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!

Jul 26, 2013

Hello, this is Murder calling

One of my favorite activities is boring A Young Person to the brink of collapse with a litany of things that used to be better and/or things they've missed out on simply because they weren't around to experience them. Sure, sometimes I'll pause in my droning and think, "Have I become an actual crone yet? Do I really need to lament the loss of Fudgalicious right now? If I do, could I not do so privately? Surely this Young Person would rather skateboard or drink a Four Loco than listen to me talk about The Good Old Days." Then I stop zoning out and realize that the Young Person wandered off because I was no longer talking but simply staring off into space instead.

Their loss though, amirite? Yes! By wandering off, they will miss my blathering about specific topics related to things being better decades ago. Topics including, but not limited to:
  1. Fudgalicious gum
  2. Freshen Up gum, which I guess is still around but no one buys it because when you think about it, the way it squirted into your mouth was a bit disconcerting, really
  3. I don't know why I keep mentioning gum. I don't even chew gum. That's not really a topic for the list, I am just saying.
  4. Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, Arthur Hailey's Hotel, and why am I not writing a book about 80s nighttime soaps
  5. Made-for-TV horror movies
  6. Having to wait a year (at least) for theatrically-released movies to come out on video, and then only renting everything because movies were, like, $100
  7. Comics were everywhere
NOTE TO SELF- a talking point to add to this list in these future "conversations" (let's be real, it's just me going on and on): telephones, specifically as they used to relate to horror movies.

Look, I am not so old as to not realize that phones are still around. But let's face it...when it comes to horror movies, the tiny portable computer camera phone devices everyone has nowadays are boring. "Oh no, I can't get a signal, we're doomed!" - snooze. "My cell battery is dead!" - oh no, feel the excitement. "A signal transmitted through our mobiles is turning everyone into zombies! Well, maybe not technically zombies, but I guess it depends on your definition of a zombie!" - You know, lots of things turn people into zombies, be they technically zombies or no. Cell phones are just Dullsville, you guys. And as far as I know, they are not readily available in sweet avocado or mustard colors, so again: what is the point of them?

In The Old Days, handsets were usually connected to bases, and bases were always connected to houses. Literally! Connected by wires! If someone knew your phone number, chances were good they knew where you lived. If you answered the phone, you were home. Sure, now folks change cell numbers frequently- but once upon a time, you were tethered to that shit for life. And in case you are a dummy, let me remind you that the "mobile" in "mobile phone" means that you can take your phone with you. How scary would the beginning scenes of Scream been if the killer had called Casey while she were at CVS instead of making Jiffy Pop in her own kitchen?

"Do you like scary movies?"
"What's that? Sorry, I can't hear you."
"Excuse me, can you tell me where the unguents are?"
"Sorry, I'm at CVS and I need-"
"Who is this? Can you call back? I need to browse the salves aisle."
"Well, I guess I won't go home, then."

Answer: not very scary, except maybe for whatever situation she's facing that requires the application of a medicinal balm.

"Send help, I have a rash!"
Just look at the way she's being harassed! It's much tougher to bother someone with weird questions or heavy breathing nowadays with this Caller I.D. business. If I don't recognize a number, I don't answer. If they keep calling, I turn my phone off. If they leave disturbing voice messages, I delete 'em instead of listening to them. Let me tell you, Billy and his "Don't tell what we did, Agnes" business wouldn't have gotten very far with me. This is why my life is not nearly as terrifying as Black Christmas. I love that movie, but I am not complaining.


As numbers were tethered to phones and phones were tethered to houses, so were people tethered to...phones and houses. If you left your home to escape whatever masked whackadoo trying to whackayou, you had to leave your lifeline behind. No rushing out to hide behind the garage and call for help! Kids today have it so easy. Why, even if you stayed home to call the cops, the kookadook could simply cut the phone line.

And then, of course, phones could also tether you to your death!

Yes, I drew this, so what
There are multiple ways for this: the obvious, as employed my Mr. Myers, above, and then like this, in the POSITIVELY DELIGHTFUL (so delightful I had to yell it) 1982 flick Murder By Phone, which I just watched and which is the reason I am thinking so much about telephones in horror movies:

Man oh man, this movie! Okay, when I say yell "POSITIVELY DELIGHTFUL", I really mean "largely terrible" except for all of the titular murders by phone. Yeah, there's some plot that involves environmental superprofessor Richard Chamberlain and his Mighty Beard trying to solve these murders by phones, but the plot really just gets in the way of the murders. You know, the murders by phones.

AND HERE THEY ARE. Now you don't have to watch 80 minutes, you only have to watch two. Although, be warned: it's so awesome, you may spend 80 minutes watching two minutes 40 times.

The beeping. The shaking. The bleeding from all the head holes. The lightning and thunder indoors. The people getting blasted off their feet and crashing into various things. The venerable John fucking Houseman getting murdered by phone! If there is a Heaven, my friends, it is this two minutes of cinematic history.

Also: see? AVOCADO.

Also also, it should be noted: the second death...that of Mr. Office Man, cements my new-found love of people flying through the air whilst remaining seated in chairs, a love that began with Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice. I want it to be in every movie forever from now on. And maybe retroactively put in every movie that's already been made. What am I saying, "maybe"? Definitely.

Wait, what was I talking about before I got distracted? Oh yeah, telephones in horror movies. Here are some others where phones play a pivotal role- if not in the movie itself, then in my mind, which is the only thing that really matters:
  • When a Stranger Calls / When a Stranger Calls Back (I mean, DUH)
  • Don't Answer the Phone! (this is also the title of a chapter from my forthcoming book, Hermiting 101)
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 
Yes, I drew this, too SO SUE ME
And, of course, One Missed Call, the poster for which only proves how unscary cell phones are.

What the hell is that? Who decided that was a good idea? It makes me feel bad for the film, because man, that poster really puts the film at a disadvantage from the get-go. How could it bounce back from being saddled with that image? It's like...I don't know, being born only a head or something. Maybe that's not 100% impossible to overcome, but it's got to be 99.5% impossible at best. If you were only a head, how would you breathe or turn the pages while you're reading Entertainment Weekly or be alive? It would be super tough. And with a poster like that, how could One Missed Call be good? The answer lies in its infamous 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I can't personally testify to its quality, because I've never seen it. Why would I? Life is too short, and it's much better spent watching people fly through the air on office furniture and boring The Young Folk.

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