Updated: Mar 10
Post by: Jessica
Over the past six months for our podcast and my own blog posts, it has been interesting to continuously see throughout the decades the ever-growing presence of women in the horror genre. Whether it be from literature, special effects, writing or directing films or an actress portraying a strong woman on the silver screen. The ’80s were no different. If anything, when I look back at some of my favourite horror films from the 80s, it was either written or directed by a woman or has a strong female protagonist. In the 80s we were introduced to Andrienne Barbeau (The Fog, Swamp Thing, Creepshow), Dee Wallace (The Howling, Cujo, E.T, Critters) and Barbara Crampton (ReAnimator, From Beyond, Chopping Mall). These ladies have been dubbed the title as Horror Queens of the 80s.
As well, in our very first podcast episode (insert link to archives here), we talked about the boom of female directors in the 1980s from The Slumber Party Massacre (1982, Amy Holden-Jones), The Sorority House Massacre (1986, Carol Frank), The Slumber Party Massacre II (1987, Deborah Brock), Near Dark (1987, Kathryn Bigelow), and Pet Sematary (1989, Mary Lambert). You can revisit my first Monthly pick on the website where I talk all about the Slumber Party Massacre and my misconceptions about it (insert link here). As well, in a few short months, Kelly and I will be venturing into talking about the film Pet Sematary. But what I want to focus on for this blog post is some of my favourite female protagonists we were introduced to in the 80s.
In this month’s episode, you will hear me gush all about my favourite “Final Girl”, Nancy Thompson in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. For this post, I want to talk about a few another female protagonists in an 80s horror gem that I enjoy and I feel like she doesn’t get as much recognition and that is Kristy Cotten in Hellraiser (1987). Kristy Cotton, or originally known as Kristy Singer, is a fictional character that has been created by Clive Barker for his 1986 novella, The Hellbound Heart. In this novella, Kristy is portrayed as a friend of Larry Cotton whereas, in the film and its sequel, she is his daughter. In the films, she is portrayed by the actress Ashley Laurence.
I am surprised and saddened that Kristy does not get talked about enough when topics come about Final Girls or top women in horror list. Granted I can see why she would not be considered among the pantheon of Final Girls since the Hellraiser series is not a slasher. It is a series that lives in a dark world of sadomasochism, visceral gore and dark fantastical sexuality. So defining a final girl out of this series is a bit of a challenge as they do not fulfill the typical slasher tropes that define the final girl for us. What is also interesting is the dichotomy between the two female leads in this film, Kristy representing what is good in a woman and her stepmother Julia representing what is evil. However, that is a whole topic to explore on its own and one I don’t plan to do here but hopefully in depth in a podcast episode,
From the very start of the film, we see Kristy as a strong independent woman. When her father Larry moves into his old family home with his new wife, Julia to ‘start over, Kristy is determined to be her own woman and live in an apartment on her own. She doesn’t depend on her father, but you can tell from the get-go that she cares a great deal for her father and is not afraid to show it. As she is very aware that her care for him also sprouts from the mistrust she feels in Julia and sees her a someone not good for him and who has impacted her family in a negative way. For Kristy, the enemy is not someone outside of her family but within it. Not only does she have to deal with her mistrust and dislike for Julia, but when she discovers her newly resurrected uncle, Frank, who inappropriately makes a pass on her, the monsters are in her family and threatening what she holds dear in the world.
We know Kristy has a boyfriend, who plays a very minor role in the film and in her struggle against Julia, Frank and the Cenobites. That is another thing, she is not only facing one enemy but many. When she took the Lament Configuration from Frank and opened it, the Cenobites came for her. However, to escape the fate of so many others before her, she cleverly strikes a deal with the Cenobites to help them retrieve Frank and take Julia’s soul. Even when they turn on her she is able to fight them herself and banish them to hell. She comes out as the victor in the battle for her soul with little to no help from anyone but her own strength and skill.
Kristy would continue to battle the Cenobites and minions of Hell in the sequel Hellbound. Where believing her father is alive being tormented in hell, she helps a little girl fight against a newly formed Channard cenobite and her resurrected stepmother, Julia. And it is really in this film where we see Kristy portray not the image of the final girl but that of the heroine in a classic fairy-tale. She is a fascinating “final girl” and a strong female protagonist that I would love to discuss in more detail in the future.