Hank Wagner


The Final Girl Support Group
by Grady Hendrix
Berkley, June 2023, $17, paperback

Very high concept, very meta, The Final Girl Support Group, by Grady Hendrix, celebrates the tropes and dashes preconceptions of the so-called Slasher film genre. “Final Girls," are the "real-world" women whose tragic experiences inspire the seemingly endless stream of horror movies featuring high kill counts and a plethora of plucky, never-say-die heroines.

Five of these women are now in support group therapy together, having lived through traumas most could hardly comprehend. They do their best to move on from these experiences, dealing with the fallout in myriad and surprising ways. Most do manage to cope, with varying degrees of success, but, one by one, they begin falling under attack from a mysterious killer, who seems intent on exterminating them. As they again face imminent death, they are forced to revisit their sad histories, and confront the fallout caused by their coping mechanisms.

One of their number, Lynette Tarkington, whose Final Girl status has been questioned in the press and by serial killer aficionados, finds herself on her way to becoming the literal last woman standing as she desperately seeks to uncover the identity of their merciless stalker.

Hendrix’s latest is a sly, ironic, subversive, and darkly funny novel, one that delivers unexpected laughs and chills, exciting action and covert commentary on a society that seemingly can’t get enough of these women in peril. A love letter to slasher films, it’s also critical of them, harshly condemning the pillars of these movies, which seemingly celebrate the cheapness of life and the vulnerability of women. Given its release date, I want desperately to say it makes for “terrific summer reading,” but, truth is, it’s a gripping, highly readable piece of work that will thrill you any time of year.

A review of this novel in hardcover first appeared in the print issue of Mystery Scene Magazine.