The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix: A Superb Exploration of Anti-Feminism Qualities within Slasher Film via a Phenomenal Crime Thriller – Book Review

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix is a horror, slasher novel by the same author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires and My Best Friend’s Exorcism. When a member of a support group of final girls ends up dead, a dangerous intrigue unfolds. Is someone killing off the remaining survivors? Has one of the member’s finally gone insane via intense PTSD?  Or there is an even greater plot at play?

This was recommended to me given my obsessive adoration for all things slasher-genre. I went into it with a bit of hesitancy because I could not get into the author’s previous novel, Horrorstör, even though I really appreciated the creativity and imagination behind its set-up. Yet, The Final Girl Support Group grabs the reader’s attention from the first few pages with astounding representation of PTSD induced paranoia and fear and keeps ‘em guessing until the last final pages (ha ha, see what I did there?). Additionally, it provides awesomely intriguing examinations of the anti-feminist nature of the slasher genre. Excluding re-reads, this became one of my favourite novels of the year thus far.

Have you ever noticed that nearly ever slasher film has a woman standing free as the survivor at the end, yet in order to obtain that title of Final Girl, they must experience brutally savage bouts of trauma and tragedy? One of the main things that the book explores via its wonderfully thrilling narrative is how women are always subjected to grotesque acts of violence in an effort to prove their worth as a strong independent person, and the fanatics of these types of tales tend to majorly consist of men and male-identifying audiences. If they haven’t suffered some Hell’s level of trauma, then they are very rarely construed as being “strong,” or “admirable,” which contributes to many anti-feminist notions over decades, even centuries, of female existence. This is even more apparent when you consider the various victim types (i.e.: those who don’t survive). You see this in various olden and classic literary texts as well. Hendrix jam-packs The Final Girl Support Group with so many thought-provoking bits of dialogue, commentary, and analytical titbits that bring to the foray the deep-rooted hatred for women that have caused the slasher genre to thrive. That brilliant critique combined with the nonstop action, potentially unreliable narrative, and exquisite yet disturbing realistic portrayals of intense, traumatising PTSD (which I have in spades) just made this a fantastic horror reading experience.

Something else I enjoyed immensely was also this intimate look at survivorship and the various ways that individuals deal with and process tragedies. The way we seek to move on in our lives is always going to be different from another person. Does that make our trauma less valid? Or does it make us more of a coward than compared to other survivors? Why is there a constant comparison of which survivor is the best instead of celebration that they survived and that’s all that matters?

Because of these two fiercely potent topics, the book will keep you guessing. Just when you feel like you have solved some decent sized chunks of the overall puzzle, a new detail shall pop out from the shadows and slap that satisfaction right off your face. I could not put this book down because I was equally frustrated and fascinated by continuously being mistaken in my guesses. I absolutely had to know what the fluff was going on.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or Syndrome) can make you question everything around you, particularly when it’s triggered by recent events, or if it is something that never ever goes away. That intimately vehement sensation of trying to decipher whether our brains are deceiving us from our past pain and torment, or whether what we see and feel is in fact reality can be unbelievably overwhelming and utterly wearying. I was afraid the author would romanticise what living with PTSD is like, especially since most of the cast folx are females, however, I was quite wrong. His writes it as it is: a monstrosity of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and even this terrible sense of insanity that comes from prolonged and chronic paranoia. If anyone has PTSD, I recommend that you proceed very cautiously because the brilliant way it’s exhibited here can be triggering in an of itself. It’s the only thing in the book that forced me to put it aside once in a while so I could get a grasp of my emotional and mental bearings.

Other cool qualities include a decidedly fast-paced progression that is nicely balanced with storytelling and history building. Some of the flashback or historical explanations can seem slightly out-of-place, or they can drag with a tad bit too much detail, yet it doesn’t detract from the book as a whole at all. I’m sure that if I wasn’t so damn impatient to figure out what the hell was going on, I actually would have enjoyed those sections much more. My brain was on a singular mission whilst reading though, and that exciting all on its own.

All in all, if you are a fan of slashers combined with amazing analysis of the societal and gender-specific implications that the genre was built upon (and lots of violence and great fast-paced writing), then I HIGHLY RECOMMEND The Final Girl Support Group to you! Not recommend for folx that don’t like horror or powerfully graphic depictions of mental health instability that focuses (mostly) negatively on the idea of “insanity” via traumatisation.

Publication Date: July 2021
Publisher: Berkley (978-0593201237)
Genre: Horror, Crime Thriller
Page Count: 352
Content Warnings: Graphically profound depictions of PTSD, paranoia, and mental instability. Violence, death, blood, and torture. Stalking. Terminal illness. Sexism and discussions of fetishization of violence against women. Mention of drug abuse. Brief ableism. Alcohol consumption.
Availability: In-print; eBook, audiobook, hardcover editions available; paperback available for pre-order

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