They’re all going to laugh at you, Carrie: Final Girl, Monster, or Both?

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Based on the Stephen King novel, Carrie(1976) directed by Brian De Palma, is a supernatural horror film whose title main character is a victim/hero who also turns into the ‘villain.’  In this essay, I will be applying Carol Clover’s work, Her Body,Himself, and argue that while the film Carrie isn’t a slasher-horror flick, Carrie herself embodies both elements of The Final Girl and the Killer.  Carrie is metaphorically killed numerous times before she stands up to the ‘monsters’ and destroys them with her telekinetic powers. According to Clover, “The Final Girl (1) undergoes agonizing trials, and (2) virtually or actually destroys the antagonist and saves herself,”(Clover 524).  Carrie does not save herself and it’s implied that she dies at the end, or does she?
Carrie is introduced to us as a 17 year old girl with no friends and an over-bearing Christian fundamentalist mother. According to Clover, the Final Girl is usually “the only character to be developed in any psychological detail,”(Clover 518). She is out-casted by her classmates and bullied relentlessly. One of the traits of The Final Girl is, “her apartness from other girls,”(520) and that she, “show signs of boyishness,”(524) as in a sort of androgyny or gender/sexuality ambiguousness. In the beginning scene of the film, Carrie is in the locker room showers when she finds blood all over her hands. Frightened, she asks the other girls for help, who then throw tampons at her and make fun of her for not knowing what menstruation is. Carrie’s mother withholds any information about the female body and demonizes it constantly, saying that “curse of blood” is god’s punishment or that the dress Carrie wears to the prom shows her “dirty pillows.” The Final Girl and the Killer in Clover’s essay share a common link of “sexual repression”(520) and the killer usually has some sort of a psychosexual grip from their mothers,(521).  Carrie goes to the prom with a popular boy named Billy. At the prom, “She alternates between registers from the outset; before her final struggle she endures the deepest, throes of “femininity,” (526)  Before Carrie gets the bucket of pig blood poured on her, she has won the award to be prom queen. “And even during the final struggle she is now weak and now strong, now flees the killer and now charges him, now stabs and is stabbed,” Carrie gets stabbed in the back by her own mother before Carrie crucifies her with knives. The Final Girl and The Killer have a “shared masculinity, materialized in all those phallic symbols” (520). When Carrie kills the students at the prom she uses many phallic symbols such as fire hoses, sports cars, and knives when she kills her mother.  Carrie, in the scene of the Prom bloodbath, is the masculinized victim/hero who, “stops screaming, faces the killer, and reaches for the knife,” and “addresses the monster in his own terms,”(520).  In this case the ‘monster’ being the students who have all bullied and outcasted Carrie. “The moment at which the Final Girl is effectively phallicized is the moment that the plot halts and horror ceases,”(521). At this point in Carrie the horror does not cease but escalates.  This is where Carrie also transforms from the victim/hero into the repressed killer unleashing her wrath in an unstoppable rampage, embodying both victim/hero and killer.
Carrie(1974) is a fascinating film in all of its complexities and character developments. Even though it is not technically a slasher/horror film, the elements within Carrie herself are what defines The Final Girl and the Killer. Her mother warned Carrie that they were all going to laugh at her, but it turns out that it’s Carrie who gets the last laugh when her hand rises up from the grave in a final jump-scare.

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