It can be so hard to find good horror movies, but that often means that when they do appear, it can often be below the radar and unexpected. So when this happens and the film is also clever and just different enough to make fans of the genre stand and take notice, it’s such a welcomed surprise and a gem that feels like it needs to be shared with everyone. In this case, the movie was advertised as “the feel good horror movie of the year,” and I am proud to say it lived up to that upon its limited release in 2015, even if I just finally saw it recently. I want to present a curious little bloodstained flower in a field of dead flora, and an example of why I will never give up on the genre, The Final Girls.
I honestly want to encourage any who may want to see the movie already not to read much further, as I feel that knowing less about the movie helps the general impression and appreciation, especially for horror fans. For those who may not be convinced yet or have already seen the film, please read on. Now that I have successfully talked the film up, let me break it down.
The story can be explained simply enough, though it is ripe with potential. Max is a young woman who has been grieving over the death of her mother for the past three years, but now there is a chance to save her, if she can survive a maniacal killer and find herself in the process. The heroine and her friends have been pulled into Camp Bloodbath, to watch her mother’s most famous role, where surviving means following the rules and fighting back. It’s a tale from a lesser-known director, a pair of unproven writers, and a cast that has a lot of recognizable faces that comes together quite nicely.
Thankfully, the acting is quite strong here, or at least a lot better than what we are used to in the genre. There is a solid female lead with a lively and entertaining supporting cast that is unfortunately killed off way too soon. This left no time for some of the characters to develop, which is bad when the character relationships were some of the best writing in the movie. There is development all around, in short spurts, but the connection between Max and her mother is a center point of the movie and gets surprisingly emotional at times without going over the top. I hear there was a good bit of adlibbing and improv, some of which can be seen after the credits. This is just a compliment to the actors again for pulling out some wonderful moments, but I have to credit a good script for the 80s dialogue that made me laugh, and excellent character banter.
Watching the movie upon consecutive viewings made me appreciate the setup a lot more. From the opening trailer for Camp Bloodbath that sets the tone of the film to the exquisite cinematography, this was all visually exciting—minus the seizure-inducing lightning from that church scene. The effects are all fun, even if they look cheap and the green screen shows easily, but that won’t bother many people. I love how someone steps over the movie lettering only to have the killer crash into it later, or how the theater fire was so over the top which reminded me of the Final Destination films. I enjoyed the creative camera work, especially the loops, but it goes a little wonky at times. The music worked well also, especially the Bette Davis Eyes song by Kim Carnes that plays its own role in the film.
One of my favorite parts of the experience though is how the film doesn’t try to explain anything supernatural or respect its own mechanics. Some stories get caught up in that and shoot themselves in the foot trying to add reason to things. Reality is thrown aside early on and there is no need to logic anything out because it still sounds like all of the individual elements fit, and frankly, it’s just entertaining. None of this is hidden though, perhaps flaunted even, as they use flashbacks to escape the killer or simply shake up how it works to be the final girl. Plot decisions like these keeps the audience guessing a little more.
My big issue with the film is the pacing. The first half of the movie starts slow and builds incredibly well, holding interest and having a lot of developments and exposition to keep the audience’s attention. Up until the majority of the cast is murdered the movie is stronger, where the later portion seems more self-indulgent and revels in the world and ideas it created, losing focus on actually telling a story or bringing in a good conclusion. The movie is a clever homage to the slasher genre, having a ton of Easter eggs and hitting each tone and trope perfectly, but it leaves out something that might be equally as key—blood and boobs. There is blood and one or two decent kills, but almost no real gore or stomach churning moments. The movie hinges on sexual themes but there is no nudity, which seems oddly wrong somehow, but perhaps I’m focusing too much on the classics. This is because the film has a PG-13 rating, even though it did not have a wide release. This confuses me, and although I don’t personally think it hurts the movie too much, it may keep The Final Girls from being an instant classic in some eyes. I would love to see an R rated version of this, or at least see the sequel get to let loose.
None of this will take away too much for most viewers though, as I’ve found myself having watched it three times already and feeling the need to let others know about it. So, I’ve done my part here. I don’t want to see the genre turned into nothing but horror comedies, like this and Cabin in the Woods, but it’s hard to argue that endeavors like The Final Girls are refreshing at times and should be shared.