Sunday, February 28, 2010

Female Villains in Horror: Pamela Voorhees

Camp cook extraordinaire, beloved mother of Jason, knife-wielding nut-job.

Ah, Pamela Voorhees.
Is there a more recognizable female villain in all of horror?

You thought I forgot about her, right?
No - I was just saving my favorite female villain for last.

The first time I saw Friday the 13th (and we're talking many moons ago, here), I was pleasantly shocked when the killer turned out to be Mrs. Voorhees. I was so expecting Jason to somehow be alive and to have hacked through all those camp counselors. And though he did turn out to be alive (can we call it that?), the primary installment in this now (in my opinion) washed up series threw me for a loop, having Jason's mom all hell bent for leather. What a cool ending!

All she wanted was revenge for her dead son.

Those naughty, over-sexed twenty-somethings! The nerve of them enjoying themselves while her son drowned helplessly in Crystal Lake! Hedonists! Well, she'd just show them!

And you have to admire her creativity. When we consider all the deaths in the movie, and all the various ways she went about it (ax to the head, a couple of slit throats, multiple stabbings, arrow through the neck and one to the eye, etc...) you simply have to be impressed with her lethal prowess! Likewise, when she's standing there in front of Alice, looking off into space and whispering to herself in Jason's voice - "kill her mommy, kill her" - you can't help but recoil in anxious dread, knowing her delusional ranting doesn't bode well for poor Alice.

While certainly not the most brilliant or compelling movie, Friday the 13th still holds a special place in my own heart simply because it is the first movie I saw as a kid where there were gory deaths and brazen sex scenes... and when you're around twelve, you're all about that.

Besides all that, we really must take into consideration how incredibly strong and athletic Mrs. Voorhees was. Wow.
Running through the woods catching up with people, brandishing an ax with enough brute strength to chop into the skull, impaling a grown man into a door with nothing but arrows...she's practically Olympic-worthy. Let alone the impressive feat of her hiding and rigging all the bodies for Alice to find. I mean, come on - she managed to have a dead guy fall out of a tree (at the perfect opportune time, of course!) for pete's sake.

Betsy Palmer was a revelation in that role. Not that she did anything truly memorable, it's just the attitude. "Look what you DID to him!"

I'd have browned my trou if she'd have been yelling at me like that while pulling a machete off her hip. Alice was one brave MF, that's for sure. And it really doesn't stop there. Mrs. Voorhees literally kicks the shit out of Alice, even banging her head against the ground and rubbing it into the dirt in one rather hilarious moment. But girl Alice manages to gain the upper hand.

Thus, Mrs. Voorhees met a nasty end, but all the better for part two - when Amy Steel pulls that ratty old sweater over her head and sits in front of the disembodied head to distract Jason, you have to admit it was unquestionably savvy.

But the most crackerjack moment of Part 1 has to be the beheading - and the fingers...reaching out...opening and closing in a "where's my head?"motion.

Buy it here.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Sunday Bloody Sunday: Women in Horror Edition

The Descent 2

Jennifer's Body


Hostel 2

Halloween 2 (RZ)

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Female Villains in Horror: Esther

While I felt I couldn't leave Esther off a list of female villains in horror, I did just write my opinion/review on the film a few months ago. You can check out the post on Orphan in its entirety here if you need a reason why the lovely little girl needs thrown into a collection of such vile and heartless other nasties.

Besides, (*spoiler alert*) are we really and truly talking about a child here?

Suffice it to say, she deserves her spot.
A smattering of her malicious activities include:

*Killing a bird in her backyard in front of her siblings.

*Pushing a classmate off a sliding board, breaking the girl's ankle.

*Throwing a major fit when someone tries to remove her ribbon necklace.

*Playing her parents against one another.

*Lying on a psychologically disturbing level.

*Scaring her 'brother' and 'sister' into complete submission.

*Killing the nun from the orphanage with a hammer then hiding the body.

*Burning down her brother's tree house with him in it.

*Though brother lives, she then tries to finish him off by smothering him with a pillow while he is in the hospital.

