Final Girl Friday: Laurie Strode, Rob Zombie’s Halloween I & II

Lots of horror fans refuse to acknowledge Rob Zombie‘s place in Halloween history. Lots of people are torn about the man himself and honestly, I really get it. Personally, I’m a fan and have loved most of his movies. While Halloween & Halloween II don’t really work the way John Carpenter‘s original did*, they do at least try to explore the story from a fresh angle and I appreciate that.

This week I thought I’d pay tribute to the second most famous Laurie Strode in cinematic history, played by Scout Taylor-Compton, an actress with a couple of cool roles under her belt.

*Spoilers – beware!*

The Girl

Laurie, Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009)

The Situation

This one probably doesn’t need much of an introduction. The character of Laurie Strode is probably one of, if not THE most famous final girl of all time. But just in case, Laurie is the adopted daughter of The Strodes. She is also the baby sister of serial killer Michael Myers who killed their elder sister Judith when he was six years old.

In this version, we meet a young Michael Myers who on the night he kills his sister, also kills her boyfriend and his mum’s horrible boyfriend. This isn’t really in keeping with the original story but never mind. He’s also ten when he commits these atrocities. Anyway, Laurie is really Angel Myers but she doesn’t know it (yet). |Her secret history is just dying to creep out and slap her around the face, thus changing her life forever. How will she handle it?

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In less stabby times

The Final Girl

This Laurie is cool because she takes on all the characteristics of the original character but she also has to deal with the aftermath of the loss of her adoptive parents, after Michael slaughters them. She’s super young and has dealt with so much, having lost most of her friends, the only parents she’s ever known and now, some of her marbles.

Halloween does what is says on the tin (with a little embellishment here and there, including more focus on Deborah Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie), mother of Michael), but Halloween II examines Laurie’s PTSD in more detail. Following the events of that first night, Laurie now lives with Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) and his daughter Annie, who is Laurie’s BFF. The two girls have barely made it out alive but here they are and their relationship is shaky at best. Laurie finds it hard to look at her friend’s badly scarred face without recounting that night and that is driving a wedge between them.

Laurie seeks out faster friends, alcohol and drugs like any normal teen would. But she’s a fighter still and although she’s haunted by the truth once it’s outed, she comes out kicking. Michael’s MO is to find Angel and rejoin his mother in the afterlife, a fucked-up family for all eternity. But you didn’t think it would be that easy did you, Mikey?

The ending of HII suggests that Laurie has completely lost it (and perhaps compelled to take on Michael’s role) as she ends up in an institution but I feel as though there is more to her story. I don’t think of her as the same girl played by Jamie Lee. She’s a contemporary anti-victim and a pretty good FG too. A terrible screamer though.

Final Girl Rating

3/5. I like everything but the scream. 

*For the record I think these movies are too gory (I know, right?) and they take away the things that made the first so iconic. We’re not supposed to know anything about MM, that’s the point. He’s evil personified and we don’t really know what’s going on in his head. But they are kind of fun too.
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Final Girl Friday: Sara, Creep 2

Desiree Akhavan is a force to be reckoned with and has been super impressive in front of and behind the camera with Appropriate Behaviour (which she wrote, directed AND starred in), Girls and The Miseducation of Cameron Post to name but a few. So imagine my delight when she also appeared in the much-awaited sequel to one of my favorite movies, the sleeper hit Creep.

And now she’s the star of this week’s FGF!

*Spoilers – beware!*

The Girl

Sara, Creep 2 (2017)

The Situation

Sara is a videographer and student with a sideline YouTube channel called Encounters, in which she meets up with strangers who leave bizarre ads on Craiglist. Her numbers aren’t setting the world alight and she’s about to call it a day when she stumbles across an ad that really sparks her curiosity.

Aaron (Mark Duplass) is offering $1,000 to a filmmaker willing to document him for an entire day, as long as they don’t scare easily. Figuring she can go out with a bang following a brilliant finale, Sara digs in. She might live to regret her decision though, particularly when Aaron reveals he’s a serial killer.

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Nice wallpaper

The Final Girl

Sara is an interesting character. She’s self-motivated and very much doing all of this for the sake of her passion project. She’s also not afraid to use her feminine wiles to get what she wants, including getting in the hot tub with Aaron when he loses interest in their join venture and wants to kick her out. At one point Aaron also suggests they get the issue of wondering what the other looks like naked out of the way by… getting naked.

Sara outwardly is unflappable, though we realise quickly she’s giving herself pep talks in the loo. And also, for the most part she doesn’t believe what Aaron is telling her.
When it clicks, and she realises she might be in danger after all, she has the cunning to outsmart Aaron – and that’s the main quality required in any good final girl.

