Final Girl Friday: Laurie Strode, Rob Zombie’s Halloween I & II

Lots of horror fans refuse to acknowledge Rob Zombie‘s place in Halloween history. Lots of people are torn about the man himself and honestly, I really get it. Personally, I’m a fan and have loved most of his movies. While Halloween & Halloween II don’t really work the way John Carpenter‘s original did*, they do at least try to explore the story from a fresh angle and I appreciate that.

This week I thought I’d pay tribute to the second most famous Laurie Strode in cinematic history, played by Scout Taylor-Compton, an actress with a couple of cool roles under her belt.

*Spoilers – beware!*

The Girl

Laurie, Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009)

The Situation

This one probably doesn’t need much of an introduction. The character of Laurie Strode is probably one of, if not THE most famous final girl of all time. But just in case, Laurie is the adopted daughter of The Strodes. She is also the baby sister of serial killer Michael Myers who killed their elder sister Judith when he was six years old.

In this version, we meet a young Michael Myers who on the night he kills his sister, also kills her boyfriend and his mum’s horrible boyfriend. This isn’t really in keeping with the original story but never mind. He’s also ten when he commits these atrocities. Anyway, Laurie is really Angel Myers but she doesn’t know it (yet). |Her secret history is just dying to creep out and slap her around the face, thus changing her life forever. How will she handle it?

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In less stabby times

The Final Girl

This Laurie is cool because she takes on all the characteristics of the original character but she also has to deal with the aftermath of the loss of her adoptive parents, after Michael slaughters them. She’s super young and has dealt with so much, having lost most of her friends, the only parents she’s ever known and now, some of her marbles.

Halloween does what is says on the tin (with a little embellishment here and there, including more focus on Deborah Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie), mother of Michael), but Halloween II examines Laurie’s PTSD in more detail. Following the events of that first night, Laurie now lives with Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) and his daughter Annie, who is Laurie’s BFF. The two girls have barely made it out alive but here they are and their relationship is shaky at best. Laurie finds it hard to look at her friend’s badly scarred face without recounting that night and that is driving a wedge between them.

Laurie seeks out faster friends, alcohol and drugs like any normal teen would. But she’s a fighter still and although she’s haunted by the truth once it’s outed, she comes out kicking. Michael’s MO is to find Angel and rejoin his mother in the afterlife, a fucked-up family for all eternity. But you didn’t think it would be that easy did you, Mikey?

The ending of HII suggests that Laurie has completely lost it (and perhaps compelled to take on Michael’s role) as she ends up in an institution but I feel as though there is more to her story. I don’t think of her as the same girl played by Jamie Lee. She’s a contemporary anti-victim and a pretty good FG too. A terrible screamer though.

Final Girl Rating

3/5. I like everything but the scream. 

*For the record I think these movies are too gory (I know, right?) and they take away the things that made the first so iconic. We’re not supposed to know anything about MM, that’s the point. He’s evil personified and we don’t really know what’s going on in his head. But they are kind of fun too.
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Spooky Podcasts

The other night I stayed behind at work to do some overtime. I was seeing a movie with Glynn at 8.30 anyway, so it made sense just to stay at work until I could go and meet him, and get paid for the privilege.

Well, throughout the afternoon we’d been talking (my team mates and I) about the best ghost stories we’ve ever heard. Heather told a story about a gypsy stalking a woman via google maps and I nearly shit my pants. By the time they left me alone for the day, my skin was crawling so I thought I’d treat myself while I worked the remainder of the shift.

I put on the Evolution of Horror podcast and skipped to the Slender Man episode. SM is one of my favourite folk tales and I often fall down a rabbit hole reading stories about him on Creepypasta, so it was a no brainer. As the episode unfolded I learned more about a web series called Marble Hornets that tells the story of a couple of protagonists being stalked by a Slender-like figure.

My friend Matt has recently been watching it and trying to get me in on it. As it started to get darker and darker in the office, with all the lights around my pod automatically going off , I started to freak myself the fuck out. Every small noise became the footsteps of Slender Man walking towards me. Every slight chill was his breath on the back of my neck.

God, I love that feeling.

So to my favourite creepy podcasts for those times you just need to feel scared. In no particular order, a couple of fitting little listens to enjoy in the lead up to Halloween.

