Outwit, Outplay, Outlast: The Final Girl.

SALLY: Please don’t let them kill me! You’ve got to make them stop!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

VERONICA: There’s only one thing that you have that I want. Can you guess what that is?

JAMESON: I have no idea but name it and it’s yours!

VERONICA: Your life.

 Outwit, Outplay, Outlast: The Final Girl (2015)

From The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Hooper, 1974) to Final Girl (Shields, 2015) (not to be confused with the 2015 film The Final Girls), the ‘Final Girl’—a familiar generic convention used in slasher films—has been haunted and hunted. She has experienced horrors that none of us can imagine all while seeing her friends butchered, one by one, by crazed psychopaths. But for four decades, the Final Girl has survived these traumas to see the end credits and, if she’s lucky, she might also appear in the sequel. In this essay I will examine how the Final Girl has evolved over the past forty years of slasher films.

By analysing slasher films spanning the past forty years, we gain an understanding of the evolution of the Final Girl as she has she evolves from hunted to hunter. The films from the past four decades I will examine are: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hoper, 1974), Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978), A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984), Scream (Wes Craven, 1996), and Final Girl (Tyler Shields, 2015).

In terms of quality, the slasher film has a bad reputation among scholars and critics. The horror sub-genre has been described as being “unartistic and reactionary generic manifestations” (Williams qtd in Trencansky, p64), “aesthetically bereft, morally questionable, and narratively predictable” (Miller 2014, p. 108), with plots so predictable that they become “obvious at a very early stage that every spectator know exactly what the film was going to do” (Tony Williams cited in Clover 1993, p. 10).

Catriona Miller and Tony Williams’ comments about the predictability of the slasher film are valid—the genre frequently lacks originality and rolls out its tired tropes over and over again. Miller continues: “Typically the genre features a group of young people who are in some way isolated – camping in the country, visiting a derelict asylum, on a road trip, or even simply ‘next door’ – who are one by one brutally murdered by an unseen assailant, the slasher killer, until the survivor (if there is one) manages to escape” (2014, p.109). These scenarios play out ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

There are many thoughts in defining who or what the villain is in slashers. Catriona Miller says that the villain is “a human being, not a supernatural monster, even if they appear to have almost superhuman powers” (2014, p.109). According to this statement, if the villains are supernatural then the film is not of the slasher sub-genre and belongs “to a different limb of the horror body” (ibid, p. 110). Contrary to what Miller says, Sarah Trencansky, Carol Clover, Kyle Christensen, and Valerie Wee (2010, p. 64, 1993, p. 38, 2011, p. 30, 2006, p. 54), all use Nightmare, complete with its supernatural villain, as an example of a slasher film; accordingly, I will also include Nightmare in this essay.

What does it take to achieve the hallowed “canonisation” (Christensen 2011, p.27) of ‘Final Girl’? In her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, Carol Clover coins the term “Final Girl” defining her as “the one who did not die: the survivor, or Final Girl. She is the one who encounters the mutilated bodies of her friends and perceives the full extent of the preceding horror and of her own peril; who is chased, cornered, wounded; whom we see scream, stagger, fall, rise, and scream again” (1993, p. 35).

In the slashers of the 1970s and 80s, Wee says the Final Girl was “defined more in terms of [her] ability to survive and escape numerous attacks than in her ability to triumph independently over her tormentor(s)” (2006, p.58). The change in definition from survivor to victor reflects an evolution of the Final Girl’s character. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Halloween survives only because she is rescued by male psychiatrist Dr Loomis. In the end of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Sally (Marilyn Burns) is saved by a man driving a pick-up truck. Neither is able to “triumph independently” over their tormentors without assistance from men. However, four decades later in the aptly named Final Girl, Veronica (Abigail Breslin) does more than just survive—she actively pursues her tormentors.

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Marilyn Burns as Sally in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Tobe Hooper’s 1974 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a redneck horror in which “inbred, gap-toothed, po’ white folk feasts on chirpy, middle-class camping families or adventurous, smug college students” (Brown 2012, p. 26). The aforementioned adventurous, smug college students are Sally (Marilyn Burns) and her paraplegic brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain), visiting their grandparent’s old house in Texas. With them are Jerry (Allen Danziger), Kirk (William Vail), and his girlfriend Pam (Teri McMinn).

