Final Girl, 2015
Directed by Tyler Shields
Starring Abigail Breslin, Wes Bentley, Logan Huffman, Cameron Bright, Alexander Ludqig, Reece Thompson, Emma Paetz
A man teaches a young woman how to become a complete weapon. Later she is approached by a group of sadistic teens who kill blonde women for unknown reasons. The hunting season begins.
Tyler Shields makes his directorial debut here with Final Girl, a movie that blends the Scream aesthetic of post-modern slashers with La Femme Nikita in an almost arthouse stylised mould.
Abigail Breslin plays Veronica, a young girl who was taken in by mentor William (Wes Bently) after her parents were murdered. Over the next twelve years, William teaches Veronica to be a lethal assassin that will attack, hunt and kill predatory men. Her first target? A Riot Club-esque group of White Privileged Males who take innocent girls out into the woods to hunt for fun.
If you’ve seen the trailers for Final Girl, you will already know that the film shows a huge amount of promise. It turns the Final Girl theory around by having her the hunter rather than the hunted, and its incredible arthouse style is visually striking. But perhaps the biggest problem with Final Girl is that there simply isn’t enough plot to quantify a feature-length movie. All of the build and set-up between Veronica and William can be summed up in a couple of scenes, as can the group of bastard blokes. By the time they get to the woods, Shields has exhausted all the tricks he has to stretch the movie to a 90-minute running time. What is on screen is fun, but a lot of it feels superfluous as it never builds on character or tension.
What does save Final Girl from being a total disappointment however is a wonderful cast of characters and performances to match. Breslin shines as Veronica and is the perfect casting choice for this femme fatale who can kill you with her looks as well as her hands. She balances both sides of Veronica’s coin perfectly, and there is that wonderful moment where she stops pretending to be scared and turns on the killer offensive. But a killer is only as good as her prey, and Adam Prince’s script provides four incredibly horrible dicks for her to take care of. Usually within horror reviews this author would bemoan the classic misstep of writing nasty characters we want to see killed, but within Final Girl it works and makes sense. In any other slasher movie, we would be rooting for the teens, but in Final Girl we’re cheering Veronica – so it’s good that she’s killing bad folk. Danny Boy, played tremendously by Logan Huffman, is a fantastic oddball character and is excellent comic foil to his straight-faced compadres.
But the problem with the deaths in Final Girl is that none of them feel satisfying. They’re each given time to a degree, but their demises all feel metal rather than physical. And given all of the torture these boys have put their victims through, you would expect to see each lad meet a gruesome end – but they don’t. Like a good assassin, Veronica is swift in her assault, but that doesn’t always make for the most entertaining of watches. Furthermore, there is a real lack of blood and gore on show, which again just makes each kill feel weak.
However that complaint really only applies to a certain landscape of horror fans, and the rest will marvel at Final Girl’s impeccable sense of style. Shields creates this faux 1950s Americana landscape for his movie, where all the men where tuxes and hang out at the local diner drinking milkshakes and the girls are glamorous dames. Each of the lads gets their own introduction and each one feels artier than the next. Nelson for example is in a simplified Brechtian play against his mother while Danny Boy gets an awesome dance number complete with an axe. But Final Girl’s style never overshadows the movie, and it plays into the final act perfectly. Shields gives the woods a real aura and adds in a sense of danger not often seen in slasher movies.
Final Girl really is a mixed bag, and it feels like the film should be better than what it is. The script and performances are excellent, but a real lack of substance past the initial gimmick means that Final Girl runs out of steam rather quickly. Thankfully, Shield’s style and his acting talent raise the bar on this film and have created a fun, if a little bumpy, ride.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.