Arrow: Haunted – Hello John Constantine and Ray Palmer (Review)

Matt Ryan as John Constantine

It really is only because Matt Ryan, as John Constantine, is on Arrow for the Haunted episode that MikesFilmTalk is writing about the show.  Not that the CW series is unappreciated, Arrow is, like The Flash, a firm favorite. Unfortunately, CW, like CBS were overly snobby when divvying out press access to their stable of shows.   Regardless of the fact that this site is edited and published by a journo, the networks rather snottily explained that this little site was too small to have access to either screeners or photo’s from episodes of their shows.

Regardless of the highly annoyingly  snobbish attitude to sites that are not IGN or Huffington Post, or fill in name of “large” money making site here,  the inclusion of Ryan’s splendid presence as Constantine made both watching and writing about episode 405 almost fait accompli.

It is, perhaps, more than a little annoying that this was one of the least impressive episodes of Arrow thus far.  Sara Lance, whose time in the Lazarus Pit has allowed her body to return sans soul, is killing bad people all over town. Although she has also been attacking Thea “lookalikes” as well, she has yet to actually kill any of the short-haired Thea-ites.

Speaking of the attacks on Thea, aka Speedy, Sara not having a soul allowed her to radically kick the Queen sibling’s butt ragged.  This young lady, Thea Queen,  who has severe anger management issues and who can barely restrain herself from killing the baddies around town gets beaten to a pulp by the recently returned dead girl.

The gang, who are now working together for a greater Star City,  set up a trap for Sara to stop her from harming Thea and to save the criminal element from being killed, after all thugs are people too.  Cue the backstory of Queen meeting John Constantine on (drumroll please) the island.

As is typical of an Arrow episode there is much too-ing and fro-ing from present to past and the overall presence of John Constantine is kept to a minimum.  Cutting to the chase, Constantine helps to save Sara by bringing Oliver and Laurel into the netherworld to rescue her captured soul, kept in a netherworld version of the Lazarus Pit, and to come back out unscathed.

There is another subplot about Diggle’s brother Andrew who apparently was as pure as the driven slush before being murdered by HIVE.

As interesting as this all is, let us look at Matt Ryan’s reappearance as Constantine, away from NBC and their inability to understand what is good for their own network (Can you say “The Player?”) who cancelled Ryan’s brilliant portrayal of the cigarette smoking “hero.”

Seeing the Welsh actor put on the trench coat and tie again, was fun…

But…

To this viewer, Ryan’s Constantine in Arrow looked different. He also sounds different. John’s British drawl has been “cleaned up” and sounds much less “real” than it did on the NBC series.  And…Apart from once on the island, when Constantine asks if anyone has a cigarette, the character does not light up once and John looks, for lack of a better word, too clean.

The lighting or filters used for filming Arrow made Ryan look much less “rough and ready” and more like a plastic version of his character.  In essence, the long wait for Matt Ryan to turn up as Constantine was a bit of a let down.

About the network who killed Constantine the series, there is one moment where the character has apparently asked for a peacock feather, a sly dig at NBC whose logo is still a spread of peacock feathers, which John then uses to scratch his back.  That was amusing but not too satisfying and there was no groundwork  laid for Ryan to return. After saving Sara, Constantine recommends to Queen that they consider their debt’s to one another paid off, “let’s say we’re even.”

Still, it was good to see the actor who brought John Constantine to life so convincingly return, even if it was on a snobby network that still believes that Supernatural is the shizzle in terms of fantasy television.   Another bone of contention was that when Matt talked as his character he did more reverse English magic incantation chanting  than having any  actual conversation.

This may have been a good thing since the accent was so toned down, it seems that on Arrow, or CW, that saying mate a lot indicates an English accent…

It also should be noted that Arrow does continue to entertain and that Queen’s evolution into the Green Arrow was a nice touch.  All in all, there could have been more Matt Ryan, Neal McDonough and Emily Bett Rickards in this episode.  After all there is no such thing as too much Constantine, or Damien Darhk and definitely there can never be enough Felicity Smoak.

Of course the big jaw dropping reveal is that Ray Palmer is alive, although apparently not well, as his final message tells Felicity that he is in trouble.  Arrow airs Wednesdays on CW, tune in and see what happens next now that Ms. Smoak has learned that Ray is alive alive-oh.

Apartment 143 (2011): Legend of Hell House in Shorthand

Unknown

The White family live in a haunted apartment, but that’s nothing new to them, the last house they lived in was haunted as well. Convinced that the vengeful ghost of his dead wife has followed him and their two children to their new home, papa White asks a paranormal team of investigators to find out what’s happening.

This is a Spanish film, written by Rodrigo Cortés (Red Lights 2012) and directed by Carles Torrens as his first feature-length film. The cast is a real amalgamation of actors.

Michael O”Keefe plays Dr Helzer and I spent the entire film wondering why he looked so damned familiar. It was not until setting down and researching this film that I found out t he was the young caddy in the 1980 film Caddyshack. He’s put on a bit of weight since then and aged, of course, but once you see his publicity photo, you realise who he is.

One of Dr Helzer’s assistants is Ellen Keegan. She is played by  Fiona Glascott, a more than capable actress who’s been treading the boards for some time now. She made me think of a young Catherine Deneuve and I found it hard to take my eyes off of her in any scene she appeared. I think it’s safe to say that I was “crushing” on her a bit. But Deneuve reference aside, she’s a good actress.

Fiona Glasscott, lovely to look at, delightful to watch act.
Fiona Glasscott, lovely to look at, delightful to watch act.

Rick Gonzalez does a more than capable job as Helzer’s other assistant  Paul Ortega, the techie of the group and he comes across as quite likeable.

The White family consists of dad Alan (Kai Lennox), daughter Caitlin (Gia Mantegna) and son Benny (Damian Roman). The only problem I had with the Whites was that I did not like any of them except for Benny. Damian Roman is brilliant as the four year-old youngest member of the family. I enjoyed it when he was in scenes. Dad and sis Caitlin, turned me cold and it was made very obvious that the daughter was the “trigger” that set these hauntings off.

I was impressed with the way Torrens set the technical side of this film up. It could have been an episode from the Sy Fy channels TAPS Ghost Hunters. The matter-of-fact way that the equipment was handled and the explanations could have come from Jason Hawes or Grant Wilson.

Unfortunately, for me, I felt that the plot and the mechanisation of the film very closely resembled the atmosphere of the 1973 film The Legend of Hell House (Roddy McDowell and Gayle Hunnicutt) especially after the inclusion of the “machine” that supposedly “cleaned” the house of spirits.

Of course it doesn’t have the convoluted back story that Hell House had, but it’s damned close; if not in nature at least in the area of being convoluted. Over all the film impressed but, at the same time, it underwhelmed in some areas. A lot of the stunts were brilliantly pulled off and some of the “filmed” ghostly effects, again, looked like they could have originated from the Ghost Hunters televised footage.

Michael O'Keefe as the humourless Dr Barrett.
Michael O’Keefe as the humourless Dr Barrett.

In keeping with the focus on “real” ghost hunters and a sort of tenuous LOHH connection,  even Dr Helzer seemed like he could be a close relative of the humourless scientist Dr Barrett (Clive Revill) in the Hell House movie. Which reminds me of another “nod” in the film, doesn’t the name Helzer evoke images of Hans Holzer, paranormal investigator extraordinaire?

All in all the film was good, but not overly scary. It has few “jump” moments and a “surprising” twist in the plot and then falls on a “cheap” scare at the very end of the film. I don’t count that as a spoiler as you are (as the viewer) expecting it.

So I’d have to give Apartment 143 a 3.5 out of 5 stars. It gets the .5 because of Michael O’Keefe, Catherine Deneuve look-a-like Fiona Glasscott and little Damien Roman.

Hans Holzer, a real life paranormal investigator. (1920 - 2009)
Hans Holzer, a real life paranormal investigator. (1920 – 2009)

 

An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country 3

Flats for let.

My cold-water flat was getting claustrophobic. Despite having a huge window, the room was oddly airless. Smells seemed to ‘dig’ into the room, refusing to leave no matter how much you ‘aired’ it out.

The final straw came when a girlfriend, after a particularly amorous night, threw up a horrible mixture of Yukon Jack and cheese savouries on my duvet. This momentous event occurred while I was in my communal toilet and she struggled to reach the sink which was  an arm’s length away.

Our relationship sort of cooled after that night though the memory of it remained. I was reminded of it every time I entered the flat. Despite air fresheners and freezing the room out by leaving the window wide open in the winter, the smell lingered. Even the duvet’s chemical smell from the dry cleaners didn’t mask the rooms pong.

As I went to pay my monthly rent to the landlady, I noticed someone was moving from a huge ground floor flat. I inquired about it and Lady Luck was on my side. No one else had even looked at the flat yet, so I transferred my deposit from my tiny flat to the new huge one. I was able to move my things the same day.

The new flat was an old shop, I don’t remember what type of shop it had been, but, it still had the full window street footage in front. A giant floor length curtain covered the room sized window and it was separated from the rest of the flat by a ‘false’ wall.

My front door was a glass ‘French’ door. As you walked in the flat if you looked immediately to the right you could see another door that led into another flat. This door, though permanently locked, was very thin and let a lot of sound through. One night my ‘neighbour’ had two local ladies in for entertainment.

