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!

Oct 6, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 6

Everybody knows that animals run amok and disaster movies are two chaotic tastes that taste *chef's kiss* perfect together, and no single movie demonstrates this quite like The Swarm. It's absolutely everything I could want in a disaster epic of any ilk, never mind one about killer bees!

It's director/producer/disaster king Irwin Allen going way too far, creating a bloated messterpiece that pushes the boundaries of common sense in every respect. The endurance test of a run time is a whopping 157 minutes but it feels more like a good three weeks or so. Romantic subplots are so ill-fitting that they come off as crammed into the proceedings with a crowbar. Terrific character actors (Ben Johnson, Richard Widmark, Fred MacMurray) and trash cinema icons (Cameron Mitchell) go toe to toe to toe with enough Oscar-winning actors to fill the entire Shrine Auditorium several times over. Lee Grant, Patty Duke, Henry Fonda, José Ferrer, Michael Caine, Olivia goddamn de Havilland...all of the scream, yell, and/or worry about bees and I could not be happier about it. 

Children die! Elders die! A (model) train rolls down a hillside and explodes! The Gulf of Mexico is set on fire!

Characters say things like "Houston on fire...will history blame me? Or the BEES?"

With all of the too too way too much-ness in The Swarm, how am I to choose only one favorite character? Hell, the whole movie could be my favorite character! 

But after I calmed down a little bit, the answer became obvious, and so today's spotlight rains down upon...

THE GIANT BEE HALLUCINATION IN THE SWARM (1978)

The Swarm is a movie overstuffed with patent absurdity, but still the big bee stands hovers alone in ridiculous. You see, the bees in The Swarm are a mutant strain of Africanized killer bees, which--along with the Bermuda Triangle and quicksand--were a very big worry back in the day. The Swarm does its best to play into the public's fear (and mild xenophobia) over these bees and so unlike their real-life counterparts, these movie bees are super deadly. You probably got that thanks to the "killer" right there in the name! 

4-5 stings will take you right the fuck out (to Heaven), but if you only get stung a little bit, you'll get sick and...hallucinate giant bees. Thank you, The Swarm, for this. It is so stupid. Thank you.


MAN, I LOVE THE SWARM!

Oct 5, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 5

 

Now look, I don't want to get all political during SHOCKtober and ruin any "good" "vibes" you might be seeking or enjoying by visiting this site. Horror, of course, is the LEAST political genre there is! A REAL Master of Horror would never dare infuse political messages into their work. If you don't believe me you can ask John Carpenter! Or a medium who can make contact with George A Romero (RIP king)!

But sometimes in this workaday world one has no choice but to bring up The Important Stuff, even somewhere like a horror blog. And so escapism be damned! I'm getting real by spotlighting the character who struck a blow for women's rights in the slasher genre...

THE BAG LADY IN THE FUNHOUSE (1981)

I love The Funhouse! I think my ancient review of it still sums up my feelings on it quite nicely: it really really captures the grimy carnival vibe and I'm super into it. It's one of the sleaziest slasher movies, but the sleaziness comes through in the details, not in the usual "naked women get brutally murdered" kinda grindhouse way. Of course it's a Tobe Hooper movie, know what I mean? I can't imagine him making any other kind of slasher movie.

So, about that Bag Lady! She comes a-marchin' into the ladies' room just as pleased as punch while two of our horny teens (Amy and Liz) talk about their horniness and whether or not they're going to "do" "it" with their boyfriends. That's when Bag Lady interrupts:

"God is watching you! He hears everything!"

And that's when all the Susan B Anthony coins in circulation began to shine brightly. For you see, the local doomsayer wackadoo is a stock slasher character, but clearly that's a man's job. Crazy Ralph, Abel, that guy in Just Before Dawn...it's always an unkempt fellow warning teens to stay away from places and be less horny lest they be punished. But The Funhouse says no! Women can be just as unkempt and nosy and off putting as men! Let's go real crazy here and have a woman be the Cassandra figure. That's feminism, baby!

Side note: FYI, I almost posted about the Animatronic Funhouse Lady from The Funhouse--another feminist icon, obviously--as today's character. Give yourself a thrill by spending some time thinking about what might have been!



