Thursday, February 23, 2012

Final Girl Film Club - Hell Night

It's been a while since there's been a Final Girl Film Club pick, and I *almost* let this one slip by, but thank goodness I didn't because I enjoyed the heck out of this slice of horror from the Golden Year of 1981.

You know it's going to be good when the very first thing you see and hear is a delicious blood-curdling SCREEEEEAAAAM! Okay, that's kind of a fake-out, because we're actually at a wild and crazy frat party. Wet t-shirt contest! Five-gallon hats! Feathered hair! For sure, like, it's the 80s, man!

Once we get inside the frat house, we meet some of our major players. I give you...

Peter Purple-Cape! I'm not going to bother with most people's names, because my nicknames for them are way more awesome and easier to remember. Peter Purple-Cape is the president of the fraternity and the smarmiest guy you've ever seen. Here we see him putting the moves on some sorority chick who is quite free with her displays of boobage. PPC invites her to come upstairs and ... exchange phone numbers. That is not a euphemism, I'm sad to report. Peter is going to drag Boob Flash Girl all the way upstairs just so he can get her digits for future foolings around. For the president of a fraternity, Peter seems awfully misinformed about how these things work!

Next we have...

Final Girl Marti, who you may recognize as being played by The Exorcist's Linda Blair. I'll use Marti's actual name because she's the final girl and, well, she's Linda Blair. Peter Purple-Cape spots Marti across a crowded room and seems smitten. Maybe he will take her to a secluded place and ... find out her last name! *SCANDAL* A random girl in leopard skin (who we'll later discover is actually named May West - *rimshot*) explains that Peter "lives all year for Hell Night. This is when he really puts it to the pledges." (*insert "boing" sound*)

We also meet our other major players, who I'll call Robin Hood (right), Rich Dude In A Western (left),

and Flapper Girl.

PPC is asked by his frat brother, Pirate Boy, if it isn't about time to start the real festivities, Peter replies that it's still early, noting that Sickowski (yes, that's his name) hasn't barfed on the trophy case yet and none of the windows are broken. Cue the immediate breaking of the front window and the subsequent run-and-barf of the aptly named Sickowski. "Well, I guess it's time to get the show on the road!" Peter says with a laugh. Beedle-dee-bink-dee-bink - *cymbal crash* Oh, you crazy college kids!

So everyone at the party piles into cars for the pilgrimage to Garth House and once everyone arrives Peter walks them up to the house, explaining that the pledges have to spend the night in the old house, and he proceeds to tell everyone the Most Offensive Story of All Time. This is actually quite a well done walk-and-talk scene, containing the only few minutes in the first act that are actually creepy, but I'm afraid I was too busy boggling that people actually used to say words like "mongoloid" and "gork" to feel that scared. Oh, and that a woman could be described as a "hopeless simpleton" who was "only good for ... child-bearing." GAH. I also got stuck on the pregnancy that lasted "ten and a half months." I know there are records of longer pregnancies, but this was said as if it was no big deal.

Here's the short, less offensive version. Raymond Garth was the last in a long line of Garths who lived in Garth House, and twelve years ago (from 1981, making it 1969) he murdered his wife and three of his four children and hung himself, leaving his youngest ... let's say challenged son to witness it all. Police arrived on the scene and found only three corpses - the fourth body and the surviving son, Andrew, were never found. Andrew supposedly still lives in the house to this day - ooooooooh!

Peter Purple-Cape and the rest of the fraternity/sorority party-ers walk back to the gate and lock the four pledges in. It seems bizarre to me that there are only four pledges and that two of them are girls. I suppose they are pledges to a sister sorority, but we never hear it mentioned or named, only the fraternity. So here's our Death List:

- Rich Dude In A Western, who it turns out is an actual rich dude (so I'll call him Rich Dude for short);

- Marti, who is good with cars (she worked at her dad's auto shop in high school) and is regretting this whole Greek thing;

- Flapper Girl, who for some reason is British (she says "Hey, let's pah-tee!") and has brought Quaaludes and Jack Daniels for the pah-tee-ing, plus a cleavage radio; and

- Robin Hood, who is a surfer (you can tell because he keeps saying the word "radical") and wears the most adorkable Cupid boxers. No, seriously.

There is the predictable pairing off, and Rich Dude and Marti banter about the class divide (classic college conversation), wherein Rich Dude takes a guess that Marti is majoring in Political Science "with an emphasis in terrorism." Huh. Some things never change, I guess. Cut to Robin Hood and Flapper Chick in another part of the house, and they have a rather cute scene where he tells her what it's like to surf. I mean, besides the fact that you get to say "radical" a lot.

Soon Peter Purple-Cape arrives back at the house with Pirate Boy and May West. As they separate to take their stations for whatever shenanigans they've got planned, Pirate Boy makes my favorite line delivery of the movie, laughing like a goofball as he says "Now the fun begins!" Suddenly, a SCREAM is heard in the house. Marti and Rich Dude think it's the other couple and vice versa. The scream is followed by other noises that could not be more obviously coming from a sound effects machine. Rich Dude finds the speaker and cuts the power. I must say, at this point, there's not a lot of scary here. Just pranks and a little Marx Brothers homage, courtesy of Peter Purple-Cape and Pirate Boy: "We should have kept her behind and left the rest of her." It's so corny, I have to love it.

And just when you're getting a little bored and May goes to the side of the house for her part of the scare - WHOA! THERE'S the scary! YES! Andrew (who HAS been living in the house this whole time) pulls May down a hole and chops her head off with a butcher knife. GOOD SHOW, MOVIE! NOW we're getting somewhere!

The gang inside, knowing nothing of May's untimely demise and thinking it's all still a bunch of pranks, hears more noises. Robin Hood and Rich Dude go to investigate, leaving Marti alone to be confronted by this guy.

Looks spooky enough, but due to later discoveries I'm thinking he's probably another trick. Everyone inside decides that the whole thing is just Purple-Cape and some other folks playing around and try to get some sleep. On the icky, dusty, musty beds in the house. I don't know about y'all, but I would not want to be sleeping on old, uncleaned beds that someone might have died in. If I were REALLY tired, I could maybe kip on top of the covers, but under the covers - no way. There are a couple more prank scares (including a snakes-in-a-can gag which TOTALLY got me!), but from here on out it's genuine horror show. (!!!)

Peter Purple-Cape finds Pirate Boy's dead body and bravely runs away. Screw those pledges in the house (and May, since he doesn't know she's dead) - IT'S ALL ABOUT ME, DAMMIT! He plays a little cat-and-mouse with Andrew until he meets the business end of a scythe. SEE YA! Now all the pranksters are dead. Joke's on them, hahahahaha!

Marti and Rich Dude share weird stories about seeing magical creatures - she's seen a witch, he's seen an elf (lol, whut) - before they have schmoopy almost-sex. Speaking of sex, Flapper Girl and Robin Hood are having some (more) upstairs, which weirdly plays out for us mostly in shadowplay. Well, I think we all know what this means - all four of these kids are DEAD MEAT, amirite? Sex = Death. It's Rule #1 of horror movies. Sure enough, while Robin Hood goes to the "john" - and has the MOST HILARIOUS EXCHANGE EVER with his reflection in the mirror ("Score another one for the good guys."), Flapper Girl is greeted by ... I think it's supposed to be Raymond Garth, because it's not the same guy who killed the pranksters. When Robin Hood finishes shooting finger-guns at himself and gets back, he finds May's head in the bed, Flapper Girl nowhere to be seen, and screams like a girly-man and runs for it.

At this point, I've got to give it to the endangered kids in this movie. Where other movies have all these ridiculously noble characters who stick around and look for their missing friends, making it easier for the killers to get to them, too, these guys (or a few of them, at least) are all about the self-preservation. Which is perhaps not that admirable, but is pretty darn believable. Robin Hood climbs the sharp, spiky front gate (in a moment of genuine tension, in my opinion) while Rich Dude and Marti do the stupid, noble thing and go back to the house to look for Flapper Girl.

I'm going to take a moment here and love on the synth score in this movie. There, that was great. Moving on.

Rich Dude finds Peter Purple-Cape's body and makes what may be the WORST decision in the history of horror movies. He grabs Peter's flashlight off the ground and LEAVES the keys to the gate, which are still in Peter's cold dead fingers. I mean, DID HE THINK HE HAD TO CHOOSE????? I guess maybe in his horror at seeing a corpse, he just didn't notice them, but JEEZ!

Robin Hood goes to the police, who have heard QUITE enough stories about "murders" up at Garth House tonight, thankyouverymuch, and rudely tell him to leave. But on his way out he spots some ammo just lying around where anyone can get to it and snags himself a rifle before escaping out the window. LOL those Garths don't stand a chance!

While Rich Dude and Marti wait for Robin Hood to return, this happens.


Luckily Marti heard me yelling and turns around in time, shrieking like a Mikita drill and prompting Rich Dude to pitchfork the be-rugged figure. He orders Marti to pull the rug back off the whatever-it-is, but it's gone, having escaped down a trap door. Oh, it is ON. Rich Dude has HAD IT with these muthaf***in' killers in this muthf***in' mansion. He goes down the trap door, closely followed by Marti, and they come upon a series of tunnels. They follow one that seems to lead to a lighted area and find THIS.

I couldn't get a good cap of it that also was a good shot of Flapper Girl, but that's a dinner table, with a bunch of dead bodies around it, including Flapper Girl, with rats crawling all over them. GRODY!

Meanwhile Robin Hood, who has gone rogue liek woah, commandeers a car and drives back to the house, throwing all that lovely self-preservation instinct to the wind. He manages to take out one of the killers (Andrew, I presume) before being killed himself by Raymond (who I'm guessing is a zombie, because I thought it was established he killed himself - ah, well).

And since only one can survive in these kinds of stories, Marti is soon the lone pledge left at the party when Raymond throws Rich Dude out a window. Marti finds Peter's body, and - WHAT A CONCEPT - takes the keys, though she has way more trouble with this than there should be in wresting something from a dead person. She hotwires the car (remember, she's a gearhead - hello, characterization!) and gets away, but SURPRISE, Raymond is on top of the car and reaches through the windshield for her. She turns around to give him a good old impaling on the knocked-down fence and provide the Greatest Shot in the Entire Movie.

(Sorry it's a bit blurred, but I tried it about a dozen times and that's the clearest version I could get.)

I really, really dug this movie. The fact that everyone is in a cheesy costume is a fun touch, and I enjoyed the twist of "LOL it's all a joke - WHOA, NO IT'S NOT." If there was anything that disappointed me a little it was Linda Blair - until the last few minutes, at least. She just seemed so helpless and passive until she absolutely had no choice and no one to make decisions for her. I understand she was nominated for a Razzie for this movie in 1981 (losing out, or perhaps it should be "winning out," to Bo Derek in Tarzan, the Ape Man AND Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest - NO! WIRE! HANGERS!). As I said, she wins me over in the end, but for most of the movie I was not a fan.

Fun Factoid: This movie was directed by Tom DeSimone, the filmmaker who also gave us Chatterbox, which is maybe (hopefully?) the only movie to feature a talking and singing vagina. I ... have no more thoughts on that.

THIS movie, however, was pretty great. Thanks for another winner, Final Girl!

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