Tag Archives: Thriller

Maria Wants To Be Friends. But Maria’s Dead. Isn’t She?

“1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything the girls Louise hangs out with aren’t. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends.

2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria’s sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone she’d severed ties with to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there’s more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what’s known to Maria – or whoever’s pretending to be her – is known to all…”

The most recent book that I’ve read is “Friend Request”, the debut novel from British author Laura Marshall a book that is a probably best described as a psychological crime thriller.

The tale is told almost exclusively from the perspective of Louise Williams. In 2016 Louise is a forty-something divorced interior designer living in a flat in London. Mother to four year-old Henry, she’s still wrestling with some latent feelings for her ex-husband Sam and has a very small social circle – best friend Polly being just about it. When she receives a Facebook notification that someone wants to be friends with her she is utterly shocked as that person, fellow schoolgirl Maria Weston, disappeared during their leavers’ party in Norfolk back in 1989, presumed drowned having fallen from a cliff edge near the school.

What makes the request even worse for Louise is the fact that ever since that night she has felt guilt for her role in Maria’s disappearance. Now Maria is back – or is she? If not who is it really and what do they want?

Laura Marshall

Louise reconnects with her best friend at school, Sophie Hannigan, through Facebook, to find out if she’s also had a friend request from Maria. Sophie, along with Sam and his pal Matt were the only other people who knew what Louise had done on the night of the leavers’ party.

An imminent class of ’89 reunion gives the reluctant Louise chance to try to discover what’s going on, but if the meantime she gets ever-more creepy Facebook messages from Maria and she begins to really feel the stress of her guilty secret more than ever…

The action switches between 2016 and 1989 as we slowly uncover the layers of secrets and lies that have affected everything since Louise’s final months at school. In between there are occasional streams of thought from an unknown source, describing the relationship between a male and female – though the identity of those concerned doesn’t become clear until the climax of the book as there are a number of possible candidates.

Marshall has written a vivid and compelling story which touches on themes including peer-pressure and bullying at school, the nature of distant and superficial “friendships” via social media with those we haven’t seen for many a year and how we view / they present their lives as well as how well we can ever truly know anyone and whether, at heart, everyone is really just looking out for themselves – even within intimate relationships.

In some ways reading this book reminded me a little of “Weirdo” by Cathi Unsworth, with the flitting backwards and forwards from present day to school days and the particular pressures of secondary school life. That said it a very different tale and one that’s been told very effectively. Highly recommended reading…

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It Was Their Worst Nightmare. Now It’s Their New Home.

“A young woman wakes up in a cold, dark cellar, with no idea how she got there or who her kidnapper is. So begins her terrible nightmare.

Nearby, the body of another young woman is discovered buried on a remote beach. But the dead girl was never reported missing – her estranged family having received regular texts from her over the years. Someone has been keeping her alive from beyond the grave.

For Detective Inspector Helen Grace it’s chilling evidence that she’s searching for a monster who is not just twisted but also clever and resourceful – a predator who’s killed before.

And as Helen struggles to understand the killer’s motivation, she begins to realize that she’s in a desperate race against time…”

The most recent novel that I’ve read (just finished, in fact) is “The Doll’s House”. This is the third book in the crime thriller series starring lead detective DI Helen Grace from London-born author M.J. Arlidge, and follows on from “Eeny Meeny” and “Pop Goes The Weasel”.

I must confess that I’m falling behind the author a little here, as he has already had books four, five, six and seven published – so I’ve got some serious catching up to do at some point!

MJ Arlidge

When I read the second novel I felt that the standard has slipped slightly from the debut, so I’m glad to say that overall I think the quality has improved once more with “The Doll’s House”. That’s not to say that it’s perfect. As the book raced to its conclusion we found our heroine in a life-or-death situation that had distinct echoes from “Eeny Meeny” and aspects of Grace’s internal battle with her superior officer were again somewhat familiar.

In addition, some of the sub-plot stuff relating to the Southampton-based police officers’ personal lives, just didn’t really grab me – oh, and we are still no closer to finding out what happened to the character Robert from the previous book, despite the suggestion that we may get somewhere with that during the story.

On the plus side the baddie is convincing and his motivation – which takes some time to uncover – is believable for a clearly damaged individual with the issues described. Also, the clever way in which he manages to keep his victims “alive” after he has dispatched them is a neat twist that one can imagine being all too easy to replicate in this day and age where folk can conduct that majority of their communications via text and social media platforms.

Despite the above-mentioned reservations I found the plot of the story to be very good and the delivery of it generally very good too and so would recommend it to previous readers of the author’s work and other fans of good British crime fiction…

It’s Not The Size That Matters… It’s How You Use It

A few evenings ago my wife and I watched “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”, an action comedy film from director Patrick Hughes (“Red Hill”, “Expendables 3”).

Ryan Reynolds

At the beginning of the film we meet bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds – “Criminal”, “Self/Less”) – a man at the top of his profession until one of his clients is assassinated right in front of him…

Gary Oldman

Two years later we find the International Criminal Court in The Hague conducting the trial of the dictator of Belarus Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman – “Child 44”, “JFK”). Witnesses are being killed off and the prosecutions hopes of conviction rest of the evidence of an imprisoned hitman.

Salma Hayek & Samuel L. Jackson

Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson – “Django Unchained”, “Kingsman : The Secret Service”) is the notorious hitman in question and agrees to testify in court, in exchange for the release from Dutch prison of his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek – “Americano”, “Everly”).

Elodie Yung & Ryan Reynolds

Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung – “Gods Of Egypt”, “G.I. Joe : Retaliation”) is tasked with leading the convoy taking Darius Kincaid from England to the Netherlands. When the convoy is attacked en-route – in Coventry, no less – only Kincaid and Roussel survive and, realising that there must be a traitor within Interpol, the agent calls her ex-boyfriend Bryce to protect Kincaid and get him to The Hague to testify…

Samuel L. Jackson & Ryan Reynolds

The movie has some decent action sequences and enough tension when required but the main attraction here is the comedy. The chemistry between Reynolds (with some priceless facial expressions) and Jackson is spot on with some very funny lines and scenes and it is this that really makes the film such an entertaining experience. Hayek gets to swear at her prison guards – and everyone else – a great deal, but her role is definitely that of support, as are those of Oldman and Yung. No, the stars of the show are without doubt those two adorning the movie poster and they definitely lift this film. Reviews for the film seem to have been routinely poor, but for us this was a very well-spent two hours viewing…

That Night. The Calls. The Guilt

“If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside – the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her… “

The latest book that I’ve read is titled “The Breakdown”. This is the second novel from France-based author B.A. Paris.

I was intrigued by the synopsis, as above, but it didn’t really prepare me for just how gripping the book was to become. The story’s narrator is the character of Cass Anderson – a teacher just starting her six-week summer break. She passes a seemingly broken-down car on a dark lane on her way home on late at night on the last day of term and sees a woman sitting inside it. The weather is awful and although she stops to see if the woman needs help when said woman gives no indication of needing any assistance Cass decides to drive on home to her husband, and puts it out of her mind.

When she hears the next day that a woman has been found dead in her car on that exact stretch of road she feels guilty for not stopping. As more details of the circumstances of the death and the identity of the dead woman – Jane Walters – emerge, Cass’s guilt only increases and it becomes an ever-present stress on her mind. However, that’s not the only breakdown that will trouble Cass as she notices that she appears to be becoming more and more forgetful, leading her to worry that she is suffering from early onset dementia – which her mother was diagnosed with in her mid-40s.

Husband Matthew does his best to reassure Cass but as her behaviour grows more erratic she naturally worries that she will eventually push him away. Luckily she can also rely on best friend Rachel for support and has the whole summer break to try to get her head straight again. But, of course, things aren’t what they seem at all…

B.A. Paris

Some reviews that I have seen complain that the answers in this particular puzzle were too obvious and too easy to figure out. I don’t agree although it’s certainly true that you know the who and why by about the 80% mark – but that’s because Paris has told us by then and she spends the final fifth of the novel filling in the blanks etc. as the tale reaches its conclusion (which I didn’t expect anymore than our narrator did).

I’ve not read the author’s debut novel “Behind Closed Doors”, which I believe is scheduled for the big screen treatment but I would definitely recommend “The Breakdown” for anyone that enjoys psychological crime thrillers and can see that it, too, would make for a good movie…

A Journey Paved In Blood

So the second movie mentioned at the start of my last rambling post about the Fifties film “Untamed Youth” was a new release. Directed by Brendan Muldowney (“Love Eternal”, “Savage”), “Pilgrimage” is a medieval period action thriller.

