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!

Jun 30, 2019

My Queen

If you listen to Gaylords of Darkness on the regular, then perhaps you know how often I like to rail on The Conjuring universe. I tells ya, just the fact that the word "universe" applies is enough to set my teeth on edge! But it is à propos, is it not? With a Conjuring over here and an Insidious over there and a La Llorona this and a Nun that, it's all ballooning to the proportions of Marvel Universe fuckery. The films are all related, even if it's by the barest of threads; you know, "the priest in this one walked by in the background of that one, and someone said they knew him" or whatever. Yes, I enjoy railing against all of this even though these films obviously bring other people joy, and I am not forced to watch them so who really cares? But care I do, and rail I do, so much so that if my eyebrows grow perhaps another 1/8", my transformation into a horror-flavored Andy Rooney will be complete.

That stupid-looking doll Annabelle has received most of my ire on our podcast. I've brought it (and her) up several times, and my complaints are legion. She's hideous! She doesn't do anything! Why do they keep making movies about her? I want a doll who runs around and murders, not one who just sits there.

But over the last few days, dear reader, something has happened to me. I stared out the window and my mind went on an Eat Pray Love yogurt journey of self-realization and self-acceptance, and my thoughts Orinoco Flowed to a conclusion:

I think I love Annabelle.

This shocked me right to my core! But is it not my truth? "Will they or won't they?" has been a staple of film and television for thousands of years, from your Sam and Diane to your David and Maddie to I can't think of any others because I don't watch that much TV. But was the pattern not the same between me and Annabelle? We sure hate each other a lot, but we also can't stop talking about each other! I would never go see an Annabelle movie*, but I bring her up at every opportunity! Were we not destined to fall in love in another season and a half or so? What else could all of this mean?

I decided not to wait another season and a half. I would just get on with it and start living my truth.

(*okay, so I did watch Annabelle: Creation in a moment of weakness after I saw the atrocious Pet Sematary remake. I came out of A: C thinking "It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be," but that wasn't enough to quell the fires of my Conjuring universe rage or stop my shit-talking Annabelle.)

And so I began celebrating said truth by watching the 2014 film Annabelle. It was awful.

However, it only served to reinforce all of my feelings. You see, I realized that I actually love all the things I hate about Annabelle. Please allow me to explain, if I can.

It begins with the first sentence of the film's official synopsis:
John Form has found the perfect gift for his expectant wife, Mia - a beautiful, rare vintage doll in a pure white wedding dress.
The bold is mine. "Beautiful"? This?

Yes, yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, et cetera, but I'm sorry. No real-life eyes are beholding this doll as beautiful! But in the movie, she is apparently a vision, honey, and she is treated as such. No one even comments that she applies lip liner around her bottom lip much too liberally (IMO).

Despite the fact that this feature film is named for her, Annabelle gives the doll an origin that is difficult to parse. While she looks evil--uh, beautiful, she is not actually evil? She's merely a conduit for a demon, and she became a conduit because crazed hippies were trying to summon said demon and then the blood of a crazed hippie named Annabelle got in doll Annabelle's eye? I think?

While this makes no sense, it does to serve to explain why Annabelle thwarts our expectations in a killer doll movie. You know, why she doesn't do anything. She just sits wherever she is plunked down, staring emptily into space. She doesn't move. She never blinks. But things happen in her vicinity and they are chilling and we can only assume that Annabelle is responsible! Here are some of the things that happen in her vicinity:

–a record player starts on its own
–a sewing machine starts on its own
–a stovetop turns on on its own
–a rocking chair rocks on its own (several times)
–a door slowly closes...on its own
–books fall off a shelf (on their own) and almost hit a baby

You get the idea. Once upon a time–like, two days ago–this irritated me to no end. Why wasn't she running around? Why didn't she throw the books at that baby? I wanted the pitter-patter of doll feet, dammit! I wanted to catch a glimpse of her scooching around a corner after throwing books at a baby!

But then I realized, isn't it a far greater testament to her power that she just sits there whilst things happen around her? Is this not the loaf-of-bread-lifestyle to which I aspire? If I could just sit perfectly still and stare into space and my record player would start itself, it would save me an awful lot of time and energy.

The film's greatest moment occurs about a third of the way in. A character places Annabelle on a shelf and says "She fits right in!" However, we see this...

...and it's immediately apparent that Annabelle does not "fit right in." She is a gargantuan beast next to those daintier, prettier dolls. She takes up almost an entire shelf, a space where three, four, or five of the other dolls could fit. Her gown blots out nearly the entirety of the shelf below her. No, my friends, Annabelle does not fit right in. Annabelle occupies whatever kind of space she wants to occupy, front and center, hideous face beaming proudly, no apologies. Step aside or be lost behind her ruffles. Make room for Annabelle.

Is this not a confidence to which we all should aspire? Take up that space, reader. Take up whatever you need. Take up more, take up too much space. You deserve it.

Over the course of the film, we learn that Annabelle's purpose is to act as a conduit for a demon that wants to "claim a soul." But I think her true purpose is much greater than that. I think she's here to obliterate the heteronormative family paradigm.

When Aunt Ida (as portrayed by the inimitable Edith Massey) said "The world of the heterosexual is a sick and boring life" in John Waters's Female Trouble, she could have been talking specifically about John and Mia of Annabelle. This blonde-haired, blue-eyed, church-going couple is so white and bland they make mayonnaise seem spicy. John, a doctor, is "nice." Housewife Mia, who has but one facial expression, occupies her time by watching soap operas and sewing. A lot of sewing. There are ample close-ups of the bobbin on her machine...well, bobbin' as she pushes some fabric through.

But what is she sewing? Nothing, it seems. She never completes a project. There is a dress form in the room, but it always stands bare. Mia never holds anything up so we can see that she's making a sock or a dress or whatever. She never says "I finished making a sock" or "I finished making a dress" or "I finished making whatever." She just pushes fabric through, over and over. It brought to mind that scene in The Shining where Wendy finally looks at Jack's "book" and sees that he's simply typed "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" thousands of times. Mia's sewing is nothing more than busywork, an indicator of a housewife's boredom and madness.

John and Mia soon welcome baby Leah into their household. Annabelle, a twisted, worn-out version of "beautiful," sets about fucking up this nuclear family by, again, simply existing. She sits and stares into space and...well, it's like I said. Books almost hit that baby!

By the end of the film, all seems lost for John and Mia. The only way for Leah to survive is for Mia to give up her soul. But no! At the last minute, kindly bookstore owner Evelyn (Alfre Woodard) (yeah, Alfre Woodard) (I know, right?), chucks herself out a window, offering up her soul to Annabelle and the demon. Yes, a Black woman gives up her life, doing the work necessary to save this pasty white family but it's okay because "God is cool with it."

Annabelle throws this ridiculous stereotype in our face, anticipating all of the ding-dong "Save us from ourselves, Black women!" articles that have emerged in the political landscape since, oh, 2016 or so. Because yes, that's what Black women do. They vote to save the rest of us! They do not vote in their own self-interest. White people are the center of their narrative, always! When push comes to shove, they won't wait for a shove! They'll jump out that window, just like Evelyn, so that Mia can continue her "sew to nowhere" journey.

Look, yes, it's really just an example of the trope. But I want to believe that Annabelle, with her chaotic dirty hippie blood energy, is actually satirizing the trope, pointing the mirror at us and asking if we are not entertained. After all, why would a character say "You cannot destroy what was never created" at the end of Annabelle, and then along comes the sequel Annabelle: Creation? Annabelle is clearly a troll.

I never expected to be here, defending a terrible movie. But my journey has shown me that Annabelle and I are meant to be. Everything I called her out on is everything I aspire to be. She does absolutely nothing, but she is always the center of attention and everyone is obsessed with her. Thanks to a Netflix algorithm error, the Babadook has become an LGBT icon, but what of Annabelle? What of her intersectional feminism (just give me this, okay?) and her repeated attempts to destroy the white, heterosexual hegemony? What of her doing this all while just sitting there, taking up all the space and looking absolutely hideous? We should be so lucky.

Feb 7, 2019

Desperately Seeking Zombies

I recently finished a run-through of Resident Evil 2, the new remake of the classic 1998 game. It's a terrific update-ening, full of puzzles and action and gore, gore, gore, baby! Oh lawd the gore. The game is gross with a capital EWW.

Bodies are torn and chewed, heads explode in a fountain of the stuff inside heads, guts spill all over the's not a game for the squeamish. As a devout lover of the original game and heroine Claire Redfield and, well, all things Resident Evil, I seriously dug it. Sure, the A/B scenario ("2nd Run" in the remake) is seriously janked, but we can't have it all, I guess. (I'm not going to explain the whole A/B scenario concept to those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about because one, do you care? And two, this isn't a full review of the game. And three! Resident Evil 2 isn't even really my point here, just hold on.)

One thing the game gets right (and I mean really, really right) is zombies. These are absolutely the best zombies I've seen in a zombie-flavored game, and likely the best zombies I've seen in any media. Their movements and postures vary greatly. They hiss and shriek when they spot you and shamble your way, arms outstretched. They're slow–no rage-y sprinters here–but if you get too close they'll snatch at you. They take a lot to put down, and if you don't dispatch them completely they will just. Keep. Coming. Blast off both arms and both legs and they'll still try to get you, worming their torsos around and snapping their teeth when you run by. You're not always safe behind closed doors, even less so behind windows, and they can climb stairs. They are slow, steady, relentless, and terrifying.

From time to time I am gripped by Resident Evil Mania, wherein I just want to consume all things Resident Evil. They're the only games I want to play. Heck, I even (re)read the absolutely trashy novel series. (I can't believe I just admitted that.) Obviously the Mania set in after I finished RE2, but instead of starting a new game or something I found myself wanting to take in a bit of zombie cinema.

Now you might think a-DOY, so you watched some Resident Evil movies! I mean, that's like a guaranteed a-DOY. But no, my friend, I do not turn to the Resident Evil film series when I am in the throes of Resident Evil Mania, nor when I am in the throes of zombie mania, nor anytime ever. That franchise is its own thing, you know what I mean? And I'm not super interested in that thing. (However, Anthony and I will be covering the series at some point on Gaylords of Darkness, so I'll have to check out parts 3-936445 one day. I've seen 1 and 2 already, and that was enough! But I'm sure I'll embrace the cheesiness when the time comes, worry not.)

All of this got me to finally watch a film that's been lingering in my queue for well over a year now: the 2016 South Korean zombies on a train flick Train to Busan. Hey! It's as enjoyable as everyone says. It's about a father and daughter on a train (you know...a train to Busan) that quickly fills up with zombies. What's not to love?

Well, yes, fine, at times it's a little too computer for me, particularly when these insta-turn, speedy, rage-y zombies pile up and pour over each other à la World War Z. But it fits the tone of the film: this is action-flavored zombie cinema. Speedy train, speedy undead, it's all genuinely a nail-biter right up until the end.

The supporting characters are terrific and get you all, like, carin' about 'em and stuff. As I am strictly an EAT THE RICH kind of lady it's possible that I enjoyed the class warfare aspects of it the most. It ticks all the zombie cinema must dos: you lose some people you care about, you lose some people you are really psyched to lose, you wonder how you would fare in this situation. Well, I don't wonder. I know I would be toast in the first five minutes of the outbreak, if not sooner. I have come to accept the fact that I am not post-apocalyptic material, and that's fine. I just wanna leave a pretty corpse!

I've had worse experiences on public transportation, tbh

But! As this is not a review of Resident Evil 2, this is also not a review of Train to Busan. So why am I wasting everyone's time? Well! It's because after I finished Train to Busan, I wanted more zombie cinema. I browsed Netflix and shuffled through Shudder looking for something to satisfy my flesh-eating urge for flesh-eaters. Something good I should say. And reader mine, it seems ridiculous to say, but say it I must, for it is how I feel: I feel like I've seem 'em all.

Now surely I haven't seen every zombie movie out there. I'm hoping that I haven't seen all the good ones, but...

I've seen all the Romero Whatever of the Deads, including all the ones I wish I hadn't.

I've seen the Italian gross-out gut-munchers. I love 'em even when they're not great! They're crazy. I mean...Peter Bark, amirite?

I'm not a huge horror-comedy fan, so Shaun of the Dead, Fido, Dead Alive, and Cemetery Man are enough for me.

I've seen enough alt-zombie / zombie-adjacent kind of stuff to get my fill. Pontypool is great, so is Deathdream. Night of the Creeps.

I've seen European art house stuff, Grapes of Death and whatnot.

Some films are dabbling in "what about if they can be cured / return to society" themes and while that's a fine idea, I'm not particularly interested at the moment.

I've indulged in Nazi zombies or zombie Nazis or whatever. Dead Snow, Shock Waves, and so on.

I've gone the traditional / voodoo route with, like, I Walked with a Zombie and The Serpent and the Rainbow, etc.

Look man, I just want zombies doing their zombie thing. Rise from the grave, eat people. There must be something out there I haven't seen yet, something that will satisfy this Resident Evil (tasty) itch. Right? What am I missing? Has there been a zombie movie that's eaten your face right off? Have I reviewed it already? Let me know. My Mania has not yet abated!

Feb 6, 2019

Sit on It and Click It

In this week's episode, "Sit on It and Click It," Anthony and I discuss the Mary Lou Maloney saga, aka Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987) and Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1990).

I've written about Prom Night II before, extolled its many virtues and revealed the special place it has in my heart. Watching it for this episode of Gaylords, I found that it only gets better as time goes on. It's truly and underrated—if not outright ignored—gem of a horror film. It's blackly comic, queasily horrific, and stupendously mean. And in Mary Lou Maloney, vengeful, undead prom queen, we have one of the genre's greatest (unheralded) villains.

We meet her in the film's opening scene, wherein she delivers a confessional on a dark and stormy night in 1957. It's your typical confession-type stuff: she hates her parents, she has lustful thoughts about boys, and she even sexes the boys up. Mary Lou doesn't take the priest's advice and offer contrition, though. She had a great time doing all that sinnin', and she's gonna keep on doing it. She writes “For a good time, call Mary Lou” on the confessional in lipstick. Take your 1950s mores and shove 'em! Mary Lou does what she wants with who she wants, and she's having the time of her life.

It all comes crashing down at the prom as she falls victim to a tragic stink bomb accident during her prom queen coronation. Mary Lou dies a horrible death, but that can't keep her down. When released from the old steamer trunk that holds her tiara, sash, and cape, Mary Lou's spirit possesses high school senior Vicki and sets about wreaking havoc up and down the halls of Hamilton High. Some of it is revenge for a life cut short, but mostly she just wants her moment in the spotlight. That stink bomb interrupted her crowning ceremony and dammit, she's gonna make it happen.

I love Mary Lou Maloney. She's the type of female character we don't often see in horror movies or otherwise: she's confident, she's gorgeous, she's independent, and she's mean. Hello Mary Lou plays with slasher tropes by making the title character compelling and unrepentant before she goes on her killing spree. She's not poor Kenny from Terror Train or the grieving Pamela Voorhees from Friday the 13th, normal folk driven to insanity by the wrongs done to them. Sure, Mary Lou had a very wrong wrong done to her at the prom, but she wasn't the typical “good girl” victim. She's not an accidental killer, manipulated by circumstance or outside forces. She's not possessed. She's just an asshole, and it's so damn refreshing.

This episode forced me to watch Prom Night III: The Last Kiss, a movie I'd sworn off forever. My NO THANK YOU, PLEASE was rooted in 1) my love for Prom Night II 2) the fact that Lisa Schrage doesn't return as Mary Lou, and 3) the cover.

I had a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn't end well for either of us. How could it? Turns out...I was right! I should mention that my co-Gaylord Anthony loves The Last Kiss, so hey, your mileage may vary from mine. But as far as I'm concerned, the Mary Lou Maloney Saga consists of only one movie, and that one movie is Prom Night II.

While I think Prom Night III's biggest crimes are crimes against Mary Lou herself, I wouldn't have much been into it even if it charted the undead escapades of, say, Betty Sue Baloney. Hello Mary Lou certainly has more than a whiff of A Nightmare on Elm Street about it, in particular Part 2, Freddy's Revenge. There's the entire possession/”There's a woman inside me!” angle and the dreamy quality of it, the way Mary Lou can manipulate reality to her liking. The Last Kiss goes hard on this concept and plays like one of the latter Nightmare sequels where, you know, Freddy turns people into meatballs or whatthefuckever. Maybe that is your bag! That is not my bag. Couple this with the film's full-on descent into comedy and I was not having the time of my life with Prom Night III.

And then there's Mary Lou. In Prom Night II, she's sassy, self-assured, and takes no shit. She doesn't really have a heart, before or after her tragic death. This latter-day Mary Lou, on the other hand, wreaks some supernatural havoc but she feels largely dull and neutered. She's obsessed with one average high schooler and kills everyone that gets in the way of their “relationship,” and along the way she dresses up as a housewife, an ice cream parlor jockey, a football player, a news reporter...I just don't know who this character is. Maybe if I'm feeling generous I could say that there's a touch of the “Mary Lou gets what she wants no matter what” in there, but I'm not feeling generous! I'm feeling the opposite of that! She is HashtagNotMyMaryLou, and I will not acknowledge her Great Value Freddy Krueger antics anymore.

