Rated PG-13. Time: 1:28.
A “final girl,” in the parlance of those connoisseurs of the lowbrow who pick apart slasher movies for fun, is the last character standing after the murderous psychopath du jour has disemboweled all of her companions, leaving her to fend off (or dispatch) the killer, at least until the sequel.
That trope, along with a handful of others, is gleefully roasted over the roaring campfire of “The Final Girls,” a suitably silly horror comedy about a group of modern-day teenagers who become trapped inside the action of a cheesy, and entirely fictional, 1986 cult classic, “Camp Bloodbath.”
Simultaneously violent and droll, “The Final Girls” is a way to have your blood-soaked cake and eat it, too.
When five adolescents (Taissa Farmiga, Alexander Ludwig, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch and Nina Dobrev) find themselves mysteriously transported into an endless loop of “Bloodbath” after the theater where they are watching it catches fire, they must use their knowledge of the plot and its cliches to survive its machete-wielding killer.
That one of the teens, Farmiga’s Max, is the daughter of a “Bloodbath” actress (Malin Akerman) who died in a car crash three years earlier adds a gloss of poignancy to the absurdity. Max, you see, is torn between wanting to save both her mother — or at least the onscreen version of her — and herself.
Confused? Logic holes are just one of the de rigueur elements of the slasher genre that are gently skewered here, like marshmallows at a s’mores party. Above all else, “The Final Girls” is broad and affectionate in its mockery, making fun of the frequent association between sex and murder in movies of this ilk and other easy targets.
At various points, director Todd Strauss-Schulson, a veteran of television comedy and humorous online shorts, gets laughs by utilizing gimmicky slow motion and black-and-white flashbacks. One of the biggest giggles comes when one of those flashbacks is labeled “Summer 1957,” and the cast literally must step over the words as if they were giant alphabet blocks.
The sketch-comedy-style premise is helped along by a solid cast. Farmiga (little sister of Vera Farmiga) is quite good in the lead role, as is Middleditch, in the supporting role of Duncan, the clownish house expert — or “Bathematician” — on the film within a film. Adam DeVine is also funny as a sex-crazed 1980s camp counselor, who utters some of the best (and least printable) lines in the film.
“The writing is sooo bad,” says Duncan, who means it as a compliment. He’s not wrong. The vices of “Camp Bloodbath” are the virtues of “The Final Girls.”
(At Alamo Drafthouse, Screenland Armour.)
The Washington Post