Oct 4, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 4

 

If you've been around these parts for more than a ha'second over the last...oh lawd is it really kind of almost two decades?? then you undoubtedly have heard mention of or--if you're very very lucky--caught a glimpse of my beloved football-with-a-sword-attached from the 1981 slasher flick Graduation Day. It is perhaps the nonpareil weapon of all of slasherdom! So stupid, so impractical...yet so deadly! It's great.

Also, side note and fun (?) fact: the football-with-a-sword-attached came along so early in l'histoire de Final Girl that the "screencap" came from a photo I took with a potato digital camera of my TV, my VHS copy of the movie paused at just the right moment. In those days it never occurred to me to search for images or video, even if such things were out there somewhere. So I sourced pretty much everything myself, scanning old magazine photos or VHS/DVD cases, or taking terrible pictures of my TV. Yes, I, too, am so stupid, so impractical...and yet so deadly!

By now you're probably thinking that the football-with-a-sword-attached will be today's favorite character--and while it would be a noble choice, it ain't. But today's favorite is one of football-with-a-sword-attached's moviemates, and that is...

THE ROLLERSKATING PARTY IN GRADUATION DAY (1981)

To celebrate their impending graduation ceremony, the kids (or should I say "kids," because several of them look like middle age-ish adults who work at insurance agencies or something) of I Don't Know, Whatever High get together to party. It's standard slasher movie stuff, featuring a live band (some group called Felony, who I've never heard of, but they wear black lipstick so that's cool), necking, dancing, and rollerskating. So why does this party qualify as one of my favorite characters? Because of all the people who aren't rollerskating: they're just running/walking/shuffling laps around the rink!

I've never seen anything like it in real life or in a movie and I'm completely obsessed. It keeps happening throughout the (fairly long) scene and each shot of it adds years to my lifespan. I now anticipate living to 316.

If you're thinking "man, going around in a circle on wheels is one thing, but doing it on regular old boring feet must be such a drag" let the revelers of Graduation Day assure you that it's not a drag, it's a thrill! A goddamned fist-pumping thrill, okay!

It looks like so much fun that I'm tempted to head to the roller rink and shuffle a few laps myself. And if anyone says to me "What are you, some kind of weirdo?" I will say "Yes! But I am also a Graduation Day fan. Have you seen it? It's this slasher movie from 1981 and it's got Christopher George, Linnea Quigley, Vanna White--yes, that Vanna White, a football-with-a-sword-attached used as a weapon, and this scene at a rollerskating party where many people do laps even though they're not on skates. The lead actress's name is Patch Mackenzie, which, I don't know abut you but I think that's one of the coolest names I've ever heard." By the time I shut up I'd have the whole place to myself!

Oct 3, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 3


While it will undoubtedly be one of the great trials of my life, I hereby promise that I will resist the urge to post about characters and/or """"characters"""" from the Friday the 13th film series daily for the remainder of SHOCKtober. As I said, it will be difficult to resist because is it truly a franchise rich in fuckery...but moreover, ever since I submerged myself in its depths while researching my book Death Count, I think about this series all the time. It has become a constant refrain! It might be driving me mad!

So to satisfy the relentless gnawing at the edges of my brain, I must post about someone from the series at least once this month, and today is that day! The day where I post about...

THE SURLY CASHIER IN FRIDAY THE 13th PART III (1982)

Gaze upon her, if you dare! The scowl. The cool-ass hair. The tank top featuring...it's not Miss Piggy, but it seems to be some kind of Mae West pig? The cocked hip. The flash of red-tipped fingernails on said hip. She hates her job and she hates every single one of us and I don't blame her one bit!

Jason Voorhees wouldn't dare try to take her down (before he could get within 20 feet of her the power of her side-eye would have him running right back into Crystal Lake to drown a second time), but if he did try--please note I said "try" because he would most definitely fail--this queen wouldn't be scared, she'd be irritated. The only character who might--might!--be angrier than her is Rhonda Johnson of Killer Workout. (Now, I'm not saying that I'll be talking about Rhonda at some point this month, but...I'll be talking about Rhonda at some point this month.)

