Synopsis: A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom’s most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film’s maniacal killer.
A couple days ago in the opening paragraph of my review on 2012’s Girls Gone Dead I asked if horror movie cliches had become cliches in themselves. The standard cut and paste job is why the genre fizzled out in the mid to late ’90s and the only time when the iron was put back into the fire was when film makers took a step back and looked at the most popular concepts from a completely different angle. One of the highlights of Schlocktoberfest 2014 was Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon which focused a majority of that film solely from the perspective of the slasher villain himself. A year later featured Tucker and Dale vs. Evil where a game of role reversal was played with a pair of Hillbillies being the normal ones and a group of college kids were the homicidal maniacs. Looking to top both of those The Final Girls throws a group of movie goers into a ’80s themed summer camp slasher flick that is a loving tribute (right down to the Harry Manfredini-esque theme song) to Friday the 13th. Ever since Scream established the rules one has to follow in order to survive who wouldn’t mind having the opportunity to jump into their favorite horror movie and see if you could out smart the machete wielding hock mask wearing killer when all of the main cast were done in by the over three decades worth of cliches that we spotted coming from a mile away. One of the movie goers even uses this knowledge to try and guide the rest through without any harm but the movie itself isn’t having any of that and uproots all those normal horror tropes to the point where there isn’t a playing field to try and get a level advantage from.
Whenever the buzz for certain projects hit the internet I always remain the reserved skeptic. It’s not that I don’t believe a lot of the positive word of mouth I’ve always kept my guard up until I’m about halfway through the feature. The Final Girls attention to detail is my favorite quality about it where the normal world is very crisp and sharp much like any high definition camera one would pick up at Best Buy. Once everyone is thrown into the 1980s though the look changes drastically to be more in tune with that of VHS tape where the contrast dial is turned all the way up and every now and then you could almost sense that there’s a speck of dirt that appears on the film grain. From top to bottom the casting is near perfect with Malin Akerman Alia Shawkat and Alexander Ludwig being instantly recognized by my subconscious. It took about a half hour to realize that Thomas Middleditch is also featured but quite honestly the only thing I know him from is a Conan ‘O Brien sketch. Where Final Girls stumbles a couple steps is an observation that many have brought up pertaining to red corn syrup or lack thereof. I don’t quite get that decision as Middleditch’s slasher horror aficionado even ponders if the movie’s characters blood is made up entirely of red corn syrup. I mean come on in my 35 years of life I’ve never heard of a thing as a PG-13 slasher film. The writers and directors can drop a couple F-bombs and various sex and drug references yet they’re too afraid to throw vats of fake blood on everyone? Makes me wonder if The Final Girls had an initial R rating and the studio up and stepped in to try and reach a wider demographic. Other than that if one wants to create an obscure horror trilogy of unrelated modern classics Behind The Mask, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and The Final Girls is an imposing trifecta of hilarious terror that everyone shouldn’t be afraid to tackle between now and October 31st. Don’t worry there’s still plenty of time… Right? Right!!!…
Synopsis: A group of six ex-high school cheerleaders are stalked by a killer with a medieval war hammer and battle axe during their first Spring Break from college.
I often wonder if horror movie clichés have managed to become clichés in themselves. Jump scares, buckets full of fake blood, high body counts, scream queens with an impressive lung capacity. Each of these unique traits have built the genre and yet as soon as film companies found out that the general public had a rabid obsession for gruesome terror they began to crank out sequel after sequel after sequel at a relentless assembly line rate. Revolutionary concepts that were dreamed up over three decades ago by visionary directors don’t quite have the same bite when that idea is being dumbed down by people who’s biggest claim to fame are being behind the camera for music videos or a Victoria’s Secret commercial. The line between expanding a vision and truly making a genuine contribution to an established genre becomes greatly faded and it certainly doesn’t help matters when Hollywood goes into full on cash grab mode. Who cares if not everyone is satisfied? We’ve taken their hard earned money without remorse and there is nothing they can do about it. This is why I said that the clichés have become cliches in among themselves, go to a theater and check out any horror movie out in the market right now. Don’t over analyze too much just let your brain take in the current model of film making. I’m willing to bet by the time the end credits start to roll you’ll predict where 95% the suspense filled tension was supposed to be and maybe one or two of the jump scares actually got to you. On the one hand this ends up being a fun little game that you can play against friends however unless drastic measures are put into effect Hollywood will continue to be stuck deeper in an uninspiring rut.
