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Icky ways to go: Schwing! Tentpole!

After eight murder rampages, New Line acquired the rights to the Friday the 13th franchise after 1989’s Jason Takes Manhattan and decided to just end it there and then. Or so they thought.

1993’s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday was played to test audiences whose main complaint was the lack of horny teenagers and thus, what’s likely the best, most nostalgic scene in an otherwise turbulent movie.

Three suitably dumb and nubile teens – Alexis, Deborah, and Luke – hitch a ride with John D. LeMay’s lead, Steven, stating they’re on their way to camp at ye olde Camp Crystal Lake site. Steven puts it to them: “Looking to smoke a little pot, have some sex, and get slaughtered?” “Jason’s dead!” they cheer and he drops them off.

Alexis is summarily done away with by a Jason-possessed coroner, who then sets his sights on the humping couple in the pop-tent…

“Sex is fun!”




Well… can’t say it wasn’t wet or wild

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!

* * *

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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Stock Background Characters 101: The Bitchy Girl

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

Get your claws out, it’s THE BITCHY GIRL

bitchygirls2Overview: Every gaggle of teens on vacation has to suffer the endless put-downs and scheming of The Bitch. She’s varies from simply being the nasty – but usually hot – chick who attempts to destroy the Final Girl’s romantic chances with her desired beau, to being the self-centered leader of the pack who gets everyone in trouble in the first place and will do whatever it takes to cover her own ass!

Linguistic Snapshot: “Daddy will get me out of this – I don’t care what happens to the rest of you, you can go to hell for all I care!”

Styling: The Bitchy Girl dresses better than you. Her clothes and her hair cost more than yours. She’s pretty much immaculate in every way and you’re plain or ugly to her. If it’s a high school slasher film, she’ll be stylish where the rest of her class are in jeans n’ t-shirts. If it’s a collegiate slasher film, she’ll be the sorority president in pearls and pastels. She’s always skinny and oft can be found with complacent grin painted on her face.

“I look like Posh Spice and I’m just as evil.”

Hallmarks: Bitchy Girls are always white, almost exclusively from rich families; she’s the Daddy’s girl, the Princess and getting her own way has led her down the path of unrighteousness, though she’s often able to pull the wool over authoritarian eyes or by virtue of her family’s connections. Daddy can buy anyone.

However, behind the snarky comments, the pearls and the immovable hair, Bitchy Girls’ are sometimes products of bad home environments where Mommy is constantly tapping the bottle and Daddy works away so much, screwing his harem of nubile assistants and nobody gives Melissa/Vickie/Kimberly the attention she needs.

Downfall: Almost without exception, The Bitch will die a horrible, fitting death. In fact the only time I can recall a Bitch surviving is the Cheerleader who badmouths Sidney in Scream. Otherwise it’s decapitation for sneering superbitch Tasha in Tormented, sandblaster to the face for light-fingered Tammy in Venom, and it was powerdrill attrition for mean new girl-excluder Diane in The Slumber Party Massacre.

The Bitchy Girl sometimes belittles the situation as she does everything else; Melissa in Friday the 13th Part VII ignores the pleas of Tina and Nick and gets an axe in the head for her troubles; Elsa Shivers in I Know What You Did Last Summer practically laughs off her sisters near-death experience and winds up feeling the business end of the killer’s hook.

Whichever way you cut ‘em – arrow in the torso, cellphone rammed down the throat or a good old fashioned throat slashing – The Bitch outlives most of her doomed friends but only so we can ‘enjoy’ her getting her comeuppance.

Genesis: Without doubt the reigning queen bee of slasher movie bitchness is Wendy from Prom Night. Wendy tries to win her ex-boyfriend back from the arms and bad perm of Jamie Lee Curtis and attempts to rig the prom so that SHE will receive the crown – and this is after killing Jamie Lee’s little sister in the prologue! Thankfully, the ski-masked loon gets there first and axes Wendy out of the picture before she can go through with her plan.

Sneering side-ponytailed Judy from Sleepaway Camp tormented poor Angela with the help of equally unpleasant counsellor Meg – they threw her in the lake and Meg even backhanded her. As a result both suffered: Meg was knifed in the shower and Judy was curling-tonged to death.

“She’s a carpenter’s dream: Flat as a board and needs a good screw!”

Then there’s sorority power queen Vickie in The House on Sorority Row, whose revenge prank against stern housemother Mrs Slater goes so badly wrong that it costs quite the number of her college friends their lives as she ropes them into covering up her crime…

The Bitchy Girl is never the killer with possible exception of undead prom queen Mary Lou Maloney from Prom Night‘s II and III and possibly Kristen in Final Stab.

Legacy: Bizarrely, in the Friday the 13th-verse, there were no bitches introduced until the late 80s when Melissa turned up. In the next movie, Tamara – a virtual clone – snorted coke and pushed the non-swimmer final girl off a cruise ship.

