Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Final Girl, or: You and Me Baby Ain’t Nothin’ But Mammals

This week’s film is chosen with my Blog Wife in mind.  Not only is she on record as one of the coolest people I know, but she has a segment on her blog dedicated to final girls in horror.  What could be more appropriate for this week than a film taking its cues from the badass final girls we know and love?  (Assuming we continue to exist in a world where the Mega Shark vs. Mecha Margaret [The Foxy Merkins] franchise has yet to materialize.)

The Film:

Final Girl

The Premise:

A teen girl trained to kill targets a group of boys who like to reenact “The Most Dangerous Game” with the girls in their small town.

The Ramble:

After the death of her parents, 5-year-old Veronica is adopted(?) for the purposes of mini assassin training.  Her trainer, William, has lost his wife and child in an extremely vague murder, leading to his, er, brilliant plan of killing a group of 17-year-old boys 12 years later.

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Nice view, if you can stand all of the assholes.

The training for Veronica is oddly specific, from killing people with her bare hands (since guns run out of bullets) and running through the woods until she can no longer feel her feet.  After all of this time with William as her only human connection, Veronica is rather in love with him (in a super gross Stockholm syndrome kind of way).

After seriously 12 years of training, William deems Veronica ready for a test.  She lures a man into the bathroom of a sort of Western themed restaurant(?) and manages to knock him out.  This is an exhibit of (1) the general cop-out feeling that is watching this movie—surely the first test would be actually killing someone and (2) unintentional evidence of the creepy nature of Veronica and William’s relationship—random older man hits on Veronica = unacceptable, but relationship with William = ok because she knows him and he knows how to rock the stubble?

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Creepy pseudo-romantic relationship or perfume ad?

To be completely ready, Veronica also has to undergo a test where she’s injected with a drug that will reveal the truth/show her greatest fear.  As it turns out, her greatest fear is William murdering her.  Pretty fucking twisted.

Having passed all of the tests, Veronica is finally ready for her, uh, mission?  William instructs her to gather information on a group of 17-year-old boys who hunt and kill the girls in their high school.  Somehow, no one is suspicious about all of these girls going missing or about the number of times a girl has gone out with these guys only to never return.

Veronica buys a milkshake at the local diner for Jennifer, who is dating one of the psycho teens.  I actually really liked the bonding scene between these two characters, even though it’s all about boy problems and Jennifer delivers one of the most cringeworthy lines of dialogue in the entire film (and there are a lot):  “I’m a 17-year-old girl…of course it’s boy-related.”  I could feel myself losing years from my life during that moment.

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We were going to try to pass the Bechdel test, but who gives a fuck.

After learning valuable(?) information about her targets that she pretty much already knew, Veronica meets up with the ringleader and scores a date.  There are a few scenes giving the boys a bit of personality, which pisses me off, largely because the female characters like Jennifer get no time whatsoever for character development.  Like the only thing we know about her is she likes milkshakes and is dating a psycho.

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I drink your milkshake…

Veronica meets up with the Fucked Up Four and starts things out with a rather sinister game of truth or dare in the woods.  Our ringleader tells this really psychotic story about a rabbit and eventually says the line “We’re all just animals,” thus ruining any chance I had of taking this movie seriously.  It’s really difficult to take anything seriously when you have the Bloodhound Gang stuck in your head.

I think it will surprise no one to learn some pretty grisly deaths follow without a ton of suspense about who the final girl is in this film.

The Rating:

1/5 Angry Pink Panther Heads

I would’ve gone with 2 PPHs because this film wasn’t the worse ever, but the relationship between Veronica and William pissed me off so much.  It’s creepy for William to have raised Veronica and then potentially pursue a romantic relationship with her.  Plus she’s 17, which may be the age of consent but is young enough to still be creepy AF.  It’s also uncomfortable that William keeps putting her through tests to prove she’s worthy of being alive; the parallels to what men do in toxic relationships are too real.  Let’s not even touch on the major Stockholm syndrome at play in all of this or we’ll be here for a long fucking time.

