#REVIEW: “THE FINAL GIRLS”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Max (Taissa Farmiga) has been grieving the loss of her 80s scream queen mom Nancy (Malin Akerman). Years after her death, Max reluctantly attends a screening of Nancy’s seminal Film at a local cinema with a group of friends. A fire breaks out during the screening, and seeking shelter, they run towards the projector screen and are physically transported into the film. Now they need to survive 80s movie clichés and outrun a killer, or else face the fate of that Film’s cast.
If you smash together the Arnold Schwarzenegger cult classic Last Action Hero, the Oscar-nominated Pleasantville and a typical 80s slasher Film, you’ll have an idea of the style and feel of Todd Strauss-Schulson’s The Final Girls. The Film is very nostalgically made, reverent to the classics while skewering the ideas found within them. Co-writers M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller have done their homework, and even add a few unique ideas of their own. It feels very silly and even more meta than you might imagine, but that only adds to its charm.
But for how lovingly-made The Final Girls is, it feels sanitized and lacks any real edge. The Movies this Film pays homage to were soaked in blood – even the movie-within-a-movie here is called Camp Bloodbath. Yet The Final Girls is nearly blood free. Save for one CGI-assisted death scene, the rest of the deaths are either cut extremely quickly or not shown at all. Any injuries are glossed over. Worse, the satire only succeeds in small doses. It looks great and is faithful to the Films it parodies, but these tropes and stereotypes have been dissected in films like The Cabin in the Woods and Scream to much greater effect. Even the completely preposterous Jason X feels more innovative.
Despite these setbacks, Farmiga and Akerman both stand out in their roles as some of the titular Final Girls. They bring a real emotional heft and poignancy to the Film that is nowhere near akin to its brethren. They manage to have a few scenes that are surprisingly moving as well, even if Akerman is forced to play dumb in nearly all of them. Of the supporting cast, Thomas Middleditch (of Silicon Valley) and Adam DeVine (of Pitch Perfect and Workaholics) seem to be having the most fun tapping into the more satirical elements of the Film. I just wish they were used a lot more as no one else seems able to match their collective energy.
In a large group setting (like at the Closing Night of TIFF’s Midnight Madness programme a few weeks back), The Final Girls can be a whole lot of fun. There are some genuinely funny moments, some creative satire and some surprisingly great acting sprinkled throughout the Film. But it is weakened greatly by sanitizing and eliminating things that made 80s slasher cinema so popular in the first place. The Final Girls is a mixed bag of good and bad, but it had the potential to be truly great.
Stage 6 Films release THE FINAL GIRLS on Friday, October 9, 2015 on Video-on-Demand on in select theatres.