When Billy Loomis asks “What’s your favourite scary movie?” at the beginning of Scream, it begs the question isn’t life the scariest movie at all? After taking this set of photographs based around the aesthetic of the renowned Italian horror movie Suspiria, it got me thinking about horror movies and the final girls who reign supreme. I began to ask the question: who would you be if you were a final girl?
In it’s barest of bones, these photographs are deeply inspired by the gorgeous use of primary colours and shadows that make Suspiria the dark gothic horror movie it is known to be. The movie’s own final girl Suzy arrives late on a stormy night at a prestigious German ballet school and quickly realises that the school holds a dark secret revolving around its ancestry of black witches. Although these pictures don’t have much gore or horror in the content itself, it’s amazing how adding colour and using shadows in a very particular way creates an atmosphere of fear and anxiety.
It’s all a kind of allegory for overcoming the fear of speaking out for yourself and others, and not choosing the easier path of looking the other way. I feel like that’s the kind of final girl that, although a really old movie from the seventies, speaks to generations now.
It all sounds very typical of a gothic horror tale, but is Suzy your typical final girl? The final girl is the trope of the main character – sometimes not a girl at all – who overcomes her own fear and weaknesses to defeat or escape the main villain. It’s an idea that goes all the way back to original fairy tales. Looking at Suzy, an intelligent and pretty American girl, although she fits all of the typical final girl traits, she does so while criticising her peers willingness to ignore the injustices that have gone on around them. Everyone in the academy knows something is amiss. As soon as she shows signs of questioning the situation the witches curse her with illness, her “friend” throws her out of their apartment together, and the only other girl on her side is murdered. Overcoming a sleeping draft that makes her forget about the mystery of the academy, Suzy heads right for the evil at the centre of it all. It’s all a kind of allegory for overcoming the fear of speaking out for yourself and others, and not choosing the easier path of looking the other way. I feel like that’s the kind of final girl that, although a really old movie from the seventies, speaks to generations now.
Horror movies are all about pushing the boundaries of fear and the abject. The “abject” are those gross little inbetween places that don’t quite fit into the way mankind views the world. We see this directly in creatures like zombies, who are neither dead or alive, or the head witch in Suspiria who we see to be grotesquely old in the finale right before her defeat. It takes an [often beautiful] woman overcoming and embracing her own relationship with the abject – blood and gore – to be able to win in the end. It’s no accident that the final girl (or boy) are typically the downcast: women, people or colour, queer. It takes a similarly ‘in-between’ character to embrace the darkness in order to defeat it.
The “abject” are those gross little inbetween places that don’t quite fit into the way mankind views the world.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, originally I considered going Victorian-inspired in the outfit of these images, but something in me couldn’t turn away from a modern fetish inspired look. In the end I felt that fit best with the idea behind the final girl in horror films. My final girl embraces the darkness within her, and, even more so, wears it with confidence. Who knows if the protagonist will ever escape the heavy drape of the velvet curtains, and she could have sworn to see an eye peaking through at her, watching, but whatever lies in wait, is not ready for her.