Posts Tagged ‘High School


The Guest (2014)

One of the best things I’ve done in recent memory is join the facebook group for the podcast The Gentlemen’s Guide to Midnite Cinema. Not only is it a group filled with folks who love my kinda movies, everyone is like, civil. So, in addition to sharing pics from your favorite flicks, or trying to get a handle on whether or not a particular movie is worth watching, the floor is open for some real, in-depth discussion of film instead of, you know, shit flinging. I strongly encourage you to listen to the podcast! Anyway, it is due to this fine group of Gents that I was first introduced to the film The Guest. Indeed, not a day went by for about a week or two when I didn’t see a post about it. Naturally, I had to check it out. I am so very glad I did.

Hello, David.

Hello, David.

Spencer and Laura (Sheila Kelly, whom I immediately recognized as Debbie with the earrings from SinglesPeterson are regrouping from the death of their son Caleb, a soldier who died in Afghanistan. Their two remaining kids, Luke and Anna (Maika Monroe, It Follows) are coping with it in their own strange ways as well. But things get a little spooky when a strange visitor stops by. David (Dan Stevens, apparently from Downton Abbey but I don’t watch that shit so… whatever) knocks on the door one morning, claiming to have known Caleb from Afghanistan. At first Laura is a little skeptical, but when she recognizes David from a picture of Caleb with some of his buddies, she’s rather excited to get the opportunity to know the guy. After all, what parent wouldn’t want the chance to learn about their son’s last days?

Maika Monroe ain't got no time for this David guy.

Maika Monroe ain’t got no time for this David guy.

Naturally, the other family members are pretty put off by David’s presence, but one by one they all seem to be taken with his charm. Dad finally shares some beers with David and gripes about the woes of working for a manager half his age; Luke learns how to beat the shit out of his bullies, and even Anna enjoys herself with him at a party. But soon, Anna starts to recognize some inconsistencies in David’s story, and starts to do some digging…

Dude, if my High School had a Halloween dance this hot, I'd never have left.

Dude, if my High School had a Halloween dance this hot, I’d never have left.

The Guest is one of those movies where it’s really best to go in knowing as little as possible. It packs some pretty big surprises and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Like, seriously, Q said he was so nervous not knowing what the expect next that it made him nauseous. Now that’s an achievement! You’re never quite sure which direction the movie will go, or the extent to which it will go there, and it unnerves the shit out of you. It is tremendous fun to watch, it looks gorgeous, and the fucking soundtrack is killer. After I watched this, I sent out a handful of text messages demanding friends seek it out immediately.

Of course, a movie like this is definitely not for everyone. If you like a cookie cutter action flick, or a predictable horror movie or whatever, this might not be your cup of tea. Seriously, the greatest joy this movie has to offer is how much it keeps you guessing. Its other joys though are pretty great as well. I can’t recommend this enough. Check it out dudes!


Fear No Evil (1981)

There are terrible horror movies, and then there are terrible horror movies. Surely ‘so bad it’s good’ is a phrase you’ve heard uttered before in reference to a terrible horror movie that does nothing right, but still manages to keep its audience engaged and entertained. Then there are the terrible horror movies, the ones that are just so incredibly poorly made and make no sense, but in this really terrible, irritating way. Unfortunately Day 29’s selection of 31 Days of Horror, Frank LaLoggia’s Fear No Evil, falls into the latter category.FearNoEvilposter

Part of the problem with this movie is there is just absolutely way too much going on, so synopsizing it isn’t going to be easy. Basically, a couple living in small-town upstate New York (LaLoggia obviously has a preferred setting) give birth to Lucifer (or Andrew). It just so happens that two of three archangels reside in the same small town. The eldest angel (Mikhail or Margaret, depending on who you are) tries to convince the local Priest she needs help slaying the monster, but the Priest is still pissed off at her because her brother killed the last incarnation of Lucifer, and that was murder! All the while, Lucifer has really neat hair, gets straight A’s, and makes out with boys in the shower at the local high school. Everyone there listens to really awesome New Wave.

When blood explodes all over the place from an unknown origin while your kid is getting baptized, maybe he is Lucifer.

When blood explodes all over the place from an unknown origin while your kid is getting baptized, maybe he is Lucifer.

Mikhail/Margaret fails to convince the priest he should postpone the church’s annual free performance of the Passion play, even though she is certain some terrible evil is about to take over the town. That same night Andrew/Lucifer somehow raises the dead from this dilapidated castle place where the old Lucifer ran a company and killed a bunch of the workers or something and now they’re all zombies and they’re going to do Lucifer/Andrew’s bidding. I really hoped at this point the zombie horde was going to overtake the peaceful parishioners at the Passion play and the movie would end in a crescendo of zombie vs. churchgoer mayhem, but instead in the end Lucifer just ends up being a glam-rock version of Dracula, swooping his cape and sacrificing women at altars and stuff.

Lucifer likes birthday cake and tidy hair cuts.

Lucifer likes birthday cake and tidy hair cuts.

Holy moly, this movie just makes one mistake after another. Where do I even start? I guess its worst offense is that it has no idea what kind of movie it actually wants to be. Is it a zombie movie? A vampire movie? A religious movie? A teen slasher flick? A family drama? The movie is none of these, but aspires to be all of them. The film can’t even manage to hold a tone for an entire scene. Not only that, scenes seem to end prematurely; just when you think there’s going to be an interesting confrontation, we cut to a different movie entirely. There is no cohesion from one moment to the next. If you played a ‘what the hell’ drinking game while watching this movie, you wouldn’t get through it without downing a few bottles of liquor.

Never a good sign when Lucifer's eyes turn yellow and he's sweaty...

Never a good sign when Lucifer’s eyes turn yellow and he’s sweaty…

I’m not even sure if it’s worth getting into the lack of character development here. Put it simply, there is none. Lucifer’s parents hate each-other, and the dad is convinced it’s because his child is evil incarnate. He is right, of course, but he and Lucifer’s mom never actually have a conversation about it. They get into a fight over Lucifer’s birthday cake and she gets brain damage as a result well before they can actually discuss repairing their marriage. Then there’s the slew of high school kids we come into contact with. Most high school movies have a range of stereotypical characters, and Fear No Evil is no different, but here even having most of the high school scenes is pointless and irrelevant to what I think is supposed to be the main plot. I haven’t decided if the weirdest high school scene is where Lucifer possesses the gym teacher into dodgeballing a boy to death, or the part where Lucifer is taunted in the gym’s shower by a couple of bullies and ends up making out with one of them in front of everyone.



Then there is Julie/Gabrielle, another high school kid whose boyfriend was the poor kid that got dodgeballed to death, right after they got engaged. She’s confused and sad and also an archangel and has dreams about fucking Lucifer. Did Lucifer kill her boyfriend specifically because he knew she was an angel? Or was it because he liked her like a human boy likes a human girl? No sense in pondering a question to which there’s no answer, I suppose. But she goes and hangs out with the creepy old lady/Mikhail/Margaret and they get their hands on a glowing staff in hopes of slaying Lucifer before his zombies can kill everyone in town, or something.

I'm sorry, when did Lucifer turn into a vampire?

I’m sorry, when did Lucifer turn into a vampire?

If you’ve ever eaten a burrito bowl at Chipotle, you’ll know what I mean when I say Fear No Evil is missing the guacamole: there is no cohesive element to keep all the fragments glued together; there’s an errant grain of rice everywhere you look. LaLoggia really likes the look of seemingly every movie he’s ever seen and tries to incorporate it all in one film with absolutely disastrous results. It is easy to see the roots of Lady in White here, especially in the first fifteen minutes of the film, which is dripping with sentimentality and nostalgia. But then he must have gone to a new wave concert in the middle of filming and decided Talking Heads, Ramones, Richard Hell & The Voidoids among other great bands should be included in this film about angels hunting Lucifer on earth.

Last but not least, there’s the whole Lucifer thing. I don’t know what kind of Lucifer LaLoggia grew up with, but I never got my Lucifer mixed up with Count Dracula. By the end of the film, Lucifer/Andrew is a cape-swooping glam-rock vampire, which sounds amazing, and probably would be in any other movie, but here it is just like… WHERE THE FUCK DID THIS COME FROM? It just does not make any damn sense no matter how you slice it.

I didn't even mention the really shitty special effects. Look at the shitty special effects. And crying Lucifer.

I didn’t even mention the really shitty special effects. Look at the shitty special effects. And crying Lucifer.

While this movie may seem like it has all the perfect elements for a so-bad-it’s-good joke-a-thon, it’s missing the most important thing: watchability. This movie is just so absolutely dreadful, frustrating and exhausting to watch, I can’t imagine anyone having fun with it. It’s not often I insist in the middle of a movie we pause it and venture out into the world for ice cream, because only ice cream can make it tolerable, but that is exactly what happened with Fear No Evil. It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the ice cream did not help improve my feelings towards this piece of garbage. All that being said, though, I think there is a very, very small audience of folks who would want to spend the time to watch this movie. If you have the sort of tolerance for a legitimately terrible, horrible, irredeemable movies and this blog post has poked your curiosity, it might be worth your time, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.


