Its becoming a bit of a trend for me to only review horror comedy films lately, but can you blame me? I think there is no better way of showing a director’s skill than through having him or her be able to balance the two most contradictory genres in film history. Its odd to say that they are contradictory, because horror is essentially built on monsters, all of which, in their very definition, are made for comedy – what are zombies other than undead stoners, looking for their fix? What are vampires but just antisocial, gore-loving adolescents? What exactly is wrong with ghosts that they want to stick around and play pranks on people? I love horror comedies, as you can see from my history of reviewing them as much as possible.
However, one of the most interesting horror tropes is the slasher horror – it is a very formulaic, but popular, sub-genre of horror. It also hasn’t been lampooned very often, maybe because many slasher films are sometimes very funny themselves, if not unintentionally. The idea of a slasher horror comedy was done well a few years ago with Cabin in the Woods, which played around with the conventions of horror, and was able to be very funny, but also to be truly very scary. This year, a film debuted that was a great supplement to that film, The Final Girls, which isn’t only a better film, but a brilliant film on its own merits. It seems traditional that a horror film makes it onto my “Best of the Year” list (last year it was the tremendous Housebound), and this year, I am very sure The Final Girls will find itself on the list.
The story is deliciously meta. It finds a group of teenagers attending a midnight screening of a slasher film with a cult following. Through some disaster, they escape through the screen of the movie theatre, but instead of emerging in some dusty corridor, they find themselves inside the slasher movie, where they find themselves characters in the story, and armed with the terrifying knowledge of the film, they try and outsmart the killer (the wonderfully generic Billy Murphy, armed with strangely scary mask and enormous machete). An added element of emotion is added, as one of the main characters, Max (Taissa Farmiga) is the daughter of the star of the film, that died a few years before, and Max has to face the fact that she is in a story with the character her mother played – it is a gloriously frustrating and highly original concept, because the emotion Max feels is absolutely tangible – she is so close to her mother, yet much too far for it to be real. If this doesn’t sound original in concept, then it most certainly is in execution.
The performances in this film are great – the entire ensemble is absolutely fantastic. However, I have to single out Taissa Farmiga, who leads this film with such dignity and grace -she never once tries to steal the screen from the other characters, and her performance is quiet and nuanced, and much like her sister, Vera, Taissa makes great use of her natural charms to add a complexity to this character. I think she has a fantastic career ahead of her, and this shows that she is a truly great leading lady. Malin Åkerman has always been a consistently charming actress, but here she truly gets to shine. She is absolutely likable, sweet and steals the show as Max’s mother and the character she played in the film-within-the-film. Smaller performances by the likes of Alia Shawkat, Nina Dobrev, Thomas Middleditch and Adam Devine just make the ensemble stronger. A special mention has to go to Angela Trimbur, who gives one of the funniest performances in this movie, and is truly a very memorable one.
The Final Girls is the best kind of film – the one that makes use of great, iconic music. One particular song, “Bette Davis Eyes”, is used magnificently in this film. The song just happens to be one of my favorite songs, which makes this film all the more fantastic, in my biased opinion, of course. The scene where the song is used is heartbreaking, funny and wonderful, and one of the most visually memorable from any film I’ve seen this year. It is just one of those moments where film and music meet in beautiful serendipity, and that is very difficult to get right.
The Final Girls is such a fantastic film. If you’re a horror fan, you’ll love the unique perspective to horror that it takes. If you’re a cinephile, you’ll adore the way it plays with horror conventions and the subtle references to other great horror films. If you’re a bit reluctant to watch a legitimately scary horror film, but want a few jump scares and a good experience without becoming too startled, this film is also great, because while it retains the spirit of a great slasher film, a lot of the situations allow the audience to laugh and not be too scared (maybe that’s why I love horror comedies…who knows?).
I truly adored The Final Girls. However, it needs our support! Watch it, spread the word and support the people that made this film – we need more original and unique filmmakers, and Todd Strauss-Schulson has such an original vision, and we need people like him in modern cinema. I think The Final Girls is definitely one of the best films of the year, and I truly do suggest that anyone who wants a fun film that is unique and unexpectedly great should seek this out…do it, before Billy Murphy comes for you !