The “Final Girl”:
The Exploration of Gender in Slasher/Horror Movies
Much is made of the anti-female sentiments expressed in slasher/horror films. The classic scenario or formula used in most slasher movies includes the psycho-killer who slashes to death a string of mostly female victims, one-by one, until he himself is killed or subdued by the final survivor, usually the female lead character. The slasher film is rife with forbidden sexual overtones and graphic bloody violence, making it disregarded as great film by most critics or audiences (Clover, 1). However, it has become one of the top grossing film genres to come out of Hollywood. During the mid 1970’s to 1980’s, audiences saw the return of the slasher film with the release of movies like, Halloween and later, Scream. The first slasher film was arguably Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Most slasher films post dating Psycho keep true to many of the original “formulas” used in the making of Psycho. The introduction of the “final girl” shows a departure from many original Hollywood horror film formulas. Benshoff and Griffin define the final girl as, “A hero who is often able to defeat the killer. Yet the ‘final girl’ is usually a sweet, virginal character – one who represents an old-fashioned model of proper womanhood.” Some of the elements that add to the formula of producing a slasher film include the use of sound, photography, and movement. With the added drama and effects each of these elements help to illicit in the film, the slasher film genre gives a clear picture of current cultural attitudes toward sex and gender. This theme of gender and sexuality will be explored in the slasher movies, Psycho, Halloween and Scream, through the elements of sound, photography, and movement. Without sound, the fear factor of almost any horror film would decrease dramatically, if not completely vanish. Sure, monsters look scary, and masked men wielding a knife can be terrifying, but without sound, much of the fear these images evoke is negated. Composer Simon Boswell, who is involved in composing for a number of horror films, states, “Music in horror film is probably more powerful than in any other genre, so it’s good for a composer to do them because he can be very influential on the action.” Most would agree that the eerie or sometimes frenetic music that begins when the killer is near adds a great deal of tension and suspense to a movie. The music acts as an alert warning for the audience. It is saying “The killer is near, get ready to scream!” It is the very dramatic nature and shifting pace of a horror film that the sound adds so much to. If the main purpose of a horror film is to scare the audience, then it is imperative that horror is achieved not merely through visuals but by sound alike. Photography within the slasher film is very important as well. Often, the two points of views expressed are through the monster/killer’s eyes or through the female protagonist’s eyes. Horror films often use point of view shots to suggest a menacing or unseen presence in the scene, for example, a shot that is looking out of the dark woods directly at a lone, young woman inside a well lit house. A shot like this alerts the audience that something bad is going to happen to that young woman. Point of view is one of the means by which audiences are encouraged to identify with characters in the film. The photography in horror films also employs the use of contrast to denote good and evil. High contrast is often used in the horror film genre because often times a lot of the scenes are very dark and menacing. The idea behind this may be playing to the fear of the dark that many individuals carry with them into adulthood. The movement within the slasher film often includes a downward movement in relation of the monster/killer to the protagonist. In so many horror films, the killer takes on unusually huge proportions, and seemingly towers over the...
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