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the Final Girl

man holds knife to woman's throat
Posted on March 9, 2021

Beavers Bite Back: Rape-Revenge, “Good for Her,” and Freaky’s Final Girl

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Freaky (2020), directed by Christopher Landon, is a slasher movie with a body-swap twist: a teenage girl, Millie (Kathryn Newton), and a serial killer, the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) – through the dubious magic of an ancient Aztec curse – switch bodies and must deal with the unintended consequences. But the movie’s title is more than a nod to Freaky Friday; it’s also an indication of the way it mixes up – or gets freaky with – its genre classification.

Freaky establishes its slasher credentials early on, directly referencing earlier slashers like Halloween (1978) and Scream (1996) during its opening sequence of murders, and it’s obviously familiar with body-swap conventions as well (the cursed Aztec object, for instance). As a body-swap slasher, an unusual combination, some of its elements may not fit comfortably. Dawn Keetley writes, for instance, that “it felt pretty off-putting to be asked to identify with the Butcher’s body rather than Millie’s. One of my persistent pleasures in the slasher film is precisely in the Final Girl’s body. In this film, I’m asked to transfer that identification to Vince Vaughn.” The body-swap element might, then, undermine some of the effects of the slasher. And Freaky is certainly much bloodier than a typical body-swap movie, although it does retain the genre’s emphasis on gaining new perspective and understanding of others. Read more

Posted on September 4, 2017

The New Final Girl: More Sex, More Persecution

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The slasher flick is absorbed in the heroine’s experience of incessant trauma. But unlike the genre’s other characters, she is the one who does not die: she is the “Final Girl.” A victim-hero, she is resourceful and intelligent and ultimately vanquishes the masked murderer.[i] A slew of recent horror films like The Final Girls (Todd Strauss-Schulson, 2015) and It Follows (David Robert Mitchell) have taken up the archetype seemingly in celebration of the female-empowering figure. After all, horror is one of the few genres that enables its female protagonists to “kick ass.”

And on the surface, It Follows, a 2014 Cannes Film favorite, seems like just another in a long line of likeminded slashers. The film centers on 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe), a college student from the Detroit suburbs. After having sex with the outwardly charming Hugh (Jake Weary), Jay is drugged, bound to a wheelchair, and is told she now carries a sexually transmitted curse. An amorphous monster—it—will follow her everywhere she roams, and although no one else can see it, for Jay, it could appear like anyone. It is painstakingly slow but inescapable. Temporary respite occurs only by passing it on through sex with somebody else. In a way, the plot feels like an urban legend of sorts, and the formula obeys many of the same rules touted by Randy (Jamie Kennedy) in Scream (Wes Craven, 1996): “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.”

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