Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Nina Dobrev, Adam DeVine
Words: O. Innocent
Slasher films, by their very nature, have always been ripe for lampooning. Be it the bad acting and awful dialogue, the cheap low budget feel, or the excessive, almost aggressive obsession with sex and death, there’s just something innately ridiculous about these films that sets them up perfectly for a good old-fashioned send-up. One of the first slasher spoofs was Student Bodies (1981) which, coming right at the beginning of the slasher boom, concentrated on spoofing the early classics Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). An unusual slasher spoof, April Fool’s Day (1986) fooled audiences into believing it was playing it straight until the final reveal when the killings are shown to be nothing more than an elaborate prank. Another surprising entry is Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) which embraced the series’ funny side, lovingly satirising not only Jason and the subgenre, but also the classic Universal monster movies (Jason is resurrected via lightening a la Frankenstein (1931)) and even James Bond (the title sequence has Jason walking in profile before turning and launching his machete at the screen).
As the sun set on the golden era of the slasher film towards the end of the ‘80s the subgenre fell into self parody (most notably the Elm Street films where Freddy’s one-liners became more and more cringe-worthy as the series went on), essentially negating the need for out and out spoofs. Then suddenly, when the slasher film had seemingly been put to rest, along came Scream (1996) which, with its post-modern take where the teens know their slasher lore, both honoured the past and rejuvenated the subgenre ready for the 21st century. The Scream spoof, Scary Movie (2000), while funny in places, was completely superfluous as it parodied a parody. Apart from a few interesting self-aware takes such as Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and Hatchet (both 2006), the slasher film, plagued by remake fever, started to go stale again as the major studios repackaged the likes of When a Stranger Calls (1979 & 2006), Prom Night (1980 & 2008) and The House on Sorority Row (1983 & 2009) for a new generation with decidedly mixed results. It Follows (2014) proved a welcome reprieve from these slick yet soulless rehashes with its menacing tribute to ‘80s slashers, although it ultimately failed to evoke that same sense of fun with its dour, downbeat atmosphere. The best deconstruction of horror conventions of recent years was, without a doubt, the Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon-penned The Cabin in the Woods (2011). However, while it did make reference to slasher films, its main source of inspiration was unsurprisingly cabin in the woods films like The Evil Dead (1981).
And now here we are in 2015 with yet another new angle on the slasher spoof with The Final Girls (2015). One of the most unashamedly fun films of the year, The Final Girls concerns a group of friends who, while attending a screening of ‘80s slasher Camp Bloodbath, get sucked into the movie and must first learn and then break the rules of the subgenre in order to stay alive. Hilarity ensues as the film riffs on the slasher’s bad dialogue, two dimensional characters, absurd situations, and strict adherence to a series of almost fixed in stone clichés, codes and conventions. The Final Girls isn’t just a point and laugh kind of spoof though, it’s surprisingly creative with its comedy. Take, for example, the overused flashback scene which is prompted by a character’s recounting of the old legend of the killer’s origins. This tired old convention is lovingly ripped to pieces as our characters’ world changes from colour to monochrome and they jump back in time to the ‘50s. It is clear The Final Girls is a film by slasher fans for slasher fans. The film isn’t, however, a slasher film itself; a fairly bloodless, sex free affair – much to the chagrin of some hardcore fans – it’s a comedy that deals with the fun of watching these films, not the horrifying, gross out aspects. There’s still much to love here, even if you are disappointed it doesn’t delve deeper into the slasher’s more exploitative side, as it perfectly encapsulates that nostalgic sense of pure guilty pleasure entertainment only films like Friday the 13th can provide. The camp setting is pure Camp Crystal Lake, the villain is an obvious homage to Jason Voorhees, and the dialogue is suitably stupid. It even finds time to reference hospital-based sequels such as Halloween II (1981). There’s also an emotional core to The Final Girls, usually absent in the films it’s spoofing, as our heroine gets to meet up with her late mother who was one of the stars of the film she’s now trapped in. The Final Girls isn’t your typical slasher spoof, then; it’s so much more. Funny, sad, clever and incredibly entertaining, The Final Girls is both one of the best comedies and genre efforts of the year.