Short story: “Final Girl Theory”

by look i have opinions

“Final Girl Theory,” by A. C. Wise

First appeared in ChiZine (probably June 21st, 2011, although the story is not archived); read for episode 287 of Pseudopod, June 22nd, 2012; anthologized in The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Four (2012, Night Shade Books), edited by Ellen Datlow, and in The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen (2014, Tachyon Publications), also edited by Ellen Datlow (excerpt)

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I found this story frustrating. I’m accustomed to the indescribable-cult-movie conceit (Night Film is the most recent one I can think of). I can accept a narrator (or main character) who loves the indescribable cult movie passionately, even uncritically. More people should love things. And I like narrators who try to describe the indescribable. But the narrator of this story describes the content of the movie in detail, and the details are overwhelmingly banal. Man torturing nude woman; decadent drug-addled sex party; vaguely occult/BDSM ritual; eerie carnival scene with eerie funhouse mirrors; disorienting camerawork and soundtrack; tits and ass and blood and blood.

The ending—spoilers ahead—is, I think, about the main character realizing the sordidness of his obsession, and being changed by this realization (for better or worse, I’m not sure). It’s a pretty good ending, but I want it to surprise me in some way, teach me something new, and it does not.