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 9, 2014


Dr. Tongue brings you...

Day of the Dead (1985)

Now that is a title screen: zombie front and center. Liberal amounts of grossness. Solid, weighty logo. All of it combining to let you know that George Romero ain't fucking around here. All of it as the climax of a fantastic opening sequence, one that well introduces some of our cast of caricatures (come on, you know they are) and shows just how screwed and desolate the world has become in the wake of the zombie apocalypse.

The font and the soundtrack cry zombie action movie and my heart cries yes!


"Like the last piece of cereal at the bottom of the bowl, soggy and pale and swollen with milk."

Last night I watched the Australian found footage film The Tunnel, and at some hour long after that I woke up from my sleep, found my notebook, and wrote that sentence. Somehow I thought it perfectly encapsulated...something about the movie and it would be a great opening for this review. At this point I'm hard-pressed to tell you what the hell it means, exactly, and to be honest there's a slightly pornographic quality to it that is making me uncomfortable. But hey, I have to open this review somehow and if it was a great idea last night then I'm just going to go with it.

To help solve a water shortage crisis, local government announces plans to build a water recycling system in disused tunnels below Sydney. Press conferences are held, promises are made...and then nothing. Without a word or a reason why, the project is dropped.

Investigative reporter Natasha Warner (Bel Deliá) finds this curious, but even curiouser when she comes across a YouTube video of some taggers running afoul of something in the darkness of those same tunnels. There have also been rumors of some of the underground homeless population going missing. Is the canceling of the recycling plant related? What's a-lurking in the damp down below the streets of the city? Warner attempts to get some answers, but government officials are mum. She assembles a crew of veteran news-types and decides to get to the bottom of things, so you know what that means: it's P.O.V. horrorin' time!

The crew sneaks into the tunnels and sure enough, they also run afoul of something in the darkness. The Tunnel presents itself as a documentary comprising footage before and during the events, but it's the talking heads reflecting on those same events that eliminate much of the tension of the proceedings as we know by and large who's going to live and who won't. Yes yes, the devil is in the details and the journey is the destination and all that, but ultimately I was just waiting to see how so-and-so died and I knew the other so-and-so was never in any mortal peril. Let's face it, most P.O.V./found footage horror follows a certain pattern; that is to say, there's a fuck ton of aimless-ish build-up and then in the last 15 minutes or so shit really happens ahhhh! The biggest problem in The Tunnel is that the format conceit eliminates the build-up. Sure, there's lots of talking and aimless-ish wandering, but for every moment of tension generated, someone then talks about it and the incline plateaus.

This is not to say that The Tunnel is wholly unsuccessful, because that would be a lie and I'm not a lie-teller. Overall it's a solid film and there are some moments of pull the blankets higher creepiness for sure. Ultimately, though, your enjoyment of it will likely hinge on your tolerance for and/or love of those P.O.V. tropes; you know, people running around panting and screaming in the green hues of a night vision lens.

I'm not going to begrudge anyone who enjoys a subgenre and thinks "Hey, I wanna make me some a that!" Ultimately, however, I feel like this kind of story and format have been tackled before and tackled better in movies like [REC] and Lake Mungo. Maybe I'm just a P.O.V. lover and apologist who needs to take a break and see some other subgenres.

The biggest bummer, though, is that The Tunnel rehashes the "ambitions of career-driven woman lead her to make foolish decisions and doom everyone" storyline of The Blair Witch Project, complete with her dressing-down by male crew members and subsequent teary-eyed confessional of contrition. I'm thankful that there's no dripping snot and ultimately no one kicks the map into the creek, but still. 15 years on and the head bitches in charge are still bitches? What a world, what a world. Totally like the last piece of cereal at the bottom of the bowl, soggy and pale and swollen with milk, amirite?

Oct 8, 2014


Come on, you lunkheads!

Creepshow (1982)

I bet it would take, like, more than seven hands for me to count how many times I've seen Creepshow and more than a baker's dozen's hearts to contain all the love I have for it. It's so perfect. It's so perfect! By turns gory, scary, and funny, it's an EC horror comic come amazingly to life. Secretly– okay, not so secretly– I think it's some of the best work that either director George Romero or writer Stephen King have done. Romero's visuals are an absolute treat. He plays with comic book framing conventions and the colors and monsters pop off the screen. King gives us five stories and a framing narrative full of frights, humor, and characters, dammit, who deliver dialogue that's got that signature vintage King folksy-realistic charm. Relatable and a bit theatrical, but not artificial and cloying. Everyone is eminently quotable and you love them, hate them, and love to hate them.

Just the little snippet of the title sequence in the GIF I've posted– even without the Bernie Wrightson-inspired illustrations and the thudding "dun DUN!" of the piano in the theme song– encapsulates the feel of the whole thing. It's a funhouse. It's going to scare you, but you'll have a smile on your face the entire time. It's so perfect you guys.

Oct 7, 2014


I was gonna post about John Carpenter's The Thing today, but you know what? I think we need to go OG on this because Carpenter didn't much change the original title sequence for his remake-ening of...

The Thing from Another World (1951)

It's unusual (particularly for the time) that the names of the actors do not appear until the end credits of the film. Instead, it's "The Thing" itself that's the star here, hidden away in the darkness and emerging slowly until it's front and center. This theme is much better utilized in Carpenter's 1982 remake/adaptation of John W. Campbell Jr.'s novella Who Goes There? In Carpenter's version, the alien entity is able to assimilate and imitate other life forms (man being the warmest place to hide, mind you) until the jig is up and it bursts forth in a big red mess of grue and grossness.

Also, Wilford Brimley. And MacReady's ludicrous oversized novelty sideways cowboy hat! Wait, here I am talking about The Thing instead of The Thing from Another World. Ehhhh SO SUE ME.

Oct 6, 2014


Fire up the snowcat and get out of the tub, today we're looking at...

The Shining (1980)

So beautiful, so ominous, right? Notes pinched from Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique crash as words scroll by quickly, almost as if they're a necessary nuisance. The camera zooms and winds through a relentless wilderness. The Torrance Family's VW Bug is as insignificant as its namesake out here, dwarfed by the endless Evergreens, the looming mountains, and even its final destination, The Overlook Hotel. It's as if the entirety of nature set out to swallow up this family long before the ghosts of the Overlook gave it a shot. Long before the credits finished rolling, even!

Oct 5, 2014


Treat yo self to...

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Love the elegant curly pink font splashed all over the unforgiving brown and grey angles of New York City. It's got me craving Ambrosia salad, really, but that's neither here nor there.

That song, masquerading as a lullaby, unsettles more than it soothes and even at the outset, you might begin to suspect that there's going to be something very wrong with Rosemary's baby.

(Aside: I always forget that this is a William Castle Production. I mean, who could guess that?)

Oct 4, 2014


Okay, today's title sequence is one that was a talking point for quite a while after my friends and I saw the film.

The Ring (2002)

But whaaa? That is not a title sequence and does The Ring even have one? Ha ha ha psych oh DIP I got you! The Ring is, in fact, title sequence-free and I love it. Why mess around with names and animations and blah blah blah? Let's get right to business, the film seems to say, and get right to business it do.

I don't even know how I'd feel about The Ring if I were to watch it today. The bits of CGI are likely dodgy by today's standards, and there have been so many "long-haired ghost girl" flicks in the last decade that the trope has been just about stripped of all its power. It's probably best if I leave my feelings and memories of The Ring in my horror movie hope chest for a while longer, where they are protected from the detrimental effects of time and air, and they smell of cedar and "potpourri sachet."

What a breath of fresh air this movie was, unlike anything else happening in American horror at the time...and part of that was the brazen–brazen I say!– lack of a title sequence. Nothing to lull you into the action. Nothing to soothe you after, say, a shocking five-minute cold open. You just sit down and the movie starts and The Ring happens to you and you get no relief. I love that. We all have shit to do, right? There ain't no time for cinematic gewgaws, we only have seven days!

Watched Fulci's ZOMBIE last night and I just want to say...

...Susan's "there are zombies standing four feet away from me!" face is A++.

Oct 3, 2014

News you can use!

Briefcase Woman says YES to news! And to shoulder pads. And to business!

Now that we've got the distance of time and...distance...between us, my breakup with Los Angeles has become like a breakup with one of those people things you read about. You know, it's been so long that you only remember the good times and the highlights, how things were in the beginning, way before Marc Singer ripped off the fake latex face of the city/your significant other to reveal the alien lizard hidden underneath.

The point is, now there is not a day that goes by where I'm all "Aw dang, I gotta get back to L.A." I've forgotten just about everything that made it so cruddy! And I tell you, the fact that so much stuff happens there really doesn't help. Look, I love you, New England, but stuff kind of just doesn't happen here except for Autumn and snow. And I adore those things, believe me! But listen, the other night a friend went to see Halloween at the Egyptian Theater and Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter were in attendance. What! And lo and behold, someone else just notified me about this thing, which is happening.

Again I say: what! See, things like this happen all the time out there. But I am not there. But maybe you are? And if you are, then you need to do these things. That is the news you can use!

Oh, like here's another thing: there's a short film called SLUT, written and directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Chloe Okuno, that'll be featured in the prestigious Screamfest Film Festival on Saturday, October 18. (It's also playing a bunch of other film festivals around the country, so check out SLUT's Faceplace for dates and the whatnot.) I haven't caught SLUT yet but I've seen some of Okuno's other work and I'm super excited about this film. So if you can see it, go see it! What's wrong with you?

And finally, some news you can use that doesn't involve leaving your house (truth be told, that is my favorite kind). The inimitable Alexandra West done went and wrote herself a fantastic essay about the Final Girl's place in the films of the New French Extremity, in particular High Tension, Inside, and Martyrs. I'm a big fan of the subgenre discussed and of West's writing,  and you should be, too. What's wrong with you?

Still, though, it got me thinking. Fucking Martyrs. Am I ever going to actually write about it? Or will I die having only written about writing about it? What's wrong with me? There must be something. I mean, I want to move back to Los Angeles.


Drag Me to Hell (2009)

I remember how excited my friends and I were when we sat down in the theater to see Drag Me to Hell on opening night. I didn't know much beyond that it marked writer/director Sam Raimi's return to horror. That was enough to get me giddy, and man, the movie did not disappoint.

The opening sequence ends with a cursed child getting...well, dragged to hell, and then you're slapped in the face by the film's title and a shriek of orchestral strings and horns. The credits that immediately follow feature illustrations of demons and assorted occult goodies accompanied by some sinister carnival-style music, promising a sideshow full of fucked up scary shit and good times, and boy does Drag Me to Hell deliver.

But it was that title's sudden appearance, the assault on all of your senses, that prompted a friend to lean over and simply whisper "Fuck. Yes." I concurred. I concurred so hard. I still do! Sam Raimi dragged me to hell and I loved every minute of it.

Oct 2, 2014


Having indulged in the new 40th Anniversary Blu-ray earlier this week, this film has been on my mind even more than it usually is. That's right, I'm talkin' 'bout

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Pure, unadulterated grindhouse, my friends. That title– one of the most lurid in all of cinema– laid out as simple and no-nonsense as you please against the roiling, unsettling background of blood and gore wait, it's the sun. It's just the sun. Well what's so scary about the sun?

Nothing, usually. It's "things that go bump in the night" after all, and most horror movies eschew the daytime hours in favor of the dark. It's understandable, obviously, but Chain Saw flips it around and gives us pure terror out in the bright sunshine.

The grueling Texas summer heat is as much a character in the film as any of the beautiful teens, the wackadoo cannibals, or Franklin.

(Aside: holy crap, I don't know what happened when I saw the movie this time, but I loved Franklin. I thought he was pretty great. And I wonder if that sausage he munched on was made of some other unlucky young folk...?)

The weather here is a touchstone, something that makes the world of the film feel more alive. Everyone knows by now what the actors had to endure during the shoot, those stifling temperatures that made them all sick and miserable. And we're right alongside with them, knowing what it feels like to be subjected to the relentless, inescapable, suffocating heat. Their shirts and brows are soaked with sweat. There's a lot of flesh on display, bare chests and backs and legs, but it's not to titillate, it's to survive the weather. What else is there to worry about? Nothing bad ever happens under skies this blue.

Except in Chain Saw, where a man wearing someone else's face will snatch you right out in the sunshine, hang you on a meat hook, and serve you up for dinner.

It's still a shock to me when Sally Hardesty jumps through yet another window in order to save herself and she lands daylight. It feels like safety, as it always does after a night full of terrors real or imagined. But again, the movie takes that away from us as we're left knowing that Leatherface is still out there, twirling in his manic dance of frustration with his chain saw set against the orange skies of the rising sun. Even so early, it looks to be another hot one.

Oct 1, 2014


Well you guys, what can I say. As I remarked yon about a fortnight ago on the Final Girl Facebook page, the October Excitement Spirits seem to have passed ol' Stately Final Girl Manor by this year. Why that is, I do not know. The world is drenched in Pumpkin Spice everything, sweater weather is upon us, and my local Rite Aid is fully stocked with glittery skull-shaped candles and crappy-looking "Turtle Ninja" costumes. This is normally my– nay, our– time to shine, so why-oh-whyfor do I feel ever-so meh about the whole thing? How did SHOCKtober sneak up on me without a single blat of fanfare from my brain place? How is it that not a single idea for this year's celebration came to me?

I was resigned to simply give it a rest this year, to close up shop for a month and pretend October never happened. Dire times, dear reader! But pal o' Final Girl Brent Schoonover came up with an idea that struck my fancy, and so here we are at SHOCKtober Day 1. This month I'll be taking a look at horror movie title screens and treatments and talkin' about what's what. Maybe Halloween will happen after all!

Let's kick things off with...

Friday the 13th (1980)

What in the world, Friday the 13th? What is that? It is 100% pure ridiculous, although future entries in the series would defy all laws of math and physics and reach even higher percentages of pure ridiculousness with exploding logos, a James Bond-esque Jason Voorhees, and more.

But it's also absolutely perfect, isn't it? Coming on the heels of more serious and/or artistic horror offerings like Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, Friday the 13th came out of nowhere and smashed through audience expectations with its explicit gore and simplistic teens-for-the-slaughter formula. The title sequence doesn't need a "scary" font or dripping blood or any of that; it's a heavy, silly monolith that gets in your face with a punch and a fuck you. It immediately bull in a china shops its way into your consciousness, where it will stay forever whether you want it to or not. I mean, look at it! It's not a logo as much as it's a monument. It seems as if it's 30 feet high and carved from fact, it should be. I want my picture taken in front of that damn thing!

Aug 6, 2014

R.I.P. Marilyn Burns

When rumors started circulating on social media late last night that Marilyn Burns had passed away at age 65, I didn't want to believe it. It's always a bummer when death notices come down your news feed, sure, but some of them hit harder than others, you know? And this one hurts, not least of all because for fuck's sake, 65 is much too young.

Ms. Burns was a convention regular these last few years, and so the announcement of her death has prompted countless "I met her at a convention and she was so nice" posts, usually accompanied by a photo of Burns next to a fan. I'll refrain from posting the Polaroid selfie I have of the two of us (oh man, it makes me so happy, though), but I'll echo the sentiment because my goodness, what a sweetheart.

When I lived in Ohio, I went to a convention– Cinema Wasteland, most likely- where Burns was a guest, and I got the idea to ask her for an interview. She readily agreed and I count the whole experience- meeting her, listening to her tales, and continuing our correspondence after- to be a career highlight. If whatever it is I do can be called a "career", I mean.

After the interview, I moved to Los Angeles and pitched the article to Sirens of Cinema magazine, who asked if I had any hi-res photos to include with it. I have no idea if this is standard practice (though I'm thinking it's not...?), but I asked Marilyn if she had any to email me. I got a packet in the mail full of pictures she deemed "ugly"- of course they weren't...well, maybe ugly in that horror movie way, you know? All tears and grimaces and bloodstains. She drew a Sally Hardesty smiley face and signed the letter "love, Marilyn." We emailed for a while after that, and every email was signed "love, Marilyn." (Told you she was a sweetheart.) We lost touch because, you know, we didn't really have anything in common. But I still get a thrill reflecting on it or whenever I spot the photo of the two of us (even dang, did I have to lean back so much and give myself that double chin??).

