2 November 2017



This was the closing film of the Irish Film Institute's 2017 Horrorthon Festival. This is the one time of year that we horror fans can scuttle out of our holes and shuffle wonkily to the cinema, shielding our eyes from the blaring sunlight, to see the kind of gory, freaky-ass films that the normals in the population don't have the stomach for, haha. We horror fans have guts of iron. We can handle the bloody truth...

I must tell the truth here as well, though, and I'm afraid that the truth is that THE HOUSEMAID is a busy mess and was very disappointing, especially for a closing film in a festival. It's absolutely beautiful to look at and is very similar visually to Park Chan Wook's THE HANDMAIDEN which came out earlier this year. No-one's saying that the film isn't visually stunning. Sadly, it's the plot that fails to come up to the mark.

The film is set in Vietnam in 1953, during something called the First Indo-Chinese War, about which I admit I know little. The titular housemaid is a beautiful young woman called Linh. She arrives barefoot at the grand home of a French rubber plantation owner in the middle of a downpour, impoverished, homeless and looking for work.

She gets a job there as the only housemaid in the place. There's also a formidable housekeeper called Mrs. Han, there's a psychic old cook who believes in ghosts and things that go bump in the night and there's a creepy, dodgy-looking gardener-handyman of some kind too.

They all work for Captain Sebastien Laurent, the aforementioned plantation owner whose wife Camille and their baby both suffered a gruesome death that somehow seems more suited to a Victorian ghost story than a modern-day setting.

Linh and the Captain immediately fall for each other. No surprises there. He's a rich older man who can provide all kinds of luxuries, comforts and security and she's a gorgeous, sexually attractive young wan without a penny to her name. It's a dynamic that always seems to work, don't ask me why...!

Any-hoo, the psychic cook accidentally raises the spirit of the Captain's dead wife while casting a spell trying to cure the Captain of a fever. Don'tcha just hate when you do that? Accidentally raising the dead is no joke, you know. I did it once a few years ago and I'm still paying off the dry-cleaning bills. It's a messy business, is that.

This is when the film starts to fall apart, while simultaneously turning into a load of other films as well. It's THE WOMAN IN BLACK when the wife Camille, dressed in Victorian-style black mourning from head to toe, including veil, comes back from the dead with a vengeance to haunt the living shite out of everyone in her old home.

It's Alfred Hitchcock's REBECCA when Mrs. Han, turning her back for five minutes like the odious Mrs. Edythe Van Hopper in the 1940 thriller, returns to the plantation to find that the little upstart Linh has not only supplanted her as the head of the household, but is warming the bed of the master of the house as well. The little hussy. No better than she ought to be, as they used to say. Mrs. Han, needless to say, is not happy.

First we have THE WOMAN IN BLACK haunting the house and the newly-created happy couple because she's angry with her hubby for taking a new lover. Also, he's mostly to blame for the death of his wife and baby, so she's mightily pissed-off about that too.

Then the film turns into NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD when it transpires that the woods around the estate are haunted by the zombie ghosts of all the plantation workers who died there at the hands of their brutal overseers.

So, while the zombies are doing their best impression of Michael Jackson's THRILLER, a driverless car is running someone over, turning the movie into Stephen King's CHRISTINE. The movie's ending is messy and confusing and a bit unfulfilling.

I wouldn't advise anyone to avoid the film or anything, as it's stunningly beautiful to look at and it's a bit of a laugh but, when I want a bit of a larf I'll watch a comedy. I like my horror movies to put the willies up me and it has to be said that nothing at all was put up me during the screening of this film, and certainly no willies.

There's one hilarious bit where the detective investigating Sebastien's death (sorry, spoiler!) says to Linh in genuine puzzlement: 'Why would the dead wife's ghost want to kill her husband?' I burst out laughing right there in the cinema. Jesus Christ, I was thinking. Why would the dead wife's ghost want to kill her husband? There could be many reasons, Chuck.

Firstly, she blames him for their baby's death and her own subsequent suicide. She's right to be annoyed about that. Then again, maybe she's a stone-cold bitch, didja ever think of that? Or maybe she's bored in the afterlife, with nothing better to do than jerk Satan off all day. Or maybe she's like every jealous wife ever, and wants to kill the bugger for riding a young wan the minute his wife pops her clogs?

Or she could be a dog in the manger, not wanting anyone else to have him even though she doesn't want him herself. Or maybe every woman who's suddenly put in a position of power over her former husband is naturally pre-disposed towards hurting him, who knows?

Either way, the man who wrote 'Why would the dead wife's ghost want to kill her husband?' does not know women. Not like we women know women, anyway. But does he know films, at least? I'll leave you guys to decide on that one for yourselves. My lips are henceforth sealed...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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