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!

Oct 30, 2006

Day 27- Death Be Not Proud

Seeing Final Destination 2 so long after the fact, after everyone else has seen it, talked about it, and forgotten it makes me feel...hmm. I don't know. Out of touch? Late to the party? Like maybe I really don't have my finger on the pulse of everything that's cool and fresh and happening and maybe I should just admit that I'm getting old and go play canasta at the local VFD every afternoon at 4:30? Bah! Fuck no. That's far too much philosophizing. And hell, the Final Destination films aren't about philosophizing, right? They're candy. They're nothing but Pop Rocks- not good for you in the long run, not at all nutritional or filling, but boy are they yummy.

I probably mixed about 6 metaphors in that opening paragraph, but I don't care. Yeah, you heard me. I'm feeling rebellious today, and when I get rebellious my writing skills go right out the window. And girl, you don't even wanna know what happens to my Trigonometry skills.

Anyway, yes...Final Destination 2 (2003). Young, fresh-faced Kimberly (AJ Cook) has a premonition as she's about to pull onto the highway: there's going to be a terrible pileup and she and her friends will die in said pile-up instead of making it to lovely and sunny Daytona Beach. Kimberly blocks the on-ramp in the nick of time; there's still a pile-up, but many of the people that would have died are now safely sitting in their cars behind Kimberly's SUV. But ol' Death ain't havin' none a dat, honey- he's gonna cross those names off his list one way or another, and soon enough the survivors are falling victim to some insane plot contrivances.

The Final Destination flicks are the type of flicks I should probably hate. As I said, they're all style and no substance- the characters, while not exactly stereotypes, are so thinly drawn they could practically be randomly generated by a computer. The plot is just as insubstantial: people avoid a big deadly mishap, people die in smaller yet more elaborate mishaps. It's fluff, I tells ya...but my god these movies are fun. Morbidly, gruesomely fun. Maybe the fact that they're not trying to be anything more than a series of outrageous deaths (and so I don't expect anything more out of them) makes them work- it's like Final Destination and I have a deal. We know going in what we're going to get out of the relationship so it's cool. I'll yell "Holy shit!" a few times, Final Destination will entertain me, and we move on. Wham, bam, and all that. Hey, it works for me...and it works for the movies as well, apparently, as the series is now three films strong.

While there's nothing to the drama to suck you into any sense of "reality" the films might have- ie, there's no emotional investment involved- the list of horror films that can match the tension of the openings of these movies, wherein the humongous "accidents" occurs, is small. You know in Final Destination 2, for example, that there's going to be a huge automobile crash....but you don't know when. During an extended sequence, as cars and trucks and buses speed down the highway, you watch all the random pieces fall into place and you wonder what's going to finally trigger the event. It's really quite extraordinary in its execution. Alfred Hitchcock once explained the difference between surprise and suspense in terms of audience awareness. To paraphrase, he gave an example of two men sitting at a table in a restaurant; if you want to give the audience a surprise, have a bomb go off under their table. If you want to keep the audience in suspense, however, you must inform them in advance that there is a bomb under the table. Wondering when it will go off will keep the audience in suspense- it's that simple. When that notion is used effectively, it's pretty powerful stuff, even if it's in a Pop Rocks flick like Final Destination 2.

I almost feel odd liking these movies, because they really are just showcases for death pieces. You sit around waiting for the characters to die, hoping the next setup will be more elaborate than the last. What does this say about m--gah! There goes the philosophizing again. You know, I liked this movie so much that I want to run right out and get Final Destination 3...hey, then I'll be all caught up with the rest of society! I'll be cool again! I will, I swear! I give it 8 out of 10 I am big, it's the pictures that got smalls.

Oct 29, 2006

Day 26- Glory Days

Today I watched a flick from the golden age of TV movies- 1981's Who Murdered Joy Morgan? (aka Killjoy), a movie that isn't so much a horror film as it is a thriller/suspense/mystery film. It matters not, however, because like I said, this is from the Golden Age, baby, when TV movies kicked all kinds of ass. It doesn't hurt that Who Murdered Joy Morgan? is directed by venerable television veteran John Llewellyn Moxey, who also directed The Night Stalker and the fantastic 1972 made-for-TV slasher Home for the Holidays.

It's hard to give much info about this flick without giving too much away. Simply put, the film opens with a scene reminiscent of the first scene in John Carpenter's Halloween. We get kill-o-vision as someone enters a house, grabs a pair of shears, and stabs a woman to death. The rest of the film is a plot-twisting whodunit that for once actually leaves you guessing until the final moments. Who was Joy Morgan? Did she really exist? Who among the doctors at City General Hospital had reason to kill her? The answer, of course, is everybody.

Aside from the sure-handed direction, Who Murdered Joy Morgan? is bolstered by a strong cast, including a young Kim Basinger, Robert Culp, John Rubenstein, the woman who played "Lana" on Three's Company, and Nancy Marchand. After considering the diversity of her role here, her portrayal of Tony's mom Livia on The Sopranos, and her turn as the Mayor in Police Squad!, I've begun to think that the late Nancy Marchand was the greatest actess ever. Yeah, you remember her in Police Squad!- she delivered the classic line "Assault with a concrete dildo!"...and she was Livia Soprano! See what I mean?