Evolution of Horror

Presenter Mike examines the way horror films have changed and evolved over the last hundred years – with a little help from his guests. I’m new to this podcast but I bloody love it. This week I’ve been working my way steadily through the folk horror episodes but there are also ghosts and slasher movies in the back catalog to look forward to. Rumour has it zombie movies are next. Basically this is a must-listen for any horror fan which will give you a new appreciation for the films you already love and inspire you to get on to the ones you haven’t.

Best episodes to far: Folk Pt. 11: Kill List (2011), Sightseers (2012) & A Field in England (2013), Folk Pt. 13: Slender Man (2018) & Viral Folk Horror

You can find Evolution of Horror on any podcast app, just type in the name and GO.

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The Last Podcast on the Left

This one is heavy on the jokes and at times that can take you out of the episode. The rapport of the three presenters (Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski) is fun but can also be jarring for that reason. However, they do examine truly interesting subject matter, from fairies to the suicide of Kurt Cobain, to the ongoing feud and subsequent deaths of Biggie & Tupac. Pretty much everything you can think of has been covered and if it hasn’t, you can be confident it will probably crop up at some point.

Best episodes so far: Episodes 279 & 280: The Enfield Poltergeist (fucking TERRIFYING)

Sword & Scale

This is the best true crime podcast I’ve heard so far with stories that go in deep on horrible crimes committed by ‘ordinary’ people. The tag line “The worst monsters are real” has never rung truer.

Best episodes so far: All of them

What are you listening to?

Horror & Anxiety

There have been loads of studies about how watching horror movies can actually sooth anxiety sufferers. I had never really thought about putting the two things together but it actually makes perfect sense – it also explains a lot. To me, about me.

I’ve always loved horror. When I was 18 I got my own TV in my bedroom. It was like a gateway to a new world and I fell in love with the movies right there and then. I found horror movies for the first time played late at night and I would stay up way past bedtime getting to know the big boys. Jason, Michael and pals. But I also learned about different sub-genres of horror, how they don’t all have to follow the same formula.

Now I rinse as many horror movies as I can, all the time. I just love them. Obviously there are great horror movies and there are terrible ones, and I generally feel as though there’s a place for most of them. Even the terrible teen ones that play their hand way too soon – I just need to be involved. Looking at you, True or Dare.

My favourites tend to be the psychological ones that get under the skin and fuck with your mind. I loved Hereditary this year because it took me to the darkest place imaginable. It gave me something that’s been done before but in such a different way. It shocked me, gave me feels and nightmares at the same time – and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

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Not your average feel good movie

I like smaller “anti” horrors that offer a slow burn with a massive pay off at the end the best. I like the horrors that feel real. They make me forget my own anxieties but could also totally happen in real life. It’s almost as if watching something like Hush, a home invasion movie about a deaf protagonist terrified in her own home is something that could so easily happen. While I myself am not deaf, I can put myself in her position. In a twisted way it makes me face up to what I might do in the same situation.

Anxiety for me is about questioning every little detail of my life, living with a constant paranoid fear that I’ve done something wrong and everybody hates me. But it’s also about fearing the very worst case scenario, for instance that my love ones will go out one day and never come back. These are the things I cannot control, the things that could happen but are unlikely. When I see a horror film it either makes me forget my own woes and focus all my feelings on the main character – or makes me stare at my own mortality face on – like I’m the final girl and the worst has already happened, so here I am: ready to fight.

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This is why you always sit with your back to the wall

I found a forum about this very topic on Reddit and user coffeeallthetime said it better than I can:

My rationale: Anxiety is your body being ready for an immediate threat that doesn’t (currently) exist, like a fight or flight response. Watching or reading horror gives a face to this “threat” and lets your mind live out the scenario, giving you a catharsis of sorts, and relieving the anxiety. Kind of like how listening to the song you have stuck in your head all the way through is supposed to help it get unstuck in your head. At least that’s how I think of it.

It’s hard to explain I guess just what I get out of these movies. They excite me, they make me tap in to my dark side, my fascination with the human psyche and how frightening human nature can be. I like the adrenaline shot I get what Laurie Strode fights off her brother – and it makes me feel like I could fight too. Let’s face it, in reality I’m more likely to be the wuss hiding under the bed but you just never know.

So to make myself feel better, I like to forget myself with horror and gore, final girls and ghosts. If it’s horrible, I want in please.

What about you?

Final Girl Friday: Sara, Creep 2

Desiree Akhavan is a force to be reckoned with and has been super impressive in front of and behind the camera with Appropriate Behaviour (which she wrote, directed AND starred in), Girls and The Miseducation of Cameron Post to name but a few. So imagine my delight when she also appeared in the much-awaited sequel to one of my favorite movies, the sleeper hit Creep.

