There I was sitting on a curb waiting for a waaahhhm-bulance because it was almost mid-October and I had no reliable prospects as far as a new, decent horror movie went. CRIMSON PEAK looked splendid but it was yet to be released and the only horror representative playing in the theater was GREEN INFERNO which I’d heard was OK-ish but still looked about as appealing as a LIMP BIZKIT reunion to me. But then Mr. Aunt John suggested we watch THE FINAL GIRLS because, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, it was available on demand for way cheaper than any movie ticket and guess what?! It turned out to be better than so very much of the stuff I shelled out twice as much for and I didn’t even have to leave my house and court bedbugs! In fact, I just invited a chum over to watch it again before it expires!
I’ll be for real with y’all and admit that I’m not the biggest fan of reductive terms like “final girl” especially when attached to bogus slasher “rules” about characters needing to maintain their virginity in order to survive. I know it makes folks feel clever and academic to speak of such things but I’ve got shelves of movies that tell a different story. I’m putting that out there to let you know that I had that little hurdle to jump over before me and THE FINAL GIRLS got cozy. I suppose somebody was going to utilize the popular buzz term as a title eventually (2015 also saw the release of a non-plural FINAL GIRL movie with ABIGAIL BRESLIN) and it’s good news that this movie makes it such an easy pill to swallow by being so genuinely funny, heartfelt and all around affable (i.e. non-douchey).
As it turns out, THE FINAL GIRLS is far from your standard condescending mockery of the delicious slasher tropes some of us authentically adore. It does make light of several clichés but its main interest is affectionately pointing out how blurry the line between our lives and movies sometimes get. Anyone who has ever used a movie to escape from life’s darker realities is going to have zero problem connecting with this flick. It’s kind of THE WIZARD OF OZ of horror films and the way it speaks about relationships, loss and even the ability for people to break out of the limiting way they might view themselves is truly noteworthy. Gosh darn it, something got in my eye when I watched this and that’s my favorite thing in the world.
I do have two complaints though and I’m going to share them because it’s important to remember you don’t have to like every single thing about something in order to love it. Firstly, there was a giant missed opportunity here to get some laughs from over-the-top gore. Due to most of the action taking place in a false, dream-like reality I’d assume the movie could get away with more than most and I for one would have enjoyed that. Secondly, and I know I’m being persnickety here, but I really hated the killer’s mask! Is that too incidental to complain about? I dunno. The rest of the movie was so spot on visually that it was kind of a glaring lack of taste in my book. Making it worse, the killer carved the mask himself, which means the sky was the limit as far as what it looked like and it ended up looking like a froggy-tiki mask. Maybe it will grow on me. I plan to return to this jaunt many times in the future, so we’ll see.
Those little qualms aside, there’s not much to complain about here. The script by JOSHUA JOHN MILLER (Yay, TEEN WITCH!) and M.A. FORTIN is rather brilliant in the way it juggles the familiar while still bringing something uniquely its own to the table. TODD STRAUSS-SHULSON’s direction too is a breath of fresh air and it’s so nice to catch something in the genre that is so colorfully epic looking rather than relentlessly poseur gray.
Horror comedies are famously difficult to pull off, so in the future let’s say we all take a tip from THE FINAL GIRLS and cast people who are actually funny? ADAM (WORKAHOLICS) DeVINE, THOMAS (SILICON VALLEY) MIDDLEDITCH, ALIA (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) SHAWKAT and especially ANGELA (HALLOWEEN II) TRIMBUR basically hit everything thrown at them out of the park. AMERICAN HORROR STORY’s TAISSA FARMIGA is the real deal and somehow able to convincingly alter her age three years using little more than a pony tail and facial expressions and I gotta say the MVP award goes to MALIN ACKERMAN (who is also great in another comedy/horror, 2013’s COTTHAGE COUNTRY). She’s pretty much the heart and soul of the movie and like the movie itself, she’s hard not to love.
NOTE: YOU can see THE FINAL GIRLS! If it’s not at a theater near you or available on your cable service, it’s all over your computer on iTunes and Amazon and Google and such. Trust me, it’s the cure for whatever ails ya and the treat that horror fans deserve this Halloween.