The first death in the sentimental slasher spoof (I made this up because I have no idea what else to call it) The Final Girls isn’t your typical slasher movie death. Rather than seeing the brutal slaying of some no-name character at the end of a butcher knife or a set of razor claws, we see the death of the main character’s mom in a car accident. This first scene sets up the tone of the entire movie. It is primarily about dealing with death and loss, something slasher movies rarely dwell on, since the characters are normally fighting for their lives. So, three years later, when Max and four of her friends (a horror movie buff, a sensitive male romantic lead, a freckled nerdy friend, and the popular b*!ch) are inexplicably thrown into the world of an eighties horror movie Max’s mom starred in, they find themselves dealing with “grief and the reverb of loss…in the middle of a genre that does not take death seriously, where the higher the body count, the more fun the movie; the grosser the kills, the better the film,” director Strauss-Schulson, said.
The movie within the movie, Camp Bloodbath, touts a machete-wielding Billy—a Jason Voorhees-esque camp counselor murderer—and all of the horror movie tropes we’ve all come to know and love. Billy can be called to the camp by the unbuttoning of a blouse, which is an intensified version of the “sex equals death” rule, and the only one who can defeat the killer is a virgin, known as “the final girl”.
However, among these somewhat sexist slasher movie roles, The Final Girls comes out looking progressive. The girls are all working together to kill Billy, and the guys are some of the most sensitive characters in the movie. The brawny Christopher, played by Alexander Ludwig, is the only character to actually admit he is scared.
The most powerful part of the entire movie, though, by far, is watching Max reunite with her mother inside the slasher film. Although her mom is playing the character of Nancy and doesn’t recognize Max at all, the viewer sympathizes with Max’s attempts to save her from the grisly death she knows is coming at the hands of Billy.
Somehow The Final Girls manages to be obnoxiously funny and heartwarming, while still retaining the integrity of a slasher movie (even if it isn’t scary at all). This film could have easily focused in on the horror spoof aspect and been decent, but the significant screen time given to Max and her mom gives the viewer something to root for, and the movie is better for it.