Underrated Final Girls

BY MACK VELTMAN

Final Girls. They are the women who make it to finale and triumph over the killer who spends the film stalking her and murdering her friends and family. Sometimes the Final Girls are survivalists, taking matters into their own hands and bringing the fight to their adversary, and sometimes they are more passive, surviving on luck or with the help of a partner or friend. Regardless, they have achieved a status in horror fandom that has seen many academic studies and analytical breakdowns of their survival and the role of femininity in the horror genre. Final Girls like Nancy Thompson, Laurie Strode and Sydney Prescott are hailed for their ingenuity and drive to survive, and they are almost always near the top of every Top Ten Final Girl list. But what about the overlooked and underappreciated Final Girls? They’ve achieved the near impossible, defeating and escaping the man who tried to end her life, and they deserve praise and mention as well.

That’s where this list comes in.

Welcome reader, to the nine underrated Final Girls!

Katey- House on Sorority Row

Katey appeared in the 1982 slasher film and cult classic, House on Sorority Row. The plot follows of group of sorority sisters who are stalked and murdered after a prank goes horribly wrong and leaves their cruel and bitter house mother—Mrs. Slater— dead. One by one her friends bite the dust, but Katey survives the film after repeated run-ins with the mostly unseen killer—even after she is forcibly sedated. By the end of the film, the killer is revealed as the insane son of Mrs. Slater, who swore revenge after witnessing her death.

Katey stabs the killer multiple times with a pin during a confrontation in the attic, causing him to fall to the floor below and seemingly killing him. Her determination and cunning mind land her a spot on this list, but she’s also kind and highly intelligent, and Kate McNeil, the actress who portrayed the character, received praise from critics for her performance.

Ginny Fields- Friday the 13th part II

The Friday the 13th franchise features several notable Final Girls, including the tragic Alice and the telekinetically gifted Tina. Ginny Fields (played by Scream Queen, Amy Steel) sets herself apart from the others as an aspiring child psychologist who’s hired by her boyfriend Paul Holt as an assistant at the Packanack Lodge, a camp counselor training center located near the infamous Camp Crystal Lake. Friday the 13 part II is the first film to feature Jason Voorhees, but it also features a truly unique character in Ginny. She feels sympathy towards Jason because of his traumatic childhood, but when her colleagues end up dead, Ginny takes matters into her own hands and applies her psychology training to the situation.

In the film’s conclusion, Ginny barricades herself in  Jason’s shack and finds his shrine adorned by the decapitated head of his mother. As Jason smashes through the door behind her, Ginny puts on Pamela Voorhees’ sweater and turns to face the hulking killer, momentarily adapting the persona of his domineering mother and distracting him long enough to strike him with a machete and escape.

Ginny’s actress admits the character’s inner strength and determination for survival helped draw her to the role, and in an interview discussing her role in the film, Steel remarked,  

I was really young and different from a lot of the people working at the time so that came out in my character. I was naturally suspicious of cocky guys at that age, and you see a lot of that when I’m on screen with Paul (John Furey). I tried to put so much behind the actual words in the script just so she felt almost unreachable, to Paul and to audiences. I wanted her to have some power.

Karla Wilson- I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) may be the focus and the main Final Girl of the teen horror movie I Still Know What You Did Last Summer—sequel to the 1997 slasher film I Know What You Did Last Summer—but her best friend Karla Wilson also survives the second encounter with the fish hook-wielding killer. While the first film featured the who’s who of teen horror movies, I Still Know boasted the star power of R&B singer and actor Brandy, famous for her TV show Moesha and massively popular album Never Say Never

Karla is studious and fun and she wastes no time in planning her escape from the tropical island setting of the film as the bodies start to pile up around her. Karla survives several encounters with the killer even after falling through a glass ceiling, and though the film wasted Brandy’s presence and talent towards the end, she emerges victorious and alive to stand alongside Julie and her boyfriend Ray. 

Lisa Webber- Nightmare on Elm 2: Freddy’s Revenge

Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge focuses on Jesse Walsh (Mark Patton), who moves into the Elm Street house once occupied by Nancy Thompson and her family and is tormented in his dreams by child murderer and dream demon, Freddy Kruger.  He and his next door neighbor Lisa (Kim Myers) begin dating (although Jesse desires his best friend Mark–seriously this is one hell of a homoerotic movie featuring themes of coming out) and Lisa is immediately supportive of Jesse after he confides with her about his encounters with Freddy.

Lisa is loyal and brave, and saves the day after Jesse is possessed by Freddy following a disastrous pool party during which Freddy kills several of their classmates. Lisa tracks Freddy/Jesse to the warehouse he worked at while alive, and desperate to reach Jesse, Lisa kisses him, helping her boyfriend regain control over his body. The two ultimately triumph over Freddy–although as always he returns for a scare by the end of the movie–by trapping him in a burning furnace, but it was Lisa who helped ensure victory.  

