Skip to main content

The Final Girl Support Group


The Final Girl Support Group

I’ve never been much of a horror movie fan, but I do like a good scary book sometimes. Recently I’ve enjoyed reading Riley Sager’s FINAL GIRLS and Stephanie Perkins’ THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE, both of which play with the trope of the slasher film “final girl” --- “the last and sole survivor of a horror movie,” according to the definition with which Grady Hendrix opens his own unforgettable take on this common motif.

In Hendrix’s deeply unsettling world, the final girl comes first, and the horror movie comes after. In the novel, mass murder of the grimmest and most personal kind is not just the stuff of Hollywood --- it’s seemingly commonplace. As the book’s title suggests, the main characters come together in regular group therapy sessions. They continue recovering from the real-life traumas each of them survived that were then re-imagined into various horror movie franchises, with varying levels of success.

"...a thrill ride that’s equal parts terrifying and satisfying, as the final girls refuse to be victimized anymore."

In the group, some members have handled their pasts better than others. One has dealt with addiction and thoughts of suicide; one has pushed the past behind her by becoming fabulously wealthy; and then there’s our narrator, Lynette Tarkington. Lynette was just a teenager when she watched her boyfriend and then her entire family be killed by a sadistic murderer. Now, years later, she is convinced that she’s never really safe --- after all, unlike a “real” final girl, she never killed the villain of her particular horror show.

Lynette is an obsessive observer, paranoid in the extreme and always on alert to her surroundings. These traits make her somewhat difficult to be around, as her fellow support group members are fond of pointing out --- and they also make her perhaps the most prepared when someone starts trying to kill off all the final girls…again.

Lynette’s breakneck quest to learn the identity of the killer (or killers) is interspersed with glimpses into her own past and that of the other final girls. Hendrix also includes documentary materials --- news clippings, promotional copy for movies, and excerpts from film criticism --- between each chapter. Even the chapter titles riff on common horror movie conventions: for example, “The Final Girl Support Group VIII: Night of the Final Girls.”

At times, Hendrix’s intricately plotted narrative can feel a bit too dense, as if readers are being dropped into the 10th installment of a movie franchise that everyone else already knows inside and out. Lynette and her fellow final girls are memorable and distinct, but their various backstories --- especially their seemingly interchangeable villains --- can be hard to keep track of.

That said, if and when readers abandon the expectation that they’ll ever know as much about these characters as Lynette (and, by extension, Hendrix) does, they’re in for a thrill ride that’s equal parts terrifying and satisfying, as the final girls refuse to be victimized anymore.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on July 16, 2021

The Final Girl Support Group
by Grady Hendrix