All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

allcheerleadersdieposterFor day 16 of 31 Days of Horror, we picked Lucky McKee’s All Cheerleaders Die. This one somehow managed to totally skirt my radar; I hadn’t even heard of it until Q suggested we mine the Netflix instant queue to make up for the fact that the movie we really wanted to see that night, The Babadook, had sold out (though I was pissed, at least people are still going to the movies). I haven’t seen a lot of McKee’s stuff, but I loved Maylot, and his offering for Masters of Horror, Sick Girl was a bright shining light in a series that was more often dull than not. So, I was excited to give this one a shot.

When the film started, I thought we were going to be in for a rough, unpleasant ride. Our main girl Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) is filming her best friend Lexi to find out what it’s like to be the captain of the cheerleading team, evidently for some school project. As stereotypes might predict, Lexi is an over-confident, air-headed bitch. Why Maddy, an apparently thoughtful, dorkish girl is her best friend I still don’t quite understand. Anyway, during filming one practice while Lexi is trying to show us her best stuff, the team drops her straight on her head, and she snaps her neck and dies. I worried the whole movie was going to be seen through Maddy’s lens, but thankfully after Lexi’s accident (or was it?) the movie carries on (mostly) without Maddy’s camera.

Maddy doesn’t believe Lexi’s death was accidental, so she aims to spend her senior year destroying the lives of those she holds responsible. The two who will feel her wrath most are Terry, Lexi’s ex-boyfriend and captain of the football team, and Tracy, the new captain of the cheerleading team and Terry’s new squeeze. A smart and resourceful girl, Maddy knows the best way to wreak havoc is from within, so she tries out for the cheerleading team. After all, everyone knows there’s an open spot…

For the first half or so, All Cheerleaders Die is a seemingly normal movie. We know from the title alone that something is going to go horribly, terribly wrong with Maddy’s plot, but I’ll be damned if I could’ve guessed the direction McKee would take this flick. Turns out Maddy’s obsessive, Wiccan ex-girlfriend Leena is not willing to let her go, despite the potential consequences. After an altercation between the football team and the cheerleaders causes a terrible car accident in which all the girls die, Leena whips out her Wicca and brings the girls back to life with magic stones. But resurrection comes at a terrible price, and the girls turn into blood-sucking zombie vampire things.

Boy oh boy, people seem to hate this movie! I read a few reviews after watching it and I’ve got to say, I don’t understand where all the vitriol and disappointment comes from. Since when did we start taking horror-comedies so damn seriously? I thought it was pleasantly surprising, original and funny. Looks like only 40% of viewers agree with me. A lot of folks seem turned off by the juxtaposition of the film’s apparent feminist plot with its objectification of the female characters. Sure, there’s an awful lot of scenes with women wearing revealing cheerleading uniforms, but my guess is that’s because they’re cheerleaders. Anyway, I feel like the baring of female flesh implicates the audience far more than it does the director; it’s almost teasing us, daring us to admit we’re a little turned on when we know we shouldn’t be. When Tracy walks into a stranger’s home in her underwear begging for something to eat, both the man and the audience are horrified by her newfound hunger and her unabashed urge to sate it, while also having our own base animal urges tickled. Nothing is neither more frightening nor hot than an empowered young woman, no?

I also don’t think the naysayers give enough credit to McKee’s treatment of stereotypes. At first the cheerleaders do seem pretty damn vapid, but I ended up sympathizing with all of them by the end of the movie. Just like everyone else they each have their own unique set of fears, hopes, dreams and idiosyncrasies. They’re just fucked-up high-school kids like everyone else at their school, it’s just easier for them to hide behind the assumptions the rest of society’s already made about how they should behave. I think it is fair to say that Maddy comes to the same realization as the rest of us do; these bitches aren’t so bad after all. My one beef is how unceremoniously most of them are dispatched by the end of the film. I suppose the purpose of that is to show us how our society is structured in such a way that the strongest man will always beat out the strongest of women, even if they are blood-sucking monsters. The men are treated far less kindly, I’d say; Terry’s captain is one cruel mother fucker, and his “boys” are pretty much trapped under his yoke. The one sympathetic boy tries to leave the team, but is forced to relent as Terry beats the shit out of him. There’s pretty much no redemption for the men in All Cheerleaders Die.

