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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Slumber Party Massacre, or: Drill, Baby, Drill

Though it’s not officially a horror month on the Collab…it’s the Blog Collab. It’s never not horror month. In a world that seems especially horrific currently, we don’t have answers on the Collab. We only have horror–horror from the ’80s, thank god.

The Film:

The Slumber Party Massacre

The Premise:

After a serial killer escapes from prison, he grabs a power drill as his weapon of choice to terrorize a group of high school girls at a slumber party.

The Ramble:

Though a mass murderer’s recent escape from a prison in Venice Beach, CA is headline news, no one seems too concerned. And though I’m not usually one to call for an increased police presence, this feels like a good opportunity to have a few more patrol officers out and about. But no–it’s relatively easy for the escaped killer to murder a phone repair woman in broad daylight with a power drill.

Oblivious to the danger, senior Trish and her friends are looking forward to a girls only slumber party as her parents will be away for the weekend. Though there are boys around who are all too keen to crash the party, the girls insist they won’t be welcome. Also decidedly not invited is new girl Valerie. As Valerie happens to be gorgeous, naturally athletic, and an agreeable person, Trish immediately dislikes her.

A group of teenagers walk together away from their school building.

Before you know it, one of the girls who is locked inside the school also gets murdered in broad daylight. This is possibly the saddest death as none of her friends seem to notice or even question why she’s not around for the slumber party? I could be misremembering–but, like many an early horror character death, she’s both gone and forgotten.

That evening, Valerie most definitely has more important things to do than sit around and obsess about her snub as the party goes on next door. She insists to her precocious little sister Courtney that she doesn’t care at all about the petty squabble with Trish’s girl gang. Nevertheless, Val is watching quite closely out the window…and she’s got a bad feeling that has nothing to do with the rivalry.

A young woman with feathered blonde hair looks suspiciously around a room.

Something doesn’t seem right to Trish either. Honestly, I’d be concerned too: the kindly neighbor who has agreed to check in on Trish makes himself feel right at home by just showing up in and around the house, incidentally holding a butcher knife. Meanwhile, the boys who are ostensibly among her friends have decided to creep on the evening’s activities by the open window as the girls undress. Quite a few people here really need a refresher on trespassing and consent, and probably the meaning of friendship while we’re at it.

When one of the girls (Diane maybe?) breaks the code of sisterhood and invites her boyfriend to meet her outside the house, there is a horror movie price to be paid quickly and violently. The party goes from bad to worse when the pizza delivery guy shows up dead on the doorstep, making the fatal error of turning the pizza box upside down. Relatably, this doesn’t prevent the girls from stress eating.

Three young women sit back to back on the floor in front of a fireplace. They are each holding a knife.

As the two boys who have joined the party decide to make a break for it to get help, Val considers whether she should finally listen to her gut and investigate the party next door. But will there even be any partygoers left by then?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

My biggest issue here is how surprisingly slow the first half of the film is, despite multiple onscreen power drill murders. It takes quite a while for the power drill killer to catch up with the slumber party crowd, and the effect doesn’t necessarily build suspense. If you’re going to murder people with power tools after escaping from prison, you should probably waste no time. Then again, one lesson we learn from this film is that police interest in investigating serial murders in 1980s Venice Beach is negligible.

When we do finally get into the swing of things, it’s quite satisfying. I can’t think of other horror films that feature a power drill as the murderer’s weapon of choice, and there are some creatively gruesome deaths as a result. Apparently the filmmakers didn’t catch on to the sly humor of screenwriter Rita Mae Brown, so there are some genuinely funny moments even if the tone is a bit off the mark at times.

Annoyingly, our characters are all pretty one-dimensional. Remembering names or any distinguishing characteristics is next to impossible. Even the power drill killer isn’t a particularly interesting person, opting for murdering teen girls…because? That’s just what crazy people do, according to the film’s logic. I was hoping for even a brief backstory that might help us unpack the killer’s motives, but we don’t get any such preparation from the filmmakers.

I wish the Val/Trish stories had been woven together more effectively too. I have to admire Val’s resourcefulness when she unwittingly stumbles across the active site of a serial killer at work. However, she is completely separate from most of the action of the film, and it all gets a bit clunky in terms of pacing. There are some fun elements of ’80s horror at work here, but they don’t necessarily align to become a classic.

On a side note, I love the extremely ’80s horror theme music.

Would my blog wife invite this one to the slumber party or lock it outside with a power drill killer on the loose? Find out in her review!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Grease 2, or: Go Back to High School

Given this month is dedicated to good/bad B-movies, the time feels right to revisit another…classic? Though not one of my favorites, will a rewatch help change my tune, especially considering the intricately choreographed musical sequences and rather ’80s interpretations of early ’60s fashions?

The Film:

Grease 2

The Premise:

When English exchange student Michael falls for Pink Lady Stephanie, he adopts an alter ego as a cool biker to impress her.

The Ramble:

The gang’s all here for a sequel to the hit musical! If the characters from Grease you’re most invested in seeing again are Frenchy, Principal McGee and the secretary, the football coach, that one really dweeby guy, and the rival Scorpions gang member who’s an asshole for no reason.

