Of all the horror films to elicit legitimate tears, I certainly didn’t expect it to be Todd Strauss-Schulson’s 80‘s slasher inspired The Final Girls. Going off what I’d seen in the trailers, I expected a heap of meta comedy and a few horror clichés used for effect but what I got was fully fledged, emotional film about loss, letting go and being brave enough to move on.
The film starts with a trailer for Camp Blood, Amanda Cartwright (Akerman) stars in it as Nancy and as the trailer ends Amanda and her daughter Max (Farmiga) are driving back from what must be the umpteenth audition that Amanda has been too, she complains that Camp Blood seems to be the only film that anyone remembers her by. A subsequent car crash and 3 years later we learn that Amanda didn’t make it and Max is quite withdrawn. When a retrospective showing of ‘Camp Blood 1 & 2’ comes up at the local cinema, she eventually and reluctantly agrees to go along with a bunch of friends and not so friends, an unfortunate series of events sees the cinema start to burn down, in an attempt to escape our group cuts the screen to get to the exit behind it but end up in the Camp Blood film…Being inside film, the rules are simple. Everything repeats every 92 minutes, except when our group interacts with the characters things start to change. It’s a device used in films like Pleasantville & Last Action Hero and it works so well here. The group figure out that to survive they’ll stick by the Final Girl, who will kill Billy – the generic Friday the 13th style slasher/monster in the film, it seems like sound advice and smart thinking really. However as best laid plans tend to blow up in your face, so too does our groups plans. They then devise a plan to try and kill Billy and find a way out of the film.
This film works on so many levels. First off the comedy, much of which derived from the characters inside the film (Akerman, Devine, Trimbur, Thompson) especially Devine’s generic slasher pants man Kurt, he certainly gets the best of the lines and his delivery is spot on, whilst Trimbur’s striptease is hilarious. Our group (Farmiga, Ludwig, Shawkat, Dobrev, Middleditch) gets some good one liners too, with Middleditch’s geeky, slasher obsessed Duncan relishing the opportunity to live inside one of his favourite films. The other main reason that The Final Girls works so well is the tender, sweet and emotional side of things. With Max coming face to face with her mother who plays Nancy, who is not really her mother but just looks like her. So obviously Max’s instinct kicks in and she wants to save Nancy, this leads to plenty of really sweet exchanges between Akerman and Farmiga, they interact so well together. The film generates genuine emotion as it goes along and it is all the better for it.
For a horror film or indeed being stuck inside an 80s slasher there is not very much blood or impactful violence, this could be a sticking point for some but in all honesty it is not a big deal because it is not what the film is about. It encourages us to be more than our perceived title allows us, like Nancy’s character who is the ‘shy girl, with a clipboard and guitar’ you don’t have to be that just because that is who everyone thinks or knows you to be. The Final Girls is funny, touching and shows a genuine love and knowledge of 80s slasher flicks. You’ll never listen to ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ the same way again.