This feature is by Catherine Young, the current USC Annenberg-Rotten Tomatoes Digital Innovation and Entertainment Criticism fellow, a partnership with the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Cate is writing on the representation of women in film. 

Horror movie fans will be familiar with the concept of the Final Girl. The term was originally conceived in 1992 by Carol J. Clover as a way to describe the traits of the sole female victim who remains alive to tell the story of a film’s violent crime – or many violent crimes. Clover’s central idea was that, in the films where the trope is evident, the viewer initially sees the Final Girl through the killer’s perspective, but that partway through the movie, they begin to identify directly with her instead.

Final Girls illustrated the moral split between the chaste and the virtuous. You know the deal – the hard-drinking, promiscuous girl dies first, and the demure, virginal girl survives to take down the murderer. She’s the final one standing. Pop culture is replete with characters that fit the bill – Jess Bradford in the original Black Christmas, Sally Hardesty in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nancy Thompson in The Nightmare on Elm Street – and their existence has become as integral to the slasher genre as the killers themselves.

Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection)

But that was then and this is now. The original Final Girl is slowly but surely being crowded out by a newer, more progressive iteration that acknowledges the restrictive ideas that initially gave birth to her. Over the last couple of decades, and particularly in the last 10 years, the last girl standing has looked a lot different from the final girls of the past. Progressively, in films like ScreamThe Cabin In The Woods and It Follows, final girls have complicated the existing frame of the trope by pushing against its restrictions. 

Whether it’s by having sex, refusing to be constricted by archaic ideas of femininity, or simply by teaming up to fight together, these women now survive despite leading lives the genre used to consider wholly immoral and in need of corrective punishment – they’re a new kind of Final Girl. The Final Girls who were introduced in the 1970s and 1980s have become more nuanced over time, and that progress paved the way for the Finals Girls of Ready or Not and 2019’s Black Christmas who directly confront issues of misogyny and sex negativity.

In some ways, the New Final Girl is almost the original Final Girl’s polar opposite. Rather than surviving because of her innocence, naïveté or virginity, the New Final Girl is the woman who makes it to the end of the film alive specifically because of her rejection of the old norms about what makes a woman morally deserving. The New Final Girl embraces drink, drugs, and sex and defends her engagement in each of them. She insists on being seen as a full human being and actively, often violently defends her right to do so. Most of all, the New Final Girl is still an active participant in her own survival – she knows the original Final Girl shouldn’t have had to sand off her edges to stay alive. The New Final Girl is not a virginal survivor but an intentional fighter who asserts her right to exist despite perceived moral flaws.

 © Universal /Courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by © Universal /Courtesy Everett Collection)

In the 2019 sequel slasher Happy Death Day 2U, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) finds herself once again stuck in the murderous time loop of the first film. Over and over, she relives the same day, and it ends when she is brutally murdered by a serial killer known as Babyface. In the first film, the culprit is Tree’s sorority sister and roommate Lori (Ruby Modine). The two women are both having an affair with the same married professor, and Lori’s jealousy puts Tree in her crosshairs. In the sequel, Babyface is none other than the philandering professor himself, trying to eliminate any evidence of his transgressions.

What makes Tree’s Final Girl status so interesting is that she begins the story as one of the “immoral women” who would usually die in a thriller. Tree is, by all accounts, a typical sorority mean girl. When we meet her, she is recovering from a night of partying and on her way to meet the professor she’s carrying on with. And in fact, she does die, over and over again, punished for her ruthlessness, immorality, and general misbehavior. But through the mechanics of the film itself, she evolves into a New Final Girl through sheer determination. 

© Universal /Courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by © Universal /Courtesy Everett Collection)

In both films, Tree breaks her loop and returns to her life not by becoming more virtuous, but by becoming a more compassionate and considerate person. She improves and grows as a character – including ending her affair – not because those things make her unworthy of redemption, but because they are not the best choices for her as a person. She undergoes significant character growth without ever placing a moral frame on her sexuality or femininity. And through each of the infinite deaths it takes her to get there, she plots and schemes to find her killer and thwart them, determined to prevent her eventual death and save herself. 

Tree is a novel subversion of the trope because it’s her death itself that furthers her character growth. Several times, she intentionally kills herself in service of a larger goal; sometimes to gather more information about her situation and sometimes to undo the murders of other characters. As a result, her deaths then become an intentional sacrifice that signals her increasing virtue, instead of confirming its absence. It’s a large departure from the way the original Final Girls functioned in films like these.

© Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by )

Similarly, the evolution of Halloween’s Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) into a New Final Girl in the film’s 2018 sequel of the same name is particularly notable because the character’s first iteration was in many ways the definitive final girl – most other examples are direct descendants of her legacy. In the first film, Strode is left as the sole survivor of the serial killer Michael Myers’ murder spree – the only young woman in the film who chose to abstain from the usual vices. Her survival largely conformed to expectations for women in horror at the time, and helped to cement the trope in the genre.

