Reinventing the Final Girl
The Final Girl is a term coined by film scholar Carol J. Clover in her seminal book Men, Women and Chainsaws.
The Final Girl refers to to the last girl standing in slasher films, where group members are often killed off one-by-one amid increasing terror. The Final Girl is the one who lives to tell the tale, either by escaping or defeating the killer.
One of Clover’s main concerns was the spectator positioning of the Final Girl in horror films. Whilst it is often argued that horror film is a male dominated genre where women are objects designed to be used and tormented, Clover suggested that audiences from both genders are forced to shift perspective throughout the film, ultimately identifying with the female character, the survivor - the final girl.
The Final Girl is typically a virgin who avoids the vices such as drug use and alcohol. She often has a unisex name, such as Sidney in SCREAM or Laurie in HALLOWEEN. She is smart, with an investigative nature, which drives the narrative forward and ultimately allows her to overcome the killer.
Over the years, there has been a definitive shift in the types of horror films Clover writes about; as viewers better understand the horror genre and tropes within, we are making way for an era of more self-aware horror films, where the Final Girl can emerge from stereotypical constraints and even become the killer herself.