The Final Girls (2015)

JANUARY 22, 2021


I forget exactly why I skipped The Final Girls when it came out in 2015; I don't *think* it was the PG-13 rating but it's not out of the question that it was that or some other silly excuse. But more likely I caught wind of the fact that it wasn't really a slasher, but more of a coming of age/mother-daughter bonding kind of movie using the backdrop of a slasher movie to tell its story, as the plot is about a young woman being sucked into an old slasher movie that starred her now-deceased mother, giving her a chance to spend time with her again. I'd compare it to Happy Death Day 2U in that regard; the slasher stuff is just a means to an end as opposed to the focus. There's nothing wrong with that, of course - but it would have been enough for me, with a one year old son (and at that time, a book to finish!) to think I could wait for Blu-ray or whatever.

And then I just sort of forgot about it until last night, when a question about it came up at trivia and I didn't know it. Slasher stuff is my responsibility for the group, and I feel I definitely would have known the answer had I seen the movie recently enough. The question, for the curious, was "What is the name of the sequel to Camp Bloodbath?" (that's the slasher movie the heroes of the film get sucked into) and the answer was "Cruel Summer", which was revealed in the film alongside the Bananarama song of the same name. Since the soundtrack was peppered with so many hit songs (far more than I would expect from a low budget film of this type) I suspect it would have been rattling around in my brain for a bit, as I guarantee five years from now one of my stronger memories about the film would be its song selections (Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes", a favorite of mine, plays a key part, and even though it's not from the '80s I can always enjoy the inclusion of Warrant's "Cherry Pie").

But there's one thing that will stick out forever for sure, and not in a good way: the casting of Malin Akerman as one of the stars of Camp Bloodbath. In the real world opening sequence (set in the present day), she's a down on her luck actress, going to shoddy looking auditions and resenting that she's still only really remembered for a slasher she did nearly 30 years prior. Her daughter (Taissa Farmiga) supports her continued attempts to be a big star, but it's clear that for her, it's over. And then it's REALLY over, as she gets killed in a car crash on the way home. Farmiga's Max survives, and a few years later attends a revival screening of the two Camp Bloodbath movies scheduled to honor her mom's memory. A fire in the theater breaks out, and when trying to escape through a hole in the screen, Max and her friends end up inside the film, which for her friends means some goofing off and telling the characters that they're just movie characters (and that they can't have sex or they'll die) but for Max means a chance to stop her mom from dying in the movie where she couldn't stop her from dying in real life.

All well and good except... you know, Akerman doesn't look appreciably younger in the film, even though it's been thirty years. The film opens with Farmiga watching the Camp Bloodbath trailer on her phone, and when her present day mom shows up after her bad audition she basically looks the same, just a bit tired. Most movies would have a different actress entirely playing the younger version, or at least taken the time to age her up for the present day to hammer home how long it had been, but they do neither here. So we're either supposed to believe she was in her teens in Camp Bloodbath, or in her fifties or even sixties in the present day scene? To be clear, I find Akerman quite charming and have enjoyed her work over the years, so it's not her fault or anything, and given the importance of the bond between the two women using a different actress for the other time period wouldn't work. But her casting is wrong for this particular part; I hate to sound ageist, but the role really needed someone much younger to play the role of "a shy girl with a clipboard" who is supposed to be having sex for the first time, and aged for the one scene where she needed to look older. It's like they cast for the present day when they should have cast it for the past, which is just weird. It's like the Wet Hot American Summer gag, and maybe it's even an intentional joke about how the actors in these movies are always older than their characters, but the idea of Max getting to spend time with her mom in her youthful glory days doesn't quite work as a result when their age dynamic is identical to the present day.

But beyond all that, it's a cute enough timekiller, with some occasional deep cuts for slasher fans (including an obscure reference to Pieces, which delighted me) and a game cast keeping it lively. Angela Trimbur's resident bimbo sexpot character occasionally borders on perhaps mentally challenged, so they could have reigned that in a bit, but everyone is clearly having fun running through the world's most generic slasher movie. I groaned when Thomas Middleditch showed up as a Randy Meeks type, because that guy sucks and I feared it meant he'd be commenting nonstop throughout the film, but he's actually the first to die, which was a wonderful little gift from the filmmakers. The "rules" are never clear and seem to change based on the scene's requirements, so you can't get too hung up on that sort of thing (at one point they find themselves in a time loop when they try to change something, which seems odd when a big part of the plot revolves around how their interruption caused the movie's original plot to change course - where is the line re: how/why things can be affected?), but unlike the mother daughter stuff - which wants to tug at your heartstrings - it's easy to ignore how none of it makes any goddamn sense and to just enjoy the ride. Nina Dobrev in particular showed off some solid comic chops as the "mean girl" (and also managed to deliver an emotional beat that the Akerman/Farmiga relationship never quite landed), and the best laugh in the movie is probably Tory Thompson's relief in discovering that even though he himself wasn't real, new wave music was.

Also, I was happy to see that part of the plot revolved around a revival screening, the sort of thing I miss dearly (indeed, the last time I saw a movie with a regular crowd was the New Beverly's showing of Jason X). For all they botched with the other stuff, they got the atmosphere pretty right here; there's a few guys dressed as the killer, everyone is laughing appreciably at bad lines, etc. Hell, the fire that sends them into the movie is caused by a guy sneaking in a bottle that rolls down the entire auditorium, the sound of which has interrupted countless midnight movies (and yes, even woken me up once or twice). The vaccine is coming along, sort of, so hopefully I can celebrate this fall the way I prefer: sitting in a theater watching movies like Camp Bloodbath, instead of being stuck at home.

The script supposedly went through a lot of changes over the years (it was written to be R, and bounced around studios), and they could never come up with a good ending (the one that we get is apparently a mix of two different finales, neither of which tested well), so it's possible some earlier incarnation would have been more satisfying to me. And I'd also be willing to bet that the central relationship between the two leads would work better on paper when you can imagine two distinct ages for a person (or even just better makeup; since it's about the same timespan, think the difference between the two versions of Lea Thompson that we get in Back to the Future) instead of constantly having to remind yourself that the two main characters are technically supposed to be about the same age for the majority of the film. But the results more or less get by on a sort of breezy charm, peppered with a few good gags for slasher aficionados and the visual treat of seeing that obnoxious asshat Middleditch being run over.

What say you?


  1. Hmm imdb says it is a 15, isnt that an R ?

    1. Well that's a different ratings system for a different country with different ideas for what constitutes material that is OK for kids to see, so no, it isn't. A 15 is a 15, and an R is an R. And this film is PG-13.

  2. BC does it again!


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