[SPOILER ALERT] The Final Girls [SPOILER ALERT]
It’s day 21 of the Horror Movie Marathon! This is another movie we opted to pay to see. We seem to be doing that a lot lately.
Final Girls is rated PG-13 and is available on Fandango. At the time of our viewing, it has the following online ratings:
Rotten Tomatoes 71% critics, 70% audience
It’s evening. I work on my drawing for our last movie, The Pact, while we watch. We both take notes throughout the movie. Afterward, we conduct a simultaneous interview/discussion via Google Docs.
Solee: The Final Girls had a star-studded cast! And by star-studded, I mean there were lots of faces we recognized. Does familiarity affect your enjoyment of a movie?
Mikey: There’s something about familiarity… Like when the “joke” on Family Guy (or a lot of movies) is “whoa, this is some celebrity in this place you wouldn’t expect to see them!” or “recognize this moment from a popular movie?” It’s not funny in any way, yet you are amused by it. So sure, it’s fun to see Maeby in another movie, like we did a couple days ago in Green Room. Quite a coincidence that.
But also, that stuff I just mentioned is kind of the basis of this movie – it’s all about “oh, I see, that’s that trope from horror movies I’m so familiar with!” Not so much a joke as a reference (by the way, this is a comedy).
Solee: It was definitely comedic, in a Wet, Hot American Summer meets Scream kind of way. Lots of goofy young adult drama. The kind of stuff anyone who survived past 25 can relate to in one way or another.
Mikey: That’s a good reference you just made too! It is very Wet Hot. However, and this is where I am stuck. I was kind of rolling along having a decent time, but I kept sitting there waiting for it to click and be amazing. It was all okay, but it never really caught fire and made me laugh a bunch. It should’ve been just the movie for me, so I think they failed somewhere.
Solee: That’s interesting because one of the things that I noticed is that I wrote fewer notes for this movie than any of the others. I thought maybe it was because I was preoccupied with the picture I was drawing, but it’s not that. I paid attention to the whole movie. I enjoyed it. But it wasn’t bad enough for me to comment or good enough for me to comment. It was very “safe”. Marketable, maybe?
Mikey: That could be. I also took very very few notes. In fact I see exactly four comments in my notes. One of them is “outtakes” (I do enjoy when the credits are full of outtakes! Every movie should do it!). But the safeness relates to another one: this is definitely a comedy about horror, not a horror-comedy. Don’t you think?
Solee: Well, it’s definitely super mild. It’s got a lot of the classic horror tropes, but not in a scary way. So I guess I agree. I liked how there were several ways it took the classic trope and turned it on its head. Like how it was almost cartoon-like in its color scheme. We were just commenting on how dreary horror movies are yesterday. Although, that’s just more evidence that it’s comedy instead of horror, isn’t it?
Mikey: The colors were crazy! That was another note: Why is VHS 80’s horror done up in this fairyland super-color style? That’s not how it looked onscreen! Weird choice.
Solee: I think it was to highlight the fantasy aspect of where they were. It was a big clue to the characters that they weren’t in Kansas anymore.
Mikey: Yeah, but it kind of emphasizes that these weren’t horror aficionados taking aim at horror (maybe they were, just didn’t seem that way). Like Shaun of The Dead made a comedy of horror – all the look and feel of horror, except everybody is being silly. This had the look and feel of… the Teletubbies? It was crazy! I’m not really complaining, just confused a bit. In fact, when they did the flashback, it all became black and white, so why wasn’t the non-flashback scratchy VHS quality?
Solee: Maybe because it would have been horrendously annoying to watch a whole movie like that? But Teletubbies is EXACTLY right!
Mikey: It could be that! Anyway, that’s kind of my overall feel: they kept things too mild. There could’ve been actual horror (which I think would’ve been a good counterpoint to silly comedy), and the comedy could’ve been funnier or at least more extreme (for instance, Adam Devine is playing his usual character, only I feel he was holding back from how raunchy he would normally be). There was also a big blob of sentimental goo in this movie. Good or bad?
Solee: You know me, I love me some sentimental goo. Actually, the mother/daughter stuff was what kept it from being completely unoriginal. And I thought House’s team member and the American Horror Story girl did a nice job of playing that relationship. It was sweet.
Mikey: OH MY GOSH. Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil.
Solee: What about it?
Mikey: That’s horror-comedy! I just thought of it. Proceed.
Solee: Yes, that is horror-comedy. Plus it has Alan Tudyk, whom I adore.
Mikey: Malin Ackerman wasn’t on House, you should edit!
Mikey: I’m not sure, she looks like she belongs on House, M.D.
Solee: Oh. Because Jennifer Morrison was blonde for a season of House! I bet that’s it.
Mikey: All blondes look alike!
I think they tried to have it not just both ways in this movie, but all the ways. They wanted horror, comedy, teen romance, family drama, and pathos, oh, and action movie at the end! That explains the mildness. They couldn’t go very far in any of those directions without cutting one of them.
Solee: Or without losing the audience for one of them. They weren’t willing to get raunchy like WHAS. They weren’t willing to get gorey like Scream.
Mikey: Or totally ludicrous like Scary Movie.
Solee: Right. Or super slutty like, well, ALL movies like this. Although they did go that route a little. They built a booby trap!
Mikey: They didn’t, though! The one time someone actually removed her top, it was very specifically off-screen. Mildness! That was a funny bit though, but again it kind of went flat… the whole booby trap sequence was the centerpiece of the movie, and the set-up for it seemed good, but when it actually all went off, it was just kind of blah. I liked when they knew they were in slow motion though.
Solee: That was funny. “Whhhaaaattt’sssss hhhaaaappppppeennnniinnnnnnnnggggg?”
Mikey: That was a part of what kept me interested in the movie: they had this situation where they were inside a movie, which they took further than pretty much any other similar movie I can think of, and I was interested in how the rules of their movie universe worked, and to learn more about it.
Solee: You mentioned the flashback earlier, but I forget to say that I really liked how they did that. The weird pillars of goo dripping down as the flashback took over. That was cool.
Mikey: And it was fun that they exploited that feature to escape from the badguy later too!
Solee: It was a clever idea, at least. It didn’t really work the way they hoped. One of my favorite gags was how they all hopped over the “Summer 1958” lettering. Silliness!
Mikey: Yep, the gist of all the “we’re in a movie” effects was basically taking the normally 2D things that happen on a movie screen (like titling and flashback wavy lines) and putting them into the 3D world they were in. Which was fun.
So I have to get a little political for a minute. The whole “only virgins survive” thing is a classic aspect of this kind of horror. But it’s just SOOOO sex-negative and misogynistic. When are we going to outgrow that?
Mikey: Well, they were showing us the ideas of the 80’s, so that could be the movie even if we had already outgrown it.
Solee: Yeah, but they managed to have one of their guys shoot down the classic 80’s gay bashing. And they gave the “mean girl” depth. There were plenty of 80’s things they pointed out and then clearly negated. The virgin thing though … they just ran with that.
Mikey: That’s true. But I’m not sure what else they could’ve done. They could’ve had a male virgin (which I’m sure there was in that group…), as a bit of subversion.
Solee: I was SURE that the film geek was going to end up being a virgin – thus explaining why the bad guy didn’t kill him. But then the bad guy killed him!
Mikey: And he survived it and died again shortly after! But yeah, that would’ve been really fun, and on top of it, it could’ve been a trick: The badguy doesn’t kill him and just walks away, so they all think “Oh, we’re not being attacked because we’re not in the movie”, but then later one of them gets killed because they were wrong about why the geek didn’t die.
Solee: YES. That’s what I was expecting. A little red herring!
Mikey: That would be a more interesting movie! So much they could’ve done to spice this up.
Solee: Yep. This premise and cast had a lot of potential that just wasn’t completely realized.
Mikey: Oh, the other thing I figured early on: every 92 minutes, the movie restarted when they were first waiting by the roadside. I thought the whole movie was going to be a Groundhog Day situation where they would retry over and over until they got it right. That would’ve also been a lot more fun.
Solee: Yeah, they set that universe rule up and then completely ignored it. They could have had them “finish” the movie with the mom alive a couple of times only to have it reset. Then they could have realized that the only way to get out was for her to die. Similar to what they did, but with more build-up.
Mikey: They seemed a little too sure of how things worked at the end. I didn’t even understand the rules like they did, I just went along with it. Oh, and the other mislead about those 92 minutes is I kept thinking “This day is taking a full day for them!” as the movie went on, figuring it should be all accelerated and only 92 minutes total (which I mean, the movie actually was, but they didn’t make it feel shortened).
Solee: There was a missed joke opportunity for them to be jumping from place to place, like the movie jumping from scene to scene. Cutting things like sleeping or peeing!
Mikey: Yeah, they were very haphazard with how cuts and things would affect them – like they all got pulled into this specific flashback (and got all teleported into a corner of the room during a later scene of the flashback), but for the rest of the movie, they’re just living lives as normal, not being jumped around.
Solee: Someone wasn’t thinking very deeply when they made this movie. That pretty much covers my thoughts on this movie. Although I did note that each of the original “movie” characters had a match in the “newcomer” characters. I thought that was cute. And also could have been utilized more.
Mikey: Right, when you pointed that out, I was thinking it was going to mean something important – they were each going to take the place of an original character as the originals died or something. But nope, just a coincidence. I guess it must be time for us to rate this thing!
Solee: I guess so. Before we started this conversation I was pretty sure it was going to get a 4, but talking about it has pointed out just how weak it really was. It was enjoyable and easy to watch, but there wasn’t anything spectacular about it and it could have been a LOT better with a little effort. I give The Final Girls a 3 out of 5. You?
Mikey: You said it! This is an inoffensive easy watch, which isn’t really a compliment. I also feel like that warrants a 3. That might be a little high, but the pleasantness makes you think you don’t want to hurt it. Poor lil’ movie.
Our next film is entitled The Canal and purports to be a mystery with ghosts. Sounds good to me! I hope it’s not a root canal.
Solee: I love mysteries! And you love ghosts! This should be the perfect movie for us.
*If you have comments to leave specifically for Mikey, you can see this same interview/discussion posted here, on his website.