*She tries to seduce her adoptive father. (ick)

Of course the major twist at the end all but guarantees her placement among the worst offenders, and had me exclaiming WTF?

So here's to Esther, and here's to Orphan - one of the better films of the last year, producing a villain we'll be talking about for years to come.

Buy it here.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Female Villains in Horror: Baby Jane

"But you are, Blanche... you are in that chair!"

The chilling performance by Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane was really a tour-de-force in the history of film. While not categorized as a horror movie, it doesn't need that label to reach epic villain proportions.
Over the top, yes. But still fun!

Baby Jane Hudson was a big vaudeville star, and as her sister Blanche struggled with her own acting career, she had to deal with all the accolades her sister received and deal with their father spoiling the living hell out of Jane.

Many years later the situation has completely reversed, with Blanche becoming a huge movie star. Jealousy has a grip on Jane, whose movie career doesn't have the same stellar reputation as her sister's. She becomes a tantrum-throwing alcoholic.

After a questionable accident cripples Blanche, time skips ahead to present day (the early 60's), where we see Blanche being cared for by Jane, who has - for lack of a better phrase - flipped her lid.

What makes her so crazy? Well, she's still a wacky drunk, wears ridiculous caked-on makeup that looks like a circus sideshow, cackles like a witch on a regular basis, tosses Blanche's mail before she can read it, forges checks, takes the phone out of Blanche's room, and is basically an unforgivable, abusive bitch towards her sister on a 24/7 basis.

Jane has an absolute shit fit when she discovers Blanche has every intention of selling their rickety old mansion and sticking Jane in a mental institution. Naturally, the abuse escalates.
In one of the key scenes, Jane serves up Blanche's pet parakeet on the proverbial silver platter.
If only the dead bird was the end of her lovely lunches. Cue more cackling.

I've heard many people call Jane's character grotesque, and I personally think that is a dead-on description, between her crazy visage and her psychotic behavior. It is so very painful when we have to listen to Jane singing as she attempts a career comeback. Nearly makes your ears bleed.

The anxiety mounts as things escalate out of control in the last portion of the movie. Not only does Jane end up binding and gagging Blanche and hiding her in her room, but she slaps her up and kicks the shit out of her, then kills the suspicious maid with a hammer.

Finally reaching the twist ending, we realize things were not completely as they seemed. But that is still no excuse for the deranged, sociopathic behavior exhibited by Baby Jane.

On a side note, rumor has it that Davis and Crawford pretty much hated each other, making you wonder if, during production, those slaps and kicks may have had a underlying significance.

Buy it here.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Female Villains in Horror: Mary Shaw

Here's the deal.
I hate dummies. No, not the idiots at the DMV or the jackass that cuts me off on the highway - I mean actual dummies - puppets - dolls, okay? I hate their colossal glaring eyes, too-shiny cheekbones, the stiffness of their little wooden bodies, and most of all I hate their damn mouths...the cuts at the jawline that allows their mouth joints to move. Hate really might not be a strong enough word.

So bear with me on this particular post, as I only saw this movie once. My memory might not be the best. Feel free to correct me if I muss up the details.

From the creators of Saw, Dead Silence features the marvelously macabre Mary Shaw, played by veteran stage actress Judith Roberts.

Well renowned puppeteer extraordinaire...well, until Michael Ashen, a youngster in her audience, taunted her about being able to see her lips move while using her most "famous" puppet, Billy.

(Warning: don't piss off the lady with the dummy!)

Not surprisingly, Michael goes missing and Mary is blamed. His family hunts her down and kills her, after cutting out her tongue. Before she dies, she strangely asks to be buried with her cache of 101 puppets - and even weirder - wants to have her body made into a puppet as well. Okaaaaay, that's just creepy.

So of course, Mary's ghost sets out for retribution against the entire Ashen family, killing each one - but only when they scream. The title of the film comes from this, as the only way to escape Mary's wrath is to keep quiet. In addition, each of her victims is found with their tongues cut out, natch.