Hooper’s Final Girl is Sally—attractive but not in a threatening way. She wears long white jeans with a simple lavender singlet; her long blonde hair parted in the middle. She is an all-American girl, sweet and wholesome. Angela Weaver, et al. say that Final Girls were “less likely to be shown nude or engaging in significant onscreen sexual behaviour” (2015, p. 31). Sally’s binary opposite is Pam who wears short red shorts and a halter-neck swimsuit that leaves her back and long legs bare. Pam overtly demonstrates her sexuality by frequently kissing and touching Kirk. The two walk off in search of a swimming hole. They don’t make it back.

Franklin and Jerry are also swiftly despatched leaving Sally alone inside the villain’s house. Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) is one of Brown’s “inbred” rednecks; his weapon of choice is a chainsaw. Sally, who now becomes our Final Girl, is captured by Leatherface and his cannibal family. Tied to a chair, she sees her friend sliced to pieces in front of her. Her throaty screams are unending.

Sally manages to escape and after jumping out the window, she runs into the bushes that scratch and tear at her skin. She falls, picks herself up as she is pursued by the chainsaw-wielding psychopath. Sally wears the traumas she has suffered: her clothes are torn but don’t reveal too much flesh; her face and arms are covered with blood. As the sky turns pink a man driving a pick-up truck sees the commotion and stops. Sally jumps in the back of the truck. She screams and laughs maniacally as she is driven away from the horror. At the end of the film Leatherface and the rest of his redneck family are still alive for the sequel.

This first Final Girl escaped because of a random stroke of luck; her captors were momentarily distracted so she ran. Trencansky writes that Sally, along with other Final Girls from this era “survived seemingly at random, based on their ability to scream, run, and avoid the pursuing monster” (2010, p. 64). Sally kept running and was “saved through male agency” (Clover 1993, p. 38). If it weren’t for the male driver, she would have been recaptured by Leatherface and served up for dinner. She is, according to the first part of Wee’s earlier definition, a Final Girl because she survived and escaped. However, four years later we see changes in the Final Girl as she starts to fight back.

Jamie-Lee-Curtis-in-Halloween
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in Halloween

In John Carpenter’s 1978 film Halloween we meet the second Final Girl: Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Dressed conservatively, she is covered from head-to-toe by a skirt, white stockings, turtleneck, and cardigan. She talks to her friend Annie (Nancy Loomis) about next week’s school dance and shyly laments that she doesn’t have anyone to go with her because “guys think I’m too smart”.

Michael Myers, recently escaped from a mental asylum, lurks around his old family home and sets his murderous sights on Laurie and her friends. The first to go is Annie. Wearing only a white long-sleeved shirt and socks, Annie gets in her car to pick up her boyfriend Paul (not credited). Myers has hidden in the back seat and strangles her. Myers then kills Lynda (P. J. Soles) and her boyfriend Bob (John Michael Graham) after he spies on them having sex, during which, we see Lynda’s breasts.

In a house across the street Laurie sees Annie’s corpse in a bed; Bob’s bloodied body hanging from the ceiling; Lynda, pale and stuffed in a closet. Looming behind Laurie is Myers. His knife gleams as it slices through Laurie’s shirt leaving a long scratch down her arm.

Myers attacks Laurie over and over again but quick-thinking Laurie retaliates with whatever she can find close by: a coat hanger, knitting needles, and Myers’ knife. But the seemingly-unkillable Myers gets up again and again. He strangles Laurie but, just in the nick of time, Myers’ old psychiatrist Dr Loomis bursts through the door and shoots him. We see Myers fall out of the balcony to the ground, but when we look again, his body has disappeared. Again, our Final Girl is saved by a man and again, the killer lives to see the sequel.

It is not just Laurie’s “active defence” which separates her from Sally’s “passive” defence (Clover 1993, p. 37). Although Laurie is also rescued by a man, there are new aspects to this Final Girl that were lacking in her predecessor. Laurie is intuitive and “watchful to the point of paranoia; small signs of danger that her friends ignore, she registers” (Clover 1993, p. 39). She sees Myers standing in the street and knows something isn’t right but her friends ignore her.

As well as intuition, Laurie’s intelligence is made apparent by her conservative dress and a conversation about textbooks with Annie and Lynda. Their lackadaisical responses set Laurie apart from her friends. Both Annie and Lynda are outspoken young women who smoke pot, drink alcohol, and are comfortable with their sexuality. We see both of them in their underwear before they are killed.

