense of humour is on point in the pilot episode. So often it seemed I found myself being played like a fiddle at the whims of the creators. I found myself laughing out loud and then becoming appalled at myself for what I was laughing at.

All of the actors and actresses involved were fun to watch, but I have to give a special shout-out to original scream queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis. I’m so happy she is in this show and can’t wait to see what part she ultimately plays. And of course, one of my favourite American Horror Story alumni, Emma Roberts as the super-fucking-bitch Chanel.

Chanel – As pleasant as she’s gonna get

Emma Roberts is so bloody disgusting in this show and yet I can’t help but love her character. She is so much fun to watch just being an incredibly evil person to those around her. And something tells me that she won’t get her just desserts any time soon.

I feel as though Scream Queens fell under the radar a bit, especially when compared to it’s mature older cousin American Horror Story. But just from this opening pilot alone I have found it just as entertaining, if not even more so.

There were some great musical moments too – something I’ve just come to expect from these guys. And some awesome song choices too — especially the opening song by Bat For Lashes — ‘What’s A Girl To Do?’.

If I hadn’t have had to get up early the next morning I’d probably have watched the next two or three episodes back to back. I guess I will have to wait.

Scream Queens is going to make a great show to keep my juices flowing ready for American Horror Story: 1984 in September.

I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to actually get started on it.

I’m finally back into American Horror Story Apocalypse

Micheal, eat your heart out

Once again, I have left the current series of American Horror Story until months after it has finished airing. I think it must be something inside me that doesn’t want to reach the end.

Last night I watched four episodes back to back — and I absolutely loved it. The old characters that have been making appearances have been so great. And the music, as always, is terrific.

Can’t wait to see how this series wraps up, and of course to begin 1984 in a few months time.

Rodney Trotter after going skateboarding with the Groovy Gang.

I just stumbled upon a classic episode of the TV series Only Fools And Horses. It’s the one where Del Boy, Rodney and Cassandra win a holiday to Spain after Del sends one of Rodney’s old school paintings into a cereal competition.

This series still stands up and I’m still laughing out loud watching it.

They truly don’t make them quite like this anymore.

The Silent Scream (Hammer House of Horror episode 7)

The Silent Scream may be one of my favourite episodes from the Hammer House of Horror series. It doesn’t contain any deaths – not of people anyway – and doesn’t really have much in the way of gore. But where this episode excelled for me was on the psychological level.

Plus, escaped nazi war scientists always bring with them a particular brand of horror for me. Memories of American Horror Story‘s Dr. Hans Grüper.

Lay the right bait, and almost any creature will walk in of its own accord.

Martin Blueck to Chuck Spillers

Main Characters

What is The Silent Scream about?

Chuck Spillers, played by the excellent Brian Cox, is fresh out of jail and back into the loving arms of his wife, Annie – played by TV actress Elaine Donnelly. Whilst in prison he was visited regularly by an older man, Martin Blueck – played by the ever-charming Peter Cushing. Blueck would talk with him and give him money for his time. Although this initially seemed very generous, it is soon apparent that this was just bait; grooming him for what was to come later.

True to his word, the day after his release Chuck goes to visit Blueck at his place of work – a pet shop in the centre of town. He goes to say thank you to this old man whom he now considers a friend. Blueck then offers Chuck a job, only in a secret back area of the shop.

Re-united

In the back is a large warehouse where Blueck keeps all manner of dangerous and exotic animals in cages. These include Lions, Tigers, Panthers and Baboons. What is perhaps more surprising for Chuck, is the fact that the cages all have their doors open.

Blueck explains his ambitions to create zoos without bars, where animals can walk freely and still be of no danger – something that Chuck sees the benefit in having just been released from jail. These animals have been conditioned to know that the open doors do in fact contain an electrical field that will instantly kill any who attempt to pass through. Only after the power is turned off, and the loud buzzer is rang, is it safe to briefly step out to get their prepared food.

Chuck dutifully tends to the animals each day whilst Blueck is away, as he is paid to do. However, Chuck’s attention is continually drawn to a safe housed in the wall on the second floor of the warehouse. He knows he has the skills necessary to open such a safe and obtain the potential fortune within. But his greed may well be his undoing.

Prisons without bars — my thoughts

Imprisonment is a big theme in this episode: Chuck has just been released from jail, where he found the confinement particularly hard to cope with; the animals being housed in their open cages with fear of death on exit in Blueck’s warehouse; and even the limitation of locations in the episode. For the most part we are either in the Spillers’ kitchen or Blueck’s shop.

On writing this it even occured to me that perhaps the prisons that these character’s carry within them are of importance too. The way that Chuck’s desire for more leads him to crack open the warehouse safe, causing his own imprisonment by Blueck.

A Leopard sits in its cage

Or even the way that Annie is still bound to Chuck with love, even after his greed and criminal actions lead directly to his being imprisoned. And her being bound to him, attempting his rescue, leads to her own capture by Blueck.

