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 18, 2005

I was 9

Recently I was looking for something amongst all my papers and crap and came across this little gem:
Yeah, boyeee, it's Fangoria #10, from 1981. My mom found it amongst all her papers and crap and gave it to me the last time I was home. Yes, I read Fangoria (and Famous Monsters) when I was but nine years old. I haven't looked at an issue of this magazine in years, but when I was a kid, in the early years, it kicked ass. Gross pictures, scary pictures, articles on filmmakers and comics and blah blah, Fango sold me on so many movies- Motel Hell, Dead and Buried, Fade to Black...I wanted to see them all oh so badly. Most of the time the movies didn't hold up to what my imagination inferred from the pictures, but once in a while they did. Fade to Black was a movie I looked forward to, thanks to Fango, after they printed pictures of Eric Binford (Dennis Christopher) in all the various getups he wore throughout the movie. If you read my review (link above), you know I wanted to kick it in the nuts because I didn't like it. Well! Perusing the letters column from this little time capsule, apparently I wasn't the only person who fell for it. Quoth one Paul Lanner of Staten Island, NY:

Being both a movie critic for my high school and an avid fan of horror films, I strongly felt that Fade to Black should have been omitted from your very good magazine. Let me tell you why.

And so he does.
Ha! Was I made a fool of! Fade to Black left a bitter taste in
my mouth. Not only was the screenplay insidious, the acting was also. Dennis Christopher resembled nothing more than a zombie from Dawn of the Dead. In fact...(it) was not a horror movie, it was a stale, obnoxious comedy with no laughs. I feel it should only receive *1/2.
And there you have it. I just wanted to point out that my opinion has been validated by a high school movie critic from yesteryear. Oh, and Fangoria's response to his letter? "You should know better than to listen to us!"

Inside the magazine there's also an article, An Anatomy of Terror, that has this for a teaser:
What makes terror work? And what will frighten us in 1981? We asked John Carpenter, Sean Cunningham, Richard Rubenstein, Don Coscarelli- and lots more people who should know!
And I thought to myself- if I could turn back time...if I could find a way...I'd take back the words that hurt you, and you'd stay. Then my little Cher make-believe fantasy ended and I thought to myself- Wow! 1981 rocked! Not only did my Mini-Minor League softball team go undefeated all season (and thusly become the champs), but '81 saw some wicked sweet flicks hit the screen. It's true. Behold the treasure trove!

Halloween 2: Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, this was more a continuation of Michael Myers's's's shenanigans from 1978's Halloween than a sequel. Or would that make it a true sequel? What is a sequel? Anyway...Jamie Lee Curtis stars once again as Laurie Strode, stalked by her craaaaazy brother Michael while she's all doped up in Haddonfield Memorial Hospital.

The Howling: Des did a marvy post about this werewolf flick during his October blogathon at Without Me You're Only You. I just loved Dee Wallace Stone in every movie she was in back in the day. She totally gets overlooked when people talk about "Scream Queens" (which, you know, is all the time), but I think she rocked. So there!

Evil Dead: Yeah, that Evil Dead. I think I saw this movie at just the right age that it's always been scary to me. It's waaay over the top, some of the effects are extra hokey, and the tongue is definitely in cheek with this Sam Raimi flick...but when Cheryl turns all evil? When she's locked in the cellar? The voices that are all demon-y? I thought that was some spooky shit back in the day. I think that's why the rest of the movies in the series don't matter to me- somewhere along the line it became more comedy than horror, and it ticked me off. Eh, maybe it always was a comedy and I just didn't get the joke. And you know what else? I don't think Ash (Bruce Campbell) is all that great. There, I said it. Nyah.

Ghost Story: Based on the novel by Peter Straub, Ghost Story centers around 4 fellas (Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr) who have a very dirty secret from their youth that comes back to haunt them in their golden years. Get it? "Haunt"? "Ghost Story"? Oh, man. That is beyond clever. This movie is a nice, simple, atmospheric spook tale, and I like it- even though it has old people in it. Now that's saying something!

Night School: This better-than-I-expected little slasher featuring Rachel Ward and her bare behind was part of my Shocktober! madness. See! A black-leather clad, motorcycle-ridin' killer stalks college girls on the wild, wild streets of Boston. See! A head in a shark tank at the aquarium. See! Someone smear weird red stuff on Ms. Ward's arse in a shower scene.

Dead & Buried: Another surprise from Shocktober!, this Twilight Zone-esque flick is all about the evil deeds perpetrated by the residents of the sleepy New England town Potter's Bluff. While it's not particularly scary, I really like this movie and its twist ending.

There's so many movies from that magical year to talk about that I need to continue this post tomorrow. I know you, though. You're thinking...there can't possibly be that many more. She's gone mad! But you'll see. Oh'll see.

Just to tease, let's end this with some killer non-horror movies that debuted in '81, shall we?

Nighthawks: Oh, how I love this movie. A bearded Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee Williams as detectives on the trail of a crazy, murderin' Rutger Hauer? Notice I ask as if there's any other kind of Rutger Hauer...anyway, I'm there, baby. And that ending- you know what I'm talkin' 'bout, Willis. You know...

Then there's some little-known gems like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Road Warrior, Clash of the Titans, Escape from New York, Time Bandits, and The Brady Brides. See what I mean? I swear, I'm gonna figure out a way to go back in time and marry 1981 if it's the last thing I do.


Carnacki said...

Stacie, thanks for the memories. 1981 rocked my world. I began my senior year. The high school football team I played on went 9-1 and were league champions. Lots of great times.

Looking at all the horror classics from 1981 it's almost like 1981 is to horror what 1939 is to other movies.

Stacie Ponder said...

Just unbelieveable, right? I can't believe the movie list. And the sports championships! We ARE the champions, my friend!

John said...

Just look at those movie selections on the side.Mothers day,I am yet to see but always wanted to.Outer Limits...Was that a movie,or the original tv series..?Altered States...if Im not mistaken is that the one with William hurt?Holy psychedelic caveman!1981...a couple years shy of my introduction to this world.I think that,that was the year that Natalie Wood & Christopher Walken did 'Brainstorm' which woulden't be released til 1983.

Chop-a-holic said...

Blashemer! You and my brother in law are the only 2 people I've ever "met" that were scared by Evil Dead. I think of ED as the final proof of a movie being so bad it's great! I saw it on VHS at the tender age of 11 and laughed so hard I started a family tradition of bagging on it ala MST3K years before the show. How can amorous grape vines NOT be hillarious? Yeah I'm more than a bit late w/ this comment but Evil Dead was the beginning of the end for horror flicks. I think the capstone was People under the Stairs, movies promoted as scary and ended up comedies. Scary Movie doesn't count, it was marketed as parody from the start.

Paul Lanner said...

Well, how funny to stumble upon this......I wrote that letter to fangoria all those years ago! And you know what, i still think 'fade to black' is a really bad movie. All these years later, and i am now involved in the film biz, designing packaging/art/advertising for tv shows and movies on dvd! (check out my latest...the adventures of brisco county!)