SXSW 2015: “The Final Girls” – Review by MovieManMenzel

The Final Girls Movie Review SXSW

An 80s slasher spoof with some added heart.

Max (Taissa Farmiga) has spent the last several years grieving the loss of her mother, Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman). Her best friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat) has been trying to keep her company while attempting to get her to date Chris (Alexander Ludwig). One afternoon while at lunch, Gertie’s step brother Duncan (Thomas Middleditch) interrupts and begs Max to attend a fan screening and Q&A for the 80s slasher flick, Camp Bloodbath. Bribed into going, Max reluctantly comes to the screening and an unexpected event transports her and her friends into the film itself.  Now, it is up to Max, her friends, and her dead mother to defeat the film’s killer and make it until the end credits being to roll. 

Before I begin my review, I would like to point out that even though I am not a fan of most modern horror films, I do love the horror comedy genre and horror films from the 70s and 80s. SXSW is usually home to at least one really good horror movie or horror comedy each year. This year The Final Girls was my most anticipated film of SXSW 2015. I was so excited to see this film because of the cast as well as the fun premise of being stuck in an 80s slasher film. It is pretty safe to say that I had high exceptions when I walked into the World Premiere on Friday the 13th at Paramount Theater.

With all that being said, The Final Girls was an absolutely blast to watch. It mixes 80s horror, cheesy dialogue, and of course, comedy. The film never takes itself too seriously and even manages to throw a touching and heartfelt mother/daughter story into the mix. This is the type of film that could have been really bad if the script tried too hard but instead it knows exactly what it is going for and never tries to do too much with it.

After seeing the film, it is pretty clear that writers M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller have a strong love for 80s horror and all the cheesy goodness that they offer. Those who love horror films like Friday the 13th,  Sleepaway Camp, Evil Dead, and various other 80s cult classics will love how this film plays as an homage to them. The killer in the Camp Bloodbath is very similar to Jason Voorhees and has a similar backstory. The incorporation of various flashback scenes to the 1950s as well as repetition of certain scenes serve as some of the highlights throughout the film. 

mALIN AKERMAN FINAL GIRLS MOVIE

As for the cast, I really thought that everyone did a solid job in their role. Nina Dobrev and Alia Shawkat were great supporting characters while Taissa Farmiga was great as the film’s lead. However in my eyes, Malin Akerman was clearly the standout. Her story builds an emotional connection for the audience between her character and Farmiga’s Max. The development starts in the very beginning and even though it isn’t overly developed, it still works regardless. I think without that storyline, The Final Girls would still have been a lot of fun, but I don’t think it wouldn’t have been nearly as good of a film. The chemistry between these two actresses really worked and this story was the emotional core of the film.

While I did laugh quite a bit at some of the gags in the film, I have to admit that Adam DeVine and Thomas Middleditch seem to be playing exaggerated extensions of themselves. They are entertaining but really their roles aren’t much different than ones we seen them play before. The real comedic talent of the cast, however, was Angela Trimbur who plays Tina. Trimbur plays the sexy and horny camp counselor and is an absolute riot. There are several times where she had the entire audience laughing hysterically especially during a dance scene where she is trying to attract the killer to enter the cabin.

Director Todd Strauss-Schulson does a really great job with the cast and storytelling. As I said earlier, the film blends the genres of horror, comedy, and drama and Strauss-Schulson handles all those elements well. I think when more people see this film they will really connect with it and in my opinion it is destined to become a cult classic just like most the films to which it is paying homage. I will say that at the post screening Q&A the writer was asked about a sequel which he pointed out he was hoping will happen. I rarely want a sequel but I would love to see the story continue from where it left off. 

All in all, I really dug The Final Girls. I loved the 80s horror references, how self-aware the story and characters were, and most importantly, the fact that the film never tried to be something it wasn’t. This film was made to be entertaining and it did that well. I think fans of the 80s slasher films will absolutely love this film and I think many will be shocked with how well the mother/daughter story works and the amount of heart it brings to the film. This is a great film to watch with a bunch of friends and just have a good time. I can’t wait for it to be released so I can see it again with my friends.

MovieManMenzel’s final rating for The Final Girls is a 8 out of 10.

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