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A Final Destination movie a day (keeps the paranoia in play)

Time on my hands… Last week I opted to watch a Final Destination film a day. Why? Probably dreamt about it. Or talked about it. It’s always fun to notice new things:

Monday: Final Destination (2000)

This viewing’s rating 5 Stars

fd14

  • I continue to advocate the Flight 180 plane crash as the scariest disaster of all five films.
  • The TWA 800 footage was in poor taste, wouldn’t it have been easier to make them bound for Italy? Germany? Spain?
  • Who pays Clear’s rent?
  • The black shadow-blob thing was cool and creepy.
  • Alex says he didn’t switch seats etc. so the order is wrong, but he did. He did!
  • I hope Clear’s dog was adopted by a lovely family.

Tuesday: Final Destination 2 (2003)

This viewing’s rating 4 Stars

fd2

  • If the events of the first film occurred 5-6 weeks after the plane crash, and then Alex, Clear, and Carter went to Paris six months after the others died, Alex apparently didn’t leave his house for three months until he died, so Clear has only been in her padded cell for two months tops.
  • Regardless of how good the idea that this group are affected by the deaths from the first film scuppering their own, the dialogue in the scene where they realise it is beyond dire. But question yourself, how could it be anything but!?
  • Shouldn’t the ‘outward ripple’ have kept, uh, ‘rippling’?

Wednesday: Final Destination 3 (2006)

This viewing’s rating 3 Stars

fd3-3

  • Weird how Jesse Moss’ name appears on the credits but he’s in it for a matter of minutes, but Amanda Crew’s isn’t, despite having a much bigger role.
  • Fuck the danger, that rollercoaster looks amazing. And long. Very, very long. I’d ride it.
  • This one is badly scripted: Wendy and Kevin talk > Death > Wendy and Kevin talk > Death. Over and over…
  • Ian and Erin would’ve made much more interesting protagonists.
  • The sister’s friend Perry doesn’t utter a single word in the whole film. Not even a ‘fuck!’ when she gets speared.
  • The cops following Wendy and Kevin add nothing. Nothing. They’re 100% useless.
  • I don’t like the decision to ‘kill ‘em all’ was based on some lame feedback. It renders the series a bit void if there’s absolutely no hope for anybody.

Thursday: The Final Destination (2009)

This viewing’s rating 2 Stars

fd4

  • In true ‘this is the last one’ style, they lied.
  • Devour by Shinedown is the best thing in the entire film.
  • ‘Character’ names include: ‘Racist’ (and ‘Racist’s Wife’!), ‘Mechanic’, ‘Cowboy’, and ‘MILF’.
  • Who are these leads? What do they do? Where are their families?
  • Why are they hardly interested in the fact their friend had a premonition? They’re just like “on with life!”
  • The woman playing MILF/Samantha was Emmanuelle in the 90s porn series.
  • Nobody mentioned Hunt once after he bites it. Or seemed sad.
  • Death-by-carwash would’ve been awesome? It still happens in Thai FD rip-off 999-9999.
  • I’m still staggered this one is the most successful of the series.

Friday: Final Destination 5 (2011)

This viewing’s rating 3.5 Stars

fd5-3

  • The extra behind Sam and Molly climbs around or over the concrete divider thingy three times in different shots.
  • CGI water splashes still have a long way to go.
  • Yay! It’s Tony Todd.
  • The massage scene is actually really funny.
  • But I never want acupuncture.
  • There are no black women in any of these movies.
  • Flight 180 – still terrifying!
  • The ‘Greatest Hits’ megamix of grue at the end! Amazing.

Conclusions:

  • Still nobody visits a spiritualist, medium, or shaman.
  • Still nobody questions where the premonitions came from.
  • But the series is still 80% awesome. Fuck The Final Destination. Even the title sucks.
  • Make another one please New Line! A proper dark, broody, eerie one.
  • I’m way suspicious that almost every item I own is capable of eviscerating me now.

Stock Background Characters 101: The Snooping Reporter

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.

Keep a few bills handy, you’re THE SNOOPING REPORTER

sbc-reportersOverview: Murder makes the news. Multiple murders bring the press like bloodhounds and there’s always one reporter trying to get the scoop, even if it means he/she risks endangering themselves to get it!

Linguistic Snapshot: “Can you confirm or deny that the killer’s still out there and that you have the wrong man after last night’s triple-murder at the old mill?”

Styling: In the slasher realm, Snooping Reporters are more often female than not, so power suits and great hair are usually par for the course.

Hallmarks: Pushy and unrelenting, The Snooping Reporter has but one goal: The scoop. It doesn’t matter how many locals might die, in fact the higher the bodycount the better the story. They will stop at nothing to get their exclusive.

Downfall: The Snooping Reporter sometimes dies, sometimes doesn’t, and they can either be an aide or a hindrance to the final girl. Gale Weathers, doubtlessly top of the horror movie reporter tree, is a caustic, self-centered hack who is eventually instrumental in unmasking and reprimanding the killers in Scream and all of its sequels. In Pieces, the nosy journalist is savagely stabbed to, well pieces, on a waterbed; the feminist critic in Tenebrae also meets a bloody end; TV anchor Robert Campbell (below) makes the error of visiting the old Voorhees house and becoming possessed by Jason himself; student reporter Timmy has his throat cut and is shoved into a locker in Cherry Falls.

sbc-jgth-robertGenesis: Lauren Tewes is a TV newswoman who thinks a killer of women lives in the building next door in Eyes of a Stranger in 1980. Next there’s a brief proto-Gale Weathers character in Halloween II, who utters the awesome line “You need their parents permission to make a statement, if you can’t find their parents, get a statement anyway.” She might be the earliest incarnation of an uncaring, career-focused reporter, but is only in the film for a matter of seconds (apparently she is killed in the novelization).

The doomed journo in Pieces came next, and then Tracy, a brash, trenchcoat wearing reporter who is sure Norman Bates is still killing in Psycho III, ultimately becoming the de facto heroine. By the 90s, Barry Simms fatally decides to broadcast from the Myers house in Halloween 6.

Legacy: Courteney Cox’s portrayal of Gale Weathers in Scream is unquestionably the most significant influence on such characters. In her wake, we had Kate Winsail (!) in Australian Scream knock-off Paranoid, Paul the object of lust for many a girl at Pendleton University in Urban Legend; Taylor Gentry in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, who unwittingly stumbles into final girl territory. Reporters also turned up in the various Scream parodies.

sbc-gale-kate

Gale Weathers and one of her many clones.

Films like Nightcrawler showcase just how far the media might go for the juiciest story, so for the time being it’s likely that slasher films will continue to feature reporters sticking their oars in, probably dooming various local teenagers in the process. To quote the audience member at the press conference in Scream 3: “Are you saying we should go out and cut each others throats because that’s what you did?”

Gale’s response: “Metaphorically? Yes.”

Brutal.

Killer Cop Out

scream-queens-1338SCREAM QUEENS

1.5 Stars  2015/585m

“Pretty evil.”

Cast: Emma Roberts, Skyler Samuels, Lea Michele, Jamie Lee Curtis, Abigail Breslin, Billie Lourd, Glen Powell, Keke Palmer, Diego Boneta, Oliver Hudson, Nasim Pedrad, Niecy Nash, Nick Jonas, Breezy Eslin, Lucient Laviscount, Jeanna Han, Ariana Grande.

Body Count: 21

Laughter Lines: “This school could survive a few serial killings but I don’t think this university could survive losing me.”


Necessary spoilers follow.

The generally accepted path for a slasher story to take is that young, lively characters are introduced and over the course of the tale we watch them get stalked and slain by a vengeful mystery killer. Unless you happen to be Ryan Murphy. If you’re Ryan Murphy you create a set of obnoxious, nasty, bitchy girls as the centrepiece of your little slasher universe while the audience enjoys the anticipation of watching them die later. And you kill precisely none of them.

