I watched a BBC documentary today on YouTube (link below), narrated by the brilliant Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), about 19th-century ghost story writer Montague Rhodes James, aka. M. R. James—or, if you knew him well: just plain ol’ “Monty” James. I’m not sure whether “knowing him well” would have been a plus or a minus after having watched the documentary, entitled M. R. James: Ghost Writer, which focused on James’ keen ability to write terrifying ghost stories.
It was uncanny. What the heck went on in that antiquarian head of his? Do we even want to know? I mean—the man could scare the trousers off a college boy.
(A little inside joke— no offense, Monty.) 😏
James is known the world over as the undisputed master of the “English” ghost story—although, why we need to qualify these stories as “English” is beyond me…slow your roll, Liz—your fanny may be on the throne, but that doesn’t mean you have the power to run the rest of us! 👑🤚
We are all collectively “human” in the end, aren’t we?
Monty James was, and still is, the master of the “human” ghost story.
If you haven’t read the ghost stories of M. R. James, you should.
You can own the complete stories in a book that fits in the palm of your hand (see my photo below)—or a larger, illustrated edition; or a collectible first edition—whatever suits your ghostly fancy.
Just be warned. These stories aren’t for the night time—well, I mean they are—but they aren’t—it’s all about the resolve of your nerve. (I was going to say “it’s all about the size of your balls”…but Liz is listening.🍒)
The story that caught my attention—“Lost Hearts”—is one I’ve not yet had the pleasure of reading. In the documentary today, Monty—brilliantly acted by Robert Lloyd Parry, a man who not only resembles M. R. James, but has a little snarl to his smile that sorta makes you wonder—is reading “Lost Hearts” to a group of 19th-century Oxford boys, at night, with nothing but the golden glow of a candle…quivering.
He reaches the point in the tale where the spectre of a young boy appears to Stephen Elliott—anoher young boy, this one very much alive—and Stephen notices the spectre’s clawlike fingernails—which have left scratch marks on the bedroom door, and tears in Stephen’s nightshirts—over the chest area…
Sinister, slow-burn, creeping Gothic, no cheap shots or jump scares.
Those are words I like to see in a film review. So I gave it a shot,
Damn scary. And well worth your time.
The Suffering : A a Review from Dread Central
Starring: Nick Apostolides, Phil Amico, & Elizabeth Deo
Director: Robert Hamilton
‘While looking like I was in for just another haunted house film notch in my belt, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that director Robert Hamilton’s The Suffering was anything but. So what exactly was it, you ask? Well, step inside these creaky old doors, and let’s have ourselves a chat, shall we?
At the film’s onset you get the feeling that our main character, Henry (Apostolides), is in way over his head with his job as a real estate appraiser, and his latest gig at the request of the property’s owner, Mr. Remiel (Amico). From a creepy conversation with the appointed driver, to an even eerier dialogue with the ghastly maid, better judgement would tell the normal soul to get the hell outta Dodge, but with the amount Mr. Remiel is planning to pay Henry, monetary conscience usually wins out. The Southern gentleman fancies his piano playing, nightly cocktails by the fire, and an occasional labored walk through the grounds that he is handsomely forking over the big bucks for Henry to assess.
As if the previous two encounters wouldn’t have been enough to scare Henry off, one day while he’s glossing over the property, the sight of a seriously decomposed body in the attic seals the deal – he’s catching the next ride out of this joint! Mr. Remile politely reminds him of his financial obligation to his wife and unborn child… and let’s not forget the little honey on the side that he’s now trying to shake (shame on you, Henry).
I loved this film. It’s based on a novel by UK author S. j. Bolton I read about 10 years ago. It was a great story them; and it’s still a great story.
AN IFC MIDNIGHT RELEASE | IRELAND | APR 29TH, 2016 | 91 MINS | NR
Disturbing secrets lie buried in the bogs of a remote island in this spellbinding thriller. Shortly after surgeon Tora Hamilton (Radha Mitchell) moves with her husband (Rupert Graves) to the Shetland Islands—100 miles off the coast of Scotland—she makes an unnerving discovery: the body of a young woman with strange symbols carved into her flesh and her heart ripped out. When what at first appears to be the remains of a victim of an ancient ritual turns out to be a fresh corpse, Tora is plunged into a dangerous mystery that may be connected to the dark folklore that haunts the island’s past.
DIRECTOR: Peter A. Dowling
PRODUCERS: Peter Lewis, Tristan Lynch, Aoife O’Sullivan, Arnold Rifkin
SCREENWRITER: Peter A. Dowling (based on Sacrifice, a novel by S. j. Bolton)
Told by J. W. Burns (Government Indian Agent-teacher, Chehalis Indian Reserve, British Columbia, Canada) and Set Down by Mr. C.V. Tench
“Presently there came the sound of a heavy body forcing its way through the brush. Darkness had not yet set and peering through a crack, Peter Williams took a good look at the monster. It was undoubtedly a sasquatch—one of the well nigh fabulous ‘hairy giants,’ which according to Indian belief still inhabit the unexplored wilds of interior British Columbia.”
