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 18, 2017

News You Can Use!

Dudes and y'alls, we all know that The Internet is the place to be. But sometimes one wants to hold The Internet their bosoms, yes? To carry it around and read it until one falls asleep in its arms not to sit in front of a computer all the time, but to have a tactile Internet experience anywhere one chooses. That is when one must turn to "books."


SO RUDE, ALWAYS SO RUDE.

Look, yes, fine, one can have a tactile Internet experience anywhere at anytime these days, and I am not just talking about Grindr. Phones are pocket computers, but who cares? They're just a fad! Books are where it's at, man. Books will be there for you after the apocalypse when there is no more electricity! Books. They're great.

Speaking of great books (what are the odds?) here's one:


Yes indeed! Alexandra West–surely you know her from the Faculty of Horror podcast, or any one of the million places she writes for (Famous Monsters, Shock Till You Drop, etc forever) lays down some smart writing about one of horror's most maligned eras. And YES that is my name there–surely you know me from what you're reading right now–credited with the foreword. I'm really excited about this! I'm sure you are, too, but here's the skinny if your appetite needs further whetting:
Many critics and fans refer to the 1990s as the decade that horror forgot, with few notable entries in the genre. Yet horror went mainstream in the ’90s by speaking to the anxieties of American youth during one of the country’s most prosperous eras.
No longer were films made on low budgets and dependent on devotees for success. Big studios produced summer blockbusters that made careers and big box office returns. Horror found its way onto magazine covers, fashion ads and CD soundtrack covers. “Girl power” feminism and a growing distaste for consumerism defined an audience that both embraced and rejected the commercial appeal of these films. This in-depth study examines the youth subculture, history and politics of the era, focusing on such films as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Scream (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Idle Hands (1999), and Cherry Falls (2000).
The 1990s Teen Horror Cycle will be available this winter from McFarland Books. Pre-order available here. Take that, you lousy computer phones! Books rule!

Aug 17, 2017

One More Dark Night

About a month ago I saw a listing for a brand spankin' new Special Edition of One Dark Night and let me tell you, I clicked "add to cart" so fast that my finger actually caught on fire. It was very painful but so worth it. A horror movie from 1982 starring Meg Tilly? Yes and please! And then My Brain chimed in.

"You've seen this," said My Brain.

"No I haven't," I replied. "I would remember."

"You saw it once and you didn't like it."

"Haha, oh Brain," I said. "Stop trying to fool me with all of this FAKE NEWS. Didn't like it? Brain, you know my Meg Tilly feelings are everlasting, strong, and true. Not liking this movie falls into the realm of the unpossible."

"Why don't you check the Final Girl review archive if you don't believe me?"

"I will not be doing that. That's enough now Brain, I bid you good day!" I shut My Brain down completely so I wouldn't have to endure any sass, and for the next several hours I sat staring into nothingness and drooling all over myself. This, too, was so worth it.

Then lo, time passed (as it does) and the Blu-ray arrived. I secretly thought...hmm, I think I have seen this. I feel like maybe I didn't like it? Could My Brain have been right all along?

In search of answers I finally clicked the FG review archives and there it was. I had already seen One Dark Night, and no, I didn't like it. I gave it a 2/10! (Rating movies was a thing back then, what can I say.) Sure, sure, I had soldiered through a very rough cut of the film with no sound effects or music, but even so, I estimated that a fully-realized version would still only rate a 4/10 from me. While the film seemed to have the requirements for some delightful B-grade delight, I said that ultimately One Dark Night "could barely muster enough thrills to merit being called D-grade." So harsh! Would my feelings change more than a decade (!!!) since that original review?


Fuck yeah they would, are you nuts?

While relaxing in a tub filled with the blood of a hundred virgins every night ensures that somehow I become more beautiful with each passing year, it seems that I also grow wiser and, although surely no one thought it was possible, my taste gets better and better. What I am saying is that Past Me had no idea what's up, because obviously what's up is One Dark Night. This shit rules!

If you want a rundown of the plot, you can read that dopey old review. But I'm living in the now, baby, where all we talk about is what makes One Dark Night so great.

It is EG Daily at perhaps her feistiest. It is purple satin jackets and Kitty chewing on a toothbrush throughout the proceedings ("I guess I just like the way it tastes."). It is insults like "nerdlebrain" and "turkey", it is Spencer's Gifts-style blue movie lightning shooting out of eyes and fingertips. It's teenagers handing out downers (Demerol, to be specific) like it's no big deal. It's an army of telekinetically-controlled corpses dragging their toes as they float down the mausoleum hallway. It's grosser than its PG rating warrants, with slime and maggots and peeling skin; it's got sequences that are genuinely unnerving, whether it's girls scared into silence as they watch a coffin slowly open or those same girls getting all besheeted and laughing as they try to scare the life out of one of their own.


