The final girl (a trope coined by Carol J. Clover in Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film to denote the last one standing in a slasher movie) has been subverted, satirised and undergone multiple makeovers over the many years since they first appeared.
In the dedication of Grady Hendrix’s new novel, he notes that “the roots of the slasher stretch back to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), based on Robert Bloch’s book”, and how that novel referenced the real-life crimes of Ed Gein. With The Final Girl Support Group Hendrix pays homage to the slasher franchises of the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties while also paying tribute to women who have suffered at the hands of violence and intimidation.
In a similar way to Brea Grant and Natasha Kermani’s recent deconstruction of the slasher, Lucky, the book imagines the main protagonist and survivor, Lynette Tarkington, as traumatised and thoroughly exhausted but still unwilling to give up the fight against misogynistic violence.
Like Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott in Scream 3, Lynette lives an isolated existence, locked away in her apartment. Her only company is a plant and the monthly support group she attends with her fellow final girls. Adrienne Butler, Marilyn Torres, Dani Shipman, Heather DeLuca and Julia Campbell make up the group with Dr. Carol Elliott anxious about their solidarity after 16 years of therapy together. Just like the aforementioned Scream film, it’s not long before a killer is on the loose and their main target is the final girl.
The book reads like a breathlessly paced and captivating crime thriller, with Hendrix inserting fictionalised clippings from magazines, newspapers, online chatroom threads and personal emails to further depict an insidious culture still continuing to hold hateful attitudes towards women.
Hendrix also issues a few correctives to who or what the genre has overlooked, and he does it all with a sly wit and a huge amount of empathy.
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix is out now. Order your copy here.