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Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street

In the 1980s, we see another development in the characterisation of the Final Girl. When comparing these new girls to those of the 70s, Trencansky writes, “the heroines of the 1980s … go much further than simply defending themselves, [by] matching or exceeding the powers of their monsters with their own” (2010, p. 64). Things are about to get messy.

Carol Clover calls Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) from Wes Craven’s 1984 slasher A Nightmare on Elm Street the “grittiest” of the Final Girls (1993, p. 38). Nancy and her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp) stay over at Tina’s (Amanda Wyss) house for the night. In crisp white pyjamas, Nancy sleeps in a bedroom while Glen sleeps on the couch. Tina sleeps with her boyfriend Rod (Jsu Garcia) in her bed. They have very loud sex.

They all have the same nightmare about a man with knives for hands. His name is Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund). Tina is first to go—she dies on her blood-soaked bed after Freddy slashes her stomach. Rod is next. As we learned from the above films “postcoital death … is a staple of the genre” (Clover 1993, p. 33). Nancy quickly realises that what happens to them in their dreams also happens to them in real life.  Nancy has a plan.

Nancy prepares for her next encounter by reading books about how to set traps; she also sets her alarm clock so she doesn’t oversleep. Nancy goes into Freddy’s territory. After a struggle, she brings Freddy back into the real world. Her house is booby trapped with sledge hammers and explosives. Freddy is trapped in the basement; Nancy sets him on fire. She confronts him face to face and deprives him of his power: “I know you too well now. I know your secret now…. I take back every bit of energy I gave you. You’re nothing. You’re shit” (A Nightmare on Elm Street). She then turns her back on her tormentor and walks away. The only help Nancy needs from another person is to let her outside of her burning house. Although the ending suggests that Freddy Kruger has not been defeated, Nancy is indeed our grittiest Final Girl so far.

While Laurie is reacting to the horror being inflicted upon her, Nancy is being proactive by setting traps and learning what she can about her foe. Nancy is more adroit than Laurie and “prevails due to her preparedness and ingenuity” (Christensen 2011, p. 38). Our girls are taking control.

Another difference is how these Girls express their sexuality. Sally’s relationship status is unknown but she does not have a boyfriend in the film, and Laurie is “extremely pure and virginal” (Christensen 2011, p. 29). Nancy does have a boyfriend although she is not killed off. Granted, Nancy and Glen do not have sex but this depiction — permitting women to engage in romantic relationships without crucifying them for it—is a step towards female empowerment. Sexuality no longer equals death.

The late 1980s and early 1990s were not kind to the horror genre. By 1991 there were eight films in the Friday the 13th franchise and six in the Elm Street franchise. Endless sequels of these and other franchises, “signalled the end of the classic slasher film as the monstrous Freddy became comical” (Francis 2013, p. 71). But in 1996, Wes Craven and first-time screenwriter Kevin Williamson revived the genre spawning a new “group of self-consciously constructed slasher films” (Phillips 2012, p. 88).

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Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott in Scream.

Scream plays with the slasher genre by subverting its tropes with its self-reflexive narrative. Characters in this story-world actively watch horror films and discuss the generic conventions among themselves when their lives start to mimic a slasher film.  There are frequent intertextual references to other films including Halloween and Friday the 13th, but despite Scream’s character’s hyperawareness of horror, they still get knocked off one by one. But what about our Final Girl?

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is terrorised by a killer “Ghostface” on the anniversary of her mother’s death. At a party one night, video store worker Randy (Jamie Kennedy) tells everyone about the rules of horror films: “There are certain RULES that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. For instance, number one: you can never have sex… Sex equals death” (Scream). However, unlike our previous Girls, Sidney does have sex with boyfriend (and killer) Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich)—an intertextual reference to Dr Loomis from Halloween. Sidney does not die.

Because Sidney has a genre-literate friend who tells her: “Careful. This is the moment when the supposedly dead killer comes back to life, for one last scare,” she is ready for this exact moment and shoots Billy dead.  Phillips says that when Sidney did this she took “control of her ‘movie’ and asserted her agency to refuse the generic parameters of the film in which she found herself” (2012, p. 93).

