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...beware yon spoilers!

Jul 30, 2010

awesome movie poster friday - the HOUSE edition, part one!

3D CROTCH!

Sorry, it had to be said. You'll see why.

Anyway, there's so much House-y goodness that the theme simply cannot be contained in one mere Awesome Movie Poster Friday. Stay tuned next week for more!

Meanwhile, this poster for House of the Devil:


...always strikes me as the love child of this poster for The Boogeyman:


...and this poster for The Unseen:


Onward!





















Jul 28, 2010

for your ears only

Okay, that post title is misleading: tonight's episode of The Scare-ening is for everyone's ears. Sorry. Still, if you sing the post title in your best Sheena Easton voice you'll feel fine. Trust me. I've done it. I'm even doing it now!

Anyway, listen to the show. 8pm for you west coasties, 11pm for those of you who follow a more easterly bent. Tonight Heidi and I welcome comic writer Dirk Manning (Nightmare World) to our world of swearing and bitterness. Join in the fun, won't you? WON'T YOU??

no lie!

My first thought upon waking up this morning:
The football-with-a-sword attached is really an inefficient weapon. You have to build the thing, then figure out a way to carry it around without anyone noticing, and then you have to find someone stupid enough to catch it.
I'm not sure what this says about me. Simply that it's time to watch Graduation Day? Or is it a cry for help? Should I dive deeper into the world of horror movies, or get the eff out? Madonna was so right: life really is a mystery!

Jul 27, 2010

Bloggenaire: Craig Moorhead, Your Guignol is Grand

If you paid attention to the names of the members of yesterday's Film Club Coolies (or, you know, visited their sites), then surely you spotted Craig Moorhead's Your Guignol is Grand. I always enjoy reading Craig's take on various films or even the genre itself- but he doesn't blog enough for my liking. Maybe if we all band together and visit his site a whole mess, it'll be seen as some sort of call to action and he'll write more. Internet Citizen Power!

1) What's the key moment that led you to click that "Start Your Blog" button?

Pretty much when it became at all conceivable to do so and after a much more talented friend of mine put up his own site. This was waaaaaaay before I had anything to blog about, which is what I like to call being ahead of the curve. (The friend's site no longer exists, else I'd send you there, as it was totally sweet.)

2) Please describe your blog in no more than 3 sentences. You must include the words / phrases "morbid", "aesthetic", and "electromagnetic".

I will describe the blog in just one sentence. It will also rhyme and that is how I will impress everyone. 'Your Guignol is Grand' blogs the morbid aesthetic / with panache and verve that's electromagnetic.

3) Bearing in mind that opinions are subjective (except mine because I'm always right), do you enjoy movies that are generally considered "bad"? Why or why not?

This depends. Are 'Night of the Creeps' and 'Final Destination 3' bad? If so, then yes, I do. And people shouldn't judge horror films so harshly. But if not, then hell no I don't! I only watch the best! Why would I waste my time on such trash?

Why: bad horror movies are less predictable and 100% funnier than good horror movies.

Why not: Good horror movies are scary, and that's what I came for - the scary.

4) Did you know that there exists one variety of carnivorous parrot? It's true. They live in the mountains of New Zealand, and they eat the fat surrounding the kidneys of sheep- WHILE THE SHEEP ARE ALIVE. It's horrible.

I did know that - it is called the Kea and resides in New Zealand. But then my day job is at National Geographic. Advantage - nerd.

5) What's the one- ONE- horror movie you love so much you want to stick it down your pants?

My pants movie is definitely 'Poltergeist'. Saw it in the theater when I was six and I blame it for my life long horror-ahol addiction. If I'm wearing something baggy, I'd get 'The Thing' and 'Halloween' down there, too.

6) Adrienne Barbeau. Discuss.

Adrienne came into my life through 'Creepshow' and she's been here in the living room ever since. Great actress, intense presence, kind of a mooch.

7) Why should people bother to read your blog?

Oh, guys - it's a really good read! And it's not just a bunch of press releases about junk coming out, whether or not it's any good. It's about stuff I'm excited about. And if you want, you can leave comments about what you're excited about and we can talk that way and then I can find new stuff. It's so much fun, you guys! You gotta see!

8) Where does Jigsaw get all the money he needs to build all those traps and buy all that warehouse space? Better yet, does he have some sort of engineering background? He must, right, if he designs all that crap?

It sort of makes sense that he'd be a super-rich geek, doesn't it? There but for the grace of Microsoft goes Bill Gates, ya know?

9) Several theories regarding the reasons why people would subject themselves to watching horror films (when they're so, you know, traumatic) exist. Which is closest in line with your feelings on and reactions to the genre? Feel free to elaborate. Or don't, see if I care.

a) RELIEF THEORY: The unpleasant feelings of distress cause more stimulating feelings of relief when the unpleasantness passes- the stressed arousal caused by fear becomes pleasurable arousal later on.

b) CONTINUOUS REWARD: The excitement felt during the film is the appeal in and of itself.

c) SOCIAL THEORIES:
1) Stereotypical gender roles are reinforced: men act as protectors, women need protection.
2) Violating social norms- watching "deviant" entertainment- is exciting.
3) Experiencing heightened emotions with others makes us feel like we "belong" and we're truly part of a group.

Boy. Jeez. Gosh. Hold up... calculator. Okay. It's not C.1 or C.3, I know that. And it's not really A. I'd say it's primarily B and C.2 I'll show my work below:

I love being scared and always have. This is closely related to loving comedy and laughing. It's all about suspense and surprise. They work exactly the same way, just in different tones. This is why those in the horror world tend to have pretty great senses of humor and why Jerry Lewis once made a movie about a clown that led children to the ovens during the holocaust. Horror and comedy are conjoined twins. So if I'm watching a movie and feeling scared, I am totally being continuously rewarded (B).

If the movie goes after polite society in some way, that's great, too. Especially when it has a specific societal target it is attacking. One fun example is 'The Faculty', which put forth the message 'If you sniff white powder, you are a cool human being. If not, you are an alien from another world.' That kind of thing is great. Torture porn is not included in this category, however. (C.2)

10) Which year produced better horror movies: 1977 or 1981? Why?

'81. '77 has lots of good stuff, but '81 has the best mix of good and bad. It had stuff like American Werewolf in London, The Burning, Friday the 13th and Evil Dead on the good side and Final Exam, Ghost Story, and Heartbeeps on the bad. It was a trippy time for horror movies, fighting against the growing conservative atmosphere of the Reagan administration and stumbling around like a drunk, headless chicken trying to figure out the slasher formula. Hilarious and terrifying. Simply the best.

11) What the eff is up with those French and their crazy horror flicks?

Yeah, I know, right?

12) What's your favorite Animals Run Amok movie?

'Jaws' is pretty much the best made horror movie about an animal goin' nuts on somebody, but that answer feels pedestrian. Let's say 'The Giant Gila Monster' instead, since 'Jaws' doesn't include much hotrod action and 'Gila Monster' - oh my God - really does.

13) If Jason Voorhees is on a train heading east at 80mph and Leatherface is on a train heading west at 65mph…why the hell would anyone ever watch Rob Zombie's Halloween?

To prove to everyone that nothing is sacred.

Then later to prove to yourself that some things are, indeed, sacred.

14) What are your funereal wishes?

I have a deal with the wife - we'll have a family plot, a great big cast iron display of me in a rocking chair (totally encased in cast iron) sitting next to a fire place. Since she'll be cremated, she'll be in the fireplace. Assorted dead pets will be napping nearby.

15) Why do I have such a fondness for Shelley Hack? It's not like she's really done much to deserve it, but there it is.

The Stepfather. Sometimes that's all you need. Bam.

16) You're on a sinking ghost ship that's being piloted by a witch. What are your last words?

"What was it I wrote on that questionnaire that time?"

17) Asking about your funereal wishes and your last words means nothing, I swear.

Wait - "funereal" wishes? Would that be, like, I wish sorrow? Or just a sad wish? Is this a trick of some kind?

18) Do you know where I can get some lye?

I don't, but back to the "funereal" wishes. It obviously means something, else you wouldn't have spelled it like that twice. Goddang it. I'm perplexed.

19) Weren't you glad when THAT JERK in THAT HORROR MOVIE got what was coming to him?

Yes - the baby in 'Dead/Alive'. That's one of the most satisfying monster deaths ever.

Wait, holy shit - I just got that 'lye' comment...

20) Overall, what’s your favorite era of horror films?

It's the 80s, all the way. It was never simultaneously scarier and dorkier than that. The best.

21) Would you rather be:

1) a vampire
2) a witch/warlock
3) a werewolf
4) a Frankenstein (and yes, I know technically it’s “Frankenstein’s monster” but “a Frankenstein” sounds better)
5) a Jaws

I think a warlock. Because he's not as played out as a vampire, but he's still got all his smarts and junk, even when he does monstrous stuff. And he looks like Julian Sands, prolly, which doesn't hurt. So, yeah. Warlock.

22) If you could turn back time- if you could find a way- would you take back those words that hurt me, so I’d stay?

I've seen 'The Time Machine' and 'The Time Travelers Wife' and that one part in 'Superman' and, Stacie, I've seen what happens to time travelers. It is NO JOKE. So - no.

23) What's something you want people to know about you or your blog that I didn't ask?

On Thursdays I blog in my underpants.
----------------------
Big thanks to Craig! Stay tuned for another exciting episode of...THE BLOGGENAIRES!

Jul 26, 2010

Film Club: The House of the Devil

FINALLY, everyone in the universe can get off my back about Ti West's The House of the Devil (2009) because I've FINALLY seen it. No more will I quietly stand outside the Cool Kids Club, face pressed against the glass whilst everyone inside clinks their glasses of Riunite and talks about "atmosphere" and "scares" and "throwback"! That's right, folks- I still may not be cool enough to venture inside the Cool Kids Club, but now I can yell "I agree with whatever it is you're saying in there!" as everyone clinks drinks and links pinks in a big "We Love House of the Devil" caring circle.

The film is incredibly light on plot: Sam (Jocelin Donahue) is a college sophomore who's just rented her first apartment. In need of some quick cash, she answers a "babysitter wanted" ad posted around campus. Sam's pal Megan (Greta Gerwig) drives her to the Ulman house, which is far away from everything, nestled in the woods down a long, desolate road.

Upon arrival, Mr. Ulma (Tom Noonan) tells Sam that she won't be watching a child, but rather "Mother", tucked away in an upstairs bedroom. She won't be a bother, and the Ulmans are desperate for the help. Megan warns Sam that it's all way too weird; the Ulmans are liars and the disproportionate pay is too good to be true. With a big check to write to her new landlord in a few days' time, Sam is as desperate as her employers and she decides to stay. If you've ever seen a horror movie before, then you know that's totally the wrong decision.

The House of the Devil is a time capsule. It's set in 1983, and it's certainly got all the trappings of the era: the giant Walkman, the high-waisted jeans, the rotary phones; but writer/director/editor Ti West goes deeper than that. It's not about the superficial elements, but rather the filmmaking style itself that's a glimpse into the past. The pacing is ponderous and languid. The shots are long and uninterrupted- West's hand is assured and his camera placement deliberate. Samantha walks a lot- she walks to school, she walks through her dorm, she walks throughout the Ulman house, she walks down hallways and more hallways- and West shows every minute of it. The backend of the film is weighted with the action- things explode in the last 15 minutes much the way they do in John Carpenter's Halloween. Until that point, it's about building; unlike the majority of modern horror films, House of the Devil abides by the tenet that it's not the happening, it's the waiting for the happening that puts a knot in your stomach.

On the flip side, that waiting for something might bore you to tears. The payoff may not be as grand as you hoped or expected- as I mentioned, it's a thin film story-wise even during the climax. In fact, the wrap-up isn't particularly fresh or original- in fact, it got to me but it's oddly the weakest, if bloodiest, portion of the film- and I think gripes about the plot (or lack thereof) are legitimate. The film is really an example of style over substance, only the style at work here isn't the modern music video jump cut-laden one that befalls most modern horror. There's really nothing deeper at play here, and that's going to be enough for you or it's not. As for me, I suppose in this case it was enough as I was all about it. I bought into everything hook, line, sinker, and whatever else is in the tackle box. By the time Samantha put on her headphones and danced around to The Fixx, I suddenly realized that I was nervous. This film got under my skin and I didn't even know it until it was too late.

West's direction is bolstered by some terrific acting. As Sam, Donahue charms us into believing that even smart people do stupid things when they're broke. I'm almost ashamed of how happy it made me to see Dee Wallace and Mary Woronov in this. I know I was grinning stupidly and I don't care. I'll be clutching my "late 70s-early 80s horror movies FUCK YEAH" pennant in my coffin. My one complaint is that I wanted more Greta Gerwig, whose Megan was a brand of quirky I could get behind. Even in such little screen time, she became one of my favorite horror movie characters in recent memory. I'm gonna hold out hope for a Megan-centric prequel. It could happen, right?

While your mileage may vary, I think I was born to love The House of the Devil. It's a slice of horror cinema from my favorite horror era, sure, but it also got me walkin' through the park and reminiscin' about those heady days when Satanists were all the rage- and man, they were. They were out there, trolling the countryside in their Satanmobiles, looking for people to sacrifice and...and...Satanize and...well, no one was really sure what they were doing. But we were all afraid of the roving cults of Devil worshippers! My friends and I were convinced there was a "devil church" tucked waaaaaay up in the woods that were located a good drive out into the middle of nowhere. We went off in search of it several times but we'd inevitably get too scared and head home before long- probably because we always tried to find it after the sun went down. We never found it, but we talked to people who totally did. They couldn't tell us what they actually saw, but they saw the place, for reals! The truth of it didn't matter, though, it was the possibility. Sometimes that's enough, and maybe that's why I'm a sucker for movies like The House of the Devil.

So, what, nostalgia? Yeah, that's a part of my enjoyment of this film, sure. An unexamined life may not be worth living, but once in a while it's good to merely let it happen, too. As a horror fan, I'm thrilled Ti West has proven that "they don't make 'em like they used to" is no longer a given. He's got the style, now he just needs the substance.


Film Club Coolies, y'all!

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