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 26, 2012

gather 'round, yon film clubbers...

...it's time to pick a pick, so pick I shall.

This month's movie is...dun dun dunnnnn...

I know I've seen this. I have a vague, brief memory of seeing it at the drive-in with my parents when I was a wee bonny lass. Maybe it's the fact that I'm an old, or maybe I didn't pay attention to the movie at the time, or maybe it's so terrible my brain purged it upon completion...whatever the reason, I don't remember a single thing about this movie. Not one single thing! Hooray!

HOORAY? you say? Yes! Dudes, even if it stinks, we can't go wrong with Deadly Blessing. It's co-written and directed by Wes Craven! Sharon Stone is in it! It's from the year of all years, 1981! It's got religious cuckoo nutsos in it!

Okay, so maybe we can go very, very wrong with Deadly Blessing...but I. Don't. Care. At least we'll all be together in the misery. Dangerous and exciting!

The movie: Deadly Blessing (1981)
The due date: Monday, August 13
The deal:

1. watch the movie
2. link to Final Girl somewhere in your review
3. email me the link: stacieponder at gmail dot com
4. bask in the warm embrace of your fellow Film Clubbers

That's it! If you wrote a review of Deadly Blessing a million years ago and you want to be included, that's fine. Just add the link to Final Girl in there somewhere and send it along.

Aww yiss.

sketch-o-rama

I thought I'd post up some of the recent sketches I've done on the back of Slashers 101 that fine people everywhere have commissioned. Sharing, caring, et cetera et cetera. You guys make some awesome, awesome requests and I'm having a blast drawing this stuff!

Info regarding how you can get a sketch edition of your very own or one to give to someone else is right here, dudes.










Jul 25, 2012

Hey wait, that wasn't too bad: THE SHRINE (2010)

Boy oh boy do I spend a lot of time sifting through crap when trying to find something to watch on Netflix. Well, okay, to clarify: sifting through perceived crap. That's right! I totally judge books movies by their covers even though my parents taught me better. And really, I should know better, especially when it comes to horror- cover art nowadays is just the worst and has no bearing on the quality of the film itself. But still...dime-a-dozen artwork coupled with a not-so-great-rating menage à troising with a cast of unknowns means I'm probably going to zip right by you, movie. I'm sorry. You can judge me, I deserve it.

And heck, maybe I've learned my lesson! (I haven't) After all, for the reasons outlined above, I zipped past The Shrine a bunch of times until some friends told me I really ought to check it out. I stopped zipping, checked it out, and hey wait, it wasn't too bad.

Carmen (Cindy Sampson) is a young reporter who smells a hot story cookin' in Poland- American tourists are disappearing. Her editor, though, disagrees that there's any mystery afoot and instead sends Carmen to investigate a story about bees.

Apparently Carmen has never seen The Swarm and therefore she does not understand that bees can be our greatest friends and also our greatest enemies, and that it could be a BLOCKBUSTER STORY...and thus she storms off to Poland regardless, her boyfriend Marcus (Aaron Ashmore) and intern Sara (Meghan Heffern) in tow.

Reporter powers...activate! Form of...good-looking young people!

"OH PLEASE NO," you may be saying to yourself. "Let me guess...The Shrine is really just Hostel Part Whatever Number They're Up To Now, isn't it?"

Believe me, friends, I was saying that to myself as well. I probably even rolled my eyes! But The Shrine has many lessons to teach us about prejudice...in fact, I don't think it's too brash to say that The Shrine may be this generation's "Free Your Mind".

So what is happening to those tourists if they're not being tortured because of reasons? Well, I guess you'll just have to watch it and find out, won't you? There are religious ceremonies, isolated villages with something to hide- you know, lots of horror chestnuts. There's also gore that'll make you cringe, some incredibly creepy sequences, and some pleasant surprises for those fans who are all jaded about dem horror chestnuts. It's a surprisingly mean movie.

Mind you, there's also some dodgy special effects and and characters who do things that...you know, stupid characters in scary movies do, but in the end I didn't mind so much. In fact, I didn't much mind at all- The Shrine is effective and dagummit, I really liked it. It's an original take on some old faves....and aren't horror fans always crying out for originality? Yes. Can a movie be both original and familiar? Yes. Don't be like me- don't zip by this one when it pops up on Netflix. But then do be like me and take a chance on it. Mixed messages, I know. I'm sorry. Just free your mind and the rest will follow, I swear.

Jul 21, 2012

Fashionable Friday!

Hey, check this out! Maybe you saw that Casual Friday picture I posted on my Faceplace last week? You didn't? Well, no matter. Here it is.

What's super cool is that it's now available as a t-shirt...a t-shirt you can wear! They're available through my shop at Society 6 for only 18 bucks, so go take a gander and getcher fashion on!

This could be you! Or a female you know!

Horror's unanswered questions: FRIGHT NIGHT

How in the Supercuts hell does this:


Turn into this?


Mind you, I have no problems whatsoever with her eyes or that mouth. But the hair! I've never been able to get over the change to her hair.

AND I NEVER WILL.

I liked horror BEFORE it was mainstream

Sorry, it's just that I so rarely get a chance to be a hipster.

Anyhamburgerphone, Kirk Hamilton wrote a piece for Kotaku about horror, its relationship to the mainstream, and the diminishing returns of sequels in the world of movies and video games. He kindly asked for my opinion on these topics, and like a proper old person, I went on and on and on way more than I should have. He wanted a sentence, and I gave him a filibuster...so there's lots of our little conversation that didn't make the final piece. SHOCKING!

In the interests of history and science, I figured I'd post up all of my yammering here because if there's one thing I can do at Final Girl, it's yammer freely forever! Oh lawd, bless this l'il Internet. Read Kirk's piece first, yeah? And then continue below.


Kirk: I feel like commonly, when a horror film (or game) finds success, its sequels aren't as scary. They may still be as good, but they're not as scary. Do you think that's the case?

Me: For my money, Silent Hill 2 is far scarier than the first game, but other than that I tend to agree with you with regard to sequels. It's most obvious, for example, in the Silent Hill series and the Resident Evil series- why are the earlier games so much more frightening than the later ones? I think it's a pretty easy answer: they lack the atmosphere they used to have. It's most obvious with Resident Evil, which moves further and further away from its horror roots with each new installment, but it's true for Silent Hill as well. Early games relied on shadows and darkness and sound- sound is PARAMOUNT in a horror game- to create an oppressive feeling of dread. What's that shape lurking down the hall? What's scratching on the other side of this door? For the love of pizza, what is making that NOISE? The games simply give you the creeps. Jump scares are fine and good, but they flare out quickly and they don't stay under your skin.

The difference between shock and suspense is illustrated as you play Dead Space- early on, as Isaac is slowly walking the abandoned corridors of the Ishimura, you hear sounds from all over: footsteps, maybe, or a piece of metal clanging in the distance. Your stomach tightens because you don't know what to expect, and you're scared. Four hours later, you know a necromorph is going to pop out of every dark corner and while your heart rate increases for a moment...eh, it's not going to give you nightmares. I think any sequel CAN be as scary as an original work if the creators can find new ways to utilize the ESSENCE of horror, which is what makes the originals work.

Why does that happen? Is there something about horror that's fundamentally not mainstream-friendly?

When it comes to films in the genre, I agree with you- mainstream tends to miss the mark. I think that by and large, this simply has to do with money. Every big budget has a fleet of executives behind it looking to earn back that money and then some; they've all got a vested interest in the property and a say in what ends up on the screen. It becomes filmmaking by committee and it shows. Some of the greatest horror films of all time- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, and so on- were made on shoestring budgets and were therefore solely the vision of the writers and directors.

If you want to earn more money in theaters, your film needs to appeal to a wider audience...which means, say, toning down gore or extreme content to secure a PG-13 rating. Of course, "scary" is totally subjective and the MPAA rating doesn't necessarily dictate whether or not a film will be successful, but it does signify "mainstream" and it's going to put off many horror fans.

Do you think there's something about horror and fear itself that doesn't work with mainstream PR--the kinda porny nature of it, the way that it taps into such innate human darkness--like, can something like that ever truly be mainstream? We never see widely publicized release for a hardcore horror film. At best we get a "Scream" or a "Drag me to Hell." (Fine movies, but they aren't "Dead Alive," you know?) Why do you think that is?

John Carpenter once said that horror is viewed maybe a notch or two above pornography by the masses, and I don't think that consensus has changed much since he made Halloween. As a horror fan- and, let's face it, particularly as a female horror fan- I find myself defending the genre and/or myself pretty frequently. Assuring people that while I dig scary movies, I'm not a psychopath, a sociopath, or a degenerate. I don't watch horror movies because I dearly love watching women get butchered. I've answered "Why do you/how can you watch that stuff?" more times than I can count, and believe me, I can count PRETTY HIGH.

Sure, horror taps into human darkness, as you said, but...I don't know, people who DON'T watch horror movies tend to think that quality means that horror movies are ONLY endlessly violent and brutal and ONLY completely pointless and dumb. The genre has much more to offer than simply "dead teenager" flicks- although I'm not going to say I don't love those, too. I just think horror got slapped early on with the "low-rent" label and it's never going to shake it.

Horror will never thrive in the mainstream simply because the mainstream doesn't want it...and that's fine, I get it. Not everyone finds tapping into the dark side of life "entertaining"- they'd rather watch a movie about baby penguins doing their thing, you know?

Jul 9, 2012

Film Club: Maniac

When I announced that William Lustig's Maniac (1980) would be the next entry in this totally illustrious Film Club, some folks out in cyber-land were a bit hesitant regarding participation. There are a few films that, even amongst horror fans, have a reputation for being too much to handle, and Maniac is certainly one of 'em. It's certainly not an unearned rep- this film is unflinchingly violent and repellent and...I don't know, it has that Texas Chain Saw Massacre illicit vibe to it: whilst watching it, you feel like you shouldn't be. When it's over, you want to take a hot shower. It'll make you feel squidgy about the fact that you even enjoy horror movies, and it's precisely the kind of film people would point to as an example of how we're all degenerates and how can you watch this stuff and who would even make such a thing and where is my fainting couch I have a case of the vapors! In a nutshell, it is an unpleasant film.

And yet! It is not a mindless film. Maniac is not The Human Centipede. I mean, come on, guys. I'm waiting for that beautiful day when we treat The Human Centipede like we treat the "Macarena" or Zubaz pants: like a national embarrassment. It's ten years on and we were so into it, but now we only shake our heads and pretend we weren't. But inside...inside! We know the truth and wonder how it came to be that way, once upon a time. Mass hypnosis? Mass hysteria? Mass huffing of Liquid Paper?

Anyway, though.


The maniac of Maniac is Frank Zito, an overweight, perpetually sweaty loner who has so many mother issues that even Norman Bates would be all tsk damn gurl, you cray-cray. Frank trawls the streets of New York City at all hours looking for women he can take all of his mother-related frustrations out on- by which I mean he kills and scalps them. Back in his cramped one-room apartment, Frank has a grisly trophy collection of mannequins decked out in the clothes and aforementioned scalps of his victims. Eventually he meets Anna (Caroline Munro), and the two of them go on a few dates. But will Frank be able to control his homicidal feelings around Anna? Can he conquer his demons? PFFFT NO.


"Killing and scalping women? Mother issues? Really, Maniac? Sounds like you've just entered Misogyny Country!" you might say. But then Maniac counters with a "But lo, is it not true that a film can be about misogyny without being intrinsically misogynist?" and you're, like, "Whoa. Yes. I think we've all learned something today." Maniac wants to say "It seems like you did all of the learning...", but it's too polite for that and so it just agrees with you.

The film never falls into the realm populated by the likes of Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street because the audience is never on Frank Zito's side. We're don't cheer when he kills a woman in her home because he's this guy with a cool weapon and a one-liner and she was annoying anyway- nothing in Maniac is played for laughs. The violence, in particular, is brutal and honest and yes, tough to watch; Tom Savini pulls out all the stops and delivers some truly shocking moments of gore. It's not amusing in that way certain slasher movies have when they become camp- it's realism, and it's ugly. Zito sickens himself as much as he sickens the audience.


If anything, Maniac forces the viewer to identify with the victim, which is exceedingly (and surprisingly) rare in the genre. Victims are frequently little more than someone for the killer to kill; I know that sounds a bit well yeah, no doy...but what I mean is that they're not usually there to be felt for, they're simply around to add to the body count. Lustig doesn't use the camera to put us in Frank's shoes the way we've been in those of Michael Myers or Mrs. Voorhees; instead, we're subjected to the victim's POV as Zito strangles the life from her. Though we can come to feel sorry for Frank Zito- he clearly suffered tremendous abuse as a child and you know, he really would like to stop all this killing- he's never made out to be anything more than...well, a maniac.

Still, he is capable of donning a mask of normalcy when it's called for- and that's part of what makes Maniac so terrifying. Frank doesn't have a creepy mask and a signature weapon. He's that guy who seemed perfectly fine when your friend introduced him to you. If the abhorrent trophies he collects seem outlandish and solely the stuff of movies, one only needs to look to Jeffrey Dahmer to see that they're not.


Despite its power, there are plenty of flaws with Maniac. It's certainly a film to be appreciated rather than enjoyed, and it falls into a lather-rinse-repeat pattern as Frank finds his victims, kills his victims, and talks to his mannequins. Oh, and that ending! On a WHAT IN THE HELL WAS THAT scale of zero to Pieces, it's roughly an eight (and awfully abrupt).

Still, there's even more to be lauded here: Joe Spinell (who also co-wrote the script) is tremendously creepy as Zito- he sweats and mumbles and murders and mouth breathes so well you wonder if that's how he was in real life. And then there's the way Maniac perfectly captures New York City in the late 70s, when it seemed like- or was- the sleaziest, most dangerous place on Earth. I mean, a bathroom in a subway station, can you imagine?! I got eye herpes just from watching the scene that took place in there (where Zito stalks a young nurse...it's the best scene in the film).

So where does this leave us? Is Maniac to be feared, like some of my cyberfriends intimated? Maybe, maybe not. It's not easy to watch and you may never want to watch it again should you brave it, but much like Glenn Close and that perm, it WILL NOT BE IGNORED.

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