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!

Oct 12, 2015

Day 12: [REC] 3: GENESIS (2012)

Listen, I know that some of y'all out there don't like found footage/P.O.V. horror movies. Or maybe you did like them at one point but now you find them totally played out and tired. I get it! After the runaway success of Paranormal Activity, it's no surprise that film producers and filmmakers alike popped the boner heard 'round the world. Found footage can be cheap to make, so a film with a theatrical or wide release will likely bring a huge return on investment. It also means that anyone with a camera can have a go at the genre. For every one P.O.V. flick that does something original or interesting, there are 20,000 piles of crap. I know, because I've sat through most of them! Yes, let me say it loud and say it proud in case you did not already know: I loves me some found footage, even if it's mostly garbage.

The point is, I was predisposed to enjoy [REC] 3–and I would have been even if I didn't love love loooove [REC] (2007) and like a lot [REC] 2 (2009).

As Genesis begins, "we" fire up the wedding DVD of Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martín) and it's's perfect with the corny titles and graphics that accompany their love story. I settled in, because this was some serious found footage goodness, and I was riding a high like the one I get after mainlining Crystal Light Raspberry Ice. (By "mainlining", I mean "mixing it with water and drinking it like a normal person would, what did you think I meant?")

Then we get to footage from the wedding day, shot by various guests and a professional videographer. We meet some of the cast, including Uncle Pepe, who sports a bandaged-but-bleeding wound on his hand from a dog bite ("HMM, CURIOUS." - everyone who saw [REC]). We get a sense of the size of the wedding reception–it's freaking huge, and there are a fuckton of people in attendance. And then, much like the first film in the series, things go to Hell in the blink of an eye. One moment, Uncle Pepe seems drunk and barfs everywhere; the next moment, he's biting someone's face off.

As I said, there are a lot of revelers in the reception hall, and so the virus passes quickly and brutally from one guest to the next. It's pure, bloody chaos, very much like the first film on amphetamines. Everything is jacked up to eleven due to the sheer size of it all. During the initial frenzy, Koldo and a few others–including the videographer, Atún–find safety in the kitchen. Koldo is stunned that Atún has kept his camera rolling; when Atún replies that people "need to see" what's unfolding–a line pretty much ripped straight from [REC]–Koldo smashes his camera.

And then there's a title screen. And before you can think to yourself, "Wait, did [REC] have a title screen?", Genesis movie. That's right, director/co-writer/co-creator of the series Paco Plaza answers the question every P.O.V. fan has asked at one time or another: "Why do they keep filming?" by changing the game completely. Koldo has literally kicked the found footage concept to pieces, and I'm not sure whether or not it's brilliant or infuriating. One thing is for sure, though–the effect is incredibly jarring. To go from handheld shakycam footage to regular ol' hi-def footage with cinematic angles and a soundtrack...holy crap. It all seemed so fake, which I suppose speaks to how well found footage can work.

It took a lot of getting used to. Sure, there's the extreme shift in visual style. But it's more than that. Not only does this third film cast off the P.O.V. shackles of its predecessors, but it also lightens up the self-serious tone established in the first two entries. Genesis is nearly a horror/comedy, with jokes and over-the-top violence and gore reminiscent of early Peter Jackson and even Lamberto Bava's Demons. After I acclimated to the fact that this wasn't simply another [REC], I came to appreciate it enough on its own merits. It's pretty stupid and loud, but it's also pretty fun in that Dead Alive vein. A good time, if you will. As Koldo and Clara try to find each other, there's all manner of "zombie" violence. I mean, once a character busts out a chainsaw, you kind of know what kind of movie it wants to be.

Genesis is sort of the Halloween III of the series–they're trying something new and shaking up the formula. Though it expands the [REC] mythos a bit (if you want to go so far as to call it a "mythos"), this film stands alone, an outlier than can absolutely be ignored if that "something new" doesn't work for you. At the very least, they get a gold star for trying, right?

