I must admit: you have to be a genre fan in order to enjoy this post. Thus, I am outing myself as a horror film aficionada. Slasher movies, monster horror, sci-fi horror, psycho-thriller, gory & explicit or suspenseful & understated, vintage and contemporary – I love them all. Except for pure torture porn, I can pretty much enjoy any kind of horror film, that is, if they are well-made, of course. In fact, I have become quite critical of those films, and not just about the quality.
By now it has become common practice to view any kind of movie through the feminist lense. From Laura Mulvey to theories on ‘the final girl’, feminist film theory has opened our eyes to the implications and possibilities of mainstream cinema. I guess that horror films are a particularly good example as they represent changes within society that work within a relatively stable set of criteria. One thing that hasn’t changed over time is that women are still likely to be the victims and, even though most horror flicks have quite an even ‘body count’, there still is most likely a ‘final girl’ that makes it to the very end. No doubt, that girl is usually exposed to the most terror in the most exploitative manner. However, I have taken much pleasure in watching some of them, at least those who don’t just run around screaming and sobbing hysterically, but take things into their own hands and fight the evil without relying on the male protagonists (which are usually dead by then) for help. Classic examples of such horror heroines are Ellen Ripley (Alien) and Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs).
This post is dedicated to a more unusual heroine of one of the cult underground horror films of the 80s. Kirsty Cotton is the teenage heroine in Hellraiser, and her role in this gory (and nowadays a little corny) horror flick left me quite astounded. She gets chased around by monsters, quasi-sexually assaulted by the ‘Cenobites’ and has to fight a half-human creature posing as her father. While she has every right to scream in those situations (Wouldn’t you?), she still manages to take on all of the above mentioned by herself. Her boyfriend rushes to her help during the showdown, but is not much of a backup. Throughout the entire movie she portrays an independent young woman who cares for her father but but doesn’t succumb to his paternal love at the expense of her freedom. I also liked that even though she was portrayed as pretty and flirtatious, she doesn’t become overly and unnecessarily sexualized.
Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks that she kicks ass, because someone made her a tribute on youtube: