My sister came home from Sound Garden (one of the staples of Syracuse- The Sound Garden is our local record, music and movie store) with a fun bag of movies one day when I was about 11-12 years old. I sifted through some of the options- Queen of the Damned, Interview with a Vampire, and House of 1,000 Corpses. I begged her to watch House of 1,000 Corpses with me. “Absolutely not.” She was responsible for me when my mom was at work, and did not want to be the source of my sleeplessness later that night. “But we can watch this one- it’s from the fifties, so it can’t be THAT scary.” She handed over the DVD that I completely looked over. The cover was an illustrated picture of Vincent Price standing among the flames of a burning building. I sighed and agreed, because an old horror movie was better than no horror movie at all.  

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House of Wax (1953) DVD cover and back. www.covers.box.sk

Much like the first time I watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, my eyes were opened to an entirely new world in a genre that I was still exploring. It was so macabre, but in a fun way (I promise I’m not a serial killer, I don’t like kidnapping people and turning them into wax figures, and I definitely don’t prowl on people under the cover of night.) I’d always known of Vincent Price from afar, as the voice of Ratigan in the Disney movie The Great Mouse Detective. He was so handsome and dapper in this move that his charm throws you off. You assume that he’s the monster, but how could he possibly be? His charm is enough to smite even the faintest hint of murder suspicion.

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Vincent Price behind the scenes in House of Wax (1953) www.derekwinnert.com

I love this movie because of the nostalgia, yes, but there is so much more than just the precious memories I have of my older sister and I watching this together as youngsters. It opened the door to a new realm of intelligent and witty macabre that set a precedent for my taste in… horror comedy. It wasn’t exactly meant to be funny at the time of it’s release- quite the opposite. The movie makers wanted something new and sensational, which is why the movie was also shown in 3D. It had comic relief in some scenes, at the expense of some female characters taking a tour of the wax museum. As he leads the crowd of visitors through his grim scenes of mayhem and murder, Professor Jarrod (played by Vincent Price) jokes about the ladies needing “smelling salts” for their weak reactions to the wax scenes of death and utter shock. I remember audibly laughing out loud as I re-watched this movie to prepare for our recording of this episode. I had forgotten how funny it really was.

 

Besides the humor, the haunting monster reveal, and beautiful design of the movie itself, there’s that recurring theme of female intuition– Sue (Phyllis Kirk), the main female lead in the movie, knows that there’s something odd about the wax figures in Professor Jarrod’s wax museum. Even though she knows that the impossible is happening, the men around her can’t wrap their heads around what’s going on. Sue is the only one who can see what is hidden in plain sight. She knows down to her core that Professor Jarrod has killed her best friend Cathy (Carolyn Jones), and used her cadaver as the base for his Joan of Arc sculpture. Everyone tries to convince Sue that perhaps she’s just a little bit scarred after witnessing the death of her closest friend. While that may be true, Sue continues to question the facade of the killing-crazed professor. As the movie progresses and Sue’s fears come to fruition, she almost loses her life to Professor Jarrod, who plans on using her lifeless body for his beloved Marie Antoinette sculpture, his most prized work. She’s rescued, thankfully, by the very men that doubted her gut feeling.

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Sue discovers Professor Jarrod’s secret in House of Wax (1953) www.dvdizzy.com

When Sue finally can’t take wondering anymore and must have solid proof of Cathy’s murder, she does a little investigating for herself. She’s by herself in the wax museum after hours and approaches the Joan of Arc figure that uncannily resembles her deceased best friend.  She climbs atop the statue and removes the jet black wig, revealing the straw-blonde hair of Cathy beneath- FINALLY a tangible piece of evidence that Sue was right all along! This victory is interrupted by the sound of Professor Jarrod’s glaring voice saying “You shouldn’t have done that, my dear,” almost as if he’s chastising a young child. Besides that emotional, terrifying realization that she’s alone in the museum with the murderer, your heart sinks for Sue- she was correct all along and there’s a possibility that no one will know, because she’ll be dead before the truth is exposed. We see this all the time in literature, movies, old folklore (Blue Beard comes to mind…), and even current news. You’ve probably experienced it yourself on more than one occasion.

 

I was at a really impressionable age when I first saw this film, so what I took away from it as a young girl has always lingered in the back of my mind- to trust my instinct. I think a lot of the time, society shapes us as young girls to ignore that feeling we get that tells us to be careful, to look closer, to think more deeply. There will be people you come across in your life that seem, well… slimy. And it’s okay to feel as though there’s something amiss, even when other people may not sense it. It also taught me to be vocal when I was uncomfortable. If Sue hadn’t said a word about what was going on or what she felt was happening, would she have lived? Most likely, Professor Jarrod would have boiled her alive with a vat of hot wax. So there’s that.

 

But it also taught me to break the rules to discover the truth. If Sue hadn’t “gone with her gut”, no one would have known about the real human bodies under the wax figures. She had to literally peel back the layers to discover what she’d known all along, and she had to go against what was socially acceptable to do so. I hope we can all take that to heart, and realize that to overcome the everyday horror we face- be it political, social, or fear of the world in general- we have to be brave and discover the truth, not only for ourselves, but for the benefit of others.

 

I know. Pretty deep, right?  

 

  • Abbegail Brown

Even though I am pretty sure Dracula (1931) was my first horror movie, the Creature, or the Gill Man as he’s more widely known, was my first real monster love. I think it was the epic title that first caught my eye. I noticed the 90’s Universal Studios VHS tape cover. The Gill Man’s bright yellow eyes were front and center with two divers, practically invisible, swimming in the background. I don’t really remember watching it for the first time but I remember loving it so much that I wanted to show my friends this super cool old movie I’d found. It was something no one else my age knew about. It was my “thing” that I could show off. I was a little 9 year old girl and I was hooked on the Gill Man!

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What my VHS tape of Creature from the Black Lagoon looked like! (www.retro-daze.org)

My deep-sea love for Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) is so incredibly strong that it’s hard for me to express it in normal words and not flowery poetry, but I will try.

In a great article from 2012 on tor.com, writer Ryan Britt sums it up perfectly in the first sentence of his essay, In and Out of the Lagoon: Why We Love the Gill Man

“Just because your protagonists in genre fiction aren’t human people, doesn’t mean we don’t feel for them.”

You can’t tell me you don’t feel something for Marlon when at the end of Finding Nemo, he suspects Nemo is dead, can you? What about Sully when he has to leave Boo at the end of Monster’s Inc.? You’re sad for him, right? How about E.T. when he’s about to leave and he tells Elliot, “I’ll be right here” pointing his finger to Elliot’s forehead. You’re going to miss E.T. too. Or, and here come the waterworks, when Dumbo’s mother is chained up and she reaches through the bars so that she can barely touch her son’s trunk and the song “Baby of Mine” begins to play. Anybody got a tissue? Holy crap. None of the characters I have mentioned (save for Boo and Elliot) are human. Still, you love them and you cry for them; you want them to be happy. You’re rooting for them the entire way.

Guess what? You find yourself doing the same for the Gill Man in the Creature from the Black Lagoon movies.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon starts with an explosion. A booming voice, heard over the images of a new planet Earth, quotes Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” What!? Creature begins the same way the Holy Bible begins, hinting that the beginning of the Gill Man’s existence is no different from any human man’s existence. Like all great human tragedies though, sometimes our purpose is clouded and we grow lonely and afraid and look for love but never find it. In one of my all time favorite movie scenes in Creature, the Gill Man, played by Ricou Browning, swims directly under an unknowing Kay, mirroring her image. I’m geeking out just thinking about it! 

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Mirror swimming scene from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) photo: www.jengaloves.com

The body language in this 3D, underwater scene is so beautiful, you can tell that the Gill Man thinks she is just the most wonderful thing he has ever seen. Without the use of words, we are filled with not only a sense of fear for Kay but understanding for the Gill Man. Kay (Julie Adams) rejects the Gill Man’s advances by the end and one can’t help but feel bad that he doesn’t get the girl (#teamGillMan) especially after he’s been drugged, caged, beaten and shot multiple times. In the sequel, Revenge of the Creature (1955), the Gill Man is successfully captured and sent to Ocean Harbor Oceanarium in Florida (aka Marineland) where he is poked and prodded and chained to to the bottom of his tank. This might be the reason why I never liked marine mammal parks, even as a kid. The Gill Man eventually escapes and looks for the one woman in the film, the ichthyology student, Helen (Lori Nelson). She, of course, rejects his love much like Kay. At the end of the film when she asks him to “STOP” hurting John Agar’s character, the Gill Man listens to her, which keeps Agar’s character alive. One could argue that it’s not out of love but because he was tortured into learning the word. In The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), the last of the Gill Man movies, he still doesn’t get a break. He is caught once again but this time he is greatly burned. His scaly skin is gone and his gills have melted shut. It is discovered that he has human skin underneath his scales and that he must now use his lungs to survive.  At the end of the film, he makes the conscious decision to drown himself in the water, feeling like his life is no longer worth living. 

The Creature from the Black Lagoon movies aren’t just about science and the missing link, they are about human existence and the question: “Who is the monster and who is the man?” In my opinion, the Gill Man relates to the character, Robert Neville, in the

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I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Originally published in 1954. This edition was published by Orb Books in 1997 (www.goodreads.com)

book I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Robert Neville is the sole human survivor of a pandemic that happened a few years ago. A new species has emerged from the pandemic and now the entire population has a condition that resembles vampirism.  

At the end of the book, we discover, with Robert, that the new species believes that he is, in fact, the actual monster; the legend, since he is different from them and has been trying to kill them off. Such an incredibly sad and lonely tale.

So, one could argue that the Gill Man is not the monster…we are.

  • Gracie Jarvis

The first time I listened to this episode after Luke, our amazing Technical Editor, sent it to me, I knew we had something great.  (I also realized that I need to stop saying “like” and “um” so much). This has been one of my favorite horror films to watch for the simple fact that it holds a lot of nostalgic value as one of the very first horror films I ever watched. The very reason why I am so terrified of the sound of chainsaws, empty little towns, hollow old houses, and serial killers like Ed Gein.  I was SO excited to talk about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

I notice something different every time I watch it. I think it is easy to get caught up in the atrocity and grittiness of the movie and miss the little things, like the names of the teenagers who are mercilessly slaughtered by this family of cannibals, or the reason why these poor kids are on a journey through the heat of Texas in a janky old van in the first place. I love the discussion that recording this episode brought out in both Gracie and I, because I think it can give some new material to fans of Texas Chainsaw.

I absolutely love Sally, the final girl in Texas Chainsaw. She fights so hard to get out of the hell-hole she’s in and make it to safety. She even jumps through a glass window….TWICE. There have been many moments in my life where I have wanted to give up and stay under the covers, but then there’s Sally, who fights again and again to get away from the ever present threat. She succeeds when she is able to finally jump in the back of a passing truck and escape the clutches of Leatherface, laughing all the way. 

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Sally (Marilyn Burns) finally escapes the Sawyer clan! (www.splatterjunkie.com)

I’m glad that this was my first scary flick because it showed me that most women in this genre can be fierce and their will to survive trumps any monstrous thirst for blood. As a young girl, it made me think, “If Sally can survive Leatherface and the Sawyer family, I can handle puberty, middle school, high school, and whatever else life is going to throw my way.” I know I have been like Sally ever since. In fact, Gracie and I have both been like Sally working on this podcast. There have been many moments of frustration and doubt but we just kept jumping through the glass windows that stood between us and success!

We can relate our podcast to this film in many ways because the success that this film yielded was totally unexpected. It was made on a low budget with fresh actors and actresses who had little to no experience, but were willing to fight tooth and nail to make it as great as it could possibly be. And here we are almost 40 years later, still talking about it. It seemed fitting that we should talk about this in our first episode for that reason. Gracie and I have had to learn as we go, but it’s not stopping us from making something great. Plus, the obstacles and learning experiences we’ve had to face make great behind-the-scenes bonus material, much like that of Texas Chainsaw.

It is still so crazy to me that we’re releasing our first podcast episode this week. When Gracie asked me to embark on this journey with her, I had no idea what I was getting into, but I trusted that it’d be a great time, as all of my adventures with Gracie and her family have been. It blossomed into so much more than just a podcast, and I knew that after recording our first episode together. As the weeks go on and we become more comfortable behind the mic, our episodes continue to get better and better. I mean, our audience grew before we even had content released! (Thanks, Social Media!) As you can imagine, we’ve started to feel the pressure that I’m sure MANY podcasters feel, we’ve experienced some hiccups, we set up our homemade studio diligently every Tuesday, send frequent text and Facebook messages throughout the week but now here we are… Welcome to our first episode, “Head Cheese.” Enjoy!

  • Abbegail Brown
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Leatherface (Gunner Hansen) madly swings his chainsaw in his final scene. (www.blumhouse.com)

Good Mourning, Nancy came to me like most creative adventures; it was born out of discouragement. The end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 was rough on so many levels. I needed something new and positive. I had always wanted to learn how to record a podcast after listening to such successful personal favorites like Serial and The Last Podcast on the Left, but the problem was “What do I even talk about?” and “Who would want to hear me talk about anything in the first place?” The topic would have to be something I actually liked and was willing to spend some time on.

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Abbey and I trying to look spooky in April 2017. Photo by Dalton Dobson.

I can place the birth of Good Mourning, Nancy sometime in February 2017 when I started asking various friends if they wanted to just “sit in front of a mic and talk about our favorite horror movies.” That was the only thing I could think of that I absolutely loved talking about all day, every day, with anyone who was interested enough. All of the friends I asked replied right away and were supportive and willing to be potential guests on the show! The fact that there were already so many people interested made me hopeful about the topic. However, I knew that it would be too much to have a different guest every week, especially since most of the friends I asked were out of town. I wanted to keep the podcast female, at least at first, so I approached my friend, Abbey Brown, about being my permanent co-host. I was so pleased when she enthusiastically accepted!

#Blessed

Abbey and I have known each other since we were very little. Our mothers were close friends in high school, we are both one of three girls, and at one point, Abbey dated a family member of mine. We’ve spent many a Christmas Eve party, birthday, and wedding together and I consider her and her family an extension of mine. Abbey is also reliable and cares just as much for this podcast as I do. During the course of recording season 1, Abbey always showed up on time to help set up the mics and blankets for the makeshift studio in my tiny one-bedroom apartment. She would bring coffee, food, and just all around good cheer to the project. She helped get in contact with Dave Love  and Steph Arnold the artists who designed our brilliant logo, and volunteered her awesome boyfriend, Dalton Dobson, to take our promo photos. Abbey has been a huge asset to Good Mourning, Nancy and I hope to keep her around for as long as humanly possible.

Of course, we both couldn’t have done it without my husband, Luke. Working in television and radio broadcasting for over 12 years, he is one of the most talented people I know. Not only does he edit the show, but he also does his best to set up the equipment to make us sound halfway decent. I know he cringes at the fact we are not recording in a studio, using high-tech mics, or even using the mics correctly, but that doesn’t stop him from supporting us 100% of the time. I can’t even believe I lucked out with such an amazing human.

Last but certainly not least, I absolutely cannot forget to thank my sister, Lily, who composed the theme song to Good Mourning, Nancy, Dani Benjamin, for helping me get this website up and running, and my parents for their endless support and encouragement.

What’s In A Name?

Nancy Thompson, played by Heather Langenkamp, is the final girl in Wes Craven’s 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street, and is the inspiration for the title of this podcast.

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Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) beating up Freddy (Robert Englund) in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) www.screamhorrormag.com

 

What’s so interesting is that I was NEVER a huge fan of the NoES movies. I wasn’t allowed to watch them when I was younger and when I was old enough, I was too busy watching the Scream franchise (my favorite slasher flicks)! So, how in the world would I even consider adding the name of the final girl from a franchise I didn’t really care about? I remembered a quote from writer Diablo Cody, famous for writing the quirky indie film Juno and the horror flick Jennifer’s Body. In the New York Times article Taking Back the Knife: Girls Gone Gory, Cody said:

 

“When I watched movies like ‘The Goonies’ and ‘E.T.,’ it was boys having adventures,” she said. “When I watched ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ it was Nancy beating up Freddy. It was that simple.”

 

I LOVED that! I went back, re-watched A Nightmare on Elm Street, and finally realized just how much of an intelligent and capable badass Nancy is! Towards the end of the film, Nancy is able to wake-up and trick Freddy Krueger out of her dream and into the real world. Once in the real world, she lights him on fire and throws him into the basement. When the fire is put out, Freddy is gone, but Nancy knows he’ll be back for her. Moments later, Freddy attacks her once again but she realizes that fear is what keeps him ‘alive’ and so she calmly reduces him to nothing. At the end of the film, Nancy steps outside into the morning light and exclaims, “It’s bright!”  All of her friends are alive and well… or so she thinks. I think it is safe to say that Nancy won the battle but the war had obviously just begun. However, we now know how powerful Nancy can be; making us feel like we can be powerful in our own lives too!

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Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film by Carol J. Clover (Princeton Classics).

I still have issues with the final girl trope, although it is slowly but surely starting to change now (yay!). Carol J. Clover created the term in her very informative book Men, Women, and Chainsaws. Normally the final girl is somewhat scrappy or shy, brown-haired, white, and/or a virgin. This is a problem for many reasons; not only does it show us that only certain kinds of women are allowed to survive a horror movie (real-life tragic event) but that everyone who dies does so because they are either sinful by birth (not white) or by their actions (sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll). Let’s all be honest: the virginal-white final girl is outdated.

 

Does this mean that some of the movies Abbey and I will be covering are full of these types of final girls? Yes. Yes it does. Horror films (especially slashers) from the 70s and 80s and even the early 90s are unfortunately all about this final girl. However, what we can positively take away from the final girl trope is that she is at the very least an intelligent and observant female fighter who will not give up. We could all use a survivor story occasionally and horror movies give us that opportunity.

In the wake of Good Mourning, Nancy’s official release, I hope you enjoy our ramblings about our favorites, old and new, and if you’re not already into horror films, maybe you’ll have a different perspective when we’re done.

  • Gracie Jarvis