Oct 11, 2015

SHOCKtober: The Week to Come

I'm not entirely sure anyone is still playing along, but once upon a time people asked that I post the movies in advance. Listen, I get it if people split. SHOCKtober is not for the weak. It is a true endurance test, especially this year because Netflix is mostly garbage. I swear, it's as if they knew what I had planned and purged all the good stuff (and 99% of the movies made before 2012) on October 1st. But no matter–we soldier on. Not only to the end of the month, but to the grave! Time, she is a cruel mistress. As are bad horror movies. Here's hoping we (or I) will avoid any real stinkbombs this week (*gives V/H/S 2 a side eye*):

Monday 10/12 - [REC] 3 (2012)
Tuesday 10/13 - [REC] 4 (2014)
Wednesday 10/14 - THE VAMPIRE'S COFFIN (1958)
Friday 10/16 - DEAD SNOW (2009)
Saturday 10/17 - JUG FACE (2013)
Sunday 10/18 - V/H/S 2 (2013)

SHOCKtober keeps on keepin' on!

Day 11: DEVIL SEED (2012)

I try as best I can to live a life without regret. Please, don't get me wrong; like everyone else on the planet, I have made mistakes and done bad things and made poor choices. I've done a lot of regrettable things! My 8th grade mullet and penchant for hawaiian shirts? Beyond regrettable. Not buying that prop newspaper from Co-Ed Call Girl at Tori Spelling's yard sale? Ugh, what, did I not bring my brain along with me that day? When I say "a life without regret", I don't mean I haven't done asshole things to myself and/or others, or that asshole things haven't happened to me because of decisions I've made. What I mean is that I try to learn from these incidents. Make amends, make changes, whatever, and move on. Living saddled with regret means you're weighed down my those awful things, and you're not going forward. Basically, I try not to wallow.

That said, sometimes it's hard. Sometimes you end up in a situation from which you cannot easily extricate yourself, and your failings just sit there in front of your face, teasing you mercilessly. "Bet you wish you'd made a different choice, huh? Bet you rue the day this idea came into your head!"

YES THAT'S RIGHT, DEVIL SEED. I regret the day I chose you as part of the SHOCKtober lineup. I regret that by the time I am done with this review, I will have spent several hours in your company–hours I will never get back. And I could use them! I have a finite time on this planet, and I have a lot of shit to do.

I just...arrgh. It wasn't five minutes into this steaming hot pile of garbage that I wondered why in the hell I added it to the SHOCKtober schedule. In those five minutes, there was one exorcism boob on display (because...of course) and two sex boobs and a "cool" "rock n roll" credit sequence. Look, boobs are great, and I am obviously very cool (mullet and Hawaiian shirts, hello) and the Joan Jett version of "I Love Rock n Roll" is pretty much my life story. But the first five minutes of Devil Seed gave me a very bad feeling, and I knew that I'd made a huge mistake. And when you realize that early on in a movie that you've made a huge mistake, well, it sets a certain tone for the evening. A tone of DOOM.

After a night at the bar, some college girl and her drunk roommate (fuck learning the names of anyone or anything, my life essences are draining away) stop by a psychic's place for a palm reading. For some reason, some college girl becomes possessed.

We know she's possessed because totally weird things start to happen: items move around on their own, weird doodles appear in her books, she's fondled by invisible hands as she sleeps, she says inappropriate things, and children look at her. We're subjected to countless conversations that are either

"You don't remember doing that? You totally did that."
"No, I don't remember."
(continues for five minutes)


"What's the matter?"
"I feel like I'm going crazy!"
(continues for five minutes)

Things sort of escalate. We find out that Some College Girl is a virgin, and if you think, "Oh, so the word "seed" in Devil Seed...I guess Satan wants to plant a baby garden!" then you know what is up. Some College Girl gets occasional corn teeth (duh, of course she does, she's possessed) and I guess she's raped by Satan and like an hour in there is another pair of boobs–shower boobs this time, but they're the same boobs as the sex boobs so I don't know if they really count toward a final tally, for those of you out there on Boob Watch.

None of this isn't the same thing we've seen done better at least ten to the tenth times, you know? And when I say "the same thing", I mean that Devil Seed actually decided to be be the Dollar Tree Exorcist and give us a bargain basement spider walk and pee on the floor scene. I felt...why, I felt indignant. I mean, how fucking dare you, Devil Seed? At that point, I wanted to fight this movie. Like physically. I wanted to get all Krystle vs Alexis on Dynasty and grab Devil Seed by the hair and throw it in the fucking pool. Fuck this movie!

Although I have to admit, this made me laugh for several minutes, and I rewound it many times, so my time spent with Devil Seed wasn't a complete loss.

Look, if you want to know how fucking janky Devil Seed is without actually having to endure it, here you go.

from the (useless) prologue:

from the end credits:

Is it 1972 or 1970? If you can't even give a shit enough to keep your own stupid timeline straight, Devil Seed, then why should I care? And I will spare you the indignity of bringing up those all-cap names. WHY ARE THEY--oh wait, I'm sparing you.

To anyone out there who actually watched this pile because it was a part of SHOCKtober, I am truly sorry. Self, I am sorry. I absolutely regret it, but we must move on! We cannot wallow in the misery this wretched film has shat upon us. We're only 1/3 of the way through the month, and I'm sure many more bad movies await!

Oct 10, 2015

Day 10: DARKNESS (2002)

"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." Is it better? I'm not so sure. After all, if you've never loved anyone, you don't really know what you've missed. You live day to day without regretting or missing or pining or loathing the past. You don't wait for "the next" and compare him or her to "the last." You just sort of exist–but is your life truly lesser for it if you're ignorant as to what "it" is and what it feels like? I suppose Tennyson is saying yes, that even mucking about in the pits of despair is better than not doing that, for the despair is what lets you know you're a human and not, say, a rock. It's like bringing a dog or a cat into your life: we all know by know that they are just tragedies waiting to happen, timebombs ticking away to heartbreak. "I have, at most, about 20 years with you until you're gone and then I have to deal with you not being around anymore and what that feels like." It all comes down to those 20 years, right? Whether or not they're good enough to make the eventual enduring of the crushing blows of mortality worth it?

Okay, before I suck you into the temporal vortex of my ongoing existential crisis, let me assure you, this all super vaguely ties into Darkness, a rather forgettable Dimension Films film! You see, when Darkness was over, I says to meself, I says: "Hmm, I wonder, is it better to have loved the last five minutes of this slog of a movie than to have hated it all the way through?" Those last five minutes were a teasing glimpse of what we could have had together! Had those minutes not existed, I could have written Darkness off entirely...but now I'm saddled with the crippling knowledge* of what could have been.

*By "crippling knowledge" I mean "the brief thought: 'dang, that movie woulda been better if it had more of the last five minutes and less of the everything before that last five minutes. Also, let's be real here: in a year, if someone brings up Darkness I'll say 'Yeah, I saw that' and my brain, having purged nearly everything about it to make room for something else, will react with but a whiff of disappointment."

A family moves into home that used to be an orphanage or something maybe, I don't know, there were some kids there and six of the seven kids were killed for some Satanic ritual to bring about the "Darkness" but because the seventh kid lived the ritual failed and the dad of the family is the surviving kid all grown up and it's time for the ritual again because there's an eclipse coming.

There, that's the gist of it, and it sounds pretty good, right? I'm all about a Satanic ritual! But aye yi yi, Darkness takes forever in the getting there. I don't mean it's some slow burn–I'm all about a slow burn! No, rather this movie likes to tell rather than show, so it's largely a bunch of people talking in circles at each other...which might be fine if not for the truly fucking leaden performances. It's time for me to come clean: look, I just don't get Anna Paquin. Yeah, I know she won an Oscar when she was a baby or twelve or whatever, and sure, The Piano, as I remember it, is good. But since then, I don't really get how she has a flourishing career. Her facial expression doesn't change and she rarely makes eye contact with her fellow actors and everything is sort of mumbly and monotonous, and it's like she's more an actor computer program from Looker than a real human who actually won an Oscar that one time. I don't know, maybe she's great in things I've yet to see, but here she is like a big loaf of Wonder Bread taking up space.

But really, everyone is sort of Wonder Bread-y in that they're lifeless, even when yelling really loud. Everyone is awful in their own way, and the idea that these four people constitute a "family" is ludicrous. Dysfunction is fine, nuclear families are fine...but they don't relate to each other as anything beyond "four strangers in a house"; there's more warmth and familiarity, in fact, between "seven strangers in a house" on the first episode of any season of The Real World.

So overall, a huge disappointment. I was hoping for some hidden gem, particularly since Darkness was written and directed by Jaume Balagueró, who gave the world my beloved [REC]. Well, at least the last five minutes was pretty good. Tis better than the whole thing stinking...or is it? Ah, my existential crisis is flaring up again. Damn you, SHOCKtober!

Oct 9, 2015


I've been trying to suss out my feelings regarding A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and it's tough, man, it's tough. "Mildly disappointed and slightly misled coupled with a dash of 'aw, dang' but I still enjoyed it and gosh it was pretty" is the best I can do to sum it up. Everything about this movie was so damn intriguing. The Girl (Sheila Vand) is a captivating figure as she stalks the dark streets, her pale face striking in her black chador. The film was touted as the "first Iranian vampire western", which...come on! Who doesn't want to see that? Yeah, it's Iran by way of southern California (Taft is a stand-in for the fictional Bad City), and while I'm not sure exactly what I expected regarding the "western" bit, but I thought it would translate to something beyond a Morricone-esque soundtrack.

At least the "vampire" part is true. The Girl does indeed sprout fangs and make with the bite-bite on occasion. There are also figurative vampires who suck the life and souls from everyone around them...why, there's even a plastic-fanged imitation Dracula. It's a metaphor-riddled quasi-horror film more than a straight bloodsucker flick though, closer kin to Abel Ferrara's The Addiction (1995) than Nosferatu. There are strains of Let the Right One In here, too, in the central love story that explores how far a young man will go in his devotion to a monster. Unfortunately, the relationship between The Girl and her suitor Arash (Arash Marandi) lacks passion of any kind...and you know, that's sort of my problem with the film as a whole. It's gorgeous. Stunning, even. Bad City is an interesting, if unexplored place; the glimpses we get of its freaky inhabitants and...uh, the ravine full of to mind some kind of David Lynch city/circus of the damned. Ultimately, though, the entire affair comes off as cold and lifeless as The Girl herself. I like a sense of mystery–we learn nothing about our protagonist beyond her apparent affection for pop music–but the framework surrounding that mystery is too thin to support it.

All that said, I look forward to whatever writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour cooks up next, because A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night certainly has a lot going for it. "I wanted more from it" ain't a bad complaint to have.

(Side note: this was the real star of the film. A++ kitty acting for sure!)

Oct 8, 2015


"Crazy wicca bullshit."

I knew nothing about All Cheerleaders Die before giving it the good ol' fashioned SHOCKtober go (which sounds a lot hotter than it is, trust me). Wait, that's not true: I knew it was co-written and co-directed by fan fave Lucky McKee, but that didn't get me all excited because I didn't dig May (2002) (holy shit, 2002? that came out in 2002?? how fucking old am I? *turns to dust*) as much as most people. I mean, yeah, I liked it. Of course I liked it! Anna Faris and Angela Bettis are in it, and so is the dude who played Elton in Clueless, and as we all know, Clueless rules. I just mean that everyone seems to hump May's leg, and I'm like, well I could hump it, but I've seen better legs. You know how it is. The point is, I thought this was going to be some postmodern slasher movie or something because nobody seems to be humping All Cheerleaders Die's leg, so I hadn't bothered to read up on it. Turns out, this is not a slasher flick, postmodern or otherwise. It also turns out that I loved this movie so much, why isn't everybody humping its leg??

