I have been a fan of the work of director Andrew Jones since seeing his first release of the Robert trilogy. Robert, released in 2015, is a creepy and subtle tale of a haunted doll come to life, starring the talented Suzie Francis Garton, and Lee Bane. The sequel – The Curse of Robert – was equally enjoyable, however the third and most recent release, entitled The Toymaker, is in my opinion a fantastic addition to the series, and quite possibly the best.
The Toymaker stars Lee Bane (in a somewhat altogether impressive guise), along with Erick Hayden and Sophie Willis. The cast in this film is so solid; performances by Bane and Hayden are outstanding. Hayden is a new name in film to capture my attention, and I will be following his career as a result of his work on this feature.
Centred in Nazi Germany, in 1941, The Toymaker tells the tale of how an elderly man comes across a manuscript that contains top secret occult material – a manuscript that is much sought after by the Nazis. The occult notes eventually lead the toymaker to bring life to some of the dolls in his possession, and there the story of horror unfolds.
This film is brilliantly executed. The script, the acting, the way in which the story unfolds are all impressive. Director Jones brings about such immense tension to the story – even from the outset – when we find ourselves in the centre of a hunt by the Nazis, as they weave their way through a town, trying to locate the mysterious book of occult material.
I genuinely think this third film of the trilogy is the strongest. I very much missed the presence of Suzie Francis Garton, as she brings a lot to the story in its original form (for very obvious reasons, her character couldn’t be a part of this). The Toymaker delivers an exceptional punch. It feels authentic – the dialogue, costume, scenery etc all lend credence to the time in which the story is set.
I think Andrew Jones, Lee Bane, Erick Hayden (and the rest of the cast, who are all spectacular in their roles) have achieved a strong, solid story here. The Toymaker is creepy, tense and enjoyable – with the very odd dark hint of humour (well, in my opinion, the saluting clown is a classic scene!)
I highly recommend this film, and give it a hearty 5 stars out of 5
You can purchased THE TOYMAKER in HMV, ASDA, MORRISONS, TESCOS and on any DVD online retail outlet.
THE DARK SACRAMENT – STORIES OF MODERN DAY POSSESSION
IF YOU are interested in exorcism and enjoy reading, I highly recommend the book, The Dark Sacrament by David Kiely. This work is a significant text which focuses on several cases of possession, cases that are unnerving as well as fascinating. Back when it was first released in 2007 (there has since been a revised and updated version), I read it in a short space of time, because the stories described within where so captivating – and frightening.
I have been personally interested in the subject of exorcism and possession since I was a teenager, when I first watched The Exorcist. I had also read several articles and fictional stories on the topic. I believe The Dark Sacrament is one of the most important and significant books on the subject. I have read it several times, the insight it sheds of the personal experience of the demonic is something very powerful, and it does play on your mind.
I was recently in contact with David Kiely, the man who co-authored the book with his wife Christina McKenna. He kindly agreed to be interviewed regarding his book and here is the result of our exchange. I hope you enjoy the interview – and I hope it inspires you to pick up a copy of a book that definitely deserves to be on your ‘To Be Read’ list.
I began by asking David how he came up with the idea for writing this book with his wife…
For several years I had this sort of book in the back of my mind. I’d read a number of books on the subject of Irish hauntings but all dealt with very old cases. My publisher at Gill & Macmillan visited us one day and was intrigued by Christina’s account of a prolonged haunting in her family home. It featured in her memoir, My Mother Wore a Yellow Dress. He wondered if we’d be interested in compiling a book of modern cases. We readily agreed.
Have you personally always believed in the paranormal? If so, why?
The answer is yes, and it’s largely thanks to my father, who told us children at an early age that he’d assisted at an exorcism when a young man. He didn’t go into too much detail for fear of scaring us witless, but it certainly fired my imagination and I developed a great interest in the subject. I moved to Amsterdam in my twenties and was drawn to all manner of things paranormal, thanks largely to the people I met and talks I attended at De Kosmos, a centre devoted to spiritual matters and the paranormal.
Was it hard to find people willing to talk about their frightening paranormal encounters?
For some I imagine it’s a hard topic to be open about.. Very hard, despite reassuring people that they’d remain anonymous. We even went so far as disguising the locations where the hauntings occurred and other relevant details. That said, several people were more than willing to discuss their experiences, largely because of their gratitude to the clergymen who’d rid them of the spirits that tormented them. They wished to comfort other victims and assure them that help is at hand.
Did you ever feel unsettled or unnerved during the writing of the book?
Most certainly. Being writers – like yourself – Christina and I have very vivid imaginations. That fact generally works in our favour but in the case of The Dark Sacrament it had the effect of putting us on edge on many occasions. We experienced insomnia a lot, no doubt due to the effect on our psyches of the many accounts of strange happenings we were privy to. I vividly recall an apparition I saw late one night: a serpentine, multicoloured form that moved across the ceiling for a few seconds and was gone.
Have you ever had any unexplained encounters of your own?
Not recently but I often had out-of-the-body experiences in years gone by. I’d meet entities with whom I’d converse wordlessly. Nothing evil or threatening, I’m happy to say. Christina was also visited by a ghost dressed in Victorian garb, who likewise did not speak and seemed quite benign.
Do you feel it is a spirituality dangerous thing to investigate, write about or dabble in the darker side of the paranormal?
Yes, it can be dangerous, particularly for newcomers who are unaware of the dangers. Those dangers are myriad, and as diverse as the entities that inhabit the unearthly realms. Sometimes a nefarious spirit will pretend to be good-natured and fool the unwary.
The Dark Sacrament was received very well by readers. Do you imagine ever writing a similar title again?
Well, Christina did just that. She published a follow-up in 2010 entitled Ireland’s Haunted Women. It featured ten cases concerning hauntings, told to her by women who approached her following the publication of The Dark Sacrament. She made these interesting observations in the preface: “During the research [of The Dark Sacrament] I was struck by the number of women involved; it was clear that they greatly outnumbered the men who had fallen victim to oppression by paranormal forces. Try as I might, I could not account for this, nor did I find a satisfactory explanation in the literature. Could it be that ghosts appear to men and women with equal frequency – but that women are more likely to share their experiences? After all, men tend to discuss their private lives less readily than do women. Or perhaps it’s because most men tend to suppress their ‘feminine’ side – what Jung called the anima – so that the creative, intuitive and visionary area of their subconscious mind is rarely acknowledged. It’s an interesting topic for debate. Whatever the truth, the fact remains that my portfolio of cases involving women far outweighs that of those involving men.”
Thank you David, for your time.
You can find The Dark Sacrament on the following links:
YOU may recall a few posts back, that I was in the middle of completing the Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research, organised and run by prominent paranormal investigator and author, Jayne Harris. I promised my verdict, once the course was completed – and after finishing my ten assignments, including the practical investigation, I feel it’s now time to share my thoughts on the course.
The course includes ten assignment project sections, which include:
The history of paranormal investigation
Forensic approaches to experiments
Practical assignment (taking part in an investigation)
Each assignment includes reading material and an online video tutorial by Jayne Harris. There is access to a chat room and forum, where students can discuss topics or receive help with anything they are struggling with, and at the conclusion of the course, each student who successfully completes the assignments receives a certificate from one of the leading accreditation bodies.
My thoughts? After finishing each assignment, and watching all tutorials, I can genuinely say I enjoyed the course. As someone who has been passionate about the paranormal since I was a child, I’d always been looking for a way to cement my ideas, a way to explore theories and engage in serious study. This was my opportunity, and it was very interesting. What I particularly liked about the course was that although Jayne presented many different theories regarding the paranormal, there was never a moment where I felt I was being told the “answer” to anything. In fact, Jayne Harris takes pride in displaying all offered evidence, theories and texts, and allowing the student to develop their own ideas and conclusions. This is a course that aims to provide information, leading the student down a path of their own discovery.
I wondered if there would be enough to the course to really captivate my attention, purely because I’ve already spent many, many years studying the subject myself. I wondered if I could learn anything new. I needn’t have worried, because Jayne – although having to include some of the more common and basic themes of the paranormal – also delved deeply into other aspects that were new to me. I felt there was more than enough to get me thinking, learning and developing my ideas.
