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Literature / The Final Girl Support Group

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"Out there in the world it's a nonstop murder party, and if I make the slightest mistake, I'll wind up dead."

The Final Girl Support Group is a 2021 novel by Grady Hendrix, which pays homage to the slasher genre.

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl. She witnessed and survived not one, but two mass killings and the events have left her traumatized and constantly looking over her shoulder. And she's not alone. For more than a decade she's been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together.

The support group has to keep their very existence secret. Each of the women were able to turn their events into movie franchises, to varying degrees of success. Fans of both the original killers and the films they inspired are known to stalk and harass them, along with anyone who thinks that getting a good soundbite to sell could be their ticket to fame and fortune.

Then one day, one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette's worst fears are realized—someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

The book contains examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Past: Published in 2021 and set in 2010, largely so that the main characters could be simply middle-aged rather than old and thus more capable of some of the things they do in the story. It also puts the events around the tail end of the slasher remake boom of the 2000s, which is referenced in-story.
  • Addled Addict: Heather prior to the start of the novel. She's recovering by the opening of the novel, but Lynette makes it very clear that she's not sure how long that will last.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • An in-universe article purportedly written in the late '80s uses the word "problematic" in the very 2010s/early '20s context of "riddled with invoked Unfortunate Implications" to describe the Based on a True Story slashers of the time.
    • At the end, Skye Elliott's lawyer is described as a men's rights activist. While anti-feminists did exist in 2010, the term "men's rights activist" was still in its infancy.
  • And a Diet Coke: Garrett, after picking up Lynnette to transport her to Utah, stops at a Carls Jr. drive-thru where he orders a Nutritional Nightmare capped off with one of these, because he needs to watch his weight.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: After Lynnette gets arrested, the LAPD torment her by putting up Christmas decorations and singing carols, culminating in a Loony Fan of hers among the police attempting to murder her.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Heather saves Lynette from being executed by Skye by hitting him over the head with a toilet tank lid.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Stephanie initially comes across as a relatively innocent newly minted final girl, but is revealed to be conspiring with Skye to murder all the members of the group out of resentment for the concept of the final girl.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Several people are killed at Camp Red Lake by Skye, but all of the principal characters manage to survive, if not unscathed; Dani's wife is dead and she's wheelchair-bound, Lynette is walking with a cane, and Dr. Carol becomes a recluse due to being hounded by the media over her son's crimes. Heather is implied to be hunting down the actual Dream King. Lynette finally starts to heal from her trauma, as she's faced an actual monster and come out on top. Finally, because Stephanie didn't actually manage to kill anyone, so she's going to be up for parole eventually, and Lynette decides to help her out by recruiting her into the support group.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Adrienne, the sole black Final Girl, dies first, her death kicking off the plot.
  • Butch Lesbian: Dani, who lives on a working horse ranch and is described as having a buzzcut.
  • Cassandra Truth: Lynette suspects that someone, or more than one person, is trying to kill all of the final girls, and that sending everyone a copy of her (unpublished) book is just a ploy to keep them divided from each other. Nobody believes her.
  • Casting Gag: The official audiobook is read by none other than Adrienne King, who played Alice in Friday the 13th (1980), and who the character of Adrienne is named after.
  • Companion Cube: Lynette's only friend outside the group is her houseplant Fine. Since the narration is from her perspective, the reader gets to witness her conversations with it and even see what she imagines it saying.
  • Corrupt Cop: This book doesn't have many pleasant depictions of law enforcement. When Lynette is arrested on suspicion of being an accomplice in her family's murders, they put her through psychological torture from a position where the interrogation room cameras won't catch what they're doing. One of the police officers also turns out to be a Loony Fan who'd spent years waiting for the chance to kill a final girl. While Garrett saved her life twice, and an additional two times during the book's events, he's a glory hound who cheated on his wife with Lynette after she turned eighteen. While she was an adult, there's the implication of grooming, and it was still beyond unethical regardless of any potential grooming.
  • Cranial Plate Ability: Lynette has a titanium plate in her skull from the second Walker brother trying to cave in her head; it ends up saving her life when Stephanie Fugate attacks her.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Sympathetic example; Lynette thinks she's Properly Paranoid about the danger that men hold towards final girls, but the narration makes it clear that her behavior is an incredibly unhealthy coping mechanism for unresolved trauma; a good chunk of the third chapter is her narrating a convoluted process of first getting back to her apartment via a circuitous route through LA, and several pages of detail on how she's secured her apartment, ranging from a cage between her front door and the rest of the apartment to hidden cameras to intending to not leave for three weeks.
  • Darkest Hour: After Lynette gets arrested, she's tortured by police, cut off by Dr. Carol, put in a suicide smock, fed Nutriloaf (which is considered a punishment in several states), nearly gets killed by a Loony Fan in the LAPD, and abused by Garrett P. Cannon... before Cannon reveals that the last part was a ruse as he believes his car is bugged, and lets her escape.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Even though A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is real in this universe, an early Info Dump clarifies that the "Freddy" of this universe is simply a pedophile janitor who psychologically tortured the town kids. Heather, however, insists otherwise, and it's left up in the air whether she really did encounter a supernatural slasher or if she's simply insane.
  • Driven to Suicide: The reason that Lynette takes Dani along to Red Lake during the climax is because she's afraid that Dani losing Michelle will cause her to kill herself.
  • Due to the Dead: The final chapter has Lynette listing all of Skye's victims, which is something that she says the average Slasher Movie just glosses over.
  • Eldritch Location: The room the Dream King has in Chrissy's museum is barely described, but it's implied it's one of these, judging by Lynette's reaction.
  • Everybody Lives: Played with. There were a lot of murders before the opening of the book, it opens with the other final girls finding out about Adrienne's death, and Michelle, who was terminally ill, dies of natural causes. However, all of the final girls not named Adrienne live, with Skye and Stephanie ultimately unsuccessful in killing any of them even if they manage to kill several other people at Camp Red Lake.
  • Evil All Along: Skye and Stephanie, both initially presented as sympathetic characters, are the ones responsible for the murders.
  • Expy: Apart from possibly Chrissy, all the final girls are inspired by famous examples in the genre, and so are the massacres they survived.
    • Dani is Laurie Strode from Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981), albeit as a lesbian.
    • Marilyn is Sally Hardesty from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974, with elements of Vanita "Stretch" Brock from the sequel. The killer family are called "the Hansens", in reference to Gunnar Hansen.
    • Heather is Nancy Thompson from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
    • Julia is Sidney Prescott from Scream (1996), and the killers are called the Ghost. After the accident that left her paralyzed, the two police officers who interviewed her are named Dwight Riley and Judy Hicks, names lifted verbatim from cop characters in the movies.
    • Adrienne is Alice Hardy from Friday the 13th (1980).
    • Lynnette has some elements in common with Sarah Connor, specifically as she appears in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
    • The killers that Lynette survives are Billy and Ricky, from Silent Night, Deadly Night and Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 respectively. There's even reference to Part 2's iconic "Garbage Day!" line, with Billy being in a psych ward for assaulting someone over an argument over what day trash was collected.
    • Chrissy could arguably be an expy of Hellraiser's Kirsty. You have a direct line reference in "I have such things to show you". They live in an Eldritch Location (like Hellraiser), the romance angle and the supernatural bent to the story. Also explains the "confusion" surrounding their backstory killer. Also Kirsty's eventual fate in the comics.
  • Faux Action Girl:
    • Chrissy is dependent on Keith to do all of her dirty work.
    • A much straighter example is Stephanie, who is a Final Girl who pushed her would-be killer, Christopher Volker, out of a hayloft window, and then spends the entire last act running around with a machine gun. She turns out to be a rare Faux Dark Action Girl, as she's actually Skye's accomplice, and it's confirmed at her trial that she never killed anybody, although she did shoot out somebody's eye. Although "they" killed a lot of people, Skye committed all the actual murders. This is a bone of serious contention for Stephanie.
  • Final Girl: No kidding. This is deconstructed heavily, however, since the novel describes the impact of surviving multiple massacres in detail, including physical injuries, psychological scars, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Five-Token Band: Adrienne is black, Julia is the only disabled group member (she's been in a wheelchair since surviving the second massacre), Dani is gay, Marilyn is the token rich woman and Hispanic, Heather is a homeless drug addict, and Chrissy is the Token Evil Teammate until Stephanie takes over that role for real. Lynnette is the only one without a meaningful differentiating trait, although ironically she is treated as the odd one out.
  • Foreshadowing: Given the number of Shout Outs in the character's names, the names of Stephanie Fugate and Skye Elliott should set off immediate alarm bells for any True Crime enthusiast regarding their actual role in the story.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: The book's Big Bad is Skye, a man who has an irrational hatred of his career-driven mother and hatches a plan to ruin her life by murdering the women she associates with. He's in his twenties when he starts his plan and grooms a girl who is underaged into getting into a relationship with him and becoming his accomplice.
  • Hero of Another Story: All of the Final Girls except for Lynnette, who overcame and slew their would-be killers before the events of the story take place. Especially Heather, who is implied to be hunting the escaped Dream King at the end of the book.
  • Homage: Adrienne is murdered first, before the beginning of the story properly after finding a head in her freezer, which is a reference to how Alice (played by Adrienne King) dies in the opening of Friday the 13th Part 2.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Carol's eight-year-old son makes a comment about Lynette's breasts, having seen the movies inspired by the killings she survived, which included an infamous topless scene. Carol notes that he has difficulty empathizing because of his age.
    • Specifically, he says, “Nice rack.” Since Lynnette’s trauma involved being impaled on a rack of deer antlers, and she references not having seen one of those t-shirts in a while, it’s probably a line from one of the Slay Bells movies.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • The Dream King's murders are initially written off as very mundane violence, but there are implications that might not be the fact. His ability to come and go from prison, his deeply religious cult following, and the horror of the actual acts being almost indescribable by other characters.
    • Lynette might be seeing the ghosts of Adrienne, her mother, and her sister Gilly after Stephanie runs her over and beats her, but it could just as easily be a Dying Dream.
    • Dani claims to meet Michelle, who died earlier in the novel, when she goes out into the desert; whether she's being metaphorical or not isn't elaborated upon, but if Adrienne and the other ghosts were actually there, who knows?
  • Meta Guy: Chrissy, who runs a "murderabilia museum" out of her house and philosophizes over the relationship between the "final girl" and the "monster". This is deconstructed, however, since it makes her seem off-putting and insensitive, with Lynnette pointing out that she's applying mythology to real people who were actually murdered.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Possibly. Laurie Strode expy Dani is tormented by the idea that her brother (unmasked and unarmed when she killed him) may not have actually been the one who murdered her friends. (However, since the killer was stabbed and shot multiple times, checking her brother’s body probably should’ve cleared up that mystery.)
  • My Greatest Failure: Lynette never killed the man who attempted to kill her; at least some of her trauma is tied to that, and it's led to accusations from other members of the group that she isn't an actual Final Girl.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The Dream King is the killer that we know almost nothing about and yet is BY FAR the scariest of the ones mentioned in the characters' backstory. So little is known about him by the general public that there are some who believe he didn't really exist as his crimes could have been explained as accidents and suicides and the man in prison could be just a random mentally unwell man who attacked Heather. With that being said, when his room in Chrissy's museum is seen all that Lynette can say is that it was "so much worse than Heather ever described".
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. There are no less than three women named Carol mentioned in the story: Dr. Carol Elliot, and Lynnette's birth and foster mothers, who were also named Carol.
    • In fairness, Lynnette’s foster mother is called “Liz” three times, and “Carol” twice. Either Lynnette’s trauma sometimes causes her to conflate the names of her birth and foster mothers, or the book needed better proofreading.
  • Outlaw Couple: Skye and Stephanie turn out to be behind everything, the former having groomed the latter into becoming his accomplice.
  • Plot Hole: An early plot point hinges on the fact that Harry Peter Warden — an inmate who escaped a mental institution alongside Dani’s brother — “was never found.” Events later in the book rely on his currently being in prison, receiving visitors and confessing to crimes.
  • Properly Paranoid: Since surviving her ordeal, Lynnette's life has become a series of safety procedures and spot checks that turn out to be very useful.
  • Race Lift: In-universe. Lynnette notes that Adrienne is black, but her film counterpart was white, which was one of the many things that peeved Adrienne about the movies. That said, once she took control of the franchise, she only ever cast white actresses to play the final girls, knowing that the biases of the average viewer would make them less likely to side with a black heroine.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Garrett is a mild example. He's an obnoxious glory hound, without a doubt, but he believes Lynnette when she says the letters are fake.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The apparently terrible Gnomecoming films, apparently based on Chrissy's massacre, are a shout-out to Leprechaun, although much less specifically than other examples.
    • The references to a garish version of Hell (the Dream King's lair) in Chrissy's house and her boxes (because she collects murderbilia) recall Hellraiser.
