My earliest memory is of watching a horror movie with my dad when I was about eighteen months, maybe as much as two and a half years old. (Certainly no older.) I use the term "horror" because the goal of the movie was to scare the crap out of everyone watching, though by today's standards it would probably ring more hokey than frightening. It was filmed in black and white, with the particular and oddly endearing softness that marks old film. A blonde in a nightie was traipsing through a dimly lit room. As she turned to gaze pensively into the camera, a warty monster hand reached out from behind the window curtain and stretched slowly towards her throat.
My mother chose this moment to walk in the front door laden down with grocery bags. She noticed the ghoul behind the curtain several seconds before the blonde in the sexy-chaste white nightgown caught on, long enough to turn her head towards my father and fix him with the kind of withering, paragraph-heavy glare that only spouses who have been together for a long time can pull off. Before he could defend himself or make up an excuse for why it was actually educational for a toddler to watch a strangling, no, really, I took over matters for him.
Pointing at the television screen with all of the gravitas that a person still wearing Pampers could muster, I intoned, "Boogie man, Mommy. Boogie man."
Yeah. I didn't have a chance. By the time that I hit adolescence, I loved the late seventies/early eighties slasher flicks like I had loved my Gem doll and Sci-Fi Saturday as a child, because girls got to be cool. The age of the Final Girl* had begun. My friends and I would have constant slumber parties at the house of the friend with most permissive mom, and Scream featured heavily. Horror movies have always been right at the pulse point of what's troubling society at that particular time (much like comic books and superheroes, and that's why I less-than-three them both), the Scream franchise being no exception. The first film was made in 1996, right at the height of self-important irony in media**. The first movie took apart the rules of horror movies and put them back together in new and fun ways, winking at the audience all the while. The next three have continued the trend of mocking themselves, analyzing themselves, then mocking their over the top analysis, and have never stopped being fun. (Even the third one. I refuse to be ashamed.)
But above all, the movies have Sidney Prescott. She's only seventeen in the first movie and spends a lot of her time alternately brooding and screaming, but pulls it together to kick bountiful amounts of ass in the climax. She continues this pattern over the course of the next three movies, steadily growing stronger, more willing to rush into danger because it's right. She never crosses the line into pursuing trouble before it comes to her (as many attempts on her life as she's survived at this point, that would surely qualify her for superhero status). As of the fourth movie, she's still kicking strong fifteen years after most horror ingénues make their exits.
So, in honor of Halloween: here's to you, Sidney Prescott, one of my very favorite Final Girls.
*Even though Clover's point in Men, Women, and Chainsaws was that female characters had to really be dude stand-ins because they were, like, powerful and interesting and stuff. -_- face forever.
**This is the same time period in which Lady Gaga was reaching adolescence. 'Nuff said.