Prom Night II: perfect queen, heartless goddess

Prom Night III: no, absolutely not, crime against humanity

Seriously, Prom Night III is a terrible film. If you like it, that's fine, we'll get past this bump in the road. It's nice to like things. But I'm throwing a big stink bomb at it and hoping for a tragic accident.

Jan 4, 2019

Mistress Loretta's Bathtub

On the most recent Gaylords of Darkness, Anthony and I returned from a week off to perform a post-mortem on the year that was. The last year that was, I mean. You know, 2018. We gave some cheers, some jeers, and a whole lotta other nonsense. Honestly, the nonsense (as always) is like 99% from me. I don't know what happens, exactly, but whenever we record it seems that I go into a kind of fugue state. In lieu of "making" "points" or "saying" anything "worthwhile," it's mostly just rambling, stories unrelated to the topic at hand, and wasting everyone's time.

Unlike this blog! Which has been nothing but insightful in the 77 years of its existence.

Okay, so it's just like this blog. But the difference is, when I'm editing (HA HA) a post here, I don't have to listen to myself. When I edit an episode of Gaylords, however, I hear myself going on and on about whatever and I get filled with a weird "STOP TALKING, why are you SAYING THAT"...insecurity? Or something? I don't know. I don't know why I'm mentioning it here! Hmm, maybe in 2019 I will just own it.

But enough about what I might do, I'm here to talk about what I done did do in 2018. And what I done did do was like some horror movies, and not like some other horror movies. Some might even register as "meh" on the like-do not like scale. So let's get to 'em!



If you and I are cyberfriends on a social media, or if we are in person friends, or if you've listened to any Gaylords episode since I saw Suspiria, then you know that I am completely in love with / absolutely obsessed with Suspiria and you're probably sick of hearing me talk about Suspiria.

But I won't stop! I love it too much! I'm too obsessed! And with a home video (or whatever it's called these days) release coming at the end of this month, I'll be even more obsessed. I might forego all other movies altogether thereafter! Who can say. But you can tell by all the exclamation marks that my feelings are true!

I was expecting to like it as I am a hungry hungry hippo for witchtastic goodness. (Side note that will probably be explored here at some point: man, I've been crying about a lack of witches in horror forever, but it seems they are finally, finally having their moment.) But I was not expecting to be completely subsumed by this film. As I mentioned on our Suspiria-flavored episode, it was honestly something akin to a religious experience. This shit moved me, y'all, and the...connection, I suppose, that I felt (feel) to it is very rare for me and any movie, never mind a horror movie. It's difficult to explain, but once it's out and more people have a chance to see it and I feel okay about unleashing the spoilers (Amazon really botched the release, particularly when you consider how much promotion it got; the release itself was staggered and small), I'm gonna try to get my feelings about it outta me. With words! Exclamation mark!


What a powerhouse of a movie, anchored by an unbelievable performance by Toni Collette. She should be nominated for every award forever for her turn as Annie, if only for the scene that is the single most heart- and gut-wrenching portrayal of grief I've even seen in a film. And I didn't even see it! It's off-screen, but her guttural howls of abject despair are too much to handle even then. She's astonishing.

I love this movie. I love the way it plays with audience expectations. I love that it's keeping in line with a certain old school horror lineage. I love that it burrowed under my skin the first time I saw it and it's stayed there ever since. I think it's a permanent resident.


Mandy and I have what you might call a complicated relationship. It actually made it to theaters (well, a theater) here and I saw it one afternoon with the six or so other people who composed the audience. Two of them were an elderly couple, and I'm not sure what they thought they were going to see, but they certainly weren't expecting the gonzo, trippy bloodbath that is Mandy. They complained about it out loud and often–the film was just too distasteful–but they stayed through the whole thing.

Meanwhile, I had a blast. The film is a heavy metal fever dream, a bootleg Frazetta painting on the side of a van come to life. The last third, in particular, is completely unhinged and off the rails, and it's possible it's not any kind of reality at all. There's a chainsaw fight, spectral cenobite-types, and a battle axe forged in the flames of vengeance. It is exhilarating, a ride and a half. And that's not even counting Cheddar Goblin.

Soon though, my feelings about it began to cool a bit. Heck, even during the film I found my mind wandering to "what if"s: what if, instead of a man getting revenge when his Mandy is burned alive in a sack, what if the genders were flipped? What if it was actually fucking about Mandy? What if she got her revenge? What if it was a same sex couple? What if it felt new beyond the visuals?

It's a Death Wish-style revenge flick. A pretty one. A stylish one, a fun one because it's just plain nuts. But it's also a tale of "man loses woman to outside forces, man kills outside forces," which we've seen plenty of times before. I could go on, about the (largely) gendered online reaction to Mandy versus Suspiria, how what is lauded in one is criticized in the other. There's something to be said about the way Mandy deals with masculinity and sexuality–yeah, there's a tang of homophobia to the whole affair. I find myself talking shit about Mandy somewhat frequently, but it's always followed with a qualifying "But I liked it!" I mean, I must have–here it is on my DO LIKE list. As I said, it's complicated!


Much like Suspiria, Annihilation really got a botched released: extremely limited, then dumped on Netflix. And boy, the sound design of this film was enough to warrant a proper theater viewing. To be fair, it likely still wouldn't have done gangbusters at the box office; it's science fiction that offers few answers, none of which are easy to come by. It's largely inscrutable to the end–particularly at the end, with that climactic lighthouse sequence with Natalie Portman and her mirror image. I love picking apart its puzzles and teasing out meanings, even while being dazzled by the visuals (and that sound design). The bear scene shook me so much that even if I'd hated the rest of it, Annihilation would still be here as a DO LIKE.

(Warning: if you watch it with that one friend who always asks questions during movies, chances are at least one of you will suffer a Scanners-esque exploding head. Whether or not this is a favorable outcome is up to you.)

