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!

Jan 14, 2015

THE DARK SECRET OF HARVEST HOME (1978)

Even though I am an elderly person, there are plenty of ways I utilize the technologies of the young. For example, I definitely know how to boot up a JPG. For another example, I only order pizzas via the Information Superhighway. However, sometimes my brain completely forgoes new technology in favor of the old. For example, I always have a spiral notebook and a pen at arm's reach. For another example, when I want to watch something like the 1978 made-for-TV mini-series Dark Secret of Harvest Home, I don't first try YouTube, where the entire 4-hour affair is readily available. Instead, I spend a lot of time tracking down a bootleg, paying for a bootleg, waiting for the bootleg to arrive, and then digging in. (And I would have forgone the bootleg if the long out-of-print VHS edition wasn't edited to half the original length.)

For every second of "Aw man, YouTube would have been way easier and free-i-er," I have several minutes of sweet satisfaction because when you stream a movie, you don't get the crappy bootleg box art to treasure! Behold:


"Betty" Davis! "Sacrifaces"! It's the small things that please me so.

Also, "Sacrifaces" sounds like a new Satanic show by Mummenschanz. More Satanic, anyway.

Typos aside, that sentence...sort of sums up The Dark Secret of Harvest Home, in the same way that "A young woman enrolls in a ballet academy and is caught up in witchcraft and sacrifaces" might describe Suspiria. Like, it works but there's more to it than that.

Wait, is there more to Suspiria than that? Never mind, I'm getting off track here. And YES I'm going to use "sacrifaces" all the time now so get used to it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again and again until we're all tired of hearing it: I love a movie about a town with a secret. From Dead and Buried to The Wicker Man to Bay Cove to everything in between, give me some fish-out-of-water types trying to figure out what the heck is going on in an idyllic country town and I'm all over it. Toss in some witch robes, some sacrifaces, and some old people and I'm all over it AND all up in it. Let me tell you, friends, The Dark Secret of Harvest Home does not disappoint!

Oh sure, the set-up is as old as them thar hills, but who cares? The Constantine family is fed up with life in the big city and all the big city problems they face. Dad Nick (David "Original Gary Ewing" Ackroyd) yearns to leave the hollow world of Madison Avenue behind and make some real art. Mom Beth (Joanna "There's A Fire-Farting Cockroach in My Hair" Miles) spends her days reclining on a shrink's couch in a bid to overcome her neuroses. 15-year-old daughter Kate (Rosanna "Doesn't Need a Nickname for You to Know Who She Is" Arquette) totally has asthma and her life sucks.

On a little getaway trip to Connecticut, they cross a whimsical/ominous wooden bridge and find themselves in Cornwall Coombe, a small farming community that's super friendly and everyone seems happy and there's an amazing house for sale for wicked cheap and isn't that great let's all move to Cornwall Coombe! So they do, and everything is just great. Mostly. Widow Fortune (Bette "Betty" Davis) has a tight (if benevolent) grip on the town. Folks are reluctant to talk about the past, and no one ever ever goes "against the ways" if they know what's good for 'em. Why, it's almost as if the town has a dark secret!

Yes! Check out Rosanna Arquette and Widow Fortune. "Widow" is pronounced "widda", by the way. And everyone says "Ayuh" a lot like this is a goddamn Stephen King movie even though they're in western Connecticut. On the one hand, this made my eye twitch, but on the other hand it just made me want to hug New England because I love New England and even though I grew up in eastern Connecticut there was definitely that feeling of "thar werest wytches here" to it at times, like when you go to Devil's Hopyard State Park, I mean who names a park "Devil's Hopyard" come on now

Kate and Beth adjust quickly to life in The Coombe. Widda Fortune shushes away all of Kate's asthma attacks. Beth likes being party of a community and begins busting out the local corn-speak. Nick, however, digs deeper into the town history for a book he's writing and finds that sometimes people go missing and sometimes you see a skeleton somewhere but then when you go to show it to the constable the skeleton is gone and sometimes you find the local peddler in a cabin in the woods and someone has cut his tongue out and no one admits that anything weird is going on or has gone on, ever.

Oh yeah, and a little babby Tracey Gold is a really fucking weird kid who screams sometimes and she picks the new Harvest Lord by smearing sheep's blood on a contender's cheeks. Just another day in The Coombe!

