Saturday, October 20, 2007

For the Halloween Season: Meet "The Final Girl"

In the world of the slasher film, you can always count on several variables:

* Stupid teens will have sex somewhere they are not supposed to be, leaving them wide open to be sliced and diced.

* No one ever listens to the guy who warns them about the danger that is to befall them.

* Once the killings start, responsible adults are nowhere to be found.

* No matter how many times you bludgeon, stab, or shoot the killer, he will always come back.

* The last person standing, is almost always a female who is either a virgin, or resourceful, or both. She is known as The Final Girl.

Coined by author, Carol J. Clover, the character that is The Final Girl is an odd phenomena in a genre of film that is usually sited as being anti-female. Often she is usually the only character (male or female) who shows any sign of intelligence, but more importantly, she also has an unbeatable survivor instinct. She is aware of surroundings, and is often the first character that is aware that something is amiss while her friends are blissfully unaware of anything other than their own carnal desires.

While The Final Girl has been around since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, her blueprint was sured up and solidified by Jamie Lee Curtis, who played the mother of all The Final Girls when she created Laurie Strode in the film, Halloween.

Curtis' Strode is played as a moody, thoughtful, somewhat melancholy young lady who has few vices (she does freely partake of a joint early in the film), and it does not take her long to understand that Halloween night in her little town is going to go horribly wrong when she catches glimpses of a masked man skulking around. When confrontation finally occurs, Laurie Strode not only fight backs, she is also fiercely protective of the children she is babysitting. Of course later on, in the film's sequel, we discover that Laurie shares a very deep bond with the masked killer, Michael Myers; he is her brother.

After the success of Halloween, a glut of teen slasher films followed - with Friday the 13th, being the most obvious of the successors.

Friday told the story of a group of teens gathered to reopen a camp with a rather bloody history. Of course, the teens all meet tragic ends with the exception of one, plucky; Alice , played by Adrienne King. Alice not only avoids death, but she meets the killer (Betsy Palmer playing the insanely deranged Mrs. Voorhees), discovers the killer's motive and then dispatches her by chopping Maniac Mama's head off.

Probably one of my favorite Final Girl's was Nancy Thompson , played by Heather Langenkamp, in, A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Nancy is not only aware of what is happening to her and her friends. She also knows the history of the killer, his motives, and, most importantly, how to stop him.

When Nancy enters the dreamworld of boogie man, Fred Kruger (Robert Englund), and brings him back to her world, and then sets out having him chase her through her own home which she has booby trapped, you know that you are not only dealing with one smart chick, but a young woman who knows her way around gun-powder and a sledge hammer. Ultimately, Nancy discovers the real way to rid her world of the maniac; to turn her back on him and ignore him until he fades away into nothingness.

The modern Final Girl would have to be Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, in all three of the Scream films.

Sidney not only defeats five different maniacs, by the third film she works a switch board for female victims of violent crimes. Of course, the universe of the Scream franchise is one in which the characters are very aware of "the rules" of the slasher genre (very post-modern), so Sid has a wealth of knowledge of how a Final Girl should react and survive.

Sidney gets to break some of the Final Girl rules. She is not a virgin, and she actually has sex with one of the killers (unbeknownst to her at the time) - that said, she is still the brightest and most resourceful of her crowd. She also has very deep bonds to all of the killers in the films so that motive can always be followed back to her past. But in the end, Sid kicks ass - and that is what a Final Girl does best.

No comments: