In movie parlance, the term “final girl” refers to the surviving heroine of a horror movie: the last woman left standing to face the menace that has dismembered, eaten, possessed or cocooned her fellow characters. Like Laurie Strode in “Halloween," Nancy Thompson in “A Nightmare on Elm Street" or Ripley in “Alien," the “final girl” is the lone survivor and audience surrogate in our harrowing cinematic encounters with monsters.
The local podcast “Not Your Final Girl” name-checks the trope, which it explores as part of the hosts' discussion of the horror genre from a female perspective.
“Gaby was definitely the one that said, ‘We need a podcast,’” Ariel Dyer said of Gabriela Castellanos with whom she hosts the show along with Candace Sluder. “We would have conversations about horror, the three of us, and we kind of bonded because women do like horror, but I think it’s just harder to find female fans. Once you find them, it’s pretty exciting.
The podcast takes its name from the book “I Am Not Your Final Girl,” a collection of poetry by Claire C. Holland written from the perspective of the final girl.
Dyer spotted the book while working as a library associate at the Beale Memorial Library. Obtaining the author’s blessing, the trio adapted the title for their podcast, which debuted right before Halloween.
Their latest episode, “Slashin’ like it’s 1981,” features guest host Corinna Juarez, a bartender at Tiki-Ko, where she runs an annual horror trivia event, and founder of Coven Crawl, a local witch-themed pub crawl. Earlier episodes focus on conversations among the three women, and the podcast has evolved quite a bit from a slightly choppy start.
These three know their horror in a variety of mediums (ba dum tss!). Some words of caution to listeners: The conversations are unfiltered and candid, so anyone with an aversion to profanity should beware. Also, it helps if the listener already has a working knowledge of the horror films and shows; otherwise following along will be a bit overwhelming for anyone who doesn’t know who Tom Savini is.
I grew up an avid horror movie fan, so I understand the roller-coaster appeal this genre has for people. It's about confronting the darker aspects that scare us from a safe place and helping us examine our demons — almost literally sometimes — from a perspective where we can almost learn from them.
But when movies pale in comparison to the horrors that are happening in real life, what cold comfort can the genre still provide? As the hosts themselves discussed on a recent podcast when Castellanos recommended watching a particular slasher film with a group of people only to be sadly rebuffed with the realization that we can’t, at least not in the way we used to. When the horrors of hard reality handily overshadow the fictional ones, it’s rough and sadly profound.
“Our next episode (out Monday) is about comfort horror, which seems oxymoronic — at least for people that aren’t horror fans,” said Dyer. “We talk about why you could draw comfort from horror when stressed or anxious. For each of us it’s actually pretty different.”
“Candace talks about ‘bleak horror.’ She really wants some stuff that takes her to dark places, and for me I want to turn on Turner Classic Movies and watch black-and-white horror movies. It’s an interesting concept, especially right now.”
From its first episode, “Not Your Final Girl” reminds me of flipping channels and resting on a conversation already in progress that sucks you in. Additionally the theme song, “Under Your Skin,” written and performed by Dyer on ukulele over a scratchy record hiss, is pretty darn neat.
“I think we’re still figuring out who is listening and who kind of needs this podcast," Dyer said. “One thing that I didn’t anticipate is we’ve had women listen who have never felt like they could enjoy horror. They never really felt like it was for them. Now they’re watching. They’ll watch what we talk about and they feel like they can.”
Due to social distancing, the three hosts are connecting now on Zoom to speak with each other, but what could be detrimental actually works to their advantage since it’s easier to identify each of the speakers as they talk. Previous episodes are available to stream and download wherever podcasts are found and should be available on YouTube in the near future, making it even easier to identify them.
And tune in on Friday with a Netflix viewing party of 2012's "Would You Rather" at 7 p.m. The Cinema Macabre event is in partnership with the Kern County Library and Phantom Stranger Inc. Visit the “NYFG" Facebook page for more details.
LIGHTNING WITHOUT A BOTTLE
It almost escaped my attention that this weekend was the scheduled date for this year’s Lighting in a Bottle event. Heck, I almost forgot it was Memorial Day weekend (ba dum tss! again). Our new collective time warp is real.
After visiting last year’s Lightning in a Bottle, it was easy to see why it's considered a “transformative” experience. An oasis of life and color turned the Buena Vista campground into a vibrant mini city of lights, surrounded by art, music and food. It was its own community, ranging from verdant serenity and a Thunderdome rave to a giant concert stage and a literal roller rink, disco ball and all.
Noelia Citialin, a tenured nursing professor at Bakersfield College, has been going to Lightning in a Bottle since its inception and even donated to the GoFundMe campaign to help keep the event alive. To her, its spirit isn’t in the event itself, but in what it brings out in people.
“With LIB in particular, it focuses on helping you improve yourself and what you do for yourself and for others,” Citialin said. “That is something, honestly, that we should always remember and not just when we’re at the festival. It’s something that we should keep with us no matter what.”
Just because the festival is canceled this year doesn't mean there's no fun for Citialin, who has been sheltering at home with husband Josex and their son, Lucier, who recently turned 9.
“That’s actually a good thing to do, is remember what mood we would be in if we were there. What would we be doing? We still have dance parties in the living room. We get dressed up in the house, Josex brought out the speakers and we dance and have fun, so, no doubt, we’ll be doing that anyway.”