NYCC 2015: The Final Girls May Be the Must-See Horror/Comedy/Family Film of the Year
"The 'final girl' is a fucked-up feminist concept, right?" - Todd Strauss-Schulson
I was already excited about The Final Girls back when we first shared the trailer with you. But having since listened to director Todd Strauss-Schulson and star Malin Akerman talk about the film at The Final Girls panel at NYCC this year, I’m beyond excited.
The Final Girls is, as Strauss-Schulson puts it, “an emotional story between a mother and a daughter,” using horror tropes in a comedic way to amp up the emotion. Taissa Farmiga plays Max, a young woman whose mother (played by Akerman) was the Scream Queen star of an old horror film called Camp Bloodbath—your typical cheesy slasher flick. Max’s mother passes away, having hated the Scream Queen title, and Max seeks to remember her mother by going to a screening of Camp Bloodbath. Through crazy, random movie happenstance, Max and her friends end up getting sucked into the movie, where Max gets a second chance to connect with her mother. But, you know, only after she helps to defeat Camp Bloodbath’s killer, Billy Murphy. The cast is rounded out by Adam DeVine, Thomas Middleditch, Alia Shawkat, Angela Trimbur, with Alexander Ludwig and Nina Dobrev.
What really gives me faith in this film – well, in addition to it just looking really cool and funny – is hearing Strauss-Schulson talk about his approach to the film, his inspirations, and his feminism. After joking that his favorite horror movie is 27 Dresses (in which Akerman also stars), Strauss-Schulson cited film influences as diverse as Delicatessen and The Hudsucker Proxy. But he, of course, always loved horror films, and wanted to examine the genre’s tropes in a way that crossed genres and incorporated the styles of other films he loves.
Akerman, meanwhile, is less of a fan of horror films, joking that “I can’t sleep alone. And I am alone, so … ” Ah, yes. The plight of single horror fans everywhere. She mentions her young son, too, saying, “And I’ve got my two-year-old. [If a serial killer is coming after her] What’s he gonna do?”
Final Girls gave Strauss-Schulson the opportunity to play with different filmmaking techniques, too, as much of it is a film within a film. Attendees at the NYCC panel were privy to a clip from the film that examined the use of slow motion (which was HILARIOUS), but check out this other clip which deconstructs how the final girl trope works (not to mention “fake blood”):
Both in his own statements, and in his responses to female fans at the panel, Strauss-Schulson asserted his feminism, saying things like “The ‘final girl’ is a fucked-up feminist concept, right?” and alluding to the fact that while the final girl is supposed to be “empowering” (being the Last Girl Standing and all), it is, indeed, fucked up that the final girl usually survives because she doesn’t have sex. (I mean seriously, how messed up and slut-shamey is that?) He went on to say that his hope with this film is to dissect all the horror film tropes—including the jocks and the horndog guys—and redeem them by making them fully fleshed-out characters, rather than caricatures. He mentions one of the male characters, saying that he made it a point to give this character a scene where he talks about how afraid he is. For Strauss-Schulson, it’s just as important to provide nuanced, emotional men as it is to provide nuanced, competent women in his films.
The one thing he did note that he was sorry about was that, as progressive as the film might be with regard to gender and gender roles, it’s less so with regard to race, with there being, like, one black character in the film. But Strauss-Schulson acknowledged this as a blind spot and said, “That’s the one thing I deeply regret.”
Well hey, if you all go out and see The Final Girls and it makes a ton of money, maybe there can be a Final Girls 2, and he can remedy that situation! Seriously, though, with a director as thoughtful about what he puts on screen as Strauss Schulson seems to be, and footage that is already this fun, how could any fan of horror, or comedy, or mother-daughter films—or any combination of those—not want to see this movie? It came out last weekend, but as I was at NYCC, I didn’t have a chance to see it. Guess who’s rushing out to do that this weekend?
Have any of you already seen it? What do you think? If not, who’s going to be seeing The Final Girls this weekend?
(Photo taken by Yours Truly on her phone, so any lack of photographic quality is totally my fault. Featured image via Stage 6 Films.)
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