"I'll just get my gear."

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

June 7, 1991

Of the other Summer of ’91 movies so far, DON’T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER’S DEAD is most similar to SWITCH. It’s not nearly as high concept or fantastical, but it’s another comedy about a woman (in this case not a man trapped in a woman’s body, but an actual teenage girl) pretending to be an adult in order to work a fancy office job. I think I saw it back in the day but I had no memory of it, and the title and cover with the babysitter’s dead feet sticking out of the lawn had me thinking it was a dark comedy. I was even thinking “Oh shit, Christina Applegate now stars in Dead To Me, which also involves lying about a death and hiding a dead body.” But that’s not really much of a factor here.

(P.S. – She’s absolutely great on that show.)

The titular mom (Concetta Tomei, Max Headroom) goes on vacation to Australia with her boyfriend, and right when she’s leaving reveals to her five kids that she hired the titular elderly babysitter (Eda Reiss Merin, THE BLACK CAULDRON) to stay with them. I guess it’s a long trip, but this is two 17 year old high school graduates, a 14 year old, a 13 year old and an 11 year old – do they really need a full time paid supervisor? In ’91 no, of course not, you just give the kids a key and pizza money. So I guess this movie was ahead of its time.

The kids are, respectively, lead character Swell (a weird nickname for Sue Ellen) (Applegate, on her 4th season of Married… with Children), her stoner twin brother Kenny (Keith Coogan, TOY SOLDIERS), Tiger-Beat-looking Zach (Christopher Pettiet, at that time playing teenage Jesse James on The Young Riders), goth-adjacent Melissa (Michael Myers’ niece Danielle Harris, in a bigger role than in CITY SLICKERS) and TV-obsessed Walter, (Robert Hy Gorman, the son in SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK, which is a TV movie, so Walter may have seen it).

The babysitter, Mrs. Sturak, turns out to be a big jerk. She forces poor Melissa – who likes Doc Martens and skeleton decorations – to wear a puffy white dress and a giant bow, saying, “Time for little girls to dress like little girls. Sugar and spice!” When Swell decides to tell Mrs. Sturak off she finds her dead of natural causes, and the kids follow the titular information withholding procedure so they can have a fun summer of freedom without Mom on their ass. They drop the body off at the morgue in a trunk and there are no further complications with that. It’s just a plot device to set up the kids being on their own. (Like they would’ve been in the real world where a Mom wouldn’t hire a babysitter for a bunch of teenagers.)

You’d think then it would be about all the wild stuff they do without adult oversight – and reviews at the time all compared it to HOME ALONE, as if it was – but they don’t do that much more than make a mess of the house. The story is mostly about Swell realizing she has to get a job to pay for their food, but she hates working at a hot dog place (why do comedies always think fast food restaurants should be circus themed?) so she makes a fake resume to apply for a receptionist job in “the fashion industry” and through luck is hired as “executive administrative assistant to the senior vice president of operations” Rose Lindsey (Joanna Cassidy, THE GLOVE, THE PACKAGE), who believes the resume’s claims that Swell went to Vassar and has a bunch of relevant experience.

So really it should be called TEEN PROFESSIONAL or something – it’s a regular workplace/deception type of comedy. She struggles to do the job, finding ways to pass off parts of it to people who actually know how to do it, and feuding with unhealthily grudge-holding receptionist Carolyn (Jayne Brook, KINDERGARTEN COP) and sleazeball Bruce (David Duchovny, Twin Peaks). It’s funny to see Duchovny, just 2 years before The X-Files, sporting one of those ‘90s high-up pony tails, and often chewing gum or spraying Binaca in his mouth to emphasize that he’s a dumb asshole. In his first scene he refers to “the other broad,” holding his hands out to represent big boobs.

Coincidentally, Carolyn is the older sister of Bryan (Josh Charles, HAIRSPRAY), a guy she liked at the hot dog place and kept seeing. She doesn’t tell him what she’s up to, so they have a falling out over her trying to avoid being introduced to his sister. To do this she has to claim to hate baseball, which we know from CITY SLICKERS is very offensive to boys.

She gets sleazed on by Rose’s obviously terrible boyfriend Gus (John Getz, who I didn’t recognize as Ray from BLOOD SIMPLE), doesn’t know how to order a martini, works with a head designer played by Sydney Lassick (CARRIE, SONNY BOY, COOL AS ICE), is not listened to about what kids want these days, keeps lucking into impressing Rose, and borrows petty cash for groceries, not knowing her siblings will steal it and buy expensive shit before she can pay it back.

