Category Archives: Lists

Title Recall: The Big Three

In a purely geek way, it’s interesting to observe the evolution of the title cards over the ‘big three’ slasher movie franchises as they desperately tried to remain relevant over time… Remakes n’ shit have NOT been included. We need them not.

From humble jack-o-lantern beginnings, Halloween kinda kept hold of its creepy off-yellow fontage for the most part, via the LED-laden electro of the non-slasher third instalment, to sleepy town in the shadow of gloom of the fourth, forgetting to put the suffix on the fifth, going all bold and brash for six, a bit fanciful in round seven and then curiously cheap looking in the much-maligned eighth

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…And then the calendar flipped over to Friday. Friday… the 13th!

Like Halloween, the first two films feature almost indentical logos, the second exploding out of view to reveal the shiny metallic Part 2. They 3D-ified it next, then it was scrawled over Jason’s now-iconic hockey mask before the sub-title came smashing through; Part V revisited the original logo, dropped the instalment number and elected the ‘new style’ hockey mask that only lasted one film. Jason went all Bond for numero six; The New Blood returned to a basic red-on-black in the series’ by-then-standard fontage, repeated it with a New York backdrop for eight, then came the Jason-monikered films, flames-a-lickin’ for the first, floaty, DNA-stuff for the second.

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Last but by no means least – unless you’re talking body count – is Fredville.

The original film bears an almost childlike cartoony quality to it that was quicky shunned in the subsequent, and conversely less scary, sequels. Part 2, like it’s Friday counterpart, bore such a long title that it had to display it on two separate titles, again with the sheeny, metallic thing.

Elm‘s three and four, the closest pairing in the series, went for duplicated fontage, had dropped the unneccessary “part” and there you have it. The fifth, again strangely similar to Friday V, missed off the number and stuck the crayon suffix on a second card.

Finally, 1991’s “final” instalment goes down the bold factory-stamp avenue, not too dissimilar to The A-Team really…

Where is New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason? They will appear in later, more appropriate lists.

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Title Recall: Remakes, ‘Reimaginings’, Re-whatevers

Having gleaned that little is to be learned from title cards, here’s some old-to-new comparisons: Films that were re-thingied for the ‘audience of today’…

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The modest effect of the title over the sorority house of the impeccable original was replaced by a garish scrawl of ‘cool font’ for the 2006 remake, which will also later be included in the ‘weird font’ collection. Shows all subtlety had been hoovered out of it.

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The long, slow zoom into the jack-o-lantern of the 1978 film was creepy enough, while John Carpenter’s plinky, unforgettable theme clunked along. Considering Rob Zombie’s no-holds-barred approach in his grubby remake, the white-on-black title is pretty drab.

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Another case of reverse-subtlety. The original Friday‘s block logo came a-rushin’ towards the audience and shattered an unseen pane of glass upon arrival. The 2009 re-do omitted such theatrics for a rather unmemorable fade-up a good way into the movie, once Jason had already done away with several teen campers.

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Here’s a curious paradox. Prom Night of yore is heaps of fun, but has a rather random title card, that just appears while doomed young Robin meanders to her death at the start of the film; it seems strangely out of place and understated. The tame-as-a-teddy-bear redux in 2008 opted for credits over a long aerial scan of the locale in, dare I say, slightly more appropriate fontage. Dress it up any way you want, it still sucks.

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Canada’s answer to Friday the 13th zoomed into the mouth of a screaming woman a few minutes in for the funky title card and a little drop of blood fell from the hearts. The 3D remake in 2009 went for a hole-in-the-wall effect, before it all shot towards us, y’know, to make us jump out of our seats.

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Wes Craven’s Elm Street logo looks a little like a child’s felt tip rendition of the title, but it zooms towards us with a creepy ‘zwoooooooommm’ sound and is bizarrely unsettling. The remake, like so many, waited till all other credits were done before appearing rather innocuously and unfrighteningly.

So there we go, in most cases, even credits can’t be bettered by fancy-pants remakes with more money n’ better stuff. There was more resting on a good product back in the day.

Stand by for various other bizarre groupings.

Title Recall: Seeing Red

What can we learn from a film from its title card?

Turns out, not much!

Even so, it’s interesting in a strictly dorky way to look at the various options taken over the years in slasher cinema. So let’s start with the old favourite: RED LETTERING ON A BLACK BACKGROUND. Ooooh.

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There’s that lovely white ‘in’ on Bodycount and Maniac Cop, Bloodmoon, and Severed Lives all tried to be different with big all-screen hogging super-size lettering, effectively warning us of the affronting danger soon to follow! Meanwhile, The Burning is all ‘hey I’m cool, I’m subtle, nothing to be afraid of, kids.’

Happy Birthday and Rosemary’s Killer opt for ‘classy’ fontage. Ooh la la.

Neigh so interesting really, but nice to see that some filmmakers tried to jazz it up a bit with ‘crazy’ fonts or a bit of blood splatter effect. But it’s odd how some of these fonts appear creepily similar. Hmmm.

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Look how Sleepaway Camp II utilises different sizes and… and… stuff.