It’s difficult to see William as any better than the psychotic 17 year olds we’re supposed to hate, honestly.  He subjects Veronica to horrendous treatment and plays mind games, even if he considers it for her own good.  It’s unclear how killing these dudes has anything to do with the murder of William’s wife and child as well; I don’t think we’re in a Michael Myers situation where they killed someone at the age of 5.  This film accepts the weird logic that targeting bad people for murder makes you a good person…but does it?

By the end, I was really rooting for Veronica to kill William and fully embrace the concept of the final girl.  Take a wild guess about whether I was disappointed (yet again).

Would Christa buy this one a shake or take an axe to it?  Find out here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Sisterhood of Night, or: Twitches

We do what we want in this Blog Collab…and what we want is to avoid over-thinking our theme-related decisions.  Welcome to yet another Blog Free or Die Hard Month—this time with witchcraft!

The Film:

Sisterhood of Night

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Secret rituals!  Vows of silence!  Tattoos!  There’s only one explanation for this kind of behavior in teens:  witchcraft.

The Uncondensed Version:

Lucy from The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe and Suzy from Moonrise Kingdom are all grown-up and embracing their inner mean girl.

Mary is something of a slacker in school, yet seems destined for fame with her serious charisma and IDGAF attitude, universally admired by teens everywhere.  Emily, on the other hand, is a bit of a goody two-shoes, who tries (and fails) so hard to be interesting and well-liked in worlds both real and virtual.  After Mary takes things too far by ruining Emily’s audition, Emily steals Mary’s phone and posts all of her texts online.  The feud between these two is just getting started when Mary decides to be done with the net forever, taking a modern vow of silence from social media.

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Harsh…I think…?

Thus the Sisterhood of Night is born.  Mary begins the secret society with her closest friends and rumors swirl.  Though the girls involved with the Sisterhood meet up only to unburden themselves of secrets, outsiders imagine they are basically a coven of lesbians.  Oh, the horror.

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Telepathic lesbians:  a parent’s worst nightmare (apparently)…

Based on a series of mysterious clues, Mary reveals the time and location of Sisterhood meetings to members only.  Desperate to be part of the cool kids club, Emily figures out where the next meeting will be in hopes of joining or, if all else fails, writing a really juicy post for her blog.

Rejected once again, Emily uses the opportunity to accuse the Sisterhood of physical and sexual assault, collapsing in church and revealing a scar on her hand inflicted by Mary.  Emily isn’t winning any friends in her high school, but she is becoming somewhat internet famous, with thousands of blog followers.

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Our chief weapons are fear, surprise, and staring contests.

With mysterious tattoos, odd meeting hours, and secrets piling up, the community demands to know what the Sisterhood is and what the girls do.  They refuse to reveal the truth since, you know, it’s a secret society and all.  The town sets a curfew for everyone under the age of 18, which Mary obviously ignores.  Frightened one evening, she asks her guidance counselor (Kal Penn??!?!?) for help at his apartment.  This of course gets horribly misconstrued and ends badly for Kal, the sole voice of reason in the entire scenario.  After Kal’s departure, a media circus latches onto the story, sensationalizing the story to depict sex, witchcraft, and occult rituals.

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I can’t disagree.

As the Sisterhood grows, so too does Emily’s following as her reputation for being a survivor of abuse grows.  She comes up with a rather nasty plan to force a confession of witchcraft from one of the Sisterhood, luring her out using her crush.  Emily immediately feels remorse and tries to stop the plan, but it’s already been set into motion.  Someone isn’t getting out of this alive—who will it be???

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

The ending is actually pretty moving and surprisingly feminist, but it takes a long time to get there.  Everyone is so needlessly bitchy for such a long time, and someone has to fucking die for it to stop.  The end calls the persecution of witches to our attention, and the supposed threat of feminine power and sisterhood inherent in these kinds of witch hunts.  The girls do lift each other up at the end, which is empowering, but I was still hoping for at least a little bit of actual witchcraft.

The tone is odd as well, as sometimes it feels like a satire or dark comedy, and other times like a serious drama.  It gets to have a bit too much of an after-school special vibe after a while.  Kal Penn as the guidance counselor works but is also confusing, as I was expecting him to bring comedy to this film.

