You can go one of two ways with a horror comedy. Either you can show your disdain for the genre by mocking it…or you can pay a generous homage to it. Todd Strauss-Schulson’s The Final Girls goes the second route, and it pays off.
The film tells the story of Max (Taissa Farmiga) whose mother Nancy (Malin Ackerman) is a struggling actress whose biggest claim to fame was a slasher film from 20 years ago. Upon losing her mother in a car wreck, Max has quietly moved on as best she can. She is begged by Duncan (Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley) to attend a special screening of the first two films in the franchise that made her mother famous.
In a freak accident Max, her friends Gertie (Alia Shawkat, Arrested Development), Vicki (Nina Dobrev, the Vampire Diaries), Chris (Alexander Ludwig, the Hunger Games and oddly enough a completely different film called Final Girl) and Duncan find themselves trapped within the original Camp Bloodbath. As they try to survive the film, Max finds an opportunity to reconnect with her mother through her character Amanda. This is a lot more effective than I expected. Farmiga and Ackerman connect quite well.
The film manages to have fun with the tropes of the genre and earn their laughs. Rather than go for Scary Movie Parody, the jokes are smarter and more fun. Also, while acknowledging the exploitation elements of slasher films, the film itself tends to avoid cheap nudity. There is a gag where a way to attract the killer of the film, Billy, a woman needs to just start stripping. Plenty of directors would have used this as a cheap excuse for gratuitous nudity, yet the nudity is all off-screen.
The Final Girls is a horror comedy worth seeing.