In some ways, I feel the relentless capitalistic impulses that drive horror cinema have let me down.
Specifically, what would happen if we called on four of horror’s most iconic Final Girls to leave their respective universes and join forces against humanity’s ultimate evil?
Consider this with me for a moment. Regardless of the threat, vintage slasher movies follow a tested formula: a group of screen-tested young people encounter evil and, one by one, fall victim to it. Three-quarters of the way into the film, only one remains – the purest of the set, whose ultimate confrontation with the villain has been wringing cash from the feckless for nearly 50 years.
Historically, determining who will be the Final Girl in these films has been easy. A combination of strict morals, conservative haircuts, and the occasional unfortunate sweater guarantees the character will pull a “W” – at least until the sequel.
The outcome would be much less certain, however, if the entire cast met this criteria. And wouldn’t that be a novel way to subvert the genre and draw in the crowds?
Unfortunately, copyright issues and the siren song of the next entry in the terminally inane Annabelle franchise mean this will never happen.
And so, in its absence, I’ll be conducting an analysis and ranking of the many Final Girls of ‘70s and ‘80s horror cinema.
Let’s get to it! Our candidates for Final Final Girl are: Laurie Strode (Halloween), Alice Hardy (Friday the 13th), Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Sally Hardesty (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and…you.
That’s right, gentle reader – you. How do you stack up against the genre’s pioneering female survivors? For the purposes of this analysis, I’m going to assume you’re exactly like me, by the way. More to the point, I’ll be assuming you’re exactly like me at 17 – it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the Final Girls if we were to benefit from our additional years of wisdom. So let’s just pretend that you, like me, were a giggling piccolo player with a lot of gel pens and a poster of Enrique Iglesias that you told people was ironic, but actually maybe wasn’t. Whatever! That isn’t important! We had a lot of heart, you and I, and we have just as much of a right to be here as mumbling Laurie Strode or Nancy Thompson and her big hair.
So here we go! We’ll be ranking our Final Girls on a scale of 0 to 10 in each of the following areas:
- Cinematic, yet sensible good looks
- Virgin street cred
- Ability to sense danger
- Nature of evil faced (more evil = higher score)
Ready? Let the bloodbath begin!
Cinematic, Yet Sensible Good Looks
Laurie Strode (Halloween): 7
Look, nobody beats Laurie Strode for dowdy, wool-covered sensibility. Laurie is the epitome of prim. And yet, we must ask ourselves: as a teenage girl, is it truly sensible to always be sensible? It’s almost Homecoming, Laurie’s jonesing hard for Ben Traemer, and yet she chooses to wear this:
Luckily, the bargain-hunting New England grandmother look is balanced by Jamie Lee Curtis’s natural beauty, and Laurie is left with a relatively high score.
Alice Hardy (Friday the 13th): 4
I’m legitimately curious whether anyone who watched Friday the 13th in 1980 walked away with a lasting impression of anything more horrifying than Alice Hardy’s hair. Actress Adrienne King is all kinds of adorable, but as Alice, she looks more like a PTA mom who covers her walls with “Live, Laugh, Love” prints than a young and energetic camp counselor.
There’s nothing terribly wrong with this – she certainly fits the bill for “sensible” – but I can’t escape the feeling of wanting her to die just so I don’t have to look at that Humane-Society-volunteer hair any longer.
Alice also gets a few points knocked off for being willing to part with a perfectly acceptable blouse in a game of Strip Monopoly – something that’s strikingly discordant with her entire Glee Club demeanor.
Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street): 8
Nancy is the perfect blend of high school pep squad captain and blushing teenage ingénue. To score higher in this category, her only option would have been to ditch a few of the sweater sets.
Nancy is, of course, avoiding sleep and thus losing grip on consciousness, but she’s also perfectly aware that Freddy Krueger lives in a boiler room. Some more breathable fabrics wouldn’t go amiss.
Sally Hardesty (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre): 6
Sally Hardesty, the willowy blonde at the center of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is a pitch-perfect 70s siren. With full shoes and a breathable top, she’s also equipped to spend the evening fleeing a family of cannibals in the searing Texas heat. And she wins a few more points for being more primly dressed than her friend, Pam, who’s donning short shorts and some sort of backless halter top.
Unfortunately, Sally’s a bit too hip to stand up to the chunky sweaters of Laurie Strode and Nancy Thompson, and her waist-length hair becomes a nuisance during her several chase scenes with Leatherface.
Seriously, what were you expecting? You regularly wore sequined sandals with a 4-inch heel and had electric blue braces on only your bottom teeth. Oh, and you used a 1-inch barrel curling iron on your hair to achieve an “Olson twins in Our Lips Are Sealed” look, which you then coated with discount hairspray so it would stay perfectly upturned all day. We deserve nothing for what we’ve given cinema.
Virgin Street Cred
Laurie Strode: 9
With her sad-sack attitude, high necklines, and general disapproval of her friends’ amorous antics, Laurie scores a high 9 in purity.
Of course, she does end up finding out the guy she wants to go to the dance with also wants to go with her, and that’s definitely not something that happened to you or me in high school. So I had to knock off a point. In the interest of science.
Alice Hardy: 4
If I asked you to draw a picture of the sort of 1980s teen who’d wear a ring that says “Love Waits,” there’s a good chance you’d inadvertantly draw Alice Hardy. Alice is all blue eyes and baby voice, with high-waisted shorts and one-piece bathing suits. She definitely looks the part.
