Entries Tagged 'SHOCKtober 2022' ↓

SHOCKtober Day 31


Well, this is it pal...end of the line! Boy, depending on intonation that can really sound like a threat, huh? Since this is text, I guess you'll have to figure out for yourself how I meant it.

No matter how I meant it, it is true that today marks SHOCKtober's end. By next week it'll be soft and sagging and browning and leaking. You know, like an expired jack-o-lantern. Will anyone scoop it up and toss it by some far away-ish trees, where it can be eaten and enjoyed by some local animals until its remains return to the soil from whence it came? Or will we all pretend we don't see it in the hopes that someone else will do the scooping? What am I even talking about anymore? Who knows, it's been a long month, okay! It's time for what the French might (don't) call le last favorite character... 

RHONDA JOHNSON'S WIG IN KILLER WORKOUT (1987)


According to the legends, Rhonda Johnson was born Valerie Johnson. On the eve of her big modeling break--a Cosmopolitan cover shoot in Paris--she suffered a tanning bed accident that left her upper back, her breasts, and the top and back of her head horribly scarred. But while you couldn't see them, her heart and soul suffered the most scarring! 

Valerie changed her name and opened a business: Rhonda's Workout. But all those beautiful people reminded her or everything she lost (her modeling career, her nipples, her hair) so she started killing them. It's a terrible business plan.

This is all revealed late in the movie, when we get a glimpse of her wigless and then bewigged:



And I love that the wig is so bad!


Like it was clearly the best they could do with the budget and that's great. But I can't get enough of the idea that we're supposed to think she's been wearing that nest on her head through the whole movie! Until that reveal, her hair looks like it does here, in a scene where she does the two things she does best (business and being mad at someone):



Rhonda Johnson and her wig are the perhaps the greatest movie duo of all time. Why weren't they given a whole franchise? They could travel the world, starting beauty/fitness-related small businesses (though to be honest I'd be happy with her starting any kind of small business, so long as it triggers her murder rage) and then kill off their customers and any nosy cops. Yes, it would just be Killer Workout over and over with a new skin, but I don't see how that's a problem. I'm a ride-or-die for these two queens!

And so, here we are at the end of another SHOCKtober. Until next time...like scar tissue through the hourglass, so are the wigs of our lives. 

Or something. I don't know, it's been a long month!

SHOCKtober Day 30

Now that SHOCKtober 2022 has begun gurgling its death rattle, for today's favorite character I say it's time to pay respect to one of the reasons for the season: Mr. The Shape himself, Michael Margaret Myers. But not just any old iteration of le booeyman, no! I'm talking about the one and only...

BESPECTACLED AND BESHEETED MICHAEL MYERS IN HALLOWEEN (1978)

It's an iconic lewk, to be sure. But it's also...really effing weird. We hear so much about how Michael Myers is sooo evil but we don't hear a lick about him being sooo strange. Laying out Annie's body on the bed with his sister Judith's headstone, we could chalk that up to ooh, spooky and macabre. On one level, Michael standing there under that sheet and breathin' real heavy is also ooh, spooky and macabre. But also, Michael went through a lot of trouble to...play a prank? I can't decide if that makes him more terrifying or less, to be honest.

While Lynda waited upstairs for her post-coital beer, Michael killed Bob and took his glasses. Then he rummaged around in drawers or closets to find a white sheet, figured out where the eye holes should go, cut 'em just right, then got himself all garbed up for Lynda's big surprise. I just imagine him thinking--and maybe uttering, who knows--a few "hee hee hee"s while he's putting this all together.

Side note, I also imagine him thinking--and maybe uttering, who knows--a few "Where the fuck is it?"s while walking around the cemetery in search of Judith's grave, since he would have no idea where she was buried.

That Michael, what a prankster! What would Dr. Loomis make of all this? (Probably something about the devil's jokes and evil, no doubt.)

SHOCKtober Day 29

If you were to ask me how I feel about The Slumber Party Massacre (which by reading this, you kind of are), my knee-jerk would be to say that I love it. But then the next time I watch it, I would say to myself...do I love it? Did I lie to that strange (but nice) person who asked me about it? Yes, it's true. There are two wolves inside me, and they're both about that movie.

Here's what it comes down to, I think: I love a lot of things--like, a lot of things--about it! But as a whole, it honestly leaves me feeling pretty meh. Perhaps this is because its roots lie in satire, but along the way to completion the film just kind of became the very thing it was supposed to satirize. The satirical bits are still ace. But overall it plays out like a regular old slasher movie and as a regular old slasher movie it's...well, it's pretty dull. It's mostly a series of fake-out jump scares; the actual kill scenes are devoid of any tension, the pacing is odd, and it's a bit of a slog.

But when I think about all those things I love about it--the pervy little sister, the pizza eating, the coach trying to save the day--my heartplace swells and the next thing you know, I'm telling strange (but nice) people that I love it. SIGH.

Well, who cares. Maybe I'll sort out my feelings about it one of these days, or maybe I won't! Maybe my feelings are as sorted as they could possibly be, and those two wolves are going to have to learn to--as the bumper sticker says--????i??.

And today they are in fact coexisting. The two wolves and I are all united by one thing, at least, and that's today's favorite character...

KIM'S 'SPACE BABY' T-SHIRT IN THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982)

See what I mean? There goes my heartplace, all a-swellin' again. How could I ever feel otherwise? I love The Slumber Party Massacre!


SHOCKtober Day 28

Wow, the end of SHOCKtober is nigh already! It really makes you think, doesn't it? The way time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin'...into the fyoo-chuhhh *space noises* 

In case you have not memorized the names of the twelve months (in English) and/or you do not have your calendar of, like, baby animals or hot firemen or whatever nearby, in practical terms the nighness of SHOCKtober's end means that it's almost time for November's Revenge. BLOODvember, if you will. The continuation of all things pumpkin spice. The crunch of fallen leaves, the chill in the air on a clear day! And the perfect time to watch today's favorite character in her natural setting (aka the movie she's in)...of course I'm talking about...

MADDY IN BLOOD RAGE (1987)

If you've never seen Maddy before, well, trust me when I say you've never seen a character like Maddy before, either. If you have seen Maddy before, well, you probably don't know exactly what to make of Maddy, but you know you love her. That is as it should be.

I love the horror movie moments that hint at the more mundane moments of a character’s life (bonus points if it’s moments of the killer’s life). Give me Valerie Johnson filling out paperwork to change her name to Rhonda Johnson and acquiring a small business license before embarking on her aerobics-n-murder career in Killer Workout. I love the image of Michael Myers having to stop for gas during his cross-country road trip to find Laurie Strode in Halloween H20.

That said, I am not one to bemoan a lack of mundane details when watching a horror movie. I spend no time at all wondering why Rose never said “I’m hungry!” and stopped for a snack whilst wandering around Silent Hill in search of her daughter. Did the women in The Descent need bathroom breaks during all that time they spent trapped in that cave? Did any of them have to find a dark corner for peein'? I don’t care, it’s none of my business! 

Usually the weird character gets a brief moment of, you know, weirdness before focus shifts to the killer and their would-be victims, but in Blood Rage we are treated to an entire subplot revolving around Maddy, who is never in mortal danger at any point. The movie revels in the banal details of her life at home while a fairly standard—if low-budget and quirky—slasher flick happens outside her door. Teenagers run around a Florida apartment complex and engage in typical horror teen behavior such as having sex, getting killed, and, uh, playing tennis, but Maddy is living in her own private Douglas Sirk by way of John Waters melodrama, engaging in housework as a means to combat her stress over the idea that her psychotic son is ruining her Thanksgiving holiday. 

She scrubs the oven to a shining gleam. She drinks copious amounts of wine. She vacuums. She drinks wine while vacuuming. She sits on the floor in front of her open refrigerator, scooping up leftover green beans and shoveling them into her mouth. When her calls to her fiance Brad’s office go unanswered, rather that walk over there (it's like two doors away) she spends a good 20 minutes trying to convince a phone operator to help her and delivers not one but two of the weirdest, greatest monologues that horror—nay, that cinema!—has ever seen.

Oh no no no, that’s impossible. You must have dialed the wrong number. No, he’s definitely there. Could you please just re-check that number for me? Because this is a real emergency. Why not? Look, look, look, you don’t seem to understand. This is a real emergency. This is a real emergency! I mean he’s definitely there. He is waiting for my call right now, he’s sitting there and waiting for my call. This is very important! Operator, I’m begging you, this is a real, real emergency!
It probably won’t surprise you if I say that Maddy constitutes the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table of my mind, like one of those expandable crepe-paper turkeys, thanks in particular to the delightfully unhinged performance of Louise Lasser.

I don’t know who made the final decision to let Louise Lasser loose in front of the camera and let her indulge in every strange whim she had, but that person will forever hold a special place in the big bowl of not-cranberry sauce of my heart. In fact, I love it so much that it’s got me rethinking my stance on mundane details. If they’re going to be this bizarre, give me all the mundane details! In the inevitable re-re-reboot of Halloween in ten five years, I sure hope to see Laurie Strode shoveling green beans in her mouth, unaware that Michael Myers is somewhere out there…filling up his gas tank.

SHOCKtober Day 27

Are being a Dracula and being a responsible pet owner mutually exclusive? Honestly, even after watching Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (aka Dracula's Dog) that philosophical quandary will still be swishing around in your brain place because (spoiler) Dracula isn't even in the movie. I'm not even sure that Zoltan's unceasing loyalty to his master indicates much. Is he something of an undead Hachik?? Or is he just a vampire dog who does what vampire dogs do (he bites!)? When you come right down to it, aww who cares?? Why talk about these clearly high-falutin' esoteric matters when we could be talking about...

THE VAMPIRE PUPPY AT THE END OF ZOLTAN, HOUND OF DRACULA (1977)

Yes, one of my earliest faves here at Final Girl remains a fave. Yes, the best part of Zoltan is the vampire puppy freeze-frame that ends the film. How could it not be the best part? Look at it! I would do anything for vampire puppy. Anything! Look at me...I'm the undead Hachik? now!

What a stupid conceit for a movie. Ain't it great??


SHOCKtober Day 26

If you had told me at the beginning of the month that two of my highly coveted "favorite character" slots would be taken up by characters from the Sleepaway Camp franchise (spoiler), I would have said "Do I know you? What are you doing here? Psychic or no psychic, get out of my house!"

But it's true. When setting out on the journey, we never know where SHOCKtober will take us, and this year it has taken us to le Sleepaway double dip. I'm sure you immediately suspected it, but sorry, no...today's favorite character is not M-E-G's headband. Rather, it's...

MARIA'S LINE READINGS IN SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND (1989)

Sleepaway Camp III is truly awful, like barely watchable if I'm being honest. Regardless, I need to give my girl Maria props because her dialogue has intermittently been running through my head for years and years now. I'm not sure if it's Stockholm syndrome or straight-up sickness or what, but "Today's the day I'm goin' to camp" is so imprinted on my brain that since the day I first saw it, I've blessed annoyed just about every one of my friends (whether they've also seen the movie or not) with my impression of it. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if they mark my final words as I lay on my deathbed, ready to shuffle off into the great sleepaway camp in the sky. Mind you, I might amend it to "Today's the day I'm goin' to camp. Didja hear me? I'm goin' to that camp today...by which I mean Heaven (I hope)."

I just...love it so much. She gives us some variation of "I'm going to camp" three times in 30 seconds, she gives us an atrocious delivery of the most unnatural dialogue ever written, she gives us that wig! Such gifts.

(NSFW)


I've never seen anyone take off their t-shirt that way before...? Wow, is there anything Maria can't do? 

Well, besides live and actually make it to camp, I guess. Yes, Angela runs her down with a garbage truck so she can take Maria's place at Camp New Horizons. 

I also love that it's so clearly a mannequin getting hit if you look closely. Ooh, maybe she was a living mannequin all along! Like in that movie! Mannequin!

 

Angela really goes to crazy lengths in this scheme of hers: She tracks Maria down, finds an outfit and wig just like Maria wears, she steals a garbage truck, waits for Maria to leave for camp, somehow gets her to run into an alley with a garbage disposal at the end of it. It might seem like a lot of hassle--and surely there were other campers that would have been easier to replace--but excuse me, this is Maria. Don't we all want to be her? Wouldn't we all do whatever it takes to wield the power of those line readings, even for but a moment? I know I would. Just ask my friends!

SHOCKtober Day 25

Over the last couple of years, I've really gotten a kick out of revisiting movies I haven't seen since Final Girl's nascent days, especially those movies I wasn't wild about the first time around. A few have remained firmly in the stinker pile. Even fewer have been added to the "I liked that? What the frig was I thinking?" pile. It's the "I didn't like that? What the frig was I thinking?" pile that far and away towers over the others now, though, and I love that. I ain't a-feared of changing my mind about a movie, especially if my new mind leans toward loving or, at the least, appreciating it.

I hope I get there someday about every Elm Street movie that isn't Part One or Part Three!

I do accept that even though it is a well-beloved franchise, the vast majority of the films that compose it are likely just not for me. That's okay! We all have movies that are critically and/or fan-acclaimed that we are not into, that we "don't" "get." But there is something in me--perhaps the part of me the digs the first entry, loves the third, and adores Nancy Thompson--that wants to embrace every installment of A Nightmare on Elm Street. (Side note, I think Wes Craven's New Nightmare is both rad and very good but in my brain place it isn't, like, a part of the franchise proper?) Well, who knows what the future holds.

Miss Cleo? Jeanne Dixon? Micki Dahne? Sylvia Browne? Dionne Warwick's Psychic Friends Network? Yes, all of them obviously, but you don't see them here with me right now, do you? That's because all but Ms Warwick of them are dead, but you get my point. (R.I.P. you con artist queens.)

Anyway, while chances are extremely high that I will never all A Nightmare on Elm Street my favorite franchise, it did give rise to one of my favorite characters...

MY BOOTLEG FREDDY KRUEGER CANDLE

Given to me years and years ago by a friend who would not tell me where he got it (so I assume a curse is involved somehow), this hunk of waxen perfection is a mainstay in my life. His beefy Twizzler worm lips and Chiclets teeth making that rictus of a grin! His eyes that I don't completely understand! I think he's so great and unlike the real Freddy Krueger, he will never burn.

No offense to Robert Englund, of course, but maybe if this candle starred in 2, 4, 5, 6...7? I don't even know how many Elm Streets there are!...then I would like them more already.

SHOCKtober Day 24

As SHOCKtober marches on and Halloween approaches I'm getting more and more up in my spooky scary feelings! I have to say, though, my spooky feelings are thriving much more than my scary ones. It's possible that I've sat on too many Brach's Mellowcreme® Pumpkins, of course, and it's dulled my senses. I'm just looking for some nightmares, man, on the screen and on the page. It's like I've either seen/read everything already or recommendations leave me decidedly nightmaresless. 

But like I said, my spooky feelings are thriving, and as such I donned a sweater with a skull on it for some gallivanting the other day and the streets of my town treated me like a princess, throwing all manner of "I like your sweater"s and "nice sweater" and "sick (in a good way)" like so many flower petals. People smiled at me over it? It was weird and a bit disconcerting, but also nice because it was unexpected. Who knew that a sweater with a skull on it could bring people together so much? It was like "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" in sweater form.

I am not saying all of this to brag, but rather to lay the groundwork for passing forward a sweater compliment with today's favorite character, who is...

DANNY TORRANCE'S APOLLO 11 SWEATER IN THE SHINING (1980)

I wonder what kind of reaction I'd get if I wore that out for some gallivanting? It might also make me a fashion phenomenon, but chances are the slant would be more negative. "Why is that five-year-old boy so big?" they might say. Just think of what they'd say if I told them about the boy who lives in my mouth.

But enough about me, this is about Danny Torrance's Apollo 11 sweater. Hey Danny, you little fashion plate...your sweater's definitely sick (in a good way)!


SHOCKtober Day 23

I don't know about you, but for moi, gone are the days of rushing to the local thee-ay-tur on Friday to see any old new thing solely because it's a horror movie. Yeah, the pandemic played a part in changing my habits for sure. But mostly I think it's that I've pretty much gone full "Where are my Werther's Originals?" and if I don't want to see something desperately enough...I just don't! Lawd knows that as a horror blogger (nail polish emoji) I used to feel...obligated? Mmm, more like obligated lite, maybe...to see it all and keep up with the news and weigh in on things so I could be like...

They're remaking The Fog??? Why? It's going to be so bad! There,

Don't get me wrong, the lights haven't completely gone out here yet, I'm writing for Rue Morgue magazine, and I blather on a weekly podcast and other places occasionally, so I'm still THAT'S MY OPINIONing all over the place. (Ask me about Halloween Ends Bangs Part Two!) But, uh...that's mostly opinioning about old stuff. New horror movies though, I don't often join in the immediate conversations anymore and that suits me just fine.

The point (I think? Who even knows anymore) is that I did not see Old when it released last year because I had no interest. But last week, when the Riunite hit me? I thought to myself...I wanna watch Old! And so I did (incredible storyteller emoji).

It was as supremely stupid as ATM, another dumb concept 70 pound baby of a movie I simply had to see. Like ATM, it was a compelling watch if only to see how that dumb concept plays out. People go to a beach? And the beach makes them old? Honey, pass me a Werther's, I'm in!

I was so entertained by Old. It is completely insane, and I was the very emoji of delight throughout the entire thing. I can't tell if Old knows it's stupid, but really it doesn't matter a whit. Old might now be my best friend. In fact, I'm going to buy those best friend necklaces and give the half-heart that says

ST

END

to one character in particular...

THE BEACH IN OLD (2021)

Look how beautiful and serene she is! Don't you just want to...lie down? Soak up some rays? Smell that salt air? HAHAHA you're old now! GOTCHA!

Now, I am not going to give away all of her secrets. Yes, of course there are secrets! This is an M. Night Shyamalan movie after all and as you know, he invented twists in the 1999 film The Sixth Sense. You should find out what mysteries like in all of her nooks and crannies for yourself. But find out you definitely should, especially if you've got some Riunite on hand.

THAT'S MY OPINION!

SHOCKtober Day 22

One of my most beloved micro-eras in horror is the Satanic mid-to-late 70s. Thanks to the massive success and critical accolades of The Exorcist (1973) and Rosemary's Baby (1968), for good while there horror movies were really concerned about Satan and or those who hung out in the private club of the Satan's Helpers. Yes, these films (including The Amityville Horror) helped usher in the Satanic Panic era of the 80s--an era that may seem silly now, or one merely to be used as an """aesthetic vibe""" in the retro-flavored horror movies that are all the rage these days, but unfortunately it was also an era in which many lives were destroyed. (It's also a phenomenon that has happened repeatedly throughout our history and always feels a hair's breadth away from happening again.) 

But the films from that little pre-Panic chunk of history...man, I love 'em. They were (or can at least be viewed as) a response to an uncertain, tumultuous time here in the United States. Watergate, the Vietnam War, the energy crisis, the failure of the "free love" hippy movement, burgeoning civil and women's rights movements, the SLA and rampant bombings...it was like the decay that ran deep through our roots had finally reached a nerve and hit it with a screaming jolt. But why examine that decay, why confront the ills and make (costly) systemic changes? The answer, it seemed, was much easier than that: we just had to get back to the values we had clearly lost. And in America, those values mean getting right with God. Satan is everywhere, you see, and the private club of the Satan's Helpers could be in your neighborhood!

And yet! Unlike a film such as The Conjuring, which paints Ed and Lorraine Warren not as the con artists they were but as a loving couple of God's Warriors who will help you with ghosts and also hit you with The Good Word along the way, the movies from this micro-era are rarely heavy-handed with the propaganda or proselytizing. Most of the time they're just a good time, no matter where they fall on the spectrum that ranges from legit masterpiece (The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby) to legit trashterpiece (Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, 1978) to legit oh no what is happening, what a terrible day to have eyes!!! (The Antichrist, 1974).

The marvel of The Omen (1976) and Damien: The Omen II (1978) is that they both zip around that spectrum, upending all of your expectations as a viewer. One minute you're watching Academy acclaimed, storied actors like Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, William Holden, and Lee goddamn Grant do some, you know, acting. The next minute, you're watching Meshach Taylor get cut in half by a runaway elevator cable! Then Jerry Goldsmith drops some wicked Latin chant grooves (Enigma wishes, okay) and you're like...man, I gotta convert to something, or start practicing before it's too late! 

The violence in those two films is nuts: shocking, brutal Final Destination shit wrapped up in a pashmina of prestige. I've seen both movies a whole messa times (The Omen II in particular has my heart) yet I'm always surprised by how over-the-top they can be. Every death takes me right out! Which leads me at long, long last, to today's favorite character:

THE FLYING JOAN HART MANNEQUIN IN DAMIEN: THE OMEN II (1978)

The "thwump" when she hits the trailer...reader, it adds years to my lifespan every time I hear it.

It's an insane end to an insane sequence, and I highly suggest checking out the whole scene, which shows what happens to a nosy gal reporter when she starts flapping her gums too much and being all We Need to Talk About Damien!

What a terrible day for Joan to no longer have eyes!

SHOCKtober Day 21

I've mentioned Great Value Slashers already this month, if only in passing, and lawd knows this here blog's earliest days were all but dedicated solely to them. But as time marches on...well, some people might get face wrinkles, but not me! Instead I just get more and more love wrinkles for those off-brand economy slashers.

This is the point where I would normally say that "love wrinkles" isn't a euphemism, but you know what? It's the holidays, I'll let you make up your own mind.

Anyway, one that's given me plenty of love wrinkles over time (gross) is The House on Sorority Row. While it did spawn a remake during the bro horror era, it's a movie that often feels overlooked and/or underseen when one gets down to the business of slasher talk. I don't get it! I dig the way it veers into mystery and secret-keeping, like a proto-I Know What You Did Last Summer. It's surprisingly dark and sometimes violent; I mean, a decapitated head ends up in a toilet! It's got a creepy-ass costume on the killer! There's wanton waterbed violence! There's a (sort of) wall person! And excuse me, it's not only got Harley Jane Kozak of television's Santa Barbara, it's also got Eileen goddamn Davidson of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. What I'm saying is, The House on Sorority Row fills in every space on my bingo card. (Again: euphemism? YOU decide!)

What it's got most of all, however, is today's favorite character...

JODI DRAIGIE'S LINE READING IN THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (1982)

Have you ever seen anything more perfect in your whole entire life? No, you have not! Honestly, that line reading alone fills in all the spaces on my bingo card. And YES that is a euphemism!

For what, exactly? You decide!

SHOCKtober Day 20

I don't know about you, but I have an outsized, undying love for all things Amityville. Yeah, it's a trash franchise rooted in a legitimate tragedy that was exploited by a group of con artists. Yeah, I'm not sure that "franchise" is even correct since these days anything and everything slaps an "Amityville" on a title and it means nothing. Yeah, I'm not sure that any of the movies are "good," not that that matters, really. And yet! I don't care! I love all things Amityville! 

I got in at the right time (youth) and the "true story" angle got me hooked but good. Once upon a time (youth) the original film was theeeeee most terrifying thing I'd ever seen. When watching it these days, it comes off mostly corny as heck but I admit...I still experience the occasional residual feeling of terror, something like the perfume ghost left behind, the one you can smell when a grandma leaves a room. 

So how to choose a favorite character from something that means a lot to me while simultaneously meaning nothing to me? Yes, Amityville is indeed my Schrödinger's franchise! I think it's because...well, it's not quite """"nostalgia"""" (or at least I hope it isn't). Maybe it is? Maybe I'm just chasing that perfume ghost, you know? I just love all those heebie jeebies and scares that come with thinking this was all real and could happen to anyone.

But anyway, back to the question: how to choose? Because really, The Amityville Horror (I'm sticking to the OG film here) is full of great characters:

  • the psychic friend who flips out by the red room
  • Jody, the...purple demonic pig
  • the ubiquitous La Choy food products (seriously they're everywhere! the Lutzes fucking loved La Choy I guess)



  • the ubiqitous houseflies
  • Margot Kidder and James Brolin for being, like, the hottest horror movie couple ever
  • the babysitter with the headgear! queen
  • a dogeared, yellowing copy of Jay Anson's paperback (not in the movie I know, but a good all-encompassing choice)
  • no wait! the answer is obvious...

THAT NUN WHO PUKES IN THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979) 

Technically her name is "Aunt Helena" but come on, we all know her by her stage name, "That Nun Who Pukes," right? That's how bad the doings were at 112 Ocean Avenue: the doings made a nun flee the scene and barf! Wow, scary.

Then, you grow up and you watch that scene and you are dazzled/amazed/entranced by how completely over-the-top her puking sounds are. If Amityville wasn't already permanently etched on your heart, it would be now because you don't want to watch anything else.

Seriously, warning: don't watch it if you have somewhere to be! The clip is so good you might enter a viewing loop from which you will never emerge.

SHOCKtober Day 19

One of The Blair Witch Project's greatest strengths is that we never see Ms. Witch. This is not a radical thought, of course. While John Carpenter's The Thing wouldn't be the same without all the The Thing running around in plain sight, Jacques Tourneur (and Kate Bush) knew that "It's in the trees! It's coming!" alone is infinitely more terrifying than actually seeing this dude:

 ...but hey, sometimes producers win arguments!

I'm sure many a horror fan was hugely disappointed when Elly Kedward never showed her face after all that build-up, but for me the build-up is more than enough. We hear about everything she did, all the murders and disappearances and the witchcraft. We see traces of her presence--the sticks, the teeth--though whether they're left by her or meant to ward her away we're not really sure...but we are sure that she's out there, waiting somewhere in the Black Hills Forest.

How could actually seeing her ever live up to the wild spinnings of my imagination? While running through the woods on her last night alive, Heather sees her, maybe. She lets out a blood-curdling "What the fuck is that?!" and I'm so grateful that like Tourneur, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez know that that's enough. Let the mystery be.

Despite this, Ms. Witch is not the biggest mystery roaming around greater Burkittsville! No, I'm afraid that title belongs to today's favorite character...

MARY BROWN IN THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

Other townsfolk say she's "kind of crazy," but hey! She survived an encounter with the Blair Witch, what did those townsfolk ever do? It's because of Mary Brown that we know the Blair Witch is "Strange-looking" with hair like a horse! That she covers with a shawl! 

After interviewing her, those too cool to care gen xer filmmakers make fun of Mary, who apparently claims she's in the film business, a ballerina, a historian writing a book about American history, and a scientist involved with research at the Department of Energy. Who's to say she hasn't been all of those things at one time or another? What, did Heather, Josh, and Mike need to actually see her pirouetting in a tutu and check her Department of Energy ID badge to believe her?

Actually wait, I wish we did see Mary Brown pirouetting in a tutu and ID badge whilst writing a chapter about the Teapot Dome Scandal or whatever. Huh. I guess Jacques Tourneur didn't know nothin' after all!

SHOCKtober Day 18

I tells ya like I'm sure I tolds ya: I will never stop going to bat for the magnificence of William Castle's Strait-Jacket! I reviewed it here once upon a time, I wrote about it for TCM's Movie Morlocks (R.I.P.) (you know what, R.I.P. to all the film blogs, film sites, and writing that has been lost over the years once someone in charge decided that traffic didn't bring in enough advertising dollars to justify the costs of even simple maintenance. I'm not saying that my work needs to be preserved for all time, but it's wild thinking about how much of it is just...gone? Sometimes by my own hand whilst in a pique of 'this isn't good' or even just a bout of boredom, sometimes when sites I don't control go 404. I suppose there's some kind of lesson in there about the freedom that comes with recognizing or confronting the ephemeral nature of our existences, that nothing really matters and so everything matters. None of us can know how long we'll be remembered when we're gone or even if we'll be remembered at all. It's another notion that grants a bit of freedom--we're all just ashes in the end, so girl, have a nice summer and take a chill pill (and other yearbook platitudes) and don't worry that someday even the words you're writing right now will be gone. How is that my business? Will history blame me? Or the BEES?)

