Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre. Psycho Drive-in is joining in by sharing articles – some classic, some new – celebrating the greatest women in the genre! [Editor’s Note: A version of this article was originally published on September 22, 2015] The post you are now reading was initially about the original, Nightmare on Elm St (1984), a tribute to horror great, Wes Craven. Wes is best known for The Last House on the Left, Nightmare on Elm St, and the Scream movie franchise. After he died August 30, 2015 of cancer, I planned on honoring his memory with an Elm St. marathon, like many other mourning horror fans. But I just couldn’t do it. I’m not a Disney kid—I didn’t grow up on cartoons. Like a lot of slasher fans out there, I grew up on Wes. And when he died last month, I lost a huge part of my childhood. Part of growing up in the 80’s and 90’s just got lost. I was raised by MTV and Dimension Films. MTV taught me how to be cool while Freddy Krueger taught me to never trust strangers. And Scream taught me to never, ever trust the boyfriend. And most importantly, life is a movie; you just have to pick your genre. I think that’s something Wes taught horror fans that I will always take with me—how to survive. Something I always found incredibly moving about his films are the survivors. The very genesis of myFinal Girl column is because of the powerful, badass Final Girls created by Wes Craven. With Nancy and Sidney, a whole generation of chicks were inspired to kick ass. Scream taught us that women can survive anything (and maybe get a book deal). Wes taught us how to laugh and love in the face of great heartbreak–life’s greatest tragedies. (How many times did Sidney watch her friends die only to see Ghostface get nailed right in the balls?) He taught us a lot and we will forever be grateful. Which means I still can’t sit down with some Jiffy Pop and watch Drew Barrymore get sliced. When I learned of Wes’s death, I came home after work, put on the Scream soundtrack and cried. I listened to “Youth of America” by Birdbrain and I cried. I cried for all the childhood memories I had with friends, staying up late watching Nightmare on VHS and playing “Bloody Mary” or with the Ouija board. I cried for the Scream parties I had in high school. All the times we quoted Randy, Billy, Sidney. The times we put on Scream masks and ran around high school halls… I cried for every cool, meta-moment Wes Craven brought to life in Scream 4. I cried for the chance to see him again, to have him sign another Scream mask. Wes is gone, and life goes on. So in order to write this column without crumbling into a giant mess, I watched a movie Wes openly hated, SAW (2004). Wes criticized SAW as mere torture porn, a genre where the director seems to get off on the sadistic and visceral kills. This great distaste for torture porn is most evident in Scream 4, the great epoch of Wes Craven’s meta-horror. “It’s not scary, it’s gross. All that torture porn shit … you don’t give a shit who dies because there’s no character development,” says Trudie, a clear mouthpiece for Wes Craven’s distaste for Jigsaw. It’s a great scene and the chick’s not wrong. So I watched SAW because I would literally rather watch torture porn then cry through a Wes Craven movie. And as it so happens, SAW did not totally suck. Yes, the director seemed romantically involved with the body parts, and no one got around to writing accessible, fully-fleshed out characters. However, there was a badass Final Girl, some really deep philosophical questions, and some pretty sick kills. So I’ve devoted this post to the heroine of SAW, the chick who escaped Jigsaw (get it? he’s like a puzzle) Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith). The heroine is cool but when SAW takes a stab at being meta (hyper-aware/self-referencing) it comes off as blue color intellectualism. The director and writers simply aren’t smart enough to pull off the great philosophical dilemma they’ve created for themselves. Yet, in the moment, they manage to pose some pretty fascinating questions. And the artists in SAW do have good senses of humor which means watching this flick is a ton of fun. I mean, of course it’s fun, it’s torture porn. And what I actually ended up really like about SAW is the creativity of how the kills end up happening. Unlike many horror films, SAW’s killer, Jigsaw, gives his victims multiple opportunities to escape. Although the writers behind the film aren’t particularly bright, they still raise some pretty cool philosophical questions that only torture porn can ask. Would you kill an innocent person to ensure your own survival? Even if it meant digging through someone else’s intestines? What if you’re a doctor who’s taken a Hippocratic Oath to save all lives? What if you’re not even sure killing the person will ensure your safety? What do you do? These questions are fascinating and drive the action of the film. It is also super cool to watch SAW’s Final Girl speed through these questions almost without thought, in the name of self-preservation. Amanda, the main survivor in the first SAW film, proves that survival—knows no gender. Survival isn’t about being a man or a woman, it’s about instinct. If you’re trapped in a SAW movie, life becomes all about character, biology, pure intrinsic strength. Jigsaw will let you escape, the only question remains, will you do what it takes? Amanda sure will. She makes it all the way to SAW II and beyond. Amanda is one badass Final Girl. She’s the Sidney Prescott of torture, having survived long enough to appear in every single SAW film. The only other character to accomplish that? Jigsaw. So who is Amanda? She’s a heroine with a heroin problem. Seriously. That cracked me up. Again, SAW’s director and screenwriter, James Wan, is leaps and bounds away from the sophistication of Scream. However, he still manages to have a few literary allusions and deep philosophical ponderings. So yes, this decision to have a heroin-hooked heroine made me laugh. And some argue that it’s only the pure need to get back to that heroin which allowed Amanda to escape. I might disagree but that’s what I like about this film. Dumb and gratuitous, yes, but this is a film you can discuss. Every single kill asks more questions than it answers. Even the near-kills, leave you wondering. So with Amanda, we have an interesting dichotomy. As a heroin-addict, self-preservation is of little interest to Amanda, so one might think she would just give up. Yet, when we see poor Amanda, bound and tortured by Jigsaw, we can see beyond simple addiction. Amanda is not merely thinking, “Damn I need a fucking hit!” although I’m sure that’s on her list. Amanda is 100% fucking crazy. And crazy people have crazy strength. She does not give a fuck. This is illustrated by the “moral dilemma” given to Amanda which she sees as a mere dilemma. Imagine this. You’ve been locked up and beaten, left to die in a psycho’s basement. Unless, of course, you are willing to dig into another human’s stomach and get a key or saw your own leg off. Now most people, I would assume, would have deep philosophical qualms about either. How are we to value our own life as greater than another’s? If I choose to kill that person to save myself, am I no better than Jigsaw himself? And so on it would go, but only for a normal person. Amanda, however, is not normal. She has no qualms whatsoever; she probably sold them for more heroin. What Amanda does is so brilliant and powerful that it makes the rest of the torture worth watching. Without hesitation, Amanda lunges onto the other person, digs out the key, frees herself and runs off. Without reluctance, she digs through another person’s internal organs, to get a tiny key. Most people would morally object to the murder, or at least vomit at the sight of all that blood. Yet Amanda is a Final Girl (who’s role I won’t explicate further, in case you haven’t the rest of the SAWs) who is not burdened by moral bullshit. I love Amanda. Amanda would never say, “but I have a family!” implying that her worth is higher because she chose to have children. Amanda would simply gut a stranger, free herself and GTFO. She absolutely rocks. Once she gets the fuck out and calls the cops, we assume she is back in her apartment, shooting up heroin, as any good heroine does. Besides, even if you didn’t do heroin, you just might start after Jigsaw mind-raped you and left you for dead. Yet Amanda is not your average heroine. Amanda has actually learned from this experience. It has scared her sober. Instead of sending more junk through her veins, she decides to lives the clean life. She is better for it. Amanda claims that Jigsaw saved her life. Damn. That’s one badass chick. Something tells me she’s not your average Final Girl though. Guess I’ll have to watch SAW II to find out. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.