This is, of course, one of those movies that only a small group of people will appreciate. It is irreverent, offensive, gory and exploitative. It certainly isn’t meant for mass-consumption; a run-of-the-mill cheerleader slasher this is not, and thank the Wiccan gods for that. Fair warning that some of the special effects are quite cheesy (those glowing stones aren’t fooling anyone), but I’m willing to forgive that small piece of the puzzle. I found this so surprisingly delightful, and it gives me hope that all those bad reviews I read of The Woman are written by the same people who wrote bad reviews of this flick. At the very least, if this sounds appealing to you in any way, shape or form it is worth giving it a chance; you’ll at least have something to think about.


Youth in Revolt (2009)

It’s weird to read C.D. Payne’s novel Youth in Revolt for the first time when you’re over thirty. Perhaps maybe even made weirder still by the fact that I’m a woman, and Youth in Revolt is very much the story of a teenaged boy so horny he will go to unimaginable lengths to lose his virginity. Even so, I found the novel laugh-out-loud funny and an absolute pleasure to read, despite the fact that every single character, particularly the hero Nick Twisp, was detestable. I usually find it difficult to enjoy a film or book in which the characters are shitty people, but in Youth in Revolt they’re more caricatures of puberty than anything else, so I guess I let it slide.

Naturally, I was interested to see how Youth in Revolt translated to film. Q advised that I should wait a while until after finishing the book before watching the movie, so I wouldn’t be so upset about large swaths of the plot being altered or cut out. I think in the end it was about a month or two after reading that we finally sat down and watched it. Perhaps I should have waited longer!

Meet Nick Twisp. He is as unsure about you as you are about him.

Meet Nick Twisp. He is as unsure about you as you are about him.

Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) has been dealt a lackluster hand in life; his mother (Jean Smart) and father (Steve Buscemi) have divorced, and neither of them seems particularly fond of Nick. He’s currently living with his mother, who is dating a trucker named Jerry (Zach Galifianakis). They are classless, especially to Nick, who enjoys literature and Frank Sinatra. How did he, a truly cultured individual, end up with such trashy parents? A question that has no easy answer, but he asks himself with increasing frequency, especially after he accompanies Mom and Jerry to beautiful Ukiah, CA, where Jerry’s friend has granted them access to his… trailer. Watching Jerry chug cheap beer at the breakfast table, Nick wonders if he could possibly have a worse summer ahead of him.

But there is a bright shining light in that trailer park, and her name is Sheeni Saunders. She is a true intellectual, a beauty with taste and, unfortunately for Nick, a seemingly perfect boyfriend named Trent. Despite Trent, Sheeni and Nick spend a wonderful week together, and begin to plot a way that Nick can escape his mother’s house in Oakland, CA, get his father a new job in Ukiah, and convince him that it’s a great idea for Nick to move in with him. Sheeni insists the only way to get this done is for Nick to be bad. Very, very bad.

See Nick nervously apply sunscreen to Sheeni's exposed back.

See Nick nervously apply sunscreen to Sheeni’s exposed back.

It’s at this time that Nick cultivates an alter-ego; the boy may dream big, but in order to get the girl he wants, he’s going to have to do more than just dream. Enter Francois (Michael Cera in a mustache), who helps Nick commit various crimes such as theft and arson, all while reminding him that the ends indeed justify the means, especially if the end is losing your virginity to Sheeni Saunders.

This movie is really enjoyable and fun to watch. It will make you laugh, no doubt about it, so long as you’re not one of those people that doesn’t like Michael Cera. If you are, obviously, don’t watch this. Just like almost everything else I’ve seen Cera in, he’s very much, well, like Michael Cera. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of versatility in his acting abilities, but that’s okay, it works to the film’s advantage in this case. As far as the film missing some of the best parts of the book, I get that; there is so much going on in the book, the only way to capture all of it would have been a mini-series. Hmm, that actually sounds like a great idea, now that I mention it…

The real trouble I had with this movie is that it made Nick, and even some of the other characters, likable. In essence, they took a handful of plot-points and scenes from the book and recreated them here with completely different people, and frankly I was kind of bothered by that. The novel is totally outrageous, and Nick and his friends do some pert-near unforgivable things to get laid, but in the film everything is taken down about 10 notches. Mom’s boyfriends aren’t nearly as bad as they are in the book. Dad barely lives up to his asshole label; in fact he’s barely seen in the film, which is kind of a bummer because I like Buscemi quite a bit. But really the worst part is that, by the end of this movie, I was quite fond of the character Nick Twisp. I was cheering for him. In the book, I hated the kid and I wanted him to finally get his in the end!

And see Francois, not taking 'no' for an answer.

And see Francois, not taking ‘no’ for an answer.

