That fine(al) girl in the horror movie

The first time I saw the trailer for Evil Dead on HBO, I made sure to watch the movie. I really enjoyed the film because, first, it was undeniably and unambiguously a horror film and, second, I really enjoy gore.  It seemed like a typical horror movie you’d watch with friends on a Friday night. The movie was disguised as a stereotypical slasher film with characters such as the nerd, the dumb blonde, the African-American friend, the leader/brave one, etc. But more than that, I immediately give extra points for any movie with a demonic backstory to it as it automatically creeps me out. . Much like “Cabin in the Woods,” but less direct and explicit, it was a horror movie that would definitely elicit a lot of screams of horror and breaths of disgusts

However, that was before I enrolled in a horror film class. Before, I simply liked the movie because of the hardcore gore.  But with Carol J. Clover’s Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film, I was introduced to the cross gender identification, which was one of the main (subconscious) reasons why I liked the film.

In horror movies, most especially slasher films, the killer is consistently male or assumes a masculine figure, with the victims being women. However, one particular female character stands out among all the other victims; one that is obviously the owner of the main story line; the beautiful, smart, level-headed, etc. Another signifier is that we, as the audience, are given her perspective several times, sharing her point of view on the aftermath of the killer’s attacks and perhaps even her emotions that come with it. She is known as the Final Girl; the one to go through significant character development to finally defeat the tormenting evil that threatens her.

If we were to follow Clover’s description of what a Final Girl usually is, we would definitely see that Mia (Jane Levy) is the most probable candidate. The Final Girl’s gender is compromised because, simply put, she is a masculine female. This means that she is sexually reluctant, isolated from all the other female characters, but most importantly, she assumes a cinematic feature that is almost exclusive to male characters: the “active cinematic gaze.” Moreover, her storyline is the most developed: going from a former Heroin junkie to a chainsaw wielding, back-from-the-dead heroine. This narrative goes hand in hand with the lack of viable male characters, that (male) audiences can identify with. Usually, the male characters surrounding the Final Girl are non-hero types such as nerdy, clumsy, and basically just disposable characters that aren’t developed. In the movie, we are presented with only two male characters: Eric and David. Eric appears as a stubborn, clumsy old friend who would probably outrun you when being chased by a monster he actually unleashed in the first place. David on the other hand is portrayed as the leader of the group; strong willed, intelligent, in control, etc. However, David is like those policemen in typical Filipino action movies; they arrive when the action is all over and the only thing left to do is  put handcuffs on the already defeated antagonists. Basically, Mia, the Final Girl, will do almost all the work for David, even ripping her own arm out (which was almost too hard to watch because of its skin ripping factor).

With the lack of male characters to identify with, the cross gender element in slasher films is very evident. However, this does not uplift the gender issue seen in a genre that sexualizes violence against women. This is to say that, the Final Girl narrative in slasher films, disappointingly isn’t feminist. It is designed to cater to “male anxieties and desires,” and intended for the male spectator’s point of view. The Final Girl is to attract the male viewer’s empathy to a woman in danger or pain. However, Kaja Silverman goes a step further and argues that the true focus of slasher films is the victim. Both men and women participate in the sadomasochistic element in horror movies. This entails that we want our monsters to be disgusting, repugnant, ugly, scary, etc., while the victims: helpless and vulnerable.

Overall, I really do like film. I’m also really glad they decided to remake the movie because now, it has better special effects and camera works. More than that, it really pushes my boundaries on what is an acceptable horror film is and what isn’t (say, A Serbian Film). I would definitely recommend the film to my peers. Also, I found a similar film called: “The Final Girls” that critics say is similar to Cabin in the Woods and Evil Dead. The mere title of the film got me hooked and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing it.


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