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The Final Girls (TIFF Review 2015)

The Final Girls (TIFF Review 2015)
09.23.2015by: Chris Bumbray
7 10

PLOT: A group of teens find themselves sucked into a cheesy eighties slasher flick, where they must do battle with a Jason-style killer so they can return home.

REVIEW: THE FINAL GIRLS is like the LAST ACTION HERO of horror movies, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Like that often underrated Arnie flick, here a group of ultra-canny kids who’ve grown up on a diet of horror flicks find themselves pitted against a real Hollywood eighties slasher, who – naturally – proves to be harder to take down than they thought.

 

While not the first post-modern horror film, Todd Strauss-Schulson’s nostalgic ode to the genre is a ton of fun. It was the perfect movie to wrap-up this year’s edition of TIFF’s Midnight Madness, with the audience at the screening cheering along at every kill and laughing at every in-joke, of which there are a ton.

While the watered-down PG-13 rating is a disappointment (another similarity to LAST ACTION HERO), Strauss-Schulson makes up for a lack of gore with a ton of laughs. This is like the WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER of horror movies, with the horny camp counselors, who all act in that goofy “eighties VHS rental” kind of way, annoying our modern teen heroes with their homophobia and naiveté.

While done on a low-budget, a heck of a cast has been assembled, with Taissa Farmiga of American Horror Story making for an appealing potential ‘Final Girl.’ The hook here is that her character’s dead mother was an actress in the film they’re trapped-in, and thus they’re reunited when she’s sucked into the movie, with the heartstrings not-surprisingly getting a good tug here and there. While this might come off as mawkish anywhere else, Farmiga and Malin Akerman really do manage to evoke a nice mother-daughter relationship, so this aspect works.

 

Of course, this is a horror flick, not TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, right? While none of the kills are particularly violent, there’s still plenty of carnage, with the actors clearly having the time of their lives running from the Jason-styled killer. Alexander Ludwig makes for a surprisingly likable heartthrob hero, while Nina Dobrev gives her stereotypical “bitch” character some three-dimensionality. Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch is funny as the older geek who also finds himself sucked into the film and has to school the kids on all the genre hallmarks to help them survive. Alia Shawkat (in her second Midnight Madness this year after GREEN ROOM) gives the film the cynical edge if often needs, and a quick eye-roll from her or knowing comment keeps the audience from ever taking things too seriously.

While likely too tame to really appeal to hardcore horror fans, THE FINAL GIRLS is still tons of fun and well worth seeing for a good laugh. Todd Strauss-Schulson has made a likable spoof that occasionally also works as a decent example of the genre and it seems certain that this should find a healthy VOD audience, even if seeing it on the big-screen would be much more fun.

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