Coming This Week

You know what’s a great feeling? Beating out a headache. I did not accomplish a lot this weekend, but dammit, I beat out a migraine.

wuh

This is me right now.

So let’s jump into business for the week. On Tuesday, we’re getting treated to another installment of Hail to the King by our very own Dan. This month, he’s tackling Stephen King’s incredible The Shining, whose film adaptation has provided all sorts of anxiety for Mr. King whilst managing to become a true horror film classic. Wednesday will see Erin plowing into 1984’s Ghostbusters after a conversation with one of her children (hint: it didn’t end well). Thursday is going to host a recommendation for WALL-E, a film so sweet that deep that it begs for treatment here.

On another note… a few of you have asked where Ms. Nika has been. I can assure you that she’s fine, and will be rejoining us shortly. The concern is deeply appreciated. Sometimes, we need a break from the grind. As always, thanks for sticking with us. We love our readers and look forward to more time with you in the coming year.

Saturday Shorts: The Moonlight Man

attachment-1

Slowly but surely, my lungs have been improving. What better way to celebrate? A short horror film. I wanted to keep this one truncated, so here’s a film that clocks in at under three minutes: Danny Donahue’s The Moonlight Man. Check it out.

Plot-wise, this film is not entirely there. It’s heart is in the right place, but I found it difficult to accept the leap from spotting a creepy figure to jumping out of your car with a large flashlight; that’s just nonsensical. That being said, this film does capitalize on the sheer terror that a woman feels when walking to her car. It’s quite scary to walk to your car alone at night, and not because you’re worried that there’s a boogeyman with extra long fingers out there. More often than not, women experience this in broad daylight because we’re easy to target; the addition of darkness just makes it worse. Sometimes, the worst thing out there is the person who’s waiting to rape and kill you as you’re doing something normal like getting into your car; that’s not just a folk tale for some of us. No supernatural element needed.

Happy Saturday.

Women In Horror: A Look at Some Badass Journalists

wih

Women in Horror is such a fantastic movement. I love the spotlight that comes with it to deserving projects that otherwise get buried in a male-dominated world. Considering that we’re getting some of our most fearful, visceral work from female writers, directors, producers and actresses, the cause is completely relevant and worthy.

However, it’s not only these groups that should get their chance to shine. We’re going to broaden the definition a bit and make sure to include some other worthy candidates. You see, it’s not just the women making horror that matter – it’s the female critics and journalists that knock it out of the park with their intrepid reporting, interpretations and musings. Total honesty: some of them sell their journalism by being the cute chick that covers horror. No way; we’re better than that. In the spirit of celebration, we’re going to cover some of the women that bring us horror through podcasts, magazines, and blog entries with the sass, pluck and dedication to research that gives horror such a good name. Take it away, ladies!

Rebecca Booth

Rebecca Booth, assistant editor for Diabolique Magazine and host of the United Nations of Horror podcast, knows her shit. Have you ever met someone that doesn’t have to brag about how much they know, yet can completely destroy a blow-hard’s argument in three paces? Yup, that’s her. Rebecca’s strength comes in her power of research: this is a writer that digs deep for answers, half out of curiosity, half out of finding another lead and wanting to explore it. The result: her work is academic and well-structured. The best part: it’s not condescending in the least. There’s never a tone of “LOOK AT HOW MUCH I KNOW!” You will, however, find a tone of joyful celebration of knowledge. Christ knows the world could use all the rational thinkers it can get its hands on right now.

When I say busy, too, I mean that she’s really busy. Podcasting on UNH, editing Diabolique, contributing to That’s Not Current and Big Comic Page.

Check out some amazing pieces she’s done by clicking the descriptions below:

On fairy tales in relationship to Stranger Things.

On DARIO FREAKING ARGENTO.

On the subject of hysteria in The Entity.

 

Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger

Same family, but ask me if I care. Samm Deighan (who has contributed to Fangoria and the book Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s) and Kat Ellinger (frequent Scream Magazine contributor, as well as DVD commentator) are the editors of Diabolique Magazine. Under their direction, they’ve brought back print issues (available for pre-order) as well as some extraordinary themes, from Italian cinema to Japanese horror. Hell, they’ve even given music a shout out by putting the kick-ass Heather Drain in charge of that department (for the record, her taste in music rocks the house). Diabolique reins supreme as the place to go for classy think pieces on horror. It really elevates the niche to where it should be, and has been branching out to include things like music, art and dance, which, believe it or not, is extraordinarily integral to the culture experience. That’s the beauty of the mag: it’s not just the same tedious reviews and chasing of interviews. Whereas other mags are content to tow the line, this one is the cool cousin that knows where to get the good booze and turns you on to the really cool underground stuff. Why would you want to be a prim lady when you can be a dangerous dame?

In addition to the mag, these two collaborate on the highly informative and entertaining Daughters of Darkness podcast. You want to talk smashing barriers, listen to these two discuss Giallo films.

Here are some of my favorites:

I’m partial to this one on Gaillo films.

Seriously, their discussion of all things female and witchy is everything.

Samm’s take on Andrzej Zulawski’s My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days.

 

Dawn Keetley, Elizabeth Erwin, and Gwen Hoffman

Nothing is more badass than a woman with an education. Nothing. The women of Horror Homeroom have education like you wouldn’t believe. Dawn Keetley teaches American literature and gothic horror at Lehigh University; Elizabeth Erwin writes for Entertainment Weekly and concentrates on horror’s relationship to gender and sexuality; Gwen Hoffman is a PhD candidate, with a focus on pop cultural in the 20th Century. These are not vapid women looking for the lulz, and they don’t have to market their looks to get readers. The discussions here range from race to sexual orientation to economy, illustrated by ghosts, zombies and varying degrees of horror.

They also provide reviews, and as such, we’re treated to gems with a clue into the perspective they provide, which can only help but garner more interest. Likewise, their analyses are well-thought-out, providing an honest discussion with respectful perspective.

Click the links below to sample some of their work, such as:

Dawn viewing Insidious through the lens of race.

Elizabeth’s thoughts on male rape and victim mentality in The Killing Kind.

Gwen’s excellent look at victimhood in Don’t Breathe.

 

Simret, AKA The Wicker Girl

This is a two-for-one deal: not only is Simret a blogger, she also makes her own films. Women in film – especially horror – tend to be completely badass, so this gets a double thumbs-up. Even better? She talks not only horror (and let the record state that her taste is good), she also manages to go after some subjects that are pretty everyday and horrifying to women. Yes, it’s the dawn of a new century, and women are finally getting to talk about the stuff that not only scares, but gets translated into horror. It’s pretty exciting.

Her work consists of both written and video reviews and analyses. They’re entertaining and on point. Here are a few of my favorites:

A review of Dr. Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman.

An interview with Japanese artist Mami Izumi.

An inside look at the scripting process for filmmaking.

 

Graveyard Shift Sisters

Last but certainly not least, we have the good women over at The Graveyard Shift Sisters. Let’s be blazingly honest: as much as being a woman can provide endless frustrations, being a woman of color opens up a whole new can of worms. That’s why a site like this is so necessary: you can’t just embrace one version of feminism and slap that label onto everything. There are different perspectives out there, and if you discount those voices and experiences, you’re living in a sheltered world. I’ve heard of black women getting flack for being horror fans – this site not only sheds light on a narrative I don’t directly experience, but also highlights the achievement of black women and women of color in cinema and television.

That’s the beauty of this site – the goal is to generate a dialogue. It’s a chance to grow. If you willfully ignore it, then shame on you. You may not like acknowledging your privilege, but if you really want the world to be better, you have to stare it in the face and listen to someone else for once.

Here are a few of the pieces I’ve really enjoyed from this site:

A spotlight on the actress Kim Hamilton as part of 28 Days of Black Women in Horror.

A look at the film Venefica.

An incredible view into the makings of a black female horror filmmaker.

 

 

Do yourself a favor and check out the work of these women. While women are working more and more in the horror field… we still need more. We need more voices, less gimmicks, more diversity, and more attention. It’s not just the relegated roles of actress either: it’s the voices that see, relate and interpret. To all of the women who write about horror: thank you.