For all the masses of hype Scream Queens threw up all around itself like a bulimic sorority girl – Nick Jonas! Ariana Grande! Random fashion blogger girl! – after 13 loooong weeks of enduring little more than a parade of acid-tongued put-downs, the series fizzled out with a damp squib of a finale that was akin to promising a child an Xbox 360 for Christmas and giving them a box with some cat shit in it.

sq3I watched Glee for awhile and, for awhile, it was fun. Pristine acapella arrangements of great songs that slowly began to morph into bland, straight-up cover versions, just as Scream Queens might have begun its life in script-form as an ode to all things stalk n’ slashy. I know Murphy is at the very least capable of decent horror scribblings thanks to the early seasons of American Horror Story and his dealings with The Town That Dreaded Sundown. But for all the “I was obsessed with slasher films” rhetoric, you’d think he watched Sorority Row and half of a Halloween sequel and thought “I can do that.”

Emma Roberts leads the cast as the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority president, Chanel Oberlin, no more than a retread of her role as a bitchy actress in American Horror Story: Coven. She spends much of her screentime calling her sisters sluts, whores, or gashes, making borderline racist comments and reminding us how rich she is. This type of character is supposed to die. The inexplicable supposition that gay men adore this type of high-society, entitled thing has always eluded me, but Murphy and co. aren’t able to write interesting ‘nice’ folks anyway.

Twenty years (never nineteen, never twenty-one) after a girl dies during childbirth at the  sorority, the hardass Dean (Jamie Lee Curtis, a bright spot) goes to war with Chanel and alters the charter to allow anybody to pledge the house, leaving them with just a handful of misfits rather than the usual tide of label-loving, anorexic, bitches who hate everybody. Said group includes Lea Michele’s back-brace wearing weirdo, a candle vlogger, another girl known as Predatory Lez for several episodes, plus the cut-n-dried homespun heroine, Grace.

sq1Coinciding with this, a psychotic killer wearing the school’s mascot uniform – a Red Devil – begins targeting all those associated with the sorority. The ensuing twelve episodes should play along the mystery theme as Grace tries to solve the mystery while Murphy would skewer slasher tropes and rapid fire bitchy girl dialogue. It worked for the aforementioned Sorority Row because they bothered to KILL Leah Pipes, but, save for a few decent lines, it doesn’t work here.

With a murder-count of 20, the show notches up zero heart-pounding chase sequences. There are a few splashes of gore here and there but most of the kills are supposed to be funny rather than horrific. That nearly all the victims are ancillary characters and not the vile, entitled main roster is just salt in the bloody wound.

Were the project to be edited down to a 90-minute film, most of the top-tier cast members wouldn’t even feature as the central clique of bitchy girls spend more time commenting on fashion, body image, boyfriend prospects, or plotting against one another. By the eleventh episode, there have been at least three attempts to murder the person they suspect is the killer. There’s so little going on upstairs in this show that it’s forced to recycle the same material just to fill out its half-season quota.

scream-queens-jamie-lee-curtisEventually, several different characters are revealed to have committed murder at one point or another, at least two of them get away with it, while the production pinky-swore that there would only be four characters left standing for the say-it-ain’t-so summer camp set season two, there are in fact ten. It reeks of Murphy et al being too afraid to lose their cast members in case, god forbid, a second season is greenlit. It’s a slasher story, fucking grow a pair and kill someone other than the pizza guy, the replacement mascot, or any other one-episode arc extras!

Even the ‘good guys’ are made up of bland, barely drawn out bores who are too serious and not worth rooting for. Niecy Nash’s hopeless security guard rocks the boat with the best lines but is still marginalised and written as a dimwitted moron; Curtis chews up the barbed dialogue, easily outperforming her co-stars in the laughter stakes; and there’s a very good soundtrack to prop things up. Here though, the positives abruptly end.

