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!

Oct 31, 2013

SHOCKtober: 10-1

Well, well, here we are. The end of our long, difficult journey has arrived. Let's throw that ring into the lava and get on with it, shall we? Without further ado, here are the ten films that have scared you guys the most. The number in bold is the number of votes received.

10. Poltergeist -- 1982, Tobe Hooper -- 17

9. A Nightmare on Elm Street -- 1984, Wes Craven -- 17

8. The Ring -- 2002, Gore Verbinski -- 18

7. The Descent -- 2005, Neil Marshall -- 22

6. Alien -- 1979, Ridley Scott -- 23

5. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre -- 1974, Tobe Hooper -- 25

4. The Shining -- 1980, Stanley Kubrick -- 25

3. The Blair Witch Project -- 1999, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez -- 27

2. Halloween -- 1978, John Carpenter -- 28

1. The Exorcist -- 1973, William Friedkin -- 36

And there you have it. That's a mighty fine Top 10, folks! It wouldn't exactly match up to mine (I should maybe get around to posting that some time), but I would gladly take it.

I was interested to see how it stacks up against your 2010 list of favorite horror films, so I made this scientific chart:

Now, there are some major discrepancies in terms of vote numbers, so that's worth bearing in mind. In 2010, I asked for your Top 20 favorites...I learned my lesson from the madness that wrought and this year, I only asked for ten movies. Also, the voter turnout this year was decidedly lower. But still, a comparison is noteworthy.

Look at that, in 2013, not a zombie in sight! 2010, not a Blair Witch to be found! Freddy Krueger earned the same spot on both lists! Leatherface and Jack Torrance swapped places! The WOW FACTOR is immense.

Anyway. Good job, everyone. Pat yourself on the back! Unless you didn't submit your that case, punch yourself in the face! With candy. It's Halloween!

Oct 30, 2013

SHOCKtober: 20-11

Here we are at the penultimate chunk of list where we really learned what movies have scared you guys the most. Time to enter the Top 20...

Each of the following films received ten votes:

20. Audition -- 1999, Takashi Miike
19. The Changeling -- 1980, Peter Medak
18. The Strangers -- 2008, Bryan Bertino
17. Ringu -- 1998, Hideo Nakata
16. [REC] -- 2007, Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza
15. The Haunting -- 1963, Robert Wise

For the remainder of the list, the number of votes received is enboldened!

14. Salem's Lot -- 1979, Tobe Hooper -- 11
13. Paranormal Activity -- 2007, Oren Peli --13
12. Session 9 -- 2001, Brad Anderson -- 14
11. Jaws -- 1975, Steven Spielberg -- 15

I've yet to punch the numbers into my science calculator, but I'm pretty sure that ultimately, Steven Spielberg will have the most mentions on this list. How very, very unexpected.

You know what's great about your 20-11? If someone came up to me and said "Hello, Final Girl, I am a horror movie ignoramus. Can you recommend ten stellar horror movies to me?" I could just hand them this little list and say "Here are nine, and also The Strangers." Ha haaaaa, zing! Now zing me back by saying that Paranormal Activity isn't stellar. This is how The Internet works, right?

Anyway. I want to do a [REC] trilogy blitz because I looooove the first one, like the second one (but I've only seen it once), and have heard good things about the third. Also on my list of things to do: laundry. Oh, and also a big scientific study about the Ringu/The Ring phenomenon, which is that it seems whichever version you saw first is the one you like the best. Anyone out there feel the opposite?

Here, have some nightmare:

like a big CGI ham and cheese sandwich

"Stay away from it," they said. "It's awful," they said. "You'll regret it!" they said. I ignored every one of 'em. These crazy townspeople held eyeballs all up in my face and warned of impending doom. Just like a horny teenager, I said "Ew, gross, shut up" and went about my beeswax.

Mind you, my beeswax was not a weekend getaway at an abandoned summer camp, no! My beeswax was a viewing of Dario Argento's Dracula, which may not have damaged my person, but it certainly damaged my psyche. Because it's terrible. I should have heeded the warnings! But alas, as the boss of this blog, there are times I have to do some unpleasant things all in the name of science. Just like a horny teenager.

