The Final Girls Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson
Written by M.A. Fortin & Joshua John Miller
Starring Malin Akerman, Taissa Farmiga, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Thomas Middleditch, Angela Trimbur, Chloe Bridges, Adam Devine Vertical Entertainment
Release Date: October 9th, 2015
A friend of mine sent me the trailer to The Final Girls on Facebook with the message, “It’s like Last Action Hero as a horror movie!” So obviously I was intrigued immediately. I was excited when I went to NYCC and sat in the panel for this film, with director Todd Strauss-Schulson (Harold & Kumar 3), and star Malin Akerman (Watchmen, The Heartbreak Kid, etc.) They discussed how this isn’t a traditional horror movie, but rather a movie about coping with the loss of a parent, and how you’d react if you had one more chance to be with them… that, inside an 80s slasher setting with a Jason Voorhees style killer chasing them. What we end up with, is a movie that at times was as goofball funny as Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, while managing to evoke real heartfelt emotion. It makes The Final Girls a truly unique film.
Max (Taissa Farmiga) and Mom, Amanda (Akerman) are driving around discussing Amanda’s languishing film career. They are genuine as mom and daughter. They sing “Betty Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes in the car. And then there’s an accident. 3 years later, high school senior Max is coaxed into going to a special screening of “Camp Bloodbath,” the 1986 Friday the 13th clone that her mom infamously starred in and died in. She has sex in an 80s slasher, what did you expect? The movie is as paint by numbers as you can imagine. Sex crazed counselors, boy who get bullied and disfigured by a prank gone wrong becomes masked machete wielding killer… you know this plot. Of course, there’s a “Final Girl” a badass chick named Paula (Chloe Bridges) who shows up to dispatch the menace with his own machete. This is all thoroughly explained by Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), Max’s friend who is a horror super geek (kinda reminded me of… me). Max ends up at the theater with shy but gorgeous boyfriend material Chris (Alexander Ludwig), bitchy Vicki (Nina Dobrev of Vampire Diaries), and her best friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat). When a fire breaks out in the theaters, Max (looking for the back door) machetes her way through the screen, and the 5 of them end up in 1986 Camp Blue Finch, new characters in the movie itself!
The camp cast is filled with 80s stereotypes played with zeal by Adam Devine (who plays the sex crazed jock Kurt), and Angela Trimbur as Tina, who just wants to take her top off. I don’t want to spoil too much of the fun, but suffice to say it makes for an interesting dynamic when you have kids who KNOW what is going on, trying to save the fictional characters in the movie. Or is the only way out to let the movie play its course, and thus watch your friends die?
Farmiga, who played a troubled youth in a horrifying situation on season 1 of American Horror Story, has a natural desperation in her face. You believe the emotions her character conveys. Her scenes with Akerman are great. Akerman’s movie character Nancy starts as a naive slasher girl, and needs to have mother-daughter conversations with Max(!) to gain self esteem. The dynamic between them is actually really adorable.
Director Strauss-Schulson excelled here in playing on the tropes of a movie-within-a-movie style films. I love the effects here and how they are used. When the modern day friends don’t follow the plot, they are constantly redirected until they do. When Nancy tells about how young Billy became a monstrous villain, we get a flashback and the color literally melts away into black and white. During a climactic chase, the characters run and talk in slow motion, fully aware that they’re in slow motion. There’s a hilarious gag at the beginning where they miss their transportation and must wait the entire 92 minute runtime of the movie before they can catch it again.
The Final Girls pays homage to the slasher genre, but also manages to be a truly emotional film about coping with loss, and the chance to get more time with the departed. The films seamlessly bounces between these vastly different styles, sometimes blending them at the same time. If you like horror, comedies, or Nicholas Sparks stories, you will love The Final Girls. It has everything to keep you entertained. The Final Girls is playing in selected theaters now, and is available on VOD from Amazon for a $4.99 rental/$9.99 purchase. You can purchase it on Blu-ray and DVD for around $20.00. It is well worth adding it to your collection.