Author: Shayna Murphy

August 5, 2017 / / Main Slate

When, in Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982), Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh)–the young, sweet and hopelessly naive freshman who takes way too much bad advice from her friend about how to make boys like her–gets an abortion, this beloved ‘80s classic that helped launch the careers of many young stars of its era ceases to be just any coming-of-age teen comedy. The instantly quotable lines from class stoner Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn in his first and only likeable role) all slip away. Even the now-iconic pool scene between Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates) and Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold), which helped launch a thousand fantasies and gave a cringe-worthy, fly-on-the-wall view into how the male gaze really operates, becomes just another bit of scenery.

January 17, 2017 / / Main Slate

Forget Black Phillip and everything supernatural that you may think makes The Witch — the powerful debut film from writer-director Robert Eggers – a remarkable piece of horror cinema. Subtitled A New England Folk-tale, the film initially beguiles as a nightmare odyssey and slice of life from a period in our historic past, but then it does something else: it peels back those layers to reveal a special horror that lies underneath, when doubts over faith, family and societal roles take hold.

The Witch opens in the 1630s, on the trial of William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine (Kate Dickie): a grim Puritan couple who are about to be banished from their community due to religious fanaticism. Proclaiming himself and his family as among the only true believers, William accepts excommunication without hesitation. His eldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), watches from the pews, her eyes capturing all the doubt and fear her parents seem so eager to shirk.

December 12, 2016 / / Main Slate

Who is the real Samantha Caine? It’s the question that looms over The Long Kiss Goodnight, the 1996 shoot-em-up written by Shane Black and directed by Renny Harlin. For eight long years, Samantha (Geena Davis) has wondered this every time she looks in the mirror and sees a body riddled with scars she doesn’t remember getting. Is she just another mousy, small-town schoolteacher and mother who heads the PTA or was she once another kind of woman entirely?

With the help of a private eye (Samuel Jackson) — the cheapest one her money can buy — she hopes to finally learn just who that woman was that she kissed goodnight all those years ago. Only now, she doesn’t have much of a choice: she has to figure it out fast, because the clock is ticking and her dark past is about to determine the outcome of her future.

November 11, 2016 / / Main Slate

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” — Jack Kerouac, On the Road

The road is both a refuge and a prison in My Own Private Idaho, the seminal 1991 drama by director Gus Van Sant. It stretches out, vast and infinite in its scope, clouded by the memory of the cars all whizzing past, of the turns not made but longed for, and the journeys not quite finished yet well remembered.

Teetering on the edges, the street hustlers of My Own Private Idaho seem inclined at first to see the road as a form of salvation. Here, the space they claim is their own, and it’s paved with opportunity, teeming with potential Johns. They’re all just one car ride away from the next great score or disaster. But who wants the real world when you’ve tasted this kind of freedom?

October 24, 2016 / / Main Slate

Pet Sematary is one of the most terrifying novels Stephen King has ever written. After finishing it in 1978, King famously put the manuscript away in a drawer, where it stayed for years because he believed it was too dark and bleak to be published. Although it eventually was in 1983, King wasn’t happy about it. He did it begrudgingly to fulfill the final terms of his contract with Doubleday Books.

“If I had my way about it,” King said in a 1985 interview, “I still would not have published Pet Sematary. I don’t like it. It’s a terrible book—not in terms of the writing, but it just spirals down into darkness. It seems to be saying that nothing works and nothing is worth it, and I don’t really believe that.”

May 27, 2016 / / Main Slate

Among director Wes Craven’s earliest films, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) represents a breakthrough.

Craven, a former English teacher with a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins in writing and philosophy, cut his teeth in the film industry in the early 1970s by editing and directing hardcore pornography. He rose to prominence with THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and later, THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) — films legendary for their savagery, unrelenting ferocity, and bleak nihilism.

January 21, 2016 / / Main Slate

It’s a mistake to think IT FOLLOWS is just a horror movie about sexually transmitted diseases and the dangers of premarital sex.

True, the curse that sets everything into motion, putting nineteen-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe) in the crosshairs of an unstoppable killing force, can only be caught by having sex and can only be abated—temporarily, we quickly learn—by having more sex. But that’s just one way to interpret the dangers that are conjured up and encountered throughout the film.

December 9, 2015 / / Main Slate

Keep them away from sunlight. Don’t get them wet. Whatever you do, don’t feed them after midnight. The rules that keep the cute, toy-like creatures in GREMLINS from transforming into reptilian pranksters were always meant to be broken. The question is, why?