At SXSW: ‘The Final Girls’ offers meta laughs aplenty
Max (Taissa Farmiga) is an average teenage girl whose mother (Malin Akerman) happened to star in the original summer camp horror film, “Friday the 13th.” Their love is strong and all is well until Max and her mother are involved in a crash in which only Max survives. Years later, she and her friends Chris (Alexander Ludwig), Gertie (Ali Shawkat), Vicki (Nina Dobrev), and Duncan (Thomas Middleditch) all watch her mother’s film on the anniversary of her death and find themselves somehow stuck in the horror film with the clueless counselors.
‘The Final Girls’ is another meta/comedy/trope-filled horror film that works extraordinarily well due to the fact that it plays right into the hands of the audience. The film’s near-satire of “Friday the 13th” is enough to keep you laughing sufficiently, but the playing off of the modern characters knowledge makes things even more hilarious.
Complete with poor decisions, sex that incites murder and the film-inside-a-film aspect, “The Final Girls” also includes a fair amount of scares and blood to keep the audience on their feet. You truly never know what’s coming next and each surprise makes a lasting impression, especially when looking back on the experience as a whole.
A majority of the film’s success can be credited to Joshua Miller and M.A. Fortin, the brilliant screenwriters. Together, the two assembled some of the greatest horror tropes and managed to spin them around in new, hilarious ways. Their meta screenplay has the characters completely aware of all the tropes in horror films but also forces them to constantly adapt when the film they’re inside adapts as well.
Director Todd Strauss-Schulson, the man behind “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas 3D,” brings a peculiar flair to this film that fits perfectly with the material. Between shooting vintage horror shots and overusing CGI for dramatic and comedic effect, Schulson also employs some very neat tricks with how he handles the camera and its motions. Throw in an amazing soundtrack by Gregory James Jenkins, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a good time.
Sporting an all-star young cast, “The Final Girls” manages to include every type of character that you could imagine. Taissa Farmiga and Malin Akerman keep us grounded with emotional performances, whereas Adam DeVine and Thomas Middleditch play right into the hands of fans of profane and nerdy humor. Alex Ludwig isn’t so much a tough guy as he is a concerned one, and Nina Dobrev gets to play a convincing mean girl. Then there’s Alia Shawkat, who plays the role of the amusing best-friend perfectly. Together, the union of these talented actors and actresses brings the material to life.
Most of the meta humor works in favor of the film, but some of it comes off as amateurish when it doesn’t play as well with what is currently happening. Some of the meta references seem a bit too cheesy, and then they get kind of old. Then there’s the questionable use of CGI that makes certain scenes look ultra-phony. Now, maybe they were supposed to look intentionally bad, but they are noticeable and do take you out of the film, especially because the majority of the visual effects look stellar.
‘The Final Girls’ played exceptionally well during the screening at SXSW, and it’s not hard to see why. This film is such a great time for the audience, and the filmmakers had that in mind when making it. Everyone winks and nods through this film, keeping that meta-vibe alive and the audience amused.
“Females in horror films are the only female character that men can relate with,” said Fortin after the screening, and the women in this film are especially great. This film is sure to be a hit and may even live on for years to come.