I’ve been asking myself why the filmmakers would have chosen to water the book down so much, and I guess the answer is the same answer you always get from Hollywood; mass appeal. People love finding offense anywhere they can, and film studios certainly don’t want to be the target of the public’s vitriol. But am I crazy to think that there wouldn’t be a market for a film about a shitty kid who will do anything in his power to get laid? I don’t think so, but hell, that’s just me, what do I know? Perhaps I could have gotten the movie I wanted if John Waters had directed it. I know it’s hard to please everyone, and people who read books that are turned into movies are rarely pleased with the outcome. I just think here the whole point of the book is lost. By making Nick a regular, rather likable guy instead of this little asshole with so many secrets he can barely keep them straight the whole tone is changed. What I liked about the book Youth in Revolt is it didn’t fool its audience into believing that good guys will always get the girl in the end. Quite the opposite, in fact: you have to be bad enough, and good enough at being bad, to really get what you want out of life. In the film, it’s just another good guy with a happy ending, and that’s just disappointing and boring.


The Faculty (1998)

The Faculty is one of those movies that had been lying in wait for me to watch for a long time. I’d always heard, though I can’t for the life of me name the sources, that it was much better than anticipated; a smarter than the average horror movie. So, when we came across one of those 8-in-one DVDs with it on there we figured it was worth a gamble.

Poor Casey, he's just so misunderstood! If only the whole school knew what a great guy he was!

Poor Casey, he’s just so misunderstood! If only the whole school knew what a great guy he was!

All I gotta say is: ugh. I’m sure I’ve written this before, perhaps even in the very same words, but there is nothing worse than a movie that thinks it’s clever, but in reality is predictable and exhausting. I guess Kevin Williamson, the guy that wrote the screenplay, figured he could use the same formula he did for Scream, only this time it’s not a horror movie, it’s a sci-fi movie!

Welcome to Herrington High. It’s one of those high schools that’s exactly like adults think high schools are like: Delilah (Jordana Brewster) the captain of the cheerleading team and editor of the school newspaper is a total fucking bitch, but we’re still supposed to root for her. There’s Casey (Elijah Wood), a dork who crushes hard on her, even though she treats him like shit. There’s Stokely, an angsty loner who reads science-fiction novels (those will come in handy later!) who everyone calls a lesbian because… it’s 1998? There’s Stan the quarterback, who is tired of being loved for his athletic skill and wants to quit the team so he can focus on his… studies. There’s Deke (Josh Hartnett) the entrepreneurial drug and porn dealer who’s repeating his senior year, to sell more drugs, I guess. Finally there’s Marybeth Louise (Laura Harris, that blonde chick from Fifteen, remember that shit?), the new girl who’s bright, cheery, blonde and friendly.

So angsty. Wouldn't she look better in lavender?

So angsty. Wouldn’t she look better in lavender?

The only thing that could bring this unlikely group of cliches together is aliens taking over the school! No, seriously, like Casey and Delilah totally saw Piper Laurie and Robert Patrick suck the life out of Salma Hayek in the faculty lounge! Casey gets the cops involved, but of course they don’t believe him (he’s so misunderstood!) and Delilah goes “incognito” by, you know, putting on a pair of glasses or whatever, and won’t back him up because, uh, I don’t know, it’s not good for her reputation or something?

Could it be the faculty’s strange behavior and a weird, new species Casey finds on the football field are related? It certainly seems that way when the creature bites everyone’s favorite teacher Mr. Furlong (Jon Stewart), Mr. Edward Furlong (ha ha, get it! Get it?) and dude goes apeshit trying to infect Deke! That’s right, it’s this alien creature that’s been infecting the faculty, and the students one by one, in hopes of taking over the whole town! It’s a damn good thing Deke’s drugs are nothing more than No-Doz in powder form;

Eddie Furlong goes apeshit.

Eddie Furlong goes apeshit.

see, the aliens thrive on water, and the diuretic drug dries them out! Now the ragtag group of shitty teens has their weapon. Can they defeat the alien invaders?

Well there’s certainly no way they’d be able to win if it weren’t for Stokely and her vast knowledge of science fiction stories. She knows deep in her geek brain if they kill the mother alien, all the rest of the folks who have been inhabited by the alien will turn back to normal and everyone can be happy again! In theory. Now the trick is to find the mother of them all…

I don’t find Williamson’s cast of characters or how they relate to one-another interesting or innovative in any way. I suppose it’s possible the film just hasn’t aged well; perhaps in 1998 his choice was, oh, I dunno, edgy or some bullshit like that, but now it seems boring, flat, tired and predictable. Worse still is what happens to the kids after everything’s over: Casey is heralded a town hero, and only then does Delilah find him acceptable to be around. Am I supposed to cheer that Casey gets the girl; the bitchy, shitty girl that I fucking hate, in the end? Perhaps worse, Stokely, the black-clad geek kisses her new boyfriend Stan at the end of the film. Am I supposed to be happy that she’s not a lesbian? Now that she’s got a man, I guess the dreariness of life has lifted and it shows; she’s wearing a fucking lavender sweater. What the fuck are you trying to tell us,

She's infected... with bitchiness!

She’s infected… with bitchiness!

Williamson? If we use our geek knowledge for good we can be happy? That in the end no one really wants to wear black? Fuck it, let’s all go out and buy fucking lavender cardigans! I call fucking bullshit. It’s pretty much Ally Sheedy’s transformation at the end of the Breakfast Club; “you know, you look a lot better without all that black shit under your eyes.” At least she had the balls to say she liked all that black shit. This is all the more troubling being that the alien’s reason for attempting to take over the high school was because it knew the students wanted to belong; all it needed to do was exploit their lack of self-confidence in order to gain their submission. And what happens in the end? The alien hasn’t won their submission, but society has; they’ve given up their individual strangeness in favor for playing for team normal. And that is some lame-ass bullshit.

Perhaps Williamson was going for some sort of irony with the ending; a weak attempt at turning the genre on its head and pointing out all the faults with horror, sci-fi and teen films. But I don’t buy that. By the time we get to the ending, it’s far too late to attempt this kind of recovery. While Scream may have been a clear shot at meta filmmaking, The Faculty isn’t as much. It’s much more of a straight-forward horror/sci-fi flick that just happens to reference its source material. It makes its stabs at humor, but they rarely work and they certainly don’t color the movie as some sort of self-aware horror/comedy. Nope, I think this is just a shitty movie more interested in gaining the approval of the normal kids than appealing to the weirdos. It lost me. I think I hated it. Yes, pretty sure I hated it.



Dazed and Confused (1993)

When I was younger, I enjoyed Dazed and Confused just as much as the next kid. I remember excitedly watching it on cable, and when my mother asked me what it was about I said something along the lines of: “You know, high school kids drinking and smoking dope and hanging out!” She responded: “Oh, jeez. Great. What would you want to watch that for?”

Allright allright

Allright allright

Valid question, mom. After watching it as an adult, I’m not sure I have an answer. And I don’t know if I had an answer back then, either, except the attraction to someone else’s 70’s nostalgia. My high school experience was absolutely, positively nothing like the experience depicted in this film (thank gods), and even when I was in the midst of the high school doldrums, I knew my experience would never turn out to be anything like it. So, it’s not as if I identified with these characters, really. Does that mean it’s some kind of weird voyeurism that attracted me to it then, and even now? Or maybe the desire to live vicariously through these kids during a very specific time and place in America; a setting I’ll never experience first-hand?

I'd sit in that chair!

I’d sit in that chair!

It is probably a little bit of both. Perhaps when I was younger, I imagined this is how all the cool kids in school were living their lives and I thought Dazed and Confused was the only window I’d have into all the fun and games. And now I most certainly would time-travel to 1976, even if it would put me back in high school. The hair. The clothes. The music. Yes!

Even though I don’t identify with any of these characters, they are almost all lovable. I care about what happens to them. I enjoy watching them make mistakes. And who would have guessed the guy that played David Wooderson would go on to win an Oscar 20 years later? It may not be the deepest flick out there; it’s not going to make you ponder life, death and the afterworld, but it is really fucking enjoyable.


The Last American Virgin (1982)

Hot dates.

Hot dates.

I’m no 80’s-teen-sex-comedy connoisseur, but we all have aspirations, right? So as The Last American Virgin came highly recommended, albeit with the caveat that it’s not exactly what one would expect, I rented it immediately.

And, well, I must say, my pal was correct, it isn’t exactly what I expected. More accurately, I suppose the first half is just about exactly what I expected, but the dark turn of the film’s second half left a pretty nasty taste in my mouth, as I suppose it was meant to. And just a warning, if you’re the type who doesn’t want the plots of your 80’s-teen-sex-comedies spoiled, don’t read on.

Hot car.

Hot car.

Virgin starts off pretty typically: there’s Gary, who is your normal pizza-delivery teen, hungry for sex but scared of it all the same. His two best friends in the world are an asshole named Rick (aptly played by Steve Antin, or as you probably know him Troy from The Goonies) and the token fat kid, David. The boys have sex (or near-sex) adventures together from strange girls snorting Sweet’N Low to horny foreign ladies to prostitutes with crabs.

The fun stops short when Rick starts boning the cutie next door, Karen. See, Gary has it bad for Karen, but the poor guy just doesn’t have what it takes to get young ladies in bed, I guess. It’s made all the worse by Rick’s nonchalance regarding her: how can he be so casual about such a wonderful girl? When Karen gets pregnant, Rick leaves her out in the cold,

Hot undies.

Hot undies.

uninterested in dealing with the problem he helped cause. Here’s where our hero Gary swoops in, knight in shining armor and all that, takes Karen to “take care of” the problem and nurses her through her psychological distress.

Gary thinks he’s got it on lockdown now, but the terrible lesson he hasn’t learned yet is that nice guys finish last. Always. Can you imagine the sting Gary feels as he watches Karen go right back into Rick’s arms after all he’s done for her?

My immediate reaction to the ending of the movie is: why? I couldn’t understand why any woman in any circumstance would ever speak to such a diaper-wiper like Rick ever again. A conversation with my husband illuminated the male mind a little bit for me; of course the girl goes back to the jerk, she’s only

Cute, but d-u-m-b.

Cute, but d-u-m-b.

interested in sex, anyway. The uncontrollable libido of the teenager is to blame for everyone’s poor decisions here: Rick only wants sex, so of course he’s not interested in the difficulties a real relationship would offer. Gary only wants sex, but doesn’t know how to go about getting it – even worse, is actually afraid of it, so goes about it by pursuing a damaged and hurt girl who is in pain and perhaps maybe emotionally fragile enough to be taken advantage of. And Karen, well, she only wants sex, so she’s not interested in having the nice guy who couldn’t really make a move in her life in any capacity except, perhaps, to clean up her messes for her.

What's so bad about Rose, anyway?

What’s so bad about Rose, anyway?

If that is indeed the male perspective, than this is most certainly a movie for men. I didn’t find any of the female characters relatable in any way at all, except for perhaps Karen’s best friend Rose (Kimmy Robertson) who crushes hard on Gary and just wants the guy to rub lotion on her back, but her character is peripheral and inconsequential. It’s impossible for me not to compare this movie to Fast Times at Ridgemont High; they’re both made in 1982, they’re both comedies about the difficulties of teen sex, and they both involve pretty intense abortion scenes. The biggest difference between the two are the motivations of the characters, male and female – but perhaps I’m just more sensitive to the female characters in question. The main female character from Fast Times, Stacy, makes the same stupid mistakes that Karen does, but in the

One thing all teen movies seem to have in common: taking advantage of the nerd.

One thing all teen movies seem to have in common: taking advantage of the nerd.

end, she learns from her mistake and ends up with the nice guy – she isn’t purely driven by sex, and I can relate to that!

Maybe I just didn’t have a normal teenage-hood. Is that what it is? Or is there really more to kids than uncontrollable sex drives? I guess there’s something to be said for a coming-of-age flick ending with a huge, giant slap in the face about how crappy adulthood is probably going to be, so on the one hand, I liked that about Virgin. On the other hand, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t see the use in having a young girl written to be so stupid.

All of this makes it sound like I didn’t like the movie. That’s not true, I did like the movie. It made me laugh and it made me upset, and in the end I appreciate it when movies evoke varied emotions in me. I’m just not sure I like what the movie had to say.



Fright Night (1985)

Suburban voyeurism can be quite dangerous when your neighbor is a vampire!

Suburban voyeurism can be quite dangerous when your neighbor is a vampire!

Watching too many horror movies can make you a little paranoid. I’m pretty sure I can blame the movies for my jumpy nature, or the fact that every time I’m in the country, or the woods, or a dark alley in the city, I’m waiting for a monster or murderer to come along and ruin my day.

Sounds like me and Charley Brewster, the hero of Tom Holland’s Fright Night, have similar problems. Only for Charley, there actually is a monster, and he’s right next door! But poor Charley has enough trouble convincing his girlfriend Amy to sleep with him, how will he get her to believe there’s a vampire living in the next

Peter Vincent and his bag of props

Peter Vincent and his bag of props

house over? Amy and Charley’s pal Ed think Charley’s just been watching too much of Fright Night, a television show featuring old-timey horror flicks, most of which star the show’s host, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), a once well-known, but now washed-up horror actor.

It doesn’t help things that Charley’s new neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is too damn charming for anyone to believe he’s a monster. But Charley thinks if he can only get Peter Vincent to help him kill his neighbor, all his troubles will be over! Shame, though, Peter Vincent doesn’t

...but Jerry Dandridge isn't impressed!

…but Jerry Dandridge isn’t impressed!

actually believe in vampires, he’s just an actor. But after pleas from Amy and Ed, Mr. Vincent decides to do what he does best and act like he believes, all in hopes to save Charley’s supposedly fragile sanity.

This movie is fantastic. The casting is pretty much perfect: Chris Sarandon never fails me, he is so darn good at playing a winking bad guy! I love it, and I love him! And watching Roddy McDowall’s incredulity grow as the show goes on is pretty great, too. But even without them, this movie would still be awesome; it has just the right balance of humor and scares to make for the most enjoyable horror cocktail.

It is totally beyond me why anyone would feel the need to remake this movie, and with Colin Farrell no less! Admittedly, I haven’t seen it; why would I bother when this one is so spot-on? But I must say that I’m curious if it carries over the original’s intent and attitude. I have this sneaking suspicion that it doesn’t…


LOL (2012)

LOLWe all make mistakes, and perhaps no one understands that more these days than Miley Cyrus. Lucky for me, the biggest mistake I’ve made recently is pretty venial, but horrible all the same: I watched LOL, a terribly stupid and thoughtless piece of garbage starring none other than Ms. Cyrus and an apparently desperate-to-be-in-anything Demi Moore.

I’m not even sure it’s worth a plot outline, but here goes anyway because I’ve got time tonight: Lola (Cyrus) is a teenage girl who wears terrible clothes and plays around on her phone and Mac a lot. Her parents are split up, and she is like, totally best friends with her mom (Moore). In fact, she seems to come from a long line of poorly-parented parents; her grandmother actually advises her that “It’s good to eat when you’re sad.”

She, like, totally loves this guy at school who looks like a model and plays guitar. His dad doesn’t want him to play guitar though, because in order to be successful you have to hate life. So like, he plays his guitar anyway and despite some Three’s Company-esque misunderstandings Lola and model-boy get back together just in time for model-boy’s dad to see him play his music live and to finally understand what makes his son tick.

Life is just so full of love, loneliness, misunderstanding, hope, and wonder, ya know? I mean, like, I learned so much watching this movie! Like, it’s really hard to be a parent. Also, we all make mistakes, but it’s like totally cool because people will love you no matter how horrible you are!

To paraphrase a friend of mine, it’s great to watch dumb movies, because they make you feel smart. And perhaps after trying to muddle my way through the talky-sci-fi confusion of Primer I needed some mind-numbing entertainment. I don’t know what it is, but sometimes I’ve just got to watch some horrible, mainstream movie that is completely pointless, sad, and disgusting. Got to keep in touch with the youngsters, right?


The Virgin Suicides (1999)

VirginSuicideswinkI’ve willfully and skillfully avoided The Virgin Suicides ever since it came out. Something about Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst together turned me off just about as much as possible. I once again must admit to my mistake; I should have watched this thing a long time ago.

Based on Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel of the same name, The Virgin Suicides tells the story of the Lisbon family. Mrs. Lisbon (Kathleen Turner) is an uptight, God-fearing Catholic. Her husband, Ronald (James Woods) is the math teacher at the local high school. Together, they managed to create five lovely daughters: Mary, Therese, Cecilia, Lux and Bonnie. The girls are a mystery to a group

Distraught Lisbon girls.

Distraught Lisbon girls.

of local boys, who are confused enough about their own sexuality let alone that of the Lisbon girls. Everything is thrown into deeper mystery when the youngest Lisbon girl, Cecilia, unsuccessfully attempts suicide. Somehow the boys get hold of her diary and try to figure out just why she’d do such a thing. Even after poring over every page, they still couldn’t figure it out.

Things get worse for the girls after Cecilia successfully kills herself and Lux (Kirsten Dunst) attracts the cutest boy in school, Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett). Trip somehow persuades Mr. Lisbon to grant him permission to take Lux to the homecoming dance, but only if he gets three friends to take all the other sisters along with them. The girls have a great time, but Lux more than oversteps her boundaries, and Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon go

The girls just love Trip Fontaine.

The girls just love Trip Fontaine.

apeshit and decide the only way to keep their girls safe is to lock them up in the house permanently. You can guess what happens from here.

I really liked this movie. Despite its obviously grim subject matter, it’s actually very funny. In some ways, it seemed a little bit like Rushmore‘s angstier little sister. I’ve never read the book, but I understand the film got a lot of backlash for trying to film something that’s unfilmable. I’m curious to read  the book now to see exactly what the naysayers mean, because frankly I think it was done very well. Perhaps it works better if you don’t know the source material? Either way, I liked what the movie had to say; something about the mysteries of puberty and how the 1970’s were no place for the ideals of the 1950’s. Definitely worth a watch.


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