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!

Dec 15, 2020

SWALLOW (2020)

I don't mean to brag, but let me tell you: when I was but a wee bonny lass, I choked on a watermelon Jolly Rancher. At this point I don't remember whether the watermelon Jolly Rancher went up or down, but it obviously did one or the other for I am still here to recount this incredible tale. For some seconds though--I am unsure how long, exactly, but it felt like an eternity--I experienced pure, abject terror. Perhaps you know the feeling, when something gets lodged in your throat for a moment and there is an immediate, primal panic. I didn't think much of my brush with mortality at the time but the trauma lingers still! I haven't had a Jolly Rancher since, watermelon or otherwise, because what if it happens again? Further, what if what is lodged cannot be dislodged? Dying is one thing, but having DIED FROM A WATERMELON JOLLY RANCHER written on your tombstone is quite another.

Anyway. Those primal feelings flared up several times during Swallow. Whenever pregnant, unhappy housewife Hunter (Haley Bennett) opened her mouth and crammed something into her gullet, I cried "NO! Girl, it will not fit!" (Really took me back to my college days hahahaeeeehhhhh.) Swallowing a small marble? The idea makes me extremely uncomfortable, but okay, maybe it's do-able. But she works her way up to, like, Precious Moments figurines or whatever and I practically broke out in hives every time, yet I wondered how far she would go. Was she like the man from Mars in Blondie's "Rapture"? Would she eat Cadillacs, etc, and then, when there's no more cars would she go out at night and eat up bars, where the people used to meet? What about after she'd eaten the last guitar? Would she become another Dark Phoenix and take to consuming the very stars themselves?

Well, of course not. That trajectory is for another film, or perhaps for your Swallow fanfiction, if you are so inclined. This film isn't even the shocking, cringeworthy body-horror something something the trailer had me (and maybe you) thinking it would be. Writer/director Carlos Mirabella-Davis is more interested in unpacking the reasons why a woman might suddenly feel a compulsion to, you  know, swallow random tchotchkes. What begins as essentially your standard housewife ennui tale gets even deeper into both the nitty and the gritty as Hunter's past is revealed and her pica threatens her life and everything in it. I am always here for depictions of housewife ennui, don't get me wrong. I will eat up anything from classics à la Jeanne Dielman to the bonkers, pea soup-laden Exorcist rip-off Beyond the Door; I'm in particularly if the films get all "good for her" and explode the heteronormative, nuclear family paradigm. I'm in particularly particularly if the film adds a nice zest of class warfare to get my "eat the rich" senses tingling. Swallow does all of this in spades, and it's anchored by a terrifically nuanced performance by Haley Bennett and Katelin Arizmendi's lush cinematography. Ultimately, though, I find it curious that this film didn't really resonate with me. Despite the fine time I had, I was never particularly emotionally invested, though I wanted to be. Was there a detachment in Mirabella-Davis's filmmaking that kept me at arm's length, or is it simply that my heart is as hard as a watermelon Jolly Rancher?

Nov 2, 2020

SHOCKtober: The Wrap-up-ening

I am positively riddled with election anxiety! So what better way to cope than to distract myself by reliving the glory of SHOCKtober 2020 for a brief moment. It seems to me, it lived its life like a series of blog posts in the wind. 

Anyway. It was great, though, wasn't it? That's because of all-a-y'all voters, who inundated my eyeballs with movie after movie. Almost 1000 movies! It wore my fingers down so much that I am now typing with bony nubs, which, believe me, is not as hot as it sounds. 

But you know what is as hot as it sounds? Comparing and contrasting! I've done this reader poll thang three times, so let's see hw it all stacks up.

Total movies on the list: 951 (2020) / 632 (2017) / 732 (2010)

In 2017, 78 post-2010 movies made the list. In 2020, 193 post-2010 movies made the list. As suspected, tastes are skewing towards the new more than they used to...I think this is partially due to the way we consume movies now, some films of yore have been reassessed (and ultimately have risen or fallen in the hearts and minds of viewers), and also hey, horror movies have been in a pretty damn good place for the last 5 years or so. And audience and filmmaker demographics have shifted, too--or at least previously underrepresented demographics are being heard and seen now. There's great variety in the genre these days, and the canon ain't totally hogging the spotlight anymore. This is all very evident in the way the Top 20s have shifted over the years:

20. 2020: The Haunting 
      2017: Invasion of the Body Snatchers 
      2010: Carrie

19. 2020: Candyman 
      2017: Scream
      2010: Black Christmas

18. 2020: Carrie
      2017: The Fog
      2010: The Return of the Living Dead

17. 2020: The Exorcist
      2017: The Blair Witch Project
      2010: An American Werewolf in London

16. 2020: Midsommar
      2017: Psycho
      2010: Scream

15. 2020: A Nightmare on Elm Street
      2017: It Follows 
      2010: Evil Dead II

14. 2020: Suspiria (1977)
      2017: Rosemary's Baby
      2010: Jaws

13. 2020: Hereditary
      2017: Jaws
      2010: The Evil Dead

12. 2020: Rosemary's Baby
      2017: Suspiria (1977)
      2010: Alien

11. 2020: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
      2017: The Descent
      2010: Psycho

10. 2020: The Blair Witch Project
      2017: Carrie
      2010: The Descent

  9. 2020: Scream
      2017: Black Christmas
      2010: A Nightmare on Elm Street

  8. 2020: Black Christmas
      2017: Night of the Living Dead
      2010: Suspiria (1977)

  7. 2020: The Descent
      2017: Dawn of the Dead
      2010: Dawn of the Dead

  6. 2020: Alien
      2017: Alien
      2010: Night of the Living Dead

  5. 2020: The Shining
      2017: The Shining
      2010: The Shining

  4. 2020: Halloween
      2017: The Exorcist
      2010: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

  3. 2020: The Witch
      2017: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
      2010: The Exorcist

  2. 2020: The Thing
      2017: The Thing
      2010: The Thing

  1. 2020: Suspiria (2018)
      2017: Halloween
      2010: Halloween

I know Suspiria taking the top spot this year is the big shocker, but it's wild to see how different 2020 and 2010 are. Although I know my 2020 faves aren't all the same as my 2010 faves, so I shouldn't be that surprised, I guess. Also the fact that The Shining always takes the #5 spot and The Thing always takes #2 is freaking me out!

I'm definitely curious to see how the newer movies fare the next time I put out the call for lists. Will Suspiria still rank high, or is it merely a passing fad, like a pet rock or American democracy? Will Halloween reclaim its top spot, or drop even farther down the rankings? Will a movie starring Tracey Gold ever make it to the list? Will The Thing and The Shining be forever #2 and #5 in our hearts?

Ah, but those are questions to be answered another time. A question to be answered now, however, is: Would you like a free downloadable PDF of this year's mighty list that includes YOUR faves and all the special guest faves? If YES, head right over to the Gaylords of Darkness website and getcherself one! If NO, then FINE. Also! A kind and diligent reader compiled the madness into a list on Letterboxd! Go check it out if you're a Letterboxd aficionado. Or even if you're not! The point of all this is we should always remember to make every tober a SHOCKtober!

Oct 31, 2020

SHOCKtober: 10-1

Here it is, the post the entire world* has been waiting for, your top 10 favorite horror films for 2020! Brace yourselves and remember always: the number in bold is the number of votes received.

*six people

10. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez) -- 52

9. SCREAM (1996, Wes Craven) -- 57

8. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974, Bob Clark) -- 62

7. THE DESCENT (2005, Neil Marshall) -- 62

6. ALIEN (1979, Ridley Scott) -- 63

5. THE SHINING (1980, Stanley Kubrick) -- 64

4. HALLOWEEN (1978, John Carpenter) -- 72

3. THE WITCH (2015, Robert Eggers) -- 76

2. THE THING (1982, John Carpenter) -- 78

1. SUSPIRIA (208, Luca Guadagnino) -- 85

  • I AM AS SHOCKED AS YOU ARE. When I announced SHOCKtober 2020, I wondered if The Thing, the perennial #2 film, would finally supplant Halloween in the hallowed top spot. The votes for Suspiria '18 started coming in and I thought hooray, it's getting a lot of votes! I had a nice chuckle--sometimes, even, a chortle--whenever some variation of "the 1977 one, sorry, don't hate me" was added to a vote for Dario Argento's Suspiria. And finally, when all was tallied up, my eyes fell out of my head. I am equally surprised that The Witch copped the #3 spot and Halloween dropped all the way to #4. As for The Thing...hey, maybe 2025 will be its year!
  • "Someday," says a reader about The Shining, "I will knit myself an Apollo 11 sweater and it will be perfect. Or one for my cat, because cat sweaters are smaller, and I have a short attention span."
  • On The Descent, a reader shared: "It generated so much debate with my friends « was she right to strike her friend with the climbing axe ?? ». (I think she was and my friends think I’m a bit spiteful and shady since.)"
  • Well, that's that. SHOCKtober is officially SHOCKtover! On Monday I'll be back with a wee wrap-up / reckoning, including, I hope, a downloadable mega-list for your reference, scrapbook, archive, family history, time capsule, etc. etc. This list wouldn't be nuthin' without your votes, so thanks to all who voted! And it wouldn't be as much fun without all the comments and discussion, so thanks for all that too.

Oct 30, 2020

SHOCKtober: 20-11

Here we are at le Top 20. This is a thrill! It's like a Royal Rumble of genre classics both ye olde and ye newe. Let's see how the spandex shakes out! (?)

Number of votes each film received is written in ye bolde. Some of these are a tie! Please, should you have it, resist the pedantic urge to say "How can two movies with the same number of votes be ranked differently?" because this was explained at SHOCKtober's outset and also because I do not care!

20. THE HAUNTING (1963, Robert Wise) -- 39

19. CANDYMAN (1992, Bernard Rose) -- 42

18. CARRIE (1976, Brian De Palma) -- 42

17. THE EXORCIST (1973, William Friedkin) -- 42

16. MIDSOMMAR (2019, Ari Aster) -- 45

15. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984, Wes Craven) -- 45

14. SUSPIRIA (1977, Dario Argento) -- 46

13. HEREDITARY (2018, Ari Aster) -- 50

12. ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968, Roman Polanski) -- 50

11. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974, Tobe Hooper) -- 51

  • Wowzee wow, Ari Aster's two films--two films that didn't exist the last time I ran this grand experiment--in the Top 20! Love 'em or do not love 'em, there's no denying they've made a huge impact on the genre.
  • Of A Nightmare on Elm Street, a reader says: "I propose that Ronee Blakely gives the best drunken Kabuki performance since Dunaway in Mommie Dearest." Seconded, motion passes.
  • See you tomorrow for the Top 10! I know it's very exciting, but try to get some sleep.

Oct 29, 2020

SHOCKtober: 55-21

We've got 900 movies in the rearview which doesn't seem possible. I am not sure where this month has gone, but who cares! It's time to crack that Top 50, baby!

The number in bold is the number of votes received.

55. Carnival of Souls -- 1962, Herk Harvey -- 16
54. The Innocents -- 1961, Jack Clayton -- 16
53. Train to Busan -- 2016, Sang-ho Yeon -- 16
52. Friday the 13th -- 1980, Sean S. Cunningham -- 17
51. The Fly -- 1986, David Cronenberg -- 17
50. Creepshow -- 1982, George A. Romero -- 18
49. Session 9 -- 2001, Brad Anderson -- 18
48. The Birds -- 1963, Alfred Hitchcock -- 18
47. Don't Look Now -- 1973, Nicolas Roeg -- 19
46. Hausu (aka House) -- 1977, Nobuhiko Ôbayashi -- 19
45. Ginger Snaps -- 2000, John Fawcett -- 20
44. The Lost Boys -- 1987, Joel Schumacher -- 20
43. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors -- 1987, Chuck Russell -- 21
42. 28 Days Later... -- 2002, Danny Boyle -- 22
41. Fright Night -- 1985, Tom Holland -- 23
40. Sleepaway Camp -- 1983, Robert Hiltzik -- 24
39. The Cabin in the Woods -- 2011, Drew Goddard -- 24
38. Evil Dead II -- 1987, Sam Raimi -- 25
37. Dawn of the Dead -- 1978, George A. Romero -- 26
36. An American Werewolf in London -- 1981, John Landis -- 27
35. Hellraiser -- 1987, Clive Barker -- 27
34. Jaws -- 1975, Steven Spielberg -- 27
33. Poltergeist -- 1982, Tobe Hooper -- 27
32. Trick 'r Treat -- 2007, Michael Dougherty -- 27
31. Let the Right One In -- 2008, Tomas Alfredson -- 29
30. Psycho -- 1960, Alfred Hitchcock -- 29
29. The Return of the Living Dead -- 1985, Dan O'Bannon -- 29
28. The Evil Dead -- 1981, Sam Raimi -- 30
27. Get Out -- 2017, Jordan Peele -- 31
26. The Fog -- 1980, John Carpenter -- 31
25. The House of the Devil -- 2009, Ti West -- 31
24. It Follows -- 2014, David Robert Mitchell -- 32
23. The Silence of the Lambs -- 1991, Jonathan Demme -- 32
22. The Wicker Man -- 1973, Robin Hardy -- 32
21. Night of the Living Dead -- 1968, George A. Romero -- 39

  • To one degree or another, I like every movie on this chunk o' list! I know, who cares. I am just saying!
  • Of Hellraiser, a reader says: "It’s fucked and Ashley Laurence and Clare Higgins are giving their all. Plus Pinhead is strangely hot? Idk!!!"
  • See you tomorrow when we begin counting down your Top 20!

FAVE 20: Final Mom

If you've been around this old haunt then you know that I hail from a horror-loving family. Creature Double Feature, MonsterVision, Movie Macabre, Hammer horror, Fangoria, Famous Monsters, and of course countless trips to the drive-in and video store horror section were a way of life around Chez Ponder. I know mom's still watching horror movies like crazy, because whenever we talk she fills me in on whatever gonzo gorefest she's recently seen.

As for her list, she said "I totally agonized over this because I love so many movies, but I settled on these." Everyone who participated in this grand experiment knows that pain! It's true, what US Magazine says: Stars...they're just like us!

DRACULA (1958, Terence Fisher)

DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966, Terence Fisher)

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968, George A. Romero)

DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978, George A. Romero)

THE DESCENT (2005, Neil Marshall)

DOG SOLDIERS (2002, Neil Marshall)

CANDYMAN (1992, Bernard Rose)

HALLOWEEN (1978, John Carpenter)

JU-ON: THE GRUDGE (2002, Takashi Shimizu)

RINGU (1998, Hideo Nakata)

ALIEN (1979, Ridley Scott)

PITCH BLACK (2000, David Twohy)

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez)

JAWS (1975, Steven Spielberg)

SUSPIRIA (1977, Dario Argento)

DEMONS (1985, Lamberto Bava)

COLD PREY (2006, Roar Uthaug)


MAYHEM (2017, Joe Lynch)

ONE CUT OF THE DEAD (2017, Shin'ichirô Ueda)