Buddies-at-Home is a series of content shared by Buddies staff, working from home during physical distancing – from recipes, to playlists, to musings on living in isolation. This contribution is from our Managing Director, Shawn Daudlin. A heads up – this post is also full of spoilers.
I was a scared child. Don’t get me wrong, I have a loving family and many happy memories of my youth, but I was also very cautious, sometimes suspicious, and fearful in a way that was beyond my years. Maybe my fear stemmed from the group of boys, who saw me as a bit too feminine (pretty), that would chase me through the cornfield near my home, threatening physical harm. Or it could have been the Ouija board incident (don’t ask) that pretty much scarred me for years, causing both dreaming and waking nightmares. Maybe it was the judgment of the do-gooder group of Christians in my life because after all, I knew I was different from the other boys and most likely would never be accepted by the holy and pious. Whatever the reason, I was scared, but in the 80s that would all change. I would start to come into my own. The rise of the “final boy” would begin.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows anything about me at all that I love horror movies. In the 1980s, I prayed at the altar of the local video store. For a rural, small-town boy, with only limited access to blockbuster movies at the local movie theatre, each VHS tape introduced me to new worlds and experiences. Those direct-to-video horror shows and exploitation films helped me gain control over my fears. Sure, I spent many sleepless nights terrified, reliving what I watched, but I also reworked each horrifying scene in my mind to give me the upper hand to defeat the monster. All Hail Scream Queen, Jamie Lee Curtis! She was my GOD and I loved her. She always defeated the evil. Her “final girl” status is legendary. I wanted to be every Friday the 13th heroine. As a pre-pubescent boy, I had a scream that could rival them all! Alas, as they say, “boys don’t cry” and most certainly a boy could never be the “final girl”.
For me, two things dominated the 1980’s. Slasher films and puberty. I still loved the “final girl”, but knew I would never be in love with her. I wanted to live in a world where I could be the hero. One where I was strong enough to defeat the monster. A world where I could love and be loved. I wanted to be the “final boy”. “Final Girls” dominate the horror genre, but there are a few movies that abandoned the trend and allowed the sensitive and caring male lead to save the day. As seen through the eyes of a teenage me, here are a few of my favourite movies and horror hero crushes.
Released May 8, 1981
OMG Todd! Marry me already! Who doesn’t love a man who can swing an axe. Played by Brian Mathews, Todd is the protector of summer campers everywhere. His chiseled good looks and welcoming smile turned me gay (just kidding, but it didn’t hurt none). In my opinion, Todd is the quintessential “final boy”. Even though he may have contributed to the dangers that these campers face, it’s his journey to redemption that makes me love him. Totally husband-worthy. Not only did The Burning abandon the “final girl” trend, it gave us two “final boys”. Alfred played by Brian Backer gets the killer cat and mouse chase scene, but it’s Todd who gets to best the deformed maniac. Legendary make-up artist Tom Savini created the gory effects, including one surprising multiple kill scene that incensed the MPAA at the time. Watch the uncut version. As I’m writing this I just had to go online to look up recent pictures of Todd/Brian. I’m still in love. 7/10
BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER (aka. NIGHT WARNING)
Released November 20, 1981
This nasty little film stars teen-heartthrob Jimmy McNichol as Billy. I’ve always been a sucker for feathered 80’s hair. Billy’s sensitive, loves his family, and treats women with respect. He’s confident, sporty, without being overly jock-like in that misogynistic 80’s kind of way. Definitely boyfriend material. You know right from the beginning of this movie who the villain is. Billy’s loved perhaps a little too much by his completely psychotic aunt Cheryl, played with campy aplomb by genre favourite Susan Tyrrell. This film is a slow burn, but has many climatic rewards for those who stick with it. Warning: The police detective, played by Bo Svenson, is one of the most homophobic characters you’ve probably ever seen and completely inappropriate by current standards. His performance is over the top machismo and makes me giggle with ridiculous delight whenever he’s on screen. Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker is exploitation cinema. It makes no apologies and takes no prisoners. 7/10
THE EVIL DEAD
Released May 26, 1983
Ash, you make me laugh. A sense of humour is so important for a healthy relationship and you have that in abundance. You possess a certain goofy charm that is so attractive. You make me feel loved and entertained all at the same time. You’re considerate, romantic, and would never forget my birthday. Although you could literally take me to other worlds, we could never have a marriage made in heaven. The Evil Dead is one of the most original and ferocious horror films of the 80’s. Ash, played by cult icon Bruce Campbell, takes a beating no other “final boy” has had to endure before. This cabin in the woods movie is full of gory mayhem. The reviews were mainly kind, but due to the unrelenting blood bath The Evil Dead was banned in certain countries for years. Some of the effects are laughable now, but it was quite ground breaking for 1983. Every teenager in the neighbourhood couldn’t wait to get their hands on this video. Our parents disapproved, but we loved the bloody spectacle of it all. You may not want to keep him around for the longterm, but Ash always is the perfect date. 8/10
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE
Released November 1, 1985
I love you Jesse. You wear your heart on your sleeve and your sweet demeanour is totally infectious. My favourite “final boy” struggles like all teenagers do to find themselves, but is unafraid to speak with an authentic voice. You feel and express emotion with all your heart. For that you are loved. NOES2 has been dubbed the gayest horror movie ever made. A moniker that should be screamed proudly, but through an 80’s lens led to a very divisive reaction from critics and audiences. Today NOES2 is a cult favourite. Mark Patton stars as Jesse, a male lead who is literally possessed by the monstrous Freddy Krueger. Looking back at this film now, the homoerotic elements are very blatant. Those of us who shared Jesse’s secret related to this character. He was our first boyfriend, our prom date, best friend. Hollywood wasn’t kind to Mark Patton. His accounts of homophobia can be seen in the documentary, Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street, also a great watch. Jesse broke boundaries and horror movie conventions as the first male Scream Queen. For that I will be always be grateful. 8/10
Thank you reader for following me on this horrific journey and for allowing me to share one of my passions. The above thoughts and views are completely my own and are probably debatable at best. During these unprecedented times of isolation, remember that we are all strong, loved, and possess the ability to overcome the darkness and defeat the monster. Don’t ever be afraid to be your own hero.