Category Archives: Read

The Final Girl Support Group


In recent years we’ve had the movies Last Girl StandingThe Final Girls, and the books The Last Final Girl and Final Girlswhich are now joined by Grady Hendrix’s likely-best-of-the-bunch The Final Girl Support Group.

Across the aforementioned titles, what other stories are there to drill-down into in this sub-sub-subset of a sub-genre?

The title should clue you in to some degree; a group of women who survived various killing sprees in the 1980s gather for a regular trauma support circle, overseen by a potentially fame-seeking psychologist.

As is common, the players are largely named after actors or characters from across the genre: Marilyn survived a van trip in Texas in the 70s; Dani a Halloween night babysitting terror; Heather beat a killer known as The Dream King at his own game; wheelchair-bound Julia a post-modern small town murder spree by her boyfriend and his pal; and our narrator, Lynnette, is slightly looked down upon by the others for being more of an ‘unfinished victim’ when a Santa suit-clad loon skewered her on to mounted reindeer’s antlers. The group was founded by Adrienne, who offed the head of a killer who rampaged through Camp Red Lake in payment for the death of his son previously.

Yeah, that’s right, the most popular titles have been pillaged to provide the women their backstories. Most strikingly, Mrs Voorhees was changed to Mr Volker for Adrienne’s backstory, because Hendrix has presented a realm in which all killers are men, undoubtedly to compact the women vs. male-violence context in which the tale is told. He even begins the book with a paraphrased quote from Carol Clover’s essay Her Body, Himself that states “Boys die because they make mistakes, girls die because they’re female.” This never made sense in context – see this thing I wrote about just that comment. Still, their stories, which have each been made into film franchises, have been altered to reflect this, with mostly female victims featured.

When Adrienne is murdered, ever-paranoid Lynnette goes to ground, but finds her life under threat when someone has thwarted her various escape plans, including her Plan Bs and Cs… She goes on the run, seeking help from the others, who are then sent the less-than-flattering private manuscript she wrote about the support group. But then Dani is arrested, Heather’s abode is burned down – someone is coming after them from all angles. Lynnette ends up chasing down clues, taking a ‘junior’ final girl with her, meeting with a ‘fallen’ member of the group who deals in true crime merchandise, and ultimately having to gather the gang for a ride or die confrontation with the person behind it all.

The first half of the book is hard going, not least because the characters are largely miserable and twisted, with Lynnette being the least sympathetic, but it all comes together in time, culminating in a neat mirror image of slasher characters: Each of the final girls have become one of either the jock, the scholar, the (ugh) ‘slut’, the stoner, which makes for some interesting counter-theories. One sorely lacking aspect is any notion of camp – not that Hendrix should’ve gone all-out parody, but the story is so po-faced throughout it’s wound-strong narrative, some levity would’ve done wonders.

A real page-turner if ever there was one, but it’s worth noting the book, as a whole, is not a slasher opus unlike most of its kin, and goes deeper into the themes around final girl-dom than the others, though Riley Sager’s book is closest in plot. It’s due to be made into a TV series in time.

Buy me! Read me! Love me!


Well, I’ve been writing again, and today (!) my fifth ‘lil slasher book has been released.

For years I had two ideas: One about a slasher movie festival where a killer began ripping off murder set pieces from the films played to lay waste to the local teen population, and one a friend brought to mind: “You should do Seven… but with The Ten Commandments?”

Mucho toiling later, I decided to combine the two and, with some hefty crowbarring, here is Tenfold (previously known as Let There Be Dark, Necessary Evil, All Things Sacred, God Watch Over You, The Holy Orders and a phonebook of other monikers).

Set in 1999 – hence the classic V-formation artwork – when we were all cartwheeling to the local cinemas to see that week’s new teen-horror flick, a quartet of small-town high schoolers decide to celebrate Halloween with a week-long slasher flick fest, much to the annoyance of the oppressive local Evangelical Church, who do all they can to stop it from going ahead.

Someone, however, has other plans, and begins offing attendees based not only on scenes from that night’s screenings, but also one of the Commandments. It’s down to lead horror-nuts Dash and Grace to find out who is behind it before they become the final victims in the reign of terror…

UK readers can pick it up here.

US readers can pick it up here.

Girl Power

Feels recently that we’ve really entered a phase of Final Girl appreciation. On screen we’ve seen Final GirlThe Final Girls, and Last Girl Standing, and in print The Last Final Girl and now Final Girls. A lot of finality in all those.

final girls riley sager

Riley Sager was reportedly renamed more gender neutrally in order to ship more copies of Final Girls. Weirdly, despite the first person narrator being female, I assumed the writer was male from the get-go.

The story concerns Quincy, the sole survivor of a cabin-in-the-woods massacre, ten years after the event, one of two other infamous ‘final girls’ takes her own life, leading the third survivor into Quincy’s life – and subsequently upending it and shaking it until everything tumbles out.

In spite of the slasher backstory requisite, Final Girls has more in common – as Stephen King’s recommendation states – with Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Paranoid mysteries with recurrent themes of the ‘unreliable narrator’ – the book merrily makes suggestions that almost any of the characters could know more about “what really happened that night” than they’re letting on.

Ultimately, it’s a book about the aftermath of a slasher event, rather than a recreation of. Intermittent flashback chapters back-fill the events of ten years earlier, but the formula is not dwelt upon, it only serves as a plot device. I didn’t guess the outcome, which is always a plus, and it should make a good film when it’s inevitably made into one.

Sager’s writing is dripping in rich wordplay, occasionally over-extending the scenes about baking and Quincy’s Xanax dependency and not exactly making her quite likeable enough to root for, but the locomotive need to put the pieces together results in the kind of jigsaw you hurry to complete.

there's someone inside your house stephanie perkins

On to There’s Someone Inside Your House, which I actually read first and at the same can’t-put-it-down speed.

This is far more of a teen-slasher affair, a kind of post-Scream millennial dead-teenager story. In a small Nebraskan town surrounded by cornfields, the high school drama queen is murdered in her home.

Exiled teen Makani, completing her senior year here after her involvement in ‘something terrible’ in Hawaii, is primarily more concerned with her budding romance with pink-haired misfit Ollie, but as the murders continue and she finds herself on the killer’s list, Makani and her friends decide to play detective.

Interestingly, the identity of the killer in TSIYH is revealed fairly early on, but that doesn’t deflate the tension from the situation. In fact, Stephanie Perkins wisely uses it as a tool of fear – the town knows who is doing it, but they don’t know where the assailant is or when they will return.

The best facet in the book is the killer’s penchant for toying with victims before attacking: Moving items around, leaving drawers open that were closed before, unsettling the mouse before the cat strikes. While the writing is in a different league to Riley Sager’s, for the intended demographic this addresses some social issues regarding the role technology plays in the lives of high schoolers, the interconnectivity of people who have never spoken a word to one another drawing them together. Some of the murders are pretty gruesome too!

Are slasher films misogynistic?

I don’t love slasher films because I’m a gorehound – quite the opposite in fact. I love them because I like to see people survive against the odds, because I love it when a ‘weak’ opponent manages to find in themself the strength and ferocity to turn the tables on their attacker.

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while now and, after reading some academic film theory of late (plus struggling with non-review ideas for the site), thought I may as well just go for it.

Way back in 1997 when I started my film degree, there was almost nothing to read on slasher films. Games of Terror and Men, Women & Chain Saws were it, both academic texts, both well written, both by female critics.

This last point matters because both texts erred towards the implication carried over into the mere mention of the sub-genre in other books as ‘women-hating’, ‘anti-feminist’, and ‘misogynistic’.

The common assumption of how a slasher film goes down: Young women menaced by a phallic weapon at the hands of a male aggressor.

The common assumption of how any slasher film goes down: Young women menaced by a phallic weapon at the hands of a male aggressor.

Games of Terror is about the formula far above and beyond gender ins and outs, but touches on it occasionally. In Men, Women & Chain Saws (hereafter MWC) Carol Clover pretty much tells porkies to illustrate her point, beginning with a meta-description of a slasher film that says a killer picks off ‘mostly female victims’, before using a bunch of films for reference where male victims outnumber females. Duh.

Still, numbers aren’t everything. The main point made in MWC is that terror is ‘gendered feminine’ and that can’t really be denied. Think back to almost every piece of slasher movie artwork commissioned, be it a quad poster, VHS cover, or DVD redesign, the recurrent theme is of a babe in peril, sometimes only partially dressed, often screaming as a shadow/blade/pair of straddled legs threaten her.


Various girls-in-peril artwork, often featuring a phallic penetrative blade at the hands of a male aggressor.

This is evidenced in the mention of slasher films in other entertainment: In an episode of Will & Grace, a male character proclaims he feels “like a sorority girl in a bad slasher film”; in Sister Sister, girls at a slumber party watch a movie and narrate: “Freddy’s going after the girl.” A character in Dawson’s Creek refers to slasher films as being nothing but “masked men slashing up girls.” The popular myth of the genre appears to be that the slasher film is almost entirely about the torture of teenage girls.

The films lean heavily on the prolonged torment of their female characters – from the ‘quick scream and chop’ murders, the long chases down dark halls or alleys, to the final girl’s initial reluctance to fight back. To pin it down – how often do we see male characters tormented in the same way?

A large majority of slasher films are about a killer chasing girls, who happens to kill boys who get in the way: Sorority House Massacre, for example, is an exercise in babes in peril: The killer wants only to kill girls who resemble (to him) his sisters, the male victims (who incidentally outnumber females 5 to 3) just happen to cross his path and must be eliminated.

mask maker

Boys scream and flee too

My argument would be that the expanded terror afforded to teenage girls in slasher films is in part ‘made equal’ by the greater number of male victims over all. 697 films in, male fatalities outnumber the fairer sex 61% against 39% with only 20.5% of films featuring more murdered women than men.

I raised this on a blog to which the author responded with a surly comment that the fact men ‘also’ die doesn’t detract from the misogyny at work and that slasher films serve to play to male fantasies of women being cut up. If so, why have male victims at all, let alone more male victims? I don’t for a second believe that Terror Train‘s singular off-screen female homicide out of TEN murders plays into any such nonsense, same goes for Happy Birthday to Me, and the two-vs-six body count in Hell Night. Do dead men matter less?

The point was compacted by the fact that in her essay, the writer didn’t namecheck or reference a single post-Halloween slasher film. Not one. Dressed to Kill, some 70s proto-slashers, and giallo films do not your point make. If I’d handed in an academic essay on film without citations, no matter how well written, I’d have failed. It’s baseless, anecdotal at best.

7eventy 5ive

That said, critics would often state that the way in which women – particularly attractive teenage girls – are killed tips the balance. Despite box office receipts for Halloween and Friday the 13th showing 55% of under-17s were girls, most teen-horror is still written, produced, and directed by straight men, and thus the inextricable link between slasher films and T&A has never died out – look no further than IMDb boards for hordes of complaints when a slasher film doesn’t feature any nudity.

Clover made a point of stating that boys die because they make mistakes, whereas girls are murdered because they are girls. While this might resonate in low-end exploitation films where the killer targets only females and a male happens to get in his way, early plot-driven slasher films heavily leant on mystery angles where the killer targeted a specific group of young people, always mixed gender. The boys in Terror Train die because of their prank against the killer; boys in Friday the 13th are doomed as much as their girlfriends because the killer is hellbent on obliterating them all; same goes for Graduation DayHell NightMy Bloody Valentine… Errors in what dark room they should or shouldn’t enter aside, nobody in these films is killed ‘because of their gender’.

The boys and girls of Camp Crystal Lake: Equally doomed

The boys and girls of Camp Crystal Lake: Equal opportunity doom

The sequences leading up to the murder of a female character is usually more drawn out than that of her male friends. One might say that the quick from-behind hijacking of boys in slasher films is to prevent a physical retaliation less likely to occur when a girl is stalked. This could also feed into the lack of instances across the board of a male in terror: ‘Weak’ men scream (see Trent in the Friday reboot) and run away; ‘real’ men stay and fight (see Julius in Jason Takes Manhattan) even if they almost always fail. The myth that is upheld is that when it comes to fight or flight, men will choose the former, women the latter.

Taking the Friday films as an example, in the oft-seen sequence where a couple’s sex is interrupted, most of the time the boy will leave the girl to get ice/beer/investigate a noise, and be killed first, usually quickly. This leaves the girl alone in the house/cabin with the killer, the scene slows down, the photography fragments, framing her from a variety of angles to confuse the viewer into wondering where he will pounce from, while she takes a shower, calls out for the boy, or flees having stumbled across his body.

In the 2009 remake of My Bloody Valentine, this was cranked up in a scene where the male half of a recent tryst dresses and leaves, while the woman follows him, completely naked, and is then pursued by the killer after the man is suddenly offed with a pickaxe. His death is swift, over in a second, while she is subjected to being accosted, stark naked, screaming, hiding, and hopelessly trying to defend herself.

It’s worth noting though that fellow 2009 slasher, Tormented largely reversed this scenario, with a buff guy in partially-on boxer shorts, runs across a school campus from his killer.

my bloody valentine betsy rue naked

Naked, tormented victim in My Bloody Valentine (2009)

Then there are the films where female characters are punished for ‘sins’ that pale in comparison to those of their male contemporaries, who are spared: Valentine begins with three girls refusing to dance with a dorky boy, while a fourth accuses him of attacking her so that a group of boys pour punch over him, strip him to his underwear and kick the crap out of him. Years later, the girls are stalked and slashed, the boys seemingly forgotten. The same thing applies in My Super Psycho Sweet 16, where several jocks beat up the dorky friend of the heroine, but only the ringleader is killed, whereas the female friends of the bitchy girl are beyond redemption, even when one of them expresses remorse for the way they’ve treated the final girl, and all are summarily murdered.

