Tuesday, October 2, 2012

31 Frightful Femmes - Wendy

Wendy. Weeeendy, Wendy, Wendy. What is there to say about Wendy? A lot! Which is fortunate since I've decided to write about her. As with loads of other film lovers, particularly genre fans, nostalgia plays a significant role in my long term devotion. We justify mountains of mediocrity because something tickled at the back of our brains as wee ones. Well, not the back. I suppose it would be more on the side with the temporal lobe? Though I guess the back makes sense since it starts with processing the visualization in the occipital lobe, so, I was initially correct. Lulz!

Prom Night benefits greatly from that cognitive bias. Logic is not its friend, the kills are pretty tame even by ye olden standards, and Jamie Lee's Kim isn't making any Final Girl Hall of Fame that isn't exclusive to her oeuvre. Sure, the dancing helped, but overall, it's kind of a snoozer. And I love it! Oh, holy hades do I love me some Prom Night. The past coming back to haunt you, a mystery killer, phone terror, soft focus, disco! But mostly, I love Prom Night because of Wendy Richards.

You knew she was trouble the moment she was tagged “It” for their twisted take on hide-and-seek; “All right, and I'll kill you all!” Alpha Bitch status was solidified when after poor Robin's demise, Wendy convinced Kelly, Jude and Nick to keep it secret via threats of obvious imprisonment. No matter that Nick's pops was, like, Chief of Police or anything. Childhood accident or not, dumb deserves death. Flash forward six – or by the looks of them, sixteen – years and Wendy's Queen Bee status is shaky.

She is gorgeous, wealthy and rocks a smokin' side pony whilst zipping around Hamilton High in her orange corvette but despite those riches, it has been a lonely reign and one now coming to an end. Nick the simp is slooowly trying to dump her for Prom Queen Kim and Kelly the virgin (noted by all the white she wears and awkward kisses she gives her beau) and Jude the husky (noted by the whopping five pounds she has on the other girls) have latched on to Kim's coattails. She even has to exert effort to grab Lou's attention. Lou, the 38yr-old unibrowed bohunk.

Oh, but she will not submit the crown willingly. She informs Kim that “It's not who you go with, honey. It's who takes you home.” and devises a (pretty weak ass) plan for Lou to humiliate Nick and Kim at the coronation though makes it clear she doesn't want anyone hurt. What? She has feelings? This is one of the many things that set her apart from the standard slasher Mean Girl with the bulk of the credit going to actress Anne-Marie Martin née Eddie Benton. The reluctance in her venom is all over her face. The embarrassment at not having a date to the prom is made obvious just seconds before her classic retort and the disgust over her affiliation with Lou is not hidden.

Wendy's disdain for Kim and distance from her childhood friends shows me she harbors more guilt than anyone. While the others seem to have moved on free of such burdens, she can't bear to associate with the sister of the girl she accidentally killed but she desperately holds on to Nick as a last grasp at control. In that respect, Wendy is the most sympathetic of the lot. See how the justification comes in handy? 

While it is human nature for fans to root for the death of the bitchy and the cruel, I wanted Wendy to live. I wanted her to make nice with Kim, apologize for Robin even if she didn't reveal the truth. I felt like Wendy had it in her, she simply couldn't be vulnerable without feeling weak. I mean, what the hell was she supposed to learn about herself being brought up by that nosy Grandma?

Unfortunately, we all knew Wendy was doomed. It was expected. Always will be. What wasn't counted on, however, was that she would be given the film's best scene. The grand stalk and slash reserved for our heroines belonged to the bad girl. Considering the killer, it couldn't be Kim's but why wasn't it given to logical runner-ups, nice Kelly or funny Jude? Because even then, everyone knew Wendy was teh awsum! It's obviously why Jamie Lee got her Saturday Night Fever moment. Bad enough her onscreen rival was actually beautiful and talented but she loses out on one of the greatest chases scenes in slasherdom and has to flounce around in Good Girl pink while Wendy creates weird feelings in gay men with the hottest disco dress in the history of disco dresses that are hot?

Boy, that chase. The chase through America's largest high school. It's substantial and filled with tension. Wendy is confused, frightened and by it's end, exhausted. She even manages to get a good wallop in with a push broom. One of my very favorite elements to it all: She runs in heels. Why doesn't she take them off, as I am sure many viewers have barked at the screen? Why? Because she doesn't have to, bitches. Wendy isn't flailing aimlessly or jogging in quicksand like so many of her sneakered horror compatriots, no, girl is hoofin' it. Yeah, okay, she trips in the gymnasium but it was dark and where the hell did that wrestling mat come from?

I'd still love a Prom Night remake – since there hasn't been one... I SAID THERE HASN'T! - where all the little kinks have been ironed out, a few characters added and perhaps even switch up the killer and/or his motivation but the one non-negotiable is that Wendy still very much be Wendy. Bitchy, beautiful and full of attitude but with a glint of humanity that gives you pause before condemning her to a grisly fate and makes you very happy she was given the film's best moment. That and the dress. Fuckin-A she's still gotta wear that dress. 

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