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Posted on February 29, 2016

Gwen’s Pick for the Final Woman: Sarah Logan


As Women In Horror Month draws to an end, I wanted to bookend our discussion of the final girl with the character who, I feel, best depicts forward momentum. In order to see a clear trajectory I had to reflect upon Dawn’s discussion of Carol Clover and subsequently consider the criticisms mentioned by others such as BJ Colangelo and noted scholar Isabel Cristina Pinedo. [i] I agree that there are problematic components embedded within the final girl, much of which has to do with the assumption of male spectatorship. Nonetheless, I feel that there are positive representations of womanhood in recent horror film. Most notably, is the character Sarah Logan (played by Anne Ramsay) in The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014).

Sarah Logan is the last woman standing. Granted, The Taking of Deborah Logan is not a slasher, and Sarah Logan is not your stereotypical final girl. Regardless, Sarah Logan is the survivor: she meets the killer, takes it on, and defeats it (or so we hope). This is as far as Sarah Logan follows the formula Carol Clover laid out for the final girl. Sarah is a lesbian in a relationship who has temporarily left her lover in order to care for her ailing mother. What I love most about Sarah is that she is a realistic representation of womanhood. She is vulnerable; we see her struggle, trying to make financial ends meet while balancing her relationship with the nebulous task of managing her mother’s Alzheimer’s. Sarah is flawed, she is scared, uncertain, she drinks to manage her stress, and she sometimes needs help from others. Read more

Posted on February 24, 2016

Origins of the Final Girl: Ann Radcliffe and American Mary

Guest Post

In Ann Radcliffe’s 1794 four-volume Gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho, the heroine Emily is incarcerated in the castle of Udolpho after her father’s death and the subsequent guardianship of her aunt and new husband, Montoni. Montoni brings her to Udolpho in order to coerce her to marry his friend, Morano, threatening her virginity, and her life until she agrees to do so. Emily, in other words, is in a position of subordination, instability, and danger typical of eighteenth-century Gothic literature: we see it in Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, Lee’s The Recess, Lewis’s The Monk, and the list goes on. Some version of female incarceration happens in nearly all of Radcliffe’s novels, though Udolpho is her most iconic.


Though Radcliffe’s heroines may not be as obviously strong and independent as the horror film women discussed during Women in Horror Month, I want to argue for them as precursors to Carol Clover’s “Final Girls”: women who, through their own ingenuity, survive the men (or monsters) who threaten them with violence and/or sexual assault.

Udolpho is well-known for exhibiting Radcliffe’s characteristic “explained supernatural”: Suggestions of a supernatural force throughout the text are revealed to be the misinterpretation of natural and easily-explained occurrences by the heroine. However, the “natural” threat to her life and person is still very real. The men who fill the castle and stalk the hallways of Udolpho make murder and rape more terrifying than any supernatural element. But what makes Udolpho noteworthy in the context of Women in Horror Month is that, despite the images of death and horror that Emily encounters around every corner of her new prison/home, she refuses to be intimidated into a marriage with a man she despises, and she eventually escapes with the help of her sympathetic servant and a mysterious stranger.

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