A Lab Report by Lily Spellman
The final girl, the token survivor. She goes through hell, sometimes losing everything in the process, losing parts of herself she can never get back. For our entertainment they are destroyed, degraded, dissected and more. They endure rape, torture, emotional and mental abuse and much worse at the hands of our beloved masked men of mayhem.
We cheer when they get the final blow on a killer, or when they escape into the night or the haze of the afternoon sun. She IS the movie we watch. But what happens after? When all the screams are done and the blood stops flowing when all the limbs are stacked neatly when the flashing lights of the police cars and the hum of the hospital lights are a distant memory. What becomes of these heroines?
Going through the trauma of any kind leaves mental scars, the heroines in our films are no exception. We have people like Sally from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, who endured an entire night of mind-bending torture and loss. Ella from Splice, who at the hands of what she thought was her child endured a brutal rape and attack. We have Ginger, lost in her own body and the feelings of growing guilt, shame and pride over her newfound "form" in more than one way.
What goes through their minds, what are they thinking? How do they feel? Are they okay? Will they ever be okay? Claire answers all these questions and more. Giving a voice to those who often are never given closure by the end of a movie, Claire C Holland has achieved something wonderful with her book I Am Not Your Final Girl.
A book of poetry told from the perspectives of famous final girls, Claire has a solid handle on the horror world as well as a very good grip on the use of language. Each poem in the book is titled after its character, not a movie, further humanizing the girls as Claire speaks through them, sometimes empowered by their plight. Others broken, others lost, the journey they've all gone through is so similar but effects them so differently.
The book is broken down into 4 sections: Assault, Possession, Destruction, and Transformation
Cleverly mimicking the stages of an abusive relationship, the book explores the effect each film had on its final girl. Ginger lamenting her teenage body, Rosemary discussing the invasive feeling of being used and lost, Sally wondering if she can even go on. Diving deep in to the horror movie database Claire has a keen eye for unique and overshadowed films and a great appreciation for the genre as a whole.
With aspirations for a spiritual sequel to the book Claire has no plans to slow down any time soon, she has been an inspiration in not only my writing but the book also recently inspired a podcast, titled "Not Your Final Girl" who are just as passionate about the subject matter which makes it seem as if Claire’s influence will not be dimming any time soon!
Everything about this book is a love letter to the genre and the heroines its spawned, from the cover, featuring the boarder from "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark", a used book store label, dog ears, tape, and false dirt, to the contents being a clever tale on there own, to the poems themselves being very thought-provoking, nothing is left unappreciated and I for one can't get enough of it. I eagerly await whatever she comes up with next.
I Am Not Your Final Girl is available through Amazon. I personally have read through it at least 5 times and I force further visits back to it. Do yourself a favor and give it a read, you'll walk away from it lost in thought, sometimes crushed. But you'll walk away from it... just like they did.
I lured Claire to the Lab with the hopes to perhaps add her to my brain collection along with Erin, but things didn't exactly go as planned...check out the full interview and story below!
The castle door was already open when Claire arrived. Stepping past the large wooden door and over the stray bones, she moved without hesitation towards the staircase and quickly twisted the torch on the wall nearby, causing a loud CLICK! to be heard from underneath the stairs. Heading up she was cautious, entering the lab, doubly so. As she walked through the door, eyes adjusting to the dimly light room, she could see Lily, leaned back at her desk, headphones on staring intently at a computer screen.
Claire slowly walked up to her, tapping her on the shoulder and saying "excuse me?" before eyes wide, Lily fell from her chair in terror.
"Oh Jesus! you're like a ninja or something! what the hell?!"
"Sorry" Claire replied, "you're Lily right?”
“Yeeeaaahhhh..." Lily said, climbing up off the ground and standing face to face with her ninja-like assailant.
"I'm here for slasher counseling? I was told there were a large group of slashers that needed a group therapist?"
"Huh.." Lily said, clicking off the Video Creep episode she was watching and checking her schedule, "I don't see..."
"I'm sure it's there! anywho I have a looong day so can we get going please?"
Lily raised an eyebrow, no one's ever been WILLING to come in to the castle, let alone head to the lounge... shrugging it off as "too many films" haze she grabbed her keys and headed over to the elevator near her desk.
"Alrighty, c'mon then"
The door opens and the two-step in. A button pushes itself as the door shuts and heads downwards at an alarming speed.
"Hey..." said Claire quietly, staring at a black and white book poking out of Lily's lab-coat pocket "is that my book?"
"Nope its MY book, hands off"
"No i...seriously? no, I wrote that!" Claire beamed
"Holy crap really?!”
Claire: I’m Claire C. Holland, and I’m the author of “I Am Not Your Final Girl,” my debut book of poetry. I absolutely love horror movies, of course, and most dark and creepy things. When I’m not writing, I can usually be found reading romance novels or hanging out with my dog and husband.