Look, I am not going to sit here and ignore the cranky, racist elephant in the room. Gone-too-soon angel/light of my life Vera Sanchez takes a millisecond too long to find her wallet, sullen shopgirl pounces with "We don't accept no food stamps," and Vera gives a "this bitch..." for the ages.

But man, look at that (incredible) contrapposto shoulder line! Is her casual racism a surprise? No! Do I endorse it? Of course not! Is it one of the verrry few passing moments in the franchise that speaks to anything approaching some kind of substance? You could argue that!

Back in SHOCKtober 2020 (which somehow feels like it was a good 15 years ago?) I couldn't choose between Friday the 13th Part 2 and Part III in my Top 20 Faves list. Those two films are like the Grady Girls of my heart: definitely not twins but also sort of the same. I still can't choose! But given today's spotlight character...hmm, you know...maybe I can declare a winner once and for all. Just don't tell Part 2!

Oct 2, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 2

 

After yesterday's wigifesto here at The Old Final Girl Place, you might be surprised to see that today's featured favorite character is in fact an actual character and real human person. To this I say: hey, I have no idea where the rickety-ass haunted minecart that is SHOCKtober will take us, so let's just sit back, pop a handful of Brach's Mellowcreme® Autumn Mix, and enjoy today's stop...

KITTY THE TOOTHBRUSH QUEEN IN ONE DARK NIGHT (1982)

I love One Dark Night because it is a movie that truly has it all: 

  • oozy corpses
  • tasseled boots
  • a clique of girls who call themselves The Sisters and wear matching purple satin jackets that say SISTERS on the back in a cool font
  • Meg Tilly
  • feathered-and-beaded roach clips
  • a dead, murderous, telekinetic Russian psychic
  • E.G. motherfucking Daily
  • a finale replete with dazzling effects courtesy of WETA Spencer's Gifts

and most importantly...Kitty! Who has a toothbrush in her mouth for at least 95% of her screentime.

Whether she's walking the halls of school or the halls of a local mausoleum, she's chewing on that brush. It's really weird and really gross and I love it!

Late in the proceedings, Carol finally gives voice to the question that has been plaguing the audience for at least an hour: umm, what's the deal with the toothbrush?

"I don't know," says Kitty. "I guess I just like the way it tastes."

Sure, don't we all enjoy the cool refreshing sensation that a minty flavored toothpaste provides? At some point in human history, somebody said "I would like to experience the cool refreshing sensation of a minty flavored toothpaste even when I am not brushing my teeth" and then they invented the breath mint. At some other point in human history, someone else said "I would like to experience the cool refreshing sensation of a minty flavored toothpaste even when I am not brushing my teeth, and also I really enjoy chewing" and then they invented gum. I'm sure these goods were readily available in 1982, but Kitty is like "Fuck that, I'm not spending money on mints and/or gum, I'll just suck on my used toothbrush all day to the disgust of my friends and, once blogs are invented, to the delight of some horror blogger." And here we are!

But Kitty's toothbrush provides her with more than mere flavors and bacteria. It is perhaps her only real friend! In death (spoiler), she reaches out not for Carol or any of the Sisters, but for toothbrush, her beloved companion to the end.

Let us hope that toothbrush and Kitty crossed the river Styx together, and now they're grossing everyone out in Heaven.

Oct 1, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 1

 

Well well, if it isn't that time of the year once more! I don't know about you but this year I am feeling it! Just this morning I christened SHOCKtober 2022 this morning with some pumpkin spice (by smashing a full coffee pot over my head, as if it was a bottle of champagne and I, a new boat). I am super pumped to bask in some horror movies! My sweater with a skull on it is gonna be worn! I might even cram some candy corn up my nose later, we'll see...although to be fair, that's more of a regular hobby than anything SHOCKtober specific. But still! It's easier than usual to find candy corn these days.

And hey, you know what is SHOCKtober specific? SHOCKtober here at Final Girl, that's what. I've hemmed, I've hawed, I've re-hemmed and hawed once more. I made my list and checked it twice, then I scrapped that list and made a whole new list (which, yes, has also been checked twice). Finally I settled on...something...to celebrate this year: every day I'll be spotlighting one of my favorite random characters in horror.