Everyone else who’s back to school makes up an entirely new senior class, from the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds to the jocks and cheerleaders, and everyone in between. Geeky English import Michael has the misfortune to be the new kid just in time for senior year, though the recently reenrolled Frenchy has got his back. After all, Michael is cousin to Rydell High icon Sandy, who apparently had great things to say about the school? I guess if your high school experience ended with a literal ride in a flying car, you might look back fondly.

Michael, a teenager with hair styled in a pompadour, leans against a fence. On the other side of the fence, Frenchy, a young woman wearing a pink jacket, follows his gaze to an offscreen Stephanie.

I guess because he’s polite and wears sweaters frequently, Michael is immediately labelled a nerd and is bullied by the T-Birds. When Pink Ladies leader Stephanie checks on the new kid after an incident, he’s smitten. Unfortunately for Michael, independent Stephanie has recently broken up with T-Birds leader Johnny and will (famously) settle for nothing less than a cool rider. Also, it’s apparently a critically important rule that Pink Ladies only date T-Birds–so important that it never came up once in the first film.

Johnny, a teen with slicked-back hair and a black leather jacket, leans an arm against a wall close to Stephanie, a blonde teen wearing a pink jacket. He smiles, while she looks irritated.

After an innuendo-laden song about bowling, Stephanie is determined to demonstrate her freedom from Johnny, who has yet to accept their breakup. Boldly declaring she will kiss the next guy who walks in, Stephanie locks lips with Michael. Now (hopelessly) devoted to Stephanie, Michael vows to do everything in his power to join the T-Birds and become the man of her dreams. Too bad he’s just made a mortal enemy of Johnny and doesn’t know the first thing about motorcycles.

Making use of his nerdy reputation, Michael begins to write essays for his peers in exchange for cash. Eventually, Michael earns enough money to buy a fixer-upper bike and somehow learn to ride so well that he can do a motherfucking sidekick while driving by Scorpion leader Craterface just in time to save one of the lesser T-Birds from a rumble. Stephanie is extremely into this, especially when the mysterious cool rider eludes the cops and returns just in time to light her cigarette. Even as she proclaims her love to the unknown biker (after they’ve spent maybe half of a day together), she’s utterly uninterested in real life Michael.

Against the backdrop of an orange sunset, Stephanie leans close to Michael. He rests against a motorcycle, wearing all black leather and a dark helmet and goggles.

Meanwhile, the school talent show is on everyone’s mind, largely because the entire student body seems to be involved. Logically, the winners of the talent show will be crowned king and queen of the end of year luau, so the stakes are high. Stephanie’s main interest in the show is the opportunity to see her cool rider again. However, things take an unexpectedly tragic turn when the T-Birds chase off the biker, who takes a plunge from a cliff. Convinced she’s lost her love before even knowing his name, will Stephanie somehow see the mystery man of her dreams at the talent show, maybe in a dance sequence that’s not quite on the level of “Beauty School Dropout?”

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I enjoyed this a lot more than I remembered, but I’d still say the magic wasn’t quite there for me. Watching the sequel to Grease makes it even more apparent that the original musical/film was leaning so hard on its catchy AF soundtrack. There are a couple of reasonably memorable songs here, but they don’t hold a candle (or a lighter) to the first film’s songs.

Wisely, the film does get us the closest we will likely ever get to a Rizzo-centered sequel. Stephanie is very much a Rizzo type, living by her own rules and taking shit from no one. She’s such a feminist icon, dismissing the idea that she exists to be someone’s trophy. On the other hand, the Pink Ladies in this film don’t feel as much like a ride or die crew as those in the first film. We don’t get many of the bonding scenes that we did in Grease, and honestly the original one probably passes the Bechdel test more comfortably.

For better or worse, the comedy is played up here. Some of it falls flat, but we do get a more clear-cut criticism of the T-Birds and their ludicrous macho posturing. Johnny almost always looks like a complete tool, and the rest of the T-Birds are approximately on par.

I did make an intentional effort not to over-analyze this film, but the plot is stretched too thin to make much sense. The talent show gets almost an entire 30 mins–there’s that little going on here. And I feel even less of an understanding of motorcycle gangs as a result of this film. What is even the point of a motorcycle gang? Is it to be a man in your mid-30s (at a minimum) who exists solely to laugh intimidatingly and ruin teenagers’ parties? Because that’s the only thing the Scorpions do.

I will give credit to this film for the nonsensical but momentous return of Michael at the luau (though the luau itself is pretty cringey). I wish the rest of the film had been on the same melodramatic level, but I found most other facets not quite absurd enough to get invested in. On a side note, I don’t understand why the fuck Michael still wants to be a T-Bird by the end of the film, especially when Johnny and his friends psychotically pursued him to the point that they believed they were responsible for his murder (or at least manslaughter). If it had been me in Michael’s situation, I would have very quickly become a horror movie villain.

Possibly my favorite element of the entire film is that people treat Michael like he’s a complete alien who doesn’t know how to relate to people…all because he’s English. Obviously one of the more realistic plot points.

Would my blog wife buy a motorcycle to impress this one or shrug off its leather jacket with disdain? Find out in her review!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Spontaneous, or: Let’s Blow This Popsicle Stand

*Spoilers follow*

Another week, another group of teens facing nightmarish pseudo-apocalyptic scenarios. Mob rule? Trolls referred to only as goblins? This week, the worst horror anyone will encounter is the inner self. More specifically, the inner self very literally and suddenly becoming external.

The Film:

Spontaneous

The Ramble:

Drifting off during an especially dull class lecture, senior Mara Carlyle is in for a rude awakening when a classmate explodes before her very eyes. Not in the metaphorical sense; the girl sitting before her is human-shaped in one moment, a mere spatter of blood and guts the next.

Mara, a teen with wavy blonde hair, looks stunned as she sits in class. Behind her, students sit at desks looking horrified as they and the walls behind them are covered in blood.

After the incident, all of the students are rounded up for questioning and observation. Unbeknownst to Mara, her dry remark that the authorities are waiting for a similar accident to happen again is extremely prescient. Not only that, but her words act as a spark for her classmates to live life to the fullest as they face the dread of wondering who may be next.

Following the explosion, Mara navigates her feelings (badly) with bff Tess–making sarcastic cracks at various tributes to their classmate, lacing her coffee with a nausea-inducing amount of shrooms. While Mara decides seizing the day means making self-destructive decisions, classmate Dylan determines now could be the only opportunity to reveal his long-term crush on her. Holding back Mara’s hair while she throws up, their romance is off to a…dreamy(?) start.

In a diner booth, teenager Mara sits across from her friend Tess, a Black teen with natural hair. Both have coffee cups in front of them.

As Mara gets to know Dylan better, the unexpected explosions of their classmates seem to happen everywhere they go, from football games to parties. While school is cancelled, Dylan buys a vintage milk truck with his college savings and he officially becomes Mara’s boyfriend.

However, the explosions escalate, prompting the government to intervene by developing a new drug to cure the so-called Covington Curse. After weeks in a pop-up biomedical research facility, the cure seems to be available at last: a pill that all of the teens seem to be destined to take for the rest of their lives.

At the end of a driveway at night, Mara sits next to Dylan, a teen with shoulder-length hair. Dylan smiles at Mara, who is starting to smile.

It might be a nice conclusion for our main characters if things ended here, no? Sadly, the new pill isn’t quite as effective as promised, and it’s not long before another series of explosions rock the community.

How many more teens will blow up before they even make it to graduation?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’ve kept things vague as there are a number of important plot twists/tonal shifts (which you could easily look up) that I’m reluctant to dish on here. I can’t say they’re entirely unexpected, but they may not be where you imagine the film to go when you first dive in.

I like the premise here a lot, and the approach the film takes to examining the impact of the explosions rather than trying to unpack a reason why lends it some realism. I appreciate that we don’t get a satisfactory explanation for the explosions, though they could stand in for any number of existential issues teens struggle with as they try to imagine a future that’s not utterly terrifying. It’s powerful as well that so many of the teens blame themselves for these events that are beyond their control.

Mara’s sarcastic eye-rolling is immediately relatable, and she is very darkly funny. Her observations about the choice of “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” to memorialize a classmate, as well as the dramatic peeling away of part of a stick figure family member car decal stand out most to me. However, after a while, Mara seems to be written as a character who is not especially feminist; she’s meant to be a cool girl who’s so chill that she would never stoop to calling you out for a “your mom” joke. There are a number of attitudes/lines of dialogue that seem written for a teen boy, or at the very least someone who claims to be a humanist rather than a feminist.

Overall, the characterization isn’t a strength of this film. The supporting characters are completely flat; it drives me nuts that Tess isn’t given anything to do except be the best friend who is immediately sidelined for a romantic plot (and the romance is a major focus of the film). There are some additional layers to unpack there considering Tess is the only person of color who gets a significant amount of screen time. And Dylan is a total sweetheart, but it’s irritating that he’s written to be a character who has absolutely no flaws. I’m automatically suspicious of a dude who seems perfect from the beginning.

There are some issues with tone here too, as the story struggles to blend Mara’s cynical sarcasm, the romance of first love, and the existential horror of living through disaster. It’s surprisingly poignant as things wrap up, but it doesn’t quite bring the different elements together smoothly.

That being said, I did enjoy this one quite a lot…and I’m never going to be mad about watching a film that on multiple occasions tells our most recent former US president to fuck off.

Would my blog wife peel off a stick figure family decal in this one’s honor or vindictively hope she’s around so see it spontaneously explode? Find out in her review!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Assassination Nation, or: Witches Get Shit Done

CW: violence, assault, homophobia, transphobia

Ah, youth. Dishing on the latest gossip, lounging by the pool, receiving menacing texts threatening to doxx you. There’s a good reason social media has become an increasingly popular subject for horror films: it’s fucking terrifying. And in this week’s film, it has the power to send a homicidal mob after you IRL.

The Film:

Assassination Nation

The Premise:

Following a hacker’s leak of personal messages and information, the residents of an entire town turn against 4 teen girls who seem to be at the center of it all.

The Ramble:

Let’s revisit a familiar chapter in US history: the time the town of Salem lost its fucking mind. No, not that time. This time, it’s all a case of leaked personal messages and the good old-fashioned scramble to cover one’s own ass.

To rewind a tiny bit to the before times, teen Lily is part of a close-knit group of friends: Bex, Sarah, and Em. Catching up with her girl gang, Lily learns that Bex has been sexting with Diamond, a gorgeous jock who dares not acknowledge his affection in public. Meanwhile, Lily continues to date her first “serious” boyfriend, Mark, while secretly sexting a man only known as Daddy. Sounds like a keeper.