Lily: the cover! it's so so cool and has so much love put into it, where did the idea come from and how long did it take to finally settle on what it became
Claire: I got the idea just looking at retro horror movie posters and old paperback horror books (I'd say my cover is kind of a mix between the two). I knew early on what I wanted it to look like (it's actually a drawing of Amber, a favorite horror heroine of mine, from the movie Green Room), but the hard part was learning how to use Photoshop to actually make it happen! My husband helped me learn the program and then it was a bit of a slow process getting it done.
And thank you for the compliment! I'm pretty proud of how it turned out.
Lily: it's honestly amazing! I dig the reference to scary stories to tell, I love the used book store sticker, I LOVE the dog ears and tape
The elevator stops and the door opens, a man wearing an upside-down hat, a pink cape-wearing bunny on his shoulder enters.. he was wearing a backward shirt and hauling 3
film reels, taking a sip of the beer in his free hand he shouts loudly "Ghost! take me to the theater! being dead is no excuse for being lazy!"
"Dude I was working here!" Lily shouts
"Yah but BunBun and I could actually die if we don't watch these, back to back, like now...its a real issue" The Reel Character Responded flatly, "Yeah! and like...if you don't bring us more beer, we could die!" shouted the little pink bunny
"Yeah, we could die” echoed Reel
Lily grunts and turns back to Claire as the elevator makes a shift and heads upwards
Lily: So the table of contents itself is actually quite interesting, I noticed that each section is set up to tell its own small story as it goes : Assault, possession, destruction, and transformation, mimicking an abusive relationship and its healing process in a way. Was this an intended outcome or something that came about as you created the book itself is wildly imaginative. telling the story from the perspective of the Surviving girl, the token final girl, is a unique idea given that so often they are used simply as slasher fodder or a last moment hurrah, why did you decide that it was time for these women to be heard as more than a scream?
Claire: Thank you so much! I think the idea was generated by the fact that I love these characters so much, and I draw on them for inspiration and strength on an almost-daily basis, so it just felt natural to speak through them when I was at my lowest (or often, my angriest). It was partly about giving them a voice, but honestly, they gave me a way to communicate a lot of things I couldn't just say out loud.
Lily: in your opinion who speaks the loudest in the book, who has the most to say or was the most opinionated to write for
Claire: Hmm, let me think for a minute...
Lily: no rush!
The elevator door clanks open and Reel walks out, dropping a beer out of his back pocket, the bunny hopping down and grabbing it before running off towards the theater doors "Hey! that was Påskebryg!" he shouts giving a half-assed chase. the doors close and the elevator proceeds downwards again.
Claire: I think the women in the "Possession" and "Destruction" sections had the "most to say" right off the bat (probably because I wrote so much of this book in a haze of anger). Anna from the movie Possession, Elsa from Splice, Nola from The Brood - all of those women leaped out of their movies and into my brain with SO much to say!
Lily: splice was disturbing as hell, I was so glad you covered it
Claire: Love that movie! It's very disturbing
Lily: Oh it's great but man does it get under the skin!
Claire: Absolutely And Elsa is such a fascinating character!
Lily: So aside from most talkative, who was your favorite to write. who did you just connect with? she really is, she's so so conflicted and then crushed by her choices
The elevator comes to a stop and they exit, walking down a long hallway filled with doors. some half-open revealing monsters and beasts reading and drawing…sleeping? Nope that ones dead...but the others, they are doing stuff.
Claire: I wouldn't necessarily say she's the exception (sadly), only that she's the character that stuck out in my mind most in regards to healing after the credits roll. I think it's all about Marilyn Burns' performance - that perfect mix of manic, terrifying emotions she displays at the very end. Watching her, it really hits home that she's not going to be fine after all this simply because she survived. But sadly, I think that's the norm. Trauma like that stays with you.
Which is not to say that you CAN'T come out the other side of something like that stronger, eventually. Only that I think an experience like that sticks with you forever and changes you.
Lily: So do you see all survivors of a horror film as being capable of moving past eventually or is there anyone who comes to mind as irreversibly harmed and why? movies have a way of glossing over horrific trauma
They stop walking as they come to a set of double doors held open slightly on one side with a small doorstop. A group of very recognizable slashers sits around couches, chairs.
some on the floor like children, watching a rerun of Inhumanoids, glued to the screen like too many 4 years olds on too many Saturdays.
Claire: I think it comes down to the individual, and sometimes the ones who make it through aren't the ones you'd expect. Rosemary, as I mentioned earlier, is so much stronger than she seems throughout the film. And even though she ends up acquiescing to the wishes of the Satanists in the end, I still think she shows remarkable strength in many ways. On the other hand, Elsa from Splice seems like this incredibly strong woman, but in the end, is she okay? I don't really think so. It's definitely not just about physical strength and survival. Carol from Repulsion is another that comes to mind who I'm not sure will ever be okay again.
Claire: Actually, thinking more about your original question, I think the women in the "Destruction" section are some of the ones who won't ever be able to fully move on. And those are some of my favorite characters! But it's the angry ones, the ones who really go for the throat who don't always seem to end up triumphant in the end. And I hate that, because it almost seems like there's a punishment angle to it in some of these movies, or perhaps it's just reality that powerful, angry women aren't often well-received by society.
It's the women in the "Transformation" section, the ones who learn to adapt, that seem to come out the other side of these films stronger. Some of those women figured out how to exist in a society that's constantly trying to pull them down.
Lily watches her, the smirk that's been burned in since birth has faded and she now studies with deadly seriousness the girl who stands before her, not a tremble, in front
of a room full of psychopathic supernatural killers. unblinking.
Lily: Was there anyone you wish you had included? perhaps enough for a part 2?
Claire, Still not breaking her gaze: Sidney Prescott! I really wanted to include her, she's so iconic, but... a poem for her just didn't come together for whatever reason. I'm actually writing my second book now, though, MOTHER/DAUGHTER/MONSTER, which is, as you can probably tell, about mothers and daughters in horror! So I think she'll definitely be making an appearance in that one.
Lily: How do you feel knowing your work has inspired enough people that you now have a podcast named after your book!
Claire finally turns her eyes away from the room
Claire: I'm beyond amazed and humbled by it! Beyond. I can't even describe how much it means to me when I hear from someone who connected with what I wrote - and selfishly, it makes me feel so much less alone in this world. I've met so many amazing people, especially amazing women, through publishing this book, and it's enriched my life immensely. I feel like I have a tribe of strong, horror-loving, empathetic, brilliant friends and acquaintances I never had before. It's just amazing.
Lily: as an artist, you must tend to pick apart your own work relentlessly, which poem if any would you do again or add to if you had the chance, or were you happy with everything as it was?
Claire: (digging through her bag now) I can tell you immediately: Selena from 28 Days Later. I had a lot I wanted to convey with that character, maybe too much... and I also wanted to do her justice as a woman of color (most of the final girls in my book are white, mainly because of classic horror and Hollywood in general skews very white). I think I put a lot of pressure on that poem, and it didn't turn out quite the way I wanted. But at some point, you have to just stop and publish the thing, I guess.
Clarice was also difficult. I think several of the "Transformation" poems were harder for me, because in all honestly, I don't think I've reached that phase in my own life/story yet.
Lily, eyebrow cocked stares in confusion as the girl fumbles with the contents of her bag as if checking through a prized collection...
Lily: What advice would you give to someone struggling with self-image or in general
Claire: I guess, first of all, I would say that you're not alone. Everyone struggles with self-image and self-confidence, and women/minorities/etc. are at a bigger disadvantage because society doesn't love us the way it loves a white dude. Beyond that, reach out to others wherever you can. It can be so easy to self-isolate (um, especially now, when we're all literally self-isolating!), but there's a huge world out there, even if you can only access it through the internet. I think we all have a tribe out there waiting to find us. I truly used to think I was very alone in the things I love and am passionate about, but I was completely wrong.
Lily: Who are the authors who inspire you :)
Claire begins to slowly enter the room, not making a sound, hand still in her bag.
Claire: Francesca Lia Block and Joyce Carol Oates are definitely two favorite authors of mine. I admire both their writing and their prolificness, especially because I'm a horribly slow writer. Also Nova Ren Suma and Janet Fitch. I love beautiful language, and they write beautifully. Jehanne Dubrow and Beth Bachmann are two of my all-time favorite poets.
Lily: finally is there anyone, anything, any...creature? you'd like to shout out, thank or otherwise scream at?
Claire, now standing on the opposite side of the doorway: Oh boy, I'm sure I'll forget someone important and regret this later... hmm. I'd like to shout out the entire Twitter horror community, which has been welcoming to me from day one. The Ladies of Horror Fiction and the Nightworms Book Club have also been so kind and helpful in spreading the word about my work. The horror community is just full of wonderful people! And of course, all the readers and book reviewers in general who've reviewed my book and posted about it, it makes all the difference. I can't thank them all enough! Including you, Lily, so thank you!
Suddenly Claire throws the door shut and stomps the locks closed, turning around with a large smile she pulls a VERY sharp, surgical hand saw from her bag. Lily peers through the window, knowing she should PROBABLY stop this, but enjoying the irony.
"I AM NOT YOUR FINAL GIRL!" she announces as the killers all turn around in shock. "BUT! if you're lucky. One of you gets to be mine..."
For the next 2 hours hallway filled with shouts, screams, grunts, groans, the thick smell of iron. for 2 hours. The slashers had therapy.
Claire can be found on twitter at:
and the podcast Not your final girl over at:
Be sure to pick up her book here.
and to check out her website for updates on her next work!
Thank you all for reading and as always, see you at the drive-in!