Tragically, the movie's hero Jamie (the always lovely Ryan Kwanten of True Blood fame), finds out he's related to Michael Ashen, and soon his number will be up as well. His (pregnant) wife has already been murdered at the hands of Mary, so he delves further into the mystery and discovered all the Ashen family have eventually lost their lives due to the Mary's curse, and that he was sent away to boarding school to keep him away from Raven's Fair - the town where he grew up and the tragedies occurred.

( if dummies alone weren't enough, they had to throw in a CLOWN dummy! Arrrgh!)

While not the most spectacular plot in history, Dead Silence still delivers a few scares, and anyone with an aversion to dummies/dolls (read: yours truly) will find it more than a little bit unnerving. The disturbing realization that Mary is making all her victims into dummies - oh please - say it ain't so. My worst nightmare.

The ghost of Mary Shaw is a pretty by-the-numbers kind of character, but when she begins speaking through one of the dummies, explaining her reasoning and the impending doom to Jamie, it just brought back so many chilling memories of other freaky puppets in my horror past and I just about turned it off.

However, I made it through, and lived to tell the tale. But I'm afraid Ryan Kwanten will have to stick to vampires, nymphomania, and "V"-induced trances, cause his character in this one...well, let's just say it didn't end well.

Buy it here.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Female Villains in Horror: La Femme

The French sure know how to make a horror movie.

À l'intérieur is better known as Inside on this side of the pond, but in any country it is a brutal, unrelenting casade of horror. If you are not affected in some way by this movie, then I'm sorry, but there is truly something wrong with you.

Beatrice Dalle is absolutely chilling in the role of La Femme. She haunted my thoughts long after the final scene.
So why is she so terrifying?

Let's review the plot. Pregnant Sara (Alysson Paradis) is in a car accident in which her husband is killed. When the time comes to have her baby, she is spending the night before (which happens to be Christmas eve) getting ready to be admitted for her baby's birth the following day. Her mood is dour, to say the least.

When she gets a knock at the door late that evening she finds a woman who can only be described as tenebrous there, asking for help and use of her telephone. Perhaps feeling something just isn't right, Sara tells her that her husband is sleeping and she doesn't want to disturb him. Her dressed-all-in-black visitor then surprises her by saying she knows Sara's husband is dead. She demands to be let inside, and is rejected.

RIGHT HERE is your first clue - the woman's statement should have been the first indicator that things are questionable with this woman. Not only does "La Femme" know a bit too much information, but she's just downright creepy from the get-go. Thankfully, Sara is not your average dumb ass in a horror movie. She first tries to capture the woman on film through the windows (she is a photographer) and then calls the cops to tell them she is being harassed.
Naturally by the time the cops arrive La Femme is gone. And by gone I mean hidden. But the policemen say they will hang around the house a bit - try to ease her fear.

The best parts of this film are not the blatant bloody gore it has in droves, it is the subtle moments of tension, like when you see La Femme standing outside looking in. I felt a bit sick in my stomach watching this - the suspense mounts slowly but where other films fail to really deliver, this one will have you biting your nails to the quick. And once the brutality starts, it's no holds barred.

Rather quickly, Sara realizes the woman has been stalking her (after seeing her in some earlier photos she's taken) she comes to understand the woman has some sort of vendetta against her. She phones her boss and asks him to enlarge some of her earlier photos that were taken so she can compare them and look for the woman.

Uneasy, but feeling relatively safe knowing the cops are nearby, she heads to bed - only to be attacked by La Femme in her bed. The crazy nut job pokes her navel with a pair of scissors, making it apparent that she is after her baby.

Sara is able to fight her off enough to make it to the bathroom, locking herself inside.
La Femme is not deterred by this in the slightest, and does everything in her power to attempt entry.

Sara's employer, and then her mother come to the house. Naturally this does not end well. First Sara tragically kills her own mother, thinking her to be La Femme. Can you say arterial spray?
Then the mystery woman kills Sara's boss, and wastes no time trying to get back to the business at hand.
The police arrive yet again but can't handle things any better either, and are also dead within minutes of gaining entry to the house. One of them is shot in the head so graphically it's almost unreal.
La Femme will stop at nothing to get Sara's child. And in a mini-twist of sorts, we find out why.

The brutality of this film just goes to show how far beyond us the French are in their horror.
No, gore does not a movie make, but the simple plotting and maniacal violence shown here combine to provoke such a visceral reaction from the audience that clearly cannot be denied.

La Femme is a relentless, savage psychopath with only one goal in life --

--Performing a backyard C-section on our helpless Sara.
No. Matter. What.
It really lends new meaning to the words 'home invasion'...

No one I can think of in the world of female villains can quite measure up to her as far as deranged, violent female killers who will stop at nothing. Their eye is forever on the prize, and no matter how much blood has to spill, they are ready and willing to get the job done.

Buy it here.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Female Villains in Horror: Sylvia Ganush

Scary old women really freak me out.

I mean, ever since that rotting corpse rose out of the bathtub in The Shining, I've had this aversion to pruned up, creepy looking old hags. Maybe it was there before The Shining...yeah, probably. But man... that one really sealed the deal. Scarred me for life.


Anyway - Sylvia Ganush of Drag Me To Hell is a prime example of pure senior citizen revulsion. And malevolence.

From the first moment she is shown in the bank, begging loan officer Christine for an extension on a mortgage loan, you just know things aren't about to end well.

Christine is trying to get ahead in her career and picked the wrong person to piss off on the wrong day. Even after the elderly woman's repeated attempts and pathetic begging, Christine denies Mrs. Ganush the money needed to keep her home.
Her boss praises her and all but guarantees her a promotion.
But the sound of Mrs. Ganush's pleading and her evil bewitchment after Christine's refusal sticks in Christine's head with an uneasiness she can't shake.

We might only be fifteen minutes into the movie at this point, but believe me when I say it's all downhill from there for Christine.

Ganush attacks her in her car on her way home, eventually pulling a button off Christine's coat.

Obviously the catalyst for a curse, Christine finds herself hurled into one hideous situation after another. Following the assault in her car, she is told by a psychic that she's being tormented by a sinister spirit, brought on by Mrs. Ganush's hex.
She starts having crazy nightmares with Mrs. Ganush in them...

...she has messy nosebleeds the caliber of an Evil Dead movie...she attempts to contact Mrs. Ganush to see how the spell can be reversed only to find out the woman died...then the psychic finally tells her she is being haunted by a Lamia. Obviously drummed up by the curse of Mrs. Ganush.

Now here's the part I can hardly get past. After the demon spirit attacks her in her bedroom, the psychic tells her perhaps the lamia needs a sacrifice to send it away. And good God... Christine kills her own kitten to appease the demon! Right about then, I couldn't care less what the hell happened to Christine. I hoped the lamia demon kicked her ever-lovin' ass.

Anyway - Mrs. Ganush's curse doesn't stop there. When Christine goes to visit her boyfriend & his parents she makes a complete ass of herself trying to fend off the demon.

Eventually, after a ridiculous goat-offering seance, the psychic says Christine can stop all the madness by gifting the cursed item (the button) to someone else. She decides to dig up Mrs. Ganush out at the cemetery and pass it to her.
(One thing I always find amazing is the strength anyone in a horror movie shows when digging up graves. I mean, can you yourself imagine digging up - with just a shovel - a grave six feet under the earth? Let alone that nearly all caskets these days are sealed in vaults....Sorry. I digress...)

Anyone who has seen the movie knows the ending, and I won't spoil it here since it's a relatively new-ish film. It has a lot of classic Sam Raimi touches in it which threaten to steal the show from the cast, but Lorna Raver - who plays Sylvia Ganush - cannot be upstaged.

She, with her (fake) Hungarian accent, bad wardrobe and creepy eye, is certainly one of the more physically frightening villains in recent history. And when was the last time you saw an octogenarian roughhouse a twenty-something? Their fight in Christine's car was epic. Nearly hilarious.

Buy it here.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!