Her filmography is painfully short, and none of the genre movies she did after The Texas Chain Saw Masssacre were remotely in the same realm of quality. But to me, at least, the image of Sally Hardesty tied to that goddamn chair– sweaty and bloody and filthy and screaming her head off in abject terror– it's just such a perfect should be the picture shown in whatever volume of Funk & Wagnall's Encyclopedia references "horror film". It's as iconic as Janet Leigh screaming in a Bates Motel shower. So thanks, Marilyn, for giving everything you helped make film history.

Here's the interview as it appeared in Sirens of Cinema (I love the Elvira bits!) (click to enlarge!) (right click and open in new tab to super enlarge!) as well as some anecdotes that I left out.

Stacie: [Chain Saw] still really gets to me, even though I know what’s gonna happen. 
Marilyn:  I still jump when I watch the movie by myself- it still makes me jump when I’m pushing Franklin (Paul Partain) in the wheelchair and he goes “There’s a light!” and RARR!  You know? It just makes me jump, which is surprising ‘cause I shouldn’t have any reaction at all. 
S:  From that point on Sally is just, you know, that’s her first…she doesn’t enter the house and think, “Hey, something’s not right here!”  It’s like, she’s pushing her annoying brother in the wheelchair… 
M:  Oh, God was he annoying!  The thing is, that guy’s the nicest guy in the world, but I didn’t know it until 20 years later because he acted like Franklin the whole time, he was like a method actor.  He continued to be just as whiny and horrible when they yelled “cut”.  He’d sit in his wheelchair and say “Someone get me a Coke!” and we’d go “Hey, Paul, you’re not crippled.  Get up and get it yourself.”  Nyah nyah nyah- he’d whine!  And I’m sure someone finally got the guy a Coke.  It was weird.  I should’ve known he was acting, but…it was 20 years later when I talked to him and he said “I felt so bad being so terrible!” and I’m thinking, “Paul, I thought you WERE terrible.”  He was just doing his job, and I mean brilliantly, especially since we were so young then…who would have thought some jerk would stay in character the whole time and be such a terrific guy and you’d not know it until 20 years later? 
S:  Didn’t Tobe [Hooper] kind of set you two against each other to get emotion out of you? 
M: I know right before the flashlight scene, where we fight over it, he said “Paul said this about you” and then he went to Paul and said “Marilyn said this about you”, but it was already set. I mean, the whole shoot was real hard and the more Paul whined as a character the more we went “Oh God!”  But it worked good for the film, because we were ready to kill each other. 
S:  You can really tell in the scene outside the van, before you start pushing him and he’s honking that horn… 
M:  He was so damn…I was…yeah.  I mean, I didn’t really think I could push the guy, especially with all the brambles and brush.  But it made it all funny later.  Ha ha ha.  Later.
S:  You had to go back, right?  After it was over, you thought you were finished, and… 
M:  What happened…we filmed the very end of the show, where I jump in the pickup truck- which kills you if you ever try to jump from the cement into a pickup truck and you’re my size, and flip over…like that was a stunt I do daily!  And your boobs are getting, you know, all parts of you…and who flips over in a truck?  I would never flip over in a truck now.  But anyway, when I finally get in the truck and I had to wear all these stupid clothes full of karo syrup and chocolate and shit and then…I mean, the pants stood up!  They greeted me at the set!  And I thought, “Well, I’ll never have to wear that again!”  I mean, your hair sticks to you and everything, bugs and mosquitoes…if I sat on a chair it came with me…and so I thought “I’m through with that”. 
I don’t know how I did it the first time, I know I was crazy- but the second time, whatever happened there, the girl was just (maniacal cackle) “What are you gonna do to me now?  Are we gonna do it tomorrow?  Are we gonna do it next week?  Are you gonna keep calling me?!”  So yeah, everyone talks about how real that was, and…well, yeah, it would have been!  I hate to tell everybody sometimes, they go “Gee, where did all that come from?”  Well… 
S:  You didn’t have to reach too far. 
M:  Right, I was kinda already there.

Jul 22, 2014

It's CURTAINS for you, pal

For the last 30 years or so, Curtains (1983) has languished in the blackness of Negative Zone, home to all the horror movies lacking a proper release. Fans and curious newbie viewers alike have suffered through beyond subpar-quality versions of the film, found on the internet, bootleg copies, or VHS tapes. Orrrrr on VHS tapes formerly owned by Tori Spelling...and I know I've talked about that plenty of times before, but listen, I'm going to talk about it plenty of times in the future, too, and I'll probably be buried with that thing. But! The important thing here is not all those cruddy versions of the film. The important thing is that no longer must the world endure cruddy copies of Curtains! No more must we squint into the deep dark of the movie as we try to figure out what's going on. No more must we deal with bland colors and middling sound and mushy visuals, for the wonderful wizards at Synapse Films have painstakingly restored Curtains for a DVD/Blu-ray release next week. Y'all, it is a thing of beauty.

Truly, it's a sight to behold. I've seen Curtains several times, but this was like a whole new movie for me. the famous ice skating scene? The killer's ice skates are fuzzy! Who knew? From the glint on the edge of the sickle to the killer's eyes darting back and forth to every nook and cranny on that terrifying mask, all the little details that come shining through on the Blu-ray got me all giddy. I am only a little bit ashamed about that.

