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!

Feb 28, 2023

A Bava by any other name

Anybody who's into Italian horror movies at all knows that figuring out how "franchises" work can be, to put it mildly, an experience on par with falling into a room full of razor wire. Every movie has 85 different titles in Italy alone, many of which insert them into any old series for whatever reason. Of course, the Zombie films are notorious for this, so much so that two people discussing the same movie will come off looking like they're in an Abbott and Costello skit as directed by Erwin Schrödinger.

"Do you like Zombie?"

"You mean Zombi 2?"

"I mean Zombie, like Zombie 1, I guess."

"Zombie 1 is Zombi 2."

That's only scratching the surface of the fuckery behind that film alone. I mean, let's not forget Zombi/e 3, a title that has been given to Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Nightmare City, Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, and Zombie Flesh Eaters 2. Then we have The Church, which is also sometimes called Demons 3...but then there's also Demons 3, which is also called Black Demons, and there's Demons III: The Ogre, which has nothing to do with the Demons series. You need a fucking Rosetta Stone and a PhD in quantum physics to sort this shit out!

My point is, Beyond the Door II isn't a sequel to Beyond the Door whatsoever. They merely share an actor, who isn't even playing the same character in both films. Yes, that is akin to calling Little Women "Midsommar II" because Florence Pugh appears in each. Then you go see Little Women and you're like "Okay, this is a sequel, so when do the little women jump off of cliffs and/or set their boyfriends on fire...?" 

(To be fair, maybe they do that in Greta Gerwig's Little Women, I don't know, I've never seen it.)

So! Since Mario Bava's Beyond the Door II (1977) is not actually, you know, Beyond the Door II, I'll be using its Italian title, Shock. I'm sure you already know it by that title, since 1) I think it's the preferred title nowadays, even in these here United States, and 2) only the hippest, most in-the-know people read this blog. 

And because you are therefore hip and in-the-know, I bet you're also well aware that


Seven years after her drug-addict husband's suicide and her subsequent nervous breakdown, Dora (Daria Nicolodi) moves back to the home they shared with her son Marco (David Colin Jr, your link to Beyond the Door!) and new husband Bruno (John Steiner). It's not long before everyone starts acting a bit weird: Dora gets increasingly paranoid, Marco gets increasingly hostile towards his mother, and Bruno hides the key to the locked basement. Is Dora headed for another breakdown? What's going on in this house? And as Aretha Franklin might ask, who, exactly, is zoomin' who?

Early on in the proceedings, as the family settles into their new-old digs, the score by I Libra (featuring ex-Goblin member Maurizio Guarini) does much of the heavy lifting in establishing some kind of mood or atmosphere, letting us know that, say, a Slinky coming down the stairs or a shot of a bookcase should be considered scary. As you begin to wonder what this movie is getting at, however, the happenings get trippier and trippier, the requisite chunky and painful-looking white contacts appear, and the blood starts flowing through a series of twists and turns that lead to a wholly satisfying payoff. A payoff that makes sense! In an Italian horror movie! Can you believe it?

this is some Amityville shit

Shock doesn't have the candy-colored aesthetics and obvious location trappings that those familiar with Bava's work might expect, which makes it all the more astonishing that the film's contemporary 70s Italian country home comes to feel ten kinds of spooky and gothic all the same. Why...maybe bookcases and Slinkies are scary!

There's no shortage of the in-camera tricks and effects that the director is famous for, though, particularly when the film takes on a kind of dream-logic state. This includes this famous shot, one of the absolute coolest, most iconic jump scares in horror (and which was aped to far, far lesser effect in...sigh...Annabelle):

More than anything else, Shock is an incredible vehicle for Daria Nicolodi, her personal favorite performance and one rivaled only, perhaps, by her turn in Deep Red. Her slow transformation from doting mother and wife to fraught Woman on the Edge plays to all of her strengths as an actress, particularly her expressiveness and physicality. Her vibe in this--with her long hair, wide eyes, and flowing dresses and nightgowns--adds to the unexpected gothic atmosphere and brings to mind Isabelle Adjani in Herzog's Nosferatu, which rose from the grave two years after Shock.

This is Bava's last film and something of a torch-passing to his son Lamberto, who is credited as assistant director but widely regarded as co-director, ostensibly making this his first film. I'm not sure how well Shock is regarded in pater Bava's filmography; it's certainly not cited as a great by horror fans as often as A Bay of Blood, Black Sabbath, or Black Sunday are. But who cares! This was my long LONG overdue first viewing and I frigging loved this. It's part haunted house movie, part possession movie, part mystery, part psychological thriller and ALL parts wicked cool as hell. Everyone who's hip and in-the-know knows!

