10 final girls we love
Vegan Voorhees LOVES a good final girl. I’ve read people attempt to remove the need for a final girl in a slasher film over the years (“women are only good for dying” etc). These people are stupid. A slasher film without a final girl or a killer is almost always crap.
So, anyway, here – in no particular order – are ten of VeVo’s favourite horror heroines:
Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)
Cutesy camper Molly is pretty much the only good girl at Camp Rolling Hills, under the watch of puritanical/homicidal/transsexual camp counsellor Angela, who rather indiscriminately “sends home” all of those who don’t act like a good young person should. Molly’s fate is left a bit up in the air, but from a throwaway line of dialogue in the third movie, it seems like she didn’t make it : (
There’s nothing particularly outstanding about Molly as a character: she adheres to all the assembly line clichés of the role in her goody-two-shoes way, but Estevez is winsome in the part.
Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals)
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Plucky reporter Taylor and her crew of two follow burgeoning mass murderer Leslie Vernon, who intends to rid the archetypal small town of Glen Echo of its surplus teenage population. However, he’s been leading the crew a merry ride by pretending he’s already picked his “survivor girl”, but it turns out he intended to face off with Taylor all along.
Her realisation of her placement as the final girl is something of a great moment in Leslie Vernon, and Taylor takes to the task with veritable gusto, besting Les in classic FG stylee.
Urban Legend (1998)
Secretive Natalie is the numero uno target of the Parka-clad killer who’s stalking the campus of Pendleton University, offing her friends in inventive fashions. While she is naive enough to believe that it’s all something to do with a murder spree that occurred there twenty-five years earlier, deep down she must know that the bad thing she once did has come back to bite her in the ass!
Some people considered Alicia Witt miscast for the role, but her ‘bad fit’ is why she’s such a great final girl. Instead of the usual bubbly blonde chick or moody brunette ‘with issues’, Natalie is a booksmart, guilt-laden character who is eventually forced to shoot her best friend.
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis)
The original final girl, Laurie Strode survived the murder sprees of Michael Myers on three separate occasions. But everyone remembers her best as the babysitter from heaven in John Carpenter’s original flick. Laurie is comprised of all the elements that make the final girl: she’s watchful, ever so slightly paranoid, virtuous, shy, and genuine.
Curtis played the lead role in other slasher films, but she never again scaled the heights of empathy that Laurie evoked as WE joined her in terror as she ran, hid, and eventually fought back.
Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
In Carol Clover’s book Men, Women & Chain Saws, she calls Nancy the ‘grittiest’ of the final girls. Wes Craven wrote his heroine as more reactive than most (something that follows through into the Scream movies); as her friends fall victim to dream stalker Freddy Krueger, Nancy resolves to take the fight to him. She purposefully goes looking for him in her dreams and, when she figures out how she can kick his ass, rigs several traps using household items, and unleashes it all upon her would-be killer.
The can’t-sleep motif at the centre of the Elm Street opus helps characterise Nancy as a great final girl: her folks believe she’s crazy, the doctors think she’s crazy, and even she begins to question her own sanity after more than seven days without sleep. But her paranoia wins through and Nancy emerges as the only survivor.
To emphasise just how good she is, watch the 2010 remake for Rooney Mara’s bad cover version.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Assistant camp counsellor trainer and child psyche major Ginny meets all the functions of the standard final girl and blows most the competition out of the water. Ginny ‘senses’ the presence of something not quite right about the camp and is the only one who takes the threat of “a Jason” seriously. She crawls through windows, hides under bunks, wets her pants in fear, and finally uses her child psychology skills to fool Jason into thinking she’s mommy.
It’s difficult to list exactly what about Amy Steel is so appealing. Essentially, she does very little that her sisters-in-terror don’t. Her performance is neither racked with emotion or personal loss, but she simply seems to fit the mold almost perfectly, doing all the things we want her to do and coming out the other side with her life intact. She’s plucky without being annoying, tough without it seeming unlikely, and smart without being cocky.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Michael Bay’s remake of Tobe Hooper’s landmark classic (which I’m not all that fond of), changed the leading lady from shrieking victim into a can-do ladette with growing star Jessica Biel convincing enough as a reformed juvie-hall probie whose road trip through Texas in 1973 becomes a nightmare of epic proportions.
Is it likely girls would have acted this way forty years ago? Maybe not, but TCM barely reflects the era it’s set in anyway. The characterisations are sketchy and malleable to the 2003 audience, which means that Erin pretty much steps through a time warp from modern post-Ripley female warrior ideals to do battle with Leatherface and family. But she’s appealing nevertheless. I was toing and froing between her or Eliza Dushku in Wrong Turn, but I think Erin just about has it.
Black Christmas (1974)
Sensible and ever so slightly moody Jess turns out to be the final girl in the pre-everything scare-a-thon that is Black Christmas. Secretly pregnant by her highly strung boyfriend and concerned about the disappearance of a sorority sister and the stream of obscene phone calls their sorority house keeps receiving, Jess is under a fair bit of pressure from several angles.
Olivia Hussey was quite a big name when she made this film, but as it predates the conventions of the genre by some years, her eventual uprising as the heroine isn’t the cliché it would be now. Jess isn’t the ‘nicest’ girl in the group, she’s evidently not a virgin, and doesn’t want to compromise over the planned abortion of the child. In short, this kind of girl would NEVER be the heroine if the film were made these days. Still, these points only serve to define her character as realistic (as are most of those in this one) and so she becomes a good, ‘outside the box’ final girl in a similar way to Natalie in Urban Legend.
Final Exam (1981)
In this tame post-Halloween campus-slasher, the killer stalking a group of college kids has no apparent motive and, in a reflection of this randomness, the nominal heroine, Courtney, becomes so by a similar lottery-of-gloom. Unlike many of her kin in this list, there’s not much to know about her: She’s the nice, conventionally pretty girl who constantly seems to be providing an ear for her friends’ various problems, whilst worrying about exams and wondering if she has a weak personality.
Eventually, all those extroverts who don’t care about their own personalities are knife-fodder and Courtney ends up running for her life around a deserted campus, until she is forced to fight back and, literally, get her hands dirty. Very dirty. In this straight-forward film, it’s nice to have an equally straight-forward character outlasting everyone else.
Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell)
Scream 1-4 (1996-2011)
Last but by no means least, the final girl who just keeps getting put through the ringer. If you were Sidney Prescott, you’d be quite pallid of character and wear lots of dark coloured, sensible clothes too. Her mom was raped and murdered, first boyfriend turns out to be the one who did it, then he tries to kill her, then his MOTHER tries to kill her, then her mystery half-brother confesses to have been playing puppetmaster all along. Then, when she’s had a decade of rest, her own cousin tries to kill her!
Blood runs thicker than water, and Sidney’s sure seen more of it than most. But she copes, she fights and she survives every time despite tremendous odds against her: One final girl against a total of seven different psycho killers. I was never that keen on her in the first movie, she seemed too obvious, but as more and more of her buddies flatlined, she became gradually more mysterious and put-upon, which made me like her more. Plus she’s stuck it out and done four movies, more than anyone else in the same predicament.