 

Weekend Movies: Five Reasons to Watch Away We Go

weekend-movies

I’ve been kind of down on the feel-good stuff lately. So, we’re going to try something different: I’m going to recommend a cute movie that I really liked from a while ago. Sam Mendes’s Away We Go is a gem of a movie from 2009 that I don’t think got the love it deserved. It features an expectant couple visiting various friends while trying to find a place to put down roots before their baby arrives. You can rent this one on iTunes and YouTube. Here are five reasons to do just that this weekend.

away1

#1 – A nice onscreen couple

John Krasinski’s Burt and Maya Rudolph’s Verona are a sweet yet realistic onscreen couple. Burt loves Verona, and tries his best to offer her some support during her pregnancy. Cards on the table: it’s adorable to watch a guy telling his beloved that he’ll love her even when she’s heavily pregnant and can’t see her vagina anymore. There’s something sweet about someone who doesn’t know how to tell you that you’re supported no matter what. Sometimes, even a crude gesture is worthwhile, because we just want to know that we’re still beautiful to you.

#2 – Maggie Gyllenhaal’s LN

Jesus Christ, we all know this woman. LN (pronounced “Ellen”) is everything that could possibly go wrong with feminism. She’s so militant that she’s surpassed the point of combative and gone straight to closed-minded. She does not have a single nice thing to say to our couple, yet phrases it like it’s somehow a concerned compliment. She’s inherited a lot of money, which funds a lifestyle of looking down her nose at those that may not be able to afford. Thing is… we’ve all met a variation of this woman. You cringe even more because of this fact. She’s captured beautifully by Gyllenhaal, who makes the character that much more authentic. Worth a watch just for that.

away2

This bitch.

#3 – The stroller

LN and her insufferable husband Roderick (Josh Hamilton) have a kid they refuse to put into a stroller. Burt decides to put the kid in a stroller. Hilarity ensues. A short sequence, but one that’s so satisfying in its build up.

#4 – Parents that aren’t Ozzy and Harriet

Film sucks sometimes when it comes to parents. It likes to show us the sanitized version of parenthood: everyone is happy, no one fights, everything is hunky dory. Not in this film. Burt and Verona get to see different facets of parenthood, from Burt’s self-centered parents (forgivable because his mom is played by Catherine O’Hara, who is divine) to bitter marraiges to fertility struggles to a parent that decides to bolt and leave a child behind. People so often want to project this image of happiness so much that the other side of the coin – the one that’s closer to what we choose to ignore in everyday life – is neglected. This provides some balance.

away3

Selfish parents, have we got representatives for you…

#5 – Finding home

I’m a firm believer that home is a place that has a pull; it’s the people and the place you feel you’re meant to find. Watching someone search for that is reassuring for those of us still searching for home; if you’ve found it already, you want them to find it all the more. You want Burt and Verona to be happy with their baby. It’s an all-around sweet message.

If you’re in the mood for something that will remind you that it’s okay to be human and it’s okay to not know where you’re going, this one is definitely for you.

Oh Not You Too: The Abuse in Overboard

over1

There comes a point where you realize that a movie you loved really had some terrible themes going on. Internally, you can hear the glass shattering as your world comes crashing down. I liken it to the realization that Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” was not, as thought by the little girl version of me that used to sing it when it came on the radio, about a dude hitting things with a hammer ala Gallagher (go ahead and laugh at that one; I’ve earned it. You can even picture me looking completely horrified as a teenager, mouth slack and eyes wide. It wasn’t a pretty day.). We’ve all had those moments. The older I get, the more the hits keep on comin’. Most recently, it was the shattering of 1987’s Overboard by fellow writer Rebecca Booth.

over2

Shoes on a boat: far more terrifying than snakes on a plane.

Rebecca pointed out that the love story in Overboard is, at best, abusive. “No way,” my brain scoffed. After all, I loved this comedy. It’s a great story about a wealthy woman named Joanna (Goldie Hawn, laying on the rich bitch realness) with amnesia that gets her comeuppance from Dean (Kurt Russell), the carpenter she stiffed. With the help of his rambunctious sons, Dean knocks her down a couple of pegs to understand his world; in the process, they fall in love, his sons get a mother they so desperately need, and the life they forge is more appreciative and authentic. Cue the music. Rebecca was not having any of that, insisting I take another look at it because it contained elements of abuse.

over3

What’s so nefarious about a foot rub?

