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!

Aug 30, 2017

I CAN'T WAIT ANY LONGER

Dudes, look. I have been looking at the calendar for about ten days now, willing it to change from August to September. In case you haven't noticed, this has not worked. I honestly thought my powers over the space-time continuum were stronger, and I feel like I've let us all down. But! Instead of crying into my Riunite, I have decided to be proactive. I will not wait for September to announce my SHOCKtober plans, I will do it now now NOW! August be damned. I hate to be a bully, but it needs to be said: no one likes you, August! You are hot and sticky and you get in the way of the best season, Halloween (which runs September 1-November 30). Get outta here! Go on now, git!

Okay, now that that jerk's gone, let's talk about SHOCKtober the Beautiful.

I put on my ruminatin' wig and thought long and hard about what to do to celebrate. 31 movie reviews? A daily picture post about whatever? Something involving haiku? These are all obviously well thought-out and incredible ideas, but goldurnit, I want a bit more...interactivity. NO that is not a euphemism. What I mean is, social media has connected people and brought The Internet together in more ways than are...well, than are absolutely necessary. Don't get me wrong, it can be nice! But it's also sort of killed the blogging circuit. I know I've talked about it before and it's pretty boring, but I'm gonna talk about it again.

The gravitational pull/tractor beam of a place like Facebook is very strong. I can post a link to Final Girl and I might get a few comments on it on my page as people read the piece and return to Facebook. I get it, it's easier! Instead of creating a separate account to comment, you can just use your FB account, etc etc. The discussion threads here have certainly shrunk as social media grows, but I see the diehards who stick around here and I appreciate them (you) very, very much. Many people don't do a blog readin' circuit anymore, though. Maybe that's because it's more difficult without a Google Reader or some such putting them all in one place. Maybe it's because many blogs have gone silent as writers get burned out (ahem). Who knows? But if someone doesn't catch the link you post as they're scrolling down their Facebook newsfeed, they might not visit your site for quite some time.

Soooooo, the point of all of this is that I wanted to go a little bit old school, you know? Maybe get people involved in SHOCKtober rather than posting "I reviewed this movie today" on social media and hoping folks see it and click though and have something to say. Therefore, for SHOCKtober 2017 I am going to recreate the greatest social experiment I've ever run on Final Girl: SHOCKtober 2010.


You might recall or you might just now be learning that in 2010, I asked readers to email me a list of their 20 favorite horror films. Not the 20 "best" films, but favorites. Maybe they are garbage! Who cares? If you love them, they are great. FAVORITES.

I ended up with a list of over 700 title. Over the course of the month, I counted 'em down from fewest number of votes to the mostest number of votes. (The #1 film, incidentally, was John Carpenter's Halloween.) I had some lists by guest writers, it was all a grand, grand time.

I do not expect to reach such dazzling heights in terms of numbers, as readership just ain't what it used to be back then. But who knows, I'm sure we'll hit some other kind of height. Or maybe a low! I'm excited to find out. I'm also excited to see what kind of changes the seven year itch between lists brings. Maybe you've got some new favorites? After all, at least eight horror movies have been released since 2010, and it's possible that one of them is now one of your favorites. SO LET'S DO THIS. But let's do it according to the rules!

THE RULES

  • email me a list of YOUR TWENTY **FAVORITE** HORROR FILMS at stacieponder (at) gmail (dot) (c) (o) (m)
  • put "my list" or "list" or "list-o" or something in the subject line so I know what's up
  • DO NOT submit your list here in the comments or via Facebook message or Facebook comment or smoke signal or anything like that. EMAIL ONLY BLESS YOU THANKS
  • Remember, it doesn't matter if these movies are considered the "best" or classics, they just have to be your faves. Final Girl is strictly a NO JERKS ZONE, and I don't truck with making fun of peoples' loves. Not in my comment section, buster!
  • Unless you indicate otherwise, if there is more than one version of a film I will assume you mean the original. So if you mean The Fog (2005) and not The Fog (1980), please tell me.
  • Honestly I would be shocked if anyone preferred The Fog 2005 to The Fog 1980, but then Donald Trump is President so there are no more surprises and nothing means anything anymore.
  • If you write something like The Saw Series, I am just going to include Saw. Specificity is better!
  • You don't have to submit a full list of 20! Maybe you only have one favorite horror film, who am I to judge. But 20 titles is the max.
  • The list order doesn't matter! You don't have to rank them.
  • You don't have to comment on any of your choices, unless you want to.
  • The deadline is the end of Sunday September 24th. After that, submissions will go directly in the ol' garbage, sorry.
That's it! Looks like you better put on your ruminatin' wig and get listin'. Maybe spread the word, would ya, because the more the merrier scarier mua ha ha evil laugh! YEAH SHOCKTOBER RULES!

