The Final Girls is a rare gem of a horror/comedy because it never fails to hit the mark. It’s self-aware but without too much of a wink and capitalizes on both the big and small complexities. Characters are well-rounded and interesting, the comedy lands, the drama scores, the story is compelling, and the aesthetics are wonderful. I first saw The Final Girls with a group of friends last year and immediately knew I’d be adding it to my yearly list. So should you.
At it’s core, The Final Girls is about a daughter, Max (Taissa Farmiga), coping with the tragic loss of her mother, Amanda (Malin Akerman), by desperately grasping on to her memory. Amanda, a former scream queen most famous for her role as Nancy in the cult film Camp Bloodbath from the ’80’s, is killed in a car accident when Max accidentally distracts her by spilling something on the floorboards. Unable to forgive herself, the next 3 years of Max’s life are spent in self pity. Begrudgingly, she agrees to join some friends at a special screening of Camp Bloodbath and it’s sequel Camp Bloodbath: Cruel Summer.
During the first film, a fire breaks out and the crowd frantically scrams for the exits. With their area blocked off, Max cuts a hole in the screen for she and her friends to escape through the exit behind it. This is where the movie magic happens as the group is inexplicably transported into Camp Bloodbath! Oh, wait. I didn’t tell you? The Final Girls is a movie-within-a-movie. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. But don’t bemoan the familiar concept too quickly (as I had pessimistically done so before I saw it).
Camp Bloodbath is a campy slasher film with similar themes as Friday the 13th, and our group spends their time in it trying to fight their way out. They encounter the characters from the film (who have no clue they only exist in this realm) including Max’s mom, Amanda. Except here Amanda is Nancy (the hot virgin in Camp Bloodbath who gives it up and of course is butchered), and Max struggles with distinguishing the two apart. She wants so badly to be with her mother again, even if it’s not her mother, and tries to save Nancy from her scripted ending so she can live with her once they find a way out. This narrative drives the film and does so beautifully as it works across from the lunacy, and very funny, story arc the group travels in their escape.
Speaking of the group, the rest of the main cast includes Thomas Middleditch, Alia Shawkat, Nina Dobrev, and Alexander Ludwig (who oddly enough was in a movie called Final Girl that also came out last year). The Camp Bloodbath cast is highlighted by Adam Devine whose character, Kurt, hilariously steals every scene he’s in. My only gripe is that he wasn’t featured enough (slasher spoiler?).
It should be mentioned that it’s also one of the more visually stimulating horror movies we’ve seen. The art direction is top notch here, something that you don’t often find in independent horror movies.
The Final Girls is full of fun and creative moments that keep you engaged in a concept that is often difficult to pull off. I really think they could make a sequel work… The Finaler Girls, maybe?
Slash your way through our other Halloween favorites on our 31 Days of Halloween list here.