Walter only wants to watch TV, so the only time he leaves the house is to climb the roof to fix the antenna. He falls off and gets injured, which leads to Swell pretending like her siblings are her kids. The big joke and/or message is that she experiences the frustrations and responsibilities her mom does balancing the budget, keeping the kids under control, even tucking them in at night.

The biggest arc for any of the other characters is for Kenny, a long haired leather jacket wearing metalhead who hangs out with dudes in ripped jeans with names like Hellhound, Skull and Lizard, smoking joints and skeet shooting from the roof. He makes Belgian waffles for breakfast every day, at first burnt, but he starts getting fancy with flavors and somehow this helps him find his true purpose in life so he suddenly cuts his hair, dresses different and wants to go to culinary school. He also has a big scene where he vents all his frustrations with Swell for not calling to say she’ll be late while he’s cooking and taking care of the kids, “and when was the last time we went out to dinner together, huh? You know what, I’m sick and tired of not being appreciated!” She complains about work, tells him “It’s a rat race and it sucks, Kenny!,” and neither of them ever pick up on “ha ha, we’re talking exactly like a bickering husband and a wife.”

There’s a fixing-up-the-house montage as the kids prepare for Swell to implausibly host a big company presentation in the backyard. It goes really well until Bryan interrupts with weird ex-boyfriend shit and then Mom comes home early and says, “You’re in big trouble, young lady!” in front of the whole fashion industry. But the happy ending is that SPOILER angry Mom sees Swell acting responsible and the other kids listening to her (even accidentally calling her mom) and she looks around at the new entertainment center and says, “I’ll be damned.” Also, Rose still likes Swell even knowing she’s a teen, hugs her and calls her “sweetie.” It’s a pretty sweet ending, though the Modern English song repeating “I believe in life’s rich tapestry” pushes it over the line into corny.


Like CITY SLICKERS, this has wacky animated credits (Dan Castellaneta does a squeaky voice for the animated Mrs. Sturak). Like FX2 and MANNEQUIN ON THE MOVE it has a nod to a certain movie coming later in the summer (“Stay away from her. She’s in one of her Terminator moods.”)

This was Applegate’s first starring role in a feature film – not that she’s had a ton of them since. It was probly good for her career to play a character so different from her more widely seen funny but one-note sitcom character, and I kept thinking she was better than the movie. Married… with Children lasted until ’97, so her other movie roles during that decade were mostly in the supporting cast. Luckily her roles in WILD BILL, MARS ATTACKS! and THE BIG HIT are nothing to sneeze at.

Writers Neil Landau & Tara Ison previously wrote an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D. together, so I guess they were into the kids-working-adult-jobs genre. According to this interesting Buzzfeed retrospective they were inspired by RISKY BUSINESS when they wrote this under the title THE REAL WORLD, changed of course because of the MTV reality series. Their original script was apparently darker in that the babysitter actually was nice, not an asshole, and there was a subplot about Swell accidentally killing Rose’s cat. One thing that does sound much funnier and more interesting is that they intentionally didn’t reveal what Rose’s company even did, and Swell never figured out what exactly her job was.

The writers envisioned someone like Winona Ryder starring, and at first Justine Bateman was cast, but she’d moved on by the time it was finally made. Jennifer Love Hewitt was cast as Melissa, but couldn’t get out of Kids Incorporated.

Though the writers were worried that Stephen Herek was a “dumb comedy” guy, to me his work to that point makes him seem on the quirkier side. Starting as an assistant editor on Roger Corman productions like SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, ANDROID and SPACE RAIDERS, he made his directing debut with CRITTERS (which he also wrote) and followed it with BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE.

But I don’t think there’s much sign of those beginnings in this one. There are occasional flashes of style – a cool overhead shot or two, a flying zoom during a little league game, a Hitchcock style dolly zoom. But about as dark as it gets is that she justifies driving the dead babysitter’s Buick by saying “Zach, life goes on. I mean, come on, this car’s a classic! I think that she’d want it this way.” And the weirdest it gets is the inexplicable plot point that a random trio of drag queens (dressed as Marilyn Monroe, Liza Minelli and Dolly Parton) steal said car from the Chuck E. Cheese parking lot.

