Category Archives: Lists


Tell most people you’re “into” slasher movies and they’ll give you this strange sideways look, like they’re doubting the authenticity of the complexities going on inside your cranium.

Pick up any academic film book and you’ll likely only find half a paragraph about slasher movies, writing them off as something like ‘hate-women films’ or the like.

Nevertheless, beyond the Teenage Wasteland’s, Legacy of Blood’s, and Going to Pieces’s’s’s, there has been a fair bit of scholarly study done over the years, much of it in research papers, but also a few books.

Therefore, if you’re looking to broaden your appreciation of the subtextual elements of the teenie-kill pics you so enjoy, maybe give any of these a go…


By Vera Dika (1990)

Way back in the mid-90s before DVD and before my parents stopped thinking the internet was evil sent by Satan, the only existing book about exclusively about slasher films was this.

After I’d devoured as much Friday the 13th and Halloween I could and still found myself hungry, Games of Terror introduced to be to six other early stalker films (as she calls them), which took a good six months for me to track down. This being a good decade before everything was reissued on DVD – only a few of these films were readily available on video cassette.

Rather than analyse psychological elements of the films themselves (see Clover, below, for that), Dika pivots her tome on the structural nature of the sub-genre; the ‘games of terror’ refers to how these films work on an interactive level, breaking down the common plot arc (from the event that prompts the killer X-years earlier to the heroine fighting and surviving), and posing the audience questions: Where is the killer? When will they strike? Who is the killer? etc.

The holy clutch of ‘stalker films’

Of the three books, Games of Terror is the easiest to get on with. It’s not overly verbose and doesn’t preach an opinion (again, see Clover for that!) and it enabled me entrance on to my Film Theory degree, which of course, I capped off with a research paper on 90s slasher movies, called Scream Queens and Screaming Queens.

The downside of the tale is that Games of Terror is fucking hard to get hold of. Look on Amazon and gasp at the three-figure prices for which it’s being touted! I took it out from the library about five times.

Aww, libraries… like phoning around old video stores, scouring the Free-Ads and taking the bus for an hour to go and get my copy of Happy Birthday to Me for £7 from a run-down old rental store, it all takes me back!


By Carol J. Clover (1990)

Now this is a different kettle o’ fish altogether. Less an entire book, more a collection of essays bound together. The chapter Her Body, Himself is devoted exclusively to slasher films, which Clover begins with by stating that the killers murder a string of “mostly female victims,” and then goes on to namecheck a load of films where male victims outnumbered their gal-pals by significant margins.

Lack of objectivity aside, this is a great chapter for psycho-analysis of some of the grittier issues you sometimes find going on under the surface. Clover centres much of her research around The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (which, ironically, the next book all but excludes from being a slasher movie at all!) and posits that all killers are psychosexually motivated to stab pretty young girls over and over in a grim tableau of the regular intercourse they’re incapable of having.

It makes sense, but her research lets her down. Some facts are plain wrong, while others require a lot of convincing. Still, the parts around audience identification with the killer shifting to the allegiance of the final girl are interesting and mostly valid, but read into sometimes in too much detail, especially when it’s widely considered that the core audience for these movies is frankly too dumb to tell the difference.

The rest of the book covers various other genres of horror and cries misogyny a little too easily at some points. Yes, it’s an issue and yes, some slasher movies revel in it, but Hell Night, for example (a film she discusses), certainly isn’t one of them.


By Richard Nowell (2010)

I only finished reading this book last week. There’s more in common with Dika than Clover, as Nowell charts the business end of the 1978-81 mini-boom of teen slasher films (thereby excluding films that aren’t necessarily tailored for teens, i.e. He Knows You’re Alone).

Nowell’s research levels go far beyond the previous books, though that’s likely because a lot more has been written on the genre in the intervening years. Still, he doesn’t miss a trick, finally pointing out that Clover’s effort has been the only oft-quoted work on the genre, and thus many people have taken her word for gospel thereafter.

Blood Money goes to great lengths to show how the often tiny production companies tailored their films to male AND female audiences, the way trailers were cut to show female bonding and girl-enticing elements of the films (Prom Night being the best example) and, surprisingly, goes to town on pointing out that Halloween was NOT the bootleg blockbuster it’s often painted to be, that it took a long, long time to make its money (much of which came from re-releases well into the 80s) and really showing how a trend starts, peaks, and fades away when it comes to the saturation point in 1981.

The disappointing aspect of this book is that most of the films he charts (those pictured above plus Black Christmas, Silent Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Terror Train, Final Exam, The Prowler, Just Before Dawn, Madman, and The Dorm That Dripped Blood) made much less money than we’re sometimes led to believe. Yeah, they all turned a profit, but some of the amounts were a lot less impressive than their reputations would have you believe, especially in terms of modern money.

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In conclusion – read these! At least some of them. Despite my bitching about it, Carol Clover’s book is quite relevant, just a tad misinformed in place. And if you ever get in an argument with Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin, or the ghost of Gene Siskel, it’d be handy to be able to quote some of this stuff back!

10 final girls we love

Vegan Voorhees LOVES a good final girl. I’ve read people attempt to remove the need for a final girl in a slasher film over the years (“women are only good for dying” etc). These people are stupid. A slasher film without a final girl or a killer is almost always crap.

So, anyway, here – in no particular order – are ten of VeVo’s favourite horror heroines:

Molly Nagel (Renée Estevez)

Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)

Cutesy camper Molly is pretty much the only good girl at Camp Rolling Hills, under the watch of puritanical/homicidal/transsexual camp counsellor Angela, who rather indiscriminately “sends home” all of those who don’t act like a good young person should. Molly’s fate is left a bit up in the air, but from a throwaway line of dialogue in the third movie, it seems like she didn’t make it : (

There’s nothing particularly outstanding about Molly as a character: she adheres to all the assembly line clichés of the role in her goody-two-shoes way, but Estevez is winsome in the part.

Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals)

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Plucky reporter Taylor and her crew of two follow burgeoning mass murderer Leslie Vernon, who intends to rid the archetypal small town of Glen Echo of its surplus teenage population. However, he’s been leading the crew a merry ride by pretending he’s already picked his “survivor girl”, but it turns out he intended to face off with Taylor all along.

Her realisation of her placement as the final girl is something of a great moment in Leslie Vernon, and Taylor takes to the task with veritable gusto, besting Les in classic FG stylee.

Natalie Simon (Alicia Witt)

Urban Legend (1998)

Secretive Natalie is the numero uno target of the Parka-clad killer who’s stalking the campus of Pendleton University, offing her friends in inventive fashions. While she is naive enough to believe that it’s all something to do with a murder spree that occurred there twenty-five years earlier, deep down she must know that the bad thing she once did has come back to bite her in the ass!

Some people considered Alicia Witt miscast for the role, but her ‘bad fit’ is why she’s such a great final girl. Instead of the usual bubbly blonde chick or moody brunette ‘with issues’, Natalie is a booksmart, guilt-laden character who is eventually forced to shoot her best friend.

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis)

Halloween (1978)

The original final girl, Laurie Strode survived the murder sprees of Michael Myers on three separate occasions. But everyone remembers her best as the babysitter from heaven in John Carpenter’s original flick. Laurie is comprised of all the elements that make the final girl: she’s watchful, ever so slightly paranoid, virtuous, shy, and genuine.

Curtis played the lead role in other slasher films, but she never again scaled the heights of empathy that Laurie evoked as WE joined her in terror as she ran, hid, and eventually fought back.

Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

In Carol Clover’s book Men, Women & Chain Saws, she calls Nancy the ‘grittiest’ of the final girls. Wes Craven wrote his heroine as more reactive than most (something that follows through into the Scream movies); as her friends fall victim to dream stalker Freddy Krueger, Nancy resolves to take the fight to him. She purposefully goes looking for him in her dreams and, when she figures out how she can kick his ass, rigs several traps using household items, and unleashes it all upon her would-be killer.

The can’t-sleep motif at the centre of the Elm Street opus helps characterise Nancy as a great final girl: her folks believe she’s crazy, the doctors think she’s crazy, and even she begins to question her own sanity after more than seven days without sleep. But her paranoia wins through and Nancy emerges as the only survivor.