Sara was the perfect foil for Aaron, a serial killer just turning 40 and losing his desire to murder anymore. When she arrives, she mixes things up and not only does she ignite a new energy in Aaron, she also keeps the second film in this soon-to-be trilogy fresh and exciting. Where Creep had the real Aaron (Patrick Brice) play alongside Josef (who changes his name to Aaron for Creep 2, keep up), Sara bounces off Aaron (Josef) in a whole new way. And that ending!

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Final Girl Rating

4/5. I would watch the shit out of “Encounters”.

Final Girl Friday: Helen Lyle, Candyman (1992)

We reanimate FGF this Halloween with one of the greatest horror heroines of all time, and my personal favourite: Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen).

*Spoilers – beware!*

The Girl

Helen Lyle, Candyman (1992)

The Situation

Helen is a grad student researching urban legends for her thesis on… urban legends. One day, along with her BFF Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons), she learns about some local folklore that focuses on one individual – The Candyman. Connected supposedly to a murder committed in the housing projects of Cabrini Green, our gal is eager to high tail it over there and snoop about – and work out how a myth can have such a hold on the crumbling community. But is it really fiction?

Things take a terrible turn when Helen completes the Candyman incantation in her own bathroom mirror – and receives a visit from the old pal she didn’t even know she had. I wouldn’t even write it down here in this post to be honest, but I think you might know it by now. It goes: Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, etc.

Meanwhile, she’s forced to confront her cheating husband and his new (younger) girlfriend, take on the angry residents of Cabrini, and try and keep out of prison/the mental hospital at the same time. Give her a goddamn break, guys.

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The Final Girl

First off, Helen is a classy dame and cut from Old Hollywood cloth. She’s all enormous green eyes, blonde pin curls and milky skin. You’re damn right I have a crush on her and you can’t blame The CM for wanting a piece too. Unfortunately, our antagonist could do with a lesson in consent and when he takes everything from her and tells her that all she has left is his desire for her, I had to scoff. FUCK YOU BUDDY.

Helen is a great final girl because she’s been fucked over so many times but still does the right thing. Where a lot of other people would give up, she keeps on keeping on because she’s a good person. Me? I’d be torn between embracing padded cell life and going on a final bloody rampage because fuck everybody who doubted me.

Our girl’s been framed for dog murder, the murder of her own best friend (devastating) – and baby kidnapping. She’s been cheated on, institutionalised (not to mention had her beloved fags confiscated) and stalked by an admittedly buff but relentless hook-handed suitor. She’d be forgiven for succumbing to the madness but she doesn’t, she carries on and saves the day.

When it comes to the classic Final Girl trope it is often said that she doesn’t always survive and sometimes has to push moral boundaries. Helen is a smart cookie and a generally good person, however she becomes something quite different at the end of this movie. She may go out of her way to save the baby and destroy Candyman, thus freeing the residents of Cabrini from his evil lore – but she’s also not afraid to take some cheeky revenge for herself. You can decide if Trevor’s punishment matches his crimes.

Final Girl Rating

5/5. The yardstick by which all wannabe Final Girls should be measured. 

You can read my review of Candyman here, if you fancy.

Final Girl Friday: Nica, Cult of Chucky (2017)

I can’t remember how this week’s FG fell in with the infamous ginger doll, probably because their meet cute was so forgettable.

But I very much do remember Cult of Chucky because I’ve only just seen it and that’s what has reminded me how cool Nica is. Not least because she’s the only paraplegic horror heroine I can think of.

If you know of any more disabled horror protagonists, I would love to know of them. A Google search throws up only Cherry Darling, Mr. Glass and The Blind Man in Don’t Breathe but he’s nasty.

The Girl

Nica Pierce, Cult of Chucky (2017) – first introduced in Curse of Chucky (2013)

The Situation

Nica’s in a mental institution following the murder of her family. She’s finally accepted that “Chucky” was all in her head and that she is the one responsible for all that carnage. Under the care of Doctor Foley she’s been granted a small amount of freedom in medium security but her life is set to change forever (again) when it becomes clear that the truth she’s been living for the last few years ain’t anywhere near the truth.

He’s baaaaaaaaak…

*Spoilers – beware!*

The Final Girl

I mentioned above that Nica is in a wheelchair and even though it shouldn’t be a big deal, it is fucking great to see a disabled heroine on the big screen. She’s a proper badass is Nica with a fearless streak I admire. Her only true concern in life now is Alice, the niece who now has a new guardian and a new life away from all the horror. When she finds out her raison d’être has passed on from this realm, she feels incredibly helpless, resigning herself to her own death.

When Chucky comes a-calling again (aborting her suicide attempt) and she accepts he’s real after all, she’s quite calm considering. Her dickhead (but not really) fellow patients don’t believe her story but she sets out to prove Chucky’s existence regardless. As the murder count rises and only one other person believes Nica, she’s forced to fight the short shit all over again.

