18th Aug2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘Final Girl’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Abigail Breslin, Wes Bentley, Alexander Ludwig, Logan Huffman, Cameron Bright | Written by Adam Prince, Stephen Scarlata, Alejandro Seri, Johnny Silver | Directed by Tyler Shields

final-girl-image

Each and every year a Frightfest there always seems to be an overriding theme that ties a lot of the films screeening there – be they in the main or discovery screens. This year the theme, at least from the films I’ve seen so far, would seem to be strong women. Be it the strong women that take charge of proceedings in films like The Sand, Stung and Night of the Living Deb or the strong “final girls” in films like Last Girl Standing and this, Final Girl.

Directed by professional photographer Tyler Shields, Final Girl tells the story of Veronica who, after her parents are murdered as a young girl, is groomed by a mysterious mentor to become a lethal assassin, her sights set on devil-may-care murderers who think they are above the law. Her latest targets are a pack Patrick Bateman-esque pretty boy psychos who love nothing more than hunting distressed female prey in the woods. But when the group are manipulated into picking Veronica as their latest victim, they learn pretty fast they chose the wrong girl…

You can certainly tell Final Girl was made by someone experienced in creating stunning imagery, for this horror tale is one of the most beautiful you will ever see. Shields imagery is a fantastic mix of baroque and chiaroscuro techniques, truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a slasher movie. Well I say “slasher” movie. Final Girl may use the tropes and cliches of the genre but Shield uses them in new and exciting ways. We follow the tale from the perspective of the final girl rather than her killers and, in a brilliant subversion of the genre, this final girl actually turns out to be the true killer in this tale…

Now the idea that there’s a hunter tracking down serial killers isn’t new in slasher movies – it was even a plot point in the likes of New Line Cinema’s Jason Goes to Hell (the ninth entry in the Friday the 13th franchise) – but twisting the steroetypical idea of the final girl into said hunter is nothing but a stroke of genius. It turns the film on its head. Usually audiences wait to see who will be the final girl and how, and if, she will survive. Here we know our final girl has the skills needed to beat her would-be killers; and so instead we have to ask if they will survive!

Final Girl isn’t perfect though. Whilst Shield’s use of imagery is stunning, it does make the film somewhat a case of style over substance. And the horror element gives way substantially to the action, making the film more a slasher-esque take on La Femme Nikita than you’re typical stalk-and-slash screamer. And the period settiing is something of a confusing choice… The gang of killers look like they’ve stepped straight out of The Great Gatsby, with all the sexist, bullish attitude you’d expect. Yet Breslin’s character acts like a post-modern feminist type, which is fine – she’s a super-strong, take no prisoners woman – but wouldn’t these young men realise there was something not quite right with Veronica BEFORE taking her out into the woods for their type of “fun”?

Despite my issues, this is a refreshing take on a classic slasher movie trope. Not as much of a genre reinvention as Suspension (also screening at this years Frightfest), Final Girl is still a fabulous, atypical, entry into a much-maligned genre.

***½  3.5/5

Final Girl screens at Frightfest 2015 in Discovery Screen 2 on Friday 28th August at 8.50pm. The film is released on DVD on September 7th, courtesy of Arrow Films.

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