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!

Jan 27, 2016

The Nightmare-ening Day 8: Time to Wake Up

Well friends, The Nightmare-ening is over and I believe my faculties are largely intact. It went pretty much the way I expected it to–I love Part 3, dislike everything after that to varying degrees, Part 2 is super gay...I think the big surprise was that I didn't hate the remake. Sure, sure, it gets a shit ton of stuff wrong, but I dig the stuff it gets right. And given how much I loathe the other Platinum Dunes remakes, saying "I didn't hate it" is like giving it a hundred Oscars.

Before wrapping this up, I thought back on the gallery of awful Michael Myers masks I posted once upon a time. Surely there are awful Freddy Krueger masks, I thought. Why, if I find some I will make a gallery of them. Just as I suspected, there are some awful Freddy Krueger masks out there, such as this Chiclet-riddled number.

But in the midst of my Googling, I found something better than awful Freddy Krueger masks, and that something better is dogs dressed up like Freddy Krueger. Let's have a gallery of those, shall we? And also, let's start an internet petition for Freddy to come back in A Nightmare on Elm Street 7: Dream Dog. In the movie, he will be a dog. (spoiler)

Bonus Round! (And ideas for A Nightmare on Elm Street Parts 8 and 9)

Oh! Just a programming note: if you followed Final Girl using Twitter, Yahoo, openID, or anything basically not Google, you can no longer follow/sign into Google Friend Account via those providers. You need a Google account! So if you want to follow Final Girl by adding it to your reading list, getcherself a Google account and connect, baby. The link is over there on the right somewhere near the top of the page.

Jan 26, 2016

The Nightmare-ening Day 7: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

I'm not sure if it's because I've watched so many garbage Elm Street movies in such a short period of time, or if maybe there's a gas leak in my apartment, or what but I have to just say it: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 isn't nearly as bad as I'd heard it was, nor as bad as I expected it to be. I bet there's some kind of lesson in there about "judging things for yourself" and "internet opinions." But in my internet opinion, this remake gets some things wrong, sure, but it also gets a lot of things right.

(I can't believe I'm saying that about a Platinum Dunes movie for Charles Nelson Reilly's I getting soft?)

The single biggest thing the film gets right, of course, is this attempt at reviving the 80s horror movie trend where ladies wore sports jerseys as pajamas. Bravo, remake! If only you gave us a moustache or two...

Anyway. The gist of A Nightmare on Elm Street stays true to the original: Freddy Krueger haunts the dreams of several high schoolers in Springwood, Ohio. If Freddy kills them in their dreams, they die in real life. He's motivated by a lust for revenge and a love of murder (aren't we all?) because a mob of unruly vigilante Elm Street parents burned him alive years earlier.

This 21st century incarnation of Krueger isn't a child murderer who escaped justice due to a technicality, however; this Freddy is a child molester who is subjected to mob justice once the children tell of his crimes. That is some surprisingly heavy shit, and it gives a depressing, fucking icky tone to the entire affair. Audiences who have fond memories of (sigh) "Welcome to prime time, bitch!" and Freddy donning sunglasses to crack wise on MTV must have found all of this a shock. Horror fans have long rooted for the bad guys thanks to the outrageous kills they inflict on insipid, "deserving" characters...but you just can't root for a child molester. I applaud the film for daring to go there; finally Freddy Krueger is as reprehensible as he should be. An even darker nightmare, perhaps, is that his return marks the return of the memories the Elm Street children have long repressed. This is not a "good time" slasher flick.

Alas, alack, in the details the remake occasionally falters, sometimes egregiously so.

What do you do, say, when you're tasked with remaking a classic horror film that features some of the genre's most indelible moments? Do you ape them, or try to put your own spin on them? I'm not sure what the right answer is; director Samuel Bayer, however, elected to do both. Some iconic moments are simply recreated, and I'm not entirely sure what the honest effect of these moments is like. As an Elm Street Oldie Hawn, I simply nod in recognition. In 1984, I was scared and startled by them.

Other times, Bayer tries something new to much lesser effect. CGI nonsense aside, Freddy emerging from the side all washed out in brown is not nearly as impactful as when he looms over Nancy from the darkness.

