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!

May 26, 2016

VHS Week Day 13: THE ATTIC (1980)

A suicidal, depressed librarian. An abusive curmudgeon in a wheelchair. A chimpanzee in a sailor suit. YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

Ugh, stupid Final Girl...clickbait goes in the headline, not in the post itself. This will never go viral now!

Meet Louise (Carrie Snodgress), our suicidal, depressed librarian. She spends her days kind of hating her job–the books...they look at her sometimes and so she tries to burn the place down. She spends her nights crying over the man who left her at the altar years before and taking care of her father, Wendel (Ray Milland), our abusive curmudgeon in a wheelchair. Louise's life is a big, drab, sad mess, but that doesn't mean it's without some bright spots: alcohol, one night stands, and her coworker Emily. The women strike up a friendship that's equal parts support and pity; Emily feels sorry for Louise and tries to nudge her out of her drudgery, while Louise tries to save Emily from falling into the same. Louise buys Emily a one-way ticket to California so she can escape her domineering mother and marry her love, Emily buys Louise a chimpanzee. You know. Friendship!

Wendel loathes pretty much everything, but he loathes his daughter and her chimp most of all. Horror fans know this is all gonna come to a head at some point, right? Like, maybe Dickie the Chimp will attack Wendel and then, having acquired a taste for human flesh, he will totally flip out and eat everyone in Wichita, Kansas?

Look, I'm not going to spoil the end of this movie, even though it's like 70 years old, but I will let you know that Dickie the Chimp does not flip out, so don't get your hopes up. But don't worry! The ending still packs a serious wallop. A seriously depressing wallop. We've all seen some depressing endings before (even during this never-ending VHS Week!), but lawd-a-mighty, The Attic might just take the cake. And then it throws the cake into the void of existential despair, and then you jump in after it not only because you can't bear to see a cake go to waste, but also because everything is terrible and life is cruel and what does anything even matter.

Don't get me wrong–it's not just the ending. The entire GD movie is depressing! Loneliness, alienation, lives spent lost and adrift...this is by no means a light watch, even if the film's incongruous musical cues and bizarre jokes sometimes give it the feel of one. A better life for Louise seems to be just out of reach, and you desperately hope she'll get there, but this is a horror film, not a life-affirming yogurt love journey movie.

From time to time, though, you might find yourself wondering if The Attic really is a horror movie. It's not so much a "slow burn" as it is a "slow drama/character piece with some horror elements crammed into the last seven minutes." Those seven minutes are worth it, mind, I just want you to know what you're in store for if you're fixin' to check this one out. Then again, The Attic boasts a scene where a showercap-wearing Ray Milland sits in a bathtub with a Reader's Digest propped in front of him and a bowl of spiced gum drops at his side. That's what really makes watching it worth your time as far as I'm concerned.


Astroboymn said...

A suicidally depressed librarian? Ray Milland in the bathtub? Carrie Snodgrass? How have I never seen this movie before? I have to remedy that. The kids these days call character-driven-dramas-with-some-horror- elements "Boring." I call character-driven-dramas-with-some-horror-elements Just Like Real Life.

Stacie Ponder said...

I wouldn't call it "boring"–I was definitely into it. But the cover art and the trailer...if you saw either when you were young (or maybe not young!) it's made to sound like some gut-ripping horror fest and it's absolutely not that. And that's perfectly a-okay by's just that ol' false advertising striking again!

AE said...

Is there a better abusive curmudgeon in a wheelchair than Ray Milland? #frogs #no

Stacie Ponder said...


Unknown said...

I just saw this for the first time recently and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. It's basically the best play Tennessee Williams never wrote. I adore it.

Stacie Ponder said...

Good call! This movie really would make a great stage production. Hmm. Someone oughta do that!

Astroboymn said...

Ray Milland was a gift to horror in the 70's that is a fact. I'm still super pumped to see this!

Anonymous said...

I saw this movie before any of you were born! And guess what? I was thinking about how despairing it was then! It was too much like my life at the time. And yes, I then went to work in several libraries.