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!

Mar 31, 2006

I Heart: April Fool's Day

Damn right,'s time for me to talk about one of my absolute favorite slasher movies...April Fool's Day. Note that I am not talking about it tomorrow, which actually IS April Fool's Day. This makes me 57% cooler than all the people who will be talking about it on April 1st.

I'm telling you now- this little post is gonna be all full up with all ten kinds of SPOILERS, so if you haven't seen this movie yet (if you haven't, well, why haven't you?)- turn back. Turn back before it's too late! Turn back before the spoilers cast their evil gaze upon you, turning you to stone in a flash! Turn back, I tells ya! AAAAIIIIIIEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Err, sorry. Look, it's Friday and I just watched one of my favorite movies and I went a little crazy with the font for a second. I'm better now.

It's spring break time, and a group of college kids head to the island vacation home of their friend Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman) for a little fun, college kid-style. Being around April 1st, the pranks begin almost immediately on the ferry ride to the island. Unfortunately, one of the jokes goes awry and poor deckhand Buck ends up smooshed between the boat and the pilings. Grody. Not a good way to start a vacation.

The jokes continue later on however as Muffy has rigged her house with all sorts of gags: there's collapsing chairs, dribble glasses, sinks that spray water in the face of the user, and so on. In each guest room, there's also a "joke" that serves as a reminder of the guest's dark secret or painful past: S&M gear, drug paraphernalia, newspaper clippings about fatal car accidents, and a reminder of an abortion. Ha ha haa! Whee! April Fool's, everybody!

The 'jokes' set everyone on edge, and soon enough the guests begin to disappear. Meanwhile, Muffy starts acting as if she's stopped taking her meds. She stares off into space, she laughs to herself, she's unkempt, and, as Nikki (Deborah Goodrich) notes, she's suddenly wearing shoes with crepe soles! What the hell has gotten into Muffy?

Once the dead bodies are discovered, the kids phone the constable on the mainland. He sets out for the island with a warning: stay away from Muffy. The warning coupled with Muffy's odd behavior lead everyone to believe that she's the killer...that is, until Rob (Ken Olandt) and Kit (Amy Steel) discover that Muffy has a twin sister Buffy who's been locked away in the nuthouse for three years. Buffy's back, though, and look out: she's nuts, she's wearing crepe soles, and she's killing everyone on the island!

Eventually, Rob and Kit are the only two people left alive. Just when you think Buffy is about to finish them off, Kit opens a door onto quite a scene: there's everyone that was thought dead, very much alive. Even Buck is there, decidedly unsmooshed. And there is no Buffy; plain ol' Muffy was hamming it up. That's right, it's all one big joke! April Fool's! It was all a test run for Muffy's grand scheme: to turn the estate into a bed and breakfast where guests can participate in a "murder mystery weekend". Good show, Muffy. Everyone drinks champagne and has fun with the prosthetic "dead bodies", the end.

April Fool's Day is a great flick that was doomed by bad word-of-mouth. The film started out strong at the box office, but quickly dropped from the radar after audiences found out about the twist ending. I find it odd that it wasn't well-received, but man, horror audiences are weird: they seem to want to be fed the same thing over and over, but then they complain about being fed the same thing over and over. In 1986, the year of the film's release, the slasher flick was on its last legs, the heyday long over. Audiences were getting bored as the second Nightmare on Elm Street and the fifth Friday the 13th movies hit the screen. The sub-genre would soon lapse into a parody of itself and be run into the ground until the release of Scream in 1996. Along comes April Fool's Day with a great cast, great acting, and a smart script that plays by all the slasher rules only to thumb its nose at you in the end. Better yet, the film wasn't thumbing its nose in the postmodern, post-Scream "it's just a stupid movie so why take it seriously anyway" fashion of the last 10 years. April Fool's Day plays it straight until the end, and the joke's on you, audience! I guess people don't like that. Or it matters somehow that the characters really die if you're going to enjoy a horror flick.

The champagne celebration was not originally going to end the film; it was only going to end Act II. In the intended Act III, Muffy's friends left the island but then returned to give her a taste of her own medicine. Under the ruse of the practical joke, however, Muffy's brother Skip ends up killing her to garner her inheritance. I've read conflicting stories as to whether or not the ending was actually filmed, so the footage could be out there or it could just be words on a page.

What elevates April Fool's Day into the realm of the "I Heart..." series is the acting. Across the board, the performances are fantastic. Somehow, all of these privileged, unlikable kids become likable- and that's all because of the acting. You all should know by now that Amy Steel is one of my favorites and yeah, I'm glad she's here. Make no mistake about it, though- this movie belongs to Deborah Foreman.

I love love LOVE her performance as both Muffy and Buffy. Love. LOVE. Seriously. She's by turns sweet, kind, sexy, and really, really fucking creepy. Her Muffy is jittery, off-kilter, and somehow out of synch with everything around her. Even when she's not supposed to be weirdo Muffy, even when she's just completely normal, there's something there that's not quite right. Not quite right, but very intriguing. What I love the most is the fucked-up inflections Foreman uses for her line readings when she's weirdo Muffy, before 'Buffy' is discovered. It's hard to convey it here, exactly, but for example- when Kit tells Muffy that the constable should be arriving very soon, Muffy stares at her a moment, then replies with a solemn facial expression:
Sometimes- with the tides- it takes somebody all night to get here from the mainland. Andeventhensometimes----they don't make it.
Then she turns around and walks out of the room quickly, and it's totally creepy and totally brill, my friends. Totally brill. Deborah Foreman rocks, and she rocks hard.

So that's it- I heart April Fool's Day. And if my word isn't enough to get you on board with it, well, then, I'll leave it up to Mr. T. T? What say you?

"I pity the fools who don't like April Fool's Day! Every day is April Fool's Day for them fools!"

Thanks, T. I owe you one. Mad props.