I'll tell you right now though, it's best that you think of characters as """"characters"""" because...ehh, you'll see. Let's just say it's entirely possible that the candy corn in my nose is cutting off the oxygen supply my brain so desperately needs. Oh well! It's time to get this show underway with...

FAYE'S WIG IN EATEN ALIVE (1977)

Marilyn Burns gave an incredible performance in Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, making us truly believe that Sally Hardesty was a terrified woman running on pure survival instincts to escape the business end of Leatherface's chainsaw. Marilyn Burns also gave an incredible performance in Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive, making us truly believe that Faye was a woman who would wear a wig! Was there anything Marilyn Burns couldn't do? No, there was not. RIP, legend, icon, and queen.


Eaten Alive feels like Tobe Hooper's trashy, cocaine-addled riff on EC Comics or something and it's just so weird! It's theatrical in the purest sense of the word: there is no attempt to hide the artifice of it all, from the swamp that is obviously a soundstage to the Creepshow/Argento/primary color lighting schemes to Carolyn Jones's terrible old age makeup (and wonderful visor) (hmm I should have put that visor on the list for this month) (I still might) to...yes, that there wig. 

Faye shows up at the Starlight Hotel and we are not fooled for even a fraction of an instant into thinking that Party City mess on her head is her real hair. But given the proliferation of wigs and fakery in this movie, we must accept it and figure okay, so Tobe Hooper put Marilyn Burns in a wig for this role. But then! It is revealed that it was in fact Faye wearing a wig and I completely lose my mind.


Why does Faye wear a wig? It is never mentioned! When I interviewed Burns long ago I asked her about it and even she had no idea why: "She could've been kinda kinky!" she said. That's a motivation I can get behind, of course, but the fact that it goes completely unacknowledged in the film means I will remain obsessed with it for the rest of my life.

Thinking about Eaten Alive always gives me more pleasure than actually watching Eaten Alive does. I want to love this movie, and when I reflect on how strange it is from top to bottom, I do. So I hit play and within moments I'm reminded that man, it's such a goddamn chore to sit through. It's a cocaine-addled, screechy, incoherent mess of underbaked ideas. 

But that wig! That visor! That cast! It's perfect! And so, another round of Eaten Alive...and another round of SHOCKtober. The cycle continues!

Jul 14, 2022

One out of however many ain't bad

In, uh, honor? I guess? of the trailer for Rob Zombie's take on The Munsters dropping and serving up 10 pounds of Spirit Halloween in a 5 pound Halloweentown sack, I thought I'd revisit the one Rob Zombie movie I really like. Yes, Virginia, there is one! 

Look, I don't get all bent out of shape over not enjoying his films. Much like palazzo pants or being punched in the face, his films are simply not for me. I've tried, believe me. Before House of 1000 Corpses I was hoping it would rule my world and give horror the jump start it needed in the genre's lean years. Alas, I thought it was a huge pile. I decided to give The Devil's Rejects a shot. No dice! Terrible. Halloween...Halloween II...same deal. You would think I would have caught on sooner, but hey, it took me a while to say "four chances is enough, I am out!"

And out I was, for a very long time. I knew peace--or at least I thought I did. Every once in a Sheri Moon, my mind would circle back to images I'd seen from The Lords of Salem (2012). It looked cool! It was about witches! Before Robert Eggers's The Witch came along in 2015, I'd tell anyone who would listen (and anyone who wouldn't listen: I would simply yell after them as they ran away) that I wanted more witch movies. Here was a witch movie that looked cool! But I remembered my quartet of quattempts with Mr. Zombie's work and I held fast to my no. (Not my no-no, that's another story entirely.)

Until I didn't. I caved and watched it. And lo, it was...good? Like genuinely good? I...really like The Lords of Salem. Consider my frutti to be tuttied!

Honestly this movie had me in its grip from the jump, when Meg fucking Foster appeared, looking and sounding like an entire pile of dirt as Margaret Morgan and going off with some real "Satan rules, God drools" shit with all of her fellow dirt witches. Even if the remaining minutes had been pure misery, I would at least always have this scene. 