And now she’s the star of this week’s FGF!

*Spoilers – beware!*

The Girl

Sara, Creep 2 (2017)

The Situation

Sara is a videographer and student with a sideline YouTube channel called Encounters, in which she meets up with strangers who leave bizarre ads on Craiglist. Her numbers aren’t setting the world alight and she’s about to call it a day when she stumbles across an ad that really sparks her curiosity.

Aaron (Mark Duplass) is offering $1,000 to a filmmaker willing to document him for an entire day, as long as they don’t scare easily. Figuring she can go out with a bang following a brilliant finale, Sara digs in. She might live to regret her decision though, particularly when Aaron reveals he’s a serial killer.

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Nice wallpaper

The Final Girl

Sara is an interesting character. She’s self-motivated and very much doing all of this for the sake of her passion project. She’s also not afraid to use her feminine wiles to get what she wants, including getting in the hot tub with Aaron when he loses interest in their join venture and wants to kick her out. At one point Aaron also suggests they get the issue of wondering what the other looks like naked out of the way by… getting naked.

Sara outwardly is unflappable, though we realise quickly she’s giving herself pep talks in the loo. And also, for the most part she doesn’t believe what Aaron is telling her.
When it clicks, and she realises she might be in danger after all, she has the cunning to outsmart Aaron – and that’s the main quality required in any good final girl.

Sara was the perfect foil for Aaron, a serial killer just turning 40 and losing his desire to murder anymore. When she arrives, she mixes things up and not only does she ignite a new energy in Aaron, she also keeps the second film in this soon-to-be trilogy fresh and exciting. Where Creep had the real Aaron (Patrick Brice) play alongside Josef (who changes his name to Aaron for Creep 2, keep up), Sara bounces off Aaron (Josef) in a whole new way. And that ending!

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Final Girl Rating

4/5. I would watch the shit out of “Encounters”.

3 Witchy Horrors

None of these are really horror movies and one of them is pretty much a kids movie – but you can always argue that they contain horror themes and that’s enough for me.

I bet you all thought I’d choose Hocus Pocus for this list, didn’t you? I totally nearly did but young Michelle Pfeiffer pipped it to the post. I’ve no regrets.

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Relatable AF

The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

Men are such cocksuckers aren’t they? You don’t have to answer that. It’s true. They’re scared. Their dicks get limp when confronted by a woman of obvious power and what do they do about it? Call them witches, burn them, torture them, until every woman is afraid. Afraid of herself… afraid of men… and all for what? Fear of losing their hard-on. ~ Daryl Van Horne

What do you get when you put three of the hottest women of all time together, and then add Jack Nicholson? You get this charming film about a trio of witches who discover their hidden powers (and sexuality) when the devil comes to town.

There’s just something so delicious about The Witches of Eastwick. I feel as though it really captures a moment in time, the zeitgeist of the eighties. By casting the hottest actresses onscreen at that time, it’s a snap shot of a bygone era of film and I couldn’t love it more. It’s witty, grotesque and it also has a lot to say about grabbing life by the balls, even if the balls are attached to a very bad man indeed. Or indeed are a metaphor for something so much more fulfilling.

I can’t choose my favourite of the three, they’re all so gorgeous in their own ways; Suki (Pfeiffer) is the earth mother, Alex (Cher), the artistic hippy and Jane (Sarandon), the secretly sexual sex kitten music teacher. But together they’re a force to be reckoned with and what’s more satisfying than that?

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Resting Witch Faces

The Craft (1996)

We are the weirdos, mister. ~ Nancy

This is such a bitchy film and I was obsessed with it when it was first released, not least because I was ‘of an age’ (or maybe just a little bit older) that it all made sense. Especially the outcast aspect of the movie which fuels the narrative.

Nancy, Bonnie and Rochelle (Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True) are three ordinary girls who aren’t particularly successful or significant in the high-school hierarchy. When Sarah (Robin Tunney) comes to town, she seems to be the perfect fourth pillar of the group. A group that needs things a certain way in order to make things happen. Magic things.

Well, it’s all a lesson in being careful what you wish for. After all, with power comes a fuck ton of responsibility and teenage girls aren’t always the most reliable, especially when they can make their bully’s hair fall out with a simple spell.

