Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Final Girl strikes back in UNDER THE BLADE by Matt Serafini



I grew up on the slasher films of the eighties, namely the Friday the 13th franchise. For a long time now, I have sought literature that could reproduce the feelings of horror and suspense I had when seeing these movies for the first time so long ago. To be honest, my search was in vain…

That is until I read Under the Blade.




The killer rose from the darkness and, for the first time, she saw him against the dancing firelight.

It’s him, she thought with wide, bulging eyes. He can’t be real!

He was a campfire tale in the flesh, but no one had really bought the stories. The town drunk once accosted them outside of the gas station, swearing they’d meet their ends at the hands of Cyrus Hoyt. “Hoyt’ll hack you up. That’s what he does.”

A surreptitious campfire fable recounted Hoyt’s modus operandi. Melanie had found it scrawled in graffiti on the side of the boy’s bunk one morning and barely had time to read it before Dugan barked orders for a prime and re-paint:

Cyrus Hoyt haunts these woods, ready to attack
He comes by firelight but you won’t see him
Don’t know you’re dead until he hacks
His axe through your bone will please him

[page 10 / Loc. 103]

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The first edition of Matt Serafini’s Under the Blade was published by Severed Press in 2014 in trade paperback format only.


Four years later, the second edition was released in trade paperback and Kindle formats by Black T-Shirt Books in 2018.

This post is based solely upon my reading of the Kindle version of Under the Blade, Second Edition.

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Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate much biographical information on Matt Serafini.

Serafini was interested in horror from his elementary school days. He was able to turn his dark interests to profit by writing about horror books and movies for the genre website Dread Central between 2009 and 2017. He has also written for other genre websites.

Under the Blade was his second work, coming after his debut novel, Feral (2012). He has now published six novels and one collection.

Matt Serafini currently lives with his family in Massachusetts.


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Other sites have summarized Under the Blade better than I ever could. So, rather than attempt to duplicate their fine work, I will provide a link to their review below. It is well worth your time.


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As I stated before, one of my favorite sub-genres of horror is the 80s slasher film. And, one of my absolute favorite 80s-slasher-horror films is Friday the 13th Part 2 released in 1981.


A large party of the reason I adore this movie so much is due to the final girl. In this movie—Ginny Field—is portrayed perfectly by Amy Steel. The character of Ginny was written superbly. Ginny is intelligent and uses her wits to overcome the monster. But she is also not afraid to be a girl. Ginny is not a fighter. Rather, she is a caring and nurturing figure.  

With everything she goes through by movie’s end, Ginny is in shock and distress. Regardless of the fact that she ultimately triumphs, the movie viewer just “knows” that, despite the fact that she survived, this final girl has some long-term PTSD and mental health issues ahead of her.

Many films in the 80s-slasher-horror-movie sub-genre conclude by the final girl outwitting, defeating or just plain kicking the bad guy’s ass. And then, the movie ends. Girl lives, that’s it.

Under the Blade picks the story up from there.

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Under the Blade explores what the future is for a survivor. Trauma’s effect on a young girl’s life and the pain and regret of surviving the slasher’s attack are, for me, the highlight of the book.

In Under the Blade, the final girl is Melanie Holden, a nice young lady and definitely not a tough guy or fighter. She did what was necessary for her to survive. She did survive…and lives with the consequences every day.

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The novel’s structure and the way the reveals are presented are very reminiscent of King’s IT and Crouch’s Abandon where two timelines, past-time and present-time, are explored concurrently in the book. The uncovering of the past leads to a more nuanced experience for the reader. But not so for the characters involved, who are not always made aware of the past-time revelations.

This leads me to my one big negative with Under the Blade. One thing, more than anything else, is guaranteed to put a damper on horror—exposition. In exploring the past-time, Serafini explained too much, thereby taking away the horror of the monster. Related to this, to my mind, the past-time story takes away from the emotional power of the final girl’s survival. Considering this was a principal reason that drew me to the book in the first place, anything that takes away from this emotional resonance is a bad thing. Also, the present-time storyline is very strong. Yet the inclusion of an additional plot element unnecessarily diminishes the horror of the story.

As previously stated, how the final girl copes with being the “final girl” is what I found most appealing about this story and what I most looked forward to. The author’s effort to create a back-story to the slasher only killed (no pun intended) any mystique the character may have held.

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I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Under the Blade, despite my one misgiving. In reading, I felt as if I were back watching those movies for the first time, experiencing joy in a horror tale well told.

For fans of the slasher sub-genre, I heartily recommend this work.


Good night.





References


Print Resources

Digital Resources

Serafini, Matt. Under the Blade. Black T-Shirt Books. 2018. Kindle.

Online Resources

-, Michele. “Book Review: "Under the Blade" by Matt Serafini.” The Girl Who Loves Horror. Blogger.com. Web. 23 November 2014. <http://thegirlwholoveshorror.blogspot.com/2014/11/book-review-under-blade-by-matt-serafini.html>

Cole, Scott. “20Q7A: An interview with Matt Serafini.” 13 Visions. Blogger.com. Web. 15 May 2019. <http://www.13visions.com/2019/05/20q7a-interview-with-matt-serafini.html>

Serafini, Matt. “Under the Blade now terrorizing ebook and paperback.” Matt Serafini. Web. 05 July 2018. <https://mattserafini.com/2018/07/05/under-the-blade-now-terrorizing-ebook-and-paperback/>