Pup Fiction: Wishbone (1997) or How I’m Trying to Brainwash My Six Year Old Niece Into Liking Jane Austen (and Wishbone)

It is time for our Halloween Austen pick, the hardest one to choose and find every year. This year we are bringing something from my childhood as I loved Wishbone as a kid! I used to watch every episode and of course it encouraged me to read all the books the episodes were based on.

I definitely believe it contributed to my love of classic literature.

Today we are looking at the Northanger Abbey episode and of course I couldn’t miss an opportunity to try and brainwash my six year old niece into liking the show and Jane Austen. I refer to my niece as “E” in this post.

For those who have never seen Wishbone, it follows the titular Jack Russell Terrier as he reads books and imagines himself as a character in the book, and when he’s the character all see him as that character and not as a dog. Wishbone belongs to Joe, but he also hangs out with a lot of other kids in the neighborhood.

We start off the episode with Wishbone looking at plastic flammings and planning to chew them, but is distracted by the mailman.

Wishbone is hanging out with neighbor Wanda and neighbor kids Sam when Wanda receives a strange letter. “You are the one”. This isn’t the first one as she has received others and they said, “Soon you’ll know what we’ll think of you”. Is it complimentary or a threat?

Hmm…

Wanda decides to just go about her business and Wishbone follows her, being distracted by some other neighborhood kids reading a scary story. One of them, Melina, loves mysteries and spooky fiction just like another character!

Wishbone then introduces us to Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey. In this version of Northanger Abbey, Wishbone is Henry Tilney who is also there with his sister Eleanor. In this version Henry Tilney/Wishbone recognizes John Thorpe, “but only as one who brags constantly” and Isabella Thorpe “who flirts with everyone they meet”. Eleanor points out Catherine who is reading and absolutely fascinated by the Udolpho.

John Thorpe steals the book as he doesn’t like reading. He starts making fun of her, but Henry Tilney/Wishbone comes over and shares how he loved the book. Catherine looks at him longingly and reads a page aloud.

Guys who don’t are not.

Me: He [John Thorpe] doesn’t like to read, so do we like him E?

E: No way!

Me That’s right, we don’t like guys who don’t like to read.

E: I love to read.

Back in the real world, Wanda has receieved another letter! “Words cannot explain all that you have done”. All the kids are interested in solving the letter mystery and so is Wishbone. And so am I!

Mystery, you say?

Back in Northanger Abbey, Mr. Thorpe talks to General Tilney and brags about his connections. He also starts talking about Catherine Morland and how she has so much money coming to her. I really like this depiction of Thorpe as I love how he blatantly lies about Catherine not being able to go on a walk with the Tilneys and then just runs off with a “Ta-ta”.

Eleanor is thinking how odd it is to send another to reject them, but Henry Tilney/Wishbone isn’t so sure they really know her as a person.

Hmmm…

Catherine is heading to see the Tilneys and runs into the Thorpes who tell her they ended the engagement. Catherine is super upset and runs to the Tilneys apologizing.

The Tilneys are planning to leave for Northanger Abbey and they invite Catherine to join them. As those two words are spoken spooky music plays. Catherine is eager and has so much imagination about how creepy and mysterious it will be.

Creepy…

Henry Tilney/Wishbone teases Catherine and jokes about sliding panels, gloomy portraits, mysterious chests, and cryptic letters. He is much better that the ‘80s Mr. Tilney.

Back in the real world Wanda runs into Ellen who has another note for her. “Wait and See”The kids are on the case and convinced the mailman is behind it all and follow him on his route, while Wanda ponders the note.

The kids try to spy on the mailman but Wishbone sneaks in. He also goes through the package door and heads into the backroom of the post office. He starts thinking about Northanger Abbey while in the post office.

Me: Is it [Northanger Abbey] too spooky?

E: I think it is pretty.

Catherine also loves it! The Tilneys show her the oldest part of the house and the forbidden wing. The forbidden wing contains their mother’s room, the one in which she died. Eleanor wasn’t at home or Henry, which makes Catherine think that maybe she was murdered.

Me: What do you think happened?

E: I think the mom turned into a skeleton that is still alive.”

Even though she was told that Mrs. Tilney’s room was forbidden she decides to sneak in any way.

Me: Do you think there will be a skeleton in there [Mrs. Tilney’s room]?

E. Yeah.

Henry comes strolling by and sees the open door, spotting Catherine looking around the room. Lightning and rain flash against the sky outside as Catherine searches the room and finds a truck which she opens…

E: Tell me what happens, I’m scared. [Covers eyes and music continues] Please tell me what happens!

Henry is hiding behind a tapestry while Catherine searched a drawer and find papers. Catherine is a little less sympathetic in this one adaption as it was only her first night that she searched the room, instead of being several days later. All Catherine found was a laundry list, embarrassment, and an unhappy Henry Tilney/Wishbone. He reveals the truth about his mother’s death, that she died from fever and that his father doesn’t like to be in the room as it breaks his heart.

Catherine apologizes and Henry tells her that his home isn’t like a a gothic novel but it’s real life.

Back in real world Wanda comes upon the kids and scares them i their detecting that they all run off.

From Clueless

Back in Northanger Abbey Eleanor tells Catherine, that Catherine has to leave as the Tilneys are going away. Catherine is to be sent home ASAP and General Tilney is in a horrible mood. Catherine thinks it is because of what happened with Henry and in this children’s version she is sent home during the day. Henry Tilney/Wishbone stops Catherine before she leaves Northanger Abbey and tells her that John Thorpe has been spreading rumors about her pretending to be a future heiress and that is why his father is mad, he thinks Catherine is a fortune hunter.

Henry Tilney/Wishbone apologizes for the way the Thorpes have treated her and that tells her he was also wrong.

Catherine: Perhaps I need to learn more about the real world and judge them as they truly are and not what I think they are.

Henry: Maybe we can learn together.

Back in reality, Wanda goes to Ellen’s house were she was invited to, but finds it dark. It turns out to be a an early surprise party for Wanda, that’s why they sent her all those mysterious notes in order to distract her and keep her from figuring out about the party.

While everyone else is distracted Wishbone is in the cake.

Me: What do you think?

E: I liked it. I like Wishbone.

Me: What did you think about Northanger Abbey?

E: I don’t know about it. I don’t have a question for it.

Me: What did you think about Catherine or Henry Tilney? Or the spooky story?

E: Hmmmm…I’m loading….hmm….I liked it. I liked Catherine.

I would say that it was a winner, not only as a cute Northanger Abbey adaption but also as an introductory piece to get my niece into Jane Austen.

For more Northanger Abbey, go to Jane Austen Children’s Stories: Northanger Abbey

For more Northanger Abbey adaptions, go to Have You a Stout Heart?: Northanger Abbey (1987)

For more Northanger Abbey variations, go to I Was Asked to Be a Guest on the Podcast P.S. I Love Rom Coms + My Review of their Bridget Jones’ Diary Episode

For more films based on Jane Austen, go to I Watched Austenland (2013) With My 14 Year Old Niece

For more Jane Austen variations, go to An Appearance of Goodness

The Place of Torment: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

Do you know where you are, Bartolome? I’ll tell you where you are. You are about to enter Hell, Bartolome, HELL!… The netherworld.The infernal region, The Abode of the Damned… The place of torment. Pandemonium. Abbadon. Tophet. Gehenna. Naraka. THE PIT!… And the pendulum

Do you like Edgar Allan Poe? I do and you know who else would? Catherine Morland. She would be a major fan of his books and the films based off them.

And I’ve decided to choose this EDgar Allen Poe film which also checks off our annual Vincent Price film!

Not only is this a Vincent Price film, but because of its Gothic nature it is also going on my recommendation list, Catherine Morland’s Viewing List Part I & Part II

This is the second of the 8 Poe adaptation films that our director, Roger Corman, made and one of the 7 Vincent Price starred in. I’m 1960, the previous year, The Fall of the House of Usher came out and was a giant hit, catapulting Corman to stardom and making everyone eager to have another Poe film, this the creation of The Pit and the Pendulum

Due to the success of The Fall of the House of Usher, Corman had a larger budget and was able to use CinemaScope for this film instead of black and white. I personally think the film would have been stronger in black and white as I think the color takes away from the dramatic content.

The film is adaption of the Poe story but it doesn’t directly follow it as the short story doesn’t have enough to make a feature full length film. Instead the writers wrote their own script for the first 2/3 of the film (trying to make it as Poe-like as possible), with the last 1/3 of the film to be about the Pit and the Pendulum.

The film is set in 1547 and while most of the actors are fine in the period owned, I have always felt that John Kerr was not suited to this dress. He looks a bit odd. Period costumes are not suited to everyone.

Now this isn’t my favorite of the the eight adaptions, in fact the film moves really slow in the beginning and a lot of the actors do not connect with the scenes. But, I do recommend it for Vincent Price as he gives the best performance out of everyone. Is he evil? Is he murderous? Is he misunderstood? Is he insane? But once we move to the latter third of the film, it really picks up and is grabs your attention never letting go.

We are in 1547 Spain and John Kerr’s character, Francis Barnard, has traveled to see his sister Elizabeth. When he arrives at her home he learns from her husband, Nicholas Medina (Vincent Price), that Elizabeth is dead.

Francis is shocked, angry, and wants answers as to why his sister died when she was so healthy, and why did no one inform him?

Nicholas struggles to talk about it and Francis turns to Nicholas’ sister Catherine (Luana Anders) for answers…and because he has the hots for her. After questioning the two the only answer Francis is given is that Elizabeth had a blood disorder.

Hmm…suspicious

Francis isn’t happy with this as a blood disorder doesn’t run in his family and she was perfectly healthy when she married. He suspects they are hiding something from him and declares he will not leave until he finds out the truth.

One night at dinner when Nicholas’ best friend and doctor, Dr. Leon (Antony Carbone), visits, Francis questions him. He discovers that Elizabeth did not die of a blood disease but that she “died of fright” as she had massive heart failure. Armed with this knowledge he forces Nicholas to tell him the truth of what really happened and show him where Elizabeth died.

Nicholas takes Francis the to “forbidden part” of the castle, a torture chamber that features multiple torture devices along with the titular pit and pendulum. Nicholas shared that Elizabeth had become obsessed with everything in here and started to become “unbalanced”. One day she locked herself in the Iron Maiden. When they took Elizabeth out she said the name Sebastian and died.

From The Wolf Man (1941)

Having grown up with a sister that was the extreme opposite of the type of person described, Francis doesn’t believe Nicholas and starts suspecting that he murdered his sister. Did Nicholas murder Elizabeth? Or is he telling the truth? With a Poe based film you’ll never know for sure until the very end.

Hmmm…

It doesn’t help Nicholas’ case that he acts so guilty and as if he is at fault for the murder. When Francis questions his behavior, Catherine reveals that her brother has a lot of trauma from when he was young. Their father was Sebastian Medina, a notorious agent of the Spanish Inquisition. When Nicholas was young he explored the forbidden room and witnessed his father torturing his mother and his father’s brother (as they were having an affair). Dr. Leon further explains the trauma as he shares that Nicholas also witnessed his father entomb his mother while she was still alive and heard the cries of agony as she was bricked up.

Creepy…

Nicholas is worried that the same fate happened to Elizabeth (which is interesting as it appears he doesn’t fully trust the doctor, and his best friend), and that her vengeful spirit is walking the home and torturing him-trying to make him insane.

The thing I enjoy about this performance is it reminds me a lot of Rebecca, when Joan Fontaine’s character sees Rebecca everywhere and in everything.

But weird unexplained things begin to happen. Loud noises are heard from Elizabeth’s room. At night her harpsichord is heard being played and she is the only one who knew how to play to. Elizabeth’s room is also ransacked and her portrait slashed! Nicholas starts going crazy, but is he really crazy or is that all planned to hide his earlier murder?

Hmm…

Francis thinks the latter and accuses Nicholas, while I don’t think Francis is wrong to be suspicious, as we all know I would be, the way he goes about it is setting himself up for failure. Every time I watch this I’m like you need to take a step back and reevaluate your questioning.

Nicholas insists they exuhume the body and when they do it is revealed from the position that Elizabeth is in, she was alive after she was interned and was in fact buried to death.

Everyone is upset and Nicholas is on the verge of insanity. I have always found it interesting that no one is concerned with the fact that Dr. Leon can’t tell is someone is alive or dead? It makes me think of that Sherlock Holmes scene.

Nicholas is on the precipice and it doesn’t look as if his sanity will win out-he’s hanging by a single thread. Then he hears Elizabeth call to him and follows her down to the tomb, where she rises from her coffin, reanimated and chases Nicholas. Nicholas is frightened and falls down the stairs.

Elizabeth laughs and is joined by her lover and confederate, Dr. Leon. I knew that guy was suspicious-either he helped in the plot or was just an extremely bad doctor.

