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Attitude, Beauty, Carnage… The ABCs for Fright Flicks of Fashion

Once upon a strange, dark time in the 1990s, supermodels ruled the earth. George Michael put them in music videos, Cindy Crawford made movies and RuPaul sang about how we should all give twirls on the runway. Now, I love America’s Next Top Model as much as the next person — especially if the next person wants to marry it — but let’s face it: Our collective cultural infatuation with women who wear clothes for a living was a bit bizarre and conspicuously short-lived. Unlike, say, the relationship between fashion mags and horror movies, which I, for one, hope never dies. Here are a few snapshots from the runway… of death!

The Centerfold Girls (1974)
This sleazy little slasher
flick recently got the remastered DVD treatment and is totally worth
checking out if you’re into… well, sleazy slasher flicks. As Clement
Dunne, genre veteran Andrew Prine is morally outraged by women who pose
for a nudie calendar, but apparently morally OK with murder. The Centerfold Girls is pure grindhouse exploitation featuring the white-hot Tiffany ( Kingdom of the Spiders ) Bolling.

The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
Once in a blue moon, a movie comes along that seems to have been ripped directly from my brain; watching it is like seeing dreams unfold on the screen. Such a movie is The Eyes of Laura Mars, my wish list brought to life: Written by John Carpenter, directed by Irvin Kershner ( The Empire Strikes Back , y’all!), starring Faye Dunaway and featuring outrageous, Helmut Newton-inspired photo shoots. Eyes of Laura Mars, like all the best movies from the 1970s, also has its own theme song: Barbra Streisand’s “Love Theme from Eyes of Laura Mars (Prisoner).” Yes folks, this delightful tale of a glamorous photographer suddenly afflicted with psychic visions of murder reminds me why life’s worth living.

Maniac (1980)
William Lustig’s Maniac has a not undeserved reputation as a ripe slice of misogynist horror. Set in NYC at its grimiest, the camera in this brutal, graphic flick never flinches as Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) carves his way through a bevy of young women in an attempt to “kill” his long-dead, abusive mother. Any merits can be debated all the livelong day, but the photo shoot Frank attends while attempting to woo fashion photog Anna D’Antoni (Caroline Munro) is 100 Percent Awesome. While the scene reinforces the idea of women as lifeless mannequins, a tonal shift away from the violence arrives and it’s as welcome as it is bizarre and unending. Munro directs her models (“That’s it, smile! C’mon ladies, it’s looking good!”) to a sweet disco groove called “Showdown.” Watch this movie just to hear lyrics like “You’ll leave a pretty corpse behind…yippie ki yo ki yay!”

Looker (1981)
Among the things Michael Crichton’s Looker has going for it are a bitchin’ synthesized score and theme song, and a thoroughly preposterous premise. Beautiful models head to the Beverly Hills office of plastic surgeon Larry Roberts (Albert Finney) for minor tweaks — hey, shaving 2mm off your nose makes all the difference — and soon start dropping like pretty flies. So Dr. Roberts gets his investigatin’ on and finds himself in the computer graphics enhanced world of early ’80s media conglomerates and advertising agencies, where artificiality is the word of the day and eeeevil advertising magnates are using artificial actors in their commercials. Gimme a break! Computer-made actors, crafted solely of pixels? Why, that’s just crazy talk! Next thing, you’ll be trying to convince me that someone would want to remake horror classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre !

Dawn of the Mummy (1981)
This American-Egyptian-Italian effort combines some of the greatest things in the history of ever: zombie-style gut-munching, pyramids and fashion models. Make no mistake, Dawn of the Mummy is pretty lousy… but it’s fabulously lousy. The plot is simplicity itself: Shockingly self-centered model-types desecrate the tomb of someone or other by staging a photo shoot around his sarcophagus; the offended mummy and his dusty mummy pals rise and lay waste to the snooty beauties. This summary makes it seem as though the film were somewhat logical; trust me when I assure you it’s not. But who needs logic when you have mummies acting like cannibal zombies?

The worlds of high fashion and horror are a match made in… well, if not heaven, then surely somewhere, right? So it boggles the mind that the best fashion-related genre flicks are decades old. Who will pick up the sequined mantle and bring us America’s Next Dead Model? Hmm… maybe it should be me. Someone get me Tyra Banks!

A fan of horror movies and scary stuff, Stacie Ponder started her blog Final Girl so she’d have a platform from which she could tell everyone that, say, Friday the 13th, Part 2 rules. She leads a glamorous life, walking on the razor’s edge of danger and intrigue.

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