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!

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.

Jan 1, 2021

ALLEY CAT (1984)

First thing's first! This review originally appeared on my Letterboxd, which I recently birthed (after ~14 months of labor). I don't know how often I'll use said Letterboxd, but maybe I'll fall in like with it? I have no idea what I'm doing over there, but feel free to follow if you wish!

Second thing's second! No, Alley Cat is not a horror movie. But you know that on occasion around these parts I dip my toes wherever I please! And I was well pleased to dip my toes into this one. 

Pictured: Billie, about to unleash some of her patented "Hiii-YA!"

I hate to add to the divisiveness plaguing us today, but let's be real--there are only two types of people in the world. There are those who will come down with a case of the vapours after perusing ALLEY CAT's imdb plot keywords, and there are those who will not. I myself am decidedly in the former camp, having to take to my fainting couch after laying my eyes on the litany of keyword gems, such as:
"stomp on groin"
"can of beer"
"rolling down a hill"
"karate"
"briefs"
"playing valleyball" [sic]
"chain used as a weapon"

and, perhaps the most intriguing/enticing of all:

"woman infected with syphilis."

We know that our cool heroine, Billie (Karin Mani), is A) cool and B) our heroine the moment she drives into frame and we see that she has a personalized license plate reading, as you might guess, BILLIE. She lives with her grandparents and is of indeterminate age: she has that car and license plate, but she also dresses like an oversized kindergartner. She has a sort of bootleg Kate Jackson of television's CHARLIE'S ANGELS look and vibe, but we know little about her beyond the fact that she's training to be a KARATE EXPERT. In a word, Billie is perfect.

She stops some thugs from jacking her tires one evening, kicking off a cycle of oneupmanship revenge-ening between her and local gang leader "Scarface" Krug. You stopped my thugs from jacking your tires? I'll stab your grandmother! You stabbed my grandmother? I'll stop your thugs from raping a girl in the park! You stopped my thugs from raping a girl in the park? I'll keep her from testifying! And so on and so on turns the wheel of life.

Yes, Billie stops a rapist in the park. In fact, she does this almost every night as the local park is FULL of rapists. Come nightfall, Billie--unafraid--dons a matching track suit (sometimes velour, sometimes satin), heads to the park, uses the power of karate to thwart the ne'er-do-wells, and reminds them that attacking women in parks is "not nice." It seems every local man is a rapist, a criminal, or a corrupt official, so Billie has a lot of work to do.

Pictured: Billie showing you what happens when you're not nice

In case you haven't figured it out by now, ALLEY CAT is pure early 80s exploitation, fueled by nudity, violence, vigilantism, and karate chops. It features every hallmark of the subgenre both large and small; Metal garbage cans get knocked over during fights, men wear shirts with the sleeves ripped off, predatory prison lesbians lurk in showers, foulmouthed jailhouse background prostitutes loudly protest their innocence, and it all ends on a freeze frame. Characters with names like "Thug Tough 1," "Hooker," "Store Owner," and "Thug Tough 2" populate the Los Angeles streets and utter dialogue of the "Just drive, asshole!" and "Joke's on you, I have the Clap!" variety.

Pictured: angel in a tracksuit

Despite its seedy elements, as a whole ALLEY CAT is rather tame. There's copious nudity, sure, but sex is all but absent. Rape is a daily occurrence in the film, but more often than not it's implied rather than shown, and it's never explicit. The film never tries to rise above its station, and that's a good thing...it moves along at a steady clip, cycling between fight scenes, "sexy" scenes, and dialogue scenes that largely involve Billie swearing vengeance on someone or other. As Billie, Karin Mani is winsome perhaps in spite of herself. She delicately floats through her karate moments, at least until the camera angle changes, her stunt double takes over, and she lets out a hearty "Hiii-YA!" in ADR. She scowls her way through most of the proceedings, but who can blame her when she's confronted with rapists and THUG TOUGHs at every turn? Billie is the "no justice, no peace" gal we need, and she does it all in a matching track suit. Pass me the smelling salts!

Dec 15, 2020

SWALLOW (2020)


I don't mean to brag, but let me tell you: when I was but a wee bonny lass, I choked on a watermelon Jolly Rancher. At this point I don't remember whether the watermelon Jolly Rancher went up or down, but it obviously did one or the other for I am still here to recount this incredible tale. For some seconds though--I am unsure how long, exactly, but it felt like an eternity--I experienced pure, abject terror. Perhaps you know the feeling, when something gets lodged in your throat for a moment and there is an immediate, primal panic. I didn't think much of my brush with mortality at the time but the trauma lingers still! I haven't had a Jolly Rancher since, watermelon or otherwise, because what if it happens again? Further, what if what is lodged cannot be dislodged? Dying is one thing, but having DIED FROM A WATERMELON JOLLY RANCHER written on your tombstone is quite another.

Anyway. Those primal feelings flared up several times during Swallow. Whenever pregnant, unhappy housewife Hunter (Haley Bennett) opened her mouth and crammed something into her gullet, I cried "NO! Girl, it will not fit!" (Really took me back to my college days hahahaeeeehhhhh.) Swallowing a small marble? The idea makes me extremely uncomfortable, but okay, maybe it's do-able. But she works her way up to, like, Precious Moments figurines or whatever and I practically broke out in hives every time, yet I wondered how far she would go. Was she like the man from Mars in Blondie's "Rapture"? Would she eat Cadillacs, etc, and then, when there's no more cars would she go out at night and eat up bars, where the people used to meet? What about after she'd eaten the last guitar? Would she become another Dark Phoenix and take to consuming the very stars themselves?

Well, of course not. That trajectory is for another film, or perhaps for your Swallow fanfiction, if you are so inclined. This film isn't even the shocking, cringeworthy body-horror something something the trailer had me (and maybe you) thinking it would be. Writer/director Carlos Mirabella-Davis is more interested in unpacking the reasons why a woman might suddenly feel a compulsion to, you  know, swallow random tchotchkes. What begins as essentially your standard housewife ennui tale gets even deeper into both the nitty and the gritty as Hunter's past is revealed and her pica threatens her life and everything in it. I am always here for depictions of housewife ennui, don't get me wrong. I will eat up anything from classics à la Jeanne Dielman to the bonkers, pea soup-laden Exorcist rip-off Beyond the Door; I'm in particularly if the films get all "good for her" and explode the heteronormative, nuclear family paradigm. I'm in particularly particularly if the film adds a nice zest of class warfare to get my "eat the rich" senses tingling. Swallow does all of this in spades, and it's anchored by a terrifically nuanced performance by Haley Bennett and Katelin Arizmendi's lush cinematography. Ultimately, though, I find it curious that this film didn't really resonate with me. Despite the fine time I had, I was never particularly emotionally invested, though I wanted to be. Was there a detachment in Mirabella-Davis's filmmaking that kept me at arm's length, or is it simply that my heart is as hard as a watermelon Jolly Rancher?

Nov 2, 2020

SHOCKtober: The Wrap-up-ening


I am positively riddled with election anxiety! So what better way to cope than to distract myself by reliving the glory of SHOCKtober 2020 for a brief moment. It seems to me, it lived its life like a series of blog posts in the wind. 

Anyway. It was great, though, wasn't it? That's because of all-a-y'all voters, who inundated my eyeballs with movie after movie. Almost 1000 movies! It wore my fingers down so much that I am now typing with bony nubs, which, believe me, is not as hot as it sounds. 

But you know what is as hot as it sounds? Comparing and contrasting! I've done this reader poll thang three times, so let's see hw it all stacks up.

Total movies on the list: 951 (2020) / 632 (2017) / 732 (2010)

In 2017, 78 post-2010 movies made the list. In 2020, 193 post-2010 movies made the list. As suspected, tastes are skewing towards the new more than they used to...I think this is partially due to the way we consume movies now, some films of yore have been reassessed (and ultimately have risen or fallen in the hearts and minds of viewers), and also hey, horror movies have been in a pretty damn good place for the last 5 years or so. And audience and filmmaker demographics have shifted, too--or at least previously underrepresented demographics are being heard and seen now. There's great variety in the genre these days, and the canon ain't totally hogging the spotlight anymore. This is all very evident in the way the Top 20s have shifted over the years:

20. 2020: The Haunting 
      2017: Invasion of the Body Snatchers 
      2010: Carrie

19. 2020: Candyman 
      2017: Scream
      2010: Black Christmas

18. 2020: Carrie
      2017: The Fog
      2010: The Return of the Living Dead

17. 2020: The Exorcist
      2017: The Blair Witch Project
      2010: An American Werewolf in London

16. 2020: Midsommar
      2017: Psycho
      2010: Scream

15. 2020: A Nightmare on Elm Street
      2017: It Follows 
      2010: Evil Dead II

14. 2020: Suspiria (1977)
      2017: Rosemary's Baby
      2010: Jaws

13. 2020: Hereditary
      2017: Jaws
      2010: The Evil Dead

12. 2020: Rosemary's Baby
      2017: Suspiria (1977)
      2010: Alien

11. 2020: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
      2017: The Descent
      2010: Psycho

10. 2020: The Blair Witch Project
      2017: Carrie
      2010: The Descent

  9. 2020: Scream
      2017: Black Christmas
      2010: A Nightmare on Elm Street

  8. 2020: Black Christmas
      2017: Night of the Living Dead
      2010: Suspiria (1977)

  7. 2020: The Descent
      2017: Dawn of the Dead
      2010: Dawn of the Dead

  6. 2020: Alien
      2017: Alien
      2010: Night of the Living Dead

  5. 2020: The Shining
      2017: The Shining
      2010: The Shining

  4. 2020: Halloween
      2017: The Exorcist
      2010: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

  3. 2020: The Witch
      2017: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
      2010: The Exorcist

  2. 2020: The Thing
      2017: The Thing
      2010: The Thing

  1. 2020: Suspiria (2018)
      2017: Halloween
      2010: Halloween

I know Suspiria taking the top spot this year is the big shocker, but it's wild to see how different 2020 and 2010 are. Although I know my 2020 faves aren't all the same as my 2010 faves, so I shouldn't be that surprised, I guess. Also the fact that The Shining always takes the #5 spot and The Thing always takes #2 is freaking me out!

I'm definitely curious to see how the newer movies fare the next time I put out the call for lists. Will Suspiria still rank high, or is it merely a passing fad, like a pet rock or American democracy? Will Halloween reclaim its top spot, or drop even farther down the rankings? Will a movie starring Tracey Gold ever make it to the list? Will The Thing and The Shining be forever #2 and #5 in our hearts?

Ah, but those are questions to be answered another time. A question to be answered now, however, is: Would you like a free downloadable PDF of this year's mighty list that includes YOUR faves and all the special guest faves? If YES, head right over to the Gaylords of Darkness website and getcherself one! If NO, then FINE. Also! A kind and diligent reader compiled the madness into a list on Letterboxd! Go check it out if you're a Letterboxd aficionado. Or even if you're not! The point of all this is we should always remember to make every tober a SHOCKtober!

Oct 31, 2020

SHOCKtober: 10-1



Here it is, the post the entire world* has been waiting for, your top 10 favorite horror films for 2020! Brace yourselves and remember always: the number in bold is the number of votes received.

*six people


10. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez) -- 52



9. SCREAM (1996, Wes Craven) -- 57



8. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974, Bob Clark) -- 62



7. THE DESCENT (2005, Neil Marshall) -- 62



6. ALIEN (1979, Ridley Scott) -- 63



5. THE SHINING (1980, Stanley Kubrick) -- 64



4. HALLOWEEN (1978, John Carpenter) -- 72



3. THE WITCH (2015, Robert Eggers) -- 76



2. THE THING (1982, John Carpenter) -- 78



1. SUSPIRIA (208, Luca Guadagnino) -- 85


  • I AM AS SHOCKED AS YOU ARE. When I announced SHOCKtober 2020, I wondered if The Thing, the perennial #2 film, would finally supplant Halloween in the hallowed top spot. The votes for Suspiria '18 started coming in and I thought hooray, it's getting a lot of votes! I had a nice chuckle--sometimes, even, a chortle--whenever some variation of "the 1977 one, sorry, don't hate me" was added to a vote for Dario Argento's Suspiria. And finally, when all was tallied up, my eyes fell out of my head. I am equally surprised that The Witch copped the #3 spot and Halloween dropped all the way to #4. As for The Thing...hey, maybe 2025 will be its year!
  • "Someday," says a reader about The Shining, "I will knit myself an Apollo 11 sweater and it will be perfect. Or one for my cat, because cat sweaters are smaller, and I have a short attention span."
  • On The Descent, a reader shared: "It generated so much debate with my friends « was she right to strike her friend with the climbing axe ?? ». (I think she was and my friends think I’m a bit spiteful and shady since.)"
  • Well, that's that. SHOCKtober is officially SHOCKtover! On Monday I'll be back with a wee wrap-up / reckoning, including, I hope, a downloadable mega-list for your reference, scrapbook, archive, family history, time capsule, etc. etc. This list wouldn't be nuthin' without your votes, so thanks to all who voted! And it wouldn't be as much fun without all the comments and discussion, so thanks for all that too.