Final Girl and the Underdog

A brief recap on the film, 5 friends head up to a cabin in the woods to remove temptations from one who is a recovering drug addict. Unfortunately, a cult has left a book containing instructions (and warnings!) how to unleash and kill a demon. As per demonic horror films, someone accidentally unleashes the said demon and dooms them all. Mia, the recovering drug addict, is the first to fall prey to the demon. Ironically, she is the only survivor from the trip.

I’ll be honest, I have watched the film prior to the class and I’ve never seen the original film. I will say that on its own, Evil Dead is a pretty solid film. Evil dead is one of my favorite movies in class. It is the classic horror film – that is to say, there is a villain who preys on the protagonists in the film and one by one they fall prey to its attacks. Ironically enough, it is one of those films that fall into horror film trope traps, but you still can’t help but cringe whenever something bad happens to the characters. For example, when Eric finds the book first and ignores all the warnings not to open the book and completely ignores the fact the original owner went to lengths in order to wipe out words from the book, as a member of the audience you just know that he has doomed his party. Demonic possession films always have an especially creepy, horrific effect to me.

To begin with, usually the male characters in a horror film are hard to identify with. There are two male characters in the film, Eric and David. I think David is someone the audience could connect to because he is characterized as any normal human being; he made mistakes and he tries to make up for them. David is the classic male lead – strong and capable. Unfortunately he is killed off before the final battle. On the other hand, I think it would be harder to sympathize with the character of Eric, because despite numerous warnings he is the one who unleashes the demon. Because of the lack of strong, ‘masculine’ characters at the final battle it is up to the final girl to ‘woman up’ and defeat the demon.

There were 3 female characters in the film: Olivia, Natalie, and Mia. Olivia has a more dominating personality out of the three and it is evident most especially when she insists that they stay in the cabin rather than going to a hospital. On the other hand, Natalie appears to be quite shy, however, because of the fact that she is David’s girlfriend this gives her more agency to her sexuality. It appears as if she is more feminine and in control of her femininity. On the other hand, despite being the weakest, Mia ends up being the last survivor in the film. Mia, is what Clover calls the ‘Final Girl’. The final girl is the ‘masculine female’.  From the beginning of the film we could see that Mia was physically the weakest out of all the characters because of withdrawal symptoms. Clover also, states that male characters have the ‘active cinematic gaze’. The demon has a ‘male’ character in the beginning because he is afforded ‘active cinematic gaze’ as in the forest when the demon ‘rapes’  Mia. We see it through the demon’s gaze.  At this point, she appears weak in the sense that she has no control with even her sexuality. In the end of the film the gaze shifts from the demon to Mia. At this point, the audience is more likely to identify with Mia because of the fact that she is an underdog and because we can see the film through her eyes. Because of this ‘active cinematic gaze’, Mia is afforded a more mascular characteristic. As such she sheds of her ‘weak’ feminine persona, comes back from  dead, ends up ripping her hand off, and kills the demon with a chainsaw.  The Final girl is ‘masculine’ or strong in a sense that she actively looks for the demon, she looks at the demon in the eye and fights the demon. She doesn’t need a man to save her. She can save herself.

I think it is easier to sympathize with the final girl than men in horror films. The final girl begins as the weak character and does a total one-eighty, she gets stronger and beats the antagonist. It is easy to cheer on the underdog.  On the other hand, if a strong character ends up as the last survivor fighting the demon it would be much harder to feel afraid for the character.

Carol J. Clover, “Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).





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