Look, this summary does a really good job of, you know, summarizing the plot:

A rebel girl signs up a group of cheerleaders to help her take down the captain of their high school football team, but a supernatural turn of events thrusts the girls into a different battle.

But there is so much waiting for you to discover, as All Cheerleaders Die goes to unexpected and delightful places. It reminded me of two other films that I heart oh so very hard: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and The Convent. All three movies have humor, sure, but more than that there's a kind of glee running through them. They are goofy and dorky and take their non-seriousness very seriously. The FX are generally fakey-looking, but it doesn't matter. All Cheerleaders Die is the tamest, least sort-of-gonzo of the trio, but it's a good time just the same. They're fun. And sometimes fun is fun! Yes, even when it's mixed with horror.

All Cheerleaders Die has a lot of the charms that make up the charm bracelet of my life and the things I love: supernatural horror, witches, lesbian witches, clearly defined "bad guys", the simple guilt-free catharsis you sometimes get from revenge movies, and more. The end of the film left room for a sequel–quite literally, in fact, as a title screen called this "Part One." While yesterday I didn't know All Cheerleaders Die from a hole in my head, now everything has changed and I hope that "Part One" business wasn't just a joke because let me tell you, I'm humping Part Two's leg already!

Oct 7, 2015

Day 7: MANIAC (2012)

It's been 35 years since Maniac was released, but the film's notorious reputation clings to it still. Its explicit, hateful violence continues to shock even the most jaded horror fans; it's a wholly repellent movie that–while undoubtedly deserving of its place in the genre's hallowed halls–is perhaps more appreciated than enjoyed. I can't say I was surprised when the remake was announced, as every movie in the history of ever is up for grabs as far as that goes. But, with a finger on my chin and a faraway look in my eye, I certainly wondered: would it be as hardcore as the original? And what of the casting of this so called "Elijah" "Wood"–could he sweat and mumble enough to make an adequate replacement for Joe Spinell, or would his Frank be something else entirely?

Well, let's get this out of the way: Maniac '12 is French, so yeah, it's pretty hardcore. If you're looking for gore and violence, it's as typically stomach-churning as most other horror films hailing from that country. As for the rest of it...

Frank is a part-time restorer of antique mannequins and a part-time maniac. He stalks women he sees on the street, or women he picks up through an online dating service...just basically any woman who catches his eye. It's not long before Frank's copious mommy issues rise to the surface and he moves from stalking the women to butchering, taking their scalps and clothing as a prize. Back home, he puts the matted, bloodied scalps on clothes on the mannequins and talks to them as if they were real women. Soon he meets Anna (Nora Arnezeder), a pretty photographer who wants to use Frank's mannequins–the ones in the front of the shop, natch–in a gallery project. They strike up a friendship, but how long can Frank keep his serial killer urges in check?

Make no mistake: this isn't some dopey slasher flick where a masked psycho offs teenagers for regressions real or imagined. Maniac is about the violence perpetrated against women on the regular. It's a cautionary tale that plays on the fears nearly every woman accepts as a part of life: don't go home with that nice guy you met on the dating site. Don't walk home alone, especially after dark. It reinforces every "don't" that women are taught ("I warned you not to go out tonight.") if they want to stay safe. There are maniacs out there, and they often seem harmless, like Frank does. Maybe you'll have dinner with him first. Maybe he'll stare at you on the subway and then follow you home. Maybe he's hiding under your car. Maybe he's your friend. Beware, ladies! The danger is real.

