The Final Girl

American Mary
American Mary (2012)
I realised the other day, in the horror movie of my past life, that I am the Final Girl.

I’d already typed this post up a few times but when I read back my words they felt so clinical, nowhere close to what I wanted to say. It might be construed as unhealthy to look back on bad points in time but I do it to show myself how far I’ve come. Like, gurl, you survived that all on your own (with a little help from my friends, obvi).

So I’m retyping this from the heart because a) I want to pay homage to the Final Girl (and myself) and b) I think it’s important to revisit every now and again. Kind of like a modern-day Ghost of Lives Past. But first, to the Final Girl theory and what it all means.

If you’re any sort of a Horror fiend like me (and I’m starting to believe I really know nothing compared to some of the horror-heads in my life), you will already be well-versed in the Final Girl as a concept. If you don’t recognise it as a traditional horror trope, you will know, and probably love, plenty of final girls.

Halloween (1978)
Halloween (1978)
In my own words, the Final Girl is a Horror movie euphemism most dominant within slasher films, such as Halloween (1978) (God bless you Laurie Strode). It refers to the last woman left alive to face her antagonist, usually to tell the whole bloody tale.

It is important to point out that the Final Girl may be the last survivor of the horror but she doesn’t always live happily ever after (or at all). She is usually seen as more morally sound than the rest of her peers, often brunette in contrast to her blonder friends (not saying this is right or fair), sometimes academic, sometimes the only stability in another character’s life, a sibling or a parent. What makes her stand out from ‘the rest’ is the fact these moral standards never slip.

Sometimes she may veer away from the good girl stereotype (and don’t be mistaken, she’s not always a recognisably ‘good’ character). She may take on questionable characteristics in her fight to the bitter end but the back bone of what she believes will remain.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
When I think of the Final Girl, I always think first of Sally (Marilyn Burns), only survivor of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Bloody, limping and semi-naked, this FG runs for dear life through the brush and only just escapes as Leatherface (whose weapon of choice is rather obvious) dances maniacally behind her.

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) of the aforementioned Halloween movies may be the best known Final Girl but there are lots of just as interesting ones.

Most notable for me are: Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, the Scream movies), Mia (Jane Levy, Evil Dead remake), Sarah (Shauna Macdonald, The Descent), Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence, Hellraiser I & II), Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara/Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and sequels, as well as the books) and Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle, American Mary), who’s own arc takes her from victim to perpetrator quite quickly, turning the whole issue of moral code on its head. This doesn’t stop her being one of my very favourites (I just fucking love the film, okay).

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Don’t Breathe (2016)
I recently watched Don’t Breathe (2016) which has a great example of the Final Girl at play (thanks Meghan Lightle). While the film for me was a little disappointing and messy – *SPOILER ALERT* – Rocky (Jane Levy, who also plays Mia in ED (2013)) is a fine Final Girl, rough around the edges, sure but with a strong sense of family (lovely younger sister, hateful mother, dreams of escape).

Of course this doesn’t excuse her actions but it does make you want her to get out and, once the true horror of her situation unravels, you root for it even more. Whether she gets out clean to start her new life with her kid sis is for you to find out but she’ll damn well give it a go.

She might not be the most empowered horror heroine I’ve ever seen but strength is conveyed in different ways (see the contrast between Game of Thrones’ current FGs*, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Aria Stark (Maisie Williams) for a good illustration of this) – and sometimes the proof is in the pudding.

You see where I’m coming from with the Final Girl analogy, right? We are all final girls, or we can be. For a minute there I almost succumbed to surrender, to waving the white flag and accepting my fate: not actual death but the not living either equivalent. I wanted death, prayed for something, anything to stop the pain and then one day it did, turns out it was my own squeaky voice. The fight, when it comes, is the most beautiful feeling in the world.

To all the Final Girls onscreen and all the Final Girls IRL, I feel you. ❤

Wikipedia’s take on the Final Girl is here.

