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!

Apr 30, 2010

i have a new thing!

So, Space Girls is my new thing. Check out the website. The entire affair is completely ridiculous. The second episode will be better than the first, I swear.

Bloggenaire: Iloz Zoc, Zombo's Closet of Horror

Today's Bloggenaire is the venerable Mr. JM Cozzoli, better known as the mummirific Iloz Zoc. Not only does he run his own house...err, Closet of Horror, he also heads up the League of Tana Tea Drinkers, an assembly of some of horror's finest bloggers. If you don't want a Twinkie when this is over, you're simply not human. Oh, and this dude can talk, so you'd best listen! Or read. Or whatever. Get off my back!

1) What's the key moment that led you to click that "Start Your Blog" button?

The moment came when I woke up fifty and realized I’d not written the great American horror novel yet. How could I dust off the old gray cells and reconnect with my significant monstrous other? The moment sparked when I cut myself shaving as I realized I’d been a long-time fan of horror and wasn’t sharing the love while ill-mannered jerks in forums were giving real horror fans a black eye. The moment flared when I thought I’d ignored horror long enough, after a long dry spell, because I’d been disenchanted with the direction the terror onscreen had taken, seemingly helmed by ill-tutored sops who really needed to go back to the basics to up their quality and technique in the basics of movie-making.

The moment I pressed the button down hard was when I realized I could relive the joy of my youth by watching Universal’s classics while experiencing the wonderful new wave of screamscreen frights all in one little old blog space, and connect (or disconnect) with horror fans along the journey.

2) Please describe your blog in no more than 3 sentences. You must include the words / phrases "morbid", "aesthetic", and "electromagnetic".

Zombos’ Closet of Horror is an electromagnetically transmogrified blog of existential proportions that attracts the morbidly aesthetic fan of differentially diagnosed horror. It’s where the cultured horrorheads go for silly, poignant, and slightly-skewed reviews and commentary on the genre people love to fear.

3) Bearing in mind that opinions are subjective (except mine because I'm always right), do you enjoy movies that are generally considered "bad"? Why or why not?

While one can argue that “bad” is a subjective quality, I’ll counter with the measurability factor of bad scripting, bad acting, bad production, and bad stuff like that versus what’s considered reasonably good. So keeping this in mind, there are many many bad movies out there; however, some are so creatively bad, they’re fun to watch. They actually entertain through all their badness, and that’s an important measure that can actually extend beyond mere subjectivity to the movie audience’s experience.

For instance, Plan 9 From Outer Space is such a movie. It’s fun, vibrantly outrageous and irreverent, and cheeky monkey in its assumptions of misplaced logic and cheapness that most audiences can’t help but love the inanity. Now take Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, a movie at the opposite spectrum, and one that’s so bad it’s depressing to watch. A joyless cheapfest with no redeeming value: how can an inherently happy movie—with Santa Claus and kids and Christmas, for Christ sakes—be boring, plodding, and cheerless? The film saps the holiday spirit from you instead of imparting it. It’s a bad movie many will not enjoy, especially if they paid to see it.

So yes, I enjoy many bad movies that are fun in spite of themselves (lord Spookies comes to mind, too, here), but I also will vilify many bad movies; those that think I’m a nitwit (along with their audience) and ignore the basics of adequate writing, basic directing, and clean—albeit cheap—production. Too many cult and exploitation movies, as well as straight to DVD and theater-released films, cop out of quality production by labeling themselves as such as if these monikers were excuses to be bad.

4) Did you know that there exists one variety of carnivorous parrot? It's true. They live in the mountains of New Zealand, and they eat the fat surrounding the kidneys of sheep- WHILE THE SHEEP ARE ALIVE. It's horrible.

You mean the Kea in New Zealand, sure. Hey, didn’t the children’s pirate Captain Gar have a carnivorous parrot called Pete? I don’t think he liked mutton, though. Oh, and I recall Magic: The Gathering having a carnivorous death-parrot, too, but he’d sooner pluck out your eyes and shish kabob them than eat your kidney fat.

I’m amazed we haven’t seen a horror movie on zombie flesh-eating parrots yet, pecking for brains and kidney fat. We’ve got zombie-everything-else.

5) What's the one- ONE- horror movie you love so much you want to stick it down your pants?

Well, this is a tough one. Had you asked me what’s the one movie I’d like to stick down somebody else’s pants, well then, I’d have said Uzumaki. That’s one spiraling tale of insane, other-worldly terror I’d share with anybody. The dizzying camera-technique alone is a joy to watch. And since you didn’t specify shorts, jeans, or slick slacks, I’ll assume you mean my everyday pants. Suit pants get the special treatment, especially if they’re pin-striped, but I’ll go with everyday pants (good old Hemingway khakis for me). So the movie I’d stick down my everyday khakis would be A Chinese Ghost Story: a tale that blends ghosts, hopeless romance, unavoidable heroism, and demon-hunter mayhem in a poignant blend of green tea terror-filled special effects and humorous nuance.

6) Adrienne Barbeau. Discuss.

A Hershey bar with almonds, a Twinkie drenched in maple syrup, a moon pie with maple-flavored cream, Cap’n Crunch cereal with strawberry milk; what more can I say, she’s one of the sweetest actors to grace a horror flick. She’s the body every fan (mostly male, but some female, too) dreams of holding, and she’s got the chops to back it up in every role she plays. Who didn’t fall in love with her in Escape From New York?

7) Why should people bother to read your blog?

Look, it’s tough enough to write the damn thing on a lamely consistent basis; if I had to worry about getting people to actually read it I’d never get anything written. Okay, at least it’s spam free and I don’t have those mutating, rotating, popping, expanding, and flashing banner ads getting in the way like those more commercial horror sites. Isn’t that a good enough reason?

8) Where does Jigsaw get all the money he needs to build all those traps and buy all that warehouse space? Better yet, does he have some sort of engineering background? He must, right, if he designs all that crap?

Obviously he shops at Walmart and takes the "save money, kill better" motto to heart. I’d bet he’s got a deal with Costco, too. Those meats they get are too cheap to come from cows. So you can say he’s a smart shopper just trying to pass along the savings and savvy buying wisdom he’s picked up along the way to slicing and dicing his victims. As for his engineering skills, I bet he did it by mail. I took a locksmithing course by correspondence once. Which is probably why I’m not working as a locksmith, but hey, I learned how to pick locks, so that’s cool. And doesn’t Phoenix University have a distance learning course on ACME torture devices and their fiendish construction on a shoestring? Either that or he got some student interns from MIT. They love stuff like that, and making those chunky robots that clobber each other.

9) Several theories regarding the reasons why people would subject themselves to watching horror films (when they're so, you know, traumatic) exist. Which is closest in line with your feelings on and reactions to the genre? Feel free to elaborate. Or don't, see if I care.

a) RELIEF THEORY: The unpleasant feelings of distress cause more stimulating feelings of relief when the unpleasantness passes- the stressed arousal caused by fear becomes pleasurable arousal later on.
b) CONTINUOUS REWARD: The excitement felt during the film is the appeal in and of itself.
1) Stereotypical gender roles are reinforced: men act as protectors, women need protection.
2) Violating social norms- watching "deviant" entertainment- is exciting.
3) Experiencing heightened emotions with others makes us feel like we "belong" and we're truly part of a group.

My Masters was in Forensic Psychology, so I can safely say I don’t agree too much with any of these cognitive/sociological theories. First, and let’s face it, many people do not like horror films and avoid them. Horror onscreen makes them uncomfortable because it’s potty-dirty kind of stuff, not fit for intellectual-minded persons who derive spiritual nourishment from French subtitles. There is no stimulation or motivation for them to see terror onscreen, so they wouldn’t be seen dead in a theater showing a horror movie.

Other people see horror films to experience the thrill of survival. How many stupid victims ever survive by accident? None. It’s the skill and determination, shown by smart victims, that keeps them living longer in a horror movie. This survival against the odds reinforces the belief that the smarter you act the safer you will be. This is reassuring to those viewers, and they root for the smart people in horror movies to survive. They WANT them to survive, so there is an emotional attachment that is very important for them.

Now, there are various other forces at work, including some of those sociological aspects. The group effect, seen during Saw movies, where small groups of friends experience a right of passage watching torture horror, is something fairly new. Can I keep my eyes open while victims get turned inside out and popped like a cork? Who will blink first in the group? Will we all blink and have a good laugh at blinking? Boy, am I glad I’m not that dumb son of a bitch who just got twisted into a pretzel. I’m not sure what the goal is here; there is a catharsis, but I’m just not sure what the overall motivation is. Not yet anyway. Maybe this is something horror bloggers should explore. I’m sure though it is not as simple as Relief Theory makes it out to be.

10) Which year produced better horror movies: 1977 or 1981? Why?

1981 without a doubt in my mind. You had a nice balance between schlock and more serious horror. With super movies like The Funhouse, American Werewolf In London, The Evil Dead, and Escape From New York, how could you go wrong? There was a much better vibe in ’81 for pushing the horror envelope.

11) What the eff is up with those French and their crazy horror flicks?

It must be a cultural thing: if you had a big population stuck in the boondocks with nothing but animals for company you’d be doing a lot of movies with bestiality in them, too, or terrorizing the city-dwelling neighbors up for the weekend for kicks and giggles.

12) What's your favorite Animals Run Amok movie?

Tough call here. If you’re including creepy-crawlies, Squirm and Them! (okay, really big ants here), are high on my list. For straightforward “oh crap we’re screwed” mayhem, The Birds is probably my number one favorite. Hitchcock takes birds and makes them weapons of the apocalypse, sent by God to clear out the natives. Plot simple, effect inescapably horrific because of its simple plausibility (our feathered friends, all around us, are pissed off big time: KFC staffers, you’re first to go).

13) If Jason Voorhees is on a train heading east at 80mph and Leatherface is on a train heading west at 65mph…why the hell would anyone ever watch Rob Zombie's Halloween?

You see, here’s the missing operand: you forgot to include the snack car. Everybody makes this same mistake when doing this problem. Now, I’ve seen it done with the booze car, and boy, that does throw in some interestingly obtuse angles, but it’s the snack car that keeps the kids happy and occupied on long trips. Now, assuming we’ve added the snack car, no one in hell would bother seeing a Rob Zombie Halloween movie. Here’s why: the parents are happy the snacks keep the kids quiet, and the kids are happy the parents are not bitching about them not having any snacks—and that’s what this whole question is really asking about: not actual sidereal planetary travel time, but snack time, which operates on a minute by minute, not hour by hour, temporal incremental.

So if Jason Voorhees is heading east at 80 miles per hour, and Leatherface is going west around 65 miles per hour (assuming he’s not stopping in the snack car for a Twinkie and Coke or boozing it up in the booze car), no one will care to watch Rob Zombie at all. Only unhappy parents and starving kids, the type of people Rob Zombie always shows in his films, would go to see his kind of downer, white trash home kind of movie. We’ve eliminated unhappiness by keeping the damn snack car open. Snacks = Happiness, therefore, happy snack-eating people = 0 Rob Zombie movies watched.

Now, of course, if Leatherface kills the snack car operator after he eats his Twinkie, thereby forcing closure of the snack car, Rob Zombie movies geometrically increase in popularity. But that’s another problem. For us.

14) What are your funereal wishes?

I’ll worry about that when I’m dead.

15) Why do I have such a fondness for Shelley Hack? It's not like she's really done much to deserve it, but there it is.

Hey, I charge by the hour for therapy.

16) You're on a sinking ghost ship that's being piloted by a witch. What are your last words?

“Is it too late to switch to that Carnival Cruise to Bermuda?”

17) Asking about your funereal wishes and your last words means nothing, I swear.