I will cut Past Me some slack, as the cut I watched–and, to be fair, the cut I probably shouldn't have reviewed–was designed to be a bonus feature for those who have already seen the movie. With a cruddy picture and no sound, I'm sure One Dark Night seemed far beyond salvation and completely without merit. To be fair, the movie does have some pacing problems and more than a few questions that remain unanswered after its abrupt ending. But when the blue movie lighting and corpses start to fly, it's a damn good time.


I am so glad I didn't listen to My Brain, otherwise I probably would have said "Oh yeah, that movie stinks" and subsequently canceled my order. Look what changes in opinion a decade can bring! What a fool I was! Should either of us–you and me, Reader–ever listen to My Brain? NO. Should either of us ever trust my opinion? NO.

Except now, when I tell you that One Dark Night rules!

Aug 15, 2017

Watch out behind you...NIGHT TRAP is back!


I've got a wee retrospective and review of Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition up over at Kotaku today, huzzah! It was sure fun to dig into the history of this controversial horror-flavored game and play through the updated version. Spoiler alert: I LOVE IT. It's like playing through the absolute corniest B-grade horror movie you never knew was missing from your life.

Here's a real bummer, though: when watching a few circa-1995 video clips about the hubbub surrounding the game, I came across this quote from the late Dana Plato:
I had some controversy in my life and I just found it interesting that there was some controversy behind this also. It's like this dark cloud, you know? It just kind of follows me.
Plato would go on to overdose on prescription pills four years later. But her work as undercover S.C.A.T. agent Kelli in Night Trap and her performance in Exorcist II: The Heretic will not be forgotten! Not around these parts anyway. Plato always has a home where Final Girl's heart should be.

And yes, I know..."S.C.A.T." A most unfortunate acronym for sure.

Aug 7, 2017

Pressing Start

As everyone knows, horror and video games are two of the greatest tastes there are, and so fuck yes they taste great together. Adding me to that beautiful mix is a bit like adding cilantro to an already-delightful dish. Perhaps I will bring out some extra, even more wonderful flavors! (Is that how food works?) Or, if you are my ex's mom, perhaps you will say NO THANK YOU and cast me from the already-delightful dish right into the garbage because you find that for some reason, I make everything taste like pennies.

What I'm getting at is that I am covering the horror beat for Kotaku! (That's a video game site, in case you didn't know.) Yes, like the love child of Forrest J Ackerman and Lois Lane (I WISH) I'll be bringing you...well, horror game related...you know, stuff. Hot scoops and the like.

My first piece went up today, and it's all about counselors killing other counselors in Friday the 13th: The Game. At the risk of sounding like some total loser who enjoys things, I'm definitely pretty excited about the gig.


PS: throwing me in the garbage because I make everything taste like pennies is an insult to me and more importantly, an insult to pennies

Jul 11, 2017

The What What Now?

I don't want to brag or anything, but I must admit that most of the time I'm pretty pleased with my brain. It may not have any Carrie-esque special murder powers (YET), but it's still fairly useful: it reminds me to put pants on before I leave the house, it has key dialogue from the 1995 made for TV film Midwest Obsession (aka Beauty's Revenge, starring Courtney Thorne-Smith and Tracey fucking Gold) stored in it, it hasn't fallen for any of the "flat Earth" business, etc etc. However! Sometimes–don't tell it I said this, it's just between me and you–my brain is a real jerk. For example, this year a movie called The Bye Bye Man shows up out of nowhere. "Ha! Ha! Ha!" says my brain. "What a stupid title. Really? The 'Bye Bye Man'? Best not waste your time on that, 'tis certain to be ever so awful." (I know...sometimes my brain talks like it's the fifth Little Women sister or something. It's just a thing it does.)

But then I read that Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway (FAYE DUNAWAY!) are in The Bye Bye Man and the next thing I know, my brain is going "Okay, this movie is going to rule so hard. It has to! Trust me, I've done the math." My brain convinced me that this is a film I simply had to see. And the next next thing I know, I am spending ninety-nine cents renting the damn Bye Bye Man and reader, let me say this: that is at least $0.99 too much. That's right. This movie should have paid me to watch it!


Back in the summer of '69, a man goes on an oddly bloodless shotgun rampage. Before he shoots each victim, he asks questions like "WHO DID YOU TELL?" and "DID YOU SAY IT?" and "REMEMBER WHEN YOU COULD SIT OUTSIDE AND NOT WORRY ABOUT THE MOSQUITOS AND THE KILLERS?" Okay, that last one is strictly an I wish. But no matter what answer he gets to his questions, the man is unsatisfied and he bangs, he bangs. Then it's bye bye, man, and we travel to the future, aka the now.

In this so-called "now" three college students are excited to move into an enormous house together. I did not bother to learn their names (so sue me), but our intrepid heroes are: Guy Who Must Really Like The Dead Kennedys Because He Has A Sticker On His Car, On The Acoustic Guitar Case That Is Propped In A Corner, And Also He Wears a Dead Kennedys T-Shirt (I shall call him DK); Girl Who Is DK's Girlfriend; and Black Dude Who Is DK's Childhood Best Friend And Also Maybe He Has A Crush On Girl. PHEW!

DK finds a nightstand that has a drawer festooned with classic "crazy person" writing that warns "don't think it don't say it" over and over again. Underneath it says "Bye Bye Man"...before you can say DON'T THINK IT DON'T SAY IT, DK has thought it and said it.

A "sensitive" friend of Girl holds a kind of...seance? I guess? And I don't know, she gets both the heebies and the jeebies and the point is, the Bye Bye Man is now a thing, infecting all of our intrepid heroes and the sensitive friend and anyone else who hears his name.


How exactly does the BBMan manifest? Oh, let me count the ways:
  • there are scratches in a few walls
  • victims hallucinate, like DK thinks Girl and Black Dude have sex but they don't (spoiler)
  • Girl develops a persistent cough
  • Black Dude hallucinates that there are three maggots in Sensitive Friend's hair one time
  • doors slam
  • sometimes you think the black bathrobe hanging on the wall is the Bye Bye Man
  • coins? there are coins
  • and there's a train? a train noise and light happen sometimes for some reason?
  • he "makes you do things" but really the only bad thing people do is kill other people who have heard his name, so clearly the Bye Bye Man doesn't quite understand how to propagate his evil for lasting results
  • oh another thing you might do is fill up a notebook with "crazy person" writing and YES the Bye Bye Man does, in fact, have a Bye Bye Dog

Carrie-Anne Moss is a police...person? Detective, I guess, it's never really stated...that sort of investigates the goings on, by which I mean she interviews DK after Sensitive Friend gets killed but he convinces her that lying is okay sometimes so she lets him go.

Here we see Carrie-Anne Moss reminding herself that the paycheck from her appearance in The Bye Bye Man will put one of her kids through college.

Faye Dunaway appears briefly as the Widda Shotgun Guy From The Beginning, and her advice to DK about The BByeMan Problem is simply "kill everyone else who knows the name and then kill yourself." It's possible that was also her advice to me, the person who rented this garbage.

Our Heroes kind of try to figure out how get out of this mess alive ("I can relate!"–me while watching this movie) and they hallucinate scenarios and situations that never ever fool the audience. Who is The Bye Bye Man? We don't know...and I don't mean that in some esoteric "he is unknowable, a force, a concept come alive" way, like Michael Myers or some shit. I mean his origins aren't touched upon, mysteries go unsolved, it all just happens and then it's over. All we know is that he has a dog, he's got some scars, he sulks, he wears a hooded black robe thing, and his shirt has buttons, which struck me as really weird for some reason. He's a Hot Topic customer? 


In case you haven't caught on by now, this movie is awful. So awful, in fact, that while watching it, I wondered how it even got made. You're telling me that someone plopped down a script with that title and someone else handed over money and everyone just said YES and here we are? Really? How could that be?

And then I figured it out. 

The Bye Bye Man must have been written by a neural network. An AI! 

It's the latest rage: plug a massive dataset into a neural network–like, say, recipes–and the network will learn to create its own recipes. The results are frequently hilarious. And so I posit that someone, somewhere, formed a dataset from a huge amount of horror movie plots and titles and tropes and lo, the AI pooped out this movie. To the evidence mobile!
  • characters frequently speak not as humans actually do, but as exposition machines might: "Hello, brother."
  • all that bog standard horror movie "crazy person" writing
  • the Dollar Tree PontypoolCandyman "people speak him into reality" business, but without the actual urban legend aspect
  • the Dollar Tree Nightmare on Elm Street "maybe if we're not afraid, he's nothing" business (for real, that is a thing someone says)
  • all that Dead Kennedys stuff, surely a computer thought that would be a good character-building idea
  • the amount of "hey you guys, it's not funny"s we get
  • the "scary things" that are BBMan's hallmarks: so many trains, so many coins WHY. None of them are explained, ever. 
  • he "looks creepy" like a bargain basement Slenderman, but then that Henley shirt, what is that
  • the characters immediately figure out that the BBMan is a thing, the cause of all of their strife without actually learning anything
  • someone sees an old timey picture of the BBMan on their Instagram (I KNOW) and it turns into a gif, so creepy!!!!!
  • that title
As you can see, that The Bye Bye Man was created by a neural network is the only reasonable explanation for this mess. On the one hand, it's a remarkable technological achievement, a sign that the future is already here, man. On the other hand, the future obviously sucks! But I suppose we can find solace in the fact that the robots are not quite ready to rise up and subjugate humankind...not in the realm of horror movie-making, at least.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to give my brain a stern talking to. Bye bye, man!