Unfriended: Dark Web

Get lost, haters! I have a fondness for the Unfriended series that I'm not entirely sure it deserves. I rented the first one out of sheer curiosity, expecting a big pile of trash. Instead, I found a big pile of delight; while it's certainly not, you know, high art, I thought it was a clever update-ening of the ol' (tired) slasher formula. The central conceit, wherein our view is limited to computer screens, is clever and complex, and it also serves to give a bit of tension at times. When it was over, I was shocked to find myself muttering "Wait...that was...pretty good?" And sober!

The sequel, then, became an "Oh heck yeah," one worth paying theater ticket prices for. (I'm not one of those hundredaires who goes to see everything.) Dark Web is more of the same, essentially, with a wider scope and better characters. It's silly–you know it's silly, the film kind of knows it's silly, and it's best if you all agree to just get into it. It's like, I don't know, getting wrapped up in doing the chicken dance at someone's wedding. I mean, I've never done that, but I know it's a thing. You all just do it and you go for it and you have a good time, and then the next day you know what a great time you had and how much you liked it, even if you're a little embarrassed by just how much you enjoyed it. People who did not or do not chicken dance might question your passion–heck, you're questioning your passion–but passion it is regardless.

Do I recommend the chicken dance that is Unfriended: Dark Web? Wholeheartedly and also not at all! Perhaps the Unfriended series and I are private dancers, and we do what we want each other to do. I'm fine with that. And if there's another one at some point about the super deep dark web, well, I'll be there. Any old theater will do.


(or, the cranky pants portion of the show)


I admit, I was unenthusiastic about Halloween long before I plopped my butt down in the theater. While my love for parts 1-3 will never wane, I haven't been invested in the series or Michael Myers or any of it for a dog's age. And old dog, that is. I'd completely checked out, and to be honest, I've checked out of all modern slashers with the exception of a few. I'll rewatch a vintage fave or check out a vintage flick I've never seen (such as Blood Rage, which rules!), but it's been a while since it was my genre of choice and as such, new ones don't hold much interest for me. The promotional circuit for Halloween was nuts, with Jamie Lee Curtis everywhere talking up her latest turn as Laurie Strode, and everyone touting how it would be a direct sequel to the 1978 original and a return to that film's style and atmosphere and blah blah blah. We were all to act like parts 2-infinity didn't exist, which was fine as I never liked the Michael and Laurie are siblings angle, and the less said about Laurie's demise in Resurrection, the better. So I wasn't excited, but I was curious.

And yet, I was still so let down. For a movie that was supposed to be about Laurie Strode and the aftermath of that fateful Halloween night 40 years ago, we ultimately know incredibly little about her when it's all said and done. Apparently she "trained" as some kind of survivalist her whole life,  booby-trapping her house and forgoing family relationships in case Michael ever, you know, comes home. But she still interacts with her daughter and granddaughter regularly, and they all live within a couple of miles of each other. Not to mention, Laurie could have, like, left Haddonfield if she wanted to move on. None of it is explained and none of it makes much sense, but it's necessary, I guess, for the promised Michael/Laurie showdown.

Mind you, Laurie has built her entire life around this potential confrontation while Michael simply doesn't care. He doesn't know who she is, he hasn't been thinking about her, waiting to finish the job. He doesn't come after her specifically, he just ends up at her house through a ludicrous plot contrivance.

It could have been a bold statement about what often happens to women in the wake of trauma, how the lives of survivors are completely upended, how the memories and the fear and the everything else are simply a part of their existences now. For the perpetrators, it's business as usual. They remain unscathed by the horrors they inflict.

But Halloween isn't any of that; rather, it's just poorly written and poorly constructed, a film whose best parts are simply carbon copies of scenes from Carpenter's work. (It also cribbed an awful lot from those "bad" sequels we were supposed to forget about.) However, for being a "direct sequel" to the first film, new Michael Myers is vastly different from the original Michael Myers. This one is a spree killer, offing anyone and everyone in remarkably brutal ways just for the fun of it.

Halloween made huge profits, and there are more entries in the franchise to come. If that turns you on, hey, you go enjoy it. But I hope during the next promotional cycle, there's less talk about what a groundbreaking masterpiece it is when, you know, Halloween H20 did all the same shit much better decades ago.

A Quiet Place

Honestly, fuck this stupid movie. It'd been a while since I became so openly hostile to a film as when I saw A Quiet Place, so I guess that's one good thing about it. Also there's Emily Blunt, so that is two good things.

But everything's maybe a great horror movie if you've never seen a horror movie before. Otherwise it's full of crappy clichés and contrivances, from the whiteboard with, like, SOUND=WEAKNESS??? circled to Chekhov's goddamned nail in the basement stair, (a nail that shouldn't have been there??? in the middle of the board?? sticking up?? it had been there forever?? it didn't nail two things together, it was just there?? NAIL=WEAKNESS???), to the soundproofed basement (why didn't they live there?), to the "man provides" bs and HAVING A BABY awful heteronormativity, to the stupid *cocks shotgun* "girl power" ending...I just really, really hated it. Really. In case you couldn't tell.

But if you liked it, as a shitton of people did, that's great! It's good to like things. There is a sequel on the way. I will not be seeing it.

Bird Box

If you just this minute woke up from a coma, let me tell you something, friend: everyone is going goo-goo over Bird Box. I didn't like it, but then perhaps I am not one to judge it for I'd read the book last year and while I have no attachment to said book–I mean, it was fine–I basically knew who was going to live and die and what was going to happen or not happen. While there were some minor changes, this wasn't a radical reimagining or anything, and as such the movie held zero tension for me. But I figured I'd add it here to the DO NOT LIKE because as I said, this is the cranky pants portion of the show.

If you want to hear me and Anthony go a bit more in depth on these movies (and more), check out Episode 14, "Mistress Loretta's Bathtub." If you want to cheer and/or jeer my cheers and/or jeers, feel free! I am nothing if not a know-nothing know-it-all.

