Discussion: Final Girls

To end Horror Week, we decided to have another discussion and this time Kennisha and Andres will be talking about some of the best uses of the Final Girl trope.

K: The Final Girl trope is probably one of my favourite tropes. It gives women a chance to show resourcefulness and creativity when stuck in unusual and dangerous situations. One of the women that particularly stood out to me was Sarah from The Descent (2005). Quite frankly all her friends were idiots. Sarah was put in an infuriating situation by friends who wanted to go cave exploring yet didn’t bring a map on purpose and choose an unknown cave (any person who decides to forego a map when spelunking deserves to be eaten by cave monsters). Despite the situation, Sarah tried to help the people with her then fought her way through not only monsters but disloyal friends. She was smart and did what she had to in order to survive and like a logical person she drove away as fast as possible once she actually escaped the cave. I know there are two versions of this film, one where she escapes and one where she seemingly escapes but it cuts back and you realize it’s a dream, but the version I saw she does escape. Regardless, in both versions, she still survived to the end using badassery making her a Final Girl.

A: Yeah, in the North American cut, she escapes. Not sure why they needed a different ending just for North America. Now that brings up a good point where some people think a Final Girl needs to survive at the end, while all they need is just to be live to the end. Occasionally, some may survive just to be killed off in the next film (it happens a few times in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise), and I totally agree that the trope allows people to see how badass women can be, and what better way to start mine off with Ellen Ripley from Alien. Now the first movie in the Alien franchise is the only one that’s truly an actual horror film where Aliens is action. (Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection are just sci-fi films, I think. It’s hard to classify.) The original script by Dan O’Bannon was called Star Beast and it originally had no genders written into the script, so either male or female could play any of the members of the crew. As the series grows and Ripley stays alive through each entry (excluding Alien 3, spoiler?) she comes back angrier and less afraid of it all. That may have to do with going from only one to literally hundreds after her, but regardless the way she fights back in the second one not only for her safety but others like Newt is incredible.

K: I’ve actually never seen Alien. I’ve seen some of the Alien vs. Predator crossover but never the first one but after seeing what you said about it I should probably do that. Another Final Girl who also got angrier and less afraid as things progress is Madison Young from Hush (2016). I debated between using her in this because she doesn’t start off in a group like most others do within the trope but regardless she outlived everyone else who appeared in the film. What I love is that despite the fact that she can’t hear it never became a barrier for her resourcefulness. She relied on her other senses and continuously strategized. When something didn’t work she moved on to the next idea, each time continuing to get more resilient and even taunting the man when he threatens to come inside by saying “do it, coward”. She thought on her feet and pushed forward in the face of adversity, all of which got her to the end alive.

A: I highly highly recommend Alien. Not to be completely off-topic but I think it’s the only masterpiece that “sci-fi master” Ridley Scott ever made (fans of Blade Runner can attack me, I can take it). Now we both love Hush, and she acts as a final girl with or without having a group of friends that get slaughtered first. The beauty of that movie and her character is that she behaves like a final girl without having to go through the stress of watching her friends die first, her wits keep her on her toes immediately from the first sense of danger. I’d argue that the last big Final Girl we’ve seen on the big screen might be Sidney Prescott from the Scream series. The Scream films own a huge part of my love for horror films as Wes Craven pokes fun a bit at the slasher genre and allows me to laugh along with scream throughout it’s run time, and at the centre of it is Sidney attempting to figure out why Ghostface (and every killer who wore the mask) is after her. It’s empowering to watch as the year’s pass, how often she’ll stop running away at every sight, and begin running towards them.

K: I absolutely love Scream. It was one of the films I watched on my own first but ended up bringing my sisters into it. We watched all of them one night and it was a bunch of fun so it’s got a special place in my heart because of that. I almost included Sidney as one of my favourites and if I could talk about one more girl she would be next on my list but for my last Final Girl I’m going with Erin from You’re Next. You know you have a great character in horror when you scream YES multiple times at the screen after a successful plan. She had the advantage of survival skills training which could be seen as convenient, but even people with the best of skills crack under pressure and she was definitely not one of them. As soon as shit started to go down she was up giving orders, making plans, and planting traps. She fought hard and who could forget the scene with the blender, it was disgustingly satisfying. I’ve heard rumours a sequel might be coming, and if so, I am totally pumped.

A: I’ve legitimately never heard of a rumor of a sequel to You’re Next, and as much as I love that film (and Erin) I wouldn’t think a sequel would work just because one of the best parts about You’re Next is that it’s the fact that when the movie begins, you’re unaware that Erin is a survivalist. So you watch the movie assuming that she’s in over her head, and everyone’s going to get killed off one by one, to only have her jump at the occasion to make the intruders die one by one first. Erin would have been on my list but I knew it would have been on yours so instead I’m going with the classic, Laurie Strode from Halloween. We can not have a Final Girl conversation without one of the best scream queens around, Jamie Lee Curtis. Curtis’ performance in Halloween is iconic and wonderful. Just like Sidney later on, we watch Laurie wonder why Michael keeps coming after her to her having a very touching moment before killing him once and for all. Let’s ignore Halloween: Resurrection since Halloween H20 did as well. Between the first film, the second film, and the seventh we are given a trilogy where Laurie grows up gets smarter and stronger and fights for herself. If we are talking about empowerment, and what it means to be a Final Girl, we must always look at the gold standard that is Laurie Strode.

K: It’s been years and years since I’ve seen any of the Halloweens and I am in desperate need of a rewatch (which is one of the reasons I didn’t add Laurie to my list) but from what I remember she’s a pretty amazing character.

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