I knew nothing about 2015 slasher comedy The Final Girls when I picked it on a long Netflix trawl. And the snappy horror surprised me, cutting through its own cheese with whimsical satire, acute parody and an extremely likeable cast. In the end, however, it’s still about a bunch of modern day teenagers trapped in a made-up, low-budget, 1986 horror flick called Camp Bloodbath. Pretty ridiculous, right? Yet somehow, despite its absurd, Evil Bong-level premise, The Final Girls’ spot-on genre spoofs give it an edge over your average teens-in-the-woods slasher.
Really, The Final Girls is a lot like Wet Hot American Summer meets Friday the 13th. And actress Taissa Farmiga is the perfect choice for spunky lead character Max Cartwright – like a 2015 reboot of Jennifer Love Hewitt and Neve Campbell. The rest of the cast play along perfectly as well, bringing more character and personality than you’d expect to their doomed eye candy roles.
As far as the plot goes, Max’s mother Amanda, played by Watchmen‘s Malin Åkerman, is hot “shy girl” Nancy in Camp Bloodbath. And, as the shy girl, Amanda dies early in the film within a film. Adding salt to her stab wounds, Amanda can’t catch a break in the “real world” either, and dies in a horrible car crash in The Final Girls’ opening scene.
Fast forward three years and Max is talked into attending a double-feature screening of Camp Bloodbath and Camp Bloodbath 2: Cruel Summer. A fire breaks out in the cinema, Final Destination style, and Max and her buddies take shelter behind the screen, inadvertently trapping themselves in a 92-minute loop of Camp Bloodbath. Once she realises what’s going on, Max’s dream is to somehow keep her mother alive. Even though, technically, Nancy isn’t really her mother.
Ultimately, it’s the film’s well referenced slasher motifs that steal the show. Like, if the campers want to summon Jason Voorhees-styled masked killer Billy Murphy, they just get one of the babes to flash some boob and dance around to a massive ’80s power ballad. And like Scream, of course, sex equals death and virginity is a lifesaver. There’s also the classic impending-doom “cha cha cha cha” sounds, audible to everyone, that play every time Billy’s about to appear.
It’s witty. Characters get sucked into flashbacks – even tripping over the captions. They wonder what’s going on when they’re forced to run in slow-motion during the big action sequences. And then there’s the whole concept of the final girl; the Sidney Prescott, the Laurie Strode, the last girl standing, who alone can kill the machete-wielding maniac.
I think it’s The Final Girls’ personality and tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that caught me off guard. I was expecting another slash-by-numbers horror flick, featuring a bunch of painfully forgettable teens-gone-wild, who are just as painfully killed off, one by one, until the film’s bitterly disappointing end. And to be fair, that’s exactly what I got. Only, the characters know what’s coming and poke fun at it all the way through. Worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre.