Who says direct-to-VOD movies have to suck?
I’m so confused right now. Why wasn’t this given a theatrical release? Sure, the film is playing in like 15 theaters in American mega-cities, but for Charlotte, “The Final Girls” is not going to make an appearance on the big screen. For our quaint little village, we must all enjoy “The Final Girls” on video-on-demand (link below), which typically doesn’t bode well for the quality of a movie. Yet, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the trailer for this film, as it simply looked too fun to ignore. “The Final Girls” is a creatively clever love letter to the trashy slasher movies that pervaded the ’80s, focusing on a group of college students that somehow end up inside an actual ’80s slasher film while trying to escape a screening of the film as the theater burnt down. Once inside, these normal teenagers must find a way to manipulate the idiotic blood bags that are the characters to help them survive the night.
If it weren’t easy to pick up on, “The Final Girls” is also a comedy, playing off the ridiculous tropes that plagued some of the lesser slasher films of the ’80s. “The Final Girls” is also one of my favorite films of the year, surprisingly. A film that seems, if only from the one time I’ve watched it, insane replay value, if not only from the sheer amount of fun this film is. Unlike “Scream Queens,” which is about 90 percent comedy, 10 percent horror, “The Final Girls” has found a nice balance of 75 percent comedy, 25 percent horror, letting the audience actually get invested in the film they’re in before getting into the film we’re watching and laughing with it.
The film could unjustly be compared to other films like “Scream” and “The Cabin in the Woods,” but “The Final Girls” is something of a beautiful hybrid that stands on its own. This film takes the creatively wonderful cleverness of “The Cabin in the Woods” and combines it with the meta-horror feel of “Scream,” but adds much more emotion to the actual story than either of those two films. Unlike those films, “The Final Girls” has characters that are likable and that you root for, unlike attractive blood bags that are in so many other horror films. The film even goes so far as to include our characters in the visual effects of the film, living them in real time, making the film even more fun.
The cast deserves credit for making it so likable as well. Our main group, Max (Taissa Farmiga), Chris (Alexander Ludwig), Vicki (Nina Dobrev), Gertie (Alia Shawkat) and Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), who find themselves in this ’80s horror film, all do great work. Though, for comedic timing’s sake, Shawkat and Middleditch provide the most laughs of the main group, unsurprisingly. Though, much like many other mainstream films today, Adam Devine, who plays Kurt, the hyper-sexual jock, steals the show, offering up the most laughs of any character in the film and completely owning each scene he’s in. The emotion of the film is picked up mostly between Max and Nancy (Malin Åkerman), the shy girl at camp, played in the real world by Max’s dead mother. Max is now conflicted as how to keep her mother alive through Nancy, even though it’s not technically her real mother. These scenes are absolutely heartbreaking, with Farmiga and Åkerman doing great work with each other in these scenes.
The aesthetic of “The Final Girls” is luckily befitting of its budget, favoring cheesy effects over anything of real visual splendor, which in any other film, wouldn’t work, but here, it works great. The direction by Todd Strauss-Schulson is great as well, really playing up the way in which slasher flicks in the ’80s were shot, at least in the earlier scenes, with his own stride coming into full view by the end of the film, when everything isn’t on such strict guidelines.
The only thing I felt that held “The Final Girls” back, if only slightly, was its PG-13-rating, which was required by Sony during production. If “The Final Girls” had been able to go a bit farther with its violence, profanity and sex, I feel like it would’ve made my day even more than it already has. Even more confusing is, after asking for a PG-13-rating, for more box-office success, Sony still gave the film a small release. Though, as is, “The Final Girls” does its job devilishly well, R-rating or not.
Is it clear enough that I loved “The Final Girls?” Because I did. From the opening frame to the final credits blooper, I was completely delighted as a horror fan and a comedy fan alike. The film not only is a hoot to watch, its surprisingly engaging in the emotional sense, with refreshingly likable characters that are filled out nicely by familiar faces. The aesthetic, music, editing, all fantastic as well. The ending of “The Final Girls” leaves us in the midst of a possible sequel, which typically, is a somewhat annoying trope to leave a film with, but in a film like “The Final Girls,” I want to see more, I want to see more right now.
Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Åkerman, Adam Devine, Thomas Middleditch, Alia Shawkat, with Alexander Ludwig and Nina Dobrev.
Runtime: 92 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for horror violence, some crude and sexual material, language and drug use.
Now in select theaters and on-demand.
Stage 6 Films presents, a Groundswell production, in association with Ulterior Productions, “The Final Girls”