Most fans of slasher movies know all the familiar plot points, keys to survival, and pretty much exactly what to expect.  But what would happen if they were suddenly inside a slasher movie?  This is the premise of The Final Girls, a meta horror comedy about being stuck inside a fan favorite horror flick.

Max (Taissa Farmiga) is the teenage daughter of Amanda (Malin Akerman), a struggling actress whose claim to fame was the small role of Nancy in the 1986 "classic" slasher Camp Bloodbath. about th virtually unstoppable masked killer Billy Murphy.  Three years after Amanda's death, Max is still dealing with her mother's loss.

Max is recruited to be a guest of honor at a special screening of Camp Bloodbath by Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), a movie geek who loves this movie.  Max is accompanied by Duncan, her friend Gertie (Alia Shawkat), her potential love interest Chris (Alexander Ludwig), and Chris's bitchy girlfriend Vicki (Nina Dobrev).  When the theater catches fire in the middle of the screening, Max cuts a hole in the movie screen, and the five friends escape...
...into the movie Camp Bloodbath itself.   Max is thrilled to see her mother again, even if it's just a fictional character who's supposed to die early in the movie.  Duncan says the five of them are safe since they weren't part of the original movie, and they just have to stay by Paula (Chloe Bridges) -- the final girl to survive the movie -- to make it to the end and escape the movie.  Unfortunately for the five friends, it quickly becomes apparent that they can be killed, and that their presence has changed the course of events in the formerly predictable movie.  Who will be the "final girl" that survives to the movie's end?  Will a series of traps stop Billy Murphy?  How will their knowledge of slasher movie cliches help?  Can Max save Nancy and bring the character back to the real world?  And what happens when the movie ends?

I really wish The Final Girls had been better.   The movie plays a bit with what would happen if real people were in a fictional movie (they hear voiceovers and the soundtrack, and go through a trippy experience whenever a flashback happens), as well as the rules of such movies.  (To keep one female camper from stripping and getting killed, the strap her in a life jacket and duct tape fingerless gloves on her.)  But while the skewering of slasher cliches are clever, they're not always funny -- and neither are the actors.  (The exception is Adam DeVine, who plays the dumb jock for whom everything is sexual innuendo with relentless gusto.)  The Final Girls went straight to dvd (and there are no bonus materials, unless you count the trailers) and it's not hard to see why: While this movie certainly knows what to laugh at in '80s horror movies, it doesn't always use that knowledge to create laughs.

Overall grade: C
Reviewed by James Lynch

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