Heidi LaRoc (Sheri Moon Zombie) has it all: a sweet dog, a cool and interestingly-lit apartment, dreadlocks (always a great choice for white people), and a rad job as one of three shock jock-esque night DJs at a Salem radio station. One fine evening, a wooden box addressed to Heidi appears at the station, housing a record produced by some band called The Lords.

That is so stupid, and I am so in.

This misandrist record will not allow itself to be played by male hands! So Heidi gives it a spin, and the eerie track puts her in something of a trance and induces visions of 1696 and all the witchnanigans that Margaret and her dirt coven were getting up to. When Heidi plays the record over the radio waves, many women in Salem have the same reaction. What is up with that song? Somewhere, Tipper Gore shakes her head. "I tried to warn 'em about that kind of music," she says to no one in particular.

Heidi's life begins to unravel. She's flaking out at work, she's got a bad cough, she's plagued with weird Satanic visions, and she's started using drugs again. All because of The Lords's sick track! Somewhere, Tipper Gore righteously, furiously masturbates.

Thanks to all the 1696 flashbacks and witchologist Francis Mattias (Bruce Davison), we learn that during her execution, Margaret Morgan--who wrote The Lords's sick track to possess all the women of Salem by the way---placed a curse on the town, wishing death upon all the daughters' daughters of the witchhunters and that the bloodline of head witchhunter Jonathan Hawthorne (Andrew Prine) would eventually be "the vessel by which the Devil would inherit the Earth." Listen, on the rare occasion that movie Satanists manage to concoct a scheme with an actual end goal, it's always about some poor woman who is forced to squirt out a new Satan or Antichrist or whatever. In case you haven't figured it out by now, Heidi's real last name is Hawthorne and so she is the one who will be doing the...uh, you know. The Satan-squirting.

She's helped along in her task by her landlord Lacy (Judy Geeson) and her sisters Megan (Patricia Quinn) and Sonny (Dee Wallace), who constitute a trio of pure delight and get their own Minnie Castevet-through-the-peephole moment.

As luck would have it, The Lords are coming to town for a one-night show. That's right, it's time for Margaret Morgan's Jug Band Satanmas! All of Salem's daughters' daughters are there, and Heidi is the descendant of honor.

When le bébé arrives, it is...well. You know the iconic, chilling moment at the end of Rosemary's Baby when Rosemary is all "What have you done to its eyes?!" Let's just say that upon seeing what she squirted out, Heidi would be well within her rights to shriek "What have you done to its...whole thing?!"

Then again, I suppose that's what you get with dealing with dirt witches. I mean, early on in the proceedings we thought we ordered this Satan:

But apparently we ordered from wish dot com because the Satan that arrived was decidedly not that. It had me wondering why all these cool women would cavort in the dirt, stop brushing their teeth, and pledge themselves to a sentient lump of Silly Putty for eternity. But maybe I shouldn't have been surprised? I remember The King of Queens. I know of According to Jim. It seems that this trope will never die!

At the same time, I genuinely enjoy what a weird choice Rob Zombie made for Satan and The Sire (coincidentally the name of one of my fave 80s sitcoms). It's one of the touches that sets The Lords of Salem apart from all the other "witch curses town during ye olde times, comes back, wreaks havoc" movies of its ilk. 

One of Zombie's strengths as a filmmaker lies in his casting decisions, and this cast is perhaps the best of the bunch. Geeson, Quinn, and Wallace as that trio of sinister sisters! Andrew Prine as Hawthorne! A toupéed DJ Ken Foree! Maria Conchita Alonso! A Barbara Crampton cameo! This shit just keeps on giving. And while Sheri Moon Zombie's acting skills are often maligned, she really holds her own in the lead role, even if she reaches beyond the range of her abilities at times. 

This movie does descend into Looney Toons territory at times, but overall Zombie employs, dare I say,  a restrained hand throughout. The local shots of Salem are another bonus; fall in New England vibes are welcome in my world at any time, but especially now as we head into the toasty bowels of summer.

My brain still has enough power to understand that for me, The Lords of Salem is and will likely remain an anomaly in the filmography of Mr. Robert Zombie. I have no desire to check out any of his existing work that I've yet to see. But I will also hold onto the hope that he will once again surprise me with another lump of a movie that will worm its way into my dirt witch heart. Long live the cunting daughters!