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!

Nov 13, 2019

BLOODvember Day 13: FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 (1981)


As you may know by now, I am nuts–NUTS I SAY–about the Friday the 13th series. I love the (relative) risks it's taken, I love its unabashed weirdness, I just...I don't know, at some point I really fell hard for this franchise. I'm not some big Jason fan, either! (At least, not after Part III.) I think maybe spending so much time with it when writing and drawing Death Count gave me some kind of Stockholm Syndrome or something because I feel a weird affection for the films in the series that I don't like...and trust me, the number of Friday films I don't like vastly outweighs the number I do (aka 1-3 and 5, if you must know).

For all the zillions of hours of Jason and Co, however, there's really only a small handful of moments that I've ever found legitimately scary. The biggest occurs near the end of Part 2, when Ginny is on the run from Jason and she comes across his little lean-to in the woods. She goes inside, thinking she might find help:


And boy oh boy! That's a terrible screencap, but seeing Jason through the window behind her, running toward the building, is downright terrifying. I love that he didn't disappear and they didn't try to build any mystery–you know, is he still following? Where will he appear? He's not trying to keep quiet. He's not trying to hide. He is still coming, running right at her. He knows exactly where she is. He's going to get to her, and he's going to kill her. It's just a really effective shot! That she's stumbled into his lair makes it even more frightening...and the fact that it's Baghead Jason chasing her makes it worth at least 100 chef kisses, for as all good people know, Baghead Jason is the best Jason.

Nov 12, 2019

BLOODvember Day 12: CREEPSHOW (1982)


I wasn't intending to post about Creepshow during BLOODvember. I really wasn't! Lawd knows I've talked about it enough around here over the years. I've mentioned my love for it several times on Gaylords of Darkness over the last year. I'm good, I thought. They know. They know how much I love it, how perfect I think it is. I've waxed rhapsodic about Adrienne Barbeau as Billie, I've mooned over the movie's varied approach to zombies. I've praised the music and the visuals and the EC Comics stylings. I've mentioned how funny it is, how scary it is, how it's as just good as the day it was born and how my feelings about it have never faded and it's a forever fave. They definitely know.

But ah! Funny I should mention the day it was born because lo, today is that day! On November 12, 1982, a bouncing baby Creepshow came blastin' outta...somewhere...and it planted itself right in the heartplaces of everyone who knows what's cool. So how could I not mention it today?

What's your favorite segment? As I've mentioned 1000 times, "The Crate"'s Billie is nonpareil. But overall it's not my favorite story! That honor, such as it is, goes to "Father's Day." It's morbidly funny. It's got one of the all-time great zombies. It's got Ed Harris doing that dance. It's got such a...well, such a Palm Springs-faggy vibe, it's absolutely the gayest thing Stephen King has ever written. It is the Dynasty-as-horror-movie of my dreams!


I love the Granthams. Carrie Nye is scathing, icy matriarch perfection. Richard is the quintessential "gay or just a rich Republican?" type. I like the cheeky nod to Rebecca with Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper. Again, Cass and Hank getting down to that disco track is just everything. And, of course, there's dotty old aunt Bedelia, who never even makes it inside the house. She's got a tragic backstory but damn, I bet she was a fun broad to hang out with.

Honestly, if Creepshow consisted solely of "Father's Day" I'd still consider it one of my Top Tens for life and I'd still mention it ad nauseam. And I'd definitely still be celebrating it today. I'm so glad it exists.

Nov 11, 2019

BLOODvember Day 11: TRACK OF THE MOON BEAST (1976)


Track of the Moon Beast, a terrible film, has come up around these parts several times before because it made such such SUCH an impression on me as a child. I don't know how old I was when I saw it or even where I saw it. Maybe I caught it on Creature Double Feature, or maybe it was a retro first flick at the drive-in or something. That particular memory is lost like sands through the hourglass, but so are the days of our lives. But what I remember most from this movie about a man who gets hit in the head with a chunk of moon rock and subsequently turns into a murderous lizard-man, is a scene I wrote about a bit in-depth over at the blog Mermaid Heather...and that's a scene where a man gets killed off-screen and his blood oozes under the door when his wife goes to investigate.


That image was the total stuff of nightmares to wee me! It scared me to death, it grossed me out...man, that right there was the absolute height of horror as far as I was concerned, and it's stuck in my brain all these years. Watching it now, it's exactly as I remember it, in fact, but it's hysterical that I found it so terrifying because it's anything but. (Seriously, give a click if you want to watch the scene...it's some Z-grade shit!) Yet I also think it's so fucking cool that something so lame was so scary to me. Who knows what's going to scare a kid? Heck, who knows what's going to scare anyone? I love that I got so much out of Track of the Moon Beast; it's possible I'm the only person who did. (It's really bad!) I love the idea that any horror movie, no matter the budget or "quality," could be someone's favorite movie or could feature a shot or a scene they find indelible. Ain't art grand?

Nov 10, 2019

BLOODvember Day 10: BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)


Black Christmas certainly has its share of iconic images. There's Billy's manic eye peeking out from behind the door. Claire's dead body and her expression of fear and shock under that plastic bag, rocking in a chair in the attic. And of course who could forget the glass unicorn, covered in blood and sparkling in the light as it's used to stab Barb to death?

It's all terrifying but man, this movie is incredibly unnerving right from the start, as we get Billy's P.O.V. as he climbs, unseen, into that sorority house. The scene that gets me though comes only a couple of minutes later, when the girls all gather around the phone to listen to a call from "the moaner."


It's the first time we hear one of his calls, but it's not the first time he's called. They've given him that nickname, and Barb mentions that he's "expanded his act" when he gets really nasty. But that doesn't mean they're not incredibly disturbed by the call–I love the way the camera pans around slowly, showing our main players in close-up, looking worried...and with good reason. The call is vile, describing in explicit, vulgar terms what he wants to do to them. We don't see him, and we don't know who it is; at this point, we're not connecting it with the man who climbed into the attic. The girls don't know who or where the call's coming from either, and while they have the safety of numbers, that phone call makes you feel how vulnerable they are regardless. It's stressful.

Barb tries to blow off that stress by playing it cool, by making some jokes. She gets a chuckle or two out of Phyl (always the kindest to Barb, wasn't she, except for that moment where she reached her limit?). But before long, even cynical Barb is unnerved. The phone call has reached insane heights, the squeals and voices making it sound at times like it's coming from Pazuzu over in Georgetown...but it ends with a calm "I'm going to kill you" that is an absolute shock. And you look at these girls and you know that whomever it is is going to make good on that promise (again, it's a slasher movie, after all) and you want to tell them all to get out right this minute, don't go upstairs, don't pack a bag, just go.

Margot Kidder, right? Barb could be such a one-note character but Kidder gives her so many layers–she's a crass party girl, quick with a joke or a biting remark, always downing too many drinks. From time to time we get little glimpses of the pain and hurt underneath it all–a look here and there, or an inflection. It's such a rich performance, particularly for this kind of film. They're all wonderful, really. I mentioned the Phyl-Barb relationship which is one of my favorites. Unlike the remake or so many other movies of its ilk, Black Christmas gets the friendships between the girls right. They argue sometimes, but they all care about each other. In fact, it's the reason why some of them end up dead: they check on one another, or they don't want to leave without each other. It's what's made this movie so eminently watchable all these years, beyond the scares and crazy killer and iconic shots. These characters aren't merely nameless teens, you know? They feel like actual human beings. What a concept!

Nov 9, 2019

BLOODvember Day 9: HALLOWEEN (1978)


I've seen Halloween so damn many times that I practically have every moment memorized, and it's been, like, four dogs' ages since it remotely scared me. I appreciate it so much that I almost don't appreciate it, you know? Like yeah yeah, Halloween's a favorite, Michael Myers whatever. I'm always going to cite it, but I sort of take it for granted, I guess.

That's not to say that I don't want to talk about it, because I do–especially considering the news that Kyle Richards will be returning as Lindsay Wallace in the next Halloween, which I refuse to call Halloween Kills because that's the stupidest title I've ever seen. I could talk about Kyle Richards getting bangs for the movie all day!

But when my mind goes to Halloween '78 these days, my thoughts immediately turn to Laurie, Lynda, and Annie, walking down the street after school, complaining about homework and teasing each other. Or maybe it's Annie and Laurie in the car, getting high and listening to Blue Oyster Cult. Michael Myers is almost secondary, an afterthought, lingering at the edges of my memories...which is kind of perfect, really, considering that throughout the film he's constantly lingering at the edges. He lurks like a motherfucker! Behind a corner or a hedge or a bedsheet on the clothesline, he's there and when you look back he's gone. Sometimes the characters (Laurie, mostly) spot him, but mostly he's only seen by us, standing in the background, just watching. It's what makes the movie so dang intense: we're aware of him, but no one else is. We know he's going to strike–it's a slasher movie, after all–but we don't know when.

One scene I love combines all of it: the lurking, one of the girls and her Debra Hill dialogue, and Kyle Richards's bangs, and that's the laundry room scene.


Annie goes to the detached laundry room to wash her pants, and Michael is there. He's at the door, he's at the window, he's everywhere. Annie is alone and vulnerable. She locks herself in and Lindsay, inside watching The Thing from Another World on TV, can't hear her calling for help. Why does Michael bide his time instead of killing Annie right then and there? Who can say why he does anything? He's a real creep!

Nov 8, 2019

BLOODvember Day 8: HELL NIGHT (1981)


Hell Night has always been one of my favorites, and if you want to know a bunch of reasons why, this post from 2012 (!) should clue you in. I can acknowledge that it's got some flaws and in the same breath tell you with absolute conviction: Hell Night rules! Gimme dat ol' spooky Garth Manor and I'm good, baby.

I long assumed everyone felt this way about it, that everyone's taste is as good as mine, but I've discovered in recent months that this is not true. Hell Night is not universally adored! I guess we really are living in the darkest timeline. Oh well. It still rocks my face off, so I'll just be sitting over here all gorked out on quaaludes and Jack Daniels while everyone else is off watching, I don't know, Insidiou5 or something. That's just fine! Go on, get outta here! It'll just be me and my quaaludes and my JD alone with this boss-ass scene, where Jeff and Marti (Peter Barton and Linda Blair) think they're safe because they've locked themselves in a room, but NO, they are NOT. Andrew Garth rises out of a trap door that was hidden under a rug. It looks lousy in the screencap but it's fucking rad as heck.


Hmm I posted about Hell Night in 2006 and then again in 2012...looks like I'm just about on schedule with today's post. Let's meet back here in, say, late 2025 and I'll tell you how much I love Hell Night again!

Nov 7, 2019

BLOODvember Day 7: THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974)


The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is frequently–and rightfully–lauded as one of the greatest horror films of all time, but it doesn't always get the adulation it deserves as one of the most beautiful. It's truly packed to the gills with breathtaking shots, and it's a shame that cinematographer Daniel Pearl isn't praised every time Tobe Hooper's name comes up. Once you see this film, it is forever imprinted on your brain–because of its shocking grotesqueries, sure, but also because it's frequently flat-out stunning. The extreme close-ups of Marilyn Burn's eyes...the long shot of the van under all that sky...Leatherface doing his mad twirls as the sun rises...and, of course, that low tracking shot of Pam as she approaches the farmhouse. Even when we're repulsed by what we see (think of Pam falling into that room full of bones and feathers), we're also drawn to it because it's shot so damn well.

Because of this, it's a bit tough for me to choose but one moment to post today. But this one came up in conversation recently, so this one it is: Leatherface emerging from the darkness into the beam of Franklin's flashlight, chainsaw roaring:


It's a nightmare image. Kudos, by the way, to Gunnar Hansen for all the acting he does underneath that mask; whether it's wide-eyed mania, like we see here, or weird lip-licking or what, we get the feeling that Leatherface would be just as terrifying if he was just, you know, Normalface or something.

And, as always, kudos to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for daring to make the disabled character the least-likable character, right? I will admit that on occasion I have felt some sympathy for Franklin because hey, he's got it pretty rough. He can't do anything right. He's stuck in that chair, in the heat, while his babe of a sister and all her hot friends go off to swim and make out and whatever. It's understandable that he's miserable, but then he takes it out on everyone around him, which makes them dislike him, which makes him more miserable and more likely to act out...it's just a big ol' ouroboros of awfulness. I don't know why I have been cursed to be the only person on the planet with a small modicum of Franklin feelings, but here we are.

One person who didn't have Franklin feelings was Marilyn Burns! Here is a chunk of an interview I did with her once upon a time, where we talk about Franklin and this scene above specifically:
Marilyn: Oh, God was he annoying! The thing is, that guy’s the nicest guy in the world, but I didn’t know it until 20 years later because he acted like Franklin the whole time, he was like a method actor. He continued to be just as whiny and horrible when they yelled “cut.” He’d sit in his wheelchair and say “Someone get me a Coke!” and we’d go “Hey, Paul, you’re not crippled. Get up and get it yourself.” Nyah nyah nyah- he’d whine! And I’m sure someone finally got the guy a Coke. It was weird. I should’ve known he was acting, but…it was 20 years later when I talked to him and he said “I felt so bad being so terrible!” and I’m thinking, “Paul, I thought you WERE terrible.” He was just doing his job, and I mean brilliantly, especially since we were so young then…who would have thought some jerk would stay in character the whole time and be such a terrific guy and you’d not know it until 20 years later?  
Stacie: Didn’t Tobe Hooper kind of set you two against each other to get emotion out of you?  
Marilyn: I know right before the flashlight scene, where we fight over it, he said “Paul said this about you” and then he went to Paul and said “Marilyn said this about you”, but it was already set. I mean, the whole shoot was real hard and the more Paul whined as a character the more we went “Oh God!”  But it worked good for the film, because we were ready to kill each other. 
Stacie: You can really tell in the scene outside the van, before you start pushing him and he’s honking that horn… 
Marilyn:  He was so damn…I mean, I didn’t really think I could push the guy, especially with all the brambles and brush. But it made it all funny later. Ha ha ha. Later.
It's probably one of the very few times that both the audience and the cast were happy to see a character get killed horribly. Well, at least he got to enjoy some gas station sausage before he died.

Wait, that was probably ground up people, right? Aw, poor Franklin! Couldn't have happened to a whinier guy.