Jul 7, 2017

Now listen up!

Please, if I may speak for every single horror fan in the world, let me say this: horror fans never shy away from a bad movie. Sure, some of them are rage-inducing (for some examples, I suggest perusing the succinctly titled "go fuck yourself" tag). But there is something about a delightfully bad movie, movies made completely in earnest that just don't work that is so endearing and entertaining–your Shark Attack 3: Megalodons, your Nail Gun Massacres–that are a cause for celebration amongst horror fans. We embrace them but hard and spread 'em around like the very best herpes.

What I find fascinating, though, is when the non-horror fans–you know, the squares–weigh in. Nothing, then, is off-limits from their critical eyes! Classics aren't safe! No movie is unassailable! Our top tens and unholy grails are laughed at, put down, and scooped out right out from under us like yesterday's cat litter. While horror fans are not a monolith by any means, there's still a canon, right? Stuff like...oh, I don't know...Suspiria. A total masterpiece! Yeah yeah, the plot is thin and some acting is dodgy but who cares? Suspiria rules!


Then an outlander comes along and goes, "Nah, it's bad."

"But but...look at it!" you cry sneer. "It's...just...look at it! And that score!"

"Yeah, I get that. But still, it's a bad movie," they respond. And then you start to question everything! Is it bad? Can it be legitimately brilliant and legitimately not so simultaneously?

Okay, so instead of all of this playing out hypothetically, you can listen to it all play out for real! That's right, I was a guest last night on The Download, a show out of Chicago's WGN Radio, and we talked about bad movies, good-bad movies, the best bad movies, and lots more in between. Get it in your earholes by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.

Listen! As I lose my mind when someone suggests that Candyman is bad. Thrill! As I try to spread the gospel of Its Holiness Cathy's Curse.

Geez Louise, I love Cathy's Curse. So much so that...well, check this out:


Toot toot, there is the sound of my own horn. That's right, I honk it proudly and loudly because being quoted on the new Cathy's Curse Blu-ray and DVD is like a dream come true....and in this workaday world, we need all the joy we can get before the sun expands and consumes us. (YES there is a restored 2k Blu-ray of Cathy's Curse, can you believe it? What a time to be alive!)

Here is the thing about being on that radio show, though: they referred to this here Final Girl as being, well, dead. I formerly had this blog and all. I suppose that's sort of true, as I did officially put it on hiatus some time back, but...man, you guys, it really, really bummed me out hearing that. It actually gave me the sads to think about this site in the past tense (I mean, I have posted a couple of times since the hiatus), to act like it's dead or talk about it like it's not standing right there, hello, listening to us. So I don't know. I think I should do something about that. My horror feelings took a nosedive for a while there, a long while, but the flames have been fanned over the last couple of months and maybe it's time to get the band back together?

But anyway. Suspiria. Bad? But...just...just look at it!






screencaps courtesy Screenmusings

Jun 9, 2017

Friday the 13th Part THE GAME: Final Girl vs Jason


As we all know, there's street smarts (gained via various life experiences) and and there's book smarts (gained via being a nerd), and it's not often the twain get to meetin'. "Sure, sure, maybe you know how to start a fire with nothing but two sticks and some hope," a nerd might say. "But do you know anything about the Teapot Dome Scandal?"

"Who cares?" the streetwise sassafras may reply. "I know all of the spots in my neighborhood where I can mooch off of someone's unprotected wifi. That's way cooler than something something quadratic equations."

My point is, as I have journeyed through life, as I have evolved from a nubile ingenue wizened crone into a full-on swamp hag, I have come to realize that I am severely lacking in street smarts, and nowhere is this deficiency more evident than in the realm of horror. Yes yes, I can talk about Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes all damn day (and I will, just try me)...I can bore dazzle you with some sweet-ass subtext analyzin' or maybe yet another list of obscure titles. But what good will all this nerd knowledge do me when I come face to mask with a deranged, homicidal wackadoo with copious mommy issues? Absolutely none.

You would think I'd know how to behave in Horror Movie Situations. You would think I'd be the last one alive, the one who gets away...geez, it's right there in my blog name.

You would think all that. But thanks to Friday the 13th: The Game, I've learned some cold, hard truths about myself. The biggest, perhaps, is that I should probably change the name of this blog to THE ONE WHO HAS TROUBLE OPENING DOORS AND MAKES BAD DECISIONS AND IS PRETTY MUCH ALWAYS THE FIRST TO DIE. It's not as catchy as "FINAL GIRL", but it's much more honest.

*record scratch* YES THERE'S A FRIDAY THE 13th VIDEO GAME.

*record scratch* YES THAT'S THE ACTUAL POINT OF THIS POST.


Friday the 13th in an asymmetrical 3rd-person survival horror game for PS4, Xbox One, and PC that attempts–and often succeeds–at capturing the spirit of the wonderful, terrible, long-running film series. You can play as Jason Voorhees and stalk all the jerks your mommy has told you to kill, or you can play as one of the counselors, desperately trying to find some means of escape. The game maps and Jasons are pulled directly from the films (for example, Part 2's Baghead Jason might chase you through Higgins Haven, as seen in Parts 3 and 4), while the counselors are more simple homages to movie characters, such as the designer impostor version of Violet from A New Beginning.


Jason has a plethora of skills and tools at his disposal: he can teleport throughout the map, lay down bear traps, and sense where you are. Counselors have varying strength and stats–things like stamina and repair–and can find weapons and first aid sprays scattered throughout the numerous cabins. There are several ways to make it out alive: fix up a car and drive on home, fix up a boat and boat on home, fix the telephone and call the cops, or simply survive for the entire 20 minutes of a match. Chances are, though, Jason is gonna get you. This is Friday the 13th, man! That's what he does! The movies feature a "Final Girl", not a "Final Everybody", after all.

As I intimated earlier, I'm pretty bad at this game. I die. A lot. Should I play as Jason (the killer is randomly chosen as the match starts), I bumble around and the body count is low. Sometimes, salvation is within my grasp and it still slips away, like in this clip, where some dude can't wait one second for me to get in the boat and he drives away, leaving me to my (eventual) fate:



And despite all of my ineptitude and horrifying win/loss record, every single match is so much damn fun. I have screamed and been startled so many times that I'm sure several years have been taken off my life. I've been creeped out, I've cried from laughter...it's just a grand ol' violent time, particularly if you play with friends. I mean, there's more tension in this gif than there is some of the later entries in the film series:


Critical reviews for the game haven't been kind; in fact, they've been fairly excruciating. Many of the criticisms are fair: Friday the 13th was not developed by a AAA studio, and it shows. When you die, you become a spectator–leaving a match early means you gain no xp, and if you die early, well...you're gonna be spectating for a while, and that might bore you. There are glitches, bugs, and server issues that crop up somewhat frequently. These issues are being addressed, however, and a recent patch improved wait times dramatically. Essentially, the game is only going to get better, and bigger: there's a story mode planned for release later this year, and you can be sure the game will expand via DLC. There is a shit ton of potential for this game to grow and improve and enjoy a long lifespan.


While the critical reviews have been damning, player reviews have been stellar, generally boiling down to yeah, it's got some jankiness but I don't care, I'm having a blast. As a Friday the 13th fan, there is so much to love here: I can play as a designer impostor Chris Higgins or a Baghead Jason. I can find Jason's cabin and put on his mom's crusty old sweater. If you die or escape early, there's a chance you can return as Tommy Jarvis. Jason can punch my head clean off à la Part VIII, or he can finish me off with the famous sleeping bag death from Part VII. It's frequently scary, frequently hilarious, always bloody, and often captures the essence of what makes slasher films so enjoyable. Honestly, I'd only be happier if I could play as Ethel Hubbard or the Banana Girl Hitchhiker. I've got my fingers crossed they'll be available eventually.

Knock Jason's mask off and reveal the grossness underneath!

I'm absolutely addicted to this game, I'm telling you. If you want to see it in action, to see me make a complete fool of myself and get murdered in any number of disgusting ways, I'll be livestreaming with my video game super pal Travis this Sunday, the 11th, at 7pm EST on my new twitch channel. To be honest, it's kind of all I want to do with my life at this point...so hopefully I'll see you at Higgins Haven! (For the ten seconds before Jason rips my jaw off, yay!)