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!

Nov 13, 2019

BLOODvember Day 13: FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 (1981)


As you may know by now, I am nuts–NUTS I SAY–about the Friday the 13th series. I love the (relative) risks it's taken, I love its unabashed weirdness, I just...I don't know, at some point I really fell hard for this franchise. I'm not some big Jason fan, either! (At least, not after Part III.) I think maybe spending so much time with it when writing and drawing Death Count gave me some kind of Stockholm Syndrome or something because I feel a weird affection for the films in the series that I don't like...and trust me, the number of Friday films I don't like vastly outweighs the number I do (aka 1-3 and 5, if you must know).

For all the zillions of hours of Jason and Co, however, there's really only a small handful of moments that I've ever found legitimately scary. The biggest occurs near the end of Part 2, when Ginny is on the run from Jason and she comes across his little lean-to in the woods. She goes inside, thinking she might find help:


And boy oh boy! That's a terrible screencap, but seeing Jason through the window behind her, running toward the building, is downright terrifying. I love that he didn't disappear and they didn't try to build any mystery–you know, is he still following? Where will he appear? He's not trying to keep quiet. He's not trying to hide. He is still coming, running right at her. He knows exactly where she is. He's going to get to her, and he's going to kill her. It's just a really effective shot! That she's stumbled into his lair makes it even more frightening...and the fact that it's Baghead Jason chasing her makes it worth at least 100 chef kisses, for as all good people know, Baghead Jason is the best Jason.

Nov 12, 2019

BLOODvember Day 12: CREEPSHOW (1982)


I wasn't intending to post about Creepshow during BLOODvember. I really wasn't! Lawd knows I've talked about it enough around here over the years. I've mentioned my love for it several times on Gaylords of Darkness over the last year. I'm good, I thought. They know. They know how much I love it, how perfect I think it is. I've waxed rhapsodic about Adrienne Barbeau as Billie, I've mooned over the movie's varied approach to zombies. I've praised the music and the visuals and the EC Comics stylings. I've mentioned how funny it is, how scary it is, how it's as just good as the day it was born and how my feelings about it have never faded and it's a forever fave. They definitely know.

But ah! Funny I should mention the day it was born because lo, today is that day! On November 12, 1982, a bouncing baby Creepshow came blastin' outta...somewhere...and it planted itself right in the heartplaces of everyone who knows what's cool. So how could I not mention it today?

What's your favorite segment? As I've mentioned 1000 times, "The Crate"'s Billie is nonpareil. But overall it's not my favorite story! That honor, such as it is, goes to "Father's Day." It's morbidly funny. It's got one of the all-time great zombies. It's got Ed Harris doing that dance. It's got such a...well, such a Palm Springs-faggy vibe, it's absolutely the gayest thing Stephen King has ever written. It is the Dynasty-as-horror-movie of my dreams!


I love the Granthams. Carrie Nye is scathing, icy matriarch perfection. Richard is the quintessential "gay or just a rich Republican?" type. I like the cheeky nod to Rebecca with Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper. Again, Cass and Hank getting down to that disco track is just everything. And, of course, there's dotty old aunt Bedelia, who never even makes it inside the house. She's got a tragic backstory but damn, I bet she was a fun broad to hang out with.

Honestly, if Creepshow consisted solely of "Father's Day" I'd still consider it one of my Top Tens for life and I'd still mention it ad nauseam. And I'd definitely still be celebrating it today. I'm so glad it exists.

Nov 11, 2019

BLOODvember Day 11: TRACK OF THE MOON BEAST (1976)


Track of the Moon Beast, a terrible film, has come up around these parts several times before because it made such such SUCH an impression on me as a child. I don't know how old I was when I saw it or even where I saw it. Maybe I caught it on Creature Double Feature, or maybe it was a retro first flick at the drive-in or something. That particular memory is lost like sands through the hourglass, but so are the days of our lives. But what I remember most from this movie about a man who gets hit in the head with a chunk of moon rock and subsequently turns into a murderous lizard-man, is a scene I wrote about a bit in-depth over at the blog Mermaid Heather...and that's a scene where a man gets killed off-screen and his blood oozes under the door when his wife goes to investigate.


That image was the total stuff of nightmares to wee me! It scared me to death, it grossed me out...man, that right there was the absolute height of horror as far as I was concerned, and it's stuck in my brain all these years. Watching it now, it's exactly as I remember it, in fact, but it's hysterical that I found it so terrifying because it's anything but. (Seriously, give a click if you want to watch the scene...it's some Z-grade shit!) Yet I also think it's so fucking cool that something so lame was so scary to me. Who knows what's going to scare a kid? Heck, who knows what's going to scare anyone? I love that I got so much out of Track of the Moon Beast; it's possible I'm the only person who did. (It's really bad!) I love the idea that any horror movie, no matter the budget or "quality," could be someone's favorite movie or could feature a shot or a scene they find indelible. Ain't art grand?

