‘The Final Girls’ (2015) Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson
A few things need to be said about this movie up front, before I even get into the meat of the review, or discuss any of the plot. This is a PG-13 comedy/horror film, that leans a bit more to the comedy side and actually has a pretty touching emotional core. It references horror films and tropes, but doesn’t really follow them closely enough to stand beside the movies that inspired it. There is gore and some cursing, but that’s not really the focus of the movie. If you want a blood soaked throwback to the summer camp slashers of the 1980’s with Tom Savini providing the special effects, you may not find what you’re looking for here. If you want a fun high-concept comedy that just so happens to be set inside a generic 1980’s slasher, then you’re in luck!
The movie starts out when Max (Taissa Farmiga) and her mother Amanda (Malin Akerman) get into a car accident which leaves Amanda dead. Amanda just so happened to be an actress, and one of the stars of a cult classic slasher film, Camp Bloodbath. Three years after the accident, and on the anniversary of her mother’s death, Max is talked into going to a screening of her mother’s movie and its sequel. The theater catches on fire, and as Max and her friends attempt to escape through the movie screen, they actually end up in Camp Bloodbath. Once they’re in the movie, the group must figure out how to survive the attacks of Billy Murphy, the machete wielding killer whose backstory is awfully similar to that of Jason Voorhees.
The horror elements of the movie are there more to set up the comedy and action set pieces and aren’t really scary or pulse pounding. There are some inventive visuals and the performances of the characters within Bloodbath are entertaining even if what’s being presented on screen doesn’t actually resemble many of the 1980’s summer camp slashers. There are some of the elements there for sure, but this movie isn’t packed as full of references or nods to the horror films that inspired it as either Scream or The Cabin in the Woods were. The timing of the events within this movie is a bit fuzzy as well, with Malin Akerman either playing much older or younger than her actual age depending on how old she was supposed to be when Camp Bloodbath was made. In a story where it is possible for the characters to go through a theater’s screen and into the movie however, continuity issues aren’t really anything that deserve much thought.
If the movie is more focused on the comedy aspects and less on the actual horror, does the comedy work? Yes, I was thoroughly entertained and enjoyed spending time with these characters. Watching this movie, I found it to be more similar to something like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil in that it’s a contemporary comedy using loosely defined horror tropes and a traditional horror movie setting to provide a lot of its humor. The relationship between Max, her mother, and her mother’s Camp Bloodbath character Nancy provides this movie with heart and gives it some emotional resonance. This helps raise the stakes of what’s going on, and makes you care about these characters, unlike many of the slashers of the 1980’s.
The supporting cast is full of faces that you have likely seen in multiple other television shows and films (Alia Shawkat, Adam DeVine, Thomas Middleditch) and I actually quite enjoyed what everyone brought to the table here. This is the type of movie that you can show to friends or family that can’t stand the intensity of a full on hard R rated horror film, while still entertaining those who grew up with Jason Voorhees and Cropsy. It’s engaging throughout, and even manages to utilize titles and voice over in a fresh and unique way.
‘The Final Girls’ is currently available on the major Video On Demand services, and can be pre-ordered on DVD or Blu-ray.