By The Wolfman (@TheWolfmanCometh – on the boards).
There’s yet to be a Webster’s Dictionary entry for the term “Final Girl” but, as you all know, the Final Girl is typically the last female to survive. She doesn’t have to live, she just has to be the last one. She’s the girl who refuses to be just another victim and actively fights back against whatever force is killing off everyone she knows. I’d say that out of all possible female roles in a horror film, it’s the role of Final Girl that’s most coveted.
Even though there are quite a few actresses famous for being a Final Girl, I’d like to point out that there’s a difference between a Final Girl and a “Scream Queen.” A Scream Queen is an actress who has gained fame and notoriety for her frequent appearances in horror. I wanted to make sure to add the distinction between a Final Girl and a Scream Queen because – spoiler alert – Jamie Lee Curtis will not be found on this list. The entries here are women who have fought back against whatever it was that was after them in hopes of vanquishing their foes. Jamie Lee Curtis is generally considered a Final Girl for surviving her encounters with Michael Myers in the original Halloween, but other than poking her brother in the eye with a coat hanger, what did she actually do to survive the night? Run around? Hide in a closet? Had it not been for Dr. Loomis shooting Michael, Laurie would be dead. Similarly, Marilyn Burns from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre also won’t be found below, sinceStill here? Good! all she did was run through the woods for what seemed like hours after her captors tied some horrible knots.
Still here? Good! Head inside for my Top 5 Final Girls!!!
5. THE DESCENT – Sarah (Shauna MacDonald)
I’ve never had a child, nor have I ever had a husband, so I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of having both of those people being taken away from you in a horrific car accident. At least you can rely on your friends to take you to explore caves to keep your mind off of those things so you can have some fun, right? Well, that works for a little while, but when you’re spelunking and your escape route caves in and you find out that there are blind humanoid terror creatures living down there, a whole new set of troubles present themselves. It takes a little bit of a mental breakdown for Sarah to deal with these situations, but once she realizes she wants to live, she doesn’t let anything get in her way. Whether that’s the monsters trying to kill her or leaving behind a friend who had a more than friendly relationship with her now dead husband, Sarah does what’s needed to escape the tunnels. Granted, whether you watch the original UK ending or the American ending, the outlook for Sarah is a little bit different, but whether or not she gets out of those tunnels alive isn’t what’s important, it’s that she took care of business long enough to be the Final Girl.
4. THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL – Samantha (Jocelin Donahue)
Do babysitting jobs still exist? I figured that by now, there’s probably an app that serves as a babysitter, but what I’ve learned from movies set in the 80’s is that babysitting was the ONLY job for girls in high school or college. Samantha is desperate for money, so even though the “baby” she is sitting is actually an elderly woman, her financial situation forces her to take the job anyway. Samantha doesn’t notice anything too strange about the unseen elderly woman, but when she does notice that things aren’t as they seem, it’s too late. We’ve all been there though, right? Just wandering around a giant house and finding tons of hair in a bathtub, only to wake up in a nightgown and strapped to the floor with people pouring blood from a goat skull down your throat, right? Right? Uhhhh….anyways, through a ritual that leaves her impregnated with some sort of demonic creature, Samantha realizes that the threat this pregnancy presents is far greater than her own life and, with very little hesitation, takes matters into her own hands and shoots herself in the head. Granted, the final reveal of the film informs us that she actually survived, but that quick decision of the fate of the world being more important than her own life is what makes her stand out.