Aw heck, I'm being too hard on it. Sure, it was terrible, but not as terrible as I was expecting. Like, you know, when you go to the doctor and you think the prognosis will be "double amputation" but you walk hop out of there with one leg still intact. Better than you thought it'd be. But still awful.

WAIT. Oh no...already, I feel it happening. Yes...Dracula is becoming Rumplestilskinized! What does that mean? If you don't know, here's something I wrote about that shitshow Rumplestiltskin:
Rumplestiltskin is pretty much the worst movie ever. Somehow, though, if you talk about it enough with your friends, in your mind it becomes the best movie ever and you're struck with a fiery urge to watch it again right this very second. So you watch it and remember how much it sucks...but then, as soon as it's over, you're talking about how great it was and you want to watch it...and so on, ad infinitum.
I'm sitting here thinking about all the ridiculous things that happen in Dracula- and lawd, there are so many- and while it was painful to sit through at the time, now it all seems to add up to the most delightful romper that ever romped a room. Brain, this is a dangerous path you walk. "How could anyone not love Argento's Dracula?" should not become your new battle cry. And yet...

please don't laugh at me, ladies, my brain does whatever it wants

Somewhere in a tiny village in the Carpathians, a busty young lass gets her young bust out for a married fellow. After they do the sex, the busty young lass insists on being walked home- the woods at night are scary, after all- but married fellow refuses. The busty young lass walks home alone and, sadly, she is totally right about the dangers lurking in those scary woods. Before long she's attacked by...a CGI owl! But this is not a SyFy movie about killer CGI owls- this is just one of the many clever disguises of Count Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann). This should not be a surprise, for his name is right there in the movie's title. Anyway, Dracula bites the busty young lass to undeath.

Enter one young Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde, which sounds like the name of a villain the Uncanny X-Men would have fought in an issue from 1964), come to Castle Dracula to organize the Count's library, I guess? Which is weird, since the giant alphabet letters over each section implies that the library is already somewhat organized. Regardless, before you can say "Huh. And here I thought that Keanu Reeves would go down in history as the worst Jonathan Harker", the poor young man is set upon by the busty young lass (now a busty young Bride of Dracula) and Dracula himself.

Mina Harker (Marta Gastini) has come to town looking for her husband, and from here you know how the old story goes: Mina's pal Lucy (Asia Argento) takes ill after some bitey-bitey visits from Dracula, Van Helsing shows up to poop on the Count's party, Dracula becomes obsessed with Mina, et cetera, the end. Argento strays from the standard story enough to keep things interesting (SPOILER: poor old Jonathan doesn't make it), but most of all he takes this old recipe and douses it liberally in gallons upon gallons of pure, unadulterated fuckery.

It begins with Claudio Simonetti's score. Now, Simonetti and his Goblin bandmates have teamed with Argento in the past to create some of the most memorable sight + sound assaults in cinema (come on now). In Dracula, he brings some theremin-heavy, Creature Double Feature ooooEEEEEooooo realness, and it's so over-the-top YOU'RE IN DRACULA'S CASTLE corny that one cannot discern whether or not any of this affair should be taken seriously.

The performances only add to the mystery. Everyone either hams it up or barely registers a pulse- and I'm not just talking about the undead. Poor Rutger Hauer coasts through every scene in a mumbly daze, as if the shooting schedule falls right in the middle of naptime. Though she, too, is capable of better, Asia phones in her performance as Lucy, slurring nigh-unintelligibly and dutifully getting (unerotically) naked for her father's camera lens. Then again, she's also supposedly said "I tend to be a lazy actress, unless I'm pushed. Most of the time nothing much is required of directors, which is a pity." Who knows where the blame for her deadpan Lucy lies?

At least she shows some spark after Lucy is transformed into the Bloofer Lady. She seems to have a (great) cheesy old time in her fifteen seconds as a vampire, chewing the scenery, high-kicking crosses out of pious hands, and hissing. So much hissing in Dracula! Here's a little gallery; if you scroll quickly and hiss every time you get to a new picture, it'll be just like watching the film:

My favorite part of the movie? When Jonathan Harker looks out his window and spots a teeny-tiny CGI Dracula scaling the far wall of his castle...teeny-tiny CGI Dracula stops, looks back at Harker, hisses (softly! for he is so far away) and keeps on a-climbin'. Honestly, that was worth the rental price alone.

Yes, CGI owls, CGI teeny-tiny Draculas...this movie is nearly all CGI. That'd be bad enough on principle alone, but folks, we're talking about commercial for DeVry Institute's computer program-level graphics here. The generated effects are so blatant and awful, you'll either get angry or laugh hysterically- but either way you'll wonder how in the hell this happened and how in the hell Dracula is a Dario Argento film.

Let's face it- plot and acting have always been on the backburner in Argento films. Maybe sometimes his movies make sense, but generally it's the look and feel that set his work apart and have made the director Horror Movie Royalty. Is it a case of "Oh no, how far has Argento fallen?", or more "Would Suspiria have looked like this if CGI were rampant in 1977?" Likely, it's a combination of the two. There's no denying that the man can craft an exquisite scene, so maybe his heart simply isn't in it anymore. But there's also no denying that the advent of CGI has made things "easier" for filmmakers, allowing them to save both money and time by making all the magic happen with a keyboard instead of spirit gum, karo syrup, and latex. The problem is, that "magic" is very very rarely up to snuff, particularly in Dracula. It's disheartening as an Argento fan- hell, as a movie fan- to see something as simple as a bleeding cut on a character's arm done with poorly rendered computer graphics. It feels lazy, and dammit, you know he can do better.

If there's one saving grace in Dracula, it's a scene where the Count quickly dispatches a room full of townsfolk who no longer want to do his bidding. It's a crazy whirlwind of blood and violence, and the effects feel...practical. After being bludgeoned with CGI that feels straight outta 1995, it's a welcome relief to see something real. Well, relatively speaking and all.

I truly think there's some fun to be had with this cinematic abomination. I mean, I haven't even mentioned the scene where Dracula turns into a man-sized praying mantis (no one knows why that happens except Dario Argento and whatever god he worships) or the fact that if you took a shot every time you see dangling strings of garlic you'd be drunk five minutes in. Wait, why was I complaining about dodgy, over-used effects, atrocious dialogue, and terrible acting? What am I saying? A man-sized praying mantis...Dracula is the best movie ever!

Dammit...there goes my brain again.

Oct 29, 2013

SHOCKtober: 30-21

Holy crap, the Top 30. How is it all almost over? SHOCKtober, I'm mourning you already.

Each of the following films received six votes:

30. Friday the 13th -- 1980, Sean S. Cunningham
29. 28 Days Later -- 2002, Danny Boyle
28. Martyrs -- 2008, Pascal Laugier

The following films received eight votes each:

27. Insidious -- 2010, James Wan
26. Night of the Living Dead -- 1968, George Romero
25. Suspiria -- 1977, Dario Argento
24. The Thing -- 1982, John Carpenter
23. The Omen -- 1976, Richard Donner

These received nine votes each:

22. Candyman -- 1992, Bernard Rose
21. Black Christmas -- 1974, Bob Clark

Oh look, what's the one lonely movie up there without a corresponding link, meaning I've never reviewed it, nor have I written anything much in depth about it? Martyrs. Damn you, Martyrs! I've been saying I'm going to write something about it for years now. Maybe it's just too much of a thing, I don't know. There's too much to say about it. I don't know! But it's one of my favorite horror movies. Sigh.

As I've said before, it's interesting to see how this list compares to SHOCKtober 2010, how "what's scared you" compares to your "favorites". Here we've got Suspiria at was #8 in 2010. And The Thing, #24 on your scaries list, came in second on your faves list. See? Interesting. It doesn't always take many actual frights to make a horror movie a favorite. THAT IS SO PROFOUND.

Oh, and speaking of was a Film Club choice way back when and you should check out the post because Jessica fucking Harper left a comment on it and that is a very awesome thing.

Oct 28, 2013

SHOCKtober: 40-31

The following films each received five votes:

40. The Sentinel -- 1977, Michael Winner
39. The Amityville Horror -- 1979, Stuart Rosenberg
38. Don't Look Now -- 1973, Nicolas Roeg
37. The Evil Dead -- 1981, Sam Raimi

Each of the following received six votes:

36. Pet Sematary -- 1989, Mary Lambert
35. Event Horizon -- 1997, Paul W. S. Anderson
34. The Exorcist III -- 1990, William Peter Blatty
33. Phantasm -- 1979, Don Coscarelli
32. Invasion of the Body Snatchers -- 1978, Philip Kaufman
31. The Conjuring -- 2013, James Wan

Boy oh boy, 40-32 is like music to my eyeballs. So many terrific films. You guys have the best taste, I swear! And perhaps after the next Film Club meeting, I'll be as excited about #31 on this chunk o' list. Stranger things have happened.

Speaking of strange things, here's something...uh, strange. It seems to me that the majority of horror fans really love Exorcist III. It's scary. It's unexpectedly solid, a hell of a lot better than Exorcist II (even if, let's face it, it's really lacking in musical numbers and Linda Blair). That's not strange- I love the movie myself. What's strange is that Warner Brothers doesn't take advantage of this love by releasing DVD after DVD! There's long been rumored to be more footage out there, and fans have desired a Director's Cut for quite some time.

All we've got, however, is a bare-bones DVD from 1999. In this age of duping the public with new editions every five years (I mean, how many times can Halloween and Friday the 13th be released?) and even the most obscure horror flicks receiving the deluxe Blu Ray treatment, it seems like a no-brainer. Ah well, we'll get something eventually I'm sure. The world can't go forever without weird grandmas creeping about in super hi-def.

Oct 27, 2013

amazon one-star reviews: HELLRAISER

It's been reported recently that the world of "Hollywood" is revving up to remake Hellraiser. Clive Barker, who wrote and directed the original film will be writing the script. Doug Bradley, the OG Pinhead, will be returning as...well, as Pinhead. Barker has said he wants the filmmakers to utilize practical effects over CGI.

Heidi Honeycutt and I talked about this a bit on The Re-Scare-ening last night, wondering why this is even really a thing. A caller expressed similar sentiments, that after so many sequels the franchise has been ground-up beyond salvaging. I confessed that I like Hellraiser, but I don't like like it. All in all, I guess it was a Very Special Episode.

But I know you guys love you some Cenobites. The original film was featured here earlier today, for it placed on your chosen scariest films at #46. During SHOCKtober 2010, Hellraiser was ranked #41 on the list of readers' all-time favorites, and during 2011's SHOCKtober festivities Pinhead was voted a favorite genre character. Geez, I get it already!

As I said, I don't like like it myself, but there's no way I'd give the film a one-star review. However, I am not this person:
this movie is boring, all it is is a few sex scenes and a few modified people walking around, put that in a blender and you have hellraiser, not forgetting it's effortless 'special effects' with the plastic face at the beginning, with the eyes still in and the shape of the face is still there, that's not scary, it's just rediculous, i hate this movie, i demanded my money back after renting it, it's a complete waste of money even to rent. 
I am not even going to bother with any of the sequels for this movie, 'there are like 9 million of them so one of them has to be good' wrong! they are all probably crap. 
Pinhead is a stupid demon, who would be scared of a man with nails jammed into his brain? they would be a vegtable and would not do anything to you at all, and the fact that a tiny little rubix cube in disguise of a puzzle box could be a gateway to hell, i would stomp on the cube and break it. 
This movie is stupid and deseres 0 stars (wich i would give it if amazon did not have 1 star at lowest rate).
I mean, you have to admit...that bit about Pinhead being a "vegtable"? That's just science. You can't argue with science!

SHOCKtober: 50-41

Oh my gaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhd, the Top 50!

