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!

Jun 27, 2007

Kiss my soul goodbye

In my humble opinion, it's a sad, sad fact of life that Marilyn Burns appeared in only six films before leaving Hollywood behind- and her role in one of those films was but a wee cameo. Sadder still, however, is the fact that only two of those films, Helter Skelter and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, are any good. Sure, one could argue the cheesy merits of both Future-Kill and Eaten Alive, and in their own ways they're kinda fun, but still...not great. After watching Kiss Daddy Goodbye (1981), I can now say that I've officially made my way through the entire Marilyn Burns oeuvre and wow, did I save the worst for last.

That's right folks, this film is worse than Eaten Alive. Speaking of which, Dark Sky Films just announced the forthcoming 2-disc Special Edition of Eaten Alive, hitting shelves in September. Yesiree, if any film in the world deserves the ol' 2-disc spit shine deluxe treatment, it's Eaten Alive!

Sigh. Fine. Okay, so we all know that I'll check out and/or pick up the DVD when it's released...but I'm telling you, I won't like it! So there! In your face! But back to the film at hand, Kiss Your Brain Cells Daddy Goodbye...

There's these two kids, right? And they, like, have psychic powers and shit, and their dad is all "Don't use your powers outside of the home! Men in white coats will come and take you away and lock you up and stick needles in your heads!". The kids are all, "Oh no!" and so they have these, like, "conversations", you know? Where they totally talk with their brains instead of their mouths. That is so fucking cool! I mean, when the kids are, like, staring at each other for a few minutes and there's nothing else going on and the kids are all stare stare stare, it was...well, you might not believe it but it was, like, only the most totally fucking exciting thing I've ever seen in a movie and, like, my shirt exploded because I was totally Hulking out with excitement and the little scraps of my shirt caught on fire as they fell to the living room floor because the air was like electric with excitement, you know? Like what Ben Franklin talked about that one time with the kite.

Okay, so the dad is like "You kids need to like do the chores and shit" only he doesn't swear, and the kids are like "Uh huh." So they start doing the chores, right? And then...oh my God...and then these, like, skanky bikers show up out of nowhere and come rolling up the driveway on their...umm, bikes. There's the fat leader of the bikers who's all tough and I was like "Oh my stars and garters...I totally know him from somewhere..." and then I recognized him as the fat leader of the bikers in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and I was like "Yes! That's where I know him from!" and then I thought to myself "I hope you find your bike, man!" which is a line from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure but it was another biker who said it, it wasn't the fat leader of the bikers and did you know that when the bikers want to beat up Pee-Wee in the bar, you know, the private club of the Satan's Helpers, and that one guy says "I say we hang him! And then we kill him!" and that biker lady is all like "I say you let me have him first!" did you know that that's Elvira, Mistress of the Macabre? It is. And by the way my favorite character in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure is Amazing Larry.

Okay anyway, the bikers show up and this one suuuuuuper skanky chick is like "Whee!" and she takes off her shirt and it's like "Ugh, please, put it back on!" 'cause she was...umm...unattractive. So she's like "Whee!" and she and this other guy get in the hot tub that belongs to the dude with the two weirdo kids. The dad is totally having none of that, though, and goes outside and says "Git off my land!" or something and the bikers are all "No!" and they fight and the dad gets shot. The kids are watching it all from the house and they're like "Should we help?" and then they're like "No, dad said not to use our powers in front of people!" and I'm like "Okay, your dad is getting killed and you kids are just sitting there, that's so retarded."

So the bikers leave and the kids bring the dad's body into the house using their special mind powers and I was soooooo hoping that they'd show the dad floating along like a hovercraft but that is too high budget or something because they totally didn't and I was like "Aww, man." Once they get the dad in the house, the kids fucking bust out the tempera paints or some shit and they paint these symbols on their dad's face and it's pretty stupid and not scary or creepy. It's like A Clockwork Orange meets the symbol for pi meets dumb. See?

Oh yeah, the face paint, like, brings their dad back to life. So, umm, I guess the kids were too stupid to help their father, but they totally know some ancient Egyptian bring someone back to life magic spell. I was like "Whaaaaaaat?"

So Marilyn Burns plays this woman from the Board of Education who drives a Porsche and I'm thinking "Umm, I thought teachers made like $9000 a year? Where did she get the money for the fancy sports car? She must be a whore!" and she kind of is but I'll tell you about that in a minute. So Marilyn Burns plays this woman from the Board of Education who drives a Porsche and she visits the weirdo twins once a month or something because their dad is homeschooling them. She gets to the house and is all "Where's your dad?" and the kids go "Umm, he's busy" so she's like, "Okay". And her Porsche breaks down so she has to get a ride from the new deputy in town, played by Fabian. Yes, that Fabian who was one of those teen idols back in the day and Amanda said he was on Laverne and Shirley one time but I don't remember that episode. In fact, I don't really remember any episodes of Laverne and Shirley. I mean, I remember the opening bit and I remember, like, Squiggy biting his hand or whatever and that they lived in a basement or something but if you were like "Stacie, tell me the story from one episode of Laverne and Shirley" I'd be like "Sorry, can't do it" and it would be true.

Oh, and so I don't know what Fabian was like when he was on Laverne and Shirley, obvs, but in this movie he can't act worth shit, so my hopes aren't high that his appearance on L & S was any better, although it might have been if he was playing himself though sometimes people can't even play themselves very well, you know? Like when the Sonny and Cher were on Scooby-Doo...frankly I found Sonny's performance a little stilted. But I loved him in Airplane II, so whatevs.

Anyway, Marilyn Burns gets a ride from Fabian and they have dinner and then she's like "I have some (wink wink) evidence for you to (nudge nudge) inspect further!" or something and he's like "Okay" and then Marilyn Burns gets another ride from Fabian if you know what I mean. Thank god they don't show anything because I was sooooooo not ready for it, but if you've ever wondered what Fabian's chest hair was like, then Kiss Daddy Goodbye is the movie for you.

See? The woman from the Board of Education who drives a Porsche is totally a whore!

Oh, I'm only kidding. It's not like he paid her.

Okay, the kids are at home playing Pong with their minds, and man...I thought the whole telekinesis bit was exciting, but put that together with the excitement of Pong and it was was like..."If this gets any more exciting, I cannot be held accountable for what I might do!" and "Please, I need a cold compress!". But luckily, before I had a terrible spell of the vapors the scene was over. Even looking at a screen shot gets my heart racing, though! Finally, I know what all those hack critics mean when they call something a "pulse-pounding, non-stop white-knuckle thrill ride for the ages"...they totally mean Mind Pong.

So A Clockwork Daddy ends up killing the bikers and stuff. There's one part where the skanky biker woman and her boyfriend are on the beach making out and of course the skank takes her top off again and again I was like "Aaaah!" because I was so hoping that I'd seen The Skanky Twins for the one and only time I ever would in my life but no, there they were. Oh and so the dad, like, worms his way under the sand and chokes the biker couple to death and no I'm not even kidding about the worming under the sand part, it really happens and I was so laughing.

Eventually Deputy Fabian is like "Hmm, I think something is weird here with all these deaths" and Marilyn Burns is like "Yeah, me too" so they go up to the house again and the kids are like "Dad's busy" but then the last of the bikers show up to kill the kids because they think the kids are, like, eyewitnesses from when they killed the dad and the kids do their mind thing and they make the fat leader of the bikers from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure almost choke himself to death and Marilyn Burns is like "Nooooo! Stoppppp!" and so they do.

But then instead of being all grateful and like "I'm sorry" the biker is like "I'm outta here!" and he takes off but Deputy Fabian chases him down and they get into this wicked wicked fight that is just action-packed like you might see in a John Woo wait, I don't mean a John Woo movie, I mean Cocoon. Anyway, the biker dies and the kids go to live with Marilyn Burns or something, the end.

Kiss Daddy Goodbye features the most egregious display of nepotism not seen at Final Girl HQ since the likes of Knight Chills; the Weirdo Twins, you see, are the children of writer/director Patrick Regan. Apparently Patrick Regan was completely, blissfully unaware that his kids have less acting talent than Madame without Waylon Flowers. Unfortunately, the viewer is constantly, completely aware of this shortcoming and their performances make Kiss Daddy Goodbye virtually unwatchable. The kids mumble, they don't finish sentences, and Girl Weirdo Twin doesn't even move her mouth when she speaks.

Of course, even it starred Haley Joel Osment from 8 years ago and Dakota Fanning from 6 years ago, the film would still blow blow blow. It's pure ineptness from beginning to end, no question, and it would take me a week to list all the things wrong with it.


In the right hands, the basic premise of Kiss Daddy Goodbye might make for a decent flick. Telekinetic kids who resurrect their dead father to do their bidding? A dead father forced to walk the earth like a zombie and kill like a...zombie? That could be interesting, and this is exactly the kind of horror film that cries out for a remake. Alas, alack, it seems that no one wants to remake garbage that can be vastly improved upon, films with a teeny tiny speck of compelling material buried under the vast mountains of crap. And why should they, when they can simply remake all the classics? I mean, surely they can be improved upon, right?

Jun 26, 2007

trailer park

Have you ever noticed that some horror fans are really into vampires? Like, they dig that whole "romantic" aspect of the bloodsuckers and in some cases even start to act as if they are vampires? Yeah, that's not me. I'm not a huge vampire fan to begin with, but even so, I like my vampires to be creepy, gross, and scary: more Klaus Kinski, less Frank Langella- though I do admit I have a humongous soft spot for Christopher Lee as Dracula. But compare A to B here and you'll see what I'm talking about:

To me, one is horror, the other Harlequin. Whatever floats your boat, baby. For me, one of the very first vampire films is also the best: Murnau's 1922 silent opus Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens. There's plenty of food for thought in that film, but on its most basic level, Max Schrek as Count Orlok completely terrifies me; he's simply a nightmare come to (un)life. Vampire-as-rat-demon-from-Hell works for me, whether in Murnau's film, in Werner Herzog's 1979 remake, Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, or even in Tobe Hooper's 1979 Stephen King adaptation 'Salem's Lot.

I totally have a point about all this, I swear. The trailer for the upcoming 30 Days of Night (due in October) has gone online recently, and I'll be damned if it doesn't look scary. And wow! Vampires-as-rat-demons-from-Hell, just like in the source material, the comic series from Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. What a coincidence!

I realize, naturally, that virtually any movie can look good and scary with a nicely pieced-together trailer, but hopes are high for this- and I never get excited about vampire films. So, you know, I'm sure that means something.

Jun 25, 2007

come on in, the water's fine

Those of you who read blogs besides Final Girl...surely, there must be one or two of you...have perhaps encountered the phenomenon known as the blog-a-thon. Basically, the blog-a-thon is a great melding of the minds about a common subject all across the super cyberverse: a blogger chooses a topic, gives a date, and folks who choose to participate write about the given subject (for a more comprehensive- and probably coherent- definition and history of the blog-a-thon, head over to The Film Vituperatem where filmsquish lays it all out for you, including a handy dandy blog-a-thon calendar).

Well, folks, it's my turn to play hostess with the mostess. Pull up your pants and get ready for:

Yes, yes, perhaps it's a wee trite to host a Friday the 13th Blog-a-Thon on Friday the 13th, but who cares? Let's get it on.

