While the ladies tend to dominate the slasher survivor game, let’s pay tribute to a few memorable men who overcame the odds to achieve Final Guy status.
Films in all genres have tropes, and even non-horror fans know the horror tropes. If someone hears a noise in the dark, they will immediately go investigate it (alone, of course). Backwoods hicks are dangerous cannibalistic mutants. Partying at an isolated cabin in the woods is always a bad idea — especially if you’re having sex. And, most importantly, the only person left standing at the end of the horror film is “the final girl”.
Who is this so-called “final girl”? Well, typically she’s more innocent than her more hedonistic friends — demure, kind, and often implied to be a virgin. In fact, it’s her “purity” that is her ultimate salvation. However, that is not to say she survives on chasteness alone; rather, she proves to be resourceful and can outthink and, in the end, outduel her tormentor. It’s this metamorphosis, from timid to triumphant, that truly makes a final girl.
And, while horror films have largely made mincemeat of men, I posit that there are a few worthy “final guys” out there — guys who have likewise been transformed, from nondescript innocuous sorts to heroic heroes of horror. Here are three of my favorites.
1. Doug, The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Not all remakes are equal to their original counterparts, but the 2006 remake of the Wes Craven-directed cult film from the 70s, The Hills Have Eyes, in many ways surpasses its predecessor. The film opens up with three generations of a family traveling through the desert on a vacation. The patriarch of the family, a man known only as “Big Bob”, is the undeniable alpha male of the group. A right-leaning, gun-toting, high-testosterone type of guy, Big Bob absolutely dominates the more nerdy and meek Doug.
In one scene, Big Bob derides Doug for his bourgeois sissy-pants liberal ways, seemingly evidenced by the fact that Doug has never handled a firearm before. However, Big Bob meets his maker, strapped to a burning cross by mutated hermits living in the desert hills, and it’s not long before others in the family also meet their fate in grisly ways.
The real breaking point for Doug comes when his infant daughter is kidnapped by the mutants, and it is then that he dons his final guy mantle, as he grabs a baseball bat and begins kicking ass and taking names. Doug gets absolutely brutalized by some of the mutants in his quest to save his daughter, but he takes the punishment and doles out death in return.
By film’s end he is nearly unrecognizable, a tragic hero born in the desert’s hills. Big Bob would’ve been proud.
2. Ash Williams, The Evil Dead (1981)
Ever since 1997’s Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, Ash Williams has become a kitschy chainsaw-wielding, gun-twirling, wise-cracking king of kickassery. But the Ash of 1981’s The Evil Dead was a sensitive lovestruck young man who just wanted to have fun with his sis and his college pals and get in a little lovin’ with his lady.
Unfortunately for Ash and company, a copy of the Necronomicon and an accompanying tape reading some choice passages helped awaken an evil force in the forest.
After Ash’s sister gets possessed, the evil subsequently spreads to his friends and his girlfriend. Ash is forced to do the unthinkable — kill his sister and his friends and cut his girlfriend up with a chainsaw.
But in becoming the last one standing, he began a long and unlikely path to becoming one of the most incorrigible, yet endearing final guys of horror history. Hail to the king, baby.
3. Tommy Jarvis, Friday the 13th Parts 4-6
With a story arc spanning three films and a recent cameo in the fan film Never Hike Alone, Tommy Jarvis is the ultimate final guy. As a child, he exhibited extreme ingenuity, modifying his look so he would resemble Jason’s childhood self, and then hacking mercilessly away at Jason in what was supposed to be the “Final Chapter”.
In part 5, an older Tommy, obviously traumatized by his violent past, once again takes on the masked villain, only to discover (much to many fans’ chagrin) that it wasn’t Jason at all. This version of Tommy wasn’t the best one, and the vague is-he-or-isn’t-he-the-new-Jason ending left many feeling less than enthused with this “New Beginning”.
However, in part 6, Jason Lives, we are reunited, not only with the real Jason Voorhees, but also with a much redeemed and more competent Tommy Jarvis.
Rarely do we see a character truly grow up in a horror franchise, and in his three film run, Tommy Jarvis has proven himself to be a worthy adversary to Jason Voorhees, both as a boy and then as a man, and ultimately as a real guy’s final guy.