FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jun 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!