Lagniappe Podcast: Wishmaster (1997)

For this lagniappe episode of the podcast, Boomer, Brandon, and Alli discuss the evil-djinn special effects horror Wishmaster (1997).

00:00 Welcome

04:28 Barbarian (2022)
10:25 Arabesque (1966)
12:20 Dagon (2001)
14:44 Even the Wind is Afraid (1968)
16:45 Tubi
23:33 Hellraiser (1987)
31:35 Pearl (2022)
36:30 The Silent Twins (2022)

40:25 Wishmaster (1997)

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcherTuneIn, or by following the links on this page.

-The Lagniappe Podcast Crew

Bonus Features: All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

Our current Movie of the Month, 2013’s All Cheerleaders Die, is a delightfully vapid, shockingly cruel horror comedy about undead cheerleaders seeking supernatural revenge on their high school’s misogynist football team.  It opens with faux-documentary footage that anthropologizes the cheerleaders’ social rituals as queen-bitch rulers of the school.  Our outsider-goth protagonist intends to infiltrate, expose, and tear down the institution of popular-girl supremacy by joining the squad and sabotaging them from the inside.  Only, once she makes the squad she finds it to be an unexpected, heartfelt bonding experience . . . especially after they’re murdered by the school’s meathead jocks, then rise from the grave to avenge their own deaths.

All Cheerleaders Die is a tonally chaotic mix of campy bitch-sesh dialogue, disturbing jabs of misogynist violence, high-femme lesbianism, vintage zombie gore, and supernatural goofballery involving magic crystals & spells.  Its shocking ultraviolence strikes a sharp contrast against the bubbly cheer squad social setting, touching on a long tradition of playfully violent cheerleader thrillers like Jennifer’s Body, Sugar & Spice, Satan’s Cheerleaders, and the list goes on.  To that end, here are a few recommended titles if you enjoyed our Movie of the Month and want to see more bubbly, morbid films about the deadly art of high school cheerleading.

Cheerleader Camp (1988)

All Cheerleaders Die’s greatest strength is its more-is-more ethos. It’s a shamelessly silly film that’s fearless about piling on more supernatural mayhem than it can possibly manage atop what easily could have been a simple undead-cheerleaders premise.  You can find more of that over-extended hot-mess novelty in the 80s sex-comedy slasher Cheerleader CampCheerleader Camp relocates the Porky’s sex comedy to Camp Crystal Lake, breaking up the usual rhythms of the summer camp slasher with frat boy gags involving locker room snooping & old-biddy crossdressing in an endless desperation to see cheerleaders topless.  Then, it goes the extra mile with some cheap-o surrealism in sub-Elm Street nightmare sequences starring various school mascots and razor-sharp pom-poms.  Like All Cheerleaders Die, it’s light-hearted, boneheaded novelty trash that reaches a kind of vapid transcendence in its overly complicated genre mashups.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

If the meathead Reaganite antics of Cheerleader Camp are an instant turn-off, you’re much likelier to feel at home with the bubbly, Valley Girl cuteness of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The original Buffy film is basically Clueless before Clueless, if Clueless were a Hammer Horror.  Kristy Swanson stars as a mallrat cheerleader who’s recruited for her true calling as the modern Van Helsing.  Suddenly her priorities shift from determining which shopping mall multiplex has the best popcorn to learning how to drive stakes into vampires’ hearts without breaking a nail.  I never fully understood the appeal of the Buffy TV show, but the movie was a childhood favorite and remains a total delight.  It’s the exact kind of giggly, high-femme horror comedy that would be a hit at the same baby-goth sleepovers as All Cheerleaders Die, if either film got the respect they both deserve.

The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993)

All Cheerleaders Die may belong to a tradition of theatrically released cheerleader horrors, but most deadly cheerleader movies are made-for-TV.  Lifetime, in particular, is overflowing with titles like Cheer for Your Life, Deadly Cheers, Dying to Be a Cheerleader, Death of a Cheerleader, and Pom Poms and Payback, releasing cheerleader thrillers with the same rate most channels release made-for-TV Christmas movies.  The very best straight-to-TV cheerleader thriller I’ve ever seen was made for HBO in the 90s, though.

The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom is the scrappy little sister of headlines-riffing black comedies like Serial Mom, To Die For, and Drop Dead Gorgeous.  It can’t quite compete with those 5-star classics, but Holly Hunter is deliciously vicious as the titular cheerleader-murdering mom.  She tears through small-town rubes like an overgrown child pageant queen gone feral.  It’s the exact kind of novelty I was looking for when I watched the much more mundane Denise Richards Lifetime thrillers Killer Cheer Mom and The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders earlier this year, so I’m recommending it as the only title you need to understand the artistry of the made-for-TV cheerleader thriller sungenre.

-Brandon Ledet

The Fog (1980)

I first saw John Carpenter’s cosmic body horror The Thing in the midnight slot at The Prytania.  I loved the film, but struggled to stay awake during the final third, fighting a losing battle against its low-key, matter-of-fact tone and unrushed pacing.  A few years later, I’m a few years older and struggled to stay awake at a 7pm screening of John Carpenter’s The Fog at The Broad.  I appreciated the opportunity to see a proper projection of a beloved genre classic, but that novelty wasn’t enough to keep my eyes from being magnetically drawn to the top of my skull.  Immediately after my screening of The Fog, I biked home to rent the film VOD and rewatch the last half-hour to make sure I didn’t take a “long blink” through anything vital.  I did the same the morning after that midnight screening of The Thing in 2015, “re”watching the back half of the film over a cup of coffee.

I don’t believe the drowsiness of The Fog‘s mood & pacing is a detriment, no more than I believe The Thing is anything less than a 5-star classic.  The Fog just happens to be one of those low-budget horrors that’s so moody & dreamlike that it leaves you both riveted and halfway asleep – joining the likes of Carnival of Souls, Messiah of Evil, and its seaside sister film The Living Skeleton.  The prologue is a campfire horror story about a drowned ship’s crew who haunt the land as ghosts, proving ahead of time that you can condense this 90min film’s plot into just 5 minutes of dialogue.  So, what does Carpenter fill the other 85 minutes of dead air with?  As the children would say, just vibes.  The titular fog is a glowing, sentient force of nature that slowly creeps onto the screen, inviting some glowing-eyed ghost friends along for the ride.  It is the most literal interpretation of “atmospheric horror” around, surviving on pure mood and eerie weather until supernatural mayhem is unleashed in the go-for-broke finale . . . if you’re awake to witness it.

Most of what makes this film of interest to modern audiences is its horror icon bonafides.  Carpenter may be working on a scrappy budget here, but he puts his glowing-eyed monsters to a much more ambitious, ethereal effect than their subterranean brethren in C.H.U.D.. That’s why he’s the best.  Give the man a kitchen knife & a store-bought William Shatner mask, and he’ll inspire decades of copycats in a subgenre of its own.  The Fog never really took off in the same way as Halloween, but there are plenty of Carpenter regulars around to give it a similar classic-horror pedigree: producer Debra Hill, scream queen Jamie Leigh Curtis, her screamier-queenier mother Janet Leigh, town drunk Tom Atkins, etc.  Adrienne Barbeau is a particular highlight among those collaborators, playing the coolest local radio D.J. around, talking her small seaside town through the ghastliest night of their lives in the smoothest tones possible.

The Fog is far from Carpenter’s flashiest work.  It doesn’t have the impossible body contortions of The Thing, the pro-wrestling caricatures of They Live, nor the psychedelic rug-pulls of In the Mouth of Madness.  Besides the icy synths of Carpenter’s score and the calming, laid-back cool of Barbeau’s performance, there isn’t much to recommend here as the artistic pinnacle of anyone’s career.  It’s got plenty mood & craftiness to spare, though, achieving a wonderfully vivid nightmare vibe on a community theatre budget.  Even if you stay awake & alert the entire runtime, it’s easy to question whether you slipped into a dream halfway through.

-Brandon Ledet

The Search for This Year’s Malignant

When reviewing James Wan’s twisty crowd-baffler Malignant, I contextualized it as 2021’s The Empty Man: a seemingly well-behaved mainstream horror that takes some wild creative stabs in its go-for-broke third act, earning instant cult prestige as a “hidden gem” despite its robust budget, thanks to the dysfunction of COVID-era film distribution.  A year later, it’s clear that Malignant has fully eclipsed its 2020 equivalent.  The Empty Man no longer exists at all in the public consciousness (a thematically appropriate fate for the film, at least), while Gabriel of Malignant fame is the closest we’ve gotten to crowning a modern horror icon since Bill Skarsgård dragged up clown make-up in chapter one of IT.  It’s not enough that horror nerds & Twitter bots were sharing one-year anniversary posts commemorating Gabriel’s jail-cell debut in Malignant; they’re also now searching for “this year’s Malignant” in other films.  Within weeks of each other, I saw two different 2022 horrors described as “this year’s Malignant,” which is further confirmation that Gabriel still lurks in the backs of people’s minds (har, har).  Having now seen both contenders for the prestigious title of “this year’s Malignant,” I do think there’s a clear winner in the pair, even if I have lingering questions about what that honorific even means.

