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John’s Horror Corner: The Final Girls (2015), an excellent horror satire and a clever slasher metamovie.

October 26, 2015

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MY CALL: This film is all about celebrating metamoviedom. Not kills, not gore, not action, but geeky commentary and smart, playful satire. I highly recommend it and would even prescribe it to people who generally don’t like horror movies. MOVIES LIKE The Final Girls: While they’re far more serious (yet satirical), I’d suggest the Scream movies (1996-2011; discussed in our podcast). Those looking for more smart horror comedy should try out Tucker and Dale versus Evil (2010), Cooties (2015), or the extremely silly Love in the Time of Monsters (2014) and Zombeavers (2015; discussed in our podcast).

Director Todd Strauss-Schulson is responsible for this playful metamovie, presenting a “movie within a movie” premise in which the protagonists must follow the classic horror axioms in order to survive the film into which they are magically transported. As a true honorarium to early summer camp horror, the film in question has a poster reminiscent of The Burning (1981) and is called is Camp Blood, which was the original working title for Friday the 13th (1980).

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Clearly mirroring Camp Crystal Lake, the film is complete with “ch ch ch ka ka ka” which our protagonists can actually hear as if they were watching the very movie that has entrapped them! They also make interesting use of flashbacks as a metamovie filmmaking device to escape the killer. The flashbacks tell the killer’s origin story and it’s very much akin to that of Jason Vorrhees, including the flashback timeframe (1957) and the “present day” timeframe of Camp Blood (1986). It’s all in good fun and it will light up smiles on fans of 80s horror.

This film knows exactly what it is and it uses that effectively to entertain viewers with nods to things we love about the 80s horror era. Manic power geek Duncan (Thomas Middleditch; Silicon Valley) assumes Jamie Kennedy’s Scream role as the meta-analyst and Camp Blood expert of the group. His knowledge of horror movies and Camp Blood helps them to safely navigate this horror fantasy world and understand the rules—for a while anyway. He makes silly comments about how the characters behave, knowing the lines of the script, and how they should treat their experience like they’re in a nature preserve: “don’t interrupt, only observe.” He is the key character that connects us to the theme.

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Max (Taissa Farmiga; American Horror Story) is the typical final girl, a likable sympathetic virgin. Perhaps a namesake in honor of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Max’s mother is Nancy (Malin Akerman; Watchmen), a single mother struggling to find work who was a scream queen in the cult classic Camp Blood (fictionally made in 1986). In the real world Nancy died in a car accident, so when we find her character again in Camp Blood, Max has the opportunity to reconnect with her even if it’s under the guise that they are peers working together for the summer. This gets particularly entertaining when Nancy talks about sleeping with Kurt (Adam DeVine; Pitch Perfect), the over-sexed alpha bro.

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Kurt brings loads of comic relief and the characters are rounded out with Chris (Alexander Ludwig; Vikings, The Hunger Games), Vicki (Nina Dobrev; The Vampire Diaries) and the stereotypical slut Tina (Angela Trimbur; Halloween II). I was pleased with the acting and story, and even more pleased with the nuances. Most notably the color correction of the forest plants and flowers was starkly in brilliant contrast, as if the protagonists had just been displaced to Oz.

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As if their horror microcosm comprised only the scenes and sets of Camp Blood, attempts to escape the camp site loop them right back and it even affects the behavior of the Camp Blood characters. Once the group has a handle on the metamovie rules they discover that one of them has to be the “final girl” and, in fact, their idea of who that should be and why shifts a bit. They also use tropes that lead to death (i.e., implications of nudity) to set a trap for the killer. How that turns out will delight viewers.

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There are some very funny death scenes but gore is kept to a minimum and scares are completely absent (in lieu of comedy). One kill even reminds me of the gymnast’s death in Final Destination 5 (2011).

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Overall, this film was smartly scripted and a true delight. It should please diehard horror fans and even occasional visitors to the genre.
 

 

 

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2015 10:45 am

    I am addicted to Hollywood horror-thrillers, however the combination of comedy and horror makes a movie a awesome one time watch, just like “Scary Movie” series. Critics may hate such concepts but at the end it is all about the audience. “The Final Girls” seems curios and its characters are looking promising. I will soon watch it.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 5, 2015 8:39 am

      I’d say this was far better than a one-time-watch. This was pretty smartly done.

  2. November 5, 2015 8:05 am

    The Final Girls (2015) looks scary. I am one of those who does NOT generally like horror, unless I watch it with my eyes closed and the sound OFF. Nonetheless, I do respect the genre and all it’s special effects. Great review. Best if I just take your word on this one. Eeks!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 5, 2015 8:40 am

      Trust me, it’s NOT scary or gory. There is hardly anything that would even qualify as a jump scare. One death is a bit shocking, but that’s it. This film is more about celebrating our love of horror, letting the protagonists use “our” knowledge of horror, and having a hilarious time with it.

      • November 28, 2015 9:00 am

        Celebrating our love of horror, sounds like a good time. Shall check out, The Final Girls (2015). Thanks for the feedback, John.

  3. December 1, 2015 4:13 pm

    I don’t usually watch this kind of stuff but have a feeling you may convince me to make an exception.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      December 1, 2015 4:42 pm

      This was made for horror fans–or at least, people with a good understanding of the mechanics of horror. If you have that, you should enjoy this. Almost no gore, zero scares, pretty much all fun.

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