Rebecca “Newt” Jorden- Aliens

Imagine growing up on a lonely and desolate planet you and your family just colonized, when everyone you love and know is suddenly killed or captured by terrifying aliens. You manage to hide in the crawlspaces and airducts of one of the planet’s many facilities, and you wait for rescue, frightened but determined. Rebecca Jorden (Carrie Henn), known to most people as “Newt”, was the sole survivor from the Hadley’s Hope settlement on LV-426  following a Xenomorph infestation at the colony. The Colonial Marines–led by Ellen Ripley, the survivor of the previous film– arrive to investigate the radio silence at the colony and discover Newt, hungry, cold and scared but alive. Ripley forms a bond with Newt and together they survive the ensuing chaos brought by the Xenomorphs. Despite only being a child, Newt assists the Marines in fortifying the base from the Xenomorphs’ relentless attacks. 

In the film’s conclusion, Ripley rescues Newt from the Alien Queen and along with fellow survivors Bishop and Hicks, they escape the planet and set course for Earth, settling in to hyper-sleep for the trip home. Let’s not waste time talking about what Alien III did to Newt. That film doesn’t exist in my head-cannon.

Pam MacDonald- The Prowler

When The Prowler released in 1981, the slasher film about a group of college students who are stalked and murdered during their graduation party by a killer in a G.I. uniform drew unfavorable comparisons to My Bloody Valentine. However, the graphic violence–helmed by special effects legend Tom Savini–and dreamlike atmosphere led the film to achieve a cult status among horror fans, and has been named “the greatest slasher movie ever made” by several publications. This is in no small part due to Vicky Dawson’s performance as heroine Pam, who quickly discovers something foul afoot in the small town.

As the bodies pile up around her, Pam knowingly puts herself in danger to find the identity of the killer, and the film’s most bloody kill is delivered by Pam herself when SHE BLOWS OFF THE KILLER’S HEAD WITH A SHOTGUN. Major respect, Pam.

Alexa Woods- Alien vs. Predator

The Alien franchise boasts some pretty badass and compelling women but one worth mentioning we don’t see a lot on lists is Sanaa Lathan’s entry into the Alien universe as protagonist Alexa Woods from the crossover movie, Alien vs. Predator. When a giant pyramid is uncovered beneath the ice in the Artic, Weyland Industries hires Alexa to lead the expedition. Despite her reservations of the mission, Alexa leads with strength and diligence, constantly adapting to the increasing violent situation as two alien species battle with the humans stuck in the middle. Her ability to strategize and read situations as they are help Alexa make it to the end of the film when everyone else dies. Alexa’s killing of two Xenomorphs impresses even the Predator, who joins forces with her in order to escape the death-trapped pyramid. 

Alexa is an expert. She knows it, the crew knows it–even if they choose not to listen, a mistake that leads to their deaths– hell even the Predator knows it, and give her the mark of a warrior in a sign of respect. After blowing up the pyramid, Alexa and the Predator engage in a violent and epic fight against the Alien Queen, and while the Predator is mortally wounded, Alexa emerges alive and victorious. 

Kira- The Invitation

Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) deserves praise for not only surviving the 2015 horror movie, The Invitation, but also for putting up with her boyfriend’s unhinged ex-wife and her new lover–members of the cult The Invitation– in a truly cringeworthy dinner which leads to a night of horror and death. Kira never once loses faith in her boyfriend Will, and she is calm and patient with him and allows him to express the guilt and trauma he feels over losing his son. In film, we often see the new significant other of the main character express jealousy or try to deny the past experiences of their partner, but Kira does none of those things. She’s loving and brave, and fights back to ensure her and Will’s survival. It’s Kira who delivers the killing blow of one of the cultists trying to murder them, and her determination is rewarded with survival.

While the film ends on a somber note as Will, Kira and their friend Tommy discover just how widespread the cult is, we know these characters, and Kira in particular, will make it through whatever comes next.

Molly- Tourist Trap

Tourist Trap is a truly chilling  and hauntingly beautiful 1979 slasher film which follows a group of young people who stumble upon a roadside museum–or tourist trap–housing mannequins that wield supernatural powers. Mr. Slausen, the tourist trap’s overseer, is a terrifying and unhinged villain who delivers some memorable kills. However, he meets his match in the good-natured Molly, who after several chase scenes, lands a killing blow against her enemy by hitting him with an axe.

Though clearly traumatized, Molly survives the film and in the movie’s closing shots, she’s seen driving her car away and laughing manically with the mannequin versions of her friends.

What do you think of this list? Did I fail to include any underrated Final Girls who deserve a spot on this list? Let me know in the comments and stay nerdy!

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