A group of 5 teen girls lay in a circle on the floor, heads together at the center.

At the same time, an unknown hacker begins targeting the locals. The hacker begins by targeting the mayor, a man whose homophobic policies belie his hidden life hiring male escorts and wearing women’s lingerie.

During a high school party, Bex finally hooks up with Diamond, who insists they keep it a secret. At the same party, Lily continues to send revealing pictures of herself to Daddy. Blissfully unaware of the hacker’s intentions, things take a dark turn when the mayor, in lieu of making a verbal statement, opts to shoot himself publicly. Bex, a trans teen girl, has very little sympathy for a man who seemed to make it his life’s work to see LGBTQ people suffer. Unsurprisingly, the internet community has even less compassion, actively ridiculing videos of the public suicide.

Targeted next is the high school principal, whom Lily actually quite likes and respects. Because he has pictures of his 6-year-old daughter in the nude, the town as a whole concludes that Principal Turrell must be a pedophile. As Lily herself points out, there’s nothing overtly sexual about the pictures; nevertheless, Mr. Turrell is booed publicly and encouraged to resign.

4 teen girls lay upside down on a bed, shoulder to shoulder. They are all looking up towards the ceiling and wearing red PVC coats over their clothes.

It’s not long before Lily, Bex, and Nance, the mother of Sarah and Em, are targeted. Police ineffectively search for the hacker but come up with very few leads beyond Marty, a local teen and Anonymous supporter. Diamond hides in shame when the truth about his hook up with Bex is revealed. And it’s not long before Mark realizes that the pictures from Nick, aka Daddy’s, phone are of Lily. Nick is Lily’s 30-something neighbor and man whose kids she used to babysit.

Shortly thereafter, the victims of the hacker turn their ire towards the women and girls who are labelled whores and homewreckers. Of course, it’s their fault that these men engaged in behavior of which they are now ashamed. With no intervention from the FBI or any other authorities, the town begins to implode as isolated incidents of public shame and violence morph into organized militias committing acts of terror.

Dressed in red PVC trench coats, a group of 4 teen girls stand in a row, aiming firearms at an unseen group of boys.

When the police finally have more information, it’s revealed that the hacks seem to have come from Lily’s IP address. With the town turned firmly against her, a militia fueled almost entirely by toxic masculinity arrives at Nance’s house, where all 4 girls are currently staying.

Now that the battle has become girl gang vs. the entire town, who will survive the night?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

There are quite a few things about this film that work, and quite a few that…don’t. Things I enjoy include the commentary on accountability vs. victimization when it comes to the court of public opinion. I think the message here is surprisingly nuanced, highlighting that so-called cancel culture is a tool that can hold people in power to account but can serve to reinforce misogyny and other toxic systems when used against those without. Even I have heard about Chrissy Teigen’s half-hearted apology for her bullying of Courtney Stodden, and the parallels are spot-on, especially considering how Courtney was treated by the press and the public 10 years ago.

Things I didn’t enjoy so much: the cutesy “trigger warning” at the beginning of the film, which seems to merely mock the entire concept. Additionally, despite enjoying our female focus, I couldn’t tell you a single personality trait of any of our main 4, except that Lily was our lead and Bex was cool AF and featured in my favorite scene of the film (a tense underwater nail gun fight). Besides that, the characters are fairly bland and generic.

What’s more is the male gaze at work throughout the film. It’s satisfying to see our girl gang take charge, but there are really only about 10 minutes of their badassery for us to enjoy. For the vast majority of the film, there are a lot of scenes shaming, harassing, torturing, and otherwise attacking women. I would have liked to see less of that and quite a bit more empowerment for the film to better reflect its themes.

That being said, there are many truly terrifying scenes and scenarios here. It’s a little frustrating to have some of these moments undercut with the film’s insistence on making an ironic quip. Perhaps in light of the January Capitol insurrection that feels like 10,000 years ago, the idea of an organized militia targeting anyone who doesn’t have a MAGA hat in their wardrobe doesn’t feel so far-fetched. I would have liked for this one to be a bit more fun, though who knows if I even remember what that word means at this point.

Would my blog wife take this one’s secrets to the grave or leak them all for the lolz? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Aquaslash, or: You Get out of My Park

You know how it is, right? Some days you enjoy a nice day at the water park, and other days you witness a bunch of high school students emerge from a water slide in chopped up body chunks. But seriously…that is the plot of this film. Are you ready for it? Are you really, though?

The Film:

Aquaslash

The Premise:

A killer lurks in the dark and tampers with water slides during celebrations at a water park for a group of graduating seniors.

The Ramble:

To most people with good judgment, the stairs leading up to a massive slide in a closed water park would not be a particularly romantic place to hook up. But don’t tell me you started reading about a film called Aquaslash because you expected any of its characters to behave like rational people with any survival instincts whatsoever. Perhaps not so shockingly, the couple at the beginning of this tale is doomed–bodies disappearing after being hacked to pieces. Worryingly, the unknown attacker has also used the opportunity to tamper with the slide, inserting razor-sharp blades into the middle of the ramp.

Shortly thereafter, a graduating class of high school seniors arrives at the water park to celebrate all of the academic honors and prestigious awards they have earned. JK–they’re a bunch of rich kids who are here to snort coke, have naked raves, and inexplicably enjoy an ’80s theme. You know…teen stuff.

