Final Girl (2015) / Thriller-Action
MPAA Rated: R for disturbing violent content, and some language
Running Time: 85 min.
Cast: Abigail Breslin, Alexander Ludwig, Wes Bentley, Logan Huffman, Cameron Bright, Reece Thompson
Director: Tyler Shields
Screenplay: Adam Prince
Review published July 13, 2015
Filmed at the end of 2012 and not seeing an official release until mid-2015, Final Girl marks the inauspicious feature film debut of fashion photographer Tyler Shields (Outlaw) as a director, and though he has some experience working in the world of music videos, it certainly feels like the effort of a first-timer at the helm.
Abigail Breslin (Maggie, Ender's Game) stars as Veronica, trained from an early age in the ways of an assassin for reasons unknown by a mysterious man who serves as her protector. Now that she's a teenager, the man decides she's ready to put test her killer skills on real targets, setting her sights on a quartet of serial killing boys who like go to "hunting" in the woods, luring young women into the middle of nowhere for dangerous games that culminate in the boys chasing her around until she ends up murdered.
I normally like Abigail Breslin in pretty much anything she's in, even if the movie isn't that good, but I'm sorry to say, she's woefully miscast as a girl who has been hardened and tested to be an assassin, day in and day out, for about a decade. Try as she might, Breslin, a mere 16 years old at the time of filming, just can't shed the good-girl persona enough to do the same as her oft-resembled counterpart Chloe Grace Moretz did so well in Kick-Ass, which, coincidentally, also featured a nearly identical scenario of an older protector training a young girl in the ways of being an assassin of homicidal maniacs.
Toss in a little bit of La Femme Nikita, Hanna and You're Next, and you've got all of the bases covered that Final Girl seeks to touch, leaving it feeling very derivative, clunky, and nearly absent of any freshness to keep the interest of most audiences. The best things I can say about Final Girl is that it has really great, stylish lighting aesthetic, a decent score, and a pretty good performance by Alexander Ludwig (When the Game Stands Tall, Lone Survivor) as the central sadist Chris. Breslin is always her appealing, endearing self, but she is just not bad-ass material. No matter how much she crinkles her nose and snarls, she just looks absolutely adorable! She's like an axe-wielding Snuggle Bear. It also doesn't help that she looks like she can't land a punch when fight choreography is as stiff as a cadaver and the editing of action sequences barely more frenetic than the talking heads scenes.
But the real problem with Final Girl is that it feels like exists in a vacuum. Characters have almost no backstory except that which is necessity of the plot at the time. Who is Veronica? Where did she come from? What happened to her parents? Who is this man taking care of her? Why is she training her? Why does he allow at least a dozen other innocent girls to die before deciding to risk Veronica's neck when he has all of the skills to stop the madmen himself? And why do these madmen do what they do? Why do they decide to wear tuxedos before stalking their prey? What year is this supposed to be set in anyway, given its 1950s chic long dresses, slick-back hairstyle, vintage autos, malt-shop diners, old-fashioned patter, and rockabilly vibe?
The film, which already suffers from a flimsy set-up and misguided concepts, just gets progressively more infuriating as Veronica begins to take on the prom-night gang head on. Instead of using her training at hand-to-hand combat, these young hardened killers are drugged with a concoction that makes them hallucinate their worst fears, unable to do much but flail around as Veronica comes in for the kill. How is this the "final test" of her readiness as an assassin? Is she going to trick every target in the future with a flask of tainted alcohol to get them into a stupor before getting her victims to a state where even a bed-ridden nonagenarian could take them out without breaking a sweat?
The Final Girl of the film's title is reportedly a reference to the horror-movie trope that the virtuous girl in a horror movie will be the last intended victim, and somehow her 'goodness' translates into the kind of resolve that is the only thing that can vanquish the pure evil out to snuff her. We've seen this far too many times to find it fresh or interesting anymore, leaving Final Girl looking like the final straw that might break the back of females-with-killer-instincts schlock-fests.
©2015 Vince Leo