Is the slasher parody The Final Girls just another rip-off of The Cabin in the Woods, or does it offer enough original material to convince both horror and comedy fans?
The Final Girls
(USA 2015, director: Todd Strauss-Schulson)
Trying to cope with the death of her mother, known for her role in the 80ies slasher Camp Bloodbath, Max and some other young people are pulled into the world of this movie during a screening.
When does a parody stop to be funny, how much horror can a comedy have before the genre becomes almost unrecognizable? These are questions one can constantly ask while watching The Final Girls. It’s not exactly Scary Movie with all sorts of jokes per minute, but it isn’t very far off from overacting and forced humor.
This is actually too bad, because the premise of having modern kids meeting slasher stereotypes of the 80ies is pretty cool. There are times when it works quite well, e.g. with one character making fun of another, because she thinks that it’s impossible to talk on a smart phone. Unfortunately, the script isn’t as witty as it appears to be, with many missed opportunities ridiculing the 80ies and slasher movies in general. Instead one has some rather annoying characters who are just as stereotypical as the ones they meet, with a movie geek the worst example of this.
The pacing isn’t perfect, either, which is due to the mother-daughter relationship that might work if the whole movie was more serious, but in isolated instances comes across as forced drama. The same can be said for the slapstick and dialogue scenes which try too hard to be funny. Some work quite well, as an over-the-top striptease dance with a girl on drugs, or one character falling into their own trap the group set up for the killer. Other scenes don’t work as well, e.g. with some wildly spinning camera around a victim or close-ups on the faces to exaggerate the coolness of preparing for the villain even further.
The villain is another problem, as his screen time isn’t long enough to make him frightening, convincing or even memorable. The similarities to Jason Voorhees (together with a soundtrack that uses the same theme from the Friday the 13th series) are obvious, but there’s simply not enough horror to feel terror. The death scenes are also nothing to write home about, which might have to do with the PG 13-rating or a general lack of original ideas.
However, if this all sounds like a failed experiment of fusing together 80ies slasher horror and modern parody sensibilities (or the lack thereof), one can’t deny that the movie succeeds on other levels and still entertains. The way how film techniques and meta-fictional elements are used works great. Without spoiling too much, the self-awareness is the movie’s greatest strength and makes for some very funny and also quite unique moments.
If one can forgive the forced humor and knows that blood and gore is mostly missing (something that simply HAS to be in such a movie), one can have a good 90 minutes of mindless fun with some catchy 80ies music. It’s not as original as it pretends to be, though. Behind the Mask did the slasher thing bloodier, Detention (featured in the Fantasy Filmfest 2012 Day 2 special) did the comedy thing funnier and more original, while Midnight Movie was more atmospheric and brutal despite its low budget.
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