A group of teens in a mix of beachwear and graduation gowns stand at the entrance of a water park.

Obviously there’s a mysterious caretaker of the property lurking around, dispensing cryptic advice. Throw in a group of employees that includes the controlling boyfriend of a high school dropout, the park owner (having an affair with a high school student), and the park owner’s wife (seeking petty vengeance with random high school dudes), and you have achieved soap opera levels of melodrama. Which, btw, doesn’t mix well with a water park unless your goal is to take a bubble bath.

So anyway. The park used to be a real attraction in the area, but it’s lost some prestige lately. Possibly the murders that happened 35 years ago to the day didn’t help matters. Then again, the park owner is usually on speed, hitting on teen girls, or arguing with his wife in public…which is also not a great look.

In a dimly lit restaurant, a red-haired woman, Priscilla, sits across from a dark-haired man.

Tensions are high among the teens too, as emo band leader Josh (who we’re supposed to sympathize with since he looks like a budget Andrew Garfield) sees his ex Kim for the first time in years. Kim, to whom some unnamed but terrible thing happened, is now dating Tommy, winning combo of abusive/possessive/short-tempered. All Josh and Kim want to do is be together…but they can’t. For…reasons.

Josh, a teen holding a guitar, sits on the edge of a small outdoor stage with Kim, a teen with long hair blowing in the breeze. Behind them, two bandmates set up musical equipment.

Meanwhile, queen bee and chief mean girl Alice is looking forward to time alone with her boyfriend, park owner/manager Paul. The two make no effort to conceal their affair, and you’d hope that at least one of the teens would report that shit to a teacher. However, obviously there are no teachers in sight to supervise. Unsurprisingly, Paul’s behavior enrages his wife Priscilla, notable for being hot. Priscilla seems to enjoy accumulating lovers, as she is meeting in secret with Josh’s dad, who happens to be rich (and appropriately obnoxious). At the same time, Priscilla has been prowling the graduating class looking for a hookup.

Of course, it’s at the evening’s bonfire and anticipated ’80s tribute concert that all of the secrets come tumbling out into the open. In the ensuing chaos, anonymous knife-wielding attacker gonna…attack.

Tensions are at an all-time high during the next day’s sea snake competition, a 3-person water slide race. What will happen when the competition begins, and the teens take carefree turns down the water slide…of doom?

The Rating:

1.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I can’t quite justify a full 2 stars (YIKES), but I did get some enjoyment from this. I will give credit for the originality of the premise; however, at the same time, I strongly suspect the entire concept was merely a typo.

For most of the film, we are simply checking off a bunch of teen horror tropes…though it’s sometimes difficult to discern how genuinely self-aware this film is. I’m sure my analysis of human behavior in this film is completely beside the point, but here are a series of thoughts that occurred to me throughout the first 85% of the film (which is almost entirely teen spring break behavior and virtually no horror):

  • Being in a band doesn’t make you less of a douche just because the jock stereotypes around you are complete tools
  • Not even 10 minutes in, and I’m already tired of the water park being called Wet Valley
  • This high school is a hell of a lot nicer than mine if they have an overnight trip anywhere to celebrate graduation
  • For real, the only Black character with more than one line of dialogue is a jock and the class bully? GUYS.
  • The water park logo looks a lot like the Wonder Woman logo. Coincidence?
  • How does no one notice the high school girl making out with the dude in his 40s in broad daylight? Even if both parties are legally adults, it would still not be allowed on a school trip.
  • Wow, almost every person in this movie is a bit too into slut shaming
  • Literally every high school student here is an unhinged psycho

I will admit the ending of the film is fun to watch in a gleeful horror kind of way…but don’t expect it to make a whole lot of sense. And having to sit through an hour or so of painfully stupid teenagers making poor choices isn’t necessarily worth it in the end.

Would my blog wife enjoy a casual splash in the pool with this one or remorselessly push it down a murder slide? Read her review to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Let It Snow, or: The Spanx of Weather

As we discovered last week, there is no trace of romance in my wintry heart–though I blame our film’s deliberate lack of intelligence and originality for my stoic reaction. This week’s pick on the Christmas Collab throws teens into the mix. Surely things can only improve as a result?

The Film:

Let It Snow

The Premise:

The stories of teens in a small town at Christmas time intertwine as they experience romance, friendship, disappointment, and the magic of the season.

The Ramble:

Laurel, Illinois: the folksy Midwestern town that seems perpetually covered under a dusting of fluffy snow and probably smells of just-baked gingerbread. As the magical holiday season begins, the teenagers of this town are in for a roller coaster ride of emotions. Even more so than usual.

Among the local teens are Angie and Tobin, who have been besties since the age of 5. Just as Tobin works up the nerve to let Angie know he likes her as more than a friend, sensitive college jock JP enters the picture. Instead of enjoying a chill day watching movies together, Tobin ends up attending JP’s party, a questionable and somewhat dangerous mix of broomball and beer.

a teen boy and girl stand side by side with a snowy landscape behind them

Unfortunately for Tobin, JP seems to be the perfect combination of sweet, conventionally handsome, and masculine in a non-toxic sort of way. After stealing a keg from the college party, the trio are on the run from the twins (rumored to have a criminal record) hosting the event. As the day goes on, Tobin’s tolerance for Angie’s new romantic interest wears thin, and the two friends end up fighting.

