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!

May 23, 2016


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


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 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.


May 11, 2016

programming note

Dudes and y'alls, when I went and scheduled this here VHS Week I forgot that I have a thing.

It is the sort of thing that will have me away from the sweet warm embrace of my VCR for a few days, so I apologize I'm afraid we must press pause on the proceedings. VHS Week will resume on MONDAY. I know it will be a difficult time for all of us, but let's just think of this as an intermission. Stretch your legs, go buy a rectangle of pizza and some Sno Caps, and meet me back here and we'll finish this shit together. The lineup for the week will be:

Mon 5/16 - DIE! DIE! MY DARLING! (1965, Silvio Narizzano)
Tues 5/17 - THE HAUNTING OF JULIA (1977, Richard Loncraine)
Wed 5/18 - THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE (1971, Emilio Miraglia)
Thur 5/19 - THE ATTIC (1980, George Edwards & Gary Graver)
Fri 5/20 - MARTIN (1977, George A. Romero)

Who knows, maybe I'll throw in some other surprises. Or not. I guess we'll just have to wait and see!

By the way, The Thing? I have been to see it, I know what it is! It's in Arizona's a mummified mother and child, eww! But I guess it's a fake. It's in a glass (or plexiglass or whatever) coffin thing in a pre-fab building, and when I saw it the top of the glass was all covered in bird poop. They also had a car that Hitler supposedly rode in once. EERIE!

May 10, 2016

VHS Week Day 9: PARASITE (1982)

As I always suspected, the future looks mighty terrible. Gas is $41/gallon. Regular currency is worthless. Electricity only works sometimes. Everyone is grimy and hair is woefully unconditioned. People are tattooed and forced into labor camps. Yes, there are some genuine pew-pew laser guns around, but mostly everything is dirty and depressing and life can be summed up thusly:

"It's gettin' so a fella can't get away from the goddamned sickies no more."

Parasite is set six months after Donald Trump is sworn in in a post-nuclear 1992 world gone to heck. Paul Dean is a scientist harboring parasites in his stomach and in his future-thermos. He's pursued by a man in a suit who drives a future-car; it seems Paul absconded with these parasites when he found out that The Company had evil intentions for them, and now The Company wants them back. Paul tries to hide in the desert, but he runs afoul of a gang o' thugs that would be right at home in Friday the 13th Part 3. Demi Moore takes him to her lemon farm (not a euphemism) and he tries to solve this whole mess by doing some science. Can he destroy all the parasites before they kill him? Can he destroy the parasites before The Company reclaims them? Can he destroy the parasites before the parasites fart out a million spores that will turn into more parasites? You won't get any spoilers outta me, fool!

nom nom nom

This may prove a controversial stance, but I'm going to say it anyway: I don't much like parasites. I'm sure they serve some kind of purpose as a link in the grand cosmic food chain, but I say no thank you. I've read too many sensational news stories like "Parasite Swims Up Dude's Urethra" and "Parasite Lives in Some Lady's Brain for 15 Years" to think they're anything but a l'il tiny real bad time. I'd even go so far as to call them one of my least favorite things on Earth. When I saw that Paul was harboring the parasites in his stomach, I was like..."Paul, you crazy!" for that's how much I do not like them. Mind you, the parasites in Parasite–designed by the mighty Stan Winston!–aren't microscopic jerks, but rather they are approximately the size of a Corgi and they have a shit ton of teeth. They do kind of go into and burst out of people regardless of their enormousosity, so I guess they still count as parasites, although I can't say for sure as I am not a scienceologist.

And yeah, you read that correctly: Demi Moore's lemon farm. Parasite marks her first starring role and she's about as unremarkable as you might expect from someone in their first starring role. Not that she had a whole lot to work with here–I mean, it's a Charles Band film called Parasite–but still.  I was way more excited when I saw Cherie Currie's name in the opening credits, but sadly she only has about two lines and then she gets infected and dies. Okay, that's a spoiler you'll get outta me. But that's it!

This movie is small in scope and budget, so we've got limited locations and a steady rotation of three types of scenes: Paul sweats and frets, the thugs thug it up, and The Company dude looks for Paul. The action occurs mostly towards the end when the parasite goes nuts and infects several people, and I'm sure it would look great if I was watching this on anything besides an extremely dark and muddy VHS copy. I could kind of see slime? And blood sometimes.

It was also a hoot–well, that's overstating it...let's say it was a lite hoot...picking out all of the obvious 3D moments in the film, as originally it was shown in three whole dimensions. Among the things that point at/travel towards the camera:
  • a pipe juts from an abdomen
  • a hand kind of points 
  • some goo drips
  • parasites fly toward you
I'm not sure whether or not you can tell by what I've written, but rest assured, Parasite is pure schlocky early-80s monster movie fun. And just think, I'm saying that even though much of the action was obscured by VHS darkness and I could barely see the parasites. Although considering my hatred of them, maybe that's for the best. 

May 9, 2016

VHS Week Day 8: THE GRANNY (1995)

Reader, I'm not gonna lie to you. I'm not here to lie. Out of the 750 movies comprising VHS Week, The Granny is the one I anticipated the least. In fact, I'm not entirely sure how it came to be in my possession in the first place. Did I buy it? Was it a gift? Is this some kind of Sadako nonsense and it simply appeared in my apartment one day? Does it really exist? Do I really exist? Does anything?

*disappears in a puff of ennui*

Anyway. The point is, somehow I have this film and I made it a part of VHS Week, but I was dreading it. I know it's not very horror fan or Final Girl of me, but my tolerance for "deliberate garbage" these days is super low. But the truth of it is, can you really have a two-week VHS Week without sampling some mid-90s straight-to-video trash? You could, but both you and the world would be lesser for it. And so it was with humanity's best interests at heart I got on with The Granny.  And you know what? It's possible that I need to lighten up ("YA THINK?" - everyone) because The Granny and I had a grand ol' time.

Thanksgiving is a time for family, they say, even if everyone in the family hates each other–which is absolutely the case with Granny's family. She's cantankerous and hates everyone but Kelly, who is totally unsightly and nerdy (she wears her hair up and sports glasses). Granny is convinced everyone just wants her vast fortune...and she's right. Everyone is tired of waiting for her to die, so this year they intend to pull the ol' "poison in the soup" gag. That one always kills! Ha ha! Get it? IT KILLS!

Granny has her own surprise in store, however–she's bought a special elixir that will grant her immortality. Like a Gremlin, the elixir comes with a list of DOs and DO NOT DOs that must be strictly adhered to for fear of grave consequences. The elixir and the imbiber must forever avoid direct sunlight, and the imbiber must undergo a "cleansing ritual." While Granny manages to perform the ritual, the elixir is almost immediately exposed to sunlight and therefore tainted. And thus Granny is infested with a demon, comes back from the dead, and gets her revenge on her greedy family.

Make no mistake, my friends, this movie is 100% stupid...but you see, it knows it's stupid. It's a horror-comedy, and while plenty of the jokes fall flat and you'll be ashamed of yourself for watching this/existing, there are also some–gasp!–genuine laughs. As Granny, Stella Stevens hams it up and has the time of her life, delivering lines like "You! You're a load I should've swallowed!" with gravel-voiced gusto. In spite of myself, I also delighted at the scene where a woman's neck is ripped open by reanimated fur stoles. The "cleansing ritual"–simply consists of saying "I love everybody" out loud–may be my favorite thing of all time. And had I known beforehand that The Granny features a demonic/zombie Stella Stevens attacking $10,000 Pyramid mainstay Teresa Ganzel, well, let's just say I wouldn't have dreaded watching it. Let's just say the tape probably would have caught on fire from the blazing speed at which I put it in the VCR.

Even at a scant 82 minutes, The Granny does wear out its welcome a bit, but I'll be damned if it isn't a moronic good time. It's fairly raunchy, kinda purposefully funny, a bit gross, and a whole lotta dumb–in other words, it's just about the perfect background-at-a-party movie. It'd go great with Night of the Demons or something of that ilk, paired up like the finest cheese and wine more cheese. I don't think it's ever received the DVD treatment, and VHS copies are fairly hard/expensive to come by now...but hey, if my experience is any indication, take a look around: you probably acquired a copy at some point and it's sitting in your collection right now. Shockingly, as it turns out that's...not really a complaint. Long live VHS Week!