My ideal tombstone message? “He ate Twinkies and watched the Three Stooges. And he loved horror movies, too, so don’t look behind you.”

18) Do you know where I can get some lye?

Fighting some really crude answer here…fighting…fighting…damn, lost it…you mean a good lye? Fighting…fighting…okay, I’m back…No. Ever since Red Devil Lye stopped supplying, I don’t know where you can purchase lye. Is this a trick question, or a line from a movie? My god I don’t know everything! I feel so insignificant now. So helpless…

19) Weren't you glad when THAT JERK in THAT HORROR MOVIE got what was coming to him?

Actually, I hate jerks in horror movies. They’re no fun. You just know they’ll get whumped bad because jerks in horror movies always get whumped. So, no, I’m never happy when jerks in horror movies get what’s coming to them. It kills the suspense.

20) Overall, what’s your favorite era of horror films?

The Universal Studios Horror movies will always be my favorites. Yeah, I’m old, but they keep me young. Those movies captured an era of terror that, while mild measured by today’s movies, still showed heart and professionalism, even when A production moved to B-movie status. What’s more, those movies, when they came out, were held in high esteem by the audience, too.

They also pushed me into horror for good.

21) Would you rather be:

1) a vampire
2) a witch/warlock
3) a werewolf
4) a Frankenstein (and yes, I know technically it’s “Frankenstein’s monster” but “a Frankenstein” sounds better)
5) a Jaws

A vampire for sure. I had this fantasy when I was a kid, garnered from reading way too many Creepy and Eerie magazines, of being a vampire who could fly around, have super strength, change into other creatures, and live forever, or close to it. And date Vampirella. Now if I could fly and live forever as a warlock, maybe I’d go for that, too, but only if I could date Vampirella.

22) If you could turn back time- if you could find a way- would you take back those words that hurt me, so I’d stay?

What, you left?

23) What's something you want people to know about you or your blog that I didn't ask?

Q: Will you ever get off your duff and write that great American horror novel?
A: Workin’ it (and no, I don’t mean my duff)


Big thanks to Iloz Zoc. Stay tuned for another exciting episode of...THE BLOGGENAIRES!

awesome movie poster friday - the JOHN CARPENTER edition!

Top o' the Friday to you all. If I may be so bold:
  • John Carpenter made some of my favoritest horror movies during the late 70s and early 80s. Looking at posters from The Thing, I think "Holy fucking shit, I love The Thing." Then I see posters for The Fog and I think, "Holy fucking shit, I love The Fog." Then I see...meh, you get the idea.
  • The poster for The Fog which portrays the giant woman made out of fog staring at your junk will never get old.
  • If you want more Halloween posters, check out the AMPF Halloween edition.
  • Damn you, Alamo Drafthouse and your amazing posters! I want them all.
  • Though I did not add a relevant poster to the mix, I feel like telling you that a friend of mine once called Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness...Mouthful of Madness.

Apr 28, 2010

5 sweet reveals

I'm cranky today. Therefore, I decided to post about a subject that makes me happy: great reveals in horror movies. I don't mean, like, when we find out that Mrs. Bates is actually Norman Bates (PS- spoiler alert) or a simple jump scare or something along those lines. I'm talking about movies that take their sweet-ass time revealing what, exactly, is killing all the pretty young things. Or what will soon be killing all the pretty young things. You know- the monster. It's all about anticipation capped with a mind-blowing holycrapdidyoujustseethat moment. Here are my five favorite examples in no particular order; you may disagree with my choices, but that's your beeswax. (PPS- more spoiler alerts)

Salem's Lot

I talked about this a bit in my review of the 1979 made-for-TV miniseries Salem's Lot oh so many moons ago- it's just that amazing.

Aside: this was made for TV. MADE FOR TV. Made for TV and it's got more scares than most of the crap at your local thee-ay-ter. The old days were better, etc etc.

