Book Review: ‘I Am Not Your Final Girl’ by Claire C. Holland

Book Description from Amazon:
From Claire C. Holland, a timely collection of poetry that follows the final girl of slasher cinema – the girl who survives until the end – on a journey of retribution and reclamation. From the white picket fences of 1970s Haddonfield to the apocalyptic end of the world, Holland confronts the role of women in relation to subjects including feminism, sexuality, violence, and healing in the world of Trump and the MeToo movement. Each poem centers on a fictional character from horror cinema, and explores the many ways in which women find empowerment through their own perceived monstrousness.

I Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire C. Holland is not your typical book of poems. It is a book that could be easily at home not only in the poetry section of your local book store, but the gender studies, film studies, or inspirational sections. In the poems inside this slim but effective book, our favourite cinematic final girls have their say. I Am Not Your Final Girl has no qualms about putting the issues that they face front and center. These issues range from body autonomy to sexual assault, and will make you want to re-examine some classic horror films.

What I really appreciated about this collection is that there is no beating around the bush. A lot of the issues that are brought forward are issues that as movie audiences, we spend hours deciphering and bringing to the forefront. For instance, in Rosemary’s Baby, Rosemary experiences a rape. It is obviously rape, and her husband and everyone around her just try to make her feel like she is crazy. Her own doctor calls her husband and tells her what is happening when she has gone to him in confidence. It’s hard to believe even today, but it was not so long ago that this was not only commonplace, but acceptable. Rosemary Woodhouse is the epitome of a woman’s lack of body autonomy.

However, watching the movie, this is the secondary story. It is buried under the main story for many viewers. But for many women watching, this idea that she has had zero control over this pregnancy, from the intercourse that led to conception, to medications taken during her first months, to her doctors turning on her, to her husband essentially bargaining her body away for personal gain. This is a terrifying scenario for most women, but aside from film analysis, it is not something that is readily discussed or even remembered. What people remember most about the film is “demon baby,” but that shouldn’t have been the scary part.

This collection of poems puts the issues right in our faces. And not only does it do an amazing job of pinpointing these issues and screaming them out, it manages to keep the focus strictly on how the final girl must feel about them. Horror, while amazing at giving female characters a voice and a strength that they don’t often have in other genres, is also notorious for telling the audience how the lead must feel through a male perspective. I Am Not Your Final Girl acknowledges this truth by putting the focus on the internal thoughts of characters that we already know and love.

A pleasant surprise for me in picking up this little volume was the fact that I was expecting the more traditional view of a final girl, and was expecting characters from mostly slasher movies. Instead, what I got as a horror fan was strong female voices from everything from slashers to possession movies to supernatural phenomenon to werewolves. In the process, I cam across some characters from films that I was not aware of, and plenty of hidden gems mixed in with the more mainstream. Our old pals Laurie and Rosemary were there, but they were alongside the lesser known Francisca from The Eyes of My Mother, and Elsa from Splice.

This book really encompasses the rage that has emerged with the Me Too movement. It’s almost like a battlecry. The poems are short, so there is no holding back. Some of these films are from the 60s and 70s, and the poems that encapsulate them here are still relatable today. Not only does this book shine a light on and show immense respect to the feeling of some of our favourite horror heroines, it shows just how long womankind has struggled with these types of issues within society, and that even though strides have been made, there is still a long way to go.

I Am Not Your Final Girl is a must read for horror fans, poetry fans, or those seeking to understand the frustration and anger that has arisen for many women following Me Too.

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