Audiobook Review: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Penguin Audio (July 13, 2021)
Length: 13 hrs and 49 mins
Narrator: Adrienne King
Leave it to Grady Hendrix to write an exceptionally unique and fun story! This is my fifth book by the author, and the original ideas just keep on coming with no signs of slowing down. In The Final Girl Support Group, he once more blends pop culture and quirky horror, this time centering on the phenomenon of slasher fan films which hit its heyday in the 1970s to 80s. It riffs on the concept of the archetypal “final girl”, or the sole female survivor of the blood-soaked massacres typically featured in those kinds of films, and the idea that a group of them get together once a month for therapy sessions to help overcome their trauma.
Our protagonist is Lynnette Tarkington, who technically isn’t a final girl even though she was the only one to emerge alive from the horror of her own encounter with a psychotic killer—but more on that later. First you have to know that the experience scarred her deeply, both physically and mentally. Lynnette trusts no one and lives alone in an apartment that she’s practically turned into a mini-fortress, though to most it will seem like more of a cage. Her only real contact with the outside world is the support group she’s joined with other women who have lived through a similar ordeal, led by the kindly psychologist Dr. Carol. Aside from Lynnette, there are five others who attend regularly: Adrienne, Marilyn, Dani, Heather, and Julia. Over the years though, the topics have gradually exhausted themselves and the benefits of therapy have either waned or stalled, and this fills Lynnette with anxiety, as she fears it means that the group’s days are numbered.
At the latest session though, Adrienne doesn’t show up, and soon all of their worst fears are realized when they find out why. Adrienne is dead, fallen to the monster that finally got her, and Lynnette is convinced someone is coming after the final girls to finish them all off. Whoever it is though, they are good at covering their tracks. They’ve even found ways to sow doubt among the final girls, and before long Lynnette finds herself on the run, cut off from the support system she’s come to rely on. Luckily, she’s used to being by herself, and if she’ll take matters into her own hands if it means preventing anyone else from dying.
As with Hendrix’s other books, The Final Girl Support Group features a main hook or gimmick. In this case, it’s the idea that all the classic slasher movies that have found their way into mainstream popularity are based on real events. The movies themselves in the book are fictional but they all have their real-world analogs, among them Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Scream, and there are of course Easter Eggs and subtle references aplenty to hint at which final girl belongs to which franchise. The women of the support group whom these films are based on, however, are an ugly reminder that, contrary to the rosy picture Hollywood likes to paint, the futures of these final girls are often very bleak.
Take Lynnette, for example. The others don’t really consider her a “true” final girl because she’s the only one who didn’t manage to kill her monster, but the experience has left her no less changed. Ever since then, she’s been looking over her shoulder expecting the horror to come back, and in a way, she was right to. All final girls get sequels, after all. Part of Lynnette’s way of coping is to come up with a plan for every contingency, investing in surveillance and keeping her body in tip-top shape for the day when her monster may rise again.
Next, we have a story that’s pretty over-the-top, but given this is Grady Hendrix, did you really expect anything less? I have to say though, once I managed to wrap my head around the meta vibes, falling into the flow of things was relatively easy. In fact, it was quite brilliant the way the author paid homage to the horror classics, employing all the favorite tropes while simultaneously exploring the psychology behind society’s fascination for the violence and thrills of slasher films, until ultimately the novel becomes the very thing Hendrix set out to caricaturize.
Needless to say, I had a lot of fun with The Final Girl Support Group. It’s probably one of the better books I’ve read by the author, which is no surprise given the way his talents have evolved and improved over time. Conceptually, this was probably the most unusual and complex of all his works, but rest assured it loses none of the quirkiness and entertainment.