FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jan 25, 2023

What's the Buzz?

Boy oh boy, people of yore sure worried about weird stuff, weren't they? The Bermuda Triangle, quicksand, Satanism, killer bees, etc etc. I'm sure glad we've evolved past that kind of thinking and now we worry about...uh...a never-ending pandemic, failing economies, the climate crisis, etc etc. Oh, and sinkholes! Sinkholes are kind of the new quicksand, right? Like, any time you are out strolling (or even sitting) you might find yourself falling into a sinkhole? Well, I'm kind of worried about that, anyway. Also just FYI, I honestly still wouldn't fuck with the Bermuda Triangle, so don't ask me to go on a trip that will pass through there because I will say no!

But bees...who is really worried about killer bees anymore? Not me, although I will say that if there is a bee near me I will skedaddle away from it with the power of at least 5-7 mall walkers (running is bad for your knees). But am I afraid of some invasive bee who wants to kill kill kill? No. However, I do love to indulge in some bee-flavored scare flicks, like the 1978 thrill-exico from Mexico, The Bees.

You know you're in for a good time because: 

1) It's called The Bees. Sure, that's a neutral title. But this is a horror movie, so it's safe to assume that the bees will be the villains. 

2) It's a from Roger Corman's New World Pictures, and as we all know, Corman means co-uality!

3) It's got this poster, which is just insane:


"Okay," I suppose someone said, "How about a giant bee head with, like, weird stuff growing out of it? And fangs and blood in its mouth? Hmm but there should also be something to make people feel horny..."

4) It's got John Saxon! Don't you love John Saxon? If you didn't say yes, I'm not sure I even want you reading this blog.


So much like that other (incredible) 1978 film about killer bees, The Swarm, The Bees concerns itself with Africanized bees that bust a move across the globe and holy shit there's "nothing to stop them from taking over the entire western hemisphere!"

Yes, let's hear it for the xenophobia of 70s killer bee cinema! Also, fun fact, Warner Brothers paid New World Pictures to delay the release of The Bees so their star-studded The Swarm could hit cinemas first. Can you imagine what the world might be like today if The Bees had released first??

It would be the same world, really, but I thought you might have fun spending some time imagining. 

Anyway. Dr. Franklin Miller (Claudio Brook, Alucarda) and his wife Sandra (Angel Tompkins (one episode of television's Knots Landing!) are in Brazil trying to figure out a way to make the killer bee less killer-y. One fateful night, a father and son pair of honey thieves (look, the father has a large family to feed, okay, that's why he's stealing) make the deadly mistake of opening the cages of the killer bees instead of the cages of the regular bees. The killer bees attack! The child dies! The Bees doesn't mess around!

The next day, an angry mob shows up at the Miller compound to enact some angry mob justice. Franklin tries to ply them by explaining how he wants to modify the killer bees into non-killer bees, only he speaks in terms they will surely understand: "I know you no like devil bee!" he says, and I am sure that I winced.

However, when the honey thievin' father shows up carrying his dead son and sporting a gross face (from the bee stings, you see), all bets are off and the angry mob attacks! Franklin dies! The Bees continues to not mess around!



Franklin Miller, hoisted by his own beetard

Sandra heads to the United States, where she meets up with John Norman (Saxon) and her Uncle Ziggy (played by John Carradine, who sports one of the worst German accents you will ever hear).


Fun fact, John Carradine was pretty much unemployable in the US at this point because his health was too frail for insurance companies' liking, but The Bees writer/director Alfredo Zacarías hired him at great personal financial risk and it was a great experience for everyone!

Also, The Bees reminds us that John Saxon had a black belt in karate and was in Enter the Dragon.


Oh by the way, Sandra brought a suitcase full of killer bees with her from Brazil so she and John and Ziggy could study them, but some muggers tried to take her suitcase like the second she got out of a taxi in New York, and so bees are unleashed yet again by unwitting criminals.

Some greedy capitalist businessmen are interested in the bees because while yes, they may murder, they also apparently make kick-ass honey that will bring about record profits. 


I love the greedy capitalist businessmen! Not only is there that cigar--the hallmark of a greedy capitalist businessman--but also because they are so greedy that one of them doodles dollar signs all over his handout at a bee meeting.


I just heard that Handout! at the Bee Meeting is disbanding later this year

So the bees are on the loose and they are not fucking around! They swarm around in a big...you know, swarm, like a black cloud of doom. 


They wreak havoc everywhere, by which I mean that people either react worriedly when they see the bees, or they flail around whilst getting stung, then fall over dead. All of the victims deserve Oscars!







My favorite victim is Man With Arthritis, who hires some kids to catch some bees because his homemade arthritis remedy is to let bees sting him. Only this time, of course, it's the deadly bees. Too bad for Man With Arthritis! But let me tell you, he flails and flops everywhere for a while like a drama queen in a cowboy hat, and that's why he's my favorite.


For a chunk of time the movie is just bees showing up at random places, swarm swarm, flail flop, move on to the next random place...like the Pasadena Rose Parade?? The sequence uses B-roll footage of the actual parade, and I'm super into pretending it wasn't actually B-roll footage and that President Gerald Ford simply could not resist the offer of a role in The Bees, no matter how small.


To answer your question, yes people die at the Rose Parade! What a movie this is, I tells ya.


Meanwhile, Uncle Ziggy, who works in bee communications, is excited to be working on a way to stop the bee scourge.


The bees are manipulated into turning on each other, which excites John and Sandra (who are in love now) so much that they have to do it right out there in the field while bees swarm around their truck. Finally, it's the eroticism promised by the poster!


SIDE NOTE I just want to give a shout-out to this cool reporter, whom I hope won all kinds of Pulitzers for her coverage of the aforementioned bee scourge.


While the citizenry may be thrilled that the military is cropdusting the bees with our intrepid heroes' magic formula, the greedy capitalist businessmen are not thrilled about it at all. In fact, they're mad because the loss of the kick-ass honey will cut into profits! And so they put out a hit on our intrepid heroes. Poor Uncle Ziggy gets shot, but before he dies he fills John and Sandra in on the breaking bee news: these new, improved bees are super smart and learning how to speak with them is a must if we are to survive at all. The ol' Zig utters one final "Auf...wieder...sehen..." and flies off to the great honeycomb in the sky.


He really does, I'm not kidding. The auf Wiedersehen part, I mean. Sadly, he does not actually fly away.

There is a constant bee-buzzing sound as John and Sandra try to learn bee-speak and I started to think that I would hear it forever, like it would become like a sort of tinnitus. But as I write this I seem okay? I'll keep you updated.

After promising the bees that they will do their best to broker peace with them (they really do, I'm not kidding), John and Sandra go to Great Value United Nations to plea their case before the gathered world leaders. "You have to listen to what the bees have to say!" John cries, which to be fair sounds pretty crazy. But then the bees show up, but they don't sting anyone because it's just a flex, you know, like a show of power.


The bees have had e-fucking-NOUGH of humans ruining the environment and the planet, and they're not gonna take it anymore. John tells everyone that the bees are willing to dominate the world with us, but they're also fine with the idea of dominating the world without us. Will humanity accept the bees' terms or not? 

HUH? WILL WE??

We'll never know, because the very next shot...


...is the credits! I suppose it is quite a pickle that Zacarías wrote himself into. Do you show, like, humans and bees ruling the planet together? As a human I feel confident in saying that wouldn't happen, we would never capitulate. So the bees would have to wipe us out, and that would make this movie five hours long at least. Hmm, maybe he could have used a matte painting to show that the bees whipped our asses and took over, you know, like at the end of Kingdom of the Spiders. That would have been amazing! So amazing, in fact, that it hurts to think about. Alas.

The Bees is a good time (disconcerting B-roll footage of military plane crashes and explosions aside) and a worthy addition to the roster of flicks to be enjoyed by bee cinema aficionados like myself. It's not the exploitation flick that the poster and, perhaps, its Mexican pedigree promise; nudity and sex are nil (mid-swarm makeout aside) and there are definitely more violent entries in the bug attack genre out there. If you're looking for, I don't know, gory sting action or something, keep looking, friend. And while it may not have the mega-watt star power of its 1978 counterpart The Swarm--to be fair, what movie does?--it boasts Johns Saxon and Carradine so you can't go wrong, can you?

Well, if any bees are reading this I would just like to say that personally, I would be willing to work together so there's no need to sting me to death. Haha not that I'm worried about killer bees these days, of course. We all have more on our minds, right? I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if next year Roger Corman and Warner Brothers have competing horror movies about the price of eggs, amirite?




Oct 31, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 31


Well, this is it pal...end of the line! Boy, depending on intonation that can really sound like a threat, huh? Since this is text, I guess you'll have to figure out for yourself how I meant it.

No matter how I meant it, it is true that today marks SHOCKtober's end. By next week it'll be soft and sagging and browning and leaking. You know, like an expired jack-o-lantern. Will anyone scoop it up and toss it by some far away-ish trees, where it can be eaten and enjoyed by some local animals until its remains return to the soil from whence it came? Or will we all pretend we don't see it in the hopes that someone else will do the scooping? What am I even talking about anymore? Who knows, it's been a long month, okay! It's time for what the French might (don't) call le last favorite character... 

RHONDA JOHNSON'S WIG IN KILLER WORKOUT (1987)


According to the legends, Rhonda Johnson was born Valerie Johnson. On the eve of her big modeling break--a Cosmopolitan cover shoot in Paris--she suffered a tanning bed accident that left her upper back, her breasts, and the top and back of her head horribly scarred. But while you couldn't see them, her heart and soul suffered the most scarring! 

Valerie changed her name and opened a business: Rhonda's Workout. But all those beautiful people reminded her or everything she lost (her modeling career, her nipples, her hair) so she started killing them. It's a terrible business plan.

This is all revealed late in the movie, when we get a glimpse of her wigless and then bewigged:



And I love that the wig is so bad!


Like it was clearly the best they could do with the budget and that's great. But I can't get enough of the idea that we're supposed to think she's been wearing that nest on her head through the whole movie! Until that reveal, her hair looks like it does here, in a scene where she does the two things she does best (business and being mad at someone):



Rhonda Johnson and her wig are the perhaps the greatest movie duo of all time. Why weren't they given a whole franchise? They could travel the world, starting beauty/fitness-related small businesses (though to be honest I'd be happy with her starting any kind of small business, so long as it triggers her murder rage) and then kill off their customers and any nosy cops. Yes, it would just be Killer Workout over and over with a new skin, but I don't see how that's a problem. I'm a ride-or-die for these two queens!

And so, here we are at the end of another SHOCKtober. Until next time...like scar tissue through the hourglass, so are the wigs of our lives. 

Or something. I don't know, it's been a long month!

Oct 30, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 30

Now that SHOCKtober 2022 has begun gurgling its death rattle, for today's favorite character I say it's time to pay respect to one of the reasons for the season: Mr. The Shape himself, Michael Margaret Myers. But not just any old iteration of le booeyman, no! I'm talking about the one and only...

BESPECTACLED AND BESHEETED MICHAEL MYERS IN HALLOWEEN (1978)

It's an iconic lewk, to be sure. But it's also...really effing weird. We hear so much about how Michael Myers is sooo evil but we don't hear a lick about him being sooo strange. Laying out Annie's body on the bed with his sister Judith's headstone, we could chalk that up to ooh, spooky and macabre. On one level, Michael standing there under that sheet and breathin' real heavy is also ooh, spooky and macabre. But also, Michael went through a lot of trouble to...play a prank? I can't decide if that makes him more terrifying or less, to be honest.

While Lynda waited upstairs for her post-coital beer, Michael killed Bob and took his glasses. Then he rummaged around in drawers or closets to find a white sheet, figured out where the eye holes should go, cut 'em just right, then got himself all garbed up for Lynda's big surprise. I just imagine him thinking--and maybe uttering, who knows--a few "hee hee hee"s while he's putting this all together.

Side note, I also imagine him thinking--and maybe uttering, who knows--a few "Where the fuck is it?"s while walking around the cemetery in search of Judith's grave, since he would have no idea where she was buried.

That Michael, what a prankster! What would Dr. Loomis make of all this? (Probably something about the devil's jokes and evil, no doubt.)

Oct 29, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 29

If you were to ask me how I feel about The Slumber Party Massacre (which by reading this, you kind of are), my knee-jerk would be to say that I love it. But then the next time I watch it, I would say to myself...do I love it? Did I lie to that strange (but nice) person who asked me about it? Yes, it's true. There are two wolves inside me, and they're both about that movie.

Here's what it comes down to, I think: I love a lot of things--like, a lot of things--about it! But as a whole, it honestly leaves me feeling pretty meh. Perhaps this is because its roots lie in satire, but along the way to completion the film just kind of became the very thing it was supposed to satirize. The satirical bits are still ace. But overall it plays out like a regular old slasher movie and as a regular old slasher movie it's...well, it's pretty dull. It's mostly a series of fake-out jump scares; the actual kill scenes are devoid of any tension, the pacing is odd, and it's a bit of a slog.

But when I think about all those things I love about it--the pervy little sister, the pizza eating, the coach trying to save the day--my heartplace swells and the next thing you know, I'm telling strange (but nice) people that I love it. SIGH.

Well, who cares. Maybe I'll sort out my feelings about it one of these days, or maybe I won't! Maybe my feelings are as sorted as they could possibly be, and those two wolves are going to have to learn to--as the bumper sticker says--☪☮⚥✡i☯✝.

And today they are in fact coexisting. The two wolves and I are all united by one thing, at least, and that's today's favorite character...

KIM'S 'SPACE BABY' T-SHIRT IN THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982)

See what I mean? There goes my heartplace, all a-swellin' again. How could I ever feel otherwise? I love The Slumber Party Massacre!


Oct 28, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 28

Wow, the end of SHOCKtober is nigh already! It really makes you think, doesn't it? The way time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin'...into the fyoo-chuhhh *space noises* 

In case you have not memorized the names of the twelve months (in English) and/or you do not have your calendar of, like, baby animals or hot firemen or whatever nearby, in practical terms the nighness of SHOCKtober's end means that it's almost time for November's Revenge. BLOODvember, if you will. The continuation of all things pumpkin spice. The crunch of fallen leaves, the chill in the air on a clear day! And the perfect time to watch today's favorite character in her natural setting (aka the movie she's in)...of course I'm talking about...

MADDY IN BLOOD RAGE (1987)

If you've never seen Maddy before, well, trust me when I say you've never seen a character like Maddy before, either. If you have seen Maddy before, well, you probably don't know exactly what to make of Maddy, but you know you love her. That is as it should be.

I love the horror movie moments that hint at the more mundane moments of a character’s life (bonus points if it’s moments of the killer’s life). Give me Valerie Johnson filling out paperwork to change her name to Rhonda Johnson and acquiring a small business license before embarking on her aerobics-n-murder career in Killer Workout. I love the image of Michael Myers having to stop for gas during his cross-country road trip to find Laurie Strode in Halloween H20.

That said, I am not one to bemoan a lack of mundane details when watching a horror movie. I spend no time at all wondering why Rose never said “I’m hungry!” and stopped for a snack whilst wandering around Silent Hill in search of her daughter. Did the women in The Descent need bathroom breaks during all that time they spent trapped in that cave? Did any of them have to find a dark corner for peein'? I don’t care, it’s none of my business! 

Usually the weird character gets a brief moment of, you know, weirdness before focus shifts to the killer and their would-be victims, but in Blood Rage we are treated to an entire subplot revolving around Maddy, who is never in mortal danger at any point. The movie revels in the banal details of her life at home while a fairly standard—if low-budget and quirky—slasher flick happens outside her door. Teenagers run around a Florida apartment complex and engage in typical horror teen behavior such as having sex, getting killed, and, uh, playing tennis, but Maddy is living in her own private Douglas Sirk by way of John Waters melodrama, engaging in housework as a means to combat her stress over the idea that her psychotic son is ruining her Thanksgiving holiday. 

She scrubs the oven to a shining gleam. She drinks copious amounts of wine. She vacuums. She drinks wine while vacuuming. She sits on the floor in front of her open refrigerator, scooping up leftover green beans and shoveling them into her mouth. When her calls to her fiance Brad’s office go unanswered, rather that walk over there (it's like two doors away) she spends a good 20 minutes trying to convince a phone operator to help her and delivers not one but two of the weirdest, greatest monologues that horror—nay, that cinema!—has ever seen.

