Good morning everyone and Happy Sunday! Julie here. Hope you’re having a great week and staying safe!
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I am very fond of horror films, and I’m always looking for more to watch. I keep a list of movies that I’ve picked up from various sources. Some are movies they say are too hard to finish, some are unknown gems. And there are some that turn out to be not worth watching. But I like to make Saturday my day of horror when I can. Last night I was watching one movie for the second time, thinking what a little known film it is and underappreciated. So I decided to review the movies I watch, to let my readers know what’s out there, in case you’re looking for something to watch. I’ll start with yesterday. I watched three films – Black Christmas (1974), The Axe Murders of Villisca, and The Final Girls.
BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) – From what I was reading, this film became the start of the slasher genre. Considering that back then, you could barely swear in movies, this one breaks that barrier for sure. It takes place in a college sorority where someone is hiding in the attic and killing co-eds. Other than being the first of the genre, there are some surprising people you would not expect to find in a horror movie. Olivia Hussey is best known for her portrayal of Juliet against Leonard Whiting’s Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. At least that’s all I know her from. Keir Dullea was in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And most surprising is Andrea Martin, whom I primarily know from SCTV. She’s a great comedian, who knew she did horror too? I guess a lot of actors start out in different genres than they end up in.
Oh, did I forget Margot Kidder? She’s there too, mostly known for having played Lois Lane to Christopher Reeve’s Superman, and for her later mental and emotional difficulties. Kidder is one of the sorority sisters who seems to be going for the record for drinking the most. She is a drunken mess most of the time. In fact, there seems to be a lot of drinking going on here. The sorority sisters are being harassed by a series of disturbing phone calls that no one else takes seriously. More than heavy breathing, there are assorted voices and strange sounds which are unnerving the girls. But the police don’t seem to take the calls seriously. Besides, they have a missing child case on their hands.
One of the girls is pregnant and planning to have an abortion, but her boyfriend is adamantly against the idea. The story starts as Christmas break is about to begin. One of the girls’ fathers was supposed to meet his daughter but she never showed up. And the fun has just begun…
Although a little dated now, this is worth a watch, although the genre has come a long way since then. The alcoholic house mother is so ridiculous she’s hilarious, with stashes of booze hidden in the strangest places. One of the policemen’s prank on one of his fellow officers is hilarious, if a little dated (you have to realize that at one time the first two digits of a phone number actually stood for something). All I’ll say about the joke is that you have to know what fellatio is (which the cop didn’t, obviously) in order to fully appreciate the humor.
I guess I rate this at three out of five stars. I did notice there is another Black Christmas, done in 2006, which also takes place in a sorority house. Not sure if it’s intended as a reboot or remake or what, but this one has a few people you might know too, such as Michelle Trachtenberg, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Lacey Chabert. Also, Andrea Martin is in this too, which lends credence to the reboot theory. Also look for Oliver Hudson, son of Goldie Hawn and brother to Kate Hudson.
THE AXE MURDERS OF VILLISCA –
This film is based on a true story. In 1912, someone broke into a house in Villisca, Iowa and killed the eight people sleeping there. I did some digging. While they call the case unsolved, there was a confession, although the man wasn’t convicted because of a mistrial. To me, that’s just a technicality.
Now it’s years later, as we meet the protagonists of our film. Caleb, Denny, and Jess. Jess is the new girl at the high school, who has a “reputation” due to an unfortunate video of her. Caleb and Denny are best friends, each with his own troubled past. They have a video blog that deals with the supernatural and paranormal. They are going to take a tour of the house in Villisca for their blog, and Jess ends up going along, to Denny’s annoyance.
At the murder house, mannikins take the place of the murder victims, killed in bed by the axe-wielding fiend. The owner of the house takes the three on the tour, only to cut it short when Jess goes where she shouldn’t. Denny is pissed until Jess suggests they come back later, since obviously the man and his wife don’t sleep there as the beds are all taken with mannikins.
Back inside the house, trouble begins when they discover they are far from alone, and the spirits of the deceased are very much with them. Add to that two other students who like to make life hell, and you have a recipe for disaster.
This film was made in 2016 and has much greater production values than our first film. But in all fairness, it’s forty years later and technology has greatly advanced since the first one was made. The acting is decent for the genre. I didn’t recognize any of the cast other than Conchata Ferrell, who plays the principal of the high school. Everyone has a troubled back story, and these all come out as the movie progresses. Sometimes a little hokey, with the spirit possession and all, but nonetheless entertaining enough for a view. I’ve seen a lot worse. I think it’s a worthwhile watch, and I’ll give it 3.5 stars.
THE FINAL GIRLS – This is the film that got me thinking it deserves more attention than I think it has received. This was actually my second time watching this one.
Max’s mother is a a struggling actress, who is only remembered by her peers and her adoring fans for a teen slasher pic she made twenty years before, Camp Bloodbath. In a tragic accident at the start of the film, she is killed and Max goes to live with her aunt. Three years later, Max is still grieving her mother’s loss when she is approached by her best friend Gertie’s stepbrother, Duncan, to appear at a film festival that night to mark the anniversary of the Camp Bloodbath films. Max is reluctant but agrees to show up when he promises to do her homework for the rest of the year. It doesn’t hurt that the guy she likes, Chris, offers to go. He’s the ex of a former friend of Max (I know, complicated teen lives).
At the film showing, an accidental fire erupts, and Max and her friends are trapped by the screen, the only way out being to cut through it, which they do, and step into… the movie? Suddenly they find themselves inside the film Camp Bloodbath, along with all the cast from the movie. Despite their best efforts, they can’t get away from the place. It’s like a living nightmare. The only way out is to survive the killer, and the only way to do that, from a logical standpoint, is to stick with the final girl. (For those who don’t know, the final girl is the one who survives the killer and ends up killing him in order to do so).
But how well is this plan going to work?
This film is so good, I just loved it. The premise is unique among horror films, and it’s actually very funny, but also has its touching moments, primarily with Max and her mother, who is part of the cast and very much alive within the context of the film. Max gets to experience her again, even if her mother doesn’t realize who she is. But they bond nonetheless. Taissa Farmiga plays Max, and Alexander Ludwig is Chris. If you have seen Vikings, you’ll recognize him as Bjorn Ironside, son of Ragnar Lothbrok. And appearing as Max’s one time friend, Chris’ ex, is Nina Dobrev of Vampire Diaries fame. While I don’t like her in that, she acquits herself well in this film.
The characters in Camp Bloodbath are definite stereotypes, such as the overly horny busty female, and her male counterpart, the quiet brilliant student, and the shy quiet girl. But that’s what also makes it hilarious too. I guess that makes it a horror comedy. Kind of like the Geico commercial that’s a spoof on horror films that shows the teens making all bad choices and the chainsaw-wielding killer shaking his head at their stupidity. This is my favorite of the three I watched yesterday.
I hope you enjoyed my reviews, I hope to do more of these, maybe go back and cover ones I watched before, such as The Autopsy of Jane Done (another little known gem which has Brian Cox in it!).
Enjoy your day and be safe!