31 Days of Horror: Week Two

The 31 Days of Horror continue with Week Two! I’m excited to pair up these next seven movies with some yummy food, tasty drinks and delectable double features. Below is the entire calendar if you want a sneak peak for the next few weeks of Spooky Season! If you missed week one, you can find it here.

Anyways, let’s kick off Week Two with one of the greatest films of all time, in my opinion.

October 8th: The Haunting

The Haunting (1963) - IMDb
31 Days of Horror: Week Two

No, not the terrible remake with Owen Wilson. I’m talking the original from 1963. Based of the Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House, Dr. John Markway assembles a team of people to confirm whether Hill House is haunted or not, due to its history of its inhabitants meeting strange, gruesome ends. It is a very spooky ghost masterpiece. It also includes amazing queer subtext between the two main women Eleanor (Nell) and Theodora. The Mike Flanagan limited series The Haunting of Hill House is also an amazing rendition. However, it is not so much an adaptation as this one is. This film’s legacy lives on and is an iconic staple to the whole horror timeline.

All the spooky haunts of this film wanted you all to have a literal taste. Therefore the cocktail for this movie is a Liquid Ghost. For the kiddos (as this film is on the tamer side) or those who choose not to drink, a white chocolate hot chocolate is an alternative, as this movie feels cold at times. Warm soup is a good pairing for this, however I am aiming for little bites, so these French Onion Bites will do. As for a double feature for this film, my suggestion is the film that The Mother of the Void just reviewed: Cat People, as it is another classic horror film dripping with subtext.

October 9th: The Strangers

31 Days of Horror: Week Two

The films (other than Hush) have been rather tame thus far. Therefore, let’s crank it up. This is a slasher film where the assailants truly have no motive. Therefore it is a malicious, terrifying film that has you on the edge of your seat through its entire run time. It’s bloody, it’s creepy, it’s a slasher through and through. That’s about all that I can say, as this film is purely action from the get-go.

Because of the violence in this film, I found a fun cocktail from Sugar and Soul called Blood and Guts, which is a variation of a Jell-O shot meets classic cocktail. If you’re not a fan of that texture, emulate that same red color with some classic Shirley Temples (according to 50+ 5-star ratings, this is the best Shirley Temple). As for a double feature, if you can stomach some more violence, skip the sub-par sequel. Go check out Maniac, a 1980’s exploitation-slasher that pushed the boundaries so movies like The Strangers could be released. If we’re looking for more “lighthearted” after all that brutality, Halloween: H20 is a good alternative. A classic slasher still, but a bit lighter than Maniac.

Food for this movie is something I imagine the couple stress-ate at the wedding/proposal gone wrong before these grisly events, and the first thing that popped into my head was Caprese Skewers. Delicious, but I have only really had them at special events, so let’s make this night a special event of slashing. Finish it off with some Jordan almonds if you’re really want the wedding vibes to overtake the horror.

October 10th: Southbound

31 Days of Horror: Week Two

If you’ve been following the blog thus far, you know that this film has come up a few times. I honestly have watched this film once. Yet, it has stuck in my head for the past five years. An anthology film by the same creators behind the V/H/S series and Ready or Not, Southbound deals with the unholiest of topics, being another film that pushes against my tolerance for depravity. Mind you, it’s not as depraved as torture porn films, however, if you are uncomfortable with Satanic symbolism, this one will get to you. I personally am not, I was more horrified by the car accident/hospital scene that is on the gorier side. Anyways, this anthology twists and turns into itself, with a lot of stories overlapping to create one big ol’ hellfest.

What is more devilish than Deviled Eggs and a Red Devil cocktail? Maybe the gas that comes post deviled-egg-consumption, but I digress. For the zero-proof fans, sub the alcohol in this recipe with some grapefruit juice, and it will taste just as citrisy and delicious. As for a double-feature for this one, I suggest the father of anthology horror Creepshow, which without it, we would not have this format. If you want to know more about anthology horror and read up on the other creations by these filmmakers, check out TVOC’s first article: Anthology Horror: Short Stories Unfolded.

October 11th: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) - IMDb

Laying out day by day, I didn’t realize I laid out such a brutal weekend. Oh well, into the deep end we go. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre set the standard of what the modern slasher looks like back in 1974, and you can see a lot of ties back to its style, predominantly in gory horror heads Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Darren Lynn Bousman. It’s a disgusting film, given its budget and its age, and most of it still holds up. Heed warning if you haven’t watched the original however, Franklin is probably one of the most annoying horror characters I have ever seen, and him alone almost made me give up on the movie the first time I watched it. Lots of tension, lots of screaming and lots of violence–just as every good slasher should be.