Anyway, while there's plenty of vampire action and weird goings-on going on in the Lot, all everyone keeps talking about is "Mr. Barlow this" and "Mr. Barlow that". Who is this guy? Some shy, old antiques dealer? More than two hours into the production, we meet this Mr. Barlow, and...well...

Actually, "meet" is too gentle a word to use for our introduction to this mystery man. Suddenly, oh so suddenly, he's there- BAM, in your face like an edgy comedian or an energy drink. We may have suspected that Mr. Barlow was the king of the new crop of vamps floating and biting their way around town, but no one could have suspected he'd look like that, like your worst possible nightmare come to life. Not. Cool.

The Ring

I don't care what you say, I love The Ring. Certainly the waterlogged ghost-girl idea has become boring since this film hit in 2002, and there's no denying that the herky-jerky camera style has been overused in horror like an old man's handkerchief, but come on. When we were introduced to Samara all those years ago we were innocent! It was a novel concept! The endeavor was as invigorating as a York Peppermint Pattie with only half the calories (no, that doesn't make sense).

Anyway, The Ring. Sure, we see Samara a bit on the eeeevil videotape, and we see the results of...whatever it is she does to victims seven days after they watch said tape. But it's not until the film passes the 90-minute mark- not until we think everything's gonna be a-ok, that Samara has gone off into the light- that we see her in all her water-logged, stinky glory. It's bitchin'. No, we still don't really know what she actually does to people, but I don't really care. She crawls out of TVs, and that's all I need to know.

Oh, and when getting these screencaps I noticed that this... a copy of The Craft. Thought you might like to know.


I don't usually find monster movies scary, but Alien is a huge exception to that. Part of the reason why the film works so well is because it keeps building and building- the crew of the towing vessel Nostromo faces an enemy that quickly adapts to its environment as it grows. We get a glimpse of the titular xenomorph more than an hour into the proceedings, when Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) heads into the bowels of the ship to find the tiny alien which burst from the chest of a crewmate just hours earlier. The alien is no longer a chestburster, though: it's grown into a hugely tall, drooling, dual-mouth-wielding, acid-blood-squirting badass. Yeah, didn't expect that.

In related news, I want to open a sci-fi-themed strip club called The Titular Xenomorph.

The Descent

Our plucky spelunkers of Neil Marshall's The Descent are pretty well fucked about 20 minutes in. After a section of the uncharted cave they're exploring collapses, they desperately search for a way out...and then stupid ol' Holly (Nora-Jane Noone) goes and injures herself, putting a serious damper on a decidedly crappy day. Oh yeah- and they're not alone.

Marshall gives us quick glances here and there, enough to let us know that there's something in the depths with the women, but we don't get a good look at the crawlers for almost an hour...but when we do, it's a complete shock. As their dire situation causes the women to begin to panic, their night-vision camera pans around and a crawler is THERE, having snuck up behind them silently. Yes, I use "snuck" even though it's not a real word, because it sounds cooler than "sneaked". My tenuous grasp on the English language aside, the sequence is fucking brilliant, a highlight of the terrifically terrifying film.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Holy crap, whaddayou know: Tobe Hooper is responsible for two out of my five choices!

In the first half hour of the film, a van full of teenagers deals with a lot of bad stuff- the unrelenting Texas sun, the crazy hitchhiker who brandishes a knife at them (and himself), Franklin whining and eating a sausage- but it all leads up to the horrors inside the isolated farmhouse that Kirk and Pam find. There's a generator running, but no one seems to be home...when Kirk heads inside to investigate, his curiosity is piqued by the squeals of a pig emanating from a strange doorway that's bedecked with animal skulls. Of course, it's not a pig- it's Leatherface. He appears in a close-up, and before we even know what's happening, he's bashed Kirk over the head and dragged him inside the mysterious room. He slams the door shut without a word, and it's on. It's absolute horror movie perfection.

So there you go, my five faves. I must say, I'm slightly less cranky now, having written about some of the best scenes horror has to offer...unless it's just the Thunderbird I've chugged while writing this. Either way, I feel so pretty!