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The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School

The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School

My new novel is due out from Titan Books in the US and the UK on October 23. Advertisements

On the web

  • My notes on The Old Man & the Gun, out in the UK December 7. (more…)
  • My notes on Urufu gai: Moero ôkami-otoko (Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope) (1975), which is out on DVD/BluRay from Arrow. (more…)
  • My notes on Assassination Nation (more…)
  • My notes on The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (more…)
  • My notes on Cam, which drops on Netflix November 16.   Replete with character name references to Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, this through the looking glass cyberthriller about identity theft and online kink morphs slightly awkwardly into a contemporary ghost story.  Director Daniel Goldhaber, who also co-wrote with Isa Mazzei, cannily doesn’t entirely explain the supernatural element – the menace could as easily be a rogue artificial intelligence as a malicious spook.  Cam focuses mostly on the fractured identity of its protagonist, hardworking Alice (Madeline Brewer) whose cam-girl handle is Lola.  She is branching out – with the aid of creepy sweaty fan TinkerBoy (Patch Darragh) – from peek-a-boo bathtimes, self-administered spankings and masturbating to order with objects selected by her followers into elaborate stunts (mock suicides) presumably catering to a different set of customer demands.  When I was a kid, our local ITV station ran a segment in which a toy rabbit called Gus Honeybun would perform extremely basic tricks – bunny-hops, turning the lights out – in response to requests sent in from viewers’ families on their birthdays, which was basically an excuse for having the announcer read their names on air.  Alice’s online act is bizarrely an adult version of this, with spanks and flashes and mock stabbings delivered at the request of anonymous, token-dispensing users.   We see how hard Alice has to work to keep her rating up, and that she has put her heart and soul into attaining her ostensibly ridiculous stardom.  Having just cracked the top fifty on the site, she dreams of displacing the number one, BabyGirl (Imani Hakim), who is unusually remote and doesn’t engage with her devotees.  In a peculiarly upsetting sequence, Alice celebrates her bump in the ratings with glitter and cheer only for a rival (Samantha Robinson, of The Love Witch) to draw off her followers by promising to break her ‘non-nude’ rule if Alice ranking falls ten places – which exposes her desperation, and spurs her to ever more dangerous acts. The playpen set and children’s literature references emphasise that this form of porn is stuck in the nursery, and the way Lola’s enthusiastic online fans become even more eager when she starts hurting herself suggests dark impulses out there on the internet and in the culture.  Those impulses take a pixel form when Alice finds herself locked out of her own account, which is taken over by a doppelganger Lola who starts breaking Alice’s self-imposed rules.  At first, she assumes the new Lola is manipulated footage of old sessions, but she logs on as a user (‘Mr Teapot’) and is able to interact live with the phantom wearing her face.   The sinister double idea is as old as Poe’s ‘William Wilson’ or The Student of Prague, but it’s couched here in up-to-the-moment terms as Alice’s nerves fray while dealing with her site’s unhelpful help line and she has an unsatisfying encounter with bewildered, prurient cops who don’t see her plight and advise her that if she doesn’t want to see bad stuff perhaps she shouldn’t go on the internet.  As the virtual Lola becomes more successful, Alice’s life falls apart – her brother (Devin Druid) lets his friends find out what she does for a living, and she is forced to own up to her double (now triple) life to her shocked mother (Melora Walters).  And she realises that TinkerBoy has crossed country, hoping to position himself as white knight – though her takeaway from his presence is that he has an idea what’s happening to her, and who might be responsible.  A detective thread as Alice sleuths out backstory, cadging some details from bearlike and connected superfan Barney (Michael Dempsey), is well-handled, but feels like a narrative shortcut to the final confrontation, and is not as gripping as the earlier sections in which the heroine’s unconventional but manageable lifestyle is disrupted and coopted by the doppelganger.   Brewer – from the TV series Hemlock Grove and The Handmaid’s Tale – gets a real acting workout in the lead, playing several levels of performance (a nice little moment comes when Alice’s mother admits she’s checked out her act and can appreciate the skill needed to keep it going) then going spectacularly off the rails.
  • My Sight & Sound obituary for Stan Lee is online. (more…)
  • My notes on The Other Side of the Wind (more…)
  • My Empire review of Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria is online.
  •   My notes on The Girl in the Spider’s Web (more…)
  • My notes on Scott Pilgrim vs the World (more…)
  • My notes on Prospect (more…)
  • Lajko – cigány az ürben (Lajko – Gypsy in Space) (more…)
  • My notes on Himmelskibet (A Trip to Mars) (1918) (more…)
  • My notes on Az Hur Hangja (His Master’s Voice) (more…)
  • Trieste S+F review ...
  • My notes on El Año de la Plaga (The Year of the Plague) (more…)
  • My notes on Peropheral. (more…)
  • My notes on Parallel, which screened at the FrightFest all-day event. (more…)
  • My notes on La Voce del Lupo (more…)
  • My notes on Solis (more…)
  • Trieste S+F review -
  • Trieste S+F review -
  • Trieste S+F review -
  • Trieste S+F review -
  • My notes on Elizabeth Harvest  (more…)
  • My notes on Freaks (more…)
  • My notes on Calling All Earthlings (more…)
  • My notes on Lajka (Laika) (more…)
  • My Empire review of Slaughterhouse Rulez is online.
  • The Horror Channel are having a season of classic Hammer Films. I've written about it.
  • Go Home -- A Casa Loro (more…)
  • I've written a piece on Death Line for Network, who are releasing the film on UK BluRay,
  • My notes on Future World (2018) (more…)
  • My notes on Galveston, out now in the US. (more…)
  • My notes on Killer Kate!, now out in the US. (more…)
  • I've written a piece on Miss Leslie's Dolls, which is out on UK BluRay from Network.
  • My notes on Mike Leigh's historical drama Peterloo. (more…)
  • My Empire review of Possum is online.
  • My Empire review of An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is online.
  • I'll be at Forbidden Planet on Tuesday the 23rd, October - launching my new novel.  All welcome.
  • Here's a thing I'm appearing at ... Book here.
  • My notes on First Man. (more…)
  • My notes on the film Downsizing. (more…)
  • My notes on Down a Dark Hall, out on UK DVD October 22. (more…)
  • My notes on the rare Hammer horror comedy The Ugly Duckling (more…)
  • My notes on Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween  (more…)
  • I've written a piece about the lurid 1970 British thriller Assault, which is out on a lovely-looking BluRay from Network.
  • My notes on the suspense film Ride (2017), out on US VOD now. (more…)
  • My notes on Mandy - out on Blu-Ray, DVD, Digital Download October 29. (more…)
  • My notes on the new Halloween. (more…)
Kim

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