If you're still feeling in the dark, here's the skinny: in my dreams, on Friday, July 13th the blogosphere will come alive Frampton-style as peeps posts anything and everything about the Friday the 13th film series, or anything and everything that falls under that umbrella. Unlike the Final Girl Film Club, posts made during the blog-a-thon don't have to be simple reviews: say whatever you want to say. Want to talk about the old 8-bit Friday the 13th video game? Fine. Want to write a plot synopsis for your fantasy Friday film, Jason vs Those Animated Penguins I'm So Fucking Tired Of? Go for it. Maybe an epic poem about the twins from The Final Chapter, or a profile on Harry Manfredini, or a haiku about the first time you saw a Friday film, or...well, I think you get it.

As the cruise director throwing this big fat shindig, Final Girl will act as Blog-a-Thon Central on July 13th. Writers can email me (or comment with) links to their posts and I'll include them with whatever I'm going to write that day. If you don't have your own site or blog, sorry, that's no excuse not to participate! You can send me a file and I'll go ahead and post your content for you, right here at Final Girl. Once more, it's proven: I live to give.

There's so very much that can be said about the Friday the 13th films, and I hope my first shot at a blog-a-thon really gets people thinkin' and a-writin' and we all come up with some sweet content. Be there and/or be square!

FRIDAY, JULY 13th, 2007

Jun 22, 2007

Great Scenes in Mediocre Films: CURTAINS

Reader and commenter rural juror chimed in to let me know that he (or, I guess, she...damn internet anonymity! Mystery solved- it's a boy!) had watched Curtains on my reccie and was overall less than thrilled. It wasn't a surprising reaction: Curtains (1983) isn't a great film. Instead, it's a fairly by-the-numbers slasher set in the world of theatre and filled with histrionics and melodrama (you know how actresses can be, right?)- I mean, Samantha Eggar (The Brood) gets her crazy on in full force.

What sets Curtains apart from other middle-of-the-road slasher flicks, however, is a single scene. Talk to anyone who's seen this film and undoubtedly they'll mention "the ice skating scene". Sure, you could delve into the plot a bit and come up with the theory that Curtains actually has something to say about the way the shelf life of an actress ends around 40, the way women in Hollywood are inevitably replaced by a newer, younger model...but this is a horror movie and Feminist Film Theory 101 don't bring the scary. Or should I say, it could, but in an entirely different fashion.

Thanks to the glory of The Internet, the infamous ice skating scene is online for the world to enjoy. Its power is weakened a bit by the fact that the clip is completely out of context, but here it is. Spoilers obviously abound.

So many elements fall into line perfectly in that sequence, and in my opinion it's simply one of the most stylish and effective kill scenes in any slasher film. The tight framing adds a sense of urgency, the ultra-bright daylight is unexpected and unsettling, and the slow-motion is used to maximum effect. I've seen far too many horror films that use slo-mo arbitrarily, rendering sequences silly and useless. Here, the slowness of the chase only adds to the terror by imbuing the scene with a surreal, dream-like quality- as does the sound, which doesn't quite seem to match up with reality. And the killer grunting as the scythe swings again and again? Horrifying.

Then, of course, there are the visuals...the humongous doll buried in the snow and that fucking mask. If anything, the scene solidifies that whole Curtains-as-Feminist Film Theory 101 thesis I mentioned earlier: the black-clad old hag seeks vengeance against her young, beautiful, pink-clad, ice-skating replacement (Lesleh Donaldson)...I mean, what's an aging actress to do? If I were Dakota Fanning, I'd cut a wide swath around Susan Sarandon.

I'm such a sucker for good horror that sometimes an effective scene can redeem an entire film. Curtains isn't a terrible film, certainly- if anything, its biggest crime is mediocrity. The rest of the film, though at times suspenseful and scary, simply fails to live up to the promise of the ice skating scene. Overall, I'd still recommend this film to slasher fans- it most definitely deserves a spot in the subgenre pantheon.

While it's still awaiting a DVD release, you can generally find the VHS on the cheap here and there (I would just like to point out again for the record that I have Tori Spelling's copy of Curtains. I heart Tori Spelling...she was in Co-Ed Call Girl AND she has great taste in horror movies!), you can see the entire film (broken up into 10-minute increments) beginning here. Undoubtedly, it's not the best way to watch a scary movie, but then again you're probably a big cheapskate.

But I still love you.

Jun 21, 2007

Pow, the moon!

Mario Bava's Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970) is one of those films that has been floating around in my subconscious for about as long as I can remember. Back in the days before Blockbuster, back when videos were still a rarity and they came in those giant boxes (you know the ones, they had that flimsy plastic tray inside), Hatchet was one of those titles that simply leapt off the shelf, insinuating- to me, anyway- that the film would be downright despicable. Surely the film would blow my mind with acts of gruesome depravity, madness...and murder! I'd look at the box each time I went to the video store, but I was always too freaked out to actually rent the damn thing. Mind you, I had no idea if the movie actually was gruesome, and I was clueless as to the plot; all the horrors my mind whipped up were based on the title and the title alone. Before you call me...well, retarded, let me remind you of a little film called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre- surely that's a prime example of a film whose title alone is enough to induce terror.

But let's get to the nitty-gritty: was Hatchet for the Honeymoon worth the 20+ year wait? Did it rip my mind asunder with its sadomasochistic violent imagery? Did all the grodiness and eeeevil send me spiralling down into the depths of madness, depths from which I may never return? Yes, of course I have a ninja-like coping skills and a constitution of steel- after all, I made it through BloodRayne and Spice World with my sanity somewhat intact (eh, who am I trying to fool...I fucking love Spice World)- but would merely mortal viewers succumb to the depravity that is Hatchet for the Honeymoon?

