Ladies of Horror May-hem: Sidney Prescott


The gods of randomocity must have sensed my eagerness for this particular draw (either that or they’ve been reading my blog this month and noticed that I keep referring to her, even in posts that have nothing to do with her at all, and they just want me to shut up already).

For all the horror movies that I have watched throughout my illustrious lifelong love of the genre, I keep returning to the greatness, IMHO, of director Wes Craven’s Scream and heroine Sidney Prescott, as played by Neve Campbell.

True, there are myriad horror movies that are very obvious in their meritorious contributions to the genre. Then there are those movies that, on first blush, seem like nothing more than standard cheese-supreme slasher flicks. For every Exorcist there’s 15 Frankenhookers.

[Loba Tangent: Okay, there’s only one Frankenhooker…I don’t think the world is ready for more than one. WANNA DATE?]

Many, myself included, expected Scream to be one of the latter types of horror movie. I figured it was going to be a fun way to spend a couple of hours, watching Craven’s latest foray into horror schlock (he’d come a long way since his Elm Street days…and some of that distance was through utter shite, to borrow a Britishism).

What I experienced, instead, was a revival on so many levels. First, Craven was back on-point. This movie was fun and sharp and scary, with a soupçon of cheese to make it even tastier to the palate. Second, this movie introduced screenwriter Kevin Williamson to my world and, for good (this movie) and bad (almost everything else other than this movie), he altered the horror scene irrevocably. While obviously loving and admiring so many of the great aspects of horror, he was able to objectively pinpoint the problems intrinsic to the genre and dissolve them in high horrific style.

And then there’s Sidney.

I’ve already mentioned so many of the fantastic final girls to grace the genre before Sidney arrived. Just like Laurie, Nancy, Jess, Kirsty, Meg, and myriad others, we at first think that Sidney is just another all-American high school girl, wanting nothing more than to make it through another week of tests and class projects before spending quality time with her boyfriend who looks strangely like Johnny Depp and her small group of BFFs.

The twist that Williamson springs on us, however, is that Sidney already is a survivor. She’s gone through a rather brutal year that has obliterated any semblance of normalcy. Now, she just wants to make it through the week without running into the likes of intrepid sensationalist reporter Gale Weathers. Or having to testify against the man she saw leaving her house…we’re left to assume right before young Sidney discovered something that no teenager should ever have to discover.

Sorry, Sidney. The fates just aren’t in your corner this year.

The other delightful twist that Williamson gifts young Sidney is the acknowledgement and subsequent dismissal of that oft-referenced “virginal survival” trope made so famous by Laurie Strode. No, not all final girls after Laurie had to be virgins…but it sure did seem that way. The message, of course, constantly coming across that to survive, you must be good. Naughty girls are only around for two things: boob shots and slasher bait.

Oh, horror, I love you so, but you really are a pig sometimes.

By granting Sidney the right to be sexually active and a final girl, Williamson completely upends this horror trope and injects a bit of feminism right into the genre’s ass. Even more poignantly, he allows Sidney the right to destroy the misogyny that tried to destroy her. Poor Billy boyfriend, doesn’t stand a chance when all he’s got on his side is whiny entitlement and a stupid best friend.

I know, I’ve written more about this particular character than I’ve probably written about any other this month. I acknowledge that Sidney would not have existed were it not for several others to precede her, both this month’s series and in their respective movies. But Sidney takes full advantage of the trail-blazing that those horror heroines did for her and she veers off into her own unique direction. She personifies the best of her predecessors and she presents her own complex qualities that make her one of my all-time favorite Ladies of Horror May-hem.