The Last Final Girl
Stephen Grahm Jones
Lazy Fascist Press
Review by Brian M. Sammons
A novel written both as a slasher flick and a love letter to slasher films? Yes please! See, I grew up during the golden age of slasher movies. I devoured them all, like a zombie does brains, and I know my favorite masked maniac movies line by line, every scene, and more importantly, every kill. I do deeply love them, from the acknowledged greats like Halloween, to the cheesy and forgotten gems like the slasher in a supermarket flick, Intruder. Furthermore, I’m a fan of the author of this new book, Stephen Grahm Jones, and his off kilter sense of humor. In fact, the novel I read before picking up this book was Jones’ wonderfully weird Zombie Bake-Off. So I love the genre to pieces and I dig the author … then why am I not completely in love with this book?
Maybe because it is too much like Scream and not enough like Halloween, Black Christmas, Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine, and other earlier classics that put slashers on the map. By that I mean the characters are far too glib, snarky, and hip that they just don’t read as believable. If this was just a single character, that would be one thing, but it is most of them here. Now I can’t totally begrudge a novel about slasher films for having not entirely realistic characters in it. After all, every slasher film ever made had people in them that strained the suspension of disbelief to the breaking point, but then that has always been part of their charm. However, the real reason for my earlier Scream reference is because of all the self-aware, wink-wink, meta name dropping of horror movies that happens on almost every other page of this book. Again, if it was a single character in this novel that was a walking, talking slasher movie encyclopedia, that would be one thing. But it’s not and all this nudge-nudging gets old remarkably fast.
Another gripe is this: if this was actually a slasher flick like it wants to be, it would be known for being one of the slowest moving stalk and slash movies ever made. More than half the novel goes by without any of the “good stuff” happening, and by that I mean any sort of action other than lots of pseudo-hipster horror dialog. To drop some of my own meta slasher knowledge that only the tried and true horrorheads will get, remember the 1984 slasher, The Prey? Well that flick moves along at a quicker pace than this book. See, I can do it too.
Now all is not dire here. The book can be quite funny and on more than one occasion I literally laughed out loud while reading it. Also the idea of a killer in a Michael Jackson mask was suitably silly, if a little bit out of place for a modern novel, and the high school setting seemed more than appropriate. Overall I did enjoy my time with this Last Final Girl, and most of the characters were fun, if not at all believable, but if you’re a fan of the slasher movies that inspired this novel then you’re likely to be left wanting something more than what this novel has to offer. So consider this one recommended, but sadly not highly. Three bloody butcher knives out of five sounds about right.