Nov 10, 2019

BLOODvember Day 10: BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)


Black Christmas certainly has its share of iconic images. There's Billy's manic eye peeking out from behind the door. Claire's dead body and her expression of fear and shock under that plastic bag, rocking in a chair in the attic. And of course who could forget the glass unicorn, covered in blood and sparkling in the light as it's used to stab Barb to death?

It's all terrifying but man, this movie is incredibly unnerving right from the start, as we get Billy's P.O.V. as he climbs, unseen, into that sorority house. The scene that gets me though comes only a couple of minutes later, when the girls all gather around the phone to listen to a call from "the moaner."


It's the first time we hear one of his calls, but it's not the first time he's called. They've given him that nickname, and Barb mentions that he's "expanded his act" when he gets really nasty. But that doesn't mean they're not incredibly disturbed by the call–I love the way the camera pans around slowly, showing our main players in close-up, looking worried...and with good reason. The call is vile, describing in explicit, vulgar terms what he wants to do to them. We don't see him, and we don't know who it is; at this point, we're not connecting it with the man who climbed into the attic. The girls don't know who or where the call's coming from either, and while they have the safety of numbers, that phone call makes you feel how vulnerable they are regardless. It's stressful.

Barb tries to blow off that stress by playing it cool, by making some jokes. She gets a chuckle or two out of Phyl (always the kindest to Barb, wasn't she, except for that moment where she reached her limit?). But before long, even cynical Barb is unnerved. The phone call has reached insane heights, the squeals and voices making it sound at times like it's coming from Pazuzu over in Georgetown...but it ends with a calm "I'm going to kill you" that is an absolute shock. And you look at these girls and you know that whomever it is is going to make good on that promise (again, it's a slasher movie, after all) and you want to tell them all to get out right this minute, don't go upstairs, don't pack a bag, just go.

Margot Kidder, right? Barb could be such a one-note character but Kidder gives her so many layers–she's a crass party girl, quick with a joke or a biting remark, always downing too many drinks. From time to time we get little glimpses of the pain and hurt underneath it all–a look here and there, or an inflection. It's such a rich performance, particularly for this kind of film. They're all wonderful, really. I mentioned the Phyl-Barb relationship which is one of my favorites. Unlike the remake or so many other movies of its ilk, Black Christmas gets the friendships between the girls right. They argue sometimes, but they all care about each other. In fact, it's the reason why some of them end up dead: they check on one another, or they don't want to leave without each other. It's what's made this movie so eminently watchable all these years, beyond the scares and crazy killer and iconic shots. These characters aren't merely nameless teens, you know? They feel like actual human beings. What a concept!

Nov 9, 2019

BLOODvember Day 9: HALLOWEEN (1978)


I've seen Halloween so damn many times that I practically have every moment memorized, and it's been, like, four dogs' ages since it remotely scared me. I appreciate it so much that I almost don't appreciate it, you know? Like yeah yeah, Halloween's a favorite, Michael Myers whatever. I'm always going to cite it, but I sort of take it for granted, I guess.

That's not to say that I don't want to talk about it, because I do–especially considering the news that Kyle Richards will be returning as Lindsay Wallace in the next Halloween, which I refuse to call Halloween Kills because that's the stupidest title I've ever seen. I could talk about Kyle Richards getting bangs for the movie all day!

But when my mind goes to Halloween '78 these days, my thoughts immediately turn to Laurie, Lynda, and Annie, walking down the street after school, complaining about homework and teasing each other. Or maybe it's Annie and Laurie in the car, getting high and listening to Blue Oyster Cult. Michael Myers is almost secondary, an afterthought, lingering at the edges of my memories...which is kind of perfect, really, considering that throughout the film he's constantly lingering at the edges. He lurks like a motherfucker! Behind a corner or a hedge or a bedsheet on the clothesline, he's there and when you look back he's gone. Sometimes the characters (Laurie, mostly) spot him, but mostly he's only seen by us, standing in the background, just watching. It's what makes the movie so dang intense: we're aware of him, but no one else is. We know he's going to strike–it's a slasher movie, after all–but we don't know when.

One scene I love combines all of it: the lurking, one of the girls and her Debra Hill dialogue, and Kyle Richards's bangs, and that's the laundry room scene.


Annie goes to the detached laundry room to wash her pants, and Michael is there. He's at the door, he's at the window, he's everywhere. Annie is alone and vulnerable. She locks herself in and Lindsay, inside watching The Thing from Another World on TV, can't hear her calling for help. Why does Michael bide his time instead of killing Annie right then and there? Who can say why he does anything? He's a real creep!

Nov 8, 2019

BLOODvember Day 8: HELL NIGHT (1981)


Hell Night has always been one of my favorites, and if you want to know a bunch of reasons why, this post from 2012 (!) should clue you in. I can acknowledge that it's got some flaws and in the same breath tell you with absolute conviction: Hell Night rules! Gimme dat ol' spooky Garth Manor and I'm good, baby.

I long assumed everyone felt this way about it, that everyone's taste is as good as mine, but I've discovered in recent months that this is not true. Hell Night is not universally adored! I guess we really are living in the darkest timeline. Oh well. It still rocks my face off, so I'll just be sitting over here all gorked out on quaaludes and Jack Daniels while everyone else is off watching, I don't know, Insidiou5 or something. That's just fine! Go on, get outta here! It'll just be me and my quaaludes and my JD alone with this boss-ass scene, where Jeff and Marti (Peter Barton and Linda Blair) think they're safe because they've locked themselves in a room, but NO, they are NOT. Andrew Garth rises out of a trap door that was hidden under a rug. It looks lousy in the screencap but it's fucking rad as heck.


Hmm I posted about Hell Night in 2006 and then again in 2012...looks like I'm just about on schedule with today's post. Let's meet back here in, say, late 2025 and I'll tell you how much I love Hell Night again!

Nov 7, 2019

BLOODvember Day 7: THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974)


The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is frequently–and rightfully–lauded as one of the greatest horror films of all time, but it doesn't always get the adulation it deserves as one of the most beautiful. It's truly packed to the gills with breathtaking shots, and it's a shame that cinematographer Daniel Pearl isn't praised every time Tobe Hooper's name comes up. Once you see this film, it is forever imprinted on your brain–because of its shocking grotesqueries, sure, but also because it's frequently flat-out stunning. The extreme close-ups of Marilyn Burn's eyes...the long shot of the van under all that sky...Leatherface doing his mad twirls as the sun rises...and, of course, that low tracking shot of Pam as she approaches the farmhouse. Even when we're repulsed by what we see (think of Pam falling into that room full of bones and feathers), we're also drawn to it because it's shot so damn well.

Because of this, it's a bit tough for me to choose but one moment to post today. But this one came up in conversation recently, so this one it is: Leatherface emerging from the darkness into the beam of Franklin's flashlight, chainsaw roaring:


It's a nightmare image. Kudos, by the way, to Gunnar Hansen for all the acting he does underneath that mask; whether it's wide-eyed mania, like we see here, or weird lip-licking or what, we get the feeling that Leatherface would be just as terrifying if he was just, you know, Normalface or something.

And, as always, kudos to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for daring to make the disabled character the least-likable character, right? I will admit that on occasion I have felt some sympathy for Franklin because hey, he's got it pretty rough. He can't do anything right. He's stuck in that chair, in the heat, while his babe of a sister and all her hot friends go off to swim and make out and whatever. It's understandable that he's miserable, but then he takes it out on everyone around him, which makes them dislike him, which makes him more miserable and more likely to act out...it's just a big ol' ouroboros of awfulness. I don't know why I have been cursed to be the only person on the planet with a small modicum of Franklin feelings, but here we are.

One person who didn't have Franklin feelings was Marilyn Burns! Here is a chunk of an interview I did with her once upon a time, where we talk about Franklin and this scene above specifically:
Marilyn: Oh, God was he annoying! The thing is, that guy’s the nicest guy in the world, but I didn’t know it until 20 years later because he acted like Franklin the whole time, he was like a method actor. He continued to be just as whiny and horrible when they yelled “cut.” He’d sit in his wheelchair and say “Someone get me a Coke!” and we’d go “Hey, Paul, you’re not crippled. Get up and get it yourself.” Nyah nyah nyah- he’d whine! And I’m sure someone finally got the guy a Coke. It was weird. I should’ve known he was acting, but…it was 20 years later when I talked to him and he said “I felt so bad being so terrible!” and I’m thinking, “Paul, I thought you WERE terrible.” He was just doing his job, and I mean brilliantly, especially since we were so young then…who would have thought some jerk would stay in character the whole time and be such a terrific guy and you’d not know it until 20 years later?  
Stacie: Didn’t Tobe Hooper kind of set you two against each other to get emotion out of you?  
Marilyn: I know right before the flashlight scene, where we fight over it, he said “Paul said this about you” and then he went to Paul and said “Marilyn said this about you”, but it was already set. I mean, the whole shoot was real hard and the more Paul whined as a character the more we went “Oh God!”  But it worked good for the film, because we were ready to kill each other. 
Stacie: You can really tell in the scene outside the van, before you start pushing him and he’s honking that horn… 
Marilyn:  He was so damn…I mean, I didn’t really think I could push the guy, especially with all the brambles and brush. But it made it all funny later. Ha ha ha. Later.
It's probably one of the very few times that both the audience and the cast were happy to see a character get killed horribly. Well, at least he got to enjoy some gas station sausage before he died.

Wait, that was probably ground up people, right? Aw, poor Franklin! Couldn't have happened to a whinier guy.

Nov 6, 2019

BLOODvember Day 6: THE BEYOND (1981)


Y'all, I have had Fulci on the brain for quite some time now. At some point in the last year or so, I went from being a "some of his movies are okay" kinda gal to a "I REALLY LOVE SOME OF HIS MOVIES" kinda woman. I don't know how it happened, exactly, but I feel like some rom-com person who finally realizes that that nerd in glasses I've known forever is actually the love of my life, but then I realize I'm just looking in a mirror or something. I don't know. The point is, Fulci! I've got him on the brain but I've super got The Beyond on the brain because (GASP) I'm going to see it next month in a thee-ay-tur for the very first time, and Fabio GD Frizzi will be there performing the score live. I tells ya, I am so excited I could puke up my guts like I'm some lady in City of the Living Dead!

The Beyond is the second film in the Gates of Hell trilogy, which...what a trilogy. I really adore the concept of it, that somewhere out there (beneath the pale moonlight) there are seven gates to Hell just a-waitin' to be opened so the dead can spill forth and lay waste to us all. It's a terrifying thought! And not only because, according to Fulci, the deadpocalypse would be really, really gross.

But for all the memorable blood and goo and guts and eyeball trauma in The Beyond, it's this image from the movie's ending that really sticks with me. Non-believer John and Liza–poor Liza, who just wanted something to go right in her life for once–are struck blind and stranded in the dismal wasteland of Hell.


"And you will face the sea of darkness and all therein that may be explored!"

I mean, there are bleak endings, and then there's The Beyond. Not only will our hero and heroine suffer unjustly for an eternity, it's also that, as I said, Hell is a wasteland. No fires, no brimstone, no demons...the landscape isn't drenched in red, nor is it some Event Horizon-style bacchanalia of torture (or sex-torture, even) and gore. There is nothing. It all feels so hopeless, and the thought that this is what awaits us after death is enough to get me looking into cryogenics options. Or heck, maybe it's time for me to become the blood baroness I've always fantasized about being. Yeah, that's it. You're not gonna get me, sea of darkness!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go take a bath. You know. In blood.

Nov 5, 2019

BLOODvember Day 5: THE DESCENT (2005)


Yes, that date in the header says 2005, and yes it is correct, which means that The Descent is almost 15 years old. And here I was, feeling ancient because The Witch is gonna turn five soon. Meanwhile The Descent is out here ready to start hounding all of us to get her learner's permit. Next thing you know it'll be "Can I borrow the car? We're meeting at the mall and then later we're gonna go to Friendly's" and I'll say "I thought you were going to Boreham Caverns?" and then she'll go "More like Boredom Caverns" and that's the last I'll ever see of her because she'll get eaten by crawlers whilst enjoying a Jim Dandy sundae, or perhaps a Fribble.

Anyway, I recently watched The Descent for, yes, an episode of Gaylords of Darkness and yes, it absolutely holds up. I thought maybe the bloom would have fallen a wee bit off the rose, but no. NO I SAY. It's still fantastic, still one of the best horror films of the new millenium, if not of all time.

One of the reasons for that is this utterly startling moment, when the crawlers are finally revealed in all their creepy. disgusting glory:


It takes so long to get there–this scene occurs about an hour in–and we don't care in the least. From the feelings of claustrophobia that are induced by all those too-small tunnels to the feelings of hopelessness because these women are well and truly fucked, we're already on edge and terrified. The crawlers show up, the violence kicks in, and our heroines are picked off one by one in rather rapid succession. I've seen it so many times now, yet I still hope that Sarah and Beth will get out...and Sam and Rebecca...okay, even shitty Juno and, yeah, I guess even Holly. Ultimately this movie is such a tragedy, but damn if it isn't gory, delightful fun in getting there.

Nov 4, 2019

BLOODvember Day 4: THE FOG (1980)


I know I've talked about John Carpenter's The Fog before, how I love it endlessly and dream of living a Stevie Wayne life. Heck, I bet I've even talked about this specific moment before...but I'm not gonna spool up the microfiche and dig through the Final Girl archives to find out. That's the past and I live in the now, baby, the 100% now where I wanna talk about poor Mrs. Kobritz. Because poor Mrs, Kobritz, amirite?


What a great shot from a great, scary scene from a great, great, scary movie. They wouldn't kill a gramma, would they? Fuck yeah, they would! Those ghosts snatch that nice old lady and her nice old cardigan and they beat her to death. It's wisely kept out of frame, but we know what's happening and poor little Andy knows what's happening and it's brutal. That sweater and that Q-Tip hair and those glasses have always reminded me of my gramma and phew! I admire the moxie of a movie where no potential victim is off the table even while it bums me out.

The Fog is a quick wisp of a film, so small and simple, just a bunch of terrific, moody set pieces all stitched together. Many of the characters don't meet face to face, or maybe they cluster together at the last minute as they seek shelter from the eerie, mysterious fog and the deadly ghosts lurking within it. The characters aren't overly well developed but it doesn't much matter. We know enough to feel like we know them, and we get invested in their well-being. Adrienne Barbeau is, of course, perfect and completely sells "helpless terror" as she watches the fog roll in from her radio station atop the lighthouse. In fact, you couldn't ask for a better cast for this yarn–it's jam-packed with Carpenter mainstays like Charles Cyphers, Tom Atkins, Nancy Loomis, and Jamie Lee Curtis, and rounded out with talent like Hal Holbrook, John Houseman, and Janet Leigh.

And what a yarn it is. Mr. Machen sets us up with a ghost story at the top of it and then we watch it all play out. And best of all, we learn some important life lessons: be nice to lepers, and do not steal!

Man, The Fog fuckin' rules!

Nov 3, 2019

BLOODvember Day 3: The Witch (2015)


First of all, I would like to point out the obvious (nothing but trenchant insights here at Final Girl!), which is that in January The Witch turns five. Five! Already! We are all rocketing toward the grave!

Anyway. What I love most about this New England folktale is its overwhelming atmosphere of dread. As William and his family pray and give thanks and ask God for blessings over their new plot of land, we see the long, foreboding shot of the woods, the home of the witches, and the leaves rustle in what we hope is just the wind...you can feel the evil watching, waiting, biding its time. We know that in the world of the film, the horrible tales are true. The witch is real, she is nearby, and she will bring about death and ruin. (For some. For others, she brings salvation.)

The entire movie is the very definition of a slow burn. It's a mood that keeps racheting up the tension until we're fit to burst. When the "horror moments" come, they are punctuation marks, made that much more startling by the unease that's been building since the start.

This is one of those moments:


Katherine, driven mad with grief and worry and hunger, imagines she cradles and nurses her lost babe Samuel. When the camera pulls back and we see it's actually a crow ripping and tearing at her breast...I said OH MY GOD out loud in the theatre without intending to. It's the most shocked I can recall being for the past, well, maybe ever. Completely unexpected, completely horrifying, completely insane. This movie rules hard.

Nov 2, 2019

BLOODvember Day 2: ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968)


It was true when I said it yesterday and it's true when I say it now: I've got Rosemary's Baby on my mind, y'all. My relationship with that movie has evolved a lot over the years; the first time I watched it, I did so expressly because it'd been dubbed, you know, one of the scariest all time movies, don't watch it alone, you're gonna pop your cork and never sleep again! I was a slasher-happy teenager at the time and "scary" was my absolute standard for whether or not I'd enjoy a movie. (Other, lesser standards of mine from that era: "has cuties," "is gross," "is cool.")

Needless to say, Rosemary and I didn't jive. It wasn't the kind of scary I was into back then, and frankly I couldn't see what all the fuss was all about. I didn't bother with it for years.

But our tastes change as we age, no? Most of the time they do, I think. You start to notice differences: maybe your tastes have hair where they never had hair before. Maybe your tastes aren't the sweet little tastes you remember...instead they're volatile and given to tell you that they hate you as they stomp into their bedroom and slam the door.

The point is, slashers are no longer my be all-end all horror movies, and what I consider "scary" these days isn't as limited as it was (not to mention, horror movies don't have to be scary for me to enjoy them).

All this to say that Rosemary and I very much jive now. The entire film is the very definition of indelible, so choosing one shot or moment has proven a challenge. But this one, I think, is my current winner:


Rosemary walks into the lair of the witches in search of her child and...it's so banal. So civilized. She's got that knife raised, ready for (another) fight, but it seems that she's walked into the middle of a regular cocktail party gathering. well-to-do older folks engage in conversation, hardly any of them paying her any mind. For a moment, we might think that Rosemary is off her rocker, after all...but after darting around the screen, our eyes finally settle on that bassinet; it's gone unnoticed despite being center frame because there's simply so much else to see.

I love that for all their urbane mundanity, their blending in to normal society, the Satanists can't help but go full goth with their choice in baby furniture. Only the blackest, most extravagant crib will do for the Son of Satan!

Nov 1, 2019

News you can use!

In all of last month's (is it "last month" already?) Suspiria madness, I neglected to mention a few other things I've got going on that may be of interest. Or they may not! I don't know what you like. The point is, I'd might as well spill some beans now.

To help the fine folks at FanByte celebrate all things spooky, I wrote 'em two pieces this week. And they posted them! First, a case for why Annabelle is the queer horror icon 2019 deserves. (That one elicited many a "bro whut" comment on the social media from their readership, much to my delight.) The second is an examination of some of the new Final Girls in horror and how the trope has evolved since the slasher heyday.


I've got a few reviews in the newest issue of Rue Morgue, on newsstands now! It feels nice to be back in their pages again. Also, I am dying to see The Lodge.


As always, there is a new episode of Gaylords of Darkness every Wednesday. But this week I also appeared–well, my voice did, at least–on another podcast. I joined Colin Drucker for an episode of his delightful show In the Details: A Celebration of Nuance where we positively plotzed over Ruth Gordon's performance in Rosemary's Baby. Watching that movie in preparation for his show...man, it had been a while and I was just about overcome with its absolute perfection. It's perfect, isn't it? What a marvel. You can find Colin's show on iTunes, etc–you know, wherever podcasts are conjured.


Last but MOST DEFINITELY NOT LEAST: We're having our first live episode of Gaylords of Darkness this December!

On Friday, December 13th!

Where we will also be screening Friday the 13th 1 & 2 on 35mm!

AND CONDUCTING A Q & A WITH SPECIAL GUESTS ADRIENNE KING AND AMY STEEL!

Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th Part 2. On Friday the 13th. Alongside the films' respective Final Girls. 

I cannot believe this is a real thing.

All of this is happening at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, OR. Tickets are already in presale for members of that theatre; tickets for the general public go on sale Monday, November 4th at noon PST.

I am losing my mind over this.

All the non-movie bits will be recorded and will be available as an episode of our show at some point after.

I honestly have to pinch myself. It is going to be amazing!


I think that's it for now. You have to admit, there's some pretty fucking great news in this post!

BLOODvember Day 1: THE EVIL DEAD (1981)



Welcome one, welcome both of you to this first-ever BLOODvember celebration. I thought it might be...fun? Interesting? Something to do?...to spend the month talkin' 'bout some of the horror images I find to be indelible. Please note, the key phrase there is "I find"! Surely some of these will be stone cold classic shots, while others might simply be random images or moments that have stuck in my head like some kind of brain herpes. Aren't you already pumped for this month?? Do you feel like you have the power of 100 energy drinks and/or 100 Dr. Julie Parrishes of television's V coursing through your veins? I know I do! And at my age it's actually a bit dangerous, quite frankly.

On a recent episode of Gaylords of Darkness, Anthony and I talked about Sam Raimi's 1981 film The Evil Dead. I mean, talk about stone cold classics! This movie holds the fuck up. As I mentioned on the show, it's hard for me to be objective about it because it's so deeply ingrained in who I am as a horror fan thanks to watching it so many times in my young adulthood. But hot dang, it remains a startling unique, beyond clever, and terrifying little movie. Yeah, I said it: terrifying. I've seen it too many times to lose sleep over it or some such. But while there are some comedic moments (both intentional and otherwise), The Evil Dead is often called a comedy when in fact it's anything but...and the "Cheryl is possessed" reveal is perhaps its scariest moment.

You know the scene: Linda and Shelly are having fun with a deck of playing cards; Linda tries to guess the card that Shelly's holding and while she always guesses wrong, Shelly always tells her she's guessed correctly. It's funny and really sweet–a nice moment of character building in a film that severely lacks in that department. Behind them, Cheryl faces away, looking out a window. She begins to correctly name the cards Shelly is holding, faster and faster, until there's a big ol' discordant chord of music and she turns around, revealing that she's possessed. It's incredibly well-timed, perfectly shocking, and flat out spine-chilling. It's my favorite moment in a favorite movie.

She's been sitting there possessed the whole time! Yikes...how very unnerving. I guess you never know who around you might be possessed until you see their faces. Be careful out there, folks. One by one they will take you!

Oct 31, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 31: we're at the end


Well, reader, here we are, at the end of this mad endeavor. They said it couldn't be done! They said it shouldn't be done! They said...okay, so no one said either of those things. But I've certainly never attempted anything like this 31-day examination of a single film before. It's been a bit exhausting at times, but always an interesting undertaking. Somehow, a month in, there are still things left to say, avenues to explore, nuances and moments to revere. Every time I think I hit bottom, I find there's yet more digging to do. I think I'll keep going. Maybe not here, necessarily. I might try to expand what I've done in a multitude of ways and work on something long form. I don't know where such a thing might find a home, but we'll see. My enthusiasm and love for Suspiria certainly haven't waned. Kind of remarkable to me, since it's been almost a year to the day since I saw it the first time. In fact, I dug this out of my instagram to check the date:


That caption makes me laugh...I was so excited for this movie! So excited, in fact, that I traveled for a couple of hours to catch it opening weekend, as it didn't play in my town for another week or so. (Of course, I saw it a few times when it finally arrived.)

Still, I certainly wasn't expecting it to affect me the way it did. I figured I'd like it: the cast is terrific, I am the leader of the sovereign nation of Dakotastan, I love the original film. But I love Dario Argento's movie...mmm, aesthetically. I love the idea of it. Jessica Harper is, of course, a perfect icon. But it never, like, grabbed me by the soul emotionally, you know? So I never anticipated that Luca Guadagnino's film would cast such a spell on me. But, well, again...here we are.

I was going to post about an actual, uh, something. But I think I'll save it for another time, maybe another place. Right now I just want to say Happy Halloween–another SHOCKtober in the books!–and thanks to everyone who's taken the time to read Final Girl this month, who's left a comment here or on The Social Medias with your thoughts and the such. It's been quite a ride! Tomorrow is a new day 'round these parts, for it dawns the first-ever BLOODvember. I have no idea what I'm doing yet! That sounds about right.

The Suspiria zine I'm putting together will be available November 11. (Of course.) There will be limited hard copies available. It'll also be available digitally. It's a love letter to this deeply queer love letter of a movie from a queer little coven I have assembled (the Markos Zinegruppe!). There will be art and writing, silly things and serious things, all kinds of goodies. I'll post information regarding where to get it when the time comes. I'm really excited about it.



Of Anke Meier, of Patricia Hingle, of Sara Simms, of Susanna Bannion, of all the women of my undoing...uh, thanks? I guess? Hail Mother Suspiriorum. Death to any other movie!


Oct 30, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 30: a bolt of love


Susie Bannion's transformation...evolution, rather...from Ohio farm girl to Mother Suspiriorum is endlessly fascinating. There is much to unpack about our Ms Bannion; as Madame Blanc tells her, "Difficult not to be curious about you."

We can debate when she knew her true nature. We can talk about how she is ultimately a benevolent fascist (for now, anyway) who obliterates the tired dichotomy of "good and evil" while subverting the standard Hero's Journey of myth. But I'm interested in talking about her on a basic, human level today, and that is Susie's evolution as a sexual awakening–a coming out narrative, if you will.

When I see young Susie seated at that table during flashbacks, dreaming of Berlin, I see myself. I didn't grow up on a farm or in a strict, religious household, but I know what she's feeling just the same. Realizing that you are different from everyone around you, but maybe not understanding exactly how or why yet. Knowing, somehow, that there is more for you outside of this environment where you do not fit in as everyone else does–that a life is waiting for you elsewhere. That there are people, somewhere, ready to welcome you with you're just like us. There has to be. I promise you, every gay kid has these thoughts at one time or another. Even if they don't completely understand their sexuality yet, they know they're different. It's a feeling, a distinct feeling that you're juuuust out of step with everyone around you. If you can just get out of this house, this school, this family, this town, you'll find your people. Every gay kid is dreaming of Berlin.

And so Susie steals some money and makes good on her dream. She finds her people.

Back near the start of this month (so long ago already!) I explored the fraught love story between Susie and Sara. It ends too soon and it is heartrending, but it is pure. Before Sara, though–long before Sara–and after Sara, there is Madame Blanc. It begins just seconds after Susie enters the Tanz building for the first time; before she even finishes crossing the lobby, her attention snaps to Blanc's one way mirror. Surely Blanc is standing there, for we get a crash zoom to a close-up of Susie. As Sara and Susie locked eyes before they met, so, too, do Blanc and Susie, in a manner of speaking.



It happens again moments later, during Susie's audition. Without musical accompaniment, she dances in that primal way she has, so affecting that Blanc is startled while instructing in another room. Susie breathes and spins faster and faster, then she's stopped in her tracks. We get another crash zoom, this time on Blanc. For the first time their eyes truly meet. Mandel and Millius turn to look at Blanc, but for the moment she and Susie are in their own world.



After her discussion with Tanner, Susie leaves for her hotel to gather her things. Blanc, back behind her mirror, watches her go with some kind of longing. At the least, she senses that this new girl is...intriguing.


The next day, during her first rehearsal, Susie collapses, overcome by the force of destructive power she temporarily wields. Blanc shows her compassion and kindness, seeing through Susie's brave front (that isn't really a front, is it?), soothing her with words and touch. I've read reviews of this film that see the Susie-Blanc relationship solely as maternal or student-mentor. I suppose this, with Blanc making sure the overwhelmed dancer is okay, supports that.


AH YES. STRICTLY MATERNAL THIS IS.


That evening, Susie is summoned to Blanc's chamber for the erotic chicken wing dinner. I've said it before, but I must say it again: I love how casual Susie is in the first half of this scene. Blanc asks personal questions and pays her compliments, and Susie just...can't be bothered. She spends her time checking out her surroundings, eating, and avoiding many of those personal questions. Sara spoke of Blanc's "light" and how dazzling it was when directed at you, but so far, if Susie feels that way she's playing it cool over the chicken wings. I am tickled by her lack of interest and the way she indulges her curiosities.


Finally, though, she comes out with it. When Blanc talks about what a risk it was for Susie to repeatedly travel to New York without permission, Susie states it plainly: "I felt I had to see you." It's brash enough that Blanc stops chewing for a moment.


Then we cut and it's a few minutes later. They've finished eating. Blanc has moved and lit a cigarette, which...


Well, for the middle third of the scene it's a crutch she's using to hide her nervousness. Susie unnerves her, because Susie is not overwhelmingly dazzled by Blanc's light. While she clearly holds Blanc in great esteem, she's not intimidated by her. She raises herself from the status of "student" to meet her as an equal. No one does that. Who is this farm girl from Ohio?

Blanc sits and asks: "What did it feel today, to dance Volk in front of the one who made it?" but before Susie can answer, Blanc says that's "vain" and rephrases:

"When you were dancing, what did it feel like inside you? Inside your body?"


Now, she wanted the first question stricken from the record, but I think that was disingenuous. I think she wanted Susie to answer it, but simply didn't want to seem as vain as she is. The first question is now in Susie's mind, so she'll be answering to:

"What did it feel like inside you to dance my dance in front of me?"

If Blanc expected Susie to turn bashful, to praise her work, to say it was an honor, that's certainly not what she got. Susie very forthrightly states: "It felt like what I think it must feel like to fuck."

"You mean to fuck a man?" Blanc replies, immediately taking a drag on her cigarette. Nerves.

"No, I was thinking of an animal."

Blanc is still off-guard. Laughs it off. Then she says, "You looked..."

And the moment hangs there and hangs there and hangs there while they look at each other. You can hear Blanc breathing.



Then:


And she changes the subject back to dance. It's an enthralling sequence, watching these two seduce each other and battle for dominance. It's a duel, and they're trying to out-top each other....and Blanc loses. She's not accustomed to this. Here is Susie, constantly challenging, confronting, and instigating with her. She's forced to drop her "dazzling" artifice, and she's both frightened by and attracted to this new dancer. After all, Susie has delivered the coup de grĂ¢ce that is the surefire way to seduce any art fag: tell her that fucking feels like art and art feels like fucking. Blanc loses her words.

The next day, Blanc initiates the new dance, "Rebirth," asking Susie to lead the improvisation. On the one hand, this is another one of Blanc's insidious techniques to make Susie amenable to the idea of being the vessel for Markos's rebirth. On the other hand, she's interested to see where "Susie's instincts" will lead. They lead to getting horny for the floor.


Part of that, of course, is the abhorrent pull of Markos down there in her storage closet. But Susie is nothing if not a horny young woman was "repressed" not by guilt or obligation, but only by a lack of opportunities back in Ohio. She's got the hots for Sara and she's got the hots for Blanc, and if either of them would have just responded to her very, very obvious cues instead of shying away, well, we'd all be a lot happier. Especially Susie.

Instead, Blanc makes do by sending Susie wet dreams at night.


Yeah, they're full of horrifying, violent images. Yeah, they're full of art. But as Susie's writhing and heavy breathing make clear, ultimately they're wet dreams.


Before the private jump rehearsal scene starts in earnest, Sara is looking for Susie. Another dancer says, laughing, "Maybe she's seeing somebody." Girl, if you only knew.

I've written about this scene Blanc and Susie have one night before, how telling it is that Susie wants to be the Company's hands. How she lets Blanc know by making yet another overture.


The rest of it plays out like a sex scene. Susie's feet thumping like a bedpost as she jumps, Blanc shouting "Higher! Higher! Higher!" faster and faster, Susie breathing faster and faster, it keeps building in intensity until Susie performs one big jump. Sometimes she only needs to be told twice.



Before the pre-Sabbath dinner, Blanc comes to Susie's room. They speak telepathically about Volk. Blanc sits on Susie's bed, moves closer, takes her hands.

"I could explain everything to you," she says. "I think it would be wrong, though."


Susie brings Blanc's hand to her cheek. "You don't want to make me choose. Because you love me."


There is a hugely important music cue there. The track piano refrain heard in several tracks (ie "The Balance of Things") has been playing. It's spare and a bit spooky. But when Susie says "Because you love me," the music changes to the opening of "The Conjuring of Anke," the beautiful, melancholic track we hear when Josef and Anke reunite. It's the closest thing Suspiria has to a love theme.

Ah yes. Strictly maternal, this is.

The first time I saw this movie, I was absolutely sure that Blanc and Susie were going to kiss. In fact, somehow, without my permission, the theater took a photo of me right around the moment Susie put Blanc's hand on her cheek:


But no. Blanc leaves. However, then we get the dinner of seduction, where all the witches are all over the dancers, casting their spells. There's Blanc and Susie, right in the middle of all the singing and eating and activity, their plates bare, their eyes boring into one another.



Yeah, they're fucking.

Side note: Susie's dress? Which is undoubtedly Sara's dress? *chef kiss*

Bliss is short-lived, though. It's time for the Sabbath and the coming of Mother Suspiriorum. We know how that ends for Sara, and we know how it ends for Blanc. Suspiriorum–or Susie–has tenderness for both. She ends Sara's life with a kiss and cradles her. She's not at her full powers yet (or maybe she's holding back) when Markos nearly decapitates Blanc. But still, she cannot bear to watch it, and it brings her to tears.



And, of course, at the end of things Blanc still lives. Perhaps she was too powerful for Markos to kill. Perhaps, seeing that Blanc tried to save Susie Bannion's life, Suspiriorum saved hers. We'll probably never know what becomes of them now.

But we've seen Susie Bannion's journey in its entirety. We watched her get out of that farmhouse like she always dreamt she would, we saw her find her people. We watched her unrealized passions become fulfilled. We saw her puppy love with Sara, the kind of love full of secrets and sweet whispers. We saw her seduce her idol, the kind of love full of hands and animal desire. We saw her rip herself open, fully embracing her primal, carnal side, becoming who she was meant to be. And throughout all of it, sighs.