Dr. Leon and Elizabeth are ecstatic that they drove Nicholas to insanity and plan for do away with him and keep the castle and money (not quite sure how they plan to do that as Elizabeth is still “dead” and they still have Nicholas’ sister Catherine to contend with). But to their surprise Nicholas has lost his mind and believes himself to be Sebastian. Has he truly has a psychotic break? Or has he really been possessed by his dead father’s spirit?

Nicholas siezes Elizabeth and throws her in the Iron Maiden repeating history; along with throwing Dr. Leon in the pit.

Francis hears his sister’s scream of distress and follows them to the the torture chamber. There Nicholas/Sebastian is continuing his craziness and believes Francis to be Sebastian’s brother; grabbing him and placing him under the pendulum.

Catherine arrives just in time to save Francis, but when they try to help Nicholas, he fights them and won’t let them take him, being thrown into the pit as well. Catherine takes Francis out and decides the room is to be locked and sealed, to never ever be opened again. We end on one final shot, Elizabeth trapped in the Iron Maiden, doomed to be buried alive. Serves her right!

I really enjoyed, and if you like Poe, Price, and gothic fiction; you are sure to as well.

For more Vincent Price, go to Ship of Ghouls: The Love Boat (1978)

For more On Edgar Allen Poe, go to Catherine Morland’s Reading List: The Tell-Tale Heart

I’m A Ghost With the Most: Beetlejuice (1988)

I’m the ghost with the most!

I grew up watching Beetlejuice secretly as my mother hated the titular character. I did watch the TV show, as she didn’t mind that as much but I haven’t seen the actual film in a very long time.

So I was thinking, what better way to start off Horrorfest than to cross off a “Tim Burton” film off my list of things to review with Beetlejuice (1988).

We start off the film with Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin) releasing a giant spider outside. How is he not freaked out? It’s GIANT! So weird .

Anyways, Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam Maitland are a couple happy to spend their vacation fixing up their country house (to each their own). Barbara’s cousin Jane comes to visit and is trying to sell their home as she has had some really great offers from a city couple but Barb and Adam say no. Really Jane?

If Jane was my cousin we would no longer be on speaking terms. I can’t believe she’s actually sending photos of her cousin’s house to people to try and sell it; that’s right selling a home she doesn’t even OWN! Then she gives a mean dig about Barbara’s miscarriages. RUDE!

As I was watching this, I started thinking cousin Jane reminds me of someone…but who? Then it hit me! Cousin Jane is so much like Mrs. Elton from Emma. I mean think about it: believe she knows everything, makes little dogs to others, writing to find Jane Fairfax a position when she was asked not to! Cousin Jane is Mrs. Elton!

Later the Maitlands go out driving to pick up more supplies for their model town. As cousin Jane clunkly inferred, the Maitlands have tried to have a child to no success and Adam has made the model town his “baby”. When they are driving home they swerve to miss a dog that runs into the road and find themselves dead.

They two don’t realize they are dead at first, until Adam tries to leave the house and they discover that if he does they will be killed by sand worms. They then discover some other odd things like the fact that they no longer have a reflection and a copy of The Handbook for the Recently Deceased. At first they choose to ignore it and try to continue their lives but the house has been sold to a new family, the Deetz Family. Charles Deetz (Jeffrey Jones) is a former real estate developer; his wife Delia (Catherine O’ Hara) is a sculptor; and Lydia (Winona Ryder), daughter from his first marriage, is a goth and an aspiring photographer.

The Maitlands try to scare them out as ghosts do, but Charles and Delia don’t even blink and eye. The Deetz family has their own issues. Charlies recently suffered from a nervous breakdown, his anxiety is off the charts; Delia and Lydia snipe at each other at every turn, and no one seems happy.

Current mood of the film (from a Series of Unfortunate Events TV show)

The Maitlands hang out in the only space that the Deetz can’t get to, their attic. But after Jane stops by to drop off a skeleton key, that’s the first place Lydia wants to head to. She tries to get in, but they keep pushing her out.

The actor who plays Charles, Jeffrey Jones, usually plays terrible characters, but this is the first one I can think of that I actually liked and connected to. He wants to relax, wishes everyone would give him peace, tries to birdwatch but stops as birds are terrible (I don’t like birds), and instead starts looking at everyone’s houses and using his real estate agent eye to inspect them.

Hmm…

Meanwhile, the Maitlands having finally started reading their Handbook for the Recently Deceased, (which contains an ad for Betelgeuse) have crossed over to the afterlife and find it to be a DMV of a horror waiting room. I love all the different “deaths” of the characters waiting. It’s like a mini A Thousand Ways to Die with every “death” you can imagine. The special effects, prosthetics, costumes, etc. are amazing. They really deserved winning that award.

In the afterlife all their who are the DMV-esque caseworkers are those who die by suicide (as seen the Miss Argentina who slit her wrists, the guy who stepped into traffic, and the man hanging). The Maitlands discover that they must haunt the house for 125 years, or else, and return home to try and remove the Deetzs. The Maitlands want to try and hire Beetlejuice, but their caseworker Juno warns against him as he’s a troublemaker and tells them to study their book. She also warns them he is hanging out in their town’s model cemetery and saying his name three times will summon him.

The Maitlands try to do the work and scare the Deetz family but are not at all successful as Charles just thinks Lydia is messing around, Delia is knocked out on Valium so it doesn’t even register to her, and Lydia thinks the “haunting” is her dad and stepmom trying to roam the house in sheets as some kind of weird sex.

When Lydia does realize they are real ghosts she isn’t scared at all, as a goth girl she has seen a ton of horror films and is not easily frightened. Instead she charges full speed ahead at this supernatural spooky phenomenon, remind you of anyone? (Like Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey?)

Adam: Well, how is it you see us and nobody else can?

Lydia: Well, I’ve read through that handbook for the recently deceased. It says: ‘live people ignore the strange and unusual”. I myself am strange and unusual.

But seriously, Lydia and Catherine Morland are so similar. They both love gothic and spooky things, their parents don’t understand them, they are both a bit naive, and they like trying to investigate (Catherine Mrs. Tilney’s room and Lydia the attic).

I love how nerdy and not scary the Maitlands are. Like when Alec Baldwin calls the two “ghoulish creatures” it is so hard to not laugh at him. Ghoulish? Really?

The Maitlands decide to “cheat” and try to hire the bio-exorcist to remove the humans, Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton). They say his name three times and find themselves transported to the model town Adam built and dig Betelgeuse up. It’s pretty amazing how they take someone as handsome and charming as Michael Keaton and make him so perverted and oafish. To me Betelgeuse is the equivalent of having to spend your time with Mr. Wattlesbrook from Austenland.

Keaton originally didn’t want the role as he didn’t understand what exactly was asked of him. He only agreed after Tim Burton took him to see Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. I imagine he said he wanted a crude and pervy Pee-Wee. (Ironic as how a couple of years after this film pervert would be used to describe Pee-Wee).

Betelgeuse is extremely gross in his behavior. He also looks very odd as if he is a man out of time. Apprantly Michael Keaton came up with not only 90% of the dialogue but much of the character’s look himself; he told the makeup department he wanted a moldy face, electric shocked hair, and clothes from all different time periods.

Like I mentioned before Betelgeuse is an extremely gross individual, basically a human fart and Barbara does NOT want to have him in their house or around Lydia. Barbara decides to send him back home and comes up with her own idea to get rid of the Deetz family. The two possess a Deetz dinner party and force them and their guests to sing and dance to “Day-O” by Harry Belefonte. It is a truly strange and fantastical scene. At the end their plate of shrimps reach out as arms and and grab everyone’s faces.


Tim Burton thought this scene wouldn’t go over well, but turned out to be wrong as it is one of the most remembered scenes from the entire film.

Instead of scaring the away the Deetz family, all this does is make Charles want to turn the house and town into a supernatural tourist trap. In fact all at the dinner party enjoyed it and see it as entrainment not fright.

The Maitlands are at their wit’s end and decide they need help and bring Betelgeuse into play. He decides to step up the scaring and we have one of the creepiest scenes in the whole film, Betelgeuse becomes a snake. It is truly terrifying, those eyes! This scene had been filmed before Michael Keaton was cast as Betelgeuse, so some additional film was shot for the scene using a layer to make it look more like him.

From unknown.

Lydia gets mad at the Maitlands as she saw them as friends and them hiring Betelgeuse has broken her trust in them.

The Maitlands are angry as they don’t want Betelgeuse to hurt the Deetzs, they just want him to scare them away. They say his name three times again and send him back to the model town that Adam built in the attic. Betelgeuse is really upset with their criticism, but decides to party and heads to a strip club in town. I do not remember that scene at all and Adam doesn’t even remember making it.

The Maitlands get called to the DMV and Juno reads them the riot act. They have seriously screwed up as ghosts; befriending Lydia, being photographed, losing their handbook, letting out Betelgeuse, etc. Their caseworker made the strip club to distract Betelgeuse until everything can be straightened out. Juno won’t let them return home until they show her their creepy plan, this scene was always the one stamped in my brain. Terrifying!

Back at the house, Charles starts second guessing his decision to move there and even his plans for the tourist town. Lydia is really depressed and contemplates suicide. Before she takes her life, Lydia goes up to the attic to talk to the Maitlands and finds Betelgeuse who tries to convince her to free him by saying his name three times. I remember my friends and I would do this all the time and we were always disappointed when nothing would happen. Lydia is stopped from freeing him by the return of the Maitlands who dissuade her from trying to commit suicide. They also have decided to give up scaring the Deetzs and try to live in harmony.

Charles tries to pitch his idea of a horror town, but his boss is not impressed. But even without “real ghosts”, I’m with Charles! This is a money maker idea! There are so many that would love to go to a Horrortown. I know I would.

Charles’ boss demands proof and they have Otto (the interior designer) perform a seance, but unfortunately he actually starts exorcising them instead. As they are fading away, dying forever this time, Lydia is heartbroken to see the only people who really “get her” “dying” and begs Betelgeuse for help. He agrees, but only if Lydia marries him.

Now why would a centuries old ghost want to get married to a 14-year old? Its not because she is a little girl, but because he wants to be tethered to the mortal world. If he married a mortal, then he will not have to go back to the afterlife but can remain above ground forever. Seeing it as the only way to save her friends, Lydia agrees.

So this next scene wben Betelgeuse comes with the Carousel head and the arms that stretch I’m pretty sure one of my friends had that toy. Like it was crazy how much merchandise there was after this film came out. I think the TV show helped with it, but it was literally everywhere.

To be fair even though Betelgeuse is totally rotten, at least he honors his business contract. He saves the Maitlands and gets rid of all the interlopers. He also changes to a snazzy red suit, gets Lydia a gown, ties up her parents (but brings them to the wedding), and brings in a monster minister.

Time for a wedding!

Keaton is just a phenomenal actor in this, with exaggerated lines and true comedic timing, just perfect.

All try to stop the wedding, but Betelgeuse stops them. But no matter what, Barbara keeps trying. Like he zips her mouth shut, she opens it. When Betelgeuse bolts it, she tries to remove the bolt. When Betelgeuse sends her away, Barbara comes riding in on a sandworm that consumes Betelgeuse and sends him back to the afterlife. Barb is the real MVP.

Time passes and the Deetz family and the Maitlands live in harmony; Lydia loving her new extended family, the Maitlands love having a child to parent, and Charles finally gets the peace he’s been after.

Betelgeuse having “died” again must wait his DMV turn, getting his head shrunk when he tries to cut in line. Oh that Betelgeuse!

So after watching this post Jane Austen I have concluded cousin Jane is totally Mrs. Elton, Lydia is Catherine Morland, and Beetlejuice is Mr. Wattlesbrook. Agree? Disagree? Comment below!

Also with the Austen connection, I guess this should go on my Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans and Catherine Morland’s Viewing List? What day you? Yay or nay?

For more Tim Burton films, go to Peculiarities, Monsters, and Time Travel.: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

For more Winona Ryder, go to I Just Killed My Best Friend. And Your Worst Enemy. Same Difference.: Heathers (1988)

For more Michael Keaton, go to A Man Dressed as a Giant Bat, Psychotic Deformed Man Wrecking Havoc, and a Zombie Cat Woman…A Batman Christmas: Batman Returns (1992)

For more ghosts, go to Ghosts or Madness?: Turn of the Screw (2009)

For more Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans, go to You Have Thirteen Hours in Which to Solve the Labyrinth, Before Your Baby Brother Becomes One of Us…Forever.: Labyrinth (1986)

For more from Catherine Morland’s Viewing List, go to A Legendary Jewel Goes Missing, A Country Manor Full Of Secretive People, Which Guest is the Thief?: The Moonstone (2016)

Catherine Morland’s Reading List: Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

You all know how much I love spooky and gothic fiction, almost as much as my girl Catherine does.

That’s why I started Catherine Morland’s Reading List, a list of gothic fiction I recommend for my fellow spooky lovers.

When I first saw this book last year I was really excited! I love gothic fiction, and being Mexican; I couldn’t wait to see how the author blended those two components. Mexican culture has a lot of superstitions that would be ripe for a gothic tale.

Noemí Taboada has everything anyone could want in 1950s Mexico City: youth, beauty, and wealth. Well…almost everything. What Noemí really wants to do is continue her education and get her masters in anthropology, but her father refuses to support her as he feels a few years at the university is enough for any woman. To get back at him Noemí dates men her father feels are beneath their family and has become flighty in everything she does; nothing and no one lasting for very long.

However, when Noemí’s father receives a troubling letter from his niece Catalina, he proposes that if Noemí will go to visit Catalina in her home in the country, The High Place, and see if Catalina needs help; he will allow her to continue her education as far as she wants. She readily agrees.

Catalina lost her parents at a young age and she has always been close to the Taboada side. She and Noemí were almost like sisters, but that all changed when Catalina married. There is still so much that Noemí doesn’t know about Catlina’s marriage, she was engaged and planning a civil ceremony before Noemí even knew Catalina had a sweetheart. As the marriage happened so quickly, no one really had time to meet the groom, Virgil Doyle, his family, or discover what his finances were. Senor Taboada, Noemí’s father, was most displeased; and ever since then Virgil whisked Catalina away to his home far from Mexico City where the train barely visits and no phone lines exist. Nothing had been heard from Catalina for months, with all assuming it was because of normal newlywed ardor and the frostiness wiht the family…but that all changed with a rambling, handwritten letter.

Catalina has never been one to keep up a correspondence but when she did it was always typewritten and to the point. This letter is handwritten, rambling, full of strange symbols, and accuses her husband and his family of poisoning her and forcing her to stay when she wishes to leave. She begs Noemí to come and save her. As Senor Taboada discovered after the wedding, the Doyles no longer have any money; just an old British name, a closed mine, and an old home. He’s worried that Catalina has lost her mind and Virgil is forcing her to stay to keep control of her money, or perhaps worse. Maybe she wants to divorce him and he won’t let his meal ticket go? If Senor Taboada were to visit they would all be on their best behavior, but if Noemí were to go, perhaps she can discover the truth and find out if it is just a “woman’s issue” (it’s the 1950s remember) or something far sinister.

Hmmm…

This is only 13 pages in in and I am already hooked. I immediately started conjecturing, might it be a like in Gaslight where the husband drives his wife mad to keep her money? Could there be something supernatural like in The Tomb of Ligeia where the ghost of the first wife torments the new wife? With gothic fiction it can go in any type of direction.

When Noemí arrived she is not reassured. The Doyle’s live very high up the mountain where it is foggy, forest-y, and solitary. The mountainside also has the ruined look from its former mining operations. The Doyle’s are very English, no Spanish is spoken in the house, food is British, they even brought British soil to try to “recreate” the homeland. The house is decrepit and falling apart, although one can see that it “used” to be a beautiful building.

Creepy…

I’ve read a lot of Gothic fiction and this house is already giving me a bad vibe.

Noemí goes to see Catalina who is pale, still, and has no memory of writing any letter. She has to take medication multiple times a day that leaves her sleepy after. Is the medicine really helping her? Or is it to keep her quiet?

In the house the patriarch Howard Doyle. With them is Howard’s son and Catalina’s husband Virgil; along with Howard’s niece Florence, and her son Francis. Howard is ancient and disgusting (along with being racist), but he does appreciate Noemí’s spirit. Florence seems to dislike her from the first moment she set eyes on her and constantly shoots rude barbs at her. The only one who seems nice at all is Francis, but he is very quiet and tries to keep the peace, not one to stand up for himself. Virgil is definitely hiding sometneing, as he is more defensive than he should be, and quickly attacks Noemí’s character.

That night is the first night Noemí has a nightmare, a nightmare about being silenced and something lurking in the moldy yellow-pink wallpaper.

At this point I would have left and gone home to my father bringing him back to rescue Catalina. I’ve read far too many gothic novels and too many books; I would not have stayed. There is something off about all of this.