Anyway, now that that mini existential crisis is out of the way...Strait-Jacket! It's so great. It even made an appearance in my Top 20 Faves in that SHOCKtober from a couple of years past. Here's what I wrote about it:

It's not William Castle's most bonkers movie, but oh, is Strait-Jacket so much fun. As Lucy Harbin, Joan Crawford takes an axe and gives her cheating lover forty whacks, then emerges from the asylum years later and attempts to rebuild her life and her relationship with her daughter (played by a young Diane Baker, aka one Senator Ruth Martin, she of the fantastic suit). Is Lucy holding on to her sanity? Or is she responsible for all the freshly axed heads rolling around?

It is absolutely as campy as it sounds, of course, but Strait-Jacket is so much more than that thanks to Crawford, who turns in a bravura performance. She approaches the role like she approached every role, committing to Lucy Harbin the way she committed to, say, Mildred Pierce. She goes over-the-top as she vamps it up, putting on her jangly charm bracelet and practically shoving her fingers in the mouth of her daughter's boyfriend as she hits on him. But she also lets us feel the weight of Lucy's guilt and pain over her past and all the years she lost. Seeing her desperately try to hold on as it seems her sanity is slipping away again isn't merely a horror movie "will she or won't she?" thrill, it's downright heartbreaking. She's awards-worthy, quite frankly, in a movie that also features really fake-looking decapitated heads. Actresses like Crawford are why the subgenre is called Grand Dame Guignol, after all. Strait-Jacket is a treasure.
I stand by those words! And so with all that blah blah out of the way, today's favorite character is...

CAROL CUTLER'S LUCY HARBIN MASK IN STRAIT-JACKET (1964)


Yes, in one of cinema's most insane twist reveals (this is a William Castle movie, after all), Lucy's young daughter Carol has been running around chopping up people with an axe whilst wearing a mask of her mother's whole damn head. It's a pretty good mask, really, which points to Carol's skills as a sculptor. If only she hadn't used those skills for such nefarious doings! Artists, amirite. So eccentric.

The mask is incredible on its own, sure. But it's also a key player in a tussle fight between Joan Crawford and Diane Baker wearing a rubber Joan Crawford face. You know what? I don't care if every word I've ever written goes poof, so long as this is remembered forever!



SHOCKtober Day 17

As is the case with its titular namesake--aka the li'l reincarnated medicine man who pops out of Susan Strasberg's back--the insane power of The Manitou only increases over the years. Like if you see The Manitou and then ten years later you find yourself (as always) thinking about The Manitou, you might think about that li'l dude, or maybe about the blizzard inside the hospital, or maybe about Susan Strasberg on a hospital bed floating in space, shooting lasers at a giant eyeball. "Wow," you think. "The Manitou is fucking nuts!"

You're right, of course. It is fucking nuts. But it's also the cinematic embodiment of "But wait! There's more!" and so when you watch it again--which you will, because once you start thinking about it, well, how could you not?--it's somehow even crazier than you remembered. It's like an Outback Steakhouse Bloomin Onion of insanity, where it seems like no matter how much bloomin' onion you pull off there's more bloomin' onion underneath.

I think that's how those things work? I don't know, I've never had one. But I can conceptualize maybe accurately! 

Anyway. As you may have gathered, there's a shitton about that movie that I sure love. But one queen rules stands floats above all else...

MRS. HERZ IN THE MANITOU (1978)

Even if you only saw her brief scene, you would still come away from the experience thinking that The Manitou is completely insane and completely perfect. In the span of about 80 seconds, she shows up at Tony Curtis's apartment for a tarot reading, complains, starts chanting, floats down a hallway, throws herself down the stairs, and dies. We should all be so lucky to spend our last 80 seconds of life that way. Just look at her go! Dare to dream.