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!

Apr 10, 2018

I've seen stuff!

Good news, my dudes: yes, I may look it on the outside and feel it on the inside, but as it turns out I am not actually dead! I've been doing stuff and things, writing stuff and things about horror games over at Kotaku, eating stuff and things...just lots of stuff and things. "Is this pertinent?" you may ask.

I may respond, "What, like you have anything better to do than read my rambling nonsense? But also yes, it's kind of pertinent because some of those stuffs and things I've been doing are horror movies."

Then I would hasten to add "I mean I've been watching horror movies, not doing them. That would be impractical and likely unhygienic."

"Yes," you might reply. "I figured."

Anyway, rather than recount our entire imaginary conversation, why don't I recount some of MY OPINIONS regarding some of the movies I've watched over the last eight years (or however long it's been since I last posted)?

Blood Diner (1987)

Now that I've finally seen Blood Diner, I can shuffle off to that great blood diner in the sky knowing that my time here on Earth was...not necessarily well-spent, I suppose, but it was definitely spent.

You will have a lot of questions before, during, and after you've seen Blood Diner. The biggest question of them all, however, is "Wait, did I see Blood Diner?" for even as the end credits roll, you will not be sure. This is because Blood Diner isn't a movie you watch...Blood Diner is an experience that happens to you and sometimes at you.

This horror-comedy about a couple of wackadoo brothers attempting to resurrect a goddess for some reason (I think that's what it's about?) exists entirely in its own universe...and I don't mean that in some "Marvel Universe" or "Star Wars Whatever" way. I mean its "universe" is solely the mind of director Jackie Kong's made manifest and the center of that universe cannot hold. There are no rules whatsoever; people do not act like people do, but sometimes not-people do act like people do. I know that doesn't make sense, but when that statement is refracted through the Blood Diner prism it kind of does. The whole movie is like that, a cacophonous assault on your eyes and ears so jam-packed with what-the-fuckery in every inch of the frame, you will wonder–even as you're dazed and dizzy–just how this movie happened. You will wonder what it's supposed to mean. You will come out the other side–if you come out the other side all all–wondering who you are and questioning your reality.

So yes, I loved it. I think? It's not good, but it's also a blessing. I think? I laughed unironically. I think? Blood Diner is perhaps a bit like Schrödinger's Horror Movie, as it simultaneously exists and doesn't exist. It's the only movie I've ever seen that I'll never forget, but I also can't remember anything about it.

Veronica (2017)

So there I was, just a-loafin' on the couch and a-scrollin' through the Netflix when I spot Veronica, the tale of a Ouija Board gone wrong but a possession gone oh so right. It's written and directed by Paco Plaza, one of the creators behind [REC] and since I fucking love [REC] forever and always, I decided to give it a shot. This was unusual for me, as my usual solo Netflix experience is "browse for 45 minutes, add 12 things I'll never watch to my queue, turn off Netflix." Sometimes that last part is "put on an episode of a reality show about prison life and fall asleep fifteen minutes later." This time, though, I was excited enough to follow through on the whole "movie watching" thing.

Veronica is...fine. While I did not wish that I'd opted to fall asleep to an episode of Lock Up or Lockdown or Lock This Way instead, I was decidedly underwhelmed. It's a veritable checklist of "spooky stuff" every horror fan has seen before: there's a creepy nun, a mouth that opens unnaturally wide thanks to CGI, a shadowy figure standing in the corner, a "based on a true story" angle, blah blah blah. It's perfectly serviceable, to be sure, in particular the strong performances from the children in the cast. But I hoped for more thanks to the [REC] pedigree and my fondness for a possession tale.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I got a text from a friend a couple of days later asking if I'd seen it yet. Apparently it'd been making the rounds on the social medias, with folks claiming it's so puke-in-your-pants scary that no one could finish watching it. Are you imagining my surprise? It was a big one.

Look, I love a bit of William Castle chutzpah, a touch of Herschell Gordon Lewis moxie. You know, that good ol' fashioned horror movie barfbaggery wherein you need an insurance policy lest a film scare you right to death. Hype posts on Faceplaces ain't that to me, though. In this era of Russian bots and FAKE NEWS and endless trolling everywhere, it simply feels like another lie on the fire. Because it's a lie! Veronica might be the scariest thing you've ever seen if you've never seen another horror movie. And you might not finish watching it if you decide to, like, go to bed instead.

Dead Awake (2016)

Oh dear me.

The phenomenon known as sleep paralysis (that state between sleeping and waking where you can't speak or move but you're totally aware of things happening around you) is terrifying...but not terrifying enough, says Dead Awake. What's even way more terrifyinger is, like, a "hag" who comes to you seeking skin moisturizer kills you when you're in the grips of sleep paralysis.

I mean. This is not a good movie, but then I don't know what I was expecting. I only watched it because I saw that it stars Jocelin "House of the Devil" Donahue as twins. Twins! Who could resist a horror movie with twins? But trust me, these are no fun time horror twins à la the dueling Daphne Zunigas in The Initiation. These twins are not having fun at all, a fact owing largely to how you can tell throughout that Jocelin Donahue knew this movie would end up a big pile. Boy, was she right!

Jocelin Donahue deserves better. Friend o' Final Girl Brea Grant deserves better. Swimfan deserves better. I know that I for sure deserve better!

Editor's note: I know that Jesse Bradford is not the swim fan in Swimfan, rather he is the swimmer. Still, when he popped up on screen I said "Hey! Swimfan!" so there you go.

Editor's second note: Also I know that "House of the Devil" is (probably) not Jocelin Donahue's nickname, but since that's where you probably know her from I put it in quotes like that. I am just saying.

Deadly Eyes (1982)

Ohhhh baby, now we're talkin'. Here's a movie I deserve!

Before I talk about what makes Deadly Eyes so great, let me clear the air: the giant rats of Deadly Eyes do not, in fact, have deadly eyes. They're just big rats, and as such they have deadly mouths. While Deadly Mouths is a more truthful title, it's not as good as Deadly Eyes, however, so here we are. I want total transparency here.

Now then. As science and math have proven time and time again, contaminated grain + rats = large rats with a taste for human flesh. That's just nature, and that's really all there is to this movie. So what makes it a superlative animals run amok flick? Two things:

1. In much of the film, the rats are played by dachshunds in rat costumes.

I'll get to #2 after you've had some time to recover from that information.

2. No one is safe from these hungry rats! Deadly Eyes does not discriminate, nor does it give a fuck. Are you an old? CHOMP. Are you a toddler? CHOMP. Are you a main character? CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP. Deadly Eyes does what it wants, and what it wants is to eat everyone without prejudice nor a lick o' CGI in sight. It's so great.

The Nest (1988)

Watched The Nest the same night I watched Deadly Eyes and had an inadvertent Lisa Langlois creature double feature, highly recommended.

As science and math have proven time and time again, biohazardous waste + cockroaches = cockroaches with not only a taste for human flesh, but also with the ability to somehow mutate their victims into cockroach-victim hybrids.

As you may have surmised, The Nest is not entirely serious. It's not necessarily a horror-comedy, but it is a Concorde Pictures/Corman production and it definitely leans into the campiness. It feels like a 1950s monster movie by way of 80s synthesizers and garishness. It's frequently gross, always ludicrous, and doesn't make a lick of sense, but it's pure drive-in style fun.

The poster, seen above, has always filled my mind with questions, none of which have really been answered after seeing the film. Still lingering in my brain:

Is that a giant cockroach? Or is it a very tiny woman? Am I supposed to be turned on by this image? It is everything wrong perfect and right with 1980s videocassette box aesthetics.

The Ritual (2017)

I don't know if The Ritual is actually super terrific or if I was high on too much Riunite but man, this shit did it for me! I was into it, my friends, cowering behind a blanket and feeling all kinds of tension. I was creeped out but good, like I haven't been in forever. This is some Blair Witch on steroids business and it worked: it's got woods, woods, and more woods; dark woods; scary stuff in said woods; a village in the woods full of creeps; some of the best creature design I've ever seen. Beyond that I don't want to give anything away, so let's just say that I love all of those things very much and I loved this movie very very much, a real gem. And you can trust my opinion on that: I have a horror blog!

Tragedy Girls (2017)

Another wee little gem, Tragedy Girls is to slasher flicks what Shaun of the Dead is to zombie flicks. Both a self-aware satire of and straight play of its genre, it's full of clever dialogue, charming and charismatic characters, a few outrageous set pieces, lots of humor and even more blood. Brianna Hildebrand and Alexandra Shipp are terrific as Sadie and McKayla, death-obsessed teenage besties hungry for social media hits who must create their own content when the town's psycho doesn't murder enough for their liking. It's a neon- and gore-drenched good time.

So there you go, a roundup of MY OPINIONS about some of the horror movies I've seen sort of lately. See you in another eight years!


G.A. Redman said...

Great Stuff.

I recently watched Deadly Eyes myself on YouTube. If you like Deadly Eyes (!?!) then treat yourself to the source: James Herbert's Rat Trilogy: Rats, Lair and Domain which are gore-soaked masterpieces of pulp horror.

Stacie Ponder said...

Thanks, and thanks for the rec. A trilogy! I gotta give it a shot...if nothing else, I’m curious as to how a killer rat story can span three novels.

matango said...

The Ritual was great. A horror movie that has a CGI beastie that is actually really good? Who knew?

"Lock This Way" should be a reality show where each season a group of inmates and a classic rock band have to create a song which they will play at a concert for the rest of the inmates on the final episode.

Stacie Ponder said...

Yeah monsters per se usually don't do much for me...but man, the one in The Ritual sure did.

Marc P. said...

I am thrilled that you're alive! Congrats and keep up the good work (being alive)!

Eliot Blades said...

Great to have you back!

I also loved The Ritual - really great ensemble cast.

My step dad is called Langlois - I need to ask him if there's any relation.

Anonymous said...

The beastie design in Ritual is soooo good!
Thanks for the warnings. I will seek out Tragedy Girls.

Nick Mullins said...

The Ritual is the first good horror movie I've seen on Netflix in a long time. And, as others have said, that monster is so satisfyingly creepy and well done.

And yeah, Veronica was meh.

VR Fan said...

I LOVE Tragedy Girls and saw it twice in the theater. I wish it got a better bluray release. :/

Wade said...

I saw Blood Diner years ago on late night cable TV, probably within a year or so of its original release. I also don't remember a whole lot about it, probably because the wackiness was so rapid fire. A couple things stick out in my memory, one of those cat clocks with the moving eyes, the guy trying to run the girl over (and over and over...) while listening to upbeat (salsa?) music, and the goddess with the fangly mouth on her belly.

And I also had the impression that it was a sequel to "Blood Feast" even though I had never seen it but knew enough about the plot to see the similarities.

Unknown said...

Night of the lepus. Australian horror, killer bunnies... what more could you want!

Kensington said...

Ultimately, "Tragedy Girls" is too sociopathic for me, but I cannot get enough of the sound Craig Robinson makes right before...

I still restream the film just to rewatch that moment over and over. Hilarious! Or maybe I'm the sociopath.