Well, they might...if Hatchet for the Honeymoon was at all depraved.

Or gruesome.

Or horrifying.

In other words, this movie was nothing like what I was expecting. More a Roman Polanski film than a Sean Cunningham film, Hatchet for the Honeymoon is a sometimes terrible, sometimes compelling psychodrama.

Hatchet opens on a train as we watch a young man enter a sleeper compartment where a couple of nude honeymooners are making out. The young man raises his cleaver and kills the couple offscreen- see what I mean? Restraint! This early on, I was shocked by the distinct lack of explicit violence.

After the murders, the young man returns to his palatial Parisian estate. As he shaves and gazes lovingly at himself in the mirror, he helpfully tells us a bit about himself in a voiceover:
My name is John Harrington. I'm 30 years old. I am a paranoiac. An enchanting civilized and full of possibilities. The fact is, I am completely mad- the realization of which annoyed me at first, but is now amusing to me...quite amusing. Nobody suspects that I am a madman, a dangerous murderer: not Mildred, my wife...not the employees of my fashion company...nor, of course, my customers.
A handsome, narcissistic, self-aware serial killer of women? You don't say! Hmm...I wonder how may times Bret Easton Ellis saw this film before he wrote American Psycho.

John is plagued by hazy memories of his mother's death as well as a horrible shrew of a wife. When Mildred (of course a shrew-y wife has to have an awful name like "Mildred" just wouldn't be the same if her name was Grace, now would it?) (no offense if your name is Mildred- I'm sure you're lovely) cackles over breakfast that she'll never grant John a divorce and that they'll always be together no matter what, no matter how much they hate each other, we can't help but sympathize with the poor guy just a bit. I mean, what's a guy in that situation to do besides butcher young brides on their wedding nights, you know?

John is the proprietor of Harrington & Company, a business that provides with those very same young brides with everything they'll need for their weddings, from the gown to the flowers. After a particularly tense morning with Mildred, John sneaks into his storeroom and starts cuddling and making out with mannequins- if it wasn't obvious before, we now know that John has a distinct case of "woman issues". When he begins to lovingly caress his cleaver, we can also assume that John has a distinct case of "kitchen utensil issues".

A woman should only live until her wedding once...then die - John's philosophy

Every young bride John murders triggers another piece of his fractured memory, so John has no choice but to kill kill kill! He convinces one of his soon-to-be-wed models to meet him after work, where he gives her a gown as a wedding present. He further convinces her to try the gown on and join him in a creepy creepy dance of madness! They twirl for a while amongst the mannequins, then John gets his chop-chop on.

John returns home to his bitch of a wife, who kindly reminds him of their wedding night when l'il John apparently decided not to join in the fun, if you get my meaning.

I mean, John apparently also has "impotency issues". Every man and woman has a breaking point, and Mildred has finally triggered John's. He presents her with a shiny cleaver on a platter, then proceeds to hack her up with it and bury her corpse in the yard.

After the death of Mildred, Hatchet for the Honeymoon surprisingly jumps the rails and moves from He Knows You're Alone territory to EC Comics territory as it becomes a supernatural story of nagging from beyond the grave. In a fantastic, superbly shot sequence, Mildred's ghost slowly ascends the stairs and walks toward John, who cowers in fear. She lets him know that she wasn't fucking around with all that "We'll always be together no matter what" business- she's going to remain by his side, even in death, though John will be the only person who can't see her. Everyone will think they're just a happy couple, always spending time together, when the reality is she's just a big spectral ball and chain.

Quoth the Biz Markie, "Oh snap!"

From there on out, John maintains a hectic schedule as he tries to ditch Mildred's ghost, continue killing young brides, elude the pesky police inspector, figure out his own tragic past, and run a business. Will the Italian Psycho maintain the status quo, or will it all come crumbling down around him?

There are times when, in typical Gialli fashion, Hatchet for the Honeymoon feels as if it's going nowhere, as if it's just a series of random sequences edited together with little regard to plot. This being a Bava film, and again, in typical Gialli fashion, there are enough stylish sequences and wonderfully framed shots to make up for the occasional aimlessness. As the film was born in the late '60s/early '70s, the pacing is at times pretty slow- it's a matter of personal preference whether or not that will put a damper on your enjoyment.

In all honesty, I probably would have liked this film a lot more if I hadn't made up and built up its reputation for myself- which isn't to say that I didn't like it. Had I been expecting a slower, quieter supernatural psychodrama peppered with black comedy instead of an outrageous, notorious slasher flick, however, I might very well laud the film to no end. I always judge books by their covers and movies by their titles, however, and this time I was way off base. While it's certainly not Bava's best, Hatchet for the Honeymoon is a solid effort, regardless whether or not you have "kitchen utensil issues" yourself.

Jun 20, 2007

cogito ergo blog

...or, It’s Kind of Like Herpes But With Fewer Open Sores…I Hope.

Once upon a time, the fine folks at The Thinking Blog came up with something called The Thinking Blogger Awards- awards given to…umm…blogs that make you...umm...think (resisting cheap C + C Music Factory joke…resisting…resisting…urge fading…urge gone). While most awards simply provide the recipient with a lovely, shiny plaque or mayhaps a gift basket of some variety, The Thinking Blogger Awards are different: they provide the winner with a title…and a task. It’s a meme, dammit, a MEME! Winners must choose 5 blogs that they feel are deserving of the prestigious title, so on and so on, ad moebius strip infinitum.

