From IMDb: A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom’s most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film’s maniacal killer.
A movie with that description sounds terrible, or at least like something that could never nail its multiple tones, but Final Girls is a triumph of a horror comedy tinged with drama film. It is pure fun mixed with a heartfelt story. This is the only horror film that has made me laugh and cry in nearly equal turns.
For the laughs, the humor is very well done. The film snagged a very talented cast (you’ll recognize faces from Arrested Development, Pitch Perfect, The Vampire Diaries, and American Horror Story). and just lets them do their thing. The results are amazing for such an overlooked film – both the stereotypical 80s characters and the real people who find themselves caught in the within the 80s slasher film are entertaining. The movie takes the inevitably problematic 80s characters, and finds ways to elevate the humor past being crude for the sake of being crude. Here’s an example when Kurt keeps trying to prompt Chris to objectify women with him:
Kurt: What are you, a fag?
Chris Briggs: My dads are gay, so shut the hell up.
Kurt: Yeah, right! Gay guys can’t have kids! They’re too busy going to discos and having sex with each other… it’s actually a pretty cool lifestyle…
This film also made me cry with it’s touching depiction of a daughter’s love for her deceased mother. You will never hear the song “Bette Davis Eyes” the same way again after watching this movie. I’m still astounded by how well this film balances the humor and sadness, and still leaves you feeling exhilarated by the end.
I love going on the IMDb trivia page after watching a movie I enjoyed, and the page for this movie has a ton of great tidbits. Here are some of my favorites:
- The script was originally optioned by New Line Cinema, but the studio wanted to eliminate all of the deep character moments and the mother-daughter plot. Eventually, it wound up being produced by Sony, a studio which liked the emotional core but decided to tone down the slasher movie aspect to attain a PG-13 rating. It sucks that this is PG-13 (it also makes some of the deaths a tad confusing), but it would be nothing without the deep character moments. I have this to say to The House that Freddy Built:
- The film was conceived and co-written by Joshua John Miller as a way of dealing with the death of his dad, Jason Miller, who had starred as Father Karras in The Exorcist (1973). This really explains the emotional resonance of the film.
- The revelation that Gertie slept with an autistic guy was scripted in a very mean-spirited way and Alia Shawkat had a real problem with it, so she decided to come up with her own dialogue. The writers and director have all praised her instincts in regards to the scene. For a moment in this scene, I braced myself to be let down, and I’m so glad the actress changed the dialogue. It’s a tiny moment that gives you an example of how to reach when someone punches down with a comment you don’t agree with.
- The writers named the characters in Camp Bloodbath Nancy and Tina as an homage to A Nightmare on Elm Street.
I cannot suggest this movie enough. Other movies have certainly threaded similar ground such as 2005’s Camp Slaughter and even 2018’s enjoyable Blood Fest, but none pull off the impressive genre blend this film does.