Aaron - When the thought came to me of doing a top ten list that honors the kick-ass horror heroines of past and present, I immediately thought of reaching out to James Gracey from Behind the Couch. He is, after all, a published author, and we both share an admiration of the slasher genre, so I thought it would be interesting to contrast and compare our respective lists of favorite Final Girls. I initially wanted to go in a traditional direction with my list while still opting to respectfully leave out the obvious choices and focus on the under-appreciated and overlooked ladies of slasher lore, but the interesting picks that James provided allowed me to think outside the box and go with a couple of unusual and unconventional picks.
James - As much as I love Laurie, Alice, Nancy and Ripley, I didn’t want to just knock out another retread on why these tried and tested Final Girls have remained so enduring. I thought it might be more interesting to take a look at a few other ‘horror heroines’ who don’t often get a look in, perhaps because they broaden, bend or even negate the concept of what it is to be a Final Girl. Yes, we know she’s resourceful, good natured, dependable, the last one left standing and, thanks to John Carpenter, usually virginal; but it is interesting to note that John Carpenter actually said that it wasn’t his Final Girl Laurie’s virginity, chasteness or purity that helped her survive in Halloween; but her pent up sexual frustration.
With that in mind, the women I’ve chosen to highlight might not necessarily fit the rigid and conventional definition or mould of the ‘Final Girl’, but they still represent the strong spirit she is renowned for. Of course, many of the women I’ve listed here obviously owe a huge debt to Laurie, Alice, Nancy and Ripley – whose essences pervade these posts.
Behind the Couch
#8 Stevie Wayne in THE FOG - Single mum Stevie Wayne gets away from the daily grind of the small coastal town in which she resides through her work as a late night radio DJ. And who wouldn’t tune in to listen to Stevie’s smoky, dulcet tones wafting out over the airwaves accompanied by groovy lounge jazz. That she broadcasts from a lighthouse with beautiful scenery just adds to her unequivocal hip factor. She stays at the lighthouse to continue broadcasting her warnings of the dangers lurking in the fog to the townsfolk of Bodega Bay. All the while she keeps her cool, consistently repeating her alluringly breathy warnings over the airwaves. She also has to use her resourcefulness and courage to fend off marauding ghost-zombies from the deep, hell bent on extracting gruesome revenge for the deadly plight that befell them one hundred years ago no thanks to the corrupt ancestors of the towns’ people.
The Death Rattle
#8 Stretch in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 - A fun-lovin' Southern gal and Cramps-friendly radio disc jockey, Vanita "Stretch" Brock goes through a lot of punishment in Tobe Hooper's much-criticized sequel to what is arguably the greatest horror film ever made. Stretch inadvertently gets the attention of Leatherface and his cannibalistic kin when she broadcasts a recording of an actual murder they were involved in, and so she's terrorized and eventually abducted by the cannibal clan, who, amongst other things, force Stretch to wear a bloody mask made from the skin of her best friend and father figure. Stretch has a huge advantage over everyone else on my list, however, in that she has a knight in shining armor in the form of Dennis Hopper, who plays an eccentric rogue cop who's hellbent on tracking down Leatherface and company. While Stretch's Southern sass doesn't go far in terms of fighting off a chainsaw-wielding psychopath and his maniacal family, her quirks are just a few of the reasons why this tough Texas gal is on my list. Plus, her name is Vanita!
Behind the Couch
#9 Kirsty Cotton in HELLRAISER - Moving with her father and stepmother to a new life in England, Kirsty is an outsider from the get go. She is also headstrong and fiercely independent. When she realises what sort of sordid, blood-soiled and downright gruesome stuff her wicked stepmother has been getting up to in the attic of her family home, Kirsty rolls up her Eighties sleeves and makes an admirable stand. We’ve already seen what the morbidly otherworldly and sadomasochistic Cenobites are capable of, so Kirsty’s chances of survival seem pretty darn slim; especially for such a sheltered ‘daddy’s girl.’ But all that determination and quick thinking pays off – as Kirsty beats the Cenobites not once, not twice, but thrice. Facing them again as a patient in a psychiatric hospital (in Hellbound: Hellraiser II) and as the downtrodden, cheated on and mightily pissed off wife of a man whose soul she decides to trade for her own (in Hellseeker: Hellraiser VI), Kirsty knows what it takes to save her own skin, and that she’s brutally rational enough to make the sacrifices and take the risks she does, marks her as a born survivor.
The Death Rattle
#9 Tina Shepard in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD - Everyone's so crazy about Ginny in Part 2 (me included), but it doesn't mean everyone should overlook Tina from THE NEW BLOOD. I think it's a case of people disregarding her simply because of her association with what is arguably a sub-par entry in the FRIDAY franchise, but I digress.
But seriously though, does Ginny have telekinetic powers? I think not. That being said, Tina has a huge advantage over pretty much every character who ever appeared in the franchise - including Jason Voorhees himself. Admittedly, I might be a little biased because of my love of telekinetic-teen films, but it's hard to deny the fact that Tina pushes Jason Voorhees to the limit, which can't really be said for any of the other Final Girls in the series - at least not the extent of the psychic-powered punishment that Tina dishes out. Furniture literally flies when they clash. While she can't take credit for putting Jason down for the count permanently, Tina at least put up a hell of a fight and even managed to get some closure with her kinda-dead-but-not-really father in the process.
Behind the Couch - SPOILER ALERT
#10 Beth in THE DESCENT - Remember when I said I might push the boundaries of what is usually deemed the definition of Final Girl? Well, Beth from The Descent is that. I know, she doesn’t even make it to the end, but before she’s bumped off, she demonstrates all the usual attributes of the Final Girl, and a damn likable and down to earth one at that. Resourceful, loyal, even-headed and witty – she’s always there for her friends when they need her – both physically and emotionally. Beth seems likely to make it to the end; she just didn’t count on the kind of monstrous and backstabbing femininity that would not only cause her death – but also be dealt by one whom she deemed a friend.
The Death Rattle
#10 Katherine (aka "Katie") in HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW - When people talk about the great 80's slashers, SORORITY ROW doesn't really come up too often and I'm not sure why; it's a solid slasher movie with more style and creepy atmospheric moments than one would expect.
But enough about that.
Final Girl Katie, by comparison, is a fucking angel compared to her friends, all of whom are mean-spirited brats. Set in a college, a cruel prank turns fatal, and Katie's girlfriends ditch the body and pretend it never happened; but of course, in true slasher tradition, their actions come back to haunt them as a mysterious killer dispatches them one by one. By definition, Katie fits the Final Girl criteria to a tee: she has integrity and morals, she's not glamorous, she's not a huge partier, and she's not a sexual person. In other words, she's not my type at all. Aside from the fact that she's a genuinely good person who deserves to live, her impressive turn during the film's climactic moments make Katherine one of my favorite Final Girls. Homegirl has stamina and even perseveres through severe disorientation during the big showdown. Also, she earns bonus points for throwing an empty gun at her attacker.
Check back on Wednesday for the next four.