Making my usual web-go-rounds whilst enjoying a refreshing glass of Crystal Light (fucking aye right I believe in me!), I nearly did a spit-take when I hit Pat Piper’s wonderful Lazy Eye Theatre and discovered that he was giving me a Thinking Blogger’s Award. Here’s what he had to say about the ol’ Final Girl:
I have only recently been turned on to Stacie Ponder's blog Final Girl and man am I lucky to have found it. Recently Eli Roth asked his MySpace friends to take non-horror movie fans to Hostel Part II to get them turned on to horror, which I found to be an idiotic request. Instead they should check out Stacie's site. Not your usual horror fare, Stacie doesn't dress her blog with the macabre even though she spends most of her time talking about 70's and 80's horror movies. Instead, she makes horror palatable, taking funny stabs at horror movies and cliches. Don't believe me? Check out her Tribute To Moustaches of Horror or her post When Nerds Attack. It's one thing to write a review of a movie, it's another to make that review entertainment for someone who isn't even considering ever watching that movie. That's Stacie and that's something. Stacie, I hardly know ye, but take this award and use it to fend off the boogeyman when he jumps through the window right behind you. And we'll see you in the sequel.
How nice is THAT? I am so so SO incredibly grateful. When I started Final Girl a few years ago, I had no idea that people would actually…you know, read the damn thing. I was really enjoying what my pal Kevin Melrose was doing over at Dark, But Shining and given that the horror blogosphere was still pretty tiny at the time, I figured why not? I loves me some horror movies…why not write about them? I made slasher flicks my niche and went from there. FG started out with your typical new-colt legs (ie shitty, boring posts), but eventually I expanded some beyond slashers and I think needle found groove in delicious vinyl fashion. Two years in and I’m more thrilled with FG than I ever could have anticipated, and yes, I still want to marry this blog someday. No, seriously, in 50 years or so I hope to be coming at you from Whispering Pines Retirement Home or some shit, complaining about the 5463287324908th remake of My Bloody Valentine whilst still singing the praises of The Haunting, The Descent, and Shark Attack 3: Megalodon.

I truly and sincerely appreciate each and every person who reads Final Girl, no matter what he, she, or it may be wearing. Without you, I’d be nothing!

Wait, that’s not true. You know, even if my readership was only me I’d probably still be writing about horror movies…but since I’d be the only person reading it there’d most likely be a lot more talk of secret crushes and should I buy some new shoes? I don’t really feel like spending the money but I’m kind of tired of these…

Anyway, thanks to Lazy Eye Theatre, I must abide by The Rules of the Meme:

1) If, and only if your blog is one that is tagged on my list below, you must write a post with links to five other blogs you like that consistently make you think (hence, the Thinking Blogger’s Award).

2) Link to this post so people will know whose good idea all this was.

3) Proudly display the “Thinking Blogger Award” logo with a link to the post you wrote.

There are so many varieties of blogs out there and so many ass-kickeriffic blogs I read frequently, that it was difficult to choose only 5…but folks, don’t hate the playa- hate the game.

Okay, okay…it was difficult to choose because I simply hate thinking. There, I said it…another secret is out.

KIM MORGAN, BLOGGERNAUT: Given that Kim Morgan blogs for approximately 459687 sites, I probably could have made her my entire five. No matter where I’m reading her words, however (or listening to them- Kim filled in for Roger Ebert on a recent-ish episode of Ebert and Roeper and is frequently seen elsewhere around the tube) (“frequently seen elsewhere around the tube” is not a euphemism, I swear), her writing is always a lesson in cinema: the woman loves loves LOVES movies and you know what? Rabid passion such as hers is both infectious and inspiring. She knows her shit like nobody's business, but she's never pedantic. She’s seen it all, but she's never jaded. While I don’t always agree with her assessments (meaning, of course, that sometimes she’s wrong), I’m always learning something new or simply marveling at the depth of her knowledge- knowledge that never gets in the way of her readability. She’s got a bitchin car, she wields a sly sense of humor, she’s always making lists, and she loves horror movies almost as much as I do. What more do you need to know? I completely, unabashedly adore Kim Morgan, and you should, too. Read her writings at Sunset Gun. Or MSN Movies Filter. Or The Huffington Post. Or ClickStar. I’m probably forgetting several hundred sites, but those should tide you over.

CINEBEATS: I discovered Cinebeats…Confessions of a Cinephile through The Horror Blog’s weekly Roundtable: Cinebeats blogger Kimberly and I are both regular contributors. In other words, I’m a new convert to the Cinebeats, but glory hallelujah! Kimberly delves into all manner of film from the 60s and 70s and she delves…err, really well. Take her recent retrospective post about the awesome Tura Satana- I’m simultaneously loving it and thinking “Man, I gotta do something like that.” And man alive if Cinebeats ain’t a pretty blog to behold.

THE SCREENGRAB: This group effort over at simply has it all for the (mostly) indie crowd: news, reviews, essays, retrospectives, interviews, and my personal favorite, the Weekly Top 10. Past subjects have included Nude Scenes We Could Really Have Done Without and the Worst Accents in Movie History, complete with YouTube clips (or sometimes not: the bloggers had a rough time drumming up clips of Burgess Meredith's nude scene...we're all fortunate that you can't, in fact, find everything on YouTube). Man…I gotta do something like that. The Screengrab is like a spicy cinematic jambalaya, and I'm like that old guy who was popular for 20 minutes a long time ago- you know, the guy who talked all cajun-style and cooked or something. In other words, I love The Screengrab.

JOHN KENNETH MUIR: Mr Muir has penned two books that are essential to my film reference library: Horror Films of the 1970s and, more recently, Horror Films of the 1980s. Each tome is simply mammoth- upwards of 700 pages each- and full of fantastic critical insight from someone who clearly loves the genre. Imagine my delight when I discovered his blog! Go on, imagine it! Do you hear Lesley Gore’s “Sunshine and Lollipops” playing in the background? Well, you should. Muir covers everything from film to television to books to retro toys with no-holds-barred affection and brains. I should be such a blogger.

