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!

Oct 15, 2020

FAVE 20: Jason Adams

If you've been hanging around her for any length of time then I'm sure you're a Jason Adams fan. I am! I feel a real cyberpal kinship with Jason, not only because he is a rad and righteous dude, but because he has been in the blogging game as long as I have. Final Girl and Jason's blog, My New Plaid Pants, both plopped on outta Mama Internet's cyberwomb in June, 2005, a mere three days apart. Unlike me, however, Jason still posts virtually every day, usually more than if you are looking for sharp, often poignant film criticism, Tilda Swinton updates, Jake Gyllenhaal updates, or slab after slab of hot, juicy beefcake, get thee to MNPP. Or check out Jason's wonderful work alongside a shitton of other wonderful work at Nathaniel Rogers's 100% essential site The Film Experience.

Jason sent me his Fave 20 list and then an addendum, asking to swap one film for another. But to this, I say no! If someone is going to kindly donate words to this experiment, then I shall publish those words! And so Jason's Fave 20 is actually Jason's Fave 21. Rejoice!

ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968, Roman Polanski)

Give or take a Rear Window my favorite movie of all time. The American Dream, little Andy or Jenny, perverted beyond recognition. Ruth Gordon eating cake. Doctor Shand playing the recorder. His father’s eyes! And the unsettling knowledge that I’d do it all for an apartment in the Dakota in an echo of a shadow of a heartbeat. “This is no dream this is really happening…” 

DEATH BED: THE BED THAT EATS (1977, George Barry)
You go into this movie expecting a joke, and you get a joke… but you also get so much more, ya know? The bed, it eats people. The title don’t lie. That happens. But this movie makes you believe you’re now in a world where there could be beds that eat people — it is so deeply weird, Lynchian even. And there are sequences of shocking beauty. You don’t soon forget Death Bed: The Bed That Eats. Ya just don’t! 

SUSPIRIA (2018, Luca Guadagnino)
Everything Stacie said is true! Times ten! This is the most recent film on my list but I have absolutely no qualms about including it — no doubts that it will eventually be seen… by the right people anyway… as the queer (in all senses) masterpiece that it is. Whenever I have a spare ten minutes I will start this up on Amazon to kill time and before I know it it’s two hours later and “Volk” is happening and Tilda’s in her big orange eatin’ dress and Susie, sweet Susie, is showing us her beautiful singing chest vagina all over again… 

SOCIETY (1989, Brian Yuzna)
I love that this movie talks about Class in America, where we pretend we don’t have Class. (No we don’t have class class, but the other kind.) And I love that it took the subject just about as outrageously far as it… will ever be taken? A lot of fun stuff happens in Society before the end of Society but… that ending reaches up in and makes you kinda forget the rest… as in “the rest of what movies have done, ever.” I just admire its dedication to its own geewillikers bonkers gumption. Unforgettable.

Every time I sit down to watch this movie excited thinking about how hot Christian Bale looks strutting around in his tighty-whities, and every time this movie elegantly stabs me just so in the eyeball for being so base. It’s so subtle, how Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner spilled out the innards of Bret Easton Ellis’s book, how they make Patrick Bateman, beautiful Patrick Bateman, absolutely riotously pathetic — it’s so subtle, even as it sweats and screams and frantically smashes a kitten into an ATM machine, that a lot of clueless dude-bros even in 2020 still don’t seem to get the joke’s not on them, it is them.

FREAKS (1932, Tod Browning)
I know this movie makes some people uncomfortable (heaven forbid) but I’ve always viewed it as being on the side of the carnival performers, even when they’re crawling through the mud with knives in their teeth at the end. They are the heroes dammit, carving up the grotesque patriarchy one bad apple at a time, and I’d gladly be one of them gooble gobble.

GHOSTWATCH (1992, Lesley Manning)
PIPES!!! Like my hostess with the mostess here at Final Girl I love love love me some Found Footage Horror and I had to include at least one on my list and if it wasn’t going to be The Blair Witch Project (which is probably the correct answer but I wanna be special) it had to be this BBC TV production, which managed to War-of-the-Worlds an entire new generation when it aired on Halloween Night in 1992, tricking people into believing they were watching a real documentary about a haunted house. Haunted by… Pipes! PIPES!!! Ugh, Pipes. Pipes forever haunts my nightmares.

