I’m watching Scream for the 20th time in my life or something close to that. I always listen to something or watch something in the background while writing because my mind can’t seem to focus unless I have something to combat in the background. But this time it’s for a different reason. That amazing meta, self-aware movie calls on some of the most predictable tropes and clichés in horror. My favorite, and the reason why I’m watching it while writing this particular review, is the trope of the “final girl”. There isn’t a moment in this movie where rules aren’t reinforced or at the very least mentioned as a word of caution so that the characters don’t fall into the same traps that people in Slasher movies have been falling into for decades. In the crescendo of the film they’re binge-watching horror movies and explaining the ways to survive a horror film: don’t say “I’ll be right back,” never investigate a strange noise, and above all make sure you retain your virtue. Without purity, you can’t survive the trauma. This is the main quality that defines the “final girl”. She followed the rules and therefore has the “privilege” to survive based on her unspoken moral superiority. Her friends sealed their fates by drinking and having sex. At all moments think, what would Jamie Lee Curtis do and you’ll likely find yourself as the person alive to tell the tale.
This was all true until Wes Craven gave us Scream where we were finally given the opportunity to meet the one “final girl” with the Audacity to survive when she shouldn’t. I emphasize this moment because it hasn’t been since the introduction of that character, Sydney Prescott, that I felt drawn to the idea of strength and resilience being born out of trauma. Lauren Milici has allowed me to be drawn to that idea again in her book of awe-inspiring poetry. It is a succession of short poems that allow us to casually browse glimpses of the inner life of a girl whose fate should be sealed, but so clearly isn’t. They flow like tiny vignettes of darkness. As a reader they made me beg for more information like they were teasers to a larger piece of work. Poems like “Portrait” and “Scene” do this wonderfully. But the reality of it all can’t be ignored. For all the horror and cinematic imagery, these are the visceral words of a legit writer coming to terms with their own identity. With each poem she gives us, a modern archetype for feminism is created.
Trauma and destruction are invoked as attributes that allow our “final girl” to gain strength and Lauren Milici is without a single doubt, that “final girl.” Without the darkness or fucked up experiences, none of these poems would be beautiful or relatable. Milici transforms pain into poetry better than any other writer that’s come to print in this decade. Her words are not moralistic or apologetic. They come from genuine experience and resilience. For all the prescription bottles, blood, sadness, and abandonment Milici describes, she has given us perspective. Moralistic purity does not give us the upper hand when it comes to surviving. Just strength, perseverance, and resilience. A willingness to be hurt but keep going. As Milici says in the last line of her the poem “Crawl”, “I have bled more than this.”
Sadly, the first edition of Final Girl, published by Big Lucks, is sold out but there are rumors of a second print coming soon. To read it now, which I highly recommend, you can get a PDF version from Gumroad.