Final Girls by Riley Sager is a new release horror/thriller/mystery novel, and it's basically a slasher movie in book form. So of course Kelli and Emily were fully on board to read and review this book, especially because Halloween exists, and it's today. So Happy Halloween, Book Squad Goalies! Read on for our thoughts on this here book.
Kelli: So, for spooky reasons, we thought it would be fun to read some horror fiction this month and have a little chat with each other about it. Emily, you suggested the book Final Girls by Riley Sager - a book which boasts praise from the one and only Stephen King on its cover.
Emily: Yeah but I feel like those are a dime a dozen really. Stephen King has a lot to say about a lot of people.
Kelli: Where does he find the time to do so much reading?
Emily: He is a speed reader and writer.
Kelli: I want that.
Emily: Same. Though I read this book in two days, so maybe I'm on my way.
Kelli: Anyway, Final Girls follows Quincy, a woman who is the lone survivor of a brutal attack on her group of college friends at a cabin in the woods. The book takes place... ten years after that? I think?
Emily: Something like that, yes.
Kelli: The concept is that there are three different women - Quincy, Lisa, and Sam - who all survived similar attacks roughly ten years apart from one another, and the three of them have been labeled 'the Final Girls' by the news media, based on the horror trope we all know and love. I have a hard time believing the news media would actually employ film trope terminology, but whatever.
Emily: Also the author doesn't do a very good job of crediting Carol J. Clover, the person who came up with the trope. Or explaining what the trope is really about, which was disappointing for me because I'm a theory nerd. I'm just here to trash this novel. I'm sorry if I'm jumping the gun.
Kelli: Yeah. And we're both familiar with it, but I'm sure a lot of the people reading this book aren't.
Emily: So you wrote a paper about the Final Girls trope, which makes you an expert.
Kelli: Yes, I'm an expert. Definitely.
Emily: So for people who don't know what it is, would you care to briefly give us a run down?
It’s not a secret that Emily and I love Grady Hendrix. While I was dogsitting last fall, Emily suggested I read My Best Friend's Exorcism. Though I had lots of work to do, I plowed through the novel with a faithful pug by my side (Frederick the pug has been featured on our Instagram, for reference). I couldn’t put My Best Friend's Exorcism down, like I was cursed to bear witness to the gruesome story of demons, high school, and friendship. The book horrified me for reasons I won’t write here (because it would ruin your own enjoyment when you inevitably read it!), but trust that I loved it. Hendrix employs a type of humor that balances his use of horror.
Hendrix’s new book, Paperbacks from Hell, does something different than My Best Friend’s Exorcism and Horrorstor--both of which we’ve discussed on the blog and podcast before. Paperbacks from Hell is a nonfiction look at the history of horror novel covers, which leads to an examination of the trends in horror fiction.
Can I be totally honest with y’all and tell you the reason why I’m not an animal person? They’re too easily won. I know you’re gonna say I’m wrong, animals are really smart, they’re intuitive about people’s intent, they will guard your house, et cetera. I think it stands to reason, though, that they guard your house because you’ve trained them to do it. That if, let’s say, a gangster drug dealer trained his pitbull to attack you, they’d guard his house and him, too.
I point this out to say that if the family in The Witch hadn’t trusted their many animals, all that shit might not have gone down the way that it did.
I just need to make myriad worldview statements first before I get to my points about The Witch, because I want y’all to consider perspective when contemplating the genius of this movie, and it’s important to me that you know where I’m coming from so you can see this one perspective, which I haven’t seen addressed yet.
Here are two important things that I want to say about the nature of evil and my Christian upbringing:
[**Here’s where the spoilers start. If you haven’t seen The Witch yet, go stream it on Amazon Prime —you get a free year trial with an .edu address!—but do it in the light of day, with a friend who you know and trust. It is seriously SO GOOD. Truly beautiful and compelling. I really can’t oversell it.]
Perhaps the best thing about this season of American Horror Story was the two-minute trailer for mother!, Oscar-winning filmmaker Darren Aronofsky’s newest project. The preview promises a psychological thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as a couple who live in a beautiful, secluded mansion, which—to the dismay of Lawrence (the eponymous Mother) and the delight of Bardem (known only as Him)—is soon invaded by two strangers played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfieffer (credited as Man and Woman, respectively).
Friday afternoon we went into the theater knowing little more than this basic premise and that the movie was meant to be an artful, fatalistic meditation on the destructive and irredeemable nature of mankind. Mother! picks up on themes of religious failure and climatic disaster introduced in Aronofsky’s previous film, the remarkably unremarkable Biblical epic Noah. In his latest project, Aronofsky returns to Judeo-Christian mythology for inspiration, this time with a heavy-handed Biblical allegory about humanity’s destruction of the earth. Even so, with a title like mother!, one might reasonably expect to see a film more obviously concerned with women. In a recent interview, Lawrence describes the movie as “incredibly feminist,” but suggests it’s “much bigger,” echoing Aronofsky’s insistence that the film engages with universal allegories that are “not male or female, it’s all of us.” But what we actually get is a (probably not very self-aware) film about how men use women.
Beyond the cut are many, many spoilers. You have been warned.
I want to start by saying that I'm not the first person to point out the connection between possessed female bodies and burgeoning adolescent female sexuality. The 1973 film The Exorcist, which I would argue is the exorcism tale upon which all other contemporary exorcism stories are based, has been the center of many critiques about what this popular story is saying about the fear of female sexuality.
It's a tale as old as time, really. Girl meets demon, demon takes over girl's body, girl begins to say sexually suggestive things to terrified adults, girl masturbates with a cross, and the terror just escalates from there. In the end, the demon must be exorcised from the young innocent girl's body by a priest, an older male priest to be precise, so that order can be restored. The young innocent girl's tarnished body can only be made right again by the "power of Christ," suggesting the adolescent female body is unclean and this can only be mitigated by submitting to the patriarchal religious leader.
I know I'm harping on The Exorcist here, but that's only because The Exorcist, to me, is the movie that created the demonic possession film genre as we know of it today; the list of movies that follow this pattern of adolescent female possession is ever-growing. And this isn't just Hollywood misogyny; a lot of people believe there is religious precedent for this. Most recently, in the extremely disturbing Netflix docu-series The Keepers, we were shown how religious beliefs about the uncleanness of adolescent female bodies can play out in extremely destructive ways. Women's bodies and minds are traditionally seen as more vulnerable, more susceptible to evil, which is why women need the help of a pious man to guide them away from their demonic predilections.
Or do they?
About the Blog
The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.