All in all, Who Murdered Joy Morgan? is TV-thriller-land at its most fun. Its got the cast and crew pedigrees and it ends on the best freeze-frame to end a movie ever. I give it 8 out of 10 concrete dildos.

Oct 28, 2006

Day 25- I Wish...

If I had caught today's flick The Outing (aka The Lamp) closer to its year of release (1987) late at night on USA's Saturday Nightmares, I probably would've loved it. I was a teenager then, and The Outing perfectly fits the bill for the type of cheesy late-night horror I'd watch on sleepovers. Now that I'm an old woman, however, the sweet 15 minutes at the beginning and the sweet last half hour simply weren't enough to make up for the dull-ass 45 minutes in the middle.

3 redneck ne'er-do-wells break into some old lady's house, convinced she has riches upon riches hidden somewhere in the sprawling place. They find a lamp- your average everydayAladdin-style lamp- and kill the old bat when she doth protest too much. After some struggle the thieves get the lamp open, releasing a glowing green fog that flies up the dead old lady's nose, possessing her. Briefly reanimated, she kills the thieves. The fog goes home again and plugs up the lamp after a job well done.

The dead woman's possessions are brought to the local Natural History Museum for some reason. In a shocking plot twist rarely found in horror films, a group of high school students sneaks into the museum after hours for some beer and heavy petting. The fog is released from the lamp yet again and goes on a killing spree, with a little possession here and a little possession there. Eventually the fog reveals its true form, a giant genie who sometimes glows green and talks in a "scary" voice that was so garbled I couldn't understand anything he said.

The portions of The Outing I described above are those where something actually happens, where there's some friggin' action. The rest of the film is a long, drawn out nothingfest, featuring a strangely violent school fight, some family "drama", and a trip to the museum. When the genie/fog finally gets his shit together and gets down to business and kills all the kids in the museum, it's pretty cool but it's over very quickly. There's more down time than up time in The Outing, which is fine if you're staying up all night watching horror movies and making crank calls. I was a little bored by most of the endeavor, which makes me feel wicked out of touch with the younguns. I give it 5 out of 10 "Now who wants a Crystal Pepsi?"s.

Oct 27, 2006

Day 24- zzap!

"He knew who he was...and he knew who he hated."

I decided to step into the Wayback Machine today and set the dial for "B-Movie: Awesome"...sadly, I miscalculated my coordinates and ended up in "B-Movie: Boring".

Lon Chaney stars in Indestructible Man (1956) as Charles "The Butcher" Benton, a nefarious fellow who masterminded an armored car heist, netting a cool 600Gs. When his partners turn state's evidence and Benton is sentenced to die, he vows to somehow kill his partners and his slimebag lawyer but good.

After San Quentin sees to gassing up The Butcher, his corpse is given to a noble biochemist who's trying to find a cure for cancer. Delighted to finally have a human specimen to experiment with, The Noble Biochemist pumps The Butcher full of...err, goo and zaps him with 300,000 volts of pure electric electricity. As can be expected, the procedure brings The Butcher back to life. He's not only back, however- he's back and better than ever, for he's now...an invulnerable mute!

Like any good invulnerable mute, The Butcher promptly strangles The Noble Biochemist and sets off towards Los Angeles to wreak his vengeful revenge on his stoolie jerko partners.

This sounds fantastic, right? Sure it does! 15 minutes into Indestructible Man, I was starting to wonder how I could go about becoming an invulnerable mute myself, because frankly it would solve a lot of my problems. Much to my chagrin though, the movie promptly slows to a crawl and we get large chunks of time wherein Lon Chaney walks around with his hands in the pockets of his rather stylish coat and sweats.

We also spend lots of time with the detective who's been working The Butcher case for more than a year...Lieutenant Dick Chasen. I'll leave comments on that name up to you- I mean, I can't give you everything, people.

With tighter direction and better writing, Indestructible Man could've kicked ass. For example, when The Butcher does meet up with his old cronies, he wastes no time taking care of business- his eyes get all crazy and he picks people up and throws them. The problem is all the non-crazy-eyed "action", which crawls along at a dreadfully dull pace. This movie clocked in at about 80 minutes, when it should've been 60. Why pad things out? If it takes 60 minutes to tell your story well, then it takes 60 minutes. I'd rather have more Lon Chaney throwing people than Lon Chaney sweating. Oh well. It just goes to show that even movies featuring invulnerable mutes aren't always going to be great...and yes, this was shocking to me. I give it 4.5 out of 10 I need a sweet nickname like The Butchers.

Oct 26, 2006

Day 23- hoot hoot

Honestly, people, I had a hard time choosing a movie to watch today after the great heights I witnessed in Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. It's going to take some time to readjust to life outside the awesomeness of that flick. It's like I'm trying to swallow down RC Cola after being introduced to Coke...or it's like I'm getting reacquainted with civvie life after a lengthy tour of duty with the 501st Howlin' Commandos...or maybe it's like trying again to be satisfied with a crack whore after having sampled one of Heidi Fleiss's gals who's been dipped in gold. You know, whatever simile you can relate to. And yes, I realize that a Heidi Fleiss reference is terribly passe, but what can I do? Where have all the Hollywood Madames gone?

Anyway, I decided to soldier on for the benefit of humanity. I realize that there are at least 7 people who would simply be lost without Final Girl and therefore it's my duty to continue on, even though the best is now clearly behind me. In time, perhaps I'll tuck Shark Attack 3: Megalodon away in the recesses of my brain like a treasure, like a little girl's pink diary with a little gold lock and a little gold key- then , maybe, I can move on. I'll never forget Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, but other movies deserve my love, too. I have oh so much love to give.

It's a good thing I chose to watch the 1987 slasher flick Stage Fright (aka Deliria) upon my re-emergence in the world. Directed by Dario Argento collaborator Michele Soavi (who also directed the 1994 cult fave Cemetery Man), Stage Fright is a fun flick that's a little bit goofy, a little bit tense, a little bit gory, a little bit country, and a little bit rock and roll. Wait...scratch those last two.

So, the movie begins during a rehearsal of a "hip" and "edgy" musical about a guy called The Night Owl who has a large owl head mask and dances all around the stage after he kills hookers. The musical also has a woman standing on top of a building in the background playing the saxophone whilst dressed like Marilyn Monroe in that famous photo where she's standing over the subway grate and her dress is blowing up. I think perhaps in late 80's lingo "hip" means "shitty" and "edgy" means "ludicrous". Yes, of course a man in a giant owl head mask dancing all over the stage is awesome...but at this point I was thinking "Stage Fright, honey, if you're going for so-bad-it's-good, trust me- you do not want to step into the Thunderdome with Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. Two movies enter, one movie leaves...and it ain't gonna be you."

Despite the ensuing...well, retarded plot logic (OK, yes, psychiatrists are technically doctors, but this doesn't mean you should go to a mental hospital to get your sore ankle examined), to my relief Stage Fright decided it wanted to try to be a good movie- and like all good Italian slasher flicks, it actually makes sense that sense goes right out the window. What they lack in logic they make up for with style- and once the stowaway from the trip to the mental hospital steals the owl mask and lets loose in the locked theatre, the movie sure does get stylish.

Stage Fright boasts some inventive kills, strong direction, OK acting, and some pretty creepy sequences. The blood flows freely, but it's not overly grody, surprisingly enough. The last twenty minutes of the film feels a bit more like it's twenty hours, but that's alright- it had a decent ending, if bizarre. Well, the moments before the ending were decent. I can't imagine for the life of me why, after all the bloody gruesomeness that just played out, a filmmaker would choose to end the movie on a fucking freeze frame of the aforementioned saxophone-playing Marilyn Monroe looky-likey. But, I suppose, this is why I write a blog about making movies rather than actually making them. What do I know?

Stage Fright ended up stronger than its beginning promised, and boy, was I relieved. I give it 7 out of 10 owl pellets are not owl poop, but are rather the undigested feathers and bones of its prey!s.

Oct 24, 2006

Day 22- Great White

Alright, kids, I guess it's time for me to hang up my hat. I know, I know...we've all had some fun here at Final Girl. But the fact of the matter is, I have now seen the greatest movie in the history of ever and I don't see why there's any point in continuing on. Things can only go downhill from the heights of movie awesomeness reached tonight. Only one movie can stand atop the heap, King of the Cinematic Mountain, and I have been fortunate enough to have seen it. The movie?

SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON!

Ohmyfuckinggod. I really don't know what to tell you people except that this movie rocked my face off so hard that my face launched off into the atmosphere and in fact it may now be circling the Earth like a teeny tiny Stacie's face-shaped moon. Yeah, that hard.

What is there to say? Having not seen Shark Attack or Shark Attack 2, I was worried I might not have any clue as to what was going on...but it wasn't so! I caught on to things rather quickly, as if the first two Shark Attack movies didn't even matter. Perhaps I'm missing out on some subtle nuances or liet motifs running throughout the series, but I never felt lost while watching this movie. What a relief!

A Megalodon (a prehistoric-type shark with teeth the size of Nicole Ritchie's ass) has been disturbed whilst hanging out in the deepest trenches of the ocean by...umm...electricity, I guess, courtesy of miles and miles of fiber optic cable laid on the ocean floor by the evil Apex Corporation. Megalodon pissed! Megalodon attack! Who will save the day? Will it be our hero, Ben (who...umm, patrols the beachfront property of a fancy Mexican resort, looking for danger) and our heroine Cat (a paleontologist, natch)? Yes...yes it will. But not before Megaolodon gets Megalodown.

Those of you expecting thrilling shark-eats-man sequences will be...perhaps disappointed. Sure, shark do eat man, but rarely do we see man and shark in the same shot. Why? How is this possible? Well you see, in the finest tradition of Edward D Wood, Jr, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon director David Worth makes ample use of stock footage. Clear video footage of folks on a boat will cut to grainy footage of a shark at sea. With some clever editing, you won't even know there's stock footage! By "you won't even know", of course, I mean "you can always, always tell".