PAPERHOUSE (1988, Bernard Rose)
Looking back on this Bernard Rose flick as an adult I realize it’s less of a horror movie than it seemed to me as a kid when I rented it a thousand times from the local library, but to that kid-of-divorce this fever dream that turns nightmare for its midsection tapped into something real primal and personal, and just thinking about the scene where little Anna’s father comes home is giving me gooseflesh as I type it.

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955, Charles Laughton)
Charles Laughton’s only directorial effort is one of the greatest films ever made — a fairy-tale-tinged descent into the (literal) dark side of Americana, two innocent little children being chased across an almost Caligari-level abstracted rural landscape, and one of the screen’s most terrifying (and sweaty) monsters nipping at their heels the whole way. Like Paperhouse this one gets at the scared little child in me. 

DEMONS (1985, Lamberto Bava)
This shit’s just rad. Snorting cocaine from a coke can rad! Inexplicable demon masks and motorcycles in a movie theater lobby rad! GERETTA GERETTA RAD.

SLUGS (1988, Juan Piquer Simón)
For some reason Slugs was filmed in my itty bitty upstate New York hometown when I was 10-years-old, alongside the far classier ghost film Lady in White with Lukas Haas — I have never been able to figure out why those two films filmed at the same time in the same out of the way place, but it was a sensation amongst my classmates! Lots of kids skipped class to go see filming happen — I did not, because I was a good little gay boy, and I didn’t see Slugs until many years later. It was love at first slime trail!

SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000, E. Elias Merhige)
One of my favorite movies about the making of a movie ever, even if lord knows they maybe fudged the details a little, here and there. Just a little though. It’s absolutely impossible for me to watch Murnau’s Nosferatu now without thinking of Willem Dafoe — in a year of great performances that included Christian Bale in American Psycho Dafoe’s turn as “Max Schreck” still comes out on top; it’s a miracle, funny and spine-chilling all at once. Woefully underrated, this sucker.

JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981, Jeff Lieberman)
I couldn’t make this list without a 1981 slasher on it and I was torn between this and My Bloody Valentine, but JBD’s seeming obscurity pushed it just out ahead. Where’s this movie’s deluxe blu-ray edition? Even as it trots through all of the tropes this year was setting into stone — horny young people camping in the woods, a wise older man (GEORGE KENNEDY) warning them not to — this flick always still manages to unsettle me. Its weird soundscape is one big plus — the forest sounds turned real strange — and its genuinely creepy bad guys are another, but most of all my heart belongs its final girl Constance (Deborah Benson) and her one-of-a-kind arc, which sees her becoming more feminine as she also grows wilder and tougher; it’s the opposite of how these things usually work and it fascinates me every time. And that fistful of an ending!

WOLF CREEK (2005, Greg McLean)
Wolf Creek would actually make a killer double-feature with Just Before Dawn, I’m now realizing seeing the titles beside each other. They both have such an eerie sense of place, of weird nature closing in on all sides. They both make wide open spaces seem nightmarishly claustrophobic. This movie made me sick with anxiety the first time I watched it, so sick I almost had to leave the theater. And it’s kept that up it every time, many many times, since.

BLUE VELVET (1986, David Lynch)
There are so many images in this, David Lynch’s most terrifying nightmare (out of many many most terrifying nightmares), that have been haunting me for decades. The bugs under the lawn. The ear. Dean Stockwell with his car lamp microphone. Dennis Hopper’s fake mustache — that’s no joke, we’re not talking the replacement mustache on the cop in Sleepaway Camp here. We are talking about a genuinely unsettling fake mustache, half glimpsed in a stairwell. How even? But none more viscerally upsetting than Isabella Rossellini standing naked (arms out at her sides in a pose that’s always been to me sickeningly reminiscent of the so-called “Napalm Girl” photograph from the Vietnam War) on a suburban front lawn. None ever, in anything ever made, more haunting than that. Nobody rifles around in our collective unconscious and comes up with the same hallucinatory power, beautiful, disturbing, as Lynch can.

FINAL DESTINATION 2 (2003, David R. Ellis)
My favorite entry in my favorite horror franchise! I genuinely love all five films but Part 2 gets all the perverse elements of what makes these movies a good time just right, from that never not jaw-dropping freeway pile-up opening sequence through to every damn death set-piece… I’ve seen this movie dozens of times and I still scream with shock and awe at every blood-splattering bit.

