Kelly's June Pick
The Final Girl
The general consensus in the horror community on who the very first Final Girl in horror is is Halloween’s (1978), Laurie Strode. Her presumed purity, intelligence, courage and resourcefulness allowed her to fight against Michael Myers and survive the night. From then, the 80s onslaught of slasher films showed us that this type of woman was here to stay and she was a force to be reckoned with! The term “final girl” was conceived by Carol Clover in her influential 1992 text Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. The infamous Final Girl is the sole survivor of the group of, normally, young people who are targeted by the film’s villain, and who gets the final confrontation with them. She then either kills him (the killer is almost always a male) or is saved last minute by someone like a police officer. This savior is almost always a man. The Final Girl is different from her friends because of her implied moral superiority. For example, she is the only one who refuses to partake in sex, drugs, or other such illicit activities. She often has a non-gender specific name and defeats the villain using a phallic, penetrative object like a knife. The Final Girl goes through hell and lives.
Let’s take a look at some of our 80s Final Girls:
Nancy Thompson (Nightmare on Elm Street)
Kristen Parker (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors)
Alice Johnson (Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master)
Ellen Ripley (Aliens)
Jennifer Ross (Intruder)
Tracey (Eyes of a Stranger)
Kirsty Cotton (Hellraiser & Hellbound: Hellraiser 2)
Chris Higgins (Friday the 13th Part 3)
Vanita “Stretch” Brock (Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2)
Alice Hardy (Friday the 13th)
Ginny Field (Friday the 13th, Part 2)
Tina Shepard (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood)
Jamie Lloyd (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers & Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers)
Alana Maxwell (Terror Train)
The Final Girl is often the main redeeming quality in these 80s slashers and I am looking directly at you Friday the 13th franchise! We see these women as a source of empowerment, even if the essence of the Final Girl trope is outdated. In the end, they persevere through the horror with their bravery intact. They have incredible survival skills and an intense desire to live. We can't help but root and cheer for them. Despite what archetype they are structured to fall into, we can all find something within them to relate to. We want to see them live because as women we have been fighting against villains (men) all of our lives, and, sadly, the majority of women have experienced trauma from negative situations brought on by the goddamn patriarchy!
Though this classic trope remains, it has been updated in newly released films like Scream, You’re Next, Jennifer’s Body and The Descent, creating more diversity in our Final Girls. I want to thank those who came before and lead the way for some of my favorite Final Girls like Sidney Prescott, Clarice Starling, and Dana from The Cabin in the Woods. We also can’t forget what the wonderful John Kenneth Muir stated in his book Horror Films of the 1980s, “One glorious day, when the eighties were just a pleasant memory, the final girl would finally transcend her origins in the derided and slasher film and “become” the thing she had always been destined to be: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Without these Final Girls, we never would have had Buffy. Buffy month may be over but she will forever remain in our horror-loving hearts!