THE FINAL GIRLS **** USA 2015 Dir: Todd Strauss-Schulson. 88 mins

A wonderfully warm and witty high-concept homage to 80’s slasher movies, opening with a mock trailer for CAMP BLOODBATH, complete with “ki-ki-ma-ma” pastiche and an ominous voiceover intoning “They won’t be singing Kum Ba Ya, they’ll be singing Kum Ba Noooo”. Actress Malin Akerman, eager to escape the cheesy movies she is solely remembered for, dies tragically and her teenage daughter (Taissa Farmiga) attends a double feature tribute in her honour three years later. A freak fire breaks out in the cinema but Farmiga and others escape by hacking through the screen, only to wind up trapped within the movie itself, surrounded by big hair, male crop tops, corny exposition…and of course, Akerman in character mode and a maniac on the loose.
Built upon an irresistible gimmick allowing for affectionate spoofing of 80’s slasher standards and the ensuing culture clash (“Her hair is so flat, it’s making me sad…”), the film yields both laughs and suspense from the GROUNDHOG DAY element of contemporary protagonists trapped inside a circular, structured fictional world. Obvious fun is to be had from the retro mise en scene (Walkman’s, ghetto blasters) and pre-PC attitudes, but the film transcends the limitations of its own gimmick with many inventive touches: the heroine learns to control the movie’s monochrome flashbacks to her advantage, while the camp slut is cannily used to summon the killer by taking her top off (naturally). The film is heavily stylised, but for once the visuals compliment the ideas: particularly clever are the amusing slow-motion gags and the visualisation of the entrance to the flashback realm. In contrast to the cynical wave of post-SCREAM smug faux-slashers, the movie has a disarming amount of heart for its characters and affection for the sub-genre: the sympathetic Farmiga’s emotional story arc climaxes with poignant use of “Bette Davis Eyes”. And the punchline might be totally obvious…but only a humourless bastard won’t be smiling at the very end.

Review by Steven West

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