Over on my new favorite blog, Geeks Who Eat, they have put together an amazing pairing specifically for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that is exactly what I envision consuming during Texas Chainsaw. Therefore, I had to feature them. You can check out their pairing here: The Snack is Family: A Texas Chainsaw Massacre Inspired Pairing (2geekswhoeat.com). For an alternative to bloody mary-style drinks, I found another drink that is sure to get you as messed up in the head as The Family: The Bloody Chainsaw. For the zero-proof peeps, here’s a guide from Texas itself on How to Brew Sweet Tea. The double feature for this one that comes to mind is The Midnight Meat Train, because similar weapons are used in this Clive Barker adaptation–oh yeah, and more brutality. It’s quite a way to start your week.

October 12th: Night of the Living Dead

Zombie Apocalypse Now: 'Night of the Living Dead' at 50 - Rolling Stone

What is known as the first zombie flick is the choice for this cool, sleepy Tuesday night. Night of the Living Dead is both a cult classic as well as a revolutionary film, as it features the first black protagonist in a horror movie, played expertly by Duane Jones. The quote “They’re coming to get you Barbara!” comes from this film, but its incredibly controversial and powerful ending is probably the most memorable upon viewing.. A teaser for what’s coming next on The Void of Celluloid: this film will be the first featured on the podcast coming soon… Anyways, I feel as if this film has not been seen enough, despite it being the film that started one of the most dominating genres in horror films. Therefore, it demands a spot on the calendar.

Of course the cocktail I would choose is titled the Zombie, which can be easily made into a virgin Zombie minus all the liquor and increasing the pineapple and grapefruit juice to make it at least 12 ounces. And to really amp up the zombie vibes, take your movie snack ideas and turn it into breakfast with Bloody Gut Cinnamon Rolls. Since I can’t get enough of Duane Jones, the double feature will be Ganja and Hess, a experimental horror film that deals with cursed objects and vampires. It’s a fun film with a lot of metaphors. So much so in fact, experimental rap group Clipping. formulated a whole album around it called “There Existed an Addiction to Blood”. You can check that out on Spotify (and I encourage you do).

October 13th: Tucker and Dale VS. Evil

Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010) - IMDb

There is no way that this has flown off your radar if you already know about this bash of a film. Easily one if not my favorite horror comedy, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil take the evil-hillbilly trope and flip it on its head for some good, gory laughs. Not to mention the amazing acting coming from Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine, Tucker and Dale will stick in your head as some of the most loveable characters of the horror universe.

You have to drink a PBR with this film. You just have to. If you’re not into PBR, Montucky Cold Snack is a good alternative for alcohol, and brew up a hot cocoa if you’re not into the whole beer thing at all. Make sure you toast to the two doofs every time you crack a new one open. As far as food, have some breakfast for dinner with these Pumpkin Pancakes. Make sure to serve them with a side of bacon or have scrambled eggs as an alternative just in case anyone is afraid of/doesn’t like pancakes. The double feature is very obviously Shaun of the Dead, as we like to keep the buddy vs. evil comedy trope going and I frequent these two together almost every year.

October 14th: Alien

Ah, the grandest of the sci-fi horror, Alien takes the cake of a slow burn horror film going batshit and having you squirming in your seat, even on repeat viewings. Follow a crew out in space as they going searching the terrain assigned to them by homebase. When a foreign creature attaches itself to a face of an unsuspecting John Hurt, paranoia, dread and doubt fill the crew as the alien thing takes on its rapidly evolving form. Honestly, the set and costume design alone would carry this film, but with brilliant performances, especially from Sigourney Weaver as the badass Ripley, this film is a staple and should be in yearly rotation if you appreciate good cinema.

When I think of Alien, I think of its cover art and that neon green color, so therefore the cocktail that came to mind was the Midori Sour. A fun zero proof alternative to a Midori Sour is melon flavored Ramune soda.. Because I can’t help but think of sweet lil’ Jonesy, add these Cat Pizzas to the menu for a little bit of fun in this fairly grim story. And of course, the double feature (while it isn’t remotely horror) is Aliens, as you can’t pass up a double feature of these two films when you get a chance to do so. Plus, Aliens features even bigger features of the Xenomorphs, which are scary just by themselves, so cut me some slack this one time. It’s an action packed ending to a week kind of full of brutality (sorry, not sorry?).

Conclusion and What’s Up Next Week

So there we have it, that wraps up my suggestions for week two of 31 Days of Horror. I hope you guys are enjoying the series thus far, as we have two more installments this month and I plan on doing broader installments of random collections throughout the year, as I enjoy making them. As I mentioned before, there is a podcast in the works. It will be called Dripping with Relevance and there will be more details out soon as the first season becomes more flushed out and production begins.

Meanwhile, next week, The Mother of the Void returns on Wednesday with the classic French horror film Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux Sans Visage), and I’m glad she’s having fun with it, even when two whole pages of her summary disappears into the laptop void. Next Friday will be the third installment of 31 Days of Horror, which will be the last one leading up to the Final Ten Days of Halloween. So stay strapped in and keep spelunking, as we have so much more in store.

