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 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!


CashBailey said...

Stacie, I like these quick multi-review bits.

WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? is pretty durn brilliant. There was a remake of it a couple of years ago that looked, from the little I saw of it, to be pretty much a shot-for-shot copy.

I haven't checked out SPOOKED yet. I loved THE GUILD so I'll probably like this. Felicia Day is pretty awesome, building a nerd empire to rival Chris Hardwick's.

Stacie Ponder said...

If you're a fan of The Guild, you'll dig it for sure. Like I said, it's early yet, but I'm looking forward to where it goes.

I'm surprised someone would remake Who Can Kill a Child?- one of my thoughts during it was holy shit, the 70s, man, they'd never try this today. Just goes to show what I know.

And thanks! People seem to dig the reviewlettes, so maybe I should take a hint and truncate myself more often (not a euphemism).

Riccardo said...

"Gentle" is a very apt word for "Spooked." It's kind of the flip side of Scooby Doo, with the perpetrator a real ghost instead of someone caught by "those crazy kids." I think they're going for comedy though, as the first piece of soundtrack music after the credits was "jovial pizzicato stock music track #3." But I didn't know whether to laugh or be disgusted by peanut butter and tuna sandwiches so I think the tone could use a little fine-tuning.

Stacie Ponder said...

Totally agreed. It's why I'd like to see them amp up the horror side of things a bit more...but that's me speaking as a genre fan and I don't know if I'm the real target demographic. But then if it ends up not enough of any one thing...

Eh, I'll give it some time. I'm probably thinking way too much about this :D

Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

Oh man, I was so blown away by Who Can Kill a Child? when I first saw it, as well. I briefly watched the remake, Come Out and Play, and it is a pretty movie with Vinessa Shaw in it, but it just didn't seem to have the same bite that the original does.

Nigel M said...

Wonderful defence of Who Can Kill A Child- it is an essential slice of Euro-horror.

As I understand it the director set out to make a Night of the Living Dead with the kids acting as zombies (by proxy). But, in reality, the film posed far more serious questions that may be worthy of consideration in the context of the end of the Franco regime the year prior. After all, one key question the film raises is about the necessity at times of doing unpalettable things due to necessity. In this case the "indefensible" act of infanticide.

Lots of little nods towards The Birds in there too.

Stacie Ponder said...

It definitely feels like The Birds meets Night of the Living Dead meets Village of the Damned.

And even though the opening credit sequence still feels like too much, it makes sense within the context of the film. Apparently killing a child is only forbidden on the "personal" level...otherwise, we do it all the time. Millions of them.

Ben@Slamdance said...

Hey Stacie.

You're absolutely right about Kwaidan! Good point.

There were many Horror Anthologies we wished to include but didn't because we wanted to keep the doc short and concise. Ultimately, we featured films/segments that kept coming up in our interviews. One of my favorites that didn't make the cut was John Carpenter's Body Bags. Each segment is so distinct and awesome. For anyone that hasn't seen it, it's definitely worth the watch.

Thanks for sharing the doc!

Ben Hethcoat

Stacie Ponder said...

Hi Ben, thanks for stopping by!

Oh, my Kwaidan crack was just me being a smart-ass. This could easily have been a full-length doc (which would be awesome!), so I'm sure you had to cut a lot of content to streamline it.

And good call on Body Bags...I haven't seen it in a while, so I should probably check out that new(ish) Blu-Ray release...