FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jun 14, 2005

Smarty Pants

Courtesy of Serena Whitney at, we get a list of the Top 10 Dumbest Chick Victims, highlighting her choices for the most "brainless and helpless girls that inhabit" slasher movies. Ho hum.

Stupid victims are a given in these flicks, whether male or female. They're the ones who go off to "investigate" by themselves...who trip and fall down...who act so idiotically that the audience winds up yelling at the screen in protest. It's just one of many conventions and cliches in the genre. If everyone in these films acted rationally, if they calmly called the police or got in the car and drove away, well, who would be left for the killer to chase? I'm certainly not saying we shouldn't think outside the cliches every once in a while, but it seems pointless to be angry when they are put to use.

I will agree that there's stupid...and then there's stupid. There's hiding from the killer, and then there's hiding in the refrigerator. And so I have to agree with Ms. Whitney's number one choice, Patsy Pease in He Knows You're Alone. Yeah, hiding under the sheets is inexcusable, unless maybe you're not only alone, but also 3 years old. And then you could just close your eyes and the killer couldn't see you anyway.

But Linnea Quigley (#3- Silent Night, Deadly Night)? Who ever expected her to play the smart one? She's just there to provide some...err...titillation. By "titillation", I mean "boobs".

Judith O'Dea's "Barbara" in Night of the Living Dead (#2) is a strange character as she spends most of the movie in a stupor, never recovering from the shock of seeing her brother Johnny get killed by a zombie early on. It's not a completely unnatural way for a person to react to the situation, really. Not everyone snaps into action in the face of peril. I myself tend to either march in place, or simply sit down. Rather than being angry at the character, however, I grew attached to Barbara, and found her death at the hands of Zombie Johnny the most tragic death in the film. But come on, Ms. Whitney:

"Running away from someone trying to kill you in ridiculously high heels? Check."

Barbara kicks off those heels when they get in her way. That's why Ben gets her a pair of shoes from upstairs at the farmhouse! **end geek soapbox**

Since the "dumb victim" is such a staple of the genre, wouldn't it be more interesting to compile a list of the women in these films who buck the trend? What about the ones who use their brains and get away- sometimes even taking out the killer in the process? If the typical slasher girl makes Ms. Whitney "appalled and ashamed of (her) gender", then why not focus on the slasher girls who get it right? Here's a few, just off the top of my head:

Adrienne King - Friday the 13th
Adrienne keeps it together throughout the nightmare, and doesn't hesitate to cut off Betsy Palmer's matronly head in order to save herself.

Gaylen Ross - Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Lori Cardille - Day of the Dead
Director George Romero has said that he felt so guilty about making Barbara in NotLD so helpless that he wanted to make up for it in future films. These two characters do just that. Ross's Francine is calm, cool, and collected during the zombie invasion. She's pregnant, but tells her male counterparts she doesn't want any deferential treatment. She also demands they give her a gun so she can defend herself while they're gone. Cardille's Sarah is a sight to behold as she stands up to insane military men ("Yes sir! Fuck you, sir!") AND fights off encroaching zombie hordes. Mr. Romero, your sentence is commuted.

Marilyn Burns - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
She runs for help. She doesn't look for survivors. She jumps out of two windows to get away. In fact, she gets away from an entire family of psychos. Sure, it's evident at the film's end that she'll spend the rest of her life wandering the streets, pushing a shopping cart and wearing a winter coat in the summertime while giggling to herself, but hey. She jumped out two windows to get away!

Jamie Lee Curtis - Halloween
Amy Steel - Friday the 13th, Part 2
For my money, these two ladies are the ones I'd want to be with when the machete hits the fan. Curtis's Laurie Strode is resourceful under pressure- witness the coat hanger to Michael Myers's eye! The knitting needle to the neck! She's got good instincts- bang on the neighbor's windows and door! Send the kids off to get help! She even thinks of the little things, like turning off all the lights. I never woulda thought of that. Steele's Ginny is even more proactive. She hides from Jason, then pops out at him to kick him in the goodies. She fights him off with whatever she can find: a chair, a chainsaw, her fists and feet. And talk about resourceful: she dons Jason's mom's crusty old sweater and sweet talks the maniac into calming down long enough to hack him with a machete.

While these characters are examples of strong, smart women who can take care of themselves, I still want the Linnea Quigleys and the Patsy Peaseseseses. I myself am pretty useless in a panic situation, so I like a character I can feel superior to. That Laurie Strode- she thinks she's so big.


Anonymous said...


Good observations all around, my friend!!!

Oh -- I *finally* got around to watching DAY OF THE DEAD earlier today... and it was indeed pretty peachy.

"Fuck you, sir!" I loved Sarah! ;) lol

GSB said...

wow, nice blog... for real.... i had no idea there were so many good horror blogs out there...

we do a lot of movie reviews, some of which are slasher and horror flicks on my site Crown Dozen ( ), maybe you could link us up on your sidebar? That would be rad...

Anonymous said...

You know what? That list was lame. I love victims (I'm thinking of the girl who hid in the fridge in Madman), this person seems like she was going for more modern films and had no real taste for the true slasher, an 80s staple. Disappointed. Give the girl in the fridge her props for crissakes! She's an IDIOT!

Amanda By Night

Anonymous said...

One of these days I'm hoping that I'm gonna run across a film that crosses the horror and exploitation genres in such a way that you get a character like Patch from Switchblade Sisters or Frigga from They Call Her One Eye with a Slasher flick.

I guess somehthing like Day of teh Dead is the closest you're going to get, but I still hold out hope that there's something I've missed...