To celebrate Women in Horror Month, I will be highlighting some of my favorite undersung female characters in horror films each day this month. These posts will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movies mentioned, do yourself a solid and check them out before reading all the way through.
Today I’m celebrating Megan Garris AND Paula Mott from the 1986 Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Because nothing says respecting women as individuals quite as much as lumping two together, (Honestly, I had to fight the urge to include Sissy Baker as well!). But I think it makes more sense to celebrate these particular women in one post because their characters are undersung in part because of the way they contrast one another. This is one of the first major slashers I’ve seen where the “final girl” is a rebellious and sexually-forward “bad girl”, and the obvious final girl character is a red herring.
Paula and Megan are both camp counselors at the newly opened Camp Forest Green. Jason’s infamy has grown so great that Crystal Lake has literally changed its name to Forest Green in an attempt to escape the past.
Paula is a bit quiet, cautious, and thoughtful. She is the main camp counselor to express concern over their supervisors (one of which is her sister) not arriving on time, and insists that something seems wrong. It might seem that Paula is uptight from this description, but she isn’t portrayed that way. Later in the evening, she plays a card game called “Camp Blood” with fellow counselor Sissy.
Because this is the first movie where there are actually children at the camp, one sees Jason through her window and grows distressed. Paula patiently calms the girl, and helps her get back to sleep a second time after her and Sissy put the kids to bed together.
All of this paints Paula as a clearcut final girl, but she does show one fault. She sees Sissy pulled out from a cabin window, and assumes Sissy and another counselor are playing a prank on her…that involves a pretend abduction and no laughter?
Later, Paula is brutally killed by Jason off-screen. The kill is clearly vicious because her room is drenched in blood afterwards – indicating an incredibly cruel death for a character who seemingly did not deserve such a cruel fate.
Megan on the other hand, is a “bad girl” right from her introduction, but ends up being the “final girl” of the film. I use quotations for the former because nothing she actually does in the film is bad by non-80s slasher standards in context of the film, and for the later because Tommy Jarvis is once again the final boy of the film. But defeating Jason is a team effort, and Megan is certainly situated by 80s slasher tropes as the final girl in this particular outing in the series.
Megan is the only character who believes Tommy Jarvis’s story of Jason’s implausible resurrection. In part because she definitely wants to get with him. She has a daring car chase with the local police force (of which her dad is the sheriff), while having Tommy duck down for concealment. The movie indicates this puts him at eye level with her crotch, which both of them seem to appreciate. When his head bounces a bit near her lap as she sees a turnoff she wants to go for while being chased, she comments “that’s what I want.”
Later, Megan helps Tommy get out of his jail cell and puts her dad’s deputy in it before taking him to Camp Forest Green.
Tommy chains Jason to a boulder and drops him at the bottom of the lake, but Jason seems to drown him in the process. Megan sees this and jumps into the lake, cuts Jason’s neck with the boat’s motor, and successfully performs CPR on Tommy. I know technically she is a survivor and not the final girl, but even then she feels like an unusual choice compared to previous slashers at the time.
Hats off to both Paula and Megan for bucking final girl tropes in a clever sequel that was being self-referential before 90s slashers made it cool.