This challenging article will undoubtedly arouse the derision of skeptics both in Canada and elsewhere. After many years of patient investigation, Mr. Burns, a responsible Government official shares the firm belief of his Indian charges that deep in the unexplored mountain wilds of British Columbia, there still lurk a few scattered survivors of the mysterious “Sasquatch” – primitive creatures of huge stature, covered from head to foot with coarse hair who have figured in Redskin legends for centuries. Mr. Burns recounts a number of seemingly well-authenticated stories of encounters with these uncanny “wild men” who carefully avoid all contact with civilization. Scientific expeditions had sought them in vain and it is generally supposed that—if they ever existed—the giants have long since become extinct – but the Indians remain unconvinced.
Before setting forth Mr. Burns’s narrative, I should like to make it clear that he not only holds a highly responsible Government position as an Indian Agent, but is keenly interested in the subject of the “hairy giants,” which he has studied for a number of years. He is confident that his charges are perfectly sincere in their beliefs; they are not in contact with tourists and have no reason whatever to “cook up” fables for the benefit of the unsophisticated. Moreover, the Indians are reluctant to talk about the “Sasquatch” even to him a friend of long standing, and absolutely refuse to discuss the matter at all with white strangers. They are simple minded, unimaginative folk; the invention of so many different stories of encounters with the wild men would be quite beyond their powers.
“I am convinced,” said Mr. Burns, “that survivors of the Sasquatch do still inhabit the inaccessible interior of British Columbia. Only by sheer luck however, is a white man likely to sight one of them because like wild animals, they instinctively avoid all contact with civilization and in that rocky country it is impossible to track them down. I still live in hope however, of some day surprising a sasquatch and when that happens I trust to have a camera handy. And now for my story!”
Utterly terrified, the Indian raced madly toward the Chehalis River where his dugout canoe was moored. In pursuit lunged a giant of a man at least eight feet in height and broad in proportion. He was stark naked and covered from head to toe by a thick growth of black woolly hair.
In his fright, the Chehalis Indian Peter Williams completely forgot the rifle he clutched; he did not attempt to stop and fight it out. When he suddenly caught sight of the monster standing on the summit of a huge boulder, all reason fled, to be instantly supplanted by sheer panic as the giant growled and sprang toward him.
Heedless of the tangled undergrowth, the Indian plunged wildly on – occasionally jerking his head around to gaze affrightedly at the horror behind. Reaching the riverside he gave a frantic heave and the dugout canoe shot out into the turbulent stream. The water, however did not daunt the giant, he plunged forward in hot pursuit.
The instant the bow of the dugout scraped the opposite bank, Peter Williams leaped ashore. The giant was now almost in midstream swimming strongly. Once more the Red man took to his heels. Well-nigh dazed from exhaustion he finally reached the frame shack that was his home. Frenziedly he herded his wife and children inside, bolted the door and barricaded it with ever article he could lay hands on. Then with his rifle at the ready, he tremblingly awaited the giant’s arrival.
The January 1940 article by J. W. Burns, “The Hairy Giants of British Columbia”—which was published in The Wide World Magazine Vol. 84, No. 502–was actually a revised version of an earlier article Burns had published in the April 1, 1929 issue of Maclean’s Magazine. The 1929 article is included below in its entirety. Click thumbnails to enlarge…
The critics hemmed and hawed—but don’t they always? I liked this one! Mirren does a great job as Sarah Winchester heiress of the Winchester rifle fortune; and the rest of the cast worked well too, especially Jason Clarke. The sets were beautiful. There’s an interesting perspective on the period costuming (see the DVD’s “Special Features”). The characters could’ve been drawn more deeply; and, although there was a nice little general-type substory flowing underneath the plot, it could’ve been a more sophisticated one and woven a bit tighter to control the tension better. And a few of the ghost pop-ups—a little blasé. But I got the DVD and I’ll watch it again. Mirren is a masterpiece—she depicts the fin de siècle spiritualist widow perfectly and with a compassion and vulnerability that are touching and believable. 3 skulls! ☠️☠️☠️
Click thumbnails to enlarge…
Winchester Mystery House is a mansion in San Jose, California, that was once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearm magnate William Wirt Winchester. Located at 525 South Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, the Queen Anne Style Victorian mansion is renowned for its size, its architectural curiosities, and its lack of any master building plan. It is a designated California historical landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is privately owned and serves as a tourist attraction….
Read more, here…
Rock on brother. Rock. On.