Sunday, December 31, 2023

Viewings: December 2023

Best film I watched in December turned out to be one of the best of 2023. Godzilla Minus One was a shining ray of light in a mostly depressing year in cinema. Before any triggered cinéaste's blood boils over that statement, I'll double down on my claim with a fresh load of critical and popular darlings listed below which all had me never wanting to watch them ever again.

Lewis Teague's gangster drama The Lady in Red was the only other notable discovery for me this month.

Other than Paul Giamatti's wonky glass eye, the best thing about The Holdovers was it inadvertently sending me on a slasher binge and inspiring me to blog about should've been final girls.

Finally, I watched an obscene amount of old and new Doctor Who episodes this month; way too many to name individually.


Maria Marten, or the Murder in the Red Barn (Milton Rosmer, 1935)*

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (George King, 1936)*

Follow That Skirt (Richard W. Bomont, 1965)*

Carry on at Your Convenience (Gerald Thomas, 1971)

Crucible of Terror (Ted Hooker, 1971)

Carry on Abroad (Gerald Thomas, 1972)

Disciple of Death (Tom Parkinson, 1972)*

Messiah of Evil (William Huyck & Gloria Katz•, 1973)

The Lady in Red (Lewis Teague, 1979)*

Happy Birthday to Me (J. Lee Thompson, 1981)

The House on Sorority Row (Mark Rosman, 1982)

The Mutilator AKA Fall Break (Buddy Cooper & John Douglass, 1984)

Cheerleader Camp AKA Bloody Pom Poms (John Quinn, 1988)

Popcorn (Mark Herrier & Alan Ormsby•, 1991)

Cut (Kimble Rendall, 2000)*

Husk (Brett Simmons, 2011)*

Christmas Bloody Christmas (Joe Begos, 2022)*

The Sadness (Rob Jabbaz, 2021/2022)

Asteroid City (Wes Anderson, 2023)*

Ballerina (Chung-Hyun Lee, 2023)*

Dream Scenario (Kristoffer Borgli, 2023)*

The Exorcist: Believer (David Gordon Green, 2023)*

Godzilla Minus One (Takashi Yamazaki, 2023)*

The Holdovers (Alexander Payne, 2023)*

It’s a Wonderful Knife (Tyler MacIntyre, 2023)*

Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese, 2023)*

Leave the World Behind (Sam Esmail, 2023)*

Lion-Girl (Kurando Mitsutake, 2023)*

May December (Todd Haynes, 2023)*

Nefarious (Chuck Konzelman & Cary Solomon, 2023)*

Priscilla (Sofia Coppola, 2023)*

Saltburn (Emerald Fennell, 2023)*

Thanksgiving (Eli Roth, 2023)*



Doctor Who - Various Episodes (Donald B. Wilson & Sidney Newman, 1963 - 2023)*

Mastermind - Episodes 15 - 18 (Bill Wright, 2023/2024)*

Only Connect - Series 19 - Episode 23 (Chris Stuart, 2023)*


* First time viewing.

• Uncredited.

Dada Debaser Notes:

  • Stumbled across Cut on Plex, an Australian slasher starring Molly Ringwald and Kylie Minongue. Nowhere near as potentially entertaining as that sounds. Goes from a meta film à la Scream to Freddy Krueger rip-off and falls flat on its arse.
  • Best thing about Todd Haynes's critically overrated drama May December is its recycling of the The Go-Between (1971) soundtrack, which in turn made me rediscover Ill Advised's Through the Eye this month.
  • Negative review bombing of Nefarious by angry atheists was the reason I even checked it out in the first place. The whiners were right about it, however - below average film.
  • Turns out third time really is a charm as I ended up enjoying Popcorn much more after a recent viewing of it. Reggae music doesn't really fit in a slasher, however.
  • Some great creative kills in Thanksgiving and bonus points for the fictional fantasy of modern teens listening to The Pharcyde's Oh Shit, but I can't help thinking how potentially great the film might’ve been if it was made around ten years earlier in the vein of the 2007 fake trailer.
  • Priscilla was another nice looking snoozefest. Luhrmann's Elvis (2022) was way more entertaining.
  • File Killers of the Flower Moon under the list of Scorsese's films where once is enough, like Silence (2017).
  • Saltburn is essentially Letterboxd-core Brideshead Revisited x The Talented Mr. Ripley.
  • Really enjoyed Mitsutake's erotic giallo Maniac Driver (2020), but Lion-Girl is atrocious. Posthumously added to my Worst Films of 2023 list.
  • With Disciple of Death ticked off the list, I've finally watched all four films featuring pirate radio deejay turned actor turned sculptor Mike Raven AKA Bootleg Christopher Lee. A weak film, but immensely fun, regardless.

Other notable highlights this month were: Ashton's Tales That Witness Madness and Black Christmas reviews; Unpopped Cinema's Top 25 Best Discs of 2023; and The Martorialist's Best Movies and TV of 2023.

Friday, December 29, 2023

The Moment I Feared: Part 8

The Two Ronnies (Teeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Queer Street)
(Season 9 - Episode 3, 19th December, 1981)

There are few statements as incontestable as 1981 being one of the greatest years in Horror ever: An American Werewolf in London; Possession; The Evil Dead; The Beyond; The Howling; Dead and Buried; Friday the 13th: Part 2; My Bloody Valentine; The Prowler - there are a bucketload of classics from that year. But the frightmares weren't just restricted to the big screen; a fine example comes unexpectedly from a musical sketch by the legendary British comedic duo, The Two Ronnies.

Aired on BBC's Saturday night TV slot, the duo performed a musical sketch parodying the infamous Penny Dreadful tale of Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The story revolves around the villainous barber putting his cut throat razor to literal use and robbing his patrons of their valuables. His bloody victims would fall backward down a revolving trap door whilst on the barber's chair. Below, in the basement, his accomplice in crime, Mrs. Lovett would dispose of the corpses by using them as the filling in her meat pies. A gruesome tale that's been adapted many times over. (Sidenote: I've never actually watched the Tim Burton adaptation since I'd already given up on him by then, along with being sick of Johnny Depp being inescapable everywhere.)

The Two Ronnies' Teeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Queer Street, did not refrain at all from showing a visceral amount of blood spewing from the throats of unfortunate victims. Can you imagine seeing such a gruesome premise aired on a primetime slot in a comedy today? So chilling, the sketch ended up being cut from repeats later on.

My memory of this event layed buried until viewing the British Quota Quickie film from 1936, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street starring Tod Slaughter (what a name!) very recently. It unearthed the memories of me being very young and horrified of that Two Ronnies sketch.

The Two Ronnies (The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town)
(Series 5 -  Episode 1, 4th September, 1976)

Teeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Queer Street wasn't the only chiller from The Two Ronnies as they previously had a running episodic tale co-written by The Goon Show comedian Spike Milligan known as The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town. It had the look and feel of vintage Hammer at times, which made it all the more alluring to me, as the Jack the Ripper style antagonist would assault his victims by blowing a raspberry at them (it turned out to be performed by David Jason and not by Spike Milligan as once thought). Once his face was finally revealed The Phantom Raspberry Blower's visage became a similar frightful memory from the much beloved comedy show.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Home Format Releases of 2023

An incredible year for boutique label releases. You know it's a bumper year when both the Pete Walker and Coffin Joe box sets being delayed until next year offers you a chance to watch all the amazing titles you ended up coppin'. It's not hyperbole, 2023 was the best year in home format releases since 2020. Fact!

The only real downside was not being able to grab everything as it would leave you skint. Personally, many desirable titles were way beyond my threshold of an acceptable price range, thus that 4 disc 4K release of Dellamorte Dellamore, and a bunch of other Severin releases for that matter, were sadly avoided. Similarly, newcomers from across the pond like Neon Eagle and Terror-Vision didn't even get a look-in due to their pricing and shipping costs. Therefore, my personal picks of the year were shaped mostly by local labels.

Home Format Releases of 2023:

Enter the Video Store - Empire of Screams (Arrow)

Magic Myth & Mutilation: The Micro Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy 1967 - 2015 (Indicator)

Blood and Black Lace (Arrow)

From Hollywood to Heaven: The Lost and Saved Films of the Ormond Family (Indicator)

The House that Screamed (Arrow)

Full Circle (BFI)

Blood Sucking Freaks (Vinegar Syndrome)

Targets (BFI)

After Hours (Criterion)

A Gun for Jennifer (Vinegar Syndrome)

The Defilers (AGFA/Something Weird Video)

Black Magic Rites (Indicator)

Messiah of Evil (Radiance Films)

Freaks / The Unknown / The Mystic: Todd Browning's Sideshow Shockers (Criterion)

Martin (Second Sight)

The Whip and the Body (88 Films)

Some of the films which got the boutique treatment were on my wish lists, so finally owning them and getting to watch them in all their glory, made them welcome highlights in 2023. That new artwork for A Gun for Jennifer is still atrocious, regardless.

It was also somewhat strange seeing a few of my personal highlights make it on various critics' favourite physical releases this year, too.

