From Comedy To Horror With ‘The Girl Most Likely To…’
by Rachel Bellwoar
Carrie meets Heathers meets She’s All That. In their commentary track, film historian-authors, Amanda Reyes and Kier-La Janisse, are able to single out films that have far more in common with The Girl Most Likely To…than the ones I’ve just mentioned, but here’s why I landed on them in the first place.
She’s All That is for every movie that involves a makeover to turn the plain jane into an eye-catching beauty. Carrie is for how Miriam Knight (Stockard Channing) is treated by her peers. When noticed by them at all she’s the butt of their jokes and this is college, not high school, and the mistreatment continues. Heathers, in tandem with Carrie¸ is for how brazenly dark this film gets. Instead of reining in, the film lets loose, until you can’t rule anything out. The title is a yearbook superlative with an ellipsis because no one ever bothers to find out who Miriam is, but they’ll rue that decision before the film is through.
It helps, when watching this TV movie by director, Lee Philips, to know that Joan Rivers was one of the co-writers, along with Agnes Gillen. Reyes and Janisse spend a lot of time talking about Rivers in their commentary and, when it comes to dealing with bullies, Miriam has the resiliency of a stand-up comic. Rivers dealt with a lot of adversity in her career. She also didn’t think highly of her appearance. While fiction doesn’t have to be autobiographical, it does make you think about the way plastic surgery is presented in the film as the solution to Miriam’s problems.
The reason she needs plastic surgery, though, is “black as midnight on a moonless night” comedy. Miriam never disagrees with how other people assess her beauty and it can feel wrong to laugh sometimes because of the way her “plainness” is treated as fact. Most movies like to include someone who argues the opposite but, while it’s comforting to think such a person exists, that’s not always true. Rivers and Gillen’s script never apologizes, and when you get to the horror half of the story, the lack of remorse kills (comedically or literally, you’ll have to find out for yourself).
The Girl Most Likely To… isn’t like other comedy horror films and, until there’s no denying that’s where the film is going, the horror part comes as a surprise (if not an unpleasant one, once the initial shock wears off). Miriam may not defend her looks but she also doesn’t measure her value as a person by them. Bob Mills and Phil Rhodes were the make-up artists on this movie, and they do a very convincing job. Channing wasn’t famous yet in 1973, so it’s possible people didn’t realize what she really looked like at the time. Miriam’s a difficult role to play, yet Channing makes her someone who both feels the taunts but isn’t broken by them. With Ed Asner and Suzanne Zenor in supporting roles as a detective and Miriam’s cheerleader roommate, The Girl Most Likely To… is available on Blu-Ray and DVD starting June 11th from Kino Lorber.