However, although Scream was a progressive move for the genre, Trencansky argues the opposite of Sidney’s character. Unlike Nancy who actively pursued Freddy on his home turf, Sidney is a runner and a screamer like Laurie and Sally. Our Final Girl has devolved—she only survives because she “manages to evade the villain … until she is cornered, at which point other characters step in repeatedly to save her” (2010, p. 72). Dewey (David Arquette), Gale (Courtney Cox), and Randy all step in to help—Sidney only kills the killers, Stu (Matthew Lillard) and Billy, after they have been mortally wounded. For someone who constantly relies on others to save her, it’s surprising that Sidney Prescott got to see the end of the quadrilogy in 2011. Now, in 2015, it’s time for some new blood.

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Abigail Breslin as Veronica in Final Girl

Our final Final Girl is Veronica (Abigail Breslin) from the 2015 film Final Girl directed by Tyler Shields. Veronica’s parents were killed in a car accident when she was a child and she was taken in by William (Wes Bentley) whose wife and family were killed by a “very bad man.” William then spends the next twelve years training Abigail with one purpose in mind—to kill killers.

A group of four young men spend their evenings taking girls on dates into the woods. Much like General Zaroff in Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game they then let the girls go and hunt them for sport. William tells Veronica that they’ve killed “ten, maybe a dozen” young women. Veronica sets up a date with Jameson (Alexander Ludwig). She looks beautiful in a red strapless cocktail dress, hair straight and blonde, lips matching her dress.

They end up in the woods with Jameson’s three other friends—all dressed in black suits and ties. Veronica plays coy, luring the boys into thinking she is just like the other girls. She spikes a flask of whiskey with a chemical cocktail akin to LSD.  The boys tell Veronica they are going to hunt her down and kill her. She screams and runs. When she is out of earshot, Veronica calmly ties her hair back in a ponytail and wipes the faked tears from her eyes.

One by one, the boys start to hallucinate as Veronica takes them out. She swings an axe into one; smashes another’s head with a rock; the third boy she head-butts and strangles. Her face and dress are bloody. Veronica takes a moment to set her broken nose. She then finds Jameson—at over six foot, he towers over her.

Impressed by her handiwork, Jameson declares his love and proposes marriage. But when the witty banter is over, the fight begins. He punches Veronica square in the face. She retaliates by exchanging punches matching his ferocity and chokes him until he passes out. She doses him with the same drug as the others.

Jameson wakes up with his head in a noose, balancing precariously on a tree stump. As the drug takes hold, he hallucinates and sees his victims coming towards him. He slips. He dies. Veronica is victorious.

Kelly Connelly says that the Final Girl “represents the ability of the female to rescue herself and, in so doing, to achieve active empowerment” (2010, p. 14). Veronica does not need anyone to rescue herself, nor does she demonstrate any of the “flight behaviours such as running or hiding from the antagonist”—a behaviour which 97.1% of Final Girls exhibit (Weaver, et al. 2015, p. 40). Unlike the other examples in this essay, Veronica, our final Final Girl, is neither a runner nor a screamer.

While Christensen argues that Laurie from Halloween is “hardly a bastion of feminist self-empowerment” (2011, p. 28) because she only survives due to a male rescuer at the end of the film, I would argue that Christensen would think differently about Veronica.

Chuck Bowen notes how Final Girl “parodies the overlapping tropes of the horror and action film genres … as well as the “revisionist” clichés that have been piled atop those tropes by self-conscious directors” (2015, n.p). Although Veronica relies on William’s training to defeat these men like a young Nikita, she could have walked away. Instead, she is unstoppable. This Final Girl has turned the trope upside down.

This essay has highlighted the evolution of the Final Girl over the past forty years of slasher films. We first met Sally, the “one girl who has survived” (Clover 1993, p. 21). But the only reason she survived was because she outran Leatherface and jumped into the back of a truck. The Girl who began to defend herself was Laurie, who used her intellect and resourcefulness in her struggle with Michael Myers but still relied on a man to save her.

In Clover’s gritty Girl, Nancy, we see an evolutionary leap in the Final Girl’s character. Even though Nancy is still afraid of Freddy, she actively pursues him in his own territory. She displays intellect, problem-solving and organisation skills with which she uses to defeat Freddy. Nancy is not just a survivor, she has become our hero.