Tom Holland

As the film opens we are witness to a bound man being dragged by a group of men onto a beach in Colchis mid-first century AD and, having had a wooden crucifix torn from around his neck, being stoned to death. The time then switches to the time of the Crusades in the early 13th century and the location to the far West of Ireland where a small band of monks reside, including a novice monk named Brother Diarmuid (Tom Holland – “The Lost City Of Z”, “Edge Of Winter”).

Tom Holland & Stanley Weber

A white-robed Cistercian monk, Brother Geraldus (Stanley Weber – “Sword Of Vengeance”, “Not Another Happy Ending”), arrives with a message from the Pope that a religious relic held by the monks should be taken immediately to Rome as the belief is that it’s power will help the church in the crusades. The relic, it transpires, is a rock that was used in the aforementioned stoning of – we now learn – St. Matthias that God used to kill all those responsible.

John Lynch

Geraldus sets off with Diarmuid and a few other monks including Brothers Ciaran (John Lynch – “Alleycats”, “Detour”) and Cathal (Hugh O’Conor – “The Stag”, “Summer Of The Flying Saucer”) as well as an enigmatic mute (Jon Berthnal – “Sicario”, “The Ghost”) and soon meets up with a group of French soldiers led by Baron de Merville (Eric Godon – “In Bruges”, “Nothing Sacred”).

Hugh O’Conor, Stanley Weber, John Berthnal & Tom Holland

The Baron’s son Raymond De Merville (Richard Armitage – “Robin Hood”, “The Hobbit Trilogy”) and his men are to lead the monks to Waterford. On the way, however, a skirmish with native forces results in the monks being temporarily left to fend for themselves. Is everything and everyone what they seem and will the holy men manage to complete their pilgrimage with the relic intact?…

Eric Godon

This was a decent enough action flick. The fight scenes were often rather gruesome but I would imagine fairly authentic for the period and the setting certainly felt convincing enough. I think this was aided by the use of various languages throughout – specific to the background of the particular characters and enhanced by some very atmospheric music and cinematography.

Richard Armitage

I suspect that the historical aspects used are probably a combination of inspirations from actual history and a lot of imagined scenarios and this works really well. Armitage said in an interview that he hopes those watching the film “…are transported into a world and a time that feels very very alien to how we live now, but at the same time they can relate to the passions of these people centuries before, who are ultimately the same as we are now – full of ambition and full of rage and full of devout belief.” Well, for me there are most definitely echoes from this period of Christian history that reverberate all too strongly with current world events with people being tortured and killed for being the wrong religion or resisting that which is being forced upon them.

The Monks On Their Pilgrimage

Leaving such heavy thoughts aside and just looking at the movie as a piece of entertainment it’s generally very good. However, come the conclusion I did feel slightly cheated by the fact that we don’t get to really find out about the mute, we don’t know what happens next and Brother Diarmuid’s final action gives rise to the question “was it all worth it?”. Good question. I think so, but could understand if some viewers felt the opposite to be true…

What Makes A Killer?

“Lorna Belling, desperate to escape the marriage from hell, falls for the charms of another man who promises her the earth. But, as Lorna finds, life seldom follows the plans you’ve made. A chance photograph on a client’s mobile phone changes everything for her.

When the body of a woman is found in a bath in Brighton, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to the scene. At first it looks an open and shut case with a clear prime suspect. Then other scenarios begin to present themselves, each of them tantalisingly plausible, until, in a sudden turn of events, and to his utter disbelief, the case turns more sinister than Grace could ever have imagined…”

“Need You Dead”, the thirteenth entry in Peter James‘ police procedural series centred around Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and his team based in Brighton, finds the main man busy with case files for trials relating to Jodie Bentley and Dr. Edward Crisp – characters involved in the previous book “Love You Dead”.

On top of that Grace is having to arrange for his late first wife Sandy’s funeral (she committed suicide in Germany) and preparing for the ten-year old German son that he didn’t know existed, Bruno, to come and live with current wife Cleo, baby Noah and him in their quiet Sussex home.

Grace’s usual sidekick is away on holiday with his girlfriend so when a suspicious death – that of home-based hairdresser Lorna Belling – is referred to his team Grace decides to use acting DI Guy Batchelor to lead the investigation under his supervision.

The case is one that constantly shifts focus as the number of suspects increases – did Lorna kill herself? It’s possible but then her husband has a history of abusive behaviour. So does a man who wanted to buy Lorna’s car, and then there’s the man (or men?!) that she was having an affair with in an attempt to escape her marriage. So many possibilities and precious little clarity mean that the team struggle to make meaningful progress.

Peter James

I thought I’d figured it out soon after the half-way point, only to realise about three pages before James made the revelation that I’d fallen for one of his red herrings!…

Some reviewers have complained that the book is rather dry, with too much detail in the police procedures. Personally I find that this makes the whole story feel more authentic. I have previously written about my reservations over the Sandy storyline. Well, with her death that could have come to a conclusion, but the introduction of Bruno as a new part of Grace’s family means that effectively the remnants of Grace’s first marriage will stay with us as the series progresses. Whether that will be a positive or not remains to be seen.

In terms of this book I would say that although I enjoyed it immensely I can see that readers new to James and this series might have issues due to the number of references to past events. If you haven’t followed the series then you might find yourself rather puzzled over some of these.

For the future, there is presumably something to come from Grace’s nemesis ACC Cassian Pewe’s conversations in German with young Bruno, as well as from the suggestions that the boy may have mental health issues. No doubt James will expand on these as Grace’s adventures continue but, again, would mean little to anyone reading “Need You Dead” in isolation from previous stories.

I was slightly perplexed at the end of the book with – SPOILER ALERT – the  deadly spider crawling up Noah’s cot, as that plot element seemed to come from nowhere and just got left unresolved. Overall however I must say that this is yet another excellent novel from the very reliable Peter James. Most definitely recommended reading for lovers of great crime thriller fiction…

The Perfect Husband. The Perfect Stepson. The Perfect Lie?

“It took only six words to shatter her dreams.

When Rachel marries dark, handsome David, everything seems to fall into place. Swept from single life in London to the beautiful Carnhallow House in Cornwall, she gains wealth, love, and an affectionate stepson, Jamie.

But then Jamie’s behaviour changes, and Rachel’s perfect life begins to unravel. He makes disturbing predictions, claiming to be haunted by the spectre of his late mother – David’s previous wife. Is this Jamie’s way of punishing Rachel, or is he far more traumatised than she thought?

As Rachel starts digging into the past, she begins to grow suspicious of her husband. Why is he so reluctant to discuss Jamie’s outbursts? And what exactly happened to cause his ex-wife’s untimely death, less than two years ago? As summer slips away and December looms, Rachel begins to fear there might be truth in Jamie’s words:

‘You will be dead by Christmas.’…”

My most recent reading material was the psychological thriller “The Fire Child” by British author Sean Thomas. Thomas is a writer and journalist who writes religious / archaeological thrillers under the name Tom Knox, and “The Fire Child” is the second psychological novel that he has penned as S.K. Tremayne, the first being 2015’s “The Ice Twins”.

This book is set primarily in the western part of Cornwall, with a few scenes in London where the character of David Kerthen works as an expensive lawyer during the week. At weekends and in holidays he returns to his ancestral home of Carnhallow House, part of a large estate that includes a number of long since disused tin mines remaining from when the family owned and ran a very profitable mining business.

At home is David’s new wife Rachel, and his eight year old son Jamie. David’s first wife Nina died as a result of an accident in one of the mine shafts about a year and a half before the beginning of the story. Nina had been working on restoring the ancient house and former professional photographer Rachel finds herself taking on the task as well as doing her utmost to be the best stepmum to Jamie that she can be. Nonetheless this is a challenge as the child seems to be withdrawing into himself.

S.K. Tremayne

When one day Jamie tells Rachel that he believes that she’ll be dead by Christmas, which is just a few months away, this is just one of a number of strange conversations that she has had with him – and he seems to be convinced that Nina isn’t really dead too.

It’s clear that David knows more than he’s letting on and he is oddly adverse to getting any help for Jamie’s troubled state of mind. Meanwhile Rachel is harbouring secrets of her own and as the days tick by it becomes less clear just what is going on and who – if anyone – is the “bad guy”…

I did enjoy this novel, though with all the action centred in a small geographic area and around a very small cast of main players it did seem to perhaps be dragging things out a bit at times. That said, the sense of mental instability and impending madness was nicely handled and did keep the reader (this one, at least) guessing as to quite what was going on and where we would end up.