Nasty girls began to become more prevalent as the genre slowly evolved towards casting more unlikeable characters than pleasant ones. Macho Assholes and Bitches prevailed, providing adequate fodder for all manner of demises:

  • The sheriff’s slutty daughter, Kelly, in Halloween 4 was impaled with a rifle.
  • Ultra-mean camper Ally was drowned in the world’s grossest outhouse toilet in Sleepaway Camp II.
  • The quasi-remake Sorority Row made über-bitch self-serving Jessica quite humorous with a never-ending list of witty put-downs and carefree reactions to her friends’ deaths. Upon finding a dead guy stuffed upside down in a vent she identifies him by stating “I’d know those ugly ass shoes anywhere.”

Conclusions: And so on and so on… Mean people serve to highlight how nice the nice people are and, hopefully, tempt the killer’s blade away from those of us who try to do the right thing and put others first.

So what I’m saying is that we NEED to take The Bitchy Girl on holiday with us. Yeah, she might make a few people cry and split up some couples but when it comes to stompin’ time, you know she’s got zero chance of getting away. Thank you, Bitch, your acidic commentary and toxic personality makes the world that little bit safer for the rest of us.

Life’s a bitch – and if you are too, then you’ll certainly die a lot quicker. But you could still give those Mean Girls a good going over.

Stock Background Characters 101: The Prankster

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

Let’s all laugh at… THE PRANKSTER

Overview: In every group of healthy teenage friends lurks the Prankster, derivative species include the Joker or the Common Fat Prankster. Almost always male, the Prankster’s role is to make Smart Alec comments, play practical jokes on people and be the last one laughing when it appears the threat of death is imminent. Wayward Pranking will invariably figure in his death.

Linguistic Snapshot: “Boo!” or “Ha ha ha, I got ya didn’t I?”

Styling: The Prankster can be identified in his group largely by the big grin he almost always wears. If not, he may well opt for bright, ‘unserious’ clothes with lots of lurid colours that may beg the question: Is this guy retarded? The answer is surprisingly not, but the Prankster is just not afraid to make a fool of himself. Anything for laughs, y’know? There is usually something that makes the Prankster stand out physically: big hair, bad hair, badly peroxided hair…

Hallmarks: Being the ever-cackling member of the group, the Prankster can usually be found trying to set up his next big joke. But he’s exclusively unlucky in love. Girls want a guy they can count on, Howard/Shelly/Ralph simply aren’t serious enough. And death is a serious business, you know, a joker has no hope of getting her out of this mess. Plus he’s capable of being, like, totally gross.

You gotta feel sorry for these dudes a bit though, they never get the girls and everyone chastises them for being immature or upsetting Susie ‘cos her mom died the same way they pretended to exactly ten years ago tonight and the killer was never caught blah blah blah…

Downfall: Almost without exception, the Prankster will die either because of or as a part of his latest gag, or he will pull of the trick and die and nobody will take it seriously. Examples include the guy in Welcome to Spring Break who finally gets the killer’s electro-shock treatment and even the cops think it’s just another joke and then there’s Friday the 13th Part III‘s Shelly’s attempt to raise help from one of his friends who squawks “Nice make-up job!” before walking away unimpressed while he slumps down the wall and bleeds to death in the corner.

Pranking-pair Anthony and Judd from Sleepaway Camp II get more than they bargained for when they dress up as Freddy and Jason to try to generate a heart attack for unliked counsellor Angela (who happens to be the killer); Ralph in The Initiation - who went to a party dressed as a giant penis – may have shown his sensitive side at the eleventh hour and also gotten laid, too bad it didn’t protect him from well-aimed arrows.

Then there’s poor fatty Sid in Italiano Camping Del Terrore whose quest for carnal satisfaction ends up with him stripped naked (full frontally for a change) and shoved into the kitchen of the ill-tempered camp owner and his family.

Genesis: Pranksters have been part of the genre almost since the beginning. An ill-conceived prank can be the catalyst that leads to the killer’s murderous rampage (see Terror Train, Slaughter High, The Graveyard) and guys attempting to scare their girlfriends have existed in largely unchanging form since the 80s hey-day: Ned got on everyones tits faking his drowning in Friday the 13th; the frat boys tried to scare the beejezus out of the pledges in Hell Night; Damon Brooks was the short-lived master of deception in Urban Legend until he literally got strung up for it…

Legacy: In recent years, the cliché of the Prankster has worn thin a bit but there are still some survivors to be found in the deepest reaches of the genre (i.e. the films made by people with a camcorder and a bunch of am-dram dropouts). Wrong Turn 2 features Jonesy, who interpolated a band of pervertedness to his nothing-is-serious outlook on life but most of his jokes were verbal rather than practical.

This example aside, it seems that the Prankster is on the vulnerable to extinction list of characters we all grew up with dying all over the screen. There are still plenty of smart-mouth teens to tempt your everyday psycho’s blades but those who pretend to be dead only to leap up seconds later with a big grin and are then found later apparently repeating the joke only not are fewer and further between.

Shelly, Howard, Ned, Ralph, Damon, unnamed Welcome to Spring Break guy, we salute your bad-taste gags, dreadful fashion sense, crap hair and sunny outlook on existence. Too bad it couldn’t save ya.

“Come on… this shit is funny!”

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