Friday, August 7, 2009

The Single Most Important Garment in the Modern Horror Movie

Greetings, horror fashion fans. After considerable research, I have determined that there is one single clothing item that all modern horror movies MUST have. What could it be? Is it shoes equipped with razorblades? Swami turbans that hide your third-eye death ray? Metal-spiked gloves? The Drill Bra?

Nay, my friends. It is, of course, the White Tank Top. It is the Little Black Dress of the modern horror movie. And especially if you are the Final Girl in a teen slasher movie, you have to have it on as you battle for your life against the evil killer.


House of Wax (2005) - check.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake (2003) - check.

Wrong Turn (2003) - check.

Why is this particular top such a necessity in horror? Is it because Sigourney Weaver looked so awesome in hers whilst fighting the Alien?

Well, yes, she did, but no again. It's because white tank tops not only show off one's sexy physique whilst still looking tough....

..they are simple, cheap, washable, and bloodstains show up beautifully on them.

You can trash hell out of a white tank top and still have 9 more left in your cheapo Walmart 10-pack.

It is the costume designer's save-all.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The House of Hellraiser: Haute Couture, Hell-Style

Ah, Hellraiser. Everyone's seen it. Any possible review or dissection or general discussion has been done. It is an 80s classic, as is its sequel, and rightly so.

Then things started to get weird and dare I say, lame, and there were tie-ins to video games and bad cinematography and completely boring plots and bad acting and more lameness.

But before all that, we had The Originals, and to the fashion-minded, Hellraiser is probably THE most important horror franchise ever created. Why, you ask?

You see, what Hellraiser does is: establish the Official Wardrobe Of Hell.

Apparently, Hell is like going to the grungiest, filthiest, most underground Goth club evar, where there are potential serial killers and Real Vampyyyres and aspiring members of Jim Rose's Circus.

Except they have all spent FAR more money on their outfits than any of you pathetic townies in your Hot Topic miniskirts and Lip Service knockoffs. You can totally forget about winning that Miss Goth Princess title this year.

In order to be one of the Cool Kids, a.k.a. the Cenobites, you need to be wearing full-length high grade leather and PVC, custom stompy boots, and intricately constructed corsets/body armor.

Not to forget Tenebrous Kate's mandate of the HUGE Fucking Sunglasses.

There is also that little matter of creative self-mutiliation.

You don't see the Cenobites with any wimpy mainstream eyebrow piercings or barbed wire tattoos. Oh no. These guys are HARDCORE.

Just be careful not to remind any of them that they once used to be human (or had day jobs), because according to the second film, their totally awesomely cool leader with all the pins hammered into his head...

...suddenly turns into that sad balding creepy old guy trying to wear fetish gear and hit on all the nubile twentysomethings in the place, prompting general shrieks of "NO, NO!! PUT THE PINS BACK IN!!!

I kid. I should show some proper respect for Doug Bradley, who has been picking up steady paychecks for wandering around in SFX makeup sending people to hell for god knows how many bad Hellraiser spinoffs. And he does rock the WWI military look okay.

Then, obviously, there is the all-important "skinless" look, which is apparently par for the course but not all that cool in Hell.

Of course, fashion this extreme makes the hapless human characters look sick. Witness Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) rocking the glam-metal hair and the Corey Feldman blazer-with-pushed-up-sleeves look:

Although to give her credit, she wears a skin-suit later on. When in Hell, and all that.

And there's Clare Higgins as Julia, who is supposed to be so beautiful that men are willing to drop their trousers the second she looks at them, but instead looks kind of like your really stressed out high school principal.

Unless your particular fetish is "Psycho Margaret Thatcher."

Still, in the second movie she gets a better hairstyle and wanders around in twist-style halter evening gowns.

Even when she is working the full-on-mummy look.

Now THAT is some primo Special Needs material, right there.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Blast From The Past: The Sentinel (1977)

Last week I succumbed to nostalgia and watched Michael Winner's The Sentinel (1977).

Oh The Sentinel, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

1. I love thee for Cristina Raines' super awesome 70s wardrobe, including a different white Olga nightgown for every night of interrupted sleep...

for Beverly D'Angelo's all-red dance costume, and Ava Gardner's amazing Joan Collins hats.

