The Final Girls Review: A horror comedy that does both well

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Chad White
Loves: Thomas Middleditch. Just look at him and try not to laugh.
Likes: Nina Dobrev.
Dislikes: Bad horror movies.
Hates: Tropes.

Alternate title: Everybody Dies.

The final girl is a concept that has been done over and over. It’s a trop dating back to hundreds of movies including Alien and Friday the 13th. What is scarier than seeing a helpless white girl fend off against a psycho killer? The Final Girls pokes fun at the overused cliché by tackling it head on. It’s funny, it’s bleak and it’s very sad. Taissa Farmiga and the rest of the cast shine in a movie that aims to fly above the title of spoof.

Farmiga stars as Max Cartwright, daughter to Amanda (Malin Akerman) who was the star of a cult horror movie called Camp Bloodbath. After Amanda’s death, Max can’t seem to bring herself to grow out of the time she spent with her mother. When her friends played by Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrv, Alia Shawkat and Thomas Middleditch convince her to attend the anniversary screening of Camp Bloodbath, things turn pretty ugly. A freak accident leads to the crew to be thrusted into the movie where they meet the camp counselor characters played by Adam Devine, Angela Trimbur and Ackerman. Max realizes this is her chance to save her mother, in the movie, so she won’t have to let go.

Performances are hit or miss with Dobrev acting more like an archetype herself but she’s nonetheless funny and charming. The same could be said about Ludwig’s “best friend who’s in love with the main girl” character but, again, he does a fine job. Farmiga, in particular, is excellent as the heartbroken Max. There are moments she shares with Akerman that poke too hard at the heart. She’s convincing as an ailing daughter who wants nothing more than to spend more time with her late mother. Often times her friends have to remind her that Nancy is not real and even Nancy herself had to do the same thing.

The movie harkens back to an era where movies were campy (no pun intended) and almost hokey in execution. Characters from Camp Bloodbath fall into archetypes that poke fun at typical tropes. Devine is the jock, Trimbur is the slut, and so on. Our heroes are much more sophisticated when it comes to their personalities even though we may not get as much backstory or character building as other movies. Once they figure out the aspects of being stuck in the movie – the 92 minute loop or the inability to escape a scene – Farmiga and the cast have to deal with the killer. The directing is interesting here too as Todd Strauss-Schulson uses interesting cinematography in order to capture intense moments. One scene near the end includes a long, drawn out camera panning sequence in which the viewpoints of an entire room are connected. Schulson did an admirable job by taking these artistic chances that only added to the tension in the room.

Other aspects of The Final Girls include a flashback tool used to take the otherworld characters back in time. When it comes around the first time, they have no clue what’s going on. The other times it’s used, they’re able to utilize it as a weapon. Characters in Camp Bloodbath act on a loop when triggered where they act according to the script. This is seen when Farmiga mentions Billy, the killer. It’s an interesting device that adds to the movie within a movie’s authenticity.

Should you watch The Final Girls?

Every year, a ton of horror movies enter the cultural zeitgeist and very few of them are entertaining let alone scary. The Final Girls hits all the right notes in terms of cast, setting and the look. It’s funny enough to keep the viewer engaged in the story. At times, it can be really sad as well with Farmiga giving a convincing performance of missing her mother. Rent this movie as soon as possible.

Notes

  • Middleditch missing the jump over the velvet ropes was rewinded multiple times. That guy will never not make me laugh.
  • Devine’s character has a tattoo of a cherry because he’s a cherry thief. I’ve never been so disgusted and intrigued.
  • Tina says “Okay, where’s the beef?” This movie is so eighties.
  • Speaking of the 80’s, there’s more synth here than in It Follows, another indie horror movie. But it’s used way less ironically here. I did like that movie though.
  • On Comedy Bang! Bang! the podcast, Scott Aukerman insisted on calling this movie The Finals Girls. I cannot stress how many times I accidentally typed that name because of him! Although I would like to see a movie about two girls studying for their tests.