Nina Dobrev and Alia Shawkat in 2015's "The Final Girls."

The Final Girls October 22, 2015

The Final Girls would have been better off if it were released in the late 1990s, when slasher satires were in. But it’s 2015, and the dead teenager movie is so much a part of cherished trash culture that even the films making fun of them are also held with the warm palms of nostalgia.  New Nightmare and Scary Movie are golden memories of meta days past. We know that stalk-and-slashing is predictable and silly, and we know that filmmakers other than Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson are smart enough to turn cliché into parody.  To continue attempting to churn out similar films is the cinematic equivalent of beating a dead horse. We get it.

 

The Final Girls goes one step further than its ‘90s peers: it literally plants its cast in an ‘80s horror movie (don’t ask me how) and sees if they can survive — and that’s why it gets a pass and not a poison apple.  Competent and clever in its stabs at parodical comedy, it provides, for the most part, a satire worth watching.  If its last act weren’t such a syrupy mess, I’m sure I’d hold it in as high of a regard as the independent horror fests of the up-and-coming Ti West.  But for now, I’ll sit back and smile at the way the title lovingly evokes memories of a young Jamie Lee Curtis and a terrified looking Adrienne King.

 

The story involves Max (Taissa Farmiga), the teenage daughter of a scream queen (Malin Akerman) whose life was tragically cut short by a violent car crash.  As The Final Girls opens with her death, we are given a brief view of the near friendship-esque relationship between the two, making her demise all the more tragic.  Cut to three years later, and Max’s small town is screening a double feature of the slashers her mother starred in so many years ago, in honor of her memory.  Max only attends due to the insistence of her friends (Alia Shawkat, Nina Dobrev, Alexander Ludwig, Thomas Middleditch), but she immediately regrets it after a freak fire is set off and she, along with her gang, find themselves mysteriously sucked into the movie following an attempt to depart the theater through the exit behind the screen.

 

The set-up is glorious and laughs are thrown left and right: The Final Girls is more Halloween than Friday the 13th in terms of its successes.  Irresistible are the little touches that take meta to a whole new level, like the way the characters find themselves supremely confused as scary music, flashbacks, and narrations are as real as the skin they live in, or the way the closing credits of the movie within the movie appear on the screen like clockwork.  The Final Girls thrives off this witty self-awareness, so it’s a shame it so frequently descends into sentimentality (how many times can Max and her “mother” have sweet talks in a single film?). 

 

But I can hardly complain. I enjoyed myself, and if you’re as prone to rolling your eyes at the tropes which surround horror movies, I’m sure you will too. At the moment, I can slightly forgive the sap or the way a blooper reel plays over the credits. Let’s just hope it isn’t what sticks out to me the most months from now.  B-