The Final Girls (2015) **
D: Todd Strauss-Schulson
C: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch, Adam DeVine, Angela Trimbur, Chloe Bridges, Tory N. Thompson, Dan B. Morris
Plot Synopsis: Max, recently orphaned, goes to see a screening of a B-horror movie that her mother made 20 years earlier. When Max and her friends find themselves in the world of the film itself, they must apply their knowledge of horror tropes to survive.
REVIEW: The Final Girls is three films crammed into one:
- The first is a throwback to the slasher films of the 80's, but with a Last Action Hero type twist.
- The second is a satire of the slasher genre and the various cliches associated with it.
- The third is a play on a daughter getting a second chance to reconnect with her deceased mom.
Having three storylines crammed into one, the satire never has as much bite as it should as is at odds with the affection that the film tries to show to the 80's slasher craze. The mother / daughter storyline causes the film to drag in the first act. The opening sequence is a mock trailer for a film entitled Camp Bloodbath. It's a rousing moment that's sure to be a crowd pleaser, but after this bright start, The Final Girls bogs itself down having to address the main character being depressed over her mom's death. Or, to put it more simply, the film goes from being fun & energetic to being heavy & drama filled. And then there's the film's central premise of the characters being transported into an 80's slasher film, a premise that's never fully explained. One minute, the characters are watching an 80's slasher film. The next, they're transported into the very film they're watching. Just two questions, how? & why?
Having said that, The Final Girls is certainly a watchable movie going experience. The film's principal antagonist, a machete wielding killer known as Billy Murphy, looks like he could stand opposite of either Jason from the Friday the 13th franchise or Cropsey from The Burning. The character of Max (Farmiga) gets to share some nice moments with her mom (Akerman). Some genuine emotion comes across during these scenes. Then there's this idea of the film toying around with the notion of what audiences expect certain characters to be.
In one scene, the token mean girl gets a moment to reflect on how she regrets behaving the way that she did. In that same scene, we learn that the girl assigned the sidekick role can also be mean & vindictive as well. In another instance, when Billy starts murdering people, the first two characters to run away cowardly are the jock & the film's resident badass. Or when it comes to the typical summer camp romance, the characters who find themselves at the center of this are the token black guy and the girl assigned the role of being the sidekick or best friend. This is a film that tries to break free of the cliches associated with the genre and bring something more considered in how it develops its characters, but ultimately it never fulfills the promise of this idea.
The title of the film is The Final Girls, but in the end there's only one final girl. Why couldn't there have been two final girls or even multiple final girls? For a film that tries to break free of preconceived notions, it's ironic that The Final Girls gives into presenting a preconceived notion of only having one final girl. The token slut is coaxed into stripping in order to lure the killer. Once her clothes start to come off, guess what happens next? Why did the film ultimately give into having the token slut do slutty things? Or in another instance, the shy introvert gives into the idea that it's her duty to die, but again, my question is why?
Here's a hypothetical. Imagine if the token slut didn't give into getting naked. Imagine if the shy introvert found her strength to break free of her shyness. Imagine if they came together w/ the film's preordained final girl to form the final girls in order to take on the film's machete wielding killer. I imagine this would of made for some striking movie moments. Too bad.
The Final Girls is a premise and a bunch of ideas that have never been fully thought out or developed. The final result; a film that comments about itself, its characters & of the films that inspired it instead of forming anything that resembles a cohesive narrative. This is a film that I like what it could've been vs what it is. [PG-13] 88 minutes.
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