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Final girls who didn't survive the horror movie

Horror films come with their own set of tropes, and one of the most popular over the years has become that of "the final girl" who fights an external threat and most of the time defeats it, setting the world back to rights. Embodied by such iconic characters as Laurie Strode of Halloween, Sidney Prescott of Scream, and Nancy Thompson of Nightmare on Elm Street, final girls are usually regular women who find themselves tested on their worst day(s) ever, who are forced to dig deep into stores of physical and emotional strength in order to survive. 

But because horror is a genre that tests the limits of its characters, there are rare cases where the expected final girl doesn't in fact make it through her ordeal. Whether we're dealing with serial killers, curses, monsters, or wild animals, when the woman we've been rooting for is knocked off unexpectedly, it packs a particularly devastating punch. Sometimes they're killed by the force they're battling, and sometimes they take their own lives because of the trauma they've survived. With nobody's lives assured safe in these disturbing films, here are the final girls who didn't survive their horror movie. 

Warning — major spoilers ahead.

Kristy never leaves Wolf Creek

Set in the desolation of Australia's Outback, Liz and Kristy are British backpackers on a tour of the land down under. After connecting with a local hottie, Ben, the trio buy a used car and hit some of Oz's stranger locations, like Wolf Creek National Park, the site of an enormous crater formed where a meteor once hit the Earth. The spooky location that boasts possible alien landings and ghostly happenings gets even creepier when the three find themselves in a cellphone dead zone, and their car won't start. Like a knight in a dusty pickup truck, Mick Taylor appears and just happens to own a car repair shop ... or so he says. 

In fact, Mick is a brutal serial rapist and killer who proceeds to torture the three travelers one by one, eventually killing Liz. Surviving the unimaginable, Kristy makes a break for it  and gets to the road, and we think she's saved. But Mick foils her escape, murdering her and the motorist who stopped to help. Ben ends Wolf Creek as a rare final boy, even though authorities continue to suspect that he killed the two British tourists. This is a dark ending to a gruesome chiller indeed.

Heather goes missing in The Blair Witch Project

In the film that kicked off the found-footage horror craze, The Blair Witch Project, three young filmmakers go into the Maryland woods to explore the haunting legend of the Blair Witch. Heather, Josh, and Mike at first approach their documentary with the requisite skepticism of auteurs who would like to be as objective as possible with their subject matter. That is, until they start finding strange things in the woods like intentionally placed piles of rocks and stick figures hanging from trees. Things get worse when Mike throws away their map because he doesn't know how to read it, and the three find themselves going impossibly in circles. 

After Josh disappears and Heather finds what might be the bloody stumps of his teeth, she and Mike come across the cabin of Rustin Parr, a serial killer who kidnapped and murdered children decades before with a particular modus operandi involving putting one child in the corner while killing another. It's this image of Mike facing the walls, accompanied by Heather's chilling screams, that ends the film ... where we also find out the three were never seen again.

Things get incredibly grim for the final girl in The Lords of Salem

After Salem radio DJ Heidi receives a strange album at work addressed to her and reading only "the Lords" on the elaborate wooden packaging, she's quite intrigued. But after listening to the record, Heidi begins to feel sick and has horrible visions of demon babies and twisted witches. However, her bad feeling about the record doesn't stop her from playing it at work, and soon enough, a number of women around town start having similar reactions to the ominous music.

Eventually, we discover that hundreds of years prior, one Reverend Hawthorne executed a huge group of women who he claimed were Satanists trying to corrupt the good folks of Salem. And before dying, the group's leader, Margaret Morgan, laid upon a him a generational curse that includes his DJ descendant, Heidi. 

As the Morgan curse infects all of Hawthorne's female descendants in Salem, Heidi relapses into drug addiction. And soon enough, we're witnessing a lavish fever dream taking place in a local movie house, where the original witches return to spark a mass suicide attempt that takes the life of beautiful and sad Heidi ... who's now the mother of the Antichrist.

Eden Lake is hardly paradise

All Jenny and Steve want is a quiet weekend of lakeside camping in the English countryside, where Steve is planning to propose to his long-time girlfriend. Their peaceful time is quickly ruined when a gang of teenage hooligans set up camp just up the beach from them, playing loud music and being obnoxious. Thinking this is a straightforward gang of young but harmless thugs, Steve asks them to chill, but by the next day, Steve's car is trashed, and many of their belongings — including wallets and phones — have been stolen. 

Eden Lake escalates into chaos quickly after gang leader Brett's dog is accidentally killed, leading the thug to have a massive psychotic break and to start torturing Steve and even his own friends, leaving a surprisingly large body count scattered about the woods. Sweet schoolteacher Jenny manages to survive the ordeal and find a house in the woods where she can call for help, only to discover that it's the home of Brett's family, and they're even more depraved than him. Jenny doesn't survive, and we never find out if anyone knows she might be missing, let alone brutally tortured, murdered, and dumped in the woods.

The Orphanage ends on a haunting note

After adopting an HIV-positive son named Simón, Laura and her husband, Carlos, decide to buy the orphanage where Laura was raised and turn it into a home for disabled and ill kids like her child. As they get the space prepared for their grand opening and Laura is haunted by the memories of the children she once knew here, Simón goes missing without a trace, throwing Laura's life and marriage into disarray. At the same time, Laura discovers that just after she lived there, a horrific tragedy occurred that began with the unintentional death of an orphan with a severe facial deformity and resulted in his mother murdering all the children she believed to be responsible, burying them on the property where their ghosts continued to roam. 

Worse, when Laura discovers that she was actually responsible for Simón's disappearance and subsequent death by accidentally locking him in the basement where he fell and broke his neck, she kills herself in grief. While Laura did die in The Orphanage, by the end, we see her ghost caring for all the children still trapped there, giving this a melancholy twist on a final girl who doesn't survive her own movie.

Candyman's final girl lives on ... in legends

As sociologist Helen Lyle investigates the myth of "the Candyman," an enigmatic and murderous figure with a hook for a hand who's said to haunt the Cabrini-Green neighborhood of Chicago, she finds herself sucked into the vortex of the legend on many levels. First, Helen is brutally attacked by a Candyman copycat, only to later end up invoking the real one by saying his name five times into a mirror. Helen also discovers that the Candyman was originally Daniel Robitaille, a Black artist who was lynched in the 1800s for the crime of falling in love with and impregnating a white woman who looks exactly like Helen. 

As Helen is confronted over and over again by the real Candyman, he implores her to be his victim before kidnapping a baby he plans to sacrifice. To save the child, Helen eventually gives herself to the Candyman's fires and dies. After Helen's untimely death, her guilt-stricken husband says her name five times in the mirror, and she appears, killing him with a hook. A rare final girl who dies in her own film, Helen continues to exist as a ghost, subsumed into the Candyman mythology.

The final girl in Drag Me to Hell gets, well, dragged to Hell

Christine is a sweet bank loan officer who's just so nice that she can't get promoted over smarmy Stu, whose lack of principles is often lauded by the bank manager. One day, an elderly woman named Sylvia Ganush finds herself at Christine's desk, desperately in need of a mortgage extension so as not to lose her home. Needing a win in the eyes of her boss, Christine denies the loan but gets the promotion, causing a furious Mrs. Ganush to place a curse on her through the talisman of a button. 

When Christine's life quickly starts going off the rails, she finds out that a demonic Lamia spirit is after her, and she has three days to return the button to the person who gave it. The problem is, Mrs. Ganush died of stress. As a result, Christine goes through an entire ringer to break the curse, only to find in the last few moments of Drag Me to Hell that she's failed, and the Lamia arrives to pull her down into the depths of Hell, leaving her adorable fiance holding the cursed object. Will he be reunited with Christine down under in a matter of days? We never find out. 

Kana's fate is very messed up in Hostel

In Hostel, Josh and Paxton are Americans backpacking across Europe with their new friend, Oli, when they make an unexpected detour from Amsterdam to Bratislava after hearing about a hostel with many readily available Slovakian babes. After a night of wild partying, Oli doesn't turn back up, and neither does Yuki, a Japanese tourist who seemingly abandoned her non-English-speaking friend Kana. 

As Kana tries to find out what happened to Yuki, Josh and Paxton continue partying only for Josh to wake up in a torture chamber, and Paxton's similar fate soon follows. We see that both Oli and Yuki have been murdered by parties unknown, and as Paxton attempts his escape, he also manages to rescue Kana, whose eye and face has been badly burned by a member of the Elite Hunting Club, an international organization that kidnaps young tourists and auctions their deaths to the highest bidder. 

While badly wounded, Paxton and Kana make it to the train station and their freedom ... but when Kana sees the destruction that her purchaser made to her face, she throws herself in front of the oncoming train. In a film filled with so much gore and brutality, Kana's choice makes Hostel even more disturbing.

Open Water isn't open-ended

Daniel and Susan's relationship has been on the rocks for a while, so the two decide to take a romantic getaway to the Bahamas so they can reconnect. Everything goes great at first, with fun in the sun, food, and scuba diving. That is, until Daniel and Susan accidentally get left behind in the open water thanks to the boat captain miscounting the tourists on board. 

By the time they realize that nobody is coming for them, and having no idea how far they've drifted (or even in which direction), their situation gets even more dire as they spot a cadre of sharks below the surface, waiting for the right moment to attack. Filmed with real sharks actually out on the water, Open Water is minimalist horror at its finest and most grim when Daniel succumbs to his shark bite injuries and is ultimately devoured. Worse, once Susan realizes she's not going to make it, she preempts a shark attack and drowns herself in this extremely haunting film.