A few years ago while bumming around on Amazon Girls Gone Dead was a film that would frequently end up in my suggestions in terms of my browsing habits. Jerry The King Lawler is when I caved and decided to give it a watch. As the film progressed whenever King would come on the screen I’d yell – ‘Do the Piledriver!’ and once things began to slow down I’d just sit there thinking to myself man if Jerry Lawler would just knock at the door and give someone the piledriver all would be right in the world. Then as luck would have it during the last 10 minutes old King-fish actually delivered it in grand fashion to the point that if Andy Kaufman were still with us he’d give a standing ovation. Get a hold of your pals,buy a couple six packs and every time The King comes on the screen start recalling your favorite moments from Memphis Championship Wrestling or some of his vintage heel commentary back in the glory days of the World Wrestling Federation (before the World Wildlife Federation laid the smackdown on Vince McMahon in court). What else can be said we’re now three days from the end of this year’s Schlocktoberfest and it will now most likely be remembered for Happy Gilmore’s Grandma and one of the most devastating pro wrestling maneuvers ever created. Variety is truly the spice of life!
Synopsis: Six young actresses auditioning for a movie role at a remote mansion are targeted by a mysterious masked murderer.
The lengths some actors/actresses will go to to deliver truly iconic performances are what separates those who set their sights on Hollywood because of their model good looks and just want to be famous for the attention to those who start out with simple bit parts as they slowly struggle their way up the ladder of success to one day be nominated for the biggest prize in the industry, a coveted Oscar. The late great Heath Ledger got his first big break as a heart throb in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You and after the monster success of that film refused to be typecast choosing his next roles very carefully. By the time he accepted the role of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight the initial reaction from people was how could someone who did lighthearted comedies like 10 Things and A Knight’s Tale play the clown prince of crime? In preparation Health locked himself in a hotel room for the better part of a month keeping a journal and slowly created the Joker’s voice, laugh, and mannerisms. With Heath’s unexpected passing months before the film’s premiere there were some who wondered if he perhaps went a little too far down the rabbit hole in order to attain the performance of a lifetime. I never really thought of the events surrounding Heath’s death as more than a unfortunate tragedy and upon watching the first half of Curtains I can definitely see where that certain line of thinking can come into focus. An actress decides that in order to fully embrace a character that she is going to be playing convinces the director of the film to have her committed to a woman’s insane asylum and surround herself with individuals who have a wide array of disorders. At first she is able to play along relying on her acting to convince the staff that she has had a complete mental breakdown yet as the days wear on her interactions between fellow inmates legitimately begin to take their toll on her own mental stability. It certainly doesn’t help matters when she comes across an issue of Variety with front page news that the director has decided to hold an open casting call looking for another actress to play the role instead.
So what do you honestly think is going to happen when an aging actress is conned into being institutionalized and then finds out that the director of the film she was set to star in had little to no interest in using her in his production? Anyone… anyone… Bueller? Bueller? Congratulations, if you said that the emotionally crippled, highly jealous, now potentially insane former starlet was going to find a way to break out of the women’s asylum and begin plotting her revenge give yourself a pat on the back. Curtains has a solid dynamic behind the first 30 to 45 minutes where you’re naturally intrigued as to whether there is going to be a huge payoff or not. The director and writers go so far to introduce a second killer to really try and keep you second guessing but like any murder mystery of the week it doesn’t take much sleuthing to figure out who is behind the other set of killings. What’s even worse is there’s a point a good three quarters of the way through where the plot starts to drag itself around like the dead body of one of the film’s victims. I like the fact that Curtains takes the secluded approach of The Shining by having the main setting be a house that is out in the middle of nowhere while a blizzard has all the roads are snowed in. I love that John Vernon (National Lampoon’s Animal House and Killer Clowns From Outer Space) gives audiences another solid performance as a vile/cutthroat director that treats all the actresses auditioning for him as nothing more than mere set decoration. There’s certainly a sense of style here and regrettably its marred down by trying to do too much too fast and not allowing that much breathing room in between. While I understand that Curtains has developed a cult following over the years after my one and only viewing I think I’d find more enjoyment in comforts of a straight jacket and a comfy padded/soundproof cell.
Synopsis: Desert Storm vet who was killed in combat rises from the grave on July Fourth, to kill the unpatriotic citizens of his hometown, after some teens burn an American flag over his burial site.
Its safe to say that there are many people who can’t wait to put election day behind us especially for those who are trying to make any logical sense out of the current presidential race. I myself am not what you’d call a political even though I do have my personal views and opinions on things I’ve always refused to get caught up in the nonstop insanity that constantly follows the two most popular political parties around like a lost puppy. I know that there are numerous amount of issues we have to deal with on a daily basis and I’ve always tried to help whenever possible through various means including charities and donating man hours to trying to make the world a better place. The one thing I will not allow to consume me is negativity so whenever a political ad comes in the mail, ends up on my answering machine or flashes across my television screen I brush it away as nothing more than an afterthought. Sorry if that sounds harsh but anyone who wants to cast judgment on me I’m giving you the permission to go ahead and do so I’ll still be doing my civic duty by voting on November 8th and immediately afterwards I’m not going to pay attention to any media coverage not because I’m worried about the outcome nope instead I’ll go back to trying to maintain an even balance in what should matter – everyday life.
Boy oh boy its not everyday you’ll stumble across a politically themed slasher flick so for those of you who enjoy waking up every morning and turning the television or computer on to see what headlines will make your blood boil this is especially for you. Upon my initial discovery of Uncle Sam my thoughts immediately flashed back to Paperboy where here was another director trying his damnedest in using a pry bar to make something fit into a horror mold. I don’t really have a clue in terms of web traffic who exactly visits my blog so anyone who embraces politics 24/7 will definitely take offense that I even got a few chuckles out of Uncle Sam but come on I do a yearly horror marathon called Schlocktoberfest go and take a look at anything else that I have covered in the last three years. If I haven’t somehow offended you by now I guess what I really should asking is why are you still here? I mean hell you really want to be offended Hollywood already beat me with the punch with The Purge: Election Year. Who knows maybe in another year’s time someone will crank out a slasher film featuring an orange skinned blowhard with an atrocious comb over. On second thought we’ve already lived through that horror long enough, it won’t be much longer where we can bore that painful memory out of our brains forever.
Synopsis: A photographer sees his nightmares realized in the daily news of a killer at large.
The formula for 1980s horror reminds me a lot of what the music industry did to over commercialized the hair/glam metal scene where you’d follow a set pattern in order to gain monster success. Everything is well and good up until a certain point where your target audience begins to tire of the third rate bloated cash cow doing the same old song and dance. Even though Double Exposure is undoubtedly a product of that era of excess the film bravely attempts to mesh slasher horror tropes with a murder/mystery of the week whodunit and for the most part succeeds (think of it as an alternative punk band making waves way before Nirvana and the grunge explosion). While the run time here isn’t that bad (94 minutes) in my opinion there was a little too much exposition and not enough pay off and that’s mainly in part because Double Exposure is treated more like a thriller/crime drama instead of a full on horror gore fest. Nevertheless if you’re looking for some inventive kills (one involving a rattlesnake and a trash bag) and a steady amount of T&A you’ll probably won’t be disappointed in that category.
As Schlocktoberfest 2K15 kicks off Double Exposure is for those who have an acquired taste some might find it dull, bland and excruciating to sit through however it does actually try to spin the viewer in multiple directions to keep you guessing. I say throw on a trench coat and do your best Columbo impression as you try to figure out whether the photographer is actually a homicidal lunatic or if its all in his head.
Final Grade: B-
Interesting in checking out Double Exposure I found my copy on Amazon via Mill Creek Entertainment’s Pure Terror 50 Movie Pack for under $10 via Amazon Wholesalers.
Oh and as a quick little side note when I was looking up the trailer for this on YouTube I was quite surprised to find that it features scenes with topless women. The 1980s truly was a decade that didn’t give a flying F-bomb who it offended (boy oh boy how I wish I had a time machine to go back and re-witness it as a full grown adult).
Synopsis: The next great psycho horror slasher has given a documentary crew exclusive access to his life as he plans his reign of terror over the sleepy town of Glen Echo, all the while deconstructing the conventions and archetypes of the horror genre for them.