Nica is by far a more satisfying ‘victim’ than pathetic Andy (the original kid now slightly off-putting Chucky obsessive adult) – and the point is, she doesn’t come off as a victim really. She fights smart and hard.

On discovering that Doctor Foley has been sexually assaulting her while she’s been under hypnosis, Nica smashes his fucking face in and then inadvertently joins the dark side, giving us a glimpse at the very best film in the Chucky franchise to come (if the Heavens align and there is a God): The Tiffany and Nica Road Trip Movie. 

Sure, this Final Girl is now possessed by Charles Lee Ray but how fun? He’s a great horror character and now he’s in Nica’s body. I can’t wait for the next tacky af instalment! I do want Good Nica back but not yet – let her have some fucking freedom for a bit, yeah? She’s been through so much.

You shall soon have your bloody revenge, girlfriend!

Final Girl Rating

4/5 – She’s on another journey now but this won’t be last we’ve seen of Nica.

You can read my Cult of Chucky review here, if you fancy.

Final Girl Friday: Stretch, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

 

I must have seen TTCM2 at some point in my tiny life but when I picked it up on Netflix last weekend, I couldn’t remember anything about it.

It’s great though, isn’t it? A little bit of comedy can go a long way in a horror movie (if done right) and this has a sort of tongue in cheek charm reminiscent of Evil Dead 2. But to the woman of the hour.

The Girl

Radio DJ Vanita “Stretch” Brock, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

The Situation

Stretch (Caroline Williams) inadvertently becomes witness to a horrifying chainsaw murder when two horrible college kids, who just happen to be live on the air with her at the time, are attacked by a chainsaw wielding maniac.

As a result of coming forward to dogged Lieutenant Boude “Lefty” Enright (Dennis Hopper), who has his own personal vendetta against the saw happy family from the first film, she becomes very much embroiled in a new kind of nightmare.

The Final Girl

Stretch is great because she’s cool. I mean like radio DJ Stevie Waynes (horror babe Adrienne Barbeau) in The Fog (1980), Stretch has my dream job. Growing up I remember thinking how awesome that was and I still do. I basically want to give it all up to become a late night disc jockey and you know what? Maybe I will.

Stretch suffers no fools and that’s why I like her. She might um and ah about putting the station’s reputation at risk when Lefty asks her to play the murder tape live again on air but in the end she does what’s right. She also stands her ground when Lefty initially rejects her help with the case. Like, beggars can’t be choosers dude.

As things get hairier and the Sawyer Family come looking for Stretch and her station colleague L.G. (just as Lefty knew they would), Stretch is forced to use any means possible to persuade Leatherface (Bill Johnson) not to chop her up like yesterday’s fire wood. This somewhat backfires (or not, depending on how you look at it) when he falls in love with her.

Hey, even deeply damaged horror antagonists need love.

Things round The Sawyer’s gaff are not that fun really, not if you’re a civilian reluctant to be murdered horribly, though I can’t deny the set design is marvelous.

Stretch is forced to endure the unusual sensation of wearing her best friend’s face over her own when LF kindly hides her from his family because LOVE, amirite? When she’s inevitably caught she has to sit through the world’s most awkward dinner party  and then gets attacked by a 700 year old grandpa with a hammer. She’s had been better days, I’m betting.

But, like all great Final Girls, she uses her initiative, manipulates the Leatherfaced one, blows up the family (forever?) and escapes to live another day – oh, and star in another sequel which I haven’t seen yet but will be damn well catching soon.

Final Girl Rating

3.5/5 – Chainsaw looks good on you, gurl!

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If you can’t beat ’em

Final Girl Friday: Ashley, Better Watch Out (2017)

The Girl

Ashley, Better Watch Out (2017)

The Situation

Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) is about to leave town for college but tonight she’s babysitting 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller), who has an all-encompassing crush on her. When the two of them are attacked by a home invader, she must protect him to the death. But, are things as they seem?

Clue: They are not.

*Spoilers – beware!*

The Final Girl

BWO – or Male Entitlement Starts Real Young: The Movie. Fun as this film is, and it does try to add something new to a tired old sub-genre, it is going to piss you off. Luckily, there’s a satisfying conclusion that will have you cheering if you’ve ever had a sinister experience with a member of the male persuasion.

Ashley is a good girl, set in the perfect all-American babysitter mould. As soon as Luke’s parents (the amazing Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton) have left the building, Luke starts to act up, swigging Champagne from the bottle and acting like a fool. Ashley is having none of it – she nips that in the bud, though she’ll soon be wishing this was the worst of his misdemeanors, believe.

Our girl may be of a more sensible nature but she sure can pick the bad boy, which drives Luke to distraction. Have you ever read one of those Twitter rants by a ‘nice guy’ criticising women for never picking them? This is the film version of that, as Luke keeps on at Ashley about being too good for her current beau.

When Luke tries to seduce Ashley while they’re watching a movie, it’s a step too far – because obviously – and Ashley is horrified. She brushes him off as a stupid kid and thus begins Luke’s foray into proving what a big man he is. But this post isn’t about Luke, his best friend Garrett or even toxic masculinity – it’s about this week’s Final Girl and why she’s ace.

When the two of them are attacked and Garrett is shot dead, Ashley immediately jumps into action to defend them both. She’s scared shitless but has a can-do attitude that I would definitely lack in the same situation. She also has the smarts to quickly figure out that the break in has all been a ruse to trick her into shedding her inhibitions pants and getting it on with a snotty 12-year-old.

Having a now 13-year-old step son IRL, I do wonder if pre-pubescent boys actually think this way or whether Luke is a very unusual character. Guess it depends on the kid.

“I am never babysitting AGAIN.”

Anywhoo. Ashley soon realises she’s been tricked and is rightly peeved. Not least because she almost breaks her neck in the kerfuffle. This is when things take a sinister turn and Luke lets his true colours shine through. He’s a psychopath, basically.

Knocked out and then terrorised by this little punk, Ashley does not just sit still waiting for her fate. She manages to get hold of a shard of glass and eventually frees herself, gaining the upper hand. Unfortunately, her boyfriend Ricky is killed gruesomely in the process.

As this whole sorry plot unravels, allegiances shift, Luke becomes even more unhinged and disgusting, slut-shaming the woman of his dreams and then attacking her, leaving her for dead. But creepy baby fuck-boys can suck it because, even though our antagonist murders everyone and blames in on Ashley’s hapless ex-boyfriend – who has also been tricked into coming to the house and then slaughtered – sometimes getting too cocky on the job will cost you.

And, as stated before, Ashley ain’t messing. Will she live to be victorious? Well, the clue is kind of in the title.

Final Girl Rating

3.5/5 – She’s a survivor, fuck face! 

Final Girl Friday: Erin, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

 

The eagle eyed of you might note that it is Sunday, not the Friday outlined in this post’s title. What can I say? I forgot and I was busy too.

Better late than never though, amirite?

The Girl

Erin, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2013)

The Situation

A tale as old as time, but if you’re not familiar, four kids in a van run into trouble when they stumble across an eccentric family in the middle of nowhere, one of whom has a passion for chainsaws and masks made out of human faces.

Ooopsy.

The Final Girl

Anybody well-versed in Tobe Hooper‘s original TTCSM will know that one woman survives the horrific ordeal Leatherface puts her through. Barely and by the skin of her teeth but the iconic climax of the movie went down in cinematic history and Marilyn Burns‘ Sally became the poster child for The Final Girl.

Her maniacal laughter as she coasts to freedom on the back of a passerby’s truck is haunting and perfect, the horrifying after-effects of her trauma already visible on her bloody face.

In the remake, Erin too escapes (Jessica Biel) but without the assistance of a well-meaning stranger. 2003’s version adds a few welcome embellishments, in this case a close-knit community in on the behaviours of Leatherface and his family, turning blind eyes to his shenanigans.

It turns out that some of the townsfolk are benefiting from this set up too, stealing children namely and bringing them up as their own. Erin not only saves herself but the life of a dead hitchhiker’s baby – by way of a hell of a lot of fighting to the death.

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“This old thing?”

Sure, Erin is a hottie but the narrative goes some way to fleshing her out as a person, giving her gumption and a moral compass. Before all the death and chainsaw japes, Erin is just a girl on the road with her friends. When she finds out their recent trip to Mexico was really a cover for minor drug running, she’s furious at her boyfriend, who masterminded the deal.

She’s also the one who persuades the crew to stop for the disorientated girl on the side of the road, though she later surely regrets this decision. I feel like Erin is a girl to have on your side and I’m delighted she’s the one who makes it. (Sorry, literally everyone else who buys it).

According to the FG Trope, we’re not breaking any molds here. Erin in the earthy(ish) brunette good girl with a healthy pair of lungs, but she’s not slutty (that’s punishable by death, yo). She tries to help her friends and doesn’t run for her own life until she’s certain her loved ones are toast. (Catching Leatherface wearing your boyfriend’s face as an accessory oughta do it).

And, man, that ending is just as satisfying as the original. Erin puts down the evil sheriff, saves a baby and escapes into the night in a cop car – narrowly missing Ol’ LF in the process (after she’s chopped off his arm). She’s earned a good bloody life after this – and a hot, candlelit bath.

Final Girl Rating

4/5 – Hench.