Directed By: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Adam DeVine
Line from the film: "They won't be singing Kumbaya... they'll be screaming Kumba-no!"
Trivia: The car accident at the beginning of the film was entirely computer generated but the car crash and explosion at the camp was done practically
Director Todd Strauss-Schulson’s 2015 film The Final Girls is a tribute to / spoof of the slasher films of the 1980s that also relates the touching tale of a girl trying to reconnect with the mother she lost years earlier.
Max (Taissa Farmiga) is the daughter of late actress Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman), who, back in 1986, appeared in a movie titled Camp Bloodbath, a slasher flick that has since gained a cult following. Spurred on by Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), a horror film fanatic and the step-brother of her best friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat), Max agrees to attend a screening of Camp Bloodbath, which, coincidentally, is being held on the third anniversary of her mom’s death. Joined by Chris (Alexander Ludwig), who has a thing for Max; and Vicki (Nina Dobrev), Chris’s overbearing ex, Max, Gertie, and Duncan make their way into the theater and settle in for what they hope will be an entertaining evening.
The good times come to an abrupt end, however, when a quick spreading fire breaks out during the screening, trapping everyone, including the five friends, in the middle of a raging inferno. Thinking fast, Max leads Chris, Gertie and the rest to the front of the theater and, hoping to find a way out, cuts a large hole in the screen. But when they all pass through it, instead of an exit, they’re magically transported into the world of the movie! Now, besides having to deal with such obnoxious ‘80s characters as the chauvinistic Kurt (Adam Devane) and the oversexed Tina (Angela Trimbur), Max finds herself face-to-face with a younger version of her mother, who played the kind yet somewhat naïve Nancy. Knowing full well that Nancy and the others are about to be murdered, Max does what she can to save both her friends and the film’s main characters before a vicious masked killer (Dan B. Norris) can finish them off.
From the moment that Max and her pals reluctantly join the cast of Camp Bloodbath, The Final Girls walks a fine line between comedy (their interactions with Kurt, Tina and the rest are often hilarious, as is the flashback scene, where Max and the others are whisked away to a black and white reenactment of the day that the killer, named Billy, was pushed too far by the camp’s counselors) and horror (as with Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, Billy is damn near invincible, and pretty handy with a machete). Yet what I really liked about the movie was the way it handled the relationship between Max and her mom. Having spent time with them in the film’s opening sequence (which also reveals how Amanda died), we know the two were very close, which makes the later scenes between Max and Nancy that much more poignant (the first time she meets her mom’s character, Max’s emotions get the better of her).
Thanks to the excellent performances delivered by both Farmiga and Akerman, this mother / daughter bond brings plenty of emotional depth to The Final Girls, and in so doing introduces a decidedly feminist sensibility to a sub-genre (the slasher) that, in the past, has been criticized for its misogyny.