*LOL

Please note, this is supposed to be a lighthearted(ish) look at the end of a shit relationship. A lot of women don’t escape their own horror and I’m thinking of them too. ❤

Happy Birthday and a Half: The Great Blog Collab

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A change from the norm this week but still very much on brand, don’t you worry.

It’s Jillian & Christa’s Great Blog Collab‘s 18 month anniversary (phew) this week and since it’s kind of a big deal to us (and hopefully a few of you), we decided we shouldn’t let the occasion pass without sticking a celebratory pin in it.

So this week we both present to you a little glance back at our top 5 favourite movies from our blogs, a couple of absolute turkeys (I feel we may overlap here) and a handful of honorary mentions because some films are just noteworthy in ways that don’t translate into ratings, you feel me?

A special thank you to Jill for thinking this one out logistically, and catching the anniversary. I’ve been feeling fried for the last few weeks and feel as though I’ve brought almost nothing to the table in terms of our collab, hence another Free for All theme this month.

I’m starting to feel brighter and more inspired than ever though, and am excited for this post and our future reviews.

To my Top 5! (5 of 10)

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American Mary (2012)

I loved this movie so much when I first saw it and although I haven’t revisited it since, I think of it often. At the time of reviewing it, I accepted that it was imperfect even though I didn’t hesitate to slap a 5/5 rating on it. The ending is disappointing, though I’m not sure Mary could have just walked off to a normal life after everything she’d seen and done, even if I wanted it for her.

I find the body modification community fascinating and wonder how close to the bone this really is. In terms of taking back control and self-expression, it’s a wonderful tale and although you could argue that, in her pursuit of vengeance, our girl becomes just as bad as the perpetrator of the crime that changes her forever, it’s a fantasy and I’m with her all the way. I love the power Mary wields and the ways in which she empowers her clients. Female-centric horror written and directed by women? More please. Ps. Katharine Isabelle, ILY!

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The Wolfpack (2015)

This documentary, that follows the bizarre lives of The Angulo Brothers; Bhagavan, Govinda, Jagadisa, Mukunda, Narayana and Krisna, is so special I feel it’s left a lasting impression on my heart. Funnily enough it came up in conversation with a friend earlier this week and our talk made me want to see it again. (BTW, I’ll reveal more soon but I have a very special project coming up and I think you’ll love it).

I often wonder what the boys are up to now, yet I can’t bring myself to look as this film has sealed them in time and left them on a high, despite their weird and wacky inner world. I need to live my life knowing that they’re all fine and happy.

If you enjoy something different, positive and heart-warming, then I can’t recommend this enough. (I’ve deliberately told you nothing here so you go in with no information. Trust me, it’s worth it).

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Wetlands (2013)

I had to choose Wetlands for it’s sheer audacity. It feels like a film designed purely to shit stir. So much of it is ripe for a disgusted reaction; that’s exactly what it wants and gets x 1000. It is refreshing that our protagonist is not bound by the usual rules of femininity though, I have to say that. She’s crazy for sex, will try anything once and doesn’t give a flying fuck about being ladylike. It must have been so fun for it’s lead Carla Juri to play this part.

I’ve just bought the book on which the film is based and I hope to pick up soon. I’m curious to see if it’s even more graphic that its movie counterpart. Here’s hoping?

With-Fake-Ethan

The One I Love (2014)

I really enjoyed this truly bizarre anti-romance starring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass, about a couple working on getting
back that loving feeling, if only their alternate reality selves don’t fuck it up first. Yeah. This is one you have to follow carefully but it’s interesting film-making with great performances and a Make You Think ending, which is kind of bleak when you really consider it.

Part of the reason I love this movie is because I saw it around the same time as Coherence (2013) which is another alternative reality movie (on a smaller budget) that really messes with your mind. Don’t expect the ending to be spelt out for you in either film, both leave you genuinely wondering what the fuck has happened and how.