Aug 23, 2017

Horror Without People: THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL

Boy I tells ya, all the recent eclipse business has sure got me thinkin' about horror movies that feature eclipses. It's not a connection everyone would make, obviously, but what can I say? Outside the box is where I live.

Anyway, I started thinking real hard about The House of the Devil. It had been a dog's age (is that a saying?) since I'd last seen it, and it occurred to me that it would be a terrific excuse to bust out a Horror Without People entry...and here we are, that's absolutely everything that's happened in the last 16 or so hours.

Here's the thing, though: The House of the Devil makes for but a mediocre Horror Without People entry! "And you're forging on regardless?" you say, to which I reply "Girl, is this your first time on my site? 'Mediocre' is my bread and oleo!"

In my memories, this film was an overwhelmingly atmospheric, creepy experience owing to dark shadows and long corridors and the such. And it is that kind of experience, but watching it again, I realized it manages this without...well, without much artistry, if that makes sense. Despite the fact that it's largely set in a huge, creepy house, many of the "without people" shots are perfunctory establishing shots rather than moody flourishes. Director Ti West keeps the camera focused mostly on Samantha as she explores the house and it works well. However, it does result in a bit of the ol' "diminishing returns" problem. That's true of every horror film, of course, but in The House of the Devil it's almost that knowing what's coming (or when Sam is actually in peril, or if anything'll happen in the wonderful Walkman sequence, or Megan's fate) really deadens the experience.

But! I still love this movie, even though it did kick off the sort of retro craze in modern horror. (Hopefully It Follows is the peak of it? Sorry man, it's starting to make me cranky. We get it, we all love John Carpenter's Halloween and its iconic score, okay?) So much of it just works and I really appreciate its simplicity: you think the Ulmans are creeps and there's hinky shit going down in their house and there is! Done and done, no fuss no muss. That said, Ti West–who traffics in mood more than anything–could do with some visual pizzazz. (Hmm, I wonder if The Innkeepers fares any better in this regard? It's also been a while since I've seen that, and that's a friggin' haunted house scenario....)














Aug 18, 2017

News You Can Use!

Dudes and y'alls, we all know that The Internet is the place to be. But sometimes one wants to hold The Internet their bosoms, yes? To carry it around and read it until one falls asleep in its arms not to sit in front of a computer all the time, but to have a tactile Internet experience anywhere one chooses. That is when one must turn to "books."


SO RUDE, ALWAYS SO RUDE.

Look, yes, fine, one can have a tactile Internet experience anywhere at anytime these days, and I am not just talking about Grindr. Phones are pocket computers, but who cares? They're just a fad! Books are where it's at, man. Books will be there for you after the apocalypse when there is no more electricity! Books. They're great.

Speaking of great books (what are the odds?) here's one:


Yes indeed! Alexandra West–surely you know her from the Faculty of Horror podcast, or any one of the million places she writes for (Famous Monsters, Shock Till You Drop, etc forever) lays down some smart writing about one of horror's most maligned eras. And YES that is my name there–surely you know me from what you're reading right now–credited with the foreword. I'm really excited about this! I'm sure you are, too, but here's the skinny if your appetite needs further whetting:
Many critics and fans refer to the 1990s as the decade that horror forgot, with few notable entries in the genre. Yet horror went mainstream in the ’90s by speaking to the anxieties of American youth during one of the country’s most prosperous eras.
No longer were films made on low budgets and dependent on devotees for success. Big studios produced summer blockbusters that made careers and big box office returns. Horror found its way onto magazine covers, fashion ads and CD soundtrack covers. “Girl power” feminism and a growing distaste for consumerism defined an audience that both embraced and rejected the commercial appeal of these films. This in-depth study examines the youth subculture, history and politics of the era, focusing on such films as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Scream (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Idle Hands (1999), and Cherry Falls (2000).
The 1990s Teen Horror Cycle will be available this winter from McFarland Books. Pre-order available here. Take that, you lousy computer phones! Books rule!

