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Helen Shivers is the Final Girl We Deserved

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What’s scarier than coming back to your quaint seaside town after your first year of college to friends you have nothing in common with anymore? For Julie James, it’s harboring a dark secret with people she barely knows or trusts anymore. I Know What You Did Last Summer tells the story of four high school friends that decide to keep a horrifying secret in a desperate attempt to save their bright futures.

Their lives were laid out neatly in front of them. Couple Helen (Sarah Michelle Geller) and Barry (Ryan Phillippe) plan to be the hottest pro-football and actress duo, while the more intellectual couple Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Ray (Freddy Prinze, Jr.) discuss ways to keep their love alive while at their elite, yet separate, colleges. Their dreams to leave their small town in the rearview window are jeopardized when they hit and allegedly kill a pedestrian after a wild night of partying. To keep their perfect futures intact, they decide to dump his body in the ocean and never speak of the incident again.

But the weight of their guilt ultimately crushes them. Julie nearly flunks out of college her freshman year, Ray cannot escape his working-class upbringing and works at the local wharf, and Barry and Helen break up. Almost a year from the day of the fateful incident, Julie receives threatening messages from someone claiming to know what they did. When the messenger starts to target the friends one by one in escalating acts of violence, they decide to come together once again to stop the killer before they all become fishbait.

Out of the friend group, no one had a harder fall from grace than Julie’s best friend, Helen Shivers. It’s never addressed how Barry’s year went or why the couple broke up, but we can see the cracks beneath Helen’s perfect visage as soon as she’s reunited with Julie. On that fateful night the previous summer, Helen was crowned the town’s Croaker Queen and waxed poetic about her dreams of becoming an actress in New York City. But when we meet up with her again, she works for her cruel sister Elsa (Bridgette Wilson) at their parents’ shop after her dreams of making it in New York came crashing down.

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Helen gave an immaculate Final Girl performance, which stands out to me because (incoming spoiler for a 25-year-old movie) she doesn’t make it to the end, despite fighting like hell in a nearly ten-minute chase sequence. Julie, the actual Final Girl, honestly pales in comparison to this stunning and surprisingly complex Croaker Queen. If there are awards for Best Second-To-Final Girls, then Helen Shivers is the most deserving.

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We all know Sarah Michelle Gellar as the Scream Queen of the late 90s and early 2000s. She has always portrayed headstrong, intelligent, and absolutely badass women who could kick ass and take names. And while she took her fair share of torment and beatings, she almost always dragged herself to the end. It’s interesting to see Sarah Michelle Gellar bring this same intensity to I Know What You Did Last Summer but still come up short.

A part of me even feels like Helen was written as a Final Girl. Helen still feels like a more fully fleshed-out character than Julie, even if we only catch glimpses of her troubling inner life and relationship with her family. Screenwriter Kevin Williamson, who also pens the Scream franchise, is no stranger to pulling a bait-and-switch on audiences with a megastar blonde, similar to Janet Leigh’s iconic performance in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. And much like Drew Barrymore’s Casey, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s star power and reign as Scream Queen would have also drawn audiences to root for Helen until her untimely death. While Helen Shivers is honestly the Final Girl we deserved, I respect Williamson’s choice and accept her epic chase scene as consolation.

Despite Helen outshining the honestly insufferable Final Girl Julie, I Know What You Did Last Summer is still a fun summer slasher with unexpected twists. And nothing screams summer like gutting teens with a fishhook, right? Be sure to check out I Know What You Did Last Summer with old friends and reminisce about all the dumb shit you did in high school. Here’s hoping your old pals remember where the bodies are buried.

Jenika McCrayer (she/her) is a writer and horror enthusiast based in Brooklyn, NY. Her adoration for the sociopolitical aspects of the genre inform her writing on gender, politics, and education.

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‘Truth or Dare’: Who Did it Best?

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There can only be one winner.

For those who don’t know, two horror films titled Truth or Dare were released back-to-back in 2017/2018.

Syfy distributed the 2017 film, directed by Nick Simon, and starred Cassandra Scerbo, Brytni Sarpy, and Mason Dye.

(Some Stranger Things fans will recognize Mason Dye immediately as he played Jason in ST4.)

Whereas Blumhouse produced the 2018 release, which Jeff Wadlow directed, and starred Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, and Violett Beane.

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(Lucy Hale would later go on to star in another Blumhouse film, Fantasy Island, in 2020.)

At their heart, both Truth or Dare films have the same premise: college kids being subjected to a deadly game of truth or dare with a demon. But which film did it better?

To declare a winner, we will examine seven relevant components of the films and award a point to whichever movie excelled in each category. The movie with the most points becomes the ToD champion.

1. The Rules of Truth or Dare

Who followed the rules?

The film distributed by Syfy saw the classic party game being played in written form, as players draw cards that say truth or dare objectives. Additionally, dares are allowed to be “shared” amongst the participants.

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Meanwhile, the Blumhouse film played “two truths and a dare” which dictates “dare” be automatically chosen if preceded by two truths in a row.

While both films took certain liberties to make the classic party game fit their cinematic needs, Blumhouse gets the point as truth or dare rarely appears in written form and typically tasks one specific player with answering the question or doing the dare.

Point: Blumhouse

2. Chill Factor

Who made the scariest movie?

The 2017 film directed by Nick Simon saw doors opening mysteriously on their own, nooses materializing from the ceiling, and in one particularly spooky scene, the ghost corpse of a player who lost, delivering the terms of the next dare. The ghost scene worked well and would have been welcome to make more of an appearance in the movie.

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Meanwhile, Blumhouse’s horror game involves a demon that smiles a little too wide when it possesses people and a handful of dead bodies. It’s fun to watch, but the 2017 film has more elements of horror.

Point: Syfy

3. Message Delivery

Which demon had a better presentation?

One thing is for certain. The demon of 2017’s Truth or Dare worked tirelessly to present the dares to people. While in the Blumhouse film, messages from the demon can appear in various ways, such as handwritten on a flyer, in the form of street art, or carved into a player’s arm, all these messages are hallucinated by the player. The demon did not scrape “truth or dare” into the side of a car.

Meanwhile, the demon in 2017 pulled out all the stops. Sometimes it would talk through the TV or telephone, The Ring/Samara style. Then at other times, the messages would appear more elaborately, such as: scratched into a record, a hundred note cards falling from the ceiling, and swirled in a bedsheet. One moment saw a collection of sheet music that the demon must’ve painstakingly glued together to write its truth or dare message in blood across the pages.

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Despite Syfy’s Truth or Dare demon’s best efforts, hallucinating the messages was a better form of delivery as only the player involved could hear them. Bonus points for the fact that the distorted faces of friends convey the messages.

Point: Blumhouse.

4. The Intensity of the Dares

Which film had more horrific commands?

The demon in Blumhouse’s film has a flair for drama. Most of the truths/dares in the 2018 movie involved divulging secrets between friends and causing rifts in their relationships.

Two of the dares that one of the main characters is subjected to as the film approaches its climax are “Get it on with the guy you have a crush on” and “Tell your best friend a secret” (paraphrasing). Meanwhile, in Syfy’s film, someone is dared to “remove seven living body parts” (not paraphrasing).

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It seems like one of these demons is operating from Hell, and the other is operating from high school.

Point: Syfy

5. Playing Smart

Which film saw characters make more informed, intelligent choices?

When it comes to wise decisions, 2017’s Truth or Dare takes the cake. From the opening scene, viewers see that players will utilize a multitude of methods to make the dares survivable. One victim covers herself in baking soda paste after being dared to dump acid on her head, hoping that the baking soda would help neutralize the effects of the acid. Furthermore, both movies have a med student on their team, but only Nick Simon’s film utilizes his medical knowledge.

Meanwhile, in 2018’s film, not only did they get into this mess in the first place by drunkenly following a stranger to an abandoned monastery in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, Mexico, but the execution of the dares was also disappointing.

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For example, in one scene, a girl is dared to walk the perimeter of a roof until she has drunk an entire bottle of alcohol. Rather than drinking the bottle all at once to minimize her time on the rooftop, she drinks slowly, giving the alcohol ample time to be absorbed by her system, thus making her drunker and keeping her walking longer.

Lucy Hale’s character starts playing smart right at the end, and Syfy’s characters have moments where they could’ve made better decisions, but all in all, the Syfy players tried to play a more clever game.

Point: Syfy

6. Evil’s Origin

Why did the characters end up in this predicament?

At first glance, 2017’s Truth or Dare appeared to operate under the same pretexts as 1408. “It’s just an evil…” game. But the film takes a turn when the victims meet up with the sole survivor of a game that was played thirty years before. The survivor, played by Heather Langenkamp, explains the origin of truth or dare.

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Despite the sheer horror star power provided by the appearance of Langenkamp, the explanation as to how this game of truth or dare happened fell flat. While receiving a Langenkamp cameo is always welcome, the film would’ve been better off by remaining ambiguous about the origin.

Blumhouse’s ToD origin story was more thought out, with the evil having been summoned by a young girl who was bent on using it for defense, but then lost control and had to make a sacrifice to put the evil back in its bottle. When the bottle was destroyed, the evil was unleashed once more.

Point: Blumhouse.

7. How Truth or Dare Ends

Who created a more memorable and shocking ending?

A movie can be either saved or eviscerated in the way it wraps everything up. While the final scenes of the Syfy film are decent, Blumhouse stuck the landing perfectly.

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At first, it seemed like this film would follow the route of so many before it, where evil gets put back in the bottle, but at the last minute, it didn’t.

We are treated to the scariest presentation of the demon yet, as the creepy smile on Violett Beane’s face feels eerily reminiscent of Jennifer Carpenter’s face when possessed in The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

Moreover, Lucy Hale’s character made two wise decisions back to back. First by tricking the demon, and second by… well… if you haven’t seen it, I shouldn’t ruin it for you.

It was a brilliant, albeit horribly selfish, move on her part. Well done, Blumhouse.

Point: Blumhouse

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The Winner Is…

The points are tallied, and we have our winner. By the narrowest of margins, Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (2018) wins.

While Syfy’s film was scarier, had smarter characters, and more intense dares, Blumhouse’s movie had a better ending, more iconic delivery, a better origin story, and stayed true to typical Truth or Dare gameplay.

Special recognition for Nick Simon’s film is in order as it is a low-budget TV movie, and it still managed to score close to the film produced by a titan in the horror industry.

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The Top 10 Most Disturbing Traps from the Saw Franchise — Ranked

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Saw is an iconic horror franchise that’s always worth a watch. It’s a crime thriller coupled with serial killers who commit gruesome murders to prove a twisted point about their morality. The victims wake up, finding themselves trapped and given a choice to torture themselves and survive or be killed brutally by some disturbing mechanism.

These morbid situations, or traps, are the Saw franchise’s most compelling and memorable element. If you don’t have the time (or the stomach) to sit down and binge all nine films to watch the victims struggle to escape each specific and creative set of confines, this article is for you.

Here are the top ten most disturbing traps from the Saw franchise, ranked from nightmarish to “every time I close my eyes, I see the horrors of that trap beneath my eyelids”- level terrifying.

10: Reverse Bear Trap (Multiple Appearances)

Arguably the most iconic trap from the franchise, the Reverse Bear Trap appears multiple times throughout the movies.

In Saw (2004), its victim is Amanda Young. She wakes up with a metal device secured to her head and soon learns that if she fails to take it off before the timer goes off, the machine will snap backward like a reverse bear trap, ripping Amanda’s face apart. She can only remove it by slicing into her cellmate’s stomach and removing the key from inside him while he’s still alive.

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Amanda escapes just in time. She flings the device off one moment before it snaps open.

The reverse bear trap makes a few more appearances later in the franchise and only takes one victim’s life. This horrifying contraption deserves a spot on this list because of its infamy and the horrific concept of what it can do to the human body. It’s only number ten on the list because many people manage to pass this game.

9: Furnace Trap (Saw II)

The Majority of Saw II (2005) takes place in the Nerve Gas House, a large-scale trap with multiple people stuck inside. They each must face specific individual traps within the house to access the antidote to the nerve gas, which Jigsaw’s puppet tells the participants will kill them within two hours. If they manage to pass their games and get the antidote, a door will open shortly after the two-hour mark.

One of these individual games is the furnace trap. Obi Tate is the victim. There’s a furnace in the basement of the house, which contains two vials of the antidote. Obi hops inside and grabs them, which activates the door and causes it to close, shutting Obi inside and starting a fire. Obi can only survive by reaching through the flames to turn a valve and shut off the fire. He fails and perishes by burning alive.

8: Pig Vat Trap (Saw III)

This one is on the list because it’s unique, creative, and incredibly disgusting. It’s one of the many trials on Jeff Danlon’s larger quest to pass through the meatpacking plant rigged by Jigsaw and confront Timothy Young, the man who killed his young son.

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The victim of the pig vat trap is Judge Halden, the man who presided over the court ruling that Timothy only serve a mere six months in prison. Jeff finds the Judge strapped to the bottom of a large vat, held down by his neck. When the tape plays, Jigsaw’s puppet instructs Jeff that to save the Judge and move into the next room to get closer to confronting Timothy, he must burn up all of his deceased son’s remaining belongings to find the key in the ashes.

As Jeff struggles with this choice, motors begin to whir, and decaying pig carcasses from within the plant begin to shutter forward, held up by large wires. They’re dropped into a meat blender, coming out the other end through a chute as a disgusting thick, greenish sludge that floods over the Judge’s body.

By the time Jeff retrieves the key, the Judge is almost entirely submerged by the wretched substance, with only his mouth peeking through the surface.

7: Classroom Trap (Saw III)

If your greatest fear is getting a fish hook stuck in your skin, this trap will haunt your nightmares.

The victim of the classroom trap was a drug addict named Troy, who struggled to stay out of prison due to his addiction. Jigsaw targeted him for just that reason. He instructed his apprentice Amanda to abduct Troy and bring him to a classroom, where she removes his clothes and stabs eleven large hooks through different body parts. Each hook is connected to a chain that keeps Troy in place. Before leaving, Amanda places a bomb near Troy and welds the door shut to prevent Troy from escaping.

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When Troy awakes, he learns he must rip each hook out of his flesh before the timer goes off to escape the room and avoid dying in the bomb’s explosion. He gets all but one hook out before the bomb kills him. Even if he had escaped the hooks, he would have been trapped in the room because Amanda gave him no chance of escape.

6: Needle Pit (Saw II)

The needle pit is a simple yet horrific trap within the Nerve Gas House. Jigsaw set up the trap specifically for a drug dealer named Xavier. The group in the house comes across a room with a locked door and soon discovers that there is a vial of the antidote behind it.

The only way to unlock the door and get inside is with a key hidden within a pit in the floor. The problem is that the pit is also filled with thousands of used needles. Xavier refuses to take the test himself and instead throws Amanda in to retrieve the key.

It’s impossible not to wince as you watch Amanda sift through the needles, stabbing her flesh as she goes, while Xavier shouts at her to hurry from above.

5: Silence Circle (Saw 3D)

This trap was designed for Bobby Dagan, a man who pretended to survive Jigsaw’s tests and wrote a best-selling book about his journey, but was a fraud. Jigsaw took revenge by tossing him into a trap of his own.

The second trap within Bobby’s larger game was the silence circle. Bobby walks into a room and finds his publicist, Nina, confined in a straitjacket and some form of head restraint. Surrounding her head are sharp metal rods, with the pointy ends directly facing in towards Nina.

The two learn that Bobby must retrieve a key from Nina’s stomach to free her. It’s attached to a string he must pull, causing the key to rise through her stomach and tear through her esophagus. If he doesn’t free her from the trap in time, the metal rods will pierce through her neck and kill her.

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On top of that, every time the decibel level goes above a whisper, the metal rods move even more quickly towards Nina’s throat to punish her for spreading Bobby’s lies to make a profit.

4: Pendulum Trap (Saw V)

This one is ruthless, considering that the victim had no hope of escaping this one at all.

Mark Hoffman, Jigsaw’s apprentice, decided to torture and kill Seth, the man who murdered his sister. Seth was originally sentenced to life in prison but got out after five years. That’s when Mark decided to take justice into his own hands in the most twisted way possible.

Seth woke up to find he was lying down shirtless, strapped to a table. A tape began to play and informed him that to escape death, he must crush his hands in a metal contraption. He’s promised that he will be freed once his hands are destroyed. If he doesn’t crush his own hands fast enough, he’ll die a brutal death. A colossal blade begins to swing back and forth like a pendulum over the center of Seth’s body, shifting lower and lower until it slices him in half.

Even though Seth completes his task and crushes his hands into a bloody, mangled mess, he is never released from the bindings. He slowly dies as the swinging blades descend on his stomach, slicing him deeper and deeper, scattering his organs across the room.

3: Razor Wire Maze (Saw)

The most straightforward traps are often the most diabolical. The victim of the razor wire maze is Paul Leahy, a man who attempted to die by suicide a month before Jigsaw abducted him. That’s exactly why Jigsaw targeted him for this trap, making it even more shiver-inducing.

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Paul woke up inside a fence within a basement. At one end sits Paul, mostly naked and terrified. At the other end, Paul saw an open door. However, between him and the door to freedom lies a maze of razor wire. Paul soon learns he must make it to the door within two hours, or he’ll be locked in the basement and left to die. His only chance of survival is through the razor wire maze.

Police find Paul’s body trapped within the wire weeks later. He clearly attempted to get free but never made it to the door. Can you imagine what he must have felt as he forced his body through the sharp wires, slicing him raw, and the door swung shut with a dull thud?

2: Angel Wing Trap (Saw III)

I’ll never unsee this one, no matter how hard I try.

Detective Allison Kerry is the victim of the dreaded angel wing trap. When she wakes, she’s dangling from the ceiling, confined by a metal device attached to her rib cage. There’s a key sitting in a tub of acid directly in front of her face. The tape starts and Jigsaw’s puppet informs Kerry that to live, she must reach into the vat of acid and retrieve the key to unlock herself. If she fails to fish it out before the timer runs out or the key dissolves into nothingness, the contraption on her ribcage will open up like a set of angel wings and rip her apart.

Kerry is determined to get that key. After burning her hand and turning the clear acid red with blood, she grabs the key and unlocks herself before the timer goes off. But there’s a problem. Kerry discovers another lock holding the device in place, and her chance of survival is a hoax.

Amanda walks into the room just before the angel wings open up, spilling Kerry’s organs all over the floor.

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1: Venus Fly Trap (Saw II)

The Death Mask, or the Venus fly trap, is the last trip I’d ever want to find myself in, and here’s why.

The victim, Michael Marks, realizes he’s no longer at home in bed. Instead, he’s stuck in a room with a strange device secured to his neck, and his eye is injured. To his horror, he plays the tape and realizes that the device around his neck will eventually close with a snap like a venus fly trap, sending sharp spikes through his head to kill him.

Michael’s only hope of freeing himself from this gruesome torture device is to unlock it with a key. However, he learns that Jigsaw surgically placed the key inside Michael’s eye, and the only way to get to the key is to cut his own eye open with a scalpel.

While other traps in the Saw franchise have disturbing eye-gore, this one takes the cake as the most horrifying by far. Michael is forced to physically extract something from his eye after cutting it open with a scalpel. Something so disgustingly intimate about that act makes me want to cover my eyes forever.

He only has one minute to complete this gruesome task, and he fails. I can’t imagine trying to make it through this one.

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Now your brain is chock full of disturbing images of death and murder. You’re welcome! Did I miss any of your favorite traps in this list?

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