How a so-called slasher tale could be so wimpy and gutless is a testament to some atrocious decision making. It’s like Jason restricting himself to murdering hitchhikers and rednecks around Crystal Lake but never bothering to hunt down the pot-smoking, sex-having camp counsellors!

This makes Scream – The TV Series look like Scream – the movie.

scream-queens-red-devilBlurbs-of-interest: JLC’s slasher credentials go from Halloween, Halloween II, Prom Night, Terror Train, Road Games, in the early years up to Halloween H20 and Halloween: Resurrection more recently; Emma Roberts was in Scream 4; Oliver Hudson was in the Black Christmas remake; Steven Culp made a brief appearance in the same episode as Jason Goes to Hell was name checked (incorrectly, I might add).

10 Final Boys We Like

Final Boys are never going to be as awesome as Final Girls, hence we don’t love them like we love Final Girls. But these guys did quite well with the job at hand…

devon-sawa-fd1Alex Browning (Devon Sawa)
Final Destination (2000)

High school inbetweener Alex is thrust into the shoes of Final Boy-dom when he has an out-of-the-blue premonition the flight he and his French Club will explode minutes after takeoff. Saving himself and six others doesn’t make him the hero, but instead, as he puts it “everyone in my school thinks I’m a freak.”

Perhaps not being a straight-up slasher film is what allows three of the five Final Destination films to work with a male lead. Sawa’s Average Joe is appealing because of the way he teeters between both social groups and his own sanity.

Death-valley-1982-movie-1Billy (Peter Billingsley)
Death Valley (1982)

Just as Danielle Harris would become the pre-teen final girl in the later Halloween sequels, little Milky Bar kid Peter Billingsley was the unlikely hero of strange way-out-west slasher flick Death Valley, when a family vacation is foiled by him literally meandering into a murder scene, finding a trinket the killer wants, and finding himself stalked by said loon in pursuit of it.

Billingsley was already an accomplished child actor by the time he was in this (and also older than he looked) and so isn’t cursed by overacting and, even better, lacks the brattiness usually on show when kids are front and center.

elm4-300xJesse Walsh (Mark Patton)
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

Jesse’s family move into 1428 Elm Street five years after Nancy Thompson lived there and he soon finds his dreams invaded by Freddy, who wants to possess him and turn him into an agent of death.

Freddy’s Revenge could well be the most analysed slasher film of the 80s, and Jesse is commonly seen as a repressed gay, whose body Freddy wants, and only a kiss from a girl can save him etc… If you watch the awesome documentary Never Sleep Again, Mark Patton is a little embarrassed by his performance but, if nothing else, at least they tried something new rather than just retread the original film, and he’s an important part of that, thus fully deserving his place here.

burning-alfredAlfred (Brian Backer)
The Burning (1981)

Included more out of relevance than respect, Alfred was possibly the first final boy in a big screen slasher. At Camp Stonewater, he’s the nerdy misfit, who spies on girls while they shower, plays weird pranks, and whines a lot. He’s also the only one to suspect someone is prowling around the peripheries of the camp. Naturally, nobody believes him until he finds a couple of dead bodies and proves it.

The Burning is already quite a misogynistic outing before shoving aside the notion of a final girl and putting Alfred into the role instead. He’s essentially saved by the hunky male counsellor, as would a girl in the same situation it seems, meaning his gender is far more incidental as he adds nothing that a girl wouldn’t. None of this is the fault of Backer, however, who put in a great performance as Mark Ratner in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

tumblr_m6yz8w2VUd1r9wksko1_400Alex Grey (Tim Conlon)
Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1989)

Another Alex and quite similar to his Final Destination namesake. This Alex, a sub-Ferris Bueller type in both looks and attitude, has a hot girlfriend but no direction until he somehow becomes the boy toy of undead Prom Queen from hell Mary Lou Maloney. For a while, she improves his social standing no end, but once a hell bitch, always a hell bitch…

Prom Night III‘s comic-horror baseline works well for Conlon’s likable schtick as the put-upon hero: He’s witty and funny, being pulled in two directions, one by an angel, the other by the devil.

hellbent-shining_0Eddie (Dylan Fergus)
Hellbent (2004)

The ‘first gay slasher film’ featured a masked muscle man scything gay chaps around West Hollywood during Halloween night celebrations, when everyone is in costume and a hot guy in nothing but tight pants and a horned mask won’t rouse suspicion.

At the center of the mania is civilian police employee Eddie, who just wants a decent night out with his friends, all of whom soon start falling victim to the loon. Usual hetero conventions are simply flipped in this case, and Eddie runs and hides with veritable Jamie Lee gusto, saved at one point by the virtue of having a false eye!

wolf-creek-2-03Paul Hammersmith (Ryan Corr)
Wolf Creek 2 (2013)

British surf bum Paul is minding his own business when he’s embroiled in a nightmare of Mick Taylor’s making, stopping to rescue a girl who has escaped the bushman’s clutches for long enough to make it to the road. After she’s killed, Paul has a target on his back and Taylor will stop at nothing to reclaim his victim.

Both Wolf Creek films feature male sole survivors, although the first one has little to do with anything the guy does, and Paul is put through all the usual torture that final girls endure: Everyone he approaches for help is killed, he’s captured, strapped to a chair, tortured (by song and weapon), escapes, but does that thing where he scuppers the opportunity to finalise the killer’s exit from this mortal coil… So much for all those who say final boys would be better. And the British character lived! Whoop!

Weston-in-Wishcraft-michael-weston-12955368-608-336Brett Bumpers (Michael Weston)
Wishcraft (2001)

High school dork Brett receives an enchanted bull’s dick through the mail with a note saying it grants three wishes, which he eventually discovers to be true. Meanwhile, classmates of his are being picked off by a cloaked killer. Are the two connected? Duh.

The rise of the nerd theme in Wishcraft is satisfying on its own, even though Brett isn’t initially in any danger, he’s soon forced into combat with the unmasked killer and, with one wish left, ascends to hero level pretty quickly.

Andy-Barclay-chucky-5551046-700-383Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent/Justin Whalin)
Child’s Play 1-3 (1988-1992)

Poor Andy Barclay cannot rid himself of final boy duties no matter what he does. As the first human to discover the secret of possessed Good Guy doll Chucky, Andy is thus the only one who can be a vessel for the killer’s soul. After surviving round one, a new foster home cannot provide shelter in Child’s Play 2, and even a military academy provides no refuge in the third film…

Unlike Billy in Death Valley, hero duties could only go to a child in this franchise, and Vincent did extremely well with the material, even better was his cameo in Curse of Chucky. He’s at his best in Child’s Play 2 with the assistance of a teen foster sister who fulfills the legwork and screaming quota.

tommyTommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman/John Shepard/Thom Mathews)
Friday the 13th Parts IV-VI (1984-1986)

In The Final Chapter, Tommy Jarvis is just a monster-loving kid who has the bad luck of living by Crystal Lake and ends up – with big sister Trish – bringing down Jason who, by that point, had murdered a good 30 schmucks over the previous few days. In A New Beginning, Tommy is older, traumatised by what happened and sent to a halfway house where a hockey-masked psycho goes to task chopping up his new friends. In Jason Lives, an undecided amount of time later, Tommy returns to Crystal Lake to burn Jason’s corpse, but ends up accidentally resurrecting him and spends the rest of the movie trying to undo his error.

While Feldman as the horror-nut was a logical move to ‘end’ the series on in 1984, Thom Mathews is easily my favourite incarnation of the character, a complete 360 on Shepard’s brooding portrayal, Tommy ’86 is like a totally different guy, replete with comic timing and a touch of slapstick to his ever-doomed attempts to stop Jason.

But, in terms of final boys through history, the name Tommy Jarvis is probably at the top of the tree.

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