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The Final Girls (2015)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/3/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/6/2015
When it comes to devotees of entertainment, there seems to be two schools of thought on how "common" common knowledge can be. The first are the snobs who seek the most obscure movies, music, or books and claim to like things that no one else has ever head of. These are the "Oh yeah, well, have you (seen, heard, read...)" people who think that they are dropping knowledge on everyone around them. The other group is the exact opposite. They are the ones who assume that everyone is familiar with what they like, no matter how little known it is. I see a lot of comments from these guys on chat forums where they get incredulous when someone else implies that most people haven't seen (insert incredibly random thing here). They don't seem to grasp that the "pop" in pop culture is short for popular and thus, it's something with which the masses are familiar. This sort of thinking seems to be behind The Final Girls, a movie which spoofs 80s horror movies, assuming that you've seen them.
Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman) gained some notoriety when she starred in the film "Camp Bloodbath" in the early 80s. Now, decades later, she's a struggling actress with a teenaged daughter, Max (Taissa Farmiga), who is basically her best friend. But, Amanda is killed and Max must go live with her aunt. Fortunately, she has a solid group of friends, including Gertie (Alia Shawkat) and Chris (Alexander Ludwig). Gertie's nerdy brother, Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), is a huge "Camp Bloodbath" fan and he convinces Max to make an appearance at a screening of the film. She reluctantly goes and is somewhat annoyed when she sees local fake-friend Vicki (Nina Dobrev). Not long after the movie starts, a fire breaks out in the theater and the quick-thinking Max leads her friends through the screen to escape. However, they then find themselves in the actual movie. Not only must they contend with horny campers Kurt (Adam DeVine), Tina (Angela Trimbur), and Blake (Tory N. Thompson), but Max finds herself face-to-face with Nancy, the character played by her mother. The group must find a way to navigate the movie and avoid Billy (Dan B. Norris), the masked killer.
To say that The Final Girls is an interesting hybrid film would be a fool-hardy understatement. Writers M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller have shoved two very different movies together to create this film. First of all, this is a not-very-veiled spoof of/homage to the (early) Friday the 13th films, complete with campsite location, horny counselors, and hulking masked killer. This isn't a full-on shot-for-shot lampooning of those movies, but enough of the hallmarks are there to make it unmistakable. Secondly, the story here adds a lot to the sorely underrated Last Action Hero, which also deals with a fan being sucked into a movie where the characters don't understand that they are inside of a fictional world. I won't go as far as to say that The Final Girls lifts any ideas from that Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, but it's very similar.
This hodge-podge of influences was then molded by Director Todd Strauss-Schulson into a visual feast. The first act of the movie is in color. But, when the characters enter the movie, The Final Girls is suddenly IN COLOR! The bold reds, blues, and yellows resemble something from a old Technicolor movie (or something by Dario Argento) and create a very unique look for the movie. I've always contended that more horror movies should use vivid colors, as this so nicely juxtaposes with the horrific images on-screen. Strauss-Schulson always makes great use of a moving camera and long takes, making for a movie which is visually striking throughout.
So, why isn't The Final Girls more of a success? For one thing, the script isn't as clever as you'd think it would be. Once we move beyond the initial idea, things sort of peter out. Many of the jokes are very obvious and jabs are Friday the 13th never delve beneath the surface. This may sound like quibbling, but we never learn why Max and her friends are able to enter the movie. (The explanation in Last Action Hero may have been lame, but at least they offered one.) Likewise, what's up with Billy's Polynesian-looking mask? For younger viewers, the entire film may fall flat because they aren't familiar enough with Friday the 13th. Sure, with the 2009 reboot, they are probably familiar with Jason, but they may not get the whole camp counselor vibe. But, that's not to say that The Final Girls is a complete failure. As noted above, the visuals are striking. The movie does offer some funny moments and the relationship between Max and her mother/Nancy is touching. But, this is simply one of those movies which could have and should have been better.
The Final Girls needed more Middleditch physical comedy on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. As stated, the colors look awesome and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is impressive, as is the depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround sound effects are nicely done, as they offer ample opportunities to show off sounds coming from off-screen and behind the characters. The subwoofer thumps hard during the attack sequences. The in-film music also sounds especially good.
The Final Girls Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring Director Todd Strauss-Schulson, Production Designer Katie Byron, Director of Photography Ellie Smolkin, Thomas Middleditch, Taissa Farmiga, and Angela Trimbur. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY from Writers Joshua John Miller and M.A. Fortin. The Disc contains nine DELETED, EXTENDED, AND ALTERNATE SCENES which run about 22 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Strauss-Schulson. There's a lot of material here, but nothing really new. Even the "Original" and "Reshoot" endings have basically the same meaning. "Pre-Vis Animation" (6 minutes) contains computer animated test sequences for five scenes. "Visual Effects Progression Reel" (3 minutes) provides demonstrations of how very subtle effects were used to dress up several shots.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long