As things begin to spiral out of control and our friends begin to change (not for the better), one of them has to the tow the line before everything is lost forever. Can she? Also: Oh hi, Skeet Ulrich*swoon*

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The girls’ Bake Off showstopper was going well

Practical Magic (1998)

There’s a little witch in all of us. ~ Aunt Jet Owens

I guess you could say this is a Vintage edition of witch movies since none of them are from this millennium. *Shrug* – I love what I love and that’s that.

Practical Magic is adorable, hopeful and has a banging 90’s soundtrack – so as far as I’m concerned it’s up there with the best of them. Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian Owens (Nicole Kidman) are sisters who come from a long line of witches. Including Aunt Frances (Stockard Channing) and Aunt Jet (Dianne Wiest).

They’re very different people. Sally is a homebody while Gillian is a free spirit with a tendency to disappear for long stretches, usually with strange, sexy men in tow. When Sally loses the love of her life in a tragic accident, she is beside herself with grief and Gillian comes home to be with her and her children, in the house they all share with the Aunts.

Little does Sally know there’s an ulterior motive and the sisters bite off almost more than they can chew when they re-animate Gillian’s latest lover – the abusive and accidentally dead Jimmy (Goran Visnjic) – using old school magique. Shame that neither got the memo that what is dead should probably stay dead, eh? Bit of a pisser too that the cop (Aidan Quinn) who turns up to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Jimmy, also happens to be connected to a very specific spell cast by Sally…

God I adore this movie. Both leads are dreamy as fuck and the Stevie Nicks heavy soundtrack will always have a place on my (outdated) iPod shuffle. *Sigh*

So yes, I could of chosen The Witch, The Blair Witch Project, The Lords of Salem – even The Love Witch for this list – and they are all fine movies – but these are the ones I want to pay tribute to today. Sue me.

What are your favourites?

Ouija: Origin of Evil (Film) Review

I thought maybe I’d seen this movie before but it turns out not to be true. Like exorcism movies, I always get my Ouija board films confused too.

In this case I’m so glad this was new to me because I’ve been binge watching The Haunting of Hill House (2018) this weekend*, which is by the director of this movie, Mike Flanagan. And while I was going through his filmography this popped up, which was already on my 31 Horrors list. Bingo!

*Spoilers*

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

In 1967 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her daughters add a new stunt to bolster their seance scam business by inviting an evil presence into their home, not realizing how dangerous it is.

My Review

It’s the swinging sixties and recently widowed Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) has a pretty good fake medium racket going. With the help of her daughters Lina and Doris (Elizabeth Reaser and Lulu Wilson), she is able to convince ordinary folk that their late loved ones are communicating with them beyond the grave.

While some customers are dubious, Alice maintains that they’re offering the legitimate service of comfort and kindness – so who cares if it’s real? I sort of get her rhetoric to be honest. Anyway, the family are still pretty raw over the loss of Roger, the girls’ dad who has recently passed himself.

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I’d stick to Guess Who? if I were you, love.

When 15-year-old Lina goes to a sneaky house party at a friend’s house one evening, she stumbles across a Ouija board game, recently purchased by the parents of the household. Cynical about the so-called afterlife, Lina is level-headed when her and her friends sit down to have a play. Everyone’s freaked out but she is adamant that it’s all just a crock of shit.

She does suggest the Ouija to her mum as part of their scam business though and unfortunately for everyone concerned, Alice buys one. She has a little go before sharing with the group and little does she know, she summons a spirit called Marcus. Ooooooooo!

Doris also uses the board alone when she contacts her dad for help following a letter from the bank threatening foreclosure on the house. She is lead to a secret compartment in one of the walls that reveals a heap of money, thus saving the day.

The women then do the Ouija together believing it to be a pipeline straight to Roger. Doris seems to have the most affinity with the board and takes over as the star of the show but soon starts to pay the price. Slowly but surely she is possessed by something horrible. Lina gets freaked out by the change in her sister, particularly when she starts writing frenzied notes in what appears to be Polish.

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“Ouija pass me the salt, honey?”

Luckily, kindly widower Father Tom (Henry Thomas) is kicking about to help the family, and when Lina mentions Doris’ oddness, he comes over under the pretense of chatting to his deceased wife Gloria. He then reveals to Lina and Alice that the Polish shorthand notes are entries written by an immigrant named Marcus (and transcribed through Doris), who was tortured by an evil doctor in the basement of the house during World War II. Awkward.

Meanwhile, Doris just keeps getting weirder and weirder – and is very not okay, hun. Basically the house is rife with evil angry spirits down below and the family have got their work cut out for them. Will they come together when it matters to kick Marcus and his pals’ ghostly arses – or?

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Eye eye, Ouija look at that.

My Thoughts

Hmm. Yes. Yes I liked this very much. It’s a nice period piece loyal to the time period and is genuinely creepy. There are times it’s a little heavy handed on the effects but I didn’t mind that. All three women are convincing and I really enjoyed the climax.

I haven’t gone into it too deeply for fear of spoiling it but it is an interesting lament on grief and longing. Like, wouldn’t we all do similar just to speak to the precious ones we’ve lost? I know I would – and I have. My one and only brush with the Ouija when I was backpacking in Australia was terrifying and I believe it completely. Or at least I believe in the fear and behaviour it can invoke.

If we’re honest, there’s nothing earth-shatteringly new here but something Mike Flanagan does well is characterisation (back to Hill House) and he obviously has a lot of love for the genre, which comes across in his work. I’m a big fan and I really like how he continues to use the same actors across the board. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I love HH so much (*and will be waffling on about it soon) but this was good too.

My Rating

3.5/5.

What does my little demon think of this one? Would she haunt it until the end of time or throw it in the goddamn furnace? Find out here.

Horror F(r)iends

I might not have made it clear enough on this blog: I live for the movies. All movies really but mainly horror. Good horror, bad horror, cheap horror – most of it has a place in this old heart of mine. My absolute favourites of all time include Candyman and Hellraiser – with a whole lot of variety in between – and what better month than this to revisit the classics and discover new and exciting horror gems?

This post isn’t strictly about those movies though (we’ll do a 31 Horrors recap at the end of the month), it’s about the like-minded friends who love the same movies I do (specifically horror). People like this, the ones who really really get you are like gold dust I swear and this post is for them.

Of course anyone who reads this blog will be familiar with my blog wife Jillian already. We originally bonded over our love of odd movies and are now three years deep into our Great Blog Collab. Our specialty, and favourite month just happens to be Halloween so you could say we’re on the same page when it comes to horror films (and shark movies but they get their own month). In fact, Ginger Snaps is the first film we ever reviewed together, FACT FANS. We also appreciate women on murderous rampages, Film Noir and women who look good smoking.

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Katharine Isabelle, werewolves AND smoking? The holy horror trinity (read my review here)

Jill and I have had some real hits and misses over the years but most times seem to more or less agree on the ratings. Sometimes the films we pick are too good and that can be a problem when our original MO is to snark the hell out of the things we watch – but you can’t win them all. I’m so thankful for Jill, one of the best things to come out of blogging for me – a gorgeous friend online and IRL now too.

James, my podcast partner also deserves a shout out for sitting through some of the dreck I’ve made him watch over the years in the name of content. Cat Sick Blues, anyone? (I do NOT recommend). We’ve also explored a lot of anti-horror together. To name but a few: Felt, The Sacrament, Magic Magic, Spring and Digging Up the Marrow – all of which could be categorised outside the genre comfortably but are definitely shining examples of horror done well.

Honestly, the podcast has brought me so much joy and being able to just waffle on about films until the cows come home is the best thing ever. There’s a limit to how much people want to talk to me about these things so to find a like-minded partner is priceless, honestly. I hope we never stop. Even if James doesn’t rate The Exorcist III.

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Felt (2014)

And last but by no means least my lovely friend Matt who unwittingly inspired today’s post. Matt is the most knowledgeable horror fiend I know and even though we’ve only known each other for a year, I feel like he’s my horror twin. This morning we compared notes via messenger on what we’ve watched this month already and those are the conversations I live for.

We’re even planning a really cool project off the back of our interests and it is going to be so ace I can’t even tell you. I’ll share more when we’ve actually got off our bottoms and made solid plans. This week we’re just treading water until Halloween (2018) is released.

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Hai bae ❤

I can’t not shout out my husband as well, who puts up with all my shit and still seems to like me. Who hasn’t wavered (yet) when I’ve forced him to get involved in my 31 Horrors challenge. Who suggested The Company of Wolves for tonight’s viewing – and who’s just super-cute most of the time. How lucky am I?

So today I am feeling extra blessed to have these people in my life so we can share our common interests like the beasts that we are.

Thanks for being as horrible as I am deep down 🎃👻🔪