Looking forward to what 2024 might bring, maybe we'll finally get The Hitcher after the last couple of years in delays.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Joan to the World

Amicus Productions' adaptations of EC Comics' bone chilling strories are the stuff of legend for a generation of Brits weened on seventies horror. They are the gold standard for horror film anthologies.

Freddie Francis's Tales from the Crypt (1972) is amongst the most celebrated of the lot; five ghoulish tales blessed with an amazing wraparound featuring Sir Ralph Richardson as the hooded Crypt Keeper.

The first of these stories is ...And All Through the House adapted from The Vault of Horror #35 (February–March 1954) - a festive murder tale with a chilling twist starring the iconic screen siren Joan Collins. The stone cold fox turns stone cold killer after she cracks open her husband's noggin with a poker on Christmas Eve.

Other than Dame Joan Collins looking like an absolute dame in this macabre tale, witnessing her tiptoeing between murderous black widow and parental mother, makes this an alluring watching experience. While dealing with her husband's body, she has to constantly quell her restless daughter's excitement for Santa Claus – serious multi-tasking.

Making matters worse, a newsflash on the radio announces a dangerous psychopath has escaped from the local funny farm and is thought to be in the area dressed as Santa Claus. With little surprise, the said maniac is soon knocking on Joan's door and peering through her windows searching for a way to get in:

"We interrupt this programme for a special announcement: A man described as a homicidal maniac has escaped from the hospital for the criminally insane. He is 6 foot 3 inches tall,  210 pounds, dark eyes, bald, and may be wearing a Santa Claus costume taken from a shop in Burley. All residents of the county are warned to be on the look out for this man, and to phone the police if they see him. We now continue our programme of carols for Christmas Eve."

Joan can't exactly call the police for help after just murdering her other half, therefore, she's frantically locking all the doors and windows to keep the maniac out. Unfortunately for her, Carol (how festively appropriate), her daughter, has let the deranged killer in the house thinking it's Santa Claus. "He's here, mummy! I let him in, it's Santa." The grubby and insane maniac dressed as Santa Claus creepily makes his way to our Joan and strangles her.

There are some minor differences between this version of the story and the original EC Comics publication. Francis's adaptation is the better version, in my opinion. That's largely because it contains less dialogue and feels more streamlined. Actions speak louder than words and so much is told through Joan's performance, along with the amazing Christmas atmosphere of the set design and the carols sung on the radio. It's perhaps my favourite killer Santa story captured on film.

Robert Zemeckis helmed a 1989 version of ...And All Through the House for the Tales from the Crypt (1989 - 1996) series, with his wife, Mary Ellen Trainor, playing the murderous wife. Larry Drake (he really should have been a massive horror icon, in my opinion) plays the killer Santa in what's arguably one of the best looking make-up jobs for a twisted take on a beloved character. As fine as it is, I still prefer the 1972 version over it. It's far too ingrained within me after all these years: the breezy twelve minutes run time; the garishly seventies decor; the bright red nail polish that's supposed to be blood; and Joan Collins's stellar performance make it the definitive adaptation for me. A classic Yuletide tale.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2023

Worst Films of 2023

Annus horribilis for the House of Mouse, but misery really does love company since a bunch of other studios were also responsible for some horrid films this year. If only the Writers Guild of America strike was still going.

Some of these films might have contained some fleetingly memorable scenes, and some of this lot ended up on various critics' best films of the year lists. However, the overall impression they left upon me was profoundly negative. Did you know some progressive nations still administer corporal punishment to offenders?

Worst Films of 2023:

Asteroid City (Wes Anderson)

Bottoms (Emma Seligman)

Cocaine Bear (Elizabeth Banks)

Enys Men (Mark Jenkin)

The Exorcist: Believer (David Gordon Green)

It’s a Wonderful Knife (Tyler MacIntyre)

Knock at the Cabin (M. Night Shamalamadingdong)

Lion-Girl (Kurando Mitsutake)

Maid Droid (Rich Mallery)

The Meg 2: The Trench (Ben Wheatley)

The Nun II (Michael Chaves)

Scream VI (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett)

Kyle Edward Ball's experimental art house film Skinamarink (2022/2023) didn't make the cut on account of me lacking the willpower to watch it all the way through; a rare occurrence for your host. Checked out around the thirty minute mark. Grainy fixed film footage of walls, floors and lego bricks had me scrambling for the remote control during my brief dalliance with the film.

Skinmarink (Trailer)
Kyle Edward Ball, 2022/2023

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Best Films of 2023

Not quite ready to close the book on 2023, but only a fool would pretend it wasn't a disappointing year for films. Don't believe me? Explain the hysteria over Barbenheimer then. Two films about as appealing as root canal surgery.

Lengthy epics were more abundant. They highlighted the inflated egos of various directors and the idiocy of production studios funding them rather than be of legitimate necessity. Know what I mean, Ari?

Infinity Pool, The Last Voyage of the Demeter and even Renfield were films I was personally looking forward to this year, but they all left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed.

Thankfully, there were some positive highlights. Salute to this lot! o7

Best Films of 2023:

No One Will Save You (Brian Duffield)

Godzilla Minus One (Yamazaki Takashi)

The Royal Hotel (Kitty Green)

When Evil Lurks (Demián Rugna)

Talk to Me (Danny Philipou & Michael Philipou)

Unwelcome (Jon Wright)

Tetris (Jon S. Baird)

Candy Land (John Swab)

LOLA (Andrew Legge)

Inside (Vasilis Katsoupis)

The Passenger (Carter Smith)

No One Will Save You is the film of the year as it's a gem of a science fiction film which takes inspiration from Richard Matheson's story The Invaders; making it a winner by default. Hopefully it gets a physical release as it does not deserve to rot on some streaming service.

2023 Films I Still Need to Watch: The Beasts (Rodrigo Sorogoyen); El Conde (Pablo Larraín); The Iron Claw (Sean Durkin); Napoleon (Ridley Scott); Poor Things (Yorgos Lanthimos); The Zone of Interest (Johnathan Glazer).

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Best Old Films Discovered in 2023

For every recent film misfire, there will always be the assurance of an older gem awaiting discovery.

At the risk of it sounding cliched, these older films really were an educational experience: I was clueless about Peter Watkins's mock-documentaries; wrong about writing off Sidney Hayers; and completely slept on the brilliance of apocalyptic eighties thrillers The Quiet Earth and Miracle Mile until this very year.

Discoveries of 2023:

The Sadist (James Landis, 1963)

The Thrill Killers (Ray Dennis Steckler, 1964)

The War Game (Peter Watkins, 1965)

The Bride Wore Black (François Truffaut, 1968)

Targets (Peter Bogdanovich, 1968)

Blind Beast (Yasuzō Masumura, 1969)

The House That Screamed (Chicho Ibáñez Serrador, 1969)

Red Sun (Rudolph Thome, 1970)

Punishment Park (Peter Watkins, 1971)

Revenge (Sidney Hayers, 1971)

Full Circle AKA The Haunting of Julia (Richard Loncraine, 1977)

The Lady in Red (Lewis Teague, 1979)

Samurai Reincarnation (Kenji Fukasaku, 1981)

Calamity of Snakes (William Cheung Kai, 1982)

The Quiet Earth (Geoff Murphy, 1985)

Miracle Mile (Steve De Jarnatt, 1988)

The Hot Spot (Dennis Hopper, 1990)

Croupier (Mike Hodges, 1998)

Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby (Matthew Bright, 1999)

Pusher II (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2004)

Hotel Coolgardie (Pete Gleeeson, 2016)

Honourable Mentions: Chained Girls (Joseph P. Mawra, 1965); If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (Ron Ormond, 1971); Black Magic Rites AKA The Reincarnation of Isabel (Renato Polselli, 1973); Deadly Strangers (Sidney Hayers, 1975); Dr. Caligari (Stephen Sayadian, 1989); Hitcher in the Dark (Umberto Lenzi, 1989); Kolobos (Daniel Liatowitsch & David Todd Ocvirk, 1999); Night of the Rat (David R.L, 2015); Maniac Driver (Kurando Mitsutake, 2021).

Monday, December 18, 2023

Tokyo Story

Godzilla Minus One (Takashi Yamazaki, 2023)

How ironic is it that a Japanese creature feature, with a modest budget of approximately $15M, does a better job than Hollywood at pulling off a compelling human drama. Takashi Yamazaki's Godzilla Minus One (2023) is a superbly faithful compliment to Ishirō Honda's original 1954 film, while convincingly serving as a modern update. It avoids making the same egregious errors of its American counterparts. Valuable screen time is not wasted on a distracting subplot or annoying characters; nor does it shroud the titular character from its full glory until the climactic finale. There are no nudging winks to some of the ridiculous past films. Godzilla Minus One takes its concept seriously; it is a film that both understands its namesake and respects its audience’s intelligence.