GROOVY AGE OF HORROR: Curt Purcell has been blogging about fumetti, gialli, comics, books, and the writing process for a dog’s age, and I’ve always considered it to be an honor to be included in his blogroll. Sometimes he simply posts eye-popping comics pages or luscious paperback covers; othertimes he’s got extensive reviews or in-depth analysis. Groovy Age, which has grown enough to include a small cadre of additional writers, is truly a wonderful resource for…well, for all things Groovy. I’m certainly not the first to laud Curt with a shoutout for all his effort, and you can bet I won’t be the last.

There you go, folks, winners of The Thinking Blogger Awards as bestowed by me. Thanks to all the bloggers I’ve listed for providing me with food for thought, for entertaining me, and for consistently increasing my must see and must read lists. Thanks once again to Pat at Lazy Eye for the honor and the task.

Now then…should I buy some new shoes?

Jun 19, 2007

FGFC Pickins

The next Film Club selection is one of those movies that's gotten a lot of press, though I have no idea if it's been good or bad. Read enough issues of Rue Morgue and visit enough horror news websites and these titles get stuck in your head, you know? The unceasing waves of news, press releases, set visits, and interviews bludgeon you and bludgeon you until you find yourself glassy-eyed and drooling, intoning "Must...see...Martin...Lawrence...starring in...time-travelling...horror...comedy romp... Sir... Killzalot... have... no idea... why... desire so... strong... perhaps... it was his... masterful performance in...Big Momma's...House... or the sequel... Big Momma's House... 2... but wait... I never... saw... those... oh god...what' me... and where... are... my... pants..."

Something like that, anyway. Or maybe that's just me. At any rate, the next Film Club pick is Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, hooray! It won't hit store shelves until June 26, but you can add it to your Netflix queue already. Here's the skinny:

A self-promoting serial killer who dreams of being the most infamous slasher of all time hires a documentary film crew to follow him as he launches a reign of terror on a small town.

Yes, it sounds a bit like Man Bites Dog, doesn't it? Boy, it sure took a lot of Gaul to make such a similar film!

Ugh. Sorry about that.

Alright, let's all link pinks and form our big movie-watching daisy chain!

The film: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
The due date: July 23

Jun 18, 2007

Film Club: The Innocents

Based on the Henry James novella The Turn of the Screw, The Innocents (1961) is a film that addresses themes of corruption and repressed sexuality as it delivers an atmospheric ghost story...maybe. Events throughout leave both the characters and the audience in doubt as to what's real and what's not, right up until the film's ambiguous ending. As a viewer, what you make of The Innocents is entirely up to you, though your interpretation may correlate to the question posed early on in the proceedings: do you have an imagination?

Though at a more advanced age than one would expect for a first-time governess, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) is enthusiastic about the prospect of caring for young Miles (Martin Stephens, Village of the Damned) and Flora (Pamela Franklin, The Legend of Hell House) at the vast country estate, Bly, owned by the children's disinterested uncle (Michael Redgrave).

Nothing at Bly is as it seems, however, and there is a pervading sense of dread and decay despite the bright, sunny appearances: Flora sings sweetly, but the lyrics to "O Willow Waly" reveal that she's singing about a lover dying alone, heartbroken; Miles seems the picture of polite charm, but he's been expelled from school for "corrupting" other students; birds that chirp gaily during the day cry out in pain during the night; white roses throughout the house fall apart at Miss Giddens's touch. Perhaps the most telling example of "evil beneath the surface" occurs as Miss Giddens gazes at a statue in the garden, when a large black beetle crawls out of the smiling face of a child.

Soon enough Miss Giddens begins to see the ghostly figures of a man and a woman around Bly. No one else confesses to seeing the apparitions- do they exist at all, or are they merely the product of Miss Giddens's over-active imagination? Regardless, the story of the phantom inhabitants begins to unfold: the man is Peter Quint, the uncle's valet, Miles's hero, and by all accounts a twisted and cruel man in life. The woman is Miss Jessel, Quint's lover and the children's governess. After Quint was found dead on the grounds of the estate, Miss Jessel came down with a serious case of "mad grief" and died shortly thereafter. Miss Giddens becomes convinced that the spirits of the dead lovers are possessing Miles and Flora, and she takes it upon herself to save them: "All I want to do is save the children, not destroy them. More than anything I love children. More than anything."

The Innocents never lets on as to what's really going on at Bly. Is Miss Giddens really saving the children from corruption, or is she the one corrupting them? Are there sado-masochistic ghosts roaming the halls and grounds of the estate, or is the sexually repressed Miss Giddens simply overtaken by stories of the wild and terrible lovers? As there are no definitive answers to any of these questions, it's up to the viewer to interpret everything that's laid out during the film- an approach that's sure to frustrate folks who want everything tied up in a neat package. I'll admit, when the film was over I had a bit of that "Wait...what? So is...wait, that's it?" feeling; it's always a shock when horror films make you do some work and make you think. Undoubtedly, The Innocents is a movie that rewards repeat viewing.

Technically, the film is nothing short of exquisite. The performances are pitch-perfect, the cinematography by Freddie Francis is lush and gorgeous, and somehow everything in the film feels essential to the proceedings. Director Jack Clayton and writer Truman Capote ensure that there are no extraneous shots or dialogue in the movie.

Though The Innocents surely draws comparisons to its contemporary ghost story, The Haunting, it's far less flashy than Robert Wise's film...which is an unusual statement considering how unflashy The Haunting is. What I mean, I think, is that I connected to The Innocents on a cerebral level more than a gut level- most likely The Innocents won't leave you cowering beneath your blankets in fear, but nonetheless it's an unsettling film that burrows deep into your brain.

