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!

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!

Jun 17, 2022

Invitation to HELL YES

Approximately one minute into Invitation to Hell, I knew that the almighty Charles Nelson Reilly had beamed the movie down from Heaven above expressly for me.

Well, no matter. The fact remains that as Invitation to Hell lies on its little bed made of hay or whatever, I will forever dump frankincense and myrrh at its feet! This movie came out in 1984 and yet somehow I have only just seen it for the first time...? Yes, 1984 was almost 25 years (!!) before I was born, but still, we have coexisted for quite some time now. Where have I been? What have I been doing? What took me so long?

You know what, I am not going to get all wrapped up in regrets and wasted years. We are together now, this masterpiece and I, and nothing will ever keep us from one another. Nothing!

So what happened in the first minute of Invitation to Hell that had me RSVPeeing in my pants with a big fat resounding YES? Witness:


In keeping with Final Girl's longstanding tradition of using only 100% cutting edge technology to bring you images, I recorded that off of my TV with my phone.

I'm sure you watched that and said "I can't believe my eyes! Was that Susan Lucci of television's All My Children dressed like she's Thing 3 from some Dr. Seuss shit standing up in a weird way and killing a man with the power of her finger gun?" It was, dear reader. It was. Now you get what I have been saying!

perfection

 

feel the power

I know I had you at "Susan Lucci" but honey, the hits do not stop there! This is perhaps the one movie in the history of ever that truly has it all. Just a wee little bit of that all includes:

-- a family composed of Robert Urich ( of television's Spenser for Hire and television's Vega$...man, a show with a dollar sign in the title, those really were the days), Joanna Cassidy (she was in Blade Runner AND this AND she flew a hot air balloon over Mars in Ghosts of Mars, sorry but that is a career any of us should be willing to die for), Soleil Moon Frye of television's Punky Brewster, and Barret "Bastian from The Neverending Story" Oliver 

-- another family partially composed of that guy from Murphy Brown and The Bad Seed herself, Patty McCormack

-- cinematography by Dean Cundey and directing by Wes Craven (???!!!)

-- Kevin McCarthy! I love him so much

-- a town with a secret that isn't really that much of a secret

-- an evil country club (redundant I know)

-- a company called Micro-DigiTech 

-- a fistfight rendered more exciting thanks to the time-honored inclusion of nearby stacks of empty cardboard boxes for people to crash into

-- lasers

-- Hell (not really a spoiler as it's right there in the title)

-- this shit is MADE FOR TV

Now you get what I have been saying even more!

After several years of hard times and struggle while working on "projects" with "computers," Matt Winslow (Urich) has been hired by a "company" to be in charge of "special projects." The entire Winslow clan is pretty pumped about their move to the 'burbs of a burgeoning Silicon Valley. 


The local country club, Steaming Springs, is like the coolest hot shit place in town to join, and it's headed up by Jennifer Jones (Lucci). Having seen the first minute of this film, we know that Jennifer Jones has some kind of inhuman abilities and an impeccable sense of style; therefore, we can safely assume that there is something both nefarious and glamorous afoot at Steaming Springs.

We sort of get a hint about it all when that guy from Murphy Brown and Patty McCormack and their kids take part in the Steaming Springs (side note: I don't like that word "steaming") initiation ceremony, which involves bathrobes, pledging that you will forsake all others for The Club, and Jennifer Jones rocking some hair that's so big it stretches the laws of physics to their breaking point.



Honestly I would join too, if only for that robe. Finally, some satanists (I think? it's never made completely clear and you know what, I don't care) who understand that evil and comfort need not be mutually exclusive.

Anyway, they enter the steamy sanctum (not a euphemism) and the next thing you know, that guy from Murphy Brown gets a sweet promotion and Patty McCormack has a sweet new car. Matt's wife Pat (Cassidy) (yes, they are Matt and Pat) (yes, this movie rules so hard) really wants in on all the sweet club stuff. Didn't the family suffer enough during those hard times and struggles? Wouldn't some new furniture be great? What, is Matt a coward? Is that why he doesn't want to join? He's a little coward baby?

No, Matt is not a little coward baby. He is just a man who is content with furnishings that are only okay, his family, and his job designing a spacesuit meant to withstand the heat of Venus. This spacesuit comes complete with a built-in flamethrower, a built-in laser gun, and, conveniently, an interface that can detect whether or not a life form is 1) human and 2) friendly. Jessica Jones passes in front of this interface and SURPRISE, the results are not at all surprising!

 
Despite all the pleading from his friends and family and coworkers to just submit and join the club, Matt remains resolutely against it, so Pat and the kids join without him. After the steaming, there are noticeable changes to them all. For starters, Pat's hair size increases exponentially, as does her horniness and her murder-y-ness.

Horny and Murder-y: The Pat Winslow Story

Soon enough, Pat and the kids decide they will no longer tolerate Matt's stubborn refusals to claim the power that the club provides, so they all try to kill him.  

Listen, I know how delightful that image is. But reader, what no mere image can convey is that whilst attacking her dad, Soleil Moon Frye yells things such as "We don't like nice!" in a demon voice. No, I don't mean that the demon voice is her regular voice pitch-altered or dubbed or anything; I mean it's a seven-year-old doing a demon voice and it is absolutely as incredible as you think it is. Even more so, I dare say.

Matt dons his experimental spacesuit, heads to Steaming Springs, and goes about saving his family.

While some little girls may dream about riding horses or whatever, when I was a little girl I dreamed about someday seeing Robert Urich wearing a spacesuit and shooting lasers at Susan Lucci...in Hell. I can't believe that at long, long last, this movie made my dream a reality!

That happens and then we get to the Negative Zone. And then there's an explosive ending, by which I mean Susan Lucci kind of explodes. I know that is a spoiler. It will not diminish your enjoyment of the moment in the slightest.

I told you! This movie has it ALL.

Look, when I watched this last night I did not do so with the intention of writing about it here ("Girl you never watch anything with the intention of writing about it here!" -- you, probably) (also...that's fair) or anywhere else...but it had me in its steamy grip (gross) from the jump and it didn't let go for even a second. It will never let go! So here I am, handing you an Invitation to Hell and asking you to be my Plus One. Join me and claim the power of this movie! What, are you a coward?

Aug 20, 2021

awesome movie poster friday - the CHIRASHI edition!

It has been a hotter than hot minute since I've done an Awesome Movie Poster Friday, but the drought ends right now! For one post, at least! 

I've been collecting chirashi for a couple of years now, and I figured it's high time to scan and post some of 'em. Chirashi are mini-posters/flyers (~ 7" x 10") given out at Japanese movie theaters during a film's run; they've got sweet-ass artwork (usually created exclusively for the Japanese market) on the front and a shit-ton of info I can't read (YET) on the back. I love them. Of course I do...look at them. I want to marry them all!

THE CONVENT



BURNT OFFERINGS



CHILD'S PLAY 2



DARK WATER



EYES OF A STRANGER



FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2



FRIDAY THE 13th PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN



THE FUNHOUSE



THE HANDMAIDEN



HELL NIGHT



JU-ON 2



MY BLOODY VALENTINE



MEMENTO MORI



POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE



PROM NIGHT



PULSE



PUMPKINHEAD



SUICIDE CLUB



THE SWARM



A TALE OF TWO SISTERS



WHITE: MELODY OF THE CURSE



WISHING STAIRS



X-CROSS



Bonus! Not a chirashi per se, but similar: here's a Korean flyer for THE DESCENT.



May 5, 2021

News you can...well, I won't say "use"...

...but it is, in fact, news! News of the big variety, even! Beginning with Rue Morgue magazine issue #200, which is on newsstands now, I am officially a columnist! I have a column!


I tells ya, I feel like Marilyn vos Savant of Parade magazine, or maybe some other columnist. Anyway, it's called "Devil's in the Details" and in it, I talk about some of the stupid horror movie details I can't stop obsessing over. If you like reading my stuff here at Final Girl, I think you will like it. If you hate-read my stuff here at Final Girl, perhaps consider hate-reading that as well! I will also continue to contribute reviews and the occasional feature for yon Morgue, but the column is special, and it makes me both pleased and proud that it's a thing. Rue Morgue is available wherever the finest magazines are sold, naturally, but you can also subscribe and have someone (a postal worker, presumably) bring it straight to your door. Huzzah!

Also! I found out yesterday that I won a Rondo Award?? Or more specifically, I was inducted into the Monster Kid Hall of Fame??? What in the world! I am truly honored, truly, so thank you to everyone who sent 'em my name. I am still in shock.


I am also in shock because whomever that woman in the photograph is that accompanies the little write-up about me/Final Girl, she is not me. At least, I don't think she is? Then again, this has been a long pandemic so who knows. Do I recognize myself anymore? Am I even alive? 

Anyway, you can read all about the winners and see that mystery photo right here. Please, no one ever tell them that it is not me! I want her to be there forever, as it is honestly completely fitting that there is a picture of some random woman on the thing where I won a thing. I love it and I wouldn't have it any other way!

May 4, 2021

April, rounded up

I'm willing to bet that every time you booted up your computer and logged on to the world wide web solely to check out the doings here at The Old Final Girl Place only to find that the site has not been updated since January--wait, can that be true? January??? And it is now *looks at post title* after April? That cannot be! I thought I updated in March! What is time, even, anymore?--you thought wow, I can't believe that jerk hasn't updated. She really hasn't watched anything since Alley Cat? Surely she would have written something here if she had. I guess she died?

Jokes on you, reader, and also on me, for no, I am not dead! Not on the outside, anyway. And also I have watched a lot of stuff since Alley Cat! I know we vowed never to keep secrets from one another and I should have fucking updated a few times in the last several months (sorry, I still don't accept that it has been that long), but in my defense, I am just so lazy about writing here these days. But in April I started keeping track of the things I've watched--now see, you would think that I'd at least update that Letterboxd account of mine with this information, maybe, but instead I just write things down on a piece of paper. But today I am momentarily casting off my lazy Luddite ways to blab a bit all at once about some of those things I watched. I hope you're happy!

DON'T CLICK (2012)


If there are two things I have repeatedly professed my love for over the years here at Final Girl, they are Asian horror movies and internet-flavored horror movies. I will watch anything and everything that falls within either of those two categories, and chances are very very high that I will lurve anything and everything that falls within either of those two categories. It is no surprise, then, that I was wicked fucking psyched to check out Don’t Click, a 2012 South Korean film about what happens when internet trolls collide with a cursed video that changes upon each viewing.

I was expecting some standard…well, Sadako/Samara-esque scares filtered through the online lens and sure, Don’t Click has ‘em. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was that this film would pack such an emotional wallop as the lives of sisters Se-hee (Park Bo-young) and Jung-mi (Kang Byul) unravel as they try to save Jung-mi from the curse. Terrific performances from the two leading actresses drive home how high the stakes are in this one. I really dug this one and while it hasn’t kept me up at night all terrified-like, it’s been on my mind just the same.
 

DEATH BLOG (2014)


Okay, if the Asian/internet crossroads of Don’t Click had me puking in my pants with excitement, just imagine my pants-filling (gross) excitement over the 2014 Japanese film Death Blog. After all, IT’S CALLED DEATH BLOG. DEATH BLOG! In Death Blog (DEATH BLOG!), a shy high-schooler starts an anonymous blog only to be…harassed? Stalked?…by an anonymous commenter, but also there is kind of a curse? And people she mentions get killed by…someone? Look, I was into this one from the jump because first of all, this film is not afraid to ask the questions I’ve been asking myself since Final Girl’s earliest days.


But oh wow, this movie is such a mess. The budget was obviously incredibly low, which is fine of course but the limitations give Death Blog (DEATH BLOG!) that sort of overlit, tinny-sounding, sparsely designed, shot on video feel, if you know what I mean. Honestly though, that’s the least of its problems. Even the overacting from J-pop idol Kana Nakada would have held a certain appeal if the directing and editing had been something more than completely inept. The story is a confusing mess that makes zero sense before it abruptly ends. There is no explanation, no resolution, and no real plot. Reader, I remain beyond shocked that after all these years, I have finally seen an Asian horror movie that I did not enjoy! Again, though, it’s called Death Blog (DEATH BLOG!), so I’m sure that within a year or so I’ll think back on it and say to myself, “I love Death Blog so much! That movie was perfect!” 

You know what? I feel it happening even as I type this. DEATH BLOG RULES!


GHOST STORIES (2017)


This 2017 anthology flick kept pinging my radar, moving closer and closer with each blip, until it was finally in the room. A debunker of the paranormal investigates three unexplained…you know, ghost stories. Will the debunker become the debunked? Or something like that?

Anyway, I was mostly in it to win it with this one, at least in the early goings. Some of the stories gave me a case of the gen-u-ine willies before the film as a whole unfortunately disappeared up its own ass by dropping a series of twists. I was left with an “oh, okay, I see, sure, I guess” feeling and some mild disappointment that the twists were the reason that none of the stories had any kind of resolution. Mostly I’m just thankful the pinging has stopped.


