By: Heather Seebach
I give a lot of praise to horror-comedies that break the mold with fresh ideas. Still, originality isn't everything. When it comes to meta slasher parodies, frankly, it's been done. From Scream to Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, the old tropes have been lampooned so many times. The latest entry, The Final Girls re-treads a lot of familiar territory but despite that, it still delivers with strong characters, stronger laughs, and a surprisingly large heart.
Three years after losing her mother, Max (Taissa Farmiga) attends a screening of the Camp Bloodbath slasher film that made her actress mom (Malin Akerman) famous. In those movies, a masked killer name Billy stalks the counselors at Camp Blue Finch. Through a series of bizarre events, Max and her friends are transported into the 80s flick, giving the grieving teenager one more chance to spend time with her mother as they fend off a maniac with a machete.
The Final Girls is far more comedy than horror but the laughs are abundant. It helps to have a cast full of naturally funny people like Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Adam DeVine (Workaholics), and Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley). When it sends-up slasher cliches, it does it well, and is not afraid to get downright silly with the extent of its corny premise.
Where this horror-comedy is lacking, however, is the horror. The one thing noticeably missing is gore, or at least a dedication to the kills. It's just not an 80s slasher without it, and the lack of it really shows. Characters are taken out off-camera or without much blood, and it's just awkward. Even a completely juvenile slasher-comedy like Club Dread knew that the kills were key.
Still, the strongest aspect of this film is its emotional pull. Farmiga and Akerman sell their roles as daughter and mother so damn well. There are moments that may very well set off the waterworks, which is certainly not what you'd expect watching a slasher comedy! I imagine this is especially poignant for someone who has lost a parent.
In addition to the heartfelt mother-daughter story, The Final Girls generally humanizes its characters in surprising and fresh ways. The girls especially surpass their cliches beyond "the slut" or "the bitch." There is a scene where one character, doomed to be just another dead stereotype, laments the things they will never get to be, and it's actually kind of heartbreaking! In another scene, two of Billy's victims hold hands in their final moments together as friends. Little scenes like that add up to some unexpected tugs on the heartstrings.
Do not write this one off too quickly as just another half-assed parody. With multi-dimensional characters and a genuine heart, The Final Girls is more than just another winking meta horror and it has enough laughs to keep horror fans and "normies" alike rolling in the aisles.
THE FINAL GIRLS is in theaters and on VOD on October 9, 2015.