Cabin in the Woods intro/extro

sugarplum-fairy

[ this is the script of the pre- and post-words I gave for a charity event Cabin-screening Friday night, down in Manitou Springs ]

wolf kisses and bear traps

The slasher. We can all make a list of our ten favorite, yes? Which of course we consider the ten best. So . . . that list starts where? Psycho, Peeping Tom? Bay of Blood? Maybe, maybe not. Definitely Black Christmas in seventy-four, anyway. And let’s not forget Texas Chain Saw Massacre from that same year, which gave us a mask, that all-important signature weapon. And you can’t ignore Jaws, either. Which, no, didn’t involve masks or signature weapons, unless teeth can count, but there was plenty of stalking the nearly naked, there was plenty of blood, plenty of looking through the killer’s eyes, and, for about the first time, plenty of what would become so important exactly four years later: theme music.

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We’re All Happy Now, Stitches

stitches

Awards Stitches completely owns:

  • best death-by-umbrella ever, in the history of whatever
  • best cat-murder in a long, long time (to specify, this is the death of a cat, not Gage 2.0)
  • best ‘bet I can extract your intestines and make them into a balloon-dog’-scene
  • best high-heel-to-throat
And, Stitches, he deserves some nominations, too. He camps it up with the best of them. And the whole set-up of this, it’s slasher-by-numbers. There’s the inciting prank, the necessary interval of time, for all the pranksters to grow into proper victims, and then there’s the big party. Seriously. Remember in Scream, or Cherry Falls, how there’s a lot of story before the party? A lot of set-up? Not so here. They’re handing out invitations nearly immediately, and then it’s a quick fast-forward to the ‘parents are gone/invite everybody over night. Which is also, conveniently, a return to the scene of the crime. And somebody’s birthday. It’s a perfect storm for slashers, I mean. If Stitches hadn’t risen, then some other slasher would have. And Stitches makes all the necessary obeisances to its predeccessors: Stitches quips like Freddy Krueger, he looms just out of frame like Michael, and he’s just as unkillable as Jason. All in all, man, if you like slashers, then this is definitely quality stuff. Highly recommended. So hoping there’ll be a sequel.

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Three Things We (Horror Folk) Can Learn from The Mooring

1. Horror can still be very disturbing and very complete without gore and nudity

Is there even any profanity in The Mooring? I can’t think of it, if there is. Which isn’t to say over-the-top gore isn’t a complete riot, just all kinds of fun. I like it when I have to hide my eyes. Last time that happened, I guess, would have been Excision. First time? Probably The Exorcist. Well, okay, The Eyes of Laura Mars, but that wasn’t from gore, but absolute, undiluted terror; I was eight, I think. But, nudity in horror—for a long time the theory (or, maybe, just the practice?) was that it was enough of a pendulum swing the other way from gore that it allowed the visual palette of the film to achieve a kind of balance. Or is that just a rationalization? It could have been just as simple as the filmmakers knowing that, even if the story was thrown together and the production poor, there was still one way to lure their target demographic to the drive-in. One way that’s significantly cheaper than hiring a Tom Savini or a Kevin Williamson. And sometimes I think nudity in horror—in the slasher in particular—is just the director being all leery, taking advantage of girls fresh off the bus, as it were. It’s not called exploitation cinema for nothing. And nudity could even be setting the audience up to be punished, I suppose: if it’s thrilled when the clothes are peeled off, then what about when the skin is? Maybe you should have asked for that shirt to stay on, yes. Anyway, Scream got by without nudity, with just the suggestion of it (sexuality’s still important to the slasher, and there is some of that in The Mooring, albeit of the creepy kind), and a lot of others have as well, and are none the worse for it. But, yes, it is kind of built into the genre, I know, as the My Bloody Valentine redo makes very clear, in skintastic 3D. I prefer John Carpenter’s explanation over Carol Clover’s too. That axe-to-the-head, it’s not Jason punishing these people for having sex—what does he care?—it’s a single killer striking at the best opportunity: when people are distracted, and when they have no clothes, when they’re tangled up in blankets or seatbelts, and when they’re far enough from the group that their screams won’t be heard. And it’s probably night, too, making for an easy step back into those ever-important shadows. And, yes, the The Mooring cast is of course young, making nudity hardly an issue, but we’ve all seen beach and lake and river horror movies—even Kid Rock music videos—and know full well that half the time, the nudity comes from other boats. Boats that seem to be there specifically to display naked people. On the water, nudity’s always a bikini string away. For The Mooring to be set on the water and have no nudity, though—and be low-budget—it’s refreshing, it’s surprising. And it completely works.

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The Last Final Girl

Life in a slasher film is easy. You just have to know when to die.

Aerial ViewA suburban town in Texas. Everyone’s got an automatic garage door opener. All the kids jump off a perilous cliff into a shallow river as a rite of passage. The sheriff is a local celebrity. You know this town. You’re from this town.