They were very vocal about their obvious enjoyment of my neighbour’s love-making techniques. When the noise began to mimic the ‘When Harry Met Sally‘ moment in the diner, I banged on the door.

“Hey!”, I said. “Either keep it down or invite me in!”

There was a startled silence followed by muffled whispering. I did not receive an invite, but they did lower the decibel levels of their appreciation. I took a couple of cold showers and was finally able to go sleep.

Back at the front door, if you looked to the left you had the sleeping area and a door leading to a short hallway. The hallway when entered from my end had a shower room to the right and a little further down from the shower room was the toilet.

The toilet was a small windowless room with a door that was hard to close. The door itself had ‘bolt’ lock on it. The ‘bolt’ lock was as hard to use, old and a bit rusty, you had to really shove the damn thing to lock the door.

At the other end of the hallway was the other flat that I shared the shower and toilet with. He was a nice enough chap who had a lot of fondness for drink. I can honestly say, I don’t ever remember seeing him sober.

He was a very amiable ‘drunk’ who liked to laugh and loved getting ‘massages’ from the local working girls which he paid for in steaks bought from the USAF commissary for a couple of dollars that would have cost a fortune if purchased down town.

One day I came home from work and really needed to use the toilet. Rushing in, I ran for the littlest room in the flat only to find it closed and locked. Peeved, I went back to my flat and waited for a minute or two.

Nature was dying to take it’s course and I soon rushed back to the toilet door. Trying the door again, I found it was still closed tight and locked. I tapped on the door.

Frank? Dude, I really need the toilet. Can you hurry up?”

Silence. I knocked louder.

Still nothing.

I was worried now. What if my drunken neighbour had passed out in there? What if he had died in there.

This time I kicked the door. Hard.

“Frank!”

Panicked now, I pushed myself back against the narrow hall’s outside wall and shoulder down slammed against the toilet door. I had to do this two or three times before the door smashed open.

The door rebounded off the inside wall and something tinkled on the floor.

The room was empty. There was no slumped body on the actual toilet or on the floor. The only thing in the toilet was the door frame bracket for the bolt lock. Looking at the inside of the door, I saw that the bolt lock tongue was protruding.

The door had been locked and the only way to lock it was from the inside. 

It was impossible to lock the door from the outside.

So who in the hell had locked it? Or more accurately, what had locked it.

After I was finally able to answer my ‘call of nature’ I got a screwdriver and re-attached the bolt lock’s end bracket to the frame. I went to the pub and promptly forgot all about it.

One week later, I came home from work and went through the little hall to use the toilet. The door was hanging forlornly off of one hinge. I drug the door closed and paid my compliments to Mother Nature. As I came out, Frank exited his room and faced me in the hallway.

“Hey Holmes (Frank called everybody Holmes) I got home today and I really needed to use the toilet. I come in here and the door’s closed and locked.” He pointed to the door. “I thought that you were in there and I left. You know? Then when things got a little more urgent, I decided to knock and ask you to hurry up. You know? But you didn’t answer Holmes, cause you weren’t in there. But I didn’t know that. I thought that you were like, passed out or had a heart attack or somethin’. So I kicked the friggin door open? And Holmes? There wasn’t any body in there!”

He looked at me, clearly puzzled. “Holmes? How did that damn door lock itself?”

Shaking my head, I recounted my bathroom adventures from the week before. We both decided that we’d better fix the door back on its hinges and not tell the landlady that we were trying to destroy her property.

The door went back on the hinges no problem, but the bolt lock bracket was a little worse off. It hung loosely on the door frame and the bolt that slid into it was very wobbly.

Exactly one week later, I returned home to find the door closed and ‘locked’ again with no one inside. This time, however, it was very easy to force the door open. I told the landlady about the ‘self locking’ door when I moved.

Everyone I told about the door said the same thing. “The place must be haunted.” My ‘new’ girlfriend, after looking at the door and the room, said the same. “There is no way ‘humanly’ possible to lock that door from the outside. It’s definitely a ghost or poltergeist or something.”

I never did find out what had locked that door, but I did move. I had a mate at work who had rented a huge house in the country and wanted someone to split the rent with him. He asked me if I was interested.

I said yes and then moved into a house that was more haunted than the flat I’d just moved from.

The Haunted House

Haunted House
Haunted House (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
Summers when I was a kid were fantastic. The greatest thing about summer was the obligatory three months away from school. The second greatest thing was that because it was three whole months, summer seemed to last forever. I split my time away from school between working for my Dad and meeting with my friends. I also got to see a lot more of my two female cousins.
My cousins and I had a close relationship. My oldest cousin was about two years older than me and her sister about a year older. When we were together we acted more like brother and sisters than cousins. Things were different back then. When we were younger and one of us got a Doctor’s kit for a present, we immediately played Doctor. Of course our version was like that old Bob Hope  gag. We diagnosed each other with exotic illnesses and then sued each other for malpractice.  Those were the days.
One summer when I was about twelve or thirteen I had my then best friend Peter over. *note: Peter was not his name, but as I don’t know where he is now to get permission to write about him, Peter will do just fine*  His father was a local preacher. Peter at that time had no intention of following in his father’s footsteps. Not surprising as most kids of twelve or thirteen don’t know what they want to do when they grow up. I was showing off my new CO2 gas powered BB pistol that could also shoot pellets. Pretty cool all right, except for the fact that when you shot pellets it was a ‘one-at-a-time’ affair that could be a bit laborious.
It was while we were doing a bit of target practise that my two cousins showed up. They were actually there to visit our Grandmother who lived right next door to us and the town school. Introductions were made and we started talking about different things when Peter asked if we had heard about the haunted house.
Our interest peaked, we all said no, we hadn’t heard of it. Where was it? “Not too far from here.” My cousins and I were delighted to hear this. It meant we could go see it quite easily. “Yeah,” Peter continued,”You just go down to the end of the road, turn right and go down to the end of that road.  When you get to the stop sign, look straight ahead and you’ll see the house. You guys know where I mean?”
I did. It was “catty corner” across the road from where my biggest crush lived. She had black hair, cornflower blue eyes and a slight dusting of freckles across her nose.  She also had a figure. Where most girls her age had the build of a ten year old boy, she was different. I was ecstatic. I hoped that we might just bump into her when we went to the haunted house.
My oldest cousin, being the older smarter member of the group, asked how Peter knew it was haunted. Peter grinned confidently. “It’s haunted because the owner died in his “easy” chair while he was watching T.V. and nobody found him for days! They say if you are really quiet you can hear him having the heart attack that killed him!” We were suitably impressed by this information. We all decided to immediately go down to the house and check it out.
You could see the house as soon as you turned the corner. At the end of the road was a ‘T’ junction. The house was right in front of the ‘T’. It was a two story clap board house that someone had painted a horrible shade of yellow. It was surrounded by brush, black oak trees and junk. As we approached the house, I shot a quick glance over to my crush’s house. No one seemed to be at home.
We all entered the house via a broken  back window. In a hushed tone Peter explained that a lot of the furniture was still in the house. Apparently, the owner had no relatives to sort out his affairs, so most of it was just falling to ruin. Inside the house was like a sauna. As we moved through it, we noticed that there was no air circulation at all, despite most of the windows being smashed. It was so quiet that even though we were “tip-toeing” every move we made sounded like a gunshot.
The “easy” chair was still there. You could see the stains left by the owners decaying body. It seemed that Peter was telling the truth about the amount of time it took for folks to find the poor sod. There was also a horrendous smell in the still air. It made me think of rotten tomatoes. It also made all of us gag. On the wall next to the ‘easy’ chair was a doorway into a closet. The owner had put a sheet up over it in place of a door. As we looked at the sheet in that still house, it suddenly began to move. It looked as though the closet was trying to breathe.
In. Out. In. Out. As the sheet started to go in for the third time we were galvanized into action. All four of us ran out of there as fast as we could. We did not stop running until we got back to my house. Overheated by our stampede from the house we shakily laughed at our scary adventure. After catching their breath my cousins then went to my Gran’s house and Peter and I went back to our target practice.
Peter then decided that he should stay over at my house. The idea was that when it got dark we would go back to the haunted house. Peter did stay over, but, we never did go back to the house. Why? Well, just as it got dark the empty field across from my house suddenly had a tall white shape in it. We were on my front porch when I saw it. “What is that?” Peter looked across at the field and said, “I don’t know. But it’s moving toward us!” We both flew back into my house, closed and locked the front door and stood peering out of the big picture window in the front room.
The white shape looked man-sized. It moved back and forth. Sometimes it would  come up to the edge of fence near the street light in front of my house. Peter and I were terrified. We were convinced that the dead owner had followed us to my house and was now trying to figure out how to get past the street light to get us.
Peter and I stayed up all night.
When the sun came up, we decided to go down to the local cafe for breakfast. After eating the “special” Peter went to his house and I went home to tell my Mom about the ghost. I told her about the haunted house and the white shape across the road in the empty field.
My mother suddenly broke out into gales of laughter. I couldn’t quite see the humour in it myself. Her eyes streaming with tears, she then explained about our neighbour who owned the field across from us. It seems that the day we went to explore the  haunted house, they had bought a white horse and put it in the field.
For years my Mother  would break into hysterical laughter every time she told the story of how Peter and I were haunted all night long by a white horse.