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A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom's most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film's maniacal killer.
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The Final Girls movie full length review - Not That Scary, Not That Funny...
I got the impression that THE FINAL GIRLS was advertised as a horror/comedy satirizing tropes from the early generation of slasher films from the 80's.
And it was, to an extent, but it's mostly the heartfelt tale of a daughter mourning the loss of her mother and learning to let her go. That would've been good to know because I went in with a particular expectation that was let down pretty thoroughly. The mother/daughter team at the core of THE FINAL GIRLS is Malin Akerman and Taissa Farmiga. Amanda (Akerman) was a struggling actress who's one big hit was the cult classic slasher film CAMP BLOODBATH from the mid 80's, a Friday THE 13TH sort of horror film where she was a shy camp counselor who was hacked to bits by the machete-wielding maniac Billy Murphy (Dan B. Norris) after losing her virginity. Amanda dies in a car crash and her daughter Max (Farmiga) is still having problems coping three years later. When she's invited to a double-feature screening of CAMP BLOODBATH and its sequel as a special guest on the anniversary of her mother's death, she reluctantly agrees. Things get weird when a series of freak occurrences cause a fire in the theater and Max and her friends are forced to escape through the screen, finding themselves awakening moments later in the film. Trapped at Camp Blue Finch with a bunch of horny counselors and a murderous psychopath on the loose, Max and her friends must convince the film's characters of the danger they're in and devise a plan to escape back to the real world. Of course, it's made all the more difficult for Max when she comes face-to-face with her "mother" in the character of Nancy, the shy counselor with a guitar who's doomed to become a victim.
THE FINAL GIRLS might be better than I'm giving it credit for but I was personally disappointed in the end result. I sat down expecting something more along the lines of TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL with a focus on lampooning the clichéd elements of the Jason Voorhees franchise. THE FINAL GIRLS does this and, when it does, the movie is pretty fun. But, and I hate to sound cold-hearted, whenever the movie focuses on the mother/daughter angle, I get bored. It's disappointing enough that the movie is PG-13 so we get none of the bloody violence and gratuitous nudity associated with the slasher films it's poking fun at, but to then constantly downshift the pace to accommodate the Max/Nancy plot thread is rough. We kept injecting these heartwarming moments with Max assuming the more parental role for the eager-to-get-busy Nancy as she tries to keep the clueless teenaged counselor's clothes on, educating her on the fact that she doesn't have to sleep with the lecherous Kurt (Adam DeVine) just because he wants it. Look, the Akerman/Farmiga stuff works really well. Both of these women are great actresses and they've got some excellent chemistry here as mother and daughter (or "camp friends"), but it feels like we're bouncing between two separate movies and I found it increasingly annoying. Between the movie's heart, the toothless horror elements, and the hit-or-miss comedy, THE FINAL GIRLS only worked on the one level (Akerman/Farmiga) and everything else suffered. It wasn't nearly suspenseful enough to qualify as any sort of horror movie. The kills were mostly tame (with two exceptions?one involve a car and the other a bear trap) and Billy Murphy?the Jason Voorhees stand-in? wasn't all that scary with his big ol' tiki mask looking like something out of the Scooby-Doo movie. The comedy fared a little better but it still came up short.
THE FINAL GIRLS never elicited more than a half-hearted chuckle out of me but what comic relief we were provided helped the movie pass a little smoother. The supporting cast includes Thomas Middleditch (from the fantastic HBO show "Silicon Valley") as the resident CAMP BLOODBATH super-fan Duncan, Adam DeVine (form Comedy Central's "Workaholics") as the camp's sex-obsessed jock Kurt, and Angela Trimbur as the horniest counselor of the bunch, Tina. The three of them provide the funniest moments of the movie and almost every scene with them (especially Middleditch and Trimbur) is great. I also loved how the filmmakers created the world of the movie-within-a-movie. Once Max and her friends are dumped into the world of CAMP BLOODBATH, they're trapped and any attempt to escape circles right back around to the camp. On-screen title cards are physical three- dimensional objects that they can interact with, and flashbacks are a trippy journey into the black-and-white world of the late 50's. Even with the toned- down PG-13, I could've loved this film purely for the creativity involved if we'd gone the comedic route, spending more time building laughs on the inherent goofiness of slasher films viewed through modern cynical eyes. Or we could've gone the other direction and taken a hard R-rating with the horror angle. Either way I feel we still could've found a way to incorporate the very personal tale of Max and Nancy, and then we'd have had more fun in the meantime. But it is what it is, and THE FINAL GIRLS is a decent 90 minute distraction but little more for me.