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Family Movie Review: The Final Girls (PG-13)

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MPAA Rating: PG-13         Length: 92 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 15+. All typical teen comedy/horror movie stuff. This combined homage/satire of ’80s slasher films has a lot of the elements of that genre, including discussions and jokes about teen sex, including intense talk about whether characters are virgins (because virgins are always the ones who survive these films); some kissing, a couple of implied sex scenes, a striptease played for laughs, girls briefly scene in their bras and the suggestion of them flashing their chests, a guy seen in his underwear; some cursing, lewd language, and slurs against homosexuals; characters smoke cigarettes, drink, and use Adderall recreationally; and some violence, including a few stabbings, slashings, and a non-bloody decapitation. Ultimately, though, this is a film that defends virginity, attacks bigotry, and empowers women, alongside all the jokes.

‘The Final Girls’ delivers like a slap in the face — it’s bracing and invigorating. The film respects ’80s horror movies while also mocking their conventions, and its self-awareness and thoughtfulness is a gift.

By Roxana Hadadi

Not since the original “Scream” has a genre movie made as delightful of an impact as “The Final Girls.” This teen horror movie, which puts its own spin on the ’80s slasher genre through a combination of homage and satire, is laugh-out-loud funny and refreshingly smart. For parents who grew up with ’80s slasher films and for teens into horror, “The Final Girls” is an utter win.

Elements from so many classic modern horror films, from the aforementioned “Scream” to predecessors like “Halloween” and “Nightmare on Elm Street,” run through “The Final Girls,” but its tone is always celebratory, never derivative. It helps that the film is, first and foremost, hilarious, but it wears its heart on its sleeve, too. Bad girls get a chance to be good. Good girls get a chance to kick butt. For as much as slasher films well, you know, slash up women, “The Final Girls” takes those conventions and wrings them out into something wonderfully feminist and fun.

The movie focuses on the teenage Max (Taissa Farmiga, of “The Bling Ring”), best friends with her mother, Amanda (Malin Akerman, of “I’ll See You In My Dreams”). Amanda is a struggling actress who just can’t escape the role she took in a 1986 teenage slasher film that has since become a cult hit, “Camp Bloodbath,” and most of the time Max is the responsible one, trying to figure out how to pay their bills while Amanda goes on failed auditions. But after Amanda dies in a car accident, Max just can’t get over it; three years pass, and she’s still stuck in a cycle of grief and despair.

But the shadow of “Camp Bloodbath” looms long, so on the anniversary of Amanda’s death, Max attends a special screening of the film with her close friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat, of “Ruby Sparks”); Gertie’s stepbrother Duncan (Thomas Middleditch, of “The Kings of Summer”), who is obsessed with the film (“Everyone who has sex in this movie dies; it’s awesome!” is his high praise); Max’s crush Chris (Alexander Ludwig, of “When the Game Stands Tall”); and Chris’s ex-girlfriend Vicki (Nina Dobrev, of “Let’s Be Cops”), who isn’t entirely over him yet. The theater is packed, the movie is just beginning — and a fire forces them to cut through the movie screen to escape.

And, all of a sudden, the five of them are stuck in “Camp Bloodbath,” interacting with the characters, who don’t understand that they’re in a movie. Or, that because they’re characters in this slasher movie, they’re all slated for death — including Max’s mother Amanda, here thinking she’s a character named Nancy — except for the “final girl,” who will kill the bad guy and be the sole survivor of this film. In the genre, she’s always a virgin, and in this film, she has to kill the bad guy with his own machete, but not until … well, you get the idea.

There are a lot of rules, genre conventions, and inside jokes in “The Final Girls,” and for people who have seen even just a few of these kinds of films, the film’s knowledge of itself is a riot. Yes, it’s extremely meta — and for that reason and all the typical teen comedy stuff, may not be suitable for, or even understood by, younger teens — but for older teens who can enjoy this with like-minded parents, “The Final Girls” is a must-see. Farmiga and Akerman are fantastic together, and the film’s layers of themes about forgiveness, acceptance, and feminism are well-done and poignant. “You just messed with the wrong virgin!” is “Camp Bloodbath’s” tagline, and how “The Final Girls” deconstructs that statement and then puts it back together with knowledge and verve is masterful, enjoyable stuff.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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