And finally Blueck himself. His desire to experiment on Chuck and Annie, to create a prison without bars, ultimately leads to the overlooking of his most dangerous captive animals – sealing his own fate

I found this episode to have a good amount of tension — the most poignant moment just has to be that scene with the puppy. Although not gory, it still manages to leave it’s trace across the rest of the episode. I didn’t find the lack of blood and conventional Hammer Horror deaths to be a thing I particularly missed either. I mean, a bit of gore can be fun alot of the time, but in this story the suspense and tension were balanced enough to carry it on their own.

The ending was suitably nightmarish for me, although I could see it coming a mile off. This was simply due to a previous scene with Blueck driving away from a location in his car. It was a shame, because had it have been edited in a slightly different way, I believe that the closing scene could have been much more of a surprise twist.

Summary

I loved this episode. The over-arching theme of imprisonment and being beholden to the desires we carry within us was an interesting one. Some of these episodes can be a bit hit and miss for me, but there are enough good quality episodes, like The Silent Scream, that really hit the mark.

I enjoyed seeing the legendary Peter Cushing in the role of Blueck. I was so used to him portraying the side of good, like as Van Hellsing in the Dracula films and Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles. So it was a real treat to see him in such a dark role.

(I know he played Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars too, but I’m only thinking of the more horror-themed films here)

Also Brian Cox playing Chuck Spillers. He has one of those faces that I knew I recognised – I just couldn’t remember from where. Then I read his filmography and saw, amongst many other entries :

1995BraveheartArgyle Wallace

Instant recollections of the opening scenes from Braveheart hit me. That’s where I know him from!

Charlie Boy (Hammer House of Horror episode 6)

Charlie boy is about a couple, Graham and Sarah, who come into possession of an African idol after Graham’s uncle dies. (Sarah gives the idol the name Charlie Boy). Unbeknown to the couple, the idol is cursed and is in fact a voodoo statue.

What is Charlie Boy about?

Close up of Charlie Boy
Close up of Charlie Boy

After a disagreement with his brother, Graham – sitting at home nursing a drink – takes out his anger on the Statue. He does this as he is looking at a photograph of five close friends, himself and his brother included. The rest of the episode is then about the systematic killing (or accidental deaths) of all who appear in said photograph in the order they appear.

The episode had some juicy deaths in its 51 minutes including a man getting thrown off a horse and on to some plough spikes. Others I can’t reveal for fear of spoiling aspects of it for you, should you choose to watch it. This story is one of the grimmest to watch overall – nobody really has a good time in this one. That being said I do enjoy a good downer of a story – there’s no light without shade.

A weaker example of the series

Charlie Boy had some potential to be a great episode but unfortunately fell a bit short for me. One big thing that let it down was the soundtrack. At times the music felt like it belonged somewhere between Confessions of a Window Cleaner and Foxy Brown. It’s a shame because the idea itself was a sound one that fits with the rest of the series well. It just seemed to be poorly executed by people who had no real vision of what Hammer Horror is.

Graham and Sarah examine Charlie Boy
Graham and Sarah examine Charlie Boy

In Summary

This is one episode of The Hammer House of Horror that I think you could comfortably miss. It does have some redeeming qualities, such as a higher death count to previous episodes. So it isn’t all doom and gloom. But yer, not the best one.

The House That Bled to Death (Hammer House of Horror episode 5)

The House That Bled to Death kicks off strong and stays strong throughout its 50 minutes. It keeps a sustained anxiousness until it’s very final scenes.

What is ‘The house that bled to death about?

The House That Bled To Death opening
The House That Bled To Death opening

The darkest and coldest opening of the series so far. An elderly couple are together in the kitchen about to have a cup of warm milk before bed. The husband heats the milk and slips a dark powder into one of the cups. As he sits there and lets his wife drink the tainted milk, not a word is exchanged. We have no idea as to why he is murdering his wife and in the world of Hammer House of Horror it doesn’t really matter.

Fast forward some time ahead and we are with this episode’s family, the Peters family. They are buying the very same house where the murder occurred, unknowing to them, from one of the creepiest estate agents in a TV series ever. As soon as they begin moving in, strange things start happening – doors jamming, strange visions and the most gruesome death of an animal I’ve seen in the series thus far.

As they try to bare the strange goings on in the house, tensions are increased both within the family and with the neighbours and friends. The poltergeist-like happenings culminate with the most shocking child’s Birthday party I’ve ever seen. But just when you think it’s all over, we see one of the most interesting – in my opinion – closing scenes of an episode of Hammer House of Horror I’ve watched.

I wonder about the child actors

Every time I see these sorts of series or films I can’t help but wonder how the children are affected. I mean, obviously if there’s a dead body the child wouldn’t necessarily need to physically see it. Through the magic of editing this effect can be produced. But when you have a scene such as this episode’s Birthday party, where the children are directly affected, this must be an awkward conversation with the young actors’ parents.