Dec 7, 2018

awesome movie poster friday - the TELEKINETIC QUEENS edition!


Just this morning I looked at my phone and I made a mental note that today is Friday. "Oh, it's Friday," I thought. Then the word "Friday" spun around and around in my head, all kaleidoscope-style, kind of like a bunch of prom-goers laughing at me because I'm all covered in blood. Then I had my second thought of the day:

"Today would be a great day to bring back Awesome Movie Poster Friday, what, with it being Friday and all."

And here we are! Whomever could have predicted?

If you have one of those Marilu Henner-esque beyond-photographic memories, then you know I did a telekinetic edition of AMPF way the heck back in 2010. 2010! A lifetime ago. What a different world it was then, wouldn't you say? I think I was living on the other coast. Horror movies weren't in the best place: the Saw, Resident Evil, and Paranormal Activity chugged along. Insidious was unleashed. Remakes were plentiful and mostly terrible. Quite frankly, my feelings about the genre were beginning to wane.

But here we are, eight whole years later. My, how things have changed! I now live on this coast. The world is a trashfire, but horror is in a pretty dang good place. (Hmm, funny how that works.) I feel revitalized about it. I treasure new stuff and want to spend time digging around for treasures of yore again. Neat!

The point is, you can peep the link to the old telekinetic AMPF and get an eyeful of some Carrie and Jennifer posters (and more). I'm not gonna re-post all the old Carrie stuff in particular...but what I am gonna post about that film reflects another trend that's occurred since that original post: the rise of the fan poster. You've seen 'em, and you might even have some. Alternative movie posters! Often they work solely as fanservice; I'm thinking in particular about the extremely minimalist ones, the ones that may be beautiful but don't work as, you know, advertisements. Sometimes they give away twists and secrets, or they're a wink and a nudge to the people who already know the movie by heart. The ones I'm posting for Carrie (with artist credit and links), I think, are lovely simply to look at, but they also work as and feel like "movie posters."

As for Jennifer, there simply aren't a lot of posters out there. I was sad about that until I found one--you'll know it when you see it--that makes up for the deficit by being so effing EVERYTHING that it contains the power of, like, 12 posters.

And then there's Thelma, which...I like some of 'em. Heck, I have the bird-on-the-face one that's sliiiiiightly reminiscent of the poster for The Silence of the Lambs. But, like, inverted. Or something. It makes sense in my brain, okay? But unfortch Thelma's one of those new horror movies with posters that are just Photoshopped photos. Thelma deserves better!

art by Adam Juresko

art by Guy Stauber

art by Beyond Horror Design

Dec 6, 2018

Sisterhood of the Traveling Christian Fashion Nightie

The 11th (eleventh!) episode of my podcast Gaylords of Darkness is now a-LIVE and a-VAILABLE. In "Sisterhood of the Traveling Christian Fashion Nightie," my co-host Anthony and I discuss, fawn over, and fall for the terrific telekinetic trio: Carrie (1976), Jennifer (1978), and Thelma (2017).

I don't know if the episode is any good--well, scratch that. I think it's good, but who cares what I think? What I mean is, I don't know if there are any, you know, trenchant insights or whattheheckever. There might be. But I am kind of in a fugue state while we record, and then I come out of it and I don't know what happened. Look, if you've listened to Gaylords, then you know what to expect, I guess. I'm not trying to neg myself here! But what I do know is that my (our) passion for the subjects overfloweth and it's perhaps the one episode I was most amped for, and the one I had the most fun researching.

Side note: yowza, we watch a shitton of stuff for this show. Sometimes that's great, and one of us is introduced to a gem. (Hi, I now love the Child's Play series more than I ever could have anticipated I would.) Other times, we have to sit through Mother of Tears. (Or another movie that we'll be talking about later this month, one I am not looking forward to watching for the second time, one I can't even believe I'll be watching for the second time.)

Oh man, I actually forgot that I endured The Haunting (1999) again for a previous episode! Seems my brain is starting a purge (not to be confused with The Purge). Until it purges something vital (like my feelings about Suspiria (2018) or how to put on pants or whatever) I suppose I should be thankful.

Anyway. The point of this is this: yes, new episodes of Gaylords of Darkness magically appear on The Internet every Wednesday when the clock strikes 6:66. No, I haven't been very good at reminding you about that! Nor have I been very good about anything else here, and here sure is gathering dust. So I thought, rather than simply posting "new episode, here's a link" every week, why don't I write...something? A supplement piece, you know? Because even though talking for the show is way, way (way) easier than writing (who knew??), well, I'm not ready to purge that ability quite yet. So, two tastes, tasting...something together.

Carrie, Jennifer, and Thelma are three women who wield unearthly powers so strong that not only can they kill you with a mere thought, they have whole movies named after them. Each character (and her respective film) stands on her own in a multitude of ways, but considering them as a triad is the way to go, baby, as it reveals a beautiful evolution of empowerment.

Everyone, of course, knows Carrie White. She eats shit, she burns in Hell, everyone is going to laugh at her, et cetera et cetera. Heck, if you want to know just how famous she is, you only need to check out the archives here: she won the first (and only) (so far) Maniac Madness tournament in 2014, beating out horror luminaries like Michael Myers and the Possessed Floorlamp from Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes. Here's what I wrote when she was crowned winner:
You know, I take Carrie for granted a lot of the time because it's become this thing bigger than the movie itself. Does that make sense? I mean I reference it all the time (see "get out your dirtypillows and clap 'em together in celebration"), telling my friends "they're all going to laugh at you" or talking about dumping pig's blood or whatever. I've suggested so many times that someone plug it up, you feel me? It's so easy to forget what a brilliant film it is, or how intense and perfect the iconic prom scene is. And Sissy Spacek, man. Her Carrie is the most terrifying person you just want to hug.
It's all true. Carrie is still one of the greatest horror films of all time, perhaps the best of the many, many Stephen King adaptations out there. Brian De Palma's vision is simply fucking brilliant, a masterclass in creating tension through pacing, editing, and direction. The entire prom and the build-up to the tipping of the bucket is brutal, even if you know it's coming and precisely when. The slow-motion...Sue Snell putting it all together, trying to save the day, and being thwarted by the well-intentioned Miss Collins...Chris Hargensen crouched under the stairs, licking her lips in anticipation...and Carrie, poor Carrie, resplendent in her homemade gown, crown on her head, beaming beneath the sparkly cardboard stars. Her moment--finally, her moment!--seems as if it will last forever.

