Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
My partner, Comrade, and I have been consuming a ton of TV and movies together. We've been using many of the guides on this list to watch Doctor Who, Star Trek, Community, Bojack Horseman, Happy Endings, and more.
Early on in our relationship, we'd talked about watching terrible horror movies together, but never got around to it. Since October is Scary Movie Month, we decided to sit down and binge some classic franchises. We started with Poltergeist (woohoo! amazing!), and then watched Poltergeist 2 (what the fuck was that? that was terrible!).
Binging franchises was probably going to wear us down. So, instead, we decided to watch the movies somewhat thematically. We'd watch a ton of the classics (that's this season), followed by The Best Early Sequels (so, Child's Play skips over part 2 and goes directly to 3, and Nightmare On Elm Street skips 2, which is not a real sequel, for a while, etc.), followed by The Outlier Films (Halloween 3 is an anthology film, Nightmare On Elm Street 2 has a completely different premise, etc.), followed by a Many Years Later season where we check in with characters often decades after their original trauma, and closing it out with Full Circles, which hint at the franchises and premises being concluded. But, you know, I can always come back and do a Season 6 if there are good enough movies in the future.
This first season is The Ultimate Classics of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Meet the recurring evil, the original final girls and boys, and just enjoy the different premises that blend into this Often Terrible Genre. Yes, some of these movies are fantastic films that involve slashers. But many of them are porrly written or poorly acted schlock-fests that ingrained themselves into American Culture's Psyche and maybe Eventually included a great film or at least a really fun set of sequels. This season is fairly chronological, so you get to see the progression of the genre over fifty years.
The one that starts it all without really starting it all. This is a wonderful suspense film where Anthony Perkins is the perfectly creepy without being creepy Norman Bates. He shines in every scene he's in, as a morality play unfolds around him and he gets to hack away at the center of it. This is one of Hitchcock's absolute masterpieces, and it features a twist that M Knight Shamylan can never hope to live up to. Professor Stone would argue that Bates is not only the first Big Evil of this course, he's also the first Final Girl.
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The first overtly violent film in the slasher genre, this film was banned all over the place. It's a very fictionalized take on serial killer Ed Gein, and introduces the trope of traveling friends encounter horror, not so fine not so young cannibals, and an undisputed Final Girl. It's a real creepy, I Suppose That Could Conceivably Happen horror movie. Like Psycho, but not so much many of the movies after it, it's actully quite unnerving.
3. Black Christmas
The 1970s horror genre brought us holidays, a whole bunch of films centered around creepy phone calls, and the idea that sexy co-ed sorority girls are always running into terrifying danger. And this is the first movie to successfully translate that into Final Girlism. It also features a wonderful cliffhanger ending that will also help inspire thousands of much worse movies.
Comrade, and the general public, like this movie a lot more than I do. It's certainly important to the slasher genre, and Jamie Lee Curtis is excellent, but I find the rest of the cast excruciating, and blame this film for the Thirty Year Old Teenager trope of actors failing miserably to portray more youthful characters. There are also some scenes that were clearly filmed to set up premises that were later abandoned and somewhat contradict the action going on around it. In particular, a scene where the psychiatrist finds an abandoned truck, and fails to notice a dead body, presumably to show us that Mike Meyers changed cars during his escape (which he definitely did not do, according to the rest of the movie). It's still fun to watch, and, like Psycho has a fantastic and memorable theme song.
5. Friday The 13th
Continuing a trilogy of classic slasher films with holidays in their title, we get to see horror film that became a franchise the fastest. A group of slutty teenagers end up working at a cursed camp and are slowly slaughtered by an unknown force. While not precisely magical, we get our first Unusual Character Who Tries To Warn People Away. Also, unlike most of the slashers that follow this, there isn't an accumulation of bodies bewildering a police force, or the survivors. No one has any idea what's happening until we approach the very end of the film. The Final Girl and the killer reveal are worthy of having a franchise set upon them. The theme to the movie is wonderfully creepy.
6. A Nightmare On Elm Street
Our first taste of the supernatural comes when a murdered child killer sort of comes back from the dead by invading the dreams of the children whose parents killed him. It's a brilliant premise which helps offset the terrible acting (even Johnny Depp isn't very good in this) and hacky writing (Wes Craven is an astounding director, but while the premise and plot points are solid, the dialog and the characters in this leave a lot to be desired). I had a false memory of the ending of this film which was a combination of the actual ending of this, and the actual ending of Nightmare On Elm Street 2 mixed together. My memory far surpassed the actual ending which was Studioed Away from Craven's original vision. That's a shame. It also boasts a memorable soundtrack.
7. Child's Play
Continuing with the supernatural theme, we get a serial killer who uses magic to put his soul into a doll. As soon as a child receives the doll as a present, the bodies start to pile up. While Friday The 13th got to the killing fairly quickly, it still built a lot of suspense as it went around. The plot and the murders are Full Steam Ahead here. There is, of course, a bout of Nobody Believes The Child Who Knows What's Happening And Who The Killer Is (which we got a taste of in Nightmare On Elm Street) and a few other fun tropes and scares, but this is definitely the weakest of the films in the Fresh(Wo)men Year course.
8. Final Destination
This movie does the best job since Psycho of making you care about the characters and what they're going through. And this is good because the deaths are complex but silly and the soundtrack is Awful. We take a further leap in the supernatural direction as the Big Evil of this movie is Death, and not some hokey creepy dude in a Ghost Of Christmas Future hoodie, it's the intangible concept of Death following a group of people who survived a plane crash when they weren't supposed to. This also presents us with a cliffhanger ending where you don't find out who the Final Girl is until partway through the sequel.
It's time to get sci-fi! Not all final girls are scream queens of horror. Some are stone cold, bad-assed sci-fi heroes. But none of them are as cool and as awesome as Ellen Ripley.
It's time to get meta! Wes Craven's delicious 1990 horror/comedy examines the tropes of 20th century horror movies while it uses those tropes and tries to convince you it's not going to use the tropes .... while using the tropes. It's silly in the best possible way, and the actors appear to be having an absolute blast while still being Very Good Actors. This is about ten times better written than Nightmare On Elm Street. It's also a great way to bring us back to the non-supernatural horror as it's just a fun teen slasher flick. Musically, it features Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds's "Red Right Hand" several different times, so I loved it.