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51yyfiaCQkL._SL160_“They’ve changed the rules of the fairy tale. Now I’m not just the wicked stepmother. Now I’m the evil queen.”

Here’s another horror movie sequel that is a GU story in its own right: Hellbound (Hellraiser II).

Like the first movie, Kirsty fights both human and otherworldly adversaries. Having been put in an asylum, she must escape the machinations of her evil psychiatrist, who has summoned back her evil stepmother from the Cenobites’ dimension, as well as the Cenobites themselves (led by Pinhead). She is also trying to rescue her father, who may still be trapped there. She is helped by a much saner psychiatrist, and by a fellow patient who has been mute for years. Together they must navigate the labyrinthine (and carnivalesque!) otherworld.

Like many Girls Underground, Kirsty manages to defeat her adversary through clever trickery – however because this is the Hellraiser universe, it involves donning the bloody skin of her stepmother. Ew.

 

41Q-uPsfFsL._SL160_I mentioned Nightmare on Elm Street all too briefly in one of the earliest posts on this blog, and it remains the gold standard in my mind for GU horror movies. But I realized that I should make a separate post for the seventh film of the franchise, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which takes things to another level.

In this “metafilm,” the actors mostly play themselves – the protagonist is Heather Langenkamp, who played Nancy in the original movie. Heather begins to have nightmares about the adversary, Freddy Krueger, coinciding with a pitch to make a new film in the series. Her husband is killed (by Freddy, althoug she doesn’t know it yet) and her son begins to exhibit strange behavior, and is unwilling to sleep because he is afraid of Freddy. So therefore Heather falls into the common adult GU role of having to rescue her child from the adversary.

The theory in this film is that there is a real evil spirit who predated Freddy but was sort of “captured” by the character… and then released into the real world when the series ended, still embodying the famous Freddy Krueger and still coming after his old prey by attacking the actress who played her. There is a sort of “betrayal by a companion” when one of Heather’s co-stars (who played her father and still acts as a father figure to her) is sort of possessed and becomes his character, instead of helping her.

Freddy takes Heather’s son to his realm in the otherworld, and she follows, going underground to his lair. In the end, she manages to defeat him for good. After returning to the real world, she finds a screenplay detailing everything that’s happened, including her defeat of the adversary, which she reads aloud to her son.

Aside from being a solid version of the GU horror trope, this is also a striking and somewhat chilling example of The Power of Story. Additionally, it’s interesting to note that Craven shows the evil entity behind Freddy was also the one behind the witch in Hansel & Gretel, another GU connection.

51u68zdhqQL._SL160_At the Devil’s Door is a fairly mediocre horror movie but with an honorable-mention level GU plot. You might think that the first character you meet, a teenage girl, is the Girl Underground, but it’s a bit more complicated. This girl is tricked into letting the devil take over her body, but the adversary hardly stops there.

Fast forward a couple decades, and there’s a real estate agent showing a house, when she sees the first girl in the hallway, and thinks it’s the missing daughter of the house’s owners. After finding out that the girl she’s seen is actually the first girl, the one who supposedly committed suicide in the house in the 80’s, the real estate agent confronts the devil-possessed girl and is killed. Another potential Girl bites the dust.

The real Girl Underground here is the agent’s sister Vera, who begins to uncover the story behind these events. She finds out that Hannah (the first girl) was pregnant when she died, although a virgin. Apparently the devil has been trying to bring forth a supernatural child to inhabit. Vera confronts the devil but is thrown out a window and goes into a coma for eight months, after which she discovers she is about to give birth to a baby. Vera is understandably freaked out, and gives the baby up for adoption.

Six years later, Vera decides to find her daughter, presumably possessed by the devil, and kill her. She confronts the little girl, who technically doesn’t confirm anything but acts creepy enough that you know she’s right. But Vera cannot bring herself to kill her, and so she takes the girl with her instead. This suggests another “girl loses” version of the archetype, which seems to mostly be present in the horror genre.

41QC-u7HTUL._SL160_I just watched Mr. Frost for the first time – somehow I missed this 1990 gem with Jeff Goldblum, who I love, and had to track it down on Youtube. Partway through it occurred to me that it was probably a GU story (which it is, although I’m only considering it an Honorable Mention since it’s missing a lot of the finer details).

