Thursday, April 28, 2016

Final Review

The "self-aware horror movie" has become a new staple in the horror movie diet. One of the most recent is The Final Girls. The teenage protagonist, Max, reluctantly goes to the screening of a classic horror movie with her friends -- a "sweep-away camp" slasher from the mid-1980s that starred her mother. When the group is sucked into the movie, they find themselves struggling against not only a depraved killer, but the dim-witted, shallow, and poorly written characters of the film itself. And the ordeal is even more emotional for Max, who has suddenly come face-to-face with a younger version of her "mother."

The Final Girls is a clever premise helped along by some good casting. Though you'll find no A-list stars, there are plenty of names and faces that fans of genre movies will recognize. Max is played by Taissa Farmiga (from multiple seasons of American Horror Story), while her mother is played by Malin Akerman (from Wanderlust, Watchmen, and more). Farmiga is playing it straight, the horror heroine who comes into her own. Akerman gets to play it campy in the film-within-the-film, but also has some scenes of surprising emotional depth as she bonds with Max. The unexpected spectrum of her role is showcased in two scenes that prominently feature the fantastic-and-cheesy 80s song "Bette Davis Eyes," once played for laughs and once for something else entirely.

The cast also includes Adam DeVine, Thomas Middleditch, Alia Shawkat, and more people you'd recognize from solid TV sitcoms, all of whom bring some decent laughs to the film. Still, the movie is at its best when it's using them all for sight gags; the over-the-top deaths are where the big belly laughs come.

And things sometimes slow down a bit too much in between. One of the pitfalls of a clever "I should have thought of that" premise is that once you hear it, your mind starts playing catch-up. How would YOU tell the story, given the concept? And sometimes, you can be more clever with this idea than the movie itself managed to be. Though it runs only 90 minutes total, it can at times feel longer for the dead spaces between the best jokes.

So overall, I'd give The Final Girls a B. Those who enjoy the horror genre will have fun with it, though it isn't the best "take down" of scary movies that I've seen.

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