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!

Nov 4, 2015

The Quizzening!

So you've seen some horror movies and now you think you're all big. Well, it's time to test your knowledge of the genre in the form of...A TEST. No Googling the answers!

1. Michael Myers is known as “The Shape”, but what was he originally called?
- The Pile
- The Thing
- The Ennui
- The Loaf

2. What is the title of Sergio Martino’s most famous giallo film?
- A Scream in a Velvet Mouth
- The Seven Deaths of Lucinda
- Hold This Knife While I Murder You
- Dancing with a Thousand Eyeballs at Midnight

3. Which film belongs in the 80s workout horror genre alongside Death Spa and Killer Workout?
- Murder Gym
- Fitness Murder
- Stretch, Sweat, Kill!
- Stretch, Sweat, Die!

4. Which horror icon faced off against Freddy Krueger in the 2003 film Freddy vs. Jason?
- Pumpkinhead
- Chucky
- Mrs Voorhees
- Mrs Garrett

5. In Psycho, Norman Bates famously dresses as his own ________
- motel
- crippling insecurity
- hair
- private Idaho

6. Choose the famous horror movie tagline:
- If this movie doesn’t make your skin crawl…you don’t have any skin!
- Who will survive and will they give me a ride to the airport?
- Abby doesn’t need a man anymore. She’s going to Lilith Fair!
- When there’s no more room in Hell, build more Hell, duh

7. Pinhead is the most famous of Hellraiser’s Cenobites. Who is the least famous?
- Chompy
- Axeface
- Fallopia
- Greg

Circle your answers and submit them via haunted videotape.

Nov 2, 2015

SLASHERS 101 for you!

Hello! To celebrate...something...I don't know, to celebrate whatever you feel like celebrating today, I've made my mini-comic Slashers 101 available for download. It's free! So if you want to learn something about slasher movies, or if you want the opportunity to say "I knew all that already, I didn't learn shit!" then knock yourself out. Here's that link again, woo!

Nov 1, 2015

...and that's a wrap!

Wow, another SHOCKtober is but a not-so-distant memory. It is hard to say goodbye, but undoubtedly we will all look back on this past month with a tearful twinkle in our eyes forever and ever! Dizzying highs, depressing lows, creamy was a month that constantly gave us, you know, something.

Have the hidden gems I discovered allowed me to exorcise my Netflix prejudices? Will I no longer give movies a cold shoulder because of crappy computer cover art and/or low ratings from Netflix's moronic rating system? Maybe, but probably not! I would like to say yes for sure, but I feel those doubts wiggling around in the back of my brainstem. There are just too many movies out there to watch, and for me to give one a go when it looks like garbage...I need some word of mouth or something, you know? SHOCKtober has been great because I've been forced to watch things–I can't tell you how many times this month I gave a hefty sigh before clicking play–but I know myself too well to think the "hey, that wasn't bad!" movies will radically influence my future behavior, even if it should.

Overall, I'd say there were more treats than craps, which is always good. There were very few instances where I just wanted to kill myself because the movie was so bad. In fact, I'd call the month a large success. Hooray! Just to be sure, I'm gonna break it all down by ratings right now.


Starry Eyes
All Cheerleaders Die
The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears
Berberian Sound Studio
We Are What We Are


Wes Craven's New Nightmare
[REC] 3
The Vampire's Coffin
Jug Face (so close to putting this one in my pants, I can't quite decide honestly)
The Canal
Zombeavers (it's terrible and not even good terrible, it's unexplainable)


The Omen III: The Final Conflict
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (this one hurts)
[REC] 4
Dead Snow


Maniac (I am so in the minority on this one, I can't believe it, it makes me question everything ever)
Stonehearst Asylum
Dead Within


Baby Blues
Devil Seed
V/H/S 2

Wow, hmm, it's actually fairly evenly divided! That's unexpected. The good stuff is so good that the not so good stuff is already fading away. Good job, brain! And honestly, if sitting through some trash was the price I had to pay to finally watch the month's two big winners, then so be it. I am still thinking about We Are What We Are and Berberian Sound Studio and they've been added to my ongoing faves list for sure. (And to everyone who recommended The Duke of Burgundy after my praise of Berberian...bless. I watched it last night and I'm in love.) SHOCKtober rules! Thanks for tuning in, y'all, it's been grand!