Mr. Frost is clearly the adversary, a man who may or may not be the devil himself. He volunteers a confession to some brutal murders but then immediately falls silent, and is eventually put in a mental asylum, where he meets Dr. Sarah Day. Frost will only speak to Day, and tells her that he plans to goad her into killing him. She treats him like a mental patient, obviously, even though the detective who arrested him (her companion in this sense) keeps warning her that Frost is truly evil.

After several displays of his power, Day is gradually convinced that Frost is indeed the devil and that she must murder him to save others. But when she does, it appears to open the door in turn for her to become possessed by the devil. While she “wins” in the sense of defeating the adversary, she ultimately loses – like some other thriller/horror GU stories, such as The DarkIn Dreams and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.

51CJC31Y6HL._SL160_Wishmaster is another horror movie GU entry where the protagonist is a woman rather than a girl or teenager, and the adversary is some kind of demon or killer. It’s amazing how many of these there are!

Alexandra is an appraiser who is given an extraordinary gem to examine, which turns out to hold a djinn (a malevolent spirit), now released accidentally by some kind of spectral analysis. The djinn always tries to get the person who awakens him to make three wishes, upon which the door will open to his world and all the other djinn can come through. He takes the form of a man he has killed and starts hunting Alex, who has visions of the people he torments along the way. All of the people who assist her (companions) are eventually killed. At one point, she journeys to his lair inside the gem, which although not technically underground, certainly gives that impression. She also returns home at one point (due to a wish). Toward the end, she must rescue a family member – her sister, who the djinn has captured. Eventually there is a final confrontation, and Alex makes a very clever third wish and defeats the djinn.

517LG7B6X8L._SL160_“Stop opening doors that are meant to be closed.”

Haunter, directed by Vincenzo Natali, is a bit of a twist on the haunted house trope, as the girl being haunted is already dead. Lisa, one day shy of her 16th birthday, has been repeating the same day over and over again with her family, unable to leave her house, unable to convince her parents of what’s really happening. She begins to make a connection with the living girl currently inhabiting the house. She is also terrorized by a dark spirit, a man who doesn’t want her to be “awake” (to know she is dead). And her surroundings are becoming increasingly ominous, as her father begins to act violently, and Lisa finds a door in the basement leading to a secret underground tunnel.

Eventually Lisa begins to discover the true history of the house, and the nature of the evil spirit who, as a living man, killed his family, and has been causing deaths there ever since through possession. With the help of the spirits of the other girls who died, and the currently living girl, Lisa faces off against the killer, and breaks her own cycle of repeating days, free to move on at last.

513UydbkTyL._SL160_They, directed by Robert Harmon, begins with the night terrors of a small boy named Billy in 1983, but quickly fast-forwards to the present day and focuses on Julia, a graduate psychology student who was close friends with Billy and also experienced night terrors as a child. When he comes to her ranting about a vague “they” who are after him (and have been since his childhood), and then kills himself in front of her, Julia is thrust into a nightmare of her own.

She meets other friends of Billy who all had night terrors as children. All start showing strange marks on their bodies that seem to indicate they are about to be collected by the creatures who dwell in the dark. As Julia goes from skeptical to downright scared, she is betrayed by her other companion, her boyfriend, who believes she is simply crazy and tries to drug her so she will sleep. Julia escapes alone underground to the subway, where she seems to be attacked by the creatures, but then is seen to be fighting off normal people who are trying to calm her down.

She ends up in a mental institution, where she is quickly taken by the creatures to their otherworld, unseen by those trying to help her.

This is really only an Honorable Mention, since Julia doesn’t really do anything to propel her into the adventure, nor is there a singular adversary or any kind of real stand-off between her and her demons. However, it follows the plot enough to be worth mentioning here, especially as it’s yet another horror genre example.

The Caller, directed by Matthew Parkhill, is one of the most original and disturbing horror movies I have seen in a long time. It is also a decent example of a Girls Underground story.