And YES, absolutely, this should have immediately sprung to mind or my life has been worth nothing:

The following films received four votes each:

50. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer -- 1986, John McNaughton

49. The Sixth Sense -- 1999, M. Night Shyamalan

The following films received five votes each:

48. The Orphanage (aka El orfanato) -- 2007, J.A. Bayona
47. Seven -- 1995, David Fincher
46. Hellraiser -- 1987, Clive Barker
45. Jacob's Ladder -- 1990, Adrian Lyne
44. Ju-on -- 2002, Takashi Shimizu
43. Arachnophobia -- 1990, Frank Marshall
42. A Tale of Two Sisters -- 2003, Kim Jee-Woon
41. Carrie -- 1976, Brian De Palma

Gettin' down to both the nitties and the gritties here, folks. I was surprised that Arachnophobia received so many votes, but if there's one thing I've learned this SHOCKtober, it's this: y'all hate bugs.

The good news is, that picture is real. The even better news is, you can click to embiggen and really damage your psyche. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Oct 26, 2013

SHOCKtober: 60-51

The following film received three votes:

60. Halloween II -- 1981, Rick Rosenthal

Each of the following films received four votes:

59. The Grudge -- 2004, Takashi Shimizu
58. An American Werewolf in London -- 1981, John Landis
57. Friday the 13th Part 2 -- 1981, Steve Miner
56. The Woman in Black -- 1989, Herbert Wise
55. It -- 1990, Tommy Lee Wallace
54. Child's Play -- 1988, Tom Holland
53. The House of the Devil -- 2009, Ti West
52. Scream -- 1996, Wes Craven
51. The Brood -- 1979, David Cronenberg

What a sweet, sweet chunk o' list this is! So much goodness. More than anything, I think it simply reinforces my belief that 1981 was totally such an awesome year for horror. Although I have to admit, whenever I think about Halloween II, the first thing that comes to mind is that Dollar Tree wig Jamie Lee Curtis sports.

Okay, now here is some news you can use:

First and foremost, tonight is the night! The night of...The Re-Scare-ening, a one-night Scare-ening reunion special. Listen in! Call in! It'll be fun. And if you can't listen live (tonight at 8pm EST/5pm PST), it'll be available for download and streaming after it airs.

Also, it's time to choose a choice for the Final Girl Film Club. And this time, it's a film everyone won't shut up about so I'd might as well add my voice to the cacophony...The Conjuring! Can't wait to see how James Wan's fear of dolls and old women is manifested this time! Ah, don't worry, I'll give it a fair shake. I hope I enjoy it as much as most everyone else seems to.

Here lie the Film Club what-fors:

The movie: The Conjuring
The due date: Tuesday, November 12
The deal:

1. watch the movie
2. link to Final Girl somewhere in your review
3. email me the link: stacieponder at gmail dot com
4. bask in the warm embrace of your fellow Film Clubbers

If you wrote a review of the film previously, that's totally fine. Just add a link to Final Girl in there somewhere and send it along.

Oct 25, 2013

SHOCKtober: 70-61

Each of the following films received three votes!

70. The Cabin in the Woods -- 2012, Drew Goddard
69. Dawn of the Dead -- 1978, George Romero
68. The Silence of the Lambs -- 1991, Jonathan Demme
67. Them (aka Ils) -- 2006, David Moreau & Xavier Palud
66. The Serpent and the Rainbow -- 1988, Wes Craven
65. The Innocents -- 1961, Jack Clayton
64. Dark Water -- 2002, Hideo Nakata
63. The Last House on the Left -- 1972, Wes Craven
62. Amityville II: The Possession -- 1982, Damiano Damiani

61. The Vanishing (aka Spoorloos) -- 1988, George Sluizer

Is Cabin in the Woods simply a loving riff on genre tropes, or an indictment against horror films and fans? Or both? Or neither? 

I think it's enjoyable, but at the same time I couldn't help but feel that Goddard and co-writer Joss Whedon were calling me a degenerate dummy for liking these kinds of movies. You know, kind of like Michael Haneke did with Funny Games...only Cabin didn't leave me pondering my relationship with on-screen violence. Rather, I found myself thinking "Hey, the fact that I like horror movies doesn't make me a bloodthirsty moron." Folks love the film, though, so clearly mileage varies and strokes are diff'rent.