Now, here's the thing: gorgeous picture quality doesn't mean that Curtains is a good movie. We can all admit that, can't we? Undoubtedly it's got some pretty high highlights- come on, the aforementioned ice skating scene sits well-deservedly in the genre's Hall Of Fucking Creepy As All Get Out. Lynne Griffin is terrifically charming as comedian-turned-actress Patti (makes you wish she'd been able to stick around longer in Black Christmas...), and if Lesleh Donaldson isn't one of the horror mavens of your heart then I'm not sure what kind of problems you have, frankly.

A movie about six actresses and two guys snowbound in a mansion, should be straightforward and full of tension, but somehow Curtains just plain ain't. It's saddled with a meandering, largely nonsensical plot and characters that are, for the most part, severely underdeveloped. Mmm, make that completely undeveloped- does Laurian even speak? And what the heck is with that Matthew guy? Meanwhile, it's nearly devoid of explicit violence and/or gore- not that bloody mayhem is essential in a good horror movie (often, it's a detriment if you ask me) (GO AHEAD, ASK ME), but for a film that came out during the slasher heyday and features so many of the genre's tropes, it's surprising.

So if it's not good, why is Curtains so beloved? I mean, I love the hell out of it, not even ironically! Why have fans been clamoring for this film forever? I've long tried to figure this out- is it just that a few stellar moments are enough? That's partially it, but I think Lesleh Donaldson is absolutely spot-on when she says "They love it because of the idea of what it could have been." That's a quote from The Ultimate Nightmare: The Making of "Curtains", an all-new retrospective included in this release. Lemme tell ya, that documentary is pure gold to a horror nerd as it lifts back the curtains (sorry) on the messy story behind the making of this film.

It's the tale of a director and producer at odds- the former wanted to make an artsy psychological thriller, the latter wanted a straight-up slasher flick- whose differing visions all but tanked the film. Curtains is notoriously disjointed, and you'll learn why that is as everyone interviewed, whether actress or composer, sheds light on the interminable production. They all disparage the film in the end, and they're baffled as to why anyone would enjoy it- pretty hilarious and refreshingly frank, really.

Again, Donaldson perfectly articulates the way fans feel about Curtains- it's not the movie's fault it's so bad- it was doomed nearly from the start! Of course it could have (and should have) been better, but what it gets right, it gets really really right, and now it looks better than ever. Better than it has any right to, probably. But what can I say, it's always been a movie I feel oddly defensive about. Even when I (secretly) agree with those who'd put it down, I find myself wanting to throw a blanket around Curtains's shoulders, pat it on the head, and tell it, "Don't worry, at least you tried."

Jul 17, 2014

Coven Lovin'

My movie coat is a coat of many feelings. Love, hate, super love, wicked hate, ambivalence...every time I watch a film, I add another technicolor dreampatch to this hideous emotional trenchcoat of mine. The rarest patches of all– the ones made of human skin (just kidding, they're actually velour), the ones that I sew in ever-so-rarely– represent the movies that make me feel happy to be alive. Chock full of joie de vivre! You know how it is, life is a drag. People get sick, you lose your job, there's never enough money, it's too hot, it's too cold, all of a sudden you remember that the Macarena was a thing, and every day is just another day without Ecto Cooler. Then you see a bitchin' sunset or whatever, or you see a movie like Bay Cove (1987) and you feel the power of FUCK YEAH coursing through your veins, and "La Vida Loca" is stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

If you're dubious as to how it's possible that Bay Cove gets me all kinds of feelin' that way, then hang on to your bloomers because I'm about to lay it down. It's really very simple: Bay Cove is a made-for-TV movie about witches. Witches, of course, are vastly underrepresented in horror and so whenever I catch the slightest whiff o' witch (smells like peppermint!) I'm automatically on board. Throw "made-for-TV" into the mix and I'm so much more on board that I become the board. But Bay Cove doesn't stop there, oh no. The hits, they just keep comin'!

Pamela Sue Martin- yes, Nancy Drew herself! Fallon Carrington Colby herself!- stars as Linda Lebon, a hotshot young Boston attorney in desperate need of an Alberto VO5 Hot Oil Treatment. Linda's got it all: a hunky hubby (Jerry, played by Tim Matheson), a new work promotion, a pretty cute dog, and a cool city apartment. You know the kind: lofts and modified lofts, full of all sorts of clean lines and crazy crap. The crazy crap in Linda's case is a saxophone in the corner; sadly, it's never played. And boy do I mean "sadly" because lawd a-mighty I wanted to see Pamela Sue Martin play the saxophone.

You know what, though, Jerry doesn't feel like he has it all. Sure, he's got the apartment and the wife and the dog and the saxophone and his own contracting company. But now that he's a "boss" he spends too much time in suits and not enough time working with his hands. His dissatisfaction makes him particularly susceptible to the idea of a more rustic lifestyle, just like the one pitched by new friends Josh and Debbi (Jeff Conaway and Susan Ruttan) (I'm telling you, this movie never stops with the delightfulness). Devlin Island is great! they said. It's remote and peaceful! they said. Well, it will be a long daily commute for Linda and she'll have to rely on a ferry which will surely suck come winter, but I don't care, let's buy a house! Jerry said. And so buy a house they did, from the recently widowed Beatrice (Barbara Billingsley) (THIS MOVIE). You'll be happy to know that Jerry and Linda bring the saxophone to the new house. You'll be sad to know that still, no one ever plays it.

When Beatrice is all "I'm selling you my house, but I'm going to continue to live 15 feet away in the back house, and also I will walk in and out of your new house as often as I please," Linda should have slung that sax right over her shoulder and caught the next ferry right back to the mainland, but as you'd expect, she doesn't.