You know, like that worm thing in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. After all, what higher praise is there for a film?

Film Club Coolies:
$7 Popcorn
Askewed Views

Jun 16, 2007

Stop the Presses!

This super-hot DVD release news just in! On August 14, Anchor Bay will release John Carpenter's Halloween yet again. This edition, according to Bloody-Disgusting, the film will be packaged in an "O-card". I have no clue what an "O-card" is (does it have to do with O-Town? or Oprah? or The Story of O?), so thank heavens B-D explains for me: "The new O-card takes the iconic Halloween logo to a whole new level of cool, featuring “glowing” jack-o-lantern eyes and nose artwork."

Isn't that great news? If you've somehow never been able to get your mitts on a copy of Halloween- not the Regular edition, the Extended edition, the Divimax 25th Anniversary edition, the 25 Years of Terror edition, the Restored Limited edition, the Scratch-n-Sniff edition, or even the Holograph edition- then your luck may finally be in. Of course, even if you already have all the previous editions of the DVD, this seems worth buying- I logo! Can I get a woot woot?

In other news, don't forget that come Monday, I'll be talking about The Innocents for the latest installment of the FG Film Club. Be there...and be square.

In other other news, have a super weekend.

"What's that smell?"

Jun 14, 2007


Bring your good times, and your laughter too! 'Tis a day of joyous celebration, folks, for 39 years ago on this very day, Yasmine Bleeth was brought into the world...and 26 years before that, I was brought into the world. In other words, today is my birthday. Huzzah, indeed.

Normally I wouldn't mention this sort of thing, but it just so happens that the Final Girl 2-year anniversary was a few days ago, so I thought it might be fun to bust out some Riunite (on ice, it's so nice!) to celebrate. Wow, I've been doing this blog thing for two whole years. Time flies when you're something something. Now then, let's all join hands, sway a bit, and try not to fall asleep during the...


...please welcome your hosts Charles Nelson Reilly, Freddy Krueger candle, and Carol Levy of Jack Sholder's Alone in the Dark!


"I can do this!"

So what's the first extravagant extravaganza showpiece, hosts?


"Look at me!"

Ooooookay, maybe I have to do this myself.

Sorry, when I found out that Charles Nelson Reilly, Freddy Krueger candle, and Carol Levy would be hosting, I thought this really might be an extravaganza. Where's Rod Roddy when you need him?

"A new car!"

Damn. This just isn't working out at all. Oh well, maybe next year. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and keep reaching for the stars!

Jun 13, 2007


When I was but a wee bonny lass, the highlight of every summer in southeastern Connecticut was the glorious two weeks when Coleman Brothers Carnival rolled into town. I'd go with my parents and ride the rides, eat fried dough, and play the midway games, where I'd either get ripped off completely and win nothing, or I'd go home with a goldfish in a bag or maybe a giant stuffed knock-off toy, something poorly-made that kinda looked like Snoopy, but sort of deformed. When I was old enough I'd go with my friends and pretty much do the same things, except my prize of choice was now a Duran Duran mirror or a Madonna poster.

Coleman Brothers used to do it up right, appearing magically in an empty field overnight. They had a small sideshow for a while, complete with a few "freaks" and the ubiquitous mystery-baby-in-a-jar. They had the usual assortment of carnival rides, rides that were scary partially because they were simply thrilling and partially because you were sure they'd come flying apart and you'd fling off over the parking lot screaming towards certain doom, your last earthly thought being something like "Build a statue in my honor, southeastern Connecticut! Damn you, Round-Uuuuuppppppppp!" before landing with a huge splat.

My two favorite rides were The Zipper (the one where you sat in a cage that rotated freely while the entire ride rotated as well; it's also known as the ride that Cindy Y. barfed on one year), and, ahem...surprisingly enough, The Haunted House. Getting in the little car and banging through the doors into complete darkness was always a thrill; air vents would psssht into my face, a loud buzzer would go off just as a day-glo Frankenstein would reach out of the black, witches would cackle, the smoke machine would be on in full force, and string would dangle from the ceiling and get in my hair. The Haunted House was cheesy, loud, and completely terrifying; banging through the doors at the end of the ride, back to safety, somehow always felt like an achievement.

Most horror fans have seen Tobe Hooper's 1981 ode to carnival terror The Funhouse, a movie that begs the question "What's scarier, having an albino cleft-faced monster chasing you with murderous intent, or watching Sylvia Miles have sex?" It'd been about 25 years since anyone revisited the notion of setting a slasher flick in a carnival- specifically, in a carnival attraction- but last year's After Dark Horrorfest brought us Craig Singer's Dark Ride, a film that centers around the very kind of Haunted House ride I loved so much. Who knew the official name for these attractions is "Dark Ride"? And could that whole "It's been about 25 years" business make me feel any fucking older?

As the film opens it's 1989 and two young girls I quickly dubbed The Chewbacca Twins hop into the car that will bang through the doors of the Haunted House ride for some chills and thrills. I wasn't completely sure if the park was open or abandoned, for despite the fact that the park was located in Asbury Park, New Jersey- not exactly the middle of nowhere- The Chewbacca Twins were the only people walking around. No matter! The Twins are soon enough having air psssht in their faces and listening to mad cackling as they tool along the track. Chewbacca #1 is a bitch and teases her sister for being a big baby, though Chewbacca #2 isn't really acting like a baby. No matter! The car stops and suddenly someone grabs Chewbacca #1, hauling her out of her seat. Chewbacca #2 screams and continues along the ride. Within moments, the car stops again and we see Chewbacca #1 dead and splayed out in one of the Dark Ride's gruesome scenarios. How did the killer dispatch Chewbacca #1, get so far ahead of the car, and set-up a bloody diorama in 10 seconds? No matter! These things happen in slasher films.