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Advantageous (2015)

This film is one of the saddest I’ve seen in recent years with such a powerful message. Passing comment on sexism and ageism, it paints a stark picture of the future, where women of a ‘certain age’ are no longer useful unless they’re willing to sell their eggs (in this era, healthy eggs are like gold dust, see).

Our heroine, Gwen feels forced to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to give her daughter Jules the very best shot at a future and it’s more dramatic than you can possibly imagine, with consequences that will change both their lives forever. The film is fantastic, with excellent acting and if it doesn’t send you hurtling into the arms of your loved ones by the credits, then I don’t know what will.

Pop on over to Jill‘s to check out her contribution to our Top Ten favourite movies (we each picked five). I agree with each of the ones she’s chosen.

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Shelley Duvall & Sissy Spacek in 3 Women (I don’t know why they’re smiling, you won’t be)

Now to my Worst!

A look back at some right turkeys:

Monkey’s Paw (2013)
Without question (and I know Jill will mention it too), our worst film to date. It’s a re-imagining of W.W. Jacobs’ infamous supernatural short story and believe me, spend your time re-reading that five times instead.

This movie is painful to watch, with appalling acting and shit effects. In fact, you’ll be so miserable it’ll have you longing for a paw of your own to wish the pain away. Don’t bother, please. We’ve taken the hit so you don’t have to.

3 Women (1977)
This film is odd as fuck, I won’t lie and it feels like it’s ten years long.All I really took from Robert Altman‘s 3 Women is that Shelley Duvallshould have stayed in the seventies as the aesthetic suits her so well, and vagina mosaics are timeless.

Down to You (2000)
Teen wank but of the worst kind. And here was me thinking I would never meet a highschool/college movie I didn’t like. WRONG!

Sharknado (2013)
This is abysmal but I mention it because I was expecting the best kind of bad. Not so, it’s just terrible. So many much better disaster/shark movies out there to enjoy, and we’ve watched a lot of them…Try Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark (2014), 3-Headed Shark Attack (2015) or 12 Days of Terror (2004). Alternatively, just watch Deep Blue Sea again (it’s so terribly great).

Honorary Mentions

Some of these movies just deserve a nod, for the reasons listed below.

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“Come on in, the water’s fine.”

Killer Mermaid (2014)

This gets a nod because it’s hysterical in every way. Film wise it’s horrible but oddly only when it ventures into Buffy territory. Could have been excellent, instead it’s good bad gone mad. I will always watch a mermaid movie if it’s offered to me IDGAF!

Lizzie Borden Took An Ax (2014)

It’s a shame in some respects that Lizzie Borden didn’t take an ax to the only copy of this film, thus rendering it extinct. However, we’ve not been that lucky. I’ve included Lizzie because Ricci plays her with such relish but in the end, apart from a little bit of face hacking, this tumbles into a courtroom drama and gets rather dull. Shame, as I love the Lizzie Borden story!

The Hellraiser Films – Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) and Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

I love love love love love deliciously horrid Julia from the first two Hellraiser movies (played by Clare Higgins). Unfortch, the lack of evil step mum in the subsequent instalments render them not as good. Even if, in Bloodline, we get new Cenobytes, a scenario set during the French Revolution and Pinhead in Space.

Having said that, there are about 69 other Hellraiser movies in the series, so I’m sure we’re not done yet.

———-

So there we have it, 18 months of appalling, bad, horrifying, great, classy, trashy, unbelievable and downright bonkers movies! And many more to come I’m certain of it.

The Collab has opened my eyes to all the wonders of bad cinema, made me expect more from the things I watch (for real though there’s bad bad and bad great, and never forget it). It has allowed me to embrace the one thing I love the very most: cinema. And even more than that, it brought me something I didn’t know I needed (but clearly did): a great friend with similar cinematic tastes.

Happy Birthday and a Half Blog Collab, and to you my blog wife! *raises cocktail glass in manner of Gatsby*

Don’t forget to swing over to wifey’s for her view on our anniversary.

Don't worry, Christina, normal blog service will resume next week...
Don’t worry, Christina, normal blog service will resume next week…

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (Film) Review

hellboundposterThis might be the greatest thing that’s happened to our reviews in a long time, (horror wise), certainly since A Girl Walk Home Alone at Night (which is really amazing, if you haven’t seen it yet).

I was so happy when Jillian suggested this film for Horror Month. I love the first Hellraiser (1987) very much, not least because it reminds me of actually great horror movies and iconic horror characters.

Pinhead is up there with Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers for me, so much so that I feel like these slightly misunderstood band of brothers could be my movie uncles. Sure, I’d probably keep them at arm’s length but at least Christmas would never be boring.

Anyway, despite being a big fan of Hellraiser, I’ve never attempted to watch the sequels. Of which, in this case, there are eight of the slippery little suckers. 9 Hellraiser films in total! I can’t say that I’ll spend much time digging any deeper into the franchise from here, but it’s nice to know that the option is open to me if I want it.

But, to number 2 which was thrilling, ridiculous, nostalgic and wonderful – and so much more. SO MUCH MORE, MAN.

Before we begin, this is your weekly *Spoiler Alert* warning, plus I feel as though I should slap on an additional, *this is kind of gross* disclaimer as some of the screen caps I’m going to use might make you feel sick. There’s a lot of gore in this bad boy.

Off we go, horror heads!

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

Director: Tony Randel
Stars: Doug Bradley (Pinhead!), Ashley Laurence, Claire Higgins

IMDB Synopsis: Kirsty is brought to an institution after the death of her family, where the occult-obsessive head resurrects Julia and unleashes the Cenobites once again.

My Review:

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#squadgoals

Kirsty, from the first film, has been kept in a mental ward while the cops and doctors work out what the hell went on back at her house. Her dad is dead, her step mother slaughtered and the whole building needs to be condemned as it’s literally crawling with maggots and grime from the corpses of dozens of unwitting strangers.

(Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten what the fudge went down in the first movie, a short amount of the way in there’s a handy recap in the form of Kirsty re-telling her story to a doctor, which is very smoothly done, I think.)

Oh but, before we meet up with Kirsty again, we get a brief origin flashback to the man we’ve come to know as Pinhead, before he was eviiiiil. I mean, you didn’t think he popped out of his momma with a head full of spikes, did ya? (Yeah, I kind of did. How cute would a baby Pinhead be?). It looks as though he was some sort of explorer before he got his hands on the box.

hellraiser 2 kirsty
Postcards from the edge

Back to ‘present day’ and Kirsty is struggling with the fact that her father is dead but still visiting her to tell her he’s in Hell and needs her help. Thanks Dad, but what’s she supposed to do, really?

While she’s being interviewed, she overhears an inept detective saying that they’ve found a bloody mattress in her old house. She goes mental and says that it must be destroyed otherwise Julia, Kirsty’s bitch step mother could come back.

Somewhere around here, brain surgeon Doctor Channard (Kenneth Cranham) pops up and he’s got wind of this mattress situation, weirdly. His colleague, nice Kyle McRae (William Hope) overhears Channard organising delivery of the mattress to his home address and not the hospital, though I can’t remember now why or how he has any authority over its destination, given that he’s a surgeon, not a police officer but never mind.

Channard is seen near the beginning of the film performing a lobotomy on a conscious patient and waffling on about the power of the mind, or whatever, and then he takes us on a depressing tour of the hospital’s basement, which is essentially a Victorian lunatic asylum.

The patients are all straight-jacketed up, mostly incoherent and some are hallucinating, like the poor man who is haunted by crawling insects. Channard swans around like the evil proprietor and you can just tell he’s not a warm and fuzzy type.

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*SURPRISE!* (I’ve censored this picture as best I can, too much?)

Kyle McRae is nice to Kirsty and believes her story when a lot of other people are suspicious of it. For some reason he takes it upon himself to sneak into Channard’s home to have a little snoop about. He lives to regret this decision when Channard brings home an unsuspecting victim (poor old insect dude) and feeds him to the mattress.

