The Wolf Women

This short story was recently published in issue 6 of Writing West Midlands’ ‘Write On!’ Magazine. It’s always a pleasure to be included in ‘Write On!’ and I’m thrilled that this little gothic tale is tucked in amongst so many great pieces of writing. 

In a country village where animals scampered through the trees and birds flew happily above the land, a tale flowed across the countryside like smoke on the wind. A legend which spread from mouth to mouth as the local housewives went about their drab days.

A whisper as bread was bought; a snipe as tea was drank; they told it in their homes and shared it in their gardens, adding and subtracting as it went from ear to ear. All across the land it went, as wild and organic as when it was first told.

A prophecy of nightmares, thought true by those who heard it; a story that terrified the frail and made the young cower in their beds. Everyone feared the story of blood, guts, gore and death.

The two beasts who walked the night as they ripped flesh and tore muscle, lapping metallic blood and savouring the beautiful taste of human throats. The tale that grew with each embellished telling. The wise, eccentric women who concocted their brews and fed their cats; only leaving their dusty house to go round the village preaching their dark practices and sprinkling their bizarre leaves. The pair, so they say, transformed in the dark; their teeth becoming sharp and cruel, flesh swiftly covering itself with thick black fur, arms and legs replaced with those of an untamed beast.

The people of the village were sure that the pair ran through the forest at nightfall, bounding with their long hairy legs and bloodthirsty teeth to consume the bodies of the locals. The story of wild Wolf Women running across the village in the black night, littering the landscape with corpses was only enhanced by the cruel murders which had taken place of late.

Everybody was convinced that it was the creatures; except the so-called Wolf Women themselves. They just smiled and went about their normal days and gave no thought to the stories.

As the murders continued, the locals fuelled the tale of the Wolf Women; whilst the true killer chuckled and slaughtered more young girls. His axe was covered with crusted blood and his shirt was stained a dark brown. His face was carved with glee as he went into the night.  As another pretty young girl walked into the dark, he struck. The unfortunate maid screamed and as the murderer rose he grinned, his face lined with sweat. He was pleased with his latest work and began to walk.

He went on with dark delight as he dreamed of his next victim. The sweat on his face dried suddenly and his checks flushed red with terror as he heard a deep and menacing growl at his heal…

A Film Review: ‘Paddington’ (2014)

Paddington is the 2014 film based on the classic children’s books by Michael Bond. The movie, directed by Paul King stars a wide variety of well-known actors from Hugh Bonneville to Jim Broadbent. As the film opens we see some black and white documentary footage of a British explorer studying a rare breed of bear in the forests of darkest Peru. This opening scene is a nice addition to the film, giving us a slice of back-story on the young bear; as he, his Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy develop a taste for marmalade. Within these early sequences, we hear the wonderful voice performances of Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton whilst witnessing the sophisticated special effects which create every nose-twitch and fur-bristle that brings the bears to life.

When the British explorer leaves, he announces that they will always be welcome in England before bidding a fond farewell to the trio of bears. Four decades later with the support of his aunt the young bear decides to capitalise upon the explorer’s invitation.

After arriving on English soil with a marmalade sandwich tucked under his hat for emergencies, the young bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw, best known for his role as in ‘Skyfall’) waits at the train station for some generous people to give him a home.         He finds these kind humans in the form of the Browns; paranoid patriarch Mr Brown, (Hugh Bonneville), soft-hearted, artistic mother (Sally Hawkins) and their two children. After naming him Paddington after the station in which he was found, they take him back to their house where he begins to wreak inadvertent havoc.

The film was a light-hearted piece of family cinema with a powerful cast. The short but memorable performance of Matt Lucas as the comical cab-driver and Julie Walters’ as the eccentric Mrs Byrd added a nice injection of brightness. The filmmakers showed magnificent attention to detail in a few smart background touches.  Despite this, it lacked a certain warmth that was over-compensated for by an extravagant budget and weak plotlines, including Nicole Kidman’s disappointing performance as the evil taxidermist.

Overall it was a decent film, however the attempt to capture the original charm of the stories with spectacular CGI was rather underwhelming, but let’s not be too serious, after all, it’s Paddington Bear.

The Small Screen Revolution

For as long as I can remember I have loved films and had very eclectic tastes from classic 1980’s comedies to 40’s film noir. I adore the immortality of Hitchcock’s thrillers namely Psycho and Vertigo. I strongly admire how well his work has held up over the decades and his vision will remain a vital thread of cinema’s tapestry for many years to come.

The innovation of filmmakers like Peter Jackson is a true inspiration to me; his fantastic progress in special effects as illustrated in the incredible ‘Lord of the Rings Trilogy’ has redefined the landscape of movies.

In recent times though, I find myself becoming increasingly bored by Hollywood’s consistent repetitiveness. When I see the latest movie releases pop up on TV adverts and in film industry magazines, I am filled with a sense of cinematic déjà vu, as yet another concept is rehashed for box office appeal. As new generations of directors continue to dilute the impact of special effects by playing around in a toy box of technology which Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson pioneered.

Over the last two years I feel like I’ve seen the same movie a hundred times, all with different actors and titles but the same overused plot. Modern cinema is becoming a wasteland of dystopian adventures and superhero pictures. All of which are perfectly well made with progressive cinematography but for me, each of these blockbusters lack integral creative values.

I was bereft by Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity,’ a beautifully made film without a soul. The sparkling effects gave it the feel of an oil painting in motion and its striking imagery was as good as its seven Academy Awards suggest, but its lack of plot left it without any vigour. In my opinion this particular film was an excuse for several pioneers of the industry to flex their creative muscles and experiment.

There have been a handful of films amongst the popcorn pictures and desperate Oscar hopefuls that have stood out to me, one of which is 2014’s ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy’ directed by James Gunn. This was a delightfully comedic and refreshing take on the superhero genre and convinced me that not all of Marvel’s comic book adaptations are one-dimensional. This film harked back to several other light-hearted science fiction films such as the ‘Men in Black Trilogy’ and ‘Hellboy,’ carrying with it a similar charm.

I don’t know whether it’s merely coincidental that Hollywood is losing pace at the exact same time that television is hitting its renascence, but cinema has had its work cut out with the uprising of the boxset. So many TV series such as ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ are impacting the public consciousness with their vast scope and bold concepts, giving a platform to incredible talents both in front and behind the camera. I know that all artistic mediums work in cycles and who can guess what entertainment platform will capture us over the next decade as new technological devices hit the shops. Although one thing is certain; cinema has got some work to do in order to compete with TV and stop this small screen revolution.