Orphan: First Kill was the first movie I saw described as “this year’s Malignant” online. It turned out to be a premature declaration.  Having to live up to both the shock & awe of Gabriel’s reveal and the perverse discomforts of the original Orphan‘s third-act meltdown is too much pressure for this kind of straight-to-streaming schlock, which is ultimately too cheap & too subdued to amount to much of anything.  The workman director behind The Boy & Brahms: The Boy II just can’t match the stylishness or trashiness of a James Wan or a Jaume Collet-Serra. William Brent Bell works in a muted Lifetime color palette & melodramatic register that First Kill never really breaks free from.  Worse yet, the film’s “shocking” twist is telegraphed all over Julia Styles’s face within the first few scenes, which takes it out of contention for “this year’s Malignant” before it even gets cooking.  Thankfully, Orphan: First Kill doesn’t save its twist for the third act, allowing Styles to square off against little orphan Esther on her own bonkers terms well before the end credits.  The second half of First Kill is some deliciously absurd, post-Lifetime domestic horror, and it never stops being bizarre to watch a now-adult Isabelle Fuhrman reprise her role as the forever-young Esther, Colin Robinson style.  Since the “first” in the title is super misleading, as Esther has already killed before this movie starts, I’d gladly watch Fuhrman return for another, earlier prequel as the same loveable, pint-sized killer in 13 years.  Orphan: First Kill is a delightful, slight horror novelty.  It’s just not this year’s Malignant.

The case for Zach Cregger’s debut feature Barbarian is much stronger.  While Orphan: First Kill suffers the disadvantage of having to out-twist its already plenty twisty predecessor, Barbarian is coming in fresh as a new work with no expectations hanging over the audience.  All most critics will say about the film is that it’s a fun ride and it’s best to go in completely unspoiled, which certainly sounds very Malignanty to me.  I won’t touch the details of the plot out of respect for maintaining that mystique.  All I can say, then, is that it’s a very fragmented work, one that makes total sense in the context of Cregger’s sketch comedy background.  Like with all sketch comedy, not every segment exploring its Evil Airbnb Subdungeon setting is entirely successful (with Justin Long’s storyline being a particular mood-killer).  Overall, though, it’s some fun, fucked-up Discomfort Horror that Malignantizes the post-torture porn cruelty of titles like Don’t Breathe into something new & exciting.  It also has the best end-credits needle drop since You Were Never Really Here, leaving the audience in a perversely upbeat mood despite the Hell we just squirmed through.  It’s not a great film but, frankly, neither was Malignant.  The important thing is that it’s eccentric enough in its twists & turns to land a few “what-the-fuck” jaw-drops as its cursed Airbnb reveals all its gnarly secrets.  That’s what makes it this year’s Malignant, a “hidden gem” of a mainstream horror that’s pulling typically non-adventurous audiences into some deeply fucked up, perversely playful subdungeons. It’s incredibly cool that something this bizarre was #1 at the box office its opening weekend.

As for next year’s Malignant?  My hope is that by then something so freshly upsetting & bizarre will make this honorific obsolete, and we won’t have to hand out the award ever again.

-Brandon Ledet

Lagniappe Podcast: Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

For this lagniappe episode of the podcast, Boomer, Brandon, and Alli discuss Adrian Lyne’s post-Vietnam War psych horror Jacob’s Ladder (1990).

00:00 Welcome

02:36 Power of the Dog (2021)
06:00 Vampires (1998)
07:30 The Fog (1980)
11:35 Funny Pages (2022)
16:20 The Hobbit: A Long-Expected Autopsy (2018)
19:10 Victoria & Abdul (2017)
22:45 Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)
25:50 A Serious Man (2009)

33:30 Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcherTuneIn, or by following the links on this page.

