Musings on the Macabre

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Editor’s Note: Jeffrey Reddick is an openly gay American Screenwriter best known for creating The Final Destination series. He also wrote the horror film Tamara and the remake of Day of the Dead. For dot429, Reddick writes about his favorite holiday, Halloween.

My favorite holiday, Halloween, is here. You can have Christmas. I always feel let down, when the “love to all mankind” proclamations that were made on Christmas melt like snow the following morning. You won’t hear me talk smack about Thanksgiving. It’s a special time to see family, stuff my face and think about what I’m grateful for. But, to me, Halloween is the best. It’s a magical time of spooks, make-believe and free candy.

What excites me most about Halloween is the ton of horror films that come out. The celluloid carnage unleashed in October gets me giddy. I love horror films and I’m not alone. Whenever I hit the multiplex to watch a new fright flick, I always see a pack of gays in the theatre. And I wonder, Why do so many LGBT people seem drawn to scary films?

I’m sure sociologists would point to the fact that the LGBT community feels fear, or the threat of it, on a daily basis, and horror films are a safe way to let these feelings out. Others might say that we, who have a history of being oppressed, like seeing good triumph over evil. And while this psycho-babble might be true, for me, the reasons are more personal.

When I was 13, I had a group of friends. Now this wouldn’t be a surprising statement under normal circumstances. But my mother, who is white, moved us back to her farm in Eastern Kentucky to take care of her family. My sister and I, who aren’t white, had a really tough time. I’ll spare you the gory details, but imagine Deliverance with a dash of Mississippi Burning, and you get the picture. But in this tiny town, I met three boys who loved scary movies, and we became inseparable. Horror movies gave me my first real sense of belonging. At that age, I was mainly in to the “gross factor.” I wore, as a badge of pride, the fact that I could watch movies that would send many grown men crying to their mommas. It made me feel tough in a world that thought I was inherently weak because of who I was. But over the years, things changed. My horror buddies remained obsessed with the blood and boobs, but I was drawn to something else: The Final Girl.

In most horror films there’s a Final Girl. She’s the character who will survive long enough to face the killer or monster in the end. At first glance, it seems that most Final Girls simply don’t do drugs or have sex. But if you look closer, you’ll find there’s much more to her. There are Final Girls of every age. No matter the setting, the template is the same. So, for clarity, let’s focus on high school.

Final Girl is an outsider who doesn’t fit in with the other kids at school. She’s never done anything wrong, but for some reason, the popular kids (I’m looking at you jocks and cheerleaders) dislike her. She’s quiet, but you can tell that there’s a lot going on behind her sorrow-tinged eyes. She’s been dealt a rough hand in life and struggles to rise above it. There’s usually a really cute, cool guy who notices how special Final Girl is. At first, he’s not brave enough to stand up to the school’s caste system and tell her how he feels. But eventually, he’s so drawn to her that he can’t help but professhis love. Unfortunately, after admitting his “love that dare not speak its name,” he usually dies.

After the killer has sliced his way through the annoyingly popular nubile teenagers (and cute, cool guy), he comes face to face with Final Girl. But because of the hardship and scorn Final Girl has faced, she finds a hidden reserve of strength and manages to vanquish the killer, usually with the help of an axe or other sharp object.

Now, after dismissing psycho-babble, I realize Freud would have a field day with what I wrote. And I guess it’s true–I do love seeing good triumph over evil. But what I love more is watching someone who’s ostracized for being different realize her worth, find the strength to fight on, and emerge a hero.

I know it’s only a movie. But considering how scary the real world is, it’s fun to imagine that I am that Final Girl. Sometimes, I think we all have to be, in order to survive.

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