The final girl is a well known trope in horror movies, that there must always be a 'final girl' to 'kill' the bad guy at the end of slasher movies, and 'The Final Girls' was obviously intended to be a very meta take on the trope. Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman) plays a washed up actress who's best known for her role in the 'Camp Bloodbath' series, which is heavily inspired by the Friday the 13th franchise. In real life however, Amanda has fallen on hard times and is trying to escape her stereotype of the infamous scream queen from her Camp Bloodbath days while also being a loving and devoted mother to Max Cartwright (Taissa Farmiga). Sadly Amanda dies in a car accident while Max survived and three years after the accident Max is coaxed into attending a screening of Camp Bloodbath on the anniversary of her mother's death. After a fiery accident at the theater, Max and a group of her friends escape into the screen Last Action Hero style, and find themselves inside the Camp Bloodbath movie, the spectators have just become active participants!
It sounds like a fun concept, in theory, but the execution was amateurish on all levels. The director (Todd Strauss-Schulson) whose only other movie worth mentioning was Harold and Kumar 3-D, seems to have a thing for inserting these distractingly pointless 3-D scenes that really don't work at all, and he relies way too much on cgi. Why cgi a car crash? It takes away from the verisimilitude of the accident, and the real world was established quite well beforehand as well, but then he throws it all away in a terribly shot and poorly cgi'd car crash that instantly breaks any sense of flow or believability he had just built up. Is it seriously cheaper to cgi a car crash that it is to just trash a real car? The writers were newbies and it showed. The humor was juvenile and hipster-ish, even for slasher movie schlock, it was bad. The outtakes were arguably funnier than the movie was. The plot made no sense whatsoever, and I don't mean in a 'how can people get sucked into a movie?' sense. I mean even the developments as the movie progressed made no sense. There was no cohesion in the plot. The ending was just nonsensical and was also a bit of a cop out I thought. It undermined the entire movie in my opinion and cheapened the emotion it had built up.
I have to give a lot of credit to Malin Akerman and Taissa Farmiga as they manage to develop a strong and believable mother/daughter rapport with one another in a short amount of time, with some lyrical help, but their relationship gives this movie some genuine heart. The Final Girls isn't really a subversive, meta or self aware parody of the slasher genre, that's just the window dressing. The crux of the story is about a bereaved daughter who gets a chance to reconnect with her mother on a fictional level. It's a melodramatic girls movie more than anything else. On a meta level it was uninspired and highly restricted given the PG rating, I wanted them to go a lot further with the ideas they played with, but they were never really primarily motivated by the slasher genre I don't think. The familial themes and the ideas of second chances is what was driving this movie, not an earnest attempt at making a homage to the 80s slasher movies. Any attempt to do so was superficial or incompetent.
The king, or queen, of the 'meta' and self aware slasher movies is still Scream, and even though this supposed love letter to the 80s slasher movies was vapid and aloof in that department, I did find some enjoyment in the mother/daughter dynamic. Malin Akerman went a long way towards saving this movie. It still wasn't enough in the end, but she elevated it far beyond what it would have been without her. The PG rating really killed this movie. How can you parody, or even deconstruct on any level a genre that's synonymous with blood, violence, sex, nudity, swearing and drug use within the constraints of the PG rating? You just can't. The Final Girls was too benign, too tame and too tepid for its own good.
Written by - The Sentry - 23/10/2015