Actually, all of Bay Cove plays out exactly as you'd expect. The bulk of the movie consists of Linda gettin' her Nancy Drew on and discovering clues that point to the true nature of her new neighbors, but then the witches change those clues so Linda looks crazy. There's a scene, for example, where Linda finds incontrovertible evidence that a neighbor is actually 300 years old: grey hair dye! He's got to dye his hair to look older, see? But when Linda shows the bottle to Jerry, it's changed to brown hair dye. What the heck! Is Linda just breaking under all the strain of the new house and increased workload at the law firm? Nope. The people you think are witches are actually witches, the people you think are going to be vulnerable to or doomed by the witches end up totally vulnerable to and doomed by the witches.

Yes, the familiarity runs strong in this one, with hints of Dead and Buried, Rosemary's Baby, The Wicker Man, and The Stepford Wives throughout. That's not to say it's off-putting or boring; rather, it feels like reuniting with an old pal. And let's face it, a world without a movie featuring Barbara Billingsley, Susan Ruttan, Jeff Conaway, and Inga Swenson of television's Benson as a coven of robe-clad witches is not a world in which I want to live.

There's a brief showdown (complete with Dracula's Castle-style organ music) and Bay Cove ends like all the best made-for-TV movies do: incredibly abruptly. You're in the middle of some action and BAM, end credits. You'll be left wondering how Linda is going to explain everything to the police (oh, spoiler, she lives) and what it was, exactly, that the witches were after. They say they want to continue livin' la vida immortal, but that can't be right. Who wants to live on a tiny island with the same 12 people all up in your business forever? That sounds like a nightmare to me. Although, gimme a DVD copy of Bay Cove and I might think about it, not gonna lie. Pamela Sue Martin vs. Barbara Billingsley with a pentagram around her neck? Viva la vida!


Jun 18, 2014

Maybe you might win!

Friday the 13th Death Count has surpassed the 100-victim milestone. Recently I started posting the unlucky saps Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, and as the Paramount films wind down, I'm celebrating by hosting an art giveaway. It's tumblr-centric, I'm afraid, but so what? My mom even joined tumblr just so she could follow Death Count! That's badass, if you ask me. But anyway, you can read the rules and the such RIGHT HERE. Contest ends late this Friday night, so enter! If you want some Friday the 13th art, that is. If you don't, well, I can't imagine you'd much care and I bid you GOOD DAY.

Jun 13, 2014

Happy Friday the 13th!

There's an excitement in the air- at least, I think that's excitement- whenever Friday the 13th rolls around on the ol' calendar. Horror fans unite and celebrate the adventures (more like misadventures, amirite, ha ha ha!) of Jason Voorhees, his mom, a bunch of horny teenagers, a few non-horny teenagers, some random adult-types, and various crazy townsfolk. It's a day, much like Halloween, where even non-horror folk join in the fun; it's not unheard of for someone to post a picture of Jason even if he or she has never made it through a Friday film...or even tried.

Websites run lists, ranking everything from the movies in the series to the deaths in the series- which is your favorite? Which is the grossest? Which movie has the best title sequence? I would ask which has the best theme, but the obvious answer is Part 3 (it seriously fills me with much joy).

So today I'm posing a question that is honestly so, so tough for me to answer: Ginny Field, or Chris Higgins? They're both so great and 100% kick ass. Chris has some...personality issues, perhaps, that might push Ginny over the top. But when it comes to skills, Chris has those that pay the bills. I can't choose. I can't. And so I leave it up to you. Choose wisely! Or don't, I guess it doesn't matter.

Jun 6, 2014

Let me tell you about some stuff I watched

Boy I tell ya, this life as a well-versed horror fan is indeed a hard knock one, for I generally feel that I've seen all the good horror movies there are to see. I find myself totally envious when I learn that someone has yet to see a time-honored classic such as Halloween or Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell. "You there!" I say. "Your face is about to be rocked off by unbelievable heights of terror. I remember that feeling well, and I find myself totally envious!" Then they say "Get away from me, old woman," and I go back in the house.

Listen, I ain't got time to be a cynic anymore and I try to give every movie a fair shake. I certainly don't add The Curse of Lizzie Borden: Prom Night to my Netflix queue with any notion that it's going to end up in the Criterion Collection of my heart (its title most definitely will, though, I mean oh my god). Still, when I decide to give a film my eyeball virginity, I want to believe it has the potential to blow me away but good. It happens very rarely, but when it does my eternal horror flame burns a little bit brighter.

Well. Said eternal horror flame is now an eternal horror bonfire thanks to Who Can Kill a Child? (1976), which blew my mind so much that I'm still trying to process it.

A third pregnancy has Tom (Lewis Fiander) and his wife Evelyn (Prunella Ransome) feeling a bit overrun, so they leave their two little ones at home in England and head to a remote Spanish island for a brief vacation. After a four hour journey in a small powerboat, they arrive at Almanzora and find it eerily quiet and empty save a few children who do little more than stare at them. There is no one in attendance in the shops, houses, and hotel in the small village; food left on tables and a television tuned to static indicate that folks must have left in a hurry.

The truth is much darker: the island's adult population was murdered by the children, and Tom and Evelyn are next.

