Friday, March 6, 2009
Let the stoners live.
So I'm calling for a change, horror movie makers: let the stoners and the sluts and the drunks live.
The vast majority of final girls are withdrawn, guarded, uncomfortable in their bodies or with their sexuality, and are usually outside their peer group. It is their isolation and their perceptiveness that allows them to put the clues together, to realize that Something Isn't Right, while their friends are lost in booze and sex and debauchery and blah blah blah....
There will always be a fondness in my black little heart for slashers flicks, the dopey embarrassment of the horror scene. Unlike a lot of my fellow horror bloggers, I am not blind to some of the subtext build into the cliches of the genre. Slasher films always had a vaguely puritanical streak, where the good (read: Christianly) young woman is given both perception and strength by her abstinence, while her friends who've succumbed to temptation fail to see the danger they're in.
This isn't actually anything new. All the way back to the atomic horror films of the fifties, back in less graphic times, the rubberized squiddy monster From Beyond The Stars would chance upon Johnny LetterManJacket and Janie AngoraCardigan. The exchange would be something like this:
Johnny: Come on, baby. Let us French.
SFX: Twig snaps.
Janie: Wait, Johnny. Did you hear something?
Johnny: I didn't hear anything.
Resumes groping and/or necking. Janie looks distracted.
Janie: I wanna go home.
Johnny looks exasperated.
Johnny: Babe, there's nothing out here.
Janie: I don't know....
Johnny turns on the charm.
Johnny: You look beautiful tonight.
Janie is smitten.
Janie: Oh, Johnny.
Kissy kissy. The Atomic Monster shows up.
Atomic Monster: Blaugh.
Johnny and Janie: Aaaaaaahhhh!!!
See where I'm going with this? If Janie just trusted her instincts, if she didn't succumb to Johnny's wiles, they wouldn't be Atomic Monster chow. This formula has been repeated, with significantly more boobs, ever since.
(Side note: there's something to be examined as to why men are always portrayed as such base and lowly animals, incapable of perceiving anything around them because they're too busy trolling for sex, but that's a whole different essay.)
Before you jump down my throat, I don't think that slasher flicks are thinly disguised propaganda for conservative Christian ideology. I think someone deliberately included a slightly abstinence oriented message into a movie, the formula worked, and people kept following and adapting it. Slasher movie makers can be accused of a lot of things, but originality is seldom among the charges.
But here's the thing about virgins: they make for pretty boring characters.
People who live with an overabundance of restraint come off as tightly wound and creepy. Some of the more scholarly work on the slasher subgenre posits that this is why the final girl survives; in the end, she's a mirror image of the outsider-killer. Most of the movies I'm talking about don't have that level of depth, and so you're left watching a square.
That might have been fine once upon a time, but it's 2009 now. Even our crappy slasher movies tend to have better acting, better production values, and better writing (stop snickering back there!) So I'm gonna throw something I've always wanted to see in a slasher flick: the character journey.
My favorite example is Freddy vs. Jason. The final girl, Lori, is both uninteresting and kinda fucking weird ("Why yes, I'm leaving high school yet still pine for my long-absent middle school boyfriend.") Her friend Gibb, on the other hand, is a habitual drinker whose self-esteem is ground down into the mud by her alpha-male asshole boyfriend. She has more dimensions, she's less serenely perfect, and she can be saved. Imagine a movie where this already damaged girl endures the fires of evil and becomes stronger for it. Wouldn't that have been fantastic? The movie doesn't give her that chance, which would have made FvJ a whole lot richer and more likable.
Or, more recently, Chewie from the Friday the 13th remake. This one is kind of a harder sell, because it's hard to believe that the good natured Chewie would voluntarily hang out with the idiots he keeps company with, but he's the most likable character in the movie. He's the most free-spirited, has the most engaging sense of humor, and is just awesome. Fuck it, I heart Chewie.
The fake final girl isn't particularly likable, because she (maybe) dates the biggest asshole in the group, while the actual final girl and guy don't really have much characterization. Really, doesn't it make more sense to have the most engaging character be the survivor. Sure, he's not a bulky manly-man, but has that ever really mattered when you're going up against Jason muthafuckin' Voorhees?
I'm really tired of bland, withdrawn, final girls. I related to them more when I was a scared, nervous Catholic-school virgin. I don't relate to those people anymore, and I don't think the average horror fan does, either. If evil truly is pure, then it's arbitrary: it will not let the virginal girls survive with any more frequency than anyone else. People who've lived, people who are a little wild and a little damaged, are more likely to have to tools needed to fight back and triumph.
So, yeah, clemency for the losers. This posts were inspired by the awesome Who Would You Save? posts circling around the webs. Check out final girl's posts here and here.