Jayne herself expresses the subject brilliantly in her tutorials. Clear, concise, and interesting. There was no point where I felt a tutorial was lacking – all lessons where written well, presented well and achieved the aim: to educate the student.
I truly believe this course will be well received by not only believers, but also sceptics. As mentioned, Jayne doesn’t set out to “convince” anyone of anything, but merely shares as much information, history and theories as possible. There is enough to captivate most people’s attention – and hold it firmly!
All in all, I very much enjoyed the course. The writing assignments helped me to sum up my own feelings and beliefs, and the lessons really sharpened my mind to things that I thought I already knew enough about.
I believe Jayne has achieved what she set out to, with this course. To explore, to educate, to engage with people on this fascinating subject. I feel any student will come away feeling more equipped to understanding hauntings, or taking part confidently in paranormal investigations.
I highly recommend this course, and I rate it 5/5
To learn more about this course, or apply to take part, here is the link:
INTERVIEW WITH HORROR DIRECTOR JOHN AINSLIE
I BECAME aware of Ainslie’s work when I stumbled across his feature film, The Sublet (AKA The Resident, in the UK). This film captured my attention, because it seemed different from other horror titles. Themes of hauntings are common in the horror genre, but The Sublet appears to take the “haunted house” story and shake it into something entirely different. Exploring themes of relationship breakdown, motherhood and postnatal psychosis, The Sublet treads a very dark path that leaves the viewer feeling marked, somehow. It is a dark experience, an unrelenting one that leaves a strong impression on the audience. As a big fan of dark film, I really enjoyed The Sublet and wanted to learn more about the director.
John Ainslie kindly agreed to spend some time answering my questions, and the interview below is the result. I hope you enjoy the exchange, and more than that, I hope this leads you to grabbing a copy of the film. If you are a fan of horror, you will not be disappointed..
John, you are involved in not only writing but in directing films. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got into this field?
I got into this young. In many ways I’m still not “in it”. I started out editing and moved into cinematography before focussing on writing. All of these were great jobs, but I never felt like I had enough control over the process and I was always at the mercy of someone else. I wanted to tell my own stories. After my time studying at the Canadian Film Centre as a writer it really cemented my voice and pushed me towards directing. It’s one thing to have a voice, but it’s another to learn how to articulate it to others and get it onscreen. After, the CFC I gave myself two years to direct my first feature and that lead to The Sublet
I’m a massive fan of the horror genre, but only recently saw The Sublet (AKA The Resident) on DVD. I’ve no idea how I missed this release – I really enjoyed it. Immensely dark and creepy. Can I ask, how did the idea for this film come about? What inspired it?
It’s actually only been released in the UK. The American and Canadian release will happen this summer so don’t feel bad that you missed it! I’m happy you enjoyed it. The original idea came from my co-writer Alyson Richards who had moved to LA and was subletting different places and always had the feeling someone was watching her. She wanted to make a low budget horror so we started bouncing ideas off each other and brought in the paranormal concept which seemed interesting. Then later we fell in love with having ambiguity in the protagonist’s mind which would create confusion for the viewer and really draw them into Joanna’s insanity. I fought pretty hard for this ambiguity during production and met with some resistance. They wanted a ghost story, but I felt that it had been done before and was far less interesting. As well, the subject of postpartum psychosis is one that I find incredibly fascinating so while this isn’t really the focus of the film it does add an intriguing element. I wanted to create a character that felt real, that would give the viewer something to identify with. Even, without the paranormal and psychosis having a baby can be terrifying so this is fertile ground for film.
Above, a scene in the film, The Sublet
What, if any, where the challenges involved in writing the script and directing The Sublet? Were there issues that were hard to overcome?
The hardest thing was time. Both Alyson and I had just had our first children when we started to write so finding time to focus was a challenge for sure. Then during production we had fifteen main shooting days, which is not a lot to make sure you get what you need. After that, post was a challenge as I had to keep my day job up at the same time, which seems insane to me as I think about it…
Creatively though, with this film the hardest thing was keeping the narrative together. With all the confusion it became tough to track Joanna’s psychological state, but thankfully I had a great actress in Tianna Nori to help with that. It’s one thing to create confusion and doubt with an unreliable protagonist, but doing that and maintain enough lucidity for the viewer to stay interested.
You were also involved in writing Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer . The films you have been involved in are quite dark in nature. Have you always liked darker films – what draws you to these types of movies?
I never really set out to be “dark”, but somehow every idea I get falls into that category. That said I also try to bring a bit of my dark sense of humour with me. I do gravitate towards dark films… but who knows why? My next few films are pretty dark too.
A disturbing scene from the film – photo from The Sublet
What project are you currently working on? I have read about a film called she came knocking. Is this an upcoming release, can you tell us about it?
She came knocking is a short film I made with actress Kimberly-Sue Murray (Scarehouse). She and I had wanted to work with each other for a while and when this idea came to me I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for us. It was a very collaborative and fun experience to work with an actress from concept to final cut. She was involved at every stage and helped shape the narrative as well as the character. I really like to involve cast early, but the way the system is set up this is sometimes a challenge. The film premiered in Toronto at Canadian Film Fest and won Best Short Film which was a nice way to start the festival run. The film is about a Uber driver who witness’ what she believes might be domestic abuse and when the police won’t help her she takes matters into her own hands. It’s a tense thriller with a three minute continuous shot at the end which was a really fun challenge to execute with our cinematographer Ian Macmillan.
Next up I have two features with scripts that close to ready to shoot once we secure financing. I’m very excited about both of them for different reasons. One is another psychological-thriller/horror and the other is action/thriller and I’ve just begun writing a new one which will be an action thriller.
What are your favourite horror/thriller films, and why?
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane always comes back to my mind as a favourite. Just so classic and bizarre. Shot so beautifully.
I really like The Others too.
A random question: Do you think that the closure of many cinemas and the growing popularity of online film streaming is having a negative effect on the film industry?
It’s definitely having a negative effect on the film industry as we now know it, but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing over all. Things evolve over time. Segments of the industry didn’t like the addition of sound to films and many directors complained about switching to a widescreen aspect ratio at first. At the end of the day we’re in the business of telling stories and finding a way for those stories to reach an audience. Part of the compromise you make whenever communicating is to communicate in a way that reaches the audience. You can tell the best story ever, but if you tell it to an empty room – what’s the point? I love classic films and while I would love to make a film like Lawrence of Arabia or Rebecca, I’m not sure who would watch it. You have to reconcile your desire to make films with the need to sell tickets, there’s no real way around that.
Do you have any tips or advice for people reading this that may want to get involved in script writing and directing?
Just do it.
A big thank you to John for taking the time to answer these questions.
You can find The Sublet (named The Resident in the UK) in all major DVD retailers and online stores.
THERE IS A HELL. THIS IS WORSE – so says the tagline on promotional posters of new movie, The Void, starring actors Aaron Poole and Allison Fraser, and directed by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Konstanski. Released across theatres in the US and Canada, and with a DVD release in Europe, this film has already garnered positive attention from horror and sci-fi fans.
The Void follows character Daniel Carter, a police officer (played by Aaron Poole), who comes across an injured man in the middle of secluded land during his shift. Taking the bleeding man to a hospital to get him help, Carter soon realises something is amiss. A small group of staff and patients are trapped in the eerie hospital as they are surrounded by sinister looking figures who lie in wait beyond the darkness of the hospital. Who they are and what they want remains a mystery throughout much of the film, which lends to the suspense of the story. Add to that the mysterious deaths occurring amongst those who are desperately trapped in the hospital, and you have the ingredients for an unsettling and creepy film.
This movie is likely to appeal to fans of sci-fi and horror – I won’t be the first to say that there are elements in the film which bring to mind the Netflix series Stranger Things. There have also been comments in online reviews which mention the work of John Carpenter in comparison. What the directors and script writers have developed here, in The Void, is an animal of its own kind, in my opinion. Yes, some of the comparisons are understandable, but the film stands strongly on its own; such is the strength of the script, setting and atmosphere achieved. It is uniquely its own – The Void is a creepy drive on a uniquely dark road – gripping and uncomfortable, gritty yet other-wordly.
