Combustible Celluloid
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With: Taiga Farming, Malin Ackerman, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shaukat, Thomas Middleditch, Adam DeVine, Angela Trimbur, Chloe Bridges, Tory N. Thompson, Reginald Robinson, Lauren Gros, Dan B. Norris
Written by: Joshua John Miller, M.A. Fortin
Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for horror violence, some crude and sexual material, language and drug use
Running Time: 88
Date: 10/09/2015

The Final Girls (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Mother-Slaughter Relationship

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The horror meta-movie has been done before (Scream, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, The Cabin in the Woods, etc.) but this one edges past cleverness with a strangely touching emotional core: what would you do if you met a shadow of your lost mother? The Final Girls starts with a genuine affection for the slasher genre, including a fake trailer for Camp Blood Bath that recalls the days of VHS video rentals. One of the characters is an uber-fan, effectively conveying the adoration that horror hounds have for the rules and tropes of their chosen genre.

As a teen, Max (Taissa Farmiga) loses her mother, an actress in "B" movies (Malin Akerman), in a car accident. Three years later, she is invited to attend a screening of her mother's most famous movie, the slasher film Camp Blood Bath. When a fire erupts in the theater, she and four friends escape by cutting a hole in the screen and stepping through. Strangely, they wake up inside the movie itself, and, much to her shock and joy, Max is able to interact with her mother's fictional character "Nancy." Unfortunately, even though they know what's going to happen in the movie, the rules keep changing, and they must avoid the fictional killer Bill Murphy... or they could die in real life.

Some of the movie-within-a-movie characters are silly, but the likable "real-life" characters make up for it; naïve comments are trumped by more understanding ones. Director Todd Strauss-Schulson (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas) has fun staging and re-imagining horror movie moments, including flashbacks (with raining black-and-white goop washing away the color) and onscreen titles. Yet none of it is condescending. It stays true to the people who love movies, and who love life as well.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released a very fine Blu-ray of what could become a cult favorite. The plethora of extras includes two commentary tracks, one with the director, production designer, DP, and actors, and another with the two writers. There are a bunch of deleted and extended scenes, some behind-the-scenes featurettes (mainly FX related), and trailers. There's also a director's notebook, which is accessible only via a BD-Rom drive (which I do not have). All in all, a satisfying package.

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