31 Days of Horror: Let’s Kick it Off

Can you feel that? It’s finally October, and now I am finally able to say it is spooky season. This means a month-long horror movie marathon: The Void of Celluloid’s 31 Days of Horror. Most of the time, it’s a casual viewing or rewatch, maybe with some popcorn. But sometimes, you want to make a night out of it. Each week, I’m going to go over the calendar posted below and pair a snack and cocktail with each movie I designated for the day and what movie I would pair with each film for a double feature. Posted below is the calendar for the whole month. Let’s get things started!

As you can see, this year is the first year of The Void of Celluloid’s 31 Nights of Horror. Therefore, it is a whole lot of standards and not a lot of style (forgive my mediocre Excel skills). I’ve realized that I have a lot of fans that may not be horror fanatics, and I want the first to always be the one that people can come back to for some strong recommendations, even if it isn’t October yet. I’m looking forward to these breakdowns, as I can offer double features that are a bit more niche for fanatics to possibly replace the one listed, or walk down memory lane and then possibly find something new. Anyways, on to Week One

You can find Week 2 here and Week 3 here.

October 1st: The Cabin In the Woods

31 Days of Horror

I firmly believe Joss Whedon is a misogynistic asshole. However, that does not deter my love for his writing and craftmanship. That applies to this movie, which feels like an ode to all things horror. This film focuses on five college kids go on a trip to a cabin in the woods and horrific events ensue. Sound familiar? Like almost someone else was copying and pasting tropes into a program that controls the scenario? Hmm… In avoidance of potential spoilers, The Cabin in the Woods is a romp and a love letter to the filmmakers that came before. In particular Sam Rami, as the comedic elements and cabin itself seem to reference the Evil Dead series. I think it’s also a great meta-horror to kick of the season chock full of spooky familiarity.

Pairings for this film include a Summer Shandy (or an Arnold Palmer if alcohol isn’t your choice) and Sheet Pan Chicken Nachos, as they scream frat house with a little bit of class. As for double feature, the sequel/remake is on the calendar already, so go ahead and pop in Sam Rami’s original The Evil Dead, and enjoy the grape-soda-looking blood fest that comes from this extremely low budget masterpiece that made a legend.

OCtober 2nd: A Nightmare on Elm Street

This rare 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' deleted scene sheds new light on the  film | Movie News | SBS Movies

It’s a Saturday, and it’s time for slashers. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic filled to the brim with bloodshed and 80’s cheesiness. Therefore, I thought it was a good place to start in regards to slashers. A group of high school kids from a small Midwest town start having crazy vivid dreams. Funny enough, they have the same antagonist, a mangled man with knives for hands known as Freddy Krueger. Once they realized that these dreams can in fact kill them, they try everything they can to put a stop to it, even if it means never sleeping again. It’s cheesy, it’s creative and it’s always a fun watch every time so therefore it had to be featured.

Kick off with the original, skip the second one (even though it is glorious, you can find out a bit more on my past blog post LGBTQ+ Representation: An Overview of the Horror) and have A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors as the double feature for this film. This is the sequel that matches the energy, creativity and the scares of the first one. It also has the iconic “Prime time, bitch!” scene in it, so if you’ve never seen that, it’s a must. As far as drinks go, the cocktail of choice is of course an Irish Coffee (a coffee with brown sugar would be a great virgin alternative) as you need that caffeine to hopefully never sleep again. The featured snack is going to be Little Smokies, as fire is quite a big role in this film.

October 3rd: Devil

Devil (2010) review
Yes, it does take place in 2010, so the smartphone and the flashlight on it were not in wide distribution.

This film is scary on so many levels, and not only because it takes place primarily in an elevator. A group of five strangers are going about their day when they are stuck in a broken down elevator. While waiting for a maintenance team, things starts to go awry as their secrets seemingly are forced out by a darker force greater than themselves. Written by M. Night Shyamalan, you can only expect twists and turns in this intense, condensed story.

On the topic of seemingly cursed mundane things, the double feature I pair with this film is Oculus. You can read more on Oculus in my rundown of Mike Flanagan works. Since it has to do with a tall building, I’m going to keep up with the wordplay and pair a Manhattan with this film (you can find the virgin variation here). Since the cocktail is an elegant, class it up with Fig, Goat Cheese, & Caramelized Onion Flatbread or dress it down with some Homemade Popcorn Chicken, preferably dipped in something smoky and spicy.

October 4th: The Thing

The Thing movie remake confirmed

While I usually throw this one on in November due to its snowy setting, this never fails to give me a good scare. Taking place in the seemingly barren Antarctica, a group or American researchers are disturbed by a seemingly helicopter attack. They take in a sled dog that was seemingly running away from the attack, unknowingly inviting in the very thing that will manipulate and try to pick them off one by one. It’s a story that leans on the paranoia both of the characters and the viewer, and it is a Carpenter classic. It also features amazing special effects in regards to the practical medium.

