The opening sequence of Last Girl Standing deliberately evokes the last reels of dozens of slasher movies – after most of her friends have been murdered by a masked maniac known as The Hunter (Jason Vines), the bloodied and hysterical Camryn (Akasha Banks Villalobos) fights back and overpowers her persecutor. Then, the film shows what life might be like for someone who’s gone through that experience … which, admittedly, the Scream films made a stab at in a more post-modern manner.
A few years on, Camryn is doggedly holding down a job in a dry-cleaners’ shop (almost as the only English-speaking employee), hasn’t made any effort to unpack or personalise the apartment she’s lived in for years, has PTSD flashbacks and hallucinations, and is wary of making friendships or even human connections. Then, student type Nick (Brian Villalobos) comes to work at the cleaners and she warms up to him … falling in with his circle of variously arty, alternative and spiky friends, who have a loose, relaxed cameraderie which disturbs her. Then, the Hunter seems to return and Camryn’s fear of losing all those around her resurfaces. Oddly, Jeffrey Scott Lando’s Suspension tells more or less the same story (down to having exactly the same ‘twist’ ending) but in a very different way, plunging deeper into the fantastical as it explores horror movie conventions.
Last Girl Standing is more character-based, and inhabits an indie relationships movie sphere for much of the time, with vividly-realised self-involved characters who chatter all the time (to contrast with the heroine’s reticence) and are much more credible, believable people than the stick figures of most slasher movies. In this context, the return of the Hunter and the film reverting to slasher film mode constitutes some kind of tragedy – and Akasha Villalobos’s performance effectively conveys this as she finds herself going through the motions of fighting a monster she’s already killed as her new friends are dropping all around her, struggling also with the realisation that this is (as it turns out, literally) all her fault.
It fits into a small category of self-aware mumbelcore horror with Baghead and a few others, which means that it’s quite likely to irritate some viewers by taking a superior attitude to genre conventions – though, actually, it addresses itself not to the likes of Friday the 13th or Halloween but to the character type of the final girl (as, of course, does Final Girl – suggesting that the observations of critics like Carol J. Clover and Vera Diker are percolating through to filmmakers) and the way our heroines have become monsters on a par with their nemeses. Written and directed by Benjamin R. Moody.