Sophies Birthday Present
Sophies Birthday Present

Nonetheless the child actors do a really good job in this episode. Their terror is almost palpable – which is worrying on a couple of levels. Sometimes I find the younger actors more convincing than their superiors. This could simply be down to the fact that children, in their very nature, are innocent. So the horrors that befall them are that much more horrific.

In Summary

Definitely one of the strongest and most memorable episodes of the Hammer House of Horror TV series. The House That Bled To Death has everything you could want from a hammer horror series.

The feeling of claustrophobia is maintained throughout most of the episode from being limited to the interior of their house. The house too is not a house that would necessarily stand out. You would see many houses like it passing through most built up city suburbs. This in itself is scary. The fact that it isn’t some huge eerie castle or dark, set-back mansion. This is a regular house, for regular families, who have to endure some far-from-regular things.

Growing Pains (Hammer House of Horror episode 4)

We open the episode to see a small boy looking around a laboratory at the different coloured powders on the shelf. He then proceeds to eat one of the powders, which immediately sends him into a trance-like fit before dying on the grass outside. His parents run out after hearing breaking glass only to find their son, William, dead in the garden.

Matthew Blakstad as James
Matthew Blakstad as James

After the tragic opening we move to some time in the near future, the length of which is never revealed. The mother is picking up her newly-adopted son, a very polite – and slightly odd – young boy. After a near-fatal accident on the way home, the boy starts to become integrated into the family.

However, something just doesn’t sit right with the parents Terence and Laurie – something about their new son just isn’t right. After an increasing number of strange, and graphically horrific, occurrences happen around the home and the father’s lab, the story ends on a darkly melancholic note.

Put the bunny back in the box

I find that any horror that is being told is almost always amplified when children are involved. Whether that involves the child as being either the victim or the perpetrator. Take the rabbit killing scene for example: if an adult breaks the neck of a rabbit on screen, yes it is horrible. However, put that action into the hands of a small child, whether possessed or not, and the violence takes on a whole new angle.

Hammer House of Horror was going places and trying things that other shows at the time just weren’t doing. At least that’s what I believe based on my limited research. We can see parallels with modern anthology series like Black Mirror and Inside No 9, which themselves are doing things others just aren’t. Both of these no doubt took some of their cues from this TV series.

Gary Bond as Terence Morton
Gary Bond as Terence Morton

Although this episode was a bit of a slow burn for me, there was still enough to enjoy it as a whole. I thought the child actor at the time, Matthew Blakstad who played adopted son James, was suitable creepy. But from all of the reviews / critiques I’ve read of this episode, all mention him as being an evil boy. Although that was the impression I had from the start, I didn’t feel that by the end. Instead, I believe him to be a sheltered boy who unwittingly becomes possessed by the late Willam.

Summary

This episode is definitely the weakest of the first three i have watched so far. Although it did have a few redeeming qualities for me. You wouldn’t be missing too much if you bypassed this episode. But, for any of you fans of the Hammer House of Horror series, you should find enough interest to warrant 50 minutes of your time.

The Thirteenth Reunion (Hammer House of Horror episode 2)

Leading on from the series’ opener, Witching Time, is the second episode of the eighties British anthology series Hammer House of Horror. The Thirteenth Reunion is a step away from the supernatural – perhaps consciously so in order to display the show’s diversity.

What’s The Thirteenth Reunion about?

Ruth is a newspaper reporter who has been stuck reporting on the mundane for too long. As part of her job, she is sent to a nearby health retreat called “Think Thin”. The owner has some questionable encouragement methods and she is sent to get the story.

During her first day she meets Ben, a well to do banker who dies that evening. His death occurs soon after taking a slimming pill that was given to him by the clinic. Although she is initially shocked at the news of his death, Ruth wastes no time in turning the suspected foul-play to her advantage. The advantage being the possibility of breaking a potentially big news story on her own.

Ruth and Ben have drinks in The Thirteenth Reunion
Ruth and Ben have drinks in The Thirteenth Reunion.

She is approached at Ben’s funeral by the director, who suspects his bosses of being up to something shady with some of the bodies – Ben’s included. She takes this opportunity to team up with the funeral director to investigate his bosses’ strange goings on. These events set Ruth on her passage of exploration that ultimately lead her to an unforgettable twist ending that will leave you open-mouthed long after the credits roll.

The horror is not knowing

There is no way to talk about the closing ten minutes of this episode without ruining it for you. What I will say is that you wont see it coming, not the full story at least.

All the way through this episode we are kept in the dark almost as much as Ruth is. We do get to see some of the interactions between shady characters that she doesn’t, but never enough to give the game away.

The Thirteenth Reunion is an episode that plays its cards very close to its chest. The majority of the episode is pretty standard investigative journalist stuff and it isn’t until the final few minutes that the real horror begins. And the majority of that horror is not in what it chooses to show you, but in what it chooses not to.