Call For Comments: Slashers and Final Girls

From Mav: Full disclosure. I watch a lot of movies, but I’m not much of a horror movie fan. I don’t hate them. I don’t get scared easily, so I’m not jumpy around them. I just don’t really care about them much at all one way or the other. The problem is usually that they just don’t interest me.

Usually… A few of them, I love. One of the best examples is the original Halloween, which I maintain is one of the best movies ever (and I am seriously looking forward to the sequel that is coming out this month, even though I haven’t cared much for any of the other sequels in the series so far). Of course, I feel like that’s basically like saying “I don’t like crime movies, except I love The Godfather.” Duh… everyone loves The Godfather; it’s a perfect film. And I feel like real horror fans would basically say the same about Halloween. 

Even though I’m not a big horror fan, I’m fairly fascinated by the concept of slasher films. Obviously, if you’ve listened to the show, you know gender and sexuality are a big research interest of mine. There’s a book I love called Men, Women and Chainsaws, by Carolyn Clover, where she’s the first person to coin the term “final girl.” In it she makes the argument that Halloween and by extension, most slasher films after it, are in fact a study in the repressed sexuality of both the slasher and teenaged girl. She argues that the metaphorical act of penetration by stabbing is a male-coded sexual act, where the slasher kills all sexually active teenagers and then strikes out against the virginal final girl who turns the tables on him by assuming  the male role and ultimately stabbing him. It’s basically a psychological examination of the incel, before anyone knew that word.

As such, I wonder if that message is part of the slasher movie’s enduring popularity. While most Hollywood film genres are cyclical, slasher films have basically never been out of style. EVER. There’s been modifications as the genre matures with films like Scream or (while it’s not really a pure slasher per se) Cabin in the Woods, and one of my most recent favorites, Happy Death Day, and then the further maturation of what (at least it looks like) the 2018 Halloween is going to be. Is the slasher film really just a an allegorical look at #MeToo movement that  we’ve been reliving over and over again?

At least that’s just my take. But like I said, I don’t know anything! So we’re going to have a conversation with people who do! Right now, assuming things work out, that’s going to be my colleague, literary PhD student John Hadlock, and Pittsburgh horror authors Gwendolyn Kiste and Christine Soltis. All people who know way more about this subject than I do… so I hope to learn a lot. But, before I do, let me know what you’re wondering. What are your thoughts on horror films in general and slasher films in specific? Do you think there’s something more to it than the sexuality issue? What about the inherent violence? What more should we talk to the guests about. Let us know!

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3 Replies to “Call For Comments: Slashers and Final Girls”

  1. I see them as one of the few art works that Freudian theory works for without many problems. They basically combine sex and death, so one thing that you might want to think about is the fear of and inevitably of death. After all Michael Myers is basically the grim reaper with a thing for teens.

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