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 4, 2019

Mistress Loretta's Bathtub

On the most recent Gaylords of Darkness, Anthony and I returned from a week off to perform a post-mortem on the year that was. The last year that was, I mean. You know, 2018. We gave some cheers, some jeers, and a whole lotta other nonsense. Honestly, the nonsense (as always) is like 99% from me. I don't know what happens, exactly, but whenever we record it seems that I go into a kind of fugue state. In lieu of "making" "points" or "saying" anything "worthwhile," it's mostly just rambling, stories unrelated to the topic at hand, and wasting everyone's time.

Unlike this blog! Which has been nothing but insightful in the 77 years of its existence.

Okay, so it's just like this blog. But the difference is, when I'm editing (HA HA) a post here, I don't have to listen to myself. When I edit an episode of Gaylords, however, I hear myself going on and on about whatever and I get filled with a weird "STOP TALKING, why are you SAYING THAT"...insecurity? Or something? I don't know. I don't know why I'm mentioning it here! Hmm, maybe in 2019 I will just own it.

But enough about what I might do, I'm here to talk about what I done did do in 2018. And what I done did do was like some horror movies, and not like some other horror movies. Some might even register as "meh" on the like-do not like scale. So let's get to 'em!



If you and I are cyberfriends on a social media, or if we are in person friends, or if you've listened to any Gaylords episode since I saw Suspiria, then you know that I am completely in love with / absolutely obsessed with Suspiria and you're probably sick of hearing me talk about Suspiria.

But I won't stop! I love it too much! I'm too obsessed! And with a home video (or whatever it's called these days) release coming at the end of this month, I'll be even more obsessed. I might forego all other movies altogether thereafter! Who can say. But you can tell by all the exclamation marks that my feelings are true!

I was expecting to like it as I am a hungry hungry hippo for witchtastic goodness. (Side note that will probably be explored here at some point: man, I've been crying about a lack of witches in horror forever, but it seems they are finally, finally having their moment.) But I was not expecting to be completely subsumed by this film. As I mentioned on our Suspiria-flavored episode, it was honestly something akin to a religious experience. This shit moved me, y'all, and the...connection, I suppose, that I felt (feel) to it is very rare for me and any movie, never mind a horror movie. It's difficult to explain, but once it's out and more people have a chance to see it and I feel okay about unleashing the spoilers (Amazon really botched the release, particularly when you consider how much promotion it got; the release itself was staggered and small), I'm gonna try to get my feelings about it outta me. With words! Exclamation mark!


What a powerhouse of a movie, anchored by an unbelievable performance by Toni Collette. She should be nominated for every award forever for her turn as Annie, if only for the scene that is the single most heart- and gut-wrenching portrayal of grief I've even seen in a film. And I didn't even see it! It's off-screen, but her guttural howls of abject despair are too much to handle even then. She's astonishing.

I love this movie. I love the way it plays with audience expectations. I love that it's keeping in line with a certain old school horror lineage. I love that it burrowed under my skin the first time I saw it and it's stayed there ever since. I think it's a permanent resident.


Mandy and I have what you might call a complicated relationship. It actually made it to theaters (well, a theater) here and I saw it one afternoon with the six or so other people who composed the audience. Two of them were an elderly couple, and I'm not sure what they thought they were going to see, but they certainly weren't expecting the gonzo, trippy bloodbath that is Mandy. They complained about it out loud and often–the film was just too distasteful–but they stayed through the whole thing.

Meanwhile, I had a blast. The film is a heavy metal fever dream, a bootleg Frazetta painting on the side of a van come to life. The last third, in particular, is completely unhinged and off the rails, and it's possible it's not any kind of reality at all. There's a chainsaw fight, spectral cenobite-types, and a battle axe forged in the flames of vengeance. It is exhilarating, a ride and a half. And that's not even counting Cheddar Goblin.

Soon though, my feelings about it began to cool a bit. Heck, even during the film I found my mind wandering to "what if"s: what if, instead of a man getting revenge when his Mandy is burned alive in a sack, what if the genders were flipped? What if it was actually fucking about Mandy? What if she got her revenge? What if it was a same sex couple? What if it felt new beyond the visuals?

It's a Death Wish-style revenge flick. A pretty one. A stylish one, a fun one because it's just plain nuts. But it's also a tale of "man loses woman to outside forces, man kills outside forces," which we've seen plenty of times before. I could go on, about the (largely) gendered online reaction to Mandy versus Suspiria, how what is lauded in one is criticized in the other. There's something to be said about the way Mandy deals with masculinity and sexuality–yeah, there's a tang of homophobia to the whole affair. I find myself talking shit about Mandy somewhat frequently, but it's always followed with a qualifying "But I liked it!" I mean, I must have–here it is on my DO LIKE list. As I said, it's complicated!


Much like Suspiria, Annihilation really got a botched released: extremely limited, then dumped on Netflix. And boy, the sound design of this film was enough to warrant a proper theater viewing. To be fair, it likely still wouldn't have done gangbusters at the box office; it's science fiction that offers few answers, none of which are easy to come by. It's largely inscrutable to the end–particularly at the end, with that climactic lighthouse sequence with Natalie Portman and her mirror image. I love picking apart its puzzles and teasing out meanings, even while being dazzled by the visuals (and that sound design). The bear scene shook me so much that even if I'd hated the rest of it, Annihilation would still be here as a DO LIKE.

(Warning: if you watch it with that one friend who always asks questions during movies, chances are at least one of you will suffer a Scanners-esque exploding head. Whether or not this is a favorable outcome is up to you.)

Unfriended: Dark Web

Get lost, haters! I have a fondness for the Unfriended series that I'm not entirely sure it deserves. I rented the first one out of sheer curiosity, expecting a big pile of trash. Instead, I found a big pile of delight; while it's certainly not, you know, high art, I thought it was a clever update-ening of the ol' (tired) slasher formula. The central conceit, wherein our view is limited to computer screens, is clever and complex, and it also serves to give a bit of tension at times. When it was over, I was shocked to find myself muttering "Wait...that was...pretty good?" And sober!

The sequel, then, became an "Oh heck yeah," one worth paying theater ticket prices for. (I'm not one of those hundredaires who goes to see everything.) Dark Web is more of the same, essentially, with a wider scope and better characters. It's silly–you know it's silly, the film kind of knows it's silly, and it's best if you all agree to just get into it. It's like, I don't know, getting wrapped up in doing the chicken dance at someone's wedding. I mean, I've never done that, but I know it's a thing. You all just do it and you go for it and you have a good time, and then the next day you know what a great time you had and how much you liked it, even if you're a little embarrassed by just how much you enjoyed it. People who did not or do not chicken dance might question your passion–heck, you're questioning your passion–but passion it is regardless.

Do I recommend the chicken dance that is Unfriended: Dark Web? Wholeheartedly and also not at all! Perhaps the Unfriended series and I are private dancers, and we do what we want each other to do. I'm fine with that. And if there's another one at some point about the super deep dark web, well, I'll be there. Any old theater will do.


(or, the cranky pants portion of the show)


I admit, I was unenthusiastic about Halloween long before I plopped my butt down in the theater. While my love for parts 1-3 will never wane, I haven't been invested in the series or Michael Myers or any of it for a dog's age. And old dog, that is. I'd completely checked out, and to be honest, I've checked out of all modern slashers with the exception of a few. I'll rewatch a vintage fave or check out a vintage flick I've never seen (such as Blood Rage, which rules!), but it's been a while since it was my genre of choice and as such, new ones don't hold much interest for me. The promotional circuit for Halloween was nuts, with Jamie Lee Curtis everywhere talking up her latest turn as Laurie Strode, and everyone touting how it would be a direct sequel to the 1978 original and a return to that film's style and atmosphere and blah blah blah. We were all to act like parts 2-infinity didn't exist, which was fine as I never liked the Michael and Laurie are siblings angle, and the less said about Laurie's demise in Resurrection, the better. So I wasn't excited, but I was curious.

And yet, I was still so let down. For a movie that was supposed to be about Laurie Strode and the aftermath of that fateful Halloween night 40 years ago, we ultimately know incredibly little about her when it's all said and done. Apparently she "trained" as some kind of survivalist her whole life,  booby-trapping her house and forgoing family relationships in case Michael ever, you know, comes home. But she still interacts with her daughter and granddaughter regularly, and they all live within a couple of miles of each other. Not to mention, Laurie could have, like, left Haddonfield if she wanted to move on. None of it is explained and none of it makes much sense, but it's necessary, I guess, for the promised Michael/Laurie showdown.

Mind you, Laurie has built her entire life around this potential confrontation while Michael simply doesn't care. He doesn't know who she is, he hasn't been thinking about her, waiting to finish the job. He doesn't come after her specifically, he just ends up at her house through a ludicrous plot contrivance.

It could have been a bold statement about what often happens to women in the wake of trauma, how the lives of survivors are completely upended, how the memories and the fear and the everything else are simply a part of their existences now. For the perpetrators, it's business as usual. They remain unscathed by the horrors they inflict.

But Halloween isn't any of that; rather, it's just poorly written and poorly constructed, a film whose best parts are simply carbon copies of scenes from Carpenter's work. (It also cribbed an awful lot from those "bad" sequels we were supposed to forget about.) However, for being a "direct sequel" to the first film, new Michael Myers is vastly different from the original Michael Myers. This one is a spree killer, offing anyone and everyone in remarkably brutal ways just for the fun of it.

Halloween made huge profits, and there are more entries in the franchise to come. If that turns you on, hey, you go enjoy it. But I hope during the next promotional cycle, there's less talk about what a groundbreaking masterpiece it is when, you know, Halloween H20 did all the same shit much better decades ago.

A Quiet Place

Honestly, fuck this stupid movie. It'd been a while since I became so openly hostile to a film as when I saw A Quiet Place, so I guess that's one good thing about it. Also there's Emily Blunt, so that is two good things.

But everything's maybe a great horror movie if you've never seen a horror movie before. Otherwise it's full of crappy clich├ęs and contrivances, from the whiteboard with, like, SOUND=WEAKNESS??? circled to Chekhov's goddamned nail in the basement stair, (a nail that shouldn't have been there??? in the middle of the board?? sticking up?? it had been there forever?? it didn't nail two things together, it was just there?? NAIL=WEAKNESS???), to the soundproofed basement (why didn't they live there?), to the "man provides" bs and HAVING A BABY awful heteronormativity, to the stupid *cocks shotgun* "girl power" ending...I just really, really hated it. Really. In case you couldn't tell.

But if you liked it, as a shitton of people did, that's great! It's good to like things. There is a sequel on the way. I will not be seeing it.

Bird Box

If you just this minute woke up from a coma, let me tell you something, friend: everyone is going goo-goo over Bird Box. I didn't like it, but then perhaps I am not one to judge it for I'd read the book last year and while I have no attachment to said book–I mean, it was fine–I basically knew who was going to live and die and what was going to happen or not happen. While there were some minor changes, this wasn't a radical reimagining or anything, and as such the movie held zero tension for me. But I figured I'd add it here to the DO NOT LIKE because as I said, this is the cranky pants portion of the show.

If you want to hear me and Anthony go a bit more in depth on these movies (and more), check out Episode 14, "Mistress Loretta's Bathtub." If you want to cheer and/or jeer my cheers and/or jeers, feel free! I am nothing if not a know-nothing know-it-all.


CashBailey said...

In the episode you mention wishing to see more lesbian vampire movies.There's a really entertaining one from a few years ago, a German film called WE ARE THE NIGHT.

The lesbian angle is pretty tame but it's slick, fast-paced and a lot of fun.

Bob Johns said...

I have not seen Halloween yet but I still love the cranky pants portion of your post!

Stacie Ponder said...

@Cash: Thanks, I'll keep an eye out for it!

@Bob: Excellent, thank you! I'm sure there'll be plenty more complaining around here in the foreseeable future :D

CashBailey said...

I finally saw SUSPIRIA and, yes, it is an extraordinary, haunting piece of work. It's a movie so compelling that it never feels as long as it is. In fact it leaves you wanting more.

So if Stacie and Anthony are the President and Vice President of Dakotastan, can I be the Secretary of State?