After this Herek was much more mainstream, giving the world THE MIGHTY DUCKS, THE THREE MUSKETEERS, MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS and the live action 101 DALMATIANS, all in a row. Years later he had a DTV sequel period (INTO THE BLUE 2: THE REEF, THE CUTTING EDGE: FIRE & ICE) and he did a bunch of the recent MacGyver series. He also did the 2003 TV movie YOUNG MACGYVER starring Jared Padalecki as MacGyver’s nephew, and Zach mentions MacGyver in this, so I wonder if Herek is a superfan?

DON’T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER’S DEAD got poor reviews (Gene Siskel called it one of the worst of the year) and only made a small profit in theaters – a disappointment since it had tested well and they were talking about sequels (!). But Wikipedia claims it “went on to achieve a cult following on VHS and television,” citing the Buzzfeed article, which calls it a “beloved cult classic” and explains that HBO funded it and therefore played it constantly.

Buzzfeed are not the only ones who believe there’s a loyal following: last year the record company Wargod re-released the soundtrack on vinyl with “Clown Dog inspired dust sleeve” and available in ketchup red or mustard yellow with “Clown Dog splatter.” There was also a remake announced in 2010, but you know how that is.

Cultural references: Comedic use of Twilight Zone theme, a scene set at Chuck E. Cheese, the dead body being covered in a California Raisins sheet.

Dianetics is mentioned. Swell is called “Gidget.” Melissa says, “I’m gonna git you sucker!” while playing an arcade game (Rad Racer?), but I’m not sure if that was inspired by I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA or not.

Many game shows and talk shows are seen on TV or mentioned, including Win Lose or Draw, Hollywood Squares, Donahue and Oprah. I like this because I remember as a kid it always seemed like a luxury when you got to watch those things on sick days or in the summer, since for most of the year you were at school during those hours.

Dated references: When showing Swell her new office, Rose mentions “There’s your mouse,” which I thought was kinda cute. On the other hand, this motherfucker has a Confederate flag on his wall!? The movie is filmed in California! (Note: Thelma ended up in some biker t-shirt with a Confederate flag near the end of THELMA & LOUISE, so these are examples of people thinking of it as some symbol of tough rebelliousness.)

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49 Responses to “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead”

  1. I remember the poster for this (called FAST FOOD FAMILY over here for some reason) at the local video store when it came out and always wanted to see it, thinking it was some dark, edgy comedy. Kinda the 90s teen version of THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. A few years ago it popped up on Netflix and I dropped everything to instantly watch it, only to be disappointed when it quickly turned into an average workplace comedy.

    Christina Applegate’s career is pretty interesting. She never achieved megastar status, but somehow managed to constantly work and never left the public conciousness, without having to play variations of Kelly Bundy or fight badly animated monsters on SyFy. She keeps showing up in movies and TV shows that may not be blockbusters, but are at least high profile, although she is rarely a top billed marquee name. Usually as part of an ensemble or a supporting player. From my perspective I say that is definitely an acting career that one can be proud of, especially as former 80s/90s teen idol.

  2. I remember catching the start of this on Satellite TV (presumably slightly censored as it was daytime) when I was about 6 or 7 and I remember being quite upset\disturbed by the callous\flippant treatment of the babysitter’s death. I can’t remember if this coincided with my (never completely finished) “terrified by the concept of death” stage. But I saw this in full when I was about 17 and, eh, it was fine.

    I agree Applegate is great, as always IMO, in DEAD TO ME, but I think that’s the show that ultimately settled me into my current Majestykian stance on modern TV. Would have made a really good film, the kind that actually could have been made not so long ago, but at the pace and structure of current serialised TV, no thank you.

  3. I actually watched this within the last year, when pandemic/Trump-related anxieties put me in the mood for normal people comfort food type movies. Like a lot of comedies from this era, it’s no longer funny (if it ever was) but it remains entertaining, due to its likable cast (who were pretty much all old pros despite being so young) and sturdy story structure. When a modern comedy isn’t funny, you’re left with nothing but flailing and flop sweat, but 80s comedies (I don’t count this one as a 90s comedy, which has a totally different vibe) can be enjoyed simply as extremely low stakes dramas with lots of dopey period trappings.

    I also co-sign the Christina Applegate love. I think it’s great that three out of the four main cast members of MARRIED…WITH CHILDREN, considered low-brow trash of the lowest order in its day, have had the kind of enduring careers that nine out of ten of the actors on the critically acclaimed shows of the era could only dream of. And even poor David Faustino still works steadily. That lets me know my taste in TV was always on point.

  4. I think Applegate has some of the best comedic timing in the biz. She’s so good at letting a joke sit for a few beats or reacting with expressions or other subtle physical cues that gives the audience time to absorb the joke. She’s fantastic. I haven’t watched Dead To Me, but that’s just because I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ve really enjoyed the few TV series she’s had throughout the years and don’t know why they didn’t last more than a couple of seasons each. I still miss Samantha Who. I thought that was a great concept.

  5. Franchise Fred

    June 9th, 2021 at 5:45 pm

    The Sweetest Thing should’ve been Applegate’s Girls Trip but you know, America couldn’t handle women farting and fucking 20 years ago. At least Applegate found a home in prestige streaming.

  6. She was even great on the episode of SNL she did, more famously for the “van down by the river skit” she had a supporting part in but I also remember her doing quite a good impersonation of Cher.

    I’ve got to add on to the MWC love here. It was a great show, indirectly bolstered by the moral majority it became a great show and maybe more of an anchor for Fox then even THE SIMPSONS (for the first season at least anyway).

    As for this movie, ehhh maybe remember seeing it once or twice on HBO. Maybe my older sister or babysitter put it on. I do remember that feeling that this became another movie completely from what I was expecting, and indeed as it was advertised.

  7. Even in an unnecessary comedy remake like the Vacation thing, I couldn’t help but admire her comedic confidence and timing. She is awesome. So clearly a gifted comedic talent and also blessed with the fact that the cam loves her. Subsequently the rest of us do too.

  8. “MARRIED…WITH CHILDREN, considered low-brow trash of the lowest order in its day,”

    The fun thing is, it was actually critically quite acclaimed in Germany. I remember reading a review in a serious german politcal news magazine (STERN or SPIEGEL) while waiting in a doctor’s office and they were raving about it as “A brillant satire of the American way of life and all its sexual and violent fetishes”.

  9. BTW, one thing about the movie that I thought was an interesting touch, was how well the bitchy antagonist goes along with her nice brother. One should think two movie characters who are so completely different would constantly yell at or not speak to each other at all, but that was a surprisingly realistic depiction of human interaction.

  10. I became a fairly big MWC fan through reruns in the mid-00s. I always though the shamelessness and tackiness were part of the joke, in retrospect that might have been a slightly generous perception cultivated by a cultural distance of both time and place.

    Can’t consign Fred on THE SWEETEST THING I’m afraid though. I don’t think America wasn’t ready, I think America was perfectly ready to know what they were looking at and, correctly, decline. Good job 2002 America!

  11. grimgrinningchris

    June 10th, 2021 at 2:40 am

    I’m gonna have to side with Fred on THE SWEETEST THING.
    It’s dumber than a box of hair and was shot like a Hallmark Original (despite some gorgeous San Francisco scenery) but I like it… it’s silly, amusing and coasts by on the likability of its 3 female leads and Jason Batemen (Thomas Jane is a fine Punisher, he’s a great Mist fighter and he cam tweak it up and shake his moneymaker at Party Boys with the best of them, but he’s wasted and miscast in this kind of comedy.)
    And Applegate does steal the movie and gets most of the funniest stuff.
    Also it makes me laugh that the “visit sick kids in the hospital” purple elephant suit that Selma Blair’s big dicked boyfriend wears is the exact same suit that “Spanish” wore to the kids birthday party in OLD SCHOOL at roughly the same time.

  12. I kind of doubt it’s because of STERN or SPIEGEL, but it says something that at least three of the actors from MARRIED…WITH CHILDREN are still bankable stars. There were far funnier and a lot better shows that produced…well, nothing. Where’s Nikki Cox today?

  13. She appears to have done literally nothing since 2011, and only voice roles for a few years before that. Hope she’s OK!