It is hard to place The Void in one category. I am first and foremost a horror fan, and there are plenty of dark elements to this story that pulled me in. The dark magnet of mystery and fear was certainly enough to grab my attention and keep it. The other-wordly aspect to the story lends those vivid flavours of science fiction, as previously mentioned, keeping fans of that style gripped. There is also drama – the relationships between characters deeper and more complicated than first imagined, the cast bringing to life the script impressively.
I enjoyed The Void. It was a creepy setting – the story unfolding within the corridors of a dark hospital, which I loved – and the cast were strong. Aaron Poole delivered his role as Daniel Carter with a vivid authenticity, breathing life into his character in the brilliant way Poole does in his roles. Kenneth Walsh, Daniel Fathers and Kathleen Munroe were equally impressive, as were the cast as a whole. The tension, believability and strength the film possesses is because of the weight of the cast presence.
Atmospheric, unusual, dark and sinister. These are the words that come to mind after spending time in The Void. It is different from any other horror I have seen lately, standing out amongst other recent releases. I highly recommend it, and rate the film 5 stars out of five.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE DIPLOMA – SO FAR
YOU may have followed my previous blog posts about my taking part in an online Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research run by tutor and author, Jayne Harris. Today marks the day that I am officially half way through the course – and indeed, is also the day that the course is now open for the public to enrol. If you are interested, the link will follow at the bottom of this post.
I promised to share my thoughts as I worked through the course, and today feels like an appropriate time to share my impressions – so far.
I am very much enjoying myself as this course progresses. I am a person who has been studying many aspects of the paranormal since I was a teenager, so I wondered whether there would be enough depth and information to strike and hold my interest in the course. I needn’t have worried. Jayne has composed a course which – whilst obviously having to cover some general and basic information on the subject – is actually full of interesting case studies, articles, theories and differing ways of viewing the paranormal. As well as video tutorials and a student handbook to aid study along the way, Jayne has also provided recommended reading for further study, so the student can look into certain subjects more if they want to pursue it further.
I don’t want to go too far into course details at this stage, because I am only half way through, and I intend to write a more fuller, more exact review of the course and what it compromises once I have completed it. Yet I did feel that, on this day when the course is now open to general enrolment, that this was a good time to share my first impressions.
I believe Jayne Harris has created a course that, to my mind so far, is extremely interesting, engaging, mind-opening and fun. As someone who has held an interest in this subject for many years, I am glad to have had the opportunity to learn more. I am experiencing theories and ways of looking at the paranormal field that I had not before, and even for that alone, I recommend any potential student to look into this course. I don’t believe you will be disappointed.
” I am experiencing theories and ways of looking at the
paranormal field that I had not before, and for that alone,
I recommend any potential student to look into this course “
If you think you may be interested in studying this course, the link is as follows:
I HAVE been interested in the paranormal since I was a child, although I cannot say specifically what sparked this interest within me. I simply remember from a young age that the subject drew me in; I recall reading books about ghosts at the library, and telling friends scary stories at sleep-over parties. This interest has stayed with me through it all. Here I am, all these years later – very much an adult enjoying studying the paranormal and even taking part in investigations. So, when leading figure of the paranormal, Jayne Harris, invited me to undertake the Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research, a CPD accredited diploma that involves learning about metaphysics, parapsychology, forensic approaches to studies and several practical assignments, I knew I had to accept.
Jayne Harris has quite a following in the world of the paranormal. Collecting and studying haunted objects for many years, Jayne has worked with many popular and respectable figures, including Zak Bagans from Ghost Adventures, and paranormalist, Uri Geller. She has co-authored a very popular book with Dan Weatherer, What Dwells Within, and even written articles for paranormal magazines. She is the owner of the very famous Peggy, the Haunted doll, and has featured in national magazines and newspapers. I have a lot of respect for her work, and I trust that the Diploma will bring those interested in this curious subject into deeper and inspired knowledge.
Above, Jayne Harris with Zak Bagans, of Ghost Adventures and Deadly Possessions.
So, this week and for the foreseeable future, I shall take part in this interactive, online, and self-paced course. I am going to review regularly my thoughts on the course and on the topics it covers here on my blog, so that people who are interested in the subject can learn more, and also people who are curious about enrolling on the course themselves can see if the study appeals to them. The course itself opens for public enrollment in March.
Diploma in Applied Paranormal Research:
HD Paranormal Website: