One of the great things about the horror genre is that you can read as much or as little into the movies as you want. For example, is The Amityville Horror a film about an eeeevil house that sports a portal to Hell, or is it actually a smart parable about financial insecurity and the perils of the middle class? It’s up to you. Does High Tension explore the notion of internalized homophobia, or is it just that gory movie with a twist that most people can’t stand? Is Shark Attack 3: Megalodon the best bad movie ever, featuring ample use of terrible superimposed effects and stock footage, or is it… is it …eh, there’s no readin’ nothin’ into that one. The point is, if you want to read subtext into horror movies, then you go right ahead and do it. I’m not here to judge.
All of this brings me to the notion of the Final Girl. As I’m sure you’re aware, the Final Girl is that horror movie archetype who’s usually the last one standing. Generally found in slasher films, she’s the only one left alive, the one who takes on the knife-wielding cuckoo nutso in a duel to the death. The term was first coined by Carol Clover in her essential book on gender and horror, Men, Women, and Chainsaws. Clover argues that the Final Girl is female so the audience will feel comfortable watching the character experience terror and be victimized, but she must also be largely genderless so the male audience will feel comfortable identifying with a heroine instead of a hero. The best example of this, perhaps, is Marti, as played by Linda Blair in the gothic slasher Hell Night . Not only is Marti (note that androgynous name!) rather the virginal “good girl,” but she’s also a mechanic. She wears flouncy tops, but she fixes cars… who knew that an early-’80s slasher flick would make such a statement on gender conventions?
Probably not the filmmakers, that’s for sure. Again, how much do you want to read into your horror movies? No matter the sexual politics that may or may not come into play, you can’t deny that the Final Girl needs to be smart, tough, resourceful, and resilient if she’s going to emerge victorious against a masked-n-murderous wackadoo. Here is a Hall of Fame for The Final Girls in Slasher Movies.
Laurie Strode Halloween
Lee Curtis’s turn as the bookish Laurie is the one that most people
cite when they think Final Girl. She’s the shy one who babysits while
her friends are out making whoopee (hey, it was the
’70s); she also just happens to have a psychopathic brother who’s out
to make a slaughterhouse of Haddonfield, IL. Despite the fact that she
found her friends dead and stuffed into various nooks and crannies
around the house, Laurie keeps her wits about her and ensures the
safety of her charges as well as herself, all while wearing sensible
In Rob Zombie’s revamped Halloween, Laurie (Scout
Taylor-Compton) isn’t quite as nerdy — or as nice — as her
counterpart, but she does wear glasses to remind us that she’s smart.
Sally Hardesty The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
idyllic summer day turns into the nightmare to end all nightmares when
she and her friends (and her annoying brother) run afoul of Leatherface
and his insane family. Sally (Marilyn Burns) spends a lot of time
screaming and crying, sure, but she’s also driven by a fierce will to
survive that doesn’t manifest itself in “fighting back,” but rather in
“I will jump out of multiple windows, so long as I get the eff out of
here.” Poor Sally; yeah, she got the eff out of there, but unlike
Laurie, she did not keep her wits about her. Girl’s gonna have some
serious therapy bills.
In the 2003 remake , Jessica Biel faces off against Leatherface as Erin. The name change isn’t the only difference to the modern TCM
Final Girl: Rather than relying solely on her self-defenestration
skills, Erin gets proactive, cutting off Leatherface’s arm with a
cleaver and hot-wiring a car to escape. The times, they sure are
Nancy Thompson A Nightmare on Elm Street
(Heather Langenkamp) is another Final Girl who takes the fight to the
psycho. Once she figured out Freddy Krueger’s deal, that he kills you
in your sleep, Nancy went on the offensive. After many a pot of coffee,
she booby-trapped her house and went after Freddy, pulling him from the
dream world into the real world. Then she called him names and killed
him without laying a finger on him, causing him to disappear in a
humiliating shower of sparkles.
Ginny Field Friday the 13th Part 2
(Amy Steel) is really the Final Girl who bucks the virgin trend by
having casual sex with her sorta-boyfriend Paul. Despite this, she
manages to survive the mighty onslaught of Jason Voorhees by using mind
games and a good old-fashioned kick to the junk. Her non-virgin status
leaves me confused, though. What are the filmmakers trying to say? Is
sex good, or bad? I don’t know what to think. Tell me what to think!
There’s also Kirsty Cotton of Hellraiser , Sidney Prescott of Scream , Ellen Ripley of Alien , and Julie James of I Know What You Did Last Summer
to reckon with. Each has proven to have what it takes to beat the bad
guy… several times each, in fact. So, who’s your favorite Final Girl?
Which gal do you want on your side when the masked wackadoo comes for
you? If you say ME I’ll totally give you a cyber hi-five!
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.Read More