Mar 30, 2006

I can't help myself...

I'll try to talk about something else tomorrow, really. But when a new little nugget comes out, I feel the need to share. Hmm...maybe that's my problem- I care too much. Yeah, that's it!

That's the UK quad poster up there, spotted today on Bloody-Disgusting. They've also got the film synopsis up, which sounds alot like the first game with some original bits thrown in. Check out the full scoop here.

Slither opens tomorrow, everyone! Get you alien slug on and check it out- I will be. Going to the movies two weekends in a row...what's come over me?

Damn, that poster kicks ass.

Mar 29, 2006

string around your finger

Don't forget to add to your PalmPilot, BlackBerry, DayPlanner, DilbertDeskCalendar, or PreciousMomentsWallCalendar:

The introductory meeting of the Final Girl Film Club is nigh!

The movie: Bloody Murder
The due date: Monday, April 3

I've heard some bad things about the movie, but fear not, my little babies. We're sure to get some clunkers, but that's part of the thrill, right? Right?! I mean, what kind of risk does Oprah take when she chooses East of fucking Eden for her book club? None. Zero. She's playin' it safe, the wimp. Remember, kids- there's the edge...and there's the Final Girl Film Club on it.

Did you miss the original post about the Film Club? You can get all the info you need right here. If you're going to review the movie on your own site as well, be sure to link to it in the comments section here.

Mar 27, 2006


Stay Alive, the flick I talked about yesterday, is about a sort-of cursed videogame. If your character dies in the game, the player dies in real life. The movie opens with several minutes of "in game" play, setting up the first casualty- a character moves about a big spooky mansion in near-darkness as lots of gorked-out demon baby things attack randomly. While the graphics of the "game" are, as Brennon Slattery pointed out, decidedly sub-par in comparison to actual games on the market today, it looked as if Stay Alive had the potential to be a sweet little horror game. Later, after the movie, I thought "Hey, that would make a sweet little horror game. Boy, I sure love horror-based videogames!" Then I thought about how much I love mint chocolate chip ice cream and I ate some.

I've been a videogame junkie since the days of the Atari 2600. I remember that Smitty was the first kid on the block to get one, and even though the only game he had was Combat all us neighborhood kids were clamoring to play. His mom would let one person at a time in their house to go head-to-head against Smitty in a triangle vs. almost-a-square deathmatch. Eventually my family got a 2600, then a Nintendo (the one with the light gun and the robot), and so on. In the mid-90s, I remember renting the first Resident Evil (for PlayStation) game from Blockbuster. I'd never heard of it, but the giant spider on the box looked wicked cool. I brought the game to my friend Jim's house and we started in on it- my god. The game was like a revelation- it was like playing a horror movie! Two of my favorite things in the whole world, horror movies and video games, got together, made sweet sweet love, and had a baby. We spent the entire weekend playing, and when it was time to bring the rental game back, we went out and purchased a copy so we could finish it. The memories are a bit fuzzy, but there's a good chance that I was so happy I ended up making out with the controller, the game box, the TV, and/or the PlayStation itself. While the roots of horror gaming can probably be traced back to the original Alone in the Dark, for me the genre was born when Jill Valentine (the Master of Unlocking) and Chris Redfield ("I hope this is not Chris's blood!") were chased into the Spencer Mansion by a pack of zombified Dobermans.

Since the days of the original Resident Evil, many a horror videogame has come a-followin' in its footsteps, and my love of the genre has made me try most of them on for size. Here's some of my favorite horror video games in no particular order.


I don't really understand all the hatred people seem to have for the movie Alien 3. I saw it at the theatre twice and while it's a strange place to go after Aliens, I dig it (the fourth film in the series, Alien Resurrection, is another matter entirely). The pixelated counterpart, Alien 3 for the Super Nintendo system, is an absolute blast. You've got to guide Ripley through a series of varying environments (tunnels, exteriors, factories, etc) and accomplish different goals to complete missions. On one mission, you'll rescue prisoners that are all gunked-up with alien goo, while on another you'll have to clean all the alien eggs out of a hallway and weld the doors shut, and so on. For a 16-bit game, the graphics are fantastic. The action is intense- there's nothing like a room full of face-huggers to get your heart racing.


I'm not a huge fan of first-person shooters, but this game completely blew me away. The graphics are unbeatable and the plot is completely secondary to the action; something something space marines something portal to hell something demons coming, look out. When things go wrong in Doom 3, they really go wrong, and you've got to shoot, pummel, and chainsaw your way through hordes of demons and demonized space marines, often in the dark. During one part of this game, you're led through a labyrinthine area of a lab by a scientist. There's power fluctuations or surges or something and the lights are out. Eventually, the surges short out your flashlight as the single beam of light fades, you see something leap out of the darkness and kill the scientist- then everything goes black. Absolutely terrifying.


The Fatal Frame series is very, very Japanese, if you get my drift. Like your typical J-horror flick, it's long on atmosphere, longer on black hair, and short on a linear plot. Armed with a special ghost-capturing camera as your only weapon, you run around haunted houses trying to solve a mystery. If you're willing to give yourself over to the game, you'll likely get goosebumps on top of goosebumps- the game is that chilling. That Ray Parker, Jr thinks he's so big- I'd like to see him go up against a vengeful spirit in some dojo in the middle of the woods! My only gripe about these games is the battle system; the camera is very clever and very unique, but it's also clumsy. Maybe I'm just uncoordinated, but I found myself wasting film taking pictures of the ceiling or floor while ghosts were attacking me relentlessly. The scares more than make up for this complaint, however.


I talked a little bit above about my metaphorical boner for Resident Evil, and I do love the series...probably more than is good for me. I've read the cheesy (way, way, way beyond cheesy, actually) books, I've got the toys, I've seen the movies...I bought a Sega DreamCast expressly so I could play Resident Evil: Code Veronica, at the time an exclusive game for that system. Yes, I loves me some Rezzies. Here I'm just going to focus on my two favorite games in the series: first up, the remake of the first entry in the series. The remake of the first Resident Evil was made as an exclusive for the Nintendo GameCube, and guess what? When it hit the streets, I traded in my DreamCast for the GameCube, and man, was it worth it. The graphics are simply amazing, from the little puffs of dirt that rise when you run over an old, dusty wooden floor to the little puffs of stinky zombie breath blown in your face, it's really a beautiful game to behold. The basic plot of the original game remains intact- members of S.T.A.R.S. are investigating a series of "cannibal murders" and end up in a dilapidated mansion in the woods, confronted by zombies and various other horrors- but there's new subplots and new material to give a Resident Evil veteran plenty fresh thrills. This game is downright scary, there's no doubt about it. The first time a zombie that I killed- I know I killed it 'cause the puddle of blood oozed out from under him!- jumped up and started running after me, I nearly crapped my pants. Then I made out with my GameCube.

My other favorite game in the saga is Resident Evil 4. Leon, the Raccoon City cop from the second game, is now working for the Secret Service. When the President's daughter is kidnapped, Leon heads to some vaguely Spanish rural village in search of her. He encounters hordes of evil villagers and cult members out to kill him, and that's just the beginning. Resident Evil 4 is a huge game- I don't even know how many hours I've spent playing it, and I loved every minute of it. The gameplay really cannot be beat- this is one of the best games I've played in any genre on any system. And hell, you know any game that's got a dude with a sack on his head wielding a chainsaw is A-OK by me.

I also really dig Resident Evil 2 and Code, I just love 'em all.


What can I say about Silent Hill that I haven't said eight billion times? Not much. All I can tell you is that I like 2 and 3 the best, though it's hard for me to choose one over the other. Everytime I think "What about that part in 2 where Pyramid Head chases you down the long, twisty hall with that giant knife? I love 2 the best!", then I think "Yeah, but what about that room in 3 with the mirror? You know, the one where you're walking around, and the walls start to bleed and your reflection starts to bleed and then your reflection fucking stops and watches you...I love 3 the best!". I love the games like they're my own little shiny plastic children with holes in the middle. They scare me. But then you knew that.


OK, so I just made up the term "Tiffany". What am I talking about? C'mon, I'm sure you're all big fans of the singer Tiffany, particularly that hit ballad she know the one. I don't know the name of the song, but she sang so poignantly- "Coulda been so beautiful, coulda been so right..." That sentiment applies to so many movies and games I've seen or played! You know, like "close but no cigar", only more heartsring-tugging and less phallic. So, heretofore movies and the such that are really close to being good but ultimately aren't will be known as A Tiffany, so when I use the term I'll expect you all to know what I'm talking about. Here's a couple of horror videogame Tiffanies I've played-


I don't know why I keep buying Clock Tower games. I play them a bit, I get frustrated and/or get nowhere, I trade them in for something else. Oh wait, I know why- there's crazy dudes with big pointy things (by "things" I mean knives and scissors, ya perv) chasing you around. The best part about the game is the fact that you can actually hide from the crazy dudes- hiding in the broom closet while a crazy dude hunts for you, walking by slowly as his giant scissors go shhhhing! shhhhing! is an awesome experience. Actually playing Clock Tower, however, is not. The controls are clumsy, the crazy dudes can't be killed (or really even stopped for any length of time), and the "puzzles" are nonsensical and frustrating. That's it Clock that mystery girl who made Michael Jackson cry, you're outta my life!


The skies rain blood and everyone in town goes homicidal cuckoo-nutso. You, however, are still quite normal and you have to escape. The evil townies want you to die and do everything they can to kill you: they'll stab you, they'll shoot you, they'll throw things at you. They're just plain mean! Mean and crazy! This game is pretty spooky, and you've got the ability to "sight-jack" in your arsenal. This means for short periods of time you can see things through the eyes of the evil townies. A cool gimmick, but not just a gimmick- this is your only means of locating the evil townies in their proximity to you- and your only real means of escape is the use of stealth. I wanted this game to be awesome. I really, really did. But sweet jebus, it was difficult- or I found it to be difficult, anyway. I'm really bad at being stealthy when games require it. Some jerk would hear a leaf rustle under my foot and shoot me from a rooftop, or I'd come around the corner and get stabbed in the face. Ultimately, the difficulty level (or my stupid, noisy, lumbering self) got in the way of my enjoyment and Siren went bye-bye.

Horror videogames...two great tastes that something something.

Mar 26, 2006

Prepare to Qualify

Guess what, kids? I stayed alive! That's right, today I went to see the movie about a video game that can kill you in real life, and I've lived to tell about it.

A group of friends and gamers with cool, movie-character names like Hutch, Swink, Finn, Loomis, and October get worried when friends who die while playing the spooky underground game Stay Alive begin to die in the exact same fashion their pixelated counterparts die. With the help of the Information Superhighway, the kids learn about the legend of The Blood Countess, the woman on whom the game's storyline is based. She's resurrected when gamers read an on-screen incantation, you see, and she's pissed! It's a race against the clock as the kids try to stop The Blood Countess before it's...before it's....oh yeah, you know it's coming...before it's GAME OVER.

Judging from that cheeky little plot synopsis, you might think that I didn't enjoy Stay Alive, or that maybe it deserved a few of my many middle fingers stuck up at it. Not true! Not true at all. You see, laying heavy criticism down on a movie like this (or going into see it with high expectations to begin with, even) would be akin to going to McDonalds and then bitching when your Happy Meal burger ain't filet mignon, or being disappointed when The Spice Girls sing "I really really really wanna zigazig ah". In other words, it's junk food, it's pop music, it's a cheesy horror movie: go into the venture to have a good time and you'll most likely enjoy yourself. You might not tell your friends about it, your body might pay for it the next day, but hey- man cannot live on Proust or Fellini alone, am I right? Am I right, people? Can I get a hell yes!? You can even feel guilty about it if you want, but that seems like a waste of time to me. Lighten the fuck up and have fun!

And have fun I did, I must say. This movie had all the fat trimmed and was 90 minutes of pure videogaming horror action, right from the get-go. A game character dies almost immediately, flung off a second story balcony with a rope around his neck. Later that night, the dude playing the game starts to hear noises and see things in the dark. He's found the next morning-gasp!- hung from the second story balcony. And so on...and so on. The movie had a few nice little touches- some genuinely frightening bits that made me think "Man, I wish that genuinely frightening bit was in a better movie". There's more jump scares in Stay Alive than all 11 Friday the 13th movies combined. There's figures who move in that herky-jerky fashion that's been all the rage since The Ring. The effects are decent, although the demon figures (mostly freaky, homicidal children) look very CGIed...of course, they should, as they're crossing over from the video game into the real world. There's some blood spilled, but not much more gore than that (it's rated PG-13, after all). I found myself wanting to see much more than is shown.

The legend on which the fictional game is based, that of The Blood Countess, is absolutely real. Elizabeth Bathory was a Hungarian noblewoman who killed over 600 young women in the late- 16th/early-17th century. Under the delusion that it would keep her young, she would torture and kill the young women, then bathe in their blood. Initially murdering her servants and local peasant girls, Bathory eventually began to seek the blood of other nobles (it's much finer quality, you see). Soon thereafter, a party raided the castle and, when they saw the horrors within first-hand, put Elizabeth and her servants/accomplices on trial. The servants were burned at the stake while Elizabeth was walled up within her castle- some accounts have her walled into the torture chamber itself. Regardless, she died in 1614 after three years of imprisonment.

For the sake of the plot, there are some changes to the legend- for example, instead of living in Hungary, Stay Alive has The Blood Countess residing on a plantation in New Orleans where the film takes place. This makes it easy for the kids to track down the source of the evil through the magic of the internet. Turns out that the address of the game manufacturer is the plantation of death itself! Noooooooo! This is an OK plot contrivance, but it leads to the biggest point of contention I had with the movie- the only one I had, in fact, for I turned my brain off when I sat in my seat. This meant accepting the fact that eventually the movie's rules changed; you no longer had to be playing the game in order to die in the game...turn it off or hit pause and the game would play itself. Eh, I was fine with that. There was one big issue that just couldn't be ignored, however...

The kids arrive at the plantation and soon discover that it's the same house you traverse in the game. Neat! Eventually, they find a room where the game developer/maker obviously did all of his/her research into Elizabeth Bathory. There's books, photographs, drawings, an oversized brass magnifying glass- it's a work space. But this mystery designer is never met, never seen, never really mentioned once the kids confront Elizabeth herself. What gives? Did the ghost of The Blood Countess come up with the nifty idea of setting herself free by having an incantation read in a videogame? Did she learn code and a graphics program (hell, let's start from scratch-did she learn what a pencil is, then...) and get the game out there into the hands of hungry Nintendoheads? Seems awfully complicated. Stay Alive, you almost had me completely wrapped up in your ever-cheesy, ever-lovin' arms for an afternoon of fun. When you name-dropped Silent Hill 4 and Fatal Frame, I thought "Wow, the makers of Stay Alive sure know their horror games. That fills me with a warm, geeky glow!" But then to drop the ball like that...I just don't-

--hey! Wait! Maybe the game developer just wasn't home! Yeah, that's it! He or she was out buying groceries, and then he or she is gonna come home later and be all like "What the-? Why is my backyard on fire?" Problem solved! Wow, I feel better. I'm sorry I doubted you, Stay Alive. You're so good-n-cheesy, I should've squeezed you out of a can.

Mar 24, 2006


Well, Stay Alive may have my attention this weekend, but Silent Hill still has my heart.

That kid makes Samara look like one of those "cute" Welch's Grape Juice brats! Take your "gwape joose" and cram it, punks! Sorry, those commercials make me homicidal.

Photos courtesy of

Sometime this weekend I'll have a review of some movie about a killer video game...that is...if I can...stay alive!

Mar 23, 2006

Final Girl Film Club

Welcome to the first meeting of the Final Girl Film Club...the film club for cool people. And man, do I mean cool. Don't you want to be a member now? No problem- I'll tell you how it works. It's just like the Oprah Book Club, but with less money and less influence- but with 500% more swearing, so it all balances out.

Basically, it goes like this. I'm going to give the name of a movie I've never seen before and a date on which I'll be reviewing said movie. I'll give plenty of time so anyone who wants to be cool and play along can watch the movie in the interim. Then when review time comes, the comments section here will be alive with activity! Everyone will have something to say because everyone will have watched the movie. Ingenious, I tells ya! We'll agree, we'll disagree, we'll call each other names, we'll cyber-punch each other, then we'll cyber-hug and laugh through our tears to ease the pain. If you've got a blog or a website, we can synchronize our watches and run concurrent reviews, even- much like Brennon Slattery and I did for Strange Behavior. Yes, that's right- we can all take part and discuss the movie choice. Won't that be fun? It'll be like we're all holding cyber-hands. It'll be like we're all watching it together, sitting on a giant cyber-couch eating cyber-Twizzlers and...well, you get the idea. "Cyber-" is the word of the day. Try to use it in a sentence!

See that photo on the left? That's the box art for the introductory choice in the Final Girl Film Club: the 1999 slasher flick Bloody Murder. Look, it's a guy in a hockey mask holding a chainsaw. What's not to like? For some reason, the mask and the chainsaw remind me of other horror movies I've seen. Hmm. Anyway, here's the blurb on the movie from Netflix:

Trevor Moorehouse isn't screaming bloody murder -- he's committing it! A dozen counselors arrive at Camp Placid Pines and receive a warning from a wizened landscaper: There may be a crazy man in the woods. Of course, they pay no attention until they start disappearing one by one! Has the urban legend come to life to wreak havoc on their dwindling numbers?

Ohhhh yeah. The movie can be found on Netflix right here for those of you who want to play along and get your movies in the mail. You may notice that Bloody Murder has an average rating of two stars; I, however, am not worried, homies. I laugh in the face of two stars! I give two middle fingers to two stars!

The movie: Bloody Murder
The review date: April 3

Mar 22, 2006

Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother

So yesterday I confessed my secret desire to see Stay Alive, which opens this weekend. It seems I'm not alone. I was mystified by my urge, until I saw this poster again today. I mean...disembodied, shackled hands clutching a video game controller. No, not just clutching- hanging lifeless from a video game controller. Really, what's not to love? It's just. Plain. Silly. Bloody-Disgusting posts some more pictures from the film today, including a shot of what I assume to be the film's characters as video game characters. I do believe I suddenly want to see this movie desperately. After all that thinkin' I done did after a-watchin' High Tension t'other day, a movie about a killer video game is exactly what I need to let my brain cells return to their normal, flaccid state.

In fact, I spent all day today playing the wicked sweet remake of the original Resident Evil for Gamecube in some sort of training for/preparation to see Stay Alive.

OK, I was just lazy all day.

Mar 21, 2006

Tasty Tidbits!

Item! Bloody-Disgusting posts some info from Bruce Campbell about the upcoming Evil Dead remake. Apparently it won't be a strict fact, Ash won't be appearing at all. Think of it as a re-imagining, I guess. If it's entirely new material, why not just give it a colonated title, like Evil Dead: Weird Stuff Happens to Entirely New Characters to end the confusion? First of all, I'm no Hollywood producer, so what do I know? And second, yes, I believe I made up 'colonated'. Bruce Campbell says "We wanna make a flat out, scary-ass, un-rated horror film." Final Girl says "Meh. I hold not my breath."

Item! Has anyone out there seen this flick, The Bell Witch Haunting? 'Tis a historical ghost story based on the Bell Witch legend. Apparently the ghost was a real jerk and hassled the Bell family in the early 1800's around Nashville TN. Check out the site for the full tellling of the legend and all sorts of movie info. I'm intrigued.

Item! Ain't It Cool News talks about Altered, an upcoming flick that marks the return to the big screen for The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez. It's about damn time! Not to be pigeonholed, it seems Sanchez is making a movie movie (as opposed to a fake documentary) centering around extraterrestrials. And if you enjoy playing Six Degrees of Final Girl, you should note that the film stars Adam Kaufman, a classmate of mine at the National Theatre Institute. Huzzah!

Item! I'm so confused- why do I want to see Stay Alive? You know, that movie starring Frankie fucking Muniz wherein "you die in the game, you DIE!" I don't understand these desires- what do they mean? And why is my voice changing all of a sudden? Anyway, it opens March 24th. You know, I'm glad I didn't die in real life when I died in Dragon's Lair in the arcade, because that game was hard and I really sucked. I died all the time!

Item! Only one exact month until Silent Hill hits theaters! This is notable for two reasons: one, there's a light at the end of the tunnel for you: eventually, I'll stop talking about it. Two, this give all you kind readers a month to save your pennies to pitch in towards my bail when I'm thrown in the clink for making out with the movie screen on opening night. Yay!

Mar 18, 2006

It's that time of the month!

What time of the month? Why, it's that time of the month- time for another column by yours truly to debut on Pretty/Scary! Yay! So head right here and read all about the late Debra Hill, the uber-producer who co-created Michael Myers and co-wrote and/or produced some of John Carpenter's best movies, like The Fog, Halloween, and Escape From New York.

I bet when you read the title for this post you thought "Aw, man- is she gonna write about the Womanly Curse?" Ha haha haaaa! Gotcha! Zing! Man, I'm funny. I'm like an estrogen-flavored Carrot Top!

Yeah, I know that that's gross even though it makes no sense. Look, it's Saturday and I don't like to use my brain on the weekends, OK?

Me hungry. Food good.

Mar 17, 2006

Hey! You got your comedy in my slasher!

Texarkana looked normal during the daylight hours, but everyone dreaded sundown.

That's a great, ominous line from a mediocre film- the 1976 slasher The Town That Dreaded Sundown. The movie tells the true story of The Phantom Killer, a masked man who terrorized the small town of Texarkana over a period of five months in 1946. The film employs a documentary-style narrative, including voiceovers- an unusual choice, but a smart one. When coupled with scenes of stark brutality, the gritty realism inherent in the filmmaking style creates a bleak and frightening tone. For reasons unknown, however, director Charles Pierce (who used the documentary style to a lesser effect in The Legend of Boggy Creek) shoots himself in the foot and diminishes a perfectly good movie with far too much ludicrous comic relief.

It's just after World War II and Texarkana, a working-class town of about 40,000 located on the Texas-Arkansas border, is returning to status quo after soldiers have returned home and wartime rationing has ceased. Finding work and re-adjusting to everyday life are the biggest problems the townspeople face until one night in March when a man would begin a campaign of terror that would leave people all but trapped in their homes, afraid of the dark.

A young couple parked out on a lovers lane-type wooded road are suddenly accosted by a tall man wearing a white sack over his head. The hooded assailant smashes the driver-side window, pulls the boy out of the car, and proceeds to beat him nearly to death with some sort of blunt instrument. After this, the man does the same thing to the girl in the car- except he also bites her along her back, her neck, and her breasts.

The couple, nearly dead, are unable to tell the authorities anything about their assailant beyond the fact that he was wearing a sack over his head.

Three weeks pass and the man strikes again, only this time his assault on a couple out 'parking' has escalated to murder- he's beaten both teens to death. The people of Texarkana are rightfully fearful, and sales of door locks and guns surge.

The police are still baffled by the crimes. They've got no leads and few clues, so they bring in a Texas Ranger to assist with the case (insert obligatory Walker joke here). Unfortunately, the "police action" scenes are the ones that cause the movie to lose focus. There's a buffoonish local cop nicknamed 'Spark Plug' whose job it is to chauffeur the Texas Ranger. The thing is, you see, Spark Plug is a really bad driver! Ha ha haa! What could be less appropriate in the middle of a grim, gritty, violent film than Smokey and the Bandit-style car chases (accompanied by a horns-n-banjos soundtrack, of course)? What could be less appropriate than said car chases and an angry police chief who's always yelling "Spark PluuuUUUG!" when ol' Sparky screws up again? Hmm. Maybe a sudden appearance by Waylon Flowers and Madame- that would be less appropriate. At least Pierce didn't go that far.

The comedy continues as a sting operation is put into motion to catch The Phantom Killer. Officers are to be stationed in cars on deserted roads, posing as young couples fooling around. There were no females on the force in Texarkana in 1946, however, so you know what that means! Men in drag! Including, naturally, your favorite bumbling idiot and mine, Spark Plug. Oh, my sides. Mercifully, it's a short sequence.

The trap is a failure, however, as the intended quarry has found some real teenagers to kill: it's prom night. Despite the warnings of the police and the curfews in effect, a band member from the dance and her boyfriend decide to go parking. After some hot and heavy...sitting next to each other in the car, the girl decides it's time to go home. Her boyfriend reluctantly agrees and begins to drive away- at which point the killer jumps out in from of the car and grabs onto it. He manages to pull the boyfriend out of the car and beats him savagely. The girl attempts to escape by running into the woods, but she can't keep her big mouth shut and the killer easily finds her. He ties her up to a tree and seems to be deciding just what to do with her, when she starts yelling "Run!"- her boyfriend is still alive and is trying to crawl away. The dumb broad and her big mouth end up getting the boyfriend shot in the back.

The killer, having dispatched the boyfriend, turns his attention back to Big Mouth- and here begins one of the more bizarre sequences I've seen in a horror movie. The girl's trombone has ended up on the ground as a result of the scuffle in the car earlier. The killer picks it up, ties his knife to the end of it, and kills the girl by stabbing her repeatedly with his newly-fashioned trombone-with-a-knife-attached. I don't mean that he just uses it as a large, fancy knife- I mean he acts as if he's playing the trombone and every time he slides out the slidy thing- STAB! It's truly a what the fuck? sequence, yet it's also very disturbing. It's played completely straight, and the killer blows into the trombone viciously- there's no notes coming out, he's just blowing into it frantically and stabbing her- and it's apparent that this guy is getting increasingly psychotic. It's also apparent that the trombone-with-a-sword-attached will be joining the football-with-a-sword-attached in the Final Girl Awesome Slasher Weapon Pantheon.

A prison psychiatrist is brought onto the case to act as a profiler- the police are still getting nowhere and the town is growing increasingly anxious. The doctor calls the perpetrator an insane sexual sadist...and while this sounds as if the killer would be a lunatic frothing at the mouth, the doctor stresses that most likely the man seems perfectly normal and functions as capably as any other citizen. Here, Pierce utilizes a wonderful cinematic device that sends chills up the spine. The men are discussing the case over lunch in a restaurant. As the doctor is telling the men that the killer could simply be anyone, the camera drops to the floor and pans to another table. We see a familiar pair of boots slowly walk away from the table and out the door. The doctor is right: The Phantom Killer is just another townsperson, not a monster you'd recognize right away. The idea that evil walks among us is a terrifying one, and it's often the way things play out in real life. Serial killers don't wear hockey masks over corpse-like faces as Jason Voorhees does; serial killers live in your neighborhood and dine at the same restaurants you do.

Director Pierce reinforces this idea throughout the film's final reel in several harrowing sequences. As a housewife (played by Dawn Wells- yes, Maryann from Gilligan's Island) is getting into her car at a grocery store, she smiles uneasily at a man sitting in a car parked next to hers. Though we don't see his face, it's obvious that he's staring at her and making her uncomfortable. No, we don't see his face, but we see his boots...

Later that night, as Dawn Wells and her husband are relaxing at home, the killer suddenly appears in the window, just outside. Unheard and unseen, he raises a gun and shoots the husband in the head through the window. He then violently breaks down the door to the house and shoots Dawn Wells in the mouth. Somehow, miraculously, she escapes out the back door and loses the killer- who's now armed with a pickaxe- in a cornfield. She crawls to a the safety of a neighbor's house and for the first time The Phantom Killer is thwarted.

Now that it seems the killer has expanded his modus operandi to include killing people in their homes, Texarkana retreats further into itself. Windows are boarded up and all nighttime activities have ceased. The entire town is at the mercy of a psycho with a flour sack on his head who continually eludes the police, the Texas Rangers, and the FBI...and he shows no signs of stopping his murderous rampage. If anything, he continues to escalate the violence.

The police finally catch a break when they find the killer's car (identified from an earlier assault) parked near the woods. While investigating, two cops spot the hooded man and give chase. The killer jumps across some railroad tracks just as a train approaches, putting the passing train between himself and his pursuers. The police fire their guns blindly and manage to hit the killer in the leg. By the time the train is gone, however, The Phantom Killer is gone, too.

Gone, and never heard from again.

This open ending will frustrate you if you're the type of viewer who likes things wrapped up in nice, tidy little packages. If you're like me, though, the mystery at the end will be a welcome one. Ambiguity, to me, is usually more horrifying and satisfying than a captured (or dead) killer. It's much like the ending to John Carpenter's Halloween, where Michael Myers simply vanished into the night. This time, however, the terror was real.

Did the killer bleed to death from his gunshot wound? Is his body somewhere far out in the bayou? Did he leave Texarkana altogether? Did he end up in prison, convicted of another crime? Or, in the most frightening possibility, did he simply ease his way back into society? No one knows what happened to The Phantom Killer. I'm sure it was a long, long time before the citizens of Texarkana stopped dreading sundown.

While the pace was occasionally slow, the picture was dark and muddy at times and the acting was mostly amateur throughout, I really enjoyed The Town That Dreaded Sundown. If it wasn't for the too-prevalent comedic aspects, I think this effort would be a noteworthy feat of low-budget genre filmmaking. As it stands, however, the juxtaposition of terror and comedy causes the movie to fall short of its mark, which really bums me out. Damn you, Spark Plug. Damn you and your antics! On the whole, however, it's worth checking out- especially since it's based on a terrifying true story.

For more information on the real-life Phantom Killer and the ordeal faced by Texarkana 60 years ago, check out this article in Court TV's Crime Library.

Mar 16, 2006


Coming Soon has the first set of official photos released from the set of Black Christmas. Check them out...if you dare! I don't know why you wouldn't dare- they're sort of pointless and dull, not scary. Like this one:
Is this a Gap ad featuring the girls of Delta Delta LongHair? Why are they all posed out like that? Are they supposed to be afraid of something, or are they in a band? I must say, this is not exactly the kind of promotional material that gets people all worked up into a frothy mess, unable to wait for the film's release because it's gonna be some good horror. It's just...there. This could be a shot from Sisterhood of the Travelling Ya-Yas Part 2 or whatever. Oh well.

I don't even know why I give this movie so much attention here at Final Girl. It's like a scab I can't stop picking...oh, it hurts! It hurts, but I can't control myself. All I know is I've got a serious beef with this movie that just ain't going away- kind of like my ongoing feud with Linda Lavin. The fury. Will never. Die.

Tomorrow I'll try to have a review up here for you crazy kids. Well, I can't say I'll try...but I'll try to try.

Mar 15, 2006

92% off topic

Folks, it's time for me to talk a bit about my obsession. No, silly- I don't mean doing blow on the bellies of strippers, I'm talking about my other obsession. The cheaper one. That's right, I'm talking about Dallas, the glorious nighttime soap that ran from the late 70s through the 80s. I'm talking about the saga of the Ewing clan, their never-ending feud with the Barnes, oil, greed, cowboy hats, and big hair. Dallas, baby! Let's face it- Dynasty may have had Joan Collins and Krystle's giant shoulder pads, but Blake Carrington was but a pale imitation of the man the world loved to hate, J.R. Ewing.

Seasons 1-4 have been released on DVD, and when I get a new one in my clutches, it's really difficult for me to do anything else but watch it. Those discs must be laced with some sort of visual crack or something...I'm seriously addicted. Rachael and I have marathon sessions watching it, and I think if I could go without sleep I'd watch an entire season in a sitting. Yeah, it's that bad.

Why am I talking about Dallas here? First of all, because I want to, dammit. It's my blog! Nyah! Secondly, if you read the comments sections of these posts, you'd know that a few days back a reader gave me the following info:
HEADED TO DALLAS: Per Variety, 20th Century Fox's big-screen version of CBS' Dallas picking up steam with John Travolta being eyed to play J.R. Ewing, Jennifer Lopez in the role of Sue Ellen Ewing, Owen Wilson as Bobby Ewing and Shirley MacLaine playing Miss Ellie Ewing
My thoughts on this? Well, let's just say that Shirley MacLaine is the only name worthy of being on that list. I summed up my feelings on the matter thusly:
...that cast is just so awful it makes me want to go back in time and abort myself.
It's true, dear readers. John Travolta...Jennifer Lop---no. I'm not going to do this to myself. It's completely out of my hands, right? Right.

After I'd made my thoughts on the Dallas movie clear, I was challenged: what would Final Girl's dream cast for the Dallas movie be? And you know, I spent all last night thinking about it...yes, I did. It's sad but true. I'm really bad at those "dream cast" type things, and I just could not think of anybody appropriate to play anybody. And then- poof! A little tiny lightbulb went off in my little tiny brain, and suddenly it was all clear.

What if I cast the Dallas movie using- exclusively!- actors who have been in horror films?

It was that easy- the characters just fell into line. Yeah, there's age differences and all, but I don't care. Just go with it, people. So here you have it:


First up, we've got the patriarch Jock Ewing- the rough and tumble cowboy who started an oil dynasty. Obviously, Charles Napier (Silence of the Lambs, Body Bags) is quite a good match...both he and Jock have a fondness for cowboy hats and large necklaces.

While Shirley MacLaine is a pretty good choice to portray 'mama'- that's Miss Ellie Southworth Ewing to you, scumbag- I think Julie Harris (The Haunting, Home for the Holidays) would be even better. She's already got ties to the series, as those of you as pathetic as me know that Harris portrayed Val's mother on the Dallas spin-off Knots Landing.

And now we begin with the Ewing children. Without a doubt, Ewing Oil president J.R. Ewing was the toughest character to cast. Who could turn on a dime from conniving to charming? Just who could aptly portray the sissy-boy who's gotten loads of power? The best I could do is Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, From Beyond). Jeffrey could sweet-talk the ladies one minute and be pure scheming evil the next.

To play Sue Ellen Ewing, J.R.'s long-suffering (but enough of a bitch in her own right) wife, you need a woman who's believable as a former Miss Texas who's now a drunken mess. That woman? Adrienne Barbeau. If you don't believe me, watch her turn as Wilma in Creepshow. And yes, that's Sue Ellen's mug shot! God, I love Dallas!

Bobby Ewing's got a temper, but he's basically a good guy trying to deal with his controlling family- especially his loutish brother J.R. Who would I like to see step into Patrick Duffy's afro? Why, 80s horror mainstay Peter Barton (Friday the 13th Part IV, Hell Night), of course.

To portray Bobby's super-foxy wife Pamela Barnes Ewing, I figured you could go two ways.
If you want to bring in the younger crowd, cast Eliza Dushku (Wrong Turn) in the role. She's foxy enough, but then I'm not sure her acting range extends beyond one facial expression. And lemme tell ya, Pam's emotional range really runs the gamut, from "I lost the baby!" to "Should I cheat on Bobby?" to "Bobby's dead!" to "I hate you, J.R.!". Can Eliza fill Victoria Principal's

Another decent choice for the character would be Catherine Zeta-Jones (The Haunting). I think her name was being bandied about back when there were first rumblings about a Dallas movie...she'd be a pretty good fit. But can she capture that raised-in-the-oil-fields tomboyish side of Pam? Hmm? Well, can she??

Lucy Ewing, granddaughter of Jock and Miss Ellie, niece of Bobby and J.R., has had a rough life. She's barely in college, yet she's been engaged to a man who turned out to be gay, she's had a serious problem with "goofballs", she's been a drunk, she's been mean, she's been sexing it up. Again, I give you two choices. First up, the obvious choice, PJ Soles (Halloween, Carrie). I mean...totally. The braids have it.

The woman I'd really like to see as Lucy would be a hell of a lot more fun, though- oh yeah, I'm talkin' bout Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead). I don't care if Lucy's supposed to be about 22 and Linnea Quigley is approximately 400. She would rock! I bet she'd show her boobs. Oh- and that's not a typo. I meant four hundred.

Who, oh who could play Kristen, Sue Ellen's slutty little sister? As you well know, she's the one who bedded J.R. and then shot him when he grew tired of her and cast her aside. Last I saw her, in the Season 4 cliffhanger, she was floating in the Ewing pool, just as dead as you please. Who could float face down in a pool as well as Alicia Silverstone (The Crush)? Maybe Laurence Olivier or someone of that caliber, but he's a dude. And he's really dead.

As ranch foreman and bastard child of Jock Ewing, Ray Krebbs has had his share of horses and women. Not in the same way, you sicko! Matthew McConaughey (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation) has the easy-going cowboy charm that would make him a perfect Ray- who, as far as I know, beds women exclusively. Sheesh.

And lastly, we come to Donna Culver Krebbs, the society broad who fell in love with cowboy Ray. They're from two different worlds- will they ever make it together? Will their love beat the odds? Donna's totally a 2nd-tier character, but when there's a chance to cast Amy Steel (Friday the 13th Part 2, April Fool's Day) in a role, you just gotta jump at it. You feel me?

And there you go- my dream cast for Dallas, made up entirely of actors from horror movies. It's certainly better than John Travo----no. Let's end this on a nice note, shall we?

I have spent entirely too much time on this idea.

Mar 14, 2006

Shameless product endorsement

Ah, the horror magazine....such a major player in my formative years. The yellowed, smelly newsprint pages...the poor quality photos...the bad jokes. I pored over issues of Fangoria repeatedly, getting excited about movies I wouldn't see for years, getting grossed out by graphic photos from movies like Fulci's Zombi- we are going to eat you! While Fangoria aided in my education about modern horror, it was Famous Monsters of Filmland that taught me about actors and horror movies from yesteryear, like Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff. Photos of Lon Chaney in London After Midnight scared the bejesus outta me and they do today, a bit. I still have yet to see that movie- I don't even know if it exists anymore. Any issues of FM I still have from way back are all cut up and full of holes. If I wasn't cutting out pictures of the Creature from the Black Lagoon to hang on my bedroom wall, then I was cutting out coupons to send away for stuff. A tiny plastic coffin on a chain, filled with real dirt from the grounds of Castle Dracula? Yeah, got that- and according to that link, it's ranked as the #1 Weird Dracula Item, which is pretty awesome. A jacket just like the Viper pilots wore on Battlestar Galactica? Yeah, I had one of those too, and I loved it. According to my mom, she'd have to make me take it off at night when it was bedtime, but in the mornings I'd come downstairs wearing it over my pajamas.

That was all Way Back When, of course, and those magazines were pure gold to a 10-year-old. I haven't looked at an issue of Fangoria in forever, but from what I understand it's currently little more than stapled-together press releases...but then, was it ever anything more than that? The incarnation of Famous Monsters that I grew up on- which were basically just re-prints of articles from the magazine's early years- has been dead for a while now. Apparently it's still around, albeit under duplicitous circumstances.

So what's the savvy horror fan to read in today's workaday world? I can't recommend Rue Morgue magazine highly enough, my friends. It's exactly what you want a horror magazine to be: it's smart, it's well-written, and the folks behind it are passionate about the genre. Rue Morgue goes beyond the current big-screen releases and features articles on topics as varied as HP Lovecraft, the films of the Quay Brothers, and Roger Corman. Despite what you're thinking, I'm not a Paid Celebrity Endorser- I'm just happy to have a horror magazine available that I can get into. In fact, I tend to tote around the newest issue with me for weeks on end.

In this month's issue, #54, there's a nice feature on video game horror. I was surprised by some of the titles that they covered: yeah, sure, we all played Friday the 13th on the original Nintendo system, but did you know that before there was a pixelated Jason there was a pixelated Michael Myers...and a pixelated Leatherface? Yep, back in 1983 Wizard Games produced cartridges based on Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the Atari 2600!

I want to know who that dude in the leisure suit is- taking potshots at Leatherface?! Action-packed, baby!

The moral of this story is, start reading Rue Morgue. And tell 'em Final Girl sent ya! No wait- scratch that. They have no idea who I am.