The image of the distressed female most likely to linger in memory is the image of the one who did not die: the survivor, or Final Girl. She is the one who encounters the mutilated bodies of her friends and perceives the full extent of the preceding horror and of her own peril; who is chased, cornered, wounded; who we see scream, stagger, fall, rise, and scream again. She is abject terror personified... She alone looks death in the face, but she alone also finds the strength either to stay the killer long enough to be rescued or to kill him herself."
- Carol J Clover, Men, Women, and Chain Saws
The theory of the Final Girl is one of my favorite tropes to follow in horror films, because in a genre regularly looked down upon as schlock for sickos, it is also one of the few that gives women the main role, and has them fight back with a cathartic violence usually not afforded to people experiencing the most harm. The Final Girl follows her instincts, and accepts that no one is coming to her rescue, thus leading her to drive the knife in the killer's heart if necessary.
The following collection of Final Girls are some of my favorites – even if they don't perfectly align with Professor Clover’s definition, or flip it entirely. We call that having fun, and if you feel the urge to argue about it, please, please, please take a break and eat some Halloween candy.
Perfect Book Match for Final Girls:
Thomasin (The Witch)
My rotten soldier, my good time girl, my sweet cheese. She deserves fine frocks and the taste of butter, and to live even more deliciously, we know Thomasin also deserves the liberating experience of Daisy Johnson's short story collection, Fen. It has a mucky rural setting and features ravenous women, out for blood and love and more blood. Perfect to read at the bonfire before levitating in the moonlight with your cackling besties. Black Phillip and Sarah C. approved!
Suzy Bannion (Suspiria)
Our girl just came to do some pliés, and now she has to investigate what the actual hell is going on at Tanz Dance Akademie. Susie rarely has time for a break between her nightly drugging and murder sleepovers set to Goblin scores, but she does deserve to relish in Bunny by Mona Awad, a dreadful little book about a particularly monstrous group of MFA students and their own nightmarish extracurriculars.
Deena Johnson (Fear Street)
Gay little final girls like Deena deserve their happy ending too, so we're gonna let her crack open the teenage crushes-to-adulthood rivals romance Can't Resist Her by Kianna Alexander. And while it does feature two women giving into their passion while tamping down true feelings, the second-chance story also tackles gentrification and community, subjects Deena can devour while waiting for Sam to come over and cuddle to the Pixies, post-possession.
Ellen Ripley (Alien)
Her fellow Nostromo crew members hate her because she's a stickler for rules. If only they had all followed the proper quarantine protocol like she had asked... Well. Ripley didn't even have anyone left to say 'I told you so' to, but at least she had Jonesy and Martha Wells' Murderbot series to curl up with before sleep stasis. Given her feelings towards AI and her upcoming endless drift through space, she'll have plenty of time to get an insight into the way insidious corporations and their desire for dominance can ruin pretty much E V E R Y T H I N G.
I know what you're thinking, and it's just too obvious - no hunting guides for Naru, as she's too well equipped with her self-made boomerang hatchet and faithful sidekick Sari to bother reading what she already knows. Spoiler alert: this is the girl that took down the goddamn Predator, after all, while the rest of her male hunting party laughed in her face (and then promptly lost their faces.) With her quick wits and endless curiosity, Naru would dive headfirst into the mystery at the heart of When Two Feathers Fell From the Sky by Margaret Verble.
Laurie Strode (Halloween)
It's been said that the infamous final girl survived because she was a no-fun prude, all innocence in business casual while her friends were fornicating. But the real reason behind Laurie's final girl status is that she was a bookworm who was too busy worrying about pop quizzes to have a social life, and the lack of distractions kept her alive. So, after some deep, deep therapy, our star pupil should let herself have some fun, even if it's just living vicariously through Edie's chaotic personal life via Luster by Raven Leilani
Adelaide Wilson (Us)
Okay, so the thing about Adelaide... Well. If I say anything more, it's a spoiler, right? Let's just say she would relate heavily to the main character in Helen Phillips' The Need, a mother fighting for her children against an unexpected foe.
Sydney Prescott (Scream)
Sydney, Sydney, Sydney. So self-aware that she survived five movies and an impressive amount of injuries. The overlap of her survivor's guilt and the media's obsession with her story would lead our heroine to Dead Girls by Alice Bolin. Covering Twin Peaks' Laura Palmer, Britney Spears, and her own adolescence in Los Angeles, Bolin's interrogation on female suffering as entertainment for the masses is the perfect essay collection for Sydney Prescott, the survivor of the Woodsboro Murders.
So there you have it folks! If you think of any recommendations, or any final girls you love that we missed, obviously leave them in comments, we want to hear about them!