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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Reel Deal: ‘Final Girls’ a clever slasher flick with some heart

    No film genre is as dependent upon tried-and-true tropes as the slasher flick, which means no other genre has had those well-established patterns inverted, broken down and parodied as much, either. 

    The most popular example of self-referential slashing is the “Scream” series, where self-aware teens that are well versed in the ways of scary movies must survive the knife. More recently, 2012’s “The Cabin in the Woods” had some fun by turning haunted houses into the playthings of governmental agencies.

    “The Final Girls” enters into this pantheon, and wears its trope on its sleeve, or, rather, its title. By the end of this movie, and the movie within this movie, our heroine Max Cartwright (Taissa Farmiga, “American Horror Story”) will find herself the final girl, the last remnant of her doomed group of friends, and who will use her virtue to defeat the masked villain. 

    Max has a loving relationship with her actress mother, Amanda (Malin Åkerman), a relationship that is cut short by a car accident. In the years following her mother’s death, Max’s sole interaction with her is watching old home movies.

    There is one other movie where her mother lives forever: the fictional 1986 slasher “Camp Bloodbath.” Her mother plays one of the ill-fated campers, Nancy; she pops her top off, opens her legs, and, subsequently, gets stabbed.

    With her friends Vicki, Chris and Gertie (Nina Dobrev, “The Vampire Diaries;” Alexander Ludwig, “The Hunger Games;” Alia Shawkat, “Arrested Development”), Max attends an anniversary screening of her mom’s best-known work. A fire breaks out, and, through some movie magic, they escape through the screen, into the world of the “Camp Bloodbath.”

    This world is in direct contrast to Max’s sadder reality. The verdant trees and open spaces of the campground are a far cry from her small, nondescript room. The colors are vibrant and oversaturated, the campers are (mistakenly) upbeat, but, most importantly, her mother, or, rather, the character her mother plays, is still alive.

    Max and company realize that the only way to escape the horror film is to get to the end credits, meaning that they’ll have to participate.

    It’s a clever, fun premise, which is largely taken full advantage of. They learn to manipulate the tropes of the universe to their advantage. For example, whenever someone starts showing skin, the slasher, disfigured Billy Murphy, appears. They use this idiosyncrasy to lure him into a trap, which, of course, blows up in their face.

    They team up with the campers of “Camp Bloodbath” universe, which begets too many generational disconnect jokes. The first time an ‘80s teen doesn’t recognize an iPhone, it’s not particularly funny.

    You can imagine how it is the third time.

    However, the heart of the film, which completely works, is the relationship between Max and Nancy, her mother’s character. There’s a unique, sad sincerity to a daughter wanting to save her mother’s life, especially when it’s really only the ghost of her mother, if that. “Crimson Peak” and “Goosebumps” deal heavily with the themes of reckoning with the ghosts of the past; undoubtedly, “The Final Girls” bests them both in this aspect.

    This is thanks to the two leads. Farmiga has eyes that can relay heartbreak, fear, and determination. Åkerman doesn’t have as diverse of a range due to her character, but the two play off of each other well.

    On a side note, it’s totally unbelievable for the 37 year-old Åkerman to play a teen, but maybe that’s another meta comment on how high schoolers are never played by, well, high schoolers.

    Overall, “The Final Girls” executes a clever premise with humor, heart and machete hacking.

    B


    Follow Alex Guyton on Twitter.


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