DVD Review – The Final Girls (2015)

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You know how it is, you wait four decades for a movie that explores the lone survivor female scenario and then three turn up at once. 2015 has already seen the release of the aesthetically ravishing but ultimately soulless Final Girl from Tyler Shields and a London Frightfest showing for Benjamin R. Moodys’ innovative and brave Last Girl StandingBoth films have the same notion at their core and that is to take a well documented horror trope and subvert or twist it to distort the accepted geography of the horror universe.

Like the other two entries The Final Girls has a high concept re-working at it’s epicenter and wastes no time at all in setting about it’s target audience with a keenly sharpened meta – machete. Where Final Girl played the reversed protagonist card and Last Girl Standing trumped it with it’s post event timeline, The Final Girls brings a mother and daughter bond melodrama wrapped up in  quote rich comedy to the revisionist slasher party.

Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story) stars as Max a young woman who totally adores her kooky actress mother Nancy played by Malin Akerman (Watchmen). We know this because they lip sync to Kim Carnes whilst dicking around in the car. We also know this because when said dicking around invites CGI rendered crashery Max ignores the suicidal driving aspect and instead concentrates on mourning her matriarchal deprivement.

Applying the sort of logic reserved solely for horror film use young Max is peer bribed into attending an anniversary screening of her dead mothers most famous film – cult 80’s slasher “Camp Bloodbath.” After a freak Final Destination style accident involving poor drug management the showing goes all Inglourious Basterds and Max and her rag tag band of stereotypes escape through the screen and into the alternate dimension of a slasher movie.

Obviously The Final Girls can never take it’s self seriously and still function and thankfully it never does. The film makers do not  waste their time(or ours) with credible world-building but instead they construct a vibrant and peppy playground in which the familiar dynamics of the horror film are left free to frolic. This works brilliantly as the whole flick could have easily collapsed under the strain of the time travel implications alone.

The Final Girls refuses to remain serious enough for any of the dead star sized plot holes to distract it from its mission to beguile and it is refreshing to watch a horror parody that does not rely on being as clever as it thinks it is.

The cast do the punchy dialogue justice and the script has the good sense to kill characters off at the exact point they are about to cross the annoyance threshold. The chemistry between Farmiga and Akerman is a solid enough foundation on which to build the central theme and at times it transcends the frothy levity and becomes genuinely moving. Farmiga has the kind of reverse eye ball engineering designed for on screen water works and it’s only a matter of time before she claims a breakout role.

Angela Trimbur (Kings of Summer) is hugely entertaining as the breasts as bait nymphomaniac stripper on speed Tina and so is Adam Devine (Pitch Perfect) as walking unwanted erection Kurt.

The 80’s setting allows for much hilarity towards later day gadgets and attitudes such as mobile phones and gay adoption and there is a clever sense of irony at large that the main players in such a zeitgeist heavy movie are increasingly perceived as anal in their new-found reality. Left stranded in the hedonistic environment of a slasher picture knowing what to do to stay alive leaves them looking like the front line of the fun police at a fuck riot.

Gore hounds will be barking up the wrong tree with The final Girls as the admittedly high body count is expertly devoid of full on sadistic blood letting. What violence there is however is done front and center but in a passive aggressive censor appeasing way that dispels any cynical contrivance and fits perfectly in with the theme park ride mentality.

Although she existed decades earlier the ‘final girl’ was not actually born until 1992, delivered into the loving arms of the horror comunity courtesy of American academic Carol.J.Clover and her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Clover argued that the cinematic language of the heroic female survivor shares a direct affinity with the development of feminism in general and there is nothing about the current movie landscape to suggest she was anything but spot on.

With this in mind it should comes as no surprise that strong female characters are profoundly under the microscope especially so in horror cinema –  a genre that all too often reserves the best seats in the house for lovers of unbridled misogyny. Equal pay, sexist Hollywood agendas and objectification in the media are still rife and as such it’s no wonder the revitalisation of the ‘final girl’ is so ripe for diverse reinterpretation.

Too that end The Final Girl fingers the pulse in a satisfying fashion and offers up a fresh and lively exercise in escapist modernity in the process.

Bradley Hadcroft

Comedy.Slasher. | U.S.A , 2015 | 15 |Sony Pictures Home Entertainment | 12 Oct. 2015 (U.K. DVD + Digital HD) | Dir: Todd Strauss-Schulson |Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Adam DeVine  | Buy: The Final Girls