Set during the final days of World War II, Koichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a cowardly kamikaze pilot, feigns engine problems with his plane and makes a makeshift pit-stop on a Pacific island. His failure to perform his duty leads to his first experience with the titular dinosaur (but much smaller due to it not being exposed to any atomic bomb testing yet) at a naval garrison on the remote island. This event leads to Shikishima's cowardice rearing itself once more, as he fails to open fire with his plane's guns during the Godzilla's rampage of the garrison.

Shikishima's encounter with Godzilla leads to him returning to his home city of Tokyo, where like everyone else, he must rebuild his life amid the ruins. From the rubble of a post-war city, this leads to him being thrust with a makeshift family; a destitute young woman and an orphaned baby girl. While Japan gradually rebuilds itself and Shikishima finds dangerous employment shooting sea mines, the atomically grown Godzilla unleashes death and destruction upon Tokyo. The tremendous sense of scale of this creature is amazingly brought to life in the film. The catastrophic attack; particularly from its nuclear heat ray, is spectacular. 

Godzilla Minus One perfectly crams Shikishima's redemption tale without suffocating the life of the film. A redemptive storyline interwoven alongside themes dealing with national pride, family and healing, mark it as a surprisingly philanthropic film.

The film is a celebration of the human spirit; a shining, positive light during Japan's darkest period. Witnessing the ensemble cast form such strong bonds with one another after such a historical low point that's made even worse with a monumental assault by Godzilla, makes the film feel all the more rousing once our characters get working together. There is no foreign aid for Japan; it must fend for itself against the towering creature. Courage and ingenuity are what our heroes (big fan of the eccentric Japanese scientist with the Taika Waititi hairdo) have left to vanquish the creature; resulting with a spectacular final battle.

Lastly, composer Naoki Sato's score is fantastic. Reincorporating Akira Ifukube's classic Godzilla suite and blending it with emotionally driven themes for its human characters, marks this return to Godzilla's roots all the more lovingly respectful. Honestly had to refrain myself from acting like a lunatic and leaping out of my seat, yelling "Get the fuck up! Simon says, 'Get the fuck up!'" whenever Godzilla's theme came on during my screening.

One of the best films of 2023.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Fallon Angel

The Lady in Red (Lewis Teague, 1979)

Preface: This isn't a film about the Chris de Burgh song.

Arthur Penn's 1967 crime drama Bonnie and Clyde might be considered one of the earliest examples of New Hollywood breakthrough into the mainstream. It also kicked off a spate of outlaw themed hicksploitation films via legendary producer Roger Corman; Bloody Mama (1970) and Big Bad Mama (1974) being the obvious titles. It turns out Corman's daughter was a chip off the old block as she  produced a gem of a gangster story, The Lady in Red (1979).

Based on the life Edythe "Polly" Hamilton, the girlfriend of The Great Depression outlaw John Dillinger, The Lady in Red (1979) chronicles various events in her life which lead up to her becoming an outlaw herself. From a simple farm girl, to prostitute to a gangster moll, this loosely based biopic doesn't pull its punches with the our heroine's, renamed as Polly Frankin in the film, rough life.

Each chapter of Polly Franklin's life is compelling viewing. The film features a generous amount of female nudity and nasty violence - something current Hollywood might too afraid to repeat now. Also, despite its producers and the studio its born from, The Lady in Red is less of an exploitation and more of a tough drama. The film impressed me with how it managed to go in a direction that I didn't expect, and wound up being a positive surprise.

Actress, Pamela Sue Martin, better known for playing the OG Fallon Carrington from the eighties soap opera Dynasty, plays the destitute Polly Franklin in the film. She delivers a great, no holds barred performance; going from simple farm girl, to prostitute, to an actual gangster by the end. Her character development is remarkably compelling. The rest of the cast include Robert Conrad as John Dillinger, Louise Fletcher as the bordello madam Anna Sage and an uncredited Robert Forster as Turk, a suave hitman. The biggest surprise is seeing Christopher Lloyd in his scene-stealing role, the dangerously psychotic gangster Frognose.

Not sure if The Lady in Red is the kind of film that would be made today; at least on the same impactful level. A modern adaptation would likely be absurd and exaggerated, with Margot Robbie to famous to get her kit off, and a bunch of modern songs thrown in à la Peaky Blinders. Also, if we're talking about Hollywood, it would obviously cower away from the numerous violent scenes inflicted upon women. This film does not shy away from violence at all.

