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!

Jun 3, 2016

Well. That's that.

Okay. Yes. Here goes. It's time to write the post I've wanted to write for a while now, the post where I tell you that I'm shutting down the ol' Final Girl.

This site has been such a large part of my life for so long that to be honest, I am not entirely sure what I will do without it, but this decision feels right for many reasons. Most of these reasons are not understandable, some of them are unshareable, and two of the reasons are Lunchable.

Final Girl is approaching its eleventh anniversary, and that is a long time! 11 years is almost 1/10th of my lifespan so far! Many things can change in 11 years, I don't need to tell you that. In the span of that 11 years, I've moved cross-country twice. I've lost a beloved pet. (I mean he died, not that he vanished and I don't know where he is.) For some of that 11 years, I knew what I was doing, I think. That is not really the case anymore. Sometimes it seems I have things figured out, but mostly it feels like I'll never have things figured out. "I must confess I've made a mess of what should be a small success"–that's a line (from one of my favorite songs of the last few years, Courtney Barnett is really great, you guys) that rings awfully true.

I know I'm probably not making sense. Let's just say that my relationships with horror and movies and horror movies have changed over the last decade.

I am maybe too quick to bug out when something's not working for me, be it a job or a city or a person or a hairstyle. At the first sign of strife, I make a rash decision that changes all of my circumstances. Usually listening to my gut or The Universe or whatever proves to be the right thing to do and life vastly improves.

Once in a while, though, I hang on to something just a bit too long. This isn't working for me, but the wages are nice. This isn't working for me, but the rent is cheap. This isn't working for me, but I like your face. This isn't working for me, but I guess you'll grow out at your own pace won't you.

I kind of feel like I've hung on to Final Girl for too long.

How could I not hang on? Again, it's been such a large part of my life. It's brought me great things, great opportunities and experiences, and great people. But at the present...I'm not sure what we're giving each other anymore. Or what I'm giving Final Girl, really. I can't be bothered to get worked up–negatively or positively–over some new piece of horror news. Horror movies now constitute approximately 10% of what I watch. When I do watch a horror movie, I no longer feel the need to pontificate, to judge, to have an opinion. It's not just about reviews, per se, it's about all of it. I've thought about turning this into a "movie blog" instead of a "horror movie blog" but this is a horror movie blog. And there's an abundance of those. Horror movie sites are everywhere. Plenty of people are writing lists and talking about Final Girls and examining this movie or that, and I don't much feel the need to add my voice to the din anymore. Ugh, I'm sick of myself and I'm tired of mouthing off...and what good is a blog if you're not gonna mouth off on it?

So what does all of this mean? Well, the site isn't going anywhere. It'll still exist, I'm not going to 404 it from The Information Superhighway. Briefcase Woman will never die! (More to the point, she cannot die.) I'm not cutting horror or horror movies out of my life completely, I just need to reevaluate my relationship to them. I need to write other things, and do other things. But who knows, maybe I will run a piece once in a while–I probably won't be able to resist Final Girl's siren song. I will update with any newsworthy news regarding...me. Regarding my work, I mean. But I won't be updating with any regularity, and you should know that because it's the worst when sites fall into limbo. I would say that maybe I'll find some kind of "Activia for the horror blogger" and my irregularity will become regularity–maybe Final Girl will be struck by lightning or accidentally resurrected via telekinesis. But then that would make this post and all of my fretting over it–and boy have I been fretting–silly. Sillier than it already is. Then again, as I said, I do love a rash decision!

Even if I vanish completely into the ether after hitting publish on this post, though, know that from the bottom of my tiny cold nub of a heart that I thank you. Thank you so much for reading over the years, for commenting and talking and sharing and making me feel like this has indeed been a worthwhile endeavor.

Edited to add: Listen you guys, wow wow. Thank you all so very much for all of the kind words here, in emails, on the Faceplace, all of it. I had no idea! It's incredibly humbling and, to be totally honest, more than a little motivating. It's a good thing I've left the door open here. *cackles, twirls metaphorical handlebar moustache*


May 27, 2016

awesome movie poster friday - the VHS WEEK edition!