DEATH PROOF (2007, Quentin Tarantino)
J’adore the way Tarantino turns the Slasher Formula inside out, making into two distinct acts his symbolic ruminations on female representation in the genre – Act One: The Victim and Act Two: The Final Girl. And then he just stuffs the whole she-bang with some of his best most quotable most fun dialogue ever, and hands it all over to a metric shit ton of talented young women to savor every twisty drop. I’m more inclined towards the second act because I’m slightly more inclined towards the second act’s actresses, not to mention its joyousness against the stark nihilism of the opening half. Either way I leave this movie flying sky high on goofballs, grinning ear to ear every dang time.

THE FLY (1986, David Cronenberg)
I went back and forth on which Cronenberg I’d include in my list (a Cronenberg was a must) but between this movie and Dead Ringers and Videodrome and The Brood and Shivers and Scanners and Rabid, ohh my, having just re-watched The Fly a few weeks ago it gets the edge, and I do think it marries all of his obsessions into the greatest overall package. And I’m not (just) talking about how hot Jeff Goldblum looks pre-Brundlefly. Some of the grossest special effects still put on-screen, and at the same time Geena Davis genuinely busts my heart open in this. It’s got everything.

CARRIE (1976, Brian De Palma)
Anchored by two of the greatest horror performances of all time -- each of them working on entirely different registers and yet somehow perfectly complementing one another -- this movie fools me every time. Every time I find my brain convincing me that maybe Carrie White will be okay, maybe the bucket won’t fall and we’ll all wake up happy, bathed in light. Saddest damn movie ever. Sissy Spacek For President.

MARTYRS (2008, Pascal Laugier)
An ice-cold masterpiece that interrogates Why Horror Movies – what it is that makes us as human beings want--nay, need--to stare at atrocities over and over and over again – without needing to get Meta about it. Pascal Laugier’s more interested in the human condition, the under the skin parts of us, and how far we’ll go to strip one another bare to get at them. And he generates shock through the ingenuity of his storytelling, starting deep with his core idea and layering fully formed skin sacks around it, one on top of the other – there are entire great movies that would have stood on their own yanked off in his race to get back down to his base. Traumatic, by design.

PEEPING TOM (1960, Michael Powell)
Before there was Michael Myers and a butcher knife, before there was Freddy Krueger and his knife fingers, even before there was Billy in the attic with a plastic sheet and Norman friggin Bates, there was Mark Lewis (played by a bug-eyed Karlheinz Böhmand) and his camera tripod penis knife of death. So ahead of its time it ruined a storied director's career, but time has been very, very good to this very, very dark picture.


Cappy said...

Heck yeah, Peeping Tom AND Just Before Dawn AND Slugs!

Unknown said...

What a great list and thank you Stacie for introducing me to Jason Adams (virtually, via this post). Only a few of these films that I haven't seen and I'm going to correct that today!

John Klima said...

Death Proof, yes! LOVE that film. Also, I've only ever seen the remake of Martyrs from 2015, is it worth seeking out the original?

Stacie Ponder said...

Wow, John, you are the only person I've ever heard of who has seen the Martyrs remake but not the original! I've never seen the remake (and have no desire to) but still, I'd have to say yes, absolutely.

Anonymous said...

Slugs! It warms my shriveled raisin of a heart to see that pop up in a Featured Fave 20. If someone also chooses Frogs, I'm in low budget eco horror heaven.

John Klima said...

I think when I first heard about Martyrs (obviously fairly recently) I didn't know there was a remake. When I went to find the movie--through Netflix maybe? maybe even on DVD?--it was the remake and not the original. Of course once it was clear it wasn't in French I knew I had the 'wrong' movie. I'm not subscribed to any service that has the original, although it looks like I could rent it through iTunes, I just haven't gotten around to it. I found the second half of the original on DailyMotion, but what's the point of watching half of it? OK, I did skim through the second half video and it seems that the remake was pretty faithful to the original. Others who have seen both can weigh in.

Stacie Ponder said...

@John - Having read the synopsis of the 2015 Martyrs, it's vastly different than the original beyond the most basic plot points. It looks like a very American way to tell the story, if you know what I mean :D