The Final Girls; or A Slasher with Heart

Hello and Hallo-welcome to the first in a weekly series of reviews done by your intrepid bloggers, Andy and Lilly, featuring a variety of films from all realms of horror. Stay tuned for ghost stories, demons, vampires, killers, and all that goes bump in the night to be showcased over the following weeks.

This week’s film offering: The Final Girls

Not to be confused with Final Girl, which also has Alexander Ludwig. No, seriously.
Not to be confused with Final Girl, which also has Alexander Ludwig. No, seriously.

Lilly: Welcome back, readers, and welcome back, us, to the blog! We took a week off there, recovering from our month of macabre, but couldn’t stay away–seeing as you’re here, neither could you, so hoorah!

Andy: You’re not getting rid of us that easily, horror fans.

Lilly: This week, we watched The Final Girls, a film about the daughter of a scream queen who finds herself launched into her mother’s most famous frightfest fodder, Camp Bloodbath. She, along with four of her friends, end up in a situation where they have to live through the movie–not the easiest thing in a sexy teen slasher whittle-down film that is clearly taking off Friday the 13th.

Andy: It’s to this movie’s credit that the mechanism by which they end up in the nightmare of living through a slasher film is not really explained at all, but it’s all so breezy that you really don’t mind. Everything’s more brightly coloured and more vivid, but also seemingly shallow. You half expect to see a boom mike most of the time. The characters are the same – compared to our intrepid modern band, the movie characters they encounter are one-dimensional in the extreme.

Lilly: To add to the drama of being thrust into the freaky fictional world full of machete-related deaths and bad eighties fashion, our main character is dealing with the fact that her mother, in real life, died three years prior in a tragic car accident, so having a younger version of her being menaced is that much more stress added on to a pretty stressful situation.

Andy: Except of course, she’s not her mother – she’s her film character – an impossibly sweet girl called Nancy who wants to lose her virginity and play guitar. Talk about a mind screw.

Lilly: For a simple set up, this film is incredibly clever and is everything a horror spoof should be. A real love for the slasher genre is evident, from the characterizations to the musical cues and ‘don’t have sex’ rules being recognized by the poor teens sucked into it. Even Billy, the murderer, is actually terrifying, not just terrifying in the fake film and laughable with the arrival of modern protagonists. It’s actually pretty impressive, how this film forces you to care about the characters that, to our generation of horror fans, are known to be ‘meat on the hoof’ types–the jock, the girl-next-door, the sex-pot, the bad girl–due to them being juxtaposed against modern young people. It gives you a moment of ‘wait, they are people, though’ that you sort of forget, watching slasher film after slasher film. It brings those characters back into sharper focus after, as a viewer, I became almost desensitized to their menace because, hey, they shouldn’t have went and had sex while a killer was on the loose–which is nonsense logic, but something you calmly accept, watching slasher horror.

Andy: It’s such a simple, simple refreshing change to the format. Rather than going full hog into the gruesome (of which there’s surprisingly little) it instead gives us characters we care about. When was the last time you were genuinely scared for a horror protagonist? When was the last time you were emotionally affected by one?

Lilly: The modern teens being trapped in the film is bad enough, and then you have the relationship between Max (the main girl, played by Taissa Farmiga) and Nancy (played by her mother, who is played by Malin Akerman). Nancy is ‘the shy girl with the clipboard and the guitar’ who, in the original movie, gets killed after having sex with the resident jock, but Max, having some issues between drawing the line between reality and fiction (reasonably so, given her situation) wants to change that. Easier said than done, because the film still needs to play out, apparently. There still needs to be one Final Girl (hence the title).

Andy: Another character you don’t come across very often is the horror ‘expert’. Duncan is the world’s biggest fan of Camp Bloodbath and is the only one happy to be trapped there. His sheer enthusiasm carries the early part of the film, as he mimics dialogue as it happens around him and almost squees when he sees the killer for the first time. He’s not like Randy in the Scream movies, dispensing advice on how to survive – this guy’s just happy to be a long for the ride.

Lilly: Something truly impressive about this film is that it handles the relationship between Max and Nancy so compassionately–it feels like you step out of the campy Camp Bloodbath world when they are given time to bond, and you are watching a very well-acted teen girl mourning her mother. It’s painful, and hard, and I just was heartbroken about a million times over for Max. This is a horror film that doesn’t half-ass the personal tragedies that are going on during the massacre.

Andy: It really is very impressive and very well shot, from the absolutely spot-on recreation of 80s slasher films to the visually arresting look when the fourth wall comes up and pokes you in the eye.

Lilly: The beginning of the film pulls you in with Duncan’s enthusiasm and the likeable characters surrounding Max (save that bitchy ex played by Nina Dobrev) and you just stick with that feeling of ‘come on, you crazy kids!’ that deepens as they all grow well past the development you usually get in a slasher. I sort of hope this is a new age of them, where the good and bad of that genre gets mashed together and we get more films like this. Sequel? Yes please. 

Andy: We were somewhat blindsided by how much we liked this one. It’s definitely one for anyone’s watch-list.

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