Say hello to the latest addition to our Hidden Gems club, The Final Girls.
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas), and starring a boatload of promising young talent that includes, but is not limited to, Taissa Farmiga, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, and Adam Devine, not to mention a sprinkling of Malin Akerman, The Final Girls is a wickedly inventive meta-horror comedy that deserves your attention.
Amanda Cartwright (Akerman) is an actress haunted by her early appearance in the cheesy cult classic ‘Camp Bloodbath’, continually struggling to find work as her bills pile up. Following a failed audition, Amanda and her daughter Max (Farmiga) are caught up in car crash that results in Amanda’s death. Three years on from the accident Max is encouraged to attend a back to back screening of ‘Camp Bloodbath’ and its sequel, initially reluctant Max agrees to go as an opportunity to see her mother again. However during the performance a fire breaks out, and in an effort to escape Max and her friends cut through the cinema screen only to wake up inside the actual ‘Camp Bloodbath’ movie. Confronted with their surreal predicament the group must find a way to get out of the movie and back to reality, whilst Max is afforded the opportunity to be with her mother Amanda, albeit as her character Nancy, one more time.
Encapsulating everything glorious about the heyday of the slasher film, The Final Girls is a near perfect addition to a genre currently on life support. It’s no secret the slasher genre is one full of awful dialogue, ropy acting and plots with more holes than a sieve, and because of that it’s always a hoot to go back to it. Now The Final Girls doesn’t so much play on those particular trademarks more (dialogue aside) then it does lovingly mocking the writing that went into such features. It’s one thing to recreate a foolish 80s slasher, characters, costumes, and all for a bit of fun, but it’s another to use that setting as a springboard for poking fun at cliches whilst giving them a warm embrace.
On one hand we have characters from within the film (camp counsellors of course) going about their business as they were written to, blindly stumbling into a serial killers path fuelled by sex, alcohol or any sort of deviancy whilst completely oblivious to their purpose. Then we have the ‘real’ characters, led by Max, who are fully aware of their surroundings armed with the knowledge of what happens in ‘Camp Bloodbath’ and using it to their advantage. It creates an incredibly fun dynamic that would please many a horror fan, and one they utilise to its full potential. One of the many satisfying instances to occur is when the counsellors unknowingly summon the presence of the killer, all the while Max and the gang can hear every tell tale sound cue of his arrival; itself a nudge to the famous ki ki ki audio cue from the Friday the 13th franchise. It is just one of many smart little elements, alongside the quirks of a dodgy trailer, poster, and one of the best mock taglines I’ve ever seen for a film within a film that make The Final Girls an absolute blast for any horror fan.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. The dialogue, performances, and look of the counsellors are spot on with their cliches; Adam Devine chews through the scenery with his role as Kurt, the camp jock intent on bedding who he can, and Angela Trimbur is great as the uninhibited ditsy Tina. That being said The Final Girls is missing one thing, a quintessential facet of the genre it takes place in, gore. As gruesome as it is to suggest, a severed limb here or there would not have went amiss. It would have given the film more opportunity for humour, and chance to certify itself as a stone cold classic.
You don’t need to be a through and through horror fan to enjoy The Final Girls, but without a shadow of a doubt that is who it is aimed at. As a huge fan of the genre, and with years of shitty slashers under my belt, I was in heaven watching this absolute gem of a horror comedy. Thanks to some witty writing and clever direction, The Final Girls takes its place alongside the likes of Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Cabin in the Woods, and Planet Terror as a both a fitting tribute to, and glorious addition of the horror genre. Now all we need is a sequel.