It seems that after the murders the park was closed and the killer was committed to an insane asylum. I wonder what will happen next?

I don't mean that last bit to sound bitter or cynical, honestly. I was pretty excited about Dark Ride, as it was looking to be a straight-up, tried-and-true formulaic slasher flick set in a scary place- that's something not seen too often in horror nowadays. To me, slasher flicks are like comfy, pilly old sweaters- not necessarily the most flattering thing one can wear, but cozy just the same.

Keeping in line with tradition, Dark Ride's cast of characters are familiar to even the least savvy horror film fan: a group of college students comprising the usual assortment of stereotypes: the slut, the Final Girl, the movie geek/nerd, the stoner, the Final Girl's bland boyfriend. I must say, however, that our introduction to The Slut contained a visual far more shocking than the pre-credit Diorama of Death. Witness:

What, am I in Europe?'s called Lady Bic.

At any rate, the friends head out for the obligatory vague weekend getaway and stop at the obligatory creepy gas station. The Film Geek (Patrick Renna of The Sandlot) finds a flyer in the bathroom announcing the grand re-opening of the carnival's Dark Ride; why should they all spend the night wherever they were going to spend the night when they can break into the Dark Ride and spend the night there?

Along the way the crazy kids pick up a hitchiker, the Poor Man's Sheri Moon-Zombie to even up the boy-girl ratio. She talks about the band Phish, busts out the 'shrooms, and decides to tagalong on the overnight carnival stay.

Later on it's revealed that The Chewbacca Twins were, in fact, the Film Geek's cousins. He planted the flyer to ensure they'd go to the Dark Ride, for he wanted to visit the attraction to get some closure. He tells his friends that the killer's name was Jonah, and he was a deformed weirdo who lived in the carnival ride and killed people, which is not at all like The Funhouse, I swear.

And what of this so-called "Jonah"? Funny you should ask! Back at The Old Asylum Place, Jonah is visited by the obligatory sadistic orderlies. They taunt Jonah with a steak- see, his file says he's a strict vegetarian! Waving a rib eye in his face will drive him...even crazier! One whiff of the meat sends Jonah into a frenzy; he hulks out, busts his restraints, and punches holes through the evil orderlies.

While this may sound far-fetched, as a vegetarian I can attest that it's totally not. Let's just say that the IHOP in Amarillo is still picking up the pieces after sending bacon along with my scrambled eggs.

Anyway...Jonah has escaped the asylum! Cue the obligatory moon shot!

We all know how this goes, right? Kids die and there's a twist at the end that's right outta left field and makes little sense if you think about it for more than zero seconds. Again, there's nothing wrong with the typical formula is it's done well. Is it done well in Dark Ride? Sadly, I'd have to give that a mostly "no". There's a few genuinely scary sequences, but overall the film is a bit of a letdown. The different sections of the Dark Ride itself are eerie enough, but they never come together in a convincing space. This is mostly likely due to budgetary restraints, but I never got an impression of the ride as a whole. Too many times I found myself saying "Wait...where was that...who was that?", and the disjointed layout sucked the tension out of the few stalking sequences. In addition, there was simply too much light and the atmosphere was disappointingly unthreatening.

Carnivals and Haunted House rides seem to be prime horror film locations to me, and I'm kinda bummed that Dark Ride couldn't quite capitalize. Let's all hope we don't have to wait another 25 years for someone else to give it a shot.

Jun 11, 2007

ugh...ugh, I say.

People, let's hold hands and console each other for a bit. I know that after my "I'm kinda back" post you were expecting some real content...and I was expecting to give it to you. So where have I been? Why do I suck? And won't someone think of the children?

See, my internet was supposed to be turned on last Thursday. When Thursday came and went with no internet, a call to the phone company resulted, basically, in an "Oh yeah, we totally forgot. Sorry, but we can't turn it on until Tuesday now. Peace out!" You've been waiting for posts and I've been sitting around with nothing to do- to put it mildly, the internet is vital to my work. I mean, a webcam without the web is just narcissism, you know?

I've watched a few things and afterwards I concentrated really hard and tried to send out reviews telepathically to all of you; I guess since no one commented you didn't get the messages. Next time this happens I'll try smoke signals or pigeons. Or midgets on scooters, maybe, delivering little mimeographed reviews right to your door. Why midgets? They're smaller and have less wind-resistance, so they'll be faster, that's why.

Fingers crossed the internet will "magically" appear in my new Super Secret Headquarters tomorrow...and in the words of Leprechaun 4: In Space, AT&T, this is for you.

Jun 5, 2007

Omigod it's ME.


OK, so I'm kind of back after a long-ass, fairly uneventful drive. I say "uneventful", but that's so not true- I passed right by what is only the largest cross in the western hemisphere! The air was electric, I tells ya.

Things are a little mad at the moment as I settle into the All-New Super Secret Final Girl Headquarters and sort know, rearrange my whole life. However, before you can say "Phew, Final Girl is here and so I can breathe again and I also have something to take my mind off my bursitis again!", I'll be up and running and back to normal, I swear. In the meantime...

Several of you got in touch to let me know that shortly after I began my massive trek, Final Girl's beloved spokesmodel/mascot Charles Nelson Reilly passed away at the age of 76. Though this is sad news indeed, Charles Nelson Reilly will live on forever here at FG as well as in my Match Game DVD box set.

What? Match Game was the shit.

In less depressing news, you can click right the eff here and read my interview with Texas Chainsaw Massacre star Marilyn Burns. It was soooo awesome to pick her brain for a while; I mean, how frickin' cool is Marilyn Burns?