In terms of the Final Girl’s characteristics progressing, Sidney’s character is problematic. Trencansky, who is highly critical of Sidney in Scream, says our “heroine’s agency is … decreased” and that she has no “special skills or strengths that would typically ensure victory; [she becomes] the last survivor almost at random” (2010, p. 72). While Sidney is not killed for having sex, and this is seen as a step forward, her actions and lack thereof demonstrate that she has regressed back to an early 70s version of the Final Girl.

Then came Veronica. This Final Girl deserves to be a Final Girl. She combines Laurie’s intellect and Nancy’s courage. She takes down not one villain but four. Like Nancy, she actively pursues the bad guys but also doles out as many punches as she is given. In a display of physical independence, she matches her villain’s brutality. Veronica is more than the mere “one who did not die” (Clover 1993, p. 35).  The Final Girl has evolved from hunted to hunter.

 

 

List of Works Cited

 

Besson, L 1990, La Femme Nikita, Gaumont Film Company, France.

Bowen, C 2015, “Final Girl Film Review,” Slant Magazine, viewed 3 November, 2015, <http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/final-girl&gt;.

Brown, J 2012, “Cannibalism in Literature and Film,” Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Carpenter, J 1978 [DVD], Halloween, Compass International Pictures, United States.

Christensen, K 2011, “The Final Girl versus Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street: Proposing a Stronger Model of Feminism in Slasher Horror Cinema,” Studies in Popular Culture, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 23–47.

Clover, CJ 1993, Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, B.F.I. Publishing, London.

Connell, RE 1990, The Most Dangerous Game, 2000 edn, Creative Education, Mankato, MN.

Connelly, K 2010, “Defeating the Male Monster in Halloween and Halloween H2O,” Journal of Popular Film and Television, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 12–21, viewed 4 November, 2015, <http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/jpft.35.1.12-21&gt;.

Craven, W 1984 [DVD], A Nightmare on Elm Street, New Line Cinema, United States.

Cunningham, SS 1980, Friday the 13th, Paramount Pictures, United States.

Francis, J 2013, “Remaking Horror Hollywood’s New Reliance on Scares of Old,” Jefferson : McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson.

Hooper, T 1974 [DVD], The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Bryanston Pictures, United States.

Miller, C 2014, “You can’t escape: inside and outside the ‘slasher’ movie,” International Journal of Jungian Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 108–119, viewed 4 November, 2015, <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19409052.2014.907820&gt;.

Phillips, KR 2012, “Dark directions Romero, Craven, Carpenter, and the modern horror film,” Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.

Shields, T 2015 [DVD], Final Girl, Cinedigm, United States.

Trencansky, S 2010, “Final Girls and Terrible Youth: Transgression in 1980s Slasher Horror,” Journal of Popular Film and Television, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 63–73, viewed 4 November, 2015, <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01956050109601010&gt;.

Weaver, A, Ménard, A, Cabrera, C & Taylor, A 2015, “Embodying the Moral Code? Thirty Years of Final Girls in Slasher Films,” Psychology of Popular Media Culture, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 31–46.

Wee, V 2006, “Resurrecting and Updating the Teen Slasher: The Case of Scream,” Journal of Popular Film and Television, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 50–61, viewed 4 November, 2015, <http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/jpft.34.2.50-61&gt;.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lisa Rufus

Student ID: 100689412

Research for Writers PWR60003

Tutor: Dominique Hecq

The Final Girl

  • How you chose your topic, and why you chose it.

The Final Girl wasn’t my first choice of topic. I had originally planned to write about NASA astronaut and International Space Station (ISS) Station Commander Scott Kelly. Kelly is over half way through his 365 days in space. I wanted to research the ISS, the experiments he is doing aboard the ISS and his use of social media to connect with awe-filled fans on terra firma. However, I’m also doing Journalism this term and thought this project would be better suited for that course.

The iconic horror director Wes Craven passed away at the end of August this year and after that there was a lot of discussion about the Final Girls from his films A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Scream (1996). I had also recently watched Tyler Shields film Final Girl (2015) and all of this combined in my head and out popped a topic. Because the latter is so new, none of the academic essays I read had covered Shield’s Final Girl in any of their discussions. I thought it would be interesting to add this film into the academic arena.

In Week 3’s lecture, Christine Sinclair lists reasons to undertake a research project—her first reason was, “a powerful desire to know, deeply, more about a subject or an event or even an activity that we undertake ourselves, about how it works, why we do it and what effects it might have, per se” (2011).  In that same lecture, John O’Toole spoke of the “level of passion” a researcher might possess for their topic (O’Toole cited in Sinclair 2011). For my Bachelor of Creative Arts degree which I completed in 2013, my two majors were Writing and Film & TV—this research project combines two of my passions.  I think it’s important to choose a topic that is interesting to you otherwise it feels more like a chore than an adventure.

  • How you went about researching your topic, and developing a methodology for it.

In week 2 we learned there four main steps when embarking on a research journey;

  • You will have a question to ask or a problem to solve.
  • You will set about answering your question by sifting through a variety of data and sources, using specific research methods.
  • You will need a methodology to be able to answer your questions.
  • You will need to know about how your project adds to knowledge on this topic either by generating new knowledge of clarifying or furthering existing work (Grix cited in Martin 2014).

I was fortunate enough to complete my Honour’s year last year so I still have a lot of information in my head about how to arrive at the research question and what to do after that has been established.  I knew that the Final Girl had evolved over the past forty years but I wanted to look into how she had evolved. I chose that period of time so it covered the earlier films with a Final Girl.

The main concern I had during this project was that my choice of primary resources might sway my results. I had already seen all of the films I chose but I kept thinking, what if there are others out there that would challenge my findings? I overcame these concerns by selecting films that were being discussed in my secondary sources.

The questions I asked of each film were straight forward: what does the Final Girl look like, how is she acting, what does she do in a struggle, does she kill the villain or just out live him, is she helped by anyone? The answers to these questions formed the basis of my research and were used to compare and contrast each of the films.

  • What resources you accessed, particularly non-web resources, and any issues you faced in accessing those resources

To start I looked at TvTrope.org. This website has a comprehensive list of all the tropes found in film and television. Their Final Girl page had a long list of films. They cited Black Christmas (1974) as the first film to use the Final Girl trope but upon further investigation I discovered that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) was released a couple of months before hand. That’s how I came up with my first film. I knew my final film would be Final Girl as it is the most recent release, and the title is quite telling as well! I just had to fill in the gaps.

Selecting my secondary sources was easy. I used Swinburne and UQ’s online libraries to search for journal articles by using a selection of key words. The first two articles I read both referenced Carol Clover as the person who coined the phrase Final Girl so I thought I must read her eBook! I mostly followed the trail of bibliographies that listed other sources; I also looked up a few online reviews to get a film critic’s point of view on the subject.

My List of Works Cited is shorter than my List of Works Consulted as the latter was compiled during my research. I kept going over the word limit (which I already had increased!) and as a result I had to cull some lines of inquiry. I had originally planned to discuss eight films—two from each decade—but I had to cut them down to five.

  • Why you chose to present your research in the form you chose. This will include a description of your genre, your target audience and any particular source of publication you have in mind

This is mentioned in my Research Plan, there are many opportunities for publication. If necessary, I could easily reformat my piece to have it published as a feature article.

  • What decisions you made to write in the style of your target genre and publication. This will include choices about how you lay out your material, how you arrange paragraphs, how you present data, and why you selected aspects of style. For the last part, you might consider your choice of vocabulary, decisions you made about paragraph style and length, and issues around discourse and paragraphing.

At the beginning of this project I was choosing between writing a feature article or an academic essay. As I began collecting sources I leant more towards an academic style. This is most likely because of the research I conducted last year. This style felt familiar to me, I knew exactly what I needed to do and how I needed to do it.

My essay is laid out in the same format as an academic essay.  The quotes I have included at the beginning are from the first and last films I analyse; these few words clearly demonstrate the change in dialogue and agency in the girls over forty years and serve as an appetiser for what is to come.

 

The first paragraph functions as a scene setter with a brief description of the torments the Final Girl encounters. Here I also pose my thesis question. In the second paragraph I introduce the films I will be looking at to track these changes. The next few paragraphs define the terms used in the essay: Final Girl, slasher, villain. These paragraphs also include a brief look at the current state of literature on the subject. I use these findings and compare them with my own.

Next, I introduce each film chronologically with a synopsis of each film. I then use my secondary sources to provide a deeper analysis into the questions I have posed.

The style of language I have used in my essay has been tailored for an academic audience. Although I do use the first person “I”, my essay is objective with few personal impressions. Regarding the use of this pronoun, Dr Andrew Martin posed these questions in Week 2: “Since all research, especially essays, tell a story and all research is in some way a narrative, then is it possible to remove the researcher entirely from the research? Do even academic texts tell a story and betray the sensibilities of the researcher/ writer/ teller of the research?” (2014). I don’t have a problem using this pronoun, after all, ‘This essay’ isn’t the one doing the research, I am.

My choice of language is clear, concise, with very little jargon. I have tried to keep my paragraphs at a reasonable length in order to avoid monotony. My paragraphs show unity by using connecting phrases, linking each thought to the next. I have added a few creative elements to my writing to make it more enjoyable for the reader including alliteration, a variety of sentence lengths for impact, descriptive terms when analysing scenes.

  • What connections you were able to make between the lecture and reading materials and your developing research project.

In Week 2, Dr Martin wrote “story-telling is a powerful way of passing on knowledge” (2014). Although my research project is non-fiction, it does analyse creative artifacts. Examining the story that is being told gives us a better understanding of the story and the message within. By looking at forty years of slasher films, we don’t only see fictional women on screen, but the societal context in which these women exist. The ‘sex equals death’ trope started to wane as female empowerment grew. The characters on screen evolve because society evolves. Films are a fascinating snapshot of the ideologies of the time. Through them, we learn about ourselves.

While each module focused on a different type of research project, each module had the same message. I think Christine Sinclair summarised this message perfectly in Week 3 and that is, we need to have: “A clear articulation of purpose and line of inquiry. In other words, it’s important for the researcher to understand why they are undertaking a piece of research, and what it is that they want to inquire into” (2011).

For me, the most important thing to have before starting a project is a question. When writing my thesis last year, it took me six months before I found my question. During those six months, I read a lot of articles and compiled a great deal of analysis on my topic (the television series Hannibal) but I didn’t have a focus. When I finally found my question, I had the purpose and line of inquiry that Sinclair mentions.  I’m thankful that I found my question for this project early on!

  • How your critical friend supported you during your research journey.

I’m lucky enough to have a group of critical friends on Facebook. We laugh, we cry, we cry some more. We are a very supportive bunch and cheer each other on—especially around the pointy end of the terms. We also share each other’s assessment pieces. Over the past two weeks I have critiqued essays for two of my critical friends, and I’ve had two of them critique my publication piece.

It’s a cliché but having a fresh pair of eyes to look over your work is essential! My two CFs have found errors-a-plenty—in one sentence I wrote that Michael Myers had recently escaped a metal asylum! Thankfully that was picked up! But it’s not just the checking of grammatical errors, it’s also knowing that there are others out there who are pulling their hair out, drinking barrels of coffee, and not having any idea what the assignment questions mean.

As a great man once said “You’ve just stopped being a study group. You have become something unstoppable. I hear by pronounce you a Community” (Jeff Winger 2009). I love my Community.

 

 

  • How you would go about conducting your next research project differently, in the light of how it went this time.

If I were to do another academic essay, I wouldn’t change a thing. I achieved what I set out to do and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it. Using the tools learnt from this subject and my experiences from last year, I think I have completed a well-researched and entertaining project.

If I were to do a different format, e.g., a creative piece, I would still use the same research methods I have used here to collect and organise my research—the end project would just be a bit prettier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References for Journey

Harmon, D 2009, “Pilot,” Community, episode, NBC.

Martin, A, 2014, “Module 2: The Elements, Stages and Features of Research”, Swinburne University, viewed 11 September 2015, <https://ilearn.swin.edu.au/bbcswebdav/courses/2014-1-PWR60003-36823/LPW505/modules/2/documents/10-134_LPW505_lecture_2/10-134_LPW505_lecture_2.html&gt;.

Sinclair, C, 2011, “Module 3: Lecture Creative Research: New Methods, New Modes or Presentation”, Swinburne University viewed 19 September 2015, <https://ilearn.swin.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-5268438-dt-content-rid-20809282_2/courses/2014-1-PWR60003-36823/LPW505/modules/3/lecture.htm&gt;.

