With slasher-baiting titles like Final Girl, The Final Girls, and Last Girl Standing, how could any long time fan of the genre not check them all out? I did, and here’s what I found.
FINAL GIRL (2015)
If you go into this one with false expectations based on the title, you’ll probably hate it. Despite it not being a slasher, I actually ended up thinking it a pretty cool twist on the genre with a few minor issues.
For reasons that go unexplained, Wes Bentley, who’s hot in horror right now thanks to American Horror Story: Hotel, teaches a little orphan girl to be a killer. The girl grows up to be Abigail Breslin, who’s also hot right now thanks to Scream Queens. Honestly, I cannot stand her on that show, but damned if she isn’t awesome in this film.
Like Karate Kid meets Kill Bill, Wes gives Abigail lessons in fighting and assassination. Finally, he assigns her a mission. There’s this group of dastardly, privileged pretty boys that plays a game—they bring girls out into the woods, set them free to run, then hunt them down and kill them. The movie actually reminded me a little of the 80s film Dangerously Close, which I blog about here.
It’s also really stylish and quirky, which is amped up once Abigail goes on a “date” with cutie Alexander Ludwig. Of course, he and his friends have other plans for her. As they sit on a couch in the woods waging a cold war of words, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the big cat and mouse game to begin.
This is where the movie loses some of its edge. Abigail drugs the guys to make them hallucinate trippy shit like guys in ski masks and panda masks, which gains her a huge advantage. The dudes practically kill themselves, so all the battles are brief! WTF? It’s such a visually engaging set of sequences, but it’s all over way too fast. Bit of a letdown to an intriguing premise that turns the slasher template on its head. Not to mention, the movie actually could have been titled Final Boy instead.
THE FINAL GIRLS (2015)
Just as Mimesis placed its cast of kids in the movie Night of the Living Dead (my blog here), The Final Girls pretty much puts its kids in the movie Friday the 13th, creating a very fresh and funny take on the meta horror genre.
Taissa Farmiga of American Horror Story goes to a screening of an old 80s summer camp slasher starring her mother…and she and her friends end up (inexplicably) landing right in the camp during the events of the slasher film!
Knowing exactly how the plot plays out gives the kids somewhat of an advantage. They get to watch their favorite slasher film live, but they’re also forced to interact with the masked, machete-wielding killer, making for some clever satire of the genre. At the same time, there’s an emotional element, because Taissa is determined to make sure her mother’s character reaches the end of the movie alive.
The Final Girls is fun and funny, but don’t expect much in the way of slasher scares or gore. However, the final confrontation between the main girl and the killer has moments of true slasher atmosphere…before she turns all Buffy for the battle!
The cast is great, and includes funny man Adam DeVine of Pitch Perfect (you get to see him in his undies), Alexander Ludwig (who’s also in Final Girl!), and Nina Dobrev of The Roommate and The Vampire Diaries.
The soundtrack is loaded with 80s tracks, including “Dance Hall Days,” “Mickey,” “Cruel Summer,” and “Cherry Pie”—but that’s actually a song from 1990, and the movie takes place in 86! Okay, I’m just being anal, but I’m a stickler about 80s timelines. The even bigger issue for me is that “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes is heavily featured in the movie—but it’s a cover version and not actually her original recording! Blasphemy! But props for the choice of “Lollipop” by The Chordettes during a flashback, because it experienced an 80s revival when used in the movie Stand by Me.
Speaking of the flashback, that’s really the one major plot point that is frustrating (aside from the fact that we never find out why they’re pulled into the movie…sequel time!). Since the modern day kids have seen the film plenty of times, they know what event in the flashback is going to trigger the killer’s need for revenge. Yet instead of stopping it, they just stand and watch! Most nitpickers would probably agree the scene should have been cut from this otherwise tightly plotted meta slasher.
LAST GIRL STANDING (2015)
What happens to the final girl after the movie ends? We saw what might happen twenty years later when Laurie Strode returned for Halloween H2O, but Last Girl Standing takes a look at the final girl’s life a bit sooner than that.
Beginning like the climactic scene from a slasher, we witness Camryn, the last girl standing, being chased through the woods by a killer in an animal mask before battling him to the death.
Flash forward about five years, and Camryn is a socially awkward mess. She lives alone in a small apartment, keeps newspaper clippings of the murderer’s satanic ritual-based killing spree, and works a dead end job at a dry cleaner.
Just as a new guy is hired and takes a strong interest in Camryn, she begins getting terrorized by someone in the same mask as the murderer she thought she killed. Scared and alone, she allows herself to be pulled into the new guy’s circle of friends. But pretty soon, she’s convinced her new friends are in danger.
Another unique approach to the slasher genre, Last Girl Standing offers just enough glimpses of the stalker to keep you on edge. However, it focuses strongly on Camryn’s psychological state, effectively making you feel as unsure and paranoid as she is. Can she trust the new guy and his friends? Is she really seeing a killer? And if so, is she actually leading him right to her new friends, as she fears?
The slasher sequence of the film doesn’t come in until the last 20 minutes or so, but when it does, it hits hard. Violent and gory kill sequences are thankfully void of CGI, and you feel bad for the characters as they are brutally hacked to pieces. And living up to its name, the movie makes sure the last girl standing is seriously in for the fight of her life. Definitely a satisfying slasher experience.