Now, now, before you go thinking, "You were blown away by some Children of the Corn shit?" let's get a few things straight. Sure, on paper Who Can Kill a Child? sounds similar to the best part of Children of the Corn (come on, everyone knows that the part where the kids kill their parents is the best part of that movie), but trust me, man, this is no Corn-ening. Who Can Kill a Child? is depressing and shockingly brutal, if not necessarily graphic. It's a fantastic watch but a tough one, particularly the lengthy opening credits sequence, which consists of several minutes' worth of vintage newsreel footage depicting the atrocities committed on children in concentration camps and wars the world over. Honestly, it's too much; I managed to resist the strong urge to fast-forward, and I nearly turned the whole thing off. I get the point that director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador was trying to make with it, but it still feels exploitative and largely unnecessary.

Don't let it dissuade you from watching this film, because the rest of it is must-see, a primo slice of 70s horror and an incredibly tense experience. Still, be warned: this movie does push boundaries and break some of mainstream cinema's last taboos by answering the very question it poses in the title.

On the exact opposite end of the spectrum from this film is Spooked, a brand new Internette Comedie Programme from Geek & Sundry.

The show gives a gentle- and I do mean gentle!- ribbing to the horror genre and those ubiquitous ghost hunter-style programs as we follow the exploits of a rag-tag group of Dollar Tree paranormal investigators. The premiere episode follows the group as they suss out some poltergeist activity and bust some ghosts at the home of a newlywed couple.

As it's only one episode in, Spooked has yet to find its legs thanks to the "getting to know the cast" bits that weigh down nearly all first episodes. It's off to a promising start, though, particularly as it's co-written by Felicia Day, whose webutainment (let's pretend that's a word) pedigree can't be beat. Make no mistake, the show is a comedy with the lightest sprinkling of horror...but I'm down to see where the show goes. If I were to write Spooked one of those open letters that seems to be de rigueur nowadays, it'd go a little something like...this, which totally counts as writing an open letter, I guess:
Dear Spooked
Don't be afraid to have a bit more bite if you want to reel in the horror crowd; after all, the best horror-comedies feature the genres living together in perfect harmony à la ebony and ivory. Take a cue from Sam Raimi's playbook (or hell, Edgar Wright's) and get your hands dirty!  
Also, please, the Annoying Tech Guy stock character is so irritatingly overplayed in paranormal horror movies, you don't need him, too. 
Kudos on a diverse cast and featuring women who are married- to each other!- in the episode without making it, like, a thing. Someday mainstream entertainment will catch up to the people who simply make the kind of shit they want to see and put it on the web. 
Oh, and after her fucking brilliant performance as Ellie in The Last of Us, Ashley Johnson has an Ultimate Lifetime Forever Free Pass from me, so casting her in this ensures that you will always have at least one viewer (me). I would even go see, like, Black Christmas 2 if she were in it, even though the very idea of a Black Christmas 2 is an abomination and makes me want to kill myself. I mean, I hated the first one so much, a sequel would just- but wait, this isn't about me, it's about you. What was I saying? I don't even know anymore. Well, bye.   
PS - there should be a horror vlog on Geek & Sundry, I am just saying.
You can watch Spooked on Hulu and/or on Geek & Sundry's YouTube channel.

In other Internette news, check out We Come in Pieces: The Rebirth of the Horror Anthology Film, a short documentary about...wait for it...horror anthologies. Familiar faces such as that of Joe Dante discuss what makes a horror anthology so great. Because they are! You should know by now that I love 'em so hard. Any fan who knows what's up should give this one a the least, you'll be reminded how super fucking rad the soundtrack for Creepshow is. And you can feel superior when none of the talking heads mention that the segment they go on about in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is a remake of a segment in the Japanese anthology Kwaidan (1964). Geez, pffft, everyone knows that, like why didn't they uh ohhhhh my anti-obnoxious pills are wearing off, I gotta go!

Jun 4, 2014


Sweet Sixteen has been near the top of my "super must see" list for a long, long time. I'm not exactly sure why that is- I never heard that it was some amazing slice of horror pie that will change your life or something. Wait, maybe I am exactly sure why that is. It stars Dana "Chris motherfucking Higgins" Kimmell! It features Susan "The motherfucking Manitou" Strasberg! 'Twas borne of my favorite era ('77-'83)! But perhaps most of all, my desire to see this film grew and grew simply because it always managed to elude my grasp. Never saw it in a theatre or during the home video era. Never found a crappy VHS copy anywhere. Code Red released the Director's Cut on DVD a few years ago, but we were never in the same room at the same time. I finally added this shit to my Netflix and they sent me three cracked, unwatchable copies before I got one that would play. Finally- finally!- Sweet Sixteen and I snuggled on up together last night. After all the years, after all the hardship and heartache, was this movie everything I'd hoped and dreamed it would be?

It hurts my heartplace to say it, because look at that bitchin' title card...but while I want to say that Sweet Sixteen moved from my "super must see" list to my "this movie is my past, my present, and my future" list, it only ended up earning a post on my "okay, I saw that" list.

Far worse, however, is that sending the title "Sweet Sixteen" trough the crazy straw that is my brain means that this song of all time has been stuck in my head for a while now. I will not deny that it is catchy in that adult contemporary / Time-Life Singers & Songwriters Collection way that yes I enjoy so sue me...but my goodness, by the 15-second mark I fully expect Chris Hansen to come around the corner and ask Benny Mardones to please take a fucking seat.

While he's here, Mr. Hansen can also ask Sweet Sixteen to park it because it opens with a full-frontal shower scene of the "camera lovingly lingers" variety featuring 15-year-old Melissa (Aleisa Shirley). Man, I get so squidged out by these shower scenes where the characters are underage (Stepfather, I'm talking to you). Come on, movies, why you wanna try to make me feel like the kind of person who hears "Into the Night" and is all, "Finally! Someone knows what I'm going through!"

