I made a joke in the comments on THIS POST, at the Toast, about how I would like to watch a movie that was just Heather Lagenkamp and Jamie Lee Curtis going around and solving mysteries, but then I started to think about it and actually this is basically a completely amazing idea that I will now elaborate.
The premise of Final Girls, Inc., is that our heroines have formed what is essentially a private-detective agency, except instead of going around from town to town and fighting and killing monsters, they go around in search of other “final girls” — people who have survived horrific encounters with the supernatural — and help them cope with the trauma and put their lives back together.
This is very appealing to me for a number of reasons, the primary one is that horror movies often just sort of stop after the monster is “defeated”, and the ramifications of the events of the movie are ignored (sometimes they’re addressed in sequels, sometimes not, but never the way that I’d like). The survivors are basically always traumatized; they’re often sent to mental hospitals, sometimes they’re even arrested for the crimes that the monster committed, or for crimes that they had to commit to stop the monster — this is territory that’s simply not explored very often in the genre.
Switching up this premise as a kind of riff on the Supernatural engine I think also makes for some interesting storytelling opportunities — because the main characters always arrive in the aftermath of the horror movie, you’re essentially always working out the story through other stories: piecing together what happened through clues and witness testimonies, for instance, or establishing what happened in flashback.
This also gives us a lot of opportunity to dissect horror movies as a cultural phenomenon — rather than serving as a horror movie, since it takes place in the wake of horror movies and is primarily about the cultural and psychological effects of monsters, this serves as an ersatz discussion of the cultural and psychological effects of horror movies, or horror as a cultural phenomenon.
Finally, I think it’s actually maybe a little bit more important to look at trauma and its aftermath than it is to further explore the limited (if sometimes rewarding and interesting) dynamics of the traditional horror genres.
All that said, there were definitely be monster-defeating.
So, what are we looking at here?
(please note that as readers of this blog you are legally prohibited from crticising my drawing, I am a WRITER, this is just to GIVE YOU AN IDEA of what is going on and to avoid confronting you with a wall of text, leave me the shit alone suckers)
Burke is our Laurie Strode analog. Burke is from West Virginia, a small town deep in rural coal country. When she was fifteen, she was pursued by a local legend called the Quiet Man, which she ultimately (maybe) destroyed. Deeply affected by the experience, Burke set about making sure she never had to be afraid of anything again — she learned to fight and shoot, but also got a law degree. It wasn’t until a chance encounter with Emma Hawkins (we’ll get to her) who’d had a similar experience that Burke started to realize how much her doomsday-prepper attitudes were actually maybe not the best way to cope with her experience — that maybe there were other people like her in the world, people who’d seen the same things, and maybe the best thing to do was to find them and find ways to help them.
Burke is in her forties now, and is the go-to character for physical stuff — punching a person, kicking in a door, shooting something. She’s also the lawyer, and has a wealth of occult knowledge (though occult knowledge is of limited utility, I’ll get to that too).
Riada is our Nancy Thompson analog. She encountered the Incubus as a child, and was never the same after that — though not even Burke knows what it did to her, or what she did to stop it. Riada is a psychotherpaist with a long list of credentials, and is dedicated to the study of fear, trauma, and the process of healing from both. Riada is in her late twenties, but seems younger — she’s short, and she always dresses in layers as though building up a barrier between herself and the world.
Riada is the go-to character for regular detective work, but also for compassion and empathy, which are often more useful in this world. She has also got a different kind of first-hand knowledge of the supernatural — Burke fought a monster and killed it, but (for mysterious reasons) Riada knows monsters in a way that Burke doesn’t.
I think that the horror-movie-monster typically reflects a kind of childlike understanding of danger — monsters are weird and surreal, they seem to be subject to laws that we don’t fully understand. This is not dissimilar from what it’s like to be threatened as a child: things are obviously dangerous, but they’re also deeply mysterious. While the process of creating a system of rules and regulations for what monsters are — a Book, as you might have in Detective Grimm, or a Librarian, like you’d have in Buffy the Vampire Slayer — is a normal process for dealing with fear (i.e., bounding the irrational with rationality in order to control it), it also lets us avoid the horror in a way I’d like to confront.
There is not going to be any of this “well, I looked it up in a book and did you know about a monster called the whatever that has JUST ONE WEAKNESS”, I don’t want to do that. These monsters, while often analogs for classic horror movies monsters, are all, like their originals, kind of sui generis — they’re unique, in such a way that solving the problems they engender requires creativity and compassion, rather than formulaic rule-following. (Sometimes, though, you do kind of have to just blow them up.)
The Quiet Man
The Appalachian bogeyman that Burke killed — or anyway, that she thinks she killed. When it manifests, everyone over the age of sixteen falls asleep and can’t be woken up. Cellphones die, and lights flicker. The Quiet Man takes the opportunity to chase children down and strangle them with its giant hands. Legends disagree as to whether it’s the ghost of a soldier from the first world war, or a miner who lost his mind, or what. Legends agree that it only gets thirteen days to kill, once every thirteen years.
(But are those legends correct? Burke managed to push it down a mineshaft and manged to blow it up using firedamp — or did she?)
The Incubus is the evil presence you experience during sleep paralysis. It enters your dreams and drags you deeper and deeper into layers upon layers of false, horrific worlds until you can’t find your way back. Victims of the Incubus fall asleep and never wake up — except for Riada Hawkins, who won’t talk about what happened to her in those dreams. She says that the Incubus is destroyed, but how she managed it, and what she had to do in order to manage it, is something else she won’t talk about — she keeps the casenotes on this one to herself.
Some good examples of plots that you could use are, for instance:
Burke and Riada meet a girl who was haunted by a poltergeist that killed many of her friends. Her family won’t speak to her and the police are grumbling about her involvement. Riada realizes that the poltergeist is still there, feeding of the girl’s anguish, and must be exorcised. The problem (a problem) is that religious ceremonies are not definitive — some things work, and some things don’t, and there’s no easy way to tell what’s going to work or how. The real heart of the exorcism has to do with the victim freeing herself from the monster.
Burke and Riada investigate a former soldier who claims to be haunted by his own doppelganger. The police have conducted an investigation and provide a perfectly-rational story about what’s happened; Burke and Riada uncover clues that something more sinister occurred (so, this is like a reverse-Hound of the Baskervilles: instead of a supernatural story where the clues reveal that it’s something perfectly natural, it’s a natural story that the clues gradually reveal is supernatural).
The Quiet Man Redux
Burke and Riada return to Appalachia to find someone still being haunted by the Quiet Man, but this turns out to be a prank perpetrated by local assholes. (This issue is basically the entrypoint into revealing some of Burke’s backstory.)
Burke and Riada are called to a mental hospital so that Riada can help with the treatment of a woman who was committed after her boyfriend was accused of murdering some local teens. Surprisingly, it turns out that the teens were murdered by a monster, and the girl was not believed and instead harassed into eventually blaming it on her boyfriend. The girl was possibly involved in making a deal with a devil to get revenge on someone she hated; this story gives us some insight into Riada’s backstory, and the kind of thing she might have done to stop the Incubus.
BE IT CONCLUDED
This is a great idea, and I think I could get at least twelve issues out of it.