Fright Fest Review – Final Girl

final-girlFinal Girl The pitch for this is sort of La Femme Nikita plays The Most Dangerous Game … it’s pretty smart and well-formed as it is, but it could also work as a series pilot since it barely sketches the ‘mythology’ behind its heroine and the world she’s living in, which would seem to be the America seen in hundreds of slasher-torture-rich sicko movies where the sort of thing seen in these movies happens so often that a well-funded group might take countermeasures.  It opens with the child Veronica (Gracyn Shinyei), survivor of an unspecified massacre of her family, being interviewed by the similarly bereaved William (Wes Bentley) and taking some aptitude tests … then, years later, teenage Veronica (Abigail Breslin) is near the end of a well-resourced training program, supervised by William, learning to cope in the woods and facing her greatest fears in a drugs test.  We never see anyone else in the organisation (so there’s a possibility that William is imaginary and this is all the story of a cracked woman who sets out to become a serial killer of serial killers on her own), and the heroine is told she is on her own in her graduation exercise … which is to turn the tables on four preppy youths who have been hunting girls to death in the woods near a Lynchian community that seems to be all 50s-style diner and mansions of wealthy maniacs.  Dressing to attract the prime mover, Jameson (Alexander Ludwig), Veronica goes along on a Saturday night date with him and his stooges – uxorious Shane (Cameron Bright – like Breslin, a grown-up child actor), goofily grinning Danny (Logan Huffman)  and mama’s boy Shane (Reece Thompson) – which involves ‘truth or dare’ in the woods and then the usual hunt-to-death business.  Naturally, aided by a flask full of truth/terror drug and her training,Veronica is able to best three of her foes, with a nice feint involving a sustained realistic hallucination after two goofily surreal sequences, and then finds Jameson a (slightly) tougher nut to crack.  Scripted by Adam Prince (from a story by Stephen Scarlata, Alejandro Seri and Johnny Silver), it’s given a distinctive look and tone by debuting director Tyler Shields – everyone is soft-spoken and reasonable under the most extreme circumstances (though Veronica fakes traditional lady-in-peril panic), the emotional and social range of the film is deliberately limited (no cops, almost no sense of society beyond these characters) and the fight-by-night in-the-wilderness business doesn’t preclude being immaculately dressed in tuxes and bowties and (in Veronica’s case) a Riding Hood-red formal dress (she ditches the high heels and steals flats from her first victim).  It characterises its psychos in broad, effective strokes – Danny struts in with an axe while dancing to Who and the Bossmen’s catchy rockabilly ‘The Devil and the Duke Ride Out Tonight’, Shane has a girlfriend (Emma Paetz) who’s in the dark about his guy-time activities but knows something’s wrong, Nelson has ice cream with his Mom and wears black gloves – without needing to harp on their obvious misogyny, and there’s an eerie touch as Jameson, teetering with a noose around his neck, hallucinates a horde of his former victims coming for him.  It’s cheap, but stylish.  Breslin is interestingly graduating from kid actress (Little Miss Sunshine) to  genre star by taking plum roles in this, Haunter and Maggie.



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