The combination of horror and comedy is always a volatile recipe, and the failure to mix those ingredients just right can often result in disaster. But every once in awhile, a film comes along that manages to stumble upon the secret formula for success, with Cabin in the Woods being the most recent example. Now, three years after that film blew the roof off the Paramount Theater at the SXSW Film Festival, we have another SXSW debut that premiered to a cacophonous ovation: director Todd Strauss-Schulson’s The Final Girls.
Max Cartwright (Taissa Farmiga) is struggling with loss after the tragic death of her mother, 80s slasher flick icon Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman). When she attends an anniversary screening of her mom’s landmark film, Camp Bloodbath, a freak accident transports Max and her friends (Alia Shawkat, Alexander Ludwig, Thomas Middleditch and Nina Dobrev) into the film itself, where they’re forced to abide by the rules of the movie’s narrative in an attempt to survive.
Of course, everyone knows that anyone who has sex in an 80s horror film is bound to be butchered shortly after, so Max finds herself in the awkward position of trying to convince her mother’s character not to sleep with the cocky, swaggering Kurt (Adam Devine), whose dialogue is almost entirely made up of sexual innuendo. Meanwhile, the attractive but vapid Tina (Angela Trimbur) is constantly trying to disrobe, which is a big no-no in this film, since a pair of bare breasts will bring the masked killer and his machete running.
Fans of the Friday the 13th or Sleepaway Camp series will find plenty to love here as the film gleefully pokes fun at genre tropes, and much of the fun comes from the fact that Max and her friends aren’t just living in the world of the film – they’re living in the actual film, complete with voiceovers, onscreen credits, and flashbacks. There are so many hilarious moments that the film practically begs for repeated viewings, as audiences are bound to be laughing so hard that they’ll miss some of the rapid-fire humor.
There are a few times when The Final Girls gets a little too stylish, such as poorly rendered early scene that involves a bottle of vodka rolling across the floor of a crowded theater, and there are times where the film seems to forsake its own rules in favor of an extra laugh. But these are minor complaints, and the audience at the Paramount Theater certainly didn’t allow these nitpicks to detract from the overall experience. The Final Girls is an immensely fun experience that finds a great balance between being a spoof of the genre, and a love letter to its absurdity.