This review ran on 6/18/15 during the LA Film Fest
Horror fans of the 1980’s grew up experiencing the terror of a new set of tropes and the mainstreamed depiction of grisly, campy violence. Many of these classics were terrifying experiences back then, but today’s audience grew up knowing all the clichés as just that. Therefore modern movie fans aren’t wooed by serial killers at summer camps or boogymen in closets. The current generation has a more cynical approach, and thus has birthed the satire horror film, the most notable installment being the widely cherished Cabin in the Woods.
With The Final Girls, director Todd Strauss-Schulson attempts to bring a new entry into this self-aware subgenre.
Max (Taissa Faramiga) is the daughter of 1980’s horror scream queen Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman) and is coming to terms with her mother’s absence in her life. One event leads to another and Max and her friends end up at a screening of the classic horror film her mother starred in, Camp Bloodbath, and in a Wizard of Oz-esque turn of events, Max and her friends get transported into the movie itself, and are forced to fend off the movie’s bloody killer as if they are in the movie themselves.
While the film truly has an original premise and gets plenty of mileage out of the movie-within-movie scenario, it ultimately gets weighed down by the mother-daughter relationship as a focal point.
Within the movie they must also deal with the fictional characters already in the movie, which happens to include the character played by Max’s mom (unaware that she is her daughter). It isn’t as confusing as it sounds, but the basic premise is a hybrid of horror comedy jabbing at the various slasher and general movie tropes, mixed with a sentimental mother-daughter storyline.
While the film truly has an original premise and gets plenty of mileage out of the movie-within-movie scenario, it ultimately gets weighed down by the mother-daughter relationship as a focal point. It was the writers’ intention for this to be more than just a horror comedy, but unfortunately every time the film deviates to the mother-daughter relationship, it loses major momentum. The relationship between the characters is genuine and authentic, but isn’t properly fused with an otherwise campy story. The result is segments that feel out of place compared to the rest of the film.
When it comes to the horror comedy itself, surprisingly, the final result is something that actually plays it much safer than it potentially could. When lined up next to other action comedies that emphasize the gore as part of the humor, Final Girls seems out of its league. Its strength then falls into its characters, which thankfully are unique and inspired enough to keep the film going.
The only exception (and I’ll admit I may be alone here) is Adam Devine, who frankly I just find increasingly less amusing with every new experience. Otherwise, the cast is a wealth of young talent who I can imagine will land bigger projects from here.
Finally, when it comes to the ending, which I will not spoil, the film has all the pieces to do something truly daring and twisting as most of the film does. Instead, the film takes its biggest twist and turns it into something rather safe, even erasing some of the unique decisions that the film establishes earlier. All in all, The Final Girls will entertain and provides a fun, self-aware movie going experience, but might not be as daring as the initial premise and concept suggests.
The Final Girls opens at The Vista in Los Feliz & On Demand this Friday.