The Final Girls

The slasher sub-genre of horror has consistently and gradually become self aware as it has evolved, reshaping it’s archetypes, going spectacularly meta and immersing the audience in self commentary whether it’s well known blockbusters like Scream or obscure indie treats like The Rise Of Leslie Vernon. The Final Girls is as detailed, referential, loving, meta and rewarding as they come with a disarmingly affecting emotional weight to it I did not expect. Playfully skewering summer camp slasher outings like Friday The 13th and Sleepaway Camp, it stars the lovely Taissa Farmiga as Max, a teen girl whose mother Nancy (Malin Ackerman) is killed in a brutal car wreck. Nancy was once a Hollywood scream queen and starred in the very popular Camp Bloodbath franchise, a claim to fame that she always resented and a legacy that Max now wants nothing to do with. At an anniversary screening of the first Bloodbath film Max and her friends find themselves somehow transported into the film itself through the screen by some sort of magical inter dimensional slasher voodoo, the same kind of cinema themed mysticism that brought that one kid into the Schwarzenegger movie world in another vastly under appreciated meta flick, Last Action Hero. In this pristine 1980’s world they find sunny campgrounds, a glassy lake and knowingly corny writing (the movie counsellors are priceless) and the killer himself, who is set on a preordained murder spree of these characters which include, as a panicked Max learns, her own mother. So begins a breathless, clever and often very funny deconstruction of the classic slasher narrative as these modern kids quite literally interrupt it midway and aggressively rearrange the formulaic turns we’re so used to experiencing beat by beat. There’s an epic, adderall fuelled striptease set to She’s My Cherry Pie, endless tongue in cheek jokes and references that get turned on their head, some wild, colourful and borderline psychedelic set design and cinematography in the ‘movie’ world too. What really makes this such a great film and a strong piece is the deeply heartfelt mother daughter relationship between Max and Nancy, acted stunningly by both. Farmiga is an unbelievable otherworldly talent and, dare I say, more mesmerizing onscreen than her sister Vera, one long stare from her could shatter down walls built by anyone, she makes Max a wounded yet resilient spirit. Ackerman gets shafted a bit as the ‘hot blonde’ archetype but she is far more talented than she gets credit for and does a delicate balancing act here between obligatory campiness with pockets of very candid realism peppered in for a gem of a performance. Now, myself being someone who has used both film and music to cope with the death of a parent, I can tell you that this film is almost too real and near transcendent at accomplishing that theme onscreen. It’s essentially a story about Max working through the unimaginable hurt, and very long lasting pain of losing her mother presented in a mature and heartbreaking way, reflected through the prism of a fun, self aware horror comedy and I think the overall idea and execution are genius, really. Add to the fact that the song that Max and Nancy share as ‘their song’ is Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes which was one of my dad’s favourites so you can say that, for me, this cut really deep (slasher pub heavily intended). A masterpiece, streaming on Netflix now.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory with Nate: Catch 44

image

Catch 44 lives in that lurid interzone of direct to video crime thrillers that have the budget for the bare boned minumum: guns, a few big name actors stopping by for a paycheck, and a hard boiled, often ludicrous tale of criminals, cops and sexy chicks knocking each other off for some unnatainable trinket of wealth. Here we meet three lively femmmes fatale: Malin Ackerman, Nikki Reed and Daredevil’s Deborah Ann Woll, the angel’s to Bruce Willis’s Charlie, in this case a sleazy criminal kingpin named Mel. He tasks them with intercepting a mysterious package that passes through a lonesome truckstop diner. All hell breaks loose when the shotgun toting owner (Shea Wigham) takes them off guard,  and blood is shed. From there it all spirals into a mess of chases, strange pseudo artsy setups and the entire cast hamming it up royally as they essentially go nowhere fast. There’s Forest Whitaker who seems to have wandered in from the loony bin, playing a psychotic Sheriff who switches up his accent from scene to scene until we realize we are sitting there watching an Oscar winner warble out a choppy Tony Soprano impression and have to chuckle at the absurdity of it all. Willis has fun doing his nonchalant smirk to kingdom come and sporting a soul patch that steals his scenes before he gets a chance. There’s also an underused Brad Dourif as a confused highway patrolman who wanders in and out of the story. A lot of pulpy outings like this get accused of aping Quentin Tarantino’s style, and while that is often a lazy, bullshit critic’s cliche, here the claim is understandable and not necessarily a bad thing. The soundtrack is appropriately offbeat, the trio of girls have a Death Proof type cameraderie and Willis ambles through his scenes with a verbosity reminiscent of Pulp Fiction. The story is a little haywire and one wonders what the ultimate outcome even means, but it sure has a ball getting there in violent, kooky fashion.