Except for Devil Seed, that was terrible.

Oct 31, 2015

Day 31: DEAD WITHIN (2011)

If Dead Within were sitting her beside me, I'd be awfully tempted to give it a pat on the head, say "Good for you!", and hand it a ribbon that says YOU TRIED. Hmm, that came out a lot more condescendingly than I meant it to. The thing is, you see, that Dead Within admirably attempts to do something different with the ol' zombie genre, but there's a lot holding it back from making said attempt successful. That "a lot" includes the script (which likely includes a great deal of improvisation), a through line and ending telegraphed so early on that the dramatic stakes are dramatically lowered, and very dodgy acting. Toss in a low budget that limits the quality of the effects, a few too many static-y jump cuts, and it's surprising that Dead Within wasn't completely dead on arrival. But like I said, at least it tries an offbeat approach to the material–in that regard, my "good for you!" is indeed a wholehearted one.

Six months into an infectious plague, married couple Kim and Mike have barricaded themselves in a secluded cabin. Despite the danger, Mike ventures out in search of supplies almost daily while Kim stays behind, cleans the house, and indulges in fingerpainting the walls and teaching herself to play the guitar. They dress for dinner every night and occasionally have quiet sex. It's sort of a Bizarro World picture of domesticity, but is this semblance of normality sustainable? Will Mike be attacked by one of the homicidal infected and die or bring it home to his wife? Will Kim succumb to cabin fever and prove more dangerous than the monsters lurking outside?

You won't be questioning things for long, because the answer becomes obvious fairly early on. Rather than proving to be an unreliable narrator, Kim is reliably delusional. It's a small but important distinction that robs Dead Within of nearly all of its tension. Through flashbacks that show how Mike and Kim arrived at this point–and what it cost them–it's obvious that guilt, tension, and monotony have caused Kim to have a nervous breakdown. From here, the film stalls and at its conclusion an hour later, you'll likely shrug and say "Yeah, well, of course." But hey–at least Dead Within tried. What did you do today, huh?

Oct 30, 2015

Day 30: HELL (2011)

In the very near future, the sun flips out for some unexplainable reason and temperatures rise by 50 degrees (or by 10 degrees for everyone, like, not in America). It doesn't take long for society to collapse when it no longer rains and an hour of exposure can cook you right up.

Marie (Hannah Herzsprung), her little sister Leonie (Lisa Vicari), and Marie's boyfriend Phillip (Lars Eidinger) drive through the barren wasteland in search of the waters that are rumored to flow to the north. The journey is difficult; gasoline is in short supply, the environment is deadly...and Leonie really dislikes Phillip's alpha male ways and the fact that Marie capitulates to him so readily simply because he has a car. Eventually they take on another passenger, Tom (Stipe Erceg), who can lend survival skills to the group but may not be trustworthy. Leonie in particular takes a shine to him, however, and Phillip's role as the de facto leader is suddenly not so assured.

These interpersonal dynamics are soon abandoned when the group gets suckered into a trap and Leonie is taken. Hell then begins to check off items from the post-apocalyptic thriller checklist: "Hell" is other people, the hungry will go to extreme lengths to survive, attractive young women must become baby machines, we must live for our loved ones, and so on. It is familiar ground for sure, but it's capably trod by director/co-writer Tim Fehlbaum.

Ultimately, Hell is Marie's journey towards something like autonomy. Throughout the film, Leonie questions why Marie isn't more proactive: why does she put up with Phillip's shit? Why isn't she strong instead of weak? When her sister is at risk, will Marie finally grow a pair (of ovaries) and take control? Her growth is "Final Girl"-esque, really, especially when you consider how many comments there are throughout the film about how important it is to have a man around (he can fix stuff and protect the womenfolk!). That's nice and all, but it's also nice if the women can protect themselves, too...especially when the world and pretty much everyone in it are trying to kill you.

