As I’ve shown before, I take my horror movies pretty seriously, and I am especially concerned with the portrayal of the characters therein. One of the most important characters in a horror movie is the protagonist who will end up in the final confrontation with the killer. Because this character is almost always female, we call this character the Final Girl.
But what does the term “Final Girl” imply? She is the last one left alive. This doesn’t really imply any level of strength or skill on her part, merely that she has kept breathing longer than the rest of the victims. We also have our protagonist referred to as “girl”, despite the fact that she is most likely a legal adult, which puts her in a position of immaturity and weakness. The title doesn’t even really state that she will triumph over her adversary and still be alive at the end of the movie; it simply says that she is the last in a line of victims.
A less-used term, however, is that of the Horror Heroine. There’s not even a TVTropes page for such a character; she’s that rare. This term implies much more agency in the character. This is not someone who simply does not die; this is someone who is victorious over her adversaries. The reason this term is less common is probably because this character is less common. It’s very easy to make a Final Girl: she simply has to be female and survive between 85-100% of the movie. A Horror Heroine, however, has to be an actual character with strength and determination.
Below the cut I’ve compiled a list of some of the characteristics of each archetype and a few noteworthy examples of each.