Well, friends, the long national nightmare known as VHS Week is finally over. Back to regular life as we know it. Back to movies (mostly) on disc or made out of pixels or whatever. Don't worry, I still have some tapes around here to watch and I'm sure I'll let you know when I do, even the garbage ones. What am I saying! I mean especially the garbage ones. For now, though, let's celebrate with some awesome movie posters from some of the awesome and not entirely awesome movies from VHS Week. You probably knew this was coming because of the post title, right? Good job, you, and thanks for reading!
























VHS Week Day 14: MARTIN (1977)


George A. Romero: he's more than just zombies. I know that you know that, you're savvy and learned. I'm simply pointing it out to the total horror noobs who only know Romero from his three (AND ONLY THREE) (okay, maybe Land of the Dead is kind of fun to watch once, but THAT'S IT) great zombie films: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Brunch Day of the Dead. Though the films are often overlooked, Romero has explored horror in ways far removed from those undead shuffling people-eaters. One such film is 1977's Martin.

Set amidst the depressed, crumbling landscape of fading steel town Braddock, PA, Martin tells the tale of...well, of Martin (John Amplas), who believes himself to be a vampire. His elderly cousin Cuda also believes that Martin is a vampire. It's been a family curse for generations, and while Cuda allows Martin to live with him, he also makes the young man a promise: "First I will save your soul...then I will destroy you." But is Martin actually a vampire? Or is he simply a kookadook?


Romero isn't interested in definitive answers as much as he is in deconstructing the vampire genre and deromanticizing the myths. Regardless of Martin's true nature, he's no gothic-flavored bloodsucker from a Hammer production; nor is he a terrifying, otherworldly creature à la Salem's Lot's Mr. Barlow. Garlic, crosses, and sunlight give Martin no pause. He's incapable of mesmerizing victims into submission, so he relies on drug injections to do it for him. He has no fangs, so he wields a razor blade. Martin's reality is completely unlike the bodice-rippers and monsters we're accustomed to calling "vampire."

Martin is rife with the same types of simple metaphors and symbolism that Romero incorporates into many of his films. It's an examination of sexual repression and insecurity as well as a swipe at religion, particularly the ways in which staunch religious beliefs can twist a person or a family. The "family curse"–what Cuda claims is the curse of Nosferatu–can be seen as any kind of "otherness" or perhaps it's merely hereditary mental illness.

Aside from all of this, Martin works fairly well as a straight-up horror movie. Because the attacks rarely go as smoothly as Martin plans, they're prolonged and all the more shocking as his victims fight back. While it's easy to feel sympathy for poor, confused Martin, there's no doubt that he is a monster. Whether he's of the mythical or the mundane variety, though, that's for you to decide.

May 26, 2016

VHS Week Day 13: THE ATTIC (1980)


A suicidal, depressed librarian. An abusive curmudgeon in a wheelchair. A chimpanzee in a sailor suit. YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

Ugh, stupid Final Girl...clickbait goes in the headline, not in the post itself. This will never go viral now!

Meet Louise (Carrie Snodgress), our suicidal, depressed librarian. She spends her days kind of hating her job–the books...they look at her sometimes and so she tries to burn the place down. She spends her nights crying over the man who left her at the altar years before and taking care of her father, Wendel (Ray Milland), our abusive curmudgeon in a wheelchair. Louise's life is a big, drab, sad mess, but that doesn't mean it's without some bright spots: alcohol, one night stands, and her coworker Emily. The women strike up a friendship that's equal parts support and pity; Emily feels sorry for Louise and tries to nudge her out of her drudgery, while Louise tries to save Emily from falling into the same. Louise buys Emily a one-way ticket to California so she can escape her domineering mother and marry her love, Emily buys Louise a chimpanzee. You know. Friendship!

Wendel loathes pretty much everything, but he loathes his daughter and her chimp most of all. Horror fans know this is all gonna come to a head at some point, right? Like, maybe Dickie the Chimp will attack Wendel and then, having acquired a taste for human flesh, he will totally flip out and eat everyone in Wichita, Kansas?

Look, I'm not going to spoil the end of this movie, even though it's like 70 years old, but I will let you know that Dickie the Chimp does not flip out, so don't get your hopes up. But don't worry! The ending still packs a serious wallop. A seriously depressing wallop. We've all seen some depressing endings before (even during this never-ending VHS Week!), but lawd-a-mighty, The Attic might just take the cake. And then it throws the cake into the void of existential despair, and then you jump in after it not only because you can't bear to see a cake go to waste, but also because everything is terrible and life is cruel and what does anything even matter.


Don't get me wrong–it's not just the ending. The entire GD movie is depressing! Loneliness, alienation, lives spent lost and adrift...this is by no means a light watch, even if the film's incongruous musical cues and bizarre jokes sometimes give it the feel of one. A better life for Louise seems to be just out of reach, and you desperately hope she'll get there, but this is a horror film, not a life-affirming yogurt love journey movie.

From time to time, though, you might find yourself wondering if The Attic really is a horror movie. It's not so much a "slow burn" as it is a "slow drama/character piece with some horror elements crammed into the last seven minutes." Those seven minutes are worth it, mind, I just want you to know what you're in store for if you're fixin' to check this one out. Then again, The Attic boasts a scene where a showercap-wearing Ray Milland sits in a bathtub with a Reader's Digest propped in front of him and a bowl of spiced gum drops at his side. That's what really makes watching it worth your time as far as I'm concerned.

May 23, 2016

VHS Week Day 12: THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE (1971)


I knew nothing about The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave going into it, but I certainly had some expectations thanks to the awful label on this VHS edition. Every single thing about it screams EXPLOITATION WITH TEN EXCLAMATION MARKS. It's distributed by Something Weird Video, purveyors of cult garbage; it's endorsed (somehow? I guess?) by Frank Henenlotter, writer/director of cult garbage (Frankenhooker, Basket Case); it's a SEXY SHOCKER for ADULTS ONLY. I found myself anticipating something along the lines of Nude for Satan: crazy sexy EuroSleaze. But my friends, Evelyn is not that. I have been misled! Which is a shame, because my brain spent too long going "Where is the crazy sexy EuroSleaze?" before realizing that the videotape lied. Ah, horror movie advertising, messing things up again. ("PREACH!" - Crimson Peak "I FEEL YOU, GURL!" - Bug '06)

Side note one: please know that when I say "cult garbage" it is not disparaging, but rather meant with all the love my cold, black heart can muster.

Side note two: "Crazy Sexy EuroSleaze" is my favorite TLC album.

The Night Evelyn Really Needed Some Moisturizer But Her Hair Looked Pretty Good All Things Considered

Lord Alan Cunningham is a wealthy playboy with a bit of a problem: he just can't stop murdering redheaded prostitutes! They remind him of his dead wife Evelyn, you see, who cheated on him and died in childbirth. He's tried just about everything to cure himself, from psychiatry to séances, but nothing works. As a last resort, he marries a woman with blonde hair. That should work, right? Never mind that they will be living in the castle he shared with Evelyn, that Evelyn's brother still lives there too, and that there is a big portrait of Evelyn in the master bedroom. The new wife is blonde! Evelyn will be forgotten in no time.

Evelyn, however, is done with all that going quietly into that good night shit. She's, you know, come out of the grave to drive Alan mad and to kill kill KILL!

Maybe. The story twists and turns and we're kept guessing if Evelyn is really back, if she's Alan's guilt made real or imagined, or if she's something else entirely. "People who are supposed to be dead may not be dead" and "let's scare the protagonist to death" are two of my favorite horror subgenres, and Evelyn wraps 'em up in a stylish gothic giallo package.

There is a hint of EuroSleaze: some delightfully weird strip numbers, plenty of bare breasts, the kind of sex scene where naked people just roll around together, and a little whipping in Alan's Torture Dungeon for Prostitutes. But "SEXY SHOCKER" and "ADULTS ONLY" are pure hyperbole, for it's all quite tame, sort of PG-with-boobs. Not that this is a problem, since I wasn't really in the mood for "man explicitly beats and murders hookers." Not that I'm ever really in the mood for that, but you know what I'm saying. Ultimately Evelyn is a very late night horror movie/drive-in feeling flick that boasts more than a few memorable moments. It's worth a look, especially if you know what you'll be lookin' at.

