The Final Girl Support Group
by Grady Hendrix
In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?
Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized—someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.
But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.
Uggghhh I’m so disappointed that I didn’t love this book.
Something you should probably know about me is that it’s only in recent years that I’ve begun to love and appreciate the horror genre, mostly because I’ve started to discover the kind of horror I like, but as someone who was born in the ’90s I can’t help having a soft spot for a good old fashioned slasher. Scream is still one of my favourite horror films and I’m a big fan of the final girl trope because I love seeing women kick butt even when they’re in the most terrifying situation of their lives.
I’m also a huge fan of stories that take place in the aftermath of traumatic events. I love stories about chosen ones after they’ve done what they were chosen for, and I was so ready for a story about a group of final girls coping with their trauma while once again having to fight a big bad – but this time being able to do it together.
Friends, this is not the story I got.
Before I get into my problems with this book, it wasn’t a total miss. I loved that Hendrix used the final girl trope to explore violence against women and society’s hunger for it in a lot of media. How often do thrillers follow men assaulting and murdering women? How often do true crime documentaries focus on the lives of serial killers who assault and murder women? I really appreciate what Hendrix set out to do, and there’s no doubt that he loves and is incredibly knowledgeable about the horror genre.
As the title suggests, The Final Girl Support Group opens during a therapy session for a group of women who are the sole survivors of various horrific events. Each of the women is inspired by a horror film, from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to A Nightmare on Elm Street, and several of them have even been named after the lead actresses from those franchises. In this version of our present day it’s become a common occurrence for final girls’ experiences to be made into a franchise of its own and the media remain interested in their day-to-day lives.
Unlike some of the other women, who have managed to set up charities or start families, our heroine Lynnette Tarkington has yet to find a healthy way to move on from what she experienced as a teenager, and still lives each and every day as though anything could kill her at any minute. When one of the women who usually attends their therapy sessions is murdered, Lynnette is convinced someone is coming after the final girls.
The issue with this novel is that it doesn’t do what it says on the tin. From the blurb I assumed that a group of older women, who’ve already seen their fair share of shit, were going to band together and fight back against whoever it is who’s killed one of their own, but the women are pretty unkind to one another for the majority of the novel and practically none of them believe Lynnette when she suggests that someone’s coming after them. (Which makes no sense – a final girl has just been murdered, why aren’t more of them worried?) There’s very little friendship in this story, in fact most of the book is just watching Lynnette wander around on her own and make really stupid decisions which wasn’t fun to read at all. For me the whole thing felt like a missed opportunity and, to be honest, it was pretty boring. It wasn’t for me!