The legacy of slasher films and the “final girl” theory explained
The slasher film has been a part of film history for decades, first established in the late 1970s. The genre first came to be after John Carpenter’s “Halloween” was released in 1978. The film is considered to be the father of all slasher films as it paved the way for the genre to unravel.
The slasher film has a list of criteria that sets it apart from the typical horror film. At its core, slasher films include a murderer‑often a serial killer-a group of victims and typically a sharp weapon. There are more aspects, of course, that truly make the slasher genre unique.
The most important part of a slasher film is the idea of a “final girl.” The final girl in slasher films is essentially the protagonist and the main focus of the killer. The character was been given its name by Carol J. Clover in her book, “Men, Women, and Chainsaws.”
The killer’s fixation on the final girl ends up leaving them alive until the end, usually surviving for the sequel. This establishes a good vs. evil relationship that pits both killer and victim as the main protagonist-antagonist pairing of the film.
Rolando Lopez, a graduate of New York Film Academy, shared his thoughts on what makes the slasher film genre so enticing.
“A lot of slasher films became so popular because of the rush of adrenaline that it gives,” Lopez said. “They create an out-of-body experience when watching from the victims’ point of view. You root for the victims to get away, but at the same time, you’re still curious about how the killer’s storyline will play out.”
The slasher film has become a studied formula that has even allowed for parodies like “Scary Movie” to be created. Having a final girl is the biggest part of a slasher movie.
Jamie Lee Curtis, the original final girl, was the blueprint for the characters like Sidney Prescott of “Scream,” Nancy Thompson in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and more modern takes like Maxine Minx in the 2022 film “X.”
Vanessa Cornejo, freshman undeclared major, gave her take on the tradition of a final girl in slasher films.
“The dynamics of the final girl is all right,” Cornejo said. “I don’t really like the thought of only one survivor, but it always adds to the adrenaline rush because the movies do a good job of giving us an emotional connection to the character. We’re hooked instantly and left wanting them to survive.”
Since the 1970s, slasher films have evolved. The foundation of it is still there, but the killers and plots have evolved to match modern times.
For example, the killers in “Scream” were limited by the technology of the 1980s. In the film’s reboot, which was adapted into a television series, the phone calls that the original final girl Sidney Prescott received were transformed into text messages and social media notifications.
Valerie Casteneda, junior accounting major who enjoys slasher films, gives her opinion on the modern take that slasher films have taken.
“Modern slasher films take a lot of inspiration from older films, which makes them repetitive and easily predictable: But that’s ok because the whole point of watching slasher films is to feel the adrenaline of the ‘slasher’ stalking the characters and eventually murdering them, even if we know exactly what will happen next.” said Casteneda
The slasher film and final girl formula are pinnacles in the horror film genre and have evolved with the world around them. The world will always be fascinated with stories that make the viewers root for a character, so slasher films will likely be around for the foreseeable future.