To emphasise just how good she is, watch the 2010 remake for Rooney Mara’s bad cover version.

Ginny Field (Amy Steel)

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Assistant camp counsellor trainer and child psyche major Ginny meets all the functions of the standard final girl and blows most the competition out of the water. Ginny ‘senses’ the presence of something not quite right about the camp and is the only one who takes the threat of “a Jason” seriously. She crawls through windows, hides under bunks, wets her pants in fear, and finally uses her child psychology skills to fool Jason into thinking she’s mommy.

It’s difficult to list exactly what about Amy Steel is so appealing. Essentially, she does very little that her sisters-in-terror don’t. Her performance is neither racked with emotion or personal loss, but she simply seems to fit the mold almost perfectly, doing all the things we want her to do and coming out the other side with her life intact. She’s plucky without being annoying, tough without it seeming unlikely, and smart without being cocky.

Erin (Jessica Biel)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Michael Bay’s remake of Tobe Hooper’s landmark classic (which I’m not all that fond of), changed the leading lady from shrieking victim into a can-do ladette with growing star Jessica Biel convincing enough as a reformed juvie-hall probie whose road trip through Texas in 1973 becomes a nightmare of epic proportions.

Is it likely girls would have acted this way forty years ago? Maybe not, but TCM barely reflects the era it’s set in anyway. The characterisations are sketchy and malleable to the 2003 audience, which means that Erin pretty much steps through a time warp from modern post-Ripley female warrior ideals to do battle with Leatherface and family. But she’s appealing nevertheless. I was toing and froing between her or Eliza Dushku in Wrong Turn, but I think Erin just about has it.

Jess Bradford (Olivia Hussey)

Black Christmas (1974)

Sensible and ever so slightly moody Jess turns out to be the final girl in the pre-everything scare-a-thon that is Black Christmas. Secretly pregnant by her highly strung boyfriend and concerned about the disappearance of a sorority sister and the stream of obscene phone calls their sorority house keeps receiving, Jess is under a fair bit of pressure from several angles.

Olivia Hussey was quite a big name when she made this film, but as it predates the conventions of the genre by some years, her eventual uprising as the heroine isn’t the cliché it would be now. Jess isn’t the ‘nicest’ girl in the group, she’s evidently not a virgin, and doesn’t want to compromise over the planned abortion of the child. In short, this kind of girl would NEVER be the heroine if the film were made these days. Still, these points only serve to define her character as realistic (as are most of those in this one) and so she becomes a good, ‘outside the box’ final girl in a similar way to Natalie in Urban Legend.

Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi)

Final Exam (1981)

In this tame post-Halloween campus-slasher, the killer stalking a group of college kids has no apparent motive and, in a reflection of this randomness, the nominal heroine, Courtney, becomes so by a similar lottery-of-gloom. Unlike many of her kin in this list, there’s not much to know about her: She’s the nice, conventionally pretty girl who constantly seems to be providing an ear for her friends’ various problems, whilst worrying about exams and wondering if she has a weak personality.

Eventually, all those extroverts who don’t care about their own personalities are knife-fodder and Courtney ends up running for her life around a deserted campus, until she is forced to fight back and, literally, get her hands dirty. Very dirty. In this straight-forward film, it’s nice to have an equally straight-forward character outlasting everyone else.

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell)

Scream 1-4 (1996-2011)

Last but by no means least, the final girl who just keeps getting put through the ringer. If you were Sidney Prescott, you’d be quite pallid of character and wear lots of dark coloured, sensible clothes too. Her mom was raped and murdered, first boyfriend turns out to be the one who did it, then he tries to kill her, then his MOTHER tries to kill her, then her mystery half-brother confesses to have been playing puppetmaster all along. Then, when she’s had a decade of rest, her own cousin tries to kill her!

Blood runs thicker than water, and Sidney’s sure seen more of it than most. But she copes, she fights and she survives every time despite tremendous odds against her: One final girl against a total of seven different psycho killers. I was never that keen on her in the first movie, she seemed too obvious, but as more and more of her buddies flatlined, she became gradually more mysterious and put-upon, which made me like her more. Plus she’s stuck it out and done four movies, more than anyone else in the same predicament.

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Oh, how we laughed. Then died.

Happy April Fool’s Day.

Have you woken up to a pie in the face? Been told some bizarre fact about someone that you naively took as gospel? Or did a group of your peers play a joke on you so damaging that at this very moment you’re sketching out ideas for a gruesome revenge scenario?

Hey, it happens! Just take a look at these five gags that went “a bit wrong”…

Kenny Hampson and The Corpse Lady of Terror Train (1980)

Why: Prank-loving med student Doc (a yet-to-be-semi-famous Hart Bochner) masterminds a cruel initiation gag on shy, magic loving dork, Kenny, to induct him into their fraternity.

The Joke: On the promise that if he ventures upstairs to the bedroom of a (frat?) house, Kenny will pop his cherry with campus hottie Alana (Jamie Lee Curtis), who’s only been clued in a little ways in the plot. She hides behind a veil and says things like “kiss me, Kenny,” while the skinny lad disrobes and climbs into bed with a figure whom he believes to be Alana. And Alana and her gal-pal Mitchy think it’s just a friend of Doc’s.

Instead, the girl in the bed is a dismembered corpse pilfered from a hospital morgue. Kenny almost gets down and dirty with it before she quite literally falls to pieces in his arms and then freaks out in some weird disco spinning motion that sees him entangled in a veil while his frat-brothers-to-never-be burst in and laugh and point.

The Revenge: Three years later, Kenny’s back from the mental hospital and he’s still understandably pissed and homicidal. Doc, Alana, and friends have boarded an excursion train to celebrate their graduation costume-party style and it’s not long before members of their clique start disappearing until only Alana is left to fight off Kenny…

The Learning: Pick your victim carefully. If he appears to be your typical introverted nerd, chances are he’s a raging ball of anti-populous fury who might snap if he’s rejected and ridiculed one more time.

Marty Rantzen and The Naked Shower Humiliation of Slaughter High (1986)

Why: Marty (Simon Scuddamore) is the requisite bookish nerd at Doddsville High (which looks suspiciously like Surrey, England), who annoys the wrong group of popular jocks and their bitchy girlfriends.

The Joke: In retaliation, they decide to play an April Fool’s prank on him by setting him up with campus hottie Carol (Caroline Munro) – seeing a theme? – only to find that after he strips naked in a shower stall, the curtain is ripped back and her group of friends are there with a camera and hose him down. On this occasion, the group are caught and given detention by the coach and so nasty leader Skip sets about resetting the scales and this ends up with Marty getting doused in acid that disfigures him.

The Revenge: Ten years later, the popular group receive invites to a bogus reunion party at the now abandoned school, where Marty – donning a suitably eerie jester mask – soon locks them in and unleashes a veritable cornucopia of fatal ‘jokes’ on them: Poisoned beer; an acid bath; electrified bed… until it’s just him and Carol left alone in the old school.

The Learning: Similar to Terror Train, hell hath no fury like a nerd scorned – or, in this case, scorched. And that groups of jocks are unbelievably stupid.

Cropsy the Janitor and The Wormy Skull in The Burning (1981)

Why: Mean-spirited summer camp custodian, Cropsy, ritually torments the kids of Camp Blackfoot. We don’t see any of this but it’s related later around a campfire. He used to freak them out with his oversized pair of pruning shears. Either way, the campers hate his ass.

The Joke: A group of teenage boys decide to get their own back on the Crospter by creeping him out, possibly in the hope of inducing some sort of coronary. One of them sneaks into his on-site shack and deposits an item at the foot of his bed before going back outside where the group begin tapping on the window. Gently at first and then louder until the man awakes and is greeted with the sight of a worm-infested skull with a candle inside it. Freaking as required, he spills the skull on to his sheets and is soon engulfed in flames. Turned into a “fucking Big Mac” with no hope of skin graphs restoring his appearance, he’s finally released from the hospital five years later and the only thing on his mind… is MURDER!

The Revenge: Crospy crashes another summer camp in the vicinity and stalks and kills various teen campers, using his trademark shit-scary shears to slice, dice and snip shrieking teens to death, including the memorable five-for-one raft scene.

Strangely, Cropsy’s revenge is of the scattergun approach. He targets campers. The particular group responsible get away Scot free (bar one who happens to be a counsellor at the new camp) and the unknowing, innocent, holidaymakers of Camp Stonewater become is hapless new prey.

The Learning: Think through your prank logically. Is there a chance it could go awry and end up maiming somebody? ‘Cos if it does, odds are they ain’t gonna be pleased about it. Also, some victims go so batshit crazy that they’ll take revenge of anyone they can…

The College Kids and The Fake Campus Massacre of Final Exam (1981)

Why: Why not? it seems. The brothers of “the wildest frat house on campus – yeeeaaaahhh!!!” decide to fake a fucking MASSACRE just so their lazy president can cheat on a test and keep his car.

The Joke: So, while a group of masked assailants “gun down” random students at the front of the school, walking bouffant, John, oh-so-cleverly marks his own test paper with the perfect score and hides it in the completed pile while everyone’s attention is focused on what’s happening outside.

The Revenge: Weirdly, in this case, the prank doesn’t affect the killer at all. Instead, it serves to prevent the local cops from taking seriously his arrival on campus when the bodies start piling up – fortunately those of Lazy John and a couple of his idiotic frat brothers included.

However, sucks to be one of the other poor schmucks stuck on campus with an anonymous, unmotivated psychopath.

The Learning: You might think your little joke is a victimless crime, but the joke’s on you if you need help further down the line and nobody believes you! At that point, you become the boy who cried wolf and, frankly, you deserve to be throttled with gym equipment.

The Frat Party and The Photo of the Creepy-Voiced Priest in Happy Hell Night (1991)

Why: Again, getting into the fraternity/sorority of your choice trumps all semblance of sense and rational thought in the American – or Canadian – college system. Fuck the consequences, I want in!

The Joke: Two pledges, cool, calm, collected Sonny (Franke Hughes) and his dorky friend whose name I’ve forgotten, are tasked with breaking into the local mental asylum and taking a photograph of imprisoned legendary Satanic priest, Zachary Malius, who had murdered several frat brothers 25 years earlier.

The Revenge: Of course, Malius escapes – after killing the dorky one – and heads straight back to the frat house where a big party has just finished, leaving a handful of amorous couples alone in the dark. One by one, they all get offed in various ways, each time left with a little fortune cookie style quip from the E.T.-voiced loon: “No TV! No sex! No way Sam Rockwell is ever gonna live down being in this!”

The Learning: A simple frat joke can still be a deadly one. Responsibility is key. In fact, Sonny almost does the right thing and considers the whole shebang an immature waste of time as it is. But when your dad is Darren McGavin, there’s a little bit of pressure applied to conform. So, suck it, horny teens!

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There we have it, just SOME of the jokes that didn’t go as planned. Other notable examples include breaking into old buildings with bloody histories to steal ornaments n’ such, pretending to be dead, pretending to be alive, tricking your friends, scaring your parents/siblings/housemother…

The list is endless so stick with whoopee cushions and custard pies.

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Mother loves you. A lot.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. In the UK anyway.

Mama gives you birth, feeds you, clothes you, wipes your eyes when you cry, cooks, cleans, drives you places, and loads more. Her love is endless. Sometimes TOO endless. How far will she go to prove her love for you?

In the realm of the slasher film, Mom isn’t always a safe haven, or someone who was murdered – which haunts the final girl, or a critical, bitchy victim of the knife…

Sometimes Mom is a little looney tunes.

Mrs Voorhees (well this was an obvious choice): Friday the 13th

Who does she love? Jason. Her only child (until Jason Goes to Hell at least).

Why is she so pissed off? Because the counsellors weren’t paying attention, they were making love when mongoloid Jason was drowning in Crystal Lake.

What does she do? Pamela first offs a horny couple of teenage counsellors the very next summer. For the next twenty years or so she prevents the re-opening of Camp Crystal Lake and, when it finally forges ahead in 1979, she murders seven staff members. All in the name of Jason.

How dangerous is she? Axes, knives, machetes: Mrs Voorhees is fond of the cutting-implement cache. She worked at the camp so knows her way around. Plus she’s fuck-ass crazy and thinks she IS Jason.

Mrs Bates: Psycho

Who does she love? Norman, we would think, but she scarcely shows it, ordering him around from beyond the grave.

Why is she so pissed off? This is something explored over the various sequels. Seems like the near-incestuous relationship with her own son, the departure of her husband, and being poisioned by her own kid and left in the fruit cellar when guests are over may have contributed… Death is a bummer.

What does she do? She makes Norman dress up as her, talk in her voice to hold conversations, and kill all the nasty females who arouse him.

How dangerous is she? Physically, not at all. She’s been dead for several years after all. But this hasn’t blunted her power to exist inside the head of her only son and he comes back to kill at the family motel season after season…

MrsLoo2Mrs Loomis: Scream 2

Who does she love? Her one and only son, psychotic murderer in his own right – Billy Loomis.

Why is she so pissed off? Because Sidney Prescott shot Billy in the head. Fair enough, he DID murder HER mom and kill loads of her friends. This interests Mrs L not: She wants Sid dead.

What does she do about it? She recruits “up-and-coming” serial killer Mickey to do most of her bidding: Killing various students at Windsor College and jockeying Sidney into position for her to turn up and finish her off.

How dangerous is she? Very. She considers herself sane, her motive being “good, old fashioned revenge”. Never mind the fact her son was a loon, Mrs Loomis blames Sidney’s mother for it all. And almost succeeds.

Eggar’s Mother: The Final Terror

Who does she love? Her son, Eggar. And the woods. But not shampoo.

Why is she so pissed off? Fuck knows. This is one weird movie when it comes to motivation. She just likes her privacy I guess.

What does she do about it? She sets traps made out of tin can lids that shred screaming bimbos, a spiked-log that is sure to skewer anybody it careers into. And she stabs a couple of people too.

How dangerous is she? Not very. She fails to slash Daryl Hannah’s throat efficiently, allowing Rachel Ward to frickin’ SEW IT UP, and there was me thinking a cut throat meant you were screwed. Of the large cast in this movie, she only does away with three (plus two other people at the start) and ends up impaled on her own swinging-log contraption. Duh.

See also: Crappy Killers

Aunt Cheryl: Night Warning

Who does she love? Her nephew, another Billy, whom she has looked after since his parents died in a mysterious ‘accident’. Hmm…

Why is she so pissed off? As Billy approaches 17, Aunt Cheryl begins to fear he might leave her. Plus she’s sexually frustrated after raising him alone all these years. So we can put this one down to “Woman Problems”.

What does she do about it? After unsuccessfully trying to flirt with a gay TV repairman, she stabs him to death and cries self-defence, but the local cops think Billy did it in some gay-rage homo-homicide thing. This screw up means he might get taken away from her in a different way, so she starts killing anybody who might aid that neigh-can-happen scenario.

How dangerous is she? Very. Nobody believes innocent Aunty C would hurt a fly, let alone stab a bunch of people to death. Having fooled everyone by killing Billy’s mom and dad years before, she could get away with almost anything. She only gets angrier with each kill, so look out!

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Other worthy mentions include the psycho mom from Dead in 3 Days, so angry that her dead son’s friends didn’t save him when he fell through the ice that she kills them all years later… Back to the Bates Motel for more Psycho - Psycho II to be precise – and little old lady Emma Spool, who claims to be Norman’s REAL mother and offs all the interfering outsiders who threaten his subsistence. A vengeful ma beheads the materinity unit staff after they lose her son in Argento’s Trauma. A similarly insane denied-birth woman takes out her rage on a new mom in grisly French horror Inside

There are also killer mama’s in Sweet Sixteen; Hack-O-Lantern; Have a Nice Weekend; Easter Bunny Kill! Kill!; Matinee and The Crying Tree.

Maternal dominance also prompts the killers of The House on Sorority Row, Unhinged, Humongous, and Midnight.

What have we learned from all this? The mother-son relationship is seemingly the only one that can lead to the deaths of lots and lots of teenagers.

Do mothers like their sons more than their daughters? Do fathers like their daughters more than their sons? Hmm, interesting dichotomy when you think of some of the killer daddy flicks around.

Conclusion: All families are therefore fucked up in some way. Best to get a dog.

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