As the tale progressed I did feel that neither Rachel nor David were particularly nice individuals under the surface and that was borne out by various revelations, and it was unclear for a long time if this would turn out to be a kind of paranormal ghost story or what. I have to admit that some of the plot turns just seemed a bit too implausible for me in all honesty. All that said, however, “The Fire Child” was a decent enough read and one could do far worse than pick this one up…

Nothing, But Nothing, Is Left To The Imagination…

The latest old movie that I’ve come across here in the shadows is one with a bit of a chequered history. “Exposé” – also known as “House On Straw Hill” as well as “Trauma” – is a 1976 British horror thriller written and directed by James Kenelm Clarke (“Hardcore”, “Let’s Get Laid”) that was originally released in a heavily edited version before making it onto the list of banned “video nasties” in the early 80s.

Udo Kier

A writer, Paul Martin (Udo Kier – “Suspiria”, “My Own Private Idaho”), rents a cottage in the countryside in order to concentrate on finishing penning “Straw Summer” the follow-up to his successful debut novel.

Fiona Richmond

At the beginning of the film we see Paul and his girlfriend Suzanne (Fiona Richmond – “Not Tonight, Darling”, “Hardcore”) watching one of his own appearances on TV before heading off to the bedroom for a bit of one-on-one time. Things take an early turn for the decidedly weird here as Paul puts latex groves on while Suzanne slips out of her dress and keeps them on for their entire encounter – which is interrupted somewhat by Paul having visions and seemingly getting fixated by the windows!

Udo Kier & Linda Hayden

The following day Suzanne departs and Paul heads to the local railway station to meet a secretary, Linda Hindstatt (Linda Hayden – “The Blood On Satan’s Claw”, “Baby Love”), that he has hired to type up his manuscript as he dictates.

Vic Armstrong

Linda gets some hassle from a couple of local lads (Vic Armstrong (“Black Beauty”, “The Copter Kids” and Karl Howman “Brush Strokes, “The Long Good Friday”) outside the station, prompting Paul to give them a swift beating.

Karl Howman

Unbeknownst to Paul, and to the viewer, Linda has an ulterior motive for wanting to be there. Before that is revealed, however, we get to see her enjoying several sessions of self-love, managing to get rid of the housekeeper and getting raped at gunpoint by the aforementioned local youths in a field behind Paul’s house before taking bloody revenge on the pair.

LInda Hayden & Fiona Richmond

As if that wasn’t enough Linda also manages to have a tryst with the returning Suzanne and cause Paul to end up driving a car into a stream! Throughout the film Paul keeps having strange and unexplained visions, and spends a fair amount of time staring into space…

Udo Kier & Fiona Richmond

I wouldn’t say that this is a bad film exactly as it does have its moments. I can see why the censor had issues with the film when it was first released, with a large helping of sex and violence contained within (though this seems rather tame by today’s standards) but it struck me that if anything it should have been banned for some of the thespian qualities.

Elizabeth Berkley & Kyle MacLachlan In Showgirls

I gather that Richmond was something of a sex symbol in the 70s, appearing in a few X rated movies at the time, so it’s difficult to understand quite how the orange-hued lady gives such an over the top and almost hysterical performance, which is surely one of the least convincing portrayals of sexual coupling this side of Elizabeth Berkley’s infamous swimming pool turn with Kyle MacLachlan in “Showgirls”!

Linda Hayden

Hayden, meanwhile, turns in a decent enough performance as the mysterious Linda. It’s interesting that she has reportedly since said that she regrets making this film, especially as she later went on to take the role of the housekeeper in a 2010 remake of the film, re-titled “Stalker”, by Spandau Ballet man Martin Kemp.

Perhaps there are echoes of the 1971 movie “Straw Dogs”, but that is a far superior film in my view. Still, watching this one was certainly an experience!…

Sticks And Stones May Break Your Bones

“Corinne Woodrow was fifteen when she was convicted of the ritualistic murder of her classmate in a quaint seaside town. It was 1984, a year when teenagers ran wild, dressed in black, stayed out all night, and listened to music that terrified their parents. Rumours of Satanism surrounded Corinne and she was locked up indefinitely, a chilling reminder to the parents of Ernemouth to keep a watchful eye on their children.

Twenty years later, private investigator Sean Ward — whose promising career as a detective with the Metropolitan Police was cut short by a teenager with a gun — reopens the case after new forensic evidence suggests that Corinne didn’t act alone. His investigation uncovers a town full of secrets, and a community that has always looked after its own…”Just recently finished reading “Weirdo”, a novel by London-based author Cathi Unsworth. Unsworth began her career with music weekly Sounds and has subsequently worked on other music magazines including Uncut, Mojo and Melody Maker.

The reason that her music journalism background is relevant is that each chapter of the book is titled after a song from the early eighties, when the original action in the story takes place. It is 1984 and in Great Yarmouth (which has been re-christened as Ernemouth for the purposes of the book) where Corrine Woodrow, a fifteen year old schoolgirl from a very troubled background, finds herself caught up in a series of events that will lead to witchcraft and murder.

Cathi Unsworth

Interspersed with the original action is the 2003 re-investigation by ex-police officer Sean Ward into the crime and the various characters involved.

I don’t know Great Yarmouth, so really cannot comment on how accurate a picture the author paints of the less salubrious side of the town thirty-odd years ago but having been at secondary school in the early 80s I could certainly identify with the music and fashions, not to mention friendship issues, described for the then-teenagers in the novel.

As Ward digs deeper into the events of the past in Ernemouth we come across all manner of odd, dysfunctional and just plain nasty individuals that are somehow connected to the web of secrets that he needs to uncover to get to the truth.

This is a crime thriller that doesn’t have a great deal of lightness, and there is an awful lot going on within the community under the spotlight. Corruption, magic, politics, prostitution, music, art, fashion, relationships, family dynamics and pornography – not to mention murder and conspiracy! It is, however, very evocative of a time and place and makes for a great read…

Just Because You’re Invited, Doesn’t Mean You’re Welcome

The other night my better half and I watched “Get Out”, a horror / thriller movie from writer / director Jordan Peele in his directorial debut.

Daniel Kaluuya & Allison Williams

The film opens with a young black man walking down the street in the suburbs late one night, clearly slightly lost, and we see him get abducted by someone. The significance of this becomes apparent later in the movie. Next we meet black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya – “Sicario”, “Johnny English Reborn”) and his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams – “Girls”, “College Musical”) as they discuss their imminent trip to spend the weekend at Rose’s parents house in the country.

Bradley Whitford & Catherine Keener

Chris has not yet met her parents but Rose assures him that even though they don’t know that he is black they are not racist and it will be a problem-free experience. Arriving at the house Chris is reassured to find that he is made to feel welcome my Rose’s parents – neurosurgeon Dean (Bradley Whitford – “Saving Mr. Banks”, “The Cabin In The Woods”) and hypnotherapist Missy (Catherine Keener – “The Interpreter”, “Into The Wild”) – though Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones – “Contraband”, “Antiviral”) seems a little intense.

Caleb Landry Jones

However it’s when Chris meets the Armitage’s black servants Walter (Marcus Henderson – “Whiplash”, “Halfway”) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel – “The Purge – Election Year”, “Experimenter”) that he begins to notice that things don’t seem quite right as their demeanour is decidedly odd.

Betty Gabriel & Marcus Henderson

An annual get together at the Armitage house is taking place that weekend too, and when the guests turn up Chris meets Logan King (Lakeith Stanfield – “Straight Outta Compton”, “Snowden”), another black man who behaves rather unusually.

Lakeith Stanfield

To say more about the plot would be something of a spoiler, so I’ll avoid doing so. What I will say, though, is that I thought that this was a really well handled movie that explored racism from ordinary middle-class white folk and from police officers (extremely topical, particularly, stateside of late) and manages to turn many typical horror movie conventions upside down whilst still remaining gripping and entertaining. Performance-wise, all the leads do a good job but Kaluuya is particularly effective and impressive in his role as Chris.

Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams & Jordan Peele

My wife did her regular media-stacking trick of reading up online about the film even as we watched it, so was able to tell me as the final credits rolled that the original ending was less upbeat than the final version, and although the planned version would have arguably have been more realistic and in keeping with the rest of the film I can understand the reasons for Peele making the change and think it means that the conclusion is an easier watch. Either way, however, this is a very good film that makes an uncomfortable subject matter accessible and gives the viewer plenty to think and talk about. Recommended viewing…