Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Horror Violence, some Crude and Sexual Material, Language and Drug Use
Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Written by: M.A. Fortin & Joshua John Miller
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Adam DeVine, Thomas Middleditch, Alia Shawkat & Alexander Ludwig
THE FINAL GIRLS is the latest in a long-line of horror-comedies to hit this year (including WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, COOTIES, and DEATHGASM). Instead of tackling monsters like those other films, FINAL GIRLS is meant to be a loving homage to 80’s slasher flicks. Besides serving as a spoof/homage, the film also throws its own original story into the mix. Taken as both of these things, FINAL GIRLS works in a lot of areas, but also falls short in a couple of big ways. Before I get into the pros and cons, I’ll dive into the plot.
Max Cartwright is recovering from a harrowing car accident that took the life of her actress mother. Through a chance set of circumstances, Max finds herself as the guest of honor at a revival screening of her mother’s most popular movie: CAMP BLOODBATH. In a twist of fate, a fire breaks out at the movie theater. Believing there is possible escape behind the theater curtains, Max and her friends tear a hole in the movie screen and enter…only to discover that they’ve somehow walked into the world of CAMP BLOODBATH. Trapped within the film, Max and her friends must band together to escape this 80’s slasher flick alive!
THE FINAL GIRLS mainly sends up the FRIDAY THE 13TH series. The killer is hulking, masked behemoth named Billy and we get obvious music cues to let us know when he’s entering a scene. If anything, FINAL GIRLS really nails down almost everything about these films, from 80’s nostalgia (bad fashions and hair styles) to the terrible over-the-top acting and one-dimensional stereotypes. Hell, the film even gets down an authentic feeling of atmosphere from the well-known slasher franchise. The movie is spot-on in perfectly spoofing/mimicking those films in almost every way, save for a very important one: the kills. It’s not as if THE FINAL GIRLS doesn’t have any kills to speak of, because the film actually has a sizable body count. For some reason, the director decided to go with a PG-13 approach to an R-rated series and that gets very distracting during the death scenes. The FRIDAY THE 13TH series had lots of blood and gore (as fake-looking as it was) and I would expect a spoof to mock that as well. It’s kind of mind-boggling that both of the screenwriters didn’t take that into consideration when putting this film together, especially considering who the main audience for it would likely be.
Aside from the obvious parody/homage, there’s an actual story in regards to Max meeting her “mother” inside CAMP BLOODBATH. This starts off as very touching and does garner a few sincerely heartfelt moments. For a movie that runs at slightly over 90 minutes (counting the credits), I felt that Max’s subplot dragged its feet during the middle of the film. I also correctly predicted the ending of this script in advance (within the first 10 minutes of the film), which has a nice pay-off but reveals itself way too early. Even with a story that occasionally stumbles, the performers bring their A-game. Taissa Farmiga (known for AMERICAN HORROR STORY) shines as Max. This character is a final girl worth rooting for. Meanwhile, Alexander Ludwig (the main baddie in the first HUNGER GAMES) is wholly likable as Max’s love interest. As far as the 80’s slasher victims go, Malin Akerman is great as Max’s mom/her slasher victim counterpart and Adam DeVine is perfect as the snarky jock stereotype.
There are qualities to be admired about THE FINAL GIRLS. The performances are rock solid and the film goes out of its way to try to turn typical slasher stereotypes into characters worth caring about. The spoof angle really nails down the atmosphere and general attitude of the FRIDAY THE 13TH films. The humor works, especially jokes about how far characters go to keep a slutty potential victim from taking off her clothes. However, the film occasionally drags in its storyline about Max and her mother. Also, the PG-13 rating hinders any possibility to go all-out in the kills department. This is especially a problem when you consider that the body count is the main thing that made the FRIDAY THE 13TH popular to begin with. With these faults in mind, THE FINAL GIRLS is a fun horror-comedy that will keep you entertained for 92 minutes.