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 DeliĆ”) 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!