The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

If you know anything about me, then you know I love a good slasher flick. I watched a VHS copy of Scream in a literal cabin in the woods when I was only eleven-years-old, and it sealed the deal. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way a horror movie buff. I am not into supernatural movies where ghosts possess people and I will never watch the exorcist. I like slasher movies, and there’s a huge difference. Knowing the rules of slasher movies is what makes them so fun to watch. The couple bedding down for the first time during a rowdy party? Dead. The guy who says, “I’ll be right back,” when he goes to look for his girlfriend in the woods? Dead (and his girlfriend died a few scenes ago). Knowing all the rules means you get to make fun of the person being brutally murdered on the screen for being such a dummy, and if anyone knows all the rules, it’s Stephen Graham Jones.

“Life in a slasher film is easy. You just have to know when to die.

Aerial View: A suburban town in Texas. Everyone's got an automatic garage door opener. All the kids jump off a perilous cliff into a shallow river as a rite of passage. The sheriff is a local celebrity. You know this town. You're from this town.

Zoom In: Homecoming princess, Lindsay. She's just barely escaped death at the hands of a brutal, sadistic murderer in a Michael Jackson mask. Up on the cliff, she was rescued by a horse and bravely defeated the killer, alone, bra-less. Her story is already a legend. She's this town's heroic final girl, their virgin angel.

Monster Vision: Halloween masks floating down that same river the kids jump into. But just as one slaughter is not enough for Billie Jean, our masked killer, one victory is not enough for Lindsay. Her high school is full of final girls, and she's not the only one who knows the rules of the game.

When Lindsay chooses a host of virgins, misfits, and former final girls to replace the slaughtered members of her original homecoming court, it's not just a fight for survival-it's a fight to become The Last Final Girl.”

The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones pays homage to every slasher movie you can imagine: Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Cabin in the Woods, Scream, Prom Night, and even Heathers, among a slew of others that I’m not well versed enough to know. The references throughout the text are innumerable (one character is named Crystal Blake, as in, Camp Crystal Lake, the setting for Friday the 13th.) The book is even written like a screenplay, in present tense with indented arrows setting up camera shots.

Sadly, however, I wasn’t entirely sold on Jones’ take on the slasher novel.

For one thing, the writing style proved to be more of a distraction than a help. It felt cool and edgy for awhile, but it became a nuisance later in the book and it completely confused the final scene. I had to read it twice to get even a remedial understanding of what was going on. Although, to be fair, most slasher movies erupt into chaos in the final scenes, as well.

Then, all of the characters knew too much. I like it when there is one genre-aware character in a slasher story. Scream owes so much of its popularity to Jamie Kennedy playing the nerdy horror movie buff Randy. (“The police are always off track with this shit! If they’d watch Prom Night, they’d save time. There’s a formula to it. A very simple formula! EVERYBODY’S A SUSPECT!”) However, The Last Final Girl is chock full of people who have apparently done nothing else but watch horror movies since their birth, and the reader starts to feel like they are the only one not in on the joke.

Finally, the action is crammed into the second half of the book, while the first half is a bit of a yawn. Jones definitely went all out on the final fight scenes, but I would have liked to see a bit more of the blood and gore in the first half of the book to raise the stakes a little bit.

Overall, the book was funny—some of the movie references stuck the landing and had me laughing out loud, and the entire book felt like watching a pretty decent slasher movie—but I wouldn’t call it genius. It’s definitely not on par with Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods. If you’re like me and enjoy a good slasher movie, then this book is definitely worth the read. Just keep your expectations low and enjoy the ride.

Happy Reading,