Mary is going through an antagonistic divorce from her violent husband. She moves into a new apartment, and soon begins receiving phone calls from a mysterious woman. At first she assumes it’s just a wrong number. But she soon realizes that the woman is somehow calling from the past, and had lived in that same apartment many years ago (in fact, she killed herself there). While Mary’s ex may seem the more immediate threat (as he is still stalking her), it is actually the woman, Rose, who becomes a terrifying adversary. She is clearly unhinged, and when feeling ignored or rejected, quickly figures out horrifying ways to manipulate Mary, even separated by time.

Mary’s few companions are picked off one by one, and this is made even more terrible by the fact that to the rest of the world, they never even existed (since the only way Rose can effect things is in her own time, thereby changing the present for Mary). How do you stop an adversary you can’t even physically connect with? One that died before you ever met them?

When Rose threatens Mary by hurting her as a child in the past, Mary ends up in the common GU scenario of trying to rescue a child – but this time, it’s her own self. Her final confrontation involves both her past and present selves simultaneously, and is quite gripping.

My little obsession here has caused me to read many a book, and watch many a film, that I didn’t particularly like but fit the archetype too perfectly to ignore. (As a side note, I may have to stop doing that and raise my standards a bit now that every other YA novel is some kind of Twilight-y knockoff featuring a dark, sinister male lead that the girl falls for but is scared of – something that seems to fit the story but really just skims the surface – and they are all too awful to read.)

Resident Evil was not a very good movie (perhaps it was a better video game?), not even very scary for a “horror” movie, but it is indeed a Girls Underground story. And they seem to know this, as they use Alice in Wonderland references – the main character is Alice and the artificial intelligence that appears at first as a nemesis is called The Red Queen (manifesting as a little girl, since we all know little girls can be creepy).

Alice begins the story already forgetting herself, and is quickly transported underground to a place called the Hive, where she slowly regains her memories as her companions are killed off one by one by zombies – zombies that were created by a virus that was being stolen, something it turns out Alice is partially responsible for. When it is shown that the Red Queen was really trying to contain the virus (even if it killed everyone inside as a result), the focus shifts to a mutated monster as the main adversary, which they eventually kill. Along the way, Alice is betrayed by one of her companions (a common theme) and ends up trying to save another.

I don’t know if the many sequels continue the Girls Underground theme, but I just can’t bring myself to sit down and watch any of them.

With what has to be my least favorite title ever for a Girls Underground example (though its alternate title, “Beyond the Door III” is somewhat better), Amok Train nonetheless was a rather interesting movie with some good imagery. Horror genre, of course, as most GU movies (that aren’t children’s animation) tend to be.

Beverly, a college student (horror heroine Girls Underground usually are a bit older than the fantasy-novel types), goes on a class trip to Serbia to see a passion play with heavy pagan undertones. Just as she leaves, unbeknownst to her, her mother is killed in a car crash (making her the typical orphan). The professor guiding the students quickly reveals himself to be her adversary (or more accurately, the primary henchman of the true adversary, who is much bigger and scarier but who we don’t see until the end). He goes after the whole group of kids (her default companions, although they don’t like her), most of whom (Beverly included) escape on a train, but all of whom begin to be picked off one by one as the film goes on.

Beverly is helped along the way by the train conductor, and eventually a mysterious piper who plays his music amidst the calamity. It is revealed that she was always the target, the purpose for the whole trip in fact – she has a birthmark which designates her as fit to be the virgin sacrifice to the devil, and now the villagers are eager to use her in their ritual. Eventually, on a runaway train with no crew or companions left, Beverly returns to the village and acquiesces to the ritual, piquing the adversary’s interest. She appears to have been won over to the dark side, but taking a page from Lily’s playbook (in Legend), it is just a ruse, and Beverly waits until the ritual climax to reveal her true intentions, and why she is no longer a fitting sacrifice, thereby ruining the devil’s plans.

An exploration of story…

In which I describe examples of the Girls Underground archetype that I have discovered in literature and film. For more information regarding the concept, including its earlier incarnations in fairytales and mythology, visit the pages linked above. Here is a list of all the examples I have covered thus far.

The Oracle


THE GIRLS UNDERGROUND STORY ORACLE - tapping into the Power of Story for guidance and insight. Learn more here.

Alice Days

Celebrate one of the primary inspirations for Girls Underground - Alice in Wonderland - with a holiday down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass! Check out the Alice Days page for party ideas, movie recommendations, and more.

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