Crew/Production: Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, written by M.A. Fortin & Joshua John Miller. Daughter Max is played by Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story), Nancy (aka Amandea/her mom) by Malin Åkerman (Watchmen, Silk Spectre II), and supporting actors such as Gertie (Alia Shawkat, Arrested Development) and Kurt (Adam DeVine, Workaholics)
Plot: American comedy Slasher, where a daughter and her friends are transported into an 80s slasher flick, where her late mother plays one of the camp counselors.
Thoughts on the film:
• Did you know? The idea for this film came about as writer Joshua Miller would see his father, Jason Miller (Fr. Karras in The Exoricst) die in films.
• The premise is that lovely mix of kayfabe & shoot as teens are transported into a movie they know about (they literally cut through a movie screen and enter into it!). The name ‘Final Girl’ refers to the last heroine left standing at the end of a horror film; and Max and her friends are inside the movie and can be killed. It’s kind of similar to the Scream sequels as there’s a movie franchise about Scream (called “Stab”) happening during the film.
• Having self-aware characters leads to a lot of fun jokes, like transitioning into a flashback, physically seeing titlecards (“Summer of 1967”), and acknowledging when the movie goes into slow motion for affect.
• Knowing how the original movie pans out, they try to subvert the expected storyline to escape, and mostly end up dying in different slasher film ways. There’s a ton of horror tropes (this is an 80s slasher set in a campsite, and the main villain is Billy, a lawsuit-pending rip-off of Jason!). Smartly, they use said tropes to plan their attack – knowing that Billy, shows up whenever people exude sexuality, they use Tina’s (well-known in the original movie) striptease to lure Billy to their trap.
• However despite being in an 80s film, there is no gratuity and very little sexuality – i.e. no nudity and very, very little gore. This is a PG movie, which does hurt the film – there’s even a decapitation without blood (?!). Along with the heavy emphasis on grief/drama, at times it feels like this film is for girls who don’t like horror films and are dipping a toe into horror. The writing is generally very good for a horror film so it’s not much of a problem.
• The cast is predominantly female, which is a nice twist on typical horror films (where there’d just be one female protagonist).
• The Final Girls is shot nicely and looks to have a larger budget than regular films (shown by their well-known stars).
• Two characters steal the show, the amazing Kurt (Adam DeVine) who is the over-sexual leud jock of the film (which is played for laughs as he’s given intentionally lousy PG dialogue “Berries? I’ve give you a hand with those melons!” / “go suck a turd!”) – he’s the best thing about this movie, along with the horror buff who doles out the rules of this slasher, Duncan. I was devastated to see him get sliced with a machete early in the film.
• The 80s-ness of the movie is prevalent and awesome (and tubular). The film is shot with intense, saturated colours (like in the forest with different, colourful flowers) and fog is shown as a neon pink – absolutely love that, it’s gorgeous, and it features prominently towards the end of the film. Only naff part of a great-looking hyper-vivid style is the ‘Final Destination’ bit where they use CG camerawork in a theatre to show vodka and cigarette ask combining into flames. There’s some excellent groan-worthy one-liners that I won’t spoil.
• There’s more jokes to be had as they interact with the characters in the movie, who have the same awful porn-level dialogue but as if they’re real people, which is very cool. One of the girls, Tina, sees a smartphone and tries to use it like if it was a cassette.
• There’s also a heavy emphasis on drama between Max, still grieving over the death of her mother, getting to see a younger version of her alive in a slash (and also knowing she’s supposed to die). There’s some genuinely lovely moments although it gets quite smulchy later on.
• The ‘modern’ characters also exhibit dumb slasher character ideas, like not confirming a kill, paying attention to the bad guy. There’s a part where they see the backstory of Billy in a flashback – and they have a machete – so I would’ve went to prevent the incident of turning him into a monster and end the film! Some of this is groan-worthy but mostly it’s grand indeed.
• There’s a couple of sweet 80s tunes punctuating the film (which sometimes comes ‘out of the clouds’ with heavy reverb, as if it’s being projected ‘into’ the film) like Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” during a strip scene and Toni Basil’s “Mickey” introducing the original cast. Some great new wave classics in there too.
Overall: It’s a well made-movie, a great premise, higher budget, surprising heart even if it goes too heavy in parts. Despite this being a PG slasher flick (wtf?!) with no sex/gore, it’s a fun watch and if the above interests you, check it out! Worth seeing in the cinema if possible as it’s a light-hearted crowd-pleaser.