Not to be confused with Tyler Shields’ stylish trope-addressing slasher Final Girl (or, indeed, Benjamin Moody’s superior post-massacre chiller Last Girl Standing), comedy horror The Final Girls has been on our radar for a little while thanks to the excellent cast, and is now available on DVD here in the UK. Happily, we can definitely recommend that you do so.
American Horror Story’s Taissa Farmiga stars as Max, a college student who’s struggling to recover from the sudden death of her mum (Malin Åkerman), an actress who was best known for appearing in cult slasher movie ‘Camp Bloodbath.’ She reluctantly agrees to attend an anniversary screening with her friends, but a series of events leads to them being trapped inside the movie. The dimbulb characters with bad dialogue are definitely still doomed, but Max and the gang should be fine as long as they just let events play out…probably.
However, Max struggles to separate her mother from her character, and it turns out that masked maniac Billy doesn’t distinguish between the “real” and “fake” people. They’re in very big trouble.
Coming as this does from A Very Harold And Kumar Christmas 3D director Todd Strauss-Schulson, we assumed that The Final Girls would lean very heavily into the comedy side of “horror comedy,” but the film quickly shows itself to be more interested in playing with convention and establish a surprisingly moving emotional story at its core.
With genuinely affecting performances from Farmiga and Åkerman, Max’s struggle with being confronted by this woman who looks like her mother is tender and touching. The film cares about its characters, which gives their deaths an impact we didn’t expect.
That’s not to say that The Final Girls isn’t funny. An excellent cast is on very good form, with veteran scene-stealers like Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley) and Adam DeVine (Pitch Perfect) making the most of a witty script, and The Vampire Diaries‘ Nina Dobrev does great straight man work as the ex of Max’s potential new beau Chris (the solid Alexander Ludwig, who confusingly also starred in Final Girl). Some sequences are absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious, such as when a camp counsellor has to be elaborately restrained to prevent her slaughter-starting striptease.
It’s visually impressive too, as Strauss-Schulson has great fun with the more self-aware elements of MA Fortin and Joshua John Miller’s script. Anecdotes kick-start flashbacks, slo-mo affects everyone, and giant titles appear in the sky. There’s a level of wit, invention and heart here that we don’t often see in the horror comedy genre.
Despite slipping out on DVD with very little fanfare, The Final Girls deserves to be hunted down. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s smart, and we had a brilliant time.