It ain’t over yet, baby!
There was a time when surviving an attack by a themed serial murderer meant you could relax and enjoy your PTSD in peace. Sadly for this group of final girls, the creative killers in these horror franchises aren’t interested in their retirement plans.
Every day this month we're bringing you a different Top 13 list from the world of horror. You can find them all here.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Heather Langenkamp is like horror franchise comfort food. Her portrayal of “Nancy” in two Elm Street films, and herself in one (New Nightmare), makes us feel like we, too, could kick Freddy Krueger in the nuts and live to tell the tale. She’s smart, resourceful, and does all the right things. Which is why when she meets her end in Dream Warriors, we really, really hate Freddy for killing her. And that goes for the rest of the cast as well. Unlike some horror flicks where we root for the killer because we want to see those ridiculous stereotypes die, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors takes the time to build characters, giving the audience the opportunity to invest in them before they’re slaughtered. And what a theme song!
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Unlike A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’ gently crafted character development, The Dream Master builds character with costumes, hairstyles, and dialogue informing us who and what each character is. The soon-to-be-victims are teenagers who would never hang out together, thrown into a group as if they’ve just had a Breakfast Club moment and can be friends despite their differences. (Yeah, right.) The set ‘em up, knock ‘em down starts here, folks. Patricia Arquette had other things to do, apparently, so Tuesday Knight steps in as “Kristen” for just long enough to rope everyone back into Freddy’s rodeo. And then he tosses her into a fiery boiler as a “Thank you.”
There were actually two final girls at the end of Aliens, the exceptional sequel to Alien. Okay, a final girl (Newt) and a final butt-kicking woman (Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley). In this third film, Ripley emerges from her cryo-sleep to find she’s crashed on a men’s prison planet. Her first, heartbreaking task is to perform an autopsy on Newt to determine if an alien attempted to hitchhike back with them. Nope, Newt is alien free. Her second, heartbreaking task is to figure out what to do about the alien that did hitchhike back in her body. Thankfully we get Ripley for almost the entire running time of the film, and her exit is graceful and justified. Possibly the least popular of the quadrilogy, Alien 3 still has some great ideas, and yet another weighty performance by Weaver.
Final Destination 2
Although both Alex (Devon Sawa) and Clear (Ali Larter) survived the events of Final Destination, Sawa’s character was killed off between the films by a falling brick. Whether story- or star salary-dictated, this semi-shocking development left Clear to carry on the tradition of cheating death by herself. And she a-l-l-l-l-most makes it! Sadly, after taking every possibly precaution, including having herself locked in a padded cell, Clear dies in an explosion near the end of the film. Missed it by this much…
Halloween’s Laurie Strode is possibly the second-most famous final girl, right behind Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Sally Hardesty (the late Marilyn Burns), and she survived three times before being killed off in this eighth installment of the franchise. Although the story points used to back into Michael Meyers surviving decapitation in the smart Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later are clever, offing Jamie Lee Curtis in this inferior sequel screams of desperation; Curtis for the paycheck, and the filmmakers for both the bankable name and shock value. Laurie and Jamie Lee both deserved better.
Friday the 13th: Part II
Sadly, after making us fall in love with Alice (Adrienne King) during the first film, the filmmakers unceremoniously bumped her off with an ice pick to the brain in the sequel. Despite the fact that it happens in the prologue, Alice’s death feels like an afterthought, hastily thrown into the story because the filmmakers couldn’t figure out what to do with the character. That’s a shame, because as much as we all love Amy Steel’s “Ginny,” it would have been nice to see Alice square off against the real Jason in a fair fight.
Twenty-two years after the events of Psycho, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is released from prison a rehabilitated man. Then why do people start dying again? That’s what Vera Miles, aka Lila Loomis, would like to know. After an unsuccessful attempt to keep Norman in prison, Lila does the next best thing—tries to drive him crazy so he’ll go back to prison. But Mother is up to her old tricks, and Lila takes a butcher knife to the kisser for her trouble. It’s hard to imagine a classy dame like Vera Miles going through the process of shooting a scene where she gets stabbed in the mouth, but the result is supremely cringe-worthy.
The Rage: Carrie 2
Unknown (at the time) actress Emily Bergl plays “Rachel” in what is essentially a remake of the original Carrie—unpopular girl with psychic powers finds herself the object of scorn by the popular crowd. But this is a sequel, and the link is Carrie White’s never-seen father, who apparently spread his demon seed to more than one local woman. Survivor of the original prom massacre, Sue Snell (Amy Irving, back as an adult), is now a counselor at Rachel’s high school. Irving isn’t give much to do—operating on the periphery of the plot, she offers Rachel some backstory about her half-sister Carrie, wrings her hands a bit, then is unceremoniously offed during the big party scene (standing in for the prom) at the end.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Danielle Harris as plucky little “Jamie Lloyd” was a fan favorite after surviving not one but two Michael Myers attacks in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. Sadly behind the scenes shenanigans resulted in a mutual parting of the ways between Harris and the Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers production. Considering the gruesome manner in which Jamie was killed in this sixth installment, perhaps that was for the best. Who wants to see America’s Horror Sweetheart impaled on a corn thresher?
Maniac Cop 2
“You have the right to remain silent… forever… AGAIN!” Cult queen Laurene Landon is one tough broad, doing her own stunts in most of her films, including wrestling in All the Marbles, and being dangled out a window in Maniac Cop. Audiences love this ballsy gal, so it was a surprise when she met her end at the hands of Robert Z’dar in Maniac Cop 2. (Claudia Christian ably fills her shoes after her death.)
The Fly II
In Cronenberg’s extraordinary remake of The Fly, Geena Davis’s “Veronica” not only survived the carnage, but managed to get pregnant by Jeff Goldblum’s “Brundlefly” before things got ugly. This better than average sequel opens with Veronica giving birth to the Brundlefly’s progeny, and let’s just say giving birth to a maggot can take its toll on the mother. Neither Cronenberg nor Davis returned for the sequel—the directorial reigns were taken FX artist from the original, Chris Walas, and Davis was replaced by voice actress Saffron Henderson.
The strange case of the second Number 2. By the time the hugely popular manga Ringu was translated to film, it had already been made into a hit TV series. So the studio decided to produce not just the original film, but a sequel based on the second manga in the series (Rasen [aka Spiral]) with a different team to offer audiences something new on which to spend their yen. Both films were released simultaneously, with Ringu the box office winner, and Rasen dying a quiet death. Not ready to let the series fade out, the studio brought back the writer, director and stars of Ringu for a second sequel, Ringu 2, which ignored the storyline of the first. In the new sequel, Nanako Matsushima once again stars as “Keiko Asakawa,” the reporter who unraveled the mystery of the cursed VHS in the first film, then went into hiding with her son. Sadly she meets her end before the end of this second first sequel.
The Grudge 2
Buffy was no match for Kayako in this sequel to the American remake of the third Japanese Ju-on film. Got that? The ongoing plot of both the Japanese and American versions of the Ju-on franchise are byzantine, but the premise is simple—if you go into the haunted house, or know someone who went into the haunted house, or think about going into the haunted house, you and all of your friends are going to end up dead. Sarah Michelle Gellar toughed it out in the first American remake, but sadly doesn’t last more than ten minutes in this installment. We’d label that a spoiler, but the trailer helpfully reveals all the pertinent details about Gellar’s death plunge from the top of a hospital.