Wednesday, November 29, 2006

i want to be that Final Girl

When i’m depressed, or can’t sleep because of migraines, or feel a need for some form of escapism, i tend to gravitate toward horror films, and for whatever reason, they do the trick, and somehow make me feel better (or least let me escape for that little bit). I was trying to explain this to one of my fellow librarians the other day, and not doing it the justice it deserved~as i'm sure you've noticed words often fail me, lover of language tho' i may be~(it might have had something to do with the fact that she is not a huge fan of the horror genre herself~as my mother was telling me, she didn't think she could handle sitting up and watching horror movies all night when she was depressed and i told her that made perfect sense as she didn't like horror movies and she kept shuddering at the thought and i was thinking "well, duh...)
Anyway, to try and return to the subject at hand, i see horror movies as our modern day fairy tales, with their over-the-top (hopefully) too-horrific-and-bloody-to-be-real, often rather simplistic plots, and moralistic endings; they take us away from lives that are depressingly stressful and/or mundane without easy rules or answers.
So i've been watching allot of horror movies lately (i hunger for them~seek them out on the ON DEMAND feature, paw through my own collection, endlessly scroll through the on-screen cable listings~the other day i caught
Halloween H2o on television ~i can't remember if i've ever seen the original or not and that set me off on a new horror movie reading research project in which i discovered some interesting ideas (here's where i discuss what i know you've been eagerly anticipating ever since i mentioned it).
First up, of course, was the original
Halloween, and all its sequels, to find exactly how H2o fit into it all. Halloween made in 1978, is considered by many to be the first slasher film, though there was a Canadian film Black Christmas (1974) which really should carry that distinction, John Carpenter did much to define the genre (first-person camera perspectives, unexceptional settings, and female heroines) in this pic. And then, of course, there was his choice of the, then, virtual unknown Jamie Lee Curtis, future scream queen (and, i would be remiss if i did not mention, one-time paramour of Mr. Adam Ant himself) in fact she began her qualification for the title in this film and also probably began to define for film critics and feminists the final girl concept.
You know the story here: the last person (usually a woman) left alive to confront~or rather run/trip/fall/miss allot the killer and tell the tale to the cops or whoever at the end. As we all know by now (or if we hadn't noticed, it was explained so well in Scream) the final girl must be a virgin and not participate in the other nasty vices that the other brutally murdered victims have. As Carol J. Clover (coiner of the term "final girl") pointed out in her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film these girls often have gender neutral names and also often have a shared history with the killer (especially and sometimes not until sequels come into play). Clover's premise is that as most horror films are made for a male audience who has been identifying with the slasher/killer the director must at some point switch the audience identification to the final girl as hero/heroine who finally takes up weapon/phallic symbol (thus masculizing herself~allowing identification with her to be acceptable) and doing in her killer. This whole idea of the final girl has been running through my mind and influencing so many of my daily thoughts that is beginning to get just a bit frightening (and it gives me so many writing ideas~so many ideas i have but so little actually gets written). And also, of course, it drives me to more horror movie viewing.
I encountered some other interesting thoughts on the morality of it all. I love the fact that John Carpenter himself dismisses the notion that Halloween is a morality play~he set out simply to make a horror film. According to Carpenter, critics, "completely missed the point there." He explains, "The one girl who is the most sexually uptight just keeps stabbing this guy with a long knife. She's the most sexually frustrated. She's the one that's killed him. Not because she's a virgin but because all that sexually repressed energy starts coming out. She uses all those phallic symbols on the guy." And you always thought she survived because she deserved to (although i have often wondered if the author/director/artist/creator always knows everything about his creation~i know from workshopping some of my own writing that others have found meaning in my work i didn't know i put there put once pointed out it made perfect sense to me~also once our work is released into the world it no longer belongs to us alone and is a collaborative effort with its audience).
Arrin Dembo offers another theory in Demon of the Threshold; or Why the "Final Girl" Can Kiss My Ass, in essence, she posits that, all of our classic slasher figures, for whatever reason, are trapped in their own torturous childhoods. They are angry children who do not want to allow other children to cross the threshold into adulthood~thus the lethal punishment is dealt when the "naughty" teens begin to flirt with adult pleasures. The final girl, still a child (girl) herself is the only one who can defeat this angry child, not because of her morality, but because she has not yet begun that flirtation with adulthood~and we are back to that relation to the killer. Dembo relates the slasher film back to the European fairy tales of old~cautionary tales for children (reminds me of something some other brilliant person said recently...)
I was once in an online discussion with Chuck Palahniuk (not a huge fan but some very interesting work and very interesting discussions) for his book Haunted. One of things that came up in discussion that was the nameless monsters of fairy tales. I am a HUGE fan of fairy tales (goes right along with mythology, folklore, legend, etc.) Monsters represent what we are too afraid to call by name, and we often don't recognize what we are truly afraid of until years after it has past (the Frankenstein monster represented the industrial revolution~among other things) Our darkest stories are often the most interesting but they are the ones we don't tell. (Notice how all those slashers are always masked???)
Okay, so i've gotten more than a bit off-track, and i'm not sure that any of this explains why i find escape and solace in horror films (and i don't seem to be the target audience) but i have learned a great deal~and am thinking even more. In the meantime i saw the latest When a Stranger Calls (which i actually found rather enjoyable, yes i know it was a bad film, but you must have completely different standards for horror films~and this one, much like the original, was much more suggestion than anything) which led me on yet another Internet search to the original film because i couldn't quite remember the plot of that one except that the babysitter had the same name, which again brings us back to urban legends (cautionary tales and subject of my other horror movie posting, oh what a circuitous path we are treading) because When a Stranger Calls was based on a famous one.
Once i was on the urban legend trial i somehow stumbled upon those involving Hitler, including one that more than a few of his mistresses died under mysterious circumstances (the fact of which seems to be only his niece's death which was ruled a suicide but it was with Adolph's gun and after an argument with him)~i do find it rather interesting that all the women involved with him at least attempted suicide (and this was before he was exposed for what he was). Anyway after some time chasing down various Nazi legends i found myself reading the history of All of the concentration camps. At this point i really need the much preferable horror films...
and by the by, i don't really WANT to be the final girl (i have been somewhat disqualified for many reasons for some time now anyway) i just want to be able to face down my demons and survive to tell the tale. Now isn't that a worthy goal for us all?

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