Still grieving three years later after a car accident resulted in the death of her mother (Malin Akermin), Max (Taissa Farmiga) is reluctantly talked into attending a screening of the campy 1980’s slasher film that made her mother famous. Yet when a series of bizarre events results in a fire breaking out in the theater, Max and her friends find themselves pulled into “Camp Bloodbath” and must team up with the camp counselors against the machete wielding maniac if they want to survive. Max gets one last chance to spend time with her mother, who played the shy camp counselor fated to die at the hands of masked killer Billy Murphy.
Of course, the arrival of Max and her friends, and their subsequent meddling with the film’s plot means that things go awry fast. With the film’s original final girl taken out early, they must figure out a new path in which to take out Billy Murphy. The meta approach makes for extremely funny moments, particularly when our core group find themselves being sucked into a black and white flashback to reveal the origin of Billy Murphy. The dialogue cleverly pokes fun of slasher devices, and the modern characters are able to utilize their knowledge of the genre to make smart choices.
In this slasher within a slasher, typical slasher tropes from the 1980s are not only subverted, but they’re injected with heart. The one dimensional stereotypes from the past contrast the layered, complex characters of the present as Max and her friends try to navigate their strange situation. As the film progresses, it’s often funny and touching how these characters affect each other. Max’s affective heartache endears herself to you from the outset, but the support of her current friends and the openness in which the “Camp Bloodbath’s” counselors welcome the modern group go far in building a group of characters that we want to root for. Save for the requisite comedic relief characters, such as the jock or the slut, everyone is given a satisfying arc. Even the Mean Girl grows as a character and a human being. Which makes this the unique slasher in that you care when these characters meet their ends.
There are moments when the use of computer generated effects are poorly rendered and distracts a bit as a result, such as the series of events in the theater that results in the fire. Other than these few overly stylized scenes, the film is well put together. Styling “Camp Bloodbath” to emulate the look of 35mm film was a cute touch.
The Final Girls is a loving spoofy of the absurdity of camp slashers often going for laughs more than horror. There is horror, though, and the deaths of the characters becomes increasingly devastating the more we get to know them. Most gut wrenching of all is watching our heroine, Max, desperately try to save the woman who looks like her mother, despite this woman only being a character in a fictional horror film. Her coping with grief is the backbone of the film on both a narrative and emotional level.
With strong, intelligent writing and affecting performances by Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch, and Adam DeVine, the film is both horrifying and hilarious. But it’s the chemistry between Taissa Farmiga and Malin Akerman that gives The Final Girls something very rare and special in slashers; a heart and soul. Currently out in limited theatrical release and VOD, The Final Girls has all of the elements for a classic in the making; comedy, horror, and all of the feels. I demand a sequel.
The Final Girls [Review]
The meta slasher within a slasher approach subverts typical tropes with intelligence and reverence. With heartfelt performances and humor, this unique take on coping with grief makes for a memorable horror comedy with will give you the feels.