Women In Horror Month: Final Girls and Psychotic Women. (15-13)

It’s February and that means one thing in the horror community, it’s time to celebrate Women in Horror Month. This gore-geous event showcases the talents of all the ghoulish girls that have made their mark on the genre. However the annual event that is entering it’s fifth year now in 2014 scratches the surface a little deeper than simply fangirling horror’s hottest talent. Women in Horror month is in place to support and highlight the misrepresentations of females in cinema’s bloodiest genre. It’s about equal opportunities and despite facing unfair and harsh criticism mainly from people who don’t believe this event deserves to exist which I don’t plan to delve into, the cause isn’t in place to alienate men in the slightest, it’s here to honor all kinds of female contributions from directors, writers, actresses, presenters, reviewers and festival organizers. That’s not to exclude any male contributions either. If a film was written by a woman but directed by a man or vice versa that maintains inclusion. Women in Horror Month is not the overpowering feminist protest that some people seem to misinterpret it as or one that ignores racial minorities.

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For Hayley’s Horror Reviews, Women in Horror month remains a very special event. Instead of divulging into any particular political or heated debate about the subject, I see it as simply a celebration of my own identity and how I fit into the horror community as a whole. Being a horror fan is one of the greatest elements of my life and its constantly a privilege to be able to share my views with others who maintain a common interest and to gain new insights from supporting others work. Women in Horror Month is a time to reflect on all the hard-working women who keep horror bursting with blood throughout the year.

A calendar was also created this year by production designer Melanie Light in order to raise money for the rape crisis charity and S.O.P.H.I.E which is a fantastic gesture and part of a wonderful cause. The calendar is available to be purchased here: http://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/158679453/calendar-for-2014-women-in-horror-bios

To mark the fifth annual Women in Horror Recognition month, I have complied a list of fifteen of the most psychotic and heroic film characters to ever splatter onto cinema screens. These are characters who I have either identified with over the years or have such a memorable screen presence that they have a repeated watch-ability factor. These fiendish females are influential on the genre and will remain inbuilt in fans brains for many, many years to come! Over the next month I will be bringing you three characters every few days who represent an integral part of me and horror as a whole.

**WARNING: There will be Spoilers**

15. Simone, Der Fan (1982).

  • Played By Desiree Nosbuch
  • Written and Directed By Eckhart Schmidt

der fan Der Fan is a recent viewing for me, after being screened at 2013’s Celluloid Screams festival. Obsessed new-wave pop fan Simone is one of the most chilling genre females ever created. The real shock factor is that the audience doesn’t even see it coming! Prior to the unsettling climax, Der Fan incorporates a seedy, low-budget, cult feel featuring amusing British dubbing and comes across as the ideal film to watch as part of a like-minded audience. No one can be prepared for the cruel and calculated twist in Simone’s personality as she goes beyond expectation. What seems like a stroppy teenage girl with delusions about meeting her favorite pop star R (a Gary Numan inspired pop/synth star) escalates into something far more sinister when she finally meets her idol and the reality proves to be far removed from her fantasy. Following the cruel rejection inflicted by R, Simone goes on to murder him. But it’s the way she disposes of his body is the most disturbing aspect. In a slow-paced scene we are treated to every grueling detail of Simone’s actions as she carves up and serves up her dead lover, consuming each last piece of his deceased human flesh. Not to leave any waste behind she grinds his bones and scatters his final remains at the pop studio. It’s unsettling to think that a major pop star at the peak of his fame just vanished and only one psychotic little girl holds the answers to the truth! Back in the 80s, Der Fan sparked up a fair bit of controversy surrounding its young actress Desiree Nosbuch who was already a household name in Germany and had been since the age of twelve through her work on Radio Luxemburg. At sixteen, acting out scenes with graphic nudity and disturbing violence, Nosbuch’s performance would not be accepted in cinema today for such a young actress. Either way the naive innocence her character projects adds a great depth to Simone earning her a place as cinema’s most unhinged females.

14.Clear Rivers, Final Destination (2000).

  • Played By Ali Larter
  • Directed By James Wong
  • Written By James Wong, Glen Morgan and Jeffrey Reddick