Oh no no no, that’s impossible. You must have dialed the wrong number. No, he’s definitely there. Could you please just re-check that number for me? Because this is a real emergency. Why not? Look, look, look, you don’t seem to understand. This is a real emergency. This is a real emergency! I mean he’s definitely there. He is waiting for my call right now, he’s sitting there and waiting for my call. This is very important! Operator, I’m begging you, this is a real, real emergency!
It probably won’t surprise you if I say that Maddy constitutes the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table of my mind, like one of those expandable crepe-paper turkeys, thanks in particular to the delightfully unhinged performance of Louise Lasser.

I don’t know who made the final decision to let Louise Lasser loose in front of the camera and let her indulge in every strange whim she had, but that person will forever hold a special place in the big bowl of not-cranberry sauce of my heart. In fact, I love it so much that it’s got me rethinking my stance on mundane details. If they’re going to be this bizarre, give me all the mundane details! In the inevitable re-re-reboot of Halloween in ten five years, I sure hope to see Laurie Strode shoveling green beans in her mouth, unaware that Michael Myers is somewhere out there…filling up his gas tank.

Oct 27, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 27

Are being a Dracula and being a responsible pet owner mutually exclusive? Honestly, even after watching Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (aka Dracula's Dog) that philosophical quandary will still be swishing around in your brain place because (spoiler) Dracula isn't even in the movie. I'm not even sure that Zoltan's unceasing loyalty to his master indicates much. Is he something of an undead Hachikō? Or is he just a vampire dog who does what vampire dogs do (he bites!)? When you come right down to it, aww who cares?? Why talk about these clearly high-falutin' esoteric matters when we could be talking about...

THE VAMPIRE PUPPY AT THE END OF ZOLTAN, HOUND OF DRACULA (1977)

Yes, one of my earliest faves here at Final Girl remains a fave. Yes, the best part of Zoltan is the vampire puppy freeze-frame that ends the film. How could it not be the best part? Look at it! I would do anything for vampire puppy. Anything! Look at me...I'm the undead Hachikō now!

What a stupid conceit for a movie. Ain't it great??


Oct 26, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 26

If you had told me at the beginning of the month that two of my highly coveted "favorite character" slots would be taken up by characters from the Sleepaway Camp franchise (spoiler), I would have said "Do I know you? What are you doing here? Psychic or no psychic, get out of my house!"

But it's true. When setting out on the journey, we never know where SHOCKtober will take us, and this year it has taken us to le Sleepaway double dip. I'm sure you immediately suspected it, but sorry, no...today's favorite character is not M-E-G's headband. Rather, it's...

MARIA'S LINE READINGS IN SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND (1989)

Sleepaway Camp III is truly awful, like barely watchable if I'm being honest. Regardless, I need to give my girl Maria props because her dialogue has intermittently been running through my head for years and years now. I'm not sure if it's Stockholm syndrome or straight-up sickness or what, but "Today's the day I'm goin' to camp" is so imprinted on my brain that since the day I first saw it, I've blessed annoyed just about every one of my friends (whether they've also seen the movie or not) with my impression of it. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if they mark my final words as I lay on my deathbed, ready to shuffle off into the great sleepaway camp in the sky. Mind you, I might amend it to "Today's the day I'm goin' to camp. Didja hear me? I'm goin' to that camp today...by which I mean Heaven (I hope)."

I just...love it so much. She gives us some variation of "I'm going to camp" three times in 30 seconds, she gives us an atrocious delivery of the most unnatural dialogue ever written, she gives us that wig! Such gifts.

(NSFW)


I've never seen anyone take off their t-shirt that way before...? Wow, is there anything Maria can't do? 

Well, besides live and actually make it to camp, I guess. Yes, Angela runs her down with a garbage truck so she can take Maria's place at Camp New Horizons. 

I also love that it's so clearly a mannequin getting hit if you look closely. Ooh, maybe she was a living mannequin all along! Like in that movie! Mannequin!

 

Angela really goes to crazy lengths in this scheme of hers: She tracks Maria down, finds an outfit and wig just like Maria wears, she steals a garbage truck, waits for Maria to leave for camp, somehow gets her to run into an alley with a garbage disposal at the end of it. It might seem like a lot of hassle--and surely there were other campers that would have been easier to replace--but excuse me, this is Maria. Don't we all want to be her? Wouldn't we all do whatever it takes to wield the power of those line readings, even for but a moment? I know I would. Just ask my friends!