If you were to ask me for a particular film that made me love the genre of horror, my answer would probably be Scream (1994). This movie did not only entertain me, scare me, and make me laugh (the mere stupidity of some of the characters, including Ghostface himself constitutes this), but ultimately opened up my eyes to the campy, thrilling, world of horror. There’s really something about the thrill of the chase in slasher films such as Scream that reeled me in and never let me go, and that is in a way, what I felt when I saw Evil Dead (dir. Fede Alvarez, 2013) for the first time in class.
“Horror na horror,” I told myself as I watched the literally non-stop action on screen from the moment David set foot in the cabin to meet with his sister Mia, and their friends. And that feeling never left me, as I watched in excitement till the end of the film, and even now as I write this journal. Despite its very mainstream appeal, I think that Evil Dead is able to fully capture the essence of what a horror film constitutes, meticulously combining various elements of filmmaking and horror conventions (cliche as they may be) in evoking a sense of fear into the audience. But more than that, I think what attracted me the most about this film, aside from the blatantly gory and terrifying aspects of it, is its use of the final girl.
As theorized by Carol J. Clover in “Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film,” the final girl is, as the name suggests, the last character (a brunette woman, most often than not) to survive to confront the killer. This is in relation to the cross-gender identification that happens within slasher films, which leads to the final girl, the protagonist who was once a weak and feeble victim, to transform into the hero herself. This is evidently used in the film through the character of Mia, who undergoes several transformations. Her story begins as the troubled girl dealing with family tensions, which eventually leads to her possession (she becomes the ‘monster’ herself), and ultimately, her survival as the hero who ends the crisis once and for all. Evil Dead does not categorically fall under the slasher film subgenre, most evidently because of the lack of an actual human killer, but the presence of this transformation somehow connects the two.
The struggle and journey of the final girl is something that I truly enjoy watching, most likely because of the undertones of the underdog convention used its narrative. Mia’s, and any other final girl’s survival for that matter, is a story that women, and people who are oppressed and outcasted in society, can look to for inspiration, however absurd that may sound. The final girl narrative for me shows a lot of resilience on the part of the protagonist; despite all the struggles that she goes through, she makes it until the very end. From then on, we don’t really know where the final girl is headed, but what matters is that she’s alive and found her strength from being the one oppressed to the one who transcends against the struggles that she faced. That absurd, yet meaningful rollercoaster ride is something that you will not experience in any other genre, in my opinion.
If there’s one thing that I realized in this horror film class, it’s that there is really more to horror than meets the eye. No matter how conventional the horror film you’re watching may be, there is still that underlying message that gives it a whole new meaning.