Fear not, action fans, because what the movie lacks in shark-eats-man action it more than make up for with hot hot WHITE HOT steering wheel and throttle action! John Woo wrings his hands and pees his pants in shame in the shadow of Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, I am sure of it.





Can you feel the action through The Internet? I bet you can! It'll leave you breathless!

Lest you think that Shark Attack 3: Megalodon is all non-stop explosive power and action, however, I want you to know that there is also time for...tenderness during all the proceedings. Yes, of course our hero and heroine get it on. There came a time in the film where I knew the consummation of the non-existent sexual tension was imminent, but the love scene was preceded by a line so jaw-dropping that I simply can not and will not give it to you. It needs to be experienced with no forewarning- it is that awesome. And speaking of awesome, said love scene culminates in the best mid-coital freeze frame/cross fade EVAR.

The Megaloaction keeps on chugging along, baby, all the way through. Just when you think the movie can't possibly get any better...just when your side cramps o' laughter have started to ease up a little bit, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon pulls out all the stops. The sequence in which The Evil Fiber Optics Magnate hops on a Sea-Doo to escape the Megalomayhem on his luxury yacht only to meet the business end of Megalodon himself gave me so much pleasure- tears rolling down my face pleasure- that I want to figure out a way to get the sequence tattooed on my body. Barring that, I may have it screen printed on a body pillow so I can hug it every night and make out with it when I'm drunk. Incidentally, by "business end" I mean "eating business"...not "do your business business".







Oh, and by the way...the shark roars. Yes, you read that right.

THE SHARK ROARS.

I hate to shock you, but Shark Attack 3: Megalodon is not a good movie. I'm not lying when I say that I absolutely fucking LOVED it, however; nor am I exaggerating when I say it is, without a shred of a doubt, the best bad movie I have ever seen in my whole entire life. I loved it so much that I'm going to ask it to marry me. I loved it so much that I want to invite each and every one of you over to watch it so I can watch you watch it- even if that sounds creepy. I loved it so much that I want to become as rich as The Evil Fiber Optics Magnate so I can buy up zillions of copies of Shark Attack 3: Megalodon and hand them out on street corners.

MegaloWHO?

I give it 10 out of 10 yeah, you read that right- 10 out of 10!s.

Oct 23, 2006

Day 21- It's trog, it's trog...

Whilst formulating my thoughts on today's treasure chest full of B-movie gold, The Pit (1981), I was checking out the film's entry on imdb to see what else the cast and crew have gotten up to. I came upon this comment, which sums up The Pit better than I could have and will therefore save me alot of time and energy:
I don't know if it's the greatest horror film ever, but it's definitely the greatest horror film in which a 12-year-old pervert is encouraged by his possessed teddy bear to push all his various enemies into a pit full of hungry troglodytes. 
 That is so, so true. That's the absolute most perfect summary, to which I can only add three things:

1) I loved this schlockfest!

2) I learned an awesome new insult I'm going to use as often as I possibly can : "Well, if it isn't Clumsy-Stupid!"

3) Here is, in my humble opinion, the greatest sequence in the film:



Is it wrong of me to have been laughing and filled with glee during a sequence wherein a sociopathic 12-year-old pushes a wheelchair-bound, blind, elderly woman into a hole in the woods where these creatures are waiting for her below?

That's weird, right? Like there's something wrong with me? Well, no matter...'cause if loving The Pit is wrong, then baby...I don't wanna be right. I give it 8.25 out of 10 go hug your grammas.

Oct 22, 2006

Day 20- art objects

Today I took a gander at director Robert Siodmak's 1946 American Gothic masterpiece, The Spiral Staircase. The word that immediately comes to mind is "remarkable".

Early in the 20th century, a black-gloved serial killer is strangling young women with various "afflictions", such as disfigurements and other handicaps. Helen Capel (Dorothy McGuire), mute since experiencing a traumatic childhood event, is likely the killer's next victim.

During one long, dark, stormy night, Helen is holed up in the Warren Mansion, where she's been tending to the bedridden Warren matriarch (Ethyl Barrymore). Before long, the killer is in the house as well- who is it? Will Helen survive, unable to call for help?

I can say, unequivocally, that I've never seen a more beautiful black and white film. Every shot in the movie, from the very first (the opening sequence is easily on par with Hitchcock's best) to the last, feels deliberate. Each moment throughout is staged and lit for maximum effect, and the cinematography (by Nicholas Musuraca) is astonishing in both focal and tonal depths. The print quality of the DVD is pristine, and I felt myself simply gawking at the screen.

Performances throughout the film range from serviceable to outstanding, in particular that of Dorothy McGuire, who manages to hold her own against the formidable Ethyl Barrymore- all without saying a word. McGuire is more than capable of conveying all the emotions required and hitting all the right notes with facial expressions and body language. Again, I could only gawk.

The Spiral Staircase is a suspenseful little gothic flick with some tense sequences- there's romance, thunderstorms, a spooky old mansion, cobwebs, a bedridden old woman, and a black-gloved killer lurking in the shadows. As a horror fan, it's easy to find traces of later horror films in evidence here; the film is undoubtedly a precursor to the gialli films of Dario Argento and company.

For all the obvious achievements of The Spiral Staircase, though, I was left emotionally unmoved. As I was watching it, I felt as if I was looking at a piece of art that I could admire aesthetically- in an academic fashion. Everything about the film was masterful, from the acting to the directing to the set design to the photography, and yet I wasn't invested beyond a simple sort of appreciation. It's tough to rate a movie like this. Should you see it? Yes. Maybe it'll affect you differently, on more levels...I don't know. It sure was pretty.

Oct 21, 2006

We interrupt this program...

...to bring you a most bitchin' news bulletin. Remember I was all excited to catch A Nightmare on Elm Street on the big screen and I don't even count NoES among my favorite horror flicks? Huh? Do ya...punk? Well then, imagine my excitement upon finding out that Halloween will be returning to the big screen for a special two-night engagement. Yes, keep imagining...you need to add some metaphorical happy dancing to that image.

Yes it's true...at select theatres around the country, Halloween (with some bonus interviews and whatnot, too!)will return to the theatre for two showings- October 30 and October 31 at 8pm. Check right here at this very link to find out if it's playing near you...I sure hope it is. We should all go on a field trip. I got my tickets- Halloween night, me and Michael Myers in a movie theatre. Now that's a three-way! A three-way of awesome.

If you'll excuse me, I need to go change my pants.

Oct 20, 2006

Day 19- Welcome to the house of fun

For reasons unknown, some time ago I added the 2005 version of House of Wax to my Netflix queue. Yeah, that House of Wax. The Dark Castle flick- Dark Castle Entertainment, of course, being the source of some of the cruddiest, most CGI-riddled "horror" crapfests, such as Gothika and Thir13en Ghosts. Of course, I do love House on Haunted Hill, but that seems to be the bright spot in their roster, no? By the way, "Thir13en" is pronounced "thirthirteenen".

Where was I? Oh yeah- that House of Wax. The flick from Dark Castle. The flick starring Paris Hilton and her eerie dead eyes. The flick starring some of today's brightest, freshest television faces, such as Elisha Cuthbert of television's 24. The flick wherein Elisha Cuthbert of television's 24 sports the hottest look of the last three years in horror- the medium-length brown hair/white tank top combo. Witness:



By the way, I vote for Jessica Biel.

A group of stock horror characters- the jock, the good girl, the good boy, the bad boy, the slut, and the annoying dude with the video camera- are driving to a big college football game in Baton Rouge. Their shortcut turns out to be a bust, and since it's getting late, they end up camping out for the night. Several plot devices later, they're split up and stranded. Some seek help in a weird Art Deco late '20s/early '30s-style town...a town not on the map, but home to a House of Wax nonetheless.

Yeah, that House of Wax.

And Charles Nelson Reilly help me...I loved it.

I had absolutely zero expectations for this movie- wait, that's not true. I was expecting to hate it. I tried, I really did. When the movie started and the annoying dude got out the video camera, I raised my right hand in the air. When a sequence that was prime for some mood-building was overpowered by some nameless pop-metal music shit, I prepared to raise my middle finger. But then...something magical happened, people. Something so magical and so rare, it was like...I don't know, finding a leprechaun riding a unicorn through a sea of golden Skittles.

The movie got good.

I don't mean "good" as in "scary good", although I'd be lying if I said there weren't some genuinely creepy moments.

No, I mean "good" as in "fun good"- not unlike the aforementioned House on Haunted Hill. The gore in this was pretty damn incredible- it was abundant and looked organic, ie not-CGI. There were many shots that would do Tom Savini proud, lemme tell ya- House of Wax really earns its R rating. I counted at least 5 occasions where my hands flew up in front of my face- not in rage, surprisingly, but in a disbelieving "HOLY SHIT!" kind of way- including the one deleted scene in the bonus features. Everyone is used and abused in this movie, including our Final Girl.

The bitchin' denoument eventually descends into some CGI-overblown-ness and the movie is probably too long for its own good. Yes, it borrows heavily from the classic slasher flick Tourist Trap, yes there are plot holes a leprechaun could ride a unicorn through, but man- I was floored by how much I liked it. It is, in a word, fun. The most fun I've had watching a horror flick this month- and that's saying something. How can you not like a flick that features a clip from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, anyway? Invite your friends over, have some beer, and watch House of Wax. You'll be in for a good, gory time. I give it 8.75 out of 10 I Can't Believe It's Not Butters.

By the way, don't you think this still of a dummy from House of Wax looks like it could be a production still from a remake of the race-reversal comedy Soul Man, starring Zach Braff of television's Scrubs in role made famous by C Thomas Howell?

Oct 19, 2006

Day 18- "Give us the eye!"

I'd heard good things about the 2002 Hong Kong horror flick The Eye, and finally decided to check it out. Something in my brain has short-circuited, however, and while I did, in fact, watch the film and enjoy it, I can't think of a damn thing to say about it.

I mean...nothing. You should turn back now before I embarrass myself any further.

No, really- go. Come back tomorrow and I'll have something to say, I swear. But today...today is a wash.

"Well, Stacie, why the hell are you writing then? Why don't you just wait until you figure out something worthwhile to say, rather than simply blathering on about nothing? Why waste my time putting all these useless words up here? What gives? You're a jerk, Stacie...a jerk."

OK, maybe you're right. I probably shouldn't be typing away if I have nothing to say, and I most definitely should not hit "publish post" when I'm done. But you know what? I'm gonna. That's right, I'm gonna! And while you're reading this and thinking "My god I'm bored!", you'll see that my next sentence is about how I knew you were going to be bored and aren't you bored right now? And let me tell you, that'll be some postmodern shit right there. Some boring ass postmodern shit.

I told you my mental capacities would deteriorate by the end of the month, didn't I? We all knew going into this endeavor that eventually it would come down to a post just like this one, right? Where I'm no longer able to formulate cohesive thoughts on film, where I just go on and on and no one cares! This is no review. This is a train wreck. Let us all hope that I come out the other side of this manic episode with a little shred of my brain remaining and perhaps, a teeny little shred of my dignity. It's doubtful, but if we all link our metaphorical pinks together and think positively, it might just happen.

You know, it's a very minor tragedy that the B-52s are most famous for "Love Shack". It sucks, and "Legal Tender" is a much better pop song.

No, I'm not drunk. I am, however, feeling used up like a late-70s Times Square hooker.

The Eye. Not bad. Some creepy moments, but I saw it and that was that. I give it 7.5 out of 10 trips to the time-out chair.

Oh, and +10 points and a designation: cool to anyone who gets the post title reference.

Oct 18, 2006

Day 17- amen

Wow, my bitching and complaining yesterday must’ve shaken something loose. Someone out in the ether heard my plaintive cries…maybe it was Jesus, or Superman, or Charles Nelson Reilly. Maybe the box of Lady Clairol Ultra Blue I opened was a magical box, or maybe my newly-dyed hair has simply given me a fresh outlook on things. Whatever it is, my spirits were lifted because…yea, I say unto thee, I have seen a good movie, and its name is Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. I’ve been wanting to see this 1971 movie FOREVER, and thanks to the recent DVD release I finally managed to check out this classic supernatural horror flick for myself. It was worth the wait, kids.

Zohra Lampert stars as the titular Jessica, looking to make a fresh start after a recent nervous breakdown. Along with her husband Duncan (Barton Heyman) and their friend Woody (Kevin O’Connor), Jessica seeks a new life on a small secluded island on a lake in Connecticut. Upon their arrival at their new home (“the old Bishop place”), Jessica and Co. find the mysterious Emily (Mariclare Costello), a beautiful hippy squatter, inside. Yes, there is such a thing.

Before long, Jessica begins hearing voices and seeing mysterious figures draped in white- has she truly recovered from her illness, or is there really something sinister going on in this idyllic small town?

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death opens with what is ultimately the last shot of the film- Jessica alone, adrift on the lake in a rowboat. In voiceover, she says:
I sit here and I can’t believe it happened. And yet, I have to believe it. Dreams or nightmares, madness or sanity. I don’t know which is which.
By the movie’s end, we’re not sure if the events that have transpired actually happened or if it was all a product of Jessica’s damaged mind…the movie raises more questions than it answers, and we’re left wondering what to think. This lack of clarity helps create an uneasy feeling in the audience, which is the whole point of this flick- to make you feel unsettled. And you know? It really works.

Director John Hancock masterfully uses visuals and sound to create a movie that feels like a dream- Jessica is about mood, not plot. There are whispered words, there are noises, there are figures lurking in the corners, just out of focus. Along with the stellar soundtrack, these elements all combine to make one creepy film. Creepy is really the only way I can describe it, and there simply aren’t enough creepy movies out there. It’s a vampire movie without the fangs and the capes. It’s a gothic movie without the puffy shirts and the castles. And the lady in the water here is much more frightening than anything M Night Shamalamadingdong could conjure up.

A huge factor in the success of this film is the performance by Zohra Lampert. She’s simply astounding in the title role, by turns sweet, charming, terrified, and tortured. It’s a multi-layered performance of a caliber you don’t often find in horror films- nuanced and mature . I wanted to give the poor thing a hug.

I realize I maybe haven’t told you anything concrete about this film- it’s really one you should experience without knowing much about it first. However, I can’t say I’d recommend this film to hardcore fans of modern horror- Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is not a linear film that spoon-feeds the audience. It’s not flashy and it’s not full of action and jump cuts and gore. It’s a subtle film, one that aims to hypnotize rather than dazzle. It’s about mood and style and the unexplained and imagination and the mind…and if your tastes in horror run more towards the sensational action-packed or exploitation flicks, you’re going to be bored. Fans of Hostel, move along…there’s nothing to see here.

They really don’t make ‘em like this anymore. I was mesmerized, and I give it 9 out of 10 magic boxes of hair dye.

Oct 17, 2006

Day 16- ...and when she was bad...

Here I am, halfway into Shocktober '06, and I just feel kinda...meh. I need a movie that's gonna rock my face off from beginning to end- a new movie, that is. Everything I watched this past Saturday got my juices flowing, of course, but I'd seen them all before. I want some brand new superstar to come busting out and rock my face off hard. Is that so much to ask? IS IT? I should hope not. Wherefore art thou, hidden treasure that I love so much I want to take to bed with me and tuck away under my pillow so we can be close? Wherefore art thou, dammit? It's getting so I'm simply going to watch and review The Haunting every day and that'll be that.

Today's feature film was Madhouse (1981), aka There Was A Little Girl. I was pretty into this flick for the first 45 minutes or so, but my fervor petered away by the end. The result, sadly, was a Tiffany...which as you may well remember is my code word for a "coulda been". Coulda been good...started out strong, but pooped out before the finish line. Man, I hate that.

Trish Everly stars as Julia, a super sweet teacher at a school for the deaf. Her students adore her, she's got a mustachioed boyfriend, and her birthday is fast approaching. Sounds like heaven on earth, right? Sure it does...but we cannot have heaven without hell, can we? No! We cannot! And in Ovidio Assonitis's movie, hell is in...THE MAAAAADHOUUUUUSE!

Sorry. I'm just trying to jazz things up a bit.

Anyway, Julia's got a twin sister Mary, see, and Mary totally used to, like, torture Julia- stick her with pins, threaten to sic the dog on her, make her cry- you know, the kind of stuff kids get up to. Mary ended up in the so-called "mad" "house" and is wasting away with a disfguring skin disease. Against her better judgment, Julia goes to visit Mary. Mary, all scabby and grody-faced, still has a boner for torturing her sister. She tells Julia that she'll make sure their impending birthday will be one Julia will never forget! *insert evil, maniacal laughter* By "never forget", we can assume that Mary means to do Julia harm, not that she's going to take her to Ragin' Waters Fun Park for the day. Poor Julia.

Mary makes good on her promise in short order; she escapes the MAAAADHOUUUUSE and, with the assistance of her trusty sidekick dog (Ol' Smilin' Rotty, as I called him), sets about killing most of the people in Julia's life. She even goes so far as to have Ol' Smilin' Rotty kill one of Julia's students...it's all offscreen, but you gotta admire a flick that has the balls to kill a deaf kid. Them balls be brass, my friends.


At this point in the proceedings, I was hooked. I mean, I was so hooked I was planning on taking Madhouse out to dinner this weekend...maybe some coffee afterwards. A little small talk, a little of this and that, and who knows where the night would have led? I mean, I'm all about movies with twins wherein one twin is evil. To me, that's all the setup I need and it I'm totally in. How can you go wrong with the old evil twin routine? The only way a movie with the evil twin angle can possibly be improved upon is if it stars the Sagal Twins. Even without them, though, you're good as gold- especially when the evil twin has a disfiguring terminal skin condition.

So what went wrong with Madhouse? The plot wound out of control, that's what happened. If you've got an evil twin, just go with it. Suddenly there was another killer and lots of dead air and a corpse birthday party that went on far too long. And you know, I love a corpse birthday party almost as much as I love an evil twin. It's a horror/slasher staple! But nonetheless, you've got to keep some forward momentum or the movie will fall apart despite the awesome elements. That's what happened here- once the second killer was revealed, the proceedings ground to a halt. The remaining kill sequences were incredibly dull and drawn out, and any promise the first two-thirds of the film had vanished.

Of course, it didn't help that the sound quality of the film was wretched...so wretched, in fact, that I couldn't make out alot of the dialogue. It's hard to be in the moment when you have no idea what people are talking about.

I'm bummed this flick petered out- I was so excited early on. It's still got enough good stuff to warrant a look-see- I mean...evil twin, corpse party, decent effects...and Trish Everly plays a decent lead. Ultimately, however, my face was not rocked off. My face remains firmly in place. I give it 6 out of 10 jars of Noxema.

Oh, and just because this face cracks me up...

Oct 16, 2006

Day 15- Deja Vu

It's not very often that you see one film blatantly rip off another nearly plot point by plot point. Oh sure, there are derivatives and descendants and homages...and then there's Jennifer (1978). Can you think of any other horror films whose titles are a girl's first name? Hmm? Maybe one that came around two years previous to this one? I'll give you a hint: Brian DePalma's 1976 masterpiece of horror, Carrie, based on the Stephen King book of the same name. Oh, sure, you're thinking...OK, the titles are similar, but surely that's as far as it goes. Well, if you don't believe me, let's just run down the list, shall we?

+outcast girl picked on by more popular schoolmates (Carrie: Sissy Spacek is shy and naive; Jennifer: Lisa Pelikan is a "hillbilly bitch" at a posh school)

+crazy cuckoo nutso religious fanatic single parent (Carrie: mom; Jennifer: dad)

+ally comes in the form of a teacher (Carrie: gym teacher; Jennifer: science teacher)

+big disco dance (Carrie: prom; Jennifer: unidentified party)

+outcast girl reluctant to use mental powers out of fear (Carrie: telekinesis; Jennifer: err...she makes snakes appear and she can command them)

+outcast girl finally pushed to limit and uses powers to exact revenge (Carrie: prom night-n-pigs blood; Jennifer: on a parking garage roof after being kidnapped)

+outcast girl's arch-enemy killed (Carrie: car crash; Jennifer: car crash)

OK, I think I've proved my point. So then, exactly where do these movies differ? Well, most of all it's just a matter of quality. Carrie is one of the best, and Jennifer is a pale imitation. Carrie has the incredible performances by Sissy Spacek and Amy Irving, Brian DePalma's swift direction, the absolutely frightening Piper Laurie, and...Nancy Allen. Jennifer's advantages over its predecessor are:

+liberal use of the word 'skag'

+giant puppet snake head

+Jennifer has her own theme song ("There's magic in your naaaaaame!")

+liberal use of Bert Convy

I love Bert Convy...I don't know why. Maybe because he was such a staple in my formative years, what with the Love Boat appearances and the Win, Lose , or Draw craze and girl, don't even get me started on The Cannonball muthafuckin Run.

The one glaring difference between these two very similar films is the behavior of the title character's antagonists. Sure, Chris is a bitch. It's really, really not cool to throw tampons at someone in the shower, and the whole pig's blood thing was...well, awful and humiliating. But the characters in Carrie are very real- Tommy (William Katt) and Sue (Amy Irving) are kind and sympathetic to Carrie, which in turn counterbalances the behavior of the film's villain, Chris (Nancy Allen). And yeah, she's bitch, but, pig's blood aside, Chris never engaged in much more than teasing and pranks. The impact on Carrie was devastating, but you know, that's the way girls act. Girls are really cruel to each other- even towards their friends, never mind the girl who gets picked on. In fact, the cruelty females exhibit toward one another in adolescence frequently continues on into adulthood. To quote...Will Rogers, I think it was...women are fucked up, dude.

In Jennifer, though, the girls are downright psychopathic. Jennifer's arch-enemy, Sandra (Amy Johnston) will stop at nothing to get Jennifer kicked out of school. She throws Jennifer's clothes in the pool. She cracks eggs on her books. She steals Jennifer's clothes after a swim, takes pictures of the girl while she's naked, and posts them on school bulletin boards. She tries to drown her. She kills Jennifer's favorite cat. Sandra orchestrates the rape of another girl who won't go along with her plans. Eventually she and her mob of thugs kidnap Jennifer in the middle of the night- and if it weren't for Jennifer's magic snake hoodoo saving the day, we can assume the plan was to kill the poor girl. The teenagers in Jennifer aren't very realistic...I'm not even sure if they're human.

All that said, however, I didn't hate Jennifer. It moved along at a fairly good pace and I actually enjoyed it for some reason. Maybe because I'd seen it all before...or maybe it was the Bert Convy. I give it 6 out of 10 Bolex watches.

Oct 15, 2006

Day 14- The Twilight Zone

The word "heartburn" is a good word because the word itself provides you with its meaning, unlike, say, the word "chair". And so, unlike, say Just Before Dawn, the title of today's film, Class Reunion Massacre (1976), tells you exactly what to expect from it. In a general sense, yes, there is a class reunion and yes, people die at the hands of a killer. Sounds like your typical slasher flick set-up, right? You're not a fool for thinking so. The final product, however, is far, far different from the typical slasher movie...I think director Constantine Gochis trying to go for some type of gialli-feel, but what we end up with in the end can only be described with one word: really, really fucking bizarre. OK, that's a couple of words...but I'm a girl, math is hard.

A boy in ill-fitting clothes rises up from a river and gets onto a bus. He finds a sleeping priest and stands next to the priest's bed. As the boy's shadow flickers, the priest...grows a second thumb. Later, the priest gives a real fire-and-brimstone sermon about people being punished for their sins. To make good on his sermon, The Redeemer (that's his nifty moniker and also the film's alternate title: The Redeemer: Son of Satan!) arranges a "class reunion" in order to punish the intended guests for their sins- sins like...going to bars, being wealthy, being a lesbian, and...umm...being an attorney. I think. It's a little vague. Anyway, the former students are trapped in the school. The Redeemer kills them. Then...the boy in the ill-fitting clothes returns. The second thumb transfers from The Redeemer to the boy, then the boy walks back into the river- the end. The movie really makes even less sense that I've explained it here, if you can believe it.

It's a confusing, bizarre mess of a movie...and yet, I loved it loved it loved it in that "this is so bad it just hurts so good" kinda way. The movie is better understood if you just see it rather than have me try to explain why it's so awesome. I'll do my best to get my point across, however. I mean, how can you NOT love a movie with the following:

-An odd marionette acting as the killer's assistant! (that's a sword in the second picture, by the way)


-A kill sequence that bears more of a resemblance to a 1970s Breck commercial than to anything scary!
-A single shot which contains someone who reacts to the dead body in front of him with a surreptitious yawn and...The Littlest Necktie!


-A killer who has more costumes than a fucking Ben Cooper factory, most of them laughably awful and not at all frightening!





So, Class Reunion Massacre. It's not scary. It makes so little sense that at least three times in the first 15 minute I yelled out a "WHAT?". The acting is deliciously atrocious. In short, it's a terrible movie...but a wonderful gem of a terrible movie. If that's not your sort of thing, I'd steer clear. It's totally my sort of thing, though, especially after all the good scary stuff I watched yesterday. I give it 8 out of 10 bouncin' and behavin' hairdos.