Friday, August 20, 2010

Legally Blonde+I Know What You Did Last Summer=...

The House on Sorority Row! It's been too, too long since I've watched a good old fashioned slasher, and it makes me feel so good to do so again. So I decided to write a little rant about it.
First of all, lets define "good old fashioned slasher." I'm kind of a stickler for the rules on this one. And the rules are, as I've observed, are these:

  1. Teenagers: The "victims" in a good, true, old fashioned slasher, are teenagers, and they deserve whatever they get because they drink, do drugs, have sex, or, in a few special cases, kill old people. We'll be discussing this tonight.
  2. Survivorgirl: This is also referred to as "the last girl." There is always one girl, who either is reluctant to or completely avoids doing all the other bad teenager things her pals are doing. You may find yourself wondering, "why is this nice, smart girl who's probably valedictorian of the class hanging out with all these deadbeat potheads?" She, as the name implies, survives, and is the often the special interest of the killer (ie, Prom Night, Halloween.) Some newer movies like to play fast and loose with the rules here and have a boy and a girl survive (Nightmare on Elm Street 2010, House of Wax 2005, etc)
  3. Killer: The killers in good old fashioned slasher movies do not use guns. Traditionally, we do not see him until the end of the film. They are driven by some sort of motive, normally of a vengeful variety. 
  4. Ahab: This one doesn't always happen, but usually in slashers you see one important adult who explains the killer (often a doctor,) and who represents goodness and safety for the teens. Usually he comes too late to help much. 
  5. Plot: The plot goes like this: Teenagers do stupid things. Mysterious stuff happens. Teenagers ignore it and continue to do stupid things. People start disappearing. Teenagers stop ignoring it. Everyone dies. Ahab arrives too late. Survivorgirl bests killer, with some help from Ahab. Movie sets up for sequel. 
Now that we've done that! We can get on with the review.

This movie came out in 1983, well into the slasher movie epidemic. So of course, it's pretty much whats to be expected. Which i loved. The cast of b-list actors (two of the seven sorority sisters are now prominent enough to have pictures on IMDB--nobody else in this film does) added a bit of extra cheese to the film, especially the lead actress, who looks like a mixture of Helen Hunt and Kirsten Stewart...
Needless to say, I was surprised when her blind date didn't try to suck her blood.

The movie begins with a nice flashback of a woman going through some seriously strenuous labor, and it is implied that she miscarries. (spoilers: she doesn't.) Then we quickly get to some good old sorority fun. Not any bouncy wet tee-shirt pillow fights like i was expecting, but instead a nice eighties version of the opening scene from Legally Blonde. Which was hilarious. Long story short, the girls are staying at their sorority house for a few extra days to have their crazy graduation party, much to the dismay of their elderly house mother, who is (gasp!) the woman from scene one. Extra-snob girl gets upset because elderly house mother tears a hole in her waterbed, so the sorority kills her. By accident. Then, one by one, the sisters get killed off mysteriously by a force with the SAME WEAPON that the elderly person they killed carried.
Wait, wrong movie. 

This makes it even easier for us to route for the killer. Yeah, i know they didn't want to kill the old woman, and they didn't mean to dump her in the pool when she was actually still alive, but honestly, they haven't even starting drinking yet. Make some judgement calls. I don't even have any sympathy for survivorgirl here, she so easily could have called the police and just opted out of it. Usually slasher movies are pretty subtle about the teenagers being punished--mainstream culture doesn't want to be too in their face about saying that drinking and having sex will get you killed. But its pretty much safe to assume that the viewers won't get contradictory with this message. Don't kill old people, kids. Its bad, you'll have a lot to clean up, and their ghosts will probably come back from the dead and stab you with weirdly weapon like old people stuff. 
     Luckily, the film does have a plot twist at the end, (though not one I had too much trouble predicting.) The doctor that delivered the house mothers baby comes back, in true Ahab style, and him and Bell-i mean survivorgirl figure out that all the other sisters have died, and are not being killed by old lady house mother, but the allegedly miscarried son, who was horribly disfigured and lived in his mothers attic for the past twenty two years. 

So over all pretty white bread and ketchup movie. My favorite part was definitely some of the especially gruesome death scenes.
This made me so happy

And some pretty beautiful clown imagery, which connected very nicely back to the house mother's obsession with her (unborn?) child and ended up doing some serious damage at the end of the film.
When you see the jack in the box, it means you're about to die.
But the thing i really want to rant about is this: the killer. Because Eric (house mother's son) was born as part of some sort of in-vitro fertilization experiment gone wrong, he was born with a horrible disfigurement that makes him look like every other disfigured serial killer before him. which made me realize: society sucks. Theoretically, we depict in films that are supposed to be scary things that supposedly scare us, and, theoretically, we fear what we don't know. So i guess it makes sense that a lot of movies depict children born with weird disfigurements (note: in slasher movies, "disfigurements" often stands for "downs syndrome," but people like to pretend it doesn't) because at the time, and still, we don't really understand things like that and every mother fears that her child will be born that way. And often they act the way they do because they were bullied or mistreated as children. But seriously? This depiction of them isn't really helping their rep, guys. "Hey, you better be nice to people with cognitive disorders and facial disfigurements, they're people just like us, and if you aren't nice to them, a screw will come loose and they'll grow up to kill your children in horribly heartless ways." Being disfigured puts our killer in league with some of the best, including Jason and Leatherface, and less famously, Victor from House of Wax (2005? Chad Micheal Murray and Paris Hilton? Anyone?) Often the killer is upset because his mother was murdered, which gets into the much less offensive themes of killer as victim and the devotion a mother has for her son being repaid posthumously, which is probably a more overlying theme. But we form opinions based on what we see being depicted in the media, no matter how subtle--so just make sure that when you watch this movie, you keep in mind that people with birth defects do not usually grow up to kill teenagers.
Even if those teenagers really deserve it. 

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