Sunday, October 2, 2016

Movie Review: "The Final Girls" (2015)

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Movie"The Final Girls"
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Year: 2015
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Actress Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman) was a 1980's movie scream queen. A year after she dies in a car accident, her daughter Max (Taissa Farmiga) is invited as the guest of honor to a revival of her mother's now cult classic film. When a fire breaks out in the theater, Max and a few of her friends are mysteriously sucked into her mother's movie and are forced to play out the film's plot against its brutal killer. 

"The Final Girls" is an unexpected treat. It is a horror comedy parody of 1980's slasher films, clearly drawing the vast majority of its inspiration from the "Friday the 13th" series. Max Cartwright, played by Tassia Farmiga, is a teenage girl who tragically loses her mother Amanda, played by Malin Akerman, in a car accident. Amanda is an actress who is mostly remembered for playing a character named Nancy in a 1986 slasher flick called "Camp Bloodbath." Over the years, this film has developed a legendary cult following for how cheesy and poorly written it was. Duncan, played by Thomas Middleditch, the step-brother of Max's friend Gertie, played by Alia Shawkat, is holding a revival marathon of the "Camp Bloodbath" movies and has asked Max to be the guest of honor as the daughter of one of the film's main characters. During the screening, the theater is accidentally set on fire, and when Max tries to escape through the screen with her friends, they find themselves inexplicably inside the "Camp Bloodbath" movie. After a while, it becomes apparent they must play out the plot lines of the film...or die trying to escape it.

As we mentioned above, "The Final Girls" is a new age parody and one we quite enjoyed. It exploits the cliches in the slasher genre for comedic effect, right down to the "chi-chi-chi-chi-ahh-ahh-ahh-ahh" soundtrack sound effects. The people that were sucked into the movie are very aware they are in a slasher flick and try to use their knowledge of films like it to escape. Duncan, who has seen "Camp Bloodbath" numerous times, lays out the rules of a slasher flick to the others. The main rule is that pretty much any sexual activity equals death, and that the final person remaining, the virgin girl, must kill the antagonist of the movie. Of course, many films of this genre become self-aware parodies by their third or fourth installment anyway, so it's a clever idea to exploit this notion into a modern day yet retro throwback setting.

This film does manage to get a lot of laughs from some of the movie's more notable comedic actors like Middleditch and Adam Devine, who actually plays one of the characters in "Camp Bloodbath" named Kurt.  As a movie character, he is the stereotypical sex-crazed jock and he can only act in the douchey manner in which he was written. Devine has played this part in the past and knows how to play it well. Several other actors in this film fall into stereotypes from other works they have starred in, such as Middleditch himself, who often plays a spastic nerd, and Nina Dobrev, who plays Vicki Summers here and is often cast as a stereotypical bitchy popular girl. Tassia Farmiga, who we haven't seen in many movies, certainly had the look of a typical goody-two-shoes virgin girl, and Alia Shawkat's Gertie is the outrageous, zany, unfiltered best friend. There are some good darkly comedic murder scenes, though some of these get a little underplayed due to the films PG-13 rating. This is definitely a film that could have really benefited from an R-rating, which would have allowed it to use more splatter-house comedy to its full over-the-top effect and advantage.

Overall, this is a decent film with some great funny moments and an unexpectedly touching mother/daughter bonding story. Of course, there are better horror comedies out there, though this is good for what its worth in a world saturated with less than average horror mediocrity.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 72%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "The Legend of Hell House"

Two years ago, we were watching: "Halloween II"

Three years ago, we were watching: "Shivers"

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