Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Movie Review: The Final Girls (2015)

The Final Girls (2015) directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson

Max is the recently-orphaned daughter of Amanda Cartwright, an actress whose most famous roles were in low-budget 1980s horror films. Max is having a hard time at school too. She agrees to go to a screening of her mom's most famous film, "Camp Bloodbath," when the nerd organizing it promises to help her with her studies. Some friends come along as moral support. A fire breaks out in the theater, blocking the exits. Max realizes there's an exit behind the screen, so she and her friends slice their way through the screen (one of the patrons came dressed as the movie's killer and conveniently dropped his machete in the confusion). Instead of making it to safety, they wind up inside the film! They have to work with the characters in the movie to survive the killer's attacks. Too bad those ditzy camp counselors are more interested in sex than anything else. At least Max has one last chance to talk with her mom, or at least the character she played. Max and her mom's character are both virgins, so they have a good chance of making it to the end and defeating the bad guy, if Max can keep her mom from following the plot.

The movie is surprisingly good. The first scene establishes the relationship between Max and her mom really well and makes them sympathetic characters and three-dimensional people. They give the film an anchor that keeps it from drifting off into mere silliness or excessive gore. Actually, the gore is surprisingly minimal--the filmmakers opt for style (there's a funny and impressive slow motion chase sequence) over splatter (one character falls head first into a bear trap but viewers don't see anything). The movie is creative in a good way.

While the box says this is a loving send-up of '80s slasher films, it actually has a bit more substance than that description implies. It reminded me a lot of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, another surprisingly well-crafted horror comedy (though I don't think this is as good as Tucker and Dale vs. Evil).

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