Movie review of “The Final Girls”: Clever and emotionally satisfying, the film finds contemporary teens magically transported inside a 1980s slasher movie with the latter’s stock characters, battling a machete-wielding madman. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
Clever, creative and emotionally satisfying, “The Final Girls” is a horror-comedy and popcorn movie that keeps its original premise fresh all the way to a delightful, surprise ending.
The story starts with a shocker. Former slasher-movie scream queen Nancy (a luminous Malin Akerman), trying to relaunch her acting career decades later as a mature adult, is driving home with tween daughter Max (Taissa Farmiga) after a failed audition.
After a sweet interaction between the two, Nancy is killed in a terrible accident. Cut to three years later, and Max finds herself a reluctant guest at a screening of her mom’s 1986 classic horror flick, “Camp Bloodbath,” a “Friday the 13th”-like potboiler in which sexually active kids at a summer camp are slaughtered by a masked madman.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘The Final Girls,’ with Malin Akerman, Taissa Farmiga, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch, Andy Devine, Nina Dobrev. Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, from a screenplay by M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller. 88 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sexual material, horror violence. SIFF Film Center.
One thing leads to another at that screening, and Max finds herself magically transported — along with best friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat), the goofy Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), potential love interest Kurt (Andy Devine) and snooty Vicki (Nina Dobrev) — inside the vintage film with all its original characters, including the stock “shy virgin” played by the much younger Nancy.
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Max and the other displaced heroes become a fun update of the “Scooby Gang” from television’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” taking on the machete-wielding killer while figuring out the rules of this nonreality reality.
The richest material, of course, is in Max’s renewed relationship with Nancy. But director Todd Strauss-Schulson and the film’s writers and production team bring a sophisticated, detailed touch to “The Final Girls”’ concept, from the gauzy, garish genre look of “Camp Bloodbath” to a spectacular, climactic battle between monster and warrior-girl. It’s always nice to have one of the latter around.