You don’t read a sentence like that everyday, do you? What follows is probably one of the most disgusting scenes I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen the Human Centipede franchise) as Julia is bloodily resurrected.

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Worst possible guest to have over to a pure white house

She’s pretty foxy for a skinless woman, I’ll give you that and Cannard is smitten. Turns out he’s been obsessed with the little puzzle boxes for years, and owns several of them. There’s a plan somewhere in the works, involving another of his patients; the mostly mute but clever Tiffany, whose speciality is complicated puzzles. Oo-er!

But before that, Channard brings home a lot of strangers for Julia to suck the life force out of, until she is a complete woman again. Unfortunately, her last meal is Kyle McRae so he’s not much use in the end. Leave it to the girls to rescue themselves, as usual.

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More consequences than the Rubik’s Cube

Once Julia is back, she and Channard get Tiffany to open the box, and subsequently the gateway to Hell because Julia is apparently now the Queen down there and Channard wants to see it with his own eyes. Kirsty wants to find her father and make sure he’s okay.

Once in Hell, which now looks like a thorny castle grounds with a lot of weird mazes, corridors and an abandoned fairground (basically the set designer has gone all out), shit kicks off and the Cenobites appear again. This time they want Kirsty’s flesh, not another plea bargain.

Pinhead tells Kirsty she can’t do anything for her father as he’s in his own personal Hell, while she’s about to face hers. Then he very kindly tells her to have a look around, because they have all eternity to savour her.

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“Last Christmas…”

This review has got massively long already and there’s loads more to cover so I’ll highlight a few points before we wrap up. Pervy Uncle Frank pops up again and tries to get his former lover Julia back but she’s done with his shit finally.

Channard is turned into the most gruesome (and phallic) Cenobite to date and goes on a rampage across the hospital, amputating limbs as he goes. Later he squares up to the other Cenobites but not before Kirsty does a big speech, and gives Pinhead an old photograph she found of him, which reminds him he was once human too.

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The end of The Green Mile gets me like that too, boo 😦

He actually let’s her and Tiffany go before facing off to Channard’s fucking hideous Cenobite. This particular scene is really quite sad and thought-provoking, which isn’t something you’d ever imagine about these heinous creatures but defy you not to go “Aw”.

To the Questions, Holmes and don’t spare the horses! Will evil Queen/step mother Julia get her comeuppance? Also, is she a Queen just because she’s telling everyone she is, or is she actually kind of a big deal down in Hellsville? Will Tiffany and Kirsty survive to make the sequel?

Can everybody please stop french kissing each other please? It’s gross and most of you don’t have skin.

I’ll leave it at that but please know that if you watch this movie, you are in for a bloody, surreal and fucking brilliant ride. You know, if you like that kind of thing.

“You can’t have the secret to my big hair! I’ll never tell!”

My Thoughts: 

I loved this, I did. It was horrible and made my stomach turn more than once but it reminded me why horror was such a great genre back in the eighties.

It very rarely gets this good nowadays but I understand that these things have to evolve. I don’t know how well Pinhead would go down to the modern crowd if he were to be introduced for the first time but that’s okay, he’s a classic and to me, always will be.

A few times I was a bit confused, like, I don’t really get what happened to Tiffany’s mother, though it looks like she was harmed in a flashback scene. Why?

I also don’t get why, when Frank was fully resurrected in the first film (but shown in flashback in this one), he had to have Kirsty’s dad’s face (because Frank used his skin) but that Julia got to look like herself when she used a total stranger’s. I mean, continuity peeps!

But otherwise, what’s not to love? It’s fun, it’s disgusting, at times it’s genuinely scary and I also really enjoy that this is an English horror movie, unlike the Halloweens, etc. It’s nice to know we can/could do Video Nasties with the best of them.

My Rating: 4/5 (because I ❤ Pinhead 4 eva).

So, was Jillian a fan too? Pop on over to see for yourself!