Where the Nightmare remake lets us and itself down the most, however, is with its treatment of Nancy. The original Nancy is one of horror's greatest Final Girls, so "into survival" that she determinedly takes control of a terrible situation as she tries to save her own life and the lives of her friends. She literally turns her back on the monster as she reclaims any bit of power she gave him. She's a strong-willed hero, dammit, and she's only 15.

It seems that perhaps someone wanted to play with the Final Girl trope in Nightmare 2010, if only to toy with veteran audience expectation. I've got no issues with changing up a trope, but if you're going to do it, make it worthwhile. Here, Nancy is simply a milquetoast slice of nothingness, more like the type of nameless slasher victim who gets killed early on rather than the hero and main character. There's a bit of an attempt to give Nancy some depth–instead of simply being a dork with a boyfriend, she's an artistic loner–and while actress Rooney Mara's inherent strangeness works for the character to an extent, there's simply nothing interesting for her Nancy to say or to do and most of the time she comes off as bored with the entire affair. Ultimately she isn't saved by her own pluck and ingenuity, but by a fella, dammit. Then she gets one of those "cool" one-liners and ugh, you guys. While I guess you could technically say that original Nancy also had a one-liner to end her face off with Freddy, it wasn't so..."horror movie." If as much care and attention and effort had been given to Nancy (not to mention the other characters) as had been given to Freddy's new backstory, this remake really could have been something.

It's frustrating because the film is so bold in some respects and so dull in others. It's not just the characters, it's the weirdness of the dream world–and, I am absolutely not talking about people turning into meatballs or any "wizard master" cheesiness. I mean in the 1984 film, the world of nightmares was reality skewed: think Freddy's arms extending to impossible lengths in the alleyway or the random appearance of a bleating goat or some such. Perhaps in the remake they're trying to make the point that the characters are so exhausted they literally can't discern dreams from reality, I don't know...but when the nightmares look like waking life (but a little bit grimier), it makes A Nightmare on Elm Street little more than a regular slasher flick and that's a shame.

Still, I can't say I didn't enjoy it because I did, so there. Maybe more so because of what it tried to do and what it could have been than what it actually was. Maybe it's because I suffered through Freddy's Dead yesterday and watching the bottom of my foot for 90 minutes today would have been more enjoyable. Or maybe Elm Street 2010 isn't that bad? Hmm, maybe I need to read some more internet opinions before I make up my mind.

P.S. why does Kyle Gallner always look so sad in everything

Jan 25, 2016

The Nightmare-ening Day 6: FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991)

Since A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 ends with Super Dream Master Alice and her Super Dream Unborn Child emerging victorious from battle with Freddy Krueger, it's not crazy to think that the sixth film in the series, Freddy's Dead, might involve these characters in some capacity. But no! It is not to be. Instead, this film does whatever it wants to, beginning with this:

Oh. Okay.

So...wait. It's been ten years since The Dream Child? Is that what "now" refers to? And in that time, the entire under-18 population of Springwood is wiped out save one teenager and all the adults have completely flipped out? And we're just going to...skip out on all of that? And there's no police involvement or anything? What a strange foot to start on, Freddy's Dead. What a very strange foot. You've sure got moxie, kid!

But moxie is all you've got because good GRAVY this is a bad movie. I'm not sure where to begin, and quite frankly I want to purge the memory of this film and everything associated with it from my brain as quickly as I can. I want to peruse the Final Girl archives in, say, 2019 and come across this entry and think...huh. The screencaps kind of ring a bell a bit, but I don't remember much about this movie. Did I actually watch it?

And hey, Future Me: if you are getting it in your head to give Freddy's Dead another try in the interests of science or horror movies or remembering or whatever the reason is: STOP. Stop yourself right now. Cut off your own head if you have to, just stay as far away from this film as you can. See? It's bad. You had a bad, bad time watching this.

Aw, but baby Breckin Meyer! And Yaphet Kotto! What if I watch it in 3D this time? Maybe I'll find something worthwhile to it! It's the year 2019, after all. Freddy's Dead is the very rare horror film in which no women are killed...shouldn't I watch it again to see if it's subversive in other ways? Maybe there's meaning in--

NO! No, Future Me. It is not worth another 90 minutes of your life, I promise. Time is running out for you as it is!

Is that a threat?

Not at all, I am just saying. You've already spent 90 minutes with this film. Rather than doubling that, you should spend those 90 minutes watching something you love. Or something you've never seen. You should watch anything else. Why, you could stare at the wall, even! That would be 90 minutes better spent.

Yeah, but this:

I know. Even with that.

Look everybody, I'm not really sure what to say here. Freddy's Dead doesn't make much sense in the ways it plays with the logic of the preceding films in the series (yeah, they had their own logic). People can pull each other into dreams all willy-nilly, rendering Kristen's specialness decidedly unspecial. No one is particularly scared about Freddy, or scared by him when they confront him. If anything, The Final Nightmare seems to want to be a horror-comedy–man, Roseanne is one of the greatest TV shows of all time, but I really didn't need Roseanne and Tom Arnold in this movie–and ultimately fails at both.

Huge amounts of backstory are given to Freddy Krueger. We see glimpses of his childhood, where he is teased for being the product of a gang rape, and his adulthood where oh, hey, he was married and had a kid. This is substantial development for a horror movie icon, and yet it's all waved away quickly. Freddy's child doesn't have any qualms about being the child of a child killer. None of this means anything at all, and when Freddy finally dies after six fucking movies, Freddy's child quips "Freddy's dead!" and everyone laughs and I'm surprised it didn't end on a GD freeze frame. That's it. That's the wrap up for the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Are you kidding me?

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to figure out how to bleach my brain so I can forget about this movie and get on with my life. See you in 2019*!

*tomorrow, when I post about the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street

Jan 23, 2016

The Weekend-ening

My bootleg Freddy Krueger candle and I have decided to take the weekend off. It's not that I'm putting off watching Freddy's Dead, oh no, not that! It's that...uh...I've been too scared to sleep after watching all the other Nightmare movies and I just need some rest before watching the scariest of them all! Yes, that is it. That is definitely it. But I–nay, we–won't be safe forever. The Nightmare-ening will resume on Monday with Part 6, the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and maybe more. Who knows. It depends how bootleg Freddy Krueger candle and I feel. Right now I think he's in pain? Or he's hypnotized? Or he's trying to hypnotize us? It's hard to tell.

In the meantime, you can read this article about Martyrs that appeared in The New York Times yesterday. (If you are here because of the article, hello, welcome!) I was interviewed for it and that's great because I could talk about Martyrs forever. And I kind of feel like I have been.

Are you getting snowmageddoned today? I say we all watch something winter-flavored this weekend in solidarity. You know, like The Shining, The Brood, The Thing, The Children, Cold Prey...whatever your favorite is. Or watch your least favorite! Look, I'm not here to run your life down to every last detail.

Jan 22, 2016

The Nightmare-ening Day 5: THE DREAM CHILD (1989)

What is even happening anymore?

No, really. What is this?

We've come oh so far in such a short amount of time! Five Elm Street movies in as many years, that sure is something. I will say, however, that while the series easily could have ended after...well, after the first film, at least each sequel tries to put some kind of unique spin on the formula. Yeah, it's still all "Freddy Krueger kills kids in their dreams and they die in real life" but in every new film the mythology is expanded and the same ol' same ol' is the same ol' same ol' but with new packaging. It's almost admirable! Heck, maybe it is admirable. Of course, that doesn't mean that The Dream Child isn't a slog to sit through and ultimately a big pile of hot garbage. But, you know, silver linings, etc etc.

Alice, the unlikely dream master of...umm, The Dream Master, is ready to graduate from high school and she's horny for sex times with her boyfriend Dan. Freddy Krueger is but an unpleasant memory...or is he? Alice dreams that Freddy is back. Does that mean Freddy is back? Yes. Yes, it does.

"But how?" you cry. "Did not the unlikely dream master kill the dream killer? I thought we were done here."

"HA HA HA!" I laugh right in your face. "Evil never dies! And by 'evil' I mean the folks at New Line Cinema who churned out sequel after sequel so long as folks like us kept paying to see them!" And then I turn into a motorcycle and I drive away.