Denise becomes yet another body in House of 1000 Corpses

Rob Zombie's kinetic House of 1000 Corpses begins benignly enough, with a group of youngsters hitting America's backroads as they research a book they're writing on hidden roadside attractions. At Captain Spaulding's Museum of Monsters and Madmen, they hear a legend about Dr. Satan, a local weirdo who was hanged for all kinds of heinous misdeeds, including kidnapping, torture, and murder. On their way toward the tree where Dr. Satan was hanged, they pick up a beautiful hitchhiker named Baby who lives nearby, and thanks to Baby's charms, it's not long before the entire group has been set upon by her deranged family, the Fireflys. 

One by one, the group is dismembered and enfolded into the Fireflys' gruesome murder tableaus in and around their house. Our final girl here is Denise, who goes through a violent whirlwind but still manages to escape, only to be picked up by Captain Spaulding, not knowing he's the patriarch of the Firefly family or that Dr. Satan lives in their basement. This dark montage ends with Denise back on the Firefly slab, the newest addition to their carnival of carnage.

Funny Games breaks the fourth wall and its final girl

It's rare for a director to remake their own movie, and both versions of Michael Haneke's Funny Games are quietly terrifying. The 1997 version is in German and set at a modest Austrian lakeside cabin, whereas the 2007 version is in English and set in an opulent American lakeside community. The character names are essentially the same, though, as Ann/Anna, George, and their son Georgie are terrorized by two seemingly polite young men named Peter and Paul. 

From brutally murdering their dog and breaking George's kneecap to sexually assaulting Ann/Anna, Peter and Paul's game gets increasingly sadistic as they test the boundaries of what the survivors will do to make it until 9 AM the next morning, when they'll be set free. In both harrowing versions of Funny Games, Ann/Anna escape and comes so incredibly close to getting away. But alas, this fourth-wall breaking movie sees her unceremoniously pushed out of a boat with her hands and legs bound just minutes before the clock strikes 9, left in the middle of the lake not just to drown, but to likely never be found, either.

The Cabin in the Woods ends with an apocalyptic bang

Of course Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's 2012 meta-commentary on the horror genre, The Cabin in the Woods, would feature a situation where our intrepid final girl doesn't end up surviving the movie. But in her defense, nobody survives this one, which makes it a standalone film altogether, even as it's so enmeshed in horror tropes and commentary. 

The film follows a group of friends to a relative's cabin in the woods, only it turns out the site is a ruse, and the college students are being manipulated by an underground group that organizes human sacrifices. The metaphorical virgin sacrifice, Dana, is run through a gauntlet with the goal of killing her last so that the ritual can be completed (but if she survives, that's okay so long as she's the last one alive). However, Dana and Marty — the "fool" who's really a final boy — have other plans ... that end up getting them killed and bringing back a race of god-monsters who destroy the Earth. This might've been the one time in horror movie history where our final girl actually needed to die much earlier for the sake of humanity, making it all the more ironic an ending.

Dawn of the Dead is pretty downbeat

While inspired by George Romero's 1979 Dawn of the Dead, Zack Snyder's 2004 version updates the story and gives its ending a suitably apocalyptic overhaul as we follow a group of survivors trapped in a shopping mall as they try to escape a zombie horde. Unlike most other horror movies, Dawn of the Dead has an enormous ensemble cast of familiar faces like Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Pfeiffer, and Ty Burrell, making it all the more shocking as these potential survivors are killed by zombies (and sometimes other humans) one by one. 

By the end, we have a whopping five survivors, including two women, Nicole and Ana. Who will the final girl be? Ana was our entrance point to this story so we could presume it's her. But as it turns out, neither woman survives. We see found-footage of their boat landing on what should've been a safe space, only the group gets attacked by new hordes of undead so quickly that there was never a chance for escape.

The final girl gets devoured in Deep Blue Sea

Horror movie scientists often start with the best of intentions. For example, in 1999's Deep Blue Sea, researchers are experimenting on mako sharks in the hopes that their findings will help create a cure for Alzheimer's. But as is always the case in a horror movie, these good intentions go terribly wrong when it turns out that the scientists fiddled with the sharks' brain capacity, making them far more intelligent and exponentially more deadly than normal. 

As the sharks manipulate everyone at the research facility and feed on the scientists one at a time, it's up to the core team of Susan and Carter to find a way to stop them. But unfortunately, after Susan's "Ripley moment" in white underwear while confronting the sharks to try and save her research, her creations devour her before she can stop them. This final girl's death by genetically engineered sharks leaves Carter and Preacher to finish the job, and — in a nice nod to Jaws — it makes them the two final boys to close the movie as they swim for help.

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