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!

Mar 26, 2008

And I heard? This one time...

Ah, the urban legend. We've all heard countless tales of people dying when they consume soda and Pop Rocks simultaneously, or that guy who woke up to find "Aren't you glad you didn't turn on the light?" scrawled in blood on his wall, or "No really, my sister's friend totally knew this chick who got this cactus from Mexico and then one day she went to the doctor because she had really bad cramps and it turns out that all these spiders that were living in the cactus built a nest inside of her and all these baby spiders came out of her vagina." Good times, good times. Urban legends have long provided fodder for horror movies- horror movies like, uh, Urban Legend, Urban Legends: The Final Cut, and Urban Legends: Bloody Mary.

Fingerprints (2006) is supposedly based on one of these tall tales, but it's a new one to me: if you put your car in neutral on these train tracks where a bunch of kids died in an accident, the ghosts of the children will push your car to safety and leave behind ghostly fingerprints on your car windows. It all seems plausible to me- kids are always leaving filthy, greasy fingerprints everywhere in life, so why not in the afterlife?

feel the terror

In 1957 in an unnamed small town, a bus full of smiling, singing children meets the business end of a train when the guard and signal light at the track crossing fail. Ever since that dark and stormy night, the citizens of Unnamed Town have experienced a strange phenomenon at the site of the accident: if you put your ear to the train tracks, you can just make out the faint strains of Carol Channing singing "Hello, Dolly!"

No wait, sorry. What I meant was, if you put your car in neutral on the tracks, it'll roll off. Not nearly as exciting as Carol Channing, but still.

Melanie (Leah Pipes) arrives in Unnamed Town fresh out of rehab, ready to start life afresh and reunite with her bitch-cuckoo mom, her pushover-whipped dad, and her bland-hot sister (Kristin Cavallari). Boy, lemme tell ya, kicking heroin was a walk in the park compared to life in Unnamed Town for poor Melanie! Kids in school are mean because she's an ex-druggie, this one boy from school totally tries to rape her, and this little mute girl named Julie keeps following her everywhere.

As you could expect from any teenage girl, Melanie decides to solve The Mystery of Julie. Over several days of wacky adventures, she digs around the abandoned bus depot, talks to the town drunk, sees messages written in blood in various places, and chats with Sally Kirkland. It turns out that Julie is Sally Kirkland's sister- and one of the children who died in the horrible bus accident all those years ago! It might have been a shocking twist if we hadn't seen Julie riding the bus at the beginning of the film.

And yes, I'm calling Sally Kirkland Sally Kirkland instead of her character name, because it's just better that way.

Lest ye think you've got it all figured out, however, Fingerprints continues to deliver twists and turns, oh my brothers and sisters. Someone, you see, is killing the teenagers of Unnamed Town...who could it be?

no really, feel the terror

It's someone in a train conductor's outfit, that's who! Yup: after about a half hour of...well, nothing, Fingerprints turns into a slasher film. Melanie continues to get her Columbo on and finds out a bunch of crap that makes only a little sense: the bus accident never happened, someone was actually killing children back in 1957, there was some Nightmare on Elm Street-style justice, something about building highways and knocking down depots, and Sally Kirkland sports an "I do declare!" southern accent for no apparent reason.

a slumming Lou Diamond Phillips feels the terror, literally

All in all, it's a terribly dull affair. There's not much action to be found, and what little there is is decidedly unscary. The town history is convoluted, the ghosts don't do much, the slasher-style killings are cheesy, and the effects range from "meh" to "worst fake blood ever" to "holy shit, I totally forgot we're filming the graveyard scene today- someone run to Hobby Lobby, buy some styrofoam, and make some gravestones stat!"

Believe me, I'm all for movies with super-fake gravestones...unless the movie is just plain boring, as is Fingerprints. The only time I sat up and really took notice of the goings-on- and I mean literally sat up- happened in the last 15 seconds of the film. After yet another twist that made zero sense, there was this shot of a car swerving all over the road (due to, you know, terror)...but the footage was sped up and I swear, it looked like something straight out of Benny fucking Hill. It was an incredibly bizarre choice by the filmmakers, and probably the highlight of the movie.

"I do declare! I feel the terror!"

