Since cinema began in the early 1900’s, there has been the creation of tropes. Tropes are characters or storylines that are universally understood, oftentimes as a metaphor, and are completely overused. Sometimes tropes can be obvious, clever or even downright annoying. In horror and slasher films specifically, there is the trope of ‘the final girl’. The final girl is just what you think it is: the final surviving girl of the film. The final girl was made popular with films like Halloween (1978) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). But what makes a final girl? While there is no clear list of attributes for a final girl, the idea is pretty much unanimous: a girl who makes it through the hellish road of her story to meet with the antagonist in a head-on battle to the end. Are all final girls created equal? Not at all. Let’s take a look into some of the more recent final girl films.
TW: Gore, violence, mental health
This film is not your normal ‘final girl’ slasher. This dark comedy/thriller out of New Zealand is one of the most underrated films I’ve seen in a long time. Full of twists and turns, this will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. While the main character, Kylie, does indeed make it to the end, it’s not exactly in the most traditional way. Kylie, a reforming shitshow, lands under house arrest at her mother’s house, complete with a creepy murderous neighbor, ghosts in the house and supposed hysteria which all create a perfect thriller.
Final Girl Rating: 7/10
TW: Gore, zombies, violence
A surprisingly new take on zombie films, The Rezort’s storyline is set after a zombie virus outbreak. All zombies have been quarantined to an island that healthy-wealthies can visit freely to hunt them like a safari. Not a big surprise to any; things do not go well for our protagonist group. Final Girl Melanie does not shy away from the violence and helps her team try to survive, while maintaining her humanity throughout. This B-rated British film also takes an interesting look into the dark side of humanitarian crises amongst outbreaks.
Final Girl Rating: 7/10
TW: Rape, violence, domestic violence, graphic injuries, gore, drug usage, abuse
First and foremost, this film is full of realism, graphic injuries and gallons of fake blood – gotta love the french for that! On a tranquil vacation gone wrong, Jen accompanies her married boyfriend on a boys hunting trip to a remote island. Fairly quickly, things start to go downhill. Jen transforms from a naive mistress to scrambling prey to bloodthirsty badass in under two hours. This is truly a revenge plot like the title suggests and it is so satisfying at the end.
Final Girl Rating: 15/10
TW: Violence, gore
This dark comedy may not technically fall under the ‘horror’ bucket, but Grace deserves to be a final girl. On her wedding day, Grace is surprised to learn that she must play a game to be initiated into her husband’s family. A simple game of hide and seek turns into a bloodbath for the ages. Overcoming the shock of what is actually taking place, Grace fights back and becomes an unstoppable force, laughing in the face of Satan (no, really).
Final Girl Rating: 8/10
TW: Cults, possession, violence, gore, supernatural, curse
Teenager Madison and her friends break into her childhood home, which has been condemned and in disrepair since her mother went crazy. This thriller starts out in a normal cadence, but things go off the rails quickly. Little ghosts in the background of shots, a supernatural house, some serious demon energy – what more could you want? While the story is interesting in a ‘what the f**k just happened’ way, Madison’s character is a little two-dimensional. She gets pulled through the story rather than taking an active role in it.
Final Girl Rating: 5/10
TW: Gore, violence, cults, graphic injuries, sexual acts, drug usage
A fan favorite from director Ari Aster, Midsommar is a fringe mention for final girls. I wanted to include this film mostly because Dani has to overcome a mountain of trauma to become the final girl. This is a poignant, beautifully directed film that leaves the viewer uneasy and disturbed. Dani may not be an overly violent character, but the ending of the film proves that she’s just as cunning and dark as the rest of them.
Final Girl Rating: 7/10
As a viewer, what can we learn from the final girls? Each final girl is able to find the strength to push through any situation – even if they didn’t think they had it in them. Final girls teach us to adapt and survive, to overcome and conquer any obstacle. While they suffer throughout their stories, final girls always make it to the other side stronger, often with new skills or traits. In our day to day lives, we may not find ourselves in a life-or-death situation like a final girl, but we can carry that resolve with us to the end.