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Dustin Putman

Final Girl  (2015)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2 Stars
(Release Date: October 6, 2015) – The title, "Final Girl," suggests a story that will comment upon one of the longstanding narrative tropes of slasher-movie cinema—that the last survivor left to face off against the madman/alien/creature/ghost will inevitably be female. In the loosest sense, the film proper kind of does this, but in an unsurprising, rather plodding way that offers little to no surprises or insight into this genre convention. Indeed, 2013's deliciously unnerving, Adam Wingard-directed "You're Next" could have been rechristened with this moniker and much more savvily lived up to the concept of a final girl. In contrast, the noticeably underdeveloped "Final Girl" goes through the motions while introducing a bevy of central plot points that never lead to a payoff. Whatever substance the film has can be almost strictly attributed to Abigail Breslin (2015's "Maggie"), humanizing a character who gets no help from screenwriter Adam Prince.

Twelve years ago, orphan Veronica (Abigail Breslin) was taken under the wing of William (Wes Bentley), a man thirsty for vengeance following the murders of his wife and daughter. Meticulously trained to be her own greatest weapon, a teenage Veronica is finally prepped for her mission. Luring 17-year-old serial killers Jameson (Alexander Ludwig), Shane (Cameron Bright), Danny (Logan Huffman) and Nelson (Reece Thompson) into a situation where she appears to be most vulnerable, Veronica plans to turn her hunters into the hunted with cold, undaunted efficiency.

The premise of "Final Girl" sounds barebones because it is, and any potential exploration into the pasts and psyches of its characters is left frustratingly vague. What do these handsome, underage, bloodthirsty sociopaths have to do with William's ill-fated family from over a decade ago? How does he know about the twenty women they have thus far slayed? What do he and Veronica plan to do with their lives after this assignment is done? The film props up the various pieces of the story and then does nothing with them. It is not a surprise, however, that Tyler Shields (making his directorial debut) is a professional photographer; he and cinematographer Gregory Middleton (2006's "Slither") light the heck out of their locations, most notably once the action segues to the lonesome, bitterly cold nighttime forest where the jocks plan to make Veronica victim #21.

As Veronica, Abigail Breslin is consistently arresting, finding vulnerability within a girl who can take care of herself without batting an eyelash. Unfortunately, her power over her assailants is undermined by a series of hallucinations the guys experience after taking a drink from Veronica's roofied flask. As their comeuppances at the capable hands of Veronica are transformed into mirages involving giant pandas and shady figures in black masks, the film's abstract qualities put a distance between the viewer and the grisly circumstances at hand. Even more disappointingly, it shifts the focus from Veronica, turning her personal journey into a gimmick-laden piffle that isn't willing to delve beneath any of its surfaces—as a horror picture, as a revenge tale, or as a character drama about a young woman who has been victimized in a very different way, stripped of a life with meaningful human relationships and manipulated by a selfish man into doing his bidding. One yearns for Veronica to break free and befriend the unsuspecting Jennifer (Emma Paetz), whom she meets early on at a roadside diner and chats with over vanilla milkshakes. Alas, "Final Girl" isn't interested in its title character beyond that of a pawn. Breslin does everything a really strong actor possibly could with this slimly conceived role, but she deserves better.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Final Girl" stalks its prey on Blu-ray with a richly moody 1080p transfer. This is a dark film, taking place predominately during the dead of night in the bitterly cold woods, and this high-def presentation doesn't miss a step in delivering inky black levels, deep shadows, and a chunky texture that looks nicely filmic. Bold bursts of color (as in the scenes set in the diner) bring diversity to the image. Some medium shots of faces and such are on the softer side as far as detail levels go, but this is inherent to the source. Banding, shimmer, edge enhancement and other technical anomalies are virtually nonexistent. This is a new 2015 film and fulfills its every atmospheric visual intention. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is close to top-notch as well, with excellent fidelity and canny use of surrounds as when the voices of Alexender Ludwig and his murderous posse taunt Abigail Breslin from all sides of the forest. Music and dialogue are effectively mixed.

Blu-ray Features
  • "The Making of Final Girl" Featurette (11:08, HD)
  • Photo Gallery with Commentary from director Tyler Shields (7:08, HD)
  • Photo Gallery by director/photographer Tyler Shields
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:35, HD)
  • Tyler Shields' Trailer (1:05, HD)
  • Logan Huffman "Danny" Outtakes (8:54, HD)
Bottom Line
Cinedigm's Blu-ray release of "Final Girl" is sure to satisfy fans of the picture. Short of a full-length audio commentary from director Tyler Shields, there is an informative short-form version during a photo gallery commentary as the filmmaker discusses his intentions with the film and his work with the actors. As for the film itself, the script is the one major failing, never exploring its premise or the lead character as deeply as it should. Abigail Breslin, however, is very good, doing quite a lot with an intriguing but not quite three-dimensional character. "Final Girl" comes recommended on Blu-ray.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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