THE WHISPERING (aka SODAK SODAK, 2018)


Yes, another South Korean horror film. Listen, between the DVDs I have piled up and the Asian movie streaming service I subscribe to, I can—and often do—eat this shit for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and more. So sue me! It’s my life, and I will not apologize for anything except maybe for those times I said that The Descent Part 2 and The Ring 2 were “not” “bad”! Then again, it's your fault if you believed me.

A group of high school students skip classes to have a little fun and wind up at an abandoned amusement park haunted house with a nefarious history. Once inside, you know how it goes; it goes ghosts, my friends. Was this good? Not particularly. Do I care? Not particularly. Did I enjoy it? Yes I did. The ghost face effects look like filters from a $0.99 iPhone app, sure. The scares are not particularly scary, uh huh. But you know what? It did that thing that many Asian horror films do, which is part of the reason why I love them so much: the horror is entwined with sadness, giving even average stories some emotional heft that pulls me in. Characters, such as The Whispering’s Eun-ha (So Joo-yeon), are often haunted not only by actual ghosts but also by the lingering repercussions of their own actions or those of others. Sometimes the past is reconciled peacefully, sometimes not, but either way it’s always bittersweet and I’m a total sucker for it. Again I say: so sue me!


THE McPHERSON TAPE (1989)


Nothing but respect for this pioneering entry in the found footage about extraterrestrials invading a family gathering in 1983. It’s got some moments of creepiness, a delightful grandma, a memorable ending, an undeniable sense of authenticity, and oodles of both charm and moxie. Had I seen this upon release—ten goddamn years before The Blair Witch Project—my brain would have exploded. I am weak for found footage films, and I hope that no one ever comes to their senses and stops filming while things fall apart around them.


SABRINA (2018)


If you think I wasn’t going to be all over an Indonesian horror movie about an absolutely hideous haunted doll, well, this must be your first time here. Hello, welcome, now you know. Write it in your diary tonight so you never forget!

While the titular hideous doll does run around a tiny bit in one scene, her antics are largely confined to things like “eyes moving side to side” and “sitting.” In fact, overall this isn’t even a killer doll movie, despite it being the third in a series of evil doll movies. Oh no, this is some straight-up Indonesian The Conjuring shit, complete with a married couple of Christian-flavored paranormal investigators. Like her American counterpart Annabelle, Sabrina is merely a conduit for demonic activity, and the demonic activity is largely what’s served up here.

I’ve seen some bonkers Indonesian horror movies in my time, films such as Mystics in Bali and The Queen of Black Magic, and Sabrina certainly achieves plenty of bonkitude. Knife fighting with demons, levitating possessed people, ghost hunting via iPad app, a demon with Kenny G hair (and a big hook nose? that gave me uncomfortable “is this like an awful Jewish stereotype thing? because there are implications as it battles with the good God-fearing Christians?” feelings) (maybe it was just bad makeup?) (please?) …listen, if this movie wasn’t so heavy on that God-fearing Christian angle—and boy, it was pretty heavy—I would really be singing its praises. Not that it necessarily would deserve them! Regardless, but I sure had fun with it. Hot trash.


THE VICTIM (2006)


If you’re going to watch this Thai horror flick—and maybe you should?—I definitely recommend going in completely blind beyond the simple premise of “an aspiring actress gets a gig re-enacting crime scene photos for the media and is eventually haunted by the spirits of the victims.” This movie has a lot of surprises in store, and it’s worth watching them unfold unspoiled. Mind you, the surprises don’t all work; it goes on a bit too long and the ending is definitely of the “wait, what? who? what’s going on?” variety, but there are some scares (along with some 1:1 rip-offs of the American version of The Ring), some powerful sequences about the violence perpetrated against women, and a charming lead performance from Pitchanart Sakakorn.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about The Victim is that apparently these crime scene re-enactments are an actual thing. The Thai Royal Police take handcuffed convicted criminals to the locations where actors portray real victims, and the photos are published in the daily newspapers. It’s wild. Writer/director Monthon Arayangkoon wondered what kind of effect those gigs would have on the actors over time; add in some folklore from a culture where ghosts are generally considered very real and some purportedly real on-set hauntings and well, you’ve got The Victim.