Prom Night (1980)

Prom Night is a pretty cut and dry slasher movie, clearly trying to play off the success of Halloween and use Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Neilson to draw an audience. With that said, there is still some merit to the movie, like the great deaths and the unbelievably cringy dance scene. The plot of it was pretty interesting but I feel like they didn’t have to include the prom at all. The prom had literally nothing to do with anything, it just served as a place for them all to end up at the end of the movie but it could’ve easily been a house party or even just at the school. It felt like they chose prom as the center piece in order to be a bit more like Halloween. In my opinion, I think I would’ve liked this movie better if it wasn’t trying so hard to live up to some image.

The characters were pretty good for a simple slasher. They had some depth and personality and weren’t boring to watch. Jamie Lee Curtis is as wonderful as ever in this movie, so if you’re a fan of hers I would recommend watching it. I love Leslie Neilson but I wouldn’t watch it just for him, if I were you, since he doesn’t have a ton of screen time. As I just said, the deaths are pretty inventive and are, at the very least, fun to watch. The movie does try to lead you in a dozen directions as to who the killer is, but if you stop and think about it for more than thirty seconds and if you were paying attention, you can put it together fairly easily. I think that’s actually why they try so hard with so many red herrings. Overall, I’d say that if you’re not a slasher fan then this one is worth skipping (unlike some others that are required watching for any horror fan). However, if you like slashers, Jamie Lee, and have 92 minutes of your life to spare, then check out Prom Night.

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*spoilers from here*

As I said above, the plot of this movie is actually rather interesting. However, the story does leave pretty little room for any suspense as to the identity of the killer. Basically, what happens is these kids are playing a game like hide and go seek in an abandoned school or hospital type building. It ends up that one girl is left hiding and when the other kids find her, the four of them start antagonizing her, saying real creepy shit about killers. They end up backing her against a wall of windows and she falls out of one of them onto a pile of broken mirrors and other sharp things. (I think they did this to avoid having to find a particularly tall building, the building they shot at was maybe three stories tall so a fall from that height might not have killed the girl and that doesn’t fit with the story). The four children take a pact to never tell anyone what happened. One of them, a girl who is clearly the leader of the group, convinces the others that they’ll all go to jail if anyone were to find out they were there. The children run away and when the police come, they decide that it was most likely a man in the area who’s a known child molester.

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The child molester (they never actually named the character) is found guilty of killing the girl and sent to jail. Several years later, the kids are all in high school and the child molester gets out of jail. The story from here mostly is about that same group of kids getting ready for prom. We are introduced to Jamie Lee Curtis’ character here; she’s the older sister of the girl who was killed in the beginning of the movie. She’s actually the same age as the other four teens in the group, conveniently enough, so they’re all getting ready to go to prom together and they’re all friends/enemies/frienemies. Lots of silly teen drama stuff happens during the middle of the movie. It’s the anniversary of the little girl’s death, so Jamie Lee and her younger brother and family are in mourning.

Not much else happens until people start dying. There’s a little drama with the police trying to find this child molester and discovering new things about his whereabouts. Leslie Neilson is the father of the little girl who died and is also the school principle or something similar. He gets involved with the investigation and kind of tries to do a revenge vendetta thing. He’s actually one of the film’s many red herrings.

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Once they get to the prom things start to really pick up. First of all, we get this unbelievably terrible dance scene with Jamie Lee and her prom date. I don’t know how many of you went to prom or even to a high school dance, but no one – and I mean NO one – does a choreographed dance in the middle of it. Now I’m not saying that the dance was choreographed by the people making the movie (though obviously, it was) but I mean that in the movie the characters choreograph a dance together to do at the dance. Who does this?? I’m pretty sure everyone working on the movie had never actually been to a prom. Jamie Lee’s character creates this whole dance to show up the ex-girlfriend of her current boyfriend, who’s the same girl who convinced all the other kids not to tell the cops what happened. It’s some real high school drama. Secondly, the kills are really just excellent. The killer gets pretty inventive with his weapons. The final duel between Jamie Lee Curtis, her boyfriend, and the killer is pretty great as well. The whole ending of this movie is just simple, fun slasher stuff.

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Like I said, if you like slashers then definitely check this one out. However, if you aren’t interested but still want to experience the awe and majesty that is the prom dance scene, here it is in all it’s three and a half minutes of glory: Prom Night (1980) Disco Dance

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So where the fuck have I been?

Hello dear readers,

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been posting super infrequently. Or you haven’t noticed at all, which is fine, I get that. As some of you may know, I am a college student, so doing things outside of school can become increasingly difficult. Plus my life is basically a shit show, but I think it’s kinda coming together again so hopefully, I can maintain this blog a little better.

I really love running this blog and the Twitter associated with it. It’s a ton of fun chatting with people about these movies that I love and I don’t plan on stopping for a while. However, I got accepted to go on a study abroad program next semester so I may take an actually scheduled 3-month break during that time. I’ll probably stay on Twitter, but writing this blog might be a little too much to do while I’m abroad.

Anyway, I think that’s about all. I’ve got a stack of movies almost as tall as me (which, admittedly, isn’t very tall), so I’ll be back with some more reviews very soon!

 

Sincerely,

Your Final Girl

Demons (1985)

This movie made no fucking sense and for that, I loved it. I tend to enjoy movies that leave me with more questions than answers if it’s done right. And Demons was definitely done right. The plot itself is pretty ridiculous and I’m not even sure if I could sum it up for you accurately. Basically, all these people get invited to a movie screening and chaos ensues. People start turning into demons and it’s a fight for survival by everyone else.

I really enjoyed the makeup on the demons, it was unlike most zombie makeup I’ve seen. They have these thin spidery veins on their faces and fucked up eyes. There’s a really cool shot of them coming up a staircase and their eyes are reflective and shining yellow. It’s probably one of the more well-known shots in the film (I think it might even be one of the posters for it but don’t hold me to that).

The score was pretty hilarious and added to the cheesiness of the whole movie. It was a lot of 80’s metal, like Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, and Saxon. It made the action a lot more intense and ridiculous but also made it a lot more unique since you don’t typically find this music in movies. For me, it made the movie a lot more memorable because it was so different than the music I’m used to hearing in movies.

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*spoilers from here*

Okay, so I’m gonna try and make sense of what happened in this movie. I still have a lot of questions that I know will never be answered (except maybe if [when] I watch Demons 2 but I could be wrong) but a basic overview of the events of the movie couldn’t hurt. So the movie begins with the female lead, Cheryl, running through a train station thinking she’s being followed. A man wearing a weird Phantom of the Opera style mask hands her a ticket to a movie (??? there’s nothing on the ticket, just a theater, I don’t even know how they know it’s a movie, to be honest). She gets another one for her friend and convinces the friend (Kathy, I think) to come with her. Cheryl and Kathy go to the theater together and maybe around 100 or so people are there(I mean really, did they expect the theater to be full by having Phantom hand out cryptic golden tickets to people?). They all file into the theater and in the lobby is a display with a knight on a motorcycle and a silver mask (see picture above). A woman decides to put on the mask for fun, which just seems disrespectful but whatever, and it cuts her on the cheek. No big deal, though, right?

The movie begins and it’s a horror movie about some teens who go into a catacomb-esque place to search for the tomb of Nostradamus. They find the tomb and in it is a mask, very similar to the one put on by the woman in the lobby.  One of the guys puts it on, it cuts his face, and he turns into a demon and starts killing all his friends. Meanwhile, the woman who put on the mask isn’t feeling well and goes to the bathroom. In a super disgusting scene, she pokes and prods at the scrape until it bursts open like a pimple, spewing greenish fluid and blood everywhere. She then becomes the first demon and it’s pretty much downhill from there.

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If you’ve ever seen a zombie movie before then you know what happens next. One by one people start becoming infected and the others begin to realize that something isn’t right. The audience members try to run out of the theater but they find the doors to be locked and bricked in from the outside. They barricade themselves in one of the levels of the theater (this place is fucking huge) and some try to find their way out of the building through back hallways, ventilation ducts, etc. They even think that it’s the movie that’s cursed and storm the projection booth, only to find that its run automatically. Creepy Phantom guy appears once or twice more but that’s all we hear from him.

While this chaos is going on, we cut to a group of punk teens who are roaming around the city. To hide from the cops, they manage to find a way into the theater, not knowing what has happened inside. I was super confused as to why this was necessary. They all just end up in the same spot everyone else is at. I think maybe it’s because one of the demons escapes from the door they come in through? But I feel like that could’ve been done another way. I don’t even know at this point, there were so many things that just left me confused. Anyway, our main characters, George, Cheryl, Kathy, and Ken, try to find ways out of the building. Kathy is killed by one of the creatures and the others stab her (I think) in order to stop her from killing them. Then her spine splits open and a legit demon comes out of her body. This is the only time this happens, like everyone else just gets kinda zombified but she turns into an actual demon, I really just don’t know. Ken is killed by that demon, if memory serves (If you follow me on Twitter you’ll know that I watched something like 10 movies within a couple days so they’re blurring a little bit, and I don’t have a terrific memory to begin with).

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George and Cheryl end up in the lobby and George decides to get on the motorbike from the display (which apparently has keys and gas but whatever), grab the sword from the display, and just start mowing down all the demons in the theater. Weirdly enough, this seems to work, and in an awesome metal-fueled scene of mayhem, George kills the majority or maybe all of the demons. Then, the fucking ceiling breaks open and a helicopter falls into the theater. The pilot is a demon and George quickly kills it before using a grappling hook that was in the helicopter to pull him and Cheryl up onto the roof. Oh right! Phantom comes back when they’re on the roof and they kill him. This movie was pretty chaotic…I apologize for getting sidetracked so easily. George and Cheryl make it to the street and find that the demons have escaped the theater and wrecked havoc on the city. They get picked up by a family in a jeep who are really chill about the whole zombie apocalypse thing for some reason. They’re given guns to shoot any passing demons and take off into the night. In a sad turn of events, Cheryl becomes a demon and they shoot her and throw her out of the jeep.

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So I have several questions, but mostly “What the fuck?”. Why did they get invited to the theater and by who? Phantom didn’t seem to be the mastermind behind it. What mastermind hands out his own invitations, after all? How did they have enough time to case the building in brick before the movie started? Did the movie actually have anything to do with the demons? How did whoever put this together rely on someone just putting the mask on? Where the fuck did that helicopter come from and how did it collapse the roof of the building? Does the mask really have something to do with Nostradamus or is that just made up? Why does the motorcycle have gas and keys in it? Why does the helicopter have a grappling hook in it? Why were those punk teens part of the story? What exactly was the plan here? To turn the whole world into demons? Why? What the fuck is going on in this movie????

Now with all this said, I really enjoyed Demons. I  loved that it made very little sense. I loved the makeup and the music and the gore. I loved the simple characters and mediocre acting. Some of the shots were really cool, like the one I included above of the demons coming up the staircase. It’s definitely worth checking out, in my opinion.

The Babadook (2014)

I had several people recommend this one to me for a long while before I actually decided to sit down and watch it. I tend to be very hesitant to watch modern horror movies, as I have this perception that they heavily rely on jump scares and gore and not much plot. After seeing the Invitation, however, this started to change a bit. The Babadook only furthered this change, as it was not at all what I had imagined it to be and I’m really glad I gave it a shot.

I wouldn’t say that I loved the whole movie. In fact, I think that it kind of dragged in the first act and moved slower than a movie should in some ways. However, this is an incredibly well-done analogy for grief and depression. The way that it drags in the beginning even works for this metaphor and wonderfully captures what it feels like to be depressed. Everyone seems to be against our main character, Amelia, even her own son. People in her life who act kindly to her are pushed aside and the ones who are negative or unhelpful are amplified. This gives the audience a sort of second-degree isolation. There’s a particular emphasis on her sister, Claire, who is always talking about herself and is entirely unsympathetic to Amelia’s loss of her husband. Another focus is Sam, her son, who acts out, yells, makes weapons, and generally is a pain in the ass. Amelia is trying to keep her life in order while dealing with Sam’s misbehavior and coping with the death of her husband. The first act of the film serves to build this story and these characters and within the analogy of mental illness, it works perfectly. As a movie, it doesn’t work as well. Personally, I think that the scene of the state officials (they were like truant officers but it was in Australia so I’m not sure exactly what their position was) was unnecessary and I wish we got into the action with the Babadook a little earlier, but that’s just me.

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The Babadook itself was unbelievably cool and very spooky. I think that the idea of the story book was interesting, it kind of plays on the trope of saying a name that unleashes the monster or watching something that puts a curse on you while making it new and unique. I liked that we didn’t get to see every single page of the book. It was a rushed sequence as Amelia sort of fixated on how horrific it was while Sam is getting more and more scared. It was interesting how big of a focus the actual book was, how it turns up later after they burn it, the different pages that appear later on when Amelia reads it again, etc. We also get these strange tv segments that are like silent movie era clips. They slowly show the Babadook more and more in these trippy scenes. The actual appearance of the Babadook is a great blend of children’s book character and fucking terrifying. He takes a couple forms, in a way, but mostly he is in shadow and we only see his silhouette – top hat, hunch, and long claws.

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*spoilers?*

I wanna talk about Sam and the actor who plays him for a moment. His character was really intense and I was super impressed with the actor’s ability. For a child actor, he did an incredible job in an intense and demanding role. Sam screams, cries, sees things, and is violent as well as having very mature and emotional moments with Amelia. He tries to reason with her about the Babadook, begging her not to let it in. He sees the Babadook from the beginning and there are scenes where he is looking at it but there’s nothing there. His arch within the movie makes me think that maybe his behavior earlier in the film was exaggerated by Amelia’s mental illness and when she gets things under control by the end he seems less violent and more agreeable.

Quick aside: there’s this super cute moment almost during the climax (like, close to the climax but not yet) where their neighbor, this sweet old woman, comes over and tells Amelia that she loves Amelia and Sam and that she would do anything for them. To see this woman support Amelia when everyone else was kind of against her was so great.

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Another thing to note in this movie are some of the kinda fucked up scenes. Amelia pulls out her fuckin tooth while possessed by the Babadook. She kills the dog! It’s so fucking messed up. There’s also a scene where Sam has to tie Amelia down in their basement. (Which is awesome, btw, because he does a pretty shitty job of tying her up, which makes sense because he’s like 10). The Babadook itself has some pretty terrifying moments, skittering up walls and crawling places.

Overall I was pretty impressed with the narrative that this movie told. It took the traditional movie monster and curse and reinvented it, using its elements to tell a story about mental illness. The acting was superb, the images were scary but polished, and the story was captivating.

Sincerely,

Your Final Girl

P.S.: I’m gonna stop doing ratings out of a number, it’s too difficult to really capture the movie like that. I think you’ll understand how I feel about a movie after reading the review.

Murder Weapon (1989)

Not too long ago, my dad and I were at a horror convention and stopped at a Vinegar Syndrome booth to pick up some new movies. A blu-ray edition of Nightmare Sisters was a must have but another movie caught our eye. A double feature of Murder Weapon and Deadly Embrace, two movies starring the lovely Linnea Quigley. They looked kind of like exploitation slashers but they’ve got Linnea so there’s at least one saving grace. So we happily left the convention with three new Linnea Quigley blu-rays in our arms (plus a whole bunch of other stuff). It wasn’t until recently that we actually sat down to watch Murder Weapon. Lots of other movies had occupied our time, such as Jack Frost, Black Christmas, and Phantasm, which all seemed to take precedent over both Murder Weapon and Deadly Embrace. Once we actually put on Murder Weapon, it was a joyride into exploitation city that was well worth the wait.

This movie was everything you want from an exploitation slasher. Good amount of nudity, pretty funny kills, a really thin plot that doesn’t really make sense. You certainly don’t have to think too hard about this one. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t screaming questions at the screen almost the entire time. Almost nothing made sense and the movie was so incredibly low budget that some scenes were actually hard to watch. The audio was so bad we watched it with subtitles. There are a lot of scenes that take place outside and the birds, cars, and music from a radio all were louder than the dialogue. This meant that we got to see hilarious descriptions of the music in each scene such as “suspicious jazz” and “upbeat hip hop tune”.

The best part of this movie was actually the special effects/makeup effects. They were surprisingly good for a low-budget movie. All of the kills looked really good and I was pretty impressed. Another great part of this movie was realizing one of the male actors was the lead in Silent Night, Deadly Night II who said the infamous line “Garbage day!”

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*spoilers*

The movie opens with a bizarre 15-minute long silent sequence. I was actually really afraid the whole movie would be silent (which might have been preferable to the chaotic audio the movie had). I think this was actually a dream sequence (??). Then it’s revealed that Linnea Quigley (Dawn) and another woman, Karen Russel (Amy) are in a mental institution and are trying to get approval for release. They might’ve killed someone or maybe someone close to them was killed (??), it was pretty unclear. Anyway, they end up blackmailing the doctors into signing their release forms. There are a bunch of flashback scenes to therapy sessions with Dawn and Amy that are pretty clearly meant to stretch the running time. After they’re released from the hospital they’re living together in a huge house (I believe it’s actually Amy’s family’s house) and decide to throw a party and invite all of their ex-boyfriends.

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There are some mentions of both Amy and Dawn’s fathers being in the mob, being a hitman for the mob, being a mob boss (pretty sure all of these things were said at different times so it’s unclear what the back story is). Dawn’s parents are both dead and that’s why she’s staying with Amy. Amy is also like narcoleptic or something because she falls asleep at the drop of a hat throughout the movie in order to see her weird dreams/flashbacks of the mental hospital. We’re lead to believe that Amy is the killer because some of the guys mention messed up things she’s done in the past like set their cars on fire and stab them (??). She seems to be more of a loose cannon than Dawn is.

While everyone is hanging out more and more people are being killed without anyone knowing. Dawn and Amy sleep with I think just one guy each but maybe two? Like I said, this is absolutely an exploitation movie. Lots of boobs and bikinis in this one. The guys eventually figure out that people are being killed. In this way, this movie is kind of unique. Instead of a group of scantily clad women being killed off its the men being killed. I’m sure this has been done in other movies but it was still kinda cool. Anyway, the guys proceed to freak out a little bit, realizing that there’s nowhere to run and assuming the phone lines are down. They end up finding some guns and running into the basement where the killer is attempting to murder Amy. Amy dumps a thing of gasoline onto the killer and one of the guys shoots it, setting the killer on fire and revealing it to be….Dawn!

And that’s the end of the movie. A lot of fun, decently paced, delightfully confusing and low budget, and just enough nudity. On an exploitation scale, it’s like a solid 3.5/5. I couldn’t put this on par with other movies.

Sincerely,

Your Final Girl

PS: sorry for the low-quality pics in this one, it’s all I could find

Phantasm (1979)

I recently sat down to watch Phantasm, knowing absolutely nothing about it except for the name and vaguely what those silver ball things look like. After watching the movie, I can safely say that I didn’t come out of it with a much better understanding. This was a movie that left me with a lot more questions than answers, not that that’s a bad thing. I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on most of the time and the ending was more than a little confusing. Was it all a dream? Was the Tall Man fucking with Mike the whole time but is still real? Were they aliens? What does the Tall Man need all those midgets for? Is the Tall Man just another worker for some larger alien scheme? Why didn’t the Tall Man just kill Mike and be done with it??

Now, like I said, having a lot of questions doesn’t make for a bad movie. In fact, I think the opposite is true. If your movie doesn’t make me think at all then what’s the point of watching it? Not to say that Phantasm has any notable philosophical, political, etc. themes being posed. I like to be a little confused sometimes watching movies. I like to be engaged with it and want to know more. I don’t want everything simply laid out in front of me. If you enjoy being a little in the dark, then Phantasm is for you. If you want “there’s the killer, here they are killing, bam, now they’re dead”, this just isn’t your movie.

(Side note: this movie had a pretty awesome soundtrack. Lots of organs and synth stuff mixed to capture the 70’s as well as the funeral home aspects of the film. You can find some good recordings of it online if you’re interested in that sort of thing.)

It kind of reminded me of Hellraiser in a way, in that it felt like it lent itself to becoming a series that goes more in-depth (and more ridiculous) with the lore. This is true, of course, since Phantasm has five movies in the series now (Hellraiser has countless sequels – I think there’s nine by now).With that said, I don’t know how Phantasm works as a stand alone. It left me a little too confused and didn’t give me enough to work with. However, I did enjoy the imagery, the weapons, and the characters, and the story/setting was interesting enough to make me want more.

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*synopsis time, but mostly just the beginning of the movie at this point*

In Phantasm, we follow a 13, maybe 14 year old boy, Mike, as he pieces together the weird things going on in the local cemetery/funeral home. His parents have died a year or two ago and he’s living with his older brother, Jody. Jody is kind of distant but caring and is considering leaving Mike with their aunt. Through the film, Jody is kind of weird and has strange reactions to everything but I think this might just be bad acting. There are scenes where he tells Mike to stay home so he can go fight the bad guy and when Mike inevitably shows up anyway, Jody is just like “oh hey”. It’s also possible that some of the elements of this movie (like Jody’s non-reactions) are done on purpose to make the film a little more schlocky. I’m not certain how this movie was received by audiences or how it was conceived by those who made it but it really does balance on the line between schlock and not schlock. Anyway, we start the movie with a man getting killed by a woman while they have sex in a cemetery but the woman turns into Angus Scrimm in some shots (our villain of the story). The man turns out to be a friend of Jody and Mike’s and though Mike was told not to go to the funeral he hides in the bushes anyway and later sees Angus Scrimm (known only as Tall Man in the movie, Angus Scrimm is the actor’s name) taking the man’s casket and bringing it back up to the funeral home instead of burying it. Through the beginning of the movie Mike tends to follow Jody around, but far enough away that Jody doesn’t really notice. While following Jody, Mike is attacked by some midgets in cloaks and draws Jody’s attention (which is good because he is with the same woman their friend was with when their friend was killed). Now Mike starts to really get involved in trying to figure out what’s going on at Morningside Cemetery.

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*actual spoilers from here*

Thus begins a series of running back and forth between Mike and Jody’s house and Morningside. First Mike goes in alone and manages to cut the fingers off of Tall Man and has the presence of mind to take a finger with him. That’s how he manages to convince Jody that something weird is actually going on. The finger is still moving around and oozing weird yellow fluid. It then turns into a bug-like fuzzy spider looking thing and attacks the two of them, just as their friend Reggie comes over to check on them. Now it’s Mike, Jody, and Reggie ready to fight the Morningside creeps. I think Jody and Reggie go over first and manage to capture one of the midgets. (Honestly, there was so much running back and forth between the two locations that it’s hard to remember what happened when.) That’s when they realize that the midgets are actually the bodies of the dead people that have been brought to Morningside because of course the one that attacks them happens to be the friend that died at the beginning of the film.  After this, I don’t think much happens until the final battle at Morningside. Actually, Jody does lock Mike in his room so that he won’t try to fight Tall Man and Mike blows a fucking hole in the door with a shotgun shell and a hammer. Mike is awesome, probably the best part of the movie. Then the three guys get to Morningside and try to figure out what’s going on. They find a weird room with stacks of barrels that contain midgets that are being created (??) and in the center of the room are these two silver cylinders.

Then the three guys get to Morningside and try to figure out what’s going on. They find a weird room with stacks of barrels that contain midgets that are being created (??) and in the center of the room are these two silver cylinders. Mike goes up to them and realizes that in between the poles is some kind of invisible portal. He ends up getting sucked in but is saved by Jody. Mike sees in the portal a strange world with a red sky and a long line of the cloaked figures stretching on for miles. He says that they’re slaves and the reason they’re midgets is because of the gravity and the heat. Sure…why not? Reggie looks at the two poles and thinks back to his tuning fork that he conveniently used earlier in the film. He puts his hands on top of the two poles and stops their vibrations, causing the portal to collapse (??) and everything to start getting sucked into it. The three guys escape with their lives somehow (except I think Reggie gets stabbed somewhere in this sequence of events).

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The ending is a bit weird and I don’t understand it. So Mike manages to kill the Tall Man by throwing him into a mine and Jody blows up a ravine so that tons of rocks and boulders fall into the mine on top of the Tall Man. Right after that, Mike wakes up in bed, walks into the living room, and says he had a bad dream to Reggie (not Jody, the brother). Reggie explains that everything is fine, Mike is just stressed because Jody died in a car accident a few weeks earlier, but Reggie is here not to take care of Mike. This is where I’m like “wait so it was a fucking dream the whole time??”. But wait, Mike goes back into his room where Tall Man is waiting for him?? Then the movie ends???? Was it all a dream? Is the Tall Man an imaginary figure Mike made up to cope with the death of his family? Or is the Tall Man real and is fucking with Mike’s mind? Has Jody really been dead the whole time? I haven’t seen any of the other films in the series so maybe this is cleared up (or made much more confusing) later. If any of you have theories or different perspectives, let me know in the comments.

Overall, I’d have to say I enjoyed Phantasm. It was entertaining and kept my interest. It had fun characters and a good score. It definitely left me wanting more. I think I’d give it a 3/5.

Sincerely,

Your Final Girl

Holiday Horror

Black Christmas (1974)

I’m home now for winter break and my dad and I decided to get into the holiday spirit with a light, family-friendly Christmas movie. Then we realized that’s not us, threw Frosty out the window, and popped in Black Christmas. And what a treat this was.

I had never seen Black Christmas before and I had expected a crappy b-horror, I’m not sure why, maybe it was just the title or maybe it was based on my dad’s track record with movies. I was totally wrong about it, this is actually a pretty good, fairly scary and well done.

Black Christmas uses a fairly typical slasher formula: sorority house is getting creepy calls, they start getting killed. However, I wouldn’t call this a formulaic, predictable slasher in any sense. This movie takes slashers and puts some interesting spins on it. My dad and I were talking about it afterward and we said that the movie really could have a PG rating if it weren’t for the language used by the killer and some of the girls. All of the kills are done off screen, so you don’t see anything particularly graphic until the climax of the movie.

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*spoilers from here on out*

The movie begins with a party at the sorority house that is coming to and end and the girls get a creepy call. It’s revealed that this has happened a couple times already (unclear how many calls or how often the calls come in). One girl (Barb, played by Margot Kidder) gets a call from her mom saying that she shouldn’t come over for Christmas because the mom has a new boyfriend or something along those lines. Barb asks the other girls if they want to stick around for a couple days at the house before heading out for a ski trip. Meanwhile, another girl (Clare, played by Lynne Griffin) goes upstairs to pack because she’s leaving the next morning to go home. She thinks she sees something in the closet and goes towards it, only to be killed by someone hiding in there. Clare is the girl we see on most posters for Black Christmas (photo below) and we actually see her quite a bit throughout the movie. Her father comes to look for her at the house since she didn’t meet him the next day. The girls start to get more nervous about Clare since no one can find her and the police get involved. Scenes of them looking for Clare and trying to figure out what could have happened to her are punctuated with a shot of her dead in the attic of the house.

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Most of the movie is spent watching Clare’s father, boyfriend, and the other sorority girls search in vain for Clare. Police lieutenant Fuller (played by John Saxon) takes on the case and tries putting the pieces together. They continue to get creepy calls and we occasionally get shots of the killer (named Billy in the credits but he’s never really named within the film). It’s unclear for the first act of the movie who our heroine is but Jess (played by Olivia Hussey) slowly shows herself to be our main character. Jess goes to meet her boyfriend Peter (played by Keir Dullea) and tells him that she is pregnant and going to get an abortion. I thought this was really incredible for a movie from the mid-70’s. Jess stands her ground against Peter, who wants to keep the child, and stays true to her decision. She argues that there are still a lot of things she wants to do with her life and that having a child would impede those goals. Peter offers to quit school, get a house, and marry Jess and she tells him that though he might be willing to change/quit his plans, she’s not. This was so wonderful to me, for a movie to even breach the subject of abortion is pretty incredible but for it to be in this manner, a woman deciding to have one and sticking with that decision no matter what everyone else says, is just fucking awesome.

The calls start to become more personal to Jess, mentioning children and even quoting some of the things Peter had said to her. At this point, we know that the house mother has been killed but the characters are still just trying to find Clare. When a local girl goes missing, Fuller decides to gather a search party. Unfortunately, they find the young girl dead (we only see the mother’s reaction and not the body). Everyone goes back to the house, feeling more and more like maybe Clare is dead. Barb kind of freaks out a little bit, she’s pretty drunk and feels guilty about Clare’s disappearance. They tell her to go to bed, but this ultimately leads to her demise. Another cool thing about this movie is that the most we see of the killer are his eye and his hands. We really have no idea what Billy looks like except for his weird eye.

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Jess keeps getting these awful calls and goes to the police to report them. There’s this idiot of a desk clerk at the police station who kind of bungles a lot of the situation in this movie. Fuller gets word of the creepy calls and taps their home phones. Jess just has to keep the killer on the phone long enough for them to trace the call. As the calls get more specific and therefore more creepy, we start to think that Peter may actually be the killer. He hadn’t been on screen any of the times a call came in and why else would the killer want to torment Jess on her decision to get an abortion? Fuller wants to investigate Peter but he’s nowhere to be found. Jess is the only one awake (and alive) in the house at this point and another call comes in. They manage to trace it and it turns out…the calls are coming from inside the house! The police try to warn Jess and tell her to get the fuck outta there but she wants to get Barb and another girl (honestly forgot her name, sorry) out with her. The only graphic scene in the whole movie is when Jess goes upstairs and finds Barb and the other girl murdered and bloody in Barb’s bed. There’s a really creepy shot of Billy hiding behind the door, looking at Jess through the slit between the door and the wall. Jess runs downstairs but realizes that she has essentially locked herself in with the killer.

She grabs a fireplace poker and hides in the basement and somehow Peter finds her there (still unsure how he knew she was down there). He breaks into the basement and is coming towards her when we cut to outside the house where Fuller has shown up and we hear Jess screaming. They find her, alive but in shock, with Peter dead in her arms. She’s brought upstairs and put into bed. They assume Peter was the killer the whole time and that the nightmare is now over. I am going to guess that they did not find Clare and the house mother, who’s bodies are hidden in the attic, because if they found them they probably would’ve found Billy. The last scene of the movie is chilling, as we see Jess helplessly asleep in her bed, the police are outside but no longer in the house, and we hear Billy upstairs followed by the phone ringing inside the house. The credits roll as the phone continues to ring and we see the exterior of the house and no one going to help Jess.

Overall this movie was really well done. I thought it was really interesting that we didn’t see the killer, there was no big reveal or anything. I also thought that not seeing the deaths added to the mood of the movie. If you’re looking for a slasher or a holiday horror flick, this one is definitely worth checking out. It’s got a lot of good elements and builds the story nicely.

I’d say a 4/5 for this one.

Happy Holidays everyone,

Your Final Girl

PS: If you were considering buying this movie, Scream Factory did a release of it recently that is totally worth picking up. It’s got tons of extras, including two or three documentaries on the movie, several commentaries (including a hilarious one from “Billy” where he just kind of mumbles and eats through the whole thing), and much more. Plus it looks really good in Blu-ray.