From Sally to Dana, A Final Girl Analysis

Save Horror
6 min readNov 10, 2020

Whether you are a seasoned horror film lover, or someone new to the genre, you know a lot about the “final girl” trope, whether you like it or not. Over time, horror films have changed on many different levels—how women are depicted on the scary screen being one huge example. So while you may have heard of the term, final girl, what exactly does it mean? Furthermore, how has it changed over the years, and how will it evolve in the future?

The final girl can be defined exactly how it sounds. The female survives a horror film until the end and essentially “tells the story” for the viewer. Final girls come in many different forms, but the general stereotype is that they are mentally stronger than other female counterparts. Many times, the final girl gives an air of superiority compared to other girls in the movie. They are purity incarnate. The final girl isn’t the girl that gets caught having sex by Michael Myers and killed in the first 30 minutes. Instead, she is the girl that drives the killer crazy due to her wit and physicality. So what are some wonderful examples of a final girl?

The meat of this analysis will be analyzing two final girls, Sally Hardesty (Texas Chain Saw Massacre) and Dana Polk (The Cabin in the Woods). These two girls are brought to the viewer during very different times in society. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was released in 1974, while The Cabin in the Woods came out in 2011. Needless to say, Hollywood depicted women very differently in the ’70s compared to modern times.

Sally ~ Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Sally was the main protagonist in a raw, grotesque film and terrifying during its time (and still is). Many of the themes pushed by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre were intertwined with the Vietnam War and man's depravity. War explodes in the world of art, and TCM was no different. So why are we talking about war and the overall themes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Well, what is so powerful about Sally as a final girl in this film, is that she not only survives, but she survives a “war” generally considered an arena only for men. Filmgoers during this decade were not used to seeing extreme violence on the screen. The doubling of seeing atrocities on the screen, with the protagonist being a female, was especially innovative and shocking. Sally, who exhibits moments of brilliance throughout the film, not only…

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