Ever since they achieved sentience in 1996, slasher movies have been trying to find new ways to be self-aware without just rehashing Wes Craven’s Scream. Todd Strauss-Schulson’s comedy The Final Girls may have cracked the code, albeit by using the old-school trope of a film’s characters entering another film, Sherlock Jr.–style.
Amanda Cartwright’s (Malin Akerman) acting career has been stymied by her famous role as “shy girl with clipboard and guitar” in the seminal 1980s slasher flick Camp Bloodbath. A few years after Amanda’s death in a car crash, her teenage daughter Max (Taissa Farmiga) is talked into attending an anniversary screening by the movie-nerd brother (Thomas Middleditch) of her best friend Gertie (the always-welcome Alia Shawkat), and they get transported into Camp Bloodbath itself because of reasons.
The Final Girls plays with the tropes of the slasher genre as much as its PG-13 rating will allow, and the final showdown is a thing of beauty, but it never attempts to be scary or menacing. Instead, the heart of this mostly bloodless picture is Max’s relationship with her mother’s film character, and there are some genuinely touching moments about grieving and the acceptance of loss.
The Final Girls also answers the question: What would it look like to enter a flashback? You know you’ve always wondered.
The Final Girls
Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson
Opens October 9, AMC Empire 25