Most horror fans today are familiar with the concept of the ‘Final Girl’. Following Wes Craven’s post-modern take on the slasher genre in Scream that explicitly laid out the “rules”, slasher films have increasingly adopted a meta approach that openly acknowledges the ‘Final Girl’ trope. Little seen and underrated Cherry Falls flipped the convention by having its killer targeting virgins instead of sexually active teens. Cult classic Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon then laid out the rules of the ‘Final Girl’ more explicitly. There is even a more recent horror comedy entitled The Final Girls with American Horror Story’s Tessa Farmiga.
The term ‘Final Girl’ actually has its roots in academia. It was coined by Film Studies professor Dr. Carol J. Clover in her groundbreaking book, Men, Women, and Chainsaws. According to Clover, the ‘Final Girl’ is the female character sometimes found in slasher films who is virginal, resourceful, and survives to confront and often defeat the killer. Clover includes a number of other criteria – including a gender neutral name – and the concept was discussed specifically in relation to audience identification in slasher films.
While The Friday the 13thfranchise was not the first of the slasher films to feature a ‘Final Girl’, with 12 films spanning three decades, it has its fair share of ‘Final Girls’. With another Friday the 13th in 2018, for this edition of The Chopping Block, I’ll be ranking the five best ‘Final Girls’ to appear in one of the most enduring franchises in the horror genre. Enjoy your Friday the 13th and this list.
5 – Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell, Friday the 13th Part III)
First, I acknowledge that Chris Higgins may be a more controversial ‘Final Girl’ to include on this list, particularly with the exclusions of Rowan from Jason Xand Tina Shepard (Lar-Park Lincoln) from The New Blood. Neither of those characters is a typical ‘Final Girl’. Several characters survive in Jason X, while Tina Shepard is basically a ‘Carrie’ rip-off.
Chris Higgins is the traditional ‘Final Girl’. While she spends much of the film as jumpy and timid, Friday the 13th Part IIIestablishes her as a survivor with her story of a prior encounter with a ‘stranger’ in the woods. She gives Jason a run for his money in the final third of the film, getting the better of him on several occasions. While she does ‘get a hand’ briefly from a surprising character (see what I did there), Chris does ultimately ‘kill’ Jason. She may not be as likable or resourceful as Ginny from Friday the 13th Part II, but Chris Higgins fares quite well in Part III. Her character arc is remarkably similar to traditional franchise ‘Final Girls’, Alice and Ginny.
4 – Alice (Adrienne King, Friday the 13th)
She was the first Friday ‘Final Girl’ in what still stands as the best film of the franchise. Adrienne King’s Alice isn’t quite the prototypical ‘Final Girl’ according to Clover’s full criteria, but she’s ‘sexually unavailable’ and it’s her character that is truly left alone to confront the film’s killer, Mrs. Voorhees. The original Friday’s final 15 to 20 minutes would set the template for the franchise’s third act across the next four sequels. While Alice does a lot of screaming, she’s resourceful and resilient, delivering one of the franchise’s best kills. It’s also her character that helps introduce Jason to the franchise. Unfortunately, Alice was killed off in Part II’s opening moments, cheapening her survival in Friday the 13th.
3 – Trish Jarvis (Kimberly Beck, Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter)
Technically, Trish Jarvis doesn’t meet the strict criteria for a ‘Final Girl’ – she’s not left alone to fight off Jason. It’s younger brother, Tommy (Corey Feldman), who puts the ‘final’ in Jason’s Final Chapter. Yet in reality, most slasher films don’t actually have a ‘Final Girl’ that meets all the criteria of Clover’s definition.
Aside from having some help, Trish is a definitive ‘Final Girl’ and one of the best in the Friday the 13th franchise. Like the other ‘Final Girls’ on this list, Trish is resourceful and proves to be much more of a match for Jason than the laughably useless Rob. While she isn’t the one to kill Jason in the climax, Trish does make a strong, defiant last stand and delivers a striking blow. She also shows a little more courage than some of the other characters on this list, particularly when she willingly lures Jason to protect her younger brother.
2- Megan Garris (Jennifer Cooke, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives)
Megan Garris from Jason Livesis perhaps the least consistent with the ‘Final Girl’ trope among of the characters on this list. She’s confident, defiant, sexually assertive, and while she doesn’t do drugs or drink onscreen, one gets the impression she wouldn’t be opposed. Not surprisingly, Megan also happens to be one of best characters in the franchise not named ‘Jason.’ Like the other characters on this list, Megan is resourceful, but she’s also fearless. Although Tommy Jarvis drives the story in Jason Lives, Megan is arguably the brighter of the two and she’s the one that ultimately ‘kills’ Jason in the climax.
1- Ginny Field (Amy Steel, Friday the 13th Part 2)
There wasn’t really any doubt was there? Among the Friday the 13th fanbase, Amy Steel’s Ginny is one of the most popular characters in the franchise and generally regarded as the best ‘Final Girl’ across all 12 films. A psychology graduate student, Ginny is independent, intelligent, and extremely likable. When she is finally confronted by Jason, she gives him a run for his money in the sequel’s third act. But Ginny ultimately proves to be the most resourceful of the ‘Final Girl’s’ on this list, using her psychology background to manipulate Jason. Though she gets an assist from boyfriend Paul, Ginny is the one who does the rescuing and ‘kills’ Jason. If Paul had listened to her earlier, he might have lived to the end, too. But did Paul really die at the end? Who knows?