In most cases, I try to ensure that I don’t read any reviews of a film before I write my own; it becomes too difficult to produce an unsullied opinion if I already have an idea of the greater consensus. Unfortunately, I neglected that rule in the case of The Final Girls, the new horror(ish) comedy from director Todd Strauss-Schulson.
The 400-Word Review: The Final Girls
By Sean Collier
October 22, 2015
Neil Genzlinger’s brief review of the film in the New York Times called up a formula I may well have arrived at on my own, as blatant as it is: The Final Girls is Pleasantville by way of Scream.
Now, I don’t bring up Genzlinger’s review just to crib his line. I bring it up because that is about all I could think of when evaluating the otherwise fine film; it is just so much Pleasantville and so very, very much Scream. The deconstruction of horror tropes performed by the most awkward teen in the group, the unexplainable entree into a work of filmed fiction, the delightful moments of magical reality — it is simple arithmetic.
Fortunately, it’s still a pretty fun diversion.
Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman) is a one-time scream queen best known as one of the counselors at Camp Bloodbath, a thinly-veiled Friday the 13th. A year after she is killed in a car accident, daughter Max (Taissa Farmiga) reluctantly agrees to attend a screening of her mother’s most famous performance; when a fire breaks out inside the crowded theater, Max and friends are somehow whisked into the world of the film, complete with title cards and abbreviated runtime.
Of course, Amanda is there too — she exists only as Nancy, the bright-eyed, guitar-toting counselor. The rest of the visitors from the real world desperately try to analyze the rules of the cinematic universe in order to find a way out; Max, meanwhile, is trying to find a way to turn Nancy into Mom, or at least get Nancy through the feature alive.
The emotional punch isn’t as strong as the comedic jabs that pepper the film, many of which manage to serve as original comment despite the endlessly-parodied subject matter. And a great cast, including laugh-out-loud turns from Thomas Middleditch, Alia Shawkat, Angela Trimbur and Adam Devine, keeps The Final Girls fun and watchable even during slower stretches.
So yes: The premise is formulaically derived. But for horror fans especially, it’s still a ride worth taking.
My Rating: 7/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark