MOVIE REVIEW: THE FINAL GIRLS (PG-13)
One doesn’t generally use the words “affectionate” and “adorable” when describing a slasher flick, but then, director Todd Strauss-Schulson’s wonderfully creative “The Final Girls” isn’t a conventional work of horror. This love letter to the likes of Jason Voorhees briskly cruises along by way of a meta vibe that recalls “Cabin in the Woods.” In fact, this flick is so meta in the way that it plays with and deconstructs specific genre tropes that another appropriate title for this wildly entertaining movie might have been “The Last Slasher Hero.”
In “The Final Girls,” teen Max Cartwright (played by Taissa Farmiga) struggles to cope with the tragic and untimely death of her loving mother, Amanda (played by Malin Akerman), an ’80s scream queen primarily known for her work in a popular slasher film called “Camp Bloodbath.” Through a strange, fantastical phenomenon, Max and her high school pals find themselves magically transported into the “Camp Bloodbath” universe where ultimately, the grieving teen must team with the character played by her own mom in an effort to defeat a psychopath hell bent on murdering anyone he comes into contact with. Yes, this is essentially a mother/daughter story, but with quite an innovative twist.
What a joy “The Final Girls” is. Some might be quick to suggest that perhaps this flick is a little too cute and clever for its own good, but the truth is, the key to its overall success is its sheer likability. What really separates “The Final Girls” from a lot of the films it’s skewering is that it gives us characters truly worth caring about. Akerman is fantastic in this movie, exuding warmth and charm in a big way. This very well could be a career best for her. As Amanda’s daughter Max, Farmiga (the real life sister of Vera Farmiga) is a natural. She’s vulnerable, sweet, and tough in equal measure. Together, Akerman and Farmiga’s mother/daughter bond feels incredibly genuine. So genuine in fact, that the end of “The Final Girls” is far more emotionally satisfying than I thought possible for a film of this nature.
While Akerman and Farmiga are the glue that hold this flick together, they are assisted by a terrific supporting cast. The standouts are Adam DeVine as an ego-maniacal lady’s man and a positively hilarious—and gorgeous—Angela Trimbur as the token slutty camp counselor (her hyped up dance sequence is among this film’s many notable highlights).
If there’s a complaint here, it’s that “The Final Girls” could have been a little longer. The film has great pacing and never outstays its welcome, but had it been just a tad longer, allowing Max and Amanda’s “Camp Bloodbath” character a little more time to bond in the movie universe, “The Final Girls” would have emerged as an instant classic. As it stands though, it’s pretty damn terrific.
With its imaginative deconstruction and endless winks at the numerous films that inspired it, “The Final Girls” is sure to appeal to fans of slasher movies, but there’s so much heart, warmth, humor, and playfulness here, that even if this genre isn’t you’re bag, you too are likely to succumb to its many charms.
“The Final Girls” slashes and charms its way into theaters on Friday, Oct. 9.