Spoiler free review, but seriously just go and see this movie.
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Writer: M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller
Stars: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch, Adam DeVine, Angela Trimbur, Chloe Bridges, Tory N. Thompson, Dan B. Norris
The Final Girls is about Max (Farmiga), a teenager who lost her mother, Amanda (Akerman) in a car wreck. A few years later on the anniversary of her mother’s death, her and her friends go to an arranged screening of Camp Bloodbath, the 80’s slasher movie Max’s mother was famous for. In the middle of the movie, a fire breaks out in the theater and to escape Max cuts a hole in the screen and gets her for her friends thru. When they come to, they realize they are stuck in the movie! The entire premise is completely outlandish and the movie does not bother to explain why this is happening, but who cares! This is one of the better movies I have seen in a long time.
This is one of those very rare PG-13 movies that is actually scary. The director relies on the audience’s knowledge of how a slasher movie is supposed to end and creative uses of cinematography to keep the tension high, not loud noises and jump scares. I really would love to sit all those hack horror directors down in front of this movie and make them study it. PG-13 horror movies wouldn’t bother me so much if they just tried to be somewhat creative.
DeVine and Trimbur steal every scene they are in as the exaggeratedly horny camp counselors. They do not shy away from going as over the top as possible with the humor and the screams of horror when Billy the killer (Norris) makes his appearance. It also makes for a nice juxtaposition to how the real teens stuck in the horror movie react when Billy shows up. The constant mantra 80’s slasher movies tout of sex equals death is used hilariously as the teens discuss what actually constitutes losing your virginity. Logic of how a slasher movie is supposed to play out is turned on its head when the characters find out they are in a movie and not real. The horrible writing and stereotypical characters in those movies are all up for ridicule. Even the idea of never ending sequels is spoofed.
On the surface The Final Girls is a meta comedy making fun of slasher movies in general, but more specifically making fun of Friday the 13th. At the core, this film is really about how to cope with grief, letting go of those we have lost, and finding the strength to fight back.
It was an honest shock to me when I found myself choking up at times and I realized the film makers were not shying away from genuinely touching moments during the wacky antics. When Max first meets her mother’s character from the movie, the look of heartbreak and happiness on her face had me welling up with her. Some of the deaths had me earnestly sad while I was rooting for the awesomeness of the moment. It is a rare thing when a movie can use an over the top premise to tell a story that is full of real emotion.
I can’t tell you enough to go and see this movie. The Final Girls is funny, touching, and frightening. If there is a sequel, then count me in!