Director Lewis Teague and writer John Sayles worked together on another film after The Lady in Red, the cult classic Jaws-rip-off Alligator (1980). Browsing online for any other films they might have worked together on was how I discovered this gangster gem. Too bad there weren't any other projects, as they were a strong combination.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Everything But the Final Girl

Watched the coming-of-age drama The Holdovers (2023) the other week, and other than it having me pondering how much better it would have been if it wasn't such a veritable sausage party, was how its early seventies Christmas setting, along with its prep school location, would have been far better suited in a good ol’ fashioned slasher film. This had me hitting the shelves and watching some vintage slice and dice movies. They will always be more appealing than some obvious Oscar bait. The much maligned slasher genre is chicken soup for my soul and an antithesis to the overrated shite jocked by pretentious cinéaste crowds.

However, this resurrects an age old issue concerning certain characters from this genre: various players being vastly better than the film's protagonist. They deserved the mantle of final girl in their respective films. Here are a bunch of your host's fave characters, in no order of preference, who were robbed of life before their time:

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
Never forget the reason a bunch of troublesome teens in a halfway house became victims in the controversial Jason imposter sequel all stemmed from a chocolate bar. Vi, the new wave goth deserved to live way more than some-other-bloke-who-wasn't-Corey Feldman playing Tommy Jarvis. Her quintessential eighties goth made her a standout. Her robot dance was the best dance in the franchise after Jimmy "Jimbo" Mortimer's from the previous film.

Murder-Rock: Dancing Death (1984)
It's remarkable how Lucio Fulci, nicknamed the Godfather of Gore, managed to make a relatively bloodless giallo/slasher with Murder Rock. This sleazy film, inspired by Fame and Flash Dance, has one of the most flexible characters, Janice, who puts Jennifer Beals' exotic dance to shame with her lurid performance. Fulci obviously fancied her since she was given an off-screen death. How rare is that? She deserved to live after that dance.

Rachel Carruthers
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
The complete character assassination of Rachel by the film's hack writers is a bigger crime done to her than what Big Mike did. A smart, young and likeable woman in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), who earnt final girl status only to be turned into a brainless bimbo second time around. She merely served as cannon fodder in the first twenty minutes. A typical example as to why slasher survivors should never return in the sequel. Word to Roland Kincaid!

My Bloody Valentine (1981)
The real lovebirds of Valentine Bluff were Patty and Hollis in the original canuck slasher, My Bloody Valentine. Sadly, we got a daytime soap operal level love triangle instead with T.J and Axel fighting over the most useless and unworthy final girl in slasher history - Sarah Mercer. Unfortunately, no one else realised this, thus our working-class love birds ended up like a canaries when they ventured below Hanniger mine for a Valentine's Day party. Romance is truly dead.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Obvious hot take, but I would have picked Taryn over Kristen as final girl in the third Elm Street outing. Whether you disagree or not, it makes no difference 'cause Patricia Arquette didn't return in the fourth film, and the character merely became a stepping stone for Alice Johnson to be the final girl for the fourth and fifth films. How much better would it have been if Taryn got her chance to shine in those films? Both brave and heroic, the former drug addict deserved her chance to shine.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Not many women would give a hulking, undead, homicidal maniac with a machete the kiss of life, but that's what Kia did to save Jason Voorhees from drowning in his nightmare slumber. What thanks does she get for this memorable gesture? A machete slap so hard she ends up flying across the screen and into a tree. What kind of a message are we sending to aspiring final girls everywhere when Kia dies after putting in so much work while Lori Campbell survives on fake looking boobs alone?

Terrifier (2016)
Throughout Terrifier our young heroine went through so much physically and emotionally, even a complete bastard would be rooting for her. Sadly, it wasn't to be as Art the Clown emptied an entire round of bullets into her head. The sequel might have engineered one of the most unique and interesting final girls in decades, but Tara's death is still a gut-wrencher for your host. Tara deserved to make it to the end credits instead of her sister.

Black Christmas (1974)
How could Barb be tragically killed off after displaying all that courage and camaraderie for her fellow Pi Kappa Sigma sisters? Beneath that sassy exterior was a vulnerable woman in a world of emotional hurt. She put her sisters first, and I can respect that! To be fair, not even the film's actual final girl, Jessica, made it as Billy was revealed to be in the house at the end of the film. A downbeat ending, but Barb's death scene still always hits the hardest for me.

Sorority Row (2009)
Mean girls are often a secondary villain in the slasher genre, but every now and then some real ice queens come along who are even more endearing than the actual final girl of the film. Jessica is one of them; so down right bitchy, the O.G. film's meanie, Vicki, pales in comparison - a remarkable feat, to be honest. Her callous remarks are more cold-blooded than the killer. Not only that, but she even manages to outshine a shotgun-wielding Carrie Fisher playing the house mother in the film.

