Impulse Buy Theater - Final Girl
There’s an old trick, or at least by now it’s an old trick, that certain low-grade film studios will use to get their usually crappy films seen. I call it the “grandmother at Christmas” trick, wherein you name your piece of cinematic feces as closely to a known blockbuster as copyright law allows and thus confusing any grandmother that might be asked to buy the more known film for a grandchild at Christmas. The most notable culprit of this is Asylum Films. Examples: Aliens vs. Predator/Aliens vs. Hunter, Transformers/Transmophers, Thor/Almighty Thor, Pacific Rim/Atlantic Rim, Avengers/Avengers Grimm and you know, I’m sure there’s more. Anyway, this review is to share with you that I too have fallen for the “grandmother at Christmas” trick. [Um…you know they call these ‘Mockbusters’, right? Nice to see we have a fine tradition of research from our writing staff, isn’t it? – Ed.]
Except that I didn’t. [Make up your damn mind. – Ed.] You see, as is Impulse Buy Theatre tradition, I went into Best Buy one Tuesday looking for a movie called “The Final Girls” which was both an homage and gentle ribbing of the 80s slasher genre that I’d heard a fair number of good things about. I left that Best Buy with a copy of “Final Girl”…which is totally different. It’s about a group of 4 young men that spend their weekends luring in then hunting down pretty girls for sport until one girl is trained to turn the tables on them. So, basically ‘The Most Dangerous Game’ wrapped up in slasher trappings. And since both of these films were small independent features, there’s no block to mock…so to speak. [Okay, you get points for clever there. Soak it up, probably won’t happen again for a while. – Ed.]
Yes, the plot for Final Girl can be summed up in a single sentence and if you scrutinize the plot…well, it doesn’t hold up well. The story opens with young Veronica, her parents recently dead, being approached by Wes Bentley (sure, his character has a name, but, meh, he’s Wes Bentley) to join an unspecified agency for “special” people. [Kinda makes you wonder if employees of this agency show up in short buses. Just sayin’. – Ed.] We learn that he’s similarly damaged as his wife and child have been killed and it’s this little factoid that spurs her into joining this mystery agency. As we progress through her training, we meet our present day Veronica, played by Abagail Breslin. I only plod through the beginning here because while we’re supposed to believe that Veronica’s training is for this particular agency, so much of what we see is geared explicitly for the exact scenario that will prove to be the core of the film’s story. So we’ve already got our first stumbling block. Apparently this agency is headed by some really bitchin’ precognitives or…well…let’s just move on. At the end of her training and just prior to her insertion, we get a cuddle session between a nekkid [That’s your one Joe-Bob-ism for this review. – Ed.] Veronica and Wes…er…William. That’s right, the character’s name was William. [You wanna call him Wes-liam to keep it clear? – Ed.] Anyway, we’ll come back to this snuggle later. Once inserted, it doesn’t take very long for the story to play out as Veronica uses various means of dispatching her would be killers.
Now…about that snuggle. See, throughout her training, we see kind of a surrogate father/daughter relationship forming. I mean, after all, it makes sense, right? So when it comes to ‘snuggle-time’…just…I dunno. I think the movie would’ve been better served to have avoided the entire situation…because either outcome doesn’t play well. Outcome 1: Wes, dammit, William caves in to her advances and you go from surrogate father/daughter to surrogate incest-y. Ew. Outcome 2…and the outcome the movie goes with: William refuses her advances, drawing a line in their relationship, making him come off as emotionally distant (AKA kind of a jerk) while you feel kinda bad for Veronica because, thanks to her current lifestyle, it’s not like she’ll get many chances to go out and meet someone…so you gotta go with what’s available, right? But that’s not the only scene in the movie on an incest-y note. As we’re introduced to each of the boys that will eventually be tonight’s prey, we come to Nelson and his mother eating dinner. However, the way the conversation is structured, along with the shadows on the wall…there’s an undercurrent of something else going on here. This undercurrent is downright confirmed as we watch Nelson’s dying hallucination, where he and his mom just flat out make out. These two instances in the span of a single movie…kinda makes you wonder about the screenwriter, eh?
But honestly, I can’t recommend this movie for its plot, for the reasons I’ve stated above. Sure, it turns slasher film conventions on their head, but this isn’t terribly new. Why I can recommend this film is for the way it was shot. The way each shot of this film is staged, composited and lit shows a real mastery of the medium by both the director and the cinematographer. This is a very, very beautiful film to watch. While that doesn’t make all the flaws in the plot go away, at a no-frills 90 minute running time, the eye candy does sugar coat the more lacking aspects of the film, making it an easier pill to swallow.
The end result is what I’d call an attempt at an art-house horror film. The plot has some holes and at times seems a little too pretentious, a little too in love with itself, but damn is it gorgeous to look at.