As I noted in my review of 1980's Maniac, I don't think that a movie about misogyny is always misogynist in and of itself. It's the approach to the subject matter employed by the remake and not necessarily the subject matter itself that I found severely lacking. In both versions, Frank is a victim of abuse at the hands of his mother, which renders him unable to relate to women on a level of basic humanity. It's a horror tale as old as Psycho, and I don't know, I guess I'm a bit over the "castrating mother" trope...or, again, the way it's used in Maniac '12, which is shot in the first-person view for most of its runtime. We're forced to see the world through Frank's eyes, to somehow identify with him, which...well, why force the audience to do that? Is it just to make us uncomfortable? That's a thing, I guess. Was it simply a "Hey, let's do the opposite of what they did in the original version!"? That's a thing, too. In 1980, first-person perspective was also used, but generally in order to see through the eyes of the victims. We saw tables turn as this unremarkable man suddenly became a maniac, and not only was it was a more terrifying technique from a "horror movie" perspective, but it made us empathize with the women, not the killer.

Although we did empathize with Frank in 1980, too. He sickened himself with his behavior and was tortured by his demons. They hint at this in the remake, going so far as to give us a literal vomit scene after Frank kills his date, but again...the first-person P.O.V. gets in the way. We never see Frank as a normal, average guy the way Anna does because we're relegated to glimpses of him every once in a while in a mirror, only seeing Frank staring blankly at himself. Sure, he hems and haws and gets headaches which make the camera go blurry, but ultimately it doesn't come across as anything more than a gimmick.

While the film didn't work for me overall, I would like to give a shoutout to the hardest working extras in Maniac '12: the green Bath and Body Works-looking hand soap and lotion who showed up in nearly every apartment in Los Angeles.

Oct 6, 2015


"Liquidate the Nazarene."

Just lie back and think of Heaven

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzwhaHUH? Oh, sorry. Guess I must have dozed off whilst trying to make it through this interminable slog of a film. A trilogy following the life of Damien Thorn from his cherubic childhood to his time as a prep school punk to his adult life as an ambassador and head of a corporation sure seems like a good idea. By the time Omen III: The Final Conflict came about, though, that idea had run completely out of steam. Who knew that the ascendancy of the Antichrist would be so friggin' dull?

Though he's in his thirties now, things haven't changed much from the time Damien was a boy. He's still got a Rottweiler and minions who do his bidding. He's still waiting to bring Hell to Earth and claim his place as leader, or as the leader's son, or...look, it's a little vague. But it'll be bad! And that's why a bunch of priests wave around sacred knives and try to stop him. Prophecy this, stars lining up that, ho hum. You've seen it all before, from the closeups of eyes both canine and human to the frightened grey-haired dudes who pull their trench coats tighter and cast furtive glances behind them as they scuttle away from creepy feelings, it' know. The Omen. Cue the hosanna-laden bombastic score.

It's a franchise that always seems to be classier than it actually is, thanks to its self-serious tone and formidable actors, but its trashy, lurid side is never too far from the surface; the shocking moments in the original film are still, well, shocking. The Final Conflict has a few memorable scenes for sure–I mean, one of Damien's schemes involves wiping out any baby that could possibly be the second coming of Christ–but these scenes are too few and too far between the copious minutes spent with either Good or Evil as they fret.

Surprisingly, the obvious political allegory is left to wither on the vine. The President brushes aside the laws that don't suit Damien's desire to be an ambassador and a UN council head and a corporate chairman, but then it's all dropped. For all the running time (this shit clocks in at almost two hours) and use of the word "machinations", there's virtually no political machinations to speak of and it seems like a missed opportunity. Maybe now would be a good time to remake this movie, particularly if–Charles Nelson Reilly forbid–Donald Trump ends up in the Oval Office. Hmm, maybe those knife-wielding priests were onto something. Someone check the back of Trump's head for the telltale birthmark!