Your Best Bets for Feminist Halloween Entertainment

Happy Halloween, everyone! All month long I’ve been talking about some of my favorite spooky entertainment and today I’m going to put together my ultimate entertainment recommendations for getting the feminist most out of your Halloween.

These are simply my opinions and based solely on things I’ve seen, so if something you love doesn’t make the list, let me know! Maybe I just haven’t seen it and can fall in love with something new.

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“Final Girl” vs. “Horror Heroine”

Laurie Strode Jamie Lee CurtisAs I’ve shown before, I take my horror movies pretty seriously, and I am especially concerned with the portrayal of the characters therein. One of the most important characters in a horror movie is the protagonist who will end up in the final confrontation with the killer. Because this character is almost always female, we call this character the Final Girl.

But what does the term “Final Girl” imply? She is the last one left alive. This doesn’t really imply any level of strength or skill on her part, merely that she has kept breathing longer than the rest of the victims. We also have our protagonist referred to as “girl”, despite the fact that she is most likely a legal adult, which puts her in a position of immaturity and weakness. The title doesn’t even really state that she will triumph over her adversary and still be alive at the end of the movie; it simply says that she is the last in a line of victims.

A less-used term, however, is that of the Horror Heroine. There’s not even a TVTropes page for such a character; she’s that rare. This term implies much more agency in the character. This is not someone who simply does not die; this is someone who is victorious over her adversaries. The reason this term is less common is probably because this character is less common. It’s very easy to make a Final Girl: she simply has to be female and survive between 85-100% of the movie. A Horror Heroine, however, has to be an actual character with strength and determination.

Below the cut I’ve compiled a list of some of the characteristics of each archetype and a few noteworthy examples of each.

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The Women of Elm Street: Nancy Thompson

A Nightmare on Elm Street- Nancy ThompsonIt’s time. It is finally time.

Months ago, I began a series of posts in which I endeavored to celebrate the female leads of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. It’s my favorite horror franchise and has many excellent qualities, not the least of which is its celebration of female heroines, so the choice seemed an obvious one. I got through most of these leading ladies in a timely manner, but when it came time to write about the original and greatest protagonist of this series, I found myself incapable of accomplishing the task.

How could I put into words all that is so incredible about Nancy Thompson? How could I do justice to the character who is most responsible for my love of this series and, on a larger scale, the whole horror genre? I was locked in indecision and simply avoided the topic, but now that it’s October and I’m fully immersed in horror and the supernatural, it is finally time to finish this series.

Here we go. Spoilers after the jump.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Blinky500

Ready for a spoooooky Web Crush?

zombie-anime-fangirlsBlinky500 is a YouTube user who makes short films with an emphasis on horror and thrillers. Many of his movies are fan films, like character studies of popular horror icons, but he creates original pieces as well. I first came across the channel one or two years ago when one of his fan films came up in my recommendations box. While I don’t remember which film I watched first, I remember thinking that they were all pretty excellent. For example, this Friday the 13th prequel is better than any of the actual studio films in the Friday the 13th series:

I don’t have much respect for the Friday the 13th series, to be honest, so I didn’t feel any level of protectiveness over the source material when watching this. Even so, I felt that the work honored the original very well. The focus on the original killer, Pamela Voorhees, is welcome since she actually had a purpose when she killed in the first film: she was avenging her son, Jason. When Jason took over in the sequels, however, he very quickly became a simple killing machine who was frightening but not the least bit interesting. It’s great to see a killer with some actual character because it makes the movie that much more engaging. Even if it’s just a short eight-minute movie, it makes a more compelling tale than most, if not all, of the official movies in the series.

Now, I don’t just like Blinky’s movies when they improve on a source I feel to be weak. As you may know, I am a huge fan of the Nightmare on Elm Street series and feel very protective of it. Therefore, when I found his film KRUEGER (A Tale from Elm Street), I was more than ready to criticize it, but it completely surpassed my high expectations. The script, characterization, pacing, and score were all excellent and made the short film as good as any canonical entry in the Elm Street series.

The original content is of equally high quality. His originals often deal with psychological issues and they are quite interesting. There are a couple of films which deal with suicide and have very difficult content to watch. I’m not sure I completely agree with the presentations, but they make me think and I feel that makes them worthwhile watches. On the one hand, they both encourage valuing life and resisting self-harm, which is a great message, but on the other hand, they have a sense of vilifying suicidal thoughts which doesn’t sit quite right with me. I won’t embed the videos here, as they may be triggering, but the one I thought was most interesting can be found here.

The movies on Blinky500’s page are varied to say the least. There is a lot of horror, some comedy, and a few psychological thrillers. Hard to digest at times, but overall very well-done, the movies are of a quality much higher than what one may expect from a small independent company whose films stream for free on YouTube. I highly recommend this channel.

In Brightest Day: A Nightmare on Elm Street

When I originally begun to think about looking into horror movies from a psychological perspective, it was because of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street.

A-Nightmare-on-Elm-Street-a-nightmare-on-elm-street-944628_1024_768The story is considered one of the best slasher flicks of all time. The movie revolves around Freddy Krueger, a child murderer who was eventually killed by the town’s parents after the court system released Krueger on a technicality. In an effort to get revenge, Krueger comes back from the dead to kill his killer’s children from within the children’s dreams.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Sexualities in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2

A horror movie from the early 80’s may not seem like a likely choice for a discussion of sexuality, but when that movie is A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, it’s quite a different story.

Nightmare on Elm Street 2Sex is a common element in horror movies; in fact it’s usually the main indicator of who’s going to die (sexually active people) and who’s going to live (virgins, or at least monogamous partners) but very rarely have horror movies explicitly depicted anything other than heterosexual relationships until recently. There have been exceptions, such as the cult classic Sleepaway Camp, but the second Nightmare film is probably one of the most mainstream horror films to have included not only homosexual subtext but also blatant, in-your-face homosexual text. Today I will discuss three of the main characters from the film: Coach Schneider, the Phys. Ed. teacher; Jesse, the lead; and Grady, the friend.

(WARNING: Under the cut is a lengthy and mildly NSFW article)

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Son of a Hundred Maniacs—A Fanfilm

I was browsing through some Nightmare on Elm Street videos to include in my final “Women of Elm Street” post about Nancy and came across some promos for this fanfilm that looks pretty great and worth sharing. The post on Nancy will be coming later; I just want to make sure I take time and do justice to my heroine.

The movie appears to be focusing on Fred Krueger prior to his death and eventual reincarnation as the dream killer of the official movie series. Judging by the contemporary look of the trailer, I think this may not be a timeline-accurate sequel, which I think would have to be set no later than the late 70’s in order to pre-date the original 1984 film. As such, I’m not sure whether this will be the backstory for the Freddy we know from the original film series or a brand new vision of the character. In either case, the production looks exceedingly professional for a fanfilm and I look forward to learning more about it.

The creators have designed a new glove for Freddy which leads me to believe that they are revamping the story rather than making a direct prequel to the original films.

Son of a Hundred Maniacs- Krueger's New GloveI really like the look of this glove. In the preview for the film, the actor is wearing a faithful replica of the original glove, so I’m not sure where or how this re-design will fit in to the movie, but it looks pretty incredible to me. One of the most noticeable differences I can see between this and the original design is the way the finger supports connect to the back plate. Rather than being bolted flat into their support as in the original, they have what appears to be some type of floating hinge which gives them more movement and I think will be really visually effective when in action, giving the glove more life than previous versions.

My only reservation about this film is the fact that Freddy was specifically known as a murderer of children in his lifetime and the only reason he killed teenagers in the movies was because they had grown older in the time between his death and eventual resurrection in the dream world. Now, it’s one thing to hint at or talk about the awful things he did while he was alive; it’s quite another to actually portray them. The official movies were, if not always exactly tasteful, at least restrained by what the Motion Picture Association of America would allow to be seen in theaters and the specifics of what he did to young children were always left in the dark.

Making independent online movies such as this gives filmmakers a blessed freedom from those bureaucratic standards, but with that freedom comes the possibility of going too far for some people’s comfort levels. I’m not saying that these creators don’t have the right to push the envelope, just that I personally may not be able to handle the outcome.

Despite my unease at the possible content of this film, I am very interested to see more. According to the writer/director the project is in post-production, so hopefully it will be available soon. In the meantime, we can keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates!

The Women of Elm Street: Kristen Parker

Kristen Parker faced Freddy Krueger in the third and fourth installments of the Nightmare series. In Kristen’s debut in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors she was played by Patricia Arquette, and she was portrayed by Tuesday Knight in the following film The Dream Master.

Patricia Arquette

Patricia Arquette

Tuesday Knight

Tuesday Knight

These two films are two of my favorites in the series and Kristen really benefits from being in two of the most fun installments in the franchise. In her two-movie arc she goes from being the one who is learning about Freddy and who must reluctantly face him, to the character who teaches others about this mysterious killer and tries to take ownership of her dreams. Kristen is a little different from the other women I’ve talked about in this series because she’s not really the clear-cut lead of either of the films she’s in, but she still works as a heroine of the series. You’ll have to read on under the cut to see why! Continue reading

The Women of Elm Street: The One-Offs

In the long history of the Nightmare series (at least seven films spanning 10 years, or nine films spanning 26 years if you count those apocryphal additions) there were of course some women who only led the fight against the villainous Fred Krueger for one film. These women are Lisa Webber of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and Maggie Burroughs of Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.

Nightmare on Elm Street- Lisa and MaggieUnfortunately, these are two of my least favorite movies in the series. Starting with Freddy’s Revenge, it had the problem that is so common when a surprise hit is given an unplanned sequel in that it didn’t understand what was great about the original and failed to re-capture its magic. Its main problems were replacing the female lead with a male and going with a concept that almost entirely did away with the nightmare aspect by having Freddy reincarnate himself in the real world.

Now, if this movie was so bad and didn’t even feature a female lead, why am I talking about it? Well, I do want to give it credit for trying to push the series into new territory rather than being a retread of the original (just because the risk didn’t exactly pay off doesn’t mean it wasn’t admirable) but also because it played with the typical gender roles of horror movies.

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The Women of Elm Street: The Apocryphal

We will begin our series on the female protagonists of the Elm Street series with two movies which exist outside of the main arc of the seven-film series, and the women who lead them: Lori Campbell of Freddy vs. Jason and Nancy Holbrook of the 2010 remake A Nightmare on Elm Street.

I wasn’t sure if I would include Freddy vs. Jason or the 2010 version of A Nightmare on Elm Street in this series. I considered including FvJ since it is made in the same universe as the rest of the series, even if it doesn’t fit in perfectly with continuity, but I really had reservations about including the remake for a couple of reasons. It creates a new canon, for one, and is the first time Freddy Krueger is not played by Robert Englund, but more importantly, it ruins the series’ tradition of strong female leads and I just plain didn’t enjoy it or remember enough about it to include it. Like it or not, though, it bears the Elm Street name and including it gave me a good way to also include FvJ.

Let’s start off with Lori. Continue reading