Oct 24, 2013

Bitchin' news!

Once upon a time, I co-hosted a podcast called The Scare-ening. On the show, Heidi Honeycutt (of Pretty-Scary, Planet Fury, Fangoria, and a shit ton more) and I talked about whatever horror topics we wanted to talk about. It was a pretty funny show, if I do say so myself (and I do say so myself). We fielded phone calls from normal people and the occasional wackadoo, we featured guests like Joe Bob Briggs and Heather Langenkamp and a bunch of other people I'm totally forgetting because it's been like two years since our last episode.

So why am I talking about it and what's this so-called "bitchin'" "news"? Well, The Scare-ening is back for one night only, a super Halloween special, aw yeah. The Re-Scare-ening will air a-LIVE a-LIVE a-LIVE (I love The Funhouse) this Saturday, October 26th, 8pm EST. If you can't listen in live, don't worry...the show will be available afterwards for streaming or downloaded. But! If you don't listen, you can't call in. And that would be a shame.

Here is a link to the upcoming episode, and here is a link to the Scare-ening archive if you've never tuned in and you're in the market for a bunch of crap to listen to. Hooray!

SHOCKtober: 80-71

Each of the following films received two votes:

80. Ghost Story -- 1981, John Irvin
79. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark -- 1973, John Newland
78. Dressed to Kill -- 1980, Brian De Palma

77. Fire in the Sky -- 1993, Robert Lieberman

The following films received three votes each:

76. Gremlins -- 1984, Joe Dante
75. Ghostwatch -- 1992, Lesley Manning
74. Aliens -- 1986, James Cameron
73. The Others -- 2001, Alejandro Amenabar
72. Prince of Darkness -- 1987, John Carpenter
71. Clownhouse -- 1989, Victor Salva

I nabbed me a copy of Ghostwatch some time ago and it's a good time with some creepy bits here and there. Mind, this is an opinion coming long after The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity wreaked scary havoc in my brain place and faux documentary frightfests are a ha'penny a dozen. I can only imagine what it must have been like to see Ghostwatch when it aired, starring actual TV personalities and presenting the supernatural goings-on as 100% real. I'd probably still be locked up somewhere and, in true EC Comics style, muttering to myself, incessantly rocking back and forth, and sporting a Nancy Thompson-esque white streak in my hair. Ah, dare to dream!

Prince of Darkness is so underrated! It seems that people don't talk about it even when they're talking about John Carpenter movies.

I've never seen Clownhouse, and I never will. Had I known about writer/director Victor Salva at the time (for those of you who don't, this is a decent enough overview), I doubt I would have gone to see Jeepers Creepers. You can separate the art from the artist all you like, but you also have to decide how you're going to spend your money and who's going to profit from it, you know?

Oct 23, 2013

SHOCKtober: 90-81

Each film listed today earned two votes.

90. Repulsion -- 1965, Roman Polanski
89. Zombie -- 1979, Lucio Fulci
88. Silver Bullet -- 1985, Daniel Attias
87. Noroi: The Curse --  2005, Koji Shiraishi
86. The Collector -- 2009, Marcus Dunstan
85. The Innkeepers -- 2011, Ti West
84. Witchboard -- 1986, Kevin Tenney
83. Night of the Living Dead -- 1990, Tom Savini
82. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me -- 1992, David Lynch

81. Jeepers Creepers -- 2001, Victor Salva

The earliest bits of Jeepers Creepers are so damn good- the creepy truck! a dude stuffing bodies down a well!- that I want to love it...but oh boy, once the monster is revealed I just nope on out of there. The coat and the hat and the faintest wisps of a mullet and the frilled lizard-looking flaps and I get so disappointed just thinking about it. But the beginning! I'll give you that.

On the other hand, I'm totally on board for The Innkeepers and nothing even really happens in that movie, so what do I know? But this scene:

That did me in something terrible. Love that movie.