Psycho III (1986)
Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) may have been the first Hollywood film to feature an on-screen toilet, but it wasn't until the third instalment where it had a kill on it. Common courtesy ought to dictate that any potential slasher victim should at least finish their business while on the khazi. At least Demon got off the crapper in Friday the 13th Part V after them damn enchiladas. Should Patsy have made it to final girl status? Nope, but she deseverd some dignity in taking a piss undisturbed, though.

My Little Eye (2002)
This early noughties gem packed a powerful punch, and still does whenever I think about it. This Big Brother inspired chiller had a similar premise to the Hostel films and The Den, in that our cast are thinking they're competing on a reality show, but are unknowingly in a snuff show. For the most part, this is a psychological thriller before it truly descends into real horror territory. Emma is set up as a traditional final girl in the film, but is cruelly never even given the chance to shine.
Scream (1996)
Equally perplexed how the latest films in the Scream franchise has resurrected Kirby Reed and only a few people are asking the important question: how? Onto alternative choice - Tatum Riley. The original BF but not forever, but you've seen enough slasher films to wonder if she might be another Ann Thomerson. In any case, Tatum was the humourous lass who makes me now wish she made it instead of Sidney Prescott thanks to all the sequels. Her death made me scared of garage doors ever since.
Eve Watanabe
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
It was bad enough that two thirds of the film was set on a cruise boat (in Crystal Lake?), but the biggest crimes were killing Eve and the utterly bland Rennie Wickman being the final girl. She may not have had crazy visions of a young Jason Voorhees, but real heads know Eve should have been the final girl for being the nicest character of the lot. Sadly, she had no chance against a teleporting J.V, and therefore, it was murder on the dancefloor. In hindsight, I suppose she got off lightly via strangulation.

Lorraine Day
X (2022)
Subversion in full effect. On paper, Lorraine personified all the characteristics and virtues of the quintessential final girl. Today, her death serves as a symbol that little goody shoes girls are part of the body count. Lorraine became a victim of modern slasher trends, where the modern final girl appears to have psychotic traits and/or links with the film's antagonist. We've actually reached the point where the heroine is a psychotic killer. Lorraine was born in the wrong era.
Slaughter High (1986)
This faux-American slasher (filmed in Surrey, England) has some of your hosts fave kills in the genre. Our party of former high school bullies obviously face their comeuppances while at their high school reunion. But how are you going to kill off an absolute cult siren like Caroline Munro in a slasher film (even if she was a complicit to the killer's back story) when the utterly grim Maniac (1980) had the good grace to let her survive? For shame.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
The only real saving grace in what's essentially a Carrie vs. Jason film is the secondary antagonist, Melissa Paur. Such an unforgettable snob, she was practically a female Steff McKee. Way more fun on screen compared to our troubled telekinetic heroine, Tina Shepherd. The grisly deaths were famously butchered by the MPAA, but Melissa's bitchy antics made her an unforgettable favourite. Top 10 Friday the 13th character, in my opinion.

Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)
The cheerleading sloshpot and self appointed queen bee at Camp Rolling Hills was constantly at loggerheads with the psychopathic councillor, Angela Baker. Ally met her demise by being stabbed in the back by Angela and then shoved down a festering outhouse toilet. Perhaps one of the nastier deaths on the list here, as she was drowned in bodily waste and covered in leeches in the film. Another memorable secondary antagonist who exceeded in appeal over the film's final girl - Molly Nagle.

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Blondes tend to have the worst luck in slasher films; they're either the final girl's slutty friend, or the secondary antagonist. Too bad our Croaker Beauty Pageant Queen was glossed over as the survivor for girl-next-door brunette, Julie James, as she was another superior character. She put up a decent fight, but croaked while the band played on. Can't say I was ever a big fan of the IKWYDLS films, but Helen was definitely amongst the more memorable characters from the nineties slasher revival.

Jenna Montgomery
Friday the 13th (2009)
Not sure whether Jenna's death was a throwback to Annie Phillips being unexpectedly bumped off in the O.G film, since both were set-up as film protagonists. Jenna's death came as a legitimate surprise for me, as I didn't expect a switcheroo to occur after Whitney Miller was found in Jason’s lair. One of those rare times where I wrongly predicted Whitney being the penultimate victim. Fate's way of punishing Jenna for hooking up with a garbage human being like Trent Sutton.

Jamie Lloyd
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Whether you dig the producers cut, the death of Jamie Lloyd and the weird cult centred around The Curse of Thorn, wasn't my thing. Jamie's cycle of final girl to masked maniac was wholly ruined by killing off the successor to Haddonfield's boogeyman. Jamie being pregnant with Michael's offspring (he's her uncle!) made absolutely no sense. So bad, you can understand why Halloween H20 (1997) skipped the Jamie Lloyd era. Eventually it was rebooted too and created an even bigger mess.

Final Thoughts: 
Based on my observations, Heathers (1988) level mean girls from yesteryear are more charming and less eye-rolling than the current crop of impervious, modern day final girls. Call it some psychological jargon like post-feminist, Mary Sue fatigue in modern horror, but it's seriously bizarre how some of these memorable secondary antagonists listed above are less grating than today’s final girls, like the insufferable Riley McKendry in the Hellraiser (2022) reboot.

Some of today’s final girls, like Maxine in X (2022) and Sam from the recent Scream (2022 - 2023) films exhibit maniac qualities. These characters would have very likely been villains akin to Brenda Bates from Urban Legend (1998) if they were around in a previous era.
Not sure if the not final girls  I listed above were always seen in this vein, but they're certainly characters who have grown in popularity over the years.. Perhaps, the mean girls have ironically become the new template for current slasher heroines; where the trend is for them to behave like antagonists, while the more virtuous ladies, who never made it to final girl status, have fallen by the wayside and are now out of favour with current day audiences

Ironically, the quintessential maniac psycho did get the final girl in the end - they're just one and the same person today.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Minus One + 14 = Unlucky for Some

Some old crooner once sang about this being the most wonderful time of the year; I vehemently disagree. This isn't a rant about the woes related to the festive period, but a simple question from an aging film junkie: why is Godzilla Minus One (2023) being released in the UK a fortnight after countries like Tajikstan and Uzbekistan?

A two week wait might not be a big deal to some, but juggling the chance of catching a niche movie* with limited screenings (based on my local theatre's dates) during the annual Christmas rush is a mission and a half for folks like me this time of the year.

Truth be told, I'm a King Kong man myself, but the chance of rounding off a disappointing film year with what potentially could be a final act of redemption for 2023 has me attracted to the film like a Mothra to a flame.

* Kaiju movie or not, if it's a foreign film with English subtitles, then it's niche according to my local multiplex.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Picks of 1973

At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, the overall quality and variety of films made in 1973 puts recent years to shame. I'm not alone with this opinion, either. It should come as no surprise that many films from 1973 have been celebrating their fiftieth anniversary via national events at the cinema and expensive home format releases.

Some of these films are regarded as masterpieces amongst chin-stroking cinephiles, while others are considered cult classics to genre afficionados; what's more important is the fact that they're invaluable entertainment for your host:

And Now the Screaming Starts (Roy Ward Baker)

Badlands (Terrence Malick)

Black Caesar (Larry Cohen)

A Candle for the Devil (Eugenio Martin)

The Candy Snatchers (Guerdon Trueblood)

Carry on Girls (Gerald Thomas)

Charley Varrick (Don Siegel)

Coffy (Jack Hill)

The Crazies (George A. Romero)

The Creeping Flesh (Freddie Francis)

Don't Look Now (Nicolas Roeg)

Enter the Dragon (Robert Clouse)

The Exorcist (William Friedkin)

Fantastic Planet (René Laloux) 

Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (Shunya Itō)

Flesh for Frankenstein (Paul Morrissey)

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (Gordon Hessler)

Hell Up in Harlem (Larry Cohen)

High Plains Drifter (Clint Eastwood)

The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky)

Horror Hospital (Anthony Balch)

The Hourglass Sanatorium (Wojciech Has)

Immoral Tales (Walerian Borowczyk)

The Iron Rose (Jean Rollin)

Lady Snowblood (Toshiya Fujita)

The Legend of Hell House (John Hough)

Live and Let Die (Guy Hamilton)

The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman)

Magnum Force (Ted Post)

Maletasta's Carnival of Blood (Christopher Speeth)

Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese)

Messiah of Evil (Gloria Katz & Willard Huyck)

The Night Strangler (Dan Curtis)

Papillon (Franklin J. Schaffner)

Revolver (Sergio Sollima)

Scream Blacula Scream (Bob Kelljan)

Serpico (Sidney Lumet)

Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer)

Steptoe and Son Ride Again (Peter Sykes)

Terminal Island (Stephanie Rothman)

Theatre of Blood (Douglas Hickox)

Torso (Sergio Martino)

The Vault of Horror (Roy Ward Baker)

Westworld (Michael Crichton)

The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy)

Only film I copped during the fiftieth anniversary celebrations was Messiah of Evil as it finally got a proper release in my country. The whole design of this blog takes obvious style inspiration from the film:

Messiah of Evil (Radiance Films Trailer)
Gloria Katz & Willard Huyck, 1973