This is not a Mad Max-style apocalyptic scenario, though. There are no leather-clad weirdos with crazy names, and there is not a mohawk to be found. These are ordinary people largely ill-equipped to deal with the scavenger/survivalist lifestyle. Marie doesn't turn into some dual machete-wielding badass drenched in blood as she chops her way to her sister, and the "villains" are equally subdued. This initially feels sort of anticlimactic, but in the end I appreciated this low-key approach. There's a place in post-apocalyptic cinema for character-driven stories, after all, and if I want nutso action, I can go watch Fury Road.

That said, as a character-driven story, Hell is a little weak. The acting is terrific and the characters are compelling even if we know nothing about them beyond the here and now. The script is fairly insubstantial, though, and a promising beginning becomes a series of genre tropes in the film's second half. I wouldn't say it's disappointing, necessarily–it had my attention all the way through, and I was invested in Marie's and Leonie's welfare. But overall it feels a bit like two approaches to the material battling for supremacy and neither really nabs a decisive victory.

Oct 29, 2015

Day 29: ZOMBEAVERS (2014)

Back around 2002 or whenever it was that you could buy bootleg VHS copies of Jason X on the street in Chinatown, a friend handed me a bootleg tape of Jason X he bought in Chinatown. "Have you seen this movie? You have to see it. Here, take it, you have to watch this movie." I had not seen Jason X, because I'd given up on new Friday the 13th films after catching the abysmal Part VIII in theaters. But hey, when someone hands you a tape and says "You have to see this!", what are you gonna do? Even if you end up unleashing a ghost girl with long, wet hair, you gotta watch that shit. So I watched Jason X, and tried to give it back to my friend, but he wouldn't take the tape back. "This was terrible!" I said, to which he replied, "I know, it's unwatchable! I turned it off halfway through."

I bring up this story because recently I've felt a distinct sense of déjà vu. You see, some weeks ago a friend asked if I'd seen Zombeavers. I replied that I had not and probably never would. In the interim, he would periodically ask again if I'd seen it yet; eventually this morphed into "You have to see it" or "I really want you to see it." Calling his own personal relationship with Zombeavers "complicated", he wanted to know if mine would be equally so. Not to be prejudiced (whilst being totally prejudiced), I didn't see how one could have a complicated relationship with something like Zombeavers. And so I've responded to every mention of it with a hearty "mleehhhhhh" and a vague not-promise that I'd get to it someday, maybe, perhaps, if I'd watched every other movie ever.

But here we are in SHOCKtober, right? And the SHOCKtober spirit says we must cast aside our prejudices! Watch that movie on Netflix you never thought you'd watch! Break free from your brain shackles and live! LIVE! LIVE I SAY!

I'll admit, all the talk did have me curious so I agreed to add Zombeavers to the lineup to, you know, get it over with. Like pulling off a bandaid, or jumping into a freezing lake, or closing your eyes and thinking of England: exactly the way a movie should be approached! At least I wouldn't be alone, for I made my Zombeavers friend watch with me.

SPOILER ALERT: when Zombeavers was over, my friend–he of the "complicated relationship"–said "I never would have watched that again. I didn't want to watch it again." And so the parallels to the Jason X story continue!

But here's the thing. You don't go into a movie like Zombeavers without expecting it to be...well, like a movie called Zombeavers. For the incredibly brisk 75-minute runtime it's Zombeavers's world and you're just living in it. I wasn't going to fault it for being stupid–it's about zombie beavers, for fuck's sake–I only hoped it wouldn't be excruciating.

After learning that her boyfriend made out with another gal, Jenn and her sorority sisters Mary and Zoe retreat to the country for a girls' weekend. In classic Slumber Party Massacre style, though, the boys don't take "no boys allowed" for an answer and show up for sex and booze. Unbeknownst to all of them, however, a wayward barrel of toxic waste spilled onto a beaver dam and as any horror fan would anticipate, the bright green goo renders regular beavers into flesh-eating beavers. Chaos and endless beaver jokes ensue.

To my great surprise, it wasn't excruciating! Obviously the majority of the humor is totally juvenile and nothing makes sense. The characters are uniformly unlikable, but dare I say...I found most of them to be charmingly so? The actors are 100% committed to the ridiculousness, and that is something I always admire regardless of my feelings on the movie as a whole. Everyone in the film must, at one time or another, go toe to toe and/or mano à mano with a zombeaver puppet and while it always looks as corny and silly as it sounds, the actors scream and flail for their lives and it's a treat to watch, dammit. Before I knew what was happening, this dumb movie endeared itself to me.

And this is partially why my friend called his relationship with Zombeavers "complicated." It is a competently-made garbage movie that you shouldn't like whatsoever, but then a part of you sort of does. More than that, however, I was stunned to find that Zombeavers refreshingly played around with some genre tropes. I'm not talking some meta "let's list the horror rules" shit, either. Zombeavers just does what it wants! During its final act, I said "I'd like for this to happen. It won't, it never happens in horror movies, but that's what I want to happen." And then it did happen and I gave the movie a high-five. Mind you, this isn't some big earth-shattering, mind-blowing, pants-busting horror revolution, but it was still shocking in its small way. So now maybe my relationship with Zombeavers is complicated. It's not "good" by any stretch (if that matters), and I wouldn't recommend it. But it had some genuine quirks I found very appealing, so...

Have you guys seen Zombeavers? You really gotta see it!

Oct 28, 2015

Day 28: BENEATH (2013)

Environmental lawyer Sam (Kelly Noonan) has returned to the small town where she grew up to celebrate her father's imminent retirement from the local coal mine. Though she is still well-loved by everyone in town–including her former flame Randy (Joey Kern)–her job puts her slightly at odds with her family and old friends. Sam explains that it's not the workers she's fighting against, but the greedy corporations who put profits before safety. The men counter that no one really cares about the environment or any of that so long as the lights stay on and there is food on the workers' tables. The back-and-forth ribbing escalates until Sam decides that in order to prove...something...she will head into the mine with everyone on the morrow for her father's last shift.

As you might expect, things go poorly.

By "poorly" I mean "there is a collapse and rescue is three days away." Although the prospect of sitting out the 72-hour wait in a rescue chamber (basically a small shipping container outfitted with water and oxygen) isn't ideal, it soon becomes apparent that boredom will be the survivors' smallest concern. Voices and noises lure the men out into the darkness–is it other survivors, trapped, or is it something else? Members of the small group disappear without a trace. Supplies are sabotaged, forcing the men (and Sam) to go deeper into disused mine shafts in search of oxygen tanks and maybe a way out. There are tales of other miners trapped below decades earlier who were never found. Some of the men show signs of an infection of sorts, and an alarming propensity for violence. So what gives? Is there some supernatural explanation? Is it simply coal mine madness brought on by the dwindling amounts of oxygen in the air?

Beneath works best when it maintains its ambiguity, when we are full of questions about what's lurking out there in the dark...or if there's anything lurking at all. But eventually–unfortunately–the scary CGI faces come out and this turn of events is a big boner killer. The bigger issue, though, is that while the CGI faces explain too much, they don't really explain anything at all. Beneath straddles the line and ends up planted firmly in some weird, unsatisfying neutral zone. It feels like a smart, subtle movie that succumbed to "horror trappings", right down to a pretty beat, low-key last minute genre sting. It brought to mind my beloved The Haunting (or The Haunting of Hill House, if you prefer) with its "...whatever walked there, walked alone." Less can be so much more if the writers and director believe in that notion, and for Beneath to ultimately cop out with a "less isn't enough" was disappointing.

It's especially disappointing because what works in the film works quite well. The survivors are essentially the same types we've seen in every other "group of survivors must survive" scenario (they're usually facing off against zombies). Yes, we've got the rookie, the fish out of  water, the irritatingly pragmatic self-preservationist, the hotheaded tough guy, and so on...but the serious tone and capable actors (including a grizzled Jeff Fahey and a few other "hey, I know that person from somewhere..." faces) help elevate the characters out of the murky depths of tropedom.

In its best moments, Beneath recalls some of The Descent's best moments, where it's claustrophobic panic that gets your pulse racing, not the monsters or violence. Trapped in pitch black, narrow passages as the mountain creaks and groans above, threatening's a nightmare scenario. From there, however, it's as if the filmmakers don't commit to a particular direction, neither going with all-out "horror movie" chaos, nor trusting themselves enough to maintain the mystery. It's still worth a watch, but you may end up frustrated by what could have been.