    • Two examples that turn out to be foreshadowing are Stephanie and Skye's respective last names, Fugate and Elliott. Doubly so in the case of the latter, as Skye, much like Elliot Rodger, is a Spree Killer motivated by misogyny.
    • One of the surviving victims of the Camp Red Lake killings is named Eva Watanabe, a name directly lifted from one of the victims in Fridaythe13th Part VIII Jason Takes Manhattan.
    • Dani has spent the rest of her life worrying that she killed the wrong person, this is similar to Laurie Strode's fear of killing the wrong person in a mask in Halloween: Resurrection.
    • The chapter subtitles are all actual subtitles from horror movies.
    • The film franchise based on Julia's killings is called Stab like in Scream 2 and had a TV series on top of the movies.
    • The actress who plays Julia in the movies is noted to be a ballerina like Neve Campbell was.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: The other final girls are a Five-Token Band, but Chrissy, who is very Ambiguously Evil, is no threat to Lynnette at all, and is in fact supportive of her. The real traitor is potential Sixth Ranger Stephanie, who is working with Skye to kill the other final girls. Deconstructed in that she does, actually, end up as the Final Girl she wanted to be, and she is actually bundled into the group at the end, while spending the rest of her life in prison.
  • Slasher Movie: In-Universe, basically all slasher films are also Trashy True Crime pictures Based on a True Story. Chrissy points out that each of the final girls featured in the book fulfills a character archetype of the slasher film; Adrienne was the Cheerleader, Dani's the Jock, Julia the Nerd, Heather the Stoner, Marilyn the Whore (though Chrissy only calls her that because she's been married twice) Chrissy is the Harbinger of Impending Doom, and Lynette is the true Final Girl of the story.
  • Southern Belle: The image Marilyn presents to the world, albeit with elements of Spicy Latina and Stepford Smiler mixed in.
  • Spree Killer: Unlike the slasher murders that the protagonists survive and which inspired the slasher movies of The '80s, the finale at Camp Red Lake is explicitly staged more like a mass shooting. Skye dresses in military combat gear packing a semi-automatic rifle, while Stephanie uses a shotgun and the .22 pistol she stole from Lynnette.
  • Spotting the Thread: Lynette realizes some of her letters to Ricky Walker are forgeries after she sees that the stationery they're written on is different, but nobody believes her.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Marilyn endured a horrific ordeal at the hands of a family of slaughterhouse owners, which included being forced to wear a leather suit made out of human skin. Unsurprisingly, she is a vegan in the present day.
    • Julia took the killer in the second massacre down by plowing him through a window. She was paralysed by the fall, which is also a Take That! at how many horror movie final girls survive with no long-lasting injuries.
    • As much of a scumbag as Garrett is, he was faking it about believing Lynnette's letters had anything to do with the massacre. He guessed that it was suspicious that they turned up out of the blue after so many years, and is in fact just playing along to help her to escape.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Lynette thinks it's Chrissy. In actual fact, it's Stephanie, who does (unwillingly) join the group at the end of the novel.
  • Tuckerization:
  • Unholy Matrimony:
    • Skye and Stephanie, though this is a Deconstructed Trope in that 26-year-old Skye has been grooming 16-year-old Stephanie for at least two years in order to make her into an accomplice for his crimes. Lynnette points this out near the end of the book, and Stephanie is not pleased.
    • Chrissy and her boyfriend Keith (who may or may not be a serial killer) are also an example.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Lynnette wrote many letters to Ricky, her pen pal, complaining about her family and her controlling father. Little did she know that Ricky would come to her house and slaughter them while she was Forced to Watch.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Skye's lifestyle is seems to be entirely funded by his mother with little to no strings attached, and she cooks and cleans for him too. He still resents her so much that he decides to murder the support group to spite her.
  • Villainous Ethics Decay: If murderous madmen going on killing sprees can even be considered to have anything resembling ethics, but nevertheless the Big Bad of the book is a guy who considers slashers passé and has decided to introduce the Final Girl support group to the modern age of murderous villain: mass shooters.
  • Villain of Another Story: Many examples, who the Final Girls faced before the events of the story and who are either dead or imprisoned in the present day. Their actions are nevertheless described in detail, with the exception of the Dream King, though Lynnette says they were "so much worse than Heather ever described", when she sees his dedicated room in Chrissy's museum.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Stephanie pretends to be another Final Girl. However, deconstructed in that Lynette realizes after hearing the facts that Stephanie was genuinely groomed by Skye, although she refuses to acknowledge this.