But that’s where it ends. Not only is Alice into Strip Monopoly (as previously discussed), but she also used to date both a married man and the old, slightly skeezy director of Camp Crystal Lake. A) Yuck, and B) #sonotavirgin.
Nancy Thompson: 5
Nancy is dating serious babe Johnny Depp when she first meets Freddy Krueger, and she appears in a number of extended bathtub shots.
But more than anything, she seems most interested in sleep (and not sleeping together). So she’s basically even in this category.
Sally Hardesty: 7
I don’t think it’s ever made clear whether Sally’s dating Jerry, bespectacled driver of the gang’s VW bus, but she does spend a fair amount of screen time with him. What’s more, Sally is way too at ease with herself to match Laurie Strode-levels of sexual piety.
But she is wearing white pants for the duration of the movie, so clearly that symbolizes…something. Right?
Congratulations – you get top marks in this category! Forget about virginity, at this point in your life, you’d barely held hands with a boy. And even that was mostly you not pulling away after an unsuccessful thumb wrestle during a bus ride back from your marine biology field trip.
Ability to Sense Danger
Laurie Strode: 5
Oh sure, Laurie notices and is wary of Michael Meyers pretty early into the film, but when she actually stabs him, what does she do? Assumes she killed him. With a knitting needle. There are no words.
Alice Hardy: 0
Oh, please. Alice somehow manages to skip her way through the vast majority of her friends being murdered and an increasingly red-flag-raising conversation with Mrs. Voorhees before she realizes something’s up. She gets no points for this.
Nancy Thompson: 7
Nancy’s surprisingly uninterested when she learns that she and her friend have been having nightmares about the same badly burned, sweater-wearing psychopath. To her credit though, once Tina dies, she’s invested. Thirty minutes into the film, she’s asking Glenn to stand watch while she sleeps and it’s her dedication and detective work that ultimately lead things to a happy conclusion.
Well. Sort of.
Sally Hardesty: 6
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released four years before Halloween, the second-oldest film discussed in this article, and a full 10 years before A Nightmare on Elm Street, the most recent. As a result, some of the quintessential features of the slasher genre aren’t present and Sally – in this analysis – suffers.
In typical slasher films, the cast is killed over a longer period and the Final Girl has cause to be suspicious and do some investigating. In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Sally’s friends drop in quick succession and she barely has time to consider that something might be wrong before Leatherface is sprinting towards her with a chainsaw.
But she does kick out her friends’ unsettling hitchhiker immediately after he exhibits his penchant for self-harm. And, to be fair, in a town where someone is digging up dead people and arranging them in lifelike posture, does anything seem out of the ordinary?
You’ve been training for this all your life, you horror film addict, you. A flicker of the lights, an unsettling chill down your spine, and you’re ready to kick into action. Using what, it’s unclear – but you’re resourceful. You once appeared onstage during a band performance in multiple layers of black socks once you realized you forgot your dress shoes.
Nature of Evil Faced
Laurie Strode: 7
Michael Meyers is certainly one bad hombre – and Laurie never actually manages to kill him – but I’ll say it again: knitting needle.
He’s temporarily bested by a @*#%ing knitting needle.
Alice Hardy: 3
I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that Jason, machete-wielding juggernaut of the interminable “Friday the 13th” franchise, is not actually the lead villain of its first film. That would be his mother, Pamela Voorhees, and it’s Pamela that Alice must fight.
Now, I’ll grant that Mrs. Voorhees successfully dispatches a squad of teenagers and a couple of adults in an impressively short span of time, but is she really that hard to take out? She’s an addled, skinny old woman, frail enough that even yawn-inducing Alice manages to lob her head off at the end of the film – literally the only notable thing she does. Ever.
Nancy Thompson: 7
Freddy Krueger is maybe the scariest villain on this list. Not only a ruthless killer with wit as sharp as his knives, he’s also able to manipulate the dream world and drag the psychological torture of his victims on for days.
And he was just as terrifying in life. Before he was burned to death by the neighborhood watch, Freddy was a child murderer.
Yeah. It’s hard to get more evil than Freddy Krueger.
Sally Hardesty: 8
I know what you’re thinking. But Caitlin, you say, if it’s hard to get more evil than Freddy Krueger, why does Sally Hardesty score higher than Nancy?
Well, first off, I like Sally better. And second, Sally’s the only Final Girl on this list that has to face more than one villain. Not only is Sally up against Leatherface, she’s got his whole family of cannibalistic nutcases to contend with, as well as a town that’s at least implied to look the other way.
You may be wondering – what kind of evil have I ever faced in my life? Well, perhaps you are forgetting about the utter banality and nihilism of adolescence in suburbia. Yes, you may have never ran for your life or faced down a strangely moral murderess, but by God, did you endure spring tolos, bad haircuts, and parties full of raging douche canoes who wouldn’t stop playing “Wonderwall.” You, my girl, are a hero.
All right! The bodies have all been counted, and it’s time to tally up the scores.
Laurie Strode: 28
Alice Hardy: 11
Nancy Thompson: 27
Sally Hardesty: 25
Congratulations, it’s YOU! You totally wiped the floor with those ladies to emerge as the final Final Girl of them all! To congratulate yourself, check in to your local hospital for some rest away from the evils of the world. It’s rough out there.