The Boogey Man‘s all graffiti-lite scrawl, suggesting a mythical, uh, mythos to the title character.

Crap on a cracker, if you think that was boring then A). you should’ve had the task of image capturing from over 100 DVDs and B). wait till we get to the white-on-black borefests.

Rules are made to be slashed to ribbons

Google “slasher movie rules” and you’ll find no end to the listings of do’s and don’ts of the dead teenager flick: Don’t walk backwards slowly, don’t investigate strange sounds, don’t say “I’ll be right back” and so on and so forth…

Scream may have listed and then broken most of these rules, but it wasn’t the first. Je regarde¬† how often “Sex = Death” a.k.a. “Only virgins can survive” is broken…

Way back in 1981, when the slasher movie opus was in its relative infancy (and commercial peak), Friday the 13th Part 2 broke the golden rule that said the final girl has to be a virgin, or at the very least, sexually undemonstrative.

Ginny – Dame Amy of Steel – quite evidently gets it on with her on/off shag-thing (and boss) Paul, long before any of the horror unfolds. While she may not be as flaunty as the other girls in the film, who either talk about sex a lot, initiate it a lot, or wear tight little cut-offs, the very fact that Ginny has sex at all is quite the progressive step in a genre often criticised for puritanical representations of pre-marital sex and punishment thereof.

Even further back in time – and before the slasher movie ‘rules’ had been established by clone-after-Xerox of Halloween‘s basic plot structure, Black Christmas (1974) elected a heroine who was not only pregnant by her boyfriend, but planning on an abortion!

One of the many reasons that Black Christmas is so damn good is this risk it takes with the central character, the one the audience is supposed to root for above all others. It’s worth noting that Jess (Olivia Hussey) isn’t all just “I’ma no havin’ ma baaaaybee, I wants to go to Ayia Napa!”, she provides a thoughtful rationale around her choice. If only 5% of modern horror films could be this brave…

OK, so it’s a post-Scream example, but the central concept of Cherry Falls (2000) flipped the entire cliche on its head. As the brilliant tagline told it: “If you haven’t had it. You’ve had it.”

It being sex.

The killer terrorising the tweens of your common-or-garden small town only makes a play for the virgins. The high school population’s resolution? A “Pop Your Cherry” party, where they all just romp around in the most unromantic way imaginable. Despite candles.

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Several of the heroines that came after the late 90s self-referential cycle were that little bit more real: Julie in I Know What You Did Last Summer has off-camera sex with her boyfriend at the start of the movie.

Elsewhere, young moms occasionally step up to the final girl plate: Kara in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers; Jessica in Jason Goes to Hell; Heather in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare; and whatever Catherine Hicks’ character was named in Child’s Play. They’re surely not girly little virgins. Kara, for instance, is regarded as “paying for her mistake” by her father. She messed up, but she’s all good now. All are single mothers (Heather widowed during the film), so none are having a lot of sex.

But there you have it, not every rule is written in stone. Sometimes you can have sex, but only if it’s the right KIND of sex and you’re not stupid about it.

Next time: Does the black guy REALLY always die first?

10 more final girls we love

One volume of great final girls notwithstanding, here’s a second round of lovable, ass-kicking, shy, shrewd, girl-scoutery. Naturally, as few sequels match the original, these girls maybe aren’t QUITE as awesome as those from last time, but they deserve our love and clingy “be my friend”-ness…

Jannicke (Ingrid Bolso Berdal)

Cold Prey (2006)

All-round lead character Jannicke (pro: Yaneka) is pegged as the final girl in the landmark Norwegian slasher from the moment she appears. Smart, wise, democratic, and strong when it really counts, Jannicke slips on the shoes of a real heroine with ease when her group of friends and she find themselves hunted down by a hulking mountain man in an abandoned ski lodge.

Good decision making properties and a gutsy final battle with the killer make Jannicke a vital person to have around. In the sequel she does the same but gets angry with it.

Marti (Dame Linda of Blair)

Hell Night (1981)

Having survived being possessed by the devil himself, you’d think Linda Blair would know not to partake in ill-conceived frat pranks that involve spending the night in the world’s creepiest manor house. Where people were murdered. And the killer still hangs out.

Mechanic, liberal, loyal, and feisty, Marti hot-wires an escape vehicle and you can literally SEE her change from fleeing victim to power-wielding supervixen when she spies the spiked gates that she’ll use to rid herself of the annoying killer on her roof.

Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris)

Halloween 45 (1988-89)

Poor little Jamie Lloyd’s mom (Laurie Strode!) escaped the clutches of Michael Myers about 83 times on Halloween night, 1978. Then died in a car crash (or did she?). Daughter Jamie is adopted by the Carruthers family and a decade after THAT night, Uncle Mikey comes back for the remainder of the bloodline. Then he does it again the following year. And six years after that.

Nine-year-old Jamie really becomes the final girl in Halloween 5 where there’s no big sister left to help her. It seems like the little girl screams, cries, and runs for an eternity but she continues to survive, much like her homicidal uncle, until cruelly offed in Halloween 6 (though by that time J.C. Brandy had taken over the role).

Pam (Melanie Kinnaman)

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)

Although the world is largely in agreement that Friday 5 is redundant of quality, one of the many joyful elements going for it is spunky heroine Pam Roberts, resident psychologist at the Pinehurst Institute of Mental Health. Or: home for crazy teenagers. In the middle of the woods.

Just as little Jamie Lloyd is ten years younger than most of her sisters, Pam is older than your average final girl. Having spent a majority of the film trying to find troubled teen and mortal enemy of Jason Voorhees, Tommy, she then returns to the nuthouse and finds that a hockey-masked loon will do anything to slice her up.

Mucho running and screaming through rain-soaked trees later, Pam fights back with a chainsaw until she, Tommy, and that kid from Diff’rent Strokes manage to do away with “Jason”.

Jessie (Eliza Duskhu)

Wrong Turn (2003)

Here’s an odd one: Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, appeared in a couple of the big 90s slasher films as a victim, quite possibly wanting to play anything but righteous, ass-kicking uber-final girl for a change. In Wrong Turn, vampire slayer-gone-bad Dushku took on the role as love-robbed camper-in-peril when her quartet of BFF’s are chopped up for dinner by a trio of cannibals.

Curiously, Dushku doesn’t get that much to do as a final girl, having to be saved by Desmond Harrington’s take-charge doctor, though she does get to go all primal and shrieky with an axe once she’s free to do so. Nevertheless, her extraneous casting makes for an interesting heroine, even if we all know that, as Faith, she could’ve laid those loons to waste in a couple of kicks.

Alana (Jamie Lee Curtis)

Terror Train (1980)

Jamie Lee’s third round as final girl came in Roger Spottiswoode’s rather lush and mature killer-on-a-choo-choo film, in which a graduating class of med students are terrorised by a mask-switching maniac who is still peeved about a joke that went wrong three years previously.

Alana has a wholesome moral center and is more gutsy than Laurie Strode and more involved than Kim Hammond (her Prom Night character). After running for a bit, Alana uses whatever she can find to strike back at the hell bent killer but, as in her other films, she is ultimately saved by the intervention of an older male authority figure, which robs her of some of the glory a bit. But she’s still awesome.

Kristen (Patricia Arquette)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Nobody will ever replace Nancy as the ultimate Krueger final girl, but Patsy Arquette’s “suicidal” rich kid probably comes closest. (Some will vouch for Lisa Wilcox in films 4 and 5 but I never really liked her).

As the pivotal ‘Dream Warrior’, Kristen has the power to pull other people in her dreams, thus she and her fellow inmates can fight off Freddy Krueger together. But this pales in comparison to Kristen’s best bit, after eeeeevil Dr Simms fires Nancy, she flips out: “You can’t take Nancy, she’s all we have! You stupid bitch! You’re killing us!”

Clear (Ali Larter)

Final Destination (2000)

Originally, James Wong wanted Kirsten Dunst to play the role of Clear Rivers in Final Destination. In the DVD commentary he says that “Ali Larter is… is OK.” Bet she loved hearing that.

Nevertheless, Larter goes for the jugular as the only one who exits the doomed Flight 180 to believe Devon Sawa’s rantings that the plane will explode. She keeps this to herself for a while, later confessing that she could ‘feel’ his premonition without necessarily sharing it. After that, she becomes a Fuck Death ambassador, opening up and, in the sequel, coaching a new group of escapees how to cheat their imminent deaths. She helps, I guess, but most of them die anyway and so does she.

Cass (Tamara Stafford)

The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1983)

If Clear’s ability to ‘feel’ a premonition weren’t enough, Cass is a full blown psychic. AND she’s blind!

Wes Craven’s mucho-hated sequel to his own 1977 siege flick is a sell-out slasher movie with a decent cast, a Harry Manfredini score, and a dog capable of having a flashback.

Cass emerges as the obvious final girl, tottering around blind, feeling her friends’ dead faces and still conquering the hulking mutant who’s after her. Stafford’s career was too short-lived to be able to discern whether or not she is, in fact, blind. But she’s a cool, likable heroine at the center of it regardless.

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Valerie, Trish, and Courtney (Robin Stille, Michele Michaels, and Jennifer Meyer)

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Threesome! Feminist writer Rita Mae Brown originally conceived The Slumber Party Massacre as a comic reaction to the veritable tidal wave of neo-misogynistic low-rent slasher films emerging in 1981 and 82. The studio execs changed much of the script but both the laughs and the girl power are still very much present.

Once the killer with his phallic weapon of choice – an enormous power drill – has done away with much of the girls’ basketball team and some boyfriends, girl-next-door Valerie comes to the rescue, attacking him with a machete and chasing him down. When he fights back, host Trish and Val’s little sister Courtney join forces and go for him.

In what’s a rather dumb (but fun) movie, the end scene actually musters some real gusto and “go on girl!”-type audience participation. It’s EXCELLENT when they all set upon him. One of the few pre-90s movies where there is more than one female survivor.

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