In Girls Nite Out cheerleaders on a scavenger hunt are slashed by a killer who roars “Slut! Bitch! Whore!” while a roster of extremely annoying frat boys, the nominal hero of whom cheats on his girlfriend, escape the blades. That the killer turns out to be female may be a half-hearted effort to side-step the misogyny in play as a woman judging the promiscuity of other women rather than a man. The Prowler is another early film where the killer targets girls, after his ego is bruised by being dumped 35 years earlier. The three male victims (out of seven) killed are either attacked from behind without even seeing the killer or shot out of the blue. The Burning sees a group of boys roast a caretaker almost to death, yet when he returns for revenge several years later, his victims are primarily female.

Few films have tried to flip this trend: The Slumber Party Massacre may have been meddled with during production, but aspects of the initial missive come through – the boys die quickly, shrieking and thrashing as they’re stabbed or drilled, while the girls pool their resources and strike back with ferocity, figuratively castrating the killer by lopping the end of his phallic drill-bit, playing up to the notion that the male killers are impotent men incapable of sexually pleasing a partner, so opting to stab her over and over with a phallic weapon in a grotesque perversion of the sexual act.

The ending of The Slumber Party Massacre is an excellent celebration of oestrogenic fury as the trio of final girls retaliate, and still the film was eventually pushed out with a ‘traditional’ emphasis on the babes-in-peril angle:

slumber party massacre cover 1982

Equating violence with sex doesn’t come much more obvious than that.

Later on in the cycle, the tropes began to be parodied. In Cut (2000) the tyrannical (female) director yells at the actor playing the killer for forgetting to cut open a victim’s blouse before slashing her throat; the slasher film being made in Brian De Palma’s Blow Out is also run by a producer who wants girls for “tits and a scream”.

The Scream movies have often been cited for portrayals of strong women. However, it’s worth noting that in those movies, the stalking element is exclusively geared towards girls – the Halliwell Film Guide even summarised the plot of the original as “a killer is murdering girls” in spite of the fact that more males die. In each Scream however, the opening scene shows a young woman (or women) being tormented by the killer. Her male companion is usually killed off quickly. The third film flipped it and the male character’s death was more protracted, and the fourth opted for a clever joke of an opening with two fake-outs before the real double-murder, ultimately amassing five deaths of young women. This is a series that may push Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers to pound on their male aggressors, but is pivoted by men who are always attacked either from behind or with no time to act, and girls who run and scream before they’re killed.

Double final girl power in Scream 2, offsetting the run and hide nature of other female victims in the series

Double final girl power in Scream 2, offsetting the prolonged torment of other female victims in the series

More recently, in the 2015 indie pic Bastard, all relevant roles are taken by women: The killer, final girl, and her would-be saviour. This is a film where the only on-screen murders are of men.

Conclusively, there’s no way to call it. There are exceptions to every rule the slasher universe has ever thrown out: Protracted male chase scenes occur in Mask Maker and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, but they lack the fear on behalf of the viewer for the fate of the victim. Do we care more about the girls than the boys? Read a few IMDb boards and you’d think anything but.

The back and forth could go on and on, but given that the slasher realm offers meaty leading roles for women, I’d say that trumps most accusations of misogyny. It’s got to be far more empowering to watch Jamie Lee Curtis, Amy Steel, Heather Langenkamp, or Neve Campbell fight off a killer with ferocious gusto than see them playing the wife or girlfriend of a guy who has all the adventures in any other genre.

Personally, a slasher film without screaming girls running about is usually a bad one, but I tend to get tetchy when the motif is repeated more than once per film, or when asshole guys are given a free pass while their much nicer girlfriends are brutally slain (see Honeymoon HorrorBerserker, even the recent Most Likely to Die). The best genre examples levelled it out: Kill some boys, kill some girls, but always leave one girl to save the day.

So are they misogynistic? I’d say largely – intentionally – no, but some certainly have their moments.

If you can’t sing… scream

Don’t you just hate all those TV karaoke “talent” shows clogging up every channel? The smug judges, sycophantic hosts, endless sob stories, and the insufferable gushing… Don’t you wish someone would just come along and kill everyone in them?

Well now…

Axe Factor Cover Trimmed 1563 x 2500 72dpi


If you don’t have it – you’ve had it!

Series 7 of Icon – the number one talent show in the country – is one week from crowning the winner, and recipient of a major record deal. But behind the bleached smiles, expensive gowns, the tales of determination and success, lies a world of backstabbing – literally.

Someone has a deadly grudge and to-do list of the 10 finalists. As favorite to win Carlee prepares for the night of her life and her big chance, her fellow contestants are being hunted down one by one and permanently ejected from the competition in a manner of grisly ways.

With suspects ranging from the ex-winner with a dark past, to the production crew who hate the show, and any number of participants who will do just about anything to win, Carlee’s chances of making it to the final hinge on whether or not she can piece together the clues before she ends up in pieces.

Buy here from Amazon US or here from Amazon UK

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