TRACEY GOLD YOU GUYS

So you know how it goes, right? A big Widda Fortune-sized wedge is driven further and further between Beth and Nick as the former adapts to "the ways" and the latter does not. As the year goes on and the mysterious "Harvest Home" ceremony approaches, we begin to wonder: is this a Babiez4Satan thing, or Babiez4Corn thing? Because somehow, it's always about women making babiez for some reason, ain't it?

It is! But I'm not going to tell you everything because this shit was four hours long and because if you like classic they don't make 'em like that anymore made-for-TV horror movies (aka "being a person with awesome taste"), then you should just watch it. I mean, it's right there on YouTube. Bette fucking Davis! A reasonably restrained Bette fucking Davis, even, who doesn't simply bleat-shriek all her lines like she did throughout much of the 1960s.

After you're done watching The Dark Secret of Harvest Home, you can help me settle the argument I've been having with myself since I saw it: is this feminist, or anti-feminist? There's certainly a slight whiff of Neil LaBute's Wicker Man in here as a matriarchal society proves ball-crushingly bad for the menfolk. Then again, there's also a slight whiff of The Stepford Wives in here as Nick frequently asks Beth if she wants to give up her autonomy and life goals to join in "the old ways." I need the Widda Fortune to shush away my social justice anxiety attack!


Jan 7, 2015

This is the best thing.

YouTube user gigerbrick has done gone and made a trailer for the trashtastic 1977 film The Car (honk, honkhonkhoonnnnnnnk) using in-game PS4 footage from Grand Theft Auto 5. I bow before the perfection!


Oct 9, 2014

SHOCKtober: DAY OF THE DEAD


Dr. Tongue brings you...

Day of the Dead (1985)


Now that is a title screen: zombie front and center. Liberal amounts of grossness. Solid, weighty logo. All of it combining to let you know that George Romero ain't fucking around here. All of it as the climax of a fantastic opening sequence, one that well introduces some of our cast of caricatures (come on, you know they are) and shows just how screwed and desolate the world has become in the wake of the zombie apocalypse.

The font and the soundtrack cry zombie action movie and my heart cries yes!


THE TUNNEL (2011)

"Like the last piece of cereal at the bottom of the bowl, soggy and pale and swollen with milk."

Last night I watched the Australian found footage film The Tunnel, and at some hour long after that I woke up from my sleep, found my notebook, and wrote that sentence. Somehow I thought it perfectly encapsulated...something about the movie and it would be a great opening for this review. At this point I'm hard-pressed to tell you what the hell it means, exactly, and to be honest there's a slightly pornographic quality to it that is making me uncomfortable. But hey, I have to open this review somehow and if it was a great idea last night then I'm just going to go with it.


To help solve a water shortage crisis, local government announces plans to build a water recycling system in disused tunnels below Sydney. Press conferences are held, promises are made...and then nothing. Without a word or a reason why, the project is dropped.

Investigative reporter Natasha Warner (Bel DeliĆ”) finds this curious, but even curiouser when she comes across a YouTube video of some taggers running afoul of something in the darkness of those same tunnels. There have also been rumors of some of the underground homeless population going missing. Is the canceling of the recycling plant related? What's a-lurking in the damp down below the streets of the city? Warner attempts to get some answers, but government officials are mum. She assembles a crew of veteran news-types and decides to get to the bottom of things, so you know what that means: it's P.O.V. horrorin' time!

The crew sneaks into the tunnels and sure enough, they also run afoul of something in the darkness. The Tunnel presents itself as a documentary comprising footage before and during the events, but it's the talking heads reflecting on those same events that eliminate much of the tension of the proceedings as we know by and large who's going to live and who won't. Yes yes, the devil is in the details and the journey is the destination and all that, but ultimately I was just waiting to see how so-and-so died and I knew the other so-and-so was never in any mortal peril. Let's face it, most P.O.V./found footage horror follows a certain pattern; that is to say, there's a fuck ton of aimless-ish build-up and then in the last 15 minutes or so shit really happens ahhhh! The biggest problem in The Tunnel is that the format conceit eliminates the build-up. Sure, there's lots of talking and aimless-ish wandering, but for every moment of tension generated, someone then talks about it and the incline plateaus.

This is not to say that The Tunnel is wholly unsuccessful, because that would be a lie and I'm not a lie-teller. Overall it's a solid film and there are some moments of pull the blankets higher creepiness for sure. Ultimately, though, your enjoyment of it will likely hinge on your tolerance for and/or love of those P.O.V. tropes; you know, people running around panting and screaming in the green hues of a night vision lens.


I'm not going to begrudge anyone who enjoys a subgenre and thinks "Hey, I wanna make me some a that!" Ultimately, however, I feel like this kind of story and format have been tackled before and tackled better in movies like [REC] and Lake Mungo. Maybe I'm just a P.O.V. lover and apologist who needs to take a break and see some other subgenres.

The biggest bummer, though, is that The Tunnel rehashes the "ambitions of career-driven woman lead her to make foolish decisions and doom everyone" storyline of The Blair Witch Project, complete with her dressing-down by male crew members and subsequent teary-eyed confessional of contrition. I'm thankful that there's no dripping snot and ultimately no one kicks the map into the creek, but still. 15 years on and the head bitches in charge are still bitches? What a world, what a world. Totally like the last piece of cereal at the bottom of the bowl, soggy and pale and swollen with milk, amirite?

Oct 8, 2014

SHOCKtober: CREEPSHOW


Come on, you lunkheads!

Creepshow (1982)


I bet it would take, like, more than seven hands for me to count how many times I've seen Creepshow and more than a baker's dozen's hearts to contain all the love I have for it. It's so perfect. It's so perfect! By turns gory, scary, and funny, it's an EC horror comic come amazingly to life. Secretly– okay, not so secretly– I think it's some of the best work that either director George Romero or writer Stephen King have done. Romero's visuals are an absolute treat. He plays with comic book framing conventions and the colors and monsters pop off the screen. King gives us five stories and a framing narrative full of frights, humor, and characters, dammit, who deliver dialogue that's got that signature vintage King folksy-realistic charm. Relatable and a bit theatrical, but not artificial and cloying. Everyone is eminently quotable and you love them, hate them, and love to hate them.

Just the little snippet of the title sequence in the GIF I've posted– even without the Bernie Wrightson-inspired illustrations and the thudding "dun DUN!" of the piano in the theme song– encapsulates the feel of the whole thing. It's a funhouse. It's going to scare you, but you'll have a smile on your face the entire time. It's so perfect you guys.

Oct 7, 2014

SHOCKtober: THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD


I was gonna post about John Carpenter's The Thing today, but you know what? I think we need to go OG on this because Carpenter didn't much change the original title sequence for his remake-ening of...

The Thing from Another World (1951)


It's unusual (particularly for the time) that the names of the actors do not appear until the end credits of the film. Instead, it's "The Thing" itself that's the star here, hidden away in the darkness and emerging slowly until it's front and center. This theme is much better utilized in Carpenter's 1982 remake/adaptation of John W. Campbell Jr.'s novella Who Goes There? In Carpenter's version, the alien entity is able to assimilate and imitate other life forms (man being the warmest place to hide, mind you) until the jig is up and it bursts forth in a big red mess of grue and grossness.

Also, Wilford Brimley. And MacReady's ludicrous oversized novelty sideways cowboy hat! Wait, here I am talking about The Thing instead of The Thing from Another World. Ehhhh SO SUE ME.

Oct 6, 2014

SHOCKtober: THE SHINING


Fire up the snowcat and get out of the tub, today we're looking at...

The Shining (1980)


So beautiful, so ominous, right? Notes pinched from Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique crash as words scroll by quickly, almost as if they're a necessary nuisance. The camera zooms and winds through a relentless wilderness. The Torrance Family's VW Bug is as insignificant as its namesake out here, dwarfed by the endless Evergreens, the looming mountains, and even its final destination, The Overlook Hotel. It's as if the entirety of nature set out to swallow up this family long before the ghosts of the Overlook gave it a shot. Long before the credits finished rolling, even!


Oct 5, 2014

SHOCKtober: ROSEMARY'S BABY


Treat yo self to...

Rosemary's Baby (1968)



Love the elegant curly pink font splashed all over the unforgiving brown and grey angles of New York City. It's got me craving Ambrosia salad, really, but that's neither here nor there.

That song, masquerading as a lullaby, unsettles more than it soothes and even at the outset, you might begin to suspect that there's going to be something very wrong with Rosemary's baby.

(Aside: I always forget that this is a William Castle Production. I mean, who could guess that?)