By MICHAEL GINGOLD
What happens to the last woman standing in a slasher film after the credits roll? Author Grady Hendrix (MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM, THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB’S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES) dramatizes the answer in THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP, out today in both print and audiobook editions. The question can also be addressed by Adrienne King, who played prototypical final girl Alice in the original FRIDAY THE 13TH, and underwent a harrowing real-life experience thereafter. Thus she was the obvious choice to read the audio edition of THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP, and talked to RUE MORGUE about that experience and the ones that informed it.
The heroine of THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP is Lynnette Tarkington, who survived the massacre of her friends 22 years ago and hasn’t been the same emotionally since. She has been attending therapy sessions with other female survivors, modeled on popular horror-film heroines: one named Marilyn who confronted a chainsaw maniac, another named Heather who was terrorized in her dreams, etc. When one of the women vanishes, Lynnette and the rest of the group realize that someone is after them again–and band together to protect each other. It’s a scenario that resonated with King, who was harassed by a real-life stalker following FRIDAY’s release, and channeled those circumstances into her reading of Hendrix’s novel.
How did this project come to you?
Grady was a fan of mine, and he reached out to [his MOHAWK co-scripter and director] Ted Geoghegan, who put us together. Grady was looking for some advance promotional blurbs, so I said, “Sure, I’d love to read the book,” and I did, and it was incredible. It was riveting, and it also brought back a tremendous amount of anxiety as I was reading it, because it touched on some real situations and emotional pieces of my history. I think I even said in my quote that while reading this book, you should definitely have a glass of wine and a bottle of CBD next to you!
I remember feeling the same fear as Lynnette, who is our narrator and takes us through this journey. She’s a total mess, and something that happened to her many years ago is still with her. She walks around looking over her shoulder, and she doesn’t leave her apartment except once a month to go to these support group meetings. I lived that life for a year and a half, feeling like, oh my God, I really don’t want to leave my apartment, but I have to try to make this audition, when I was still trying to have a real life. Then I’d get a Polaroid under my door the next morning of what I’d been doing the day before, which freaked me out so badly that I’d go hide again. It was just the worst days, and poor Lynnette is still suffering this trauma, whereas I was lucky enough to have therapy that helped me, though it was a long process. Grady captures that, and it brought me right back to 1980-81.
It was kind of crazy to read it, coming from a man, number one: How did he get inside my head? How did he know some of my thought processes? I wanted to speak more to him, and we ended up talking quite a few times, because I wanted to get inside his head a little bit, like, “How did you know all this?” He explained that he was devastated, as were many of my fans, by the fact that Alice gets killed in the second FRIDAY movie. Of course, I tell them it was all a post-traumatic stress dream and Alice is still alive, roaming the woods, drinking fine wine and painting [laughs]. Obviously, this affected Grady; he thought it was cruel how they just tossed her to the wind. So he had been thinking about final girls ever since that time.
As for the audiobook, I don’t know if he was already aware that I had decades’ worth of voiceovers and looping and ADR experience. A few years after the stalker, my agent had me audition for ALL MY CHILDREN. I got the role, everything was terrific, and then when I was about to go on camera, I had a major anxiety attack. This was when I knew I was obviously more “damaged” psychologically from the stalker experience than I had thought. I told my agent I just couldn’t do this, and she said, “You know, at some point you’ll be able to, but in the meantime, let’s focus on voiceovers.” And so since 1984, that’s what I did, and it was a great little world for me. I looped some fabulous movies–TITANIC, JERRY MAGUIRE, I did seven seasons of MELROSE PLACE–and that was my hideaway. It was fun; you get into a loop group, and they become your family. I became very good at it, and I eventually retired in 2005–or so I thought. Then I got busier than ever, because that was when Peter Bracke’s book [CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES] came out, and I was resurrected from the dead!
So Grady asked me, “Would you be interested in narrating FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP?” and I said, “Oh my God, sure!” This was actually a point where I didn’t realize I’d be voicing every character in the book. It was a total gift, because I’ll never be allowed to do this on camera. If it’s going to be a movie, Hollywood is going to make sure if they cast an A-list of fabulous actresses. I’m so appreciative of this opportunity Grady gave me, because it’s almost like a bookend, you know? FRIDAY THE 13TH, and then 40 years later, THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP. It brings me full circle.
Tell us about the process of preparing for and then recording the audiobook.
I picked the first chapter and recorded it, and they did a blank listen–they didn’t know who it was–and they loved it. So I got to play all these multiple-layered ladies; they are extreme, and they’re fabulous. They’re funny, and they’re sick, and they’re just crazy lunatics, yet they’re so relatable. It’s a love letter to fans of ’80s and ’90s horror movies, because he gives you all the clues so you know who he’s writing about.
And then I had to work hard. Honestly, it was like, oh shit, what did I get myself into? I had to dissect the book and figure out how to keep all these different women clear. That was an amazing challenge, but at the same time, when I finally figured it out, it was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, in terms of being an actress. Because here I was playing multiple people in one scene; it’s a mindblower when I think about it. I’ve listened to it, thinking, “Holy crap, how did I do that?” I had to hyper-focus, and I worked with a great producer at Blackstone Audio. That’s what it’s all about: having a very strong producer who, if you get a little dramatic, pulls you back, and if you become a little too quiet, will lift you up a little bit. You become a team. As I said, the recording booth was my home away from home, so it was wonderful to get back in there and be excited about doing something new and fresh. At my age, that’s truly extraordinary.
I recorded over the course of two weeks, and the cool thing was that most of the audio recording studios are in the major cities, but Blackstone, which is one of the biggest audiobook companies, is in Ashland, Oregon, not far from me. They started there because the Oregon Shakespeare Company is in Ashland, and they knew they had a talent pool. So I was very fortunate; I didn’t have to leave my area, though it was an hour drive through the mountain passes! But still, it sure was a lot better than having to fly down to LA.
How much of Alice did you channel for the recording, and did you channel other actresses or screen characters as well?
I did; that’s how I approached it. I cast the book as a movie in my head. Because I’m so visual, I have to do it that way. And I guess that’s what reading for an audiobook is all about: creating that magic, so that when people hear it, they see what you see, or hopefully they see it in their own imaginations because of what you’ve inflected in your voice.
I did channel Alice, for sure. In fact, Grady named one of his final girls Adrienne, so that was totally a homage, and so sweet. I cast Julianne Moore as Crazy Chrissy [laughs], and I cast Charlize Theron, who could play Lynnette better at this age. Nicole Kidman was Dr. Carol–an Americanized Nicole Kidman–because it’s all about attitude. Once I was able to cast all the characters and lock them into my brain, I was good. Then they just appeared when they needed to appear.
Getting back to Alice’s fate in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, how did you feel about seeing the more explicit footage of her death scene in last year’s FRIDAY Blu-ray boxed set?
Oh, wasn’t that great? So we finally know it was all a flesh wound, and that Alice is really still alive! It was cool to see that; it made the fans very happy that there’s a chance Alice could come back. They’ll never let that happen in Hollywood, we know that, but if they could just get out of court and give us a new film, I think the fans would love it. If they could just put a good director and a good bunch of actors in a new FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel, people would just love them forever.