SXSW 2015 Movie Review: The Final Girls

The Final Girls
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Screenwriters: M. A. Fortin, Joshua John Miller
Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Adam DeVine, Thomas Middleditch, Alia Shawkat, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev
Release Date: March 13, 2014

Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson (A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas) The Final Girls is the latest in a growing cannon of meta-horror films. Part horror, part comedy, and all meta, The Final Girls satirizes 70’s and 80’s summer camp slasher films. The story follows Max (Taissa Farmiga, American Horror Story), a young virgin who (through mysterious circumstances which shall not be spoiled here) lands inside the very film that defined her mother’s scream queen career. Once inside, Max and her reluctant friends must survive horny camp counselors, trippy flashbacks, sing-alongs, and the deranged psycho-killer Billy (a stoic, slow-walking homage to Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th).

Max and her friends, aided by cult-movie geek Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), quickly learn the rules of these films: mean girls and sluts die first, only the brave and righteous virgin will survive. This virgin, so pure, so intelligent, so sincere, is the “Final Girl,” the only one who can stop the machete-wielding killer. Feminist horror fans will rejoice. This is a film with real female relationships that demolish the “slut” “mean girl” and “good girl” tropes, revealing (surprise!) real human beings underneath. The Final Girls doesn’t pull any punches in it’s satire, ruthlessly ridiculing the chauvinism and sex-negativity of the slasher genre.

Horror fans who’ve seen the slasher genre in its many incarnations will enjoy the millennial-era perspective, where feminism is the norm, and sex-positivity is on the rise. The teens literally explore the landscape of the source material, (a delightful combination of Camp Crystal Lake from Friday the 13th and Camp Arawak from Sleepaway Camp) and through their eyes we see just how ridiculous and amazing it really was.

I’d like to say The Final Girls is a total success, but when the final credits rolled, I was left wanting more. Cabin In The Woods and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil set the bar high. They make fun, but they are faithful to their source material, with scary effects, classic horror pacing, and real danger amid the humorous moments. The Final Girls delivers on the comedy and the commentary, but, aside from a few jump scares, fails to capture the bloody, gruesome horror of the original films. Still, the comedy and commentary are well worth viewing, in particular sexy camp counselor Tina (Angela Trimbur) doing an Adderall-fueled strip-tease to lure the machete-wielding killer in the last act.

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