After we got tired of Michael and Freddy and Jason, and the entire slasher horror genre became a punchline, along came Scream, a movie that had the audacity to call out horror movie tropes in the middle of a movie that was employing those very tropes. That’s right, kids. Gen X created “meta”. And then horror was cool again, but it was more knowing, more tongue-in-cheek, while still providing some legitimate scares. Well, the good ones, anyway.
And then it got lazy and boring again. In fact, much of movies of all genres got fat and lazy and pandering. So along comes The Cabin in the Woods, a polemic on the art of movie making itself, a call-to-arms. Don’t pander to the gods! Do something different! Follow your muse, even if it means the destruction of the world.
Or something like that. The metaphor kind of gets away from itself right at the end.
So now that leads us to The Final Girls, another meta-commentary on horror filmmaking. To the credit of the powers that be, no one tries to dismantle the horror genre (like in Scream) or tries to build something else entirely from its scraps (Cabin). No, director Todd Strauss-Schulson specifically tackles the Friday the 13th franchise only. And unlike in the prior two movies, there’s no attempt at a larger commentary; we’re just here for some laughs and scares. And unfortunately, we get very little of the former and none at all of the later.
The story is that Max (Taissa Farmiga) is dealing with her mother’s death three years prior. She and some friends go to the 20th anniversary screening of her mother’s slasher film, “Camp Bloodbath”, and then for…magic…reasons they are transported into the shitty 80’s movie on the screen, and must fight to stay alive and make it to the end reel, with Max determined to save the character who was once played by her mom. And like seriously, there’s no reason why they’re there. The writer can’t even be arsed to come up with a magic amulet or some possessed tchotchke or whatever.
When they’re at the camp, there’s some great potential for comedy with the culture-clash between the real life millennials and the one dimensional 80’s horror cliché characters they encounter. But part of the problem is that only two of the movie-within-a-movie characters, Kurt and Tina (Adam Devine and Angela Trimbur) are really hamming it up and having fun, while the rest of the “characters” are pretty flat. Another problem is that the “real” people are just as one-dimensional as the “fake” ones. There are some good gags peppered throughout, courtesy Kurt and Tina mostly, like when Tina (the “slut” character in “Camp Bloodbath”) does a frenetic, spastic striptease after swallowing a bottle of Adderall, or when Kurt (the “jock” character) calls one of the millennials a “fag” for feeling uncomfortable objectifying women, only to be stunned to learn the guy has two fathers.
But unfortunately, those jokes are few and far between. There’s also no attempt at really digging into the Friday the 13th movies and parodying them specifically. Although, to be fair, maybe that’s because there’s nothing left to talk about. There’s no horror movie cliché or trope that hasn’t already been called into the light. Which raises the question, why make this movie at all?
And certainly, my God, why make it PG-13?! How is it possible to parody a genre that you can’t even properly mimic? There are so many damn cutaways before the kills in this movie, it’s like the camera man is playing peak-a-boo.
But perhaps the worst offense at all is this movie’s attempt at having a heart. I do not care about Max reuniting with her mother. I do not believe anyone involved in either making or watching this film does either. All in all, a sad effort, but still better than any of the actual Friday the 13th movies.