So I looked at it. Is Joanna a bitch? Oh absolutely. She’s a complete asshole; we’re thrilled to death when she eats a bug and has to redo her manicure on her yacht. We’re crushed when she pitches Dean’s tools into the water and stiffs him on the bill, because even then we can see that he’s struggling to make ends meet. She’s biting in her insults, and as a result, we greatly dislike Joanna. It’s funny when she loses her memory, and when her husband considers himself free of the misery of being married to her. Dean decides to let her work off the debt of his tools and labor, choosing petty revenge in a way that only Russell can make charming. However, upon closer inspection… the comeuppance bears a close resemblence to gaslighting, which is never justifable. Dean refers to her as “a wonderful slave” while singing a made-up song to the tune of “Zipadee Doo Dah” after the woman has experienced her first full day of physical labor in a house that would make even a seasoned cleaning staff recoil, she’s left to sleep on a couch with rowdy dogs, then given a list of more chores to do. As the film progresses, she forms emotional attachments to children she believes are biologically hers, and embarks on a sexual relationship with a man she’s been told is her husband. The scary part? She’s told this stuff. She doesn’t remember it because she can’t remember it. It’s not that she has Stockholm syndrome and adapts as a way to cope; there’s no conscious abandonment of her previous life, either through kidnapping or sale. This woman can’t remember a thing about herself, from her name to whether or not she was ever pregnant with the four children she’s told are hers. Everyone around her is in on the joke, and they feel entitled to be nasty to someone who has no recollection of her crimes.

over4

Accurate representation of me in the kitchen.

Shit. Rebecca was right.

Look, I hate people. I really hate people. I hate assholes, especially those that think it’s okay to mistreat someone who doesn’t make as much money as they do. I cheered along with the yacht staff when Dean tore Joanna down for being the classist asshole she is. However, stepping back from the situation, the “punishment” is just as wrong. Gaslighting someone who has a traumatic brain injury is a special level of sick. It goes above and beyond the parameters of decency. While there are funny parts to this movie, the joy gets sucked out of you once you realize what’s going on. And really, once you see it, you can’t unsee it. Just like that, the glass shatters and you’re left wondering how to put the mirror back together again. Unfortunately, you can now see every fracture; it’s up to you if you decide that you can still look at it, and if you can stomach what’s reflected back.

over5

Really, aren’t nifty sunglasses and Roddy giving you a pedicure indicators of living the dream?

At some point, I’m sure I’ll be able to go back and revisit this film. Parts of it will still be funny. But the experience will be far more muted now. There will be that pall cast over it because I’ve found the gray spot in another clear day. The choice is to either keep laughing despite my better sense of social justice and horror, or shake my head and acknowledge that something is terribly wrong. Either way, it’s not an easy experience.

Trailer Tuesdays: Goon 2: Last of the Enforcers

attachment-1-1

GUYS! STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING! THERE’S ANOTHER GOON MOVIE COMING OUT IN A FEW WEEKS!!!

I don’t know where to begin. This trailer has got so many good things going for it. Obviously, Seann William Scott is back as everyone’s favorite really nice enforcer, Doug Glatt. I love that the writing team (this time around, it’s still Jay Baruchel, but he’s swapped out partner Evan Goldberg for Jesse Chabot) has advanced Doug’s life to a point of realism, between the injury, the re-entry into the non-sports world, and the progression of his  relationship with Alison Pill’s Eva. Sweet Doug Glatt is going to be a daddy to a little girl. I love that concept so much. (For the record, dads are sexy AF.)

Some of the more pleasant surprises: the re-appearance of Liev Schreiber’s Ross Rhea, and the addition of Wyatt Russell as our villain.  Bringing Rhea back as an unlikely mentor is a stroke of genius, as any moment we get onscreen with Schreiber doing comedy is a good day for us all. Don’t believe me? Go watch his turn as a competitive dad in The Ten. He nails deadpan humor so, so well. As for Russell… guys, I’m telling you, this guy has range and he’s funny as shit when he does comedy (exhibit A: the meet cute in 22 Jump Street). I’m pumped to see him play a hammy villain; I think between the career in hockey and the chops, it’s going to be a tongue-in-cheek exercise.

Marry all of this to the fact that it’s a movie about beating the crap out of someone during a hockey game, and I’m in love.

In other words: shut up and take my money.

Coming This Week

A shout out to Sweden, who is bigly hurting right now.

sweden

#neverforget

 

Yeah, we’re assholes. But we’re your assholes.

This week, we’re going for that uncomfortable moment when someone destroys something from your childhood. I recently had Overboard shattered for me, with entertaining results. Plus, one can never have enough Kurt and Goldie (please stay together that I can continue to believe in love the same way that Peter Cetera does when crooning hits used in The Karate Kid. I need something.). Thursday will see a recommendation for the charming Away We Go. Friday will be a little bit different: as I’ve fallen way behind on the eight ball, I’m going to give you some amazing female journalists that kill it as the celebration of Women In Horror this month.

Grab a Zima and get comfy, babies. It’s about to get emotional.

Saturday Shorts: Headspace

attachment-1

Aaaaaand we’re back. Sorry for the delay on the Saturday Shorts front. Long story short: finally starting to feel better after being sick since Christmas. Last week I was nursing sore muscles along my rib cage that I pulled during a coughing fit.

So, here we are. Back in the new year, starting over after some time away. One of the things that’s been great over the past year has been the friendships I’ve developed. Finding like-minded people is one of the most beautiful things life has to offer. One such friend is a great guy from Canada named Jeff. Really, he has such a healthy perspective and desire to make the lives of others better, no judgment or conditions. Jeff posted an article on a short film dealing with trans issues. Jake Graf’s Headspace features a trans cast, and has been picked up by the Huffington Post for profiling.

You need to watch this. Click here to do so.

Trans issues need this type of light shed upon them. Have they come a long way? Yes, but that doesn’t mean that there’s still not a long ways to go. The perspectives of this film made me ache so badly. Seeing this is necessary for those of us that don’t live it, from someone going through the panic and uncertainty of how they present to the type of bathroom that is needed to the fear of walking down the street. Christ, I hate walking down the street period (catcalling, for the record, is not a fucking compliment. I’m not on display, I don’t give a shit what you think about my tits, I’m not a “that,” the goal is to assert that you’re an alpha male that approves of my outward appearance, and I highly doubt that you could last for more than 45 seconds, which makes the advertisement of easy sex less than appealing.) – imagining what it’s like to be someone who has to endure the fear of physical harm for being trans just hurts. And really, why the hell is someone’s gender any of our business? If you’re somehow threatened by the fact that there’s a penis somewhere on a person you find attractive, you need to look inside and figure out why your identity is so heavily wrapped up in appearing straight. If you’re pissed that a trans woman wants to use the bathroom, I can assure you that trans women just want to pee without getting killed; you’ve got more of a chance of getting raped by your boyfriend (or a politician) than you do by a trans woman. All in all, this is still something that requires discussion and perspective. If you stop trying to understand, you stop growing and you’re just taking up space.

For anyone that’s trans that’s reading this: we here at The Backseat Driver Reviews love and support you. You do you.

Happy Saturday.

Weekend Movies: Five Reasons to Watch Rosemary’s Baby

weekend-movies

As Valentine’s Day has come and gone… some of you might be in the same position I was in a good 12 years ago. That is, knocked up right after the holiday (given, mine was due to a boring Oscars ceremony, but still, tis the time of year for that sort of thing). What better way to celebrate than to watch a movie about the pregnancy from hell? Yes, we have a warped sense of humor here at this site. That’s not going to stop us, though. Here are five reasons to watch a classic this weekend, if you can get past the fact that it was directed by a fucking trashheap of a human being.

rb1

The joys of forced child bearing.

#1 – It’s better than some of the horror movies out there today

Yep, I am that judgy. You seriously want me to pay for rehashed shit like Rings? No. No dice. I’ll stick with something that was far brainier and had excellent source material, thanks. Snooty? Yes. Valid? Definitely. It’s justified.

#2 – The attitude toward a pregnant woman

The sad reality is that the U.S. is rapidly reaching a point where a woman gains her societal value by the contents of her uterus. One could argue that it’s been this way for a while – ask any woman who elects to remain child-free. However, in the time of restrictive access to birth control and pregnancy concerns – not to mention the attitude that only the baby matters once it exists – this film is particularly relevant. Once you get pregnant, you often stop being you in the name of being a patronized vessel. In that respect, Mai Farrow’s Rosemary is all of us: the most care she receives depends upon the eager anticipation of what she’s gestating.

rb3

The joys of childbirth.

#3 – The themes of maternal fear are relevant as well

We live in the age of Zika, birth defects and religious fervour denying the health of the mother over the survival of the fetus; there’s so much relevancy here in terms of the things that could possibly go wrong whilst pregnant. The most amazing thing, though, is the way it tackles maternal anxiety. As women, we’re often expected to pretend that pregnancy is one big ball of rainbows, belly kicks and the oh-so-sought-after glow. Newsflash: it’s not a glow, it’s sweat. It’s not just the physical aspect: Rosemary suffers throughout her pregnancy, both in body and mind. There’s doubt and a growing fear that something is wrong, that she caused it, and that no one is going to believe her. And you know what? That’s strangely comforting. When we watch her drop weight and start to doubt the world around her, it’s a reminder that it’s okay to feel like crap and question everything around us as we’re going through something new and scary. It’s okay to admit that we’re scared.

#4 – The cast is so delicious

Ruth Gordon was so good as nosy neighbor Minnie that she took home an Oscar. It’s well-deserved: Gordon is terrifying in this role, in part because no one suspects the old lady in the apartment building. Then there’s Charles Grodin, who was so convincing as a condescending gynecologist that he had to go on national television to say that he wasn’t that guy (seriously, women famously avoided him). On top of that, we get Farrow’s aching performance, as well as the smug John Cassavetes and my personal favorite, Sidney Blackmer’s Roman. I hate these people so much. They did their job so well.

rb2

Poor Rosemary.

#5 – Spousal rape

Guy (Cassavetes) has the worst excuse in the world for fucking his unconscious wife: he didn’t want her to miss out on the chance to get pregnant. Because, ya know, that only happens once in a lifetime, amirite? Really, this is the definition of spousal rape in several states: non-consentual sex between spouses. I say several states because this is not true in all of my country, which is disgusting. It’s shameful that someone actually had to fight in court to be recognized as a victim because the perp was her husband. Eff that noise right there. Look at this film, then think about that.

Even though it’s Polanski… rewatch this one. Please. Use the fresh eyes you’ve gained from the current trash fire we’re sitting in.

Pussy Grabs Back: Contrasting Femininity in Death Proof

dp1

I think I’m one of the few people on the planet that actually enjoyed the living hell out of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. Everyone I know hates this movie. It gets way more shit than it should. Is it his strongest effort? Nope, but it doesn’t have to be because comparing an artist’s different works is sometimes like asking yourself which child is your favorite: even if there’s a clear winner, they each have their own merits and deserve affection, and when you like the artist enough, no one wants to be that dick. Death Proof is no different. Sure, it’s chatty and a paced a bit more slowly than other efforts, but it’s got a wicked soundtrack (The Coasters! Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich!Pacific Gas & Electric!), and something else: a batch of the most badass women to ever get behind the wheel of a car. In fact, it’s these women that fascinate me: by creating two contrasting groups at various stages of male dependence, Tarantino manages to elevate those who fight back against their would-be murderer to the status of liberated Final Girl.

dp2

Better luck next time, Mike.

Since we’re about to make a comparison, let’s start with our first control group: the ladies from the first half of the film. We have the following: Butterfly (Vanessa Ferlito), Jungle Julia (Sydney Tamiia Poitier), Shanna (Jordan Ladd), and Pam (Rose McGowan). The group dynamics are fascinating: Shanna is fighting off the advances of Dov (Eli Roth) and Omar (Michael Bacall); Jungle Julia has been climbing her way to the toward the top of a broadcasting career; Butterfly is visiting Austin, TX, and has been dared by Julia to give a lap dance to any man that approaches her, buys her a drink, and quotes Robert Frost; Pam is stewing in a dive bar, insinuating via catty comments that Julia has slept her way to the top. However, what’s most entertaining is the fact that these women are pretty much waiting upon the men in their lives in order to take action. Butterfly is playing games with a suitor, withholding full-on sex in an attempt to foster a relationship rather than a hookup. Julia is literally waiting around for beau Christian Simonson to show up, clutching her phone and texting messages that he’s an asshole when he stands her up. Shanna has a dirty old man for a father that is willing to let his daughter have friends up to his lake house under the condition of no boys allowed; she gets barred from sex – a normal activity for a young woman – because her daddy doesn’t like the idea, despite that she’s clearly of age. Then we have Pam, who doesn’t take the easy solution of calling a cab in favor of accepting a ride from Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell). While they may appear modern, these women are stuck in a very male world. At one point, we witness Mike using Butterfly’s wounded pride in order to get a lap dance out of her, essentially making his victim perform sexually before he kills her. Make no mistake, these women get dominated. It’s no surprise that Mike murders them – they lack the backbone to make their own choices, choosing petty games, back-biting and performance over intuition and self-respect.

dp4

Deer in headlights. Well played.

Then there’s our other control group: the women from the second half of the film. Here we have a markedly different group: makeup artist Abernathy (Rosario Dawson); stunt women Kim (Tracie Thoms) and Zoe (Zoe Bell); and actress Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). While Abernathy is also engaged in an unfulfilling relationship, her friends ask her to consider dropping the bullshit and either asking her would-be beau for exclusivity or acceptance that her actions are not sexually fulfilling to him; this forces her to reconsider her actions rather than place total dependency for happiness onto her partner. Kim and Zoe lack these problems – the conflict that arises between them is the deal to never play Ship’s Mast again, which Kim attempts to enforce as an iron-clad contract. While Zoe ultimately wins, Kim does not mince words with her, displaying a ferocity with which to be reckoned. The weak link here is Lee, who is a bit vapid and naive; her reward for passivity is to be left behind by the group when the Dodge Challenger is taken out, under the pretense that she’s a porn star that will service the car’s owner. This implication is actually pretty horrifying: if you’re not paying attention, your friends will leave you to be sexually assaulted so they can go have fun. Lee aside, though, we’ve got a much stronger group of women here.

dp5

Llllllllladies…

Yes, group members of our second pool scream while Mike is chasing them, but let’s consider that fact: Mike has to approach this group in a different fashion, and does not achieve his desired ends. With our first group, Mike stalks the women and insinuates himself into their evening. Butterfly gets suspicious of him, but stops short of paying vigilant attention, a fatal mistake. In return, Mike roars past them in his death proof car and smashes head-on into them. With our second group, though, Mike isn’t allowed to get that close – the best he can do is hang out in a restaurant as they talk, with nary an interaction. He has to watch them through binoculars and then give chase. That’s the important part: he has to pursue them from a distance, inching closer because this group is not the spineless group he had previously targeted. He toys with his dinner a bit by crashing his car into the Challenger, but at most, Zoe is thrown from the automobile; no one is killed by his actions, merely scared. Mike’s not expecting Kim to pull a gun on him as he states in a cocky fashion that his attempted murder has been “fun,” nor is he expecting it when Abernathy declares that they should kill him, flipping the tables on him. He’s then chased and beaten to death by three women, one of whom makes a parallel of the pursuit to rape (at this point, we should all be chanting, “Tappin’ that ass!” in Thoms’s voice). Mike picked the wrong group of women with which to mess.

dp6

Loved this chase sequence.

This begs the question of why the first group died and the second lived, and the answer is easy: the first group accepted their gender roles, and the second group did not, going so far as to actively fight back against their aggressor. Every woman from the first group attempted to project independence and failed because she was dependent upon a man. Julia may be a badass DJ, but she’s one that gets stood up and throws a text message tantrum; Butterfly still needs validation that she’s desirable by giving a lapdance; Shanna plays by daddy’s rules; Pam just plain wants a knight in shining armor to drive her home. In stark contrast, Abernathy is told to check her princess complex at the door or stop complaining; Kim and Zoe have much more exciting things to think about than boys. Our second set does not take Mike’s abuse lying down, and pursue him before delivering a ruthless beating in order to teach him a lesson. They have outside interests and stand their ground. More importantly, they support each other, especially when someone tries to come in and push them around. It’s not surprising that the stronger of the two groups survives.

dp3

Get ‘im, ladies.

Is the second group perfect? Not at all – the thing with Lee completely pisses me off, and Abernathy’s relationship woes are an essay unto themselves. However, there’s a clear winner in this game: it’s the group of women that refuse to be pushed around. It’s the ones that fight back. In these times, you bet your ass that’s relevant.