-The Lagniappe Podcast Crew

Podcast #168: Scream (1996 – 2022)

Welcome to Episode #168 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, and Britnee ease into spooky season with a discussion of the meta-slasher franchise Scream.

00:00 Welcome
00:56 Breathless (1983)
05:57 Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981)
09:50 The Burning Bed (1980)
12:45 Orphan: First Kill (2022)

16:08 Scream (1996)
33:13 Screams 2 – 5 (1997 – 2022)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Movie of the Month: All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

Every month one of us makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and we discuss it afterwards. This month Brandon made Alli, Boomer, and Britnee watch All Cheerleaders Die (2013).

Brandon: I’m a little baffled by the lack of a visible cult following for Lucky McKee’s 2013 zom-com All Cheerleaders Die – a delightfully vapid, shockingly cruel horror comedy about undead cheerleaders seeking supernatural revenge on their high school’s misogynist football team.  Its reputation and promotional materials make it look like an unwatchable embarrassment only fit for gore-hungry teens who haven’t yet seen the superior titles of the teen-girl-revenge horror cannon.  And yes, the biggest hurdle All Cheerleaders Die has to clear on its path to cult-classic status is that it’s dead last on the list of films of its ilk worth prioritizing before you get to it: Heathers, Drop Dead Gorgeous, The Craft, Ginger Snaps, Jennifer’s Body, Jawbreaker, Sugar & Spice, Buffy, Teeth, Carrie, etc., etc., etc.  That’s great company to be in no matter where you fall in the high school clique hierarchy, though, and I’d love to see this overlooked, over-the-top trash gem cited among those better-respected peers more often.

All Cheerleaders Die starts with faux-documentary footage that anthropologizes the high school cheerleaders’ social rituals as queen-bitch rulers of the school.  Our outsider-goth protagonist intends to infiltrate, expose, and tear down the institution of popular-girl supremacy by joining the squad and sabotaging them from the inside.  Only, once she makes the team, she finds it to be an unexpected heartfelt bonding experience . . . especially after they’re all murdered by the school’s meathead jocks, then collectively rise from the grave to avenge their own deaths.  The film is a tonally chaotic mix of campy bitch-sesh dialogue, disturbing jabs of misogynist violence, high-femme lesbianism, vintage zombie gore, and supernatural goofballery involving magic crystals & spells – all lightyears away from the grimy digicam footage that establishes its early tone.  It’s a riot.

It’s been nearly a decade since All Cheerleaders Die floundered in theaters, and it’s yet to leave much of a cultural footprint among the genre nerds & edgy teens who’d likely love it.  In my ideal world, it would be leaving blood stains on midnight movie screens & sleepover TV sets on a weekly basis.  So, how did it go over with the rest of the Swampflix crew?  Does the cult start here, or did y’all find it to be just as terrible as its marketing suggested? 

Alli: I’m overall feeling pretty lukewarm about it. I don’t think it’s an unwatchable wreck, but it doesn’t quite rise to the level of cult classic for me. It’s convoluted and lacks focus, but there’s a good movie lurking in there somewhere. One thing that caught me off guard is how long it takes to actually get to the undead part of the story. Early on, it concerns itself more with the teen drama than it does with the horror, which is really where it gets interesting. Then, once the cheerleaders die, it feels like all the teen girl bonding has already taken place, except for with Leena the resident witch. I would have liked to see them continue to bond and overcome internalized misogyny together, with the gay goths indoctrinating the cheerleaders in their ways and the cheerleaders teaching the gay goths that sometimes being popular and athletic is both hard work and has its perks, and that as girls they experience the same kinds of harassment and violence that male entitlement brings.

The good parts of this stlightly outweigh the rambling, though. There are some very funny lines peppered throughout. At the beginning, when Leena names her cat Madeline the only thing I could think was “Wow! That’s super gay.” And lo and behold, the movie did deliver the gay. (Also, it made me glad that I can pick up on the secretly-attracted-to-girls teen vibe after living through that awkward time. My experiences were not wasted!) I also appreciated the shallow aesthetic of this movie. It looks very Disney Channel Original at times while also delivering some real dark shit. The floating stones and the cemetery sign immediately come to mind. Who designed that sign? Do they work with Hot Topic as well as making small town graveyard signage? The way the bubblegum twenty teens look clashes with the gory violence really works for me.

For those interested in a very similar story but told in a less messy way, I highly recommend Lily Anderson’s 2018 book Undead Girl Gang. There’s popular girls resurrected, misfits bonding with them, and a murder mystery! I imagine this movie was influential on that book, but I do think it improves on a lot of the ideas in some very fun ways.

Boomer: I also come down on the “so okay, it’s average” non-side of the metaphorical fence on this one. When asked about my thoughts when recording our recent Monkey Shines podcast episode, I noted that I would give it one thumb up and one thumb down. Although I liked the concept and the way that it played around with it, there’s a definite muddledness to the narrative that, when combined with the Disney Channel Original Movie VFX, made the whole thing feel cheaper than the sum of its parts. Not that it looks cheap per se; normally, with a movie like this one where virtually the entire cast is unknown, you end up with something that looks like the kind of bargain bin, incorrectly lit, blurry student film that you can find streaming on Tubi (alongside 2001: A Space OdysseyTribulationThe Human Centipede 3, and The Color Purple, because Tubi is a lawless place). And because this was on Tubi, I don’t think that was an unfair assumption going in, especially when the film opens with the (thankfully unfulfilled) promise that we’re about to watch a found footage flick, complete with exactly the kind of overexposed footage that it’s common to find in movies from unseasoned filmmakers. The ability to chalk up poor editing, bad angles, out of focus footage, and inaudible dialogue to an error on the part of a character rather than the production crew has been a boon to neophyte moviemakers out there in the world, and although All Cheerleaders Die opens with a few of these hallmarks, it transitions to being a “real” film pretty quickly. 

But that’s also where some of the other issues come into play. For one thing, this cast of all white, mostly brunette girls caused some issues with telling the characters apart, especially early on. We watch Felisha Cooper’s Alexis die early on at the end of the “found footage” section, and we see that Mäddy (Caitlin Stasey) is clearly a different person. But then we meet Martha (Reanin Johannink) after that section, and it wasn’t until the football players showed up at the cheerleaders’ pool party did I realize that she and Mäddy were different people. There’s something a little strange and careless about the casting of actors who are all a little too similar. I’ve never been confused about which Mean Girl is which, or gotten Nancy and Bonnie confused in The Craft even though Fairuza Balk and Neve Campbell are both pale-skinned and raven-haired. It might be possible to get so high while watching Jawbreaker that when Rebecca Gayheart’s character reminisces about Liz Purr you have a moment where you ask yourself “Who’s that?”, but you’re never going to think that it’s Rose McGowan. That carelessness also seems to bleed over into an overabundance of names ending in a -y/-ie sound: Tracy, Lexy, Kaylee,  Mäddy, Cody, Moochie, and for some reason both a Terry and a Larry, who have no relation to one another. What’s up with that? When you’re watching Heathers, you know that they’re all named Heather (or Betty/Veronica Finn/Sawyer) on purpose, but here it once again just seems needlessly confusing, which is something that you want to avoid when making a movie with a pretty small audience in the first place. 

This certainly has a strong cinematic quality, but the sense you get overall is muddled by the whip-quick changes. First it seems like a found footage movie, but it’s not! It seems like Lexy will be an important character, and she is, but only as a motivating factor for other people’s actions! Why is Cody Saintgnue even in this movie? What is the purpose? There’s a very Jawbreakers-ness to the fact that the only non-evil straight male love interest in the movie is virtually irrelevant (I just watched that cinematic masterpiece again last month for perhaps the tenth time, and every single time I see it, the fact that Julie has a love interest at all gobsmacks me every time), but also, what is he doing here? In Heathers, for instance, the nerds have a Rosencrantzian purpose: to squirt milk out of their noses when a Heather looks at them, to be bullied by the jocks at Heather Chandler’s funeral and thus inspire Veronica and J.D. to target them, to provide chorus in the school. Here, they feel like they’re part of the movie because high school movies have stoners — full stop. So instead of a very tight, clean movie about high femme lesbian cheerleaders eating misogynists, we have a film that meanders around and has several really impressive sequences that turns into a DCOM version of Avengers: Infinity War at the end because Mäddy and her goth girlfriend have to stop the villain from collecting all of the infinity stones. The pool party scene, the beach scene, the car crash, the girls at school — all of it is very, very cool. I was immediately won over by the way that we cut straight from the expository found footage (that doesn’t really tell us much at all) to the very fun, frenetic cheerleading auditions. It managed to combine the campy peanut butter of all of those lacrosse scenes in the first season of Teen Wolf with the campy chocolate of the training montage in 1992’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer set to “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” by The Divinyls into a perfect little Reese’s cup. But somewhere between there and the end, after thinking to myself for the first (and presumably last) time I really wish Brittany Snow was in this and also Wow, it’s really fucked up that the only black guy in this movie is our primary villain and he’s out here sexually assaulting a bunch of white girls both literally and symbolically, it ended up being a not-quite-camp-classic for me. 

Britnee: I’ve seen the cover of All Cheerleaders Die many times while perusing through the all the deliciously trashy flicks on Tubi, and nothing about it nor the short description sold me. I don’t really like zombie movies, so a low-budget zombie movie about a group of cheerleaders didn’t seem like something I would be into. I was surprised by how unique the supernatural elements were, though, and it at least wasn’t the annoying, basic zombie crap I expected.

There’s something about gay cheerleaders killing asshole men that really warms my heart. How is it that this is the only film I’ve come across with that plot? It’s wonderful! It does have a pretty slow start and doesn’t really speed up until midway, during the confrontation between the cheerleaders and football players in the woods. That’s when I really became invested, and to be honest, everything that happened prior didn’t really register with me. What really got me amped was the magical Wiccan stones. I didn’t understand how they worked or if they’re a real part of the Wiccan religion, but it thought it was fascinating. The way that the green stones attracted blood and made the blood lines look like slithering snakes was rad.

Would I watch this again? Sure, it was pretty fun, but I’m not quite sure if I see it as being a cult classic. Maybe I’ll change my mind a few years down the road after a couple more watches.

Lagniappe

Britnee: If I would have watched this as a 14-year-old mall goth, I would have been super into it. I don’t mean that as an insult at all! I just think that my interests and style at that time would have really drawn me to hunting down a DVD copy of this movie at all costs. It would be in my vampirefreaks.com bio at the very least. There was a nostalgic feeling that to it that made me cringe a little, and I think I somehow was tapping into embarrassing 14-year-old-Britnee memories. 

Alli: I definitely agree with Boomer about everyone looking extremely similar. I wasn’t confused the whole time, but with the super similar white girl names, it did get rough. I also noticed that the black guy was this super evil, violent, rapey villain, and it definitely rubbed me the wrong way. I do believe that he has a couple of non-white guys in his crew, but it was a very, uhhh, problematic casting choice.

Boomer: I will say that, for all that I’ve said about how I found myself wishing I was watching a movie with more well-known actors, part of this was based on what I perceived for most of the runtime as a particularly terrible performance by Tom Williamson, who portrayed the villainous Terry. He spent the first 90% of the film emoting absolutely nothing: there was no change in his features whether he was sizing up Maddy, looking down at the crash site in which she and the others were presumably killed, or while watching Vik walk up to a teacher in order to tell her about what happened the night before. Once he got his hands on the infinity stones, however, he turned into a big campy weirdo, so I guess we can chalk that up to a character choice for the sociopathic Terry. Brooke Butler’s performance as Tracy was inconsistent, but she was nonetheless very fun to watch, and lead Caitlin Stasey was so magnetic that when I recently caught an episode of the current (terrible) Fantasy Island on TV that she happened to be in, I watched the whole (terrible) thing; and for what it’s worth, cheers for ABC for having a queer lady romance where two women demonstrate what they want to do to each other erotically with a rose. We’ve come a long way, baby. Special kudos, though, goes to Amanda Grace Cooper, who played Hanna. I really enjoyed her performance as both Hanna and Martha-in-Hanna’s-body, and she was the standout for me. I will also say that, for me, the movie would have been 10% better if it had left out Maddy’s video diary entry about her revenge plot. Given how quickly she pivots to genuine fondness for the cheerleaders and the unnecessary forced third act conflict that results from the others discovering the video, I could have done without it. 

Brandon: The Swampflix Crew may not have been entirely convinced of All Cheerleaders Die‘s greatness, but you can at least tell Lucky McKee believed in its cult potential.  Not only does it abruptly end with a shameless tease for a never-made sequel, but it also started as a revision of McKee’s shot-on-video debut, years before he had “made it” as a haunted-household name.  The 2001 SOV version of All Cheerleaders Die is a rough-draft prototype that’s not quite as polished (duh) nor as gay (booo) as its big-budget “remake,” but it’s just as surprisingly successful given its limitations.  It’s no-budget backyard filmmaking at its most charming & upsetting, and it’s obvious how McKee convinced himself of its greater potential as a post-Heathers teen girl bodycount comedy.  I still don’t fully understand why he was wrong, but I’m at least glad y’all found things to enjoy about his second attempt.

Next month: Boomer presents Stepmonster (1993)

-The Swampflix Crew

Lagniappe Podcast: Prey (2022)

For this lagniappe episode of the podcast, Boomer, Brandon, and Alli celebrate Alli’s birthday with the historically-set Predator prequel Prey (2022).

00:00 Welcome

02:00 Inside the Mind of a Cat (2022)
03:24 Niagra (1953)
06:06 Hail, Caesar! (2016)
12:30 Estate sales
18:20 Creepshow (1982)
24:05 Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)
28:05 Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)

32:11 Prey (2022)

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcherTuneIn, or by following the links on this page.

-The Lagniappe Podcast Crew

Bonus Features: White of the Eye (1987)

Our current Movie of the Month, Donald Cammell’s 1987 sunlit thriller White of the Eye, is a real weird one.  Our first Movie of the Month produced by the Canon Group (improbable but true), it’s a violent clash between high & low art aesthetics.  Whether it’s a result of the sun-blazed setting or the Golan-Globus production funds, there’s a daytime TV cheapness to the look of White of the Eye that cannot be overcome through Cammell’s . . . unusual choice of imagery.  So, he mostly overcomes that cheapness in the editing. The images look like excerpts from a Walker, Texas Ranger episode, but they’re assembled into a dreamlike, Lynchian tone.  The whole movie borders on looking & feeling mundane, and yet it’s electrifying in its off-kilter presentation. 

It’d be easy to write off White of the Eye‘s uneasy, unwieldy tone as a result of incompetence if it weren’t for Cammell’s larger catalog of unwieldy genre oddities.  White of the Eye plays like a knockoff giallo that gets lost in the American desert for a while, then emerges as a sun-dazed erotic thriller.  The kicker is that it gets lost on purpose.  Cammell’s tragically short career as a filmmaker is comprised entirely of loosely edited, borderline incoherent genre exercises that reach past the storytelling expectations of his audience’s bloodlust to prod the outer limits of the human psyche.  He teetered between being a mad genius & a total hack, and the tension between those extremes made for constantly exciting work.  To that end, here’s a rundown of the other three feature films directed by Donald Cammell, in case you enjoyed our Movie of the Month and are curious about the rest of his off-kilter catalog.

Performance (1970)

Cammell’s most vivid extremes of brilliance & incoherence are on full display in his genre-defying debut, Performance.  A collaboration between fellow inscrutable artist Nicolas Roeg, Performance starts as a chaotically edited gangster picture before emerging from an intense mushroom trip as a macho echo of Bergman’s Persona.  James Fox stars as a bigoted, close-minded gangster with a seething hatred for “females” & “foreigners”.  When he defies the orders of his mobster employer, he finds himself in need of a proper hideout, so he disguises himself as a free-spirited bohemian rocker and takes refuge in a rented room owned by Mick Jagger, essentially playing himself.  Through the power of marijuana, psilocybin, and polyamory, Jagger’s libertine landlord breaks down the rigid boundaries of his gangster tenant’s psyche, turning him into a genuine, genderless version of the free-spirit archetype he disguised himself as to escape his fate – all on a harem-style crash pad set that looks like it was decorated by Kenneth Anger.

That’s the most concise, straight-forward recap of Performance I can provide, since it’s a film that’s deliberately, defiantly loose in both its scene-to-scene details and its overall meaning.  Because Roeg has touched on similar territory elsewhere—otherworldly rock star personae in The Man Who Fell to Earth) & extraordinarily intimate sex scenes in Don’t Look Now—it’s tempting to attribute a lot of the film’s high-art pretensions to his influence, but the dreamy surrealism of this debut collab echoes throughout the rest of Cammell’s work as well.  As soon as the long establishing shots of rain-slicked London exteriors are intercut with flashes of a genderfucked threesome between Jagger & his groupies in the very first scene, it’s clear this is pure Cammell, for better and for worse.  The only thing that’s really out of place here is the film’s setting, since the rest of his work feels magnetically drawn to the American West.  If you’re looking for more of the untethered weirdness of White of the Eye without all the hyperviolent genre tropes grounding its story, Performance is all filler & no killer – often transcendently so.

Demon Seed (1977)

Although Performance & White of the Eye have their own vocal cults, Demon Seed is Cammell’s most popular, iconic work among the general moviegoing public.  It belongs to a very special subcategory of classic horror: I saw it parodied on The Simpsons decades before I saw the movie itself.  In some ways, it’s the most well behaved of Cammell’s films, telling a coherent story with an almost made-for-TV level decipherability.  Except for maybe some lingering exterior shots of the American desert, and some deeply strange War of the Sexes philosophical tensions, you might not even be able to clock it as a Cammell film at all.  Despite its tightened-up editing & storytelling style, though, Demon Seed is just as strange as Cammell’s most out-there works.  It’s not every day you see a movie where Julie Christy plays a lonely housewife who’s imprisoned & impregnated by her husband’s automated-home A.I. technology – a rapist HAL9000 on the fritz.

I’ve been putting off watching this film for decades, since its premise is so sleazy (and that particular subject matter was rarely handled well in the grindhouse days of the 1970s), but thankfully it’s less focused on the physical act of impregnation than I feared and instead finds a kind of wretched transcendence through retro computer graphics & technophobic rambling.  Adapting a novel from paperback titan Dean Koontz, Cammell prods at his usual War of the Sexes tensions here, pitting “male” logic-brain against “female” emotion-brain in a sinister, physical manifestation of a violent divorce.  Its woman vs. machine gender battle spirals out from there to hit on a galaxy of button-pushing hot topics, though, ranging from technocratic fascism to the patriarchal surveillance state to blocked abortion access.  It’s a movie about the misogyny & assault I was worried it was going to indulge, and it’s one that telegraphs the strange proto-MRA violence of Cammell’s next picture, White of the Eye, except with an iTunes visualizer mystique.

Wild Side (1995)

Because Performance & Demon Seed are his most out-there, genre-defiant works (and, frankly, his classiest), the closest companion piece to Cammell’s White of the Eye was his follow-up erotic thriller, Wild SideWild Side feels like watching Tommy Wiseau remake the Wachowski sisters’ Bound.  It’s about how cops are rapists, lesbians are rad, and Christopher Walken is an absolute madman.  Walken’s performance is completely unpredictable in its cadence & internal illogic, pushing the third-act villain turn from White of the Eye into a feature-length character study of an unhinged gangster freak.  If it were a Nicolas Cage performance, Wild Side might be Cammell’s most celebrated cult classic; as is, it’s rotting in 360p on YouTube, which might be exactly what it deserves. 

The quick-cut edits of mundane images that make White of the Eye such a disorienting head-trip continue in full force here, now accompanied with similarly scrambled Christopher Walken syntax in lines like “Women: with them, without them, who can live?”  Anne Heche stars as Walken’s romantic foil – a banker by day, prostitute by night, who’s hellbent on stealing the heart of his hottest moll (Joan Chen, Josie from Twin Peaks).  If Performance is the purest version of Cammell’s choppy, dreamlike editing style, Wild Side might be the purest form of his sleazy War of the Sexes gender conflicts, which teeter wildly from thoughtful critique of societal misogyny to horned-up participation in that very thing.  As chaotic as White of the Eye can feel in other ways, it does find a neutralized balance between those extremes of Cammell’s debut & his final work before his suicide.  Demon Seed might be the furthest outlier in that career trajectory, but let’s be real, every Donald Cammell movie is an outlier.  He was a deeply strange dude, and it’s a tragedy he didn’t leave us with a deeper mind-fuck filmography to puzzle over.

-Brandon Ledet

Lagniappe Podcast: Monkey Shines (1988)

For this lagniappe episode of the podcast, Boomer, Brandon, and Alli discuss George Romero’s Monkey Shines, a psychological horror about a super-intelligent, super-murderous service monkey.

00:00 Welcome

10:30 Jawbreaker (1999)
19:45 The Coen Brothers
23:55 Nope (2022)
33:45 Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
38:15 Fire of Love (2022)

41:30 Monkey Shines (1988)

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-The Lagniappe Podcast Crew