Thankfully, She Is Not the FINAL Final Girl…

Final Girl (2015)
Dir: Tyler Shields
TC4P Rating: 4/9

I first heard that a film bearing the title "Final Girl" was in production a few years ago. The slightest research finds press releases from 2012 that hit the internet announcing such a project, and that jibes with my general memory. I thought at the time that if the film held tight to the implications of such a title -- that of a genre effort commenting on the post-ironic notion of a "final" surviving heroine amidst serial killer carnage -- that the film could prove most interesting, or at least fun. 

And then Final Girl, at least in my encounters online, laid low for a good while. As a result, it went off my radar to a degree, but every now and then I would get around to checking IMDb for a status update on the project. Each check-in would bring added confusion. Yes, Final Girl was still being made, but filming was just now getting underway. The movie was completed, but now there is another production called The Final Girls being planned. Final Girl was set to come out, but then no, it's not. The Final Girls is in production, but why hasn't Final Girl come out? Has it been shelved? How bad is it? Then, Final Girl was set to come later in 2015 on DVD and online. But, suddenly The Final Girls was coming out on both platforms as well? I gotta sit down...

Adding more confusion was the fact that one actor, Alexander Ludwig, stars as one of the male leads in both films. Different producers, directors and writers... same guy in both films with very similar titles (but not necessarily themes). Then came news of a television show in production for fall 2015 called Scream Queens, which also features Oscar-winning actress Abigail Breslin, who just so happens to be the star of Final Girl, the film starting all of this. What was going on? Had the universe imploded?

I will get to the other projects later this month. I won't see The Final Girls until later this week, and I am giving Scream Queens a couple more episodes to play out some storylines, before I tackle reviewing them. But I have now seen the first of the films, Final Girl, and you don't have to get too far into the film to see what the delay was. I can now readily admit that I should never have gotten excited for the project in the first place. I wouldn't go so far as to say the film should have been shelved permanently, for I feel any movie production should get a chance to either find its audience or repel it. I am a big one for film "closure," that satisfying sense one gets in accomplishing lists of films, or at least getting to say, "Seen it. Seen it. Seen it. Gotta see it. Seen it," as you run your eyes or index finger down a series of titles. Not getting to at least pay a single visit to Final Girl would be a curse upon my personal methods.

Final Girl employs the now popular term derived from horror films, but is itself not even close to belonging to that genre. It plays on elements from horror, but barely touches on them, and is far more content splitting itself between the action, revenge, and thriller genres at fairly equal levels. The chief problem is that it never really commits to any of them, and the film feels sloppier for it. A film done in such a way can have a ragged charm, especially if it sticks to maintaining a comic tone, but Final Girl has little in the way of any charm at all.

The plot concerns Veronica (Breslin), whose parents died when she was a young girl, and who is adopted by a man named William (Wes Bentley). Having seen his wife and child murdered years earlier, he raises Veronica to become his weapon of revenge upon those who would commit such crimes. After twelve years and a final test involving a drug combination that allows Veronica to confront her core fear (that of failing William so that he must kill her), William gives her a first mission. 

Women are disappearing in a small town, and there is a quartet of young men responsible: leader Jamison (played by Ludwig), Nelson, Shane, and Daniel, four fratboy types who dress perfectly in suits, pick up a blonde girl at a local diner, drive her out to the woods, and then make her run for her life while they hunt down and murder her. (They never stoop to raping their victims, because sexual assault makes it hard for the girls to run properly.) Of course, police investigation is non-existent (the number of victims is cited variously as eleven or 21, so you'd think that would get something started). After so many blonde women in the town have disappeared, I would hope that every remaining blonde would have gone back to their natural hair color or simply hidden under wigs. Veronica sets herself up as the next victim, and the remainder of the film is how she deals with the four murdering assholes.

I will go no further with plot details so as not to spoil anything for those who do wish to view the film as I did. But it will not ruin the rest of the movie to say that one of the chief failings of the film is in establishing that it takes place anywhere believable. I guess the film is supposed to be in the late 1950s owing to the cars, fashion, and music, but simply using an old diner as your one solid set design (apart from the campfire couches in the forest) really did not make me believe in the story any more. Having one of the frat jerks dancing and lip-syncing (badly) to rockabilly music while he combs his hair in celebratory foreplay over getting to kill another girl that evening only brought me sincere doubts that the actor had ever heard that type of music before.

The mailbox baseball game the boys play with Veronica as they drive about only points out how ill-conceived the film is. After watching one of the boys use a baseball bat to demolish, in succession, a mailbox and a signpost on the side of the road, Veronica is given her turn. Her first attempt is meant to look weak (she is now a trained assassin... supposedly), but her second attempt totally smashes the sign to pieces and impresses the boys greatly. The problem is that Breslin seems to have Muppet arms in this film, and her second swing has no greater power to it than the first one -- in fact, neither appears to even be actual swings, but just mere placements of the bat out of the window. In real life, her attempts would either have her ending up with broken wrists, having the bat ripped out of her hands, or both. I know it is not really fair to compare movie actions to real life ones, or all films would die ignoble deaths, but in this case, it just emphasized how little the makers considered many of the details in their film.

I am fine with Breslin's acting in this film; it is in her physical performance where she seems just so wrong for the piece. There is just no force at all behind the blows she is pretending to give, and so her action scenes (and the second half of the film is filled with them; luckily, her stunt double is far more convincing) just all fall so flat. The back half is supposed to be especially darkly comic, with the boys engaging Veronica in a too drawn-out game of Truth or Dare, but it is merely dull and obvious. Final Girl also relies too heavily on the use of the hallucinations of the drug combo that William not only uses on Veronica, but with which he also supplies her as one of her weapons (but not a gun, no... runs out of bullets, so what good could it be?) The hallucinatory scenes could have proven interesting and fun, if it wasn't clear from the rest of the film that they would come off as forced as everything else.

I cannot say that I am disappointed in Final Girl. It is pretty much what I was expecting, so I guess it was more the concept I was initially excited about when I first heard the title. There was potential in this film, and early on, with the odd relationship between Veronica and William, I thought Final Girl might have gone further abroad in the sense of genuine grindhouse thrills, taking a simple revenge setup and getting crazy with it. That the film is more content with staying tame enough to play on the Family Channel shows you that the wrong people were at the controls.

Comments

EggOfTheDead said…
Ha! I wanted to watch Scream Queens, the reality competition for a role in a horror movie, and was thoroughly confused while watching the first episode of Scream Queens the series. Great intro for a reality show, I thought! When are they going to cut to the actual competition, though? Oh. This has been going on for 1/2 hour now, maybe this is it?

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