The meta horror-comedy The Final Girls was released in 2015 and, somehow, I only came across the film and watched it two days previous to writing this piece. It’s one of those rare perfectly-cast and wide-emotional-range films that drop into the genre every so often and are sometimes overlooked. I read reviews, many of them comparing The Final Girls (widely considered inferior) to the also-meta horror film The Cabin in the Woods. For what it’s worth, I would choose The Final Girls over The Cabin in the Woods every time.
The Final Girls has a surprising amount of heart and manages to make you laugh, cry and experience the love of the horror genre all at once.
The premise is that our protagonist, Max (Taissa Farminga) is mourning the loss of her actress mother (Malin Ackerman) that occurred three years prior to the events in the film. On the anniversary of Max’s mother’s death, there is a special screening of Camp Bloodbath - an ‘80’s slasher film that Max’s mother, Amanda, starred in. Max has no intention of going, but Duncan (Thomas Middleditch) is a very devoted fan of Camp Bloodbath and manages to talk Max into making an appearance at the screening. They are accompanied by their friends Gertie (Alia Shawkat) and Vicki (Nina Dobrev), and also by Max’s crush, Chris (Alexander Ludwig).
To cut straight to the chase on how things happen, a fire breaks out in the theater during the movie and Max cuts through the screen with a machete dropped by a cosplaying fan (the Camp Bloodbath killer, Billy Murphy, is a nod to Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th films) to get to an exit with her friends and they find themselves actually in the movie Camp Bloodbath in 1986. This is where the “meta” in this love letter to ‘80’s slashers begins.
I feel it would do viewers a disservice to break down much more of the film. The last few things I will present are that Max is immediately emotional at being with her mom (in her Camp Bloodbath character) and, in being true to the “rules” and tropes of ‘80’s slasher flicks, Max wants to keep her from having sex with the requisite jock/asshole, Kurt (Adam Devine), so she doesn’t die like she’s supposed to in the film and becomes a Final Girl. Obviously, Max has been through her mother’s death in real life and feels a need to prevent her from dying again - even if just in a horror film. I will also mention that one of horror’s more recent wonderful lines is spoken by Duncan - “Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve dreamt of being a final girl!”.
As my podcast family on The House That Screams warned me, you’ll never hear “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes the same way again. To quote it here:
And she knows just what it takes to make
A pro blush
She’s got Greta Garbo’s stand-off sighs
She’s got Bette Davis eyes
Fit that into a title like The Final Girls and the sheer genius of the song’s placement, and you will find yourself appreciating how everything in this movie just comes together perfectly.
The House That Screams has a special episode covering this film coming very, very soon from the date of this article and I hope you’ll tune in for it. I can promise that I won’t be the only person that gets emotional in that discussion.
If this title flew under the radar for you, I beseech you to check it out. It’s a wonderful piece and means all the more when you learn that the film’s writers - Joshua John Miller and his life partner M.A. Fortin - wrote the film as a way for Miller to come to terms with his father Jason Miller’s death in 2001. Jason Miller was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and an actor who is most known for his role as Father Karras in The Exorcist (1973), which happens to be one of the most famous horror films in history.
Candy “The Final Girl” Allison