I will be the first to admit, I was not originally on board for The Final Girls. There were a lot of things preventing me from being totally sold: the first trailer I saw for it made it look a little cheap and left a lot to be desired; the last horror comedy I’d watched (Cooties) had been an utter letdown; and the final nail in the coffin? I was reading a lot of glowing reviews for The Final Girls from reviewers who I normally disagree with. The odds were majorly stacked against me enjoying it. And I gotta say: my batting average for ‘thinking a movie looks terrible and it actually ends up being terrible’ is almost flawless, so to say I was hesitant to watch The Finals Girls would be an understatement. Alas, I relented in the name of fairness and objectivity, and I fired up the ol’ Apple TV, paid my $6.99, sat back with a beer and just waited for the awfulness wash over me, allowing me to drown a slow, excruciating death.
But goddamn, I was wrong. A man can admit when he was wrong, and I was wrong. I’ll be the first to admit it.
The Final Girls sees Taissa Farmiga as “Max”, a high school student who’s still coping with the premature death of her actress mother a few years earlier. On the anniversary on her death, Max attends a double-feature of her mom’s movies (“Camp Bloodbath” and “Camp Bloodbath 2: Cruel Summer”) at a local revival theater. Also in attendance are her best friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat), her crush Chris (Alexander Ludwig), her crush’s ex-girlfriend Vicki (Nina Dobrev), and her best friend’s geeky film nerd stepbrother Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), who not only put on the film fest but also invited Max along as the special guest.
A fire breaks out in the theater, and the group of friends tries to escape by cutting through the screen to access a backroom exit. However, when they step through the screen they literally step into the movie. From there, the characters have to figure out how to get back to reality while trying to avoid the killer from Camp Bloodbath. Meanwhile, Max tries to spend as much time with the onscreen incarnation of her mom as she possibly can.
There’s a lot of good stock behind The Final Girls: it was co-written by Joshua John Miller (y’know, Homer from Near Dark. Oh, and also, the son of actor Jason Miller), and it co-stars Adam DeVine and Angela Trimbur. Again, the combination of the trailer and the reviews I’d seen really threw me off — I was convinced this was going to be a huge bomb. But it ended up being really clever, quite funny, and really well-acted.
One of the things I really appreciated about the movie was how it played with its meta material. In lesser hands, I could see the possibilities being squandered for lesser, easier jokes, but The Final Girls never let me down in that department: they kept it intelligent and full of witty, enjoyable surprises.
One thing I will say: I was shocked at just how sentimental it was. I’d read many blurbs from people online saying how touching and tearjerking it was (another thing that dissuaded this cold-hearted monster), and man, they weren’t joking. At times, it was almost too sentimental for me (I already told you, I’m a cold-hearted, soulless monster), but I wouldn’t say it was a blight on the movie necessarily.
Another cool part of the movie is how it’s filmed: lots of kinetic camera movement, lots of dutch angles, lots of zooms, lots of swooping. Lots of super vibrant colors, too. Admittedly, the set pieces can be a little distracting at times; I’m convinced only about 3% of this movie took place on location and the rest was filmed in front of a green screen. (Seriously I didn’t notice one shot in the entire movie that didn’t involve some kind of VFX.) While I did appreciate the overall “final” look of the movie (me funny), I can see how others may find it to be a little much.
In the end I was really surprised — pleasantly so — at how much I ended up enjoying The Final Girls. It’s like a modern day Last Action Hero. It’s like a wonderful mash-up of Popcorn, Groundhog Day, Cabin in the Woods, and — believe it or not — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Okay, my apologies for just naming a bunch of movies there. Horror, comedy, heartwarming drama, clever meta trope-toying film within a film — whatever your thing is, The Final Girls has got you covered, and I highly recommend it.