As comedy horror flicks go, “The Final Girls” is a gem in a field brimming with opportunity and, quite often, disappointment. For those who have yet to watch The Final Girls, this film eloquently marries the contrasting horror and comedy movie genres while ingeniously commenting on the often overused tropes in Slasher films.
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Overview of The Final Girls
“The Final Girls” is a refreshingly innovative comedy-horror film directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson that debuted in 2015. This film centers around Max Cartwright (played by Taissa Farmiga), who is grieving over the loss of her mother, Amanda Cartwright (Malin Åkerman), a famous scream queen of the ’80s known for her film, “Camp Bloodbath.”
A strange series of events leads Max and her friends to be somehow transported into the world of “Camp Bloodbath.” Now, they must navigate the perils of this movie world, among them, the knife-wielding maniac Billy Murphy, all while Max reconciles with the idea that she gets to see her mom again, albeit as her movie character, Nancy.
The Unconventional Genius of The Final Girls
Comedy horrors have been described as erratic, much like trying to mix oil and water. The harmony between both genres can be very elusive. Yet, watching The Final Girls reveals an almost seamless integration of these genres in a profound and engaging manner.
The film artfully uses comedy to lighten the gruesome facts of what being inside a slasher film entails. However, moments of true horror are very much present. The character of Billy Murphy, the machete-toting antagonist, is genuinely intimidating and gruesome, aided by the classic horror tropes of jumpscares and steadily increasing tension.
Moreover, the film brilliantly incorporates metacommentary on how Slasher films tend to overuse formulaic conventions by exaggerating these conventions for comic effect. From the age-old trope of “the virgin surviving” to the basic idea of victims stupidly running into the woods, the movie deliberately brings these clichés to the audience’s attention while cleverly mocking them.
Acting Performance and Character Development
Indeed, the surprising character depth sets The Final Girls apart from other movies of its ilk. The mother-daughter bond between Max and Amanda/Nancy is heart-rending. Farmiga and Akerman’s stellar performances credit the film’s emotional depth, offering a realness rarely felt within this hybridized genre. The authentic emotional resonance throughout the film enhances the depth and drives home the reality of Max’s grief and her struggle to let go.
The Narrative Brilliance of “The Final Girls”
Todd Strauss-Schulson’s “The Final Girls” takes its name from a term coined by horror scholar Carol J. Clover in her book “Men, Women, and Chain Saws,” the term referencing the last woman standing in horror movies, particularly in slasher films. This foundational knowledge carries an added punch line when viewing the movie as it consistently challenges the archetypical final girl trope.
When you watch The Final Girls, you’ll immediately realize that the movie celebrates the spirit of 80’s slasher films and acknowledges horror’s evolving mechanics. Instead of merely throwing cliches at viewers, the filmmakers treat the material with a smart, affectionate approach. The film creates a meta-universe in “Camp Bloodbath,” allowing one to mock and engage traditional horror tropes while providing a fresh take on an old genre.
Superb Humor Coupled with Brilliant Special Effects
The humor of “The Final Girls” isn’t limited to its dialogue and plot. The movie also employs visual comedy seamlessly, which is most apparent in sequences featuring slow motion and effects that resemble damaged film reels. One iconic scene involves the characters interacting with a flashback within the movie, portrayed in a sepia tone and frantic action, which cleverly spoofs both the storytelling devices of old slasher films and their penchant for low-quality production values.
The Parade of Memorable Characters
In a roster of memorable characters long after the movie ends, one standout is confessed horror movie geek Duncan, played by Thomas Middleditch. Duncan’s character not only aids as comic relief but also as a pseudo-narrator who explains familiar genre concepts to the characters and viewers alike. This provides valuable context clues to individuals who might not be familiar with slasher film rules, helping them enjoy the movie in its entirety.
Also notable is the tantalizingly eerie appearance of Billy Murphy. The maniacal, silent murderer is a fitting tribute to slasher villains like Jason Voorhees, embracing the mystery and menace that keeps the audience’s nerves on edge.
The Soundscapes of “The Final Girls”
Adding another level to the film, it has a masterful score composed by Gregory James Jenkins, offering everything from suspenseful tracks to perfectly tailored 80’s retro music. It’s worth highlighting the excellent use of “Bette Davis Eyes” during a particularly pivotal sequence that seamlessly fuses emotion, plot, and melody to amplify the tension further amidst the comedic themes.
The Stellar Cast of “The Final Girls”
Aside from Taissa Farmiga and Malin Åkerman, the film boasts an exceptional ensemble cast that brings their nuanced characters to life. The performances propel “The Final Girls” into becoming more than just an entertaining watch.
One notable standout is Adam DeVine, who plays the brash character Kurt. Known for his comedic antics in “Pitch Perfect” and “Workaholics,” his larger-than-life performance here adds humor to the film.
Alia Shawkat, who portrays the sassy Gertie, perfectly encapsulates the witty best friend character that adds depth to the narrative. Her comedic timing, a skill honed in her role as Maeby Fünke in “Arrested Development,” is on full display in this film.
Nina Dobrev, primarily recognized for her role in “The Vampire Diaries,” takes on the character of snarky former best friend to Max, Vicki. Dobrev’s versatile performance traverses a full spectrum of emotion, blending seamlessly with comedy and horror elements.
Alexander Ludwig, known for his brutal role in “The Hunger Games,” shows a softer side as Chris, the love interest of Max. His character represents the voice of reason in chaotic situations, boasting a restrained performance that wonderfully counters the comedic aspects.
Interestingly, “The Final Girls” is not the only project that has seen some actors work together. Taissa Farmiga and Nina Dobrev had already shared the screen in the 2011 movie “The Roommate.” Furthermore, it’s the fourth out of five films where Alexander Ludwig and Adam DeVine have co-starred, showing a well-reflected chemistry in their performances in “The Final Girls.”
Even more fascinating is that Taissa Farmiga and Malin Åkerman, who play daughter and mother in the film, are nine years apart. However, this minor detail does not detract from the potency of their performances, strengthening the already compelling narrative.
Should You Watch “The Final Girls”?
“The Final Girls” is a standout gem in the comedy horror genre, marrying unique storytelling, brilliant performances, and an unwavering dedication to playing with slasher film tropes. If you’re looking for a film that offers hearty laughs, genuine scares, and a surprisingly touching plot, it’s high time you watch The Final Girls. You’ll be treated to a compelling narrative backed by a cast that proves their worth in every scene.
In essence, “The Final Girls” is an absolute treat for lovers of the horror genre, comedy fans, and cinema critics alike. Embellished with a clever plot, remarkable performances, and looming horror-comedy elements, it metamorphoses the classic horror cliché into something tender, touching, and mesmerizingly fresh.
So, if you crave multi-layered plotlines, engaging humor, a touch of nostalgia, and genuinely thrilling horror, watch The Final Girls. Allow yourself to be transported into a world that celebrates, satirizes, and surpasses genre expectations. This film truly stands as a testament to the delightful synergy that can be accomplished when comedy and horror are masterfully blended.
A Sneak Peek into Horror and Hilarity: The Trailer of “The Final Girls”
“The Final Girls” is a unique and effective movie. It’s a fantastic example of how comedy and horror can indeed mix, producing a delightfully entertaining and thought-provoking piece of cinema. It’s not just a conscious spoof but also an homage to the golden era of slasher films while paying its tribute with buckets of blood, dollops of laughs, and, granted, even a couple of tears.
So, go ahead and watch The Final Girls, a testament to the fact that comedy-horror, when in the right hands, can be turned into a genre-breaching masterpiece instead of what could have easily been a cheesy, mindless caricature.