SUPER creeped

The days are boring and quiet, the solitude is deafening, and Noemí tries to do her best in this crumbling gargoyle, full of mold and depression. Noemí tries to discover the truth surrounding Catalina’s accusations but hardly gets a moment alone with Catalina. When she is able to, much of what Catalina says doesn’t make sense; “it” being in the wall, the walls whispering to her, etc. Is it in her head? Or is there a sinister ploy like in Under Capricorn? One thing was somewhat sensible, Catalina asks Noemí to go down to the village and get a tincture from a healer named Martza.

When Noemí is finally able to wrangle a ride to town, she meets up with the Mexican doctor and tries to get him to take a look at Catalina. However, he is not interested in going, as he does not think he will be welcomed by the Doyle’s. He also shares that there have been many strange happenings in High Place. When the mine was operational the workers would get sick with a high fever, rant, rave, speak in riddles, convulse, and die. It would be quiet for several years and then start up again. There is an English cemetery behind the house while the Mexicans would be sent down the hill for burial.

When Normí meets Martza she discovers Martza was the mystery letter mailer, that’s why the Doyle’s had no clue about it. Catalina gave it to Martza and asked her to mail it for her. Defiantly suspicious. Martza also reveals that the family is cursed. She tells Noemí about an event that happened nearly 20 years ago. Ruth was Howard’s daughter and she was supposed to marry her cousin Michael, but a week before the wedding she shot her groom, mother, aunt, and uncle. Virgil survived as Florence hid him away. After taking care of the others, she then turned the gun on herself. Most of the servants left and the family stayed up on the mountain out of sight. Florence married a stranger named Richard, who was nice, but then started talking about ghosts, spirits, the evil eye, etc. he disappeared and was later found at the bottom of a ravine. The townspeople are afraid of them as everything the Doyles touch rots.

The local doctor comes to call and Noemí questions him. He believes that Catalina is anxious, melancholic, and that her illness has aggravated it. Noemí finds the idea of Catalina anxious odd as she was never one to stress, and asks about what could have caused the depressive state. Virgil blames it on the death of Catalina’s mother, but that was years ago. The doctor tells Noemí that Catalina is recovering from tuberculosis and will be fine. He also cautions Noemí against getting anxious or agaitated. Cautions…or threatens?

Hmm…

The longer Noemí stays there the more strange and sinister things seem to be. Howard had two wives, Agnes and Alice Doyle (sisters and his cousins), both not lasting a year after their wedding ceremonies. Even more suspicious as now Catalina is failing. Noemí continues to have nightmares, them getting more and more frightening; with Noemí even questioning her own sanity! Is it something supernatural? Is it chemical? Is someone in the family trying to make them lose their sanity? Is the house and family really cursed? Whatever the reason, Noemí must find a way to free her cousin and herself before it is too late.

I won’t give the ending away as it was really good, and not quite what I was expecting. I definitely recommend for any gothic fiction lovers. It was a really great read and I’m eager to read her other books.

I can’t put the book down

For more from Catherine Morland’s Reading List, go to The Night Gardener

For more Gothic Fiction, go to Secrets of the Heart

The Return of the List: Catherine Morland’s Viewing List, Part II

I year ago it was Friday the 13th and all I could think about was watching scary movies. While I did I started thinking what movies would Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney like if they were real and lived today? I decided to put together a list of 30 film recommendations that our girl Catherine Morland or boy Henry Tilney would most certainly love!

This is a continuation from the original, Catherine Morland’s Viewing List and will be another great 30 Gothic films or films with Gothic components. For those who are wondering what classifies something as a Gothic, here is the definition.

Gothic fiction, which is largely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance.

Any films I have already reviewed that fit for this list I will just list and link here, while any future film I review I will add a little note as to why it belongs on this list. I have 10 years worth of horror film reviews from my annual October Horrorfest, but I’m not sure how many of those will be on here. For now I’m going to put on the ones I have recently re-edited, and then will be adding more as time goes by. If you are looking for recommendations, be sure to check back later, and if you have a suggestion be sure to comment below!

I Bid You Welcome: Dracula (1931)

Even a Man Pure of Heart: The Wolf Man (1941)

Because I Am Mad, I Hate You. Because I Am Mad, I Have Betrayed You: Gaslight (1944)

If Only It Was the Picture Who was to Grow Old, and I Remain Young: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

What’s Your Favorite Scary Movie?: Scream (1996)

That Video…is Not of This World: Ringu (1998)

For more movie lists, go to Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans