The Final Girls (2015)
When indie horror The Final Girls first premiered, all I heard about was how it was surprisingly good; it wasn’t playing at any theater around me in Michigan, so I waited patiently for the DVD release to see if the rumors were true…and for once, they were.
Struggling actress Amanda (Malin Akerman) is in her late 30s and has only starred in one film: Camp Bloodbath (basically, Friday the 13th). She doesn’t want to be known for a (though iconic cult classic) cheesy 80s slasher horror film and she is adamantly pursuing acting jobs, but to no avail. As she is going around to casting calls with her daughter Max (Taissa Farmiga), they have a heart to heart conversation, and then “their song”, Bette Davis Eyes, comes on the radio. Even though Amanda is feeling so low, she shakes it off and dances around in the car as she sings their song to her daughter. Out of nowhere, in the middle of a sweet and meaningful moment, a truck smashes into their car and Amanda dies.
Three years later, Max is still grieving her mother’s death as she slips into depression and her grades begin to falter. Her friend’s brother Duncan (Thomas Middleditch) begs her to attend a screening of Camp Bloodbath at the theater that he works for since she is the daughter of a former Scream Queen; Max only agrees after he promises that he will do her homework for her to help her grades. Along with her friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat), her love interest Chris (Alexander Ludwig) and his ex-girlfriend and Max’s ex-friend Vicki (Nina Dobrev) she reluctantly attends. The audience is full of die-hard Camp Bloodbath fans (so-called Bathematicians). When a freak accident causes a fire, Max and her group of friends attempt to escape behind the screen, but find themselves sucked into the Camp Bloodbath movie with the camp counselors, including Max’s mom. They must use their knowledge of the movie to figure out what scenes are happening next and how to avoid getting killed by the film’s antagonist, Billy Murphy.
Playing off of Scream, The Final Girls is full of inside jokes for horror fans, and in order to survive and become one of horror’s Final Girls (aka last woman standing, as in most horror movies), they must abide by horror movie rules, including that only virgins can survive. As soon as a top comes off, Billy comes out as ominous music plays, so they attempt to persuade even the characters in the movie, who have no idea they are even in a movie, not to have sex.
Adam Devine is crude and hilarious, Angela Trimbur is absolutely insane in the best way, and Thomas Middleditch was way funnier than I thought he could be. Malin Akerman was great as the sweet and innocent Nancy in Camp Bloodbath, and came across as a truly caring “us against the world” mother to Max. Nina Dobrev was typecast as the dumb and bitchy hot girl and Alia Shawkat is her typical weird self that I love. Taissa Farmiga is always a horror favorite of mine, and this film was no exception. The only person I was kind of “blah” on was Alexander Ludwig, who didn’t sway my opinion one way or another. The cheese and even the cinematography stayed true to an 80s film throughout, which didn’t go unnoticed.
Though The Final Girls is a lot of fun, there’s a deeper underlying theme. Max becomes desperate to save her mother in Camp Bloodbath as she still struggles deeply with having lost her best friend. The film is not just a campy horror film within a campy horror film; it intertwines the despair a person experiences from a true loss and how it’s okay to let the past go to free yourself from the prison of pain. It shows Max finally learning to let go, and leads to a pretty badass scene of empowerment and strength against Billy.
I highly recommend owning a copy of this instant cult classic.
Jessica's Final Review
The Final Girls is an amalgam of Friday the 13th and Scream with a dash of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Though it’s not all that scary, it really doesn’t matter. It’s funny, it has tons of re-watchability value, and at times, it’s even deep...I’ll never listen to Bette Davis Eyes again without getting a tear in my eye. There’s something special about the The Final Girls, and I’d put money on it garnering as much of a cult following as Camp Bloodbath.