Zoom InHomecoming princess, Lindsay. She’s just barely escaped death at the hands of a brutal, sadistic murderer in a Michael Jackson mask. Up on the cliff, she was rescued by a horse and bravely defeated the killer, alone, bra-less. Her story is already a legend. She’s this town’s heroic final girl, their virgin angel.

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Teacher Needs to See Me After School: Detention

I’ve usually got my tongue di-rectly on the pulse of anything slasher, but somehow — two months of book tour? — Detention slipped past. In April, yes, when Growing Up Dead in Texas was just advance copies. And just a couple of days ago I was having a big talk with a good friend about slashers that are probing the edges of the genre, feeling out the limits, poking the necessary fun: Cabin Fever, Leslie Vernon, Tucker & Dale, Scream, Severance. The Killage. Then stuff like Mandy Lane or Cry_Wolf or The Hole, that are taking a less funsy angle into that particular interrogation. And, for me, of course, all these are in the coming context of my The Last Final Girl, in October (from Lazy Fascist, but I don’t think we’ve officially announced yet). You know that feeling when you have something coming out, and you get all sensitized to everything even remotely like it, suddenly certain that you’re going to get undercut?

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Dead Man’s Curve

Man, I know: last week I hit Prometheus, and just did a status update somewhere saying it was decent, it was cool, and now here I am with a non-review of a movie fourteen years old already. Still. This one I want to talk about it for a short bit: 1998. Dan Rosen’s Dead Man’s Curve (on Netflix Instant as The Curve). This is two years after Scream changed the horror scene once and forever. One year after Scream 2 made the sequel legit again. One year after I Know What You Did Last Summer revived a nearly twenty-year-old YA novel, just to cash in on Scream’s success. The same year as The Faculty (Williamson again) and Urban Legend and IKWYDLS’s second installment. All of which is to say that the horror landscape post-Scream, you couldn’t even stand up, there were so many clones. And that’s not at all a bad thing. This makes slasher kind of stuff easy to ramp into production. Pretty soon we’d have Final Destination and its own clone, Soul Survivors. When the box office gets packed with gore like that, then competition breeds desperate escalations, each new film trying to outdo the last, and once the big budgets tail off, then you get true innovation. Stuff like All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. And then a Cabin in the Woods comes along to reset everything, in much the same way Scream did.

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Parental Guide (RUBBER)

Sex & Nudity

A woman is seen naked, from behind, but it’s through two doors, and in the point-of-view of a killer tire, so it’s not really anything you can do much with.

Profanity

Not excessive, and what’s there’s mostly from the ‘spectators’—the embedded horror-movie audience meant to offer the same objections we would, or already are, thereby anticipating and perhaps deflating those objections (think the pirate contingent in the theater watching Spongebob, or the Woody-Allen-ish ‘chorus’ offering their commentary on the various goings-on, or even the narrator-cum-singer in Dead & Breakfast, etc.  Not at all an uncommon conceit, the problem only arising when/if the our stand-ins in the movie are only there to pad it out, or make it ‘smart’ and art-housy). However, those objections: a tire in a music montage? Specifically, a psychokinetic tire with malicious intent (and still a lot of tread) and a taste for blood and NASCAR getting the soft-focus, Baywatch kind of musical interlude?

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Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

tucker & dale

Some movies just make you happy. Feast was this was for me. And Severance. And Leslie Vernon. And, though it’s more over-the-top, Club Dread. Horror comedy’s where it’s at, I think, though there’s a line, yeah; while I’ll sign up any day of the week for a Decampitated viewing, I don’t do so well at the Scary Movie series. I get all the references and jokes, sure, but it’s always a very painful kind of humor, as what they’re lampooning up there, it’s what I love, it’s the horror I hold so close to my heart. No, what I like best is when there’s gore and comedy together. Dead-Alive kind of stuff, or Shaun, or Slither. Fido was even funny, and Scream’s self-deprecating brand of humor is what set it off so well (and, rhetorically, made us believe it in the way we need to believe in horror)—unlike, say with Student Bodies, which is more about gags. Though Return to Horror High got it about right.

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Demon Theory

DT

Description from what used to be the MacAdam/Cage website:

On Halloween night, following an unnerving phone call from his diabetic mother, Hale and six of his med school classmates return to the house where his sister disappeared years ago. While there is no sign of his mother, something is waiting for them there, and has been waiting a long time. Written as a literary film treatment littered with footnotes and experimental nuances, Demon Theory is even parts camp and terror, combining glib dialogue, fascinating pop culture references, and an intricate subtext as it pursues the events of a haunting movie trilogy too real to dismiss. There are books about movies and movies about books, and then there’s Demon Theory – a refreshing and occasionally shocking addition to the increasingly popular “intelligent horror” genre.

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