May 18, 2016

VHS Week Day 11: THE HAUNTING OF JULIA (1977)


It is quite fitting that The Haunting of Julia is better known as Full Circle because friends, my brain with regards to Final Girl is coming full circle. Or, okay, not quite full circle. More like my brain and this blog are forming something that is sort of like a möbius strip slowly sinking into quicksand. Time is folding in on itself and tearing apart. This has all happened before and it will all happen again. Up is down, dogs and cats are getting married, and, as usual, I can't find my pants.

Look, what I'm trying to say is that I've already reviewed this movie here! It was even a gotdanged Film Club choice! I knew I'd seen it–several times, in fact. I'm not that crazy. But as I never added The Haunting of Julia to the looonnng list of review links when we talked about it 3+ years ago, I plumb forgot I wrote about it. I watched it again for VHS Week, wrote down a bunch of notes...and then found the old review, which touches on basically everything I wrote down in my notes. I've talked about a lot of movies here and this blog is over ten years old and I am over 81 years old so give me a break.

So you know what? I'm not gonna try to come up with new ways to say the same things, nor am I going to make you click something and go to another page. That's right–I'm cuttin' and pastin' and no one can stop me. The old review is in between the pics.


You know what I love about Mia Farrow? It's the way she appears so vulnerable and fragile–what with her slight frame and her look of bewilderment and her delicate features–but she's got such a goddamn spine to her. I find myself wanting to protect her (or, I suppose I should say, characters she portrays, like Rosemary Woodhouse and Julia Lofting), but when push comes to shove she proves she won't be pushed or shoved.

And so after the tragic death of her young daughter and a breakdown, Julia ups and abandons her husband Magnus (Keir Dullea) on the spur of the moment as she leaves the hospital. Before long, Julia is...wait for it...haunted. But by what? The spirit of her daughter? Her own guilt? The spirit of the house's former resident? Unlike nearly every other supernatural flick on the market, The Haunting of Julia keeps all the goings-on vague and subtle, so much so that we're hard-pressed to discern whether or not there's any haunting going on at all. There aren't any Poltergeist-style furniture-flying-around-on-its-own theatrics to be found; sure, there's some bloodshed and casualties, but it's more about atmosphere or, as Julia puts it, the "feeling of hate" that engulfs her home.

Still, what's a good ghost story without some sort of mystery to be solved (not to mention that since it's a 70s film, there's a good old fashioned séance to boot)? And boy, Julia uncovers a good one–a downright chilling one, with a ghost that could give The Ring's Samara a lesson or two in evil. A note to wayward ghosts everywhere: I'm not fucking helping you, you're on your own.

The Haunting of Julia is a quiet film that will get under your skin more that it will outright scare you, and if quiet-n-subdued ain't your bag, it will undoubtedly get on your nerves more than it will get under your skin. But if you're in the mood for some precious blonde daughter dies early on and does she come back as a ghost or is her mother just mad with guilt? horror (that's totally a subgenre, you know), pair this up with Don't Look Now and go nuts!


As I said, there are no spook house histrionics to be found. There is grief so intense that it presses down upon you. There is a subtle unease throughout and by the time we get to the ending–and what an ending it is–the cumulative effect of this sad, chilling tale is incredibly powerful. But there are no easy answers, which may prove frustrating if you don't fall under Julia's spell.

There are plenty of similar films from the era that fans love to talk about: Don't Look Now, The Changeling, Burnt Offerings...films that have shocking, memorable moments worth recounting. The Haunting of Julia isn't "iconic" in that way (no red balls bouncing down the stairs, no homicidal dwarves), but it's absolutely worth adding to the pantheon. It's got a devoted following even as it's been completely neglected since the days of VHS. What I wouldn't give for a restored version, one that wasn't overly dark at times, one that doesn't snap and crackle, one that doesn't sound like there's a generator running just offscreen the entire time. Should it ever finally get the home release love it deserves, I'm sure I'll review it again, having forgotten all about the time I spent writing this post. No offense or anything, you're great. It's not you, it's me.

Wait, what was I talking about?

May 17, 2016

VHS Week Day 10: DIE! DIE! MY DARLING! (1965)


Although it comprises but a handful of films and didn't last a decade, Grande Dame Guignol is one of my favorite genres. A woman's mental health deteriorates to the point of flip-out, or maybe she's been wackadoo since birth; either way, she spends her golden years a-tormentin' and a-killin' anyone who gets her dander up. It's entertaining and inspirational!

Sure, they're melodramatic and corny. However, what takes every film in the genre from "must see" to "DID YOU HEAR ME I SAID 'MUST SEE'" are the Grande Dames themselves. The genre served to bolster the later careers of some of the greatest actresses in cinema history. You see, despite their talent, faded looks may have prevented them from landing leading roles...so they hagged themselves up with pancake makeup, aged themselves further, and went homicidal. It's depressing in a "women aren't allowed to age" way, but on the flip side of that, these women treat even the most B of B-grade material like it's their shot at an Oscar. In other words, they remain consummate professionals and they fucking act. Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Geraldine Page, Ruth Gordon, Olivia de Havilland–they truly elevate the material they're given into something more than mere camp. They class up the joint. And such is the case with the formidable Tallulah Bankhead, who stars as Mrs. Trefoile in Die! Die! My Darling!


Pat Carroll (Stefanie Powers) is in England with her fiancé Alan (Maurice Kaufmann) when she decides to pay a courtesy visit to Mrs. Trefoile. Pat dated Mrs. Trefoile's son before he met an untimely end, and wrapping things up with his mother is just a nice thing to do. Things start off a little weird, what with Mrs. Trefoile's insistence that Pat stay on over night, and Mrs. Trefoile's insistence on reading bible verse after bible verse, and Mrs. Trefoile's insistence that Pat wipe off her lipstick, and Mrs. Trefoile's insistence that no condiments are allowed in the house ("God's food should be eaten unadorned!")...yes, a little weird indeed. Mrs. Trefoile is so pious that I'm sure even Margaret White would be, like, "Hey there, easy on the Jeezy," you know? (It's worth noting that the casting of the notoriously hedonistic Bankhead as the notoriously devout Mrs. Trefoile is particularly delicious and inspired.)

Once Mrs. T finds out that Pat never intended to marry her son, she decides to hold the young woman captive and "cleanse her soul" before enforcing some kind of death-n-soul-marriage. It totally makes sense if you think about it.

Will Pat survive, and what will be left of her? Will one of Mrs. T's servants come to their senses and release her? Will Alan come and rescue her? One thing is for sure: Die! Die! My Darling! (known as Fanatic outside the US) was released in 1965, and thus Pat Carroll is no Final Girl. In other words, she doesn't much try to save herself, and when she makes a bit of effort she's easily thwarted. Look, I'm not blaming the victim here...but there comes a point when you want her to use her brain a bit.

At 97 minutes it's at least 10 minutes too long, but you still can't really go wrong with this film. It's a Hammer Production written by Richard Matheson. It features a young Donald Sutherland in an early role as a mentally impaired handyman. There are "cat fights" and a bit of blood here and there. Most of all, there's the gravel-voiced Tallulah Bankhead delivering sermons and spitting hellfire, playing it all straight. She's menacing, sympathetic, insane, and utterly delightful. They sure don't make 'em like this–or her–anymore, and I doubt they could if they wanted to.

May 13, 2016

Happy Friday the 13th!

Aw yeah, it's Friday the 13th. Make sure you avoid masked killers, tents, cabins in woods, boats headed for Manhattan, outer space, etc etc. If you are completely bored/have exhausted everything else on The Internet, check out my F13 archive tag. I don't remember everything that's in there, but I'm sure it's all 100% A++ quality! KI KI KI HA HA HA

Or if you're like "words are so over" then you can always peruse Death Count and pick out your favorite Friday victim. KI KI KI WOW WOW WOW

Whatever you do, enjoy your day...while it lasts.

That's not a threat or anything, it's just...well, today will end eventually. That's how time works. I thought you knew that.

And from the SHAMELESS PLUG department, here are some Friday-related things I have drawn, which you can get on a mug or a shirt or a tote bag or whatever. CLICK RIGHT HERE! There are other designs, too! And today there is FREE SHIPPING, huzzah. Every sale helps me survive, which I'm kind of into for the moment.

Sorry–KI KI KI HUZZAH HUZZAH HUZZAH