Melissa is new in town and she gives no fucks about what anyone thinks. She's that kind of character that feels terribly early 80s to me- always trying to score drugs, ciggies, sex, booze, and any combination therein. It seems to me that characters no longer have that seedy appeal, or if they do revel in their bad sides, they're punished for it. Why can't we just let sleazy characters be great? I blame the furor over Janet Jackson's Super Bowl nipple. And Justin Timberlake. Then again, I place the blame for a lot of things on Justin Timberlake and the furor over Janet Jackson's Super Bowl nipple. (Not a bad band name, actually.)

I mean, who eats apples like this anymore, amirite

Anyway, it seems that whenever Melissa takes a fancy to some young townie lad, he ends up dead soon thereafter. Is Melissa a crazy person? Is she a crazy person who kills? Is she a succubus or a werewolf or a bigfoot or a Satanist or something? Or is Melissa innocent and the town's native folk are murderers, as she insists? Well! That's the crux of the film, and it's a novel twist on the slasher formula. Instead of nonexistent or useless authority figures, Sweet Sixteen plays more like a murder mystery as Sheriff Burke (Bo Hopkins) attempts to take a McGruffian bite out of crime. A big, mumbly bite because look, even though Bo Hopkins was on Dynasty and Dynasty is second only to Dallas, he is such a GD mush mouth all the time I can't stand it and I'm not sure why he was ever cast in anything.

Hmm, I seem to have a lot of feelings about Bo Hopkins's acting. I had no idea they ran so deep. Thanks, Sweet Sixteen!

screencap chose for the dangling canvas mushroom wall art...gawd I love that people were into weird shit then

Sadly, a novel twist does not a terribly good film make. In the end, it's all a bit too dull to be overly enjoyable. It doesn't help matters that the print is so dark that you can't make out anything that happens after the sun sets. Like, say, all the murders, which happen at night. Its frustrating, particularly since they're the only real moments of action in this quiet snoozer. At least one of the bodies is found during the day so we know for sure that someone was, in fact, killed the night before.

While I was not bowled over, I'm not gonna sit here and LIE AT YOU and say that Sweet Sixteen is without its charms. I'm not gonna do it, so don't ask me if I will in some perverted attempt to pervert my nobility to help fulfill your anti-Sweet Sixteen agenda. Charms, it has them! To wit:

Larry Storch is in the house! And so are the giant jars of pickled eggs. I've seen so many jars of pickled eggs in dive bars both real and fictional, and I never understand the WHY of it all. Who would ever eat one? Perhaps in the comfort and privacy of one's own home, yes, but..those jars...sitting there, so...questionable...they're not something you want to have anywhere near your mouth hole in any capacity- they're more like jars full of "souvenirs" kept on a dusty shelf in a serial killer's basement. And I just know that if I were ever drunk enough to get wicked hungry and therefore slur out "One pickled egg, please," the bartender would reach right in, grab one, give it to me, and wipe his hand on the ass of his jeans. What I am saying is that I doubt the use of tongs would ever come into play, and if there's one thing I learned in the 90s it's "No Tongs, No Thanks (The 'H' is Silent)" because TLC sang about it.

No wait, that was a song about condoms and AIDS. Was it TLC? It might have been En Vogue. I don't know, the 90s were weird, but not in a "dangling canvas mushroom wall art" kind of way, which is a shame.

FEAST YOUR MOTHERFUCKING EYES on Dana Kimmel's cascading hair wave. It is glorious. How does it defy the laws of physics so? I don't understand at all how it works. How do you fashion the very fabric of space and time out of hair? It must be the natural state of things, like Wave Rock in Arizona. It should be designated a national monument, at the least. (Yes, I assume she still wears her hair this way because why wouldn't you?)

Hmm, what else? Well, Melissa spends a lot of time looking at herself in the mirror, and I guess that's neat.

At Melissa's Sweet Sixteen birthday party, her mom Joanne (Strasberg) opts to wear a number from Miss Havisham's Junior Casuals Collection.

As Marci, Dana Kimmell is the polar opposite of Melissa: she's annoyingly perky and gung-ho about everything. She's a total do-gooder who's determined to solve these murders, but you can't help like her, because yes, cascading hair wave, but also because she gives Melissa one of her mom's old handkerchiefs for her birthday. And she thinks this is a good idea. In other words, Marci is pretty great.

There's a weird moment, however, when her sheriff dad drops her off at school; he goes to kiss her on the cheek, but at the last second she turns and kisses him full on the mouth and it's just...too big. It's too big of a kiss. Immediately afterwards, Kimmell just stares at the ground as she walks away,  and you get the feeling that it was a reflex on her part and it shouldn't have happened. Because it shouldn't have happened.

brother digs it, though

Also of note:

  • parts of the film actually takes place on an Indian burial ground! I know it's an old chestnut of a joke in horror movies, but Sweet Sixteen is the real deal.
  • Like Laura Mars and Jennifer before her, Melissa has her own theme song. This kind of makes the whole thing worth it.
The Eyes of Melissa Mars

So yes, ultimately I'd have to say that Sweet Sixteen was a letdown. Although who knows...perhaps this is simply because I was expecting a good ol' fashioned slasher flick (it doesn't quite qualify). Or maybe it's because I put it on The Pedestal of My Mind during all those years it eluded me- it could only be a letdown. But that's okay, I can't stay mad at Sweet Sixteen. I'm just gonna have Benny Mardones creepily sing me out as I sail away blissfully on Dana Kimmell's cascading hair waves. Ain't nothing wrong with that!