Stuck in the ’80s: The Final Girls – A Cult Classic in the Making

Final girl: The final girl is a trope in horror films. It refers to the last girl or woman alive to confront the killer, ostensibly the one left to tell the story. Wikipedia.

THE FINAL GIRLS is a 2015 American comedy-horror film directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson and written by M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller. The movie, which has developed a cult following since its release, is a clever and entertaining homage to the slasher film genre of the 1980s. It blends elements of horror, comedy, and meta-commentary, making it a unique addition to the horror-comedy subgenre.

he film begins by introducing us to Max Cartwright (played by Taissa Farmiga), a high school student still grieving the loss of her mother, Amanda (Malin Akerman), a former ’80s scream queen famous for her role in a cult classic slasher film called “Camp Bloodbath.” Max is invited to a special screening of “Camp Bloodbath,” where a fire breaks out, and she, along with her friends and her mother’s friend Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), finds themselves trapped in the movie. They are transported into the world of the 1980s slasher film, becoming characters in it.

Max, her friends, and her mother must navigate the plot of “Camp Bloodbath” while trying to survive and figure out how to return to the real world. They must also contend with the film’s relentless killer, Billy Murphy, and the movie’s conventions, which include the “Final Girl” trope – the last woman standing in a slasher film. Max finds herself taking on this role, even though her mother’s character, Nancy, was originally the Final Girl.

THE FINAL GIRLS stands out for its self-awareness and clever deconstruction of horror movie tropes. It pays homage to the genre while simultaneously poking fun at its clichés. This meta-horror element is reminiscent of films like SCREAM and CABIN IN THE WOODS, which also play with the conventions of the genre. By placing contemporary characters within an ’80s slasher movie, the film allows for humorous commentary on the genre’s absurdities.

The film features a talented cast, with Taissa Farmiga delivering a standout performance as the reluctant “Final Girl.” Malin Akerman, as both the on-screen and real-world mother of Max, adds depth to the emotional core of the film. The supporting cast, including Alia Shawkat and Thomas Middleditch, provides humor and camaraderie, enhancing the overall experience.

For fans of ’80s slasher films, THE FINAL GIRLS is a nostalgic treat. The film recreates the look and feel of the era, from the wardrobe to the cheesy dialogue and special effects. The film’s fictional slasher, Billy Murphy, is a loving tribute to iconic ’80s killers like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.

At its core, this film is also a story of grief and reconciliation. Max’s journey in the film parallels her struggle to cope with the loss of her mother in real life. The film effectively balances its humor and horror with poignant moments, making it a surprisingly heartfelt experience.

Todd Strauss-Schulson’s direction is noteworthy for its creative and visually striking moments. The transitions between the real world and the movie world are seamless and visually engaging. The film’s stylized kills and bloodshed are both entertaining and grotesque, capturing the essence of ’80s slasher horror. The film’s soundtrack is a highlight, featuring iconic ’80s tunes that enhance the nostalgia factor and contribute to the overall atmosphere.

THE FINAL GIRLS is a delightful and inventive take on the slasher film genre. Its clever blend of horror, comedy, and meta-commentary, combined with strong performances and a poignant undercurrent, makes it a must-see for horror enthusiasts and anyone who appreciates a fresh, self-aware approach to storytelling. Though it may not have been a box office blockbuster upon its initial release, its cult following continues to grow, cementing its place as a modern cult classic in the realm of horror-comedy.

~David Albaugh

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