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!

Jan 20, 2006


Phew, I say! Phew! My losing streak has been broken! Finally, today I was crying tears of joy instead of pain and rage. I scored a copy of the rare treat Home for the Holidays on eBay, watched it, and now my sanity is restored. It's just amazing what happens when you combine good acting, good writing, and good directing. You know what happens? Ready for this? You get... a good movie! Wow, go figure! This 1972 made-for-TV slasher /thriller is better than most of the junk you get in theatres nowadays, and it's certainly better than anything I've watched in the last few weeks. Ugh...everytime I use the term "nowadays" I start to feel like that boring old person who talks about ten-cent loaves of bread ad nauseum. But I can't help it! And another thing! Why is it that in the 1970s we were treated to made-for-tv flicks like Home for the Holidays and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, while today we get mostly heartwarming wuv stories starring people like Matthew Perry? Where's the scary, dammit? Look at that box! A shadowy figure in a rain slicker! A pitchfork! A floating Sally Field head! All in a movie set during Christmas! What's the matter with you, modern made-for-TV movies? Where's the scary? And why is bread so damn expensive?!

OK, I'm better now. Like I said, this movie has a lot going for it right off the bat. It's written by Joseph Stefano, the man behind the screenplay for this other movie you may know called Psycho. The cast includes veteran actor Walter Brennan (in one of his final roles), Jessica Walter (the crazed Clint Eastwood fan in Play Misty For Me), a pre-Norma Rae Sally Field, and the inimitable Julie Harris of The Haunting. Directing this strong group is TV-horror vet John Llewellyn Moxey...and if all those names aren't enough to give this flick the street cred it deserves, then how about these two little words: Aaron. Spelling. Yes, when I saw his name pop up as executive producer, I just sat back and relaxed, knowing I was in for a good time. Yes, the mighty he of Dynasty, Models Inc., TJ Hooker, Home For the Holidays, and Tori Spelling. Is there anything Aaron Spelling can't do?

Brennan stars as Benjamin Morgan, a mean old coot who beckons his four daughters home after their nine-year abscence. He's convinced that his current wife Elizabeth (Harris) is slowly poisoning him to death. Elizabeth's first husband died under mysterious circumstances, and Benjamin wants his girls to do away with her before she does away with him. Nice, eh? Welcome home, girls!

When the rain falls hard for days on end, the roads are washed out, the phones don't work, and everyone is trapped in the sprawling house, surrounded by woods. Before long, a figure in a yellow rain slicker begins to pick off the Morgan sisters one by one. Is it Elizabeth? Is she really a Black Widow, or is Benjamin imagining everything?

You think I'm gonna tell you here? I'm not! This movie is hard to find and it took me quite a while to get a copy, but it was well worth the wait. Harris carries the movie with a great performance all the way through. Hey, maybe some nerd out there will start an internet petition to get this released on DVD, who knows. Until then, get your Murder She Wrote on and track it down! I give it 8-and-a-half out of 10 "now that's how it's done!"s.

Best reaction to anything ever.

I'm glad this movie rocked so hard. I'm headed out of town for the weekend, and I'd hate to leave you on a bad note. You kids behave while I'm gone, and I'll see you Monday!


John Barleycorn said...

Way to drop reference to Play Misty For Me. I liked the film. Click to read my review, if you haven't already.

I totally forgot they made television movies. I guess they've been so worthless and dull I haven't paid attention to the medium in a while. Alas.

By the way, where do you think of these obscure films to watch? Do they just come to you in a flash of late-night illumination? Or are they recommended?

warrenzone said...

damn, I turned this one down once when I saw it selling for a dollar at Amoeba... I guess because it was rated pg. Odds are I'll end up with a copy of it someday! I'll keep my eyes open.

We still have TV horror movies - on the sci-fi channel - booooooo! they suck.

The Holy Grail of old TV movies is Gargoyeles, I've been looking for it forever. Satan's School for Girls is good and has the Spelling connection.

Marty McKee said...

This is a terrific little chiller. Many made-for-TV movies of the '70s have a certain cachet merely because they're so obscure (like BLACK NOON, which really ain't all that), but a lot of them truly deserve their praise. I think some DVD distributor could get rich putting these out, and I don't know why no one is. A COLD NIGHT'S DEATH, THE NORLISS TAPES, BROTHERHOOD OF THE BELL, BAD RONALD, WHEN MICHAEL CALLS...there are some great thrillers from that era that hold up today.

John Barleycorn said...

Uhh, I definitely don't think someone would get rich slogging these movies. Maybe infamous. Or socially shunned. But definitely not rich ... when people are buying six copies of the Ultimate Mega Widescreen Collectors Super-Duper It-Will-Give-You-A-Blowjob Edition of Independence Day.

Stacie Ponder said...

The mojority of them ARE out of print, and I'd love for someone to make a cheapie 10-pack, or at least re-release 'em somehow.

Brennon, I have a little notebook- just like a cub reporter!- in which I'm constantly writing down titles. I read ALOT of books about horror movies, right down to review guides. I just jot down movies, though I can never remember if I wrote it down because it's good or bad. Sometimes it bites me in the ass. Then I just keep my eyes peeled everywhere I shop for movies, whether a rental store or online.
It's fun, otherwise I wouldn't do it and this blog would blow.

Marty McKee said...

If DVD companies are making money with Jesus Franco movies, for God's sake, there's no way that '70s TV-movies, which people have fond childhood memories of...and which are actually good, unlike Franco movies...would not be profitable. I find it difficult to believe you couldn't sell more DVDs of BAD RONALD than SUCCUBUS.

Anonymous said...

Actually, there's a DVD boxset from Treeline Films which is all TV Movies, except one, I think. Mostly dramas, but you can find the Strangers in 7A, A Tattered Web and some other gems on there.

Home for the Holidays is a great movie. John Llewellyn Moxey is one of my heroes. Just an excellent director with lots of style. He made a similar TVM with Kathleen Beller (or is it Katherine?) called No Place to Hide. A Must.

A lot of TVMs were never released on video or DVD and sometimes the only way to score a copy is through some clever searching on Ebay. It's how I got my copy of This House Possessed and the Bermuda Depths. All TVMs from that era are worth checking out...

Amanda By Night

Anonymous said...

Stacie... great review. I too mourn the fact that modern made-for-tv movies suck so hard. I spent last Sunday afternoon watching (and blogging about) three early-70's made-for-TV flicks starring the king of them all: William F'ing Shatner (he made 21 of the buggers in the 70's). Notes and video clips of Shanter as an ambitious colonel, country doctor, and drunken ex-priest here.