M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Six of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2015 and going through September 30, 2016. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on October 9, 2015. Available on DVD, BluRay, and On Demand from Vertical Entertainment!Also on Showtime!
THE FINAL GIRLS (2015)
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson
Written by M.A. Fortin (screenplay), Joshua John Miller(screenplay)
Starring Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch, Adam Devine, Tory N. Thompson, Chloe Bridges, Angela Trimbur, Lauren Gros, & Dan B. Norris as Jason Voor—I mean, Billy Murphy!
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Knowing nothing about this film going in is the way to enjoy it the most. So if you don’t want to be spoiled in the least, know that THE FINAL GIRLS is good. Surprisingly good. So surprisingly good that it’s the type of film I can’t wait to pass on as a recommendation to friends. It’s a fantastic love letter to the slasher film that manages to pay homage without making fun of it. If you’re a fan of slasher films, then do everything and anything you can to see this film. Skip past my review below and just see it. OK?
Now for those who have seen it or those who don’t care about spoilers, here’s the synopsis. AMERICAN HORROR STORY’s Taisa Farmiga plays Max Cartwright the daughter of a famous scream queen from the 80’s named Amanda (WATCHMEN’s Malin Ackerman). When her mother is killed in a car accident, Max is devastated, of course and when the film geek brother of her friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat) finds out who Max’s mother is, he flips and invites her to a movie marathon celebrating her mother’s most famous role CAMP BLOODBATH PARTS 1 & 2. Max tentatively agrees to go with her friends to the show and marvels at her mom on the screen, but when a fire breaks out in the theater, the only way out is through the screen and Max and her friends end up trapped in the movie. Now they have to prevent the nubile youngsters, including Max’s mom, from following horror movie conventions in order to keep everyone safe and survive until the end of the movie.
Meta, yes. But while SCREAM made fun of the genre for its conventions, there is a quality about this film that celebrates all of the great stuff that goes on in those conventional horror movies. Though it obviously follows the FRIDAY THE 13TH formula right down to the machete wielding masked man monster wronged as a kid, THE FINAL GIRLS also pays homage to THE BURNING with the origin of its slasher Billy Murphy (Dan B. Norris). Rules of who fits the final girl template are mapped out pretty concisely here and it really feels like writers M.A. Fortin & Joshua John Miller and director Todd Strauss-Schulson know and love these types of horror films as much as you and I do, celebrating slasher tropes such as have sex or show your boobs, you die, rather than ridiculing them for being there as the SCREAM films did.
But this mirthful trounce through the merry world of slashers wouldn’t be anything without the fantastic cast, all of which deliver comedy straight to your face. While there is plenty of over the top comedy, again, none of it is mean-spirited. It’s not going to make you leave this film feeling ashamed to be a fan of the slasher genre. In fact, the cast, the comedy and the story will make you love the slasher films and maybe even respect them even more. This is all due to fantastic comedic performances by fantastic Malin Ackerman, WORKAHOLICS’ Adam Devine as the overly-horny counselor, SILICON VALLEY’s Thomas Middleditch as the overzealous horror fanatic, and SILICON VALLEY’s Angela Trimbur as the counselor spastically eager to take her top off. Balancing out the comedy though is a surprisingly effective beating heart and soul in the performance of Taisa Farmiga as Max. This could have easily been a soulless comedy, but Farmiga brings depth to the movie as she is conflicted with seeing her mother (Ackerman) again after she had lost her in real life. The relationship between Ackerman and Farmiga grabbed me on an emotional level I wasn’t expecting. Both actresses show depth here that I hadn’t seen in their prior performances and director Strauss-Schulson deserves a lot of praise being able to balance not only the horror and comedy, but also some extremely strong and effective emotional beats which only heightened my investment in the film.
The slasher films finally have their WIZARD OF OZ in THE FINAL GIRLS, a fantastic foray into a magical and fantastic world that just happens to be haunted by a seven-foot man-monster with a machete. The comedy hits the mark, I’d say 90% of the time, and if the big beating heart this film possesses doesn’t reel you into the story, you might need to check your pulse. The final act of the film even manages to be pretty scary and action packed as director Strauss-Schulson (who previously only directed one film prior to this one, A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS) swoops the camera around at breakneck speed and puts out masked killer in actions that highlight how cool a Jason Voorhees film could be given a talented director, writer, and cast. In a year where there isn’t a FRIDAY THE 13TH film for fans to enjoy, THE FINAL GIRLS is the next best thing and is probably the most gripping, fun, and exciting film of this type in ages. This is the film that deserves all of the praise films like CABIN IN THE WOODS and SCREAM receive for taking a look at the genre through a meta lens, but this film elevates the proud tradition of the slasher in modern horror. It’s the type of movie that makes me proud to be a fan of horror. I can’t recommend this film more. See it, horror fans. I think you’ll love it as much as I did.
THE 2015-2016 COUNTDOWN!
#8 – THE FINAL GIRLS
#9 – THE SHALLOWS
#10 – MASKS
#11 – KRAMPUS
#12 – AVA’S POSSESSION
#13 – BODY
#14 – THE WAILING
#15 – THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE
#16 – MORGAN
#17 – DEATHGASM
#18 – 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
#19 – DER BUNKER
#20 – DECAY
#21 – EMELIE
#22 – NINA FOREVER
#23 – HUSH
#24 – THE MIND’S EYE
#25 – DARLING
#26 – SUN CHOKE
#27 – SUMMER CAMP
#28 – BASKIN
#29 – HOLIDAYS
#30 – THE HALLOW
#31 – SOUTHBOUND
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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