Autodidact: self-taught


The Well (1997)

by V. L. Craven

The Well

Hester Harper (Pamela Rabe), a spinster living with her father on a farm in rural Australia, takes on Katherine (Miranda Otto) as a helper, letting go of the long-term help in order to do so.

The new girl finds the work too hard and decides to leave. But Hester has already become taken with the girl so she proffers a deal–she’ll bring back on the previous maid for the heavy work in order to keep on the younger woman. Her proposal is refused.

Katherine soon returns, though, much to Hester’s surprise. Long accustomed to being shut up on the farm she’s drawn to the young woman’s uninhibited energy.

The younger woman sees her opportunity and begins asking for gifts, which the enamoured Hester happily bestows.

One such manipulation involves the sale of the farm, the place where Hester was born, in order to afford a month-long trip to Europe and New York.

They wind up living in a lonely cottage which is the location of the titular well. Hester spent time there as a child and says the well has always been dry.

This is either a blessing or a curse, depending upon how you look at it, when Katherine accidentally runs over someone on the way back from a dance and they need somewhere to put said corpse.

And then things get…weird.

Pictured: Gold-digging, possible lunatic

Pictured: Gold-digger, possible lunatic

The Well is about obsession and greed. And jealousy and…insanity? It’s difficult to say at a certain point. I’ve watched it three times now and I’m still uncertain about the ending, but I have a high tolerance for ambiguous endings.

Folie a deux relationships are a personal interest so I found it enjoyable. It puts me in mind of Sister, My Sister in that it’s about an intense relationship between two women that leads to tragedy.

I’d give this one a 4/5. It’s a slow boil, but I really enjoyed it.

Personal thoughts for those who’ve seen it and want to know what I think:  I really have no clue. We see that Katherine has some of the money, but it doesn’t appear that she has all of it–there was far too much and her suitcase didn’t seem large enough to hold all of it. Also, we saw her in her bedroom alone and she seemed to really believe the guy in the well loved her, even though the fall alone would have killed him. So… yeah, I don’t know. I’d like to read the script and see if it’s clearer and if they edited it to make it more ambiguous.


The Babadook

by V. L. Craven


Six-years-old Sam (Noah Wiseman) has become increasingly erratic. He can’t sleep. He frightens the other children at school. He’s obsessed with a monster and builds machines and traps to defeat it. His mother, Amelia, (Essie Davis) is doing everything she can, but she’s been alone since the day he was born–her husband died in a car accident whilst taking her to hospital to deliver their son.

Not long before his seventh birthday, Sam spies a book he’s never seen before and requests it as his bedtime story. It’s a pop-up book called Mister Babadook.

And they lived happily ever after

And they lived happily ever after

After reading the story the figure of the Babadook begins to appear to Sam whose behaviour becomes even more disturbing and dangerous. (Writer/director Jennifer Kent gets an incredible performance out of this child.)

Amelia, her own sanity reaching a breaking point, tears the book to pieces and throws it away. But, as all possessed items do, it returns of its own accord.

Hello, Clarice.

Hello, Clarice.

After setting it alight, she goes to the police station to ask for help, but they don’t have an X-Files department in Australia, I suppose, so things just go from bad to worse.

This is the worse.

This is the worse.

At first watch, The Babadook appears to be a re-hash of several horror films. A little The Omen here, a smidgen Poltergeist there with a dash of The Exorcist. Then there’s an almost Home Alone bit. Just because.

My friends were raving about it and, in general, my friends have pretty good taste in films so I was perplexed. Then I read  this (very spoilery) article and suddenly it made sense. It was really well-done. My friends weren’t having me on my metaphor sensors were just off.

As mentioned, the child actor was incredible, but Essie Davis as the widowed mother trying to deal with her own grief and the grief of her child was mind-blowing. The creepiness factor was through the roof. Kudos to everyone involved. This is a good one, folks. 5/5

If you’re already a fan, they’re making a copy of the book , which is being produced by Insight Editions. I have their pop up book for the world of Harry Potter and it’s impressive. And the information on the Babadook book is hilarious–even if you don’t plan on ordering it I recommend reading the page in the link above.


Six Strangers Wake Up in a Room…

by V. L. Craven

Hilarity ensues.

Wait, no, Horrible Things happen.

Cube: The first strangers-in-a-room film I saw and I thought it was a brilliant concept. Seven strangers awake in a cube. None of them know how they got there or why they’ve been taken. Each of the walls of the cube has a door that leads to another cube; and they soon find out that some of the rooms are booby trapped. Occasionally, the room seems to move and they work out that they’re in one room of an even larger cube. The goal becomes getting to the edge of the larger cube. There are two others in the series and they’re all right, but can’t compare to the first.

Hunger:  Five people awake in a cave-like room with a clock on the wall that shows time in 24 hour periods–the clock moves once per day. There are thirty marks on the clock. The strangers only have to make it thirty days with a few barrels of water. They’re being observed by a person who wants to see what happens to people’s humanity in that sort of situation. Hint: All of the bad things.

Exam: This one is a bit different from the others on the list, in that the characters intentionally walk into the room in order to complete the final portion of an intensive interview process. So they know why they are there, but they still don’t know who their interviewer(s) are. Each candidate is given one sheet of paper, one pencil, a set of instructions and then told to answer the question set before them. The paper is blank so they have 80 minutes to work out both the question and the answer. What transpires is a sort of live-action escape-the-room game, if you were playing with other people with whom you were also in competition for a prize. This one was the most suspenceful, and well-written.

Die:  Six people, all of whom are suicidal, awake in a room. They’re each in a glass cell and can see the others. They’re brought out, two at a time, into the middle of the room. One is strapped to a chair, the other must cast a die and, depending on the number that comes up, must then administer a punishment to the one in the chair. It winds up being about a cult of people who’ve been ‘saved’ from suicide and ‘reborn’. It’s all a bit ‘I’m sorry? Je ne comprends pas.’ I suppose the writer was trying to make it about something other than a psychopath mentally and physically torturing people.

(Seriously, if there’s an ensemble comedy where a bunch of strangers wake up in a room, please leave a comment.)

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