Jan 25, 2023

What's the Buzz?

Boy oh boy, people of yore sure worried about weird stuff, weren't they? The Bermuda Triangle, quicksand, Satanism, killer bees, etc etc. I'm sure glad we've evolved past that kind of thinking and now we worry about...uh...a never-ending pandemic, failing economies, the climate crisis, etc etc. Oh, and sinkholes! Sinkholes are kind of the new quicksand, right? Like, any time you are out strolling (or even sitting) you might find yourself falling into a sinkhole? Well, I'm kind of worried about that, anyway. Also just FYI, I honestly still wouldn't fuck with the Bermuda Triangle, so don't ask me to go on a trip that will pass through there because I will say no!

But bees...who is really worried about killer bees anymore? Not me, although I will say that if there is a bee near me I will skedaddle away from it with the power of at least 5-7 mall walkers (running is bad for your knees). But am I afraid of some invasive bee who wants to kill kill kill? No. However, I do love to indulge in some bee-flavored scare flicks, like the 1978 thrill-exico from Mexico, The Bees.

You know you're in for a good time because: 

1) It's called The Bees. Sure, that's a neutral title. But this is a horror movie, so it's safe to assume that the bees will be the villains. 

2) It's a from Roger Corman's New World Pictures, and as we all know, Corman means co-uality!

3) It's got this poster, which is just insane:

"Okay," I suppose someone said, "How about a giant bee head with, like, weird stuff growing out of it? And fangs and blood in its mouth? Hmm but there should also be something to make people feel horny..."

4) It's got John Saxon! Don't you love John Saxon? If you didn't say yes, I'm not sure I even want you reading this blog.

So much like that other (incredible) 1978 film about killer bees, The Swarm, The Bees concerns itself with Africanized bees that bust a move across the globe and holy shit there's "nothing to stop them from taking over the entire western hemisphere!"

Yes, let's hear it for the xenophobia of 70s killer bee cinema! Also, fun fact, Warner Brothers paid New World Pictures to delay the release of The Bees so their star-studded The Swarm could hit cinemas first. Can you imagine what the world might be like today if The Bees had released first??

It would be the same world, really, but I thought you might have fun spending some time imagining. 

Anyway. Dr. Franklin Miller (Claudio Brook, Alucarda) and his wife Sandra (Angel Tompkins (one episode of television's Knots Landing!) are in Brazil trying to figure out a way to make the killer bee less killer-y. One fateful night, a father and son pair of honey thieves (look, the father has a large family to feed, okay, that's why he's stealing) make the deadly mistake of opening the cages of the killer bees instead of the cages of the regular bees. The killer bees attack! The child dies! The Bees doesn't mess around!

The next day, an angry mob shows up at the Miller compound to enact some angry mob justice. Franklin tries to ply them by explaining how he wants to modify the killer bees into non-killer bees, only he speaks in terms they will surely understand: "I know you no like devil bee!" he says, and I am sure that I winced.

However, when the honey thievin' father shows up carrying his dead son and sporting a gross face (from the bee stings, you see), all bets are off and the angry mob attacks! Franklin dies! The Bees continues to not mess around!

Franklin Miller, hoisted by his own beetard

Sandra heads to the United States, where she meets up with John Norman (Saxon) and her Uncle Ziggy (played by John Carradine, who sports one of the worst German accents you will ever hear).

Fun fact, John Carradine was pretty much unemployable in the US at this point because his health was too frail for insurance companies' liking, but The Bees writer/director Alfredo Zacarías hired him at great personal financial risk and it was a great experience for everyone!

Also, The Bees reminds us that John Saxon had a black belt in karate and was in Enter the Dragon.

Oh by the way, Sandra brought a suitcase full of killer bees with her from Brazil so she and John and Ziggy could study them, but some muggers tried to take her suitcase like the second she got out of a taxi in New York, and so bees are unleashed yet again by unwitting criminals.

Some greedy capitalist businessmen are interested in the bees because while yes, they may murder, they also apparently make kick-ass honey that will bring about record profits. 

I love the greedy capitalist businessmen! Not only is there that cigar--the hallmark of a greedy capitalist businessman--but also because they are so greedy that one of them doodles dollar signs all over his handout at a bee meeting.

I just heard that Handout! at the Bee Meeting is disbanding later this year

So the bees are on the loose and they are not fucking around! They swarm around in a know, swarm, like a black cloud of doom. 

They wreak havoc everywhere, by which I mean that people either react worriedly when they see the bees, or they flail around whilst getting stung, then fall over dead. All of the victims deserve Oscars!

My favorite victim is Man With Arthritis, who hires some kids to catch some bees because his homemade arthritis remedy is to let bees sting him. Only this time, of course, it's the deadly bees. Too bad for Man With Arthritis! But let me tell you, he flails and flops everywhere for a while like a drama queen in a cowboy hat, and that's why he's my favorite.

For a chunk of time the movie is just bees showing up at random places, swarm swarm, flail flop, move on to the next random the Pasadena Rose Parade?? The sequence uses B-roll footage of the actual parade, and I'm super into pretending it wasn't actually B-roll footage and that President Gerald Ford simply could not resist the offer of a role in The Bees, no matter how small.

To answer your question, yes people die at the Rose Parade! What a movie this is, I tells ya.

Meanwhile, Uncle Ziggy, who works in bee communications, is excited to be working on a way to stop the bee scourge.

The bees are manipulated into turning on each other, which excites John and Sandra (who are in love now) so much that they have to do it right out there in the field while bees swarm around their truck. Finally, it's the eroticism promised by the poster!

SIDE NOTE I just want to give a shout-out to this cool reporter, whom I hope won all kinds of Pulitzers for her coverage of the aforementioned bee scourge.

While the citizenry may be thrilled that the military is cropdusting the bees with our intrepid heroes' magic formula, the greedy capitalist businessmen are not thrilled about it at all. In fact, they're mad because the loss of the kick-ass honey will cut into profits! And so they put out a hit on our intrepid heroes. Poor Uncle Ziggy gets shot, but before he dies he fills John and Sandra in on the breaking bee news: these new, improved bees are super smart and learning how to speak with them is a must if we are to survive at all. The ol' Zig utters one final "Auf...wieder...sehen..." and flies off to the great honeycomb in the sky.

He really does, I'm not kidding. The auf Wiedersehen part, I mean. Sadly, he does not actually fly away.

There is a constant bee-buzzing sound as John and Sandra try to learn bee-speak and I started to think that I would hear it forever, like it would become like a sort of tinnitus. But as I write this I seem okay? I'll keep you updated.

After promising the bees that they will do their best to broker peace with them (they really do, I'm not kidding), John and Sandra go to Great Value United Nations to plea their case before the gathered world leaders. "You have to listen to what the bees have to say!" John cries, which to be fair sounds pretty crazy. But then the bees show up, but they don't sting anyone because it's just a flex, you know, like a show of power.

The bees have had e-fucking-NOUGH of humans ruining the environment and the planet, and they're not gonna take it anymore. John tells everyone that the bees are willing to dominate the world with us, but they're also fine with the idea of dominating the world without us. Will humanity accept the bees' terms or not? 


We'll never know, because the very next shot... the credits! I suppose it is quite a pickle that Zacarías wrote himself into. Do you show, like, humans and bees ruling the planet together? As a human I feel confident in saying that wouldn't happen, we would never capitulate. So the bees would have to wipe us out, and that would make this movie five hours long at least. Hmm, maybe he could have used a matte painting to show that the bees whipped our asses and took over, you know, like at the end of Kingdom of the Spiders. That would have been amazing! So amazing, in fact, that it hurts to think about. Alas.

The Bees is a good time (disconcerting B-roll footage of military plane crashes and explosions aside) and a worthy addition to the roster of flicks to be enjoyed by bee cinema aficionados like myself. It's not the exploitation flick that the poster and, perhaps, its Mexican pedigree promise; nudity and sex are nil (mid-swarm makeout aside) and there are definitely more violent entries in the bug attack genre out there. If you're looking for, I don't know, gory sting action or something, keep looking, friend. And while it may not have the mega-watt star power of its 1978 counterpart The Swarm--to be fair, what movie does?--it boasts Johns Saxon and Carradine so you can't go wrong, can you?

Well, if any bees are reading this I would just like to say that personally, I would be willing to work together so there's no need to sting me to death. Haha not that I'm worried about killer bees these days, of course. We all have more on our minds, right? I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if next year Roger Corman and Warner Brothers have competing horror movies about the price of eggs, amirite?