This film always makes me feel extremely cold, so warm up with a Hot Buttered Rum or a Buttered Not Rum Mocktail. Keep the cozy up with some Salted Caramel Popcorn. Leaning on the sweets helps with the paranoid feeling, but if you want to keep the creeps up, throw on 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Good luck not side eyeing your movie buddies due to the heightened paranoia in the room.

October 5th: The Fog

John Carpenter's The Fog - Trailer (HD) (1980) - YouTube

We are sticking with John Carpenter the next day (sorry not sorry) and going to two years back to The Fog. Bodega Bay is a seemingly ordinary town, but it has its ghost stories. All normalcy disappears as a fog rolls into the bay, causing a sequence of terrifying events to the residents of this coastal town. Carpenter is known for his suspenseful horror, and this film delivers that with a mildly violent touch. It’s one of the unsung heroes in Carpenter’s discography, and deserves more recognition. Also, avoid the remake at all costs, it’s god awful.

With a name like Bodega Bay, you almost would want a drink from a bodega boy. Therefore, I’m pairing a Bay Breeze cocktail with this movie (here’s a Hurricane Mocktail as a yummy alternative). As far as keeping the creeps up at sea, my double feature pairing for this film is Below, as the scares continue under the water rather than on the shore.

October 6th: What we do in the shadows

What We Do in the Shadows: See the first three minutes of short that  inspired the film | EW.com

Now, it can’t be all horrifying. I may be depraved, but I definitely still like to laugh. Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows is a brilliant mockumentary, not absent of gore and some mild jumpscares. Follow Viago, Deacon and Vladislav as they room together in New Zealand and have to take a rather annoying new vampire under their wings (bat wings, of course). This film has spun off into a very successful TV show on FX, but nothing quite beats the original troop as the chemistry between long time friends Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi carry this film to hilarious heights.

With this film, you got to have ‘pasketti, or try it in bite size forms such as these Easy Spaghetti and Meatball Appetizers. And due to Vladislav being deadly but delicious, steal a Vampire’s Kiss cocktail while you’re at it. Or if you’re in the more wholesome mood like Viago, go for the Vampire Margarita Mocktail. To keep on delightful vampire tales, the obvious double feature to this is Fright Night, which while I prefer the original, the remake is not bad at all and has amazing performances, including one from the late Anton Yelchin.

October 7th: Hush

Hush | Netflix

Alright, time to crank it up again. Yes, this is another Mike Flanagan film. Yes, I adore his work and will not shut up about him. Hush is an intense modern slasher full of creative moves and smart writing, Our final girl here is deaf and mute, and while the killer tries to use that to his best advantage, she is able to stay right on top of him due to her quick thinking and creative counterattacks. It’s an intense game of bloodsplattered chess that will keep you on the edge of your seat for its entire runtime. It also doesn’t wear off in rewatches, so if you’re thinking of skipping this one because you already saw it, think again and have some fun.

The double feature that comes to mind that can take the mind of depravity but amps up the gore is Ready or Not, another brilliant cat-and-mouse game with ridiculousness sprinkled in there. Since both of these films feature spicy and smart heroines, Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers seem to be the move in this blood fest. Pair that greasy grub with the Best Ever Bloody Mary Recipe (remove the vodka for a mocktail, spicy tomato juice can really hit the spot) and you got yourselves a bloodbath.

Until Next time on 31 Days of horror…

There you have it, the first seven days filled with tasty treats, delectable drinks and a multitude of films. Join us next Friday on The Void of Celluloid as we delve into the next seven films. In the meantime, the Mother of the Void (mi madre) posted earlier this week on the wild film The Black Cat and will have a new post this Wednesday for the film Cat People, a wild film with amazing, poignant subtext. You can find that here on The Void of Celluloid. Happy Spooky Season and thanks for spelunking this void with me.

The Final Girl: How Wes Craven Saves the Day

Horror movies had quite a rocky start in depicting women. Early horror and the age of monster movies depicted women as damsels in distress rather than the final girl archetype we see today. They were always preyed upon and scared into submission. Most of the time, they were helpless. We see from the start of horror all the way to the 1960s with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Marion Crane isn’t really moving while she stabbed in the shower, which contradicts the ballsy moves she makes in the beginning of the film. She flails and she screams, but without the effort to do something, she dies naked, cold and humiliated.

Psycho Crane Sisters: Ancestors to the Final Girl - Ghoulish Media

It is important to remember that Marion Crane is not what horror fans know as the “final girl,” but rather her sister Lila that solves the mystery and escapes near death at the end of the film. Psycho did present a shift in the female protagonist, but Hitchcock is not the one to turn to for female empowerment. His following film The Birds is infamous for the mistreatment of actress Tippi Hedren. Instead, we are going to focus on the transition of the female protagonist in horror starting in the 1970s, and how the trope of the final girl went from empowering to demeaning. It remained that way throughout the years until the 1990s with the release of Scream, which destroys and rebuilds the trope once more.

1974: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was groundbreaking at its time of release. It determined what the slasher genre would be in the next few years. It was the next major exploitation horror film after Wes Craven’s release of The Last House on the Left, which is notorious for its brutality towards the two women. That film continued to push the narrative of damsels in distress–in high distress in this case–as they were put into a completely helpless situation. Yes, there is revenge as we see a mother and father rain hellfire on the rapist-murderers, but we don’t see the wronged women get justice themselves.

Marilyn Burns, Texas Chain Saw Massacre actress, dies aged 65 - BBC News

One of the first appearances of the trope that defines the slasher genre is Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This film is the standard of low budget grindhouse, and has the bare bones of what a final girl would look and be like in future films. Sally Hardesty is the last one left alive, and she does get out of the terrifying situation she finds herself in towards the film’s climax. She has good instinct too, but honestly, she gets out of there due to pure luck. She also drags that poor semi truck driver into the situation during the final scene. He is the one to deal the blow that saves both of them. That doesn’t dismiss her as a final girl, but instead of the typical showdown the final girl has with the killer, Sally takes the flight method rather than the fight method.

1974: Black Christmas

Released the same year as the previous film, Black Christmas is an underrated slasher pioneer. It released the same weekend as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but carries a different tone. While both are gruesome, Black Christmas takes a different approach with its characters. Many tropes trace back to this movie, and considering this movie inspired John Carpenter to make Halloween, I say that Jess Bradford is the pioneer of the final girls. For more comparisons between Black Christmas and Halloween, check out The Ringer’s article ‘Black Christmas’ Was the First ‘Halloween’.

What sets Jess apart from Sally is that Jess seems to have a functioning brain and does not shriek at anything and everything in sight. That is a real insensitve take, I know that the traumatizing situations justify Sally’s reactions, but it isn’t the usual image of a final girl. Instead a final girl does what she needs to do, which involves being sneaky and keeping quiet. It also involves a headstrong attitude. Jess exhibits both in the action of the film as well as the other plot points, most poignantly the discussion she has with her boyfriend in regards to her plans for an abortion.

FINAL GIRL PROFILE: Jess Bradford, Black Christmas (1974) - The Black  Museum: Lurid Lectures for the Morbidly Curious

There is something deeply unsettling about the fate of this final girl, as the ending is ambiguous and it leans more towards killing off the final girl, since she receives the damning phone call. This is why I claim this movie and Texas Chainsaw pioneering films. The main reason being that their final girls do not fit the modern day image of the final girl. However, I give it Black Christmas to kick off this trope, as there are similarities between Jess and our next final girl Laurie Strode.

1978: Halloween

Laurie Strode is always the first to come to mind when I think about final girls. John Carpenter set the groundwork for the strong female protagonist with his 1978 film Halloween. She is a quiet, reserved teenager responsible for babysitting a kid Halloween night. She is on edge throughout the beginning of the movie as she sees Michael Meyers lurking in the shadows. Therefore, in the beginning and by the constant harassment of her friends, we as the audience are meant to view her as “lame”. That’s not it at all though. She is self aware of herself and her actions, which is why she kicks it into gear when she realizes Michael picked off her friends one by one.

In Praise of the Shy Girl: Halloween's Laurie Strode (Women In Horror  Series) | by Kelcie Mattson | Applaudience | Medium

With Laurie being the stay-at-home-and-study type in contrast with her somewhat reckless friends, it is sometimes read that Laurie’s survival is like a reward for her purity. This is a stripped down, male gazey version of Laurie Strode and the Final Girl as a whole. Whether we like it or not, the standard for women is lowkey pedophiliac its focus–more like obssession–on virginity. This aspect supposed to be admired about the final girl. This is the wrong way of looking at it. Rather than glamorize the idea of virginity, it should praise not succumbing to peer pressure and holding standards for yourself. Her friends tell her to loosen up multiple times in the film’s beginning. Laurie stands her ground and continues to be herself, all the way up to the end of the film. Tragically, the first train of thought is what the horror industry ran with.

1980: Friday the 13th

The next big slasher is what gave us the so-called “rules” of the genre: Friday the 13th. This has a big plot point of punishing the act of sex, as that is the reasoning Mrs. Voorhees attaches to her son’s death, and rightfully so, as neglect to watch over the swimmers led to him drowning. But they push that punishment to the extreme, with Mrs. Voorhees striking during or right after the act. It’s mindless revenge as none of the counselors were around Camp Crystal Lake during Jason’s death. Therefore it comes off more as a senile woman punishing the act of sex rather than getting revenge for her son.

Friday the 13th: Why Alice was Killed for part II – Mack's Musings

Alice Hardy is our final girl in this film. The film exhibits her prudishness with the strip poker scene and her childlike crush on Bill, therefore it establishes the assumption that she is a virgin. What makes her the standard for the final girl is her epic showdown and kill of the villain. The seemingly innocent Alice is fed up and lops Pamela Voorhees’ head off, which according to her character we saw in the rest of the film, it is fairly unexpected and has us cheering for her. While Laurie Strode served as influence for Alice Hardy, the ideal final girl is Alice when the trope is analyzed by itself.

1984: A Nightmare on Elm Street

This implication of slashers punishing the youngsters for sex and drugs carried itself on a box office pedestal throughout the 1980s as several knockoffs and sequels planted their roots in the home video-palooza of the 80s. Though some had their twists and turns, the final girls became more and more washed out. It was almost like the final girl was becoming a hollow shell of herself and they were hitting copy-paste with each new release. Wes Craven took on a different kind of final girl in A Nightmare on Elm Street by giving Freddy a different motive than the motiveless voiceless killers of the early 80s, but even then Freddy painted himself as a godlike figure doing punishing.

Why A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET'S Nancy Is Horror's Greatest Final Girl -  Nerdist

Nancy Thompson is smart and has a good head on her shoulders. She is feminine, which was forgotten in the 80s, with the purposeful masculinization of the final girls to make them seem tougher. However, due to the nature of the killer and her surroundings, she comes off as helpless quite a few times throughout the film. Another ambiguous ending confirms this helplessness in which it implies Nancy actually never made it out alive.

Instead of going in that direction, the rest of the films of the 1980s almost had a carbon copy of Alice as their final girl. We would continue to see this regurgitation for the whole decade, until Craven finally said enough is enough.

1996: Scream

Scream is brilliant, and I mean that in both adoration and critically. This film blends humor, horror and badasses, especially from the main protagonist Sidney Prescott. When I think of my ideal final girl, it goes to Sidney all the way. Despite her trauma and her poor taste in men, she doesn’t skip a beat to kick ass and defend herself and her posse. Her posse in both the original and its sequels also feature some badass women, with Gale Weathers being a secondary final girl and Tatum Riley, who scores some awesome hits on Billy before her unfortunate run in with the garage door.

Scream 5: Neve Campbell in talks to return as Sidney Prescott | GamesRadar+

Sidney destroys the final girl archetype as she breaks most of the “rules” Randy reminds of us nearing the climax of the film. She is not a virgin by the final showdown and she is not a innocent delicate flower. She is actively dealing with her mother’s murder and testified against Cotton Weary so effectively that she put him in jail on a life sentence. Sidney is a breath of fresh air and restores the internal workings of a woman into the final girl. Therefore she rises to the top of the hierarchy side by side with Laurie Strode.

Wes Craven did make an instant classic, which engraved Ghostface in the history of horror among the classic slasher villains. He also made Sidney Prescott a posterchild for aspiring young women. His writing of Sidney is almost like a true apology in regards to how he wrote women characters before. A lot of Craven’s previous work brutalized women quite a bit and put them in hopeless situations consistently. Therefore, to have Sidney Prescott persevere through all of this, I can forgive Craven’s depravity.

What now? Modern Day Final Girls

In modern horror, the final girl is still alive and kicking, but rather in the model of Sidney Prescott rather than Alice Hardy. Some key examples is Grace from Ready or Not, Rocky in the first Don’t Breathe, and Dana in The Cabin in the Woods–who plays a trope in but transcends it much like Sidney did. There hasn’t been much regression, and while sequel fever has sparked back up in the recent years, more paranormal based films are the ones to pick up sequels, which prevents the final girl becoming hollow again.

THE FINAL GIRLS (2015) • Frame Rated

A brilliant horror comedy that has come out in the past decade is The Final Girls. It truly is a romp and will become a cult classic as the years go by, but the way that this movie plays with the rules that the 1980s horror flicks set is creative and hilarious. This film is a feature in my 31 Days of Horror coming up, so check it out. Overall, I don’t think the horror community will allow this trope to return back to where it was, and when it does, it usually is in homage to something and likes to challenge the original ideas that caused such a prudish final girl. Final verdict: thanks to Scream, you can drink, do drugs and have sex and you can still survive a horror film. Just don’t say you’ll be right back, because you won’t be. Easy enough, right?

The Art of the Creative Kill

A shared experience for every horror fan is sitting in the theater for a new horror film that they already know how it’s going to end. Whether it be too much advertisement or the writer’s pitfalls, it can be a semi-disappointing viewing experience. The viewer doesn’t necessarily want a M. Night Shyamalan sized twist at the end to prove themselves wrong–they don’t really care if they’re right–but they would definitely appreciate some spice to keep the experience enjoyable. There is one technique that can be a saving grace for a horror film: creative kills.

Creative Kills

Horror will remain one of the more creative genres on the film spectrum. However, there is monotony that future creators are trying to dodge when releasing a new film out into the world. One of the genres that faces the most monotony is the slasher genre. With its never-ending sequels and reboots, it seems like all the kills of characters that you care less with each film never hit quite as hard as watching the original. Even A Nightmare on Elm Street with its dream realm lost its spark as the sequels seemed to go on and on, despite its open availability to do something new and out there.

Creative kills are a thing that horror creators do to engage its audience. It surprises them in moments rather than the whole plot. Sometimes it works better than trying to add a twist that people end up anticipating in the first place. I can save a film too. If a viewer remembers a certain death, even if they didn’t enjoy the film as a whole, that could be considered a win.

Warning: Spoilers past this point


The First Viewing

The horror films we see nowadays are rarely original. Most trace back to an origin film, with most of the films from the 60s, 70s and 80s serving as influence on modern horror creators. This was a special time period for horror. The monster movie was going out and the genre was starting to branch out into different subgenres. The groundwork for creative kills rests in the original slashers, as they were the first to take the plunge into the grisly. Their reign in conjunction with rental movie shops that dominated in those decades allowed for these gruesome yet unique scenes to spread to televisions across America.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Creative Kills

We start from the beginning with of the 70s-80s slasher reign with Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While there are a variety of weapons in the film, none of them sound more terrifying than the chainsaw. Despite its low budget, there is plenty of clever camerawork in this film. This expressed the gruesome nature of the kills, tarnishing the chainsaw forever. It’s rare to find a haunted house that doesn’t utilize one without its chain for its terrifying sound. Personally, a man wielding one of these chased me out of a haunt with one. I don’t scare super easy, but I did minorly fear what would’ve happened to me had he caught up.

Halloween

Creative Kills

Up next is John Carpenter’s masterpiece, Halloween. While there are plenty of groundbreaking, iconic kills, the one topping the list is Michael Myers playing pin-the-Bob-to-the-pantry. The impact of the scene is not necessarily the kill in action–though it is effective–but rather Michael Myers stepping back and observing his kill, tilting his head and brainstorming his next move. This leads to the iconic bedsheet ghost with glasses. John Carpenter is no stranger to creativity in his horror and his kills. This shows especially in his follow up film The Fog and even more as he approaches the sci-fi horror genre in 1982 with his take on The Thing.

Friday The 13th

Creative Kills

Going chronologically, the next in line is Friday the 13th, which kickstarted the trope of “you have sex, you die.” The death that sticks is both creative and one of the only familiar faces in the film. Poor Kevin Bacon’s character Jack is trying to enjoy a nice cigarette. Moments later, he gets a hand around the head and an arrow through the throat. The use of close up practical effects in this kill distinguishes it from the previous pair of film mentioned, as it is a death seen up close rather than imagined due to shadows or camera placement. This pushed the boundary of gore on screen, which was turned up to eleven in 1984.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Creative Kills

A Nightmare on Elm Street is the foundation for out there creative kills. It takes place primarily in a dream state. This allowed for Wes Craven to push the supernatural boundaries on this classic slasher. It is also has the impact of familiar face meets gruesome end as it stars a babyfaced Johnny Depp. While watching Tina pinned and slashed on the ceiling is truly frightening and impactful as a first kill, it is Glen’s bed eating him and projectile vomiting him out in a geyser of blood. The excessive gore and false security that both the viewer and Glen feels makes the death impactful and very memorable. Wes Craven is no stranger to making the viewer care for the characters, which can also be seen in the Scream franchise. This only makes his creative kills even more useful and impactful.

BREAKING THE VIEWER’s TRUST

While a horror fan knows not to get too close to any characters in their favorite horror series, it happens anyways. They want the best for these characters ultimately. When it comes down to their brutal death, there is a powerful emotion that comes with it. Sometimes they don’t see it coming. Most of the time they do see it coming and convince themselves that the writers simply wouldn’t do that. This is what makes this technique the cruelest of the creative kills.

Fear Street: 1994

Creative Kills

These attachments are usually side characters that shine just as bright as the main character. A main example in recent times is Kate in Fear Street: 1994, which is one of the most unfair and creative deaths I’ve seen in the recent years. Kate is lovable. She and her best friend Simon have some hilarious, if chaotic, moments together that just makes the audience care and love them more.

As the film arrives at the final grocery store showdown and the Skull Face Killer locks her in a chokehold, the film convinces the viewers she isn’t going to die. She had escaped death too many times to count prior in the movie, she has to get out of this. He slams her down on the table and her head slides closer and closer to that bread slicer. The film convinces the viewers once more someone will save her since this team is always looking out for each other, and her screaming her head off has to attract one of them to help her. All that hope shatters into pieces as the audience gets a close up shot of her head becoming shredded by this once ordinary, now malicious machine.

The predictability comes back the moment afterwards, with Simon’s death seeming inevitable, but it was that brief moment that will actually stick with you. Not only because the writers killed off beloved Kate, but also the shocking visuals and the manner of her death.

Scream 2

Creative Kills

Another way to shock the audience is killing off what seems like a quintessential-to-the-plot character. In recent years, the fake-out death of Marty in The Cabin in the Woods is an example of this kind of kill. He was high as a kite the entirety of the film, but he was the one–other than the main protagonist– not affected by the mental curveballs thrown by the company running the show. The one that has stuck with many horror fans however was the killing of Randy in Scream 2.

Lovable, adorkable Randy who was an easy target in the first film but delivered very necessary information on the tropes of a horror film that saved a lot of his friends’ asses. He, like us watching a horror film, knew what pleasant predictability felt like; the first Scream is chock full of pleasant predictability with its main but effective curve being there was a second killer and it was Stu. With its equally enjoyable sequel, we think we are just as self aware as Randy. Therefore, we together are not susceptible to the killer’s tricks.

All of those comforting feelings go out the window, or rather into the back of the van when Ghostface murders Randy in broad daylight with Gale and Dewey so close by. Upon each viewing, the kill is just as devastating as it is the first time. A die-hard horror fan relates the most to this character, and his death dismisses the belief that his knowledge and self awareness alone could keep him alive for another round.

Sometimes horror creators are too trigger happy with killing off characters. While this is sometimes done in a “they were all doomed anyways” kind of sense, sometimes they take it way too far.

The extreme: Torture porn versus arthouse

There are two genres that have the same level of brutality most of the time. They differ so heavily from each other. The genres are arthouse horror and a genre lovingly known as torture porn. Both feature disturbing images and scarring scenes, but a film that completely relies on tolerance to gore doesn’t mean its the most creative. The best horror movies are ones that non-horror fans can watch, in my opinion. It doesn’t mean that they won’t come out unscathed– some of the mentions on this list are disturbing–but it’s not watching people die in bloody, gruesome ways back to back.

Torture Horror

These types of films have their fanbases, and I am not invalidating their feelings towards these films. In regards to their accessibility , their grisly goriness earns them their praise rather than storyline. This does not mean that the kills in these films aren’t creative, they are overly creative. However, they lose their impact by having so many creative kills back to back. It allows a new kind of unpredictability that creates excitement for what bizarre thing will come next , which amps up fans of torture porn. This allows for some creative error, because while a lot of these films continue to have out of the box moments, the excitement with each sequel dims and dims as each sequel falls short.

An example of this last year is Spiral, the Saw reboot. While this film was sadly hindered due to movie theater closures due to COVID, there was an overall complaint about seeing things that have already been done before in the franchise. In a series full of traps that are made of the masses’ worst nightmares, it a risk to make so many movies which ultimately turn away a general crowd due to its brutality and turn away its cult following due to running out of ideas. You can see this same progression in many of Eli Roth and Rob Zombie films too, meaning that going to the extreme all the time can burn out the creative spark that make this gory flicks tick.

Arthouse Horror

Another genre of film that can be hit or miss but can teach the torture porn genre a thing or two about how frequently to use creative kills is the arthouse horror genre. The obvious recent examples are films such as Hereditary, Midsommar and The House That Jack Built. These films can exhibit as equally creative and disturbing scenes as the torture porn films, but these films use a one-and-done method. They’re films where it is okay if they’re not watched again, since they can be deeply disturbing, even for the most desensitized horror fan, but there is no hinderance in watching it again, as most of the time there is opportunity to understand and see more than one saw in the first viewing.

Comparison

While most arthouse horror have things that are odd and out of the usual, it is usually in a slow burn format rather than the fast paced timing of torture porn movies, which allows for a break from the gore but also creates a foundation of dread to build upon during the film’s usually longer runtime. Much like the grisly films mentioned above, these films are not everybody’s cup of tea, but they are the films that are shaping the horror scene. More mainstream films follow the influence of arthouse horror, which includes the films from recent horror powerhouse Jordan Peele, who utilizes disturbing images and creative kills to his benefit in both of his films Get Out and Us–specifically the use of the giant scissors as well as the deerhead stabbing.

Overall, both of these genres have changed what modern horror fans are looking for in horror films. Whether it be an out-there arthouse film or a grisly never-ending death hour, both genres hold heavy influence over the modern day horror film, with viewers seeking out more and more creativity in the standard mainstream horror films that come out year after year.


Conclusion

It is undeniable that the use of creative kills defines what the horror genre. It also separates it from the similar thriller genre. When used correctly, an out-of-the-box kill can shake things up for a seemingly predictable movie. This can be used to the enjoyment of the general viewer and the horror fan, even if it involves some broken hearts along the way (I’m still not over Randy’s death). However, when used too often, it can alienate both the casual horror viewer as well as its cult follower. Nonetheless, it is an essential technique that is used by the best horror filmmakers out there and is a one stop shop to make a horror film memorable.