Meanwhile, bffs Dorrie and Addie are focused on romances of their own. Dorrie is excited to begin a new relationship with Kerry after a single but perfect date. On the other hand, Addie is laser-focused on keeping her boyfriend’s attention though he doesn’t seem especially worth the effort.

standing in a restaurant, a teen girl holds a small pig, facing another teen girl

When Dorrie dishes out harsh truths about Addie’s poor decisions and addiction to drama, shots are fired (effectively). Additionally, Kerry shows up with her friends during Dorrie’s shift at Waffle Town and refuses to acknowledge her–even when Dorrie brings her an adorable Harry Potter-themed plate of waffles. What gives?

Just outside of the city limits are local girl Julie and famous singer Stuart, both traveling by train. When the snow strands them, the two make their way to the old standby for breakfast, Waffle Town. Lonely during the holidays, Stuart tags along to Julie’s Christmas celebrations, which include a rather New Age pageant and assembling a miniature Christmas village. Though Julie enjoys spending the season with her family, she is conflicted: just as she has been accepted to Columbia with a generous scholarship, her mother has been diagnosed with a serious illness.

two teens sled down a snowy hill

Truly, Waffle Town is the thread tying these stories together–along with the party aspiring DJ Keon plans for that evening. Add to this mix Tin Foil Lady (played by darling of the blog Joan Cusack), local legend and weirdo, and we’ve checked off all items on the list of quirky and charming Christmas characters.

Will this assortment of characters get the merry Christmas season they’ve wished for?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

You know, not that much happens in this film–and what does happen is predictable AF (and most likely forgettable AF). That being said, I didn’t hate this, and here’s why.

The emphasis here is decidedly on romance, but it’s not the only type of relationship valued in our film. Friendship is important too, as well as family, self-respect, and open-mindedness. Addie, who admittedly annoyed the bejeezus out of me, begins to recognize toxic patterns and behaviors, which I always find incredibly cathartic. The Julie/Stuart story line is also a bit aggravating as it’s the most melodramatic and least believable. Nevertheless, I was actually rooting for most of the characters to arrive at their (inevitable) realizations–even the ones who annoyed me.

Biggest complaint is the character names are impossible to keep track of except for the ones wearing name tags in Waffle Town. I dare you to fight me on this.

Would my wintry blog wife hop on a sled with this one or leave it out in the cold? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Girls with Balls, or: Bump, Set, (Steel) Spike

One day you’re spiking balls and serving up aces, and the next day you’re dodging bullets and weird dudes who hide speakers in the woods. This week’s film reminds us of that simple time in our lives when we were innocent young teenagers; JK, high school is awful.

The Film:

Girls with Balls

The Premise:

The girls of a high school volleyball team lost in the woods must defend themselves against a group of dirtbag men out to kill them.

The Ramble:

According to our narrator and folksy French singing cowboy, the girls of the Falcons volleyball team are a tough bunch; unfortunately, they are also slated to die by the end of the film. Spoiler alert?

Two teen girls in matching uniforms stand face-to-face on a volleyball court.

Although the team is great at volleyball, the girls aren’t always as wonderful about caring for and supporting each other, as their coach laments. Good thing the trip back home will give the girls plenty of opportunity to bond as they drive along the countryside in a janky RV.

An RV with the Falcons' name and team colors painted on it parks outside of an ominous building surrounded by fog.

The girls run the full gamut of high school stereotypes: Hazuki, team captain; Morgane, the bitchy yet insecure queen bee; M.A., the timid and, er, fat(?) one; lesbian supercouple Dany and Tatiana; Jeanne, the modest overachiever, and her bff, Lise.

When it becomes clear that the team is no longer on the right track for home, the group stops at the world’s creepiest house, complete with many taxidermy animals ornamenting the walls and sinisterly silent bartender.

After he actually licks one of the girl’s faces, a fight erupts and the team leaves rather quickly. Opting to drive on and then stop to camp out for the night proves to be a fatal mistake (though it looks downright cozy): our head creep returns with a tiny dog and a mob of murderous henchmen. Forced to run, the girls split up as coach leaves them high and dry.

A man holding a small dog stands outside, a group of men holding rifles around him.

As the girls dodge murder, they have another danger to face: that of their past misdeeds and personal drama bubbling up. While the bodies pile up, so do the resentments. After many of the girls are captured or killed, it comes down to three remaining heroines to rescue them all. But will they even care about helping their teammates after all of the teenage drama they’ve suffered at their hands?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

I give this film most credit for the final scene, honestly. Spoiler alert: I would so watch a sequel about the remaining volleyball team girls going around and beating up dirtbag dudes.

Most of the (admittedly short) runtime here just served to remind me how gross it is that so many films fetishize teenage girls. There’s a scene in which Morgane does a completely unnecessary table dance that made me so uncomfortable.

I did like some of the dynamics between the girls, but they spend so much of the film being incredibly awful to each other that it’s a bit difficult to stomach. A lot of the humor here just does not work; Lise does a striptease that isn’t intended to be sexy, though it is meant to be funny and is not at all. I wish the humor here had let us in on the joke instead of making me feel like this is the work of a misogynist making fun of (while also being turned on by) a bunch of high school girls.

Would my rugged blog wife save this one from a band of creeps or leave it to its horrible fate? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Veronica, or: Smells Like Teen Spirits

As an absolute garbage month this year, September can go die in a dumpster fire as far as I’m concerned.  Praise be to all that is unholy it’s once again the most wonderful time of the year:  the month of October, Halloween, and…uh, Mean Girls Day?  You know what that means for the blog:  horror, horror, horror.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Film:

Veronica (2017)

The Premise:

After a Ouija board session gone wrong, 15-year-old Veronica must keep her younger siblings safe and send the demon she accidentally summoned back where it came from.

The Ramble:

The following events are based on a real police report filed in 1991 Madrid, as our film cautions us right out of the gate.  Oooooooooh, spooky!

Though Veronica is just 15 and still in braces, she is the main caretaker for her 3 younger siblings.  Since Veronica’s father died, her mother works long night shifts at a bar, leaving Veronica to get her siblings up and ready for school.  Some days go better than others, depending on Veronica’s alarm clock and the level of her siblings’ brattiness.

The Catholic school Veronica and her siblings attend is all abuzz about the upcoming solar eclipse.  Ominously, Veronica and her friends plan to contact her father using a Ouija board while the rest of the school views the eclipse.  And of course they have to call upon spirits in the creepiest space ever that for some reason is easily accessible to pretty much anyone who can climb down a few metal rungs and is not considered a safety hazard???

I’ve got to say, this made me so nostalgic for the days of actually using giant hulking reference books–for example, The Great Encyclopedia of the Occult consulted in the film.

three teenage girls surrounded by candles hold their fingers to a Ouija board

However, nothing else about the teens’ Ouija experience is as fun as occult reference materials when, instead of reaching the spirit of Veronica’s father, they summon a malevolent demon.  As the board breaks, book catches fire, and the lights flicker off, Veronica seems to be possessed.  When she lies on the floor whispering to herself, then suddenly sits up and screams, all bets are off.  Veronica’s friends are well and truly freaked the fuck out.

At home, things don’t get much better.  Veronica seems to have episodes of being possessed, and both sees and hears a presence in their apartment at different times.  The lights flicker, doors slam open and shut, the TV turns on by itself.  When Veronica gives her brother a bath, the faucet mysteriously turns on with scalding water, giving him burns on his body.

The next day at school, Veronica has a conversation with an elderly blind nun known as Sister Death, who also happens to be a chain smoker.  The Sister warns her there is a presence with her that she must send back from whence it came.  Veronica is also tasked with keeping her siblings safe from the demon she inadvertently summoned.

a blind nun smokes a cigarette in a dark basement

Veronica gets serious about using pagan symbols to protect her siblings and insists all 4 camp out together in the living room that night.  Riled up about demons in the house, the children are terrified when their mother comes home and demands to know what is going on.  Of course Veronica gets a stern lecture because parents just don’t understand.

Determined to be rid of the demon, Veronica tries to enlist the help of her friends in summoning it and sending it away.  Still traumatized by their Ouija session gone wrong, Veronica’s friends refuse to go near the board ever again.

a teenage girl stands with her younger siblings, holding up a cross

Still intending to stick with her plan, Veronica decides she will send the demon back with the help of her younger siblings.  And of course things go horribly, horribly wrong from there, resulting in the infamous real life police report.

What terrors in the report could have traumatized the lead detective on the case and spawned rumors that the house is haunted?  You’ll have to watch the film to find out!  Or I guess you could Google it.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

The premise here is decent and not your formulaic teens who shouldn’t have fucked with a Ouija board horror.  Veronica has depth and is quite sympathetic as a protagonist who wants to connect with her father, later transformed into fierce older sister and protector of her siblings.

However, this just isn’t particularly scary.  There seems to be a checklist of cliche signs of a  demonic possession this film is determined to cross off.  Honestly, the creepiest scene for me was one where Veronica dreams her siblings are attacking and eating her…but we’ve all been there, right?

I absolutely loved Sister Death and her doom and gloom warnings–even if they are too little too late.  If we get a prequel about her, I will be on that so fast.

Would my blog wife summon this one again or send it back ASAP?  Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, or: Stranger Teens

Another week, another film that’s just whatever we feel like.  This week brings us to perhaps the only place as scary as our current political climate:  high school.

The Film:

Sierra Burgess Is a Loser

The Premise:

In a case of mistaken identity, band nerd Sierra begins a relationship via text with with popular yet sensitive quarterback Jamey.

The Ramble:

In the high school pecking order, Sierra Burgess is…well, nowhere near the top of the pyramid.  A legacy student at her exclusive high school, Sierra is smart and ambitious, but her insecurities are holding her back.  With a mother who is gorgeous and successful, and a father who is a writer of some renown, Sierra lives in the shadow of her parents.

Though Sierra is a talented writer and student of literature, she feels perpetually insufficient.  And, despite her good grades and involvement with the marching band, Sierra doesn’t stand out enough to make it to her dream school, Stanford.

a teen girl and boy sit next to each other in a school science lab

After resident mean girl Veronica gives new quarterback Jamey Sierra’s number, chaos ensues.  Jamey, believing he has Veronica’s number, strikes up a conversation via text.  Sierra, realizing Jamey has texted her mistakenly, decides to have fun with this and keep up the ruse.

Sierra’s impulsive decision becomes a lot more sustainable after Veronica’s college boyfriend breaks up with her.  When Sierra comforts her, she has a proposition:  Sierra will tutor Veronica to help her impress her ex, while Veronica will help Sierra keep up the charade.

As Sierra tutors Veronica, she realizes a difficult home life has made studying nearly impossible so far.  Veronica’s mother constantly body shames her and reminds her to be pretty for the boys.  Meanwhile, Veronica’s sisters, child beauty pageant contestants, are free to run wild and screaming around the house.  Sierra does manage to impart some sage advice anyway, such as that Nietzsche is comparable to a sexy German vampire.

two teen girls sit in a bedroom, one quizzing the other for a test

In exchange, Veronica provides selfies, Face Time sessions, and even a date IRL.  The whole premise becomes implausible so quickly, especially when Sierra switches places with Veronica and smooches Jamey without him noticing.  Seriously, dude, this is how people die in horror movies.

a teen boy in a school hallway holds a cellphone to his ear

However unlikely it may be, the plan is more or less working out.  Though Sierra repeatedly tells herself she will tell Jamey the truth, she continues to delay the inevitable.  The truth does out in an especially ugly way after Sierra witnesses a kiss between Jamey and Veronica.  As Sierra and Veronica have become good friends, Sierra feels utterly betrayed and lashes out in a very public arena.

Can Sierra make things right with Veronica and Jamey?  Can she beat the odds and get into Stanford?  Will she be able to embrace her gift with words?  Spoiler:  this isn’t exactly the kind of a film with a shocking twist ending.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Ugh, teens.

I got really hung up (no pun intended) on Veronica’s ability to recall Sierra’s phone number from memory just to fuck with her.  Do you know anyone’s phone number at this point, let alone the phone number of someone you disdain utterly?

Also Jamey is straight up boring.  Sierra and Veronica’s relationship is way more compelling.  Even though I am in favor of strong female friendships that have no romantic undertones whatsoever, I am also strongly in favor of non-heteronormative relationships, and Sierra/Veronica have way more chemistry than Sierra/Jamey.  If the so-called gay agenda is to steal romantic films for their own stories, they have succeeded.  Hetero love is boring.

Perhaps the larger problem is how fucking creepy Sierra’s actions are.  In the age of internet dating where people (looking at you, men) deliberately mislead others and perpetrate acts of violence, Sierra’s choices feel especially problematic.  At a certain point, Sierra goes from sweet and awkward to manipulative and sketchy AF.  And even though the message is to some degree about not judging others based on their appearance, Jamey’s looks are initially the only thing Sierra knows about him.

In conclusion, I’m way too cynical for this shit.

Would my blog wife text this one back or ghost its creepy ass?  Read her review here to find out!

three shirtless men look out at ocean waves on a beach
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Beach Rats, or: Why, Teens

Though Gay July is technically over, we’re keeping the party going for one last film.  Much like the summer itself, this week’s pick is fine while it lasts…but it’s also ok when it ends.

The Film:

Beach Rats

The Premise:

A Brooklyn teen struggling with his sexuality and father’s terminal illness opts for summer distractions over facing reality.

The Ramble:

Frankie’s maybe not having the best summer ever in a sort of you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here way.

By day, he chills with his muscly Brooklyn bros on the beach.  By night, he gets turned on by naked dudes on Chatroulette.  Desperately trying to avoid thinking about his dying father or face his mother’s disapproval, Frankie spends most of his time out and about…a titular beach rat?

four shirtless men sit outside on concrete steps

Initially, Frankie seems interested in Simone, a girl he meets while at Coney Island watching fireworks he very symbolically finds dull.  I may be digging a bit too much for symbolism here, but he seems most intrigued by Simone when she’s literally wrapped in a large yellow python.

a man holds up a large yellow python near a woman who holds her hands back
Is that a python you’ve got or are you just happy to see me…?

Very much in the closet, Frankie is very hot and cold with Simone.  Wanting to keep up the facade of his macho straight dude act, Frankie tries to hold onto Simone without getting too close.  However, since he’s not at all interested in sex with Simone, this proves rather difficult.

At the same time, Frankie is very much interested in taking his Chatroulette adventures a step further and meeting up with men for sex.  This is done rather sketchily in parks at night, though frequently includes the bonus of getting high.

a shirtless man faces another man in the dark

When Frankie shares with his friends that he’s been pretending to be gay in order to get high, they predictably take this to a dark place, leaving Frankie morally conflicted.

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Maybe it’s the muscle relaxers I’m on talking, but I’m falling asleep just thinking about this one.  Not a whole lot happens in terms of plot, character development, or relationship building.  Frankie is ok, but that’s about the strongest response I can convey about him.   His choices are understandable but frustrating to watch as they keep him emotionally distant from his friends, family, and sexual partners.  Though safe from rejection and homophobia, Frankie seems to have an emotionally empty life.

Also, I have come to the personal conclusion that I just don’t want full-frontal male nudity onscreen.  More asses would be fine, but definitely not more dicks.  What can I say–apparently I’m a PG-13 girl living in an R-rated world.

Would Christa meet this one in the dark or immediately block user?  Read her review here to find out!