3. FRIDAY THE 13TH – Alice Hardy (Adrienne King)
You go to a summer camp with all of your friends, thinking it might be a fun summer job. I guess that’s another job that women were allowed to have in the 80’s, being a camp counselor. Even though this camp hasn’t even opened, that doesn’t mean all of your friends can’t start getting killed, one by one. Thinking you’re alone in the world, you find comfort in an old woman who is willing to help you out. Sadly, you learn that this old woman is the reason why all of your friends are dying. Once she makes it clear that you’re about to be the next victim, you decide to take the offensive and CHOP OFF HER HEAD WITH AN AXE. YOU JUST CHOPPED OFF AN OLD LADY’S HEAD…WITH AN AXE. In a lot of Final Girl situations, it’s obvious why the woman takes the offensive, as she is typically taking that offensive against a literal monster or possibly a monster in human form. I’m sure that Alice had a million thoughts running through her head as to who was the one killing all of her friends, and I’m sure that the last image in her head was that of a sweet old lady. As far as this goes in the slasher world, Alice was thrown a curve ball, and she chopped that curve ball’s head off with an axe.
2. SUSPIRIA – Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper)
Being in a foreign country and not having a good understanding of the language is a pretty intimidating thought for me. I can barely speak English (and many of you would argue I can barely write English) so I can’t even begin to imagine the difficulties of communicating. Now imagine that, in addition to not knowing the native language, you have to go to ballet school. Not just any ballet school, but one that has problems with maggots falling from the ceiling, one that has students regularly disappear, and one that might possibly be run by witches. Given all of these factors, I’d say that this ballet dance that they were trying to teach me wasn’t really worth it, and I’d go home to do my own ballet. In fact, I do a lot of ballet on my own anyway, but that’s a story for a completely different article. Rather than turning and running from the problem, Suzy is able to track down and fight the ballet ghost witch, destroy her, and manages to destroy her school in the process. If burning down your ballet school after having all your witchy powers circumvented and destroyed isn’t the icing on the cake, I don’t know what is. Although, I do now wish we got to see an end credit sequence of Suzy doing ballet on the ashes of the school, but I guess I could always toss on a wig, fly to Italy, and do that myself.
1. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET – Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp)
I’ve never been a big fan of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. Well, there isn’t really any one one horror franchise I particularly connect with, but that’s a topic for a different article. The biggest issue I have with this franchise is that more often than not, Freddy Krueger, as an individual, serves more as comedic relief than as an intimidating, terrifying character. Yes, the idea of being attacked in your sleep by him is pretty scary, but seeing his persona in a scene is generally less frightening. When all of Nancy’s friends are being killed and she learns that she’s next on Freddy’s list, she refuses to go out the way they did. Through some leaps in logic and physics, Nancy learns that if you grab anything in a dream and wake up, you bring that into the real world. She methodically booby traps her entire house so that when she hugs Freddy and wakes up, there’s nowhere for him to go and is “defeated” by all of her traps. The reason why Nancy deserves the top spot is that where most of the other entries made the appropriate decisions in the situations they found themselves in, Nancy calmly and rationally took all of the offensive steps needed to get rid of Freddy. Even though the ending is kind of wonky and we realize Freddy lived for another 7 sequels, it was through her booby trapping that she was solidified as the epitome of everything a Final Girl needs to be.
SLEEPAWAY CAMP – Angela (Felissa Rose)
There’s a lot of reasons why Angela can be considered a Final Girl, especially considering she was constantly being attacked and harassed throughout the entire movie and “defeated” her attackers, but there are a few reasons why I knew this list wasn’t necessarily the right place for her. One reason is that the other Final Girls were the victims up until the end of the movie, and none of these victims would be considered the villain. If I were to include Angela as a Final Girl, that means I would have to start considering every horror movie where the antagonist is a female, and I think that’s getting a little too ambiguous. For example, I’m sure someone could make the argument that Carrie (Sissy Spacek) can be considered a Final Girl. The other reason why I didn’t want to include her on this list is because she’d be the only Final Girl with a penis. This isn’t me being a Neanderthal and thinking “penis equals boy, vagina equals girl, grunt grunt,” but Angela never really says which gender she identifies herself as. We know that the gender forced on her by her wacky aunt is female, but maybe she personally identifies herself as male. After all, when she kisses Paul, she has flashbacks to her father and his boyfriend, so there’s at least some part of her that knows she’s anatomically a male. I just…I don’t know guys, I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
Let us know about your favorite final girls in the comments!!
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