Aug 17, 2017

One More Dark Night

About a month ago I saw a listing for a brand spankin' new Special Edition of One Dark Night and let me tell you, I clicked "add to cart" so fast that my finger actually caught on fire. It was very painful but so worth it. A horror movie from 1982 starring Meg Tilly? Yes and please! And then My Brain chimed in.

"You've seen this," said My Brain.

"No I haven't," I replied. "I would remember."

"You saw it once and you didn't like it."

"Haha, oh Brain," I said. "Stop trying to fool me with all of this FAKE NEWS. Didn't like it? Brain, you know my Meg Tilly feelings are everlasting, strong, and true. Not liking this movie falls into the realm of the unpossible."

"Why don't you check the Final Girl review archive if you don't believe me?"

"I will not be doing that. That's enough now Brain, I bid you good day!" I shut My Brain down completely so I wouldn't have to endure any sass, and for the next several hours I sat staring into nothingness and drooling all over myself. This, too, was so worth it.

Then lo, time passed (as it does) and the Blu-ray arrived. I secretly thought...hmm, I think I have seen this. I feel like maybe I didn't like it? Could My Brain have been right all along?

In search of answers I finally clicked the FG review archives and there it was. I had already seen One Dark Night, and no, I didn't like it. I gave it a 2/10! (Rating movies was a thing back then, what can I say.) Sure, sure, I had soldiered through a very rough cut of the film with no sound effects or music, but even so, I estimated that a fully-realized version would still only rate a 4/10 from me. While the film seemed to have the requirements for some delightful B-grade delight, I said that ultimately One Dark Night "could barely muster enough thrills to merit being called D-grade." So harsh! Would my feelings change more than a decade (!!!) since that original review?


Fuck yeah they would, are you nuts?

While relaxing in a tub filled with the blood of a hundred virgins every night ensures that somehow I become more beautiful with each passing year, it seems that I also grow wiser and, although surely no one thought it was possible, my taste gets better and better. What I am saying is that Past Me had no idea what's up, because obviously what's up is One Dark Night. This shit rules!

If you want a rundown of the plot, you can read that dopey old review. But I'm living in the now, baby, where all we talk about is what makes One Dark Night so great.

It is EG Daily at perhaps her feistiest. It is purple satin jackets and Kitty chewing on a toothbrush throughout the proceedings ("I guess I just like the way it tastes."). It is insults like "nerdlebrain" and "turkey", it is Spencer's Gifts-style blue movie lightning shooting out of eyes and fingertips. It's teenagers handing out downers (Demerol, to be specific) like it's no big deal. It's an army of telekinetically-controlled corpses dragging their toes as they float down the mausoleum hallway. It's grosser than its PG rating warrants, with slime and maggots and peeling skin; it's got sequences that are genuinely unnerving, whether it's girls scared into silence as they watch a coffin slowly open or those same girls getting all besheeted and laughing as they try to scare the life out of one of their own.


I will cut Past Me some slack, as the cut I watched–and, to be fair, the cut I probably shouldn't have reviewed–was designed to be a bonus feature for those who have already seen the movie. With a cruddy picture and no sound, I'm sure One Dark Night seemed far beyond salvation and completely without merit. To be fair, the movie does have some pacing problems and more than a few questions that remain unanswered after its abrupt ending. But when the blue movie lighting and corpses start to fly, it's a damn good time.


I am so glad I didn't listen to My Brain, otherwise I probably would have said "Oh yeah, that movie stinks" and subsequently canceled my order. Look what changes in opinion a decade can bring! What a fool I was! Should either of us–you and me, Reader–ever listen to My Brain? NO. Should either of us ever trust my opinion? NO.

Except now, when I tell you that One Dark Night rules!

Aug 15, 2017

Watch out behind you...NIGHT TRAP is back!


I've got a wee retrospective and review of Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition up over at Kotaku today, huzzah! It was sure fun to dig into the history of this controversial horror-flavored game and play through the updated version. Spoiler alert: I LOVE IT. It's like playing through the absolute corniest B-grade horror movie you never knew was missing from your life.

Here's a real bummer, though: when watching a few circa-1995 video clips about the hubbub surrounding the game, I came across this quote from the late Dana Plato:
I had some controversy in my life and I just found it interesting that there was some controversy behind this also. It's like this dark cloud, you know? It just kind of follows me.
Plato would go on to overdose on prescription pills four years later. But her work as undercover S.C.A.T. agent Kelli in Night Trap and her performance in Exorcist II: The Heretic will not be forgotten! Not around these parts anyway. Plato always has a home where Final Girl's heart should be.

And yes, I know..."S.C.A.T." A most unfortunate acronym for sure.

Aug 7, 2017

Pressing Start

As everyone knows, horror and video games are two of the greatest tastes there are, and so fuck yes they taste great together. Adding me to that beautiful mix is a bit like adding cilantro to an already-delightful dish. Perhaps I will bring out some extra, even more wonderful flavors! (Is that how food works?) Or, if you are my ex's mom, perhaps you will say NO THANK YOU and cast me from the already-delightful dish right into the garbage because you find that for some reason, I make everything taste like pennies.

What I'm getting at is that I am covering the horror beat for Kotaku! (That's a video game site, in case you didn't know.) Yes, like the love child of Forrest J Ackerman and Lois Lane (I WISH) I'll be bringing you...well, horror game related...you know, stuff. Hot scoops and the like.

My first piece went up today, and it's all about counselors killing other counselors in Friday the 13th: The Game. At the risk of sounding like some total loser who enjoys things, I'm definitely pretty excited about the gig.


PS: throwing me in the garbage because I make everything taste like pennies is an insult to me and more importantly, an insult to pennies

Jul 11, 2017

The What What Now?

I don't want to brag or anything, but I must admit that most of the time I'm pretty pleased with my brain. It may not have any Carrie-esque special murder powers (YET), but it's still fairly useful: it reminds me to put pants on before I leave the house, it has key dialogue from the 1995 made for TV film Midwest Obsession (aka Beauty's Revenge, starring Courtney Thorne-Smith and Tracey fucking Gold) stored in it, it hasn't fallen for any of the "flat Earth" business, etc etc. However! Sometimes–don't tell it I said this, it's just between me and you–my brain is a real jerk. For example, this year a movie called The Bye Bye Man shows up out of nowhere. "Ha! Ha! Ha!" says my brain. "What a stupid title. Really? The 'Bye Bye Man'? Best not waste your time on that, 'tis certain to be ever so awful." (I know...sometimes my brain talks like it's the fifth Little Women sister or something. It's just a thing it does.)

But then I read that Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway (FAYE DUNAWAY!) are in The Bye Bye Man and the next thing I know, my brain is going "Okay, this movie is going to rule so hard. It has to! Trust me, I've done the math." My brain convinced me that this is a film I simply had to see. And the next next thing I know, I am spending ninety-nine cents renting the damn Bye Bye Man and reader, let me say this: that is at least $0.99 too much. That's right. This movie should have paid me to watch it!


Back in the summer of '69, a man goes on an oddly bloodless shotgun rampage. Before he shoots each victim, he asks questions like "WHO DID YOU TELL?" and "DID YOU SAY IT?" and "REMEMBER WHEN YOU COULD SIT OUTSIDE AND NOT WORRY ABOUT THE MOSQUITOS AND THE KILLERS?" Okay, that last one is strictly an I wish. But no matter what answer he gets to his questions, the man is unsatisfied and he bangs, he bangs. Then it's bye bye, man, and we travel to the future, aka the now.

In this so-called "now" three college students are excited to move into an enormous house together. I did not bother to learn their names (so sue me), but our intrepid heroes are: Guy Who Must Really Like The Dead Kennedys Because He Has A Sticker On His Car, On The Acoustic Guitar Case That Is Propped In A Corner, And Also He Wears a Dead Kennedys T-Shirt (I shall call him DK); Girl Who Is DK's Girlfriend; and Black Dude Who Is DK's Childhood Best Friend And Also Maybe He Has A Crush On Girl. PHEW!

DK finds a nightstand that has a drawer festooned with classic "crazy person" writing that warns "don't think it don't say it" over and over again. Underneath it says "Bye Bye Man"...before you can say DON'T THINK IT DON'T SAY IT, DK has thought it and said it.

A "sensitive" friend of Girl holds a kind of...seance? I guess? And I don't know, she gets both the heebies and the jeebies and the point is, the Bye Bye Man is now a thing, infecting all of our intrepid heroes and the sensitive friend and anyone else who hears his name.


How exactly does the BBMan manifest? Oh, let me count the ways:
  • there are scratches in a few walls
  • victims hallucinate, like DK thinks Girl and Black Dude have sex but they don't (spoiler)
  • Girl develops a persistent cough
  • Black Dude hallucinates that there are three maggots in Sensitive Friend's hair one time
  • doors slam
  • sometimes you think the black bathrobe hanging on the wall is the Bye Bye Man
  • coins? there are coins
  • and there's a train? a train noise and light happen sometimes for some reason?
  • he "makes you do things" but really the only bad thing people do is kill other people who have heard his name, so clearly the Bye Bye Man doesn't quite understand how to propagate his evil for lasting results
  • oh another thing you might do is fill up a notebook with "crazy person" writing and YES the Bye Bye Man does, in fact, have a Bye Bye Dog

Carrie-Anne Moss is a police...person? Detective, I guess, it's never really stated...that sort of investigates the goings on, by which I mean she interviews DK after Sensitive Friend gets killed but he convinces her that lying is okay sometimes so she lets him go.

Here we see Carrie-Anne Moss reminding herself that the paycheck from her appearance in The Bye Bye Man will put one of her kids through college.

Faye Dunaway appears briefly as the Widda Shotgun Guy From The Beginning, and her advice to DK about The BByeMan Problem is simply "kill everyone else who knows the name and then kill yourself." It's possible that was also her advice to me, the person who rented this garbage.

Our Heroes kind of try to figure out how get out of this mess alive ("I can relate!"–me while watching this movie) and they hallucinate scenarios and situations that never ever fool the audience. Who is The Bye Bye Man? We don't know...and I don't mean that in some esoteric "he is unknowable, a force, a concept come alive" way, like Michael Myers or some shit. I mean his origins aren't touched upon, mysteries go unsolved, it all just happens and then it's over. All we know is that he has a dog, he's got some scars, he sulks, he wears a hooded black robe thing, and his shirt has buttons, which struck me as really weird for some reason. He's a Hot Topic customer? 


In case you haven't caught on by now, this movie is awful. So awful, in fact, that while watching it, I wondered how it even got made. You're telling me that someone plopped down a script with that title and someone else handed over money and everyone just said YES and here we are? Really? How could that be?

And then I figured it out. 

The Bye Bye Man must have been written by a neural network. An AI! 

It's the latest rage: plug a massive dataset into a neural network–like, say, recipes–and the network will learn to create its own recipes. The results are frequently hilarious. And so I posit that someone, somewhere, formed a dataset from a huge amount of horror movie plots and titles and tropes and lo, the AI pooped out this movie. To the evidence mobile!
  • characters frequently speak not as humans actually do, but as exposition machines might: "Hello, brother."
  • all that bog standard horror movie "crazy person" writing
  • the Dollar Tree PontypoolCandyman "people speak him into reality" business, but without the actual urban legend aspect
  • the Dollar Tree Nightmare on Elm Street "maybe if we're not afraid, he's nothing" business (for real, that is a thing someone says)
  • all that Dead Kennedys stuff, surely a computer thought that would be a good character-building idea
  • the amount of "hey you guys, it's not funny"s we get
  • the "scary things" that are BBMan's hallmarks: so many trains, so many coins WHY. None of them are explained, ever. 
  • he "looks creepy" like a bargain basement Slenderman, but then that Henley shirt, what is that
  • the characters immediately figure out that the BBMan is a thing, the cause of all of their strife without actually learning anything
  • someone sees an old timey picture of the BBMan on their Instagram (I KNOW) and it turns into a gif, so creepy!!!!!
  • that title
As you can see, that The Bye Bye Man was created by a neural network is the only reasonable explanation for this mess. On the one hand, it's a remarkable technological achievement, a sign that the future is already here, man. On the other hand, the future obviously sucks! But I suppose we can find solace in the fact that the robots are not quite ready to rise up and subjugate humankind...not in the realm of horror movie-making, at least.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to give my brain a stern talking to. Bye bye, man!