But it doesn't. (I know it doesn't, we all know it doesn't, but I never stop hoping that it will.) The blood pours down, the pointing and laughing begin, and so does Carrie's revenge.

It should be cathartic for us, watching the outcast, picked-upon, downtrodden, telekinetic underdog stop her tormentors for good.  That's why we watch Death Wish, or Mandy, or I Spit on Your Grave, or any other revenge flick. The good guy suffers, and the bad guys eventually get theirs. If good guys must suffer, this is how we want it to go. So when Carrie turns her impossibly wide-eyed, somehow vacant power gaze on her bullies and the sparks start to fly--literally--we get ready for the sweet, sweet comeuppances. And we get them, but we also get a lot we didn't ask for.

Carrie's rage is indiscriminate. Either she can't control her powers once they're fully unleashed, or she simply no longer gives a fuck. She imagines slights and mockery where there is only kindness, as is the case with Miss Collins, the one person who tries to help Carrie simply to help Carrie with no personal gain, the one who pays a brutal price simply for being present. No one is spared from Carrie's wrath, and what should be a liberating triumph becomes a devastating tragedy.

It's compounded when Carrie returns to her mother, who is also a tormentor...but a tormentor she knows. Carrie begs for comfort, but Margaret White is incapable of providing. You know how it ends. Again, I always hope it'll end some other way, that Carrie will be able to salvage some kind of a life, find her place, and make her way in the world. But no, she dies a pathetic death in the Jesus Closet, clinging to the body of the mother who tried to murder her only moments earlier.

It's's so damn depressing.

While Sissy Spacek and Nancy Allen are GD perfect and Carrie is a sight to behold, it's not a film I turn to time and time again because it's too sad for my frail ol' heart. Perhaps I'll take a cue from my co-host Anthony, who largely enjoys the camp maelstrom that is Piper Laurie as Margaret White. She really is too much, isn't she? Practically rending her garments as she growls about her husband's whiskey breath that one time she enjoyed sex, going on about dirtypillows, gobbling reminding Carrie that they're all gonna laugh at her.

I don't know. I love the film. But at this point I'm incapable of looking at it solely as a camp piece, and I'm less in the mood for "sad girl with powers dies" than I am in the mood for "sad girl with powers isn't so sad, really, and claims her powers and lives her best fucking life." And so my impossibly wide-eyed, somehow vacant power gaze turns to Jennifer and even moreso to Thelma.

The first time I saw Jennifer was...sheesh, like a decade ago (how fucking old is this place/this me?) when I reviewed it for this here blog. I'm ashamed to say I wasn't super enamored at the time! I only saw the similarities to Carrie, which was released just two years earlier. Girl whose name is the movie title has a religious parent, she's picked on, she wields powers, the mean girl dies in a fiery car crash.

Sure, Jennifer is a Carrie riff. It's an American International Pictures picture, after all. But watching it in preparation for Gaylords of Darkness...well, it was like seeing it for the first time all over again, but, you know, with different eyes. Or a different brain. Maybe it's because my relationship with movies (particularly horror movies) and writing about them is so different now. Maybe it's because I watched it within 24 hours of watching Carrie. Maybe I was a dum-dum back then, and I'm marginally less of one now. Who knows? But the result is one that DOCTORS DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW.

But I'll tell you the result anyway: man, I loved it this time around. It wasn't the similarities to Carrie that really grabbed my attention, but rather the stark differences. (Besides, they're more interesting to talk about.)

Side note: it's good, isn't it, to reassess things every once in a while? Sometimes it can be a letdown: that movie you loved no longer seems so great. Sometimes you find something new in a bad movie and it redeems itself. Sometimes it's The Haunting '99 and it's forever beyond redemption. Sometimes time and experience and whatever other alchemy makes up your life makes you see differently and appreciate what you may have overlooked. Makes me feel like I should watch everything I've reviewed here again! Except The Haunting '99. Three times is a fucking crowd and I am done with it forever.

The largest divide between the two titular high schoolers is agency. Carrie has brief flashes of independence, most notably when she tells her mother to sit DOWN, cuz like it or not she's going to the dang prom. Outside of this, Carrie is little more than a victim throughout her film: bullied by her peers, abused by her mother, and sabotaged by herself. She is pathetic--not that that makes me love her any less, mind you. But that's what Chris Hargensen and Co zero in on: Carrie's meek nature. They sense her weakness, they despise her for it, and Carrie never stands up to them. She only scurries away, whether it's from Chris's insults or Tommy Ross's prom invitation. She never comes into her own, and she certainly never takes control of her powers; at the end of the film her powers are completely beyond her and bring about the literal downfall of the White home.

Jennifer, on the other hand, refuses to play victim, even though her bullies--well, "bullies" is too light a word for these sociopaths, actually--try to murder her on several occasions, take (and post) nude photos of her, make fun of her, try to get her kicked out of school, kill her favorite kitten, and then frame her for its murder. It's only that last one--the kitten murder--that really gets a rise out of our heroine. Everything else, she just deals with. She speaks up for herself and stands up to them all without hesitation, sure, but once the kitten-killin' line is crossed, Jennifer busts out her snake powers and gets her revenge.