In spite of myself, I saw high school + witches and immediately expected The Craft.  This isn’t as much fun to watch as The Craft, but it does have an interesting perspective and a message worth considering.

Would Christa get matching tattoos with this one or shun it entirely?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Drive Me Crazy, or: Teen Spirits

This week’s film is brought to you by bad decisions to revisit, ahem, “classics,” and by the sudden realization that you had terrible taste as a child/teen/human being.

I just wanted to remember Melissa Joan Hart before the “attack on Christianity” propaganda films.  Is that wrong?

The Film:

Drive Me Crazy

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Melissa Joan Hart is a high school overachiever who grooms her vaguely grungy neighbor into her prom date rather than face the horror of attending prom solo.

The Uncondensed Version:

This is a teen rom-com, so obv it’s a given that 2 high school kids from different cliques couldn’t seriously go to prom together…could they???  I think you already know the answer to this question.

MJH is an overachiever, and I can’t remember her character’s name at all because she will never not be Melissa Joan Hart/Sabrina to me.  She’s very into the school’s upcoming centennial, ‘90s fashion, and star basketball player Brad.

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What?  It was the official uniform for the school’s news channel.

Though MJH and her neighbor, aka that dude from Entourage, used to be childhood friends, they haven’t spoken since middle school.  Entourage dude, who I remember is named Chase (mostly because that is the most ‘90s name) is something of a rebel/slacker/prankster without entirely committing to the grunge scene.  I’m not really sure what clique this would be considered, but the film wants us to take away from this that he doesn’t care about school spirit or “normal” high school teen stuff.

One of his schemes involves putting orange dye in the water sprinklers while everyone is at lunch on the lawn, apparently b/c of his contempt for mochaccinos and the music of Celine Dion.  Which I mean, yeah, I’m not into either of those things, but IDK if I would ruin anyone’s white clothing over that.

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Only MJH would look this graceful while being dyed orange.

MJH and Chase both seem happy with their respective high school lots…that is, until Brad asks another girl to the centennial dance, and Chase’s rebel girlfriend breaks up with him for not being that into “real” activism.

After getting extremely drunk at a party, MJH decides she and Chase should pretend to be a couple so she’ll have a date for the dance, and Chase can make his ex super jealous.  First step = go to the mall and clean up Chase.  It’s actually one of the worst ways I can think of to begin a relationship, but I admittedly have a fear of malls bordering on paranoia.

Anyway…unsurprisingly, cliques of all types are resistant to this mixing of high school cultures.  MJH and Chase brush off insults pretty easily, and it doesn’t take long before taking the time to understand their differences means the two develop genuine feelings for each other.

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True love…obviously.

You know there will be complications, however, as there are still 45 minutes left.

What will happen when Brad breaks up with his cheerleader girlfriend, Chase’s ex wants him back, and MJH’s bff decides to be a bitch for no reason?

DRAMA.  DRA.  MA.

The Rating:

It’s really hard to be objective about this one because I LOVE Melissa Joan Hart and she’s so adorable as a 22-year-old teenager (which is probably one of the more reasonable age gaps for a teen movie, TBH).

But I have to confess I lost interest in the plot long before this movie was even halfway over and only powered through because of my commitment to this blog (you’re welcome, readers).  This is an example of a film better fondly remembered than disgracefully re-watched because this one was so much worse than I remember.

Additional thoughts, in no particular order:

  • That girl who is always the best friend in teen movies is in this and is a total bitch for seemingly no reason except maybe “that’s how girls compete.”
  • Every time there’s a misunderstanding…so. Much. Moping. Say what you will about Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare was spot-on re:  the teenage impulse to jump to stupid conclusions and do really insane shit as a result.
  • So many butterfly clips had to die in the making of this film.
  • I thought the “loser” friend characters, Ray and Dave, were quite sweet, though perhaps thinly veiled versions of the filmmakers (esp. re: revenge sequence in video project form).
  • Usually I would object to a film not featuring the titular song, but “Drive Me Crazy” is featured for no reason at a random party that has very little relevance to the plot. Everyone knows the time for “Drive Me Crazy” in the ‘90s would be, uh, PROM.

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

This would very possibly be 1/5 without MJH.  Do yourself a favor and re-watch Sabrina, Down Under instead if you’re longing for a simpler time in MJH’s career.  Or cross your fingers really hard and hope a Sabrina, the Teenage Witch reboot happens.

Did this one drive Christa crazy in the good way or the bad way?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Pariah, or: Great Minds Think Alike (Again)

Another week, another big gay film.  My pick for this round is Pariah, which I’ve been meaning to watch for a while but have been unable to do without blogging incentive.  Largely because I can’t find the motivation to do anything without blogging incentive at this point.  See what Christa thought of this one here!

The Film:

Pariah

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

A young African-American teen, Alike, struggles with her identity as a lesbian, challenging relationship with her parents, and aspirations of writing poetry.

The Uncondensed Version:

Alike (Lee for short) is a teen living in the Bronx who is out only to her best friend Laura (also a lesbian).  Laura, who is working on her GED after dropping out of school, tries to introduce her to other girls, but Lee is too shy.

After Lee gets home well after her curfew, it becomes clear that there is tension at home.  Her mom is concerned that Lee is home so late and doesn’t behave or dress in a particularly feminine fashion.  Also her dad doesn’t seem to be around a ton.  When he is around, Lee’s parents spend most of their time fighting about his absence and their daughter’s behavior.

Meanwhile, Lee is showing promise as a writer with encouragement from her English teacher.

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Reading poetry in front of a high school class: the stuff of nightmares.

Lee is also showing an interest in a girl from school and asks Laura for an introduction.  I think it becomes pretty obvious at this point that Laura is really into Lee but doesn’t want to risk their friendship.  So Laura makes the introduction and Lee totally blows it.  Around this time is perhaps the greatest scene of the movie when Lee asks Laura to get her a strap-on.

While all of this is happening, Lee’s mom is scheming as much as any mother from a Jane Austen novel.  In an effort to get Lee to spend less time around Laura, she introduces Lee to the daughter of a friend, Bina.  The two of them are forced to walk to school together and basically have play dates.  Lee is not thrilled, especially when she has to spend with Bina instead of meeting Laura at a club like she’d planned to.

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That grin.

So Lee is determined to have a terrible time, but Bina tries to make the best of it.  When Bina asks what kind of music she likes, Lee gives her the hipster “You’ve probably never heard of it” response, though Bina has, in fact, heard of it.  The two end up having a pretty good time, actually.

This is all well and good, but Lee is completely blowing off Laura, who is quite upset.  TBH, I would probably be pissed too once I got over being irrationally afraid that something bad happened to her like getting hit by a meteor.

Alike and Bina are spending more and more time together, and Bina finally makes a move on Alike, who freaks out.  No matter who you are and how good your intentions may be, being a teen always goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Later, Alike spends the night at Bina’s house.  It’s all very sweet until Bina pretends the whole thing wasn’t a big deal and says she isn’t really gay.  Luckily Laura is there for her like a true bff.

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I suddenly realized I didn’t have any screencaps of Laura towards the end of the movie. Not the most flattering still ever.

As our film wraps up, we learn that the relationship between Alike’s parents is even more dysfunctional than we realized, and there is a major fight between Alike and her parents.

It all comes together in the last 20-30 mins of this film, and I don’t want to ruin it completely, so I’ll just say it gets emotional.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherHalf Pink Panther head 3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I think because of the subject of this film and the title, Pariah, I was expecting a much more devastating approach/ending.  Also because I’m an emotional wreck these days and at the moment we seem to be picking films that are a dull blade to the heart.  However, this film was actually quite uplifting.  Don’t get me wrong:  this movie is very much about struggle and sacrifice and accepting that even family may not entirely accept who you are.

The actress playing Alike is so good, and there’s a successful balance of humor and drama in the plot and dialogue.  I love the resilience of Alike’s character and determination as she forges her identity.

As Alike’s own mother says, “God doesn’t make mistakes.”

Check out Christa’s post here!