The Final Girl

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NAME AND SURNAME: Ezachia Ngcobo


COURSE NAME: Spectatorship in the cinema-horror


LECTURER: Catherine Duncan

DUE DATE: 31 October 2007

ESSAY TOPIC: Carol Clover argues that, in particular the slasher film disturbs the traditional model of spectatorship and identification. "As the character who lives to tell the tale of horror, the final girl, Clover argues, must be accessible as a point of identification to male viewers. For this reason the final girl's gender is ambiguous. The final girl is boyish says Clover and she adds, what filmmakers seem to know better than film critics is that gender is less a wall than a permeable membrane.

Using appropriate references to films covered in the course debate whether there is evidence to support this position. You will first need to define what is meant by spectatorial identification and how this is produced by the cinematic apparatus. Then go on to discuss Clover's argument substantiating from one or more films how the final girl does/doesn't disturb this identification.

Horror has been a genre that has been defined and redefined. It's a topic that leads to a lot of debate and speculation when the film is finished. It's also one of the few genres that allow the audience members, both female and male to engage in it according to some. This will be part of the essay discussion but the other part will also focus on the ‘final girl' theory.

The history of horror should be able to explain what the fascination is about concerning ‘monsters' and the possibilities of our fears becoming real. The name horror according to Jean Renoir "… describes the very effects intended to have on their spectators" Jean Renoir goes on to say that the earliest form of horror is rooted in the Gothic literature where the landscape was ornate with castles and houses, populated by clearly recognized monsters (1). However the next major cycle of horror films came about in the 1940s by a director named Val Lewton who directed Cat People. He wanted to show that "… the horror no longer takes place in some exotic never land but erupts within the normal and everyday" (Jancovich)

This principality carried on into the early 1960s when according to most horror movie buffs was the turning point in horror movie history. Hitchcock released his movie Psycho in 1960 which Jean Renoir describes this film as follows "The horror is not perpetrated by a fiendish sub-human monster but by an apparently normal young American man who turns out to be deranged". He further goes on to say that "It set a pattern for horror movies about the psychologically disturbed; a trend that would be passed down to films…" Films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were introduced during this time which lead to another discovery by Croneberg called ‘Body Horror' but the early 90s had a spurt of big budget production with big names and directors. A good example of this would be Bram Stoker's Dracula which featured Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves.

David Russell believes that it's hard to define horror duet to "… as a result of its formal tendency to unceasingly mutate as an entertainment type defined by shock and novelty; second, as a consequence of the recognition of horror's potential social uses that has inspired an increase in and diversicatioin of critical attention; and, third, a wide spread critical indifference to and suspicion of a working definition of the genre as a if a consistent critical vocabulary might be, somehow, a bad thing" (Browne, 1998:233)

However Robin Wood believes that he might just have the true description of a horror genre as it represents and categorizes all horror movies. He believes that "One might say that the true subject of horror genre is the struggle for recognition of all that our civilization represses and oppresses: its re-mergence dramatized, as our nightmares, as an object of horror, a matter for terror, the ‘happy endings' (when it...
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