‘The Final Girls’ is a Delight (Review)
Written by: Lois Kennedy
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Alia Shawkat, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Adam Devine, Chloe Bridges, Tory N. Thompson, Angela Trimbur
Max is a teenager who has lost her actress mother in a car accident. During a showing of her movie Camp Bloodbath (think Friday the 13th), Max and four friends get transported into the movie. Once there, they team up with the five camp counselors to fight off the masked killer Billy Murphy.
The filmmakers do an excellent job parodying the sillier aspects of horror movies. As the trailer for Camp Bloodbath announces, the campers “won’t be singing kumbaya, they’ll be screaming kumba-no!” The camp counselors cleverly embody slasher movie stock characters: the dumb promiscuous girl, the shy pretty girl, the token black guy, the arrogant jock, and the final girl. Billy comes running (shuffling?) along every time a character has sex or exposes her breasts. Max’s friend Duncan, who’s a big fan of the movie, says admiringly, “The writing is so bad!”
At the same time, the movie’s plot allows it to play with movie conventions in general, like flashbacks and slow motion and title cards. Since the characters are self-aware, they know the rules of how movies work and what can be expected to happen. Max’s friend Vicki, annoyed by the jock character, hisses at him, “I am so glad you die!”
However, the movie is able to stand on its own as more than just a spoof; it’s an extremely original piece of work. It also has depth and the characters grow as people and break free from the roles they thought they were trapped in. (All except poor dumb Tina.) The contemporary characters are less stereotypical than their counterparts (and they look a lot more like real teenagers). Even the mean girl is smart. The only thing that puzzles me is how less racially diverse the modern-day group is. All the characters are likable and interesting. As can be inferred from the title, the female characters are strong. They’re flawed and vulnerable, but smart and brave too.
Overall, the performances are great, and the movie is hilarious. Even the sets are wonderful; the camp setting is pretty but artificial enough to look like it belongs on a low-budget slasher movie. Check it out if you’re in the mood for something smart and well-made.
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