FD1stills-0016  The Final Destination films are the franchise that teaches fans that death can’t be cheated. The original installment from 2000 set the stage for a formula that has been replicated four more times since. But let’s face it the later sequels are enjoyable enough just to see what creatively gory death scenes they’ll come up with next, but that wasn’t the case when James Wong’s groundbreaking teen slasher was initially released. Final Destination not only took a stab at challenging the hooded killer concept it displayed a great deal of depth with a cleverly constructed plot and characters an audience were able to connect with. Clear Rivers most certainly fits into this idea and is arguably the best character to emerge from the franchise.  While introverted and mysterious when we first meet her, Clear displays the makings of a post-modern final girl when she trusts the instincts of her class mate and eventual love interest Alex (Devon Sawa) and makes the smart decision to vacate the aircraft that is set to crash and burn. When the duo discover that death’s design is still at play she fearlessly stands by Alex while facing the inevitable. Determined to live another day, Clear does was it takes to save herself and the remaining survivors. The original ending for the film differentiated in tone from the finale that was ultimately chosen for the final cut. The alternate ending that’s available as a DVD special feature sees Alex sacrifice himself leaving Clear and friend/antagonist Carter (Kerr Smith) alive. Clear discovers she’s pregnant with Alex’s child which determines the concept of new life cheating death. This ending suggests that the gift of motherhood is more powerful over death’s plan meaning Clear all along had the ability to save the lives of others. Whereas it can be argued that any of the female characters could have achieved this through pregnancy, Clear was the one who stayed alive the longest. A subversion is also in place as its usually the blonde cheerleader that would find herself in this position not the quiet, reserved girl however it doesn’t devalue her character as being irresponsible.  The equality between Clear and Alex in thwarting the grim reaper represents a strong bond between male and female characters in horror. The original ending which sees Cater killed by an incoming sign meant that Clear returned for the sequel Final Destination 2 (2002) in order to use her experience to help a whole new group of survivors. Clear originally locks herself away in a padded cell to avoid death’s grip but when it counts she dies a hero in a hospital explosion, signifying her original death that would have occurred in the first film. Clear Rivers is a strong-willed, fearless and well-written horror movie heroine of the early noughties.

13. Baby Jane Hudson, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962).

  • Played By Bette Davis
  • Directed By Robert Aldrich
  • Written By Lukas Heller

babyjane  In an iconic performance Bette Davis mesmerized audiences and still does to this day with her portrayal of the unhinged faded actress Baby Jane Hudson. With a case of severe sibling rivalry, Baby Jane bitterly resents her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) for outshining her when the sisters were both credible actresses. Once a successful child star, Blanche eventually upstaged her by starring in well-liked films, while Baby Jane accumulated a series of flops. Years later, Baby Jane “accidentally” runs her sister down while driving under the influence of alcohol. Flash forward to 1962 where Blanche is wheelchair bound and in the care of her psychotic sister who basically holds her hostage and controls her entire being. In what could be an analysis of psychosis and an insight into the brutal disappointing world of child stardom, Baby Jane is a tragic figure that struggles to keep a hold of her emotions as she is unable to come to terms with the fate she’s been dealt with. From being a huge star as a child with a number of adoring fans, her deviant behavior is explainable as Bette Davis’s phenomenal performance allows a sense of uncomfortable empathy with the her, depicting a woman faced with failure and projecting that jealousy onto the closest person to her. The film’s most memorable and unnerving scene is where Baby Jane disturbingly insists on singing a song from her childhood, “I’ve written a letter to Daddy”. In a childlike manner, there is something creepy about an insane older woman performing something of that nature, making it clear that she is unable to let go of the past however behaves as if her actions are normal.  The character has been parodied and referred to in popular culture on numerous occasions such as The Simpsons (1989-Present), Popular (1999-2001) and music videos from artists including Shakespeare’s Sister and Christina Aguleria. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is also noted for being responsible for creating the sub-genre titled the “Psycho-biddy”, which was prominent during the 60’s and 70’s for themed films with a dangerous middle-aged woman at the forefront. Other names for the sub-genre include “Hag Horror” and “Older Woman in Peril”. Baby Jane has left a huge influential legacy on the genre and its clear to see why she certainly hasn’t been forgotten.

12-10 CoMiNg SoON…..!

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Hayley Alice Roberts.

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2 Responses to “Women In Horror Month: Final Girls and Psychotic Women. (15-13)”

  1. […] Der Fan is a film I’ve mentioned a bunch of times on the site. An undiscovered gem that screened at Celluloid Screams in 2013, Der Fan enters unexpected territory with an unforgettable and bizarrely crafted death scene. A German Exploitation film, it pushed the boundaries with its female lead being played by a 16-year-old. Household name Desiree Nobuch of Radio Luxenburg fame played psycho fan Simone and did full frontal nudity in the film as well as acted out a scene of murder and cannibalism which certainly would not be done in cinema today! Simone sleeps with R (Bodo Steiger), a Gary Numan inspired pop star who she’s absolutely obsessed with. When reality bites and Simone becomes another used fan girl to R what happens next is completely out of the left field. In my original review I described it as one of the most “chilling and extreme” deaths in cinema. It’s lengthy, horrific, controversial and unsettling leaving the viewer feeling grubby once the credits roll, making it feel like a completely different film from the one that started. This is one I won’t spoil for you however if you’ve already had the experience of watching this underrated exploitation check out my original review. […]

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