2. I love thee for thy hysterically overwrought heroine, played by the aforementioned Raines, a supermodel with a terribly traumatic childhood. Said trauma was apparently triggered by her absolute horror at walking in on her father (who, in this movie, looks like he's pushing the age of 85) with two enormously fat prostitutes. This causes her to flee sobbing to the bathroom, and cut her wrists (crosswise). Said trauma could also have been caused by being forced to wear a miniskirted Catholic schoolgirl uniform, which I suppose was meant to make Raines look like a youthful teenager, but instead makes her look like a giantess playing dressup.

3. I love thee for thy completely random lines of dialogue, like the whole "Black and white cat - black and white cake!" exchange. Huh? (See #4, below - these dialogue lines were probably mandated by SAG rules or something).

4. I love thee for thy totally eye-popping star-studded cast of thousands, all of whom pretty much walked in the front door, walked across the set, took their paycheck, and walked on, much like graduates receiving their diplomas. Like Burgess Meredith as a mincing old man with a grumpy cat, Beverly D'Angelo and the 2-minute completely awkward masturbation sequence, Sylvia Miles as her German lover, Jerry Orbach with INSANE 70s feathered hair, Martin Balsam as the cliched absent-minded professor, Richard Dreyfuss as an uncredited, line-less extra, Nana Visitor and Tom Berenger as walk-ons, Jeff Goldblum (with his shirt unbuttoned to his navel)....

Eli Wallach as the crusty old detective, and his sidekick Christopher Walken, chewing gum and saying ONE line....

Chris Sarandon as the mysterious boyfriend, with the wimpiest milquetoast 'stache you've ever seen....

Jose' Ferrer as a fearful cardinal....

And John Carradine, who never seemed to play any role that did not require him to (a) be old or (b) slathered in wacky makeup.

It was sort of like the director wanted to make It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World, or a Robert Altman kinda thing, but realized that everyone just wanted to see The Exorcist or something scary involving demons, supermodels and the Catholic Church. Whatever.

5. I love thee for the mere idea that a furnished Manhattan or Brooklyn apartment with a view could be considered expensive at $600 a month, and that one built on the Gateway To Hell is a steal at $400. These days you would pay EXTRA for that little feature.

6. But most of all I love thee for thy massively awesome Opening of The Hellgates ending, wherein your director hired actual carnival freaks to portray the demons of Hell, which was so fucking sick and scary when I saw this as an impressionable mid-80s-era teenager, and is so absolutely not scary here and now in 2009. I mean, they are all just sort of standing there and not posing any real menace. In today's cinema, they'd be ripping Cristina Raines' skin off.

Honestly, who doesn't love a good blast from the past?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Not Bad, Except For the White Shoes: Shuttle (2008)

Lest you believe, dear readers, that I never like anything I see these days, let me put your fears to rest, because I saw a pretty good movie last night. The critics are harsh to it, but I liked it okay.

Sadly, there's not much to mention in the way of costumery, but we can't have everything.

Anyway, Shuttle takes as its premise a situation that I have actually been in before: arriving very late at the airport, finding it eerily deserted, luggage not arrived so you're the last one at the carousel, and nary a ride home at ground transportation to be found.

I don't know about you, but empty hospitals, libraries and airports creep me the hell out. I mean, this happened to me once at Heathrow, for god's sake. It's insane (and not a little freaky) to be in one of the busiest airports in the world at ANY time of day, and no one in authority is anywhere to be seen.

I digress. So, two attractive girls return from a Mexican vacation, find themselves in the aforementioned situation, and take a ride on a shuttle. FROM HELL.

Well, nothing supernatural, but the driver definitely has Other Plans besides getting his passengers to their desired destinations.

I'm not going to tell you any more about this except to say that while the plot sounds simplistic, and indeed maybe a little predictable to some, it certainly does keep you going.
Especially since the acting is pretty damn good, and the lead characters anything but two-dimensional. And it has one of the bleakest endings since Wolf Creek, aided by an incredibly haunting sound design. Sound design, IMHO, is a vastly overlooked and unsung cinematic element, and when it's done right it can MAKE a film.
There's also a fair few very deliberate red herrings, done in such a way that you say "Aha, I know why THAT'S important to the plot" and then afterwards it's all "aaahhhh, THEY TRICKED ME!!"

Since this is a fashion-in-horror blog, I would be remiss in mentioning that for me, personally, white pumps on anyone, before or after Labor Day, is never attractive. Seriously, they make the tiniest feet look like cruise ships on stilts. But somehow it adds to the sleaze factor. You'll see what I mean if you watch this.

But to each their own, I suppose.