Ask the Mary Sues: Who Are Your Favorite Final Girls?
Who makes the cut?
This weekend, one of the greatest final girls of all time returns to the big screen (and Peacock). We’re talking, of course, about Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode, who returns to the Halloween franchise in Halloween Kills. The film is Curtis’s 8th outing as Strode, who continues to fight against evil incarnate Michael Meyers, alongside her daughter and granddaughter. And with 43 years between the 1978 slasher hit and Halloween Kills, Curtis’s Strode is easily the longest surviving final girl.
The term “final girl” was coined by Carol J. Clover in her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, to describe the lone survivor in a horror movie that makes it to the end of the film, and who has the final confrontation with the killer. In the book, Clover unpacks how many films in the horror genre begin via the killer’s perspective, but shift to that of the final girl, who becomes the heroine of the story.
Naturally we started discussing our favorite final girls, but we’d love to hear yours. Let us know in the comments who makes the cut!
I’m not much for horror movies, so I have to go with the first final girl I ever saw: Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott in Scream. I watched the movie at a young age and so did not understand until years later how self-aware and meta Scream was and how Sidney purposefully subverts many of the “classic” final girl tropes. The academic Mary Celeste Kearney wrote that final girls in the ’90s “resurrected, reshaped, and mainstreamed” how final girls acted and were perceived. Unlike many final girls that came before her, Sidney has sex, stands up to the killer, and makes sure he won’t be returning for the sequels. I’m glad that she’s the first one I got to witness.
I’m being difficult and picking video games just so I can pick Heather Mason from Silent Hill 3, who truly goes through some terrifying shit that ranges from nightmare worlds that leak into her own, to finding her father murdered, to having to deal with an unhinged woman named Claudia and a cult. I love Heather because she has my all-time favorite response to meeting a horror villain, as Claudia gives her a grand introduction and Heather is like, “Who cares?”
Ripley in Alien is the ultimate badass. She’s not ready to give up and she’ll fight until her last moment to make sure that she gets out alive. Watching her kick ass and survive was inspiring for me as a kid. Not that I’d want to face off against aliens, but having Ripley to look up to ruled.
Jamie Lloyd from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, as portrayed by Danielle Harris. I’ve written about her before online, but I love her so much. There is just something to be said about this young vulnerable girl being put into this situation of out running the boogeyman. If there is anything I miss from the reboot, it is her.
Ready or Not is one of the best dark comedy horror films of recent years, if not ever. Rather than the traditional wedding night activities, Grace (Samara Weaving) is made to play a “game” with her entire new family of in-laws: a murderous version of hide and seek. Grace is made to battle homicidal, possibly supernatural, forces, but her fight is also tied up in themes of marriage, class, and family. Plus, the wedding dress/sneaker/shotgun combo is an iconic look well-suited to a modern horror icon.
No final girl list would be complete without Heather Langenkamp’s iconic Nancy Thompson from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. Langenkamp played Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and reprised her role in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), my favorite entry into the franchise, where Nancy trains a group of teens to harness their dream powers to fight back against Freddy. Director Wes Craven said he was inspired by his daughter Jessica, who took issue with the helplessness of the women in his previous films. Langenkamp later plays a fictionalized version of herself in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) who reprises the role as Nancy. What always struck me about Langenkamp’s performance is the warmth and humanity she brings to the character. Nancy feels lived in and authentic in a way that so many horror protagonists do not. It’s Nancy’s heart and intelligence that carries her through the franchise, as well as her courage.
Who are your favorite final girls? Let us know in the comments!
(image: Universal Pictures)
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