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The history of the 'Final Girl' in horror movies

The term refers to the last girl that lives to face the monster in horror movies.

Still from the film 'Black Christmas' and 'Split'

The years will continue to pass and one of the film genres that will never go out of style is horror. Photos: YT-Warner, YT-Movieclips

LatinAmerican Post | Theoscar Mogollón González

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Leer en español: Repaso histórico de la 'Final Girl' en las películas de terror

The years will continue to pass and one of the film genres that will never go out of style is horror. Although it seems a bit disturbing, many viewers love to see the protagonists flee in terror from the murderers, because that makes them feel -in a certain way- the same adrenaline even if they are sitting on the couch. However, in this type of story one character always ends up standing out above the rest: the final girl.

To know the meaning of this term, we would have to go back to 1992, when the writer Carol J. Clover described it in her book Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. ). As some must remember, the 1970s and 1980s were characterized by his slasher films, a subgenre of horror cinema whose main characteristic was the presence of a psychopath who seeks to brutally murder young people who are without adult supervision.

Clover defined the final girl as that girl who becomes the only survivor of a group of people who is attacked by the villain. It is she who confronts him and ultimately wins, either by killing him on her own or being saved at the last minute by someone else. In addition, one of the main qualities that stand out in this protagonist is her implicit moral superiority, since she is always the one who rejects behaviors such as drugs and sex, unlike her friends who end up murdered.

But the term and the profile of the final girl have evolved in recent years, giving it a much broader meaning. In addition to the fact that the slasher genre does not have as much popularity as before, the archetype of the girl is not the typical one that only runs away and screams, because now they are the character with greater mental strength and intelligence that drives them to survive above the rest. The following are some examples of final girls, from the pioneers to the new generation.

Jess Bradford

The first example of a final girl was the character played by British actress Olivia Hussey in the film Black Christmas (1974). In this story, which takes place in a female fraternity of students, a mysterious murderer breaks into the house through the attic. Little by little he kills several girls, until only Jess remains after eluding him and hiding in the basement.

Sally Hardesty

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a saga that consists of eight installments, including several remakes, being an icon of slasher films. In the 1974 film, we see this girl, played by Marilyn Burns, who together with a group of friends embark on a journey where unfortunately they run into a family of cannibals. In the end, Sally manages to escape in one of the most epic scenes in horror movies.

Laurie Strode

For many, she is the true example of a final girl, as she fights, endures, and survives her attacker. The actress Jamie Lee Curtis played this role several times in the saga of films that make up Halloween (1978), where Laurie has to confront the murderer Michael Myers who returns to kill during the Halloween season.

Sidney Prescott

By 1996, one of the films that revitalized the slasher genre hit theaters: Scream. The plot features a villain who kills his victims after calling them on the phone, however, Neve Campbell's character is the only one who manages to evade him. In addition to being very intelligent, Sidney is moved by the traumatizing memory of her murdered mother, so her survival instinct make her the final girl in four installments.

Erin Harson

The new generation has characters that are capable of leaving us speechless, as happens in You're Next (2013). Actress Sharni Vinson stepped into the shoes of this shy, kind and reserved college girl who accompanies her boyfriend to a family reunion in a country house. There, some assassins appear who begin to kill all the members, but are surprised to see that Erin has a personality capable of overcoming danger.

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Casey Cooke

While the plot of Split (2017) presents us with the psychopath as the main figure, this girl undoubtedly became a great example of a modern final girl. The psychological horror film features Kevin, an individual with dissociative identity disorder who kidnaps three teenagers. Among them is Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), who as a child suffered abuse from her uncle and legal guardian after the death of her parents, and who manages to survive in the end in the face of constant danger from the villain.

Dani Ardor

2019 was a year where suspense and terror took over theaters thanks to Midsommar. Here we are presented with a final girl different from others, because the character played by Florence Pugh goes from being a girl confused and devastated by the death of her parents and sister, to becoming the leader of a sect. Although there is no villain chasing the protagonists, Dani herself will be in charge of turning the plot around by sacrificing her boyfriend in a Norse ritual.

Adelaide Wilson

A piece of Jordan Peele's cinematic genius was Us (2019), where he showed us a completely different horror story from what we are used to. Lupita Nyong'o brings to life this woman full of secrets that will be revealed on a trip to the beach. In addition, it will depend on her that her family survives the attacks of her clones and that they do not take away their place in the world.