The slasher sub genre has been kicking around for a long old time now and such is its structure and ridiculous tropes that it deserves a good piss take or two. Of course we have already had Scream and more recently the sublime Tucker and Dale Vs Evil but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for one more. The Final Girls aims specifically at the sub sub genre of the summer camp slasher, home of Friday the 13th, The Burning and various Sleepaway Camps which quite frankly were taking the piss in the first place, so why the hell not.
Things kick off with Taissa Farmiga and her mother Malin Akerman driving around LA as her mum goes from failed auditions to failed auditions. No one can disassociate her from a slasher movie she made way back in 1986, Camp Bloodbath. Things don’t work out too well for Farmiga’s mum and the daughter is soon left all alone. Three years later she is persuaded to go to a screening of Camp Bloodbath and one thing leads to another and Farmiga and her friends from real life find themselves trapped in the movie like Mia Farrow did in The Purple Rose of Cairo but with more boobs and blood. Actually, there SHOULD be boobs and blood but there isn’t. I’ll get to that later.
The Final Girls is a very slick, pretty and well made film. Its also engaging and pretty funny. This is in no small way due to a number of lovely performances. Farmiga has got the tragic teenager thing down pat nowadays which in no fashion is to diminish her performance here as she is centre of the film and its her character we’re rooting for. However its the rest of the cast who make the film more fun. Thomas Middleditch may well be the coolest guy in the room in real life but in the movies he so far, he has done one thing and done that one thing very well* : He’s played a deeply awkward geek. Let’s look at him:
What a glorious fool. Its such a shame (SPOILER) he’s the first to die, although to be fair the know-it-all movie geek in horror satires is as much of a cliché now as the clichés they spout on about.
Then there is Adam DeVine from Pitch Perfect who is playing the exact same character as the one in Pitch Perfect but is more interested in hitting on girls than hitting the high notes. Is there a bit of a pattern here? It seems everyone has been cast to play exactly the kind of characters they often play. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing I suppose as they all give great performances its just it all feels a little safe. The same safety goes for the killer, Billy Murphy, a Jason Vorhees/Cropsey rip off who has no character other than the old prank pulled on him as a youth that leaves him horribly mutilated and desperate for revenge. I suppose by not making Billy funny at all there is an attempt to make the horror side of this horror comedy scary, although he is such a one note cliché it just seems like the same old same old.
The stuff that works the best though is the stuff between Farmiga and her mother. This is in no small part down to Akerman who brings out a real sense of tragedy of a young person senselessly murdered before they’ve ever reached any of their potential. The fact that she’s not even meant to be her mother but a character her mother played makes it even more remarkable that the scenes the two actors share work so well. And I really like the fact that Akerman was both too young to play Farmiga’s mother and too old to play a teenager: now THAT is a slasher movie cliché worth picking on.
If the horror isn’t particularly scary and there is an unusual emotionality I wasn’t expecting, the comedy itself is pretty good. Of course there are the performers I’ve mention before, plus Alia Shawkat (from Arrested Development) and the hilariously sincere Tory N. Thompson in some terrible men’s hot pants. Yeah, you heard me:
Okay, hot ish pants. He’s the one in the braces in case you didn’t know Tory was a man’s name and not a right wing tosser. Best of all though is the girl on the right, Angela Trimbur, as the incredibly naive bimbo who just wants to get her breasts out and get laid – and hence is one of the first to be killed in Camp Bloodbath the movie. As she doesn’t die when expected and is a deeply underwritten character (within the pretend film) she spends the rest of the time failing to understand pretty much anything and is only intent on getting her whammers out.https://myownpersonalhellblog.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/friday-the-13th-part-7-the-new-blood/
There’s also lots weird stuff with mobius strips where time becomes a loop as our heroes try and fail to escape the camp, plus they slip into flashbacks which are quite cool transitions. In fact there is a good amount of invention in The Final Girls and its definitely worth a watch. It isn’t a classic by any stretch but its a good time. However…
Why the fuck is this a PG-13? The film is an entirely bloodless affair more like Friday the 13th Part 7 than Part 1. What really is the point in taking the piss out of a genre that was known for its gore and then not being gory? I know the idea is to appeal to a younger market so increase ticket sales blah blah blah but this is bullshit. The first Friday the 13th was a hit BECAUSE of the gore, not despite it, and the audience was the teenagers this film is desperately trying to please. And you know what? Its still those teenagers who are going to enjoy this film the most, and they are all in their forties now. The jokes and references aren’t going to be picked up by today’s kids half as much as people of that generation (sorry about the sweeping generalisation there, there are plenty of younger horror fans who will know exactly what’s going on, but I’m in the middle of a rant here) so why are you aiming the rating at them and not at the audience the film should be for? Its madness I tell you. The last Expendables did the exactly the same thing, chasing the PG-13 dream and look how that turned out.
It just boggles the mind really. I know that film making is a business as well as a form of entertainment but be at least true to the genre you are satirising. Scream did it. Have things changed that much that people won’t go to see The Final Girls if it isn’t aimed at children? Well whatever the plan was I don’t thing it worked. I thought this was going to get a proper release in the cinemas when I first heard about it. Maybe its nothing to do with the compromises made to get the lower rating, all I know is that I watched it on the day of release on iTunes not in the cinema. The Final Girls may not be the best horror comedy ever made but it is a good one, and it deserved better than this.
* This might not be true, just all the films I’ve seen Middleditch in he’s been this massive freak. I mean that in a good way.