But her revenge is not an indiscriminate, wild one. Sure, it's wild in that she summons snakes during an extended disco-lit sequence. But she stays in full control of her powers, she doesn't kill everyone who crossed her, and no innocents are caught in the serpent-laden crossfire. At the end of the film, she isn't burning in Hell far below the rubble of her destroyed house, no sir. At the end of Jennifer, Jennifer is footloose and fancy-free, tossing scarves with her new sidekick (not a euphemism) (maybe), doing her thing, and living her best life, the life Carrie was denied (and denied herself). It's a GD power fantasy, and I am here for it.

The film also as a few things to say--intentionally or otherwise--about class and social issues. Jennifer is the "hayseed" scholarship student at the posh private school, trying to co-exist with superwealthy supersnobs. She battles with the daughters of politicians and a headmistress who values reputation and money above the welfare of her students. Her allies in this are other outcasts: the black women who work in the dormitory kitchens alongside her, and the "dykes" who welcome her to the swim team. The minorities know what's up, they're on Jennifer's side, and no harm comes to them. In fact, Jennifer cleans house and makes it better for all of them. She's a hero, and she doesn't have to stand alone.

This is a huge step up from Carrie, surprising in its message (particularly as an AIP joint) and the agency it allows its title character to have. In short, Jennifer is a treasure. A treasure! I was oh so wrong all those years ago, and it serves as further proof to what we've all suspected from the start: you should never trust my opinions! Except for the opinions in this piece, which are impeccable. Don't listen to old me, listen to now me: Jennifer is pretty effing great.

If we set aside the Carrie...uh, expanded universe?...of remakes and sequels and Broadway musicals, the "telekinetic queen has a movie named for her" lay fallow for decades until Thelma, the 2017 Norwegian stunner. "Decades" is a long time to be sure, but good lawd was Thelma worth the wait.

Thelma is a country girl starting a new life at a college in the city. Well, starting a new life as best she can while remaining tight--like, multiple daily phone calls tight--with her Christian parents. It's not long before she contracts a big ol' case of The Gays, as she's immediately smitten with female classmate Anja. Thelma suffers terrible, frightening seizures at the mere thought or sight of Anja, but the seizures belie something besides repression and fear of sin: Thelma's got mind powers, baby, and she doesn't know she has them.

Religious parents, mind powers, the suffering of a public indignity...yeah, Thelma's right in line with Carrie and Jennifer. But while there are nods and homages and light similarities to the other films in this tiny, lovely subgenre, Thelma is also the endgame of progression in the same. Ultimately it's the story of a young woman who fully embraces who she is and her place in the world. Thelma claims her stake (and her girl) and frees herself from repression, oppression, and all notions of internalized sin. She accepts her powers, loves who she loves, and is who she is. It's a beautiful horror-flavored coming of age story, one that's still remarkable in this day and age for centering on a lesbian who doesn't die, who doesn't commit suicide, who doesn't ultimately find herself redeemed or saved by the love of a decent man.

It's also straight-up genre masterpiece if you ask me, which you sort of did by, you know, reading this. It's a gorgeous film that absolutely rewards repeat viewings: every single scene feels so deliberate, laden with symbols and metaphors and layers and more layers to unpack and unravel.

It's not a flashbang riot--you're not going to get a Carrie flips out at the prom setpiece in Thelma. It's a quiet, thoughtful film that's also incredibly tense. First viewing, you won't know what to expect or where it's going in such a way that you'll suddenly realize just how nervous you are. Then let it settle in your bones and watch it again, looking for clues and angles and colors and try to unravel its secrets. What's this shot mean? What's this motif? It's a gift of a film and it just keeps giving.

Eili Harboe is a revelation as Thelma. It's a physically and emotionally demanding role, and she is an actor who conveys so very much without showiness, with a mere tilt of her head or a single look. It's the kind of performance I love; I revere actors who somehow pierce through and hit a nerve with you, who communicate a truth that removes the barrier between "audience" and "cinema." You know what I mean? It's rare. It's nice when it happens. It reminds me why I love movies. Thelma fucking transcends, you dig? 

Hmm, I kind of like doing this sort of supplemental piece to the podcast, because nearly every week I find myself going "Oh, I wanted to mention this!" or "I shoulda said that!" or "What the heck was I thinking when I said that" after we've recorded. There's often more I want to say, so I guess this is the best place to say it. After all, if you've listened to Gaylords then you know that it's the place for bad amazing Debra Hill impressions and railing against Halloween H40 in between the glimmers of serious discussion. Here at Final Girl and I can still do all that, but now you're forced to read it with your eyes! Think of them as companion pieces, separate experiences that don't need each other but enhance the flavor of one another. GASP just like Carrie and Jennifer and Thelma.

Also, hey: we take listener questions! And we answer them! On the show! Got a question for us about any ol' horror-related nonsense? You can leave it here in the comments, if it pleases you. Or post it on our Facebook page. Whatever, man. I'm too blissed out on these telekinetic queens to worry about it.

Sep 26, 2018

Presented for your ear holes!

Hi guys, so today there's a new podcast on the scene, and it's called Gaylords of Darkness, and it's hosted by me and the inimitable Anthony Hudson of Queer Horror!

Will you learn anything? Probably not, except for our opinions on things! Will you laugh? I do not know! Will you cry or get angry? That is your business!

In our premiere episode "Drops of Blood by the Ham," we talk about the trailers for Halloween and Suspiria. You know, the new versions.

During SHOCKtober we will be posting a new episode every Wednesday! You can subscribe to the feed right on our page; we should be available on iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify any minute now. Oh! And there's a new Facebook page for the show, all fresh like a honeydew melon. (That's not a thing, I don't think.)

We've got some fun as heck content lined up for this month, so if you want some "hot takes" and "room temperature takes" "takes of other temperatures" then check us out. If there's a movie or topic or actor or whatever you want us to cover, leave a suggestion in any ol' place.

Enjoy! Or don't. As always, it's your life!