Given the general suckitude of this flick, it should come as no surprise that it lingered on the shelf for a couple of years: though it was produced in 2006, it was released on DVD only yesterday.

Oh my God, I heard about this girl? Who watched a horror movie that totally stunk and she was so bored the whole time! She ate a piece of cake, though, while she watched it and the cake was good. And then spiders came out of her vagina, I swear! I know her roommate.


Ryne said...

That picture of Carol Channing is the scariest part of your post.

Aaron Soto said...

I remember watching a piece on this urban legend on tv back on the 80's, the cars really moved by itself, i even remember seeing the fingerprints, but it was mexican tv, so it might be El Chapulin Colorado show.

Aarón Soto
(from the happiest place on earth: Tijuana)

JA said...

And now Sally Kirkland drinks mint juleps on the veranda... IN HELL!

I love that crazy broad. Kirkland, that is, not Channing. Channing scares me too much. We all have our limits.

Anonymous said...

Not really related to anything in the post, but you might enjoy this link:

Rural Juror said...

I would have thought Kriten Cavallari would have been the first sign that something was amiss

Nayana Anthony said...

Welcome to the LAMB!

And congrats on the are faboo.

Meg said...

The scariest thing about this post for ME was the part where you mentioned there was a third Urban Legends movie and I went, "There was a third Urban Legends movie?!" and then promptly added it to my Netflix queue. Even knowing, as I full well do, that it's going to be REALLY BAD, I still could not resist. Is there rehab for this sort of thing? A 12-step program?

Theron said...

Wow, Melanie get her Columbo on? I wish her luck. My Columbo was always tight in the crotch...not that that's a bad thing. Actually, My McCloud always fit much better...

Wes Fierce said...

I actually watched this a few weeks ago, out of sheer boredom. Its astonishing to me that someone could write a screenplay that is so inept.

I think LDP's blaze of glory seered by cornea's.

Stacie Ponder said...

JA- I'm with you on the Kirkland love. She's one of those wackos I've known about since I was, like, ten...though I'm not sure if a ten-year-old name-dropping Sally Kirkland is cool or loserish to the max.

Thanks for the welcome, nayana! LAMB kind of rules. It's a great resource, and I've already discovered some sweet blogs through it.

Meg, I've heard that Bloody Mary really sucks, which bums me out as it was directed by Mary Lambert...and I think the Bloody Mary legend has some real potential for scariness if done right.

Theron, I think you should end all of your comments with a "ba dum tish" rim shot.

Theron said...

...thanks, I'm here all week...

Wes Fierce said...

oh yeah and...

@Meg- ULBM, directed by Mary Lambert (Pet Sematary), actually has a few decent death scenes, including an impressive mirror shattering scene, and a death that was done again in Final Destination 3 about 8 months after ULBM was released.

It kicks the shit out of IAKWYDLS, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Stacie this urban legend is indeed based on real happenings in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas

Supposedly, people go down to the site of the accident at night, park their car on the tracks, sprinkle baby powder (!), and get back in the car.

While waiting the car starts to move and little handprints start showing up all over the windows

It’s the kids trying to save you.

My theo and a couple of my cousins actually did it one time and they swear it happened just as the legend says.

Lee said...

We have that same urban legend in San Antonio. When my sister and her friends were in high school, they tried to find the Ghost Tracks, but they got lost and ended up in China Grove (oh, oh, China Grove) instead.

Bloody Mary said...

I just saw the third Urban Legends movie, and then the first. I'm going to review them as soon as I see the second.

As long as you expect the third movie (Urban Legends:Bloody Mary) to be really cheesy, I think you'll enjoy it a lot, I did! It's a little like Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou.

Old Dark Housekeeper said...

I heard this really nasty story about Carol Channing.

But I can't retell it because I'd be betraying the friend of a friend.

ARBOGAST said...

"I don't remember eating corn!"

Old Dark Housekeeper said...

Heh... do you know my friend of a friend?

ARBOGAST said...

Good lord, that story is practically an urban legend itself!

Adam said...

From your description the movie sounds like a mixture of "Chinatown", a Faulkner novel, and early 80's slasher (with the costume themed killer). The thought of said film makes my brain do cartwheels in jello pudding, and should have been the greatest film of all time. Too bad they squandered the opportunity.
Damn! That is one broke-ass headstone! Was Julie Lynn Pearl a pauper or something? I love how they ran out of room and couldn't put a date of death.

Stacie Ponder said...

Oh, Adam, if only it were 1/1,000,000 as good as the film in your brain!

Each kid involved in the bus accident had one of those ghetto-ass gravestones. They look terrible alone, but sticking them in a graveyard next to REAL markers wasn't the best idea, I must say.

iagogo said...

So much better would be a horror adaptation of the Leonard Cohen song "Fingerprints" from Death of a Ladies' Man.

"I touched you once too often /
Now I don't know who I am / My fingerprints were missing / When I wiped away the jam / Yes I called my fingerprints all night / But they don't seem to care / The last time that I saw them / They were leafing through your hair"

I'm imagining something in the vein of early Cronenberg? or Andrzej Zulawski's Possesion (the one with Isabelle Adjani & Sam Neill)...

Hell, I'd pay to see it.

Anonymous said...

For years and years I have been wondering, where do all the cleverist people in the world go to prove how darn clever they are? Well, I found it right here on this very blog! Clearly Bill Gates and Noam Chomsky and Salman Rushie and Al Gore can't hold a candle to the witty comments found here. I mean, what the world needs more than low budget horror movies are self-appointed, liberal arts educated (in two years after graduating high school)critics who can come home, crank up the old iPod and write clandestine commenteries as an escape from their 9-5 asskiss fest jobs. I mean, success in life isn't about money or fame or family or health, it's about how many pop culture references you can stick in a single paragraph. I am reminded of the scene in Manhattan where Diane Keaton and Michael Murphy are listing their candidates for The Academy of the Overrated featuring such talentless hacks as Scott Fitzgerald and Gustav Mahler. If you people spend as much time being clever as you do pretending to be clever maybe there would be better movies out there!

Stacie Ponder said...

"For years and years I have been wondering, where do all the cleverist people in the world go to prove how darn clever they are?"

For years and years, anonymous? Really? Surely those years could have been spent doing something far more, perhaps, figuring out that "cleverist" isn't really a word, or maybe learning how to spell words such as "commentaries".

I'm amazed, though, at how well you've got me pegged: how you know that this blog is only a means to escape my 9 to 5 doldrums (because making comic books and writing about movies are such terrible day jobs, and yes, the ass-kissing is so tiresome!) and how I only write this blog in a "clandestine" fashion. Here I sit in a dark alley, typing away bedecked in sunglasses, a wig, and a large floppy hat so no one will notice me.

You know what I've been wondering for minutes and minutes now? Why people feel the need to anonymously post negative, rambly, barely-coherent comments on blogs they don't enjoy. Why not know...go away?

Maybe if you spent as much time writing as you do wondering about what other people do and posting douche-y anonymous comments, then YOU could start a blog of your won and show everyone how it's done!

iagogo said...

Risking egotism, I might read the anyonymous hissyfit less as an attack on Ms. Ponder and more as an indictment of my own comment immediately preceding it (and of others that might resemble mine in the [relative] obscurity of their references.)

Of course, the anonymous tantrum is not without a grain of Hallmark-card-style truth.

If it didn't read like the raving of a pubescent drunk, I might feel personally wounded. After all, anyonymous apparently has Bill Gates, Noam Chomsky, Salman Rushie and Al Gore on his team -- that's one tough (if less-than-photogenic) gang of brutes to rumble with.

I've never had the patience for a "9-5 asskiss fest job", I've never so much as touched an iPod, and as for that "liberal arts 2 years after high school" bit, well, I really have no idea what that is even supposed to mean.

But it's true that on those longest darkest nights of the soul, I have sometimes questioned my own ability to accurately measure "success in life".

Oh how I wish the Gospel of Anonymous was just a little longer, for I ache to learn the true distinction between "being clever" and "pretending to be clever".

And Manhattan -- hell, misguided as I am, I might not even have ranked it among Woody Allen's best. Previously, that is. For now, I can at last see it for the Grail that it must be.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I'm late to the party, but what the HELL is that thing the Killer Conductor is using to impale the annoying teeangers of No-Name Town? At the end when it's finally revealed in total, it looks like a cartoonishly large railroad spike.