Look, Freddy's resurrection all makes perfect scientific sense. All of Alice's sex-having gave her a serious case of the babies. Because unborn babies apparently don't do anything except float around in utero and dream all the time, Freddy is able to use Alice's unborn baby as a dream portal to lure more kids to their deaths. DUH.

The only way that Alice can stop Freddy for good is to find the body of his mother, Amanda, because for some reason her body was left in the asylum where she committed suicide and an empty coffin was buried at her grave. Again, DUH. Also, this is the asylum, which has been in Springwood, Ohio this whole time:


As I said, at least they kind of tried to do...something, right? And also as I said, The Dream Child stinks. It's terribly dull and all the Freddy parts are terribly stupid (he really does turn into a motorcycle) (and also he turns into "Super Freddy") (oh my god I can't believe I just had to type SUPER FREDDY). At one point, we're inside Alice's uterus and Freddy is...Freddy is her uterine wall. Did I really experience all of this, or did I fall asleep and this was all some sort of twisted nightmare of my own making? That must be it. No one could have written a script that said "And then Freddy is her uterine wall" and then that movie got made. I just don't believe it. One thing I know for sure, though, is that after watching A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child...I am 90 minutes closer to my inevitable death. Hooray!

Jan 21, 2016

The Nightmare-ening Day 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988)


Well, here we are. The Nightmare on Elm Street series has officially turned into the Goosebumps series, but full of dated pop culture references and rap songs about Freddy Krueger by The Fat Boys. Why did this happen? How did this happen? Is this the Nightmare we want? Is it the one we deserve? Yeesh. YEESH I SAY.

While I say yeesh, however, I will also say that The Dream Master is not a terrible way to extend the series, if, you know, the series really needed to be extended. It picks up not too long after the events of Dream Warriors with our three plucky survivors having returned to the hell of high school. Kincaid is still ornery, Patricia Arquette is nowhere to be seen and so we are stuck with a Designer Imposter Kristen, and Joey has somehow morphed into Neve Campbell.

Despite the "Get over it, girl!"s from her pals, Kristen is unconvinced that Freddy Krueger is well and truly dead. Of course he's not dead! We have like five more movies to get through!

Freddy wastes no time in wasting these last three Elm Street children (Kincaid may have demolished horror stereotypes by surviving until the end of NoES 3, but he builds them right back up by dying first in NoES 4), but before she dies, Kristen manages to give her special dream powers to her mousy pal Alice. Freddy then uses Alice as a sort of gateway to lure any ol' kid into dreamland where he can kill them. Both he and Alice absorb a part of the kids' souls; who oh who will be the Dream Master? Will the souls remain in the purgatory of...umm...Freddy's bare chest, or will they be set free?

See? Not bad! Not bad at all! It's kind of sweet, when you think about it, that Alice gains strength by essentially remembering and paying tribute to her dead friends. Even if no one is actually affected much by the death of loved ones in this movie...hey, that's a series staple! We've also got some other Elm Street series staples such as the clueless, alcoholic, mentally abusive parents and the cast chock full of mismatched misfits that are somehow charming enough that you find yourself rooting for them. I mean, who doesn't adore the weird friendship between bad girl/fitness nut Debbie and super nerdy Sheila? Only jerks, that's who.

I'm not going to be some big lying liar and say that my nostalgia senses didn't tingle when any 80s "cool" stuff showed up on the screen, like when Alice gets tough by wrapping a studded belt around her boot and a Japanese "Rising Sun" bandana around her hand. I heartily cringe-smiled, I swear! But as opposed to Dream Warriors, the corniness of The Dream Master doesn't feel like corniness I can completely get on board with. It's somewhat akin to looking at old pictures of yourself: some of them you want to share, and some of them give you a jolt of "I know I liked that at the time but what the hell was I thinking?" Basically, I can live with a dream warrior blasting green movie lightning from his fingers, but I don't particularly want to live with a dream master seeing her brother turned into a meatball on a pizza. And you guys know how I feel about pizza, so that's really saying something.

Jan 20, 2016

The Nightmare-ening Day 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

Man oh man. I wrote about A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors waaaaay back during Final Girl's formative days as an early entry in the "I Heart..." series. I was curious to find out if my feelings had changed in the near-decade-long (!!) interim. Guess what? Boy, they sure have changed.

I heart it even more now! How is this possible, how can I hold so much love? I don't even question whether or not this movie deserves such adoration because obviously it does...and if you don't believe me, I present you with these two pieces of evidence to prove my case:

Taryn's "beautiful...and bad" look and the stop-motion skeleton doing its little victory cheer. That's all it takes for this film to earn a Lifetime Achievement Oscar if you ask me. And since you're reading this, you kind of did ask, so.

This is the Nightmare on Elm Street for me. I was just the right age to totally buy into it, to totally identify with all the misfits who had to deal with adults who just don't get it, to totally find Nancy dying in Kristen's arms and getting dreamed into a beautiful dream to be a 100% higher tragedy than a million Sophie's Choices. (Between this and Deadly Friend, wow, that Wes Craven sure liked to toy with my volatile teen emotions!)

Dream Warriors is just so quintessentially 80s, anyone who has the slightest bit of fondness for horror from that era is going to find a lot to love: Jennifer Rubin, sparkle shower ghosts, a very special theme song, Craig Wasson, this kid whom you always think is another Jacoby sibling even though he never is:

For fuck's sake, it's called "Dream Warriors"! Not-Jacoby shoots friggin' green movie lightning out of his fingers! How much more 80s horror can you get?

Look, just because I love this movie doesn't mean I don't recognize its faults, the most egregious of which is that since her days on Elm Street, Nancy Thompson has taken to living her life as the world's dowdiest 21-year-old.

I admit, however, that her funeral attire smacks of Joan Collins on Dynasty and as such I enthusiastically approve of it.

Okay, actually the biggest sin of Dream Warriors is probably that it's the beginning of the end of Freddy Krueger as a horror villain remotely resembling anything scary. In fact, this is the moment where he changes from nightmare killer into "wiseguy pop culture icon":

He's just killed Zsa Zsa Gabor and then he turns into a TV and I repeat he turns into a TV and then he has a one-liner: "Welcome to primetime, bitch!" It's stupid and I dig it because it's stupid–and yes, I savor the absolute fucking weirdness of cameos by Zsa Zsa and Dick Cavett–but it signifies the End Times for A Nightmare on Elm Street, my friends.

For its place in the series and the genre at large, though, it's a notable film. Breaking the standard slasher mold, several characters manage to survive...including the black guy, can you believe it? And we get some maybe needed-maybe not needed history into who exactly Fred Krueger was when it's revealed that he's the "bastard son of 100 maniacs." If only he'd been the bastard son of 10,000 Maniacs, then he would have lived a life singing earnest, politically-minded kinda folkish music instead of a life full of child murderin'. Alas!

Listen, if Final Girl is still around in another decade then I solemnly swear to take yet another look at A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Who knows, maybe by then I'll somehow be able to heart it even a little bit more!

P.S. how come no one ever talks about this teardrop that Joey has on his face in one scene

Jan 19, 2016

The Nightmare-ening Day 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE (1985)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge is a fascinating film. I mean, a sequel to the wildly successful first Nightmare was no doubt a given. But who could ever have predicted that...this would be the direction they'd take the series in the second film? In other series, the crazy ideas are held onto for a bit: Halloween III, for example, or Jason Goes to Hell. One would expect that Nightmare 2 would feature, you know, something rote, just more nightmares and more dead teens. We get nightmares and dead teens, sure, but Freddy's Revenge takes the entire rule set established by its predecessor and tosses it in the furnace. So brash!

A new family has moved into the Thompson home on Elm Street and it's not long before teenage son Jesse (Mark Patton) is experiencing lots of topless, sweat-inducing nightmares.

Freddy doesn't want to kill Jesse, however–rather, he wants Jesse to kill for him. Via some sort of possession. I guess so that Freddy can cross over from nightmares to the waking world? He's just sort of around in this one, terrorizing teens and the like, some sort of supernatural being made flesh. And The Old Thompson Place is kind of haunted? It's all a bit jumbled and nonsensical and unexplained and as I said, it throws out virtually all the rules from Part One. But let's face it: anyone who's seen Freddy's Revenge knows that all of that is secondary to the most engrossing thing about it, and that's holy shit this movie is so gay.

I'm far from the first person to acknowledge this, but it's sort of impossible to discuss the film without talking about it as an allegory about a young man figuring out that he likes other young men. It's so full of subtext that it's basically just text. It wouldn't be wrong to call it Tom of Finland's Revenge, you know?

"He's inside me and he wants to take me again!"

I mean, where to start? There's the way Freddy tenderly strokes Jesse's face as he tells him how much he needs him. You know. For killing.

There's Jesse's weird relationship with Grady–they antagonize each other in gym class until finally Grady pulls Jesse's pants down and they tussle on the ground...and they spend a lot of time together doing push ups. You know. As punishment.

Jesse has more chemistry with Grady than he does with his ostensible girlfriend Lisa. While he keeps Lisa at arm's length, Grady is the one he turns to when he really needs to talk. (There's a kind of heartbreaking moment in a scene in the school cafeteria where Grady essentially asks Jesse out–just to a movie to, like, get Jesse's mind off his troubles–and it's promptly lost in the chatter as Lisa and her friend arrive at the table.) The most telling, of course, occurs during the pool party late in the film. Jesse and Lisa are finally, maybe going to do it...but Freddy interferes so Jesse freaks out and flees. He flees straight to Grady's bedroom and they have this exchange:
"Something is trying to get inside my body!"
"Yeah, she's female and she's waiting for you at the cabana...and you wanna sleep with me."
I mean, is it so crazy to read this all as super gay? Have straight teenage boys ever really into Limahl and Tina Turner?

This is just the tip of the big gay iceberg, y'all! There's also Jesse really subtly getting...attacked? confronted by?...a snake that coils up from between his legs.

There's the sole board game that Jesse owns, the one he keeps in the closet, natch:

There's Jesse waking or maybe still sleeping but either way, he finds his lamp or whatever that is all melted and looking like a dripping phallus. Next to (and onto) a copy of On the Road.

And then there's the boys' gym teacher, Schneider, the one who's rumored to be into "queer S&M stuff." The one who really is into queer S&M stuff, as Jesse finds out when his nocturnal wanderings lead him to the local bar for gays and weirdos. Ol' teach is sporting a leather vest (of course) and takes Jesse back to the school to take a shower...and of course the teacher dies, but not before he's assaulted by balls and jock straps thrown in his face. And not before he's stripped naked, tied up in the shower, and whipped with a towel.

While a couple of nameless males are quickly killed at the pool party, the only characters of substance that are killed throughout the film are Grady and Schneider. If this is the tale of Jesse figuring out his sexual identity, it's rather significant that he murders only the person he loves but isn't "supposed" to and the "pervert" he doesn't want to be.

At the film's end, Jesse is "saved" by choosing heterosexuality. Lisa's declarations of love literally defeat Freddy, the man who's been trying to take Jesse away from her, the man trying to lure Jesse to the dark side. But this is a horror film, so this is quickly followed by a Horror Movie Coda™ that shows the nightmare isn't over. The allegory extends right up through this ending: Jesse's battle still rages within him because you can't just choose a sexuality and live a life that goes against who you are. I mean, you could, but it's a super bad idea. Just look what happened to those kids at the pool party!

Speaking of the pool party, this nameless, dialogue-less girl with the hair rules so hard.

Other stray thoughts:

I love love love that Grady has posted a sign to make it clear that NO NERDS are allowed in his room.

I also love love love that in this film, Nancy has become something of an urban legend, the girl who saw her boyfriend get murdered, was locked in her house by her mother, and went crazy. I want an alternate version of Freddy's Revenge where Jesse has to find Nancy to learn what she knows and Nancy lives in a big, creepy house and everyone's afraid of her but she's just an ass-kicker who doesn't have time for your shit. Basically she's like Christine in The Convent.

Finally, while it has no bearing on anything beyond being a complete and total clusterfuck of an eyesore, I thought you guys might enjoy the absolutely hideous menu screen of my DVD, as it's quite possibly the worst one I've ever seen. You're welcome!