  14. She had a good run in the mid 90’s and early 00’s at least.

  15. Too bad they never got to do the sequels.

    DON’T TELL MOM I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG
    DON’T TELL MOM I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER
    DON’T TELL MOM THAT MARS NEEDS MOMS
    DON’T TELL MOM I KNOW WHAT SHE DID LAST SUMMER
    DON’T TELL MOM I SHRUNK THE KIDS
    DON’T TELL MOM ABOUT THE LEGEND OF CURLY’S GOLD

  16. grimgrinningchris

    June 10th, 2021 at 6:30 am

    CJ- I agree on that dynamic. It’s like when a movie like even mainstream fluff like Mrs Doubtfire can do the unexpected by making Brianna’s character a perfectly nice guy instead of a mustache twirling dick like most movies would do.
    The brother sister dynamic here is antagonistic at times but never nasty of mean spirited. Especially given the wildly different social groups and interests of the two.
    Kinda reminds me, as a teen for three years I had a step sister (and no, this is not a story from PornHub). She was 2 years younger, a cheerleader and very popular.
    I was a punk/goth drama nerd who’d rather go to the video store or the comics shop than to a party.
    But we got along great, never fought, her friends were always cool to my friends (in the privacy of home, at least). Hell for those few years I was closer with her than my blood sister that was her same age and that I had more in common with.

    Incidentally Keith Coogan is super nice. He had a thing going there for a bit, with Adventures In Babysitting, Hiding Out, Toy Soldiers and this one. Still my least favorite of those four, but it did give the man a catchphrase to follow him across the con circuit the rest of this life.

  17. To this day, if someone tells me they’ve done the dishes, the dish-skeet-shooting stoners saying “Dishes are done” pops into my head.

    This is based on the trailer. I’ve never seen the movie, outside of the first six minutes as it started to play as the second feature at the drive-in, and it took that long for me and whoever I was with to decided we rather be doing something else.

    So from a goddamn trailer, “Dishes are done” has haunted me for 30 years…

  18. I am the oldest of five (three sisters, two brothers) and I very rarely see a believable brother/sister dynamic play out onscreen. I feel like most screenwriters must be only children or something. They’re either way too close, way too antagonistic, or more like a parent/child relationship than brother/sister. I just cannot imagine being all up in any of my siblings’ business the way Hollywood thinks brothers and sisters are. I do think DTMTBD gets it mostly right, though. The kids both argue and get along, but mostly do their own thing in their own little worlds that occasionally intersect. That seems way more realistic to me than these movie brothers and sisters that seem to spend all their time together.

  19. grimgrinningchris

    June 10th, 2021 at 7:20 am

    jojo-

    You’ve gotta have the “maaaan” in there.
    That’s like quoting the Freedom Rock commercial and just saying “well turn it up!”

    Gotta have that “maaaan”.

    Ha.

  20. grimgrinningchris

    June 10th, 2021 at 7:55 am

    I never had any brothers. But I had a full sister (5 years older than me that was my guru as a teen/preteen and remains my best friend to this day), a half sister (same dad, different moms though she was born on my 3rd birthday so we shared a birthday) and a (for 3-4 years) step sister.
    None could have been more different individually and my relationships with all three remain completely different to this day.

  21. Years ago I had a co-worker say the dishes are done, man as he went past me and out the door. I had no idea it was a thing that was quoted. When he came back I had to ask him if he quoted DON’T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER’S DEAD.

    I have 2 older brothers and they’re quite a bit older than me – 10 and 6 years and still to this day I don’t feel like an adult around them. I revert to what I call kid sister mode when I’m around them. I’ve worked hard on not doing it, but sometimes it slips in. Some of that is the dynamics of growing up that they were either teasing me, sometimes almost to the point of cruelty, or taking care of me. When they teased, whether it was something physical or intellectual I knew I was never going to compare to them so the only defense was compliance. Like, if they held me down to tickle me I knew they weren’t using their full strength and if I tried to fight back, then they’d really pin me down and it’d hurt. Intellectually, I knew I was never going to outsmart them, so when they’d try to trick me into betting away something over a riddle or something I knew not to take them up on it. Staying in those lanes as adults also has a lot to do with the fact that they are both much more successful and well off than me. So, I get to tag along on vacations they pay for and try to not let my personality revert back to that kid being held down and tickled while the dog licked my face. Huh, that got away from me a little there. Sorry if it was a little too deep into my psychological make up.

  22. You’ve gotta have the “maaaan” in there.

    It’s weird, sometimes my brain includes the “maaan”, and sometimes it omits it. To the point where I was actually unsure if the “maaan” was even there, or just something I occasionally made up on my own.

    So I guess, thank you for confirming(?)

  23. grimgrinningchris

    June 10th, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    Classic
    He even quotes it himself in Jay & Silent Bob Reboot.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ppr4Vku3fHw

  24. I thought the sibling dynamics in VERTICAL LIMIT kinda echoed my own. My sister and I can go hammer and tongs at one another frequently, but if she were stuck atop an icy mountain in the face of an encroaching storm, and if I could actually climb and not die in the attempt, I’d like to think I’d make a valiant rescue attempt.

  25. Even if I’m very close to my brother (we lived together in a very Cheech and Chong like way for 23 years), I see other siblings who fight like cats and dogs. So I guess it takes all kinds. What I’m mostly frustrated about in the movie and TV world, and this goes for my wife too, is the relationships between husband and wife the writers want us to believe in. Either they haven’t been in a relationship over time at all, or they’re all divorced over some petty shit. The only sit com couples that somewhat pass the mustard are in ‘TIL DEATH and GROUNDED FOR LIFE. And the parents in POLTERGEIST seem to have a future as a couple.

  26. “What I’m mostly frustrated about in the movie and TV world, and this goes for my wife too, is the relationships between husband and wife the writers want us to believe in.”

    pegs, don’t get me started man! You’d think 95% of Hollywood writers or Studio Heads came from divorced families, or given how the parental dynamic swings in most movies, had abusive or absentee fathers.

    My parents have been married for more than half a century, my sister for a quarter and I celebrate my own 20th anniversary this December. Am not making us out to be The Waltons or The Brady Bunch, there are fights and disagreements but you’d have to branch out a little further out in my family tree to see a divorce or 2. So a cinematic landscape littered with the corpses of toxic relationships and failed marriages makes me wonder just what kind of experiences these writers have had. Or, it’s the laziest plot device to generate tension. Hence the time honored trope of a couple getting together at the end of a movie only to find them separated at the start of the sequel.

    Which is why I’m thankful when a series like THE CONJURING movies have at it’s center a loving partnership. Witches, Demons or the Devil himself may come a calling, but you know the Warrens’ have each others back. Or the ROCKY movies which no matter which direction they went, never lost sight of the bedrock on which Rocky and Adrian’s rock solid relationship was built. Little wonder that when he visits Adrian’s grave in ROCKY BALBOA, I bawled like a fucking baby.

  27. I have two siblings, we’re all in close in age, and I have radically different relationships with both. One I didn’t really interact a lot with growing up, and now they live in another country and they very rarely come home for any reason (cuz its too expensive), so I barely know them (though I have nothing against them). The other I was great friends with growing up, we still talk more days than not, and we do things together all the time.

    So, there’s no real realistic or believable sibling relationship, I don’t think. There are just maybe common and less common dynamics.

  28. You know what’s REALLY annoying? Kids movies with at least one dead parent. Seriously, kids these days must feel like weirdos if both of their parents are alive.

    My older sister is annoying the shit out of me on a daily basis, but we love each other. I also have a half-sister somewhere in the UK, but I never met her. Recently tried to track her down, but that’s difficult if you don’t know her name.

  29. grimgrinningchris

    June 11th, 2021 at 7:19 am

    Pegs.

    Grounded For Life was fucking great. I was so bummed when Donal Logue had to pull out of the con here when it had to be moved from to May cuz of Covid.

    And I’ll second CTN and JBW in Poltergeist. Despite the nutty goings on, they seemed like a real couple. The scene in bed smoking weed is a highlight.

  30. KayKay – I agree about THE CONJURING series. I just caught up on all of them and it was the Warren’s relationship that interested me in the first place, rather than the spooky going’s on. I’m 100% sure that the fictionalized relationship is nothing like the real life one, but I don’t care. I’m here for the fiction and would watch a dozen more movies of just them doing whatever the shit they wanted to do.

    Grounded For Life had a great central relationship for the mom and dad, but I also think they did a great job of the daughter’s relationship with the boy that was the geeky friend who had a crush on her. So many of those have more than just a whiff of misogyny where the pretty girl is a bitch for not seeing the “nice guy” in front of her and wanting the hot guy who treats her bad. It’s also tough to get that balance between the “nice guy” being a total schmuck and a creepy stalker who can’t take no and, of course, the girl is not going to want either of those guys. I mean, I haven’t seen it since it aired, so maybe I’m not remembering it exactly correctly, but from my memories it was totally believable when they ended up together and I loved it.

  31. grimgrinningchris

    June 11th, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    I think Wilson and Farmiga are solid in the Conjuring movies. And their relationship, as presented and acted is solid too.

    That said, I can’t abide the turning of liars, cheats, frauds, horrible human beings into sympathetic heroes.
    The Warrens are the worst kind of bottom feeders. Period.

    And I can take a whole lotta fiction with my facts in movies.

    But those two particular individuals should have been tarred and feathered and put into prison 40 years ago… not made the heroes of a blockbuster jump scare franchise.

  32. Chris – yeah, that’s fair.

  33. MaggieMayPie: These time worn tropes come about because of a dearth of females in the writing room. So you get a lot of screenplays, from most likely, one time social misfits on how the Nerd gets ignored in favor of the Jerk by the Hot Girl. It’s a popular male fantasy when the reality is that girls prefer a confident guy who can walk up to them and engage in interesting conversation as opposed to staring at her with puppy dog eyes across a cafeteria. And so you get a glut of obnoxious males engaging in restraining order-levels of bad behavior who still land the Babe because they’re, you know…funny and make her laugh.

    grimgrinningchris: Oh, am sure they were bottom-feeders, but the Warrens in real life stayed loyal and married to each other till their deaths. Never underestimate the value of shared interests and compatibility, even (or especially) if it’s in the service of exploitation, to a relationship’s longevity :-)

  34. grimgrinningchris

    June 12th, 2021 at 7:36 am

    KayKay

    Divorce proceedings would surely have wound up exposing them as frauds with one or the other or both turning on the other and spilling a whole buncha beans in the process.

    Given that they are terrible humans who preyed on the griefs and fears of the public and their “clients” to make themselves famous and wealthy… I don’t really think we are looking at love or loyalty. Unless you mean it in a Bonnie & Clyde/Mickey & Mallory/Starkweather & Fugate way.
    No, my money is on “loyalty” based on a shared secret that every word they ever uttered or wrote was a lie… and to the great expense of people’s lives, homes, money, emotions and loss.
    That’s not just some grifter, “I have a Bigfoot corpse in my meat freezer” hoaxers. It’s full on SICK.

  35. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I have a soft spot for the Warrens. They are one of the only interesting things that ever came out of Connecticut, my boring as fuck home state, and the annual Halloween presentation they put on at UConn, my undergrad alma mater, is a fond memory of mine. They were, without question, total charlatans, and their enshrinement as uncritical movie heroes is as close to disreptuable as mainstream horror gets these days. But the movies are well-made and well-acted, and they take their bullshit at face value. They represent the longest of long cons and while I cannot ethically defend the Warrens’ actions in any way, I appreciate the commitment to the bit that the movies represent. I have never once in my life demanded that horror movies be respectable.

  36. I don’t know a ton about the Warrens and the level of their fraud but from the little I’ve read it seems like what they did probably didn’t really hurt very many people. They weren’t charging their “clients” for their ghost hunting/busting services. They were just using them as fodder to build up their rep and material for speaking engagements and book deals. And most of those people were frauds themselves.

    I think it’s really scummy when they involved themselves with actual murderers trying to blame the murders on the devil, but it’s not like they succeeded in getting them off. Did they even convince the public that it was real? Probably some gullible people but I think it’s pretty well known to be hooey.

    Not that I’m excusing the harm they did to the people who believed their bullshit. I just don’t think they’re quite at the tar and feather level of badness.

  37. grimgrinningchris

    June 12th, 2021 at 9:57 am

    While they may not have taken money directly from their clients (and give me a break, that logic is the same that Trumpers use when they bring up him not taking a salary as President, but while he was using the office for unheard of personal financial gain) they still stole from them- contractual obligations allowed them to use clients names, stories etc… to willfully enrich themselves with lies.
    Convincing people that they could communicate with dead loved ones, convincing homeowners that their houses were irredeemably “evil” and causing them to vacate and sell properties at massive financial losses yada yada yada… that is stealing, heartless, selfish and openly evil.
    I’d love Harry Houdini, nie Erich Weiss, to had been around to publicly humiliate them, run them out of town and help the families they destroyed rebuild their lives.

    And don’t get me wrong, SOME of the fiction is still enjoyable. Like I said, I enjoy the performances of Wilson and Farmiga. And I’m an open OPEN fan of the Amityville remake (as a callous, jump scare fest “based on a true story”, I think it is far better than any of the Conjuring movies- and that Reynolds and George are twice the believable couple as the Warrens on screen) and think it’s miles better than its even more ridiculous, long toothed and melodramatic “original”.
    But the Warrens aren’t characters in it… they just helped the Lutzes push their lies (the only instance I know of where they were actually in cahoots with a family/case they were profiling to push a shared lie)so it isn’t as offensive to me.

    I dunno. Maybe my issue with the Warrens is similar to Verns (and an issue I share too to varying degrees depending on the presentation) issue with movies that posit that there really were malevolent witches in Salem and how that fiction is a slap in the face to everyone unjustly killed or tortured from that shit.

  38. The only time I saw the Warrens on anything was in an Amityville documentary about 15 years ago, they said in regards to a certain photo that it would be all the proof a believer would need and to a sceptic no photographic proof would ever be enough. Probably more revealing than they intended.

    Was there anything that made them worse than your average paranormal huckster, or is it a bit of “ha ha, I know the 20% of your brain thing is a myth LUCY, I must ensure everyone knows how far I am above you!” kind of deal?

  39. Obviously I didn’t see Chris’ post before I posted, thank you for the explanation

  40. I didn’t know that they actually caused people to sell their homes and lose money. That’s way dickish.

  41. grimgrinningchris

    June 12th, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    PAC-

    I think it’s more that they made more money and got more notoriety than any other paranormal “investigators” and “mediums” before or since.

    And also, that again, their lies not only made them millionaires at others expense (and they never, even in their death beds copped to being full of shit) but became movie heroes for a movie franchise that has grossed almost $2billion dollars.

    So I think their bullshit is worthy of a bit more scrutiny than the last that does pall readings in her kitchen down the street.

  42. I meant more the other celebrity ones like Zak Bagans, Derek Acorah and the like, but I think I get the picture. Thank you.

  43. grimgrinningchris

    June 12th, 2021 at 2:29 pm

    PAC-

    They’re both frauds too. As are all mediums and “paranormal investigators”. Every bit of it is bullshit. There is no such thing as ghosts. There is no communication with the dead via seances or ToysRUs Ouija boards. And both have been called out repeatedly for their lies and chicanery. Just like every single high profile “ghost whisperer” ever.

    But neither of them are multi-millionaires with “stories” that have ingrained themselves into popular culture as “true” and neither is a marquee character/hero in a multi billion $ film franchise.

    Sure they’re deceiving people. And making a living doing it- and that in itself is despicable. But at the end of the day they’re just two more assholes on TV whose mark barely (if at all) reaches beyond bored basic cable watchers and rubes.

  44. grimgrinningchris

    June 12th, 2021 at 2:53 pm

    This talkback took a hard left. And I’m as, if not more, to blame than anyone.

    Back more on topic, Keith Coogan’s best movie is Hon Cryer’s Hiding Out. He even takes his date to see Evil Dead 2 in it.

  45. grimgrinningchris

    June 12th, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    JON. Not HON.

    Remember that brief period in the 80s when Jon Cryer was super cool and not the milquetoast drip from an awful sitcom.
    From Pretty In Pink to Hiding Out to Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home etc…

  46. grimgrinningchris

    June 12th, 2021 at 3:43 pm

    Majestyk

    Ted Bundy was finally caught about 4 blocks from my apartment. It’s interesting and a conversation topic to be sure. But it’s not something to take any kind of personal pride in just since it’s one of the more interesting historical facts of my town.

    I’d frankly be appalled if the Warrens were from here and would likely hate them even more for besmirching my town.

  47. I mean, if I gave a shit about the state of Connecticut, you might have a point. But I don’t (I’m a New Yorker at heart) so I’m cool with the most interesting thing to ever come out of the place being a couple of conmen whose life’s work turned the dullest state in the country into Ghost Central. Don’t we love our outlaws here in America? I bet there’s all kinds of towns dedicated to Old West bankrobbers and murderers. And none of them helped get me my first handjob after I took a date to their Halloween presentation my freshman year. That might be the more important factor in my continued fondness for them in my opinion. If Ted Bundy ever did me a solid like that I might overlook a murder or two.

  48. Also, Chris: I’m definitely not trying to tell you how mad you need to be at the Warrens. They were not good people and they did some bad shit, and that clearly offends you in a way it does not offend me. That is your right. I’m not trying to persuade you of anything. I’m just explaining where I’m coming from. I hope you don’t take me being a little flippant about this issue personally. You definitely have the moral high ground here.

  49. grimgrinningchris

    June 13th, 2021 at 5:27 am

    No sweat, Mr. M.

    I know the Warrens set me off more than they do most people- so I’m sure I came off a bit heavy handed anyway.

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