 

List of Works Consulted for Publication Piece

Ahmad, A 2014, “Feminist Spaces in Horrific Places,” – Offscreen, Offscreen, viewed 4 November, 2015, <http://offscreen.com/view/feminist-spaces-in-horrific-places&gt;.

Barker, C 1987 [DVD], Hellraiser, Entertainment, Great Britain.

Besson, L 1990, La Femme Nikita, Gaumont Film Company, France.

Bowen, C 2015, “Final Girl Film Review,” Slant Magazine, viewed 3 November, 2015, <http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/final-girl&gt;.

Brown, J 2012, “Cannibalism in Literature and Film,” Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Carpenter, J 1978 [DVD], Halloween, Compass International Pictures, United States.

Christensen, K 2011, “The Final Girl versus Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street:Proposing a Stronger Model of Feminism in Slasher Horror Cinema,” Studies in Popular Culture, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 23–47.

 

Clover, CJ 1993, Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, B.F.I. Publishing, London.

Connell, RE 1990, The Most Dangerous Game, 2000 edn, Creative Education, Mankato, MN.

Connelly, K 2010, “Defeating the Male Monster in Halloween and Halloween H2O,” Journal of Popular Film and Television, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 12–21, viewed 4 November, 2015, <http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/jpft.35.1.12-21&gt;.

Craven, W 1984 [DVD], A Nightmare on Elm Street, New Line Cinema, United States.

Cunningham, SS 1980, Friday the 13th, Paramount Pictures, United States.

Francis, J 2013, “Remaking Horror Hollywood’s New Reliance on Scares of Old,” Jefferson : McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson.

Gillespie, J 1997 [DVD], I Know What You Did Last Summer, Columbia Pictures, United States.

Glosserman, S 2006, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Anchor Bay Entertainment, United States.

Hooper, T 1974 [DVD], The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Bryanston Pictures, United States.

Kearney, MC 2013, “Girls Make Media,” Hoboken : Taylor and Francis, Hoboken.

Levine, E, Parks, LA, Kearney, MC & Murray, S 2007, “Undead TV Essays on Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Durham : Duke University Press, Durham.

Levine, J 2013 [DVD], All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Senator Entertainment, United States.

McCarthy, T 2011, “’Scream 4′ Review,” The Hollywood Reporter, The Hollywood Reporter, viewed 3 November, 2015, <http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/scream-4-review-177968&gt;.

McLean, G 2005 [DVD], Wolf Creek, Roadshow Entertainment, Australia.

 

Miller, C 2014, “You can’t escape: inside and outside the ‘slasher’ movie,” International Journal of Jungian Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 108–119, viewed 4 November, 2015, <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19409052.2014.907820&gt;.

O’Neill, P 2011, “Scream 4 review,” The Guardian, Guardian News, viewed 3 November, 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/apr/14/scream-4-review&gt;.

O’Reilly, J 2003, “Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice: Cinemas of Girlhood, edited by Frances Gateward and Murray Pomerance,” Women’s Studies in Communication, Taylor & Francis Group, pp. 299–301.

Phillips, KR 2012, “Dark directions Romero, Craven, Carpenter, and the modern horror film,” Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.

Schneider, SJ 2002, “Thrice-told tales: the Haunting, from novel to film … to film. (Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel ‘The Haunting of Hill House’)(Critical Essay),” Journal of Popular Film and Television, vol. 30, no. 3, p. 166.

Shields, T 2015 [DVD], Final Girl, Cinedigm, United States.

Smith, M 1995, Engaging characters: fiction, emotion, and the cinema, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Totaro, D 2006, “Documenting the Horror Genre,” – Offscreen, Offscreen, viewed 4 November, 2015, <http://offscreen.com/view/documenting_horror&gt;.

Trencansky, S 2010, “Final Girls and Terrible Youth: Transgression in 1980s Slasher Horror,” Journal of Popular Film and Television, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 63–73, viewed 4 November, 2015, <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01956050109601010&gt;.

Weaver, A, Ménard, A, Cabrera, C & Taylor, A 2015, “Embodying the Moral Code? Thirty Years of Final Girls in Slasher Films,” Psychology of Popular Media Culture, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 31–46.

Wee, V 2006, “Resurrecting and Updating the Teen Slasher: The Case of Scream,” Journal of Popular Film and Television, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 50–61, viewed 4 November, 2015, <http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/jpft.34.2.50-61&gt;.

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