REVIEW: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

In thinking of the title of this book, The Final Girl Support Group, where a support group is by its nature a safe and comforting idea, instead, think about what it means to have been a final girl. The horror of it all. 

Although the horror films of the 70s and 80s would have us believe that the last girls survive their ordeals unscarred, we know too often from life that survivors are bent if not broken.  The Final Girl Support Group invites us to see what these heroines might endure as they struggle to unbend themselves decades after their trauma. 

the final girl support groupThose who are horror fans or grew up in the 70s and 80s are familiar with the final girl trope. The idea of a final girl has evolved as horror movies and audiences evolved. To understand and appreciate The Final Girl Support Group it helps to have a passing understanding of the final girl trope. The final girl was usually depicted as an innocent, virginal girl who stayed away from vices such as drinking and drugs. And is thus rewarded for her “good deads” with living through the horror. The narrative structure of the movie or book followed her vantage point, and we as an audience are engaged in her struggles and have a vested interest in her fight to survive. We want her to win, either by escape or rescue. 

“We get subjected to sequels. That’s what makes our guys different, that’s what makes them monsters – they keep coming back.”

 As the trope aged, the idea of what a final girl changed as well. Instead of being saved, they often save themselves. Either by being cunning and running. We began to expect more from our final girls. And, as an audience, we revisit the final girl multiple times. Over and over, they are thrust into chaos. Nancy Thompson of Nightmare on Elm Street suffered through three versions of battle with Freddy, starting at age 15 and ending at age 21. Had she survived the last movie, what would her mind be after facing the dream king three times? 

I would think that Hendrix created The Final Girl Support Group as a way to exercise the idea that the girl is a person and surviving is only the first part of her struggle. Watching these bloodfests at a midnight show is all about the spectacle of gore. But, with a spectacle comes a certain amount of distancing from the characters as people. They are basically the objective focus  of the protagonist’s determination.

“Sometimes you need the money more than you need to live with yourself”

The story starts with a group of middle-aged women sniping at each other. They are not friends, but people with shared experiences. They have known each other a long time and have seen each other through the enduring PTSD that comes from the horrors they have endured. In some ways, they are closer than family. What I immediately liked about the story was the idea that these women, no longer final girls, have reacted to their traumas differently. Although I am no expert in psychology, the reactions these women have to horrors like this have a certain authenticness. 

For example, one is a drug addict, one is consumed with wealth and power, one is a shut-in driven by the protection of herself and trust of no one, and one channeled their pain into an organization to help others. These reactions seem like plausable reactions that one could have to PTSD like th