But in the film’s most recent sequel – which retcons several that had come before –Laurie is now an older woman, driven to extremes by her fixation on stopping Myers’ return. In the 40 years since the events of the first film, Laurie has grown into an obsessive, battle-worn veteran of the war in her own mind. She may not be having sex or doing drugs, but she’s far from the pure, “likable” babysitter we met decades earlier. She is convinced that Myers will return and has devoted her life to preparing for that eventuality. In the process she has lost custody of her daughter and become estranged from her daughter’s family. She is perceived as a lonely old woman too traumatized by her past to move on. 

© Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by )

Of course, Myers does eventually return. But this time Laurie is ready for him, having rigged her entire house to trap and kill him. Whereas in 1978 she was permitted to survive by virtue of her moral purity, in 2018 she fights like hell for that survival, taking active steps to make sure that Myers can no longer victimize her. She takes the lead in tracking Myers down and trapping him on her home turf. After spending years contemplating and preparing for the return of his torment, Laurie has transformed herself into the Ultimate Final Girl through sheer force of will. She has no intention of being defeated yet again.

Critically, Laurie must also protect her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Virginia Gardener) this time around, folding them into a generational legacy of victimization and defense. When the threat they have dismissed for so long reveals itself to be real, they join forces with Laurie to fight and eliminate it – Myers is now a specter that haunts them all, the source of their estrangement and the origin of their familial trauma. Defeating Myers together connects the women as Final Girls of a new generation, forcing them all to overlook their own and each other’s flaws in order to face the embodiment of their fractured relationships. Laurie leads the charge, but her family takes up her mantle. 

This isn’t to say that the old trope never survives. In fact, Allyson’s best friend Vicky is killed during a babysitting job soon after letting her wayward boyfriend into the house. It wouldn’t be a stretch to interpret her death as the same kind of stark moral judgement that historically happened in slasher films. This is especially true given the contrast with Allyson’s own encounter with Myers. After her boyfriend’s best friend inappropriately propositions her, he is immediately murdered while she survives. His overeager instinct to breach her consent should absolutely have been corrected, but death is a disproportionate response. The message couldn’t be clearer: all sexual impulses exist along the same punishable continuum, regardless of how welcome they might be to the participants involved.

 

© Neon /Courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by © Neon /Courtesy Everett Collection)

One of the starkest examples of this shift in recent years is 2018’s Assassination Nation, which explored the trope in thrilling style. Set in conservative Salem, the movie focuses on a group of teen girls who find themselves at the center of a small-town lynch mob when they are blamed for the release of the community’s private information. The girls are not guilty of the mass doxing, but their reputations as “loose women” make them ideal targets for the ire and anger of the town’s men and boys. 

The girls — Lily (Odessa Young), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), Bex (Hari Nef), and Em (Abra) – are known at their high school for their skimpy outfits, their questionable choices in boys, and their perceived promiscuity. They are open about and proud of their burgeoning sexuality and enjoy exploring their relationships to the men in their lives. Lily is dating an abusive high school boy and carrying on an illicit affair with a married neighbor. Bex is trans and keeping her relationship with the popular football player a secret at his request. Sarah and Em are living with their mother Nance, who is implied to be operating a brothel out of her home. 

When the community devolves into ultraviolence, the citizens hunt the girls across the town, determined to punish them for being forced to confront their own once-private sexual shames. As the balance of power shifts, the horror genre tropes follow in quick succession. From a coordinated home invasion to a horde of masked killers to the use of guns and baseballs bats — the most American of weapons — the girls suddenly find themselves in the middle of their very own slasher film.

© Neon /Courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by © Neon /Courtesy Everett Collection)

At another time, all four of these women would be fated to die before the credits rolled. Their proximity to vice marks them as fallen women, and only the morally pure survive the transformative power of abject terror. But as New Final Girls, all four of them not only survive but continue on to restore order to the town. The girls rescue each other from the outsized violence the men are trying to inflict on them (including an attempted rape and hanging) and take up arms to defend themselves both literally and in abstract. The film ends as they deliver a call to action to the town’s girls, surrounded by bodies and covered in glitter, both claiming the righteousness of their femininity and rejecting the ubiquity of patriarchal terror. Through female solidarity they all survive and mete out the violence necessary to do so. 

Assassination Nation is unique in that the girls are explicitly targeted because of their sexuality – usually, this aspect of the genre is left as subtext. But here, the trope is almost deconstructed by bringing both the reasons for their attack and subsequent defense to the surface. They become New Final Girls because, given the plot constraints, their only options are to transform themselves or die. 

© Universal Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by © Universal Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection)

The New Final Girl is a natural evolution of the original trope. Stories are becoming more egalitarian, and with that comes a necessary examination of the moral dimension of the traditional way women are depicted on film. But in the end, all these Final Girls aren’t as different from each other as we might think. The virtuous distinction that we make between them is largely based on an old patriarchal frame that divides women into Madonnas and Whores, then kills the whores. Part of making the genre more progressive – or dare I say feminist – is rejecting that binary entirely.

Teenaged Laurie Strode and college-aged Tree Gelbman might have led different lives and made different choices, but when it came down to it, they both survived because they resolved to fight and refused to die. The haunting specter of violent masculinity came for all the women mentioned here, and they all triumphed, even under the restrictive gaze of a society that expects feminine perfection. But no matter how stark the contrast may be, these changes are progressive strides that honor the history of the slasher genre in inventive ways while bringing them into the contemporary moment. The Final Girl survived, but the New Final Girl thrives, and she’s ready to fight again another day.


Follow Catherine Young on Twitter @battymamzelle

Horror has a way of making an unlit hallway look like a trek through hell, inducing heart attacks though jumping cats, and transforming everyday tools like chainsaws and double-barrel shotguns into instruments of doom. The marketing and posters for Us suggests that Jordan Peele’s new horror flick will do for golden scissors what Get Out did for tea cups, which also happens to be one of selections for the 25 most iconic props from horror movie history! Read on to get your fill of creaky carriages, demonic dolls, and bloody blades.


We here at RT went deep into the vault of horror franchises to tally up the victims of some of film and TV’s most deadly psycho killers. Take a peek at the results — if you dare!

 


Norman Bates  – Psycho (1960) 96%

Norman-Bates

Haunting Grounds: Bates Motel
Estimated Body Count: 20
Has there ever been a cinematic slasher more pitiable than Norman Bates? The poor guy is practically at war with himself, and his mom nags him from beyond the grave. Heck, every time he makes friends, they seem to end up dead. If Psycho exerted a profound influence on the slasher genre (and onscreen violence in general), it wasn’t because Norman was a particularly prolific killer. Alfred Hitchcock’s original (and the sequels) depicted a man in the clutches of inner torment and madness that was so gripping and scary that it didn’t need buckets of blood (or, in one memorable case, chocolate syrup) to be deeply unsettling.  Nine deaths are attributed to Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) on the five-season AMC prequel TV series Bates Motel. But, really, who can say for sure?

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THE CREEPER – Jeepers Creepers (2001) 46%

creeper

Haunting Grounds: The Jeepers Creepers series
Estimated Body Count: 20
When Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer wrote “Jeepers Creepers” in the late 1930s, they surely never guessed their snappy little pop ditty would go on to provide the theme song for a murderous winged creature who possesses a bee- and dog-like ability to smell fear, and who can regenerate body parts by ingesting those of his victims. And that’s not all — the Creeper can also overcome overwhelmingly negative reviews, too! Although critics kept 2001’s Jeepers Creepers from a Fresh certification, the Creeper was back just two years later with a sequel, and there was even talk of a third installment. Not bad for a bad guy who’s limited to a single 23-day feeding frenzy every 23 years, right?

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THE THING – The Thing (1982) 83%

The-Thing

Haunting Grounds: The Thing from Another World, The Thing, The Thing
Estimated Body Count: 20
Human beings have long wondered what otherworldy monstrosities might be lurking out in the far reaches of space, which helps to explain the enduring appeal of John W. Campbell’s 1938 short story, Who Goes There? It’s the tale of an Antarctic research team that unwittingly rescues a malevolent alien from an icy grave. The creature repays the favor by forcibly (and messily) assimilating every living being within reach, including 20 unlucky scientists and a handful of dogs. Campbell’s monster — referred to as the Thing — has provided rich fodder for filmmakers over the decades, inspiring 1951’s The Thing from Another World, John Carpenter’s 1982 cult classic The Thing, and, most recently, the 2011 prequel/reboot of the same name.

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JAWS – Jaws (1975) 97%

Jaws

Haunting Grounds: The Jaws series
Estimated Body Count: ~21, if you count the whale in Jaws 2
Most of the slashers on our list are bona fide film icons, but few of them can boast of having changed the entire industry the way Peter Benchley’s great white shark did: Before Jaws‘ 1975 debut, studios actually held their big films out of the summer market, believing the vacation months to be a commercial graveyard. Almost $500 million (and lots of bloody ocean water) later, a franchise was born — and although the third and fourth installments aren’t good for much besides unintentional humor, the original remains a certified classic with a 98 percent Tomatometer rating. Granted, the kill count here takes into consideration the havoc wreaked by multiple great whites over the course of the franchise, but it merely illustrates what Benchley already knew: the ocean is scary enough even without a gigantic bloodthirsty shark chasing you around, so tossing one in the mix just ups the ante.

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LEATHERFACE – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) 89%

Leatherface

Haunting Grounds: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series
Estimated Body Count: 30
The twisted true-life tale of grave robber Ed Gein has inspired many notable cinematic grotesques, from Norman Bates in Psycho to Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. However, Tobe Hooper may have done the most to immortalize Gein in the annals of perverse pop culture by emphasizing his habit of making clothing out of human flesh. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre introduced Leatherface, a developmentally disabled fellow under the control of his cannibalistic family. Though he started out as a pretty timid guy who was as afraid of visitors as they were of him, Leatherface came out of his shell in the sequels and reboots, making up for lost time in liberally employing his Poulan 306A.

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PINHEAD – Hellraiser (1987) 71%

PinheadHaunting Grounds: The Hellraiser series
Estimated Body Count: 35
By the late 1980s, the slasher genre was starting to feel a little stale — and then along came Pinhead, the sadomasochistic leader of the extradimensional pack of hooligans known as the Cenobites. The spike-headed hook fetishist wasn’t featured heavily in 1987’s Hellraiser, but Pinhead’s combination of creepy appearance, selective taste for victims, and clear fondness for gruesome torture stole the movie; throughout the eight-film series (four of which were released straight to DVD), Pinhead has remained the only constant, and for good reason: although his body count may be relatively low, no one else can match his prowess with a sharp, well-placed hook.

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CHUCKY – Child's Play (1988) 71%

ChuckyHaunting Grounds: The Child’s Play series
Estimated Body Count: ~38
Chucky may have devolved into a pint-sized Tony Clifton at this point, but the original Child’s Play was a superior genre piece — creepy, suspenseful, and blessed with an insidious sense of humor. Child’s Play riffed on the idea of innocence gone horribly wrong, with a quasi-Cabbage Patch Kid embodied by a vicious serial killer thanks to a voodoo ritual. Subsequent sequels — the most recent of which, Curse of Chucky, just recently made its way onto home video — have delivered more camp than scares, but Chucky’s left a trail of more than 35 corpses in his wake — and probably didn’t enamor himself to Teddy Ruxpin.

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FREDDY KRUEGER – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) 95%

Freddy-KruegerHaunting Grounds: The Nightmare on Elm Street series
Estimated Body Count: ~39
Arguably the most recognizable movie monster of the 1980s, Freddy Krueger may not be able to compete with other horror icons when it comes to killing in bulk. But the dermatologically-challenged Elm Street resident certainly wins points for style; in addition to his expert use of claw-tipped leather gloves, Freddy is adept at shape-shifting, strangulation, and generating geysers of blood from the bodies of future heartthrobs. Even accounting for the various forms Freddy has taken over the years in his efforts to turn the sweetest dreams dark and bloody, we’ve got his kill count somewhere in the vicinity of 39. That might be fewer than one might expect, but Mr. Krueger is an artiste who chooses his victims very specifically.

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FATE – Final Destination (2000) 35%

Final-Destination-2Haunting Grounds: The Final Destination series
Estimated Body Count: 39
Remember the old margarine commercials that said you can’t fool Mother Nature? Well, according to the Final Destination series, you can’t cheat Fate, either. It’s often said that revenge is a dish best served cold — but for the unseen hand of Fate, it tastes even better when garnished with a series of incredibly brutal (and, it must be said, very morbidly entertaining) booby traps. The series’ unseen antagonist has dispatched 39 victims, using everything from the mundane (death by falling brick) to the cleverly rewind-worthy (shower cord strangulation, ladder through the eye, death by falling cherry picker). By the time we surpassed The Final Destination and got Final Destination 5, the series was clearly aware of its silly appeal, and each creatively choreographed death was equally as hilarious as it was cringeworthy.

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GHOSTFACE – Scream (1996) 79%

GhostfaceHaunting Grounds: The Scream franchise, Scream (TV series)
Estimated Body Count: 49
One of the rare slasher antagonists who’s a killer by committee, the Scream series’ Ghostface is played by a revolving door of mask-donning, knife-wielding psychopaths. Their motives are different (peer pressure, revenge, etc.), but the results are the same, no matter who wears the Edward Munch-inspired getup: teenagers will turn up dead, following the conventions of horror movies. And, as with other horror franchises, the body count increases with each sequel. Adding to the mayhem was the first season of MTV’s Scream, which aired this summer. All in all, this council of killers is responsible for at least 49 slayings.

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LEPRECHAUN – Leprechaun (1993) 27%

LeprechaunHaunting Grounds: The Leprechaun series
Estimated Body Count: 50
The Leprechaun series is the embodiment of the finest that Irish culture and letters has to offer, easily surpassing the works of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. The titular antihero is murderously committed to acquiring a pot o’ gold, an undertaking that prompts travel to such exotic locales as Las Vegas, Compton, and outer space. Despite his diminutive stature, the Leprechaun’s super-sharp claws and teeth have helped him tally 50 onscreen fatalities, including a very young Jennifer Aniston, who made her big screen debut in the first film.

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JIGSAW – Saw (2004) 50%

JigsawHaunting Grounds: The Saw series
Estimated Body Count: 60
John Kramer was first christened “Jigsaw” by detectives who discovered the serial killer’s calling card was a puzzle piece-shaped hunk of flesh carved from the corpses of his victims. The name stuck as the cops closed in on Kramer and realized his elaborate, irony-laden traps were designed to punish those he deemed guilty of criminal acts or taking life for granted (he must have been a fan of Se7en). More characters and plot twists (Jigsaw doesn’t work alone! Something about cancer!) were introduced as the series wore on, and Saw evolved into a labyrinthine annual soap opera drenched in blood and agony. A Grand Guignol for our times.

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HANNIBAL LECTER – The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 95%

Haniibal-Lecter

Haunting Grounds: Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal, Hannibal Rising, Hannibal (TV)
Estimated Body Count: 98
Before 1991, you may not have even known what fava beans were — but after Anthony Hopkins’ first appearance as Doctor Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, nobody ever thought of them the same way again. Like Jason Voorhees, Lecter doesn’t appear in much of the famous reboot — he’s only in a little over 15 minutes of Lambs — but it was the first time we actually witnessed the good doctor rack up a few kills on screen (both Manhunter and its remake Red Dragon only imply Lecter’s murdered some folks), and audiences had a clear, um, appetite for the flesh-craving serial killer’s brand of mayhem: he’s gone on to appear in a number of other books and movies. Although we just saw the end of Hannibal‘s three-season run on NBC, series creator Bryan Fuller insists we haven’t seen the last of Lecter just yet.

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MICHAEL MYERS – Halloween (1978) 96%

Michael-Meyers
Haunting Grounds: The Halloween series, minus Season of the Witch
Estimated Body Count: ~107
The best-known escapee of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, Michael Myers has never been a big fan of babysitters, nor is he particularly fleet of foot. He digs Blue Oyster Cult, and makes special use of Star Trek paraphernalia and kitchen cutlery. Since the release of John Carpenter’s landmark Halloween, Myers’ legend has been told in a number of sequels, and if his reasons for killing are obscure, he’s still coldly efficient at the task; he’s racked up a whopping 100-plus notches on his belt.

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THE INVISIBLE MAN – The Invisible Man (1933) 94%

InvisibleManBodyCount
Haunting Grounds: The Invisible Man (1933)
Estimated Body Count: 123
We were shocked (shocked!) to discover that killers with high body counts could even be found in Old Hollywood fare. Based on the H.G. Wells 1897 novel, James Whale’s pre-code horror film featured Claude Rains (Casablanca) in his American film debut as the titular villain, also known as Dr. Jack Griffin. Hiding away in a snowy village, Griffin experiments on himself while working on a drug called “monocane,” which he believes is the secret to invisibility. Although he does succeed in turning himself invisible, he also becomes a crazed murderer. Killing those who get in his way, and a train full of people just for kicks, Griffin eventually causes the death of 123 people – including himself.

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JASON VOORHEES – Friday the 13th (1980) 63%

HalloweenHaunting Grounds: The Friday the 13th series
Estimated Body Count: 146
Rocking facial protection that would do Jacques Plante proud, Jason Voorhees terrorized Camp Crystal Lake with cold precision (and an ability to cheat death that Rasputin would envy) in Friday the 13th. Occasionally, he breaks out of the bucolic confines of the countryside to wreak havoc in the big city (Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan), Hades (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday), and the future (Jason X). According to our research, Jason has put a whopping 146 unfortunate souls on ice. Pretty impressive for a cat who drowned in 1958.

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En español: Read this article in Spanish at Tomatazos.com.

Just as with last year, 2013 kicked off its first frame with an overperforming horror flick debuting at number one as audiences powered Texas Chainsaw 3D to the top spot. Holiday holdovers fared well with most dropping by about 30% from last weekend’s sturdy session.

Lionsgate generated a better-than-expected debut for its fright sequel Texas Chainsaw 3D which bowed to an estimated $23M from 2,654 locations for a muscular $8,666 average. The R-rated film which gives a 3D update to the continuing story of horror icon Leatherface played to a young adult audience which had very little product to be excited about in December. Studio research showed that 64% of the crowd was under 25 and 52% was female.

Chainsaw attracted business from the horror crowd thanks to a well-known brand but also tapped into urban audiences thanks in part to the casting of musical artist Trey Songz who has over 5 million followers on Twitter and 14 million fans on Facebook. He actively promoted the movie to his fans who came out in huge numbers. $1.15M of the weekend gross came from shows starting at 10pm on Thursday night. Moviegoers polled by CinemaScore gave the fright flick a C+ grade.

Early January is a lucrative time for Hollywood to open scary movies. The cheery mood of Christmas is over so fans are ready for some creepy violence plus a large number of college students are still on their winter breaks. The Devil Inside smashed expectations a year ago this weekend with its $33.7M debut at number one while the first weekend of next year has already been claimed by The Amityville Horror: The Lost Tapes launching on January 3, 2014.

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained was tops among all holdovers and broke the $100M mark in just its second weekend of play. The R-rated revenge pic declined by only 33% to an estimated $20.1M boosting the 13-day cume since its Christmas Day bow to a sturdy $106.4M. It joined the century club on Saturday in its 12th day of release. With its strong hold and expected Academy Award nominations this week, Django stands a good chance of reaching the $150M barrier and will easily become the director’s highest grossing film ever.

Suffering the largest drop of any film in the top ten, three-time box office champ The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey took in an estimated $17.5M falling by 45% from last weekend. The Middle Earth adventure has now grossed $263.8M in 24 days and cracked the quarter-billion mark in only 22 days. Warner Bros. still has a shot at reaching $300M on this one. Hobbit raked in another $57.1M overseas this weekend with the international total climbing to $561M putting the worldwide haul at a towering $824.8M.

As former Academy Award host Anne Hathaway prepares her Oscar acceptance speech, her hit musical Les Miserables landed in fourth place in its sophomore frame with an estimated $16.1M with a decent 41% decline. The Universal hit broke the $100M mark after 13 days of release with a cume so far of $103.6M. Cash will keep rolling in over the weeks ahead. On Thursday it will receive many nominations from the Academy which could help broaden appeal and next Sunday it may just sweep the Comedy/Musical category at the Golden Globes which attracts a very large TV viewing audience, especially adult women. Les Miserables grossed an estimated $14.5M overseas from only 17 territories boosting the international total to $81M and the global gross to $184.6M. Korea and Japan lead the way offshore with $28.9M and $25.2M, respectively.

Fox’s family comedy Parental Guidance followed in fifth place with an estimated $10.1M, off 30%, raising the cume to $52.8M. Enjoying a similar hold was Tom Cruise’s action title Jack Reacher which slipped 32% to an estimated $9.3M in its third round. Paramount has banked $64.8M to date domestically while 15 new international markets opened this weekend leading to an overseas frame of $22.3M for an international cume of $55.6M and a worldwide tally of $120.4M.

The Judd Apatow comedy This is 40 placed seventh with an estimated $8.6M, down 31%, for a sum of $54.4M thus far. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln spent its eighth straight weekend in the top ten (none at number one) by sliding only 28% to an estimated $5.3M for $143.9M to date for Disney. International openings through Fox will begin soon after it secures its boatload of Oscar nominations this week.

Barbra Steisand’s road comedy The Guilt Trip followed by dropping 31% to an estimated $4.5M giving Paramount $31.2M. The Matt Damon drama Promised Land expanded nationwide after a week in limited release but didn’t find many takers with an estimated $4.3M weekend. Focus averaged a weak $2,573 from 1,676 locations and has collected a measly $4.7M to date. Land had no awards buzz, mixed reviews from critics, heavy competition, and featured a big action star that does not sell well in dramas.

In limited release, Oscar hopeful Zero Dark Thirty expanded from 5 to 60 theaters in major cities and delivered a rock solid performance with an estimated $2.75M weekend and potent $45,833 average. Sony goes fully nationwide on Friday into 2,400+ locations and aims to get extra ammunition for its marketing assault the day before when Academy nods are announced. Total is now $4.5M.

Summit went national with its tsunami drama The Impossible which grossed an estimated $2.8M from 572 sites (up from 15) for a mediocre $4,825 average. Total is just $3.4M. More theaters will be added Friday.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $118.8M which was off 1% from last year when The Devil Inside opened at number one with $33.7M; but up 33% from 2011 when True Grit remained in the top spot with $14.6M.

Alexandra Daddario and Trey Songz, stars of the latest Texas Chainsaw film, share which family members they would kill for, how they stayed in character on set (hint: it involves calisthenics), and which gardening tool they would be most deadly with.

Click here to watch more video interviews

This week at the movies, we’ve got a family in peril (The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor), a town versus a corporation (Promised Land, starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski), and killer with a chainsaw (Texas Chainsaw 3D, starring Alexandra Daddario and Tremaine “Trey Songz” Neverson). What do the critics have to say?

The Impossible

81%

Based upon a true story, The Impossible puts viewers though a ringer, and critics say the film is both visceral and harrowing, despite the occasional attempt at emotional manipulation. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as parents on vacation in Thailand with their three children when a brutal tsunami hits and forces them to fight for their lives. The pundits say the Certified Fresh The Impossible is sometimes a bit too schmaltzy, but it’s ultimately an inspiring, powerful tale of survival.

Promised Land

53%

Promised Land has a prestigious cast (Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, John Krasinski) and a distinguished director (Gus Van Sant), and it tackles a hot-button issue (fracking). Unfortunately, critics say it’s also over-earnest and contains several implausible plot twists. Corporate salesman Steve Butler (Damon) is dispatched to an economically depressed town to secure drilling rights for an energy company. However, he meets resistance from a grassroots effort by local residents. The pundits say Promised Land is both well-acted and well-meaning, but it never quite reconciles its story with its political aims.

Texas Chainsaw 3D

19%

It appears that the folks behind Texas Chainsaw 3D are concerned that their film is way too scary for weak-willed movie critics, since it wasn’t screened prior to its release. Once again, a scary dude named Leatherface is terrifying teenagers deep in the heart of Texas. Hey everybody, time to ring in the new year by playing guess the Tomatometer! (And check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down some memorable 3D horror movies.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • 56 Up, the latest installment of the long-running British documentary series that checks in with its subjects every seven years, is at 100 percent.

  • A Bottle in the Gaza Sea, a drama about a long-distance friendship between an Israeli girl and a Palestinian boy, is at 56 percent.

  • A Dark Truth, starring Andy Garcia and Forest Whitaker in a thriller about an ex-CIA agent who investigates a massacre in South America, is at zero percent.

3D Horror

January is traditionally known as a cinematic graveyard, so it’s only appropriate that our local cineplexes are kicking off 2013 with something as death-obsessed as Texas Chainsaw 3D, the latest chapter in the seemingly never-ending saga of the cannibalistic lunatic Leatherface and his equally depraved family — and the most recent in a growing list of slasher flicks to make use of Hollywood’s on-again, off-again fascination with 3D technology. Of course, we couldn’t help thinking of some previous entries in the genre, and you know what that means — it’s time to Total Recall, 3D horror style!

Amityville 3-D

14%

1982’s Amityville II: The Possession was something of a critical dud, but it still managed to top the box office. The audience’s reward was 1983’s Amityville 3-D, which fast-forwarded past the previous installment’s prequel storyline and completely departed from the original film’s putatively fact-based mythology. This time out, the haunted house at the core of the franchise is purchased by a professional skeptic (Tony Roberts), who (barely) lives to regret his foolish insistence that there isn’t any supernatural funny business afoot on the premises. Also filled with regret: The critics who wrote up Amityville 3-D, including Janet Maslin of the New York Times. “The cast is good,” Maslin reluctantly admitted, “but the characters are idiots.”

The Creature from the Black Lagoon

79%

A classically constructed “damsel in distress” creature feature with the bonus of 3D effects and a slight narrative twist (some of the poor woman’s would-be rescuers are just as repellent as the gilled-and-taloned antagonist), 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon thrilled the audiences of its day — and it remains a favorite for modern scribes like Slant Magazine’s Steve MacFarlane, who credited its director’s sure-handed style for its enduring success: “What distinguished Jack Arnold’s pictures from mutant spinoffs/knockoffs is even more imperative to sci-fi today than it was in 1954: wonderment.”

The Final Destination

27%

The first few installments in the Final Destination series earned a little extra critical love — and no small amount of box office success — thanks to their knack for dispatching their young victims with devilishly ornate, Rube Goldberg-worthy setups. But by the time 2009’s deceptively titled The Final Destination rolled around, not even the addition of 3D effects could rejuvenate the franchise’s fortunes with scribes who were getting tired of watching fresh-faced teens get the axe (and the scythe, and the shower curtain, and the exposed electrical wire, and…). Jake Wilson of the Age cast a dissenting critical opinion, however, arguing that “The characters are crash-test dummies, with dialogue to match. Yet Eric Bress’ script is mockingly self-aware, framing the film as the ultimate example of violence as entertainment.”

Freddy’s Dead – The Final Nightmare

24%

“They saved the best for last,” boasted the tagline for the sixth entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street series — and even if this 1991 slasher did not ultimately live up to its poster’s wishful thinking, give the producers points for trying, as well as for trying to put the proverbial nail in the coffin with what was supposed to be the franchise’s final installment. Of course, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare was just a temporary conclusion for the Freddy Krueger saga, but with a somewhat more sprightly script and some inventive 3D effects, it would have provided a satisfying coda for critics like the Washington Post’s Richard Harrington, who sighed appreciatively, “So long, Freddy, it’s been good to know you.”

Friday the 13th Part 3

7%

A number of horror franchises caught the 3D bug during its re-emergence in the 1980s, but none of them were still as commercially viable as the Friday the 13th movies, which was just hitting its stride when Part 3 slashed its way to the screen in the summer of 1982. The in-your-face effects didn’t help make the movie any more appealing to critics, who were just as dismissive as ever — as Eric D. Snider put it, “It’s in three dimensions, and all of them suck” — but the audiences kept coming, and while Part 3‘s storyline was every bit as formulaic as any other entry in the series, it did boast some of the more inventively filmed 3D effects of the era.

House of Wax

93%

Never mind the Paris Hilton-assisted 2005 remake — for 3D fans as well as horror aficionados, it’s all about 1953’s House of Wax, starring Vincent Price as the demented, wheelchair-bound proprietor of a wax museum whose grand opening coincides with a rise in local graverobbings. Directed by André De Toth (who, ironically, had only one good eye), Wax was the most financially successful of the 3D horror films made during the 1950s, but audiences weren’t alone in loving it; it’s also earned the admiration of critics like the Chicago Reader’s Dave Kehr, who argued, “The effects are done with playfulness, zest, and some imagination (they range from a barker batting paddleballs in your face to a murderer leaping from the row in front of you), making this the most entertaining of the gimmick 3-Ds.”

Jaws 3

11%

Given the titular great white shark’s gruesome demise at the end of Jaws, a sequel seemed narratively unlikely — but box office grosses demanded more aquatic terror, so Jaws II surfaced in 1978. And even though no one from the original cast would agree to come back for more after that, Universal remained interested in more Jaws — to the extent that the studio even briefly entertained a spoof sequel titled Jaws 3, People 0. It sounds ridiculous, but it probably couldn’t have fared much worse than 1983’s Jaws 3-D, which starred Louis Gossett, Jr. as an unscrupulous water park manager whose focus on the bottom line prevents him from understanding that he and his guests are in danger of being swallowed up by — you guessed it — a giant shark. “Put in a baking tray, gas mark 7, and enjoy a turkey,” recommended Time Out’s Derek Adams.

My Bloody Valentine 3-D

61%

Plenty of people dislike Valentine’s Day, but the pickaxe-wielding antagonist of 1981’s My Bloody Valentine took things to the next level — and his gorily irrational hatred of our annual celebration of love made the movie a natural fit for the cheapie horror reboot/remake craze of the aughts, leading to 2009’s enthusiastically brutal My Bloody Valentine 3D. The storyline was essentially the same — small mining town finds itself under attack from a crazed psychopath — but the improved visuals may have given the new-look Valentine a critical boost with scribes like Jeannette Catsoulis of the New York Times, who credited it with blending “cutting-edge technology and old-school prosthetics to produce something both familiar and alien: gore you can believe in.”

My Soul to Take

10%

Wes Craven’s legacy as a horror movie maven is beyond compare, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been responsible for his share of clunkers — and 2010’s My Soul to Take, which found him emerging from a lengthy hiatus to write and direct his first horror film since 1994, is one of the most bitter critical and commercial disappointments of his career. Nonetheless, a few scribes found a dash of redemption in this 3D slasher, which follows the slightly convoluted saga of a killer whose multiple personalities are somehow transported into the souls of premature babies on the night of his murder; as Simon Abrams put it for Slant Magazine, “That Craven is earnestly trying to make an on-the-level, snark-free horror flick signals a welcome sea change in his career.”

Night of the Living Dead 3D

40%

Rather loosely adapted from George Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead 3D was made without official permission or participation from anyone involved with the original — and although it did add a third special-effects dimension, that wasn’t enough for filmgoers, who mostly ignored it, or for the critics who greeted this chapter in the ongoing zombie franchise with almost unanimous disdain. One exception was Luke Y. Thompson of the L.A. Weekly, who enthused, “As a 3-D zombie flick on the big screen, it offers something new and fun: Zombies, breasts and copious joint-passing coming right out of the screen.”

Parasite

15%

A career footnote for Demi Moore, who nabbed her role here just as she was starting out on General Hospital, as well as for slumming effects wizard Stan Winston, the little-seen Parasite helped kick off the early 1980s 3D revival with a breathtakingly silly sci-fi/horror hybrid about a dystopian future (set in 1992!) in which a scientist (Robert Glaudini) unwittingly cultivates a gross parasitic worm with a taste for the human stomach. While it’s become a minor cult favorite in certain circles — Film4 calls it “somewhat of a classic, admittedly for all the wrong reasons” — most critics had no use whatsoever for Parasite, with Time Out’s Geoff Andrew describing it by writing, “Uninspired actors intone a banal script, reduced by clumsy pacing to a minimum of suspense.”

Piranha 3-D

74%

1972’s Joe Dante-directed Piranha is one of the more critically respected entries in the creature feature genre, so when word got out that Alexandre Aja would be restarting the franchise — in 3D, no less — the reaction from many film fans was somewhat less than positive. Happily, 2010’s Piranha 3D turned out to be that rare exploitation flick whose cheerful embrace of cheese yielded surprisingly entertaining results, largely thanks to a wildly eclectic cast that included Christopher Lloyd, Ving Rhames, Jerry O’Connell, and (as Hollywood’s most unlikely sheriff since Suzanne Somers) Elisabeth Shue. Cheerfully shameless in its pursuit of over-the-top gore and gratuitous nudity, it earned thumbs up from critics like Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman, who enthused, “It’s hard to imagine how scenes of mass dismemberment set during a wet T-shirt contest could be staged any better.”

Saw 3D

9%

An annual Halloween tradition for the better part of a decade, the Saw series finally made the jump to 3D with its final (for now) installment, 2010’s Saw 3D. While it would probably be a stretch to say that many Saw fans really felt the franchise was crying out for an added dimension — or, that after six previous chapters, that the markedly grisly series truly needed to continue — the saga concluded with another 92 minutes of death and dismemberment that made the audience feel like it was truly part of the picture. (Hooray?